April 08/15

Bible Quotation For Today/ Jesus showes himself to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 21/01-14.: "After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you? ’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Bible Quotation For Today/We have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death &we too might walk in newness of life with Him
Letter to the Romans 06/03-11: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 07-08/15
In Syria's war, Alawites pay heavy price for loyalty to Bashar al-Assad/
Ruth Sherlock, Beirut/The Telegraph/April 07/15
France, the West and the Islamist Challenge/Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/April 07/15
Operation Decisive Storm and the P5+1/Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/April 07/15
Obama’s flirtation with Iran raises suspicions/Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/Al Arabiya/April 07/15
Watching and waiting as Syrians talk it out in Moscow/Maria Dubovikova/Al Arabiya/April 07/15
Arab states and the Iran deal - it's complicated/Danny Rubinstein/Ynetnews/April 07/15

Lebanese Related News published on April 07-08/15
Geagea: Strong Republic Requires Decisions to be Limited to the State
Iran and Hezbollah trained Houthis to ‘harm Yemenis’
Nasrallah: Saudi to Suffer Major Defeat in Yemen, War on Syria Has Failed
Official: Israeli fire killed U.N. peacekeeper in January
Hezbollah: Israel is an enemy without compassion
Kerry's Deputy Meets Lebanese Leaders: Hizbullah Actions in Syria Bad for People of Syria, Lebanon
Lebanese Army: 3 jihadis killed in border raid
Report: Aoun Boycotts Bkirki over al-Rahi's Rhetoric
3 More Stranded Truck Drivers Return to Lebanon
Qazzi Calls for Safeguarding Military Institution from Political Chaos
Relatives of Hostage Serviceman Warn of Escalation, Demand Video for Captives
Several Terrorists Dead as Lebanese Troops Raid Jihadist Post Near Syria Border
Ibrahim Says National Security Requires Comprehensive Strategy
Zahle Child Killed in Dog Mauling
Derbas Optimistic on Result of Donors Conference, Throws Weight behind Salam
Detainee attempts escape from custody in Baalbek 
Lebanon man killed fighting alongside Syria rebels 
Tripoli MP bodyguard arrested in north Lebanon 

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 07-08/15
Yemen war: Saudis prevented Russian evacuations by air, bombed Moscow’s spy center in Aden
Erdogan visits Iran despite tensions over Yemen

Obama: Recognition of Israel not part of Iran nuke deal

WHO: More than 540 Dead in Yemen Fighting since March
Pakistan PM Says 'No Hurry' to Decide on Joining Yemen Coalition
Situation in Yarmouk ‘beyond inhumane’: UNRWA 
Rebels kill eight Iran soldiers on Pakistan border
U.S. to defend GCC against any Iranian threat
Iranian hard-liners stage protest against nuclear deal
Iran's Revolutionary Guard chief backs nuclear talks
Iran, US 'irritated' with comments on nuclear deal
US: Iran sanctions phase-out yet to be discussed
Turkey would buy cheaper Iran gas: Erdogan
Fourth man charged in NYC over ISIS recruitment plot
fighters hit by deadly 'flesh-eating' disease
Threat to Saudi security will ‘trigger action’ from Pakistan: PM
Iraqi teams start exhuming mass grave of soldiers in Tikrit
Palestinians eye timetable to 'end occupation'
Now is time for Israel to twist America's arm
Rebels Kill Eight Iran Soldiers on Pakistan Border

Jihad Watch Latest News
UK: Two 17-year-old Muslims go to Syria to join the Islamic State
South Africa: 15-year-old Muslima caught trying to join Islamic State
Maine: Lacrosse coach loses job for criticizing Islam
Robert Spencer, PJM: ‘Some Real Bad Bitches’ Or Loyal Citizens of the Islamic State?
Nigeria: Jihadists preach Islam at mosque, then murder 24
Malaysia: 17 arrested for plotting jihad terror attacks in Kuala Lumpur

Geagea: Strong Republic Requires Decisions to be Limited to the State
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea has stressed that security and strategic decisions should only be made by the Lebanese state to have a strong Republic.“The first and basic condition to have a powerful Republic is to give back the Lebanese state mainly security, military and strategic decisions,” said Geagea in an interview with France 24 that will be broadcast on Tuesday. “We have continuously asked Hizbullah … to hand over its arms to the Lebanese army or else we will remain in a virtual” state, he said. Asked about the vacuum at Baabda Palace, Geagea reiterated that lawmakers who are boycotting parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a new president are to be blamed. A head of state has so far not been elected over lack of quorum, said the presidential candidate in excerpts of the interview published by his press office. The majority of the March 8 alliance MPs, mainly from the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc and the Change and Reform bloc, are boycotting the sessions. Geagea also spoke in the interview about the dialogue between the LF and Free Patriotic Movement. “The speed of the talks is not the same in several of the dialogue's paths,” he said. “There has been some progress in certain issues such as parliamentary cooperation … But some other files such as political issues have seen a slow development,” Geagea told his interviewer. He stressed, however, that “both the FPM and the LF have the full conviction and intention for this dialogue to continue.”The talks between the two rivals' officials are expected to culminate in a meeting between Geagea and FPM chief MP Michel Aoun, who is another presidential candidate.

Iran and Hezbollah trained Houthis to ‘harm Yemenis’
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Tuesday, 7 April 2015
A military spokesman for the Saudi-led “Operation Decisive Storm” said on Tuesday that Iran and Hezbollah have trained Houthi militias to “harm Yemenis.” “We have evidence that Iran trained Houthi militias on operating fighter jets,” Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri told reporters. Asiri said there was “no way for militias to acquire fighter jets,” referring to Iran’s support for the Houthis rebels. The Houthis are targeting civilians and hospitals in Aden, but the situation in the city is “stable” now, the spokesman said. Speaking about humanitarian relief missions in Yemen, Asiri said the coalition had cleared permits allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross ship to enter Aden, adding the coalition was working to ensure the safety of humanitarian missions. An initial ICRC flight transporting medical personnel has reached the Yemeni capital Sanaa, reported AFP on Tuesday. Asiri also said the coalition was communicating with countries that seeked to evacuate their citizens from Yemen. The spokesman reiterated that the coalition remained “vigilant” in order to safeguard civilian lives and infrastructure. “Our principle goal right now is to safeguard Aden,” he said. And the spokesman called on Yemeni army leaders supporting the deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to instead back legitimacy.

3 More Stranded Truck Drivers Return to Lebanon
Naharnet/Three more Lebanese truck drivers crossed to Lebanon on Tuesday after they were stranded on the Syrian-Jordanian border following a rebel seizure of the Syrian side last week.The drivers, who hail from the northern Akkar district, were identified by the state-run National News Agency as Ali Chehade, Youssef al-Mohammed and Abdul Halim Mahmoud Abdullah. NNA said that the fate of a fourth driver, Abdr Ahmed Alwan, remained unknown.His family urged the Lebanese government to make the necessary contacts to bring him back home, the agency added. At least 30 drivers were stranded on the Syrian-Jordanian border's free zone area last Wednesday after they entered the crossing, as a group of rebels, backed by al-Nusra Front, seized control of it following clashes with government forces. The move prompted Amman to close the Nasib crossing, which is the only functioning crossing between Jordan and Syria and is considered a crucial gateway for Syria's government and for Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian traders and merchants.
Around six of the drivers returned to Lebanon on Monday, a day after eight of them came back home.

Relatives of Hostage Serviceman Warn of Escalation, Demand Video for Captives
Naharnet /Brother of captive serviceman Ibrahim Mgheit, Nizam, demanded on Tuesday the state to clarify media reports saying that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) transferred the soldiers and policemen in its captivity to Syria's Riqqa. Mgheit urged the state to clear up the reports, expressing fear over the fate of the men. He called on the state to task negotiators, who are following up the case, with bringing a new video for the servicemen within a week. He also warned that the families will escalate their endeavors if they didn't receive any convincing answer. Al-Binaa newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, reported earlier on Tuesday that soldiers were transferred to al-Riqqa, while the servicemen in the captivity of al-Nusra Front remain on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. In August, extremists from the ISIL and al-Nusra Front overran Arsal where they engaged in brief clashes with the army. They withdrew from Arsal at the end of the fighting, but kidnapped a number of servicemen. A few were released, four were executed, while the rest remain held.The ISIL and al-Nusra Front want to exchange the captives with Islamist prisoners in Lebanon and Syria.

Several Terrorists Dead as Lebanese Troops Raid Jihadist Post Near Syria Border
Naharnet /The Lebanese Army raided on Tuesday a jihadist post on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Ras Baalbek, attacking gunmen and causing casualties among their ranks, the military and the state-run National News Agency said. The Airborne Regiment controlled the strategic post at al-Mukhairmeh hill at dawn, leaving three of them dead and four injured, they said. The operation on the hill that lies 1564 meters above sea level came after the military received “information that terrorist groups were making combat and logistics preparations,” stated the army in its communique. The army units returned to their positions after the operation. There were no casualties among their ranks, said the communique. It added that the attack was in the context of "preventive military operations" to eradicate militant groups and prevent them from infiltrating Lebanon to target army outposts and civilians. The military recently stepped up its security measures along the northeastern border with Syria to stop the infiltration of terrorists entrenched on the porous border. The army also routinely pounds militant positions on the outskirts of the towns of Arsal and Ras Baalbek to repel possible attacks by al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group. The threat of the fighters rose in August last year when they overran Arsal and took hostages from the Lebanese army and police.

Zahle Child Killed in Dog Mauling
Naharnet/A dog has attacked and killed a seven-year-old boy in the eastern city of Zahle, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday. NNA said Michael Dany Kassouha was playing at his father's farm on Monday when the incident took place. His father was cleaning the cage of one of the dogs that they train at the farm when the animal went off his leash and mauled the boy in the head, said NNA. Michael was instantly killed, according to the agency.

Report: Aoun Boycotts Bkirki over al-Rahi's Rhetoric
Naharnet /Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun was absent from the Easter mass that was led by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday amid reports on a rift between the two over the ongoing presidential vacuum. The mass, which was held in Bkirki, was attended by former Presidents Michel Suleiman and Amin Gemayel, who is the head of the Kataeb party. Aoun didn't also visit Bkirki to extend his greetings to al-Rahi like his old-time rival Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who met with the Patriarch at the seat of the Maronite church on Holy Friday. MP Hikmat Deeb, who is loyal to the Change and Reform bloc led by Aoun, denied in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper on Tuesday that the FPM chief is reacting to al-Rahi's statements by boycotting Bkirki. On Monday, al-Rahi expressed regret that the parliament is paralyzed due to the actions of a certain political team. Al-Rahi also denounced in his Easter message on Friday the ongoing vacuum in the presidency, urging political powers to hold the polls and end their boycott of the electoral sessions. “There are no constitutional justifications for the boycott of the elections,” he said, noting that the vacuum has created a “political death” in Lebanon and crippled the government and the parliament. Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor as the ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the polls. Aoun's Change and Reform and Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance blocs have been boycotting the elections, demanding that political powers agree on a compromise presidential candidate.Only few MPs have been attending the sessions. The next electoral session is scheduled for April 22. Meanwhile, Aoun contacted Geagea on Monday night to extend his greetings to him on the occasion of Easter after the LF leader sent the FPM chief a gift with his envoy Melhem Riachi for the same purpose.NNA added that police launched an investigation into the attack.

Lebanese Army: 3 jihadis killed in border raid
The Daily Star/Apr. 07, 2015 /BAALBEK, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army said it killed three jihadis and wounded four others in a border raid at dawn Tuesday on a strategic hill along the border with Syria, which militants frequently used to infiltrate Lebanon. “A Lebanese Army unit carried out at daybreak a swift, qualitative raid on a terrorist group on Mkhairimeh hilltop, killing three terrorists and wounding four after clashing with them [using] all types of weapons,” a military statement said. According to the statement, the operation was conducted after information was made available to the military command that logistical supplies and combat operations were being prepared on the hilltop, which overlooks Wadi Rafeq, where jihadis in the past attempted to infiltrate Lebanon. The Army said it inflicted heavy damage on the militants' weapons and equipment, including the destruction of two cannons, a number of heavy machine guns and other armored vehicles. “The Army force returned to its position without recording any casualties among its ranks,” the statement said.
The statement also said the operation comes as part of preemptive attacks to crack down on militants and prevent them from infiltrating through the hilltops to target Army outposts and attack citizens. Mkhairimeh is opposite Al-Jarash hilltop, which the Lebanese Army seized from militants in a February attack.

Nasrallah: Saudi to Suffer Major Defeat in Yemen, War on Syria Has Failed
Naharnet/07.04.15/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah noted Monday that Saudi Arabia will suffer a “major defeat” in the Yemeni conflict, as he stressed that “the war on Syria” has failed.“Saudi Arabia will suffer a major defeat that will have an impact on its domestic situation and the entire region,” said Nasrallah in an interview on Syria's state-run al-Ikhbariya news channel. He noted that the Saudi-led airstrikes have “miserably failed” to change the situation on the ground in Yemen, pointing out that the Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies are still advancing. “The Yemenis were going to turn their country into a state qualified for being alongside the resistance movements in the region,” said Nasrallah, referring to the Huthis' lightning power grab that preceded the Saudi-led intervention. “The Yemeni people support the Palestinian cause and they were interacting with what's going on in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.Today, there is a Saudi-American aggression against Yemen,” he added. Saudi Arabia began its airstrikes in Yemen on March 25, announcing that it had put together a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi's government. The military move against the Shiite Huthi rebels triggered fury from Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, Hizbullah's main regional ally, with officials in Tehran warning that the military action threatened to spill over into other countries.
Turning to the situation in war-torn Syria, where his party has sent elite fighters to bolster the embattled regime, Nasrallah stressed that “the war on Syria has failed.” Asked whether the conflict in Syria was a religious or political one, Hizbullah's leader -- himself a Shiite Muslim cleric – said “a lot of friendships, alliances, animosities and wars have political motives and objectives but many people take advantage of religion to justify wars.” He also noted that the decision to enter the conflict was taken by Hizbullah's leadership, not by the party's ally Tehran. “We chose to enter the war in Syria. We declared that, mentioned the reasons and joined with our own will,” said Nasrallah. “In Lebanon, we didn't tell our allies in order not to embarrass anyone. After we engaged in the war, I apologized to our friends in Lebanon and told them that they were not consulted so that they don't share the consequences,” he added. “From the very beginning, we knew that our battle in Syria will be long and tough,” he said. Nasrallah also alleged that the popular uprising against the Syrian regime turned into an armed revolt due to a foreign scheme.“It has been said a lot that Syria is being targeted because it is an essential component of the axis of resistance, but this is not the only reason.
“The other reason, which might be more important, is that Syria was a state with an independent decision throughout the past decades ... If we want to find an independent state in the region, Syria is one of the few independent states in the region,” he added. Describing Syria as “an essential country in the region,” Nasrallah said one “cannot speak of the future of the region -- Turkey, Jordan and Iraq -- without Syria.”“Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar launched ties with President Bashar Assad after the death of his father with the aim of usurping the Syrian decision,” noted Nasrallah.
Recalling the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Nasrallah said the fingers were “immediately” pointed at Syria after the assassination as part of a foreign scheme against it. “The assassination was part of the scheme, which was continued through the 2006 war with the aim of destroying the resistance,” added Nasrallah, referring to the devastating summer war between Israel and Hizbullah. “Assad was open to dialogue with all figures when the Syrian revolution started, but when some countries sensed Assad's openness, they launched the armed action,” Nasrallah clarified. He underlined, however, that “the war on Syria has failed.” “As long as the state exists, this means that the war has not succeeded or achieved its real and main objective. The main regions are still under the regime's control, such as the capital and the main cities,” Nasrallah added. “Seizing areas such as Idlib, Raqa, Ghouta or Deir Ezzor will not achieve their objectives,” he went on to say. As for a possible political solution for the bloody conflict, Nasrallah said that “what's needed in Syria is the resilience of the state and the army and keeping the doors open for any political dialogue that serves Syria.”“Any chance for a dialogue with any gathering should not be missed,” he said.

Hezbollah chief: Israel is an enemy that has no compassion

Elior Levy/Ynetnews/Published: 04.06.15/Israel News
Nasrallah says revenge attack for Jihad Mughniyeh's killing, which claimed the lives of 2 IDF soldiers, was meant to show Israel 'the rules of engagement don't apply'.Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah dubbed Israel on Monday as "an enemy that has no compassion in his heart."Most of Nasrallah's interview with Syrian TV station al-Ikhbariya dealt with the civil was raging between President Bashar Assad and rebels trying to oust him, but the Hezbollah leader also discussed the alleged assassination of Jihad Mughniyeh in the Syrian Golan Heights in January, and the organization's revenge attack that claimed the lives of two IDF soldiers. "We wanted to show there's a new situation in which the rules of engagement don't apply," Nasrallah said. "We chose to attack Israel from Lebanon because we wanted to send a message for both our enemies and allies to internalize. The response from Lebanon was important for strategic reasons. Had we reacted from Syria, it would've had less of an impact strategically," he added.
The Hezbollah leader hinted another war between Israel and Hezbollah was in the cards, and warned there will be significant loss of lives: "The nations worthy of living are those willing to make sacrifices."Talking about the civil war in Syria, Nasrallah claimed the fight against Assad failed because the important areas were still under the control of the Syrian regime and its allies.  "The losses we suffered during the war in Syria were expected. The number of casualties being reported by the media is inflated. He said Hezbollah chose to interfere in the Syrian civil war, and was not dragged into it. According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah knew the war would be long and tough before entering it, unlike many who believed this would be an uprising that could quickly bring Assad down. "Hezbollah is not making independent decisions in the war there," he said. "The military decisions in Syria are Syrian decisions, we're just aiding. The military commanders consult with us, but the decision is eventually theirs."

Sayyed Nasrallah: Saudi Opposes Iran because It Is Hostile to Israel
Source: Al-Manar Website
06-04-2015 - 21:26 Last updated 07-04-2015
Local Editor
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan NasrallahHezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stressed on Monday that the conflict in the region is purely political, yet the religious differences are being used and exploited in such regional battles, in contrary to the righteous struggle that Hezbollah is fighting against the Zionist enemy. During an interview aired live on the Syrian al-Ekhbariya channel, Sayyed Nasrallah recalled the Arab and Saudi relations with the ousted Iranian President Shah Mohammad Reda Bahlawi that was excellent because he was their ally under the US rule despite that he was Shiite.
"When the Islamic revolution went off, and the ties with the United States and Israel were cut, a new rhetoric emerged," his eminence stated, noting that Hezbollah has no problem with the Jews, "but with the Zionists who occupied our land."
On Syria, Sayyed Nasrallah reiterated that getting involved in the war was a pure choice of Hezbollah alone, and that the party can shoulder the full responsibility for his decision.
"From the very beginning, we anticipated that the war in Syria will be long and harsh... because a huge battle was being prepared."
His eminence explained that the reasons behind targeting Syria are not only due to its support for the resistance, but also because it has been an independent state during the last decades by making its own decisions and planning its strategy.
"Syria is also a central state in the region, and no one can set the future of the region aside from Syria or from the Syrian will," Sayyed Nasrallah said, noting that the western camp thought President Bashar al-Assad was in need to their support and relations in order to strengthen his legitimacy following the demise of his father, and thus they tried to confiscate the Syrian will.
"Assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri had set the scenario to accuse Syria, and Syria was obliged to withdraw from Lebanon, but it didn't submit (to the western will)," Sayyed Nasrallah said, adding that following the Zionist July 2006 war on Lebanon, the western camp tried to communicate with Assad but he refused to submit to anyone.
"For these reasons, the desire to seize control over Syria or to destroy it has emerged. The battle in Syria is the battle of resistance and of Syria's independence," he said.
Hezbollah Secretary General stated that al-Qaeda terrorist organization came to Syria in order to control it and to extend its control over the region and over Yemen.
"Since the first day, Assad was ready to answer the rightful popular demands and for dialogue. When they (western camp) realized that, they pressed towards the wide military action."
"They didn't want to serve the interests of the Syrian people, but rather to topple the regime because it is resistant and independent, and because they want to dominate over Syria and turn it back to a country that has nothing to do with all regional events," his eminence reiterated, stressing that war on Syria has failed since the state and its sovereignty still exist.
"War on Syria has failed due to the steadfastness of the leadership and army, and the wide popular support."
His eminence said that there weren't in Syria anyone who wanted to go to dialogue, and most of the opposition parties are linked to foreign powers.
"The catastrophe was when ISIL (an acronym of the so-called 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant') and al-Nusra Front emerged. Are ISIL and al-Nusra ready for dialogue? Is ISIL ideology that of dialogue?" Sayyed Nasrallah asked.
"ISIL and al-Nusra are the same but only the names are different," he said.
Hezbollah Secretary General lashed out at those who claim that Hezbollah is occupying Syria, stating that "all the Lebanese people can't occupy Syria. This talk is nonsense and aims at underestimating Syria and its role."

"Those who promote for this idea seek to legitimize their support for the armed groups," he added, underlying that domestic decisions are purely Syrian and foreign policy is purely Syrian, and the Iranian leadership insists on respecting this sovereignty.
On Hezbollah, Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized that the party is neither a regional power nor a regular army, but a resistance movement who has certain personnel and capabilities, yet he might have qualitative influence in some arenas, particularly in fighting guerilla wars.
"We are present in Syria as required, and we will deploy where we should deploy, without any political or non-political considerations."
"Qalamoun battle is a joint Syria-Lebanese requirement, and we have the capability to be where it is required," he said, elaborating that sometimes Hezbollah participates militarily, and others by advice and consultation.
Answering a question on why Hezbollah responded from South Lebanon to the Zionist brutal air strike that targeted a Hezbollah convoy in Syria's Quneitra in January, Sayyed Nasrallah stated that Hezbollah wanted to deliver a message that both the enemy and the friend had understood, "and if we responded from Syria, the strategic value of the response would be lesser."
Addressing the Saudi war on Yemen, Sayyed Nasrallah stated that Saudi Arabia wants to regain its dominance over Yemen, and every talk about the Iranian dominance over Yemen is untrue, but the Yemenis were seeking to turn their country into an independent one that supports the regional causes and the resistance movements.
A coalition of 10 countries, led by the Saudi Arabia, launched two weeks ago a wide military offensive on Yemen, killing 20 civilians in one attack, wounding scores others and causing so much destruction.
Media outlets reported that Saudi Arabia has deployed "100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units" for the military campaign against Yemen. It also sent 5000 takfiri terrorists to fight against the Yemeni army.
Hezbollah Secretary General explained that the war on Yemen was the result of seeking freedom:
"Freedom from the Saudi domination means freedom from the US domination. Yemen has a strategic location. Aggression on Yemen is a Saudi-US onslaught and the Israelis are afraid of raising 'Down with Israel' slogans in Yemen."
Sayyed Nasrallah approved on the US President Barack Obama statement about the Gulf states who oppose the nuclear deal with Iran, stating that the problem of Gulf countries are not with Iran but with the youth who are raised upon the ISIL ideology which reflects the Wahhabi doctrine.
Obama said in an interview on Sunday that Gulf states face a greater threat from within their own countries than from outside forces such as Iran.
"Lately, the Saudi Arabia was paying funds in more than a state, taking advantage of its money, media, and clerics who are issuing fatwas (a religious rule)."
"In all its proxy wars in the region, Saudi Arabia has failed. However in Yemen, the country which forced the Saudi to engage directly in this war, the internal forces for whom it is used to pay are not able to do anything."
Sayyed Nasrallah urged the Saudi Arabia to end its aggression on Yemen and to leave the Yemeni people to go to dialogue, indicating that the Ansarullah group has agreed to hold the national dialogue in any neutral state.
Touching on the Pakistani position on war on Yemen, Sayyed Nasrallah said that it is a result of the Saudi funds and political pressure, even though the Pakistanis know that Saudi Arabia has exported al-Qaeda and Taliban to their country.
He expressed beliefs that Turkey is reviewing its strategy in the region due to its failure in Syria, Egypt and Libya, stating that Ankara seeks to rearrange ties with the Saudi Arabia, but ruling out the Turkish military participation in war on Yemen.
"None of the aerial assault goals has been achieved so far, which proves the great Saudi-US failure. The only achievement was getting the vast majority of their people against the attack," he said, adding that another achievement was offering support for ISIL and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula takfiri groups, even though they pose a major threat against the Saudi security.
"People in Yemen demand (that army and popular committees) enter Saudi territories, but the command still didn't make the decision... Battlefield command in Yemen hasn't decided yet to close Bab al-Mandeb strait or to target goals inside the Saudi Arabia in spite of having the ability to do so," Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah leader stressed that the US and the Zionist entity want to destroy the Yemeni military because they do not want to see a powerful army in the region, reiterating his expectations about the Saudi failure which will have repercussions on the kingdom itself, on its emirs and kings, and on the region.
Turning to the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 group, Sayyed Nasrallah voiced that the agreement boosts the Iranian role in the Middle East and will not lead to any pressure over its allies.
Addressing the main cause of Hezbollah, Secretary General stressed that "Palestine is not lost even though they (US, the Zionist entity, and allies in the region) are working on it. Some people have the right to worry and I accuse the majority of the Arab regimes of working for decades on that. They were embarrassed by the Palestinian people who have made enormous sacrifices, and they want that current events eliminate Palestine, but this will never happen because it is linked to the choices of the alive Palestinian people."
"Resistance movements will never abandon Palestine and Syria will never abandon Palestine even if it has some blame on certain factions," Sayyed Nasrallah said, stressing that the party is keen to have good ties with most of the Palestinian factions, and all differences in points of view can be solved through dialogue.
Hezbollah head said that his party does not claim the power to launch a war on the Zionist entity or to liberate Palestine: "We are realistic, we are confronting with a force, but we are different from others who have given up."
Moreover, Sayyed Nasrallah called on the Syrian people to understand the events that took place in the recent years and to avoid being affected by the psychological warfare.
"You are required to withstand and to have confidence in the coming victory. You have to believe in dialogue and to respect the head of the state, i.e. President Bashar al-Assad," Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah concluded.

Operation Decisive Storm and the P5+1
Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
If I had been writing this article about the Iranian agreement with the P5+1 group and Operation Decisive Storm had not been launched, I would have written a frustrating article expressing a depressed Saudi opinion. It would perhaps have a submissive tone accepting a fait accompli, or anger at our weakness resulting from the confusion of priorities whereby instead of focusing on real threats, we got occupied with silly disputes.
However, I write this piece as I listen to Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri, the spokesman of the Saudi armed forces that are leading Operation Decisive Storm, whose aim is to restrain Iran in the region. “If there are Iranian or Hezbollah consultants with the Houthis, they’ll suffer the same fate” as the latter, Asiri said.
Iranian expansion threatens our local and regional security, changes our identity via power and intimidation, and conflicts with the region’s aspirations for peace, freedom, and the right to make choices
As such, there is no place in Yemen for Iranian consultants or other militias affiliated with Iran that kill, intimidate and impose their religious visions on the Arab nation. Therefore, I am no longer particularly interested if the Americans, Europeans and Iran reach an agreement that grants the latter the right to resume its “peaceful” nuclear program, and totally or partially lifts sanctions.
What worries me as a Saudi citizen is Iranian expansion, which threatens our local and regional security, changes our identity via power and intimidation, and conflicts with the region’s aspirations for peace, freedom, and the right to make choices. Iran failed at all the principles that its Islamic revolution announced, such as standing up for the weak, Islamic unity and freedom.
In Syria, they have taken the side of a dictator. In Iraq, they are biased toward certain parties on a sectarian basis. In Yemen, they planned a coup that forcefully imposes one party on the entire Yemeni people.
What is painful is that for a whole decade, the Iranians seemed to be heading from one success to another. The world admires successful parties even if it does not like them. This is how the comments of some American political analysts seemed like as they called for turning a new page with Iran. It is a rising power that can be counted on in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and terrorism, and in restoring regional stability.
There are still Americans who view the region on the basis of two perspectives: oil and Israeli security. These two aspects are what activated negotiations with the Iranians in Geneva and then in Lausanne. They think lifting sanctions will turn Iran into an economic partner. American companies are excited as they read about economic opportunities post-sanctions.
As for Israel, the conditions that Washington will set on the Iranian nuclear program are enough to make it peaceful. The Israeli and American military option still stands if it is proven to them that Iran is resuming a secret plan to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Experts agree that Iran has enough knowledge and technology in this field.
The Americans thus ask the question of where will Arabs - including the people of the Gulf - go, as they have no other choice but to accept the fait accompli and continue exporting more oil and buying more arms!
Ignoring concerns
The Americans have ignored all reasons behind Saudi worries over Iranian expansion. They dealt with us on the logic of: “These are your old sectarian problems which you couldn’t resolve for 1,000 years, so don’t occupy us with them.” They did not seriously consider all the Iranian violations of international law and good neighborliness.
They did not care about Iranian infiltration of Iraqi security apparatuses, whereby the latter have become directly run by Tehran. They did not care about the entrance of thousands of Iranians, and of sectarian militias that Iran brought from everywhere to Syria to kill people who demand freedom and salvation from dictatorship.
The Americans did not act to prevent Hezbollah from sending its men and arms to Syria. Hezbollah cannot, under any legal definition, be a military power outside the authority of the Lebanese state. They did not stop a single Iranian plane carrying the most modern weapons to Syria, despite agreeing with the United Nations about the importance of an arms ban.
The same applies to Yemen, as Iranian ships transfer arms and jets fly to Sanaa to drop off consultants, trainers, and perhaps more Shiite extremists who mastered the art of sectarian murder in Iraq and Syria.
Washington knows that all this threatens the national security of its ally Saudi Arabia, but it simply settled for withdrawing its soldiers from Al-Anad base, which is close to Aden, after it seemed that the Houthis were about to seize it. The Americans simply walked away, surprising us with their indifference.
Some two years ago, I was in Istanbul to participate in a World Economic Forum session on regional security threats. I said the United States was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands in Syria just as much as Russia and China, who have used their veto power in the U.N. Security Council to prevent intervention there.
I added that Washington prevents Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar from providing the Syrian opposition with advanced arms such as thermal rockets. Such weapons could have limited the capabilities of the Syrian air force, which has shelled civilians in liberated zones to punish them, for no military purpose whatsoever.
My statements seemed to annoy an American researcher who specializes in defense affairs and is supposedly a friend of Saudi Arabia. He said sharply: “You have F16 jets and your aerial weapons are much stronger than the Syrian air force, so why don’t you take the initiative?
I sorely kept silent because I thought we could not take the initiative without international - particularly American - cover. Back then, I obtained information confirming American prevention of Saudi Arabia and Qatar from sending MANPAD thermal rockets to Syrian rebels, weapons that would have changed the balance of power and saved many lives.
It is clear that this incapability is news linked to the abysmal past, as Operation Decisive Storm has in just 10 days pushed the entire region to a different, more progressive future. Therefore, it is no longer important if a deal is signed with Iran. What matters is that Saudi Arabia restored control of itself and the region, and is heading toward two important plans.
The first is to completely pull the rug from under Iran in the Arab space. Second, a well-informed source confirmed to me that Riyadh’s policy regarding nuclear energy will be completely different after the West signs a deal with Iran, and that everything it will attain from superpowers – such as facilities, techniques, and the allowed amount of uranium enrichment and centrifuges – will be viewed by the kingdom as its right.
It is a balance of power that guarantees peace via the follies of an adventurer who wants to reformulate history and geography.

Obama’s flirtation with Iran raises suspicions
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
Evidence is mounting that the Obama White House cannot be trusted to preserve the interests of Gulf States or their Arab allies. Were an Arab country perceived to be hostile to the U.S. or the international community, it would be attacked without hesitation. On the other hand, this administration is treating its favorite enemy with a silk glove instead of the iron fist it deserves. This sure feels like a pro-Iranian administration.
U.S.-prompted negotiations with Tehran to limit its nuclear enrichment program have borne fruit. Both sides have displayed exceptional commitment and now a nuclear framework agreement has been agreed. It’s easy to understand Iran’s willingness to make concessions when sanctions have bit hard. But why the Obama administration has made supreme efforts to shake hands with America’s long-time foe is perplexing.
U.S. Secretary-of-State John Kerry behaves as though he’s on his life’s mission, even as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei still calls “Death to America” while negotiations are underway. Far from being perturbed, Kerry is seen linking arms with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Zarif, as though he’s reuniting with an old school pal.
We are Iran’s neighbors in the potential firing line, not the U.S. or the Europeans
Added to this love-fest was a video greeting from Obama to the Iranian people on the occasion of the Persian New Year. Iran should seize this moment marking “a new chapter in the history of Iran and its role in the world,” he urged. It’s not so much Iran’s “role in the world” I’m concerned about but rather its energized role in the Middle East region with a view to recreating a new Persian Empire.
Then, last month, both Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah it supports were mysteriously omitted from the U.S. National Intelligence terrorism threat report - and this at a time when Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah fighters are hand-in-glove with the Assad regime in Syria and while Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi militias are on the rampage in Yemen!
Most astonishing of all is the news that U.S. airpower is currently giving cover to an Iranian-led assault on Iraq’s Sunni heartland Tikrit to rid the city of ISIS terrorists. “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart nailed this anomaly on the head, saying, “Iran is…I don’t want to say our ally, let’s go with battle buddy.” It was a battle directed on the ground by Iran’s Quds Force commander General Qassem Suleimani, said by The Guardian newspaper to be “secretly running Iraq” in the eyes of many Iraqis at least.
I find it extraordinary that President Barack Obama is bulldozing ahead seemingly unfazed by the legitimate concerns of America’s friends in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is practically tearing his hair out trying to prevent what he terms “a bad deal,” which, he says, should be conditional upon Iran changing its aggressive behavior. While I have no love for the Israeli prime minister, in an accident of fate, Israel and Sunni Arab states find themselves on the same page vis-à-vis the Iran threat.
Supporting sides
Netanyahu does enjoy support from some members of Congress; a few are coming up with extreme solutions. Senator John McCain, for instance, is openly advising Israel “to go rogue” – to bomb Iran and force the U.S. to come to its defense. The letter signed by 47 Republican senators warning that President Obama’s term is drawing to an end and, moreover, any agreement signed without Congressional backing could be ripped-up by his successor, further evidences Republican discontent.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies are similarly piqued that they’ve been left out of the loop on the details of this potential détente. The Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal recently spelled out the Kingdom’s stance: “It is impossible to give Iran deals it does not deserve,” while accusing Iran of conducting “aggressive policies, and interfering in the countries of the region…”
In response, Obama has launched a charm offensive to persuade the GCC to come on board. He called the Saudi monarch King Salman bin Abulaziz,and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to invite GCC leaders to discuss the deal with Iran at an upcoming Camp David Summit. This invitation should have been forthcoming before the preliminary negotiations were finalized, not after the fact.
We are Iran’s neighbors in the potential firing line, not the U.S. or the Europeans. If they were truly our allies, they should have prioritized our demands; beginning with the West’s recognition of the term Arabian Gulf, instead of the Persian Gulf, when the coastlines of Arab States cover 80 percent more area than Iran’s. The GCC is being treated as an afterthought instead of a main player and partner, which is not only insulting but dangerous.
Should the GCC leaders accept Obama’s invitation, I would urge them to show a united front by appointing just one head-of-state to represent all at Camp David. I reject the idea that the U.S. President can just click his fingers; our kings, emirs, sheikhs and Sultan are not at his beck and call. Moreover, whatever approach the GCC decides to take to protect our interests, its resolve should be absolute and immovable. While it’s my hope that Congress succeeds in blocking this foolishness, if that doesn’t happen, we should be given the right to appoint our own Arab weapons inspectors to observe the work of the nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.
What’s really happening?
So, let’s analyses what’s really happening.
The Obama administration is ready and willing to seriously antagonize not only Israel, but also its major Arab allies, as well as a significant chunk of Congress, in order to conclude a pact that would leave Iran a threshold nuclear weapons state in ten years, when the agreement is set to expire. On a cost/benefit analysis, the U.S. has more to lose than it has to gain. Could we be missing something here?
When the pieces of the puzzle are fitted together, a picture emerges giving credence to what was once mere speculation – the idea that a geopolitical “Grand Bargain” is being cemented to the detriment of predominantly Sunni States, which President Obama is throwing under a bus, one by one.
If George W. Bush handed Iraq to Iran, Obama has gift-wrapped it with a pretty bow. It’s the same story with Syria. U.S. assistance to the largely Sunni opposition is starting to look like a major bluff when, just last month, John Kerry announced that he would be willing to talk face-to-face with Assad. Until recently, the White House almost treated Egypt, battling terrorism in its cities and on the Sinai Peninsula, as a pariah state, while continuing to cuddle the Muslim Brotherhood.
It’s no secret that during the start of Obama’s presidential journey, sections of the U.S. media were raising the possibility that President Obama, whose Kenyan father and Indonesian stepfather were both Muslims, might not be a Christian. Well, a few days ago, I watched a guest on an Arab television station argue that the U.S. president is secretly a Shiite. I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but what I would say is that the White House’s Middle East policies look like they’ve been lifted straight out of the ayatollahs’ playbook.
We are used to dealing with administrations that are more respectful to their Arab allies, while this administration is headed by individuals, such as John Kerry and Vice-President Joe Biden, who’ve both been defending Iran’s case for decades. Obama pledged to talk to the Iranians when he was still on the campaign trail so it’s perhaps natural that the president would select like-minded senior figures.
The president’s faith is not at issue. Islam respects Christians and Jews as the People of the Book. And please do not mistake my words as an attack on Shiite Arabs; they are our brothers who share the same home. My criticism is reserved for individuals with allegiance to trumped-up human beings in Qom and especially those who connive to topple our governments.
The bottom line is that Arab leaderships must be alert to plots and should use their best endeavors to seek political and military independence, along with new alliances. A Joint Arab Force, currently under discussion, is a good first step when our security and territorial integrity is under threat from a terrorist-supporting would-be hegemonic power that gets a White House red carpet roll-out.

Watching and waiting as Syrians talk it out in Moscow
Maria Dubovikova/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
The second round of the intra-Syrian talks started this Monday in Moscow. The first round took place in January and according to the press conferences that followed that four-day meeting, it left rather positive impressions and gave some hope that change was afoot.
However, the limited nature of the Syrian opposition representation during the talks, both during Moscow-I (January, 2015) and Moscow-II (April, 2015), doesn’t give us hope for a true breakthrough. Furthermore, no concrete results and agreements should be expected from these talks, as the main aim of the Moscow talks is not to find a solution but to make the sides talk and to lay the ground for the internal, intra-Syrian negotiations to bear fruit on home ground in the future.
The current negotiations are also moderated by the famous, internationally respected, Russian orientalist Vitaly Naumkin, who successfully performed as a moderator during the January session of the talks. The current meeting unites the official Damascus representatives and the Syrian opposition representatives together around the negotiation table. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) won’t attend the new round of talks, thus they are continuing to ignore Moscow’s initiative.
The limited nature of the Syrian opposition representation during the talks doesn’t give us hope for a true breakthrough
However, the Russian authorities claim to be in stable, regular contact with the SNC. The participants are practically the same as they were in January.
Inclusive peace process
Following tradition, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet the participants, and will apparently call for an inclusive peace process and expand on the importance of settling the conflict for Syrian and regional security in a meeting that is to be held behind closed doors.
The sealed off nature of this round of talks seems to show that they are not all about serving Russia’s geological goals.
Before the talks, the Syrian regime liberated 650 prisoners between March 25-27, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It should be reminded that the problem of political prisoners had been raised by opposition leaders during the previous talks, and it is raised now by the opposition participants. Damascus representatives are forced to discuss these issues, but with little enthusiasm.
The preparation process was not without unreasoned maneuvers from Damascus as well. It didn’t lift a travel ban for Louaya Hussein, a key activist in Syria’s opposition. Russian authorities appeared to be powerless to bring Louaya Hussein to the round-table in Moscow. This short-sighted position and such obstacles, minor enough at first sight, created by the Syrian regime don’t contribute to the negotiation process and the national dialogue, but on the contrary, impede it and defer the possibility of a broad peace process.
Humanitarian issues
It is remarkable that while the previous round was trying firstly to help the opposition to elaborate the common principles and to launch their direct talks with the government forces, these talks will be focused on humanitarian issues.
Over 220, 000 people have been killed in the conflict since early 2011. Over 10 million people are displaced. According to the UNICEF data, at least seven million Syrian children (including nearly two million registered children refugees) had been substantially affected by the conflict. There is a huge problem with humanitarian assistance and it is currently insufficient. All these issues pale in comparison to the march of ISIS.
The responsibility for this collapse lies upon the shoulders of both the government and the opposition forces, as they appeared to be incapable of negotiating and preventing the civil war in the early stages of the conflict. The international players that took sides in the internal conflict have also played a role, and have been fueling the conflict with arms instead of pushing the sides to dialogue.
It is too late to settle the conflict for more than 220,000 people. All these lives are lost, forever pulverized in the mills of war. But there is still time for the conflict to be settled for millions of Syrians who continue to live through the war.
The Moscow talks would be a long process and it’s quite obvious that some more rounds will be needed before the sides are ready to talk to each other without moderators and mediators.
The philosophy of the current talks and of the needed negotiation process was nicely formulated by Randa Kassis, president of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, who said: “We won’t get to a political transition without slowly giving and taking.” Don’t expect remarkable successes. Expect dialogue. Now this is the most important and needed thing we should be on the lookout for.

Arab states and the Iran deal - it's complicated
Danny Rubinstein/Ynetnews/Published: 4.07.15/ Israel Opinion
In the battle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, Israel only has a secondary role to play.
At first glance it seems the Arab world in general firmly opposes the framework deal that was signed with Iran last week. It is easy to see why: Shiite Iran aspires to be a regional power that rules over the Persian Gulf, thereby undermining the hegemony of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
In other words, the center of tension in the Middle East is the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and any thaw in US-Iran ties is a threat against the Sunni Islam states, headed by the Saudis. “The deal is a disaster,” a Saudi spokesman said last week.
However things are not as simple as they appear at first glance. Firstly, the Arab media is very much controlled by Saudi money. Newspapers such as the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat as well as the prominent Al Arabiya News TV channel have fiercely criticized the deal. “We have made a grave mistake for not demanding to participate in the negotiations,” wrote Arab journalist Salman al-Dorsi, who claims, like many, that the US-Iran deal will be at the expense of the Saudis and the Arabs.
If we take Saudi Arabia out of the equation, the rest of the Arab world is not as hysterical. Iran’s ally Syria supports the deal. So does Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Jordanians are not overly upset as well. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh even visited Tehran last week. Egypt is more cautious. The Egyptians have other concerns regarding the Islamic State's terrorism and other zealous factions such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. Iran is fighting those groups in Syria and Iraq so from this perspective Iran and Egypt are allies. Jordan and Lebanon are also more worried by the Sunni extremists than by Iran.
And the Americans? Which side do they support in the fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran? When the former editor-in-chief Herbert Pundik of the Danish daily Politiken was asked that question he answered: “The Americans are doing what is good for the Americans.” Apparently he is right. On one front –Yemen – the US is aiding Saudi and its allies against the Shiite Huthis, thus operating against Iran. But on the other front – the Syrian front – the US is helping Iran in the war against the Muslim zealots that are being supported by the Saudis.
In light of the concern and panic, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Riyadh and tried to reassure Gulf foreign ministers about the framework agreement with Iran. According to at least one source, the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, the possibility of the US offering a nuclear umbrella for the Gulf was considered in the meeting. Whether this report is true or not, it is clear that Saudi’s King Salman has his diplomatic response to the Iran deal ready.
He invited Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for a discussion on how nuclear Pakistan could help in the development of a potentially nuclear Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have even considered buying weapons from Russia – a move that the US regards as a provocation. King Salman also tried to reconcile with Egypt and Turkey in order to create a united Sunni front.
The picture emerging from US foreign policy in the region is an attempt to create some sort of balance between the Saudis and their Gulf partners, and Iran and its partners in Syria and Iraq. Such a balance would allow the Americans to work between the two blocs in a way that would prevent escalation in the region. In the long run, it is more likely that Iran will come out on top.
Iran has a large middle class with a satisfactory level of education. It holds elections and its society is dynamic with aspirations for modernization that can in the future bring about the downfall of the ayatollahs' regime and the rise of a more open and progressive regime. The rulers of the Saudi and Gulf states have one goal in mind: hold on to the monarchy and the huge oil profit.
In this picture Israel does indeed have a secondary role. The Iranian declarations regarding its intention to destroy Israel are not necessarily due to a Muslim ideological stance, but are rather an attempt to create sympathy for Iran among the Arab states that are hostile towards Israel. If Israel manages to secure a peace accord with the Palestinians and the Arab world, it is highly likely that Iran’s stance against it will soften. Danny Rubinstein lectures on Arab issues at Ben-Gurion University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a columnist on Palestinian economic issues at Ynet's sister publication Calcalist.

Rebels Kill Eight Iran Soldiers on Pakistan Border
Naharnet /Eight Iranian border guards have been killed in a clash with Sunni rebels who had infiltrated from neighboring Pakistan, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. "Armed terrorists entered Iran from Pakistan and clashed with border guards, killing eight soldiers before fleeing back to Pakistan," Ali Asghar Mirshekari, deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, told the news agency. The southeastern province has a large Sunni Muslim community and has seen repeated attacks by militants on the security forces of mainly Shiite Iran. Sunni militant group Jaish-ul Adl (Army of Justice) said its fighters carried out the incursion in Negur district on Monday night, Iranian media reported. The clash was the deadliest since October 2013 when 14 border guards were killed in an attack also claimed by Jaish-ul Adl. Mirshekari urged Pakistani officials to "arrest the terrorists and hand them over to Iran to prevent Pakistan from becoming a parade ground for terrorists." There have been repeated deadly clashes in the border area. Three Iranian soldiers were killed in an ambush in December and three more in an attack in the town of Saravan in October. Earlier on Monday, ground forces of the elite Revolutionary Guards killed three suspected militants and wounded two in an operation in two towns north of Negur, their commander said. "On Monday morning, a terrorist group affiliated with foreign intelligence services was disbanded by the Guards ground forces in Qasr Qand and Nikshahr towns," General Mohammad Pakpour said in a statement, adding that multiple arrests were made.
The security forces have also come under attack near Iran's western border with Iraq, another region with a significant Sunni community. Eight security personnel have been killed in the region since the Persian new year on March 21, the Fars news agency quoted deputy police chief for social affairs Brigadier General Saeid Montazer-al-Mahdi as saying on Tuesday. "Five border guards in Sumar, Kermanshah province and also three police officers in Hamidieh, Khuzestan province have been killed," Montazer-al-Mahdi said. Police made several arrests on Monday in connection with the Hamidieh attack, he added. In Sistan-Baluchistan, security forces also clash frequently with drug traffickers. The province lies on a major transit route for opium and heroin being smuggled from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Iran has spent millions of dollars building a wall along its 1,800-kilometer (1,050-mile) border with Afghanistan and Pakistan in a bid to prevent infiltration. Work on the barrier began in the 1990s and is expected to be completed before the end of the year, officials have said. SourceAgence France Presse

France, the West and the Islamist Challenge
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute
April 7, 2015
Even in poor countries that become breeding grounds for Islamic terror, the funds needed always come from richer Muslim nations. What we are facing is not a revolt of the poor.
What matters is what you are taught, where and by whom and for what purpose. Many jihadists are taught a vision of the world and the place of Islam in it that is bound to lead to conflict, violence, terror and ultimately war.
Non-Western cultures have no doubt that they are the best... it is only Western civilization that regards self-criticism as an almost sacred duty. In a civilization built on critical, and self-critical, thinking, we are invited to practice censorship and self-censorship. If danger there is, it comes from those who wish to silence such voices in the name of multiculturalism and "respect for the other."
The adepts of political correctness in the West measure everyone's worth with the degree of his or her victimhood.
The problem was misguided Islamophilia not bigoted Islamophobia. Islamophilia is often mixed with anti-Americanism, blaming America for whatever goes wrong under the sun.
The Imperialism of guilt blames the West, especially America, for everything, and denies "the other" any credit, even for his own mistakes. Every year a group of Americans travels to Jerusalem to meet Arabs and apologize to them for "the Crusades." The fact that at the time of the Crusades the U.S. did not even exist is conveniently forgotten, as is that Arabs at best played second fiddle in the Crusades, which was mostly the affair of Turks, Kurds and Mamelukes.
That ideology [Islam] is aimed at world conquest. Islam seldom tried to convert people by force, but always insisted on control of territory and imposing its values and its rule. The next step is to cleanse the area of "pockets of kufr [infidels]," such as cinemas, cafes serving alcohol, and book and music shops offering non-Islamic material. This is what the "brethren" do in the suburbs of Paris.
Jihadist movements did not come into being in reaction to American "imperialism" or Zionism.
There are those who insist that Islam is a religion of peace. There is no word for peace in Arabic. There is "silm," which means submission. They ignore the fact that Islam will be a religion of peace only after it has seized control of the entire world.
The sad fact is that Islam cannot be reformed, if only because it lacks a recognized authority capable of proposing, let alone imposing, reform. Today, the bulk of Islamic energies are devoted to political issues, with theological work not even getting a stool at the high table.
What France and the West in general face today is a war waged by part of Islam against the democratic world. The silly slogan, "this has no military solution," is based on a denial of the reality that Western democracies are being attacked in a multifaceted war. The only question that really matters in a state of war is: Are you with us or against us? The unwillingness of Western democracies to agree on an analysis of the situation enables opportunist Muslim powers by tolerating the terrorists.
Three months after the Islamic terror attacks in Paris, France is still grappling with the diagnosis of what happened and remains uncertain on how to cope with what everyone agrees could be a long-term threat to French freedom and security.
There is disagreement, even at the highest levels of state, on the designation of the terrorists who carried out the attacks.
While France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls has spoken of Islamic fascism and announced that France was at war with "terrorism, jihadism and Islamist radicalism," its President, François Hollande, has insisted that "the events had nothing to do with Islam." Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has gone even further by claiming that the men responsible for the carnage belonged to no religion at all. They were simply "men without faith."
The phrase "this had nothing to do with Islam" is found everywhere, a mantra for those who say they are concerned about pouring oil on fire.
That inability and/or unwillingness to decide who the adversary is has affected the debate on the origins of the threat and ways of dealing with it.
Poverty and Terror
As usual, some analysts have blamed "society," an all-purpose abstraction that is supposed to be capable of both good and evil, for the evil deeds of the men who carried out the attacks. Thus we are treated to a litany of woes about how French society had forced the would-be terrorists into a life of poverty, which presumably made terrorism an attractive, if not the only, option for them.
The fact that none of the men involved was especially poor and that, in a welfare society such as France, violence is not the only way out of poverty, is conveniently ignored.
In reality, Islamist terrorism in its latest manifestations is not a product of poor Muslim countries or poor Muslim communities in non-Muslim nations. In the past 40 years or so, Islamist terror has come from fairly wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Algeria and Nigeria, more than poverty-stricken nations such as Bangladesh, Mauritania or Sierra Leone. Even in poor countries that became breeding grounds for Islamist terror, countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and more recently, Yemen, Mali and Niger, the funds needed for creating and operating terrorist networks -- the training and financing necessary and the theological-political guidance -- always come from richer Muslim nations.
In the past two years, thousands of volunteers for jihad from rich European countries, as well as the United States, Canada, Russia, China and Japan, have joined various Islamist terror outfits including the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Ansar al-Allah (Helpers of God) in Yemen, among other groups.
In its early form, Al Qaeda was created with seed money from several oil-rich Arab states to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. When those states stopped the flow of funds in the 1990s, a number of wealthy Arab families, often operating in the guise of Islamic charities, stepped in to keep the wheels of jihad lubricated.
Today, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria and, of course, Islamic State (Da'esh in Arabic) are better funded than some small developing nations. Recent footage from Raqqah, capital of the Islamic Caliphate in Syria, reveals a city flush with money. The jihadis go around in the latest 4-wheel-drive gas-guzzlers manufactured in "Satanic" lands. The Caliph who has just renamed himself Abubakar Hussein al-Hashemi himself drives a bullet-proof Mercedes 600 and, when in public, likes to show off his $25,000 Swiss gold watch.
Thus, the claim that poverty causes terrorism is a moot point at best. What we are facing is not a revolt of the poor but a movement that attracts relatively well-to-do individuals from all over the world. After all, to reach the area controlled by the Caliphate, one would need cash to buy airline tickets to Turkey and then hire a taxi for a 200 mile drive south to Raqqah.
Failure of Education
The second diagnostic, that the terrorists represented a failure of the education system, is equally open to debate. The men who carried out the Paris massacres had all benefited from an educational system that many French boast about as the best in the world. They had obtained their "Bacs" and could also have proceeded to secure university education had they so wished.
More broadly, the current international jihad movement is not an affair of uneducated individuals. Members of the top echelon of the Islamic State all have higher education, as do the leaders of various Al Qaeda franchises in North Africa and Yemen. All the top five theoreticians of Da'esh have the equivalent of PhDs from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, reputed to be the most exclusive center for Sunni Islamic theological education.
There are more PhDs, often from U.S. universities, in President Hassan Rouhani's administration in Tehran than in that of President Barack Obama in Washington. And, yet, the Rouhani administration, claiming a duty to "export revolution," is the principal supporter of a variety of Islamist terror groups, including branches of Hezbollah, the Ansar Allah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
In any event, no education is ever neutral. What matters is what you are taught, where, by whom and for what purpose. Many jihadists do attend Islamic madrassahs to complement and counter-balance their education in schools they do not consider halal. They are taught a vision of the world and the place of Islam in it that is bound to lead to conflict, violence, terror and ultimately war.
"Crusader-Zionist" Claim
Another suggested explanation of why terrorists did what they did is based on the classical claim that Muslims have been victims of Western Imperialist or "Crusader-Zionist" injustice for centuries, and are thus venting their anger through "violent extremism," to borrow a phrase from my favorite lexicographer, Barack Obama.
In his book "The War for Muslim Minds", French Islamologist Gilles Kepel echoes the Obamaesque cliché. He denounces the phrase "war on terror" as "a phrase engineered to heighten fear" among Americans. He writes, "Stigmatizing the enemy by calling them 'terrorists' is of little help in defining the nature of the new threat."
The domestic variation of the same theme is that Muslims living in Western democracies, including France, are somehow deprived of full citizenship rights or are subjected to Islamophobia.
French journalist Edwy Plenel has devoted a whole book called "Pour les Musulmans" ("For Muslims") to the claim of victimhood for Muslim communities in Europe in general and in France in particular. He questions the idea that there is any specific "Frenchness" and argues that France belongs to whoever lives there at any given time.
To drive in the point, he asserts: "We are a little America after all."
His whole thesis is based on the rejection of the idea that in a secular republic founded on the principles of equality and fraternity, there could be such a thing as a Muslim community. That, however, is anathema to many Muslims who firmly believe that an "Infidel" could never be regarded as an equal to a follower of "The Only True Faith," that is to say, Islam. Plenel undermines his own thesis with the title of his book. If Muslims do not represent a distinct reality in France, how could one be for or against them?
The Racism Claim
Another claim is that the jihadists are angry young men from ethnic groups subjected to racism in France.
That claim, too, is hard to sustain.
To start with, Islam is not a race; there are Muslims of all shades and colors, including quite a few ginger-heads, and not only in Europe. In any case, though France has had and continues to have its share of racist bigots, it has one of the best records in Europe for accommodating ethnic and racial diversity. It has had black members of parliament and Senators, Cabinet ministers and other ranking officials long before people like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama injected a bit of color into the upper strata of American politics. For at least two decades after World War II, France was a haven for black American writers and musicians and artists, among them Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Miles Davis and Josephine Baker. Since the Second World, there have been black and "colored" faces in almost all French Cabinets and parliaments.
France also had Arab/Muslim members of parliament long before such "exotic" figures could enter the British or any other Western legislature. While the US is yet to have a Jewish president and Britain a Jewish prime minister, France has already had two Jewish prime ministers and a president who is a grandson of a Rabbi. Add to that at least two Protestant prime ministers, while Britain has not yet had its first Catholic premier, and France's record as a fairly tolerant society would be hard to challenge.
The Islamophobia Claim
The next claim one has to deal with is that of Islamophobia as at least a partial cause of the resentment that is supposed to have pushed those "angry young" men towards jihad.
That claim, too, is based on little evidence, if any.
France is, in fact, one of the few countries in the world, all of them Western or Western-style democracies, where Muslims of any and all denominations could live, practice, and propagate their faith in freedom and security. In every one of the 57 Muslim majority member-nations of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), only one version of Islam, the one approved by the state, is allowed basic freedoms.
If you are a Sunni Muslim in the Iranian capital, Tehran, for example, you are not allowed to have a mosque of your own, even though your fellow believers number 2.5 million.
In contrast, if you set up a Shi'ite mosque in Cairo, you are likely to get killed, as was the case in 2013 with the Egyptian capital's now-destroyed single Shi'ite mosque and its founder. Editions of the Koran printed in Saudi Arabia are banned in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Saudi Arabia repays the compliment by confiscating Korans published by the Iranians. In Paris, however, you could buy both editions, and many others, without fear of arrest or worse.
In many cases, rare texts of Islamic scholarship, often saved from destruction in their original Islamic homelands, are available in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. French universities and other centers of learning and research do more work on all aspects of Islam than is done in almost any Muslim-majority nation.
The label "ethnocentric" has become an all-purpose device to shut down any critical scrutiny of communities and cultures supposedly "oppressed by the West" since the dawn of history. Interestingly, the very concept of ethnocentrism is a Western invention and remains unique to the West. It started with Montaigne four centuries ago in his essay "Les Cannibales," written to castigate reports by Western travelers that pockets of cannibalism persisted in some parts of the world beyond Western influence.
If no other culture has developed the concept of ethnocentrism as a means of questioning its own values and world view, the reason is that non-Western cultures have no doubt that they are the best and that, as such, fully merit being at the center. The Chinese are not ashamed of being labeled "Sinocentric," nor would Persians have any qualms about being accused of Persocentrism. It is only Western civilization that regards self-criticism as an almost sacred duty. In other civilizations, it is self-reaffirmation that is highly prized. It was on that basis that Imam Muhammad al-Ghazzali, the first Muslim scholar to be given the highly coveted title of Hojat al-Islam (Proof of Islam), castigated philosophical speculation as anti-Islamic.
"The task of the Muslim scholar is to seek knowledge that reaffirms the message of the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet," Ghazzali wrote. "Philosophy, however, sees casting doubt on all certainties by questioning them as its principal task."
Islamopologia or Islamophobia?
Often, in the post-modern Western view, the concept of otherness -- altérité, made famous with Claude Levi-Strauss's seminal work -- implies at least the equality of the other, if not his superiority, in terms of cultural value.
There is, in fact, evidence that France may have more of a problem with Islamopologia than Islamophobia. Was it Islamophobia that persuaded President Jacques Chirac to try to suppress a report he himself had commissioned on the emergence of Islamist ghettos around Paris and many other French cities? Though it focused on what was going on in state-run schools, the Obin Report, eventually released a year later, portrayed a wider picture of a society that, as admitted by Prime Minister Valls recently, practiced a form of Apartheid for fear of angering its Muslim minority. The fact that a small minority of radical Muslims imposed their "way of life" on others, including a majority of French Muslims, showed that the problem was misguided Islamophilia, not bigoted Islamophobia.
In a small Paris street, Rue des Petites Ecuries, in the 10th arrondissement, one finds Muslims of many different backgrounds living side by side as shopkeepers and residents.
In many parts of the so-called Muslim world itself, however, they would not even address the routine "salam aleikom" to each other, or they would be killing one another in sectarian wars.
France is estimated to be home to around six million Muslims, the vast majority of them not practicing. However, in 2013 the country had just under 2000 mosques. Not a bad number when we remember that Tehran, with a population of 14 million, has only 720 mosques. Riyadh, the Saudi capital, has 3000 mosques for a population of 7.5 million.
It is also hardly a sign of Islamophobia that the French Republic, always proud of its secularism, financed the creation of what President Nicholas Sarkozy dubbed "une église française de l'Islam" in the shape of Le Conseil français du culte musulman.
Even an occasional viewer of French television would soon find more evidence of possibly well-intentioned but ultimately misguided Islamophilia than Islamophobia. Over the past few years, dozens of documentaries showing Islam in the best possible light have been screened, including a few claiming that had Islam not saved the pre-Christian Greco-Roman heritage, modern Europe would have been impossible. One documentary even suggested that cinema was invented by a certain Abu-Hufus, a Muslim lens-maker in 10th century Baghdad, echoing similar claims by President Barack Obama in his notorious speech at Cairo University.
By encouraging the illusion that Islam is really better than it is, and regardless of their intentions, Islamopologists do great harm both to Islam and to France. At the same time, the creation of a new category of topics beyond any critical scrutiny prevents France from developing policies needed to cope with Islam's positive as well as negative aspects.
Islam is the Solution
In his "Relire le Coran" ("Re-reading the Koran"), the late French Arabologist Jacques Berque tried to prove that there was something miraculous about the "Holy Book" by showing that in one of the suras the same word was repeated on two pages facing each other in exactly the same place. That, in fact, is a reduction of the Koran to a book of jumbles, even though supposedly of divine origin.
I remember Michel Foucault, a French philosopher, who came to Tehran in 1978 to watch our "revolution." He loved every moment of it. "Here we have the explosion of spirituality in the street," he opined. "In the West we have nothing but crass materialism." But when the mullahs started shooting people by the thousands, and hanging gay men, including one of the Frenchman's Iranian lovers, in public, Foucault was outraged. "The revolution has been sullied," he moaned, as if a revolution could ever be immaculate.
"Islam is the Solution" has always been a slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, some Western writers, some of them converts to Islam, have adopted it in a broader civilizational sense.
Roger Garaudy, a Stalinist who converted to various versions of Islam in succession, starting with that marketed by Colonel Kaddhafi and ending with the version patented by Khomeini, argued that the West is at "an historic impasse" created by the Enlightenment, with Islam offering the only way out.
In his book, "The Promise of Islam," he claims that only Islam is capable of offering mankind a future. "The future is depicted by men like Kaddhafi and Bani-Sadr," he writes. Today, of course, no one knows where Kaddhafi is buried, while we know that Bani-Sadr is an exile in a Paris suburb.
Tariq Ramadan, an Islam advisor to various European governments, echoes that analysis in his book "The Future of Islam in Europe." He claims that Islam, "more than any other civilization has advanced science to a higher level" while maintaining "the spiritual aspect of human existence," supposedly neglected by the West.
Ramadan struggles hard to decide how to define the West. He rejects the concept of the West as Dar al-Harb (Abode of War) as outdated. He then suggests the label Dar al-Sulh (Abode of Truce) but translates the word "sulh" as "peace" which is entirely misleading because 'sulh' means truce, not peace. In fact, there is no word for peace in Arabic in the sense found in Indo-European languages. There is "silm" which means submission," the root of the words Islam and Muslim.
Conscious that his trick might be exposed, he then considers the terms Dar al-Ahd (Abode of Treaty) and Dar al-Dhimma (Abode of Tribute). But these, too, appear unsatisfactory because there is no overall treaty between the West and the Islamic states, while no Western nation pays tribute (jizya) to an Islamic Caliphate.
Ramadan ends up with the term Dar al-Shihadah (Abode of Testimony) which, although it sounds inoffensive, suffers from the disadvantage of being meaningless.
He reveals his full hand when he suggests that the Islamic shariah law offers "creative and innovative possibilities" for solving the problems of a Western civilization in terminal decline.
In his book, mentioned earlier, Gilles Kepel suggests that the West should go "beyond bin Laden and Bush" -- who are, by implication, in positions of moral equivalence -- and aim to create the "New Andalusia," a 21st-century version of what he imagines southern Spain to have been under Muslim rule, this time in the whole of the European Union.
Kepel does not say who would rule, but waxes lyrical about his Islamo-Christian utopia. "Andalusia must come to symbolize a place where the hybridization and flowering of two distinct cultures can produce an extraordinary progress in civilization. The advent of the New Andalusia is the only way out of the passions and impediments [sic] that Osama bin Laden's Jihad and George W. Bush's war on terror have produced."
Kepel would have done well to read some of the Islamic texts, especially the poems of the Emir Al-Mutamed, which depict part of the atrocities committed by the Al-Moravids in the heyday of the Andalusian utopia.
Islamophilia is often mixed with anti-Americanism. Blaming America for whatever goes wrong under the sun has always been a favorite sport of a section of the French intellectual elite, and Kepel is not alone in indulging in it.
As early as the 19th century, several French writers, among them Stendhal and Villiers de L'Isle d'Adam, adopted anti-American postures in the name of preserving Europe's "authenticity" or rejecting "crass materialism." JK Huysmans saw America as "a gigantic whorehouse" and warned against "the invasion of American manners and its aristocracy of wealth."
The French neo-anti-Americanism may not be as direct or as brazen. But it is certainly no less intensely felt. In his book "Le Pacte de Lucidité," the philosopher Jean Baudrillard describes the US as "a negative power that disregards [other nations'] sovereignty and representative democracy."
According to Baudrillard, what we are witnessing is "The antagonism between world power [i.e. the US] and terrorism." He writes: "The current confrontation between American hegemony and Islamic terrorism is the visible aspect of the duel between an integral reality of power and the integral refusal of that same power." The background to that epic struggle is the death of Western reality itself.
Baudrillard writes: "In fact, this profane and desacralized reality has slowly become a useless function, a fiction that we desperately try to save as we did with God's existence in the past. Deep down we don't know how to rid ourselves of it."
If Western democracies are attacked by terrorists, it is, once again, their own fault. Baudrillard writes: "The capitalist world order is no longer facing the specter of Communism but its own specter: terrorism." I believe that one of the reasons for the West's success as a civilization is its almost unique capacity for self-criticism. However, that unique capacity is undermined when Islam, which is now part of the Western reality, is allocated a special category labeled "handle with care" or "vilify at will."
Sometimes, that "handle with care" position on Islam is taken to the limit of the absurd. For example, some stars of La Gauche (The Left) appeared on television to call for a campaign of silence against Michel Houellebecq's novel, "Submission," which, they claimed, insulted Islam. Former Trotskyite Edwy Plenel invited reviewers simply to ignore the novel, a new form of censorship.
As far as Islam was concerned, omerta was in order, just as it is in the case of the Corsican Mafia. In a civilization built on critical, and self-critical, thinking, we are invited to practice censorship and self-censorship. Would Milton be allowed to publish what he wrote on Catholics? And what about Voltaire and what he wrote on blacks? Need one mention Chateaubriand on Muhammad and Thomas Jefferson on Islam? What happened to that great European dictum "Error has no rights"?
The French are, of course, not alone to get carried away in their enthusiasm for "the other" whether it is Mussolini or Hitler or Stalin or Mao or the Red Khmer, and, more recently, Khomeini and Osama bin Laden. Susan Sontag's admiration for the "courage" of Al-Qaeda bombers of 9/11, Noam Chomsky's passionate support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Ramsey Clark's boundless admiration for Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein, are too well known to need being recalled here.
In a recent nook, the British author Michael Axworthy reflects similar fascination with the Khomeinist regime in Iran. A former diplomat who headed the Iran Desk of the Foreign Office for years, he notes that as "Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that the French were never as free as they were under Nazi occupation, in the sense that moral choice and the seriousness of consequences were never as sharp as they were at the time. That too is true in Iran. In Western countries, for many of us, we have it easy and have become morally lazy, relativistic and cynical. In Iran, the essentials of right and wrong, freedom and repression have been everyday matters of discussion and choice."
In other words, the estimated 150,000 highly educated Iranians who flee the country each year, creating the biggest "brain drain in history," according to the World Bank, do not know what a good thing they are leaving behind in Iran. Let us also remember that under Nazi occupation, Sartre continued to live a comfortable life of philosophical speculation while quite a few French men and women took up arms to drive out the occupier.
The Imperialism of Guilt
In the past two centuries, contemplating the outside world, the West has passed through a number of phases. The optimism of the 18th century, with its rose-tinted spectacles, was followed by 19th century romanticism and the tragic pessimism of the 20th century. The Imperialism of arrogance, based on the belief that the West had a sacred mission to civilize the rest of the world, was replaced by the romantic illusion that "the other" had developed a lifestyle closer to human nature and nature in general. In our time, the Imperialism of arrogance, which denied "the other" any positive achievement, has been replaced with an Imperialism of guilt that blames the West, especially America, for everything and denies "the other" any credit, even for his own mistakes.
Thus, the Imperialism of guilt invites us to see the crime committed by the Kouachi brothers as somehow related to "French atrocities" in Algeria. Sometimes, peddlers of the Imperialism of guilt go even further. Every year, a group of Americans travels to Jerusalem to meet Arabs in the eastern part of the city and apologize to them for "the Crusades." The fact that at the time of the Crusades the U.S. did not even exist is conveniently forgotten, as is that Arabs at best played second fiddle in the Crusades, which was mostly the affair of Turks, Kurds and the Mamelukes.
One of the 14 papers presented during the annual "Death to America" conference in Tehran was also devoted to the role of "The Great Satan" as leader of the Crusades against Islam. That Iran was in no way involved in the Crusades, a clash between the Europeans and the Turkic, Mameluke and Kurdish principalities of Egypt, the Levant and Anatolia at the time, was overlooked. In a political version of the Original Sin, the West is invited to account for all its real or imagined misdeeds, including those unjustly imputed to it by its enemies, to apologize for them and, as often as possible, even pay compensation. The adepts of political correctness in the West regret everything and measure everyone's worth with the degree of his or her victimhood.
And, yet, to quote Spinoza, "after hatred, regret is the most fundamental enemy of mankind."
Self-Loathing and Submission
Sometimes, self-criticism degenerates into self-loathing and a longing for peace even through "submission," in line with the Stockholm Syndrome. Eric Zemmour, a TV journalist, has become the bête-noire of the politically correct crowd in France because he dared warn against the danger that Islamism posed for Europe and Western civilization as a whole.
However, Zemmour's main target is France, or more precisely the French intellectual elite, who, he claims, are leading their civilization to suicide in the sense meant by British historian Arnold Toynbee: by failing to meet their challenges. Zemmour is not blaming Islam in the sense claimed by Islamopologists. He is blaming the French, who have lost their will to fight back in defense of their own values and way of life. Zemmour's "suicide" warning is echoed in a new book by former Prime Minister Michel Rocard, in which he claims that France and Western civilization as a whole are digging their own graves.
Even Michel Houellebecq, now castigated as the paragon of Islamophobia, in his latest novel "Submission," points the explosive anger of his derision at the French rather than Islam and Muslims. He portrays a civilization gripped by self-doubt, obsession with sex and consumerism, and lacking the will to take any risks in defense of its fading values. France and Europe in general are prepared to listen to the voice of the tempter promising them tranquility, if not peace. As described by Mark Lilla in the New York Review of Books, in Houellebecq's dystopian novel, the tempter tells the narrator, a wobbly François, that
"the summit of human happiness is to be found in absolute submission," of children to parents, women to men, and men to God. And in return, one receives life back in all its splendor. Because Islam does not, like Christianity, see human beings as pilgrims in an alien, fallen world, it does not see any need to escape it or remake it. The Koran is an immense mystical poem in praise of the God who created the perfect world we find ourselves in, and teaches us how to achieve happiness in it through obedience. Freedom is just another word for wretchedness.
In other words, Houellebecq is, in a roundabout way, endorsing Kepel's claim that only a New Andalusia could save France and Europe from their current decline. Houellebecq's novel is a fruit of cultural pessimism, which has a long history in the European civilization. And, yet, Houellebecq's novel is routinely castigated as an "Islamophobic" tract rather than a caricature of French society supposedly in decline.
Since I reject the very premise of the novel, as well as Kepel's analysis, that European and/or Western civilization in general is in decline, I need not dwell on the nature of their pessimism. However, what I wish to emphasize is that, contrary to what they think, Islam is torn between currents of self-aggrandizement and self-loathing at least as strong as we witness in Europe today. The danger that Europe faces is not from pessimists like Zemmour and Houellebecq, who continue a long line that goes back to Saint Augustine, Tomassino Campanella, The Song of Rolland, and more recently, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Oswald Spengler, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, George Orwell, and Thomas Bernhardt, to name but a few. If danger there is, it comes from those who wish to silence such voices in the name of multiculturalism and "respect for the other."
Terror without Frontier
What we face today is terrorism without frontier in the context of globalization, which was so ardently desired and anticipated just a generation ago.
I think the question whether or not this new brand of global terrorism is Islamic cannot be settled by outsiders such as François Hollande and Anne Hidalgo. During a television program, I was taken to task by a blond sheikh from California who, having recently converted to Islam, was angry at my readiness to accept Osama bin Laden's claim that he acted in the name of Islam.
However, since Islam has no mechanism for excommunication, one could not reject anybody who says he is a Muslim. All that one could do is to have recourse to "bara'ah," a mechanism for self-exoneration indicating that the reprehensible deeds of some Muslims do not concern all Muslims.
In its most dynamic and active current manifestation, Islam is a religion transformed, upgraded or downgraded as you wish, into a political ideology. That ideology is aimed at world conquest as a long-term objective, which could be attained through a relentless fight against all other forms of organized human existence. To fight this new brand of terrorism, the Western democracies need to take its claim of representing Islam seriously, even if they regard such a claim as misplaced. It is up to Muslims themselves to practice "bara'ah," that is to say self-exoneration, and put some clear water between themselves and those who pretend to be the champions of modern Islam. Hollande and Hidalgo cannot do that for them.
A growing number of people in France are beginning to face the reality of the problem Islam poses for the French way of life, if only by providing a radical alternative. François de Closets, best-selling author of the book "Don't Tell God What He Should Do," insists that the French should openly admit that the presence of a large Muslim community in the country poses a problem. This does not mean that Islam is good or bad; what is at issue is that Islam is different, and with things the rest of the French might not want. The only way to deal with the problem is to admit its existence, examine it as calmly as possible and seek solutions compatible with the values of a modern Western democracy. In other words, the ostrich-style denial preached by people such as Plenel simply misses the point.
Islam's Civil War of Ideas
Islam is going through a major civil war of ideas, a civilizational conflict between those Muslims who regard religion as just a part of life, and others who believe religion must be assigned no more than a well-defined place in the public space. That such a conflict should trigger violence, part of which is transferred to non-Muslim lands, is no surprise. Violence was woven into the very DNA of Islam from the start. After all, the Prophet imposed his domination on parts of Arabia with a series of wars conducted in the style of razzias [raids], from the Arab word "ghazva" [battle]. Islam seldom tried to convert people by force, but always insisted on control of territory and imposing its values and its rule. Even today, the aim is not to force anyone to convert; what is demanded is "submission."
Of the four Well Guided Caliphs of Islam, three were assassinated by Muslims from rival factions. Since then, the history of Islam is dotted with countless political murders at all levels. Jihadist movements did not come into being in reaction to American "Imperialism" or Zionism, the two punching-bags routinely blamed for any surge in Islamic violence. The Kharijites massacred people in what is today Iraq almost 1500 years ago. The Thaqafites, in turn, conducted massacres 1300 years ago. In the 19th century, The Akhund of Swat, in what is now Pakistan, had never heard of America, let alone George W. Bush and his "neo-cons." Zarraq Khan in the Afghan uplands, Mullah Hassan in what is now Somalia, and the Mahdi and his Ansars in the Sudan waged jihad in pursuit of political power, rather than the settlement of theological disputes with Christendom.
Control of territory, by force if necessary, has always been and remains at the heart of Islamic ambitions. This is what the "brethren" do in the suburbs of Paris and other major French cities which they are trying to "halalize" [make permissible, according to the tenets of Islam] through a mixture of force, intimidation and bribery. The first step is visual "halalization," that is to say a suburban landscape in which beards, hijab, and Islamic dress codes and appearance in general predominate. The next step is to cleanse the targeted area of non-halal "pockets of kufr" [pockets of infidels], such as cinemas, cafes serving alcohol, wine and spirit shops, restaurants serving heathen food, and book and music shops offering non-Islamic material.
The Khomeinist mullahs try to do the same through surrogates such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hashad al-Shaabi in Iraq, Haras al-Watani in Syria, Ansar al-Allah in Yemen, and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Large chunks of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen have already been "halalized" under huge portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor, Ali Khamenei. Sunni Muslims are reacting to the threat of Shi'ite expansion, which would mean loss of territory for Sunnis, with their own land-grab schemes, the latest of which has taken the form of the Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. "A pure Muhammadan Islam": This is what the Islamic State promises in its propaganda, much of it in cyberspace, to deliver once the Caliphate, established in parts of Iraq and Syria, has defeated "Infidel" enemies and secured its position. It is not solely thanks to its blitzkrieg victories that IS has attracted universal attention. Perhaps more interesting is the group's ability to seduce large numbers of Muslims across the globe, including in Europe and the United States, with an ideological product designed to replace other brands of Islamism marketed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, not to mention that of Taliban in Afghanistan and Khomeinists in Iran. Da'eshism, to coin a phrase, also tries to transcend the ideological hodgepodge marketed by Al Qaeda franchises since the 1980s.
The Three Rejections
The "Pure Muhammadan Islam" promised by Da'esh is based on three rejections, explained by the late Islamist ideologue, Yussef al-Ayyeri, in a book published more than a decade ago. The first rejection is that of traditional Islamic tolerance for Christians and Jews who, labeled "People of the Book", could live in an Islamic Caliphate by paying protection money (jizya).
The idea is that the "protection" offered by Muhammad belonged to the early phase of Islam, when the "Last Prophet" was not strong enough to claim total control of human destiny. Once Muhammad had established his rule, he ordered the massacre of Jews and the expulsion of Christians from the Arabian Peninsula. What is now needed is "cleansing" (tanzif) of the world, starting with areas controlled by the Caliphate, of other religions. People of other faiths could always convert to Islam and escape death. Last summer, the Druze in northern Syria did that by sending a delegation to Caliph Abubakar Hussein al-Hashemi al-Baghdadi to swear on the Koran and announce the community's mass conversion.
The Zoroastrian Yazidis refused conversion and were massacred, driven out or taken into slavery. Some Christian towns and villages captured by IS also refused conversion, "obliging" the Caliph to order massacres and mass expulsions. In his book, Al-Ayyeri argues that the history of mankind is the story of "perpetual war between belief and unbelief." As far as belief is concerned, the absolutely final version is Islam, which "annuls all other religions." Thus, Muslims can have only one goal: converting all humanity to Islam and "effacing every trace of all other religions, creeds and ideologies."
The second rejection is aimed against "infidel ideologies", especially democracy, that is to say government of men by men rather than by Allah.
Al-Ayyeri writes:
"Various forms of unbelief attacked the world of Islam in the past century or so, to be defeated in one way or another. The first form of unbelief to attack was "modernism" ... which led to the emergence in the lands of Islam of states based on ethnic identities and territorial dimensions rather than religious faith. The second was nationalism, which, imported from Europe, divided Muslims into Arabs, Persians, Turks and others. ... The third form of unbelief is socialism, which includes communism. That, too, has been defeated and eliminated from the Muslim world."
All along, many Muslims have fallen for those "heathen ideologies," thus postponing the inevitable unification of mankind under the banner of Islam.
Hilmi Hashem, currently regarded as chief theological advisor to the Caliph, believes that the decision by Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to take part in democratic elections, with tragic consequences for "true believers," was "a sin rather than an error."
Hashem is one of the four disciples of al-Ayyeri, all of them Egyptians, to provide the new Caliphate with theological arguments and methods of applying the Islamic law (sharia). Hashem is now acting as "Grand Mufti" (religious Guide) for Da'esh. He is joined by Abu-Moslem al-Masri, who has been appointed Chief Justice, and Abu-Hareb, who is Chief Judge in Aleppo, Syria's most populous city.
The third rejection in IS ideology is aimed against what is labelled "diluted" (iltiqati) forms of Islam. For example, there are those who insist that Islam is a religion of peace. They ignore the fact that Islam will be a religion of peace only after it has seized control of the entire world. Until then the world will continue to be divided between the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb).
Like the Taliban, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Islamic State also rejects the "aping of infidel institutions" such as a presidential system, a parliament, and the use of such terms as "republic" to describe a Muslim society. The only form of government in "Pure Muhammadan Islam" is the caliphate; the only law is the sharia.
It is clear that if Islam has a problem with the West, and indeed with the whole world, as testified by tensions in more than 50 non-Western countries, including India, Burma, Thailand, the Philippines, China and even Japan, not to mention more than a dozen African states, it is because Islam has a problem with itself, not knowing whether it is a religion or a political movement.
Dreams of Islamic Reform
When at a loss as how to deal with what they admit is an Islamic threat, some writers and public officials in France reach for the hope of an Islamic reform movement. The pious hope that Islam could be reformed has hovered in the background of many debates since the early 19th century, but has never been a serious basis for building an effective policy to face the challenge. The sad fact is that Islam cannot be reformed, if only because it lacks a recognized authority capable of proposing, let alone imposing, reform. I know this from personal experience, as in the 1970s I covered the proceedings of a working group from eight Muslim countries, led by Tunku Abdul-Rahman, a former Malaysian prime minister, appointed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to propose a package of very mild, non-theological reforms such as regulating the Haj pilgrimage and fixing the fasting month of Ramadan. The whole exercise collapsed after a few meetings, because no one knew how to propose reforms, let alone find an authority to impose them.
Today, reforming Islam is harder than ever, if only because the bulk of Islamic energies are devoted to political issues, with theological work not getting even a stool at the high table. The last credible Islamic theologians one could cite died over 50 years ago. The few noteworthy theologians one finds in the seminaries of Mecca, Medina, Cairo, Najaf and Qom, among other places, are focused on either esoteric topics or tinkering at the margin of practical problems of modern life.
What France, and the West in general, face today is a war waged by a part of Islam against the democratic world. The most effective way for the West to deal with this situation, and eventually win this war, is to mobilize the resources of its nation-states for facing the challenge on all fronts -- political, economic, and cultural and, when needed, military. The silly slogan "this has no military solution" is self-defeating, if only because it is based on a denial of the reality that the Western democracies and their allies in the Muslim world are being challenged and attacked in a veritable multifaceted war.
Once the Western democracies have admitted to themselves that this is a war, they would be in a position seek allies in the Muslim world by posing the only question that really matters in a state of war: Are you with us or against us?
Today, they cannot pose that question because they are dancing around the issue, talking of social injustice, education, colonial heritage, racism, ethnocentrism and other fashionable shibboleths already mentioned. The unwillingness of Western democracies to agree on a common analysis of the situation, enables opportunist Muslim powers to hedge their bets by helping or at least tolerating the terrorists under the banner of Islam. And that is bound to prolong the deadly struggle, which terrorism in the end cannot win.
**Amir Taheri, syndicated columnist and author of 11 books on Islam, the Middle East and Iran, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute Europe. The above is an edited text of inaugural remarks at Gatestone Institute's conference held in Paris, France, on March 23, 2015.

In Syria's war, Alawites pay heavy price for loyalty to Bashar al-Assad
By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut/The Telegraph
07 Apr 2015
The Alawites, the Assad family's sect, have seen up to a third of their young men killed in the Syrian conflict and mothers are now refusing to send their sons to war
In the Assad regime's heartland, dead officers are sent home in ambulances, while the corpses of ordinary soldiers are returned in undecorated pick-up trucks.
Then come the press gangs: military recruiters raid houses to find replacements by force for the dwindling ranks of Syria's military.
Sharing their sect with President Bashar al-Assad, Alawites have long been the core constituency for the Syrian regime. As the civil war drags into its fifth year, the minority sect is seen by opposition rebels as remaining unwaveringly loyal.
But from inside the community, the picture looks very different: as their sons die in droves on the front lines, and economic privileges – subsidies and patronage – cease, Alawites increasingly feel they are tools and not the beneficiaries of the regime.
In a series of exclusive interviews, Alawites from the coastal province of Latakia, the sect's heartland, have told the Telegraph of how they are now trapped between jihadists who consider them apostates, and a remote and corrupt regime that told them the war would be easy to win. "Most don't have salaries now, and some don't even have food to eat," said Ammar, a businessman in Latakia. "My friends ask me: 'Mr Ammar what shall we do? The regime wants to take us as soldiers. We will die. But we don't have the money to get out'."
The scale of the sect's losses is staggering: with a population of around two million, a tenth of Syria's population, the Alawites boast perhaps 250,000 men of fighting age. Today as many as one third are dead, local residents and Western diplomats say.
Many Alawite villages nestled in the hills of their ancestral Latakia province are all but devoid of young men. The women dress only in mourning black.
"Every day there at least 30 men returned from the front lines in coffins," said Ammar, who spoke to the Telegraph using a pseudonym to protect himself and his family.
"In the beginning of the war their deaths were celebrated with big funerals. Now they are quietly dumped in the back of pick-up trucks."
The Syrian government has not published official figures on its war dead. Syrian state television mostly fails to broadcast news of Alawite soldiers killed, instead playing up the deaths of their Sunni comrades, in a bid to shore up Sunni support.
A report by the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights published at the end of last year found that pro-government fighting groups have suffered the greatest proportion of casualties , with over 22,000 soldiers and militiamen killed in 2014 alone.
A disproportionate number of those are Alawites: "In battles with Sunni armed groups, the government doesn't trust their Sunni soldiers not to defect," said one Alawite resident, a former soldier, who asked not to be named. "So the Alawites are sent forward."
The loss of life is causing a quiet rebellion among many in the sect: vilified by the increasingly extremist rebel opposition, most still feel they have little choice but to remain wedded to the regime. But it is an alliance tinged with hatred.
A female resident in Latakia city, also speaking anonymously, said: "Mothers are caring for their children more than for Bashar, and have started trying to hide them away."
Pushed to breaking point, and inspired by the instinct to protect, residents recounted cases where women set up "road blocks" at the entrances to some of the mountain villages to prevent the army from forcibly taking their sons to the military draft.
"They told the military commanders: 'Go and bring the sons of the big shots to war and after that we will give you our children'," said Ammar, citing one such protest where he was present.
The community is also the focus of the rebel movement, which is now dominated by Sunni jihadists who regard the Alawites as non-believers. They openly boast of their desire to "purge" what they describe as "dangerous filth'" from the country.
Alawites, who split from the Shia branch of the Islamic faith in the ninth century, believe prayers are not necessary and do not fast or perform pilgrimages. Many of the key tenets of the faith are secret, adding to their mystique but also fuelling the myths peddled by their opponents. A tough, mountain race who were originally considered something of an underclass, the Alawites rose to power after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when Syria's French rulers needed soldiers willing to defend the regime from a Sunni uprising. They found willing recruits in the Alawites, who were only too happy to fight their Sunni "oppressors".
Their growing strength in the military led Hafez al-Assad, a general, to seize power, which he then handed to his son, Bashar. Since then the Assad regime has enriched individuals within the sect, disproportionately appointing its men to senior political, military and financial positions.
The majority of Alawites, however, are still extremely poor.
"Assad didn't improve our salaries during his reign," said one Alawite resident. "In my village there are only a few villas dotted among hundreds of basic houses."
As the war continues with no clear end in sight, the collapse of the Syrian economy is forcing the poor into destitution.
The regime has cut subsidies that were keeping many families afloat. Electricity is intermittent in Latakia city and often cut off in the mountains. Fuel for transport and heating is expensive and hard to come by.
Local war lords are growing increasingly powerful, as men join their ranks, refusing to be sent with the military to fight in areas of the country where Alawites have almost no presence.
In their fiefdoms, the war lords are increasingly independent. The militia leaders feel able to refuse orders from commanders sent from Damascus, according to Joshua Landis, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma who has regular contact with Syrian members of the sect. Several members of the Assad family, once too powerful to touch, have died in Latakia in murky circumstances, that some have interpreted as a competition by others for money and local power.
Mystery surrounds the death of Muhammad al-Assad last month, a well known second cousin of President Assad, and once a feared member of the shabiha, a smuggling mafia that emerged from the Assad family in rural Latakia in the 1980s.
Nonetheless, most of the Alawite community still believes that any actions that would seriously weaken the regime could result in their villages being overrun by an opposition hell-bent on sectarian revenge.
So, they keep their heads down, suffering in silence as their sons return in body bags.
Mohammed, the taxi driver said: "No one is smiling in Latakia now: every family has lost someone," he said. "The angel of death is working well."

Yemen war: Saudis prevented Russian evacuations by air, bombed Moscow’s spy center in Aden
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 7, 2015
Saudi Arabia has gone head to head with Russia as Iran's ally in Yemen.
Moscow claims to have evacuated hundreds of Russian nationals from Yemen by an air lift running out of Sanaa airport, but debkafile’s exclusive intelligence and military sources reveal that not a single Russian plane has taken off from any Yemeni airport since March 27, when Saudi Arabia launched its military offensive against the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels.
The Saudiis warned Russia that they would not be responsible for the safety of any flights landing at a Yemeni airport or the passengers assembled there for evacuation, while their air force conducted strikes against the rebels. Having achieved control of Yemen’s skies in the early stages of their intervention, the Saudis declared its air space a no-fly zone.
This warning gained substance when, on April 1, Saudi F-15 warplanes bombed the Russian consulate in the second largest Yemeni city, Aden. A Russian witness said that not a single window was left in the building and all Russian citizens would have to leave the town.
According to debkafile’s sources, the building was in fact completely demolished in order to dismantle Russia’s regional intelligence-gathering center which operated out of the consulate building and fed Iranian intelligence with data on military movements in the neighborhood.
It functioned according to the same system as Russian spy stations in Syria, which routinely keep their Iranian colleagues au fait with military activities, including Israeli army movements.
The intelligence gathered by the Aden facility was no doubt passed on by Iranian agents to the Houthi commanders, certainly after Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani arrived in Sanaa to direct the rebel offensive after the Saudi offensive was launched.
In normal times, the Russian spy facility would have been responsible for surveillance over navigation through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the warships sailing between Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
The next chapter of the Russian evacuation story unfolded on Thursday, April 2, the day after the consulate was razed: The Russians tried activating their connections in Cairo to obtain Saudi permission to land a plane in Sanaa, where hundreds of Russians had crowded to await passage to safety.
The Saudis relayed their refusal to Moscow through Cairo.
Then, on Friday, April 3, a flight landed at Moscow’s Chkalovsky Airport carrying Russian evacuees from Yemen, followed by a second flight which landed at an unnamed Russian military airport.
debkafile’s sources report that neither of those planes were actually permitted to take off from Sanaa, but flew in from Cairo. After the Saudi ban on flights through Yemeni airports, Moscow had no choice but to rescue its nationals from the embattled country by sea aboard ships that carried them to Egypt.