LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Listening, Anger and Doing
James 01/19-25:"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 25 and 26/14
Christian resistance brigades/By:
Nadine Elali/Now Lebanon/25.09.14
The Islamic State and the global Great Game/By: Asad Zaidi/Open Democracy/September 26/14
The Army is being sucked into Syria/Michael Young| The Daily Star/September 26/14
Rouhani’s Record Reveals Nothing Has Changed in Iran/By: Irwin Cotler/Member of the Canadian Parliament/September 26/14
Extremist Iranian Regime Has No Business Promoting
‘World Against Violence & Extremism’ Initiative at UN/By: David Ibsen, Gabriel
Pedreira, and Brian Stewart/September 26/14
Islamic State has brought us back to the Middle Ages/By: Oz Almog/Ynetnews/September 26/14
Clawing at the sky: fighting for political prisoners in Syria/By: Mataz Suheil/Open Democracy/September 26/14
Islamic State Rape: ‘Just Another Form of Warfare/By: Raymond Ibrahim/September 26/14
International Christian Concern/Imprisoned Christian Accused of Blasphemy in Pakistan Shot Dead by Police/25.09.04
Lebanese Related News published on September 25 and 26/14
Muslim-Christian Summit Rejects Foreign Influence,
1 Killed as Army Arrests Suspected Terrorists in Arsal, Tripoli Raids
U.S.-led Raids on Syria Killed 14 Jihadists, 5 Civilians
Hariri Chairs Paris Meeting to Address Latest Local, Regional Affairs
Erdogan promises Salam to help free hostages
Prisoner swap with militants possible: Machnouk
Qahwaji Says Army Keen on Safety of Arsal Residents
Mashnouq to Discuss with Hariri Latest Developments
Linked to Abducted Soldiers
Nurturing tolerance and mental well-being
Muslim Scholars Declare 'No to Slaughtering Arsal' Day,
Urge Probe into Army Raids
Suspect Killed, 8 Held in Army Shootout in Tyre
Bekaa Army Attacker Sent to Judiciary
Imad Jomaa broke no law in Lebanon: defense lawyer
Al-Faisal: Saudi Arabia Ready to Assist Lebanon in Battle with Terrorists
Worrying reports emerge of ISIS plans to wreak havoc in Lebanon
Supply routes key difference between ISIS, Nusra demands
EDL: Lebanon at risk of total blackout
Arrest Warrant Issued against Syrian for Belonging to Armed Group
Judiciary returns Asala's passport
Report: Al-Muallem Calls for Lebanese-Syrian Cooperation to Confront Terrorism
ISIS fighters advance despite US strikes
NSSF threatens to scrap contracts with hospitals
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 25 and 26/14
Turkish president criticizes UN for failure to act in global crises
U.S. Probes Casualties, Touts Arab Role in Syria Strikes
Jihadists Execute Rights Activist in Iraq
FBI Believes It Has Identified IS Hostage Executioner
Rouhani Vows Nuclear Talks 'in Good Faith', Slams West's Mideast 'Blunders'
Israel slams lack of progress on Iran at IAEA annual conference
US-Arab coalition forces renew Syria strikes as UN debates terror response
Egypt's Sisi tells UN General Assembly: Palestinian issue still a priority
PM addresses UN General Assembly
Israel slams lack of progress on Iran at IAEA annual conference
Coalition pounds ISIS oil infrastructure
US can't confirm death of Khorasan leader: Rice
USA Attorney General Eric Holder resigns
Christian resistance brigades?
Hezbollah is believed to be arming Christian groups affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement in villages east of Saida under the pretext of thwarting an ISIS threat in Jezzine
Hezbollah is believed to be arming Christian groups affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in villages east of Saida under the pretext of thwarting an Islamic State (ISIS) threat in Jezzine. While some officials and residents deny these claims, others believe that the move – although perhaps limited to FPM affiliates – is meant to bolster Hezbollah’s resistance brigades in the area and implicate Christian Lebanese in the Shiite party’s fight against Sunni Islamic groups.
NOW met with a social and human rights activist in Saida, who, on condition of anonymity, said that secret meetings have been taking place in private homes in Jezzine between Hezbollah officials and FPM affiliates on the issue of security. According to the source, Hezbollah is believed to be establishing Christian resistance brigades among local Christians whose cadres and members are affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) similar to those formed in Saida and elsewhere in Lebanon. “Under the pretext of thwarting threats from the Islamic State and Nusra Front sleeper cells,” he told NOW, “Hezbollah is arming young Christian men in order to guard their villages for a monthly salary of $500, along with ammunition.”
In an interview with the Lebanese Broadcast Channel, MTV, Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Ziad Aswad refuted these allegations, saying that they are an attempt to distort the party's image and political stances. FPM’s head of security, Joseph Farhat, said that the party’s leadership rejects the idea of arming Christians, but according to local media outlet Janoubia, he did confirm that area residents – though maybe not on a large scale – are actually buying weapons.
A delegation from Hezbollah’s political bureau, headed by Ghaleb Abou Zeinab, visited Christian clergymen from Saida and Jezzine earlier this month to discuss the issue of security. Some days later, the same delegation met with prominent officials, municipality heads and mayors from the area. NOW spoke to Nicolas Andraos, head of Salhieh Municipality, and to Bishop Elie Haddad of the Catholic Diocese, both of whom were present at the meetings. They told NOW that Hezbollah’s delegates made no mention of arming but stressed a need for groups to put political differences aside and "unite against the Islamic State’s threat to Lebanon.” They also expressed the party’s command readiness “to collaborate with locals in order to thwart such threats.”
The FPM and their allies control 55% of the Federation of Municipalities of Jezzine, whereas the Lebanese Forces (LF) and their allies control 45%, as of the Federation’s elections in 2010. NOW spoke to Ajaj Haddad, an LF member whose family has presided over Roum’s municipality for decades and who is well-informed on political and security activities in the region.
Haddad says that LF supporters in Jezzine reject the idea of carrying arms and believe that security is the responsibility of the state and state institutions alone. “Others,” he said – in reference to Aounists who are arming – “are only a few and are not representative of the majority of Christians.”
Haddad went on to say that while rumors of Nusra Front and ISIS sleeper cells in Lebanon have reinforced a general fear among the Lebanese public, their circulation in tandem with news of Lebanese Army raids on Syrian workers’ households are meant to reinforce a sense of threat by Islamic forces against Christians in particular. “Information that ISIS and the Nusra Front exist in Jezzine,” he said, “is not true,” adding that Syrians were arrested recently for purportedly entering Lebanon illegally, with some being released and others transferred to General Security.
Hezbollah, Haddad says, is “spreading this propaganda and exerting these efforts today, to justify the party’s existence.” Since 2007, he continued, “the party has been committing grave mistakes and its interference in the Syrian war has turned the Lebanese against it. Hezbollah’s plan to arm groups is meant to create more chaos in Lebanon to weaken the state and justify Hezbollah’s need to continue carrying arms – and what better pretext is there today than the threat of the Islamic State?”
“This is an opportunity for Hezbollah to approach people again by warning them of the fear of ISIS and offering their help for protection,” he said. “If such threats from the Islamic State do exist, then why didn’t Hezbollah protect the border when it had the chance to? when it won battles in Qusayr and in Qalamoun? And why is Hezbollah today against the alliance to combat the Islamic State?”
NOW’s social activist source in Saida agrees, saying that Hezbollah is trying to implicate Lebanese Christians in its battles against Sunni Islamic groups by using ISIS as a pretext for them to carry arms.
“We’ve had our experiences with arms,” says Haddad, “and we have come to the conclusion that the fight for existence is not one fought with weapons – Hezbollah needs to understand that. They are dragging us into committing the same mistakes we committed before during the civil war, but we won’t.”
Muslim-Christian Summit Rejects Foreign Influence, Domestic Arms
Naharnet/An Islamic-Christian summit held Thursday at Dar al-Fatwa called on Lebanese parties to stop relying on foreign influence to empower themselves domestically, as it rejected the proliferation of arms in the country under the excuse of self-defense against jihadist groups. The summit also stressed the importance of dialogue for preserving pluralism and addressing disputes. According to the closing statement, the conferees also decided to “form a joint Muslim-Christian delegation to discuss … the violation of Arab Christians' rights with the Arab religious and political authorities.” The spiritual leaders called for “consolidating the pillars of the state and its institutions instead of paralyzing it,” stressing commitment to “coexistence, national unity, the state and its constitutions institutions.”
Tensions have been running high in Lebanon since a deadly incursion into the Bekaa border town of Arsal by Syria-based jihadists in early August. The militants took hostage several dozen soldiers and policemen during clashes with the Lebanese army in and around the town. Jihadists from the Islamic State have so far executed two of the hostages while al-Nusra Front has killed a third, causing deep anger and anxiety in Lebanon and lading to a backlash against Syrian refugees in some places.
Turning to the thorny issue of Syrian refugees, the conferees noted that "Lebanon is performing its humanitarian duties towards the refugees, but it cannot bear the burden of a community whose numbers are equivalent to more than a third of its own population."
They urged the Arab and international communities to "share the responsibility."There are more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which has just four million citizens. Commenting on the stalled presidential election in Lebanon, the spiritual leaders warned that "delaying the election of the only Christian head of state in the Arab world prevents Lebanon from performing its noble message." "Lebanon needs a president who enjoys a vision and the wisdom required to lead the Lebanese," the conferees said.
They also called on the parliament to "carry out its constitutional duty and elect a new president ... who would reflect the country's unity and sovereignty and safeguard its security and stability."Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. Several presidential elections sessions have been held at parliament, but the blocs have failed to elect his successor due to ongoing disputes between the March 8 and 14 camps.
The disagreement has also led to bickering over holding legislative sessions given the presidential vacuum.
1 Killed as Army Arrests Suspected Terrorists in Arsal,
Naharnet/The Lebanese army arrested on Thursday suspected terrorists during raids it carried out on Syrian refugee encampments and residences in the northeastern border town of Arsal and the northern city of Tripoli. One assailant was killed and several others were injured when the army opened fire on them in Arsal for setting fire to tents in refugee encampments, said the army. The military arrested scores of Syrians and Lebanese, including four gunmen belonging to al-Nusra Front, during the raids in Arsal, said the state-run National News Agency. They are suspected of involvement in recent attacks on the army, it said. Later on Thursday, the Army Command issued a statement saying 22 people were arrested in Arsal's vicinity “on suspicion of belonging to terrorist groups that took part in the fighting against the army.” “36 others were held for entering Lebanon illegally and not possessing any identification documents,” the statement added. “The detainees are being interrogated under the supervision of the relevant judicial authorities,” it said. The raids sparked a demonstration by Syrian refugees, who raised the Islamic State group flag near the Arsal municipal building. The Muslim Scholars Committee also called for two emergency meetings to be held simultaneously at 3:00 pm in Beirut and the Bekaa to address the army's measures. Arsal has been the battlefront of the Lebanese army in its fight with jihadists since they crossed the border from Syria and overran the town in early August. The militants from al-Nusra Front and the IS kidnapped troops during their withdrawal.
Several soldiers and policemen remain in captivity while three have been executed. Last Friday, attackers detonated a roadside bomb against a passing army truck in Arsal killing two soldiers and wounding three. In a related development, Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr charged three detainees with belonging to an armed terrorist organization, kidnapping soldiers and participating in the fighting against them in Arsal. The charges also include the possession of arms and explosives. Saqr referred the suspects to the first Military Examining Magistrate Riyad Abou Ghida. Also Thursday, the army carried out raids on the residences of Syrian refugees in Tripoli's Abi Samra district. It said in a communique that it arrested 20 suspects and seized arms, ammunition and military gear from their possession.
The military said late Wednesday that militants opened fire at army posts in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Syria Street and al-Bisar in Tripoli. One soldier was lightly injured in his leg, it said. The soldiers at the three posts fired back at the militants and chased the gunmen to arrest them, the communique added. On Tuesday, a soldier was killed in a similar attack in Tripoli. Meanwhile, families of troops abducted by jihadists pressed on with their road-blocking protest in the vital Dahr al-Baidar area that links the Bekaa governorate to the Mount Lebanon region and the capital Beirut. They had earlier in the day pledged that they would reopen it at 6:00 pm following a mediation by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat. “We won't reopen the road because our sons are in danger and we apologize to Walid Beik Jumblat,” a spokesman for the families said. “We call on the government, if it still exists ... to take a brave decision,” he urged. “We call on the Lebanese people to stand by us and we're heading towards further escalation,” the man added.
Muslim Scholars Declare 'No to Slaughtering Arsal' Day,
Urge Probe into Army Raids
Naharnet/The Muslim Scholars Committee on Thursday called for a “transparent probe” into alleged abuse of Syrian refugees at encampments in the Bekaa border town of Arsal, saying Friday will be a “No to Slaughtering Arsal” day. “We call for a transparent and impartial investigation into the abuse of innocents and torching of encampments in Arsal,” the MSC said in a statement issued after an “emergency meeting.”“We urge the Army Command to put an end to violations and to address the situation with wisdom in order to thwart strife,” it added. The Committee declared that activities will be organized Friday under the slogan "No to Slaughtering Arsal", in order to “foil strife which might spread to the entire country.”The conferees also warned that they are considering to lodge complaints with the U.N. Human Rights Council and international humanitarian organizations. They also cautioned that “some parties are seeking to stoke strife” and urged humanitarian groups to perform their “humanitarian duty towards our brothers the refugees.” Earlier on Thursday, a suspect was killed and several others were injured when the army opened fire on them in Arsal for setting fire to tents in refugee encampments, according to an army statement. The military also arrested scores of Syrians and Lebanese, including four gunmen belonging to al-Nusra Front, during the raids in Arsal, said the state-run National News Agency. They are suspected of involvement in recent attacks on the army, it said. The raids sparked a demonstration by Syrian refugees, who raised the Islamic State group flag near the Arsal municipal building. Arsal has been the battlefront of the Lebanese army in its fight with jihadists since they crossed the border from Syria and overran the town in early August. The militants from al-Nusra Front and the IS kidnapped troops during their withdrawal. Several soldiers and policemen remain in captivity while three have been executed. Last Friday, attackers detonated a roadside bomb against a passing army truck in Arsal killing two soldiers and wounding three. Also Thursday, the army carried out raids on the residences of Syrian refugees in Tripoli's Abi Samra district. It said in a communique that it arrested 20 suspects and seized arms, ammunition and military gear from their possession.
Erdogan promises Salam to help secure hostages’ release
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Prime Minister Tammam Salam Wednesday to help in securing the release of Lebanese servicemen captured by extremist militants, said ministerial sources accompanying Salam on his visit to New York. Speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, the sources said the Turkish president vowed to make efforts to resolve the case, adding that Salam and Erdogan also discussed the need to improve Arab-Turkish ties as well as Lebanese-Turkish relations.
Militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS are holding at least 21 Lebanese Army soldiers and policemen they captured during their brief takeover of the northeastern town of Arsal last month. Turkey said over the weekend that 49 Turkish hostages captured by ISIS in Iraq in June have returned home safely. The circumstances of their release remained mysterious. Salam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and other members of the Lebanese delegation are taking part in the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The prime minister is to deliver Lebanon’s speech Friday at 9:45 pm. Salam also held talks with French President Francois Hollande, urging him to hasten the delivery of arms to Lebanon under a $3 billion Saudi grant announced late last year which would allow the Lebanese Army to acquire French weaponry.The two officials also tackled Lebanese-French bilateral ties and highlighted the importance of combatting terrorism. Salam’s meeting with Hollande came the same day an ISIS-linked group announced the beheading of a French hostage in Algeria.
The prime minister also addressed the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Earlier, Salam attended a breakfast hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in honor of heads of delegations taking part in the General Assembly session.
The Lebanese Army is being sucked into Syria
Michael Young| The Daily Star
The rising number of attacks against the Lebanese Army in Arsal and northern Lebanon is a worrying reminder of what is at stake for the military. In entering the fray in Arsal, the Army has immersed itself in the treacherous dynamics of Syria’s civil war.By trying to close off the Lebanese-Syrian border, a legitimate aim in principle, the Army is effectively participating in strangling the Syrian rebels in the Qalamoun district. The rebels rely on access to Arsal to resupply themselves and to rest. With winter coming, the rebels realize that they will have to come down from the high ground in Qalamoun, and if they are denied access to Arsal, they will have to find alternatives, leaving them more vulnerable to attack by the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
The Army can say that it is trying to guarantee that the conflict in Syria does not reach Lebanon. That would be convincing if Hezbollah had not deployed thousands of combatants in Syria, and if negotiations over the release of the abducted soldiers had not been hindered by the party, because it wants its own members captured or killed in Syria to be part the deal.
It would be even more convincing if we did not know that Hezbollah has played a significant role in pushing the Army to take a more aggressive stance in Arsal than it has previously taken. The reason is that the party is struggling in Qalamoun, caught in a war of attrition that it cannot win against a motivated foe with nothing to lose.
So, Hezbollah has maneuvered the Army into serving as its partner. To lend this legitimacy, it has been depicted as an anti-terrorism campaign against Salafist-jihadists such as the Nusra Front and ISIS. But how accurate is that portrayal?
In private conversation, a Lebanese ally of Syria admits that the bulk of the armed men in Qalamoun are inhabitants of the area who were forced to evacuate their towns and villages when the Syrian army and Hezbollah went on the offensive last year. That is not to say that there are no jihadists among them, let alone to play down the murder of soldiers; but rather to suggest that the picture is more varied than the Army’s public relations arm has let on and media have been led to believe.
What are the options for the Army? Today it has no real strategy in the Arsal hinterland, and is setting itself up for a grinding battle without resolution. Soldiers will continue to be the target of attack; the hostage situation will remain stalemated; and the country will continue to shake to the repercussions of the Arsal situation. Sectarian tensions in the Bekaa Valley may worsen given that the state and political parties have only a limited capacity to control their communities there.
Under these circumstances it may be preferable to consider a de facto agreement with the rebels governing passage to and from Arsal, in exchange for the release of the abducted soldiers and policemen and a clear definition of the conditions for entry and exit. This would include ensuring that weapons will not cross the border, only food and humanitarian supplies.
Hezbollah would doubtless oppose such an arrangement, and could be expected to block it on the ground. But there are circumstances that could make the party more open to an implicit accord.
For starters, given the stalemate in Qalamoun, Hezbollah has an interest in maintaining channels to the opposition in the event more of its fighters are made prisoner. Because of the unlikeliness of a total cutoff of communication lines between Arsal and Qalamoun, it may be preferable for both sides to get something out of a deal as opposed to what they might lose by refusing such an alternative.
Hezbollah also must think of the future. The Syrian regime is slowly losing ground everywhere. Its armed forces are depleted and the casualty toll among Syria’s minorities, especially Alawites, is high and unsustainable. Even in the best scenario, if ISIS is beaten, which is unlikely in the coming weeks, the regime cannot regain what it has lost.
Given all this, Hezbollah gains from being flexible. If Bashar Assad and the party cannot prevail militarily in Syria, Hezbollah may eventually have to consider a fallback strategy to contain the consequences of the Syrian conflict inside Syria. Having already reached a modus vivendi with rebel groups in the border area could become very useful if that occurs.
There are those who believe that, despite the dangers of a sectarian war in Lebanon, the armed men in Qalamoun have no intention of extending the Syrian conflict to Lebanon. That could well be true, but don’t take anybody’s word for it. Hezbollah is a prisoner of two contradictory logics: It wants to help the Assad regime win in Syria, and it wants to ensure that the Syrian violence is kept out of Lebanon. The first objective, almost by definition, has undermined the second.
However, the contrary is less evident. A desire to keep Lebanon separate from the Syrian conflict need not weaken Assad, and an implicit deal in the area of Arsal may show why. While it is improbable that Hezbollah will embrace such a reality, the Lebanese Army can tell the party that it refuses to be drawn into Syria, and intends to find a means to ensure this.
It can do so with Hezbollah’s approval or not, but the Army is in a better position to impose an arrangement, one that does not harm the party’s interests, because Hezbollah is vulnerable. The Army is not doing enough to stay clear of the Syrian war, and this can benefit only Hezbollah and Assad.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.
Prisoner swap with militants possible: Machnouk
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s interior minister said Wednesday for the first time that the government was not opposed to a prisoner swap with the ISIS and the Nusra Front, as the families of captive soldiers brought the country to a standstill by blocking a major highway between Beirut and the Bekaa Valley.
“A trade-off is possible,” Nouhad Machnouk said, shifting away from the government’s prior decision to suspend negotiations after Nusra and ISIS militants began executing soldiers in an effort to pressure the government to meet its requests.
Machnouk spoke to news outlets before flying to Paris, where he is set to meet Future Movement leader, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
More than 30 soldiers and policemen were captured by Nusra and ISIS militants during an armed attack on the northeastern border town of Arsal last month.
The two groups are said to be holding at least 21 captives. To date, the militants have beheaded two soldiers and shot another.
ISIS has asked for the release of Islamists detained in Roumieh prison, while Nusra are demanding protection for Syrian refugees and the opening of a safe passage for civilians into and out of Arsal.
The Army is wary of allowing free passage from Arsal to the outskirts, where the militants are hiding, for fear that they could receive food and aid from the town.
The government’s turnaround came a day after Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah declared that he was not opposed in principle to a prisoner swap. The militants have claimed in the past that Hezbollah is obstructing the negotiations for the release of the prisoners.
It also occurred as the families of the hostages escalated their protests at the government’s inaction by blocking a key thoroughfare from Beirut to the Bekaa Valley.
The protesters burned tires and erected tents in Dahr al-Baidar and before the village of Aley on the Beirut-Damascus highway.
They also partially blocked the Tarshish-Zahle road and vowed to completely block it Thursday if the government did not take action to free the captives.
The blocking of the roads came after pledges to step up protests to pressure the government into negotiating with their captors, and aimed to isolate the Bekaa from the capital and Mount Lebanon.
“We hold the government responsible for what has happened and for what might happen in the future,” said the sister of a captive soldier. She appealed to rival Lebanese politicians to act quickly to resolve the issue, calling for swapping the captive personnel with Islamist detainees held in Roumieh prison, the main demand of the militants.
“Beware of the anger of the mothers. ... We want you to secure the liberation of our sons quickly,” one of the captives’ father said.
The interior minister expressed his sympathy to the families of the hostages who had blocked the arterial roads, but said that such protests do not influence the terrorists who are holding their sons hostage.
Machnouk condemned the killing of abducted Army soldier Mohammad Hamieh who was executed by Nusra militants last week and slammed last week’s roadside bombing that killed two Army soldiers in Arsal, saying the incidents are acts of terror that serve to disrupt negotiations.
Such acts targeting the Army and security forces “blatantly contradict internal and foreign efforts to find a solution to secure the return of the captives,” he said.
The persistence of terrorist assaults, according to Machnouk, proves the underlying intent of inciting sectarian strife in Lebanon in general and the Bekaa in particular.
Escalating sectarian tensions in the region “facilitates the implementation of the large conspiracy plotted against Lebanon and its people,” he said.
The interior minister called on the people of the Bekaa and the Lebanese in general, to form a unified and cohesive front in order to foil terrorist plans.
Speaking to the families of the victims, Machnouk said that “the blood of their children would not go to waste.”
The suffering of both the hostages and their families are a national responsibility and the hostage crisis will require time, said the interior minister, expressing hope that the detained would return unharmed.
But tensions in the Bekaa Valley were matched by Tripoli where unnamed militants opened fire at Army posts in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Syria Street and Barad al-Bisar, read a statement released by the Lebanese Army late Wednesday.
One soldier incurred a minor wound in his leg as a result of the Bab al-Tabbaneh attack. The soldier was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
According to the statement, soldiers at all three Army posts fired back at the militants and launched a chase in an attempt to seize the perpetrators.
The Army also cordoned off the Barad al-Bisar area and barred any cars from entering or leaving the area, a security source told The Daily Star.
However, it remains unclear whether the soldiers were capable of detaining any of the gunmen. The attacks happened at separate times throughout the day.
Supply routes key difference between ISIS, Nusra demands
Samya Kullab/Hashem Osseiran| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: When the Nusra Front relayed its demands to the wife of captured policeman Ali Bazal this week, she came to a startling realization, one that has already fanned the flames of anger among the families of the captured servicemen blocking roads and burning tires along Bekaa Valley highways.
Their demands were as follows: A humanitarian corridor into Arsal, the release of the detained over the Arsal clashes and compassion toward Syrian refugees – no mention was there of Islamist prisoners, thought to be a key demand sustaining the government’s no-compromise approach.
“I think that was an ISIS demand,” the Nusra militant told Fliti, when she asked about the conspicuous absence of the prisoners.
As reflected in the disparate attitude adopted toward negotiations with the government to free at least 21 soldiers and policemen still in their custody, Nusra and ISIS in Qalamoun harbor starkly distinct interests in Lebanon. Ensuring unremitting supply routes in Lebanese territories is at the heart of the Nusra’s strategy with its hostages, according to experts and sources close to the group, which explains its consistent alacrity with mediators. ISIS, on the other hand, ultimately seeks to establish a foothold in Lebanon, which is why the release of Islamist prisoners figures so prominently in its demands.
For now, ISIS can afford to pursue ambitious designs on Lebanon because it wields the upper hand logistically in Qalamoun, according to a Syrian source acquainted with the militants and a former mediator responsible for brokering the cease-fire that ended the first round of clashes in Arsal. “ ISIS is receiving assistance and backing from [the movement’s headquarters in] Iraq,” the source close to the militants, who requested anonymity for safety reasons, told The Daily Star. “Supplies are reaching the [ISIS] militants in Qalamoun through the Alboukamal crossing [between Syria and Iraq].”The source, who claims to have witnessed the group’s stockpiles in the rugged outskirts of Arsal, said they included “everything” from weapons and ammunition, to food and medicine, as well as new fighters.
The former mediator confided to The Daily Star that ISIS militants were in a “better position” than their less-resourced counterparts. He added that during negotiations, the main two contacts that mediators have with ISIS was Abu Talal, who assumed leadership of Imad Jomaa’s brigade, and the Nusra commander Abu Malek.
It remains to be seen how U.S. strikes targeting ISIS trade routes in Syria might affect supply flows to the area. The supplies are believed to make their way from Alboukamal to Qalamoun through a “a clear network of routes” that include underground tunnels, according to Mario Abou Zeid, a researcher for the Carnegie Middle East Center, paved by the militant group with the implicit support of the Syrian regime. “ ISIS established these routes earlier on during the Syrian uprising,” he said. “In certain areas the Assad regime looked the other way and disregarded the transfer of arms and ammunition making its way to the militants, in a way to boost their power in the fight against [Syrian] opposition groups.”“We know that ISIS has more access to supplies than Nusra [in Qalamoun],” he added. “This is one of the major issues, Nusra is weaker and ISIS has more advanced weaponry from Iraq. This is why for Nusra gaining access to Lebanese territory is crucial; they need to have a presence here for ammunition and supplies.”
Both sources acquainted with the militants, including the former mediator, claimed that ISIS sometimes bribes Syrian regime agents to ensure their supplies arrive to Qalamoun. “They don’t feel desperate because of the Army blockage of Arsal,” the source said. “Nusra, however, might become desperate.”
According to Army sources, Arsal is effectively cut off from the militants, with a number of checkpoints erected in the town to ward off infiltration from within. “There are no points through which groups in the mountains can easily resupply from towns in Lebanon,” said Center of Strategic and International Studies military expert Aram Nerguizian. He argued that no matter how effective militant routes from Syria are, “They won’t negate the effects of winter.”
Nerguizian’s reasoning underlies the Lebanese government’s apparent strategy to delay negotiations until the harsh effects of the winter begin to take their toll on the militants, compelling them to relax demands.
Ostensible drawbacks aside, at the moment Nusra appears to be subsisting through the same Syrian supply lines exploited by Free Syria Army battalions also stationed in the outskirts, but these routes may not endure the winter.
Basel Idriss, an FSA commander in Arsal, confirmed to The Daily Star that their logistical supplies are coming from deeper within Qalamoun, and not Lebanon, where other Nusra Front brigades are also positioned. However, he said they often face delivery hitches.
“We currently don’t have a shortage of supplies but we are facing difficulty in transporting them,” he told The Daily Star, claiming that the passage into Syria remained open by the regime to prevent spillover into Arsal.
But prior to the August clashes, the Nusra Front was benefitting from key individuals in Arsal, like Sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri, who supported them “under the table,” the source in Arsal claimed.
“Nusra made it a point to recruit Lebanese from Arsal, not the refugees, because they knew the area,” the source said. “Some of the militants who were later arrested during the clashes, used to come in to Arsal and leave with stacks of bread,” the former mediator said.
Nusra’s summary execution of captive Mohammad Maarouf Hamieh, the former mediator said, was a sign of the group’s growing despondency. Its meeting with Fliti, however, was a sign it is still a willing negotiation partner, unlike ISIS and its exhibitionist beheading practices, which has helped to stall talks.
The content of the demands put forth and the relative seriousness with which each group conducts negotiations is also indicative of competing proclivities. Both sources acquainted with the militants said ISIS was demanding the release of Fatah al-Islam inmates in Roumieh.
According to the former mediator, however, ISIS also wants Joumana Hmeid, an Arsal native detained for driving a car rigged with explosives on the Labweh road in February.
It is unclear who among the approximately 74 Fatah al-Islam members currently detained in Roumieh’s Block B are wanted by ISIS, but it is likely that principal figures Nouri Nasr Mahmoud al-Hajji and the brother-in-law of the group’s former leader Shaker al-Absi, known as Abu Salim behind bars, both Syrians on death row, are on the list. According to a security source inside the prison, not all Islamist detainees are rejoicing at the prospect of being released in a swap deal. “Maybe the younger ones,” the source said. “But the ones who’ve been here since 2007, they know that if they are released in an ISIS deal, they are beholden to them, and so are their families and communities.”
“One inmate who’s served for 15 years, Abu Sleiman, said he wouldn’t accept to be on the list, because he has a young daughter,” the source said. “‘I don’t want to be a fugitive my whole life,’ he told me.”
Loyalty to ISIS in the event of a swap deal will surely pave the way for released members to radicalize their communities, a development the government wants to deter altogether.
Worrying reports emerge of ISIS plans to wreak havoc in Lebanon
Misbah al-Ali| The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: There are reports that ISIS is looking to create trouble and instability via the sleeper cells it is believed to have implanted across the country. Lebanese security sources said that ISIS was trying to create strife in areas in Lebanon’s north, south and the Bekaa Valley in order to undermine the country’s stability. The starting point of this plan was the five-day clashes in Arsal, which have since been followed by sporadic incidents in north Lebanon such as gunmen opening fire on a Lebanese Army position Tuesday, leading to the death of soldier Mohammad Khaled al-Hussein.The already tricky national and regional situation has been complicated by the capturing of Lebanese soldiers in Arsal, battle developments in Syria’s Rif Damascus and Qalamoun regions, and ISIS’ attempts to penetrate a border area close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the disputed Shebaa area. Meanwhile, there have been airstrikes against ISIS’ strongholds in north Syria and Iraq by the new international coalition formed to crush the extremist group. It is believed that ISIS did not take the American threats seriously until it saw that the international community had unified to eliminate it. As Islamist militants fighting in Syria search for different ways to get hold of supplies needed in the ongoing war there, Lebanese political factions have been forced to mobilize to keep pace with the fast-moving developments. For the first time in a long time, the various Lebanese security bodies have decided to join efforts in their fight against terrorism. This has been made all the more urgent since senior security sources revealed that ISIS has been intensifying its efforts to create pockets of support across the country. Luckily, several things have been achieved by the security forces in this matter, including the recent arrest of six Syrian nationals. The group was suspected of planning to attack Army- and Hezbollah-controlled locations near the southern towns of Shebaa, Hebbarieh and Arqoub.
If they had succeeded, it is believed that the group would have tried to establish a base for ISIS in order to create a similar situation to what has been seen in Arsal. The security authorities have warned that ISIS and the Lebanese branches of the Nusra Front and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades have united in order to establish a haven in the border area stretching from the north through the Bekaa Valley to the Shebaa farms in the south. According to reports, if ISIS is to conduct attacks in these areas, they will be led by a figure known as Sheikh Abu Hasan al-Ramlawi. Ramlawi – who goes by a nom du guerre – is a Palestinian who holds a Jordanian passport. Security forces marked him as an important figure because he used to mobilize Islamists in Deraa in southern Syria, before moving to an area closer to Lebanon. Ramlawi is believed to have moved toward the Syrian part of the Golan Heights and Shebaa until he reached the area’s Lebanese Sunni villages, where he has reportedly been working on forming armed groups. As a result of the sensitive location of this area, Hezbollah is believed to be monitoring the situation closely.
There are fears that Israel might try to take advantage of these developments to target Hezbollah. Some even believe that Ramlawi may have been coordinating with Israeli secret service agency Mossad in order to manipulate events in Syria.
Such reports pushed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah to give a speech Tuesday emphasizing the party’s position on the war against terrorism, while rejecting Lebanon’s participation in an international anti- ISIS coalition. Nasrallah also called on the Lebanese government to negotiate from a position of strength with the Islamist militants from ISIS and Nusra Front who are holding at least 21 soldiers and policemen. The government has now handed the matter of the captured soldiers to Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of Lebanon’s General Security, who has pledged to resolve the issue through indirect negotiations with the kidnappers. To this end, he travelled to Istanbul, to seek help from the Turkish authorities, following his Qatar trip last week.
But even the travesty of the kidnappings seems to pale in comparison to dramatic developments predicted to be on the horizon. In a statement, Sheikh Sirajuddine Zureiqat, a spokesman of Al-Qaeda-affiliated group the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, said he would be coming to Beirut soon. This statement was dismissed by Nasrallah in his speech. Zureiqat is believed to now be with the Lebanese captives, which if true would be a dangerous indicator that the Nusra Front, ISIS and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades are starting to unify within Lebanon. The threat posed by ISIS’ alleged sleeper cells is being taken sufficiently seriously that it prompted Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt to make a tour around Wadi al-Taym – a predominantly Druze area very close to the Syrian border – over the weekend. The move comes as the Druze community is reporting feeling directly threatened by these extremists groups. As the area that the groups are believed to be interested in contains large numbers of Druze, it is natural to fear that the Druze would be displaced were the groups to take over. Therefore the targeting of the Druze in Shebaa is being prepared for. The Lebanese government also senses the danger that the country is in, and is fully aware of the complications ahead. One senior political source compared the expected turmoil to the aftermath of Israel’s invasion in the summer of 1982. Prime Minister Tammam Salam wants to get through the crisis with as little fallout as possible, and he is currently in New York working on ensuring Lebanon has a safety net amid the regional turmoil.
Imad Jomaa broke no law in Lebanon: defense lawyer
By: Samya Kullab| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The lawyer representing Imad Jomaa, an ISIS-affiliated militant, said his client has not committed any crimes in Lebanon, as sources close to the militants said his release was no longer a pressing demand. “Jomaa did commit crimes in Syrian territories,” said Tarek Chindeb, speaking to The Daily Star Wednesday. “But the Lebanese judiciary doesn’t have the right to arrest him or charge him because he didn’t commit any crimes on Lebanese soil.” Jomaa is the former leader of the Fajr al-Islam Brigades, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in June. It was his arrest that purportedly instigated the Arsal clashes in August. Chindeb formally requested the release of his client Tuesday, claiming he had not committed a crime. “His arrest was political,” the lawyer claimed. “The investigative judge doesn’t have any evidence against him.” Chindeb, lawyer to several terror suspects, including Omar Atrash, now in Roumieh prison, and Naim Abbas, as well as Joumana Hmeid, had submitted his request to the military investigative judge in charge of cases linking to events in Arsal, Imad Zein. He said he took Jomaa’s case because someone close to the Syrian militant had implored him to. According to judicial sources, Chindeb argued in his request that Jomaa had not committed any criminal act and should be set free in line with legal procedures, and described his continued detention as constituting a breach of the law. According to Chindeb, Jomaa is being held in solitary confinement in the custody of the Army Intelligence at the Defense Ministry. He has not seen his client since August, when Jomaa appeared in court a week after the Arsal clashes. “Whenever I take permission to visit him, they [personnel] give me all sorts of excuses as to why I can’t see him, which is against the law,” Chindeb said. He said Jomaa’s file contained 33 names of Free Syrian Army fighters that were divulged during interrogations, “who are all wanted men now.” Chindeb said representing Jomaa has been riddled with challenges, largely because he hasn’t been able to access his client. A request he filed to assign an independent forensic doctor to examine Jomaa was also denied. “The laws are not being applied,” he said, criticizing the military tribunal. At least 19 troops were killed in five days of clashes in the border town of Arsal, which was overrun by militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front following Jomaa’s arrest.
The militants are still holding at least 21 troops and security personnel captive, and ISIS in particular seek to swap them for other Islamist detainees in Roumieh.
Separately, a source well-acquainted with the militants said the release of their former leader no longer figured highly in ISIS’ demands. “They fear he might have broken down during the negotiations and revealed too much,” the source said.
U.S.-led Raids on Syria Killed 14 Jihadists, 5 Civilians
Naharnet /A series of strikes in Syria overnight by a U.S.-led coalition killed 14 jihadists from the Islamic State group and five civilians, a monitoring group said on Thursday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants were killed in strikes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, and the civilians died in raids in northeastern Hasakeh. The strikes largely targeted oil facilities captured by the Islamic State group (IS), though Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said at least one IS checkpoint was among the targets hit during the night. Among the civilians killed in Hasakeh was a child, he added. On Wednesday, Pentagon officials announced that the U.S. and Arab allies had resumed bombing raids that began a day earlier, hitting oil facilities held by IS. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told CNN that the raids focused on 12 targets he described as "modular oil refineries".IS militants have seized a series of oil facilities and fields and are believed to sell oil on the black market to bring in revenue. The overnight strikes involved aircraft from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, members of the U.S.-led coalition, Pentagon officials said. Agence France Presse
Mashnouq to Discuss with Hariri Latest Developments Linked
to Abducted Soldiers
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq traveled to France on Wednesday where he is scheduled to hold talks with head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Thursday. It said that the meeting will discuss the latest developments linked to the case of soldiers and policemen abducted by Islamists, who overran the northeastern town of Arsal in August. The daily denied claims that new mediation channels will be opened with the kidnappers, explaining instead that the negotiations will take place through the “known channels.” “Any new course will harm the current efforts,” it added. Mashnouq revealed that the security meeting that was held on Tuesday at the Defense Ministry tackled “all options to release the Lebanese hostages held in Arsal's outskirts.”
“A swap is among the options. It will take place through the rules that bind this procedure,” he said. “Any claims to the contrary are not true,” said the minister. He reassured the families of the executed captives that “their blood will not go to waste.” “Their suffering should motivate us to exert more efforts to resolve this tragedy through the available means,” he remarked. “Even if they may take some time, the local and international efforts to set free the hostages will yield the results we aspire for, which is to see the captives released safe and sound,” Mashnouq stated. The soldiers and policemen were abducted in Arsal in August in the wake of clashes between the military and Islamists from the Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front. Three of the hostages have been killed and the militants warned they would kill more if the Lebanese authorities failed to meet their demands. The families of the captives have resorted to blocking roads in various Lebanese regions to pressure the authorities to exert more efforts to ensure the safe release of their loves ones.
Islamic State has brought us back to the Middle Ages
Op-ed: Religious fundamentalism is a monster with a ticking time bomb of self-destruction, which will eventually destroy itself.
Oz Almog/Ynetnews/09.25.14/Israel Opinion
One could look at the development of the human culture as a revolutionary story
with surprising twists in the plot.
And so, when we thought that the world was becoming a large village and that the vision of the end of wars was at our doorstep, radical Islam came along and spoiled the party. Not only is globalization stuck, but extremism is expanding and the clouds of a global war are growing dark in the horizon. Is humanity headed towards a U-turn? Not necessarily. Sociology is like an aerial photograph. From a terrain flight, the phenomenon of the Islamic State organization and similar groups is alarming. But from a higher observation point, which captures the entire historic space, there is room for optimism. The Islamic State is not unusual in the landscape of fundamental Islam. Even the horrific beheading isn't an unusual crime in these societies, and it isn't even the most radical crime. Why millions of people have been brutally slaughtered in the name of Allah in recent years. The West has turned a deaf ear and a blind eye not only to Islamic terror and tribal violence, but also to Arab dictatorships' crushing of human rights. And then came the fast Internet and sent the threatening evil into the digital air. Three bloodcurdling video segments created an emotional and symbolic effect, which thousands of news reports had failed to create. When the truth is shoved in one's face, one starts asking questions which have so far been swept under the screen of hypocrisy, economic interests and political correctness. In its murderous war on its "heretic" brothers, the Islamic State is holding up a mirror to the Muslim nations as well. In the not-too-distant future, people there will start looking into religious fanaticism and a gradual sobering up process will develop. Religious fundamentalism is a monster with a ticking time bomb of self-destruction, and it will eventually destroy itself. Even today, within the desert chaos, a tectonic movement is already beginning. The religious Muslim fanatics in Asia and in Africa began thriving, among other things, because they present an ideological alternative to the Western "theology of freedom," which is radicalizing. The bulimic consumption, the enslaving materialism, the pursuit of money, the narcissist hedonism, solitary worship, the media's superficiality, the wild economic competition, the worship of external beauty, the absence of borders and the exaggerated pluralism – all these weaken the "white" democracy and undermine its image. One can assume, therefore, that the attack on the secular world will lead the West to ask difficult questions also about itself. For globalization to continue developing, it's not enough to defeat the external enemies. At the same time, there is a need to engage in thorough self-examination and fix accumulating ethical distortions.
So what will happen? I believe that we are about to experience quite a difficult "Middle Ages" era in the near future, at the end of which the renaissance will arrive. How long will the transition period last? Unfortunately, sociology is unable to provide the answer to this question.
British PM addresses UN General Assembly
J.Post/ 25.09.14/After speaking about the need to "act now" against Islamic State militants at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday night, British Prime Minister David Cameron went on to address the 69th General Assembly.
Like many world leaders before him, Cameron centered his speech on the rise of Islamic State militants across the Middle East. Recounting the jihadist group's latest atrocities -- from their mass beheadings to the abductions of tribesmen -- against those who refuse to align with the group's "sick extremist worldview," Cameron said the rising threat of extremism is not confined to the Middle East, but is an international "problem." Its murderous plans go well beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria, he said. The prime minister also referred to the group's successful recruitment methods and influence across Europe, telling the 193-member assembly that Islamic State "affects us all," and so must be tackled on a global scale. Alluding to the past wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he termed "past mistakes," he said they should not hold the international community back, but rather lead to action. Pinpointing the root cause of the rise of Islamic State -- extremism -- he said the world faced an intellectual "war of ideas," and not just a military one. A recurring theme in his speech was inconclusiveness and the need for global powers to work together -- potentially even, Iran. To defeat Islamic State the world had to counter its "poisonous ideology," which , he noted, had nothing to do with Islam. Non-violent extremism had to be confronted as well -- namely the omnipresence of IS online and the hijacking of religion by militants. Extremist groups and insurgencies sprung up when people lost hope, he said, turning to Iraq, where he called for backing an inclusive government that will bring together all Iraqi factions.
Moving on to Syria, he completely ruled out cooperation with President Assad against the common enemy of IS, saying, "Our enemies’ enemy is not our friend. It is another enemy."
He welcomed the Arab countries who have already taken part in the US-led coalition and said Iran should also be given the opportunity to participate. He referenced his first meeting with President Rouhani earlier on Wednesday said there was room for Iranian engagement.
Lastly, Britain should join the US-led coalition uniting against the group, he said, adding that it was time to begin a new phase of action. He called on his parliament to move forward and OK plans to join air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.
Israel slams lack of progress on Iran at IAEA annual
The head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, Dr Shaul Chorev, told the IAEA delegates in Vienna on Wednesday he did not believe Iran's new diplomatic language. He spoke at the annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, just as his Intelligence Minister back home, Yuval Steinitz, accused Iran of using its Parchin military base as the site for secret tests of technology that could be used only for detonating a nuclear weapon. "Facade of more welcoming diplomatic vocabulary by its new envoys and the portrayal of the spirit of cooperation were negated by Iran's uncompromising positions and its lack of cooperation with the IAEA. Mr President almost a year has elapsed since Iran committed to cooperate with the agency to resolve all outstanding present and past issues including its military dimension. However the director general's recent report clearly indicates that no substantive progress has been made. Iran's traditional tactics of stonewalling, delays, disruption and concealment are surfacing once again. The gap between Iran's statements and its practices is very wide," said Chorev. An IAEA report issued in early September showed Iran had failed to answer questions by an Aug. 25 deadline about what the UN agency calls the possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear program.
The United States and the European Union, in statements to the IAEA conference, have also called on Iran to cooperate with the UN agency's long-stalled investigation into allegations that Tehran has worked on designing a nuclear weapon.
The Islamic Republic says allegations that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability are false and baseless. Tehran says it is Israel's assumed atomic arsenal that is a destabilising threat to the Middle East.
Chorev rejected this statement too. "One has to wonder what are the motivations behind these divisive agenda item "israel's nuclear capability" proposed time and again by the Arab states. Is it because the sponsors want the world to focus on something else than turmoil and terror in the Middle East? Is it because among regional parties there are those who pursued or continue to pursue nuclear weapons under the cover of the NPT membership, or is it because an anti Israeli campaign makes it possible to all members of the Arab league to appear united?" Chorev said
Rouhani’s Record Reveals Nothing Has Changed in Iran
September 25/2014/the Algemeiner
By: Irwin Cotler/Member of the Canadian Parliament
While Iranian President Rouhani pledged to usher in a new era of human rights for Iranians, the person held out as a “moderate” has presided over a regime that continues to engage in massive repression. As nuclear negotiations continue, so does the systematic and widespread violation of human rights in Iran. While negotiations respecting Iran’s nuclear weaponization program resume this week, they should neither overshadow nor sanitize the regime’s ongoing abuses.
What follows is an overview of some of the serious human rights violations in Iran that serve as a litmus test for the authenticity of Rouhani’s commitment to human rights for the Iranian people.
1. CULTURE OF IMPUNITY
This summer marked 26 years since the Iranian regime’s 1988 Prison Massacre. For five months beginning in July 1988, the regime of then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini executed thousands of Iranian dissidents, thereby purging any opposition to the absolute authority of the ruling clerics. These executions were carried out by fatwah – a religious decree – with the victims denied any semblance of due process as their guilt was proclaimed. Twenty-six years later, the Iranian regime not only continues to suppress evidence of the massacre – while rebuking family requests seeking information surrounding the execution and burial of the victims – but continues to provide political and financial rewards to the perpetrators.
Despite talk of moderation, Rouhani continues to indulge a culture of impunity, rewarding and promoting the perpetrators of grave abuses. His own Justice Minister, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, played a leading role in the 1988 Prison Massacre, presiding over the Evin Prison Death Committee that was responsible for selecting victims, and is a scandalous example of the prevailing culture of impunity. Moreover, after political prisoners at Evin Prison’s notorious Ward 350 were brutally beaten in April, the responsible prison official – Gholamhossein Esmaili – was promoted to head the Tehran Justice Department. So long as human rights abusers continue to be rewarded with political advancement, Rouhani’s rhetoric of “moderation” will remain empty and irrelevant.
2. THE PERSISTENT AND PERVASIVE ASSAULT ON WOMEN
Rouhani has spoken in support of gender equality – and Article 20 of the Iranian Constitution purports to protect it. Nonetheless, women in Iran face widespread and systematic discrimination in education, employment, state benefits, family relations, and access to justice – not to mention the dearth of female representation in decision-making roles. Indeed, according to a new plan announced last month, female employees in Tehran municipality will now be formally segregated from their male counterparts. Moreover, according to a directive ratified by the council of mayors, only male government employees will be eligible for specified posts. It is particularly telling that, despite Rouhani’s talk of gender-equality, his Justice Minister, Pour-Mohammadi has described this gender-segregation plan as being “in conformity with the regime’s values.”
Gender-based discrimination and the exclusion of women from economic and professional opportunities have increased under Rouhani. This month, Colonel Khalil Helali – the head of the Public Buildings Office of the Iranian Police – announced that women are not allowed to be employed in cafés and traditional Iranian restaurants. Women have also been banned in 13 provinces from appearing on stage in musical performances. The result of these decrees will be to exacerbate unemployment amongst women, who already suffer unemployment at more than twice the rate of Iranian men.
3. POLITICAL PRISONERS
Iran continues to imprison human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers, artists, trade unionists, members of the political opposition, and civil society leaders generally. While Rouhani has freed some high profile political prisoners at opportune moments – such as in the run up to his September 2013 visit to the U.S. – the cosmetic freeing of individual prisoners does not constitute systemic change in this regard. Indeed, the continued imprisonment of Jason Rezaian – the 38 year old American-Iranian Washington Post correspondent in Tehran – along with his wife – is yet another instance of the regime’s systematic repression of free speech and free press, while the hosue arrest of 2009 Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Medi Karoubi, together with Moussavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnaverd, is entering its fourth year.
Moreover, the regime continues to use a “revolving door” approach to the freeing of political prisoners whose detention may have garnered unwelcome international attention. This strategy entails the intermittent release of certain prisoners on short-term furloughs, who remain surveilled, harassed, and intimidated and may be ultimately rearrested once international concern with their individual cases wanes. One recent example is the arrest in June of blogger Mehdi Khazali, who had been previously imprisoned and then pardoned after a conviction for “insulting the Supreme Leader.” Khazali was rearrested on unspecified charges that are believed to be related to the publication of a politically charged blog post.
4. THE ASSAULT ON CIVIL SOCIETY AND FREE PRESS
While Rouhani continues to pay lip service to principles of free speech and free press, his rhetorical commitment to greater protections for journalists is belied by reality. Indeed, Amnesty International has reported a “sharp rise in arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment of independent journalists in Iran [that] signals the authorities’ utter determination to crush hopes for increased freedom . . . .” In addition, the regime has increasingly confiscated satellite dishes and continues to restrict open internet access. While internet censorship has prevailed in Iran since the 2009 Green Protests – and while there are reports of reform – the targeting of open internet access continues. Recently, a senior Iranian hard-line cleric, Makarem Shirazi, declared that “high-speed mobile . . . services are ‘un-Islamic’ and violate ‘human and moral norms.’” This sentiment is particularly troubling in light of the reality of government censorship in Iran. Indeed, the Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC), which is tasked with formulating Iran’s internet policy, is dominated by conservative and hard-line members.
Censorship in Iran is not limited to the internet, but extends also to the traditional print media. The regime continues to shutter newspapers deemed unacceptably critical of the regime or seen as questioning tenets of Shiite Islam. In April, the reformist newspaper Ebtekar was closed for “spreading lies” after it reported that Evin Prison Chief Esmaili’s promotion had been connected to the Evin prison assault over which he presided. Ebtekar is the third paper to be closed in recent months. Officials ordered the reformist paper Bahar to be closed in October and the newly launched Aseman in February.
Under Rouhani’s presidency, torture continues to be used by authorities to intimidate detainees and to coerce confessions that are then used to justify trumped-up charges, while the general culture of impunity prevails. As documented by Dr. Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, methods of torture include: whipping and assault; sexual torture including rape; and psychological torture such as prolonged solitary confinement.
Iran executes more people per-capita than any other state – with 90 executed in August alone – an alarming rate that has actually increased under Rouhani, with some 600 executions carried out in 2014. Moreover, many of these executions have been carried out in secret such that the true number is likely to be higher, while many of those executed have been activists for ethnic and religious minorities who were arrested on trumped up charges. While Rouhani continues to preside over a massive execution binge, the regime continues to deny the UN Special Rapporteur access to the country.
The disconnect between Rouhani’s rhetoric and the reality of human rights violations must end. The international community must demand accountability and action from Rouhani, who must cease and desist from the massive domestic repression and end the accompanying culture of impunity.
***Irwin Cotler is a Member of the Canadian Parliament, Emeritus Professor of Law (McGill University), and the former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada. He is co-Chair with Senator Mark Kirk of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and a Member of the Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.
الإرهاب الإيراني في عهد الرئيس روحاني بازدياد وكذلك قمع حكام طهران الملالي لشعبهم اضافة إلى مضايقة واضطهاد الأقليات. أما تصدير الإرهاب الإيراني فحدث ولا حرج. وبالتالي كل كلام الرئيس روحاني عن السلام والعدل هو مجرد كلام لا قيمة ولا مصداقية له. التقرير في أسفل يحكي حقيقة روحاني وخداع كل وعوده وشعاراته ويبين أن إيران دولة لا تعرف غير الإرهاب والتطرف والمذهبية
Opinion: Extremist Iranian Regime Has No Business Promoting ‘World Against Violence & Extremism’ Initiative at UN
September 24, 2014 6:00 pm 0 comments
David Ibsen, Gabriel Pedreira, and Brian Stewart
In his inaugural speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani launched his “The World Against Violence and Extremism” (WAVE) initiative ostensibly to promote “tolerance over violence, progress over bloodletting, justice over discrimination, prosperity over poverty, and freedom over despotism.”
An Iranian-sponsored UN resolution in support of WAVE soon followed, and Rouhani and his foreign policy team have promoted WAVE throughout the year as an example of his supposedly more “moderate” Iranian regime.
At the time, too many were insufficiently skeptical of Rouhani’s WAVE rhetoric of peace, justice and tolerance considering Iran’s record of fomenting violence, extremism and repression. Many of the very states forced by UN protocol to sit through Rouhani’s cynical call for moderation have in fact been victimized by extreme Iranian regime policies over the past 35 years.
Now, following a year in office, Rouhani’s words have proven hollow. The Iranian regime’s violent oppression of Iranian citizens, sponsorship of terrorist groups and sectarian militias, support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria, and refusal to roll back its illicit nuclear program has continued. Indeed, since his last appearance in New York, Iranian partners and proxies across the region, including in Syria and Gaza, have engaged in extreme action directly resulting in tremendous turmoil and thousands of violent deaths.
Not surprisingly, the promise of domestic moderation under Rouhani has also proven empty. In its annual report to the General Assembly on human rights in Iran released just this month, the UN declared that regime clampdowns on human rights and freedom of speech have not lessened under Rouhani’s tenure while legalized discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities persists. For example, members of the Baha’i community remain barred from access to higher education and government employment. And according to the UN, executions in Iran have actually risen under Rouhani, with between 624 and 727 executions in the last year.
The UN must not allow nations like Iran to come to UNGA and lecture the world on how to conduct itself. The UN was founded on universal principles of human rights and human dignity, principles for which the Iranian regime has scant regard. The Iranian theocracy under President Rouhani has an established record of persecuting women, political dissidents and religious minorities. This is not a record in line with the principles of justice and tolerance.
Rouhani’s rhetoric is also telling of how little regard Iran’s leaders have for the UNGA and its members. Apparently Rouhani and his speechwriters expect the collective memory of Iranian regime misdeeds and mendacity on the world stage to be immediately forgiven in response to cursory “charm offensives” (who can forget the overwrought reaction to Rouhani’s supposed Happy Rosh Hashanah tweet), and the coining of disingenuous acronyms.
This cannot be the case. Members of the UNGA must speak candidly about the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime. Rouhani’s past year in office has confirmed beyond all doubt that Iran continues to sponsor global terrorism, abuse the rights of its people and violate the solemn international treaties respecting the development of nuclear weapons. This is hardly the “World Against Violence and Extremism” movement that Rouhani so proudly proclaimed at last year’s UNGA. While donning the disguise of a moderate, Rouhani has not departed from the illiberal, aggressive policies that marked the Iranian regime during the Ahmadinejad era.
All members of the international community should come to grips with this grim truth – both for the sake of an increasingly endangered global order and for the liberal values that animated the UN at its birth.
***David Ibsen is Executive Director of the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Gabriel Pedreira is UANI Communications Director, and Brian Stewart is a UANI staff member.
The Islamic State and the global Great
Asad Zaidi 25 September 2014
The unravelling of Iraqi society set the context for the emergence of the Islamic State-led insurgency in Iraq. But the role played by IS is a byproduct of the flows of capital and ideology in a much wider theatre of power.
IS is the product of societal exclusion and economic deprivation. There are two major themes here. Firstly that Iraq’s decline derives partly from historic US domination: sanctions, intervention and proxy war. Secondly, that the Iraqi state post 2003 was built on a legacy of occupation which destroyed Iraq’s institutions and lead to an influx of personnel and foreign capital that had vast implications for subsequent state-society relations.
The perception of the state as an exclusive gateway to security, services and self-determination was nothing new, but this was hugely exacerbated by the policies following Occupation. In its place a new elite of former Iraqi exiles, led by former Prime Minister Maliki homogenized power, stoking rage amongst Iraq’s maligned communities. It is against this backdrop that the current Sunni insurgency led by IS, emerged. Iraq as an imagined community has been eroded over time. Following the US invasion, in the absence of dialogue, violence became the de facto language of power.
IS is portrayed as the new face of global Jihad. Born out of fighting the occupation and the subsequent sectarian war and given new life in the Syrian War, IS have returned to Iraq. In a few months, they have ripped up Sykes-Picot and extended their control from eastern Syria to north western Iraq, taking cities, borders, dams and pipelines in the process. Baghdadi and his lieutenants have left their visiting card, exposing the weak internal and external power of Arab states, and highlighting the absence of effective international coordination. Well-armed and funded by GCC backers, conquest and an intricate war economy, they have set about consolidating territory, enforcing sharia and massacring minorities.
Ideologically impoverished, IS represents a mutilated modernity; a homicidal puritanism, incapable of accepting difference. This, in Iraq, the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates where Mesopotamia and the Islamic Golden Age amazed the world, is a desperate turn of events in a country shattered by violence.
IS have ruthlessly executed plans for territorial expansion. Highly motivated and bloated with foreign fighters, they have proved themselves tactically astute in asymmetrical warfare, yet also aware of the need to appease locals through welfare. The ingenuity of the Baji oil refinery and Haditha dam attacks point to a movement willing to plan and think like a state. Before Baghdad retook the refinery, they found IS working to redirect and sell their oil abroad. An Iraqi official quoted in a recent Guardian piece puts IS’ wealth at more than $2 billion, highlighting how self-financing through racketeering and capturing army hardware has added to bloated funds already swollen thanks to foreign donors.IS flaunting US hardware, captured in Iraq, in northern Syria. Photograph: Facebook
IS flaunting US hardware, captured in Iraq, in northern Syria. Photograph: Facebook
IS’s ability to work with other factions points to a long-term insurgency plan. Although it is unlikely they can hold their allies together, they stand as testament to the failure of the state to establish a Pax Romana in Iraq. Shiraz Maher identifies IS’s success in their capacity as a force mobilizer; their ability to bring men, money and munitions to swell the insurgency. The security vacuum in Iraq allowed IS to dominate the Sunni insurgency. The weakness of effective governance prevented trust and engagement between the state and a Sunni community marginalized in the new Iraqi order.
IS are, “ just one faction in a larger popular rebellion against the government of Nouri al Maliki” as Baathist officers, tribal fighters and Awakening Councils fighters have all been active. Hence, IS represents something more systemic, something more insidious than themselves. They represent the enduring legacy of the US occupation and its aftermath.
IS have been successful insofar as they have positioned themselves as the new patrons for a community brutalized by the state. The Maliki regime’s policies excluded the Sunnis from power, continuing the dogged US prosecution of De-Baathification. Protest camps in Ramadi and Fallujah emerged in 2012 demanding an end to chronic unemployment, corruption and state brutality. This movement, initially supported by non–Sunnis, was non sectarian and peaceful in nature. Maliki’s bloody crackdown has since led to a full-blown insurrection. The state’s tendency to meet resistance with violence has had the consequence of ripping apart the fragile détente achieved post 2006. Maliki’s policies confirmed to many that the new contours of power in Iraq fulfilled an anti-Sunni agenda.
The government’s utter incapability to combat Iraq’s problems was highlighted by the loss of confidence Maliki suffered even with Kurdish and Shia blocs by 2014. As IS swept through Mosul in June, the Iraqi army left without a fight. It looked as though the Kurds would press for a referendum on the issue of Kurdish independence. Even Shia factions not aligned to Maliki were seething at his exclusionary agenda. Maliki remained defiant, armed with a jingoistic nationalism that was falling on deaf ears. Iraq teetered on the brink as Maliki’s patrons in Tehran and Washington looked for an acceptable replacement. It was only with Haider al-Abadi’s appointment to Prime Minister that new hope has emerged of the possibility of forming a unity government. So far, his non-sectarian discourse has emphasized national reconciliation and drawn support from Iraq’s fractured political class. And yet Iraq’s deep schisms reflect the difficulty of the task ahead. How did it come to this?
Western myths and western failures
The US, the Baathist and Maliki states have instilled violence, political and economic, into their respective attempts at controlling Iraq’s people and her resources. Only by understanding how different actors have used the same logic of violence can we begin to understand the fractionalization of Iraq that has taken place.
The failure of Iraqi leaders to reimagine an inclusive social contract is a political rather than an innately sectarian issue. The western myth of enduring sectarianism is historically inaccurate: it absolves the occupier, while ignoring the fact that sect has been only one of many identities Iraqis have chosen to adopt in history. The cooption of sectarian identity by Iraq’s political orders is the direct result of the division sewn during the US occupation 1) by the new Iraqi elite and 2) by their US patrons.
Current events are only the latest face of violently contentious politics in Iraq; a violence that begets its own resistance when it becomes the practising logic of political engagement and once channels of accountability and engagement are undermined. Hence through smashing the entire fabric of Iraq’s institutions post-occupation, the US created the political vacuum from which Iraq’s new rulers have so far failed to govern. Nowhere is this legacy better observed than in the policies that have sought to maintain a subservient Iraq, but in so doing, have created the conditions from which IS can so easily strike at the heart of a hollowed out state, armed to the teeth, yet bereft of legitimacy.
The founding of Iraq was forged in the experience of colonial occupation during the British conquest. The 1920 Iraqi revolt remains a foundational memory from which Iraqi Nationalism continues to draw. Factions of all hues have attested to the memory of 1920 as a transformative moment, what Fanon has called the process from which the colonized were able to reclaim their subjectivity from the inherent violence of colonialism.
The US ascent to superpower status following the Second World War allowed it a huge influence in the Gulf policies in the 70s. The Nixon Doctrine established the Shah’s Iran and Saudi Arabia as its principle lieutenants in the Gulf as the US sought to contain the Arab Nationalism of Saddam Hussein. But this security order was upturned following the Iranian Revolution, after which the US focus turned to containing the Islamic Republic via arming Iraq. The result was a programme now aimed at strengthening Saddam’s hand in the Gulf. The Iran-Iraq war that followed, at a cost of over a million lives, left both states shattered. During the last days of the war, in the midst of Saddam’s notorious massacres, “US oil companies received a discount of $1 per barrel below prices charged to European companies”. This was made possible via Iraq’s diplomatic immunity in the UN. The US, European and Gulf states armed Saddam in an effort to neutralize a nascent Iranian Republic preaching a political model based on radical autonomy. The support of superpowers was matched with overwhelming regional collusion. Iraq was given virtual carte blanche in its war; as a bastion against Iranian Pan Islamism by both the west and neighbouring Arab states.
When Saddam sought to readdress Iraq’s clientelist arrangement, the US decisively intervened during the first Gulf War to neutralize the Iraqi army following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. The Gulf and Iran-Iraq wars left the Ba’athist regime’s external ambitions compromised. Yet Saddam’s mastery over the state machinery was paradoxically strengthened. The paranoia of the Iranian ‘threat’ was internalized and reproduced so as to destroy resistance. When Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in Halabja against Iranian and Kurdish fighters and civilians, the US and its allies stood back, despite earlier promises to help Shia and Kurdish uprisings. Saddam’s retribution in the areas he controlled left two million displaced and a hundred thousand dead.
The Baathists had slaughtered their opposition, but the US-led sanctions regime had two more devastating legacies in store for the Iraq inherited by Maliki.
Firstly, sanctions devastated the country’s human and physical resources. It destroyed Iraq’s telecommunications, transport, electricity, agriculture and health, sanitation and education. A UN envoy described the situation in 1991 as "near apocalyptic." Sanctions brought soaring child mortality, disease and poverty but also crime and the breakdown of society, serving to keep Iraq in a perpetually primitive state under the pretext of removing WMDs and preserving regional security. Far from weakening the regime, Sami Ramadani argues that the sanctions regime worked to strengthen Saddam’s regime as the primary patron of resources. Those excluded from Baathist patronage had to resort to primary solidarities where there was no access to the state. Hence sanctions amplified the practices of patronage that hollowed out the state, a policy that remained despite the transformation of its ideology and personnel, post-2003.
Sanctions also exacerbated sectarianism during the 90s. The US betrayal of the Kurds and Shia had left both communities to face the wrath of the Baathist State alone, both violently but also through the withdrawal of resources. Again, the regime itself was strengthened. The main route to provisions during the sanctions era was through links with a network of patrons emanating from Saddam’s inner core, nominally Arab, Sunni, Tikriti, in what Charles Tripp has called ‘shadow state’. Not only did this alienate non-Sunnis, but it also had the effect of delineating the contours of power through sectarian patronage.
Those outside the core organized around those in their communities who could guarantee provisions and security. Sect was hence a useful political tool to cement state power, yet it had the long-term effect of shattering Iraq’s diverse communities. Before 2003 Kurdish and Shia patrons were either in exile or kept a low profile. They were however in position to benefit themselves and their communities in the bloody transformation of power following the US trouncing of the Baathist Regime.
On the invasion in 2003, much has been written. Under the pretext that Saddam Hussein was funding terrorism and threatened the west with WMDs, the US and its allies marched to war, irrevocably reshaping Iraq’s power balance and instigating the societal violence that continues to this day.
The Lancet Report estimates that by 2006, violent deaths as a consequence of war totalled 654,965. The Iraqi Ministry of Health found white phosphorous, uranium and napalm had contributed massively to a rise in congenital birth defects. The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Iraq concluded, "There is definitive evidence of an alarming rise in birth defects, leukemia, cancer and other carcinogenic diseases in Iraq after the war." Other indicators reveal a stark rise in corruption, unemployment, crime, mental illness, child labour, illiteracy, domestic, communal and sexual violence, following the occupation. The number of displaced persons is estimated at 5 million.
Following the occupation, the US instilled a raft of policies to entrench Iraq’s dependence on its patrons. The interim power, the Coalition Provisional Authority, opened the gates for unfettered penetration of neoliberal capital as “unrestricted, tax-free export of profits by corporations and granted them 40-years ownership licenses”. Multinationals like Blackwater and BP flooded into the scramble as Iraq's resources were privatized.
A new elite emerged from those exiled Iraqis willing to present themselves as clients. Their subservience broke up the National Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of diverse blocs across class and sect that became disenfranchised by the power-sharing arrangements in Baghdad. Where Iraq had had a centrally planned economy, privatization and financial mismanagement followed under the pretext of rebuilding Iraq. The US command under Paul Bremer enshrined sectarian division within the new constitution, paving the way for a planned tripartite division of Iraq. Once again colonial violence brought about its own resistance. US policies massively disenfranchised Sunnis, sending “the message that De-Baathification was tantamount to De-Sunnifciation”, effectively providing the impetus for hundreds of thousands of men previously employed within the army and public services to be fired under the pretext of security. The consequence was a swelling of the armed groups fighting the state and each other.
Resistance to the occupation was initially cross-sect and nationalist in flavour. Dividing the opposition was orchestrated by the US: the quintessential divide and rule strategy of any imperial power in history. Al Qaida and IS-linked factions had few roots in Iraq prior to the US invasion. Increasingly, the fight against occupation fragmented and sectarianism flourished. New factions emerged in the absence of a strong central authority, each with their own ideology and language; either using violence as protest at their exclusion by the state power, or as an outright call to upturn the new order. The latter often carried an existential flavour, Islamist in character and uncompromising in tendency. Hardline Jihadist factions like Al Qaida in Iraq (precursor to ISIL, now IS) fought the US, Iraqi army and Shia militias.
As in current Syria, and previously in Algeria in the 1990s and Lebanon in the 80’s, state violence and exclusion provided ideological nourishment and legitimacy for struggles depicted in the language of a rabidly intolerant Islamism built upon sectarianism. The success of “sectarian entrepreneurs” like Zarqawi and Baghdadi came from their ability to expand their influence in the political vacuum left behind by a weak Iraqi state.
One can argue that, three years after the invasion, Maliki inherited a desolate state in paralysis for decades. Nevertheless, the Maliki state contributed to the wasting away of Iraq’s institutions, prioritizing the building of his Da’wa party power before national reconciliation. He undermined a popular cross-sectarian coalition led by Ayad Alawi by playing on Shia fears of Sunni dominion. The Sunni minister of finance, Rafi al-Issawi, was falsely accused of terrorism and the subsequent protests were met with the hammer of the state, convincing many that Maliki’s government represented a continuation of violence and exclusion in Iraq.
Maliki was unwilling to widen the social contract beyond his own core Da’wa party cadres, similar in many ways to the ties of privilege built up previously by Saddam Hussein. The elite close to the Maliki circle were those exiled Shia Iraqis who had aligned themselves with the Americans prior to the invasion and who were chosen to work on the draft of a new constitution.
At the top, Maliki placed his relatives in key positions in the establishment. With the core established, he extended his patronage, undermining Shia, Sunni and Kurdish rivals alike in cabinet, linking him to generals and senior functionaries over and above cabinet ministers. Patronage and nepotism hollowed out Iraq’s nascent new system, crushing the independence and accountability of institutions. The US-funded Iraqi military is an excellent case in point. Maliki linked individuals to himself and subverted the chain of command, ensuring his protection against potential rivals, yet dissolving trust and professionalism. The army’s recent performance in Mosul, where a few thousand IS fighters were able to scatter the army far too easily is evidence of this institutional erosion. Maliki had sectarianized the Iraqi army and hollowed out reconciliation through the discourse of security. Abadi and his new government have wisely toned down this rhetoric since.
Maliki made huge miscalculations, notably failing to reward Iraqi Arab Sunni tribal leaders who ejected al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2008. Instead of incorporating Sunni tribes into government, Maliki sent in his special forces, “engaging in sectarian killings, extortion, robberies, and kidnapping." With Kurds, Sunnis and even Shia losing trust in the Maliki state, frustration emanated particualrly from the Sunni protest camps. The brutal state response now spawned a national Sunni insurgency. Maliki’s indiscriminate targeting of Sunnis, and the unwillingness to engage politically with the tribes and to coordinate with Mahmoud Barzani and the Kurds, reinforced insecurity for all Iraq’s communities and provided the basis for IS to prosper.
Through sectarianisation and violent exclusion, inherited from Saddam, fuelled by the occupation, and exacerbated by Maliki, the ability of Iraqi state power to penetrate the periphery has been shown to be fragile. Given the Kurd’s semi-independent status, the prominence of Shia factions outside the state, and the pre-eminence of the Sunni insurgency in Anbar, one can assess how conditions in state-society relations have allowed IS to prosper.
The worry is that the gulf may be too stark to reverse in a county where both political imagination and daily practice are deeply affected by notions of favour, reward and violence. Maliki did little to refashion the Iraqi state, and it is this political inertia within the political class that has characterized the disenfranchisement of working class Shia factions like the Sadrists, the Kurdish separatists and the Sunni ‘Sons of Iraq’ tribes.These are all groups that don’t share IS’s homicidal agenda, but who demand a bigger share in the Iraqi project. The problem now is the enduring perception of the moral bankruptcy of the government; its character inherited by Saddam’s war state, but its practices born out of the political, economic and social violence of the US Occupation.
And yet as the Jihadists engage in a war massacring all who don’t fit their image, hope emerges in the ability of other factions to recognize the threat IS poses to them all, and to build a collaborative security programme. What will also be needed is a deeper struggle to define the political center, to reconfigure power and the allocation of resources in Iraq. And this can only come through thick engagement and dialogue.
The global challenge: what can be done?
IS are a transitional phenomenon. Incapable of accepting difference, the backlash to their pogroms has belatedly galvanized the Iraqi Army, the Pershmerga and local militias to confront the group. Further US/NATO intervention however would prove calamitous. Past interference in the region provides ample evidence to suggest other motives lie behind the call for boots on the ground. Intervention would exacerbate Sunni grievances but also escalate regional tensions. Covert involvement through proxies, strikes and training is already in place. However Seamus Milne is right in arguing, “Selective humanitarian intervention without UN and regional authorisation is simply a tool of power politics, not solidarity“. The answer must come from within Iraq and supported by a regional response.
Despite IS efforts to build a constituency, their ideological deficit necessitates a logic of unsustainable violence that prevents them emerging as legitimate political actors. They operate within an international order that won’t tolerate their existence in the long term. Their transnational ideology has been the great tool of Jihadist groups since the 'War on Terror’s' inception. Yet, in establishing territorial ambitions, IS now operate in a region waking up to the shared threat IS poses.
One prediction is that ISIS shall be pacified in the long term, through a reimagined security architecture wherein regional states work to create a viable solution addressing the concerns of Sunni communities excluded from their share in Iraq and Syria. Both states are exclusionary and internally weak, unable to extend influence beyond narrow constituencies. The challenge is to empower local resistance, to provide anti-imperial, anti-jihadi impetus to establishing real reconciliation. This itself necessitates a change in the established order of these two countries whose intertwined histories have been overshadowed by Baathist ideology and foreign intervention. In Iraq, national reconciliation seems more achievable than in the complex armageddon unfolding in Syria. Yet a multifaceted strategy is needed to tackle an intractable regional problem.
This hypothesis in no way ignores the successes of IS. IS have displayed strategic acumen in their ability to attract foreign fighters and establishing footholds in the areas they have occupied. However, the mainstream narrative ignores the fact that for now they are backed by aggrieved Sunni tribes and Gulf backers. Their support must be eroded through initiatives highlighting the common threat IS poses to all. Ultimately, IS exists because of the vacuum created by the structural violence of the Syrian/Iraqi regimes and the enduring legacy of failed US policy in the Levant.
How then can we analyze IS in their geographical context? IS must be understood at national, regional and global levels. Understanding the new Great Game encompasses an understanding of the regional rivalries encompassing widening theatres of war. It has induced new dynamics; beyond the traditional confines of borders and across class, sect and ideology.
Nationally, the weakness of Arab states, more so than the appeal of radical Islam, has created the conditions from which the current alignments of power derive. Gregory Gause describes this as “the arc of state weakness and state failure running from Lebanon through Syria to Iraq that explains the current salience of sectarianism”. Militants exploit the inter and intra state power vacuum through positioning themselves at the front of the grievances of marginalized populations. Weak Iraqi and Syrian states are unable to extend security, justice and resources to the periphery, and suffer from a legitimacy deficit that provides fertile ground for insurgency.
On a global level, a lack of leadership and coordination derives from the stalemate between the west and Russia, not only in eastern Europe but further afield. This rivalry has been described as a contestation for “influence, power, hegemony and profits” in eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Middle East. This much-heralded new cold war is driven by the need to consolidate rival hegemonies. The Bush and Obama doctrines have fuelled the prospect of growing multipolarity in a “post superpower capitalist order” where BRICS countries are now forging their own accumulations of capital, resisting the IMF, the World Bank and the dollar. What is needed here is a “new politics of transnational convergence” to close the gulf in institutional power, and to reflect the increasingly multipolar world. The current quagmire in Syria and Iraq is rooted in a divided international system, and the lack of will to forge a global security programme to address global insecurity.
With this in mind, the regional lens is ultimately essential to understanding IS and their instrumentalization within a wider build-up of conflict in the region. Iranian and Saudi-led factions are involved in a battle for regional supremacy. The two major camps are not themselves all united and affiliations stretch way beyond them. Nevertheless, this gulf is the major faultline in the balance of power in the region, born from ideological and material battles for power, resources and hegemony.
US-backed Sunni Saudi Arabia and its GCC and Egyptian allies form one bloc, whilst the ‘Resistance’ axis of Shia-led Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah form the other, with the Saudi bloc also involved in an intra-Sunni ideological dispute over what “the proper political role of Islam should be in the Sunni world”, between Jihadists, Conservative Arab monarchies such as the Saudi monarchy, as well as moderate Islamic states such as in Turkey, Tunisia and briefly, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Transnational ideologies in this cold war are as useful as military expertise, in explaining the pre-eminence of Iran and Saudi Arabia as effective patrons to state and non-state actors in the Arab states, and why countries like Israel and Turkey, though economically and militarily formidable, carry less influence as actors not privy to such ideological influence.
Within this power play, both Tehran and Riyadh vie for strategic dominance. Iran is the most important external actor in Iraq, having embedded its links within the Iraqi state following Saddam’s removal. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Suleimani has coordinated the counterinsurgency in Syria and Iraq where Hezbollah and Iranian Al Quds Special Forces have trained up militias to support the stretched Syria Army, and to provide logistical support to Iraq. The territorial ambition of IS poses a threat to Iran’s strategic objectives. Iraq and Syria are both considered crucial allies and form a conduit line stretching from Hezbollah to Iran, one that Iran considers a vital bridge of allies, a bridge of security interdependencies essential to their regional influence. As IS ramps up its presence in the region, Iran’s strategic imperative lies with containing the Jihadists.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funded the rebels in Syria, working to bring down Bashar’s regime whilst also aiding the insurgency in Iraq. At the same time, the Saudis have given $1 billion to the Lebanese army in order to fight ‘terrorism’ overspilling into Lebanon. Is this a double play? The House of Saud has used Jihadist groups in the past to project power onto Iran and Hezbollah. Hezbollah and the Lebanese army have worked in tandem to repel IS and its allies in the key border town of Arsal, suggesting there is consensus to repel further expansion of the conflict into Lebanon.
However, perhaps this is also indicative of how the regional rivalry has been rudely interrupted with IS’s rapid ascent, that now poses a threat to all its neighbours. But who supports IS? And what are the implications for the region?
The new Great Game
Two schools of thoughts emerge. Neither holds the total truth, but through placing the two in dialogue, there is room for fruitful debate.
1) The first stresses the interdependent nature of the threat posed by IS. ISIS worries both regional blocs and as such, the argument goes, there is room for coordination to resolve conflict.
Iran and the US’s tentative détente has led to an easing of sanctions, and an opportunity both states are considering, that of coordination over IS. This has led commentators to predict a solution emerging from a viable Saudi-Iran security pact to contain regional instability. Adib Moghaddam accurately reasons that only through, “an inclusive discourse that is non-sectarian and subdues ultra-nationalistic narratives, within a globalized context that would require stressing security interdependencies — an understanding that insecurity is transnational” - could such a situation arise.
Security cannot be achieved through atomized attempts to combat IS, but only through a holistic programme that neutralizes the catalysts of fundamentalism. This can only emerge when foreign and private backers of insurgents are discouraged. Here the argument goes that although Jihadist groups have been funded indirectly through private donors, there is little to suggest a direct patron-client relationship between the Gulf states and IS. Rather, the argument goes, private donors have funded IS and helped train other Jihadist groups, but that the stepping down of Saudi Intelligence chief Bandar signalled the start of a rethinking of the Saudi strategy, the Monarchy now regarding IS’s rise as a threat to their own stability.
Saudi Arabia still views the leverage it gains from Sunni insurgents in Syria and Iraq as strategic tools against those regimes, and by de facto, its old adversary, Iran. However, given the wind of change in perceptions of the Sunni insurgencies with the rise of Al Nusra and IS amongst others, the international mood is not what it was in 2012 where Europe, Turkey and the Gulf worked to fund rebel groups in Syria. Syrian state resilience and the rise of IS within the Syrian opposition groups has given that policy short shrift.
Priorities are changing. Iran remains an enduring adversary, but the spread of IS is increasingly being viewed as a regional problem. Hence the argument goes that strategic necessity will see Saudi and Iran coordinate to target IS.
2) The second school of thought argues that Gulf sponsors have a direct link in creating IS. Patrick Cockburn points to comments made by MI6 Head Richard Dearlove, that the Saudis and Qatar “turned a blind eye” to “substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar” in the emergence of IS. He argues that only through Gulf coordination would Sunni tribes agree to work with IS. The extent of direct funding between IS and these unidentified private backers are not known. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Gulf-propagated Wahhabism has been outsourced across the Middle East and beyond, a weapon allowing for tremendous ideational leverage in other states (the dissemination of Wahhabism into Pakistan is a case in point). Cockburn argues that the Saudi’s and their allies have created, “a Frankenstein's monster over which it is rapidly losing control”.
To what extent one can frame IS within a regional cold war is also based on the extent to which IS are a byproduct of US involvement. Given the US’s penchant for using Jihadi proxies in the past within Cold War covert policies designed to neutralise Soviet and Arab Nationalist power, there are also allegations of a Reagan-style doctrine at work. Some reports have claimed operatives from IS received training from the US in Jordan. This has not been verified, yet it is widely acknowledged that the US and its Gulf allies have given arms to Jihadists in Syria.
What can be deduced from the string of often-changing US policies, is a doctrine of consolidating power-resource hegemonies at any cost. Nafeez Ahmed cites this as a policy to circumvent world oil shortages. He argues, the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and enacted a strategy that “fostered extremist Sunni groups affiliated to al-Qaida across the Middle East to counter Iranian influence.” Subsequently he goes on to state that proxy factions were designed to target "Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations."
Ahmed cites a 2008 US Army-funded report that highlights how the US encouraged factionalism, funding both Shia militias and Sunni Jihadists during the worst years of sectarian infighting in Iraq, precisely because, "The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network…. For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources”. The report goes on to state that this policy would divert Jihadi attention to Iran and it’s allies, providing the requisite excuses for covert operations to prevent a proposed natural gas pipeline from being built by 2016 from Iran's giant South Pars field, traversing Iraq and Syria. Amaal Saad goes further, arguing that “Resistance versus Jihad is the new faultline in the region. She argues, “It has now become patently obvious that the US is manipulating and instrumentalizing takfiri jihadism to defeat the Resistance. The hope is that ISIS can achieve…by means of a policy of implosion, fragmentation and [strategically employed] terror, dealt by a heavily sectarianized Islamism which is devoid of any anti-imperialist content.”
Is the US considering détente with Iran after paying the price for shortsighted policies that don’t secure oil hegemony? Is this because of the price rises following IS’s capture of oil fields? This is hard to deduce without further revelations. Yet, once again, Afghanistan emerges as a historical reminder; the Reagan doctrine effectively contained the Soviet Union’s further penetration into the strategic, and resource-heavy Central Asian region. Here we get a glimpse into the shadowy network of pipeline politics and covert operations preying on state failure and regional instability.
Describing the contrast between Obama’s belated strikes in Iraq and his full backing of militants in Syria, as “calculated ambivalence”, Saad assesses the strategic objectives of this as the destruction of the resistance factions barring the way of US/Gulf oil hegemony; a policy to diminish the influence of those standing in the way of further US hegemony in the region, principally Iran. Which school of thought is correct?
What we do know is that IS has been formed through two major catalysts. Firstly, the blowback of US strategic interests in the region has created the conditions from which divide and rule strategies have sectarianized Iraqi politics, galvanizing a logic of violence that runs throughout the history of the state. Secondly, IS has its roots more immediately in what Rami Khouri has called “a momentous moment of reckoning for the weaknesses of modern Arab statehood and governance”. These twin factors have given root to the Sunni insurgency that IS spearheads.
These are actors seeking locally, regionally and globally, to shape and give meaning to their conception of community. For IS, it is a territorial goal of Caliphate expansion; the Sunnis of Iraq aim to have their demands met in an inclusive state fabric; for regional players, seeing this conflict now reaching Lebanon, it is an existential threat to themselves and their ability to project their own power, maintain hegemonies, protect allies and maintain resources. Such binaries as Takfiri: Resistance, Saudi: Iran, Nationalism: Islamism, can provide useful markers in understanding the new Great Game in the region. However these binaries, without their critical and historic overview, cannot offer useful analyses. As Dabashi and Ramadani have put it, the myth of continual sectarianism is punctured by the briefest glance at the US legacy of instigating divide and rule strategies at the heart of an already fractured state model.
The power vacuum from which IS emerged has been shaped through the weakness of state-society relations founded on weak states, unable to offer social inclusion and propelled by the need for regime survival at any cost. Where legitimate protest and pluralism have been extinguished, the logic of violence has ruptured society, and provided the conditions from which fanatics like the Islamic State have coalesced and hijacked protest.
Here history teaches us that the legacy of colonial violence is the reification of the logic of violence. Colonialism and regime violence both close off and criminalise all avenues of dissent. What eventually emerges is an armed movement that breeds from the violence that gave it birth, with its own logic and legitimacy, as the action of a force communicating through violence.
Clawing at the sky: fighting for
political prisoners in Syria
Mataz Suheil 24 September 2014
"It is the most monstrous thing they can do to the Syrian people”. Fadwa Mahmoud, mother, wife and comrade to forcibly disappeared leftist activists, tells us her story of pain and perseverance on the second anniversary of her family's abduction by the Syrian security forces.
Her name is Fadwa Mahmoud. She is a lifelong Syrian political dissident, born in 1945 and a veteran member of the banned Communist Action Party (CAP). In the past year and a half as an exile she has become a mother figure to fellow political dissidents who, like her, have sought refuge in Beirut (Lebanon) from Bashar Al Assad’s security forces.
But above all, Fadwa wishes to be known as the wife and the mother of two leftist opposition activists who were forcibly disappeared two years ago near Damascus: Abdulaziz Al Khayer (63), head of the CAP and a leading figure in the opposition group 'National Coordination Body for Democratic Change', and her son Maher Tahan (31), a young civil activist who followed in the footsteps of his mother to fight for a democratic Syria. Along with them disappeared Iyas Ayash. The three are part of the same political coalition.
They were abducted by the Air Force Intelligence on their way from the airport into the city, on September 20, 2012. They were on their way back from a diplomatic visit to China, returning to participate in an opposition conference (Syria salvation conference) at the heart of Damascus. The participants were given guarantees of safety by Russian, Chinese and Iranian foreign ministries - the powers with influence over the regime. Assad himself denied on an interview in 2013 that his secret police had taken them, but Fadwa insists it is the dictator’s forces who have them. She does not need my questions to begin talking: it is clear she has to tell their story.
“We know everything that happened because there were five people in the delegation that came back from China. They were driving two separate cars back from the airport. Abdulaziz and Iyas were in one car, driven by Maher, who had gone to pick them up. The rest were in the other car. The three of them disappeared, the activists in the other car were able to pass the checkpoint and gave us information”.
Mahmoud is soft-spoken and at times her emotions surface, but her voice doesn’t break. She explains that, when the delegation landed on the day of their disappearance, Abdulaziz Al Khayer was interrogated on his own for about half an hour, inside the airport. The officer that interrogated him (she calls him “captain”) let him go with the pretext that they were looking for someone of the same name. Mahmoud lets out a small smile: the explanation to her seems absurd, because Al Khayer is very well-known in Syria.
“While he was being delayed inside, I called Maher, who was waiting in the car. That’s when he told me: ‘Abdulaziz just came out’. Ten minutes later, Iyas’s mother also called Maher, on their ride back to the city, but the phone was by then out of service”. Fadwa believes the abduction happened in this small window of time, immediately after they left the airport.
“In 2012, the highway from the airport to Damascus was totally under the control of the regime. There were no ‘armed gangs’, as the Government says”, assures Mahmoud. Everyone waited for Abdulaziz to come out when he was initially delayed. The first car to leave was carrying the rest of the delegation. Iyas, her son and her husband were driving behind. “The fact that the first car was at the front and didn’t encounter any problems shows that the road was safe”. They passed a checkpoint on the road, near the airport. The party members who were in the first car told her the officer they saw at the checkpoint was the same that had interrogated Abdulaziz half an hour prior.
The car her son was driving was forcibly stopped. And they were never seen again. The conference they intended to attend, however, carried on, and Mahmoud went there and spoke to the Russian ambassador. “I told him: ‘You are responsible, he came here under your protection”. He promised to work on it, but after two months without any new information, Mahmoud went to talk to him again, this time taking Iyas Ayash’s mother with her. “I told him I was very worried about their safety, and he answered ‘We are worried as well’. This made me panic; I asked him whether they had been killed. He answered they were alive, but the circumstances were very difficult”.
Enforced disappearance - why?
She thinks the regime didn’t detain them publicly in order to avoid a diplomatic clash with its allies. “The pressure of these countries was the only reason why the meeting was happening”. Mahmoud hasn’t talked to the Russians since. “Their attitude was disgusting. They did nothing to guarantee their safety”. She spoke at the European Parliament last year, and she says an MP took an interest in her story and spoke to the Syrian government. To no avail: the regime has always denied the presence of the three comrades in their prisons, Assad himself denied Abdulaziz's abduction in an interview. They claim the rebels have them. “The state media said armed gangs kidnapped them so many times that the rebel battalion controlling the Damascus countryside felt the need to release a statement saying they would never detain someone like Abdulaziz, because their causes are not opposed. I have some inside sources who have told me they are okay, I’ve had information this year that they are in the hands of the regime”, she explains.
“I want to send an international plea of solidarity, to put pressure on the regime so that they admit they have them”. She lives in perpetual fear for their safety, “never knowing what will happen to them tomorrow. Some days I find it difficult to stay emotionally stable”. Fadwa's dreams are now very humble, she wants to have the 'privileges' of the loved ones of political prisoners: “At least they know for certain the fate of their loved ones. They know where they are kept, and sometimes they can visit them”.
Fadwa Mahmod, or Khalto [aunti] as she is lovingly known by the Syrian exiles in Beirut, is no stranger to the horrors and torture under regime detention. She was imprisoned herself from 1992 to 1994, for being a member of the Communist Action Party. Her two sons were 9 and 6 at the time. “My brother was at the time head of the prison I was kept in”: he headed the Investigation Branch in Political Intelligence. She lived “in the worst humanitarian conditions possible”. This made matters worse for her. Her brother fely obliged to prove his loyalty by treating her particularly badly: “I was detained in my pyjamas and I lived in them for a year and two months, the time I spent in the basements of the branch before I was transferred to a prison”. Other detainees were allowed clothes, and the activists who were arrested with her only spent 4 months in security before a transfer to prison, in which conditions are relatively better.
When she came out, her priority was the children. But, “People were saying I was a bad mother for getting into politics, leaving them alone”. Abdulaziz Al Khayer, who had spent 10 years living underground and had been arrested the same year as her (1992), was sentenced to 22 years in prison and would only be released in 2005. Mahmoud never stopped her political activity after prison, despite many of her comrades giving up on the cause. “You can see that with my son Maher. I never pushed him, but he took my example”.
Why pick on Abdulaziz Al Khayer?
Why did the regime make them disappear? Fadwa believes Al Khayer was a potentially unifying political figure in Syria, and thus a genuine threat to Bashar Al Assad. “The regime was terrified of Abdulaziz. The Russians were saying he could become a reconciliatory head of state. He opposed the call to arms and constructed a civil, democratic argument that agreed with both protestors and those silently fed up with the regime yet fearful”.
As a prominent figure of the opposition, he is well-known, and has always maintained a non-sectarian discourse which got him popular support across social fault lines. “He influenced the generation of the uprising”, she explains. “He used to be able to sit with them, as if he was their age”. Now she’s had to leave the country, as well as her other son. “The house is now being auctioned. Abdulaziz doesn’t even have a home to come back to”.
The worst part for those who remain outside is never knowing what can happen to the detainees. Since there is no possibility to negotiate with the regime, it is hard not to succomb to a general sense of despair. “This is one of the most monstrous things that they can do to the Syrian people”. There is very little organised support for the families of the detainees and the forcibly disappeared: “We are all scattered and suppressed since the war started”, explains Mahmoud.
“The wife of Iyas calls me all the time. She is psychologically very low”. The regime punishes family members. Yara Faris was detained for several months after her husband, Maher, disappeared. “Six months ago I was able to visit Yara, my daughter-in-law. Her conditions were the height of dehumanisation and humiliation”. She arrived at 9.30 in the morning and was made to wait until 13.15, for a 10-minute visit. “She was strong, but her situation was bad. They kept her in a cell with prostitutes, to humiliate her”. In the meantime, the guard never stopped harassing Fadwa while she waited. “He kept asking who I was, despite the fact that he knew. I only answered ‘I am a Syrian citizen’. He then asked me why I insisted on making trouble. I told him, ‘No, you are the ones making trouble’”.
Fadwa hasn’t given up in getting Iyas, her son and her husband out. Despite her tired eyes, her pride shines through when she speaks. Last Saturday, on the second anniversary of their detention, Fadwa organised a demonstration calling for their release in Beirut, along with other political activists. “I’m not going to waste any of my time. I will use all my energy to get them to safety. I am clawing at the sky, and I will keep clawing for as long as I live”.
USA Attorney General Eric Holder
By: John Hayward/Human Events
I guess I could have made the headline say “to reisgn” or added a question mark, but this NPR report seems pretty solid, and I don’t feel like changing the headline in a couple of hours. I’ll change it to “NPR falsely spreads rumor that Eric Holder will resign” if the story doesn’t pan out. Call it Groundhog Journalism.
Eric Holder Jr., the nation’s first black U.S. attorney general, is preparing to announce his resignation Thursday after a tumultuous tenure marked by civil rights advances, national security threats, reforms to the criminal justice system and five and a half years of fights with Republicans in Congress.
Two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR that Holder, 63, intends to leave the Justice Department as soon as his successor is confirmed, a process that could run through 2014 and even into next year. A former U.S. government official says Holder has been increasingly “adamant” about his desire to leave soon for fear he otherwise could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama’s second term.
A lengthy career retrospective begins by saying that Holder was greeted like a rock star when he returned “in early February 2009 to the Justice Department, where he previously worked as a young corruption prosecutor and as deputy attorney general – the second in command – during the Clinton administration.” The bloom came off that rose pretty quickly:
But some of that early glow faded in part due to the politicized nature of the job and in part because of Holder’s own rhetoric, such as a 2009 Black History Month speech where he said the country was “a nation of cowards” when it comes to discussions about racial tension.
Five years later, violence erupted between police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after a white policeman killed an unarmed black 18 year old. And this time, the White House dispatched Holder to speak his piece, in effect jump starting that conversation, and helping to settle nerves in the frayed community.
That’s the alpha and omega of Holder’s history as a divisive race-baiting activist, huh, NPR? “Nation of cowards,” Ferguson, roll credits, draw the curtains? Nothing about his habit of serving haterade to black audiences by telling them sensible voter ID laws were a racist conspiracy to disenfranchise them? How’s that big federal civil-rights investigation of George Zimmerman coming along? How about that Black Panther voter-intimidation case?
As for the “politicized nature of the job,” whose idea was that? I’m old enough to remember when Attorney Generals didn’t practice management on the side while pursuing a full-time career as political activists.
If you’re wondering about the major event of Holder’s tenure, the astonishing and deadly scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious – which ended with President Obama’s abuse of executive power to keep things covered up, and Holder receiving a historic contempt of Congress citation – that’s mentioned eleven paragraphs in, and portrayed as a partisan food fight. Here’s the Fast and Furious part of NPR’s bio, in its entirety:
Things hit a crisis point when the GOP-led House voted him in contempt for refusing to hand over documents about a gun trafficking scandal known as Fast and Furious. That represented the first time an attorney general had ever been rebuked that way but still Holder held onto his job.
Anyone who remembers how the media treated Republican Attorney General controversies – including the four-alarm freak-out they had about a silly one they made up, concerning AG John Ashcroft’s ostensible insistence on covering a nude statue with a sheet because he was a religious nut – can only shake their heads in wonder at the airbrushing of Holder’s history. Democrats sure have it good. By the way, did you know the infamous half-naked Spirit of Justice scale got covered up again under AG Holder? Do you recall the media cooking up any stories about how he was a loon for doing that?
There isn’t much insight about why Holder chose this moment to resign. I would assume it has something to do with Republicans possibly taking the Senate in November, and making confirmation hearings much more difficult, although you’d think Democrats would rather avoid a nasty confirmation battle before the election. Perhaps they’ve concluded Attorney General isn’t the sort of position that produces election-shifting confirmation battles, particularly since the candidate is likely to be someone less controversial than his or her predecessor. NPR’s sources say the leading candidate to replace him is Don Verrilli, the solicitor general who did such a great job defending ObamaCare at the Supreme Court that Chief Justice John Roberts had to swoop in and rewrite the law to keep it alive.
**Update: If you thought the IRS scandal brought some crazy tales of document destruction, you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Islamic State Rape: ‘Just Another Form of Warfare’?
September 25, 2014 by Raymond Ibrahim
lmIn light of the ongoing nightmare that is the Islamic State, Foreign Policy, a magazine somewhat reflective of the establishment, has published an article that once again demonstrates why U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is a disaster: because analysts and policymakers, unable or unwilling to grapple with foreign concepts, opt to articulate them through familiar Western paradigms.
Titled “The Islamic State of Sexual Violence” and written by Aki Peritz and Tara Maller—“We both worked as CIA analysts focused on Iraq’s insurgency and counterterrorism during much of the war”—the Foreign Policy (FP) article opens with this telling sentence: “Of the many terrifying stories emerging from Islamic State-occupied Iraq and Syria, the violence directed toward women is perhaps the most difficult to contemplate.”
This is an odd assertion. Of all the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, is sexual violence against women really “the most difficult to contemplate”? After all, deplorable as sexual violence against women is, it is also one of the most common features of warfare since the beginnings of recorded history. It should not be too “difficult to contemplate.”
Instead, one would think that public beheadings and mutilations—with sadistic pictures of the victims posted online—would be more “difficult to contemplate.” One would think herding off 1500 “infidel” men and coldly shooting them in the head to cries of “Allahu Akbar” would be more “difficult to contemplate.” One would think that forcing religious minorities to convert to Islam or die—with Christians crucified for refusing to embrace Islam—would be more “difficult to contemplate.”
But in the very next paragraph we encounter the reason why FP highlights female sexual abuse while ignoring the truly more “difficult to contemplate” atrocities committed by the Islamic State: to exonerate Islam from the deeds of the Islamic State:
IS claims to be a religious organization, dedicated to re-establishing the caliphate and enforcing codes of modesty and behavior from the time of Muhammad and his followers. But this is rape, not religious conservatism. IS may dress up its sexual violence in religious justifications, saying its victims violated Islamic law, or were infidels, but their leaders are not fools. This is just another form of warfare….
That last sentence is what FP wants readers to leave with—“This is just another form of warfare.” The authors chose the most generic atrocity committed during war, one that is common to all cultures and civilizations—sexual violence, enslavement, and rape—to condemn the Islamic State with. The result is that the Islamic State looks like “just another” enemy combatant.
While the authors are correct in saying that the Islamic State is “dedicated to re-establishing the caliphate,” the follow up assertion, “and enforcing codes of modesty and behavior from the time of Muhammad and his followers” is immensely loaded and misleading. So is the statement “But this is rape, not religious conservatism.”
The authors invoke Western standards of “modesty and behavior” without letting readers know that Islamic notions of “modesty and behavior” differ significantly and are wholly based on Islamic law, not “natural” law.
And Islamic law, or Sharia, permits the enslavement, selling, and rape of infidel women captured during the jihad, as they are seen as legitimately gained booty, or in the Koran’s phraseology, “what your right hands possess” (another teaching that might be more “difficult to contemplate” than generic wartime rape itself).
Here is how the late Majid Khadduri, “internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on Islamic law and jurisprudence,” explained the idea of “spoils” in his War and Peace in the Law of Islam:
The term spoil (ghanima) is applied specifically to property acquired by force from non-Muslims. It includes, however, not only property (movable and immovable) but also persons, whether in the capacity of asra (prisoners of war) or sabi (women and children).… If the slave were a woman, the master was permitted to have sexual connection with her as a concubine.
Accordingly, Sheikh Yasir al-‘Ajlawni says that Muslims fighting to topple “infidel” president Bashar Assad in Syria are permitted to “capture and have sex with” all non-Sunni women, including Shia Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Yazidis.
Before him, Egyptian Sheikh Ishaq Huwaini lamented how during the heydays of Islam, “You [could] go to the market and buy her [enslaved, infidel concubines for sale]…. In other words, when I want a sex-slave, I go to the market and pick whichever female I desire and buy her.”
Kuwaiti political activist Salwa al-Mutairi advocated for the formal reinstitution of sex-slavery. She said on video that Islam’s greatest authorities from Mecca, the city of Islam, all confirmed the legality of sex-slavery to her. According to the Kuwaiti woman:
A Muslim state must [first] attack a Christian state—sorry, I mean any non-Muslim state—and they [the women, the future sex-slaves] must be captives of the raid. Is this forbidden? Not at all; according to Islam, sex slaves are not at all forbidden…. the free [Muslim] woman has to be married properly to her husband, but the sex-slave—he just buys her and that’s that…. For example, in the Chechnya war, surely there are female Russian captives. So go and buy those and sell them here in Kuwait; better that than have our men engage in forbidden sexual relations. I don’t see any problem in this, no problem at all.
Some years back, when Sheikh Gamal Qutb, former Grand Mufti of Al Azhar, the most authoritative Islamic institution, was asked on live Arabic-language television if Islam permits sex slaves, he refused to give a direct answer, preferring to prevaricate. When pressed for a clear answer by the determined host, he became hostile and stormed off the set.
Moreover, recall that only a few months ago, Boko Haram—a Nigerian Islamic organization that also believes Allah permits sex slavery—made headlines when it abducted nearly 300 “infidel” schoolgirls to be sold on the sex slave market. Its leader declaring on video, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah….There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell.”
Nonetheless, FP continues casually invoking Western standards to explain distinctly Islamic phenomena:
IS claims to be a group of holy warriors, crafting a new world order. But the rampant sexual criminality exposes its hypocrisy and extreme brutality…. It gives the lie to the group’s claim that they are pure of heart.
The Islamic State’s “rampant sexual criminality exposes its hypocrisy and extreme brutality”? “Pure of heart”? Really?
As mentioned, Islamic law makes crystal clear that conquered “infidel” sex slaves are one of the rewards for those waging jihad. It’s not open to debate. It’s in the Koran, was practiced by the prophet of Islam—whom Muslims are encouraged to emulate in all ways—and is a common fixture of Islamic history. Exercising their Islamic right to own and copulate with slaves taken as booty during the jihad is hardly seen as “rampant sexual criminality,” “hypocrisy and extreme brutality,” nor does it have anything to do with “pure hearts.”
The naivety of this FP article is astounding and displays a staggering level of ignorance concerning Islam’s rules of war. Of course, that it was written by two former CIA analysts focused exclusively on Iraq, a Muslim nation, helps explain why that nation is in the deplorable state it’s in.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Imprisoned Christian Accused of Blasphemy in Pakistan Shot Dead by Police
Another Inmate Accused of Blasphemy Wounded During the Attack
9/25/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was shot and killed by a policeman in Adiyala jail located in Rawalpindi, next to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. In July 2012, Bhatti was accused of blasphemy and has since been imprisoned at Adiyala jail awaiting trial. Bhatti's cellmate, Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness and is also accused of blasphemy, was wounded in the attack.
According to reports from human rights group Life for All, Bhatti had been receiving death threats in prison both from other inmates and from guards before being murdered. "This is a barbaric act," Xavier Williams of Life for All told The Express Tribune. "There had been threats. The court should have instructed police to ensure Bhatti's safety."
"[The] killing of a person who is falsely accused is mockery of the judicial system," Williams told Dawn. "The protectors of the innocent have become the predators."
Bhatti was accused of blasphemy on July 11, 2012 when First Information Report (FIR) #526 was registered against him in the New Town police station. The FIR alleged that Bhatti sent blasphemous text messages to Ahmed Khan, then deputy secretary of Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, a Pakistani Muslim organization.
On July 16, Bhatti was arrested by police and then brutally tortured for several days as police attempted to extract a confession from him. When Bhatti did not confess to the allegations leveled against him, the police presented him to the court to be formally charged.
In court, Bhatti's family was able to meet Bhatti and found him in a "fragile condition." Family members asked police why Bhatti had been beaten so badly, to which the police responded, "The family should thank God that he was still alive, otherwise, they would have killed him for what he had done." Bhatti was remanded to Adiyala jail on December 18 after the court refused to accept his bail plea.
At least 48 people accused of blasphemy have been extra-judicially killed in Pakistan, including seven in prison or outside of the courts, according to Life for All. Christians and other religious minorities are disproportionately accused and convicted under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. In 2013, thirty-six individuals were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. Of that thirty-six, thirty were religious minorities and twelve of those were Christians. Christians make up only two percent of Pakistan's population; the fact that one-third of blasphemy accusations made in 2013 were leveled against Christians is highly disturbing.
ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, "This most recent incident involving Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law should once again bring the abuse of this law back into international discussions. Originally written to protect against religious intolerance, the law has warped into a tool used by extremists and others to settle personal scores and persecute Pakistan's vulnerable religious minorities. Beyond being disproportionately accused and convicted of blasphemy, the vast majority of blasphemy accusations brought against Christians are false, like the accusations leveled in this particular incident. Unfortunately, pressure for Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians in Pakistan has transformed trial courts into little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case. Also, little is done to ensure the safety of those merely accused of blasphemy, leading to the deaths of at least 48 people, many of whom could have been proven innocent."