September 24/14

Bible Quotation for today/Turn away from those who cause divisions and occasions of stumbling
Romans 16/17-20/ Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them.  For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent.  For your obedience has become known to all. I rejoice therefore over you. But I desire to have you wise in that which is good, but innocent in that which is evil.  And the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 23 and 24/14

ISIS’s Western Women/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat/September  24/14
Iran’s hand in Yemen/The Daily Star/September 24/14

Will America’s anti-ISIS bombing campaign succeed/Majid Rafizadeh /Al Arabiya/September 24/14

The fall of Sanaa: What next for Yemen/Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya/September 24/14

Defeating ISIS: From Strategy to Implementation/Jean-Pierre Filiu, James F. Jeffrey, and Michael Eisenstadt/ September 24/14
Protests Greet Bahrain's Latest Political Plan/By:
Simon Henderson /Washington Institute/September 24/14

Assyrians in Iraq Should Go for Self-Determination/AINA/ By Yeghig Tashjian/September 24/14

Lebanese Related News published on September 23 and 24/14

Lebanon's Arabic press digest – Sept. 23, 2014

Nasrallah meets with Democratic Party leader

Muslim Scholars lay blame on March 8 coalition for terrorism plaguing Lebanon

NYT: De-facto Hezbollah-US alliance against ISIS

Nasrallah meets with Lebanese Democratic Party leader

Syrian warplanes raid militant hideouts near Arsal

TMA’s financial woes hit employees

Army tightens siege on militants

ISIS vs Hezbollah in numbers

Al-Rahi Urges Daryan for Joint Protection of Lebanese Culture

Israeli Forces Cross Demarcation Line, Comb Area on Ross Mountain

Lebanese Authorities Want 'Guarantees' as Arsal Municipal Chief Promises Good News

Army Chief of Staff in Moscow Next Week over Military Assistance

Nasrallah to Deliver Televised Speech on IS and Arsal Captives

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 23 and 24/14

US, Arab partners launch first strikes on ISIS in Syria

Syria: We support strikes againt ISIS, al-Nusra

At least 70 ISIS fighters killed in US-led airstrikes in Syria

Other groups may pose more danger than ISIS: US officials

Syria says Kerry sent letter about raids in advance

Syria Opposition Welcomes U.S. Strikes, Urges Pressure on Assad

UK premier to meet Rouhani in New York

Tehran Wades into Iraq’s Crisis

Iraq FM predicts longer campaign against ISIS in Syria

Rebels release purported footage of Syrian warplane shot down by IAF missile
IDF: Syrian fighter jet shot down over Golan

UNHCR braces for possible exodus of 400,000 Syrian Kurds

Former regime officials facilitated Houthi takeover of Sana’a: sources

Yemen leader vows to restore authority, warns of civil war
ISIS-aligned group kidnaps Frenchman in Algeria

Saudi Arabia headed for “new renaissance”: Crown Prince

Syrian Kurds want to coordinate with U.S. on ISIS fight
ISIS threat draws Saudis, Iranians closer

At UN, Palestinians to push for new 'political reality'
Russia will add 80 new warships to Black Sea Fleet

Netanyahu: Israel fulfilled pledge to find murderers of three Israeli teens

Palestinians to proceed with Cairo talks despite IDF killing of Israeli teens' murderers

Abbas to demand U.N. resolution to end occupation
French PM vows ‘no negotiation’ with Algeria hostage-takers

Iran Unveils New Missile-Equipped Drone

Two Iranians Plead Guilty in Kenya to Carrying Fake Passports


Lebanon's Arabic press digest – Sept. 23, 2014
The Daily Star
The following are a selection of stories from Lebanese newspapers that may be of interest to Daily Star readers. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
Kahwagi orders new Special Forces unit
Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi has ordered the establishment of a new Special Forces regiment named "The Mountain Combat Unit," in a bid to increase the number of Special Forces.
The decision came only four months after Kahwagi established the 6th Intervention Unit.
The Army had set up mountain combat battalions during the past years within the Commandos Unit before they were recently pulled to become an independent regiment.
Hujeiri: Good news to hostages’ families in coming days
Arsal mayor Ali Hujeiri told As-Safir that the coming few days would bring good news to the families of Lebanese soldiers and policemen held captive by Islamist militants.
Meanwhile, sources following up on the situation said the Lebanese Army continued to tighten noose on the militants.
Turkey loses interest in mediation
Sources said that Turkey was no longer enthusiastic about mediation efforts on its part to resolve the hostages’ crisis. This was reflected by Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim's second visit to Turkey not taking place.
Ibrahim was expected to visit Turkey before traveling to Qatar with Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
Plumbly: Presidency is a priority
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said the Lebanese presidency was a priority and urged Lebanese not to abandon their responsibilities while waiting for the newly-found Saudi-Iranian rapprochement to become complete.
Plumbly stressed that the need for Lebanon to have a functioning Parliament and Cabinet.

Al-Rahi Urges Daryan for Joint Protection of Lebanese Culture
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi called on Tuesday for the election of a president, the implementation of the Constitution and the control of illegitimate weapons, urging the newly-inaugurated Grand Mufti to protect Lebanon's common Christian-Muslim culture.
“It is our duty as religious officials not to remain silent to violations of the country's principles and constitutional framework,” said al-Rahi during talks with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan at Dar al-Fatwa.  “It is unacceptable years after the approval of the National Pact to wonder which Lebanon we want,” he said. “No party has the right to have hegemony over the country and change the type of democracy we have,” he said. “There should be loyalty to Lebanon first.” Al-Rahi called for unity and cooperation with the Mufti, who was inaugurated last week, on social and development issues. “The Christians and Muslims in Lebanon are a single family with the same culture,” he said. “We have a big challenge which is the protection of our common culture and its development,” the patriarch stressed.
“The recent developments, economic collapse … and corruption tarnished the image of the Lebanese human being,” he said. Al-Rahi also called for sustainable development and administrative decentralization. “Personal and social development is the new face of peace,” he said. “It is the duty of religious leaders ... to urge our politicians to work for the people's benefit and improve the state's values,” he added. Al-Rahi's visit to Daryan at the head of a Maronite bishops' delegation comes as Muslim and Christian religious leaders are expected to hold a summit on Thursday. A closing statement will be delivered at the end of the summit reiterating rejection to terrorism and renewing adherence to national coexistence, unnamed sources told al-Liwaa daily on Tuesday. The statement will also call for the necessity to safeguard Lebanon at the political level by holding the presidential and parliamentary elections. Head of the Sunni Sharia Supreme Court of Lebanon Sheikh Daryan, 61, was unanimously elected in August as the country's new Grand Mufti succeeding Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani. Since August, Lebanon has been on a knife edge when fierce clashes erupted in the northeastern town of Arsal between the Lebanese army and jihadists of the Islamist state. The clashes killed several soldiers in addition to others that were held captive by the IS, which in turn set a list of demands to free them. The IS has later killed 3 of the soldiers in response to the Lebanese government’s refusal to meet their demands.


Syrian warplanes raid militant hideouts near Arsal
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Syrian warplanes Tuesday fired four missiles on militant hideouts in Sarj al-Ghanam on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, security sources said. The sources were unable to provide further details. Jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front are scattered in the rugged terrain on the outermost edge of the Bekaa town of Arsal. The Lebanese Army is engaged in a war against ISIS and Nusra following last month’s brief takeover of Arsal by the militants.

Nasrallah meets with Lebanese Democratic Party leader
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah met with Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan Tuesday. The meeting focused on the “latest political developments in Lebanon and the region,” according to a statement released by Hezbollah’s news office. Nasrallah is scheduled to deliver a speech at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on Al-Manar TV.

NYT: De-facto Hezbollah-US alliance against ISIS
The Daily Star/23/09/14
BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the U.S. have become de-facto allies in Syria, with the common objective of combating ISIS and preventing its spread into Lebanon, the New York Times said Tuesday. In a rare interview between a senior party official and American media, Hezbollah’s newly appointed public relations chief, Mohammed Afif, implicitly acknowledged the rise of an indirect coordination in the fight against terror between the party and Washington, though their broader goals and views sharply diverge.
“All have an interest to keep the peace” in Lebanon, Afifi told the NYT, but added that each had its own ways to combat their common enemy. The U.S. paper suggested that American intelligence had indirectly shared information with Hezbollah that helped the party stop suicide attacks in its stronghold in the southern suburb of Beirut. The American military aid that has been arriving in Lebanon to help the Army to secure the border was another form of indirect cooperation according to the paper, as the Lebanese Army coordinates with Hezbollah and shares intelligence. The New York Times added that there are signs that Hezbollah, which the U.S. lists as a terrorist organization, may see the fight against ISIS as an opportunity to gain legitimacy by making the case that it is standing against terrorism.
“We need to open up a new page with the world media, with Arabs and internationally,” Afifi said, justifying the lengthy interview with NYT. While there may be indirect coordination behind the scenes, Hezbollah and the U.S. deny any hint of an alliance. Hezbollah is also opposed to having Lebanon join a US-led coalition to combat ISIS. But analysts contended that having American drones in the air and Hezbollah fighters on the ground, targeting the same foe, constitutes a de-facto collaboration, though each can argue there was no official coordination - just two parties doing different things for the same goal. According to the analysts, Hezbollah would deeply welcome U.S. strikes as long as they are confined to ISIS targets, even if it might not say so in public.
Another anaylst went as far as to suggest to the NYT that the U.S. should rethink its stance against Hezbollah. “ Hezbollah is not representing an imminent threat against the world,” Kamel Wazne said. “It represents a threat against Israel, as Israel represents a threat against Lebanon. But Hezbollah is not going to threaten the U.S. and Europe. Nobody said Hezbollah is cutting off heads.”


Muslim Scholars lay blame on March 8 coalition for terrorism plaguing Lebanon
The Daily Star/23/09/14
BEIRUT: The March 8 coalition is responsible for the terrorism plaguing Lebanon the Committee of Muslim Scholars said Tuesday, calling on Hezbollah withdraw from Syria and the militants spread across the northeastern border to return to Syria. “We reiterate our call to the so-called Hezbollah fighters to withdraw immediately from Syria, and we call on Syrian fighters immediately withdraw to Syria, where the real battle is,” said a statement issued by the committee in north Lebanon. “A political team [March 8] which supports the need for alliance with the terrorist [Syrian President Bashar] Assad cannot be honest in the fight against terrorism,” the scholars said. They accused March 8 of dragging the Lebanese Army into a confrontation with the people, adding that the Hezbollah-led alliance was “responsible for everything that is happening in Lebanon by sending armed militias to kill people in Syria.”Addressing the Lebanese government, the scholars said the solution to ending the consequences of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria was "not by implicating the Lebanese Army ... but pushing for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria.”They called for the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The scholars expressed support for both the residents of the Bekaa Valley border town of Arsal, as well as the families of the Lebanese soldiers and policemen held captive by Islamist militants. “We declare next Friday a day of solidarity in all mosques under the title ‘no to Arsal’s slaugher,’” the statement said. To the hostages’ families, the scholars said that “the solution is not with the Lebanese government and not with the Qataris. The solution is with those disrupting negotiations inside the Cabinet.”“Do not stop your pressure on ministers, minister after minister,” they urged. The scholars also sympathized with Islamist inmates held at Roumieh Prison for their alleged involvement in the 2007 war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
One of the demands of the ISIS and Nusra Front jihadists who are holding at least 21 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage was an exchange of the captives with the Islamist prisoners. They have also demanded that Hezbollah withdraws from Syria.
“To Islamist inmates ... We were hoping that you would return to your families who have been suffering for years without killing [taking place] in your name,” the statement said. ISIS has beheaded two Lebanese soldiers and Nusra recently released a video showing a Lebanese soldier being shot dead. “We hope you will soon be released from this terrible injustice.” The statement also referred to a YouTube video that has recently surfaced showing Lebanese soldiers allegedly beating and abusing Syrian refugees.
“The documented violations we saw were shocking, inhumane and inappropriate attitude by the Lebanese security members against Arsal residents and Syrian refugees ... this necessitates sounding the alarm and considering what happened has exceeded all red lines.”

ISIS vs Hezbollah in numbers
NOW September 22, 2014
The jihadist paramilitary group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which declared itself ruler of its own state in June after expanding its eastern Syrian stronghold into western Iraq, was described in August by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as "beyond just a terrorist group […] beyond anything that we've seen." Below, NOW puts this judgment in context by comparing ISIS's vital statistics to those of another formidable Islamist militia; Lebanon's Hezbollah. As the data show, ISIS is believed to have more fighters than Hezbollah, and to enjoy more abundant finances. This is in part a result of the vast territory it controls – perhaps 10 times as much as Hezbollah does – in which over half a dozen lucrative oil fields are at its disposal. On the other hand, Hezbollah has a much wider geographical reach, believed to be operating – whether militarily or financially – in over 45 countries. It is also more battle-hardened, having fought up to seven conventional armies in its three decades of existence. Moreover, while it controls less territory than ISIS, it is nonetheless "important to remember," said analyst Phillip Smyth, that the areas it does hold are of great "strategic" significance.


US, Arab allies launch first strikes on fighters in Syria
Phil Stewart/Tom Perry/Reuters
WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States launched air and missile strikes with Arab allies in Syria for the first time on Tuesday, killing dozens of ISIS fighters and members of a separate al-Qaeda-linked group, and widening its new war in the Middle East.
"I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against (ISIS) terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles," Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.
U.S. Central Command said Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had either participated or supported the strikes against ISIS targets.
U.S. forces also launched strikes to "disrupt imminent attack" against U.S. and Western interests by "seasoned al Qaeda veterans" who had established a safe haven in Syria, it said, apparently referring to attacks against a separate group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed in strikes that hit at least 50 targets in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor provinces in Syria's east.
It said strikes had also targeted the Nusra Front, in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, killing at least 30 fighters and eight civilians. The Nusra Front is al Qaeda's official Syrian wing and ISIS rival.
The air attacks fulfil President Barack Obama's pledge to strike in Syria against ISIS, a Sunni Muslim group that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq, imposing a mediaeval interpretation of Islam, slaughtering prisoners and ordering Shi'ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.
ISIS vowed revenge.
"These attacks will be answered," an ISIS fighter told Reuters by Skype from Syria, blaming the "sons of Saloul" - a derogatory term for Saudi Arabia's ruling family - for allowing the strikes to take place.
The Sunni fighters, who have proclaimed a caliphate ruling over all Muslims, alarmed the Middle East by sweeping through northern Iraq in June. They shocked the West in recent weeks by beheading two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker, raising fears that they could attack Western countries.
The strikes took place hours before Obama goes to New York for the U.N. General Assembly where he will try to rally more nations behind his drive to aggressively take on ISIS.
The action pitches Washington for the first time into the three-year-old Syrian civil war, which has killed 200,000 people and displaced millions. U.S. forces have previously hit ISIS targets in Iraq, where Washington supports the government, but had held back from a military engagement in Syria, where the United States opposes President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government said the United States had informed it hours before the strikes that ISIS targets would be hit in Raqqa, 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Damascus.
"The foreign minister received a letter from his American counterpart via the Iraqi foreign minister, in which he informed him that the United States and some of its allies would target (ISIS) in Syria," the Syrian foreign ministry said. "That was hours before the raids started."
A ministry statement read on state television said Syria would continue to attack ISIS in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor - areas of eastern and northern Syria - and coordination with Iraq was continuing "at the highest level".
The United States has previously stressed it would not coordinate with Assad's government. Obama's position has long been that Assad must leave power, particularly after he was accused of using chemical weapons against his own people last year.
ISIS Sunni fighters, now equipped with U.S. weapons seized during their advance in Iraq, are among the most powerful opponents of Assad, a member of a Shiite-derived sect. They are also battling against rival Sunni groups in Syria, against the Shi'ite-led government of Iraq and against Kurdish forces on both sides of the border.
Washington is determined to defeat them without helping Assad, a policy that requires deft diplomacy in a war in which nearly all the region's countries have a stake.
The Western-backed Syrian opposition, which is fighting against both Assad and ISIS, welcomed the air strikes which it said would help defeat Assad.
The targets included Raqqa city, the main headquarters in Syria of ISIS fighters who have proclaimed a caliphate stretching from Aleppo province in Western Syria through the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of Baghdad.
Photographs taken in Raqqa showed wreckage of what the ISIS fighter said was a drone that had been shot down. Pieces of the wreckage, including what appeared to be part of a propellor, were shown loaded into the back of a van.
Jordan, apparently confirming its participation, said its air force had bombed "a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terrorist acts inside Jordan," although it did not specify any location.
Israel said it had shot down a Syrian aircraft over air space it controls in the Golan Heights, which Syria confirmed. It was not immediately clear whether the incident was related to the U.S. action.
U.S. officials and the Syrian Observatory said buildings used by the militants, their weapons supplies and checkpoints were targeted in the attacks on Raqqa. Areas along the Iraq- Syria border were also hit.
Residents in Raqqa had said last week that ISIS was moving underground after Obama signalled on Sept. 11 that air attacks on its forces could be expanded from Iraq to Syria.
The group had evacuated buildings it was using as offices, redeployed its heavy weaponry, and moved fighters' families out of the city, the residents said.
"They are trying to keep on the move," said one Raqqa resident, communicating via the Internet and speaking on condition of anonymity because of safety fears. "They only meet in very limited gatherings."
The addition of Arab allies in the attacks was crucial for the credibility of the American-led campaign. Some U.S. allies in the Middle East are sceptical of how far Washington will commit to a conflict in which nearly every country in the region has a stake, set against the backdrop of Islam's 1,300-year-old rift between Sunnis and Shi'ites.
With the backing of Jordan and the Gulf states, Washington has gained the support of Sunni states that are hostile to Assad. It has not, however, won the support of Assad himself or his main regional ally, Shi'ite Iran.
Traditional Western allies, including Britain which went to war alongside the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, have so far declined to participate in the campaign. France has struck ISIS in Iraq but not in Syria.
A Muslim militant group which kidnapped a French national in Algeria on Sunday has threatened in a video to kill him unless Paris halted intervention in Iraq.
NATO ally Turkey, which is alarmed by ISIS but also worried about Kurdish fighters and about any action that might help Assad, has refused a military role in the coalition.
As part of U.S. coalition-building efforts, Secretary of State John Kerry met Arab and European counterparts in New York ahead of the start of United Nations General Assembly for talks on how to combat ISIS and how they might participate.
A senior administration official said U.S. plans "to expand our efforts to defeat (ISIS) were discussed without specifics" during meetings but declined to elaborate.
Several Arab states have powerful air forces, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia has also agreed to host U.S. training of moderate Syrian opposition fighters.
Assad's ally Russia, whose ties with Washington are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, said any strikes in Syria are illegal without Assad's permission or a U.N. Security Council resolution, which Moscow would have the right to veto.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday that air strikes on ISIS bases inside Syria "should not be carried out without the agreement of the government of Syria".
Obama backed away from getting involved in Syria's civil war a year ago after threatening air strikes over the use of chemical weapons. The rise of ISIS and the beheading of two American journalists prompted him to change course and take action against Assad's most powerful opponents rather than against Assad.
Washington says it hopes to strengthen a moderate Syrian opposition to fill the vacuum so that it can degrade ISIS without helping Assad. But so far, the opposition groups recognised as legitimate by the United States and its allies have been a comparatively weak force on the battlefield.

Syria says Kerry sent letter about raids in advance
Mariam Karouny/Laila Bassam/Reuters/23/09/14
BEIRUT: Syria said on Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had told the Damascus government in a letter delivered by Iraq that the United States and its allies were going to attack Islamic State in Syria, hours before the air strikes took place. Damascus, which had said any air strikes on Syria must have its approval, did not condemn the attacks launched by the United States with the help of Gulf states and Jordan against Islamic State and al Qaeda-affiliated militants. A Syrian analyst interviewed on tightly-controlled Syrian state TV said the air strikes did not amount to an act of aggression because the government had been notified in advance. In a government statement read out on state TV, the Syrian foreign ministry said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had received a letter from Kerry via the foreign minister of Iraq, whose Shi'ite-led government is a close ally of Damascus.There was no immediate response from the United States, which has shunned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, describing him as part of the problem. "The foreign minister received a letter from his American counterpart via the Iraqi foreign minister, in which he informed him that the United States and some of its allies would target (Islamic State) in Syria," the foreign ministry said in the statement. "That was hours before the raids started."In the statement, Damascus vowed to keep up its own campaign against Islamic State that has seized large areas of northern and eastern Syria. It said it would continue to target the group in areas hit in the U.S.-led raids on Tuesday. The U.S. military, in a statement announcing air strikes on Islamists in Syria, said U.S. forces had also struck Islamic State targets in Iraq, "using attack aircraft to conduct four air strikes". Russia, one of Assad's major allies, criticised the U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State, saying they should have been agreed with Damascus. But there was no sign of criticism in Syria's state-run media.
The Syrian government statement points to the scope for Iraq to act as a channel for indirect contact between Damascus and Washington, even as the United States and its allies shun Assad. Iraq's national security adviser briefed Assad on efforts to fight Islamic State last week, in the first such meeting since the United States launched air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq. The Syrian government said coordination with Iraq was "at its highest levels" and reiterated its willingness to be part of international efforts to combat Islamic State.
" Syria confirms that it has fought and continues to fight (Islamic State) in Raqaa and Deir al-Zor and other areas," the statement said. "It has not and will not stop fighting the organisation in cooperation with states directly harmed by it - most importantly with Iraq," the government statement said. A senior Lebanese politician with close ties to the Syrian government said the Syrian government statement pointed to U.S. coordination with Damascus, though the United States would not be able to publicly say that was happening.
"It is certain that if these air strikes are serious, they will strengthen the enemies of (Islamic State), at the forefront of whom is the Syrian regime," said the politician. The analyst interviewed on Syrian state TV said the notification meant the air strikes were neither an act of aggression nor an infringement of Syrian sovereignty. "All the targets and warplanes were monitored by the Syrian air defence," said the analyst, Ali al-Ahmad. "This does not mean we are part of the joint operations room, and we are not part of the alliance. But there is a common enemy," he said.

ISIS’s Western Women

By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat
Tuesday, 23 Sep, 2014
She was probably smiling for the camera behind her niqab (full face veil), this young medical student from Britain who calls herself “Bint Osama” on her Twitter profile, as she carried in her hand a severed head. We do not know to whom this head belonged, nor do we know what led its owner to meet his end in such a gruesome manner, nor how it ended up in the hands of this young, veiled woman. We do know, however, that beside Bint Osama in the picture were two young children, both watching this surreal set-piece taking place in front of them, with its accompanying cocktail of violence and mockery. What could lead a young medical student to leave her home in Britain to join the “Islamic State” or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria? And who were the evil figures who convinced her to proudly brandish a severed head in the presence of two young children? Who knows how many heads these children have seen, before or even since then? But it appears that Bint Osama is not alone. In recent weeks we have been inundated with a slew of pictures and reports of young women, some of them only adolescents, leaving the safety of their homes in Britain, Europe and the West to join ISIS in Syria, filling our social media timelines with tweets and posts and pictures about their “adventures” in the surreal lands of the “Islamic State.” This movement of ISIS’s young female jihadists from one place to another very different place, from one environment to another completely at odds with it—not to mention their separation from their families and societies—is no mere blip; it is a real phenomenon. Just as ISIS succeeded in drawing in young men around the world to leave their societies, women are also in the mix. The ISIS jeunesse have come from many places to join the organization, now forming an important part of this group of savages who strike fear into the hearts of people worldwide, also fascinating them in equal measure. Because they all come from different backgrounds, though, it is difficult to view these women as all being cut from the same cloth. Here, the media falls into the easy trap of depicting these women as victims of societal problems in their home countries, stopping there in terms of analysis. It has been said that many of the young women who joined ISIS are looking to help the group by marrying their soldiers and doing a spot of public relations on the side. Maybe. But this could be just one element of the whole, wider truth. Women have joined violent groups and have been involved in killings countless times before in various conflicts and regions of the world. Mostly, they join these groups and carry out these acts for the same reasons the men do. Recent research on suicide bombing operations carried out between 1981 and 2007 shows that 26 percent of these were carried out by women.
Most of the Western ISIS jeunesse were born to first-generation Muslim immigrant parents, often from south Asia (as are the men). This is the post-9/11 generation, painfully aware of the place to which their ethnic and religious origins have taken them in some of the world’s eyes. It would be easy with a few fatwas and sermons to further feed this perception. Bint Osama, for instance, says she was influenced by the sermons of US–Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki. A few years ago, another young British woman influenced by Awlaki made an unsuccessful attempt to kill her local MP, for which she is now serving a life sentence behind bars. ISIS is not an organization that values women and their role in society, but it is a dangerous organization—one without limits when it comes to its crimes and its use of violence. These women, then, despite not being included within the organization’s decision-making circles, have nonetheless become an important part of the group. Even if they do not participate on the ground in acts of violence, ISIS’s female members have added to the group’s roster of bizarre contradictions, and have, like Bint Osama, with their loud, raucous appearances on our screens, added to the group’s barbarity and its almost hallucinatory freakishness

Iran’s hand in Yemen
Sep. 23, 2014 /The Daily Star
Top officials in Yemen are trying to put the best face possible on the “peace deal” that was signed over the weekend, but there’s no hiding the fact that the developments in the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula amount to little more than an Iranian takeover.
Officials in Yemen and the countries of the Gulf might not always express their views openly on the sensitive topic of Iran, but in less formal settings, the power play has been evident. Iran’s proxies in the form of the Shiite Houthi movement and southern secessionists will now have a direct role in Yemen’s central government. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, gives the Islamic Republic a presence in the Mediterranean, which can be added to its control over the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. The latest foray into Yemen will allow Iran to have a stranglehold on Bab al-Mandab, the entrance to the Red Sea. Instead of a viable political process of negotiations and dialogue to solve Yemen’s problems, the Houthi movement relied on brute military force to achieve its ends, as Iran has steadily increased its involvement. Yemen might be off the radar for many people around the world, but this doesn’t change the fact that elements of its domestic situation – tribal and inter-tribal rivalries, sectarian differences, a large pro-secession movement, and the threat of Al-Qaeda extremists – make it ripe for the picking of any interested outside power. A country such as Iran can easily find levers to push in its bid for expanding its political and military influence.
In the end, the Yemen that the world knows is on its way to disappearing, and no amount of upbeat rhetoric can conceal this disturbing development.

IDF: Syrian fighter jet shot down over Golan
Ahiya Raved /Ynetnews
Latest Update: 09.23.14/Israel News
The IDF says aircraft did not fall in Israeli territory but did enter Israel's airspace before interception, assessment is that it was en route to attacking Syrian rebels; Syria: Proof Israel supporting Islamic State.
The IDF confirmed Tuesday morning that a Syrian fighter jet was shot down by an Israeli patriot missile over the Golan Heights. It was the first time in over thirty years a Syrian jet has entered Israel and the IDF think the jet crossed into Israel by accident en route to attacking rebel positions on the Golan
"A jet was successfully intercepted by our aerial defense system along the Syrian border," the IDF said in a statement. According to a military source, the jet entered Israel for a couple of seconds, penetrating a few hundred meters before turning back, at which point he was hit by the patriot missile
"It was a Russian-made Sukhoi," an IDF spokesman told Reuters.
A senior air force officer told Ynet that, "At 8:57am a Sukhoi 24 fighter jet crossed 800 meters into Israeli territory and then the decision was made to shoot it down. From the moment that the decision was made until impact, one minute and 20 seconds passed. The missile hit and as far as we know, the Syrian crew ejected successfully."Pieces of the Syrian jet fell near Quneitra in Syria. The initial indications of the security forces is that the plane was en-route to attack rebels in the area of Quneitra, which was captured last month by al-Qaeda affiliated militants and has been the site of massive clashes in recent weeks.
The officer stressed that the military was responding to a credible threat from the jet. "We identified the Syrian jet at a height of 10-14,000 feet. That's a height considered comfortable for an attack run. A fighter jet can reach the Sea of Galilee in less than a minute and everywhere else in five." Syria responded to the incident, saying it was further proof of "Israel's support of the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front," the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group fighting in the Quneitra region.
A senior military source added that "the discovery, identification and interception was quickly and professionally executed and the IAF stood its guard. The interception was done with a surface to air Patriot missile."
"Moments ago a Syrian aircraft infiltrated Israeli airspace. The IDF intercepted the aircraft in mid-flight, using the Patriot air defence system. The circumstances of the incident are being reviewed," an initial IDF statement said.
The aircraft was shot down over the Golan Heights, where fighting from Syria's civil war has occasionally spilled over. The IDF currently think the jet was en route to attacking rebel targets near the border with Israel when it entered Israeli airspace.
The aircraft was intercepted by a US-manufactured Patriot missile, the spokesman said.Israel last downed a manned Syrian aircraft in 1985, when Israeli fighters on a surveillance mission over Lebanon destroyed two Syrian MiG-23s that approached them.
Initial reports from 9 am said a patriot missile was fired in the Golan Tuesday morning, shooting down a suspicious aircraft that infiltrated Israel's airspace from Syria. It was initially unclear if the aircraft was an UAV. The IDF said the aircraft did not fall in Israeli territory but did enter Israel's airspace.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

Syria: We support strikes againt ISIS, al-Nusra
Associated Press/Ynetnews
Published: 09.23.14/ Israel News
Syria says Washington informed it before strikes, says 'it supports any international effort to combat terrorism as that of ISIS and al-Nusra.'
Syria supports "any international effort" to fight the jihadists of the Islamic state (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front said the Syrian Foreign Ministry Tuesday after strikes were carried out on its territory by a coalition led by the United States.
"Syria supports any international effort to combat terrorism (as) that of Daesh (an acronym in Arabic for ISIS) and al-Nusra, while insisting on respect for national sovereignty and in accordance with international laws," the ministry said in a statement. Syria also said that Washington informed President Bashar Assad's government of imminent US airstrikes against the Islamic State group, hours before an American-led military coalition pounded the extremists' strongholds across northern and eastern Syria.
The opening salvo in the aerial operation against the Islamic State group marks the start of what President Barack Obama has warned will be a lengthy campaign that aims to degrade and ultimately defeat the extremists who have seized control of a huge swath of territory spanning the Syria-Iraq border.
Syrian officials have long insisted that any strikes against the Islamic State group inside their country should come only after coordination with Damascus, warning that moving without Damascus' consent would be an act of aggression against Syria and a breach of the country's sovereignty.
Just hours after the strikes started, Syria's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Washington told Damascus' envoy to the United Nations shortly before the US-led aerial assault began. It also said that US Secretary of State John Kerry sent a message to Syria's top diplomat, using Iraq's foreign minister as an intermediary, to inform Damascus about the plans as well.
There was no immediate word from Washington about Syria's claim. US officials have consistently ruled out direct coordination with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.
But the Syrian government appeared to be trying to position itself on the side of the international coalition against the Islamic State group. In the statement, the Syrian government vowed to continue fighting the extremist faction across Syria, and said it will not stop coordination "with countries that were harmed by the group, first and foremost Iraq."
"The Syrian Arab Republic says it stands with any international effort to fight terrorism, no matter what a group is called -- whether Daesh or (the al-Qaida-linked) Nusra Front or something else," the statement said. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
In Moscow, Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that "unilateral" U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State militant positions in Syria are destabilizing the region. Russia has been an ally of Syria for decades, and has provided Assad with weapons, money and diplomatic support over the course of the civil war.
The Russian ministry said Tuesday the U.S. should secure either the approval of the Syrian government or the U.N. Security Council before conducting strikes on the insurgent-held territory in Syria.
The US and five Arab countries began their airstrikes on Islamic State group's targets in Syria around 8:30 p.m. EDT Monday (0030 GMT Tuesday), U.S. officials said, expanding a military campaign into a country whose three-year civil war has given the brutal militant group a safe haven.
Syrian activists said more than 50 air and missile strikes hit militant stronghold across northern and eastern Syria, some of which caused massive explosions that lit up the night sky.
The U.S. officials said the strikes were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
In Jordan, a government spokesman confirmed the Jordanian air force took part in the airstrikes, saying they were necessary to secure the stability and security of Jordan.
"We think it's necessary for us to target the positions of the Islamic State group in light of the continuous attempts to infiltrate our borders," said Mohammad al-Momani. "We will not hesitate to take further actions to target and kill terrorists who are trying to attack our country."
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the airstrikes targeted the northern province of Raqqa, its provincial capital, as well as the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which border's Iraq, and the northern village of Kfar Derian between the northern province of Aleppo and Idlib. "Tens of Islamic State group members were killed in the attacks," Abdurrahman told The Associated Press, saying they were mostly killed on checkpoints manned by the Islamic State fighters.
The Observatory, which has a network of activists around the country, said the attacks came after drones flew over areas under control of the Islamic State group. Abdurrahman said about 22 airstrikes in all hit Raqqa province in addition to 30 in the nearby Deir el-Zour province that borders Iraq.
He said that other strikes in Raqqa province included locations in the towns of Tabqa and Ein Issa as well as the border town of Tel Abyad on the border with Turkey.
Missiles also targeted the village of Kfar Derian, a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State group, he said. The US strikes targeted three compounds belonging to the Nusra Front there, killing seven fighters and eight civilians, he added.
Another activist, Mohammed al-Dughaim, based in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, confirmed the Kfar Derian strikes. He said there were civilians among the casualties.
An amateur video posted online Tuesday shows explosions going off at night in an open area, blasts that are said to be from coalition airstrikes. The narrator in the video is heard saying that the footage shows the "bombardment of the Kfar Derian village." The narrator then adds "Allahu Akbar" or "God is great" in Arabic. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events.
An anti-militant media collective entitled "Raqqa is being silently slaughtered" said that the targets included the governorate building or municipality used by Islamic State militants as their headquarters, and the Brigade 93, a Syrian army base that the militants recently seized.
Other airstrikes targeted a military air base recently captured by jihadi fighters in the town of Tabqa, as well as the town of Tel Abyad on the border with Turkey.
On Syria's southern border with Israel, the Israeli military said it shot down a Syrian fighter jet that infiltrated its airspace over the Golan Heights early Tuesday - the first such downing in decades, heightening tensions in the volatile plateau.
The military said a "Syrian aircraft infiltrated into Israeli air space" in the morning hours and that the military "intercepted the aircraft in mid-flight, using the Patriot air defense system." A defense official identified the downed aircraft as a Sukhoi Su-24 Russian fighter plane. He said the Syrian jet penetrated 800 meters (2,600 feet) into Israeli air space and tried to return to Syria after the Patriot missile was fired. The crew managed to abandon the plane in time and landed in Syrian territory, the Israeli official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Will America’s anti-ISIS bombing campaign succeed?
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Majid Rafizadeh /Al Arabiya
The United States has shifted its longstanding reluctance to becoming militarily involved in the Syrian conflict. The U.S.-led strikes mark a partial tactical, military and strategic shift in American foreign policy as well as in the foundation of President Obama’s plan for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the country of Syria.
Despite the fact that the U.S. administration indicated that it will take weeks or months before the U.S. launches its military and bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria, Washington decided to step up and expand its military operations in the Middle East against ISIS. Allegedly without the approval of the Syrian President Bashar a-Assad, the United States has launched strikes at more than a dozen targets in Syria under the control of ISIS.
“U.S.-led strikes have altered ISIS’s former objective of establishing an Islamic Caliphate into fighting with the U.S. and Western allies”
Majid Rafizadeh
The airstrikes in Syria highlight a new American military campaign against ISIS and mark the first time the United States has reportedly used aircrafts, advanced fighter jets, cruise missiles and bombs in Syrian territories after the uprising erupted over three years ago.
High-risk implications
First of all, it is critical to make an argument that without a clear and articulate American agenda against ISIS, Washington is opening a region already engulfed in war to new perilous and high-risk landscapes, as well as to a new phase of regional security risks.
More fundamentally, the Pentagon’s targeted war plan and the American anti-ISIS airstrikes in Syria will not completely eliminate ISIS, but will likely create a deadlock between it and other powers by pushing the militants from ISIS into other areas in the region to find safe haven, specifically to the more populated territories in Syria.
The timing of U.S.-led strikes is critical as well, since it occurs when global leaders are planning to meet at the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. President Obama, who is scheduled to give a speech on the September 24, will likely concentrate on seeking to formulate a global coalition to push for the adoption of a robust resolution against the threat of ISIS.
In terms of these U.S.-led strikes against ISIS, two additional crucial phenomena need to be addressed with regards to American foreign policy. The United States found it necessary to include other partners from the Middle East and NATO in its military campaign in order to gain legitimacy and credibility, as well as to avert any criticism about its unilateral operations or potential imperialistic intentions.
President Obama differentiated between its military campaign against ISIS and the two former American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by arguing that the administration will not deploy forces on the ground. This language of selective air strikes appears to be a new instrument and tactic to gain popular legitimacy, lessen the domestic concern about Washington’s involvements in wars in the Middle East, and legitimize the use of force, while understating American activities in the region.
In addition, the U.S.-led strikes have altered ISIS’s former objective of establishing an Islamic Caliphate, into fighting with the U.S. and Western allies. As ISIS’s official spokesman and senior official, Syrian-born Sheik Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, stated this week: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then … kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”
Sovereignty of Syria
On the other hand, a contradiction rises with regards to the American-led strikes in Syria against ISIS. Washington has long been reluctant to intervene in Syria on the premise that Syria’s sovereignty cannot be impeached. The United States has pointed fingers at China and Russia for blocking the United Nations resolutions that could lead to a tougher position towards the Syrian government.
While the Syrian people have experienced one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in our generation, with hundreds of thousands of people being killed in the Syrian civil war (and while the United States has publicly announced that the Syrian government has utilized chemical weapons against the Syrian people), the U.S. has nevertheless continued its longstanding opposition to militarily intervening in Syria, or to even set up a no fly zone.
The American decision to intervene in Syria changed as soon as Washington’s geopolitical, strategic and economic interests in Iraq were threatened by the remarkable rise and military advances of ISIS.
At this point, President Obama did not hesitate to expand the American military campaign in Syria, even without the unanimous vote from the United Nations Security Council, and without the approval of the United States Congress. Congress had previously deferred the bill, with regards to military strikes against ISIS, to late November of this year. This raises the question of whether geopolitical, economic, and strategic interests do indeed surpass the issue of human rights.
Who is the winner and loser?
The U.S.-led military strikes will likely push the fighters from ISIS to retreat from the territories in their control in Syria, particularly in city of Raqqa. Yet, which forces would fill this power vacuum?
Other oppositional groups, including the Free Syrian Army, are unlikely to be capable of advancing to these territories. This is due to the military superiority of the Assad’s armed and aerial forces. In other words, the territories, which are under the control of ISIS, will likely be recaptured by the Syrian governmental forces.
The U.S.-led military strikes against ISIS in Syria could indirectly assist the Syrian government’s battle against the Syrian oppositional groups, tilting the balance in favor of Assad, and could provide the powerful military push and winning strategy for Damascus.
Finally, from a broader perspective, the military strikes expose the American foreign policy failure when it comes to addressing the crisis in the Middle East, specifically the civil war and humanitarian disaster in Syria. The U.S. claims that it is attempting to block the ISIS’s branch in Syria to resupply fighters to several parts of Iraq and to eliminate their safe haven near the border of Iraq and Syria. Though, if the United States had a clear and articulate foreign policy agenda towards the Syrian civil war from the onset of the crisis, the emergence of such a powerful militant and extremist group would have been inconceivable.
Although President Obama stated that he is “eradicating a cancer,” the dilemma is whether selective military and bombing campaigns are the most efficient resolution. As long as Syria is engulfed in a bloody civil war, and as long as the unrepresentative Iraqi government is dominated by the Shiite coalition, the emergence of such extremist groups will persist.
The United States needs to articulate a clear foreign policy agenda towards the political and security instability in Syria and Iraq. Otherwise, the underlying reasons for the emergence of such extremist groups will remain intact. If the U.S. views a military campaign as the only approach to address such phenomena, Washington would have to sustain a long term military and bombing campaign in the region as well as step up its strikes in the Middle East for a long time to come. This is a long-term challenge which requires a comprehensive strategy beyond solely military campaigns.

The fall of Sanaa: What next for Yemen?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya
What was seen a few weeks ago, a Houthi takeover of Sanaa, now seems to be occurring, perhaps even imminent. Over the past few weeks, Houthis and their supporters have been staging protests and sit-ins in Sanaa, demanding a re-instatement of fuel subsidies and calling on the country's transitional government to step down. The protests in Sanaa remained relatively peaceful until September 9, 2014. Security forces opened fire on Houthi demonstrators approaching the cabinet office, killing seven people and injuring many.
Tensions escalated further on September 18th after attempts by the Houthis to seize the area around the Yemen TV building prompted heavy armed confrontation with armed militias linked to the Sunni Islamist Islah party with over 40 people killed. Finally, Prime Minister Mohamed Basindawa stepped aside, accusing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of being “autocratic.”
“There is no doubt that the fall of Sanaa will, as significant as the rush of ISIS into Iraq a month or so ago, be just as destabilizing”
Dr. Theodore Karasik
Two days ago, an agreement signed with the Houthis and the Hadi administration forced the government to appoint Houthis and representatives from the restive south within the presidential circle. Whether one wants to call this action a mini-coup or an insurgent victory, this event is a huge shift in power relations in Yemen.
Importantly, the fighting in Sanaa has both sectarian and tribal political elements, along with a strong emphasis on retribution. The street battles between the armed Shiite Houthi movement and tribal and Sunni Islamist militias might escalate further with potential for street fights and car bombings. Sanaa’s fall to the Houthis will rewrite many aspects of what is happening to Yemen with regional repercussions.
Sectarian battle
Primarily, the first repercussion is within Yemen itself. The country is quickly being drawn into a sectarian battle between the Zaidi Houthis, the Islamists represented by Islah, and ultimately al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Mixed into this cauldron are Yemeni tribes who pick and choose their sides through ethos and payoffs. The tribes are in many respects “guns for hire” in the toxic mix in the Yemeni capital. AQAP will certainly take advantage of the situation. With the Yemeni President Hadi preoccupied with preserving his power, the joint Yemeni-American campaign to keep AQAP pinned down will likely be in jeopardy. Clearly, the al-Qaeda franchise, along with other Sunni extremists, will push for more sectarian clashes in Sanaa in addition for the potential battles between groups and interests in the country’s secessionist south while the capital sputters politically and burns physically.
The second ramification is the impact on Saudi Arabia. For Riyadh, the situation in Yemen - in the current context of threats surrounding the Kingdom i.e. ISIS to the north - is untenable and dangerous. Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Muslim-led Arabian Gulf states believe that the Zaidi rebels in Yemen are backed by Iranian meddling.
Significantly, Saudi Arabia is likely to feel that it is being squeezed from two directions, both north and south. This pressure, if Riyadh blames Tehran and its partners for the situation on both sides of the country, could provoke more bitter feelings at a crucial time where cooperation is needed in the Levant against ISIS.
Combination threat
The third consequence is a combination of the first two potential effects outlined above: The growing sectarian battle combined with the threat from the north. As we know, ISIS is attempting to build up its capacity as an armed and economically sound organization despite the international calls for war against the group. In addition, ISIS is ultimately pushing for not only a confrontation with the “Crusader” West but also stoking the flames of sectarian tensions in the Levant. AQAP sees this fact, and, as evidence shows, some AQAP member support ISIS. With or without ISIS, AQAP sees the sectarian battle as a key to winning more territory in Yemen and thus is ready to confront the Zaidi Houthis and their allies in Saana. What is seen as an epic battle in the Levant may be joined by an epic battle in the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. This instability and volatility may be the greatest challenge faced by the Gulf States since the advent of al-Qaeda.
Clearly, the southern Gulf States, while joining the international coalition against ISIS, are concentrating too on the Houthi’s prospective win in Sanaa. While the southern Gulf States are contributing to the operations against ISIS in kinetic terms, they may be focusing on the requirements necessary to also intervene in Yemen using a combination of force and influence to turn the tide through tribal networks. No southern Gulf State can accept instability on all sides of their borders.
Former Prime Minister Mohammad Basindawa’s recent resignation could be setting the stage for him to come to power as president with Houthi support. This move would be seen as a “win” for political Islamists throughout the region and would likely be unacceptable to Yemen’s northern neighbors. There is no doubt that the fall of Sanaa will, as significant as the rush of ISIS into Iraq a month or so ago, be just as destabilizing.

Protests Greet Bahrain's Latest Political Plan
Simon Henderson /Washington Institute

September 22, 2014
The slow implementation of reforms is casting doubt on the validity of forthcoming elections.
Since 2011, Bahrain has been trying to extricate itself from a negotiating deadlock between leaders of the majority Shiite Muslim community and the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family. When local security forces, later backed by Saudi and UAE reinforcements, cracked down on demonstrations more than three years ago, Shiite members of parliament resigned in protest. Reconciliation has since been hampered by frequent protests and background violence, with attacks on police countered by arrests and beatings.
On September 18, local media reported that Crown Prince Salman, perceived as a conciliator, had sent a letter to his father, King Hamad, outlining areas of "common ground" in talks on political reforms. Five core elements were listed: redistricting to ensure greater representation; legislative changes to allow parliament to question ministers, including the prime minister; parliamentary approval of the cabinet; improvement in judicial standards and judiciary independence; and security-sector changes, including new codes of conduct for the security forces. When the details will be implemented is unclear; on September 21, the government's spokesman said it would happen through royal decrees issued by the king. Also unclear is whether the changes would take effect before national elections to be held in early November on a date to be announced soon.
In the absence of actual reforms, the crown prince's efforts to clarify the issues could simply exacerbate the country's divisions. On September 19, Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the main al-Wefaq opposition faction, told a large group of demonstrators that the proposals did not represent "the will of the people" and the elections would be "illegitimate." Some protestors carried signs calling for an electoral boycott. Previously, opposition leaders had called for reforms that might have allowed Shiite factions to achieve parity with Sunni groups and independents in the forty-member assembly. As currently districted, the Shiite population is unlikely to ever secure a parliamentary majority.
King Hamad, who is widely perceived as vacillating, welcomed the crown prince's "framework" plan and complimented him on his patriotism, but many Bahrainis and foreign observers were likely more interested in the prime minister's response. Sheikh Khalifa, the king's uncle, has held the premiership since 1970 -- a few months after the crown prince was born -- and is renowned for his political experience. Yet he has come to be perceived as the main protector of royal hardliners who view the Shiites as vulnerable to Iranian influence and regard concessions to them as signs of weakness. As if on cue, the September 20 edition of the government-controlled Gulf Daily News carried reports of Sheikh Khalifa praising the king for his leadership of the country's development but with no mention of the proposed political reforms. The prime minister dominated the paper's front page again the next day, this time with a statement condemning terrorism.
The United States has a clear interest in Bahrain's future because the island hosts the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet, which currently protects shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and conducts antipiracy patrols near the Horn of Africa. On September 19, Crown Prince Salman met with U.S. Ambassador Thomas Krajeski and Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral John Miller. A local media report described the meeting as a discussion of bilateral counterterrorism cooperation, but political reform was probably also discussed. Ambassador Krajeski has been criticized in the past by Bahraini media for his involvement in the latter issue.
The U.S.-Bahrain relationship is challenging: one day into a July visit to the island, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski was expelled after he angered the king by meeting with opposition figures before government officials. And earlier this month, an unnamed senior Obama administration official spoke of Bahrain's "stupid and self-defeating moves" after a human rights activist was arrested upon arriving in the country. The activist was released last week before the crown prince's framework was announced, but on September 19, a Bahraini court sentenced fourteen young Shiites to life terms for their involvement in violent clashes during which four policemen were injured, including a Pakistani recruit who lost a leg.
The opposition is no doubt frustrated at being offered the prospect of political reform but only after elections in which their hope of victory is nil. A large-scale boycott would be embarrassing for the government, yet delaying the vote until reforms are enacted is probably not a realistic option. Under the constitution, polls have to be held before December 15 unless the king extends the terms of current members of parliament by two years. Perhaps the ominous presence of the "Islamic State"/ISIS in Syria and Iraq -- which is a danger to Bahrain's Shiites and ruling family alike -- will avert a major crisis at home.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute

Two Iranians Plead Guilty in Kenya to Carrying Fake Passports
Naharnet/Two Iranians arrested in Kenya last week with fake Israeli passports appeared in a Nairobi court Tuesday and pleaded guilty to being in possession of forged documents. The accused, identified as Hesamoddin Hatami alias Avsalom Tsabari and Zahra Kolabian, alias Adi Larian, told the court that they were attempting to seek asylum. The court ordered the pair to be remanded in police custody until October 1, while awaiting official communication from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, to establish if their claims were legitimate.
The prosecution team called for the pair to be deported back to Iran, but the accused argued that they would be in danger if returned.
"I'm just requesting that we shouldn't be repatriated back home because we might be killed," Hatami told the court through a translator. Kenyan police said on Monday that they were treating the two Iranians as illegal migrants and not terrorism suspects. The duo were detained at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Thursday. Security forces in Kenya have been on high alert as the country marks the anniversary of last year's attack by Somalia's al-Qaida-affiliated Shebab militia on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall that left at least 67 dead. Iranians are treated with particular suspicion in Kenya as the east African nation is a close ally of Israel. Last year, a Kenyan court sentenced two Iranians to life in prison for terror-related charges, including possessing explosives allegedly to be used in bomb attacks.
Agence France Presse

Iran Unveils New Missile-Equipped Drone
Naharnet/Iran on Tuesday unveiled a new missile-equipped drone to boost its military arsenal, as part of events marking the end of its 1980-1988 war against Iraq. Iranian engineers working for the armed forces have "built the drones to carry air defense missiles", deputy defense minister General Amir Hatami said, quoted by Fars news agency. "The research, experimentation and testing phases have been completed," he said. "These new drones are capable of destroying different types of aircraft, including fighters, drones and helicopters," he added, without giving technical specifications. State television broadcast footage of what it said was the new drone being uncovered at a ceremony held at a secret location.
Apart from a fast-moving ballistic weapons program, Iran has since 2010 been producing drones which the defense ministry says are capable of firing missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (more than 600 miles).
Tehran says its weapons programs are purely for defensive purposes, but the United States whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain across the Gulf has often voiced concerns.
Source/Agence France Presse

Assyrians in Iraq Should Go for Self-Determination‏
Assyrian International News Agency
By Yeghig Tashjian

An Assyrian family from Baghdede who fled to Ankawa, Iraq.(AINA) -- As World War I broke out, the Turkish government implemented the plan to destroy the Christian communities within its empire. Around 2 million (1,500,000 Armenians, 750,000 Assyrians and 500,000 Pontic Greeks) were massacred and others deported from their ancestral lands. Churches were burned, some were converted into mosques, memories were uprooted, and lands confiscated. Some Christian villages rebelled against the Ottoman Empire's advance, some succeeded and others did not, but always with arms in their hands. Today, as history repeats itself, what can the Assyrian Christians of Iraq learn from their century old history, and how can they prevent this catastrophe?
Local, Regional and International Silence
In my interview with David William Lazar, the chairman of the American Mesopotamian Organization, regarding the fall of Mosul, he stated that the Maliki government was partly to blame because of the sectarian policies that have marginalized the Iraqi Sunni Arab minority, the Kurds and the Iraqi army for refusing to fight ISIS, and the West for not preventing the flow of money from the Arab Gulf states to terrorist groups. For the first time in history, the Christians of Mosul had to evacuate their city, as the Arab world, Arab League and rebel Iraqi Baathists sat by and watched it happen. Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrians was emptied of its indigenous people. Moreover, David W. Lazar stated that the Assyrian Diaspora, and specifically the Assyrian Aid Society of America, already started to mobilize and raise funds for local NGOs to help the refugees.
The United Nation Security Council UNSC has condemned the persecution of minorities in Iraq. Meanwhile, France declared it is ready to provide asylum for Iraqi Christian refugees. However, it has become clear that the international community will not provide aid unless the Iraqi Christians mobilize an army and take action.
Organizing Delf-Defense Units
Under authoritarian rule, and the lack of a strong Christian political force, the church has taken on the religious, social and sometimes political role. A similarity can be drawn both between the Armenian and the Assyrian churches. During the Ottoman era both churches were pessimistic and against revolutionary movements within their communities. Within the Armenian community, the shift occurred only after the conference of Berlin in 1878, when Father Khrimian, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, later Catholicos of all Armenians, delivered his famous speech titled "The Paper Ladle," urging the Armenian nation to rely on itself to defend its land, and fight against oppression. He gave the following speech in the church:
Dear Armenian people, could I have dipped my paper ladle in the harissa [porridge]? It would have become wet and stayed there. There, where guns talk and swords make noise, what significance do appeals and petitions have? But alas, all I had was a paper petition, which got wet in the harissa and we returned empty-handed.
And so, dear and blessed Armenians, when you return to the Fatherland, to your relatives and friends, take weapons, take weapons and again weapons. People, above all, place the hope of your liberation on yourself. Use your brain and your fist! Man must work for himself in order to be saved.
After a decade Armenians, realizing that diplomacy failed, took up arms and with a high price independence was declared at the end of WWI. The Christians of Iraq should stop waiting for the international community to take action and follow in the footsteps of the Armenians by taking up arms, and fighting for their land.
Recently, many voices were raised within the Christian community in Iraq to organize volunteer units. Already videos are showing some Assyrians and Armenians are armed. David Lazar believes that Christians and Yazidis should also arm themselves. Lazar stated:
The Federal government in Baghdad is not able to protect its citizens and the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] will only protect its own areas as it have stated openly, regardless of what happens to the rest of Iraq. The immediate reaction of the Kurdish militias when ISIS and Baathist took over Mosul was to immediately occupy what they refer to as "Disputed territories," which are mainly Kirkuk and the Nineveh Plain. Of course now the KRG claims that it is defending the Christians of the Nineveh Plain, because if they were not there ISIS would have occupied the area and expelled the Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks from there.
Meanwhile, the Christian block within the Iraqi Parliament suggested that the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) start training the Christians to defend their villages and repel future attacks by ISIS. Already the Assyrian Democratic Movement started to recruit volunteers in Iraq and organize self defense units. In this task, both the church and Christian political parties in Iraq should participate. It is imperative that they start working together and to unify their efforts to fight ISIS and demand the formation of autonomous administrative region in the Nineveh Plain, where Assyrians would be able to preserve their culture and have security forces.
The Establishment of Iraq's Nineveh Plain as an Autonomous Region
Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution states:
This Constitution shall guarantee the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of the various nationalities, such as Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and all other constituents, and this shall be regulated by law.
The Nineveh Plain, which is rich in agricultural lands and petroleum fields, brought economic competition between Kurds and Sunni Arab tribes in Mosul. This caused Assyrians to become targets of violence. Thus, without the Nineveh Plain autonomous administration, the indigenous Assyrian presence in its ancient homeland may be endangered. On January 21, 2014 the Iraqi government declared that the Nineveh Plain would become a new province, which would serve as a safe haven for Assyrians. Yet David W. Lazar argued that the Christians are not asking for political rights as Christians, instead they want to be recognized as an ethnic minority that is indigenous to Northern Iraq. He stated: "Although our Christian identity is also extremely important, our national identity comes first and often we endure discrimination because of our Assyrian ethnic identity rather than our Christian faith. A good example was during Saddam's period. The Baathists tolerated Christians as long as people referred to themselves as Arab or Iraqi Christians. However, we were oppressed as Assyrians because we were not allowed to teach our language, give our children Assyrian names and definitely not allowed to form political parties or ask for any type of autonomous rule in our ancestral lands." Lazar also claimed that Christians want to be part of Iraq, because they believe in a united, democratic and Federal Iraq with a strong Federal capital in Baghdad. This is referred to as Centripetal Federalism, where there is a strong Federal government and weaker provincial or regional governments. The KRG, on the other hand, prefers the opposite, Centrifugal Federalism, which means stronger provincial or regional governments and a weaker federal government.
Many would assume that the Arab world is disintegrating into small states and this is part of foreign conspiracy. Some say this is a Western-Zionist plan to divide the Arabs and divert their attention from the Palestinian cause, others may argue it's an Iranian plot to weaken the Sunnis. In reality the political mistakes of Arab leaders, with the inability of their governments to protect their ethnic and religious minorities, pushed the non-Arabs to distance themselves from the Arab reality. Unfortunately, multiculturalism is failing in the Arab World. The pogroms against the Iraqi Jews in Baghdad are still fresh in the memories of people. Today, Iraq is devoid of Jews. Hopefully, the Christians will not face a similar and tragic ending. The idea of introducing decentralization and federalism should not be alarming to the Arabs, it can actually solve many socioeconomic, cultural and political problems.
Yeghig Tashjian is a Lebanese Armenian. He holds BA in Political Science from Haigazian University and is a research assistant at the Armenian Diaspora Research Center at Haigazian University, where he conducts research on minority rights and Middle Eastern conflicts.