LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/They went out from us, but they didn’t belong to us;
1John 02/15-23/I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Don’t love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s. The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever. Little children, these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the final hour. They went out from us, but they didn’t belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us. You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son, the same doesn’t have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 16 and 17/14
Hello, Kurdistan/By: Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/September 17/14
John Esposito Takes 'Islam' Out of ISIS/By:
by Andrew Harrod/American Thinker/September 17/14
All quiet on the Northern front/By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/September 17/14
Déjà Vu All Over Again/Mshari
Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat/September 17/14
Will the Jeddah alliance be the beginning of a new Arab world/Jamal Khashoggi /Al Arabiya/September 17/14
Strong yet hesitant coalition facing
Lebanese Related News published on September 16 and 17/14
Nusra threatens to kill Lebanese soldier
Lebanon falls into darkness amid EDL occupation
U.N. reps urge more aid for Lebanon
Delay strengthens Geagea’s presidency bid: Karam
Hundreds join Parliament race as deadline expires
Taxi companies hurt by illegal competition
Aoun: Deal Made to Extend Parliament Term, Lebanon
Can't be in One Axis against Another
Salam Vows to Fight Terror, Free Troops as Mufti Says Won't Allow Anyone to 'Hijack Religion'
Moderation vs. extremism tops new grand mufti’s agenda
Change and Reform Will Head to Parliamentary Polls 'despite Violations'
'Terrorist' Group Members Held in Baalbek as Crackdown on Syrians Continues
Adwan Announces LF's Readiness to Return to Legislation over Pressing Issues
Central Security Council Meeting Discusses Readiness for Parliamentary Polls
FPM, Harb Debate Threatens to Paralyze Cabinet Work
Al-Nusra Front Releases Hujeiri Family Member in Arsal
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 16 and 17/14
Saudi FM tells Paris meeting fight against ISIS will last
US warns Iran's current position in nuclear talks 'unacceptable'
'Jihadists use the freedoms of Western society in order to destroy it'
ISIS goes underground in Syrian stronghold
U.S. general won’t rule out larger role in Iraq
Congress supporting Obama on ISIS battle plan
Qaeda branches vow ‘dark days’ for U.S.-led coalition
Gaza closer to splitting from West Bank, says PLO officia
Iraqi official briefs Assad on ISIS campaign
Analysis: All quiet on the Northern front
Iraq Coalition leader hails Abadi’s halting of airstrikes
Yemen’s Houthis advancing close to Saudi border: source
Roadside bomb kills 6 policemen in Egypt
Coptic Christians clash with police in Egypt
Assad urges end to funding of armed groups in Syria, Iraq
Syrian warplane crashes, U.S. strikes in Iraq
Iraqi bishop laments ‘too late’ response to ISIS threat
Mortar fired from Gaza hits Israel, army says
Israeli officials: Hamas arrested militants who fired on Eshkol
U.N.: Israel, Palestinians reach deal on Gaza reconstruction
Hundreds join Parliament race as deadline expires
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Over 500 Lebanese people submitted their candidacies for the parliamentary elections by the Tuesday night deadline, despite the rising likelihood that the vote will not be held on time. Almost all current MPs applied to run in the polls. The deadline to submit the candidacies was at midnight. The submissions came on the same day that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk headed a special Central Security Council meeting to examine the security conditions in Lebanon and whether they allow the scheduled parliamentary elections to be held. Attended by Lebanon’s top security officials including the head of the Internal Security Forces and the General Security chief, the centered on discussing Lebanon’s ability to hold November’s polls.
The minister asked the heads of the security agencies to prepare a report describing the political security conditions in Lebanon and the potential dangers to threaten the electoral process. After the reports are submitted one week from Tuesday, the Council will be able to make a decision around the matter in its next session. Nearly a year-and-a-half after extending their term for the first time following the 1975-90 Civil War, MPs are expected to renew their term for another year or more.
In a late-night interview on OTV, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said that he believed an agreement had been reached to extend Parliament’s mandate despite the bloc’s opposition. “There is a majority that supports the extension but we support holding the elections,” Aoun said. “From the start we opposed the extension and submitted a challenge before the Constitutional Council [against the first extension].” Aoun said that Speaker Nabih Berri did not categorically reject the Parliament’s extension. “He is saying, ‘why would we extend Parliament’s term when it is not legislating?’”The FPM leader said this indicated Berri would not oppose extension if Parliament resumed its duties.In an effort to end paralysis in Parliament amid the ongoing presidential vacuum, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said after visiting Berri that the party supported passing urgent draft laws in Parliament. “In light of talk about legislation in Parliament, particularly about sensitive issues, we are with passing urgent bills,” Adwan said from Ain al-Tineh.
“We were against legislation under intimidation and today there is no more intimidation,” he said. “We hope legislative sessions will be held to approve urgent bills.”
Lebanon has been without a head of state since former President Michel Sleiman’s term ended in May with lawmakers unable to elect a successor. The presidential stalemate has paralyzed Parliament’s role and is threatening to cripple the government’s work.
March 14 lawmakers and those from Aoun’s bloc have refused to attend any parliamentary legislative sessions amid the presidential vacuum except to pass urgent matters, arguing that priority should be given to the election of a president.
Visitors of Berri quoted the speaker as saying Adwan’s visit was “positive” and that the LF’s position on parliamentary sessions had evolved. Berri said that he reached an “understanding in principle” with Adwan but was waiting for the initiative to be taken up by the LF’s allies in the Future Movement. The speaker said that Adwan informed him that his group supported the holding of legislative sessions to look into urgent matters without conditions. Berri said he would prioritize in Parliament the issues of the salary scale, extra-budgetary spending, draft laws allowing the government to issue Eurobonds to finance public spending, the budgets that have been referred to Parliament and voting on a new election law.Later in the day, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, who belongs to the Amal bloc, met with Health Minister Wael Abu Faour and Nader Hariri, a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in a bid to resolve a range of outstanding issues in Parliament, including the return of legislative sessions and extra-budgetary spending by successive Lebanese Cabinets.
It was the latest in a slew of meetings between the rivals from the Future Movement and Amal in recent months in a bid to resolve the crises in Parliament.
Iran-Saudi tension freezes presidential deliberations
Antoine Ghattas Saab| The Daily Star
Presidential polls are still on hold and there are no signs of a breakthrough that could pave the way for a consensus candidate, despite internal initiatives aimed at breaking the deadlock. Diplomatic sources told The Daily Star that the country was facing a series of internal and external political obstacles that were preventing the desired settlement from being reached. They pointed in particular to the worsening of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The ties between the two countries had shown signs of improving after the formation of the Iraqi government; the visit of the Iranian foreign minister’s assistant, Hussein Amir Abdel-Lehyan, to Saudi Arabia had been seen as further strengthening the relationship. But in recent days there has been a return of tension, due to Iran’s exclusion from the international alliance formed to destroy the extremist group ISIS for which, the sources said, Iran holds Saudi Arabia – specifically its foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal – responsible. Iran believes the Saudis are plotting against it and attempting to regionally isolate it, in response to a thaw in the standoff between Iran and the U.S. over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which is hoped to result in a final agreement being signed between the two in November.
The return of tensions between Riyadh and Tehran is likely to have a negative effect on the ongoing deliberations over the selection of a presidential candidate, the sources added.
The Iranian officials are telling anyone who asks them that the key to the presidential issue is in the hands of certain Lebanese players, especially Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and his ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.
The officials say that it is also partially in the hands of the Syrian government, which has a long tradition of managing Lebanese internal affairs. They add that rumors that have been circulating of Damascus’ exit from the Lebanese political game are false.
The main obstacle lies in the intransigence of Aoun, who refuses to refrain from running in the polls. Sources said that Nasrallah told Aoun in their most recent meeting: “General, we are with you until the end. If you take away your candidacy under any circumstances, we will meet again and discuss then the proposed names.”Based on this information, any talks about a breakthrough in the presidential impasse would appear to be baseless.
This has caused Western diplomats in Beirut to warn against a perpetuation of the presidential vacuum because it could lead to some parties’ promoting the idea that the public sector has become accustomed to functioning normally without the existence of a president, which, in turn could bring about the reduction of the president’s powers. This could potentially pave the way for conference to reconsider the whole Lebanese political system and further weaken the office of the president.
The presidential stalemate will definitely be high on the agenda of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York when it convenes in approximately two weeks.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is flying to the United States in the coming hours and will visit Los Angeles before he goes to New York to meet with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who will attend the General Assembly meeting.
According to Lebanese diplomatic sources, despite the absence of a new president heading its delegation to the event, Lebanon is likely to be the recipient of unprecedented international attention because of the battle the Lebanese Army fought against militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front on the country’s border with Syria last month. Lebanon’s speech, to be delivered by Salam, will focus on the need to provide constant support to the Army by equipping and arming it with whatever is necessary, as well as on strengthening national sovereignty and confronting terrorism in all its forms, including that of ISIS and Israel. Salam will be holding important meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly focusing on security issues in Lebanon and the region and the international fight against terror.
The meetings of the General Assembly will also be an occasion for various parties to have bilateral and group meetings involving U.S. President Barack Obama, the head of a new emerging international anti- ISIS alliance.
Nusra threatens to kill Lebanese soldier
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Nusra Front threatened to kill one of the Lebanese soldiers it is holding Tuesday, an indication that Qatari-brokered negotiations to end the hostage crisis have reached an apparent deadlock.
Under the title of “Who will pay the price?” a statement published on a Nusra Front-affiliated Twitter page said that “[soldier] Mohammad Maarouf Hammieh might be the first to pay the price.”The Nusra Front and ISIS are still holding at least 22 policemen and soldiers captive, after militants took hostage over 30 military and security personnel during last month’s clashes in the northeastern border town of Arsal.
So far, ISIS has beheaded two Army soldiers, while the Nusra Front has yet to kill any of its hostages. The Nusra Front is fed up with negotiations with the Lebanese government, the group said, stressing that prolonging talks might close the door for negotiations. “Let everyone know that negotiations were not closed by us,” the Nusra Front tweeted. “We don’t have impossible demands.”
The militant group said that it realized that “the road to negotiations was closed” when Lebanese politicians said that “talks may go on for one month or two.”The statement also cited what it called Hezbollah’s continued crackdown on Syrian refugees in Arsal and along the town’s borders as another reason behind their dissatisfaction with negotiations. “Don’t blame us if we have had enough,” the statement said.
Commenting on the Nusra Front’s announcement, a source from the General Security neither confirmed nor denied that negotiations have failed. “We are not concerned by the statement the group has released,” the source told The Daily Star.
The Lebanese government has been negotiating with militants over the release of the abducted security personnel and has tasked General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim with the matter. An envoy sent by Qatar had previously met with the militants and relayed their demands to the Lebanese government.
Nusra Front and ISIS are both demanding the release of Islamist inmates from Roumieh Prison. Prime Minister Tammam Salam and a ministerial delegation held talks Sunday with Qatari officials in Doha over the release of the hostages. The delegation returned to Beirut the same day, while Ibrahim was back Tuesday.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said Tuesday that 28 Islamist suspects had been tried and acquitted recently, while decisions were made to release four other defendants, as part of the government’s bid to speed up the trial of Islamist detainees which could be part of a deal that would see the hostages released.
In an indirect response to MP Walid Jumblatt, Rifi refuted allegations that trials of Islamist detainees could be concluded in three days, saying “it is mere talking, because it is impossible not to respect legal deadlines” that require more time.
“I will not pretend to be able to close that file in days. This is totally incorrect. We will not turn our tribunals into martial courts, and the judges and judiciary should abide by the law,” Rifi said during a visit to the Higher Judicial Council during which he announced the kickoff of the “new judicial year.
Rifi stressed that speeding up the Islamists’ trials and dealing with the problems of prisons that suffer from overcrowding, among other things, were his top priorities, noting that the court had recently acquitted 28 suspects, including one in custody, and decided to release four defendants.
Asked to comment on reports that Islamist detainees might be swapped with security personnel held captive by extremist militants from ISIS and Nusra Front, Rifi said that in the absence of a president such a move could only be decided by the government unanimously.The head of Higher Judicial Council, Judge Jean Fahd, said the council had regrouped the cases of 430 Islamist suspects into 39 categories for the sake of accelerating the process, noting that two rulings were expected to be issued in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, militants on the outskirts of Arsal have released a Lebanese citizen abducted Saturday, a security source told The Daily Star Tuesday.
The source said Ahmad Hujeiri was part of a group operating in Arsal in collaboration with Lebanese Army Intelligence during the clashes with the militants last month. The militants accused him of cooperating with Hezbollah.
In parallel, Palestinian businessman Mohammad Khaled Ismail was also released, two days after his kidnapping for unknown reasons from in front of his residence in Baalbek. The National News Agency said Ismail’s release was the result of pressure from political parties. Separately, the Lebanese Army clashed with fighters from Nusra Front overnight, as the militants sought to cross into Lebanon after suffering heavy casualties in clashes with the Syrian army. The state-run National News Agency said a number of the militants were killed and wounded in the fighting with Lebanese soldiers. – The Daily Star
Moderation vs. extremism tops new grand mufti’s agenda
Hashem Osseiran| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Moderation and sound Islamic teaching are necessary to fight terrorism, Lebanon’s new Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian said Tuesday during his inauguration which brought together religious figures and politicians of various sects and political parties. “It is not true that moderation implies weakness,” the grand mufti said, addressing a crowded assembly hall in the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in Downtown Beirut. “But it is true that it is a hard choice to make in the face of extremism.”
Building on the strength of moderation, the grand mufti acknowledged the challenges posed by extremist groups who use the guise of Islam to justify their hard-line agendas. “We have a great responsibility with regards to the religious devices [we use],” Derian said, stressing that religious education should be “proactive in protecting the people rather than justifying murder.”About 1,500 people flocked to the Rafik Hariri assembly hall in the al-Amin Mosque for the inauguration ceremony which started at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Quoting the Quran, Derian said that “all crimes could be followed by reconciliation and truce” save for the crimes of “killing in the name of religion” and “exile.” “These two horrendous crimes are occurring all over the Arab [world] and involve all classes of people,” he added. The attendees included prominent political figures like former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, alongside the spiritual heads of the Druze, Shiite, Sunni and Maronite sects. In a sign of regional support Shawki Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, also attended the ceremony alongside a Saudi Arabian representative who delivered a speech on behalf of the king. Shifting to internal politics, the grand mufti said Lebanon’s protracted presidential vacuum and the hostage crisis were both the result of a lack of political consensus.
“There is an absence of agreement over the protection of the state’s borders and reinforcing the country’s prestige” he said. Dar al-Fatwa will continue to work for civil and national peace, said the grand mufti, who added that the rhetoric of the Quran emphasized peace and moderation. Derian announced his commitment to Muslim-Christian coexistence and the Taif Accord, the treaty which ended Lebanon’s Civil War. “Lebanon will not fall into sectarian strife, the danger will lessen and Lebanese blood will not be wasted,” Derian said. “We will work with all Lebanese with determination and insist on safeguarding the nation and its institutions.”Derian was elected Lebanon’s grand mufti early last month, with around 80 percent of votes. Derian’s election came after Egypt and Saudi Arabia brokered a deal between Qabbani and the Future Movement, ending three years of tension at Dar al-Fatwa, which had resulted in dueling Higher Islamic Councils.
For his part, Prime Minister Tammam Salam welcomed the newly elected grand mufti, expressing hopes that Derian’s election would revitalize Dar al-Fatwa’s role in the country. “Today’s inauguration marks a new era in Dar al-Fatwa” Salam said to a crowded assembly hall. The prime minister warned that Dar al-Fatwa would face several challenges “especially with respect to internal organization and its role in Islamic affairs.” The prime minister stressed the importance of rehabilitating Dar al-Fatwa in order to breed moderation and forgiveness in light of the rampant extremism in the region. It is Dar al-Fatwa’s role to guide the public against extremism and “spread the values of forgiveness, centrism and moderation,” he said. Islam is being assaulted by takfiri terrorism, Salam said, arguing that extremism manipulates the “ignorant and weak minded” population in the name of the religion “The biggest responsibility over combatting takfiri thinking ... falls on Dar al-Fatwa and all religious institutions” the prime minister said. Salam called on the grand mufti to continue Dar al-Fatwa’s historic role, with respect to strengthening unity within the Sunni front, forming closer ties with other Muslim sects and maintaining progressive Christian-Muslim dialogue. Hinting at heightened tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon, Salam said that “the relationship between Islamic sects is not at its best.”Political turmoil has seeped into religion, Salam said, citing sectarian linked kidnappings in the Bekaa Valley as an example. Salam called on Dar al-Fatwa to make it a “priority” to ease sectarian tensions, urging the grand mufti to “draw a road map” for such an aim.
Analysis: All quiet on the Northern front
By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post
Sunday's briefing on Hezbollah activity along the northern border is nothing new; It's business as usual for the group that was already digging tunnels into Israel 10 years before Hamas.
There’s nothing new on Israel’s northern border. On Sunday, a senior officer in the IDF Northern Command briefed military correspondents on Hezbollah activity on Israel’s Lebanese border. Conspiratorial theorists rushed immediately to reach their twisted notions.
They figured the briefing was being held due to the fierce power struggle that had once again flared up between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – with the backing of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the defense budget. As if this were just another one of the defense ministry’s media spins aimed at reigniting Israelis’ fear of immediate confrontation with Hezbollah, to enhance its demand for budget increase.
But the truth is actually surprisingly simple. The briefing had been scheduled two weeks previously and turned out to be a fairly routine rundown of information facilitated by the IDF Spokesman for senior officers from the various military corps and for military correspondents and commentators. More importantly, the senior officer giving the briefing did not tell us anything we didn’t already know.
He didn’t speak of the dangers of an imminent war or of an eruption of violence on the northern border. On the contrary, he stated that there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about activity on the Lebanese side of the border.
It’s true, he said, that over the last few weeks there had been a slight modification that could possibly indicate a more proactive and daring style on the part of Hezbollah fighters near the border fence. They don’t try anymore to hide the fact that they are armed, which is in violation of the agreement reached at the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
“Although this is not a new phenomenon,” the officer admitted, “lately they have become more daring.”The officer also reiterated the fact that, contrary to claims made by residents of the Galilee, the IDF has not gathered any intel about tunnels that have been dug under Israeli territory. Does Hezbollah dig tunnels? “It is likely that they are indeed engaged in such activity.” Let’s not forget that Hezbollah predated Hamas by about ten years in what the IDF calls “underground mediation” – the warfare beneath the ground.
And neither is it breaking news that Hezbollah is continuously growing stronger.
From Israel’s point of view, however, Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war has its pros and cons, both advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage is that the Lebanese Shi’ite organization is bleeding on the battlefields of Syria. Hundreds (maybe even a thousand) of its fighters have been killed and thousands injured.
On the other hand, however, Hezbollah has also acquired tremendous military and operational experience as a result of this fighting, and it now has a large number of trained warriors at the ready for a war against Israel if and when that time arrives.
If war were to break out, the IDF is aware that Hezbollah would try to replicate its successes from Syria and send a few hundred fighters to capture an Israeli rural community or conquer a mountaintop. Is this a military secret? No. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in so many words himself during one of his televised appearances.
So, for now, as the senior IDF officer said, “The situation on Israel’s northern border is quiet and calm. Although this status could change at any moment, I am not of the opinion that Hezbollah will launch an offensive against us tomorrow morning.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Aoun: Deal Made to Extend Parliament Term, Lebanon Can't be
in One Axis against Another
Naharnet /Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday announced that a political “deal” to extend the parliament's mandate has been already reached among the various parties, noting that Lebanon cannot join an international coalition that might be aimed at confronting another coalition.
“My nomination has been submitted and all options are on the table. If today's statements turn out to be true, then there will be an extension of the parliament's term as we were expecting, but we have submitted our nominations in order not to leave anything to chance,” Aoun said in an interview on OTV, only hours before the deadline to file candidacies ended.
“Our stance has not changed and we're with holding the elections. We will consider filing a challenge (before the Constitutional Council) if an extension occurs,” Aoun added.
He said his bloc is against any extension of the legislature's term, lamenting that the majority of blocs “want an extension.”
“We want a new electoral law,” Aoun stressed.
He said Speaker Nabih Berri has not totally rejected extension, “because he said he rejects extending the term of a non-functional parliament.”
“This means that he would accept extending the term of a functional parliament and I believe that the deal has been already made,” Aoun added.
“We are ready for elections should they take place,” he said.
Turning to the issue of the stalled presidential election, Aoun said the line-up might be different in the new parliament should legislative polls take place.
“It may call for the election of a new president and in my opinion, the current mechanism for electing the president is very futile,” Aoun added.
“The president who should represent the Lebanese people cannot be 'a doorman in Baabda' and nothing at all prevents granting him powers,” he said.
Asked about his argument that he should be elected president because he has the biggest Christian bloc in parliament, Aoun replied: “Where should we get the president from? From Somalia? Denying the president's popular representation is a crime against democracy.”
“I have not proposed any constitutional amendment and I don't have the capability to do it, so why are they considering my election as a coup against Taef (Accord)?” Aoun asked, referring to his critics.
He revealed that negotiations with al-Mustaqbal movement over the presidential vote had stopped “when they proposed extending (former president Michel) Suleiman's term.” “As for the issue of (parliamentary) elections, I proposed proportional representation and I didn't receive an answer from Mustaqbal.”“I'm not impeding the presidential vote and I told everyone who asked me that I don't mind that a president be elected in parliament, but I have the right not to elect anyone,” the FPM leader went on to say.He added: “I will not relinquish the confidence placed in me by the people and I may lose the battle but I won't give up the presidency.”
Describing himself as a “reformist man,” Aoun noted that drastic changes occur in all countries during crises. “No one should say 'this is not the right time' for electing the president by the people,” he added, referring to his recent proposal to resolve the presidential crisis.Asked about reports that his supporters are arming themselves under the excuse of confronting the Islamic State group and similar organizations, Aoun said “it is not a secret that all Bekaa border towns are monitoring what's happening and that everyone has a rifle at their home.” “All people there have armed themselves as a precaution,” he said.“I don't fear a return to the 1975 war as there is unity among Shiites, Sunnis and Christians, who are guarding side by side. There is no threat because the enemy is external,” Aoun added, referring to the IS.
Commenting on the U.S.-led efforts to form an international coalition aimed at confronting the threat posed by the IS, which has seized control of vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, Aoun said he does not believe the aforementioned axis has reached its wanted size. “It must include all states that are directly affected, which means Iraq and Syria, and no one must be excluded,” Aoun stressed. “As Lebanese, we cannot be in a certain axis against another axis. We are certainly against terrorism and we hope the U.N. will oversee all military operations against terrorism,” he added.
He also warned that the war against terror “must be comprehensive or else it will turn into a war over influence.”
Salam Vows to Fight Terror, Free Troops as Mufti Says Won't Allow Anyone to 'Hijack Religion'
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Tuesday stressed that the government and army will continue to fight “takfiri terrorism,” as newly-inaugurated Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan underlined that Dar al-Fatwa will not “allow anyone to hijack religion” and described arms as the biggest problem in the country.
“In my capacity as prime minister and head of the Islamic electoral council, and in the name of Muslims, I declare Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan the Grand Mufti of the republic,” said Salam at an inauguration ceremony at the Mohammed al-Amin Mosque.
The event was attended by Lebanon's spiritual leaders and representatives of Arab and Western countries.
“It is a blessed day in which we gather to crown the achievement that was made at Dar al-Fatwa on August 10 through the election of Sheikh Daryan as a successor to Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani,” Salam added.
He said Daryan's enthronement will launch a new era at Dar al-Fatwa, “which has a major challenge at the organizational level and at the level of running the affairs of Muslims.”
“The Muslim community has full confidence in Dar al-Fatwa and hopes that its institutions will be fortified,” added Salam.
He said all eyes are on Dar al-Fatwa and its national role in “boosting unity among Muslims, promoting Islamic-Christian dialogue, and keeping the channels of communication and dialogue open with everyone.”
“Islam -- the religion of love, moderation and tolerance -- is nowadays facing a fierce assault from takfiri groups who are murdering, slaughtering, displacing children and women, destroying communities, and imposing practices and lifestyles that cannot be accepted by any religion or mind,” the premier noted.
He said some members of takfiri groups, “which exploit people with weak minds and faith, have arrived in Lebanon,” in reference to militants from the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front who stormed the Bekaa border town of Arsal on August 2.
“I stress that we will carry on with our efforts regarding the abducted troops and that we won't rest before they return safely to their families,” said Salam, referring to around 28 troops and policemen who were abducted by the armed groups during the clashes.
“We in the government are confronting the phenomenon of terrorism with all our capacity and our armed forces are performing their duties in this regard, but the main responsibility in countering this takfiri ideology rests on the shoulders of Dar al-Fatwa,” the PM pointed out.
He said amid the bloody events in the region, “our youths need someone who can guide them, because bigotry is the fuel of strife.”
“Christians and Muslims are the owners of this land and we have equal rights and duties,” added Salam, emphasizing that “the new Maronite Christian president of the Lebanese republic must be elected today before tomorrow.”
He warned that the obstruction of the presidential vote “has caused major damage to Christians, not to mention its definite harm against Lebanon,” urging “every keen Muslim to contribute to a quick solution to this painful situation.”
The premier also called on Dar al-Fatwa to devise a roadmap to “defuse sectarian tensions.”“Let us all, Muslims and Christians, commit to a real partnership ... We either rise together or fall together and no group can accomplish its own project,” he underlined.He noted that there can be no security for a country “in which some of its sons feel that their rights are incomplete.”“We urge the political forces to abide by the spirit of dialogue and this can only happen through the election of a president,” he added. Meanwhile, Mufti Daryan noted during the ceremony that the circumstances in the region “require a stance and a struggle in which the words of right and moderation rise up in the face of extremism.”
“In less than five years, over half a million people were killed in our Arab world, most of them unarmed civilians. More than ten million others were displaced and have become without a home or shelter. These are among the most horrible crimes that humanity has known,” Daryan said.
He stated that the Islamic world has a duty to “seek a way out of strife and tragedies.”
The mufti noted that the situation is dire in Lebanon “because no agreement was reached on a way to control the country's borders and restore the state's esteem and prestige.”
“We won't allow anyone to hijack the centrism of our religion, our country or the safety and security of our people,” Daryan pledged. “We call for protecting religion, the state and the citizens, who have suffered and are still suffering from weapons and outlaw gunmen who violate the state's authority, coexistence and civil peace,” he urged.
The mufti vowed that Dar al-Fatwa and all its bodies “will keep struggling for civil peace and for the welfare of Lebanon and its people.”Strife will not break out and the blood of the Lebanese will not be shed in vain,” he reassured.
On August 10, 61-year-old Daryan, head of the Sunni Sharia Supreme Court of Lebanon, was unanimously elected as the country's new Grand Mufti.
He received 74 votes as 9 others went to the Head of the Sunni Court in Baabda, Judge Sheikh Ahmad Darwish al-Kurdi. The settlement that led to Daryan's election ended a three-year rift between the Higher Islamic Council led by his predecessor Qabbani and a de facto council headed by his deputy Sheikh Omar Misqawi.
US warns Iran's current position in nuclear talks
Wendy Sherman /J.Post/September 17/14
WASHINGTON - Two months before negotiations over its nuclear program are set to expire, Iran still holds positions far from those acceptable to the United States, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday night. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said the two governments remain "far apart" in the talks, now in their eighth month and working towards a November 24 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, along with the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany.
"I fully expect in the days ahead that Iran will try to convince the world that on this pivotal matter, the status quo – or its equivalent – should be acceptable. It is not," Sherman said. "If it were, we wouldn’t be involved in this difficult and very painstaking negotiation."Talks between the powers are set to resume on Thursday in New York. Accepting an award from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, Sherman, who leads negotiations for the US, said the primary disagreement is over "the size and scope" of its uranium enrichment infrastructure. Iranian nuclear weapons would provide its leaders with "devastating power far beyond its borders, threatening Israel," Sherman said, and possibly lead to a catastrophic nuclear arms race in the world's most dangerous region.
Sherman's speech on US foreign policy in the Middle East also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has the right to pursue a "permanent end" to rocket fire from neighboring Gaza, she said, but must do so in accordance with "international law."
The State Department harshly criticized Israel towards the end of its campaign against Hamas in Gaza last month, warning that continued IDF shelling nearby United Nations facilities was "not justified" by the suspected proximity of militant activity.
She called Egypt's democracy "tenuous," and the threat of Islamic State tremendous. Those in the ranks of the terrorist organization are not pious, but "gullible... dupes," she told the students. Zero-sum thinking is a dominant theme in the Middle East, she argued, speaking generally of the region's woes. "America’s policy in the Middle East begins with our understanding that the problems now plaguing the region have tangled roots," she said.
Intel: Hizbullah built arsenal of 5,000 long-range rockets
World Tribune/Israel’s intelligence community has determined that the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah built a huge long-range rocket arsenal. The intelligence community has assessed that Hizbullah was focusing on the procurement of rockets with a range of more than 100 kilometers. In a recent assessment to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, intelligence agencies concluded that Hizbullah amassed an Iranian-origin long-range arsenal of at least 5,000 rockets. “This arsenal could strike deep inside Israel and is larger than most countries in the Middle East,” an Israeli source said. The source said the intelligence community has traced the long-range rocket arsenal to underground facilities in Beirut as well as the Bekaa Valley. The assessment asserted that much of the arsenal consisted of the Fatah-110, with a range of more than 200 kilometers. “These are precision-guided rockets with a warhead of at least one ton,” the source said. “They could strike virtually any target in Israel.”
John Esposito Takes 'Islam' Out of ISIS
by Andrew Harrod/American Thinker
September 17, 2014
"He's the head apologist," read a note passed to this reporter from a liberal friend during Georgetown University professor John Esposito's August 28 address on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) at Washington, D.C.'s National Press Club. The Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) founding director reiterated his hackneyed arguments, long dominant in academia and government, that Islamic radicals' depredations stem from societal ills, not Islamic doctrine.
"ISIS, Radicalization, and the Politics of Violence and Alienation," accompanied by box lunches, attracted about fifty, many capital event regulars, including Georgetown's Berkley Center fellow Stanley Kober and Library of Congress Iraq specialist Michael Albin. Holocaust quasi-denier Ken Meyercord, Zainab Chaudry from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and an elderly woman who, at past events, alleged American government experiments in satellite mind control, also attended.
As a previous conference has shown, Esposito's years of scholarship accord with the event organizer, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), a deceptively radical organization he helped found in 1999. CSID's William Lawrence introduced Esposito as "one of the leading voices on understanding Islam in the world" on "one of the best panels that I can imagine" on ISIS. Lawrence noted that the Islamic State is a "name that many don't want to give" ISIS, although ISIS jihadists from forty nationalities seemed to differ.
Esposito argued that, like al-Qaeda, ISIS's "transnational caliphate" represented an "extraordinarily violent brand of Islam" and a "warped and distorted Salafi ideology." ISIS actions "fly in the face of proscriptions in Islamic law" against killing civilians and other atrocities, he added. Esposito claimed that groups like ISIS justify their actions as a response to extraordinary circumstances, echoing analysis that a jihad imperative to expand Islamic rule can override other Islamic norms.
The "primary drivers are to be found elsewhere" outside Islam for groups like ISIS, Esposito asserted – namely, in a "long list of grievances," the "main reason" cited in videos of ISIS beheadings. This execution method had no particular Islamic basis, he claimed, Quran 8:12 and 47:4 notwithstanding, being merely a terror means for autocratic regimes and criminal groups like Mexican cartels. Unmentioned by Esposito, "grievances" in Islamic doctrine justify "defensive" jihad.
Esposito condemned "[m]assive violations of human rights," including Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Egypt and the recent Israeli "massive slaughter of Gazans," a common canard belied by careful analysis. "Not speaking out and condemning" the "things that are devastating" of "traditional allies" like Israel or Arab regimes "alienates … Muslim democrats" and creates "disaffected youth" who feel that they "must act."
Complementing "moral outrage" over matters like "anti-imperialism," Western Muslims also join groups like ISIS to attain a "sense of meaning, purpose and belonging" while "living in a hostile society." Although "Islamophobic groups" correlate Islamic piety with violence, Esposito claimed, evidence suggested that such jihadists were "religious novices." He failed to explain, though, why other marginal groups in modern societies such as Mexican or non-Muslim Indian immigrants do not abandon welfare states for orgies of violence abroad.
Suggesting that ISIS's vision does indeed have Islamic inspiration, Esposito recalled a Turkish officer once saying that the term "caliphate vibrates" for "even secular Turks." Many Muslims "look back … with pride" on the caliphate, if not as a model for modern governance. Most Muslims surveyed worldwide seek "some form of sharia" in a democracy.
The "caliphate … the Islamic state … has a resonance," Esposito's fellow panelist from the Brookings Institution, Middle East scholar Shadi Hamid, noted, even among Hamid's rather secular American Muslim acquaintances. Muslims in places like Nigeria will thus "copycat" ISIS. Islam, the "greatest civilization the world had ever seen," had a "fall from grace" in this commonplace yet too infrequently critiqued hagiographical historical fata morgana.
Breaking from Esposito's position, Hamid noted that "this 'Islam is peace' narrative is starting to grate on me a little bit … Islam is … what Muslims will it to be." "Almost a U.N.," he continued, ISIS jihadists "take governance pretty seriously" concerning matters like sharia courts and water distribution. Esposito's supposed social outcasts and novices "actually hold … and … run territory" equivalent to the United Kingdom with four million inhabitants. "More brutal" than other Middle East regimes, ISIS is "less arbitrary."
"Islamists were willing to test … out" democracy, Hamid noted. Yet the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB)'s overthrow created the conclusion that the "Islamic state is only possible through force of arms," suggesting that common principles united MB and ISIS's differing tactics. Indeed, Egyptian and United Arab Emirate airstrikes in Libya, not Syria, indicated that "many … countries see mainstream political Islam" such as MB "as more of a threat" than ISIS.
Thirteen years after 9/11, an expert panel still gropes between blaming "grievances" of poverty and injustice supposedly caused by the United States, Israel, and non-Muslims in general and sectarian Islamic ideology for recurring jihad-sharia outrages. Whether ISIS differs from Israel's opponents such as Hamas and other MB affiliates, though, remains thereby an unanswered question. How would, moreover, a MB-run Egypt be any better than regimes of varying Islamic piety throughout the region, particularly with respect to Christians currently suffering Islamic persecution? Iran's Shiite Islamic Republic and its Shiite Hezbollah proxies, meanwhile, repress Iraqi and Syrian Sunni Muslims in an intra-Muslim sectarian conflict far bloodier than any American or Israeli Middle East actions. Such pressing concerns deserve better than past and present Islamic illusions depressingly prevalent in Middle East studies and policymaking circles beyond.
*Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project; follow him on twitter at @AEHarrod. He wrote this essay for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
By: Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times
September 17, 2014
Before welcoming the emerging state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, I confess to having opposed its independence in the past.
In 1991, after the Kuwait War had ended and as Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq's six million Kurds, I made three arguments against American intervention on their behalf, arguments still commonly heard today: (1) Kurdish independence would spell the end of Iraq as a state, (2) it would embolden Kurdish agitation for independence in Syria, Turkey, and Iran, leading to destabilization and border conflicts, and (3) it would invite the persecution of non-Kurds, causing "large and bloody exchanges of population."
All three expectations proved flat-out wrong. Given Iraq's wretched domestic and foreign track record, the end of a unified Iraq promises relief, as do Kurdish stirrings in the neighboring countries. Syria has fractured into its three ethnic and sectarian components: Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shi'i Arab, which promises benefits in the long term. Kurds' departing Turkey usefully impedes the reckless ambitions of now-President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Similarly, Kurds decamping Iran helpfully diminishes that arch-aggressive mini-empire. Far from non-Kurds fleeing Iraqi Kurdistan, as I feared, the opposite has occurred: hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring in from the rest of Iraq to benefit from Kurdistan's security, tolerance, and opportunities.
I can account for these errors: In 1991, no one knew that autonomous Kurdish rule in Iraq would flourish as it has. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which came into existence the following year, can be called (with only some exaggeration) the Switzerland of the Muslim Middle East. Its armed, commercially-minded mountain people seek to be left alone to prosper.
One could also not have known in 1991 that the Kurdish army, the peshmerga, would establish itself as a competent and disciplined force; that the KRG would reject the terrorist methods then notoriously in use by Kurds in Turkey; that the economy would boom; that the Kurds' two leading political families, the Talabanis and Barzanis, would learn to coexist; that the KRG would engage in responsible diplomacy; that its leadership would sign international trade accords; that ten institutions of higher learning would come into existence; and that Kurdish culture would blossom.
But all this did happen. As Israeli scholar Ofra Bengio describes it, "autonomous Kurdistan has proved to be the most stable, prosperous, peaceful, and democratic part of Iraq."
Every map of the Kurdish peoples differs from the others. This one offers an estimate of their geographic extent, including a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea.
What's next on the KRG agenda?
The first item, after severe losses to the Islamic State, is for the peshmerga to retrain, re-arm, and tactically ally with such former adversaries as the Iraqi central government and the Turkish Kurds, steps which have positive implications for Kurdistan's future.
Second, the KRG leadership has signaled its intention to hold a referendum on independence, which it rightly presumes will generate a ringing popular endorsement. Diplomacy, however, lags behind. The Iraqi central government, of course, opposes this goal, as do the great powers, reflecting their usual caution and concern for stability. (Recall George H.W. Bush's 1991 "Chicken Kiev speech.")
However, given the KRG's superior record, outside powers should encourage its independence. Pro-government media in Turkey already do. U.S. vice president Joe Biden might build on his 2006 suggestion of "giving each ethno-religious group – Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab – room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests."
Third: What if Iraqi Kurds joined forces across three borders – as they have done on occasion – and form a single Kurdistan with a population of about 30 million and possibly a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea? One of the largest ethnic group in the world without a state (a debatable claim: e.g., the Kannadiga of India), the Kurds missed their chance in the post-World War I settlement because they lacked the requisite intellectuals and politicians.
The emergence now of a Kurdish state would profoundly alter the region by simultaneously adding a sizable new country and partially dismembering its four neighbors. This prospect would be dismaying in most of the world. But the Middle East – still in the grip of the wretched Sykes-Picot deal secretly negotiated by European powers in 1916 – needs a salutary shake-up.
From this perspective, the emergence of a Kurdish state is part of the region-wide destabilization, dangerous but necessary, that began in Tunisia in December 2010. Accordingly, I offer a hearty welcome to its four potential parts joining soon together to form a single united Kurdistan.
**Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 17 Sep, 2014
The campaign that is being waged by some Islamists, backed by some nationalist and left-wing writers and a new generation of their students, against the new international alliance against religious terrorism reminds us of the cynicism and skepticism that dominated the scene during the war to liberate Kuwait in 1991. At the time, the Muslim Brotherhood united with Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athists, Arafat’s PLO and the rest of the pan-Arab movements to attack Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states for the decision to build an international alliance—with the US providing the bulk of the military force—to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.
In Saudi Arabia, the most active opponents of this alliance were the mainstream Islamist preachers who issued statements and held lectures, confusing the atmosphere at home and sowing doubts about the intentions behind this alliance. They claimed that what was happening represented a new Crusade. The most prominent preacher to make these claims was none other than Safar Al-Hawali.
Saudi Arabia found itself in a difficult position at the time. As Saudi monarch King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz said at the time, Kuwait must either return to its people or “we” would all have to take action to intervene. In any case, anyone who lived through that period of time knows what I am talking about here; for those who didn’t, old news reports and history books will have to suffice.
An international alliance—which is something Saudi Arabia has called for on numerous occasions—has now been formed. However, as Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said in his speech in Paris on Monday, this alliance will seek to combat not just the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but all armed groups that use murder and violence and spread chaos and hatred. This is an important mission, even if it takes a decade.
Iran has been excluded from this alliance as Tehran is part of the problem, not the solution. After being discharged from hospital, we saw how Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei complained about Iran not being invited to the Paris conference; he even claimed that Iran had rejected a previous US offer of military coordination against ISIS. This, of course, is patently false, and just last month a US State Department spokesperson denied the US had ever issued any such request to Tehran, adding that Washington has no intention of asking Iran to participate in this international alliance.
The same anger that Iran is experiencing can be seen in the statements of Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who says he is not pleased by the US taking the decision to confront ISIS. In a tweet earlier this week, Qaradawi said: “I oppose ISIS in its ideological path and its methods of action, but I will never agree that the country to fight it should be the United States, which is not motivated by the values of Islam, but by its own interests, even if blood is spilled as a result.” His colleague at the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Dr. Salman Al-Ouda, reiterated this, also via Twitter, asking: “Who empowered America to define the meaning of the term ‘moderation?’”
However, Qaradawi and Ouda did not display any such reservations or skepticism when NATO fighter jets and US cruise missiles were used in Libya. Of course, this was to the benefit of Qaradawi’s own allies in Libya, like Abdelhakim Belhadj and the rest. Qaradawi and other preachers spoke out on YouTube in favour of “infidel” NATO’s military operations against Gaddafi. As for Syria, when it looked like it might be his allies who would topple and succeed Assad, Qaradawi indicated to Britain’s Financial Times in 2011 that NATO intervention in the country would be permissible.
Qaradawi’s comments placed the International Union for Muslim Scholars in an embarrassing position, particularly after other members of the group explicitly rejected NATO’s role in Libya.
Ultimately, this international alliance will hurt ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front, Iran and Assad while benefiting the forces of regional security and stability, as well as the “moderate” Syrian opposition.
Will the Jeddah alliance be the
beginning of a new Arab world?
Jamal Khashoggi /Asharq Al Awsat
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
When American jets shell the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Raqqah and when ISIS defenses collapse and chaos spreads among its fighters and when the Syrian regime, moderate rebels and the al-Nusra Front - who all have a different vision of Syria’s future - receive the news, which one will step forward and declare the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS and raise its own banner there?
This dilemma is one example of several other dilemmas which the alliance currently being formed under the slogan of “eliminating ISIS” must confront. This explains the reason behind the Arab-Turkish-American meeting held last Thursday to discuss establishing an anti-ISIS alliance. U.S. President Barack Obama has admitted that eliminating ISIS will not be easy and will require years. How is this possible when ISIS is just an organization? I will use the former example of Raqqah to signify how difficult the mission of eliminating ISIS is. First of all, there are no American troops on ground to complement the work of American bombers as Obama promised his people he would not send any troops into the war. In addition, regional countries are not enthusiastic about this, therefore, there’s no other way besides counting on one of the three aforementioned parties - the Syrian regime, moderate rebels or the al-Nusra Front. However, the question is: how will we prevent the two unfavorable parties from benefitting from the collapse of ISIS?
“ISIS is one of the reasons behind the deterioration of the situation in the region”
This is what requires regional and international cooperation, which supposedly began to set its rules during the meeting in Jeddah. Obama’s statements are plenty but mysterious, as are the statements of regional powers. Therefore, analysts must connect the dots to draw the entire picture. Let’s begin with the important point. After the phone call between Saudi King Abdullah and President Obama, the Americans leaked the news of Saudi Arabia’s approval to open training camps for the moderate Syrian opposition. So, can one say the issue has been finalized and Bashar al-Assad’s term is finally over? The Syrian people have been disappointed plenty of times, either due to American hesitation or due to its backing down from taking action at last minute. This also extended the reign of Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Syrians are thus hesitant to accept that the situation has been finalized, even though ISIS has united the world against it and made Obama’s hesitant administration take satisfactory action.
Deterioration of the region
ISIS is one of the reasons behind the deterioration of the situation in the region. It has united regional parties who were once rivals and these parties are currently seeking cooperation with one another. We can thus say that eliminating ISIS also calls for the elimination of Assad. This explains Russia’s statements that the fight against ISIS should be orchestrated within the boundaries of international law.
Russia said this despite the U.N. Security Council decision calling for confronting ISIS and although it has actually voted in favor of it. However, Russia is clearly worried that the U.S. will expand the operations and target its ally in Damascus who, soon after Russia’s statement, warned that it will consider any uncoordinated military action on its land as an attack.
Russian fear is in its place even though it’s immoral. The operation must target Moscow’s ally in Damascus and topple him or pave the way to toppling him. Perhaps this is the logical explanation as to why Saudi Arabia approved training camps for the moderate Syrian opposition. It’s tantamount to declaring an indirect war on the Syrian regime. It also brings an end to all speculations that Saudi Arabia’s stance towards the Syrian regime may change due to fear of the ISIS threat. This theory of a Saudi policy change was marketed by the Syrian regime’s allies in Tehran and Moscow as well as by other regional powers who participated in the Jeddah meeting. However, the latter regional parties must harmonize their stance with that of the majority of the alliance’s countries, and particularly with that of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi approval to establish training camps can also be interpreted a symptom of the Saudi-American partnership against the Syrian regime. This comes after protests by the kingdom against U.S. reluctance and exaggerated conditions to arm the Syrian opposition. This reluctance has delayed victory and allowed the regime to expand its aggression and led to this stagnant situation in Syria, which eventually produced ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. Saudi Arabia is now telling the Americans that it’s ready to take on a bigger responsibility to end this destructive situation and to progress to the next phase of the war against extremism in the region, building a new Syria and a new Iraq devoid of sectarianism and tyranny in the meantime.
A far reaching project
If this is the case, this partnership will require security and military responsibilities which go beyond just a few thousand Syrian fighters who train then head to the front. It’s a project that must be assisted without wasting any time as this would have negative repercussions. There must be a clear plan that specifies the framework on which this partnership is based, especially as Saudi Arabia is in the thick of it and cannot bear the cost of failure like Obama and his administration who will leave in less than two years. The U.S. can once again retreat and leave us alone amidst the Middle East’s political and sectarian struggles.
The Jeddah alliance is everyone’s opportunity for a new beginning. It is not limited to its immediate task of eliminating ISIS but also includes the possibility of expanding towards reforming the situation in Iraq and Syria. The alliance can reform Iraq by helping it become a real federal democracy, like the 2003 constitution stipulates. Meanwhile, Syria needs a new beginning without a suppressive sectarian regime. After that, everyone must look at a long list of must-do’s to establish a new Arab world. Those who said the campaign against ISIS needs three or four years are being optimistic as I think it needs more time. ISIS is a movement that mixed angry politics with religious extremism and which was produced by the corruption, tyranny, fanaticism and intolerance we all live through.
Strong yet hesitant coalition facing determined enemy
Published: 09.17.14/ Israel Opinion
Analysis: Why are the Middle Eastern forces, whose integrity is being threatened by ISIS, afraid to attack the murderous organization? What will the offensive look like in the end and what role will Israel play in it?
The Western-Arab coalition against the Islamic State organization is taking shape, and a military alliance of some 20 states gained momentum between US Secretary John Kerry's visit to the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia a week ago and Monday's international conference on Iraq in Paris.
The coalition is facing a determined enemy, filled with Islamic, jihadist and messianic enthusiasm. As time goes by, more and more volunteers join the "Islamic caliphate," in which the power and evil attract fanatic Muslims around the world. According to estimates, the organization has 20,000 to 30,000 murderous fighters in black uniforms.
According to Syrian opposition reports, ISIS is already preparing to attack the coalition and is transferring equipment and fighters from its headquarters to hiding places. The organization is expected to make maximum use of Christian and Muslim places of worship and sites which will serve as a "human shield": Hospitals, schools, kindergartens, etc.
ISIS is facing a large and strong coalition, yet hesitant and filled with reservations. Why are the forces in the Middle East, whose integrity is being threatened by ISIS, afraid to attack the murderous organization? What will the offensive look like in the end?
Iraq is in, Syria not yet
The coalition's participants have yet to be tasked with their missions, and its members already appear deterred by the thought of attacking. What the states which arrived at the Paris conference share is support in principle for the idea of destroying ISIS. The main problem stems from the fact that the organization dominates areas in two countries in which the situation is completely different.
Some of the coalition's leaders have already expressed their consent to attack ISIS in Iraq. Britain, France and Australia have agreed to join the airstrikes which the Americans have already begun in northern Iraq. Germany has agreed to arm the Kurdish Pêşmerge fighters in Iraq. The Iraqi army appears determined to regain its control of the western part of the country. The change of government and new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi point to a more stable coalition in the future.
But not a single country apart from the United States has agreed about the offensive in northern Syria.
The situation in the Syrian arena is much more complex. As far as the Americans are concerned, Syrian President Bashar Assad is a war criminal and cooperating with him or with his ally Iran is out of the question.
The European countries are afraid of getting entangled in Syria, particularly for fear of a conflict with Russia, the Assad regime's main supporter. Russia suspects, and with a great amount of justice, that an attack on ISIS in Syria will not be the end of it and that, under American pressure, the coalition forces may move on to attack the Syrian regime as well.
Keeping Iran away from the coalition only strengthens Russia's suspicions on this issue. The tensions between the European countries and Russia are already very high over the Ukrainian issue, and they are not interested in extending the conflict to another arena and risking a military conflict with Russia.
Saudi Arabia behind the scenes
There is no doubt that the Americans have no intention of giving the Syrian regime a "free gift" and will do anything to prevent Assad from taking over the territories they are planning to attack. But who will fill the void which will be created after ISIS is destroyed? The leader of the Sunni Arab world, Saudi Arabia, is likely behind the American considerations.
Keeping Iran away from the coalition has to do with the Saudi pressure not to include the Shiite element in Syria. According to Arab sources, the kingdom has even offered to train a large force of "moderate" rebels on its territory before they enter northern Syria after the American bombing. Thereby, Saudi Arabia will move towards its goal to turn Syria into a state controlled by the Sunni majority and its ally instead of Iran.
Battle against Muslim Brotherhood
Saudi Arabia is behind a significant political process the region is going through ahead of the attack on ISIS. On Saturday, Qatar abruptly expelled senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement at Egypt's demand under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. But this demand was made long ago, and the current timing has to do with US and Saudi efforts to "clear" the area of Islamic organizations ahead of the strike.
The expulsion of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders took place immediately, and not incidentally, after the embarrassing incident which revealed the ransom Qatar had paid the Jabhat al-Nusra organization in Syria in exchange for releasing the UN peacekeepers held hostage in Fiji. This exposed the emirate's support for the most radical organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Interestingly, the upcoming attack has put Tunisia, the leading Maghreb state in the number of volunteers fighting alongside ISIS, under pressure as well. In order to prove that Tunisia is not on the wrong side, its Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo rushed to declare Sunday that his country is fighting terror and has recently prevented as many as 9,000 Tunisian young men and women from joining Islamic movements fighting in Syria and Iraq and threatened to revoke their passports. This amazing figure revealed just how deep the Tunisian problem is.
Turkey is not joining coalition
Another country embarrassed by the anti-terror coalition is Turkey, which has become a shelter for the Muslim Brotherhood. It sponsors different Islamic opposition groups in Syria and also provided them with transit areas.
Turkey should have been America's natural ally in the current crisis. It borders on Syria and on Iraq and is the closest country to the areas controlled by ISIS. Turkey is also a member of the NATO alliance, and an important US Air Force base is located within the country.
Officially, Turkey has expressed its concern for 46 Turkish civilians kidnapped by ISIS, but the fact that many Turks have joined ISIS embarrasses the regime in Ankara, which is not interested in exposing the extent of this phenomenon.
Turkey's main fear is that the West's arming of the Kurds against ISIS will enable them to establish an independent entity in northern Iraq and in Syria. In the next stage, the Kurds may threaten the integrity of Turkey, in which they make up about 20% of the population.
So who will do the actual fighting?
While Western forces strike in Iraq, the ground forces will mainly include local populations: In Iraq, the Iraqi army and local Sunni tribes, and in Syria, moderate opposition forces.
It looks like the Americans will be forced to strike on their own in Syria, as they are currently doing in Iraq. It's hard to assume that the Syrian army will follow through on its threats to attack planes entering Syria's airspace without coordination. Such an incident will only serve as an excuse to expand the offensive and target the Syrian regime's army as well.
The Arab support will likely be expressed in sending weapons and funding the local forces.
No active Israeli involvement
Egyptian President al-Sisi has stated that the war on terror must be an "all-out war." This means that Egypt's part in the battle will be reduced to fighting the terror organizations in Sinai and on the border with Libya.
With its current economic situation, Egypt cannot afford to send its forces to fight in a different country. In addition, the Egyptian army is too busy stabilizing Egypt's internal security. This stability is essential for restoring tourism and advancing the Suez Canal expansion project.
The Jordanian army is too small to become a significant part of the coalition, and its role will likely be mainly defensive – curbing ISIS activists fleeing southward to the kingdom's border during the strikes.
As far as Israel is concerned, its involvement will likely be limited to a quiet intelligence contribution, as an active Israeli involvement may keep some countries away or break up the Arab coalition, which includes countries that are in a state of war with the Jewish state (Lebanon and Iraq, for example).
ISIS is expected to withdraw westward and then southward, from Iraq to Syria and from headquarters in northern Syria southward. Ironically, ISIS's only chance of surviving stems from the Iranian-Russian axis' objection to an offensive in Syria.
**Dr. Yaron Friedman, Ynet's commentator on the Arab world, is a graduate of the Sorbonne. He teaches Arabic and lectures about Islam at the Technion, at Beit Hagefen and at the Galilee Academic College. His book, "The Nusayri Alawis: An Introduction to the Religion, History and Identity of the Leading Minority in Syria," was published in 2010 by Brill-Leiden.