LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselve
James 01/26-27/"Those who consider themselves religious and
yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their
religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and
faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to
keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 27 and 28/14
Eliminating ISIS requires removing Assad/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/ September 28/14
The Defense of Kobani/By: Jonathan Spyer/The Jerusalem Post/September 28/14
Muslims Need Truth and Love/By Mark Durie/Eternity/September 28/14
Beyond Mosul/By: Erin Evers/Open Democracy/September 28/14
Who brought the Arabs to this nadir/By: Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/September 28/14
Lebanese Related News published on September 27 and 28/14
Reports: Al-Nusra Halts Negotiations as Jihadists Put Harsh Conditions to Release Hostages
Clooney, Alamuddin wed in Venice
Islamists seek to move battle into Lebanon: Hezbollah
Salam calls for shielding Lebanon from turmoil
Bassil Says Lebanon will Defeat Jihadists Despite 'Fierce' Battle
Jarrah Says 'FSA Mediation' Saved Captive Troops from 'Massacre'
Lebanese Boxing Champion Murdered in Vancouver
Nusra Says Hizbullah Blocking Hostage Talks, Azzam Brigades Say Party Wants to 'Implicate Army'
International Support Group for Lebanon Throws Weight Behind Lebanon
Army Opens Fire on Driver for Not Stopping at Zgharta Checkpoint
Vanishing U.S.-Lebanese Marine will be Tried on Desertion Charge
Mashnouq to Call for Relocating Syrian Refugees Outside Arsal
Abou Faour: Some Progress in Troops Case, Turkey Promised Salam to Help
Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah assist Houthis in Sana’a: intelligence source
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 27 and 28/14
Afghan villagers hang Taliban after offensive
British jets fly over Iraq, ready to strike
Shells land in Turkey near besieged Syrian town
UK purchases 20 Tomahawk missiles ahead of ISIS operation
Syria: Kurds demand Turkey’s help against ISIS,
threaten to halt peace process
Syrian Observatory: First U.S.-led Strikes on IS in Homs Province
Erdogan says Turkish troops could be used in Syria
Rice meets Syrian opposition at White House
World leaders call for end of United Nations veto power
France charges three suspected extremists back from Syria
Abbas UN speech causes divide between Knesset members
PA: Hamas’s civilian workers to get wages from a third party
Israel Energy Initiatives still hopes for oil-shale pilot project
Netanyahu headed to NY to counter 'slander and lies' after Abbas, Rouhani UN speeches
headed to NY to counter 'slander and lies' after Abbas, Rouhani UN speeches
Eliminating ISIS requires removing Assad
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 27 September 2014
The world has finally come to realize that the complete eradication of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and all other terrorist organizations in Syria, will not be possible without establishing a central authority in Damascus governing all. This means either supporting Bashar al-Assad to regain control over the two thirds of the territories he has lost to the opposition during the last three years of war, or helping the opposition reach Damascus and rule the country. The third option is a comprehensive and shared government without Assad. This would represent a significant evolution in Syria.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks yesterday are important. Addressing the House of Commons, Cameron said that “a comprehensive Syrian government” is a must to defeat ISIS. It’s very rare for a Western leader to link the war on ISIS with establishing a central authority in Syria. His statement is a clear sign that time has come for Assad to step down, pointing out that cooperation with Iran in this regard is possible.
This solution is similar to the communiqué of the first Geneva conference in June 2012, which called for the formation of a Syrian transitional government formed from regime and opposition officials but without Assad; a proposal that was rejected by most of the opposition forces and of course, by Assad’s regime too. Iran also refused to accept the communiqué as a basis to attend the Geneva II conference. Two years after this international initiative, we believe that it is still the only solution. This initiative can be implemented and would help achieve the minimum level of expectations of different stakeholders, particularly at a time when ISIS has become an international threat. We should not underestimate the threats that ISIS poses, especially after its success in removing rotten apple Nouri al-Maliki from his post as prime minister of Iraq. ISIS could also become the major reason behind getting rid of the stubborn Assad. Eventually, the international demand of having a strong central government to fight ISIS will be achieved.
The Syrian endgame
This flexible approach stems from the new assessment that acknowledges the possibility of failing to defeat ISIS through the alliance that rejects sending troops to the battlefield. So the war will fail to get rid of the largest terrorist grouping in modern history if it only relies on Air jets and Tomahawk missiles. It will only help get rid of a few thousand fighters, while many other thousands will flee and hide underground or in populated neighborhoods.
“The real challenge is how the alliance will be able to triumph over ISIS in Syria through air strikes? ”
The real challenge is how the alliance will be able to triumph over ISIS in Syria through air strikes? Due to heavy bombardment, armed hardliners are hiding from radar detectors and splitting into smaller groups across Syria to hide between the people. Targeting them will become very difficult and will pose threats of an attrition war that will continue for years. Terrorism threats will spread across the world.
We have been hearing a lot that most parties believe that both the problem and solution lie in Damascus, stressing on the importance of a strong central government that takes on the mission of fighting these terrorist groups for the coming years. It’s impossible to build a strong central government without toppling Assad first. However, this will not work without the consent of his allies, Iran and Russia.
Most probably, the two allies are afraid that Assad has become an easy target due to the increasing Western support for the opposition. Therefore, the best choice for Iran and Russia is to take part in the establishment of a comprehensive Syrian regime, instead of entirely losing the Syrian game. The proposal of cooperation with Tehran may not last long. The Western governments have already started arming the opposition, supporting them with information, training thousands of recruits, and handing them the responsibility of the areas from which ISIS has been exterminated.
World leaders call for end of United Nations veto power
NEW YORK –J.Post/World leaders demanded Security Council reform during their addresses to the UN General Assembly over the past few days, calling for the addition of more permanent and non-permanent seats on the council and the elimination of the veto. “The world is bigger than five,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his speech during the General Debate, referencing the five countries with veto power – the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia. Heads of state from across the globe echoed his call for immediate reform. The status quo has made the governing body inefficient, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala Tasso said. He asked for the addition of more permanent and non-permanent members, which, he said, should result in a more democratic process. “The Security Council’s capacity to respond to the different crises in different parts of the world reflects the need for reforming its work methodology,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pleaded his case for Japan’s acceptance as a permanent member of the Security Council. Since joining the UN in 1956, he said, Japan has worked tirelessly to advance the causes of the UN. “It is my wish... [that] countries sharing the same aims all work together to finally resolve a long-standing issue to reform the UN in a way that reflects the realities of the 21st century,” he said. Discussions about council reform have been ongoing for years. France’s foreign minister first floated the idea of a “code of conduct” for the veto in 2001. During his speech last year to the General Assembly, French President François Hollande called on the five powers to agree on a set of scenarios in which the veto should not be used, notably when resolutions address mass atrocities.
Former General Assembly president John Ashe, whose term just ended with the conclusion of the assembly’s 68th session, made Security Council reform a priority on his agenda.
He called for a permanent seat on the council for an African delegate. Regional representation and the veto are key issues for reform. “Our United Nations is – and must remain – a place where we reach compromise, a place of accommodation. The essence of the process of negotiations is compromise,” Ashe said last year. By the end of Ashe’s tenure, however, the UN had made no progress on the matter. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the US has vowed to always use its veto to help protect the people of Israel. In August, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said she couldn’t envision a scenario in which the US wouldn’t veto an action within the Security Council to take Israel to the International Criminal Court. While the US’s veto might prove beneficial to Israel, overall it deadlocks the Security Council, critics say, making any real, meaningful action impossible. As a further example, action within the council on the crisis in Ukraine has been limited in part because Russia has veto power, and it would surely veto any action condemning or holding it accountable. China and Russia both blocked early efforts by the US to take action on Syria against President Bashar Assad.
Lebanese Boxing Champion Murdered in Vancouver
Naharnet/An expat Lebanese boxer has been murdered in the Canadian city of Vancouver and the motives are likely sport-related, a media report said on Saturday. “Alaeddine Ramadan, a 20-year-old boxing champion in the Canadian city of Vancouver, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds on Wednesday night,” LBCI TV reported.“Local authorities believe that the shooting was premeditated,” it said. Speaking to LBCI, a black-clad Lebanese woman said “a car passed near him at 10:30 pm and they shot him dead with three bullets.”“He won five matches as the champion of Vancouver and he had been supposed to participate in a sixth match during these 10 days,” the woman added. “Ahead of the sixth match, he was killed at the door as he left the sports club,” she went on to say.
Some sources have said that the likely motive behind the crime was preventing Alaeddine from winning the Vancouver boxing championship, LBCI said in its report. Canada's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has taken over the case, according to the official Canadian Press news agency. IHIT spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound said in a release that Ramadan did not have a criminal record, but investigators “believe it to be a targeted shooting.”Three males were spotted fleeing the scene in a compact car and Pound said the driver was described as a Persian male.“He appeared clean-cut and was wearing dark clothing,” she said. “The other two suspects were also wearing dark clothing and had large builds. They were described as over six feet tall and muscular,” Pound added.
Nusra Says Hizbullah Blocking Hostage Talks, Azzam Brigades
Say Party Wants to 'Implicate Army'
Naharnet/Al-Qaida's Syria affiliate, al-Nusra Front, called on the Lebanese authorities Saturday to discuss its terms for the release of troops and police taken captive last month, and accused Hizbullah of impeding the negotiations. Al-Nusra Front killed one of the hostages who were captured in fighting in the town of Arsal near the Syrian border. Jihadists of the Islamic State group beheaded the other two. In a video posted on YouTube, al-Nusra accused Lebanese authorities of allowing Hizbullah, which has been heavily involved in the civil war in neighboring Syria, to block negotiations for the soldiers' release. Hizbullah "is causing all attempts to negotiate the release of the Lebanese hostages to fail," the video charges. Al-Nusra has previously demanded that in return for the release of the captive soldiers, Hizbullah end its intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad's regime and that Lebanon free Islamists jailed in Roumieh prison. The Lebanese government has so far rejected the al-Qaida affiliate's terms. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has urged the government not to cave in to the Sunni extremists' demands but has denied impeding efforts to free the captive troops. Later on Saturday, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades -- another Qaida-linked group operating in Lebanon and Syria's Qalamun -- described Hizbullah as "the greatest threat to Lebanon and its existence." "Your silence over Hizbullah's tyranny and attacks against the Sunni community in Lebanon and Syria ... will not preserve your security and interests," the group said in a message addressed to the Lebanese people.
"Hizbullah is the greatest threat to Lebanon and its existence ... and it has rejected negotiations in the case of the captive army troops because it wants to implicate the army more and more in the battle," the group added. Last month's fighting in Arsal -- a Sunni enclave within the mainly Shiite Hizbullah-dominated Bekaa Valley border region -- was the most serious in Lebanon since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011.
Bassil Says Lebanon will Defeat Jihadists Despite 'Fierce' Battle
Naharnet/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has warned that the confrontation with terrorists will be fierce but expressed confidence in Lebanon's ability to defeat the jihadists. In an interview with CNN during his stay in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly session, Bassil said: “Lebanon will be an essential target for the Islamic State because it contradicts the IS and its allies.”“I am convinced that we will defeat IS,” he said. “Lebanon has never lost a battle against terrorist attacks and has always defeated terrorism,” Bassil added.The foreign minister called for dealing “seriously” with the issue of Syrian refugees from its humanitarian and security aspects. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Friday that Lebanon hosts the highest ratio of refugees per capita in the world and has received far less assistance than needed. Militants hiding in Syrian refugee encampments in the northeastern border town of Arsal participated in the fighting between the IS and al-Nusra Front with the Lebanese army last month. The jihadists took with them hostages from the army and police and executed three of them. But the military was able to confront and deter the jihadists from implementing their plan, Bassil told CNN in the interview late Friday. He also praised the army for preventing them from occupying the town.
Syrian refugees must be transferred outside of Arsal:
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk will propose to the Cabinet that the government move thousands of Syrian refugees to outside the northeastern town of Arsal to defuse tension that is putting the Army and civilians at risk. “We need to start working on moving the Syrian refugees outside of Arsal,” Machnouk told Al-Akhbar in an article published Saturday. “There are 1.1 million refugees outside the town with no primary issue regarding their presence. The only problem is in Arsal and we should defuse the situation that is a danger to the Army and civilians, a danger that is supporting militants.” Speaking to As-Safir in separate remarks, the minister said he would present his proposal to the Cabinet during Thursday’s session. “Anyone who opposes the transfer of refugees from Arsal would have to bear the responsibility of the negative consequences and the repercussions on the relationship between the state, the Army and the refugees,” he told the local daily. He said the location would be agreed to after his proposal received needed “political agreement,” noting the presence of Syrian refugees in Arsal was placing civil peace at risk. In further remarks to Al-Mustaqbal, Machnouk said measures were needed to protect Arsal, where nearly 140,000 refugees reside, describing the refugee crisis as a problem that should be dealt with immediately. "I will contact Hezbollah and we will have a serious discussion about this to protect Lebanon and the Lebanese." The Lebanese Army has launched raids in several refugee camps in Arsal and other parts of the country, detaining hundreds suspected of belonging to terrorist groups and having been involved in last month’s clashes between Lebanese troops and militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS. Most of the militants that took part in the clashes were said to have been residing in refugee camps in the town. Machnouk also said that efforts were concentrated on establishing refugee camps on the border “even if that meant that the ministry would be working alone.”The issue of establishing refugee camps is still under discussion in the Cabinet, which failed last week to come to an agreement on the matter.
Lebanese minister lobbies for Syrian refugee camps
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas Saturday further lobbied for his proposal to establish refugee camps for Syrians, saying Kuwait was ready to fund the camps that would better organize the overwhelming presence of refugees in the country. “The proposal I made to the Cabinet about organizing the presence of refugees [via camps] was rejected ... but they will have to accept it later because the alternative to organization is chaos,” Derbas told a local radio station. “Refugee camps are ready and I sent a team from the ministry that surveyed the land and units that were established,” he said. Derbas’ proposal is still under discussion in Cabinet after the minister proposed the camps earlier this month. Initial reports said the camps would be set up past General Security checkpoints, in the no-man’s-land along the border with Syria. Lebanon is struggling to cope with the presence of some 1.2 million Syrian refugees scattered across the country but mainly concentrated in the Bekaa Valley. Aside from lack of resources and funds to help the refugees, the presence of so many unaccounted for Syrians has been a major cause for security concerns. On Friday, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said his ministry was ready to establish the camps even if no consensus was reached in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet on the matter. Derbas said Kuwait was willing to fund the project, noting that he would pay the Gulf country a visit in October to further discuss the issue. “The emir of Kuwait expressed his readiness to fund the establishment of the camps and that was relayed to us during meetings with head of the Kuwaiti parliament and the emir's adviser in Lebanon.” Derbas also said that fears of naturalizing refugees and security concerns were addressed in his proposal. “We can provide security monitoring by deploying security forces and hiring security companies, why can Jordan organize refugee camps with every camp comprising of 180,000 refugees and Lebanon cannot?”
Islamists seek to move battle into Lebanon: Hezbollah
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Islamist groups seek to establish a favorable infrastructure that would allow them to move the battle into Lebanon, Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad said, noting that his party was ready for dialogue with rivals to safeguard the country. “The takfiri groups are trying to move the battle inside Lebanon. It is not only about their presence on the border and in Arsal, but also efforts to move the battle into Lebanon,” Fayyad said during a ceremony Saturday. “There are serious attempts to build a suitable infrastructure for these groups to target the country's security, security and unity.”Fayyad underlined the need for Lebanese to come together and “recognize that everyone was in danger.”“There is no exception with these groups, not a political or a sectarian component.”The Hezbollah lawmaker said the party was ready for “dialogue and openness toward all political parties, primarily those who we differ politically with.”“We are ready to have a dialogue to build mutual stances and come together to face this phenomenon to protect the country.”He also reiterated that the Lebanese Army was in need of a full political cover to carry out its mission against extremist groups in Lebanon.“Every moment that passes when we do not put an end to those takfiri groups on the border, or those who provide them with needed cover and work to support and help them, is only placing this country at a greater risk.”
Abou Faour: Some Progress in Troops Case, Turkey Promised
Salam to Help
Naharnet /Health Minister Wael Abou Faour revealed Saturday that Turkey has promised the Lebanese government to offer help in the case of the captive troops, noting that “some progress” has been made. “Salam urged the Turkish state to intervene and Turkey has promised to act. I hope these (Turkish) remarks will help resolve this case,” Abou Faour announced at Dahr al-Baidar after meeting with families of abducted troops. The families have been blocking the vital road that links Bekaa to Mt. Lebanon and Beirut for days now, but the minister said he did not press them to reopen it. They later announced, however, that the road will be partially reopened “for humanitarian cases and for the army and the Red Cross.” “Things have started to make some progress and I hope there will be some fairness towards the negotiations that are being conducted by the state,” Abou Faour said. “Let us not implicate the case of the captive troops in the political debate and everyone is saying that major efforts must be exerted to secure the release of the troops,” he added, in response to a reporter's question. Conflicting reports have emerged on whether the multi-party negotiations have made any progress. On Friday, LBCI TV said a “Syrian-Syrian deal” that is currently in the making might involve the release of the captive Lebanese troops, noting that “the negotiations have apparently matured.” The TV network also reported that Hizbullah will play a key role in the alleged deal given its close ties with the Syrian regime and the fact that “it has dozens of al-Nusra Front and Islamic State captives in its custody.”
But cabinet ministers denied in remarks published in An Nahar daily on Saturday that there was any progress in the case. For its part, al-Nusra Front has announced that it will not negotiate the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen unless the Lebanese authorities resolve the situation in the northeastern border town of Arsal. “There is no negotiation on our behalf in the case of the Lebanese soldiers being held captive until things are fully fixed in Arsal,” the group said in a tweet. Meanwhile, al-Liwaa daily said that al-Nusra and the IS are demanding the release of five high-profile terrorists from Lebanese prisons, a condition that is likely to be rejected by Lebanese authorities. It identified the five as Abou Salim Taha, Joumana Hmeid, Imad Jomaa, Naim Abbas and Omar al-Atrash. All five are in custody for involvement in terrorist activities in Lebanon. The troops were taken hostage during deadly clashes between the Lebanese army and Nusra and IS gunmen in and around Arsal on August 2, in one of the most dangerous spillovers of the Syrian conflict to date.
The fighting ended with a ceasefire on August 7. The militants later executed three of the hostages and are threatening to kill more captives if Lebanese authorities do not meet their demands. The kidnapping and executions have caused deep anger and anxiety in Lebanon and led to a backlash against Syrian refugees in some places.
International Support Group for Lebanon Throws Weight
Naharnet/The International Support Group for Lebanon has condemned the hostage taking of Lebanese troops and policemen by jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal and reiterated a pledge to strengthen the Lebanese army to confront terrorists.
Participants in the meeting of the Group that was held in New York on Friday said that “the recent attacks by violent extremist groups in Arsal had highlighted immediate priority needs on the part of both the LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) and the security forces, including in regard to border control and counter-terrorism.” The ministers of the group who met on the sidelines of the General Assembly “condemned the attacks and acts of terrorism, hostage taking and brutal murder by violent extremist groups,” including the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front. The participants of the meeting, which was attended by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, underlined, on the first anniversary of the Group’s formation, their “continued and united commitment to working together to mobilize support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and state institutions and to promote efforts to help it address the challenges it faces.” The group was inaugurated in New York in September 2013,on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. The group also underlined the continuing importance for stability and security of Lebanon’s policy of disassociation. Many meeting participants recalled the Security Council’s appeals in its presidential statements in respect of commitment to the Baabda Declaration. During the meeting, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for improving the capabilities of the Lebanese army. “The Lebanese army and security forces have performed robustly, but there is an urgent need to increase their capabilities,” he said. Ban hailed the recent contributions made by Saudi Arabia and other members states, and promised that the U.N. “will continue to play its part, including through support for the army’s five-year development plan, the strategic dialogue and cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism.”The U.N. leader also called for the respect of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who are coming under a wave of revenge attacks after the terrorist groups that took the Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage executed three of them. Ban said Lebanon hosts the highest ratio of refugees per capita in the world and has received far less assistance than needed. “As long as the region is aflame and the war in Syria continues, the rights and safety of refugees in Lebanon must be respected in accordance with international humanitarian norms. But the strains on Lebanon will remain immense and the burden it is bearing must be shared,” he said. Ban also tackled Lebanon's presidential crisis, urging the rival politicians to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman whose six-year term ended in May. He called on the country's “political leaders to engage in dialogue now and make the compromises essential for the election of a president without further delay.” “I hope Lebanon’s leaders will draw strength from the Group’s support to make the important decisions needed for the sake of the country and its people,” he added. Meanwhile, Salam, who on Friday made an emotional appeal to world leaders in his General Assembly speech, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. A senior State Department official said Kerry underscored the United States' firm commitment to Lebanon's security and stability at a time when Lebanon is facing many challenges.
Muslims Need Truth and Love
By Mark Durie/Eternity
September 26, 2014
The past few weeks have been hard ones for Australians, not least for Australian Muslims. Various alleged plots by Islamic State supporters to slaughter Australians has Islam in the news. Even as I write, five out of ten of the "most popular" articles on The Australian's website are about Islamic jihad and national security.
What are ordinary Australians to make of conspiracy theories aired by Muslims on the ABC's Q&A program, implying that recent police raids were staged as a cynical act to manipulate public opinion? Are Muslims being unfairly victimised by all these security measures?
How are we to evaluate Senator Jacqui Lambie's claim that sharia law "obviously involves terrorism"? Or the Prime Minister's decision to mobilise Australian troops against the Islamic State?
What about the Islamic State's grandiose claim that "We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women." Or [Prime Minister Tony] Abbott's declaration that the balance between freedom and security needs to be adjusted in favour of greater security and less freedom?
Earlier this month, an 18-year-old Melbourne man, Numan Haider, was shot dead by police after he stabbed two officers outside a suburban police station. At the time of writing, news was breaking that authorities believed he intended to behead a police officer and post the photos online.
Prison officers in Goulburn jail have struggled to contain the worst riot in ten years, during which rampaging prisoners were heard to be crying "Allahu Akbar."
A Christian woman who works in a church close by an Islamic centre has asked her employer to install security measures to protect her and others at the church. Someone else, a convert from Islam to Christianity, reports that his personal sense of being under threat has risen, because he feels that people he knew from his earlier life as a radical Muslim are more likely to be activated to violence after the successes of the Islamic State and their global call to arms. Are such responses reasonable? Or are they Islamophobic?
Many young Muslims have been using the hashtag #NotInMyName on social media. Many are insisting that IS does not speak for them: as Anne Aly put it, "This isn't in my name, this isn't what Islam is about, I am against it and they don't have my allegiance, they don't have my support." How then can we know the truth about Islam?
A truly Christian response to the multi-faceted challenge of "Muslims behaving badly" must embrace both truth and love in equal measure.
What is a Christian response to all this? How can we find our way through these crises: does protecting national security mean we risk losing some part of our soul?
A truly Christian response to the multi-faceted challenge of "Muslims behaving badly" must embrace both truth and love in equal measure.
Truth will acknowledge that the Islamic State ideologues do claim to speak for Islam, and that they justify their actions from the Koran and Muhammad's example. Truth will acknowledge that IS has recruited tens of thousands of Muslims to fight for their cause, but apparently not a single Christian, Jew or Buddhist. As Brother Rachid, a Moroccan convert to Christianity put it in a widely distributed letter to President Obama "ISIL's 10,000 members are all Muslims. None of them are from any other religion. They come from different countries and have one common denominator: Islam."
Truth will recognise that the self-declared "caliph" of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has a PhD in Islamic studies: he is not ignorant of Islam. It will also acknowledge that the very idea of a caliphate – a supra-national Islamic state – is a religious ideal widely shared by many Muslims. However this ideal bodes ill for any non-Muslims who fall under its power.
Truth will accept that there is a price to pay for increased security. Since 9/11 we wait in queues at airports because of the actions of jihadis. As the level of threat increases, it is inevitable that our need for increased security measures will only grow.
Truth will also acknowledge that many Muslims vehemently reject the methods and goals of the Islamic state, and that the #NotInMyName hashtag campaign is genuine and heartfelt. But this begs the question: "What is the real Islam?"
Love on the other hand, will reject stereotyping Muslims or denigrating them with labels of hatred and suspicion. Love will reach out a hand of friendship. It will show grace instead of fear, kindness instead of rejection or indifference. Love demands that we emphatically reject speech which dehumanises Muslims or pins labels on them. It will honour those Muslims who reject the Islamic State's ideology. Love will find new friends even on the blackest of days.
It can be tempting at times such as this to chose between love and truth. Love without truth can be gullible, opening the door to many threats. I am reminded of a Persian fable. A Fox met a Heron and said "My, what lovely feathers you have, dear Heron. May I have one?" The Heron obliged. The next day they met again. Day after day the Fox's question was repeated, and day after the day the Heron's response was the same. One day they met for the last time. The Heron had been plucked bare, so the Fox said "Heron, you look delicious. Now I will eat you. And he did."
Love without boundaries, at the cost of truth, can wreak incredible havoc on innocent lives. In the end, such love is false, and will prove profoundly unloving. Genuine love does not fear the truth. True love will not deny or obscure the damaging effect of sharia law upon Christians living in Islamic societies, or the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of Islam against Christians and others by the "caliphate". It will be mindful of the words in Proverbs 24:11-12: "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering towards slaughter. If you say 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it."
On the other hand, truth without love can become merciless, excluding and cruel. Love counts the cost of aggressive argument and rejects rhetoric. It takes pains to understand the other; it seeks to see the world through another's eyes and to hear words through another's ears. Love nurtures life-giving relationships. It reaches out to enmity and answers it with grace. It does not jump to conclusions, but is patient and careful. It delights to partner with and nurture truth and does not fear it.
Professor Peter Leahy, former Army Chief and leading defence strategist has warned Australians that we face a war that is "likely to last for the rest of the century". If he is right, then the troubles we are facing now as a nation are only the beginning, and dealing with the potential horrors ahead will stretch our humanity to its limits.
As Christians we are called to be salt and light in the world. If this means anything, it means staying true to Jesus' two great statements "the truth shall set you free" and "love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you". This is no time for circling the wagons and cowering behind them in fear.
This is a time for Australians to reach out to our Muslim neighbours, to show and receive grace. In the present difficulties many Muslims will agree with Melbourne lawyer Shabnum Cassim who stated that "the everyday Muslim just wants to get on with their day." As a nation the fact that we need to respond realistically to genuine threats to our peace, and seek a true understanding of the religious beliefs that generate these threats, should not deflect us from the everyday task of getting on with our lives together, graciously, inclusively and generously.
**Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. His book The Third Choice explains the implications for Christians of living under Islamic rule.
The Defense of Kobani
by Jonathan Spyer/The Jerusalem Post
September 27, 2014
This week witnessed the second determined attempt by Islamic State forces to destroy the Kurdish enclave around Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city in northern Syria. Kobani is one of three autonomous enclaves maintained by the Kurds in Syria.
As of now, it appears that after initial lightning advances, the progress of the jihadis has been halted; they have not moved forward in the last 24 hours. The arrival of Kurdish forces from across the Turkish border is the key element in freezing the advance.
Yet Islamic State has captured around 60 Kurdish villages in this latest assault, and its advanced positions remain perilously close – around 14.5 km. – from Kobani city. Around 100,000 people have fled Kobani for Turkey, from the enclave's total population of around 400,0000.
Islamic State employed tanks, artillery and Humvees in its assault, according to Kurdish sources. The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have no comparable ordnance. However, their fighters were assisted by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas who crossed in from Turkey, and appear to have played a vital role in halting the advance.
Whether the current situation will hold is not yet clear. But the commencement of US and allied bombing on Islamic State in Syria probably means the jihadi forces will have more pressing issues to attend to for the moment.
The assault on Kobani indicates that Islamic State is turning its attention back to Syria. The Kurdish enclave has long been a thorn in the side of the jihadis; the Kurdish-controlled area interrupts the jihadis' territorial contiguity, separating Tel Abyad from Jarabulus and making a large detour necessary from Islamic State's capital in Raqqa city to the important border town of Jarabulus.
For this reason, the jihadis have long sought to conquer the area. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the much feared Chechen Islamic State military commander, is reputed to have made the conquest of Kobani a personal mission. With the weapons systems captured in Mosul now fully integrated, and with further progress in Iraq impeded by the presence of US air power, it appears Islamic State is now making its most serious effort to achieve this goal.
The Kobani enclave has long been an isolated, beleaguered space. This reporter visited there this past May; at the time, Islamic State was trying to block the supply of electricity and water into the city. Skirmishes along the borders were a daily occurrence.
Particularly notable also were the very strict border arrangements kept in place by the Turkish authorities to the north – in stark contrast to the much more lax regime maintained facing the areas of Arab population further west.
As of now, a determined Kurdish mobilization appears to have stemmed the jihadi advance. Unless the picture radically changes again, Kobani looks set to remain a thorn in the side of Islamic State.
Perwer Mohammed, 28, an activist close to the YPG in Kobani, sounded worried but hopeful when speaking from the city on Monday: "They are now on the outskirts of Girê Sipî [Tel Abyad].
But they will have to pass through our flesh to get to Kobani, and they are no longer advancing from the east."
A variety of forces contributed to the mobilization; 1,500 PKK fighters arrived in Kobani city to reinforce the YPG there, according to Kurdish sources.
In addition, forces loyal to both the Kurdistan Regional Government of Massoud Barzani and to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are set to arrive in Kobani.
The PUK forces, according to the organization's website, are currently on the Iraq-Syria border, waiting to deploy.
The YPG itself, meanwhile, is trying to push forces through from Ras al-Ain to Tel Abyad on the eastern edge of the enclave. A concerted Kurdish military effort is under way.
Suspicions remain regarding possible collusion between Turkish authorities and Islamic State. The Kurds have long maintained that at least in its initial phase, Islamic State was the beneficiary of Turkish support. Evidence has emerged of Turkish forces permitting Islamic State fighters to cross back and forth across the border during early clashes with the YPG.
The subsequent picture remains shrouded in ambiguity, as Turkey officially denies any relationship with Islamic State. But the release of 49 Turkish hostages by the terror movement this week under unclear circumstances has once more cast a spotlight on the possible complex connection between the two.
If the situation in Kobani holds, this will offer proof of the limitations of Islamic State forces. In Iraq, their advance has been stopped by the coordination of US air power with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In Kobani, as of now at least, the jihadis appear to have been stalled by determined resistance on the ground alone. Yet the last chapter remains to be written.
Should Kobani fall, large-scale massacres of the type which befell the Yazidi communities in the Mount Sinjar area in August would inevitably follow; this is likely to result in a massive new refugee problem. Moreover, an Islamic State victory would consolidate the borders of the jihadi entity considerably.
The clash between Islamic State and the Kurdish autonomous areas also has broader ramifications than merely tactical military significance – it shows the extent to which "Iraq" and "Syria" have become little more than names.
In Kobani, two successor entities to these states are clashing. The Kurds have organized three autonomous cantons stretching east to west from the Syria-Iraq border to close to the Mediterranean coast. The Sunni jihadis, for their part, have organized their own "state," going southeast to northwest.
Kobani is the point at which these two projects collide. Hence, the outcome of the current fight will indicate the relative strength of these two very different projects.
Yet the clash itself offers a broader lesson regarding the shape of things to come, in the ethnic/sectarian war now raging across what was once Iraq and Syria.
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Our real Syria strategy — containment-plus
By: Charles Krauthammer/Human Events
President Barack Obama sought support from congressional leaders Tuesday for a broad and potentially lengthy military campaign to root out violent extremists in Iraq and Syria, a day before outlining his plans to the American...
Late, hesitant, and reluctant as he is, President Obama has begun effecting a workable strategy against the Islamic State. True, he’s been driven there by public opinion. Does anyone imagine that without the broadcast beheadings we’d be doing anything more than pinprick strikes within Iraq? If Obama can remain steady through future fluctuations in public opinion, his strategy might succeed.
But success will not be what he’s articulating publicly. The strategy will not destroy the Islamic State. It’s more containment-plus: Expel the Islamic State from Iraq, contain it in Syria. Because you can’t win from the air. In Iraq, we have potential ground allies. In Syria, we don’t.
The order of battle in Iraq is straightforward. The Kurds will fight, but not far beyond their own territory. A vigorous air campaign could help them recover territory lost to the Islamic State and perhaps a bit beyond. But they won’t be anyone’s expeditionary force.
From the Shiites in Iraq we should expect little. U.S. advisers embedded with a few highly trained Iraqi special forces could make some progress. But we cannot count on the corrupt and demoralized regular Shiite-dominated military.
Our key potential allies are the Sunni tribes. We will have to induce them to change allegiances a second time, joining us again, as they did during the 2007-2008 surge, against the jihadists.
Having abandoned them in 2011, we won’t find this easy. But it is necessary. One good sign is the creation of a Sunni national guard, a descendant of the Sons of Iraq who, fighting with us, expelled al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the Anbar Awakening. Only they could push the Islamic State out of Iraq. And surely only they could hold the territory regained.
Syria is another matter. Under the current strategy, the cancer will remain. The air power there is unsupported by ground troops. Nor is anyone in Obama’s “broad coalition” going to contribute any.
Perhaps Turkey will one day. But Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not just refusing to join the air campaign. He has denied us use of his air bases.
As for what’s left of the Free Syrian Army, Obama has finally come around to training and arming it. But very late and very little. The administration admits it won’t be able to field any trained forces for a year. And even then only about 5,000. The Islamic State is already approximately 30,000 strong and growing.
Not that air power is useless. It can degrade and disrupt. If applied systematically enough it can damage the entrenched, expanding, secure and self-financing Islamic State, turning it back to more of a fugitive guerrilla force constantly on the run.
What kind of strategy is that? A compressed and more aggressive form of the George Kennan strategy of Soviet containment. Stop them, squeeze them and ultimately they will be defeated by their own contradictions. Ashistorian David Motadel points out, jihadist regimes stretching back two centuries have been undone by their own primitivism, barbarism, brutality — and the intense hostility thus engendered among those they rule.
That’s what just eight years ago created the Anbar Awakening that expelled AQI. Mahdi rule in Sudan in the 1880s and ’90s was no more successful. As Motadel notes, half the population died of disease, starvation or violence — and that was before the British annihilation of the Mahdi forces at Omdurman.
Or to put it in a contemporary Middle East context, this kind of long-term combination of rollback and containment is what has carried the Israelis successfully through seven decades of terrorism arising at different times from different places proclaiming different ideologies. There is no one final stroke that ends it all. The Israelis engage, enjoy a respite, then re-engage.
With a bitter irony born of ceaseless attacks, the Israelis call it “mowing the lawn.” They know a finality may come, but alas not in their time. They accept it, and go on living.
Obama was right and candid to say this war he’s renewed will take years. This struggle is generational. This is not Sudan 1898. There is no Omdurman that defeats jihadism for much of a century.
Today jihadism is global, its religious and financial institutions ubiquitous and its roots deeply sunk in a world religion of more than a billion people. We are on a path — long, difficult, sober, undoubtedly painful — of long-term, low-intensity rollback/containment.
Containment-plus. It’s the best of our available strategies. Obama must now demonstrate the steel to carry it through.
Let’s not dwell on every little fatwa
Obama’s favorite clerics have issued
By: John Hayward/Human Events
A U.N. official said, the leader of a Mauritanian group has
issued a threat on his Facebook page to "tear out the eyes" of a rights activist
for demanding a fair trial for a man charged with turning his back on Islam. The
In reviewing President Obama’s address to the United Nations, I mentioned his approving quotation of Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, who said, “We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.” Unfortunately, he belongs to a group that is also noted for declaring war upon American soldiers, signing onto a fatwa whose outcome was corpses upon corpses.
Bin Bayyah is “controversial” enough for the State Department to actually apologize for Tweeting out a link to his website just a few months ago. The linked article was a condemnation of the Boko Haram savages in Nigeria for kidnapping and enslaving hundreds of young girls, but there was enough of an outcry over bin Bayyah’s past to get that State Department Tweet deleted. A year before that, the White House got into some hot water for inviting him to a meeting of the National Security Council. On that occasion, Fox News reviewed what made this particular sheikh such a hot potato:
Bin Bayyah is vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a group founded by Egyptian cleric Yusuf Qaradawi — a Muslim Brotherhood leader who has called for the death of Jews and Americans and himself is banned from visiting the U.S.
Bin Bayyah, for his part, has urged the U.N. to criminalize blasphemy. His group has spoken out in favor of Hamas and in 2009 issued a fatwa barring “all forms of normalization” with Israel.
[...] Aside from his ties to Qaradawi, IPT also found Bin Bayyah was vice president at the IUMS when they issued a 2004 fatwa saying that resisting U.S. troops in Iraq is a “duty” for Muslims.
He’s made some efforts to, shall we say, moderate these views, and there are people in the West who seem eager to help him along, evidently believing his influence in the Muslim world is worth whatever it takes to rehabilitate his image:
In 2010, Bin Bayyah publicly rejected a fatwa that had been used as the justification for Al Qaeda terrorism.
In his criticism of the fatwa, he said: “Anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation and has misapplied the revealed texts.”
The Muslim scholar has taken criticism from violent extremists for this position.
He has also worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other groups on global health issues.
Bin Bayyah was named in 2009, by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.
Another reason the Administration might be interested in conferring legitimacy and approval upon bin Bayyah is that he recently issued a fatwa against ISIS, which NPR describes as essentially lecturing them about how they’re getting Islam wrong. You can see why the “nothing Islamic about the Islamic State” crowd would find that valuable:
His fatwa calls for dialogue about the true tenets of Islam and, over the course of many pages, questions just about everything for which ISIS says it stands. The fatwa says establishing a caliphate by force is a misreading of religious doctrine. Killing of innocents and violence, the fatwa declares, are wrong too.
Bin Bayyah said in an interview with NPR that he hopes the religious ruling will slow the group’s momentum. “Primarily [the fatwa] is really about addressing the mistakes, and it’s really warning them and advising them that what you are doing is clearly wrong,” he said.
Megyn Kelly of Fox News had an opportunity to discuss all this with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Thursday night. It was… uncomfortable.
(Whose idea was it to film these interviews with a swooping camera? I was waiting for them to go all the way, and bust out the “Matrix” bullet-time cameras for Harf when she dodged questions.)
The first thing Harf does, after dispensing some boilerplate about the importance of nourishing relationships with Muslim leaders who are willing to denounce ISIS, is insinuate that he didn’t actually do the things that made him controversial. Holy cow… 30 seconds in, and she decides to handle this by lying about it?
Needless to say, it didn’t work, so after Kelly showered Harf with truth bombs, and remarked that it must have been “embarrassing” to have bin Bayyah’s past exposed this way, the State Department spokeswoman tried claiming she has no idea why the State Department apologized for sending people to the sheikh’s website. Ah, the Incompetence Defense! Eric Holder couldn’t have done it better. Later, Kelly empathizes with Harf for getting hung out to dry by the train-wreck Administration she works for, and she just kind of smiles and nods. When the conversation turned to the disturbing reality that Iraqi troops are still getting slaughtered in confrontations with ISIS fighters, Harf babbled something about “pockets of resistance,” as though ISIS wasn’t still firmly in control of the territory it has conquered. We’re in the best of hands, folks.
We were treated to a shot of the “Just One Person” argument we’ve heard from Obama loyalists in a variety of contexts: don’t criticize them for doing something stupid or extreme, because if it helps Just One Person, they were totally justified. In this case, we’re supposed to think that buddying up to a guy who signed off on killing American soldiers is defensible if it convinces Just One Person to say “no” to ISIS.
That’s the kind of foolishness that has made the world into a raging bonfire throughout the Obama years. It’s stupid to think that the most modest possible benefit justifies the most extreme expense, abuse of power, or reckless alliance. Costs and complications matter. In the struggle against radical Islam, tomorrow’s monsters are often created by desperate alliances against today’s hobgoblins. Just a year ago, Obama’s need to knock Bashar Assad out of power in Syria justified cozying up to the sleazeballs we’re dropping bombs on today. A willingness to offer some criticism of ISIS should not erase everything bin Bayyah ever did to get American troops killed, or his thoughts about imposing Islamic law at gunpoint, or his ties to radical elements. Among other things, that makes the Administration look weak and desperate – they’ll let anybody into the anti-ISIS club, with few questions asked.
I couldn’t help noticing that Sheikh bin Bayyah’s condemnation of ISIS was rather more tepid than his death warrant for American troops. He’s arguing with them about the fine points of Islamic theology, but he said it was “the duty of all Muslims” to “resist occupation troops.” Shouldn’t we have held out for the kind of fatwa that says it’s the duty of all Muslims to resist the Islamic State’s occupying troops? Has he formally apologized for, and retracted, the fatwas against killing American troops and normalizing relations with Israel? Has he formally renounced all support for the blood-splattered terrorists of Hamas, who most certainly do not have any interest in waging war upon war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace?
As with everything else this Administration does, the bin Bayyah affair was a wacky sideshow of blunders, disorganization, and embarrassment. Obama and his crew seem to think support for killing American soldiers in Iraq isn’t all that big of a deal, an unfortunate bit of business from the last decade that we shouldn’t dwell upon. It’s like they’re surprised anyone in America still thinks it’s a big deal. But then, this is the same bumbling team that spent years assuring us al-Qaeda was decimated and on the run… then said, “Would you believe core al-Qaeda was decimated?”… and then spent Day One of the air assault on Syrian territory dropping bombs on core al-Qaeda. My confidence in their ability to pick out the truly reformed radical Islamist clerics is not strong.
Radical Islam, not Peace on Display in Moore, Oklahoma
By Jeff Crouere/Canada Free Press
September 26, 2014 |
President Obama and other politicians are fond of reminding Americans that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Unfortunately, that message is not getting across to the millions of Muslims that adhere to a radical branch of Islam that considers non-believers to be infidels worthy of death. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy and other experts estimate that 15% of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide believe in this violent form of Islam. This means there are approximately 240 million Muslims who want to kill Christians, Jews and “moderate” Muslims.
Sadly, these radicals are not confined to the Middle East. They have found a home in the United States of America, even in Moore, Oklahoma. On Thursday, Alton Nolen, who recently converted to Islam, started attacking innocent people at the Vaughan Foods processing plant. Nolen, who had tried to convert others to Islam, had recently been fired from the company.
He turned his anger into murder when he stabbed and beheaded Colleen Hufford, a co-worker, and was in the process of killing Traci Johnson before he was stopped by Mark Vaughan, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Fortunately, Vaughan, a reserve Oklahoma County deputy, shot Nolen before he could kill Johnson and others. According to Moore Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis, Vaughan is a “hero,” because Nolen was “not going to stop.” Lewis believes it would “have gotten a lot worse” if not for Vaughan intervening with his firearm.
Liberals love to blame guns for violence in this country, but firearms are only an instrument, which can be used properly or improperly. What determines the outcome is the mindset of the individual pulling the trigger. In this case, Vaughan used a weapon to save lives. It is the type of incident that usually does not receive media coverage, but happens regularly in our nation.
It is much more common for an American, with proper training, to use a weapon to save a life than it is for someone to accidentally kill an innocent person. This tragedy once again highlights the importance of the right to bear arms.
It also clearly illustrates the growing threat of radical Islam in the United States. Nolen recently served several years in prison and may have converted to Islam while behind bars, like so many other prisoners in America.
While the media is underplaying his religion, it is a crucial part of this incident. It was likely a motivating factor for Nolen. He beheaded Ms. Hufford in the same manner as the Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria have killed countless people, including two Americans and a British citizen.
Beheadings have become the hallmark of the Islamic State. It is a type of savagery that is gaining support for the Islamic State from deranged Muslims worldwide who emulate this horrific crime. This week, a French citizen was beheaded by a radical Islamic group in Algeria, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and their terrorist methods.
Obviously, the threat of Islamic terrorism is not confined to any one country. Radical Islam is becoming more of a problem in this country, which is why the FBI is investigating Nolen’s background and the incident at Vaughan Foods.
Another worrisome factor is that America is especially vulnerable due to our wide open borders. We have no idea how many Islamic State terrorists have crossed into our country. We also do not know how many Americans are converting to the radical form of Islam in our country’s prisons and mosques.
We are at war, not against terrorism or extremists, but against radical Islam. The war is not only being waged in the Middle East, but also, increasingly, in our own country
Yemen Frees 2 Suspected Hezbollah Members After Rebel Advance
Reuters/September 26, 2014/SANA'A—
Yemen has freed two suspected members of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement held for questioning about alleged ties to a Shi'ite Muslim insurgent group that has seized control of much of the capital Sana'a, a senior official said on Thursday.
The takeover by the Shi'ite Houthi rebels came hours before a power-sharing accord was signed with other political parties providing for the creation of a viable new government.
That effectively made the Houthis the main power brokers in Yemen, whose political, tribal and sectarian turmoil poses risks to No. 1 oil exporter Saudi Arabia next door.
The senior official said the authorities also expected to free at least three suspected members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) with links to the Houthis, as well as nine Yemenis jailed for involvement in the smuggling of arms aboard an Iranian ship intercepted off the coast in January 2013.
U.S. and Yemeni officials said at the time the vessel, the Jihan 1, was carrying a cache of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, being smuggled from Iran to insurgents in Yemen.
The official said the release of the Iranians and the Lebanese had been agreed with Tehran in a deal with Sanaa's security service that had been brokered by neighboring Oman.
No comment was immediately available from Omani or Iranian officials on the report.
Oman maintains close relations with Iran, serving periodically as a point of contact for Tehran with the West and had facilitated exchange of prisoners in the past.
Several Arab newspapers, including the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, have reported that the suspected Hezbollah and IRGC members were detained earlier this year on suspicion of spying and providing training and logistical support for the Houthis.
“Two Hezbollah members were freed in Aden yesterday [Wednesday], and at least three Iranians will be freed today,” the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
He said the deal stipulated that in return for the releases a planned Houthi assault on Sanaa would be averted.
But the Houthis, who hail from the Zaydi branch of Shi'ite Islam, went ahead anyway with their takeover of Sanaa on Sunday, after days of clashes with soldiers and armed men that they said were linked to the Sunni Muslim Islah party.
It was unclear why the releases went ahead despite the Houthis' advance, but it indicated that the Shi'ite rebels were now calling the shots and forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's hand.
Hadi has accused Iran of meddling in Yemeni affairs and had asked his Iranian counterpart to stop backing unidentified armed groups in the country. Iran has denied such accusations, as well as any connection with the arms found aboard the Jihan 1.
Hadi warned Yemenis their country could be heading toward civil war with the Houthis' ascendancy. The Houthis have not made clear if the new deal will satisfy their demands or embolden them to seek further power.
Yemen is fragmented by tribal and sectarian divisions, and any renewed fighting could allow an array of other factions, including southern separatists, former autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh and even al-Qaida to take advantage.
Qatar's not-so-charitable record on terror finance
September 26/14/Washington Institute/The Hill
By Matthew Levitt, contributor
As the United States cobbles together an international
coalition of the willing to take the fight to the Islamic State in Iraq and
Syria (ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State), senior U.S. officials
have stressed the importance of employing soft power tools alongside military
airstrikes. In particular, any effort to confront and ultimately defeat ISIS
will have to include renewed focus on tackling ISIS financing. This, however,
demands a truly international effort that will be only as successful as its
least effective partner.
Enter Qatar, a tiny but wealthy Gulf state with a penchant for coddling up to Islamist movements from Palestinian Hamas and Libyan Islamist militias to the Afghan Taliban. In March, Department of the Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen singled out Qatar as an especially "permissive jurisdiction" for terrorist financing. Qatari oversight is so lax, Cohen noted, that "several major Qatar-based fundraisers act as local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising networks that are based in Kuwait." Not wanting to expose sensitive intelligence, Cohen pointed to press reports that Qatar not only supports Hamas but also extremist groups operating in Syria. "To say the least," he concluded, "this threatens to aggravate an already volatile situation in a particularly dangerous and unwelcome manner."
Now, under steadily increasing pressure over charges that Qatar continues to fund extremists in Syria and Iraq, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad al Thani took it upon himself to personally assure German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his regime does no such thing. But even he conceded that "such organizations are partly financed from abroad," so Qatar has now issued a new law creating a new agency empowered to regulate charities in the kingdom that are engaged in politics, send money overseas or receive foreign contributions.
This, of course, is a welcome first step in the right direction, but it will only amount to anything if the new law is actually implemented and enforced. Unfortunately, Qatar — like several other Gulf countries — has a history of introducing such laws with great fanfare but little or no follow-through or enforcement.
In 2004, Qatar passed a law criminalizing terror financing, established a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), and founded the Qatari Authority for Charitable Activities (QACA). Another law, passed in 2006, expanded charitable oversight and gave additional authorities to the Ministry of Civil Service and Housing Affairs. All positive steps, but by the time an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mutual evaluation team came to inspect Qatar's anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance (AML/CFT) regime two years later, it found significant problems. The IMF reported that terrorist financing was criminalized in Qatar, "but in a limited way." The administrative order creating the FIU, it transpired, was inconsistent with Qatar's anti-money laundering law. A system requiring the disclosure of currency transported across the border was assessed by the IMF as being "neither implemented nor effective." And despite having authority to confiscate, freeze or seize funds tied to money laundering or terror finance, not a single confiscation had been ordered because not a single money laundering charge had been brought before the courts. To the contrary: The IMF reported that it appeared that "on one occasion, the [Qatari] authorities offered safe harbor to a person designated under [United Nations terrorism designation list] UNSCR 1267. No actions were taken with respect to this person's funds or other assets."
In a surreal encounter in 2009, this author experienced firsthand Qatar's penchant for passing legislation and considering the matter closed without any implementation or enforcement. In a meeting with Qatari officials in Doha, this author asked how the Qatari FIU assessed the compliance of local Hawalas (informal money transfer businesses common in the region) with a then-new law requiring Hawalas to register with the government or shut down. The official explained — with a straight face — that there appeared to be no Hawalas operating in the country since none had registered with the authorities as required under the new law. In fact, the official had an identical conversation with IMF assessors just a few weeks earlier. Highly skeptical that not a single Hawala operated in the country, IMF experts returned to their hotels and asked expatriate foreign workers how they sent money back to their families in their home countries. Their answers were hardly surprising: "Hawalas." The IMF team returned to the official with a long list of Hawalas operating openly in Qatar, required the government submit an updated section of its report on this issue to the IMF, and stressed the need to actually implement and enforce new laws.
The following year Qatar passed still another AML/CFT law, this time specifically requiring prosecutors to freeze funds of U.N.-designated terrorist organizations. A National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) was empowered to designate terrorists independently of the U.N., but no designations were made as of 2013. While Qatar requires financial institutions to file suspicious transaction reports, Qatar's FIU has referred to the public prosecutor a grand total of one case for investigation as of November 2013.
Fast forward to Qatar's latest recommitment to provide regulatory oversight of its charitable sector. This law was ready in draft form last year, but was only passed now under significant international pressure. Last year, the State Department noted that "formally" the Qatari Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs monitors and licenses nongovernmental charitable organizations and requires their foreign partners to submit to a vetting and licensing process. Formally. In fact, this has not happened, in part because so long as charities operated within the Qatar Financial Center (QFC), they were exempt from having to register or be subject to supervision.
In its latest annual report on terrorism trends, the State Department politely described Qatar's oversight of local donations to foreign organizations as "inconsistent" and more bluntly characterized implementation of the country's AML/CFT law as "lacking" and marred by "significant gaps." In the words of one U.S. official, the Qatari attitude to date is often that "a law has been passed, and therefore the problem has been solved." It should therefore not surprise that last December the Treasury Department added Abd al-Rahman al-Nu'aymi, a Qatari academic and businessman, to its terror list, noting he "ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al-Qa'ida via al-Qa'ida's representative in Syria, Abu-Khalid al-Suri, and intended to transfer nearly $50,000 more." An equal opportunity terror financier, Treasury reported that al-Nu'aymi also sent funds to al Qaeda in Iraq (now called ISIS), to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and to al-Shabaab in Somalia.
To date, implementation and enforcement have not been a component of Qatar's approach to these issues. Instead, Qatar routinely stresses to investors and critics alike the passage of laws that, on paper, appear robust but are almost never implemented or enforced.
In and of itself, the passage of this latest law is therefore unremarkable. Qatar has passed similar laws in the past, without acting on any of the authorities the laws gave to its departments and agencies. It was the day after announcing the new law that the Qatari emir informed the German chancellor that "Qatar has never supported and will never support terrorist organizations." Having the charity regulations on the books is an essential first step; however, it must be implemented. The proof in the pudding will not be when Qatar opens the doors of a new charity oversight agency, but rather when that agency takes action against the terror financing that is indeed taking place within the country.
Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler scholar and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God (Georgetown University Press, 2013).
Erin Evers/Open Democracy
Shia militias, still operating under the control of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, are laying siege to Latifiyya, especially the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq militia. Failure to address the broader effects of international assistance in Iraq’s fight promises to further polarize Iraq’s communities. The spectacular conquests by the Islamic State have held much of the world’s attention ever since it took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Adding to this attention are the US airstrikes in northern Iraq, where the group targeted minority populations, kidnapping and killing hundreds - maybe thousands - and displacing thousands more.
But these high-profile killings and abductions are only part of the story of the horrendous abuses Iraqi civilians are suffering, including from government troops and Shiite militias. I met in recent days with more than 40 residents of Latifiyya, a town in the area known as the ‘Baghdad Belt’ whose population size, they said, has been reduced from approximately 200,000 to 50,000 in recent months. The town is majority Sunni with a sizeable Shia population.
The town is strategically located at the crossroads connecting four provinces – Baghdad, Babel, Wasit and Anbar. During the US-led occupation of Iraq, US troops named Latifiyya and the neighbouring towns Yousifiyya and Mahmoudiyya the ‘triangle of death’ because of the strong al-Qaeda presence. Though Latifiyya is particularly vulnerable right now, the abuses residents described are very similar to what we’ve been finding in the Baghdad Belt and other parts of Iraq for months.
The area’s majority Sunni population is paying a high price for the town’s location and its reputation for being restive. Residents told me that Shia militias, still operating under the control of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, are laying siege to the town, especially the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq militia. Sunni residents of other towns to the north accused that group and other militias of carrying out summary executions there after the militas took control in the wake of US air strikes against the Islamic State.
The militias, along with federal police and the Iraqi army’s infamous seventeenth division, have kidnapped and killed dozens of residents in Latifiyya, the residents told me – but their stories are falling on deaf ears in Washington.
A taxi driver said he saw a car stop next to two men. The men inside the car ordered the two to sit on the street. “Two men got out of the car, shot them both in the head, got back in their car and made a U-turn,” the taxi driver told me. ”Everyone assumes this is Asa’ib [Ahl al-Haqq], and all of this was just 50 meters from the federal police checkpoint.”
The taxi driver, who has since fled the area, told me that, “These kinds of things are happening all the time.”
Over a dozen other Latifiyya residents told me that militias have destroyed the area with bulldozers and explosions since the beginning of June, with repeated militia attacks against Sunni residents and their property, despite the absence of active combat in the town.
“It is a peaceful neighbourhood,” one resident told me, echoing a number of others. “We always lived side by side. But now militias come to Sunnis’ homes and destroy them.”
On June 11, militiamen took 137 men from the Um Weilha market in Latifiyya, according to residents and local media reports. Police have found the bodies of about 30 of them, but no one has heard any information about the rest.
“We’re sure many of them are dead by now,” said a man whose two teenage sons are among the missing. “But there has been no investigation at all. Whether we ask investigation judges from the Interior Ministry or at police stations, no one gives us any information.” He doesn’t know whether his sons are dead or alive.
I heard dozens of stories like this in Latifiyya and other ‘Baghdad Belt’ towns. In many areas most men have either been killed or fled, the residents said. The killings are causing a broader humanitarian crisis. Without a breadwinner and with their neighbourhoods under siege, many of the women and children who remain there don’t have access to food or desalinated water.
These allegations echo atrocities we have documented in recent months by militias backed by Maliki’s government and security forces, underscoring the urgent need for Washington and its allies to pay attention to what’s happening in parts of Iraq that are largely hidden from view , including the Baghdad Belt, Diyala, Hilla and Anbar.
With a new government in Iraq, the US has the opportunity to raise the abuses Shia militias and Iraqi security forces have committed and to make sure that US intervention in Iraq does not embolden militias whose crimes remain unnoticed and unpunished. The US and its allies should be aware that if they facilitate abuses by Iraqi forces and militia through military assistance, they risk complicity in crimes.
“Even those who manage to escape are not free,” a Latifiyya man told me. “People like me, in Baghdad, are constantly humiliated. At checkpoints they treat me like a criminal because they see my ID is from Latifiyya and that I am Sunni. I’m afraid to move around the city – I’m trapped with nowhere to go.”
Failure to address the broader effects of international assistance in Iraq’s fight promises to further polarize Iraq’s communities, multiply abuses, and may ultimately undermine the efforts against the Islamic State: it threatens to push Sunnis directly into the Islamic State’s waiting arms.
Who brought the Arabs to this nadir?
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 27 September 2014
In recent weeks and months I tried in this space to critique an Arab political culture that continues to reproduce the values of patriarchy, mythmaking, conspiracy theories, sectarianism, autocracy and a political/cultural discourse that denies human agency and tolerates the persistence of the old order. The article in which I said that the ailing Arab body politic had created the ISIS cancer, and a subsequent article published in Politico Magazine generated a huge response and sparked debates on Twitter and the blogosphere.
The overwhelming response was positive, even though my analysis of Arab reality was bleak and my prognosis of the immediate future was negative. Yet, these articles were not a call for despair, far from it; they are a cris de Coeur for Arabs, particularly intellectuals, activists and opinion makers, to first recognize that they are in the main responsible for their tragic conditions, that they have to own their problems before they rely on their human agency to make the painful decisions needed to transcend their predicament. These articles should be viewed through the motto of the Italian Marxian philosopher Antonio Gramsci: “Pessimism of the spirit; optimism of the will.” Pessimism of the will, means that you see and analyze the world as it is not as you wish it to be, but for this pessimism not to be fatal, it should be underpinned by the optimism of the will, to face challenges, and overcome adversity by relying on human agency .
A legacy of autocracy and fear
The negative reaction to the two controversial articles ranged from the lunatic and racist fringe which refuses to recognize the immense cultural and civilizational contributions of Arabs and Muslims, to the juvenile left that sees Arab self-criticism as self-flagellation because it does not blame the U.S. or Israel for ALL Arab ills. In my articles I said that no one paradigm could explain the state disintegration, social fragmentation and the civil wars ranging in a number of Arab societies, nor one can reduce the failure of various political ideologies that dominated the Arab world in the last century to one overarching reason be it economic, political, social or cultural. That was my way of criticizing the tendency of many scholars to always look for one paradigm, or a certain model, or one encompassing theory to explain very complex problems that cannot be reduced to one neat interpretation.
“Arab states have had more than their share of military dictators who enforced their absolute authority and decimated their societies”
Those majority of Arab societies currently going through violent convulsions or wrenching “transitions” : Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain and Lebanon have reached their nadir because of multiplicity of reasons ranging from repressive autocracy, alliances between predatory political elites, corrupt mercantile classes, and economic monopolies, reactionary interpretations of Islam, as reflected in the visions and practices of Islamists movements (in varying degrees) chauvinistic or hyper nationalisms and yes a cultural inheritance, rooted in religious conservatism that produces values of ignorance, fatalism, dependency and fear of authority. Some Arab countries, even decades after their independence are still struggling with their identities, particularly heterogeneous countries like Iraq and Algeria. Even, the mostly homogenous Egypt was struggling with issues of identity and cultural and political orientation, particularly during the brief rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. These cultural factors are usually not always given their weight by political scientist and historians. Of course, western military interventions, from the British-French-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956 to the debilitating Arab-Israeli wars, to the first Gulf war in 1991, to the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 have contributed significantly to the current impasse.
The Arabs and the rest
But the Arabs were not the only victims of colonialism, and with the exception of Algeria which gained its independence from France after a savage war, colonialism in the Arab world was not as devastating as it was in Africa. Egypt and India were colonized by the same power and gained sovereignty after the Second World War. And both are plagued with demographic overweight. But for most of its independent life Egypt was ruled by a strong military leader, while India maintained its democratic rule – strained at times- even when its military achieved victories in wars with Pakistan and it managed difficult political transitions after the assassinations of some of its elected leaders. India, despite its economic and social inequalities, produces science and knowledge in its universities and in Bangalore, its high technology capital.
There are no such universities in Egypt. In 1960 the GDP per capita for South Korea and Egypt were almost equal, $155 and $149 respectively and their populations were practically identical, 25 million and 27 million respectively. By 2012 the gap is frightening. The GDP per capita in South Korea has reached $16,684 with a population of 50 million. In comparison, Egypt’s GDP per capita has grown only to $1,976, and its population has tripled to 82 million. What went wrong in Egypt and what went right in South Korea is a tale of political will and good and bad governance. South Korea invested heavily in education and in its corporations and revolutionized industrial productivity by empowering women and incorporating them in the labor force. By contrast Egypt did not improve the quality of its educational system, and invested heavily in non-competitive industries.
Not all autocrats are alike
Arab states have had more than their share of military dictators who enforced their absolute authority and decimated their societies and ruined their economies even in those countries that enjoyed considerable hydrocarbon deposits such as Iraq, Libya and Algeria. They ruled in the name of Arab Nationalism and they manipulated religious authorities and symbols (Saddam Hussein was the most outrageous offender in this regard), while exploiting sectarian, ethnic and tribal fissures.
Others such as the Assads in Syria and Ali Abdallah Saleh in Yemen adopted the same ways. The military rulers and autocrats of Asia, such as Park Chung-hee of South Korea and Lee Kuan Yew, of Singapore, who are credited with putting their countries on a trajectory of industrialization and wealth, look very benign when compared with Arab despots like Hussein whose wars and invasions caused the death of at least half a million people, or the Assads, who are responsible for the death of more than a quarter of a million people. Even the awful depredations of Augusto Pinochet, the dictator of Chile, pale in comparison with the bloody deeds of his Arab contemporaries. At least Pinochet did not wreck the Chilean economy and some credit him with turning Chile into a major economic power in Latin America.
There is one benign Arab autocrat whose legacy in part explains why Tunisia, of all the countries that went through an uprising is on the path of good governance. Tunisia’s president Habib Bourguiba, abolished polygamy and enacted a series of laws and secular reforms in 1956, giving women the right to vote and access to higher education, the right to file for divorce, and access to employment opportunities. Modern Tunisia has maintained a secular tradition and a polity more tolerant than its neighbors. Bourguiba benefited from Tunisia’s legacy of reform which goes back to the reign of the reformer Khayr al-Din Pasha al-Tunisi in the 1870’s. Tunisia was a trail-blazer when it became the first Arab country to outlaw slavery in 1846, one year before Sweden and, astonishingly 17 years before the United States. This legacy of secularism and empowering women is one of the reasons why Islamists were kept at bay and prevented from monopolizing political power after the overthrow of President Bin Ali.
Self-criticism after defeats and disasters
After the 1967 defeat, Beirut became the center of a vibrant no holds barred debate among Arab intellectuals about the meanings and the reasons for the unimaginable disaster that befell the Arab world at the hands of Israel. Many scholars, from different political and ideological orientations published books and articles and held open and blunt discussions. The famed Syrian Poet Adonis, published his pioneering Journal Mawaqif which became the medium for soul searching, and critical introspection and analysis about the factors, assumptions, values and practices that led to the calamity. One seminal book was Self Criticism After the Defeat (1968) by the renounced Syrian philosopher Sadik al-Azm. The book was a milestone in modern Arab intellectual history and Azm did not spare any political taboos, when he deconstructed the many glaring failures of Arab society, politics and culture.
It became clear that the defeat was not only military, but political and cultural. The defeat was symptomatic of the failure of Arab regimes in creating viable modern, democratic polities free of outmoded political and religious dogmas. A year later, Azm published another devastating tome Critique of Religious Thought which landed him briefly in jail. The book contained a merciless critique of reactionary religious thoughts and how Arab states used religious authorities to manipulate their peoples. The Lebanese government failed in its attempt to charge Al-Azm of inciting sectarianism or banning the book.
In the following years, with the devastation of the civil wars of Lebanon, the Syrian and Israeli occupations, and the rise of sectarianism, Beirut began to lose its liberalism and openness. After Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdi’s book The Satanic Verses , Al-Azm published another critical book titled The Mentality of Prohibition. But this time, the book was sold clandestinely in Beirut.
A Faustian deal
During the heyday of Arab Nationalism, many Arab intellectuals entered into a Faustian deal with the custodians of power in their world. They accepted a deal in which they will not agitate for freedom and democracy, until the Nationalist fought their supposedly historic battles with the forces of Arab reaction, Israeli usurpation and Western imperialism. All the battles were lost, and with them the hopes of freedom and democracy.
Today, the world of millions of Arabs is collapsing; whole societies are consumed by the flames of sectarianism, political fragmentation and economic disenfranchisement. The indefatigable Sadik Al-Azm is still at it, always probing and always deconstructing. He is now part of a smaller minority of such intellectuals, living and writing and publishing mostly in the west. And unless Arab intellectuals and activists engage in a no holds barred debates similar to what happened in Beirut after 1967, in which all their political, cultural and religious inheritance is put to critical inquiry, the Arabs will continue to roam endlessly in a political wilderness of their own making. But if you are looking now for a vibrant debate, about what ails the Arab world today, and if you are searching for a liberal open Arab city for Intellectuals to engage in critical introspection, you will be searching in vain.