April 26/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias
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/Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things.
Letter to the Hebrews 13/18-25: "Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things.I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon. Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 25-26/15
Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18/Rym Ghazal/The National World/April 25/15
In Memory of my Lebanese Ancestors/Walid Phares/ April 25/15
No Racism in Turkey/Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute/April 25/15
Jihad to come in Europe/Ben-Dror Yemini/Ynetnes/April 25-26/15
Yemen crisis: A war for the survival of the Saudi monarchy/Yakub Halabi, i24News/Ynetnews/April 26/15

ISIS, Iran and the Larger Battle/Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq AlawsatApril 25/15
The reasons behind the murder of ex-Syrian spy chief Rustom Ghazaleh/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/AlArabiya/April 25/15
The Mediterranean: the great, white and cruel sea/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/April 25/15

Lebanese Related News published on April 25-26/15
Lebanon/Hundreds protest Zouk power plant pollutants
Arab sources report Israel air strikes against Syrian-Hizballah missile bases, Hizballah arms convoys. DEBKAfile: Hizballah secret airstrip possible target
Report: IAF strike hits Syria, Hezbollah targets
Report: Hizbullah Establishes Runway in the Bekaa to Operate Drones

Hezbollah drone airstrip in Lebanon revealed
Hezbollah has no Bekaa Valley airstrip: MP 
Saniora Says Aoun Has No Chances of Reaching Baabda
Lebanese Army Clamps Down on Bomb-Making Factory in the Bekaa, Arrests 4 Syrians

Irish President to Arrive in Beirut on Sunday
Hariri Continues Washington Visit, Meets Rice
Qahwaji Vows to Carry On Fierce War against Terrorism
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in France to Discuss Presidential Stalemate

Watford back in Premier League after 8-year absence
Tripoli mayor Nader Ghazal resigns 
Hajj Hasan: Buy Lebanese-made drugs 
Mount Lebanon lawyer wounded in blast outside home

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 25-26/15
More than 1,300 dead as 7.9 quake hits Nepal
Armenians and Turks must look for a shared future
Turkey's Erdogan slams nations recognizing Armenian genocide
Nusra Front, allies overrun key Syrian city
Withdrawing Syria troops 'executed' prisoners: activists
AIPAC opposes push to toughen Iran nuclear bill
Report: Alleged Israeli strike targeted Scud missiles
ISIS takes military barracks, dam in Iraq’s Anbar: sources
At least 27 killed in south Yemen fighting
Saudi Arabia foils ISIS terrorist attack: official
Insurgents seize large parts of Syria’s Jisr al-Shughourmonitor
U.N. chief appoints new Yemen special envoy
U.S., allies conduct 15 air strikes in Syria, Iraq
Palestinian shot dead after stabbing Israeli officer in Hebron
Four Egypt militants killed making bombs: police

Jihad Watch Latest News
Texas: Muslims murder woman for helping convert their daughter to Christianity
Canada: Judge orders release of ex-Guantanamo detainee who killed GI
Islamic State murders 4 with car bombs at Iraq-Jordan border crossing
Tsarnaev family’s trip to US, heavy guard paid for by taxpayers
Jerusalem: 3 hurt in vehicular jihad attack
UK Muslim gets 18 months prison dawah for pro-Islamic State FB postings
FBI investigating Islamic State jihad mass murder plot in U.S.
San Diego Muslim accused of hiding links to Islamic State
Australia: Muslim doctor joins Islamic State medical team for “jihad for Islam” against the West
Minneapolis Muslim threatens “massacre” unless Muslims arrested for trying to join the Islamic State are freed
UK: Muslim mayor rigged elections, charged foes with “Islamophobia”

Lebanon/Hundreds protest Zouk power plant pollutants
The Daily Star/Apr. 25, 2015
BEIRUT: Hundreds of Mount Lebanon residents briefly blocked the main Beirut-Tripoli highway in Zouk Mikael Saturday to protest the high levels of toxic emissions being emitted from the nearby power plant. Families living near the plant took to the streets in frustration after their demands for limiting the plant’s gas emissions fell on deaf ears. “We have been maybe too civilized in the way we were issuing our demands before,” one protester told MTV. “It seems we have to block roads in order to make our voices heard.”
Another protester said the town’s mayor had given the plant 15 days to reduce the level of dangerous emissions. Protesters complained that the plant, built in 1956 and operating since 1983, had been emitting gases that caused hundreds of asthma and lung cancer cases.
Speaking at a news conference before the beginning of the demonstration, Zouk Mikael Mayor Nuohad Nawfal called for “declaring a state of environmental emergency" and demanded that the plant either be wholly moved to a non-residential area, or replaced with one that operates on gas instead of fuel oil. The event was attended by represenatives of the major Christian political parties in the area. Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi told protesters that his Kataeb Party backs the movement. Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel also spoke at the event, saying the matter concerns all Lebanese and not only residents of Zouk Mikael and Keserouan. “We will confront a Keserouani genocide and we should deal with this matter based on this level and this is why we are standing here today,” Gemayel said. Neematallah Abi Nasr from the Change and Reform Bloc called for finding a way to ensure the safety of the residents around the power plant, stressing that the necessary funds to end the crisis are available.  The Lebanese Forces also issued a statement supporting the demands of the municipality and residents, calling on supporters to participate in any demonstration or protest for this cause.

Arab sources report Israel air strikes against Syrian-Hizballah missile bases, Hizballah arms convoys. DEBKAfile: Hizballah secret airstrip possible target
DEBKAfile Special Report April 25, 2015/Unofficial sources in Syria and Lebanon, cited by the Arab TV channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, reported Saturday, April 25, that the Israeli Air Force struck Hizballah and Syrian military targets in the Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border from Wednesday, April 22, to Friday night April 24. There is no official word on these reports from Israel or Syria. In the Wednesday attack, one person was said to have been killed. The picture taking shape from these reports shows the targets to have been the 155th, 65th and 92nd Brigades of the Syrian army and Hizballah, two Hizballah arms convoys and Syrian long-range missile bases or batteries. debkafile’s military sources add that it is hardly credible that Israeli air raids spread over three days went unnoticed by the Syrian and Lebanese media. The Arab TV reports if confirmed may therefore be exaggerated in scope. Friday, our own sources reported that Syrian and Hizballah forces under Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers were fighting to flush out the last rebel pockets on the strategic Qalamoun mountains, to clear the highway to Lebanon for unhindered military movements - most importantly, the weapons and personnel flowing regularly across the border between the two allies.
In past reports, debkafile disclosed that Hizballah had transferred the bulk of its personnel and a large store of missiles from northern Lebanon to a protected enclave in Qalamoun under its control. The Iranian-backed Lebanese militia calculated that this base would be safer from Israeli attack than in Lebanon. And, in the event of war, Israel would be obliged to extend its front to Syria. According to Western intelligence sources, long-range missiles are part of the store Hizballah relocated to the Syrian mountains, whence they can be aimed at Israel. The putative Israeli air strikes this week would therefore have aimed at thwarting Hizballah’s scheme to set up another war base in the Syrian-Lebanese mountains area. Another likely target would be Hizballah’s first air strip for drones established in the northern Lebanese Beqaa Valley south of Hermel. Jane’s, a British publication specializing in military affairs, this week ran satellite images showing the airstrip to be 670 m long and 20 m wide, too short for most transport aircraft, excepting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards short take-off An-74T-200 transports, which carry arms for Hizballah – although landing with a load on this mountain strip would be considered dangerous. The runway was apparently built to accommodate drones, such as the Ababil-3 and Shahed-129 types which Iran has delivered to Hizballah.

Report: Alleged Israeli strike targeted Scud missiles
Yoav Zitun/ Ynetnews/Published: 04.26.15/Israel News
Arab media outlets claim long-range missile cache was target of attack attributed to Israel. The target of the alleged Israeli strike in the suburbs of Damascus was a shipment of long-range ground-to-ground missiles, likely of the Scud variety, according to reports in Arab media outlets. The reports claimed the attack occurred in two waves and left a number of casualties. Al Jazeera reported on Saturday morning that Israeli warplanes bombed positions belonging to the Syrian army and Hezbollah in the al-Qalamoun region near the border between Syria and Lebanon. The strike was reported in Al-Arabiya, which claimed the target was a cache of Syrian Scuds. The Saudi-owned network further claimed that Israel had also struck the area on Wednesday. The IDF and the security services refused to comment on the strikes. According to the Al Jazeera report, the strike occurred on Friday and was intended to hit the 155th and 65th Brigades of the Syrian army, which specialize in strategic weaponry and long-range missiles. Sources which reported to the Qatari network said several explosions were heard in the Syrian towns of Al-Qutayfah, Yabroud and Qarah on the outskirts of Damascus. Meanwhile, a Syrian opposition official currently outside of the country claimed overnight, based on sources within Syria, that the target was weapon stores. At the same time, an Al-Arabiya reporter in Israel claimed that on Wednesday the Israeli military attacked a weapons convoy intended for Hezbollah. The reporter claimed one person was killed in the strike.
**Roi Kais contributed to this report.

Hezbollah has no Bekaa Valley airstrip: party MP
The Daily Star/Apr. 25, 2015
BEIRUT: A Hezbollah MP dismissed a media report claiming that the militant group possesses an airstrip in northeast Lebanon used to land its arsenal of drones. “The defined area does not contain any airstrip. If there was an airstrip or works to build one, all the residents of the Baalbek valley would have seen it with their own eyes,” Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Walid Sukkarieh told Al-Jumhouriya newspaper in comments published Saturday. The comments came after an article in Jane’s Defense Weekly said it discovered what it believed to be an airstrip near the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel built by Hezbollah to fly its drones. It published satellite images taken from Google of the site. “The location mentioned by the magazine, which is 10 kilometers south of Hermel and 18 kilometers west of the Lebanese-Syrian border, contains my own village, al-Fakiha,” he added, describing the area in question as an agricultural land. The report, authored by Nicholas Blanford, had suggested Thursday that the location contained an airstrip that Hezbollah built for its drones between Feb. 27, 2013 and June 19, 2014. It concluded the findings from an analysis of “imagery that recently became publicly available on Google Earth."Blanford said the area included “a single unpaved strip with a length of 670 meters and width of 20 meters," and that the material used to build it had been excavated from a nearby quarry, which is also allegedly shown in the image. The report ruled out the possibility of the airstrip being used to smuggle weapons from Iran and Syria by air, saying it was too short for the two countries’ transport aircraft to land on. “An alternative explanation is that the runway was built for Iranian-made UAVs, including the Ababil-3, which has been employed over Syria by forces allied to the Syrian regime, and possibly the newer and larger Shahed-129,” it concluded.
Sukkarieh wondered what the purpose was behind the article. “Does it want to say that Hezbollah possesses drones that it might be using...?” Okay, Hezbollah is present in Syria and fights against Israel, and it might use these drones in both countries to support its military operations.”

Report: Hizbullah Establishes Runway in the Bekaa to Operate Drones

Naharnet /Hizbullah has allegedly constructed a runway that consists of a single unpaved strip with a length of 670 meter and width of 20 meter in the Bekaa town of Hermel to operate its drones. IHS Jane's Defense Weekly said in a report that the area is remote and unpopulated. The magazine said that it obtained the information from satellite images that recently became publicly available on Google Earth. The report suggests that the airstrip, 18 km west of the Syrian border, was established between 27 February 2013 and 19 June 2014. It pointed out that the runway was "built over a shorter strip that had been in existence since at least 2010."“The short length of the runway suggests the facility is not intended to smuggle in weapons shipments from Syria or Iran as it is too short for nearly all the transport aircraft used by the air forces of those countries,” the report said. It estimates that the runway was constructed to operate Iranian made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including Ababil-3 and Shahed-129. Hizbullah sources confirmed to the magazine that the party is using the drones to aid the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad against rebels. In 2014, the Saudi al-Watan daily reported that Hizbullah had established a small military airport in the Bekaa city of Baalbek to operate Iranian-made drones. The Iranian drones were identified as Mirsad-1 and Mirsad-2. Senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh had said that Hizbullah has dramatically improved its missile capabilities and can now pinpoint targets anywhere in Israel. In 2012, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged that a drone which Israel shot down by Israel was launched by his party. The drone was “believed to be the new Shahed-129, which was unveiled by Tehran, with a range of up to 1,200 miles and a flight duration of 24 hours.” In July 2006, the Israeli military shot down an unarmed drone operated by Hizbullah over the Jewish state's territorial waters. On April 12, 2005, another pilotless Hizbullah aircraft succeeded in overflying part of northern Israel without being downed.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in France to Discuss Presidential Stalemate
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi arrived in France on Saturday after a four-day visit to Armenia where he attended the centenary commemoration of the Armenian genocide. Al-Rahi arrived at the Le Bourget Airport on board a private jet put at his disposal by Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares. The Patriarch, who is on his fourth pastoral visit to France, is expected to meet on Monday with French President Francoise Hollande at the Elysee. Discussions between the two men are set to focus on electing a new Lebanese president after an almost one year vacuum at the top state post. Furthermore, al-Rahi will inaugurate Europe's Maronite Diocese in the town of Meudon in the French capital's suburbs. Lawmakers have failed so far to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum, after the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014. Vacuum striking the presidential post since May is having a tough impact on the cabinet and the parliament as the state is threatened with further crises over ongoing rows between the rival parties.

Lebanese Army Clamps Down on Bomb-Making Factory in the Bekaa, Arrests 4 Syrians
Naharnet/The Army intelligence detained several Syrian nationals in the Bekaa region and seized a factory used for manufacturing bombs. According to a statement issued by the army on Saturday, an army intelligence unit raided a bomb-making factory in the town of al-Marj in the west Bekaa, detaining four Syrian nationals. The communique said that army confiscated in operation, which was carried out on Friday night, a large quantity of machines and material. The factory is reportedly located near a Syrian encampment in the area. The military said that detained suspects were referred to the competent authorities, along with the seized items. An investigation was also launched. The Lebanese security forces began implementing recently strict security measures and kicked off security plans across the country to reduce crime rate and clamp down on terrorists. The Lebanese army has been carrying out large-scale raids and has managed to arrest scores of offenders.

In Memory of my Lebanese Ancestors...
Walid Phares DC
April 25/15
In the days preceding and following the deep sorrow expressed across the Middle East about the destruction of communities, particularly Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Syriacs, and others, including Christian and Muslim freedom activists who were executed and all those who died during WWI, one other terrible tragedy isn't mentioned enough in the international media and not referred to enough by officials, leaders and historians, the death of the third of Mount Lebanon population. Most Lebanese families of the Mutassarrifia relate to losses of their kin somewhere throughout the mountain from the far north to the far south.
In my own village, Ghouma, one fifth of the households vanished because of the famine that resulted from the blockade of Mount Lebanon during WWI. Entire neighborhoods emptied. My father Halim Phares who was five years of age in 1915, kept reminding us as we were growing up in Beirut, of the tragedy citing tales and stories from the years he spent with our grand mother Wardiye' (Rosa) Dargham-Phares in Chekka. The one word we learned from that episode was "ekmek," meaning bread. Out of three hundred thousands who lived in Mount
Lebanon, one third died, less than a third emigrated and the last more than a third constituted the nucleus that formed the new Lebanon. Unfortunately post WWI Lebanon had bled too much to be able to revive its national identity and claim its future as a nation that resisted thirteen centuries in the face of powerful empires. The Ottoman Sultanate destroyed one third of the people of Mount Lebanon, Le Petit Liban, during WWI. But the new political elites of Greater Lebanon, hungry for power and reckless in their choices, destroyed the future of Mount Lebanon.
As I wrote eighty years later in the Magazine 'al Maruni' (September 1, 1980, thirty years ago) the political establishment that managed the public affairs of the new republic of Lebanon particularly since 1943 left a disaster behind them. For Greater Lebanon as a country, pounded by the PLO, Syria and Iran, had shrunk to become smaller than 'Smaller Lebanon' in the 1980s. And since 1990, Neither Le Grand Liban nor Le Petit Liban exist in reality.
It is a republic sandwiched between the Ayatollahs and the Jihadists. Our ancestors died from hunger for nothing, while the elites fed themselves with wealth and with the shame of collaboration with any power that kept them on top, even if the bottom was suffering...
Dedicating these thoughts to the memory of my ancestors...
Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18 | The National
Long forgotten, the great famine on Mountain Lebanon began 100 years ago this month, claiming half a million lives.

A Video from BBC speaking the famine of Mount Lebanon during WW1 - BBC News/Click Here
Unknown to many, a third of the Lebanese population died of famine and disease during World War One. BBC Arabic’s Carine Torbey recounts the horrifying story of the Famine of Mount Lebanon.

Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18
Rym Ghazal/The National World
April 25, 2015
“My people and your people, my Syrian Brother, are dead ... What can be Done for those who are dying? Our Lamentations will not satisfy their Hunger, and our tears will not quench Their thirst; what can we do to save Them between the iron paws of
Hunger?”- From Dead Are My People by Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)
Almost 100 years ago this month, as the First World War raged across Europe and beyond, a dark chapter unfolded in what was then known as Greater Syria.
The first culprit: the relentless locust. Following a bad harvest caused by a drought, in April 1915 dark clouds heralded the arrival of swarms of locusts, descending to feed on plants, whether green or dry.
For over three months, the tiny but insatiable creatures devoured whatever had been left behind by the Ottoman authorities, who had prioritised food and grain reserves to feed their soldiers as part of the imperial war effort.
This marked the beginning of a period that is now often just a footnote in the history books: the Great Famine of 1915-18, which left an estimated 500,000 people dead. With a lack of accurate data, estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in Mount Lebanon alone.
At this time, the population of Lebanon was estimated at about 400,000, meaning that half its people died. At 250,000, the American Red Cross estimated an even higher death toll.
It was the highest death toll by population of the First World War.
“The nights in Beirut were atrocious: You heard the whining and screaming of starved people: ‘Ju3an, Ju3an’ (hungry, hungry),” wrote the Turkish feminist author Halide Edib (1882-1964) in her memoirs.
In his book Al Raghif (The Bread), the Lebanese writer and diplomat Toufic Youssef Aouad – a child during the famine – wrote: “There was a woman lying on her back, covered with lice. A newborn with enormous eyes was at her breast. The child kept pressing the breast with his hands and lips and would then give up and cry and cry.”
There were reports of people eating cats, dogs and rats, even cannibalism. One account is by a priest who tells of a father who came to confess that he had eaten his own children.
Edward Nickoley, 1917, an employee with the Syrian Protestant College, later to become the American University of Beirut, wrote in his diary: “Starving people lying about everywhere; at any time children moaning and weeping, women and children clawing over rubbish piles and ravenous­ly eating anything that they can find. When the agonised cry of famishing people in the street becomes too bitter to bear, people get up and close the windows tight in the hope of shutting out the sound. Mere babies amuse themselves by imitating the cries that they hear in the streets or at the doors.”
The Great Famine was the devastating result of both political and environmental factors, the combination of a severe drought and locusts and a suffocating blockade. After the Ottoman forces joined Germany, the Allies enforced a blockade of the entire Eastern Mediterranean in an effort to cut the supplies to the Ottomans.
In return, a blockade was introduced by General Jamal Pasha, commander in chief of the Turkish forces in Greater Syria, where cereals and wheat were prevented from entering Mount Lebanon.
In a letter to Mary Haskell, dated May 26, 1916, Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote: “The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation and thousands are dying every single day. The same process happened with the Christian Armenians and applied to the Christians in Mount Lebanon.”
But the full story is a far more complicated, according to history professor Aaron Tylor Brand, at the American University of Beirut, whose dissertation on the famine is entitled: Lives Darkened by Calamity: Enduring the Famine of WWI in Lebanon and Western Syria.
“Previous interpretations of the famine as a deliberate product of Ottoman or Allied actions are too simplistic. Analysing monthly price lists and climatic statistics of the famine period and contextualising these within the history of famine in the region suggests that the high prices that drove the region towards famine in late 1915 were the product of environmental factors (poor rainfall, a climatic oscillation, and locust attack) and wartime mismanagement that conscripted too heavily in the countryside at a time when agricultural goods were needed for both the war and the population,” he says.
“The result was a crisis in the countryside that led to underproduction of agricultural goods, prompting speculation that increased the cost of living. This, combined with the loss of jobs due to the Allied blockade in Mount Lebanon and the coastal regions, created a situation where people, who were already growing poor due to the work stoppage, were then forced to buy expensive food to feed their families and keep themselves alive.
“State policies like price fixing, the introduction of paper money, the implementation of production and transportation controls of grain and taxation did little to help the situation,” he says. “In the end, it wasn’t that there was no food [in most towns], it was that it was too expensive to purchase, so people and families began to slowly starve.”
The Ottoman authorities issued paper money, depreciating the purchasing power of the Greater Syria inhabitants. Diseases and illnesses soon followed, with rises in epidemics like malaria, dysentery, typhoid and typhus.
“The conditions of the refugees from the Armenian Genocide and those fleeing to the cities in search of work or food increased the incidence of epidemic disease during the period. The increase in susceptible individuals and the wet springs of 1916-1918 meant there were more mosquitoes feeding on more people, allowing the spread of malaria to reach crisis levels by 1917. The anaemia and diarrhoea of malaria, combined with malnourishment, was a bad combination, probably subtly contributing to the death tolls,” says Prof Brand.
All areas across Greater Syria suffered on some level or other, with the highest death tolls in Mount Lebanon, he says, due “to Ottoman mismanagement, predations by certain officials and soldiers, and poor supply systems, and poverty caused by the cessation of the silk trade.” Back then, the production of raw silk was woven by women in mills and then exported to Europe. Also tied to this period is Martyrs’ Day, marked on May 6 in Lebanon and Syria.
Earning him the title Al Jazzar (the butcher), Gen Jamal Pasha, who saw tens of thousands die from starvation, also ordered the public execution of 21 Syrians and Lebanese in Damascus and Beirut in 1916, for alleged “anti-Turkish activities”. Marjeh Square in Damascus and Burj square in Beirut were both renamed Martyrs’ Square.
“Our parents did not like to talk too much about that period. It was a dark ugly part of our history,” says Teresa Michel, now in her late 80s, from the coastal city of Betroun, northern Lebanon, which – along with Byblos and Tripoli – was also hit hard by the famine.
“They lost so many loved ones during that time. My father once said that the rich families survived as they were able to bribe and get supplies on the black market. It was the unemployed, the middle class and the poor that were dying in the streets.”
Today the only survivor of the famine still living is believed to be a 105-year-old man in Batloun, Lebanon. But the story of the Great Famine remains alive through those who remember the horrific stories of death and survival.
* Additional reporting by Carla Mirza

No Racism in Turkey?
Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute
April 25, 2015
"Thank God, there is no anti-Semitism in Turkey," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc (left) told leaders of Turkey's dwindling Jewish community (right) in a speech reopening the Great Synagogue in Edirne last month.
Ostensibly, it was a merry event. A week before Passover, hundreds of Turkish Jews from Istanbul gathered in the western city of Edirne for the reopening of the Great Synagogue, which had closed its doors in 1969 and had remained a ruin since then, until it was recently restored.
In the days after the high-profile ceremony, the Great Synagogue would go back to its quieter days, as there are no longer Jews in Edirne, and only 17,000 in the whole of Turkey.
Turkey's notoriously anti-Semitic and Islamist government did its best to entertain the congregation by sending two bigwigs to the ceremony. One of them, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, made a speech that, otherwise, could have caused bursts of laughter at the synagogue. "Thank God," he said, "There is no anti-Semitism in Turkey." His next remarks showed even darker humor. He said: "There is no racism in Turkey; it has never found a base for its roots. When we look at Europe and other countries we see how far behind us they are, and we feel really sorry."
The second official guest at the ceremony, Governor Dursun Sahin, is no stranger to readers of this journal. Last November, Sahin threatened to forbid post-restoration prayers at the Great Synagogue and turn it, instead, into a museum. He said he would not allow prayers at the synagogue because Israeli security forces had attacked the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Then he admitted his "huge hatred":
While those bandits [Israeli security forces] blow winds of war inside al-Aqsa and slay Muslims, we build their synagogues. I say this with a huge hatred inside me. We clean their [Jewish] graveyards, send their projects to boards. But the synagogue here will be registered only as a museum, and there will be no exhibitions inside it.
Selin Nasi, a journalist from Salom, a Jewish newspaper in Istanbul, who covered the reopening, wrote that:
Unfortunately, Turkish Jews, who have been considered as having organic ties to Israel, are labeled as foreigners. Thus, they are subject to hate speech and threats almost on a daily basis whenever there is a crisis between Israel and Palestine ... The crowds that filled the synagogue genuinely wanted to believe in Arinc.
How could they? Only a few months ago, a schoolteacher was caught having hung a signpost at the gate of the Neve Salom synagogue in Istanbul that read: "Building to be destroyed." The man was not prosecuted.
When African soccer players were subjected to ugly racial slurs at a 2013 match in Istanbul, Ivory Coast native Didier Drogba wrote on Instagram afterwards, "You called me monkey and forgot that you jumped when my 'monkey' brother scored twice yesterday."
So, there is no racism in Turkey. Nice. But Google will produce 12.2 million results if one types "Turkey" and "racism." Wikipedia has a rich text on "Racism in Turkey," with facts, figures and a couple of photos. One photo, for instance, shows the slogan "Long Live Racist Turkey" spray-painted by unidentified people on the walls of an Armenian church in Istanbul. Another reads, "You Are Either a Turk, or a Bastard," near the wall of another Armenian church in Istanbul. In February, banners "celebrating" the Armenian genocide were spotted in several cities throughout Turkey. They declared: "We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleansed of [Christian] Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors."
A 2004 dispatch penned by an official from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, leaked by WikiLeaks, observed that a campaign against a Turkish Armenian journalist (who would be murdered in 2007) "exposed an ugly streak of racism in Turkish society."
Just last August, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Prime Minister), in a televised interview on NTV news network, clearly remarked that being Armenian is "uglier" than even being Georgian. He said: "You wouldn't believe the things they have said about me. They have said I am Georgian... they have said even uglier things -- they have called me Armenian."
There is credible research, too. In 2011, the Pew Global Attitudes and Trends survey found that only 6% of Turks had a favorable opinion of Christians, and 4% of them had favorable opinion of Jews. A few years earlier, in 2006, the numbers had been 16% and 15%, respectively.
The Pew survey also found that 72% of Turks viewed Americans as hostile, and 70% of them viewed Europeans as hostile. When asked to name the world's most violent religion, 45% of Turks cited Christianity and 41% cited Judaism, with only 2% saying it was Islam. Not surprisingly, 65% of Turks said the Westerners were "immoral."
Deputy Prime Minister Arinc may enjoy his time in his make-believe world where "there is no racism" and "we are sorry for the Europeans." But facts are facts. And they often ridicule politicians who speak claptrap.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Jihad to come in Europe
Ben-Dror Yemini/Ynetnes
Published: 04.25.15 / Israel Opinion
Op-ed: Some of the refugees who fled to Europe have become far more radical after finding sanctuary there, and the new Jihad recruits will come from among them; meanwhile, a political genocide of Israel is underway in educated circles.
A ship carrying 104 refugees on their way from Libya to the shores of Italy was in distress and appeared to be sinking. One of the passengers began praying for his life. Some of the Muslims demanded that he pray to Allah – and Allah alone. But he was a Christian.
The Muslims flew into a rage; and with cries of "Allahu Akbar," they threw 12 Christians overboard. Cold-blooded murder. The remaining Christians formed a human chain and managed to put an end to the madness. An Italian rescue vessel arrived in time to prevent the refugee ship from sinking.
Fifteen of the passengers were arrested and will be charged with murder. Apparently, one doesn't have to be a member of Islamic State to be just like Islamic State. And the current wave of refugees is carrying such Muslim extremists into Europe too.
Geo-strategist Professor Arnon Soffer has claimed from time to time in recent years that the big tsunami is only a matter of time. Millions from Asia and Africa will try to make their way to the wealthy countries. The big flood has yet to begin, but something is afoot.
Over the past 10 days or so, four ships have capsized, including one carrying 400 refugees and then another with around 950 migrants on board. Most of the passengers drowned. Two smaller ships were added to the list in recent days. Some 1,500 people have drowned in a week. The Mediterranean Sea is becoming a huge graveyard. Approximately 3,200 drowned in 2014. A total of 22,000 since 2000.
Those are the numbers we know of. They could be a lot higher. It's clear by now that the number of fatalities this year will be higher than ever. The risk of death is not a deterrent. Last week, in just a single week, around 10,000 refugees landed on the shores of Italy. In 2014, the number hit 200,000. The figures this year will be much higher.
The migration began before the onset of the blood fest in the Muslim expanse. But the situation is becoming increasingly complicated. Islamic State is taking control of parts of Libya, along its Mediterranean coastline too. This week, the organization released a video of the slaughter of Ethiopian Christians by its people in Libya. Islamic State activists are perpetrating massacres on the beaches, and Islamic State activists are on the ships too.
And some of the refugees actually become much more radical after finding sanctuary among communities in Europe. The new Jihad recruits will come from among them. It's already happened; and there's more to come. They will join that same Jihad and that same path of death and destruction that will spark more waves of refugees escaping to Europe – and on it goes. And it's only getting worse.
Yemen, the poorest of the Arab countries, has absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from East Africa in the past decade. The direction of the flow has changed now. Hundreds of thousands are trying to flee the inferno in Yemen and head for Africa.
The road from there to the shores of the Middle East is a long one. When they try to veer in the other direction, South Africa isn't very welcoming. Six foreigners have been killed there in recent days in a wave of unrest against migrants.
Europe is caught in a trap. Providing assistance to the barely seaworthy boats, for the purpose of saving lives, will only encourage the migration, which is already breaking records. Leaving the boats and their passengers to fend for themselves, on the other hand, could border on a crime against humanity. A huge dilemma. And Europe has no answer.
Political genocide
The University of Southampton will not be hosting the "academic" conference on Israel's right to exist. A British court of law has upheld the university's decision, thus dismissing the organizers' petition to force the institution to stage the conference. The joy, however, is premature, because the university's decision was taken "on the grounds of health and safety."
These conference organizers, until now, have been Israel haters who've been very good at threatening and demonstrating and resorting to violence in an effort to disrupt or cause the cancelation of events considered pro-Israel. They’re now getting a taste of their own medicine.
The thing is that Israel supporters wouldn't have caused trouble at the conference. They are too well-mannered. The conference should have been canceled for a different reason. A conference with the political objective of negating one particular state's right to exist – out of all the countries of the world – is not an academic conference. It's an academic disgrace.
After all, if anyone dared to initiate a conference calling into question the establishment of a Palestinian state or the existence of Croatia, he'd be committed – either on the grounds of insanity, or as a result of violent behavior.
But questioning the very existence of one particular country – a form of political genocide, "politicide" – is fair play; and opposition to the conference comes up against a herd of hypocrites who dare to speak of "freedom of expression."
The initiative to stage the conference is one of the low points of the academe of the free world. What next? An academic conference on denying women equal right? Holocaust denial?
After all, there are issues for which the premise of "academic freedom" can't serve even as a distasteful joke. Why is this not clear when it comes to a group of academics who preach the destruction of a country?

Yemen crisis: A war for the survival of the Saudi monarchy
Yakub Halabi, i24News/Ynetnews
Published: 04.26.15/Israel Opinion
Analysis: With a small, weak and inexperienced army waging its first war in history, Saudi Arabia is fighting to prevent a Jihadi takeover of Yemen in a conflict that will sooner or later spill over into the Kingdom.
The civil war in Yemen between the Shiite Houthis and the pro-transitional government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi left Saudi Arabia with no choice but to intervene in Yemen.
The new Saudi King, Salman, fears that a prolonged war south of the kingdom will lead to the Syrianization of Yemen, where amid the political vacuum, transnational Jihadist allied with either al-Qaeda or the Islamic State will enter Yemen to fight against the “infidel” Shiites.
Saudi estimates that a protracted war will sooner or later spill over into the Kingdom. Hence, this war is not a competition over hegemony in the Arab Peninsula between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but a war over the survival of the Saudi monarchy.
The problem of the Saudi Kingdom is that for many years it focused on fighting against domestic rivals of the dynasty and left its external security in the hands of the US. The regime has depoliticized society, refrained from levying taxes as it followed the slogan of “no taxation and no representation” and refused to impose universal conscription on Saudi males. In other words, citizens have no reason to demand accountability from the regime as long as they don’t pay taxes, while the royal family has extrapolated that a strong national army would constitute a major menace to its stability. The Saudi regime treated society as a body that has physical needs but one that does not think.
However President Obama's neo-isolationist doctrine of attempting to resolve international conflicts through international organizations, mediation and diplomacy, has exposed the vulnerability of the Kingdom’s external security. The Saudi monarchy is currently concerned that diplomacy operates too slowly and will be ineffective in containing the Yemeni war, as it was demonstrated in the case of Syria. Now, the Kingdom feels abandoned by the US despite repeated declaration by Obama of US commitment to its security.
In the meantime, the pro-Saudi Sunni regimes of Pakistan and Egypt are not in a rush to dispatch ground troops to Yemen fearing that their army will be mired in an unpopular war in a remote state.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most important states in the world. It is the largest world oil supplier—providing the global market with ten million barrels of oil daily. Through this supply the Saudi regime can set the price of oil and affect growth or recession in the world's economies.
Toppling the Saudi regime was always the main goal of transnational Jihadists. Doing so would give the Jihadists access to the lucrative source of Saudi oil income and the legitimacy of protecting the holy sites of Islam in the Hejaz region.
The Obama administration cannot allow the war in Yemen to undermine stability within Saudi Arabia but so far the US has not done much militarily, fearing that military intervention will strain US-Iran relations at this sensitive point of time of attempting to finalize a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The US has in the meantime restricted its support of the Saudis in this war to intelligence and logistical support.
As for Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is waging the first war in its history. Yet with its small, weak and inexperienced army, it cannot commit ground troops to fight both the Shiite Houthis or the Sunni Jihadists, and is relying mainly on its air power that has, thus far, caused the death of many innocent civilians.
The US may even think that the Saudis overestimate the repercussions of the Yemeni conflict on their security, relying on the fact that Yemen is an underdeveloped, failed state. However strategically Yemen is a very important state. If diplomacy fails in bringing the conflict to an end, the Obama administration may find itself reluctantly embroiled in the process of re-stabilizing Yemen because the Saudi regime is indispensable for the US and losing it is out of question.
**Yakub Halabi is an Arab-citizen of Israel, assistant professor of international relations and fellow at the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies, Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

ISIS, Iran and the Larger Battle
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Alawsat
Saturday, 25 Apr, 2015
Saudi Arabia, as well as all members of its coalition, are currently in a state of war against the main source of chaos in the region: Iran. Tehran is fomenting this chaos through its regional allies, from the Houthis in Yemen to Hezbollah in Lebanon to the sectarian National Mobilization forces in Iraq. At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the coalition are also at war with Sunni terrorist organizations, most prominently the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda.
With Iran and its followers seeking to destabilize the region, it is only natural that there would be dangerous consequences to this, even if indirectly. One of these consequences has seen the specter of Sunni terrorism cast its shadow across the Arab world, particularly Al-Qaeda and ISIS. While the mere presence of extremist and terrorist groups such as this serves to further isolate the Arab world from the rest of the international community, distorting our image and reputation.
Saudi Arabia is fighting the Houthis—who are backed by Iran—on one front in Yemen, while ISIS is seeking to send its death and destruction into the Kingdom on a second front. This is the same ISIS that is seeking to monopolize Islam, portraying itself as the defender of Muslims and the Arab Sunni community against Iran, or the “Persian Magi” as the group puts it.
But couldn’t ISIS postpone its attempted expansion into Saudi Arabia, at least for a time, considering the situation it finds itself in across the rest of the Arab world? What is the reason behind this move at this particular time?
The Saudi Interior Ministry this week revealed that security forces have arrested a man suspected in the murder of two Saudi policemen in eastern Riyadh earlier this month. A second suspect is on the run. The Interior Ministry has confirmed that both men have ties to ISIS, and in fact that ISIS ordered them to carry out this heinous attack. More than this, the 23-year-old man who was arrested in connection with this crime, Yazid Mohammad Abdulrahman Abu Nayan, was in the process of preparing for another attack. This attack, which was foiled by his arrest, would have seen seven car bombs targeting different sites across Saudi Arabia and no doubt resulting in large civilian casualties.
The second attacker is currently a fugitive from the law—another young man, aged 29, named by the authorities as Nawaf Sharif Al-Anzi. The authorities confirmed that both men had received orders from ISIS leaders in Syria and that they had not even known each other prior to the attack. As for Anzi, Abu Nayan said that he spoke with a Moroccan accent.
Reports indicate that these two youths have a criminal past, and previous charges against them include resisting arrest, driving while drunk and even financial crimes. So, they both have a long history of rebelling against the law, before becoming radicalized. After this, they found ISIS to be a suitable religious cover for their inherent rebelliousness against society and the rule of law, and vice versa. This is something that is worth pausing at and considering when looking at how ISIS finds, and uses, its recruits.
At the Saudi Interior Ministry press conference, spokesman Brig. Gen. Bassem Al-Atiyah said that ISIS seeks to prey on and use our disaffected young people against us, warning about “child soldiers.”
This is true, and a great threat to our nations and societies. Isn’t now the time for new global legislation regarding the use of social media and how extremist and terrorist groups use these to gain followers, turning them into killers?
After all this, it is clear that everything is part of a larger battle and battlefield, from the Shi’ite Houthis to the Sunni Al-Qaeda and ISIS—there is no difference.

The reasons behind the murder of ex-Syrian spy chief Rustom Ghazaleh
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/AlArabiya
Saturday, 25 April 2015
Former Syrian political security chief Rustom Ghazaleh, one of the country’s most notorious figures for the past two decades, has died.
As with the deaths of other prominent figures in Bashar al-Assad’s regime, natural causes are seldom the case. In 2005, Ghazi Kanaan, who preceded Ghazaleh, was also murdered, but the Syrian government claimed that he committed suicide. Similarly, two years ago, military intelligence chief Jameh Jameh, one of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassinators, was also killed.
Syria is the only country in the world where officials disappear and the regime then declares that suicide or mysterious circumstances were the reasons behind the deaths. In the case of Ghazaleh, some of the most circulated stories - including the semi-official ones - claim that he was killed after being beaten to death. Different governmental sources spread contradictory versions; the most ridiculous version is that he was heavily beaten because of a dispute with Rafiq Shehadeh, another security official, because the former insisted on participating in the fight against “terrorists” in his hometown Daraa.
I do not know if there are people who are stupid enough to believe such stories: fighting over national heroism. What is even more ironic is that the “killer” Shehadeh was rewarded a few days ago with a promotion to the post of the colleague he murdered.
No hiding
Ghazaleh has most likely been killed by torture in prison, the regime did not seek to hide the story of the murder, though it had published contradictory rumors about how and why he was killed. The regime used to admit and announce the mysterious deaths of its officials in order to instill fear among top-tier hierarchy. The two murdered persons, Ghazaleh and Kanaan, had killed former Syrian Prime Minister Mahmoud Zuabi in 2000.
“Syria is the only country in the world where officials disappear and the regime then declares that suicide or mysterious circumstances were the reasons behind the deaths”
And there are many reasons as for why Ghazaleh was killed. His death might be in relation with Rana Koleilat, head of Lebanon’s al-Madina Bank who fled to Brazil after the collapse of the lender, and her published confessions in Lebanese weekly al-Shiraa. She talked about Ghazaleh and his wife blackmailing her and claimed that they had looted tens of millions of dollars.
She revealed horrible stories about how he used to threaten her and the bank’s staff, during his stay in Lebanon. However, the Syrian regime has never punished his men for their personal actions, but instead, it used to encourage them and reward them for their ferocity and their ability to control their assigned regions regardless of the methods.
In order to understand the mystery of Ghazaleh’s murder, we should not forget that he was questoined by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trying suspects for Hariri’s assassination, as he was also on the list of suspects. His death, like most of the murdered Syrian officials who were involved in Hariri’s killing, was in mysterious circumstances. The third possibility is that Ghazaleh had decided to defect and that was a sufficient reason to kill him.
Few leaders of the Syrian regime are still alive - as most of them were either killed or went missing. Assad, with the help of his Iranian allies, is now preparing for a new era of rehabilitation to lead a new political phase under the pretext that it is the only one that can fight and defeat terrorist organizations. Ghazaleh’s murder reminds people of how cruel and tyrannical the regime is; however it can never convince them that the regime has changed.

The Mediterranean: the great, white and cruel sea
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 25 April 2015
The Mediterranean is a small sea, but culturally and historically its role in shaping the trajectory of human civilization and synthetizing various cultures gives it the pride of place among the much larger bodies of waters. On its shores emerged the first learned city-states of Sidon, Tyre, Athens and Venice, the sophisticated cities that became the centers of empires; Carthage, Alexandria and Constantinople. For millennia, armies would sail its waters and march on its coasts from East to West and in reverse.
More importantly the Mediterranean was the watery bridge for the movement of commerce and peoples, the travel of ideas, religions, myths and civilizations. On its waves sailed the famed, sleek and lethal Phoenician, Greek and Roman Triremes, and the various Galleys of every subsequent empire laying claims to its liquid riches, as well as the Corsairs who preyed on its merchant fleets.
The waters of the Mediterranean, its islands and coastlines constitute the stuff of legends, epics and myths, enchanting sirens, and famed sailors traveling to the end of the earth, of shipwrecks on its unforgiving rocky coastlines and tales of survival after harrowing crossings. For a small sea it has accumulated many names: Mediterraneus, Latin for the sea between the lands, because it is almost enclosed, the Greeks called it the “Middle Sea,” and for the Romans, the only civilization that controlled it in its entirety, it was known as Mare Nostrum, (our sea). In the Old Testament it was given more than one name but for the Jews it was mostly known as the “Great Sea,” the Turks gave it the name “White Sea,” and the Arabs know it as the al-Bahr Al-Abyad al-Muttawasit (البحر الأبيض المتوسط) “The Middle white sea.”
The cruel sea
Reading the harrowing accounts of thousands of destitute refugees fleeing the wars, upheavals, misery and the collapse of their societies in the Arab world, and Africa and watching their never ending season of migration to its northern shores, while being engulfed by its deceptively calm waters, one is tempted to give the Mediterranean in these times the epithet “the cruel sea.”
“Reading the harrowing accounts of thousands of destitute refugees fleeing the wars, upheavals, misery and the collapse of their societies in the Arab world, and Africa and watching their never ending season of migration to its northern shores, while being engulfed by its deceptively calm waters, one is tempted to give the Mediterranean in these times the epithet “the cruel sea.””
The Arab civil wars and sectarian bloodlettings in the era of a barbarous “caliphate,” and various violent parties and armies of God, and entrenched tyrants have produced a new category of people; the Arab boat people. While this modern “Mediterranean crossing” of desperate peoples from literally burned out and failed states like Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Eritrea that were condemned by their rulers to lives of endless torment, and essentially abandoned by the world, cannot be compared with the incredible human suffering endured by millions of African captives during their “Atlantic crossing” to the Americas for lives of slavery, there are nonetheless some faint and similar suffocating comparisons.
The ‘middle passage’
The “middle passage” here is that watery graveyard between points of departure in North Africa, mostly Libya in recent years, and the not too distant promised shores of Southern Europe, mostly Italy, and beyond to the truly promised lands of Germany and Scandinavia. These refugees are holed like cargo, by brutal and often violent smugglers on rickety boats brimming with mostly young men but also women and even children after paying an exorbitant price.
Their boats sometimes are sunk on purpose by the smugglers before they reach their destination anticipating that merchant ships or the European navies will save their human cargo; there are stories of people being tossed out of the boats for many reasons, of physical abuse and rapes in the lawless camps were the refugees are kept before they begin their uncertain journey. Those who reach the other side, find themselves alone, sick, suffering from scurvy, broke and kept in detention centers for many months before they are ‘processed’ or if they are lucky enough their asylum requests are granted.
Last week the Mediterranean claimed at least 1,200 lives. In one incident a boat capsized in which up to 850 people drowned making April the deadliest month since the Mediterranean boat people crisis began to get out of hand in recent years. Most of the victims were from Syria, Somalia and Eritrea fleeing the wars and depredations. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that 1,727 refugees and migrants have died so far this year up from 56 at the same time in 2014. The IOM has warned that based on current statistics, the death toll on the cruel sea this year could reach 30,000.
A historic challenge
The cumulative effects of the wars and upheavals in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia have created the largest pool of refugees, displaced peoples and asylum-seekers since World War II. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees there are 46 million refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum-seekers in the world. Almost 10 million of them are Syrians. Half of the refugees and asylum-seekers arriving in Italy last year were Syrians. (The other half was Eritrean).
The crisis can only get worse, if it is not solved at its origins that are in the failed states of the Arab world and Africa. With one million refugees and would-be migrants waiting in camps on the southern shores of the Mediterranean for their moment of migration to the north, the flow of human misery will not end at any time soon. Moreover, since it is very likely that the slow burning of some Arab and Muslim societies will drag on for years and perhaps decades until the flames consume themselves, or until the fires are put out or contained by outside intervention, no amount of relative fixes will prevent the Mediterranean from claiming more lives.
Too close for comfort
Already, the wars in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea which have created Europe’s boat people, have managed also to obliterate the existing land and maritime borders. Southern Europe’s proximity to the conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East makes it impossible for Europe to build any meaningful immune system against the ill winds coming from these tormented lands. There is much to be criticized in the EU’s asylum system and its inadequate responses to the refugee crisis, and it is delusional for some European governments to think that they can transform the Mediterranean basin into a huge modern-day moat to protect fortress Europe, nonetheless Europe has some justified fears and concerns.
The refugee crisis has the potential of exposing Europe to a greater threat from Islamist terrorists who might join the “passage” to Europe. Already the crisis has bitterly divided the Europeans, between those pushing for the restoration of Italy’s previous Mare Nostrum operation (suspended in October 2014) which allocated considerable resources to search and rescue migrants, and those who want to maintain the less effective and harsher current operation known as Triton (son of Poseidon, God of the sea in Greek mythology) which has a narrower mandate and does not actively pursue rescues. The crisis is whipping feelings of Xenophobia and intolerance in a number of European countries.
Then there is the financial burden in times of economic retrenchment in Europe. The cost of the Mare Nostrum was $9.8 million (9 million euros) a month, while the cost of the Triton is $3.3 million (3 million Euros). But caring for the refugees is a huge undertaking; the medical care for people who are not fully healthy is climbing, then there is the education of children and the adults who lack knowledge of the languages of Europe and the necessary skills for potential employment. Training them is a costly and long term endeavor. Already Italy and other European countries have growing, disgruntled and alienated migrant underclass. Many refugees don’t have proper documentations, which mean that “processing” and “vetting” them will take a long time. All of the above puts tremendous economic burdens on Europe’s states.
The elusive solution
Italy, the country most affected by the refugee and migrant pressure has adopted alone, and with the European Union a series of measures that yielded different results, but demonstrated in their entirety that reforming the asylum system, improving maritime patrols, punishing the smugglers and other such remedies can at best improve the predicament of the refugees but will not solve the core of the problem, which is the breakdown of the state system in the Arab world and some parts of Africa. And while the Arabs (and Africans) are in the main responsible for the disintegration of the political and societal order in their respective countries, and that they should be held responsible for the unimaginable suffering that they have visited on their own people, there is also partial American and European moral and political responsibility for the collapse of these societies.
This is particularly in Iraq where the American invasion made an awful situation under Saddam Hussein more tragic for most Iraqis, and in Libya where a partial American-European military intervention that toppled the tyranny of Muammar Qaddafi only to replace it with total chaos when the West opted not to stabilize the country. In Syria, President Obama’s non-intervention after demanding Assad’s departure and after his abject failure to respond forcefully when Assad crossed the American president’s flimsy “red lines” and used chemical weapons repeatedly against his own people; that failure made Syria’s torment more salient.
The last time the European Union faced a large refugee problem was during the Balkan wars of the 1990’s. Following NATO’s military intervention, the EU made significant and concerted efforts to transform the former Yugoslav states of Slovenia and Croatia from disintegration to reintegrating them into the EU. The EU’s role in Bosnia included providing significant economic assistance, and institutional building, military and security support, such as training the Police. Even Albania, the former communist country, has been integrated into NATO. Through a comprehensive political, economic and security strategy, the EU managed to staunch the flow of refugees from the Balkans, mainly by addressing the problem at the source.
Responsibility to act and protect
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said last week in Washington that restoring stability to Libya will open the way to solving the refugee crisis. He is partially correct. While most of the refugees fleeing to Italy from Libya are not Libyans, the chaotic country has become the major point of departure for the refugees. Stabilizing Libya is therefore a prelude to an effective way of dealing with the crisis of the boat people. The same can be said about Syria and Iraq. The West abandoned Libya after the fall of Qaddafi, the way the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviet Union, and the poor, pulverized and exposed country was left to the machinations of its neighbors and the “tender mercies” of the Taliban.
Even those of us, who warned from the beginning of the conflicts in Syria and Libya, that unless they are contained quickly they will destabilize their respective neighborhoods, were surprised that the spillover of these wars will reach the heart of Europe. The argument that these conflicts don’t impact directly on America’s national security interests ignore the fact that already America’s friends in the Middle East and Europe are paying heavily for the failure to intervene proportionally and wisely. If these conflicts continue, not only the people will suffer tremendously, but there will come a time that these societies may completely fracture, or the world (and the societies themselves) will tolerate and maybe welcome the return of Tyranny, if it can bring a degree of stability, since people yearn for order.
Clearly, the U.S. and the E.U. cannot and should not solve the extremely complex problems facing those Arab states that are still going through bloody transitions. But since the West was involved in some of these conflicts, the West should not walk away from them either. Calling for a greater western intervention to contain the flames of war and sectarian violence does not mean necessarily military intervention, although limited military involvement should not be ruled out. Judging by its actions, the Obama Administration seems to be eager to kick the can down the road and to bequeath most of the problems of the Middle East (maybe with the exception of the nuclear deal with Iran) to the next president.
It is imperative in this context to remind ourselves and the American President why the United States intervened militarily in the Libyan conflict even though it was “leading from behind,” a phrase that is likely to be in the second paragraph of President Obama’s obituary.
In justifying and explaining the U.S. military role in Libya in his speech at the National Defense University, President Obama invoked the failure of the International Community to act swiftly and decisively to defend the civilians in Bosnia and drag its feet for a full year, while the intervention in Libya to save civilian lives did not take more than 31 days. President Obama used the word “responsibility” six times in his speech including in phrases such as “responsibility to act” and “responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians” and, prophetically, “responsibility for what comes next.” It is that last phrase that is particularly disturbing.
There was NO “responsibility for what comes next,” the U.S as well as France (the loudest proponent of the air campaign) and England opted not to do what is proper to follow up on the military campaign and to create an Arab and international stabilization force. The same argument goes for Iraq; the quick military departure, and the leaving the country in the hands of a small time, vindictive and parochial leader like former premier Nouri al-Maliki was certainly not wise. There is also an undeniable responsibility to protect the civilians in Syria.
By walking away from the “responsibility to act” and the responsibility to protect civilians, President Obama has contributed to the crisis afflicting the region, and damaged his reputation and the stature of the United States.