LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/whoever
holds out to the end will be saved
Mark 13/09-13: “You yourselves must watch out. You will be arrested and taken to court. You will be beaten in the synagogues; you will stand before rulers and kings for my sake to tell them the Good News. But before the end comes, the gospel must be preached to all peoples. And when you are arrested and taken to court, do not worry ahead of time about what you are going to say; when the time comes, say whatever is then given to you. For the words you speak will not be yours; they will come from the Holy Spirit. Men will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children. Children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 13 and 14/14
Negotiating with Israel is not unholy/Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 14/14
ISIS is bigger than the Kuwaiti army/By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 14/14
Why Ted Cruz Was Right to Walk Out on the 'In Defense of Christians' Conference/by Katie Gorka/ September 14/14
Ted Cruz Exposes Christian Bigotry Against Jews In the Middle East/By Lee Smith/September 14/14
Opposing Terrorism of Every Stripe/Salman Aldossary/Asharq AL Awsat/September 14/14
US Gen. John Allen named to lead coalition war on ISIS, but allies deterred by Obama’s ambiguities/DEBKAfile/September 14/14
America can degrade ISIS, Arabs should destroy it/By: Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/September 14/14
Assyrian Bishop Mar Awa Royel on Why Christianity is Vital to the Middle East/September 13 and 14/14
Lebanese Related News published on September 13 and 14/14
Hezbollah reject Lebanon signing of Jeddah Communique: source
Gunmen kidnap Lebanese citizen in border town
Lebanon police bust prostitution ring in Kaslik
Refugee camps better alternative: Future MP
U.S. pledges $103.8M in aid to Lebanon
ISIS battle should not exclude any state: Lebanon FM
Ibrahim, head of General Security flies to Doha ahead of Salam’s visit
Berri Enraged by Political Crisis, Says Vacuum Better
than Extending Parliament's Term
Report: 3 Wanted by Interpol Held, Including Dangerous Nusra Member
Knife Man 'Liked' Scene of Kids Crying, Mom 'Loved' the Video
Zahle Prison Guards Seize Hashish in Meat Sandwiches
Report: FPM Delays Endorsement of Committee Overseeing Parliamentary Elections
Gemayel: Consensus on a President Impossible Unless Imposed by the Outside
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 13 and 14/14
Foreign Affairs: Barack Obama - reluctant warrior
US war against Islamic State casts eery pall over 9/11 remembrance
Islamic State's financial independence poses quandary for its foes
ISIS says it beheads British hostage
Kerry opposes Iran role in anti-ISIS coalition
Kerry: Egypt on frontline against 'terrorism'
Iran: US playing with fire with Islamic State
Iran says Paris anti-extremist meeting ‘just for show’
'Qatar paid ransom for Fijian peacekeepers'
Assyrian Orthodox Patriarch Delivers Keynote Speech At in Defense of Christians Summit
U.N. envoy to Syria Steffan de Mistura: Lebanon paying dangerous price
Netanyahu, Rouhani to address UN General Assembly at end of month
Ya'alon slams conscientious objectors for 'aiding de-legitimization of Israel'
Hamas official rules out direct talks with Israel
PA finance minister paid thousands to Hamas while working at Arab Bank
Sana’a-Houthi talks “unresolved”: source
Yemen troops clash with Shiite rebels in capital
Yemen: Sana’a protests escalate as president calls for dialogue
UN may cut Afghan aid if election staff harassed
Ibrahim, head of General Security flies to Doha ahead of Salam’s visit
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The head of General Security flew to Qatar Friday night, ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Tammam Salam to the Gulf emirate Sunday as part of efforts to negotiate the release of Lebanese security personnel held by extremist militants on the outskirts of Arsal.
Speaking to The Daily Star, a source from General Security said that Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim would hold preparatory talks with Qatari officials. Salam will be at the head of a ministerial delegation to Doha Sunday for talks with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani. Qatar is mediating negotiations for the release of at least 22 Army soldiers and Internal Security Forces that militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front are still holding following their five-day battles with the Lebanese Army in the northeastern town of Arsal last month. Lt. Gen. Walid Salman, the Army chief of staff, inspected military units stationed in Arsal Friday.
An Army statement said that Salman toured military centers in the town, where he was briefed on measures that have been taken to protect the area from terrorists and on the readiness of troops to face any urgent development. Salman also met soldiers and officers, praising their efforts and sacrifices and relaying to them the instructions of Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi. The Army has regained all posts it lost during the Arsal battle and cut all supply routes the militants, stationed in Arsal’s outskirts, were using. Meanwhile, militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS attacked several stone quarries near Arsal’s hills, destroying equipment and stealing bulldozers, according to the National News Agency. The NNA reported that militants from both groups had raided the three quarries – belonging to Mohammad Alouli, Melhem Hujeiri and Hani Hujeiri – destroying machines and driving back to the hills with several stolen bulldozers. The abduction of the Lebanese security personnel has increased tensions in Lebanon, particularly after ISIS executed two soldiers.
Tit-for-tat kidnappings and retaliatory attacks against Syrian refugees in Lebanon, especially in the Bekaa Valley, took place over the weekend after ISIS announced the beheading of soldier Abbas Medlej, from the Baalbek village of Maqneh.
This came around one week after the same group had executed soldier Ali al-Sayyed. In a bid to challenge rising sectarian tensions, the families of Sayyed, a Sunni, and Medlej, a Shiite, joined together in Friday prayers.
Members of Sayyed’s family traveled from north Lebanon to Ansar, near Baalbek, to offer condolences to the relatives of Medlej. The two families gathered for joint prayers at the village’s mosque led by Baalbek and Hermel Mufti Sheikh Bakr al-Rifai, who stressed the importance of “Muslim unity and coexistence.”The family of kidnapped ISF member Ali Ramez Bazal blocked the international road at the entrance of his Bazalieh village in the northern Bekaa in protest against his continued detention. Taking part in the protest was Bazalieh’s Mayor Mohammad Bazal, along with several prominent figures from the village. The mayor called on the government to intensify efforts to win the freedom of the captives. Despite the protest, the mayor said that residents of the village were generally against blocking roads. Bazal urged people of Arsal to work for the release of the captives. “We are all part of the same family and we have social, religious and moral ties,” he said. Separately, the Lebanese Army said in a statement that it defused a bomb weighing around 200 grams that was discovered near Martyrs Square in Sidon.
U.N. envoy to Syria Steffan de Mistura:
Lebanon paying dangerous price
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: U.N. envoy to Syria Steffan de Mistura Saturday said Lebanon was paying a dangerous price as a result of the neighboring crisis, during talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail hours after he arrived in Beirut. De Mistura's visit to Lebanon comes after he held talks with Syrian officials including President Bashar Assad in Damascus earlier this week during his first trip to the region since he was appointed. Speaking after the meeting, de Mistura said he listened more than talked, as Salam told him about the about the dangerous and complicated consequences, and the price Lebanon and the Lebanese were paying as a result of the crisis in Syria. In response to a question, de Mistura said he was determined to do what he was tasked with and search for new means to lessen the suffering of the Syrian people and tensions in the region. He said he hoped he would be able to contribute to resolving the crisis in Syria, which he added has taken too long a time to end. The U.N. envoy also said he was happy to be back in Lebanon after serving five years in the country when he was the personal representative of the Secretary-General in south Lebanon.De Mistura said he would travel to other countries in the region before submitting his report to the U.N. The new international peace mediator also met with domestic opposition before winding up his visit to Syria. During talks with de Mistura, the embattled Syrian president said his country would cooperate to ensure that the diplomat’s mission succeeds in “ending terror and doing away with various terror organizations.”State news agency SANA described the meeting as “positive,” adding that de Mistura pledged to do his utmost to produce a peaceful solution to Syria’s crisis, “in parallel with fighting terror and moving ahead with national reconciliations.”
Refugee camps better alternative:
Future MP, Fatfat
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Establishing refugee camps for the thousands of Syrians in Lebanon is the best alternative and would help the country better control their presence, Future MP Ahmad Fatfat said Saturday. "Building Syrian refugee camps requires the approval of all Lebanese political groups. If we could, we would be taking a big step toward resolving the problem of refugees,” Fatfat told MTV television station. “But we are hearing some remarks from some parties that they might be backing down from that decision.”
Lebanon’s Social Affairs Ministry had decided to establish two refugee camps in Masnaa in the Bekaa Valley and Abdeh in north Lebanon as part of a pilot project. Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas has said that the decision had been taken, in principle, to establish trial camps along the border with Syria, a move seen as a political breakthrough over the divisive issue of establishing formal settlements for the refugees. “With this step, we would offer refugees better alternatives than what they are living in now,” Fatfat said.
“We are offering caravans and they will be under supervision. It would also help them maintain better social and health conditions, and help the government in the field of security by keeping [refugees] under tight monitoring.”
Lebanon has been reluctant to build refugee camps given that the country already plays host some 400,000 Palestinian refugees scattered in 12 refugee camps across the country. The Palestinian camps have been a cause for security concerns and their inhabitants usually face dire socioeconomic conditions. The country now hosts over 1.3 million Syrian refugees and recent security incidents, including last month’s clashes between militants from Syria and the Army, has piled pressure on the government to better address the overwhelming presence of the refugees.
ISIS battle should not exclude any state: Lebanon FM
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has said that the global alliance to combat terrorism should not exclude any country and the battle against ISIS should be in line with international law. “We affirmed to the U.S. and all the attendees during the Jeddah meeting that we are with them in this battle against ISIS, Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda, but any war on ISIS should respect the sovereignty of countries, international law and should be under the auspices of the United Nations,” Bassil told As-Safir in an article published Saturday. “Any war should be coordinated with legitimate governments and government armies. More important, we should not exclude any country because that would create a defect in our universal confrontation.” Representing Lebanon, Basil attended a regional conference to discuss ways to deal with ISIS, hosted by Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on Friday. Foreign ministers of many Arab countries including Qatar and Jordan as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also attended the conference. While in Ankara to press Turkish officials to join the fight against extremist traffic and funding, Kerry said it was inappropriate for Iran to be part of the alliance given its support for the very government in Syria whose brutality helped fuel the rise of ISIS. In response to a question, Bassil said that “Lebanon would not be part of an international axis against another international axis.” “ Lebanon could not be absent from such a conference and its participation guarantees protection against ISIS,” he said. “Along with political support, [participation in the conference] guarantees support for the Lebanese Army as well as benefiting from information on how to pursue such terrorists by drying up funds coming to them through Lebanon and eliminating these religious ideologies as well as lifting cover off every Islamist and ISIS member in the region and Lebanon
Berri Enraged by Political Crisis,
Says Vacuum Better than Extending Parliament's Term
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri lashed out at rival parties on Saturday, warning that if the political arch-foes agreed to extend the legislatures term then he would agree to delay the parliamentary elections even if it leads to further vacuum at state institutions.
“We have reached a dead-end and we have only two solutions either to wait for a military coup (which will not happen) or staging the elections,” Berri said in comments published in An Nahar and al-Akhabr newspapers. “I don't mind vacuum at the parliament if the polls weren't staged,” the speaker's visitors quoted him as saying. The head of the AMAL movement has continuously called for the staging of timely polls despite the presidential vacuum. According to al-Akhbar newspaper, Berri told his visitors that there is “no difference” between the current situation and vacuum, noting that “the parliament isn't convening to legislate.”“I will not agree to extending the parliament's tenure unless there's a clear plan. I will not repeat past experiences,” the head of AMAL movement remarked.
Last year, the rival MPs extended their tenure until November 2014 after they failed to agree on a new electoral draft-law. However, the current presidential vacuum, which is caused by a sharp rift between political arch-foes on the name of the successor of former president Michel Suleiman, whose tenure ended in May, threatens the fate of the parliament. There are fears that the political crisis and vacancy at the presidency could lead to vacuum in the remaining political institutions. “If Iraqis and Syrians carried out elections during war, then the Lebanese have no reason to extend the parliament's tenure,” Berri added. Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush proposed in August a draft-law for the extension by more than two years, citing security reasons. On Thursday, the cabinet appointed the members of the committee that will oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections, naming ex-judge Nadim Abdul Malak as its head. Media reports said that the Progressive Socialist Party and the March 14 MPs will submit their nominations, while Berri and his Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc had already submitted their candidacies for the polls last week. Differences have loomed to the surface among the members of the March 14 coalition over holding the polls in light of the vacuum in the presidency.
U.S. pledges $103.8M in aid to Lebanon
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The United States pledged Friday to provide the Lebanese Army with additional aircraft to help it defeat militant groups and announced an additional $103.8 million in humanitarian aid to assist Lebanon with the refugee crisis.
France has also contributed 7 million euros to the International Support Group for Lebanon Fund, designed to help the country deal with the impact of the Syrian conflict.
However, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said the additional French aid fell short of meeting Lebanon’s needs to cope with the heavy economic burdens brought about by the presence of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees on Lebanese territory.
On a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced nearly $500 million for people and countries hit by Syria’s war, including $250 million to assist refugees and host communities in the neighboring countries.
The U.S. Embassy said Lebanon would receive $103.8 million, which, according to an embassy source, would be channeled into development projects to help both refugees and Lebanese host communities.
The new funding will support projects ranging from improved water and sanitation in Lebanese towns hosting large numbers of refugees, to food assistance and shelter for Syrian refugees.
With this donation, Washington will have contributed $588.8 million to help Lebanon with the refugee crisis since 2012.
The new funding comes in addition to the approximately $19 million in military aid that the U.S. has delivered to the Lebanese Armed Forces in recent weeks following last month’s fighting between the Army and militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front in the northeastern town of Arsal.
U.S. Ambassador David Hale said after meeting Prime Minister Tammam Salam Friday that his country was helping Lebanon counter the ISIS threat by providing its Army and security forces with needed arms and equipment. He also said Washington would supply the Lebanese Army with additional aircraft for this purpose.
Hale said that the U.S. had delivered a series of accelerated arms shipments to the Lebanese Army at the request of the military, following the attack in Arsal.
“These deliveries will help the Army secure Lebanon’s borders and defeat extremist groups that have crossed them,” Hale said after meeting Salam at the Grand Serail.
“The Lebanese government and Army have requested additional aircraft from the United States: an armed Cessna and other light air support aircraft. The United States will also arm a Cessna the U.S. previously provided to the Lebanese Army.”
“It is our intention to support those requests for additional aircraft, using funds generously made available to Lebanon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he added, referring to the $1 billion that Riyadh has granted to the Army following the Arsal battles.The clashes in Arsal have raised concerns that militant groups from Syria sought to bring about a scenario similar to that in Iraq and Syria, where ISIS has seized large swaths of territory. ISIS and the Nusra Front are holding at least 22 soldiers and policemen hostage.
Hale also said that the U.S. was assisting Lebanon’s security forces, saying that Washington last week donated bomb detection tools, explosive safety gear and other equipment to the Internal Security Forces.
He reiterated that Lebanon needed to elect a new president to better confront the ISIS threat. “Left unchecked, [ISIS] threatens your sovereignty, stability and prosperity. Fortunately, Lebanon is not alone in dealing with this threat. And together, we will succeed,” he said.
“But success can best be built on unity and focus – unity within Lebanon, and between Lebanon and its friends. ... The absence of a president is depriving the country of an important symbol of unity, and distracting all of us from fully confronting the real threat,” Hale said. Hale also met with Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, with whom he discussed the U.S. military aid to the Lebanese Army, the National News Agency reported.Meanwhile, Paris contributed 7 million euros ($10 million) to an international fund established a year ago to help Lebanon deal with the burden of hosting Syrian refugees.
“Today, France proceeded with the signing of administrative papers with the World Bank allowing the transfer of 7 million euros to the fund,” a French Embassy statement said.
“By contributing to the trust, France wishes to stress its constant commitment to Lebanon’s side and engagement to aid this country during period of great difficulties,” it added.
France was the third country to donate to the multi-donor trust fund since it was launched in September 2013, the first two being the Scandinivian countries Norway and Finland.
Speaking at the ceremony at the Finance Ministry, where the French grant agreement was signed by French Ambassador Patrice Paoli and World Bank regional director Farid Balhaj, Khalil said the French donation fell short of Lebanon’s needs.
“We know that this [$10 million grant] is less than what Lebanon needs in terms of the infrastructure or in coping with the consequences resulting from the Syrian refugee influx,” Khalil said. He added that Lebanon hoped that the French grant would encourage other European countries and the world to contribute to this fund.
Full support for Lebanon’s security and humanitarian needs and to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis was also pledged by EU Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, who led a delegation of EU envoys at a meeting with Salam at the Grand Serail. – Additional reporting by Elise Knutsen
Gunmen kidnap Lebanese citizen in
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Gunmen kidnapped a Lebanese citizen from the border town of Arsal Saturday morning and took him to the outskirts of the northeastern region, a security source told The Daily Star. The Arsali was identified as Ahmad Hujeiri, also known by his nickname Ahmad Hadiyih. Jihadists fighting in Syria have infiltrated the outskirts of Lebanon and were engaged in a serious battle with the Army last month in an attempt to overrun the border town. Last week, ISIS jihadists reportedly executed a man from Arsal for his ties with Hezbollah. Conflicting reports have emerged over the reason for Hujeiri's abduction, with some sources in the town saying the man was a trader who worked with the jihadists, while others claimed that Islamists had kidnapped him over his ties to Hezbollah. A security source told Agence France Presse that the unidentified gunmen kidnapped Hujeiri "because he disagreed with their political views." An official in Arsal confirmed the kidnapping, and said Hujeiri was accused of "collaborating with Hezbollah.”
US Gen. John Allen named to lead coalition war on ISIS, but allies deterred by Obama’s ambiguities
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis September 13, 2014/We’re going to build the kind of coalition that allows us to lead, but also isn’t entirely dependent on what we do,” said US President Barack Obama at a fundraiser at the home of former AIPAC head Howard Friedman in Baltimore Friday, Sept. 12. One wag translated this as meaning that the Middle East could go its own way so long as it retained a “US flavor.”
That was one way of defining the turbulent cross-currents set off in the Middle East by the US president’s launch last Wednesday of his strategy for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with a broad coalition.
That was also exactly the kind of ambiguous comment, which the governments America is wooing to join the coalition, find so off-putting. The response of 10 Arab and Muslim leaders to Secretary of State John Kerry’s recruitment bid in Jeddah last Thursday, Sept.11, was therefore just as equivocal.
The “participating states agreed to do their share in the comprehensive fight against ISIL, including… as appropriate joining in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign against ISIL,” they said.
Obama spoke of a “silver lining” in describing how Arab neighbors were focused for the first time on the “need to completely distance from and effectively snuff out this particular brand of Islamic extremism.” But the lining is not all that bright.
Iraq has no army left to speak of after ISIS's rampage, and its small air force can hardly make a difference in the battle against the Islamists’ territorial sweep.
Turkey has opted out – and not just out of military operations against jihadists. Ankara has closed its territory and air bases to the transit of US and coalition forces for striking the Islamists in northern Iraq.
Jordan has renounced any part in the military operations against the Islamic State - and so has Egypt, as Kerry learned before he landed in Cairo Saturday, Sept. 13.
Germany, while sending arms to the Kurdish army fighting in the front line against the Islamists, refuses to take part in combat action in Iraq or Syria.
Britain, which sent a shipment of heavy machine guns and half a ton of ammunition to Irbil for the Kurdish Peshmerga, refuses to join the US in air strikes over IS targets in Syria.
French President Francois Hollande, who flew to Baghdad Friday with four arms shipments and 60 metric tons of humanitarian equipment, will host the founding of the coalition in Paris next Monday, Sept. 15 – in competition to the American initiative. He has crossed Washington by inviting Iran.
Kerry said publicly that it would be “inappropriate” for Iranian officials to be invited to the Paris conference, since Iran is “a state sponsor of terror” and “backs Syria’s brutal regime.”
Friday, Obama appointed Gen. John R. Allen, former commander in Afghanistan and western Iraq, to lead the coalition forces in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levan.
It is hard to see what combat forces he will lead, in view of the mixed international responses so far to Washington’s appeals for a global coalition to combat terror.
In the years 2006-2008, Gen. Allen commanded the US II Marine Expeditionary Force, which successfully fought Al Qaeda under Musab Zarqawi’s leadership in western Iraq’s Anbar province. He led what was then dubbed the “Awakening” project, which rallied the region’s Sunni tribes to the fight.
President Obama appears to be hinging his campaign against the new Islamist scourge on Gen. Allen repeating that success.
debkafile’s military experts find the prospects of this happening in 2014 fairly slim, because the circumstances are so different:
1. To support the Sunni Awakening venture, President George W. Bush authorized the famous “surge” which placed an additional 70,000 US troops on the Iraqi battlefield. However, Obama has vowed not to send US combat troops back to Iraq in significant numbers, and has approved no more than a few hundred American military personnel.
2. In 2006, Iraqi Sunnis trusted American pledges. They agreed to turn around and fight fellow Sunni Al Qaeda after being assured by Washington that they would not lose their status and rights in Baghdad, and that the US would give them weapons and salaries.
In 2009, they realized that the Obama administration would not stand by the Bush administration's assurances. Their disillusion with America and the rise of a Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad pushed them into the arms of ISIS.
3. Since then Iraq’s Sunni leaders have learned not to trust anyone.
Today, they are hedging their bets, their tribal leaders split into two opposing camps between Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and the Islamic State, on the other. For the first time since the US invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein 11 years ago, Iraq’s Sunni leaders feel they are in the saddle and in a position to set a high price for their support.
All this leaves President Obama and Gen. Allen on the threshold of a war on Islamist terrorists, which everyone agrees needs to fought without delay, but without enough political leverage for going forward or much chance of mustering the right troops to lead – even into the first battle
Negotiating with Israel is not unholy
Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat
After years of wars and destruction, bloodshed and devastation, not to mention missed opportunities and accusations of treason in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hamas politburo member Musa Abu-Marzuq has come out to tell us that “there is nothing wrong” with direct negotiating with Israel. Abu-Marzuq did not make this statement in a newspaper interview to be able to deny it and its consequences later; rather he said this during a television interview with Al-Quds TV, which has close ties to the Hamas Movement. During the interview, Abu-Marzuq said: “From a legal (Islamic) perspective, there is nothing wrong with negotiating with the occupation.” The Hamas leader added that “If the situation remains as it is now . . .Hamas could find itself forced to do this. This [negotiation] has become a popular demand across the Gaza Strip.” So is this a tacit apology from Hamas leader Abu-Marzuq regarding everything that Hamas said about Egypt and former president Anwar Sadat when he was negotiating with Israel? What about Yasser Arafat? Is this also an apology regarding everything that was said about the Arab Initiative? What about all the Palestinian blood that has been shed without justification or the destruction carried out by this so-called “resistance?”
There are many questions that must be asked, most importantly: where did Hamas obtain this sudden and surprising wisdom? Is it an attempt to catch up after Hamas finds itself in a world where Iran is negotiating with the US and Egypt has returned, once more, to its traditional place in the region? Or is this an attempt to absorb the anger of the people of Gaza? So, there are many questions about Abu-Marzuq’s statement, which Hamas later tried to play down by saying that its position remains the same. However this is a game that we have become accustomed to from Hamas, and all those with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. They say one thing but do the opposite. There are a number of other examples of this, and these are all parts of attempts to calm followers or confuse opponents. In the end, the group will do what it wants, regardless of what it has said before. This is what Hamas did in its dealings with Fatah, as well as with Egypt, Iran and Assad. This is the precise same approach pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; for example, the Brotherhood initially pledged not to even put forward a presidential candidate following Mubarak’s ouster. Therefore, the most important thing now is to realize that Abu-Marzuq’s statements do not represent a gain or a loss; they do not make any difference whatsoever. In fact, these statements represent a condemnation of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated movement, and this is something that everybody must see. There is nothing wrong with negotiating with Israel, but rather what is wrong is using this taboo over negotiations as a card to further your own interests; whether in the name of pan-Arabism or religion. So, after all this, how can Hamas now say that there is nothing wrong with negotiating with Israel? Of course, there are also interests and objectives behind Abu-Marzuq’s statement, and we must take this into account. So, perhaps, the most important question is: How long will we leave our states, and our destinies, in the hands of parties and regimes that are solely seeking to further their own interests?
ISIS is bigger than the Kuwaiti army
By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Sunday, 14 Sep, 2014
To understand the magnitude of the problem on a global level, and not just on the Syrian and regional fronts, we must be aware of just how significant the CIA’s estimates of the number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters is. Less than two years ago, the CIA estimated ISIS number at just a few hundreds; a few months ago that number was closed to 10,000. This week, however, the CIA admitted that in just a few short months ISIS numbers could have tripled to 30,000. Governments across the world have also confirmed that many of their Muslim citizens have joined up.
ISIS today is the largest terrorist organization in the world. It is twice the size of the Kuwaiti military while its financing, arms and hiding places means that it is one of the richest states in the region. ISIS fighters also surpass the strength of the world’s armies in one other aspect; they are ready, willing and eager to die. One ISIS fighter is equal to ten regular soldiers. ISIS also includes hundreds of fighters who are willing to perform suicide attacks. ISIS could rival even the US military, which is the most highly-trained and well-equipped army in the world. The CIA’s estimate of ISIS’s fighting strength is most likely based on information from the ground, aerial surveillance, interrogating prisoners and gathering information from friendly security apparatuses.
Therefore, to think that the battle can be won by aerial intervention or a limited military campaign in Iraq is a delusion. This is a simplification of a difficult situation which has become even more exacerbated as the result of negligence and the passage of time. We are confronting a fierce war in Syria and its surrounding countries and it will take us at least two years—and probably double that time—to end this.
All signs indicate that the fight against ISIS will be a prolonged one, especially in Syria. As for Iraq, considering the state of the Iraqi military, its capabilities and its ability to secure local alliance, Baghdad is capable of expelling and defeating ISIS so long as the central government deals with this threat seriously. However the war on ISIS in Syria will be the the most difficult from a political, social and military standpoint.
As silence continues over Syrian regime forces’ targeting 70 percent of the country’s population—who are Sunni—and as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iranian militias continue to fight alongside Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, ISIS will no doubt alter its stance and seek to be embraced by the Sunnis for its own protection. It will thus seek to win the sympathy of Sunnis across the world, in the same manner that the Taliban withdrew to Afghan’s tribal regions for refuge.
US President Barack Obama’s positive step of approving training for the Free Syrian Army—worth 500 million US dollars—to fight ISIS will lay the foundation of relations between the US and the Syrian people. It may be the first step towards a long-awaited decision to support change in Syria. However, we cannot rely on this to combat ISIS. The 500 million US dollars will go to training less than 3,000 opposition fighters—which is half the number of Hezbollah fighters in Syria. The FSA seems even smaller when compared to ISIS.
What further complicates the situation is that training 3,000 Syrian opposition fighters is a very slow process that will require at least two years. Fighting ISIS is something that cannot wait. This will require drawing more manpower from the thousands of Syrian army defectors who currently reside in refugee camps, either inside or outside Syria, to join the fight against ISIS as professional soldiers. It will require reviving efforts for a political solution. Perhaps the parties that support Bashar Al-Assad have finally realized how far their ally has sunk, and that it is time for a reconciliation government that does not include him.
Assyrian Orthodox Patriarch Delivers Keynote Speech At in
Defense of Christians Summit
(AINA) -- Yesterday, on the third day of the In Defense of Christians summit, Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, delivered a keynote address on the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria. The title of the speech was Do Muslims need Christians in the Middle East?The Patriarch began by saying "Muslims were welcomed to many major cities in what is today known as Syria, Lebanon and Iraq by Christians...Christians had established the infrastructure of the new [Islamic] state."
The Patriarch said:
Many of the Christians were forced to convert as a result of the imposition of heavy jizya, poll tax, on them. They often endured many periods of persecution, especially during the Mongol and Ottoman times. The Genocide of Armenians and Syriac speaking Christians unleashed during World War One resulted in the extermination of millions of Christians. In fact, we all are commemorating this tragic event throughout next year as the hundredth anniversary of this atrocity.
I believe that Muslims need Christians to challenge themselves to live in a pluralistic and multi-religious society where they can affirm their identity without being afraid of the other. Muslims ought to be able to embrace the values of tolerance and acceptance of the other as a sign of self confidence to prove that Islam as a religion can coexist with other religions without the need to absorb others or the fear that it may be absorbed by others. Living in isolation will keep Muslims ignorant of the other and ignorance is the mother of all fear.
It's high time for Muslim scholars and religious leader to prove to the world that these groups do not represent true Muslim teachings.
Muslims need Christians to fight together extremism. Muslims need Christians to fight together secularism, a common enemy of all believers from all religions. Muslims need Christians to fight together commercialism -- the human being has become a commodity being sold. We have to come together to restore back the dignity of the human being as the image of God on earth.
I conclude by calling upon the international community to help us Christians stay in our homelands, in the lands that are forefathers for two millennia witnessed for Christ and for many millennia lives as the people, indigenous people of that land.
By calling upon them [international community] to help us stay in our homeland we also want them to work hard to make sure that these Christians should be protected, should be provided with dignity, with honor, and should not be subject to attacks such as we are seeing today.
Patriarch Aprhem's speech at the In Defense Of Christians Summit in Washington on September 11, 2014
Assyrian By Why Christianity is Vital to the Middle East
Bishop Mar Awa Royel.Washington (AINA) -- Yesterday, on the third day of the In Defense of Christians summit, Bishop Awa Royel, Bishop of California for the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, spoke on the need to maintain the Christian presence in the Middle East.
Here is the text of the Bishop's speech:
Your Excellencies and Graces,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor and privilege to be here with you this afternoon, representing His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East (along with my brother His Grace Bishop Mar Paulus Benjamin), who could not attend due to health reasons. His Holiness sends his greetings, prayers and love to each and every one of you, with a particular gratitude to Toufic Baaklini and the organizers of the IDC.
This afternoon's panel discussion is a most pertinent one, I believe, because it gives a sense of direction and purpose to our discussions and deliberations in which we have engaged during the course of this summit. It is a topic that affects the daily lives of our Churches and peoples, both in the Middle East and in the Diaspora, namely: What indispensable role does Christianity have to play in the Middle East?
That Christianity does have an important role to play in the Middle East today cannot be questioned. The changing demographics of our Churches and peoples in our homeland in the Middle East goes hand in hand with defining the vitality of the role of our Christian faith in the East today. Notwithstanding the fact that many of our Churches have migrated to the West, and as a cause we have seen the dwindling of the numbers of our faithful in the Middle East, the roots of Christianity and it important role in society cannot be undone. I would like to echo the words of His Holiness Pope Francis stated in Jordan during his visit to the Holy Land this past May: "We will not be resigned to think about the Middle East without Christians!"
I propose to look at the important and vital role of Christianity in the Middle East in its three important moments or junctures, namely: past, present and future.
First, historically Christianity has played a role in the Middle East, indeed from the inception of our faith and beginnings of the Early Church, which has marked an important change in the life of humanity as a whole. The very mystery of the Incarnation itself, unique to the Christian faith, marked a turning point for all of humanity, indeed on a cosmic level: God stepped into history in order to show His solidarity with man--God became man, that man might become God. Therefore, by its very nature Christianity has the vital role of being a salutary faith (i.e. offering salvation to humanity) and demonstrating the proximity of our Creator to his most cherished of creations--man. In the Incarnation, the Son of God (the Word become flesh), announced to us the Gospel of salvation and eternal life in his name. Christianity, therefore, is not just another religion in the Middle East (even the classical nomenclature of comparative religion as being one of the three 'monotheistic' religions does not suffice!), but it offers salvation to the world and to the peoples of the Middle East. As Christians, we can never lose sight of the importance of the missionary aspect of the Church. By its very nature, the Church must evangelize and bring the Gospel to all peoples--even to those who are enemies of the Gospel. This is evident in the great commissioning of the Twelve by our Lord (cf. Matthew 28:18-19).
As the Church grew and became present in the whole East, it brought civilization and learning to all the peoples of the Middle East. The history of the court physicians of the Abbasid caliphate, for example, is all too well-known in the annals of history. The fact that Greek learning and philosophy passed into the Latin language and to the Arabs via the Syriac translators and fathers is living proof of the pivotal role of the Christian East in the society and social context of their day for countless generations.
The second important moment of Christianity's vitality for the Middle East is the present. And, indeed, this is a pertinent moment for all of us gathered here today under the aegis of the IDC, and it is a matter of concern for all of the Churches that continue to struggle for survival in the Middle East. It cannot be denied that the role of the Christians of the East in helping to build up the new Arab nation-states that were constructed after the First World War and as result of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire was a most decisive one. Christians excelled in areas of science, mathematics, culture, education, medicine and literature, not to exclude their influence and important role in the political life of the countries of the Middle East which they have known as their homes. The many private schools owned and operated by the Christians since the formation of the modern Arab states are a living testimony to these contributions on the part of the Christians. Respecting the culture and religious sensitivities of the Muslim Arabs all the while, Christian educators tutored and imparted learning and culture to the most elite of the Arab fabric of society. Further, till this very day Christian caretakers and those in the medical field have cared for children, women and the elderly of Muslim Arab society without distinction and in a most superb and caring manner. We can only imagine what a vast void would be left in modern-day Muslim Arab society were there no Christian schools, hospitals, child and elderly care facilities operating (and successfully!) in the Middle East today.
What this means is that Christians are an indispensable part of the fabric of Muslim/Arab society in the Middle East today; they have always been, since the rise of Islam in the early 7th century!
The third and final moment of the vitality of Christianity in the Middle East is the future. What will the face of Christianity look like 5, 10 and 20 years from now in front of an Islam that is growing ever more intolerant and fundamentalist? The history of the Church in the East teaches us many lessons, and we can see well-established patterns and tendencies that, more or less, repeat themselves any given number of years. However, can the world stand by and continue to allow that to happen? What will become of a Christianity which is ever so persecuted, but continues to contribute to the good of the society in which it lives, even though that society is unwelcoming and antagonistic? How will our Churches survive in the East in the coming years? What can we do to insure that survival, or at least (if utterly nothing else) slow it down considerably?
I'm of the opinion that this 'third moment' of Christianity's vitality to the Middle East will be determined by one possible factor among many, and that is the unity of the Christian Churches in the East!
It is no understatement that our present Cross and burden being borne by all of our Churches in the Middle East has indeed brought us together. The present summit, the IDC and many other organizations across the globe demonstrate the willingness of the Christian Churches in the East to come together, to 'unite' as it were, in order to understand our common plight and search out common solutions and answers to our plight. There is a certain level of unity that is demonstrated, and on the first day of the summit many of the eminent speakers expounded upon the topic of the 'Call to Unity.' Patriarch Aram I reminded all of us that unity is an essential part of the Church's very nature and fabric. And that is exactly the point that I would like to propose as the 'third moment' of Christianity in the Middle East--i.e. the future of our Churches in the lands we know and call our own, yet which in a very real way are not welcoming and are not our own.
The ecumenical movement in the life of our Churches as a real response to addressing the concerns and fears of survival of Christianity in the Middle East for the future cannot be overstated. Although we are united in a very real sense here today, but yet we acknowledge that we are not yet really united. The scandal of the division of the Body of Christ (his Church) is a wound that we all suffer from in our daily lives and in the lives of our Churches and faithful. Crystalized dogmatic expressions and anathemas continue to be a part of our ecclesial, canonical and liturgical identity in a very real and definitive sense. And the greatest scandal is that we cannot as of yet fully and really participate at the Lord's altar together, in order to partake of the one Bread of Life and the one Chalice of salvation.
As we move forward in the lives of our Churches in the face of neighbors who have not acted so neighborly towards us, let us remember our own sins, and make the firm resolve to proclaim one Gospel together, one Christ and one faith. We have been united these days together as brothers in sisters in Christ on account of the evil perpetrated against our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, let us take this momentum and move together, and be united really and visibly into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church built by Christ himself, so that the gates of hades might never prevail against her. Thank you.
Ted Cruz Exposes Christian Bigotry
Against Jews In the Middle East
By Lee Smith/September 13, 2014
Cracks in what is normally represented as a tight alliance between Jews and Christians in Washington D.C. over Middle East issues were highlighted by Senator Ted Cruz’s dramatic and courageous performance Wednesday night as keynote speaker at the gala dinner for the In Defense of Christians conference. The gathering was assembled to address the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, who have been targeted by various extremist groups—with ISIS currently getting the lion’s share of media attention. Cruz kicked over a hornet’s nest when he encouraged his audience to see a potential ally in another Middle Eastern minority—Israeli Jews. After all, explained the likely 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, Christians and Jews in the region share many of the same enemies, from ISIS to Hamas. “The very same people who persecute and murder Christians,” said Cruz, “who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason.”
This was too much for the IDC audience, which evidently included a large number of anti-Zionists—including featured speaker Antioch Church patriarch Gregory III Laham, who in this video of Wednesday’s event can be seen demanding that Cruz leave the event. Eventually the Texas Senator did leave the stage amidst a deafening chorus of boos.
If many commentators saw Cruz’s speech as a courageous expose of anti-Israel prejudice—and perhaps anti-Semitism—among Middle Eastern Christians, others are apoplectic. The noise is especially loud from those precincts of the Christian right not affiliated with the pro-Israel majority of evangelical movement. These Christians—including New York Times columnist Ross Douthat—think that Cruz seized on an opportunity to show off for political purposes at the expense of an imperiled minority. “Persecuted Middle Eastern Christians,” Douthat tweeted. “Too religious for the left, too foreign for the right, insufficiently pro-Israel for Ted Cruz.”
The conference, explained the American Conservative, “was organized to bring together Christians of every sect and denomination to stand in solidarity with their persecuted brethren. Ted Cruz, however, fractured that unity.”
It’s not clear why anyone thinks that “unity” and “solidarity” are particularly useful concepts when discussing a faith that has lots of denominations, some of which have famously gone to war with each other. The big divide between Christians in the Levant right now is not between denominations—Catholic vs Orthodox, for instance—but rather between those who stand for freedom and equality, and those who side with tyrants who they believe will protect them from what they see as the even more terrifying specter of groups like ISIS. The organizers and speakers at the In Defense of Christians event are correct that ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups pose an existential threat to Middle Eastern minorities. However, a number of the speakers invited to the conference, as well as some of its financial backers, support figures and outfits every bit as vicious and dangerous as ISIS.
As the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday, one featured speaker, Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, posted pictures of himself on Facebook meeting with a high-level delegation from Hezbollah. Other speakers, like Patriarch John X (Yazigi), Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, and Patriarch Gregory III Laham (pictured in the YouTube video above) are proud supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent people in its war against Sunni Arabs. Sure Assad has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians, dropped bombs on them, while his forces have tortured, raped and massacred men, women and children, but from the perspective of pro-Assad Christians, his violence is justifiable insofar as he is believed to be a protector of Christians.
Of course, anyone who is familiar with the Syrian regime knows this is nonsense. I lived in Beirut during one of Bashar al-Assad’s anti-Christian campaigns, when his spies and allies assassinated Christian politicians and journalists and bombed Christian-majority regions of Lebanon. It’s right to sympathize with and seek to help Middle East Christians who fear for their lives, families and communities. But there is no reason for Americans to call pro-Assad, pro-Hezbollah Christians friends just because they nominally share the same faith. Christians who stand against political violence and oppression—like their Sunni, Shiite, Druze, etc. neighbors—merit our friendship not for the faith they profess but for the values they embody. It is hard to see how Christians who support criminals and thugs who murder innocent people in barbaric ways by the tens of thousands are being faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ anymore than the barbarians of ISIS should merit the fealty of believing Muslims.
My sources tell me that once Cruz was briefed about some of the IDC’s speakers and backers, he initially chose to withdraw from the conference, but then decided to go ahead and speak. Whether he knew what kind of effect his pro-Israel talk would have on the crowd is irrelevant. Its outraged protestations showed that too many members of the Middle Eastern Christian community are as intolerant as those from whom they seek protection. Much more depressing, however, is that Cruz’s talk also showed how even some educated Christians in the U.S.—eager to jump to the defense of those who profess the indefensible—are absorbing the very worst aspects of Middle East political discourse.
Why Ted Cruz Was Right to Walk Out on the 'In Defense of Christians' Conference
by Katie Gorka 12 Sep 2014
An extraordinary thing happened on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. More than one thousand people were gathered for a dinner in honor of the newly formed organization In Defense of Christians.
It should have been a victorious, celebratory moment―and for a short time it was.
The spirit was jubilant as we all took in the fact that at last the crisis affecting Middle East Christians had hit the mainstream. Many of us have been toiling away for years on this issue, happy if we could get ten people in a room to hear our case. Here we were, with Patriarchs and prelates from 12 different countries, and earlier in the day no less than 17 different members of Congress had addressed the gathering. It was an evening to celebrate.
Then U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) came on stage. He was there to give the keynote speech, and this was to be the crowning moment. Senator Cruz opened with these words:
Good evening. Today we are gathered at a time of extraordinary challenge. Tonight we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight we are all united in defense of Jews. Tonight we are all united in defense of people of good faith who are standing together against those who would persecute and murder those who dare to disagree with their religious teachings.
“Oh no,” someone said quietly at my table. “Don’t go there, Cruz.”
Lebanon and Israel have been engaged in a long-standing conflict, so to mention Jews was to step on an obvious land mine. More than that, word had gone out several months before that the funders of the event were associated with Hezbollah. At first, it was just word of mouth based on sources inside Lebanon.
Then a Syrian-American activist named Frank Ghadry wrote about it, but he subsequently retracted his article and almost all traces of it have been deleted from the web. But you can read it here on Facebook.
Within the NGO community, concerns were expressed about the Hezbollah rumors, but when the Ghadry article was retracted, it seemed these might be just rumors after all.
Cruz’s speech seemed a consummate effort to flush out the true nature of the organizers and their guests. He went on:
Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East.
Sometimes we are told not to lump these groups together, that we have to understand their so-called nuances and differences.
But we shouldn't try to parse different manifestations of evil that are on murderous rampage through the region. Hate is hate and murder is murder.
The grumbling from other tables now became audible, and it was not long before the murmurs and fidgeting erupted into boos and outright heckling.
“Stop it. Stop it,” Someone shouted.
Cruz pushed on: “Let me say this: those who hate Israel hate America.”
“No,” someone shouted back.
Cruz said, “And those who hate Jews hate Christians.”
At this, a number of people in the audience booed in unison.
“And if this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them.”
Several members of the audience then walked out of the room to scattered applause, including Antoine Chedid, the Ambassador of Lebanon to the United States, and several Lebanese politicians, a fact which was confirmed by the Daily Star of Lebanon.
Cruz only lasted a minute or two longer before cutting short his speech and walking out with the words: “if you will not stand with Israel and Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless you.”
As soon as Cruz left the stage, the room burst into conversation about the spectacle we had all just witnessed. Some seated at my table said that Cruz had been badly misinformed by his staff about the nature of the event and that someone should be fired.
But what I discovered the next day is that Cruz had known exactly what he was doing. Indeed, he had read the article that had been published about the event just that day and which essentially repeated Frank Ghadry’s allegation that the conference organizers were close to Hezbollah.
Whether Cruz ever contemplated withdrawing from the event is not certain, but what is clear is that he was keenly aware of the alleged links between the organizers of the event and Hezbollah, and he was not going to let that go untested.
Many have criticized Cruz since the event, saying he should have known the audience better or that he was grandstanding. But his actions on Wednesday evening reminded me of the line from the recent New Yorker article about Cruz: “That is the kind of politician Cruz has become―one who came to Washington not to make a deal but to make a point.”
The point he made is two-fold: even in as worthy a cause as defending Christians from extinction in the Middle East, we cannot compromise our fundamental commitment as Americans to the right of all people to live free from persecution and free from the subjugation by totalitarian, supremacist ideologies, such as that espoused by Hezbollah.
The decision by In Defense of Christians to accept the largesse and support of individuals who are widely believed to be associated with Hezbollah was thus a moral failing, but it was a tactical one as well. Any good strategist knows that you cannot enter battle with chinks in your armor. To enter the fray in as serious a fight as that between ISIS and Christianity, one must be invulnerable. To enter into this fight with such an easily identified shortcoming not only hurt the broader cause of protecting Christians, but it hurt all those who have been working for years, often on meager salaries and with little support, to shed light on the plight of Christians. It fed right into the enemy’s hands.
St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, tells us that engaging in spiritual warfare—and what is the war between Christians and the likes of ISIS if not spiritual battle?—that we must be fully prepared. We must put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11). We must gird our waists with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph 6:14).
Ted Cruz clearly is prepared to fight for the Christian cause but is not prepared to do so in ways that support unchristian values. He should be cheered and not heckled for doing so.
Opposing Terrorism of Every Stripe
Salman Aldossary/Asharq AL Awsat
Saturday, 13 Sep, 2014
Washington has finally been convinced of the merits of the Saudi vision to confront terrorism through a comprehensive strategy, rather than specific and temporary battles. The US has finally taken the critical step in its long war against terrorism; a war which has witnessed a ferocious and violent response from terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya. However, this violence and ferociousness will only further increase so long as we delay the confrontation of the roots, and leaderships, of these terrorist groups.
If Washington had taken this step earlier—say just two years ago—then the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would not have been able to expand and weaken the moderate Syrian opposition by taking over its territory. ISIS would not have been able to capture a third of Iraq. It would not have been able to terrorize innocents and minorities. It would not have been able to execute two American journalists. If Washington had taken this step earlier, then ISIS would not have been able to accumulate between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to the CIA itself.
While if the world had hesitated to confront this threat for much longer, we would have found ourselves—in just a year or two—facing an unimaginable disaster. Who knows, maybe this would have spread from the Middle East to Europe and even the US?
All the indicators that the West relies on to classify terrorist organization are seemingly flexible and not commensurate to dealing with the bogeyman that is now threatening the entire world. When you turn a blind eye to Hezbollah’s terrorism, its control of state institutions and its open challenge to the Lebanese military, this opens the door for more of the same. So we are seeing Yemen’s Houthis now knocking on the door of Sana’a, seeking to seize power and transform Yemen as a whole into a terrorist state. As for the rest of the world, it does not view the Houthis, nor Hezbollah, as terrorists at all.
The truth is that just as there is Sunni terrorism and extremism, there is also Shi’ite terrorism and extremism. This international alliance will not succeed unless it seeks to confront all forms of terrorism—whether Sunni or Shi’ite.
You cannot view ISIS as an imminent threat, and not believe that the same applies to the Al-Nusra Front, the Houthis or Hezbollah. You cannot fear the threat represented by Al-Qaeda, but not see the same threat from the extremist militias that are exporting terrorists to the rest of the world from Libya.
The complications that followed the Arab Spring did not just confuse ordinary citizens, politicians and Arab officials, it also confused the world’s greatest superpower. Otherwise, who could believe that the US—with its intelligence agencies and research centers—could miss a terrorist organization that may have started out small but soon grew to encompass a roster of tens of thousands of fighters?
The greatest complication is the double standards set by Washington in its classification of terrorist groups; there is no clear yardstick. Some organizations are classified as terrorist groups, while others not. This is something that was recognized by the US administration in the strategy that President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday, and which was later reconfirmed by Secretary of State John Kerry during his attendance of the Jeddah conference which sought to build a regional alliance against terrorism.
This US hesitance has become a clear feature of the Obama administration, raising doubts about Washington’s credibility and capability of combatting these terrorist groups. Today, with the formation of this international alliance to combat terrorism, and particularly ISIS, this may be the last chance for the US to save face and its prestige as the strongest country in the world. It is not permissible for the US to fail and return to its policy of hesitation in the middle of the road. If it does so, the US will lose all the remaining international respect that it enjoys.
America can degrade ISIS, Arabs should
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 13 September 2014
The last thing President Obama wanted is to bequeath to his successor the “dumb war” in Iraq he inherited from his predecessor George W. Bush. President Obama is painfully aware of the fact that he is the fourth president in a row to do battle in Iraq inconclusively. Before them President Ronald Reagan participated in the Iraq-Iran war, the longest conventional military conflict in the 20th century, but as a powerful proxy helping Iraq. Obama’s speech on Wednesday outlining his strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” and the formation of a “broad coalition” to do so, guarantees that the United States will likely remain a combatant in Iraq (and in Syria) for the next few years.
The strategy, however does not guarantee the destruction of ISIS, an objective that requires political, cultural and ideological tools, in addition to brute military force. Ultimately, the defeat of ISIS can be achieved, only when the Arabs exorcise the political and ideological demons that created Islamic extremism that metastasized over the years and morphed into ISIS. In this epic battle, the U.S. can and should help, since it did contribute its share to the environment that created ISIS following its invasion of Iraq.
From junior-varsity to a Hydra
In few months President Obama moved from minimizing the threat of ISIS, calling it in an interview in January an al-Qaeda junior varsity team, to the realization that ISIS is truly monstrous, and a Hydra-like serpent with many heads. Like the Greek myth, if you chop off one head, two more are grown in its place.
“The defeat of ISIS can be achieved, only when the Arabs exorcise the political and ideological demons ”
In addition to succeeding in describing the nature of the threat, one could say that the president appeared to have dropped his passivity on Syria and crossed his own self-imposed Rubicon to the other bank; where American jet fighters and bombers may now fly combat missions. In less than a month, the “evolution” of President Obama’s views on ISIS was very rapid. When Obama was talking about “containing” ISIS, his secretary of state John Kerry was talking about ‘destroying’ it. And, while Obama’s DNA is missing passion, his vice president Joe Biden who has a surplus of the stuff, assured us –instead of the Commander-In-Chief – that the US will chase ISIS “to the gates of Hell.”
For all the talk about a new strategy, expanding the air strikes to Syria and the formation of an international coalition to destroy ISIS, the president’s approach is still minimalist. And while the stated objective now is to destroy ISIS, the Obama administration is still averse at describing its lethal duel with ISIS as a war. Secretary Kerry was struggling with semantics and the reporters accompanying him on his travels in the Arab world and Europe at the same time. He insisted that "What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation.” And to eliminate any lingering doubts, Kerry was blunt saying “and it's going to be a long-term counterterrorism operation. I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity."
The president’s strategy has many components; targeted attacks on ISIS in Iraq and potentially in Syria, keep pushing Iraq to overcome its political dysfunction and create a truly inclusive polity – something that will not be achieved fully any time soon, assuming Iraq will remain a unitary state- while accelerating the process of vetting, training and equipping the “moderate” Syrian opposition. A key component for the success of such a counter-terrorism strategy, especially when it does not include deploying “boots on the ground” to counter ISIS’s “sandals on the ground,” is the emergence of a regional coalition willing to engage ISIS in a long struggle on multiple fronts: military, intelligence gathering, cutting off funding, tightening border control, and countering the propaganda machine of ISIS. And this list did not include the president’s rocky and complex relations with the congress, including with some members in his own party, few weeks before the mid-term elections.
Failed states as models
When President Obama was trying to reassure the American people that “this effort” (not war) against ISIS will not involve deploying combat troops fighting on foreign soil like Afghanistan and Iraq, he committed a faux pas. The president said “this strategy of taking out terrorists, who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Those who advised the president to include such a reference had in mind the American public opinion, as if in this wired world one can only design a message solely to the American public opinion. To begin with, the air raids, the targeted drone attacks have succeeded in degrading the al-Qaeda in Yemen and al-Shabaab in Somalia, but the terrorism cancer is still entrenched in the body politics of both countries. If this success in Yemen and Somalia, one wonders how failure will look. And while the president did not mean to tell the Iraqis and Syrians, that greater American military intervention in their countries will hasten their slide into the status of failed states, he sure sounded like that.
Climbing down the tree
For more than three years President Obama went out of his way to avoid intervention in Syria, including serious political intervention in the sense of using his leadership to influence the behavior and policies of those Arab states, and Turkey that became deeply involved in the Syrian conflict. But his single most political damage was his constant denigration of the Syrian opposition, and his willful disingenuous comments about the nature of the opposition, their capabilities and intentions.
The president claimed in disparaging remarks that members of the Syrian opposition are “former farmers or teachers or pharmacists… or dentists or maybe some radio reporters who didn’t have a lot of experience fighting.” The president conveniently forgot that most fighters in the opposition, particularly during the first year of the uprising were former regime officers and soldiers who defected and joined the opposition. The president rejected the criticism that had he armed the opposition earlier the battlefield realities would have been different. “The notion that they were in a position to suddenly overturn not only Assad but also ruthless, highly-trained jihadists if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy.” Now that accelerating the process of arming and training the moderate Syrian opposition is an imperative in the new strategy, the president finds himself trying clumsily to climb down that tree and eat his own words.
‘The long and winding road’
The long and winding road to degrade – let alone – destroy ISIS, is fraught with traps and mines and some of the fellow travelers may defect or conveniently become stragglers. Even the partial success of the strategy is contingent on many factors that are not under the control of the U.S. Can the flow of jihadists to Syria be stemmed without an all-out effort by Turkey to tighten control on its borders? Turkey participated in the recent Jeddah meeting but it declined to sign the joint communique. The Arab support for the strategy outlined to them by Secretary Kerry was described as “tepid.”
Will the Arab members of the coalition deliver on all their commitment, including military participation in any air campaign in Syria? Egypt’s reluctance to play a major role was plain to see. Egypt would like the United Nations to give its approval to any military action in Syria, knowing in advance that this will not happen. I believe Egypt also uses its disagreements with Washington over human rights violations, freezing delivery of military hardware to justify its cold approach to the coalition. But the reality is that Egypt has been considerably weakened in the last few years and is consumed with its own political and economic dysfunctions.
Ironically, the U.S. has some justifiable doubts about the staying power of some of the Arab coalition members, just as most Gulf Arab states have their own justifiable doubts about the stamina and staying power of President Obama, given his weak track record on Syria .
A problem from hell
The U.S. is entering into a new phase in the military confrontation with ISIS that could last for years, as was and is the case with al-Qaeda. But just as there was no clear and solid way of knowing that we defeated al-Qaeda, given its defused nature, ISIS will present an even harder challenge, given its battlefield experiences, control over large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territories, its resources, savagery and its ideological appeal to some zealots to live in the “restored” Caliphate.
Degrading and ultimately defeating ISIS will take years, because its emergence took many years as a result of the depredations of the so-called secular Arab regimes, the alienated and radicalized Islamists, the festering Arab-Israeli conflict (which was used by Arab regimes to justify their failures) and finally the blunders of the U.S. in the region, such as the invasion of Iraq which hastened the unraveling of a country that was broken by the tyranny of the Baath regime. I believe ISIS is Arab made. And ISIS should be defeated by Arabs with a little help from their friends. The first step is for the Arabs to recognize this bitter truth and to own this problem from hell.