LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt
loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
Matthew 05/01-16: "Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. The Beatitudes He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January
The Day That Destroyed a Community, and Lost the Nation/Dr. Walid Phares/January 31/15
CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing/Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima/Washington Post/January 31/15
Princely Personalities Sidelined in Saudi Arabia/Simon Henderson/Washington Institute/January31/15
Wounded Syrians: Eliminate Hezbollah/Hassan Shaalan/Ynetnews/January 31/15
A major victory – but hard to replicate/The Jerusalem Post/January 31/15
Stability, Continuity and Smooth Transition/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/January 31/15
Druze sheikhs sound the alarm bell/Marlin Dick| The Daily Star/ January 31/15
Egypt’s FGM conviction is a milestone - but what next/Yara al-Wazir/Al Arabiya/January 31/15 *
Lebanese Related News published on January 31-February 01/15
Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammed Ali Jafari: Israel should expect reaction anywhere
Nasrallah remarks startle Western diplomats: report
International Community Greatly Concerned after Nasrallah's Speech, Warns of 'Catastrophic' Outcomes
Nasrallah: Rules of engagement shattered
Siniora slams Nasrallah’s ‘hasty’ remarks
UNIFIL chief meets Berri over border violence
Refugees in Lebanon: Crisis cannot be forgotten
Sidon’s landmark rehab center caters to youth
Jumblatt to postpone resignation
Nigeria court orders release of Hezbollah suspect
Minister Nabil de Freij: Beirut southern suburbs require state intervention to curb lawlessness
EU announces $42 million for Syria refugees in Lebanon
Video shows Israeli attack on Spanish peacekeepers
Army questions Mawlawi’s son, mother-in-law
Druze sheikhs sound the alarm bell
Mustaqbal Chief to Mark 10th Assassination Anniversary of Hariri in Biel1
Berri Says Israel Consistently Violates 1701, Tattering Rules of Engagement
Paoli Says France Seeking to Ease Presidential Impasse, Considers Lebanon a 'Priority'
Military Expert Detonates Bomb in Zgharta's Majdlaya
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 31-February 01/15
Sicilian Judge Sergio Mattarella Elected Italian President
Egypt court lists Hamas' armed wing as terrorist organization
Syria battle between Nusra and FSA spreads
U.S. condemns new Israeli settlement plan
'Israel and US choosing to escalate rift'
Al-Qaeda in Yemen says France top enemy
Israeli claims of major Obama concessions to Iran 'complete nonsense,' US says
Palestinian Christians call for peaceful solution to conflict
Egypt: Sisi cuts short Ethiopia visit after 32 killed in Sinai
Egyptian interior ministry employee killed in Sinai
U.S. condemns new Israeli settlement plan
Bahrain strips 72 unrest convicts of citizenship
Kurds battle ISIS around Kobani: activists
ISIS fighters acknowledge defeat in Kobani
Palestinians in Syria cut off from aid again: UN
Jordan awaits proof hostage is alive after swap deadline
Yemen: Houthis hold own conference, look to Aden
Official: No other DNA on gun that killed Argentine prosecutor
France, Morocco to resume judicial cooperation after row
U.N. chief backs regional African force to fight Boko Haram
You deserve more’ Keep me in your prayers: King Salman
Pakistan Shiites mourn 61 killed in mosque bombing
Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
Islamic State enters Christian town in Syria, removes church cross
Muslims gloat at Paris kosher market two days after jihad murders
Islamic State beheads second Japanese hostage
Georgetown U organized, paid for State Dept/Muslim Brotherhood meetup
Montreal: Muslim cleric with jihad ties denied permit for Islamic center
State Department refuses to say if Taliban attack on Americans was a terrorist attack
Jihad murderer recorded terror attack on Parisian kosher grocery
You Can’t Talk Sense to a Shotgun
France: 8-year-old Muslim says, “I am with the terrorists”
Al-Qaeda in Yemen says France now #1 enemy in “war on Islam”
The Day That Destroyed a Community,
and Lost the Nation...
Dr. Walid Phares
Two generations of Lebanese, and particularly within the Christian community, may not remember a fatidic date 25 years ago, which led to the destruction of a community and gradually lost the nation for a quarter of a century.
he day a bloody civil war within what was known as "East Beirut," or historically the "free areas" exploded for eleven months, ending in the loss of everything.
Nothing defeated the "free areas" of Lebanon for 15 years, despite the enormous strategic mistakes of leaders and politicians.
Lebanon's free areas created dozens of "Kobanis," and resisted the Assad forces, Iran's militias, the PLO (then) and a multitude of pressures from the outside world. Nothing brought that resistance down except the civil war of January 31.
It has no explanation, despite all the explanations given then, and since. History looks at results not at arguments. And the results are dire.
The Lebanese Army is not free, the community is divided to the bones, and the future is bleak. That war could have been stopped, it wasn't. The third generation is suffering from its results, even those who weren't born then.
Years before, in many of my lectures in "free Lebanon" I warned audiences of the loss of liberty.
I argued that Mount Lebanon's Marada lost to the Mameluks in 1305 AD. It took them 300 years to recover.
What is lost in one day may need years to be recovered. It has been a quarter of a century now. The blame-game can go for ever, and soon it will be one of historians. Lessons needs to be learned...but are they?.
Commander of Iran's Revolutionary
Guards, Mohammed Ali Jafari: Israel should expect reaction anywhere
Ynetnews/Published: 01.31.15/ Israel News
Commander says actions against Hezbollah will lead to a response 'in any place in the world'. Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammed Ali Jafari, threatened Saturday that if Israel "wants to hit at the heart of Hezbollah, it should expect a powerful reaction, not just within its borders, but in any place in the world." He praised Hezbollah's attack on Mount Dov and said it could be seen as as a reaction by Iran. Jafari spoke at a ceremony held for those killed in a January 18 strike on Quneitra in Syria. Several Hezbollah members and an Iranian general died in the attack, which has been attributed to Israel, although there has been no official confirmation. Two IDF soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a Hezbollah attack in Israel's north on Wednesday, which the group claimed was revenge for the Quneitra attack. Jafari's statements followed a speech given Friday by Hezbollah's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, in which he boasted that his organization was not afraid of war with Israel. "Our biggest victory is that Israel feared Hezbollah's response," he said in a televised address Friday. We will not think twice about confronting the enemy and we will do so if he forces us. We don't want war but we don't fear it." Nasrallah added that the Quneitra strike showed the “fusion of Lebanese-Iranian blood on Syrian territory, and reflects the unity of the cause and the unity of the fate of these countries," underscoring Iran's support for the terrorist group's activities in Syria. Also on Friday, the Tehran Times said the the Lebanese-based TV channel Al Mayadeen had reported that Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, had met with Nasrallah and other Hezbollah leaders. The newspaper did not specify the nature of the meeting, mentioning only that Soleimani also met with the family of Jihad Mughniyeh, a senior operative killed in Quneitra.
Siniora slams Nasrallah’s ‘hasty’ remarks
The Daily Star/Jan. 31, 2015
BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned Saturday what he described as brash remarks made by Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah during his Friday speech. Nasrallah’s comments concerning the shattered rules of engagement with Israel “are unilateral and hasty and eliminate the will of the Lebanese people who are committed to Resolution 1701,” Siniora said during a symposium commemorating the death of former minister Mohammad Shatah. In a speech delivered Friday, the resistance party chief said that the Israeli airstrike that killed six Hezbollah fighters and a top Iranian general in Syria’s Golan Heights month has shattered the rules of engagement with the Jewish state. Siniora said that Friday’s speech attempted to impose the “logic of arms,” while stressing that all who have “followed this road were doomed with failure.”The former prime minister also condemned heavy celebratory gunfire that could be heard in Beirut before and after Nasrallah’s speech, saying that the capital was transformed in to “an arena of fear.”
EU announces $42 million for Syria refugees in Lebanon
The Daily Star/Jan. 31, 2015 /BEIRUT: An EU delegation announced Saturday that it has pledged 37 million euros ($42 million) in emergency winter aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, who met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam in the Grand Serail Saturday, announced that the grant will also go to help Lebanon cope with the large influx of Syrian refugees. He pointed out that the 37 million euros are a part of a new aid package worth 136 million euros designated for refugees in Syria and neighboring countries. The commissioner noted that the funding would be used to provide “basic needs for the poorest refugees in Lebanon,” especially those who do not have shelter and heating that is suitable for harsh winter conditions. European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn was also present in Saturday’s meeting with the Lebanese premier, where he touched on previously announced financial assistance allotted to the training of Lebanese security forces. “It is the first time that the European Union provides financial assistance for the training of security personnel," he said after the meeting, noting that this assistance serves as evidence of the close cooperation between Lebanon and the European Union. Hahn also offered his condolences to the Spanish government, and specifically to the friends and family of the Spanish soldier who was killed by Israeli gunfire during the latest wave of violence in Lebanon’s southern border.
Military Expert Detonates Bomb in
Naharnet/A military expert detonated a bomb that was found on a side road between the district of Zgharta and the northern city of Tripoli, the military said on Saturday. “At 8:30 p.m. on Friday an army unit located four kilograms of explosives on Majdlaya - al-Qobbeh road,” the army said in a communique. The statement said that the military cordoned off the area as a military expert arrived at the place to detonate it. The bomb, which was set to explode, was located on the side road of the town of Majdlaya that lies between the city of Tripoli and the town of Zgharta. “An investigation is underway to find the culprits,” the army pointed out. LBCI reported earlier that the army detained two people at dawn at the Majdlaya checkpoint after tossing a bomb near the army. On Wednesday, a military expert defused around 10 kilograms of explosives found on the same road in Majdlaya. The army communique said the bomb was made up of a gas cylinder filled with 10 kilograms of explosives, and linked to a detonator and a 15-meter electric cable.
Sicilian Judge Sergio Mattarella Elected Italian President
Naharnet /Little-known constitutional court judge Sergio Mattarella was elected Italy's new president on Saturday after four rounds of voting by lawmakers and regional representatives.The 73-year-old Sicilian, who enjoyed the backing of centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, succeeds the hugely popular Giorgio Napolitano, 89, who is stepping down because of his advanced age. Agence France Presse
Druze sheikhs sound the alarm bell
Marlin Dick| The Daily Star/Jan. 31, 2015
BEIRUT: A fiery 15 minutes of anti-regime polemic by a midlevel Syrian Druze sheikh which emerged on YouTube this week has sparked an unprecedented level of tension in the southern province of Swaida
The speech was delivered by Sheikh Wahid (Abu Fahd) al-Balous, a middle-aged man surrounded by several dozen supporters at his home in a village near the provincial capital Swaida; several members of the audience are seen openly filming his comments.
Balous’ animated monologue, edited into a dozen or so separate sections, contains a litany of complaints about the regime’s behavior in a province in which military operations have been almost completely absent, while tens of thousands of non-Druze Syrians continue to take refuge there. Regime officials are believed to be incensed by the decision, taken in 2013 by Druze religious figures, forbidding members of the sect to take up arms outside their province, as the majority of conscription-age Druze continue to avoid military service.
In the video, Balous alluded to a whole series of incidents in recent months that have prompted his informal movement, dubbed the “mashayekh [sheikhs] of dignity,” to respond to regime provocations.
These include a battle between Druze locals and Nusra Front-allied fighters in the village of Dama last August, which saw 42 Druze fighters killed, and armed confrontations in the province of Qunaitra, also home to many Druze, against rebel groups.
Balous accused the authorities of betraying the Druze in both instances, at one point shouting “they were shooting us in the back!” during the Dama battle. The most powerful criticism, however, is directed at President Bashar Assad and Col. Wafiq Nasser, believed to be the top security official in Swaida province. Balous reels off a string of criticism against regime loyalists for accusing his movement of sowing dissent and sectarianism. “Our patriotic stance is more honorable than every Alawite!” he shouts. “And yet we’re being called the ‘ISIS of the Druze!’” “Everyone in Jabal al-Druze [Swaida], from all sects – Druze, Sunni, Alawite, Shiite, Christian – are protected by [us]!” he shouts, rejecting the description of the Assad regime as the protector of the country’s minority communities.
“We want an honorable state, not a state of corrupt people!”
Blaming the security authorities for the deaths of a handful of Druze residents under torture, he addresses Assad, challenging him to live up to his presidential responsibility to protect the country’s citizens. “And if you can’t do this, goodbye! We don’t want him. We’ll go the Presidential Palace and bring him down.” “We don’t want a president who instigates [needless] battles and smuggles cigarettes and drugs,” he says, the latter an allusion to criminal networks believed to be tolerated by the regime. “Our dignity is more precious than him!”
As for Nasser, Balous at one point uses a phrase to indicate that the officer has been marked for a revenge attack, but at an unspecified point in the future.
The fiery remarks came after the latest uptick in tension last week, when air force intelligence personnel manning a checkpoint on the edge of Swaida insulted and cursed at a busload of civilian state employees. Balous reportedly gave the order to remove the checkpoint and when this was ignored, his men destroyed it themselves. There have been indications that the authorities intend to re-establish the checkpoint, but until now nothing has happened to set off another direct confrontation.
During Balous’ remarks, the sheikh accuses other sects of having countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to offer them protection, while the Druze have no such foreign patron – he explicitly states that his sect rejects any ties with Israel, and any partition of the country.
The remarks against Assad and the Alawites, not surprisingly, generated a wave of angry responses on social media that have only rebounded in Balous’ favor, according an observer familiar with Swaida and the informal media sector that has sprung up during the war.
Several pro-regime Facebook pages used obscene and insulting language to describe Balous and his followers, with some calls for Assad to attack the city of Swaida and “bring it down on the heads” of locals. “There is a huge dispute over Balous, but in general he is uniting the Druze more than dividing them,” the observer said. “When known Alawite or loyalist figures attack him, Balous ends up receiving more support from Druze on ‘either side,’ both pro- and anti-regime,” he continued.
The observer speculated that Balous seemed to be adept at maneuvering through the complex and sensitive aspects of wartime politics. “He seems to be aware that he can’t take the initiative to start a direct confrontation with the regime,” the observer said, “but he’s certainly benefiting from the extremely high level of popular anger to stand up to any regime provocation.”
During his rant, Balous also repeated accusations by others that the regime has no problem engaging in fuel deals with ISIS militants, while Druze who seek similar arrangements with jihadi groups are accused of “weakening the national economy.”
Interestingly, the week also saw an odd incident that brought together Faisal al-Qassem, the stridently anti-regime Al-Jazeera personality, and the Islam Army rebel militia that operates mainly in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.
The militia released three female Druze hostages it had held since storming the suburb of Adra more than a year ago, as a salute to the relentlessly anti-regime stances of Qassem on TV and social media.
But the three women who were released all happened to be from the Balous family, prompting speculation the move was also directed as a message of goodwill toward the sheikh who has raised eyebrows with his stance against the regime in Swaida.
The observer said that while Balous’ criticism of the regime and his popular support have risen to unprecedented levels, “he’s too smart to be tempted to move closer to the opposition” as represented by the National Coalition or the many armed FSA and Islamist groups.
“Everyone is against the checkpoint, but not everyone supports an open confrontation with the regime.”
Video shows Israeli attack on Spanish
peacekeepers in Lebanon
The Daily Star/Jan. 31, 2015 /BEIRUT: Footage has surfaced online purportedly showing Israel's shelling of UNIFIL's Spanish contingent in southern Lebanon which killed one peacekeeper earlier this week. The video, widely posted on Spanish news sites, supports the Spanish government’s position that Israel fired the shells that killed 36-year-old Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo on Wednesday.The amateur footage shows a shell fired from the Israeli side of the border slam into a UNIFIL base. The attack is followed by the screams of who appear to be two Spanish peacekeepers inside a vehicle. The footage comes one day after Spain and Israel agreed to carry out a joint investigation into the death of the peacekeeper. It was unclear if the soldier was killed in the attack caught in the video, or separate shelling. The soldier was killed on Wednesday when the Israeli military shelled border areas following a Hezbollah attack that left two Israeli soldiers dead, Spanish authorities said Friday. The Hezbollah ambush was launched in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah convoy in Syria's Golan Heights that killed six Hezbollah members and an Iranian commander. The 36-year-old Spanish corporal was part of the 10,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, which includes 600 Spanish soldiers.
Egypt court lists Hamas' armed wing as terrorist organization
Michael Georgy| Reuters/Jan. 31, 2015
CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Saturday banned the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas and listed it as a terrorist organization. The ruling came days after the country faced some of the bloodiest attacks on security forces in years. Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood which the authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohammad Morsi, from the presidency in 2013. "The court ruled to ban the Qassam Brigades and to list it as a terrorist group," said judge Mohammad al-Sayid of the special Cairo court which deals with urgent cases. The case was based on allegations that the Qassam Brigades, staged terrorist attacks to support the Brotherhood, and carried out a bombing and shooting operation which killed 33 security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula in October of 2014. "We reject the Egyptian court's decision against the Qassam Brigades. It is a political, dangerous decision that serves only the Zionist occupation," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Egyptian officials say weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militant groups fighting to topple the Western-backed Cairo government. Islamist militants based in Egypt's Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since Morsi's political demise. The insurgency has spread to other parts of Egypt, the most populous Arab country. On Thursday night, four separate attacks on security forces in North Sinai were among the worst in years. ISIS's Egyptian wing, Sinai Province, claimed the killing of at least 30 soldiers and police officers.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi brought a degree of stability to Egypt and the economy had started to recover from frequent political violence since a popular uprising four years ago that overthrew veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Then signs of discontent emerged in the past week. More than 25 people were killed last weekend when security forces fired at protesters angered by what many perceive as a police state re-established by Sisi since Morsi's fall. Egyptian officials say the Brotherhood, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Sinai Province, previously called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, share the same ideology. The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism despite facing one of the toughest crackdowns in its history.
Militant attacks in Sinai, while far from Cairo and tourist attractions, have hurt government efforts to project an image of stability to win back foreign investors and tourists. On Saturday, a sniper wounded a soldier in a village in central Sinai, security sources said. In northern Sinai, Islamist militant gunmen killed a Christian man suspected of cooperating with Egyptian authorities.
Minister Nabil de Freij: Beirut
southern suburbs require state intervention to curb lawlessness
The Daily Star/Jan. 31, 2015/BEIRUT: Rampant lawlessness in Beirut’s southern suburbs calls for state intervention, State Minister Nabil de Freij said Saturday. “Beirut’s southern suburbs are waiting for the state to intervene, especially with regards to [widespread] theft and drug dealing,” De Freij said in televised remarks. State authorities are widely believed to have a weak presence in the suburbs. Hezbollah, which holds sway in the area, takes its own security measures to protect its residents. With regards to the latest wave of violence across Lebanon’s southern border, the state minister said that Hezbollah had announced that it would not implicate Lebanon in all-out war with Israel during a Monday dialogue session with the Future Movement. Two days after the dialogue session, a Hezbollah attack Wednesday killed two Israeli soldiers in the occupied Shebaa Farms in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that killed six party fighters and a top Iranian general in Syria's Golan Heights on Jan. 18. De Freij said that nothing has been announced with regards to halting talks between the rival parties in the aftermath of the Hezbollah revenge attack. Despite ongoing efforts, talks between the Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement have proven to be more fruitful that dialogue with Hezbollah, he said.
Stability, Continuity and Smooth Transition
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat
Saturday, 31 Jan, 2015
In both the US and Western Europe, there are two major political currents that are always happy to doubt and belittle any constructive step taken by traditional regimes in the Middle East: the ultra-conservative Right and the radical Left.
The ultra-conservative Right is usually, and wholeheartedly, not only anti-Arab, but anti-Third World in general. It sees the Third World countries either as a burden that hinders the West’s well-being, a fertile ground for radicalism which threatens its interests or loose cannons beyond its comfort zones, if and when they attempt to choose a path independent of its wishes and directives.
The radical Left, on the other hand, has dogmatically set its conditions of whom to accept, while rejecting all “others”; thus its views of any event or phenomenon are already and irrevocably prejudiced. In cases like this, suspicion-based conviction becomes a habit and incrimination by association becomes an established norm.
Last week, Saudi Arabia passed an important landmark in its modern history with the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and the succession of the Guardian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to the throne. Along with these two events, Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz, who was the Deputy Crown Prince, was confirmed as Crown Prince, and Prince Mohammad Bin Naif was appointed as Deputy Crown Prince, in addition to keeping the key portfolio of the Ministry of Interior. This further cements the precedence that ensures fluidity of appointments and smooth transition. Last but not least, the other key post of Minister of Defense went to Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the King’s son, along with the position of Head of the Royal Court.
Keeping all of the above in mind, it is worth mentioning that some Western doubters and skeptics from both the extreme Right and Left have, during the last few years, been busy posing cynical questions about the political future of Saudi Arabia. However, insiders who know much more about the nature of the Saudi regime always seemed quite sure as regards its checks, controls and priorities—something that these doubters have never sought or desired to know. Indeed, what happened last week was very significant, and the transition was fast and smooth, without any complications, especially, as concerned the “third generation,” i.e. the grandsons of the founder King Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The level of foreign representatives at the departed King’s funeral and the subsequent days of condolences were also significant; in particular, the change decided by the White House that resulted in cutting President Barack Obama’s pre-planned official visit to India short to fly to the Kingdom. The official high-level US delegation included leading politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties and amply reflects the fact that US-Saudi relations are not reliant on the chemistry of any given administration, but rather on a deep, strategic and long-term relationship that benefits both sides. This, at least, is how a serious analyst would read the situation in the current unclear climate, and amid the wrong signals being sent by the Obama administration towards the Middle East’s complex issues; most prominently Iran’s expansionist ambitions and nuclear programs, extremist terrorism and the teetering Arab-Israeli peace process.
The reality is that just a few years ago Washington and the international community had a good opportunity to avoid the present mess that we are seeing throughout the Middle East and parts of North Africa. Then, during the early days of the “Arab Spring” it appeared the West was ill-prepared for the unfolding changes. Some even claim that Washington never had a “Plan B” in case the process of change that started in 2011 took a wrong course, as may be seen now in Libya, Yemen and Syria.
In his now famous interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, early last year, President Obama sounded as if he was blaming America’s Middle East “friends” for being taken by surprise by the 2011 events. He may be right there. However, those “friends” may have mitigating excuses, but this should hardly apply to a superpower, like the US, which was supposed to have been monitoring political trends and frustrations and security tensions in the region for decades. What we are witnessing today is an American administration that “reacts” rather than “acts,” and we need look no further to its endorsement of Russia’s approach and interests in Syria as proof of this.
In fact, Washington’s stubborn refusal to intervene at the right time and in the right way in Syria allowed takfirist extremists of all kinds to assemble in Syria from all corners of the world, hijacking the popular uprising, and turning the country into a “theater of operations”. In the meantime, with “reformist” Hassan Rouhani winning Iran’s presidential elections the viewpoints of the West’s anti-Arab hawkish Right and anti-GCC radical Left converged, and went on to redefine “Islamic” extremism.
Some are already pushing for the rehabilitation of Iran and promoting it as a reliable ally in the Middle East. Yesterday, I read an article in a British newspaper written by a retired diplomat obliquely calling for the West to begin dealing with Iran as an ally and Saudi Arabia as an enemy! To justify such a strange outcome the writer simply claims that Sunni extremism “is driving the burgeoning sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia,” adding that “it should be plain enough that to throw in our lot on one side of a sectarian conflict in the Middle East could have catastrophic consequences both for regional stability and for our own interests.”
Surprising, these quotes come after him saying: “The key to success against ISIS has to involve encouraging Sunni Arabs themselves to reject Isis, as they rejected and fought Al-Qaeda in Iraq in coordination with the so-called US surge from 2007 onwards. Unfortunately, western support for, and relationships with, those Sunni Arab elements dwindled after the success of that policy, and that is partly why we have ISIS. Rebuilding those relationships now is going to be difficult because the Sunnis feel the west betrayed them.”
The basic fact that the retired diplomat has ignored is that extremism is not limited to one sect, and certainly not to one religion. If there were extremist Sunnis–and there are–Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen have been witnessing another opposite form of extremism reflected in theocratic dogma, discourse and actions. The United Kingdom and the US surely still remember who was behind the Lebanese Hostage Crisis between 1982 and 1992, when no less than 96 foreign nationals, mainly American and British, were kidnapped, and some executed.
Overlooking “reformist” Iran’s ambitions, as some in Washington are happy to do, would be the greatest gift to Sunni extremism at a time when all the Middle East needs is more support for moderation in all shapes or forms.
What happened in Riyadh last week was a confirmation of stability, encouragement of moderation, and commitment to fighting terrorism. A leadership with an agenda like this is the one that deserves to be endorsed and supported, not undermined by turning against it and favoring its enemies.
CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah
figure in car bombing
By Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima/Washington Post
On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.
As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.
The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.
The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage.
[Read: Who was Imad Mughniyah?]
“We probably blew up 25 bombs to make sure we got it right,” the former official said.
The extraordinarily close cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services suggested the importance of the target — a man who over the years had been implicated in some of Hezbollah’s most spectacular terrorist attacks, including those against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.
The United States has never acknowledged participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Until now, there has been little detail about the joint operation by the CIA and Mossad to kill him, how the car bombing was planned or the exact U.S. role. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.
U.S. involvement in the killing, which was confirmed by five former U.S. intelligence officials, also pushed American legal boundaries.
Mughniyah was targeted in a country where the United States was not at war. Moreover, he was killed in a car bombing, a technique that some legal scholars see as a violation of international laws that proscribe “killing by perfidy” — using treacherous means to kill or wound an enemy.
“It is a killing method used by terrorists and gangsters,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame. “It violates one of the oldest battlefield rules.”
Former U.S. officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, asserted that Mughniyah, although based in Syria, was directly connected to the arming and training of Shiite militias in Iraq that were targeting U.S. forces. There was little debate inside the Bush administration over the use of a car bomb instead of other means.
“Remember, they were carrying out suicide bombings and IED attacks,” said one official, referring to Hezbollah operations in Iraq.
The authority to kill Mughniyah required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. The attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the national security adviser and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department all signed off on the operation, one former intelligence official said.
The former official said getting the authority to kill Mughniyah was a “rigorous and tedious” process. “What we had to show was he was a continuing threat to Americans,” the official said, noting that Mughniyah had a long history of targeting Americans dating back to his role in planning the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
“The decision was we had to have absolute confirmation that it was self-defense,” the official said.
There has long been suspicion about U.S. involvement in the killing of Mughniyah. In “The Good Spy,” a book about longtime CIA officer Robert Ames, author Kai Bird cites one former intelligence official as saying the operation was “primarily controlled by Langley” and it was “a CIA ‘black-ops’ team that carried out the assassination.”
In a new book, “The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins,” former CIA officer Robert B. Baer writes how he had considered assassinating Mughniyah but apparently never got the opportunity. He notes, however, that CIA “censors” — the agency’s Publications Review Board — screened his book and “I’ve unfortunately been unable to write about the true set-piece plot against” Mughniyah.
The CIA declined to comment.
“We have nothing to add at this time,” said Mark Regev, chief spokesman for the prime minister of Israel.
Seven years after the death of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyah, The Post's Adam Goldman and the Washington Institute's Matthew Levitt look at the international cooperation that brought down the former military commander. (Davin Coburn, Randolph Smith and Kyle Barss/The Washington Post)
A theory of self-defense
The operation in Damascus highlighted a philosophical evolution within the American intelligence services that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Before then, the U.S. government often took a dim view of Israeli assassination operations, highlighted by the American condemnation of Israel’s botched attempt in 1997 to poison the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, in Amman, Jordan. The episode ended with Mossad agents captured and the Clinton administration forcing Israel to provide the antidote that saved Meshal’s life.
The Mughniyah killing, carried out more than a decade later, suggested such American hesitation had faded as the CIA stretched its lethal reach well beyond defined war zones and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where the agency or the military have deployed drones against al-Qaeda and its allies.
A former U.S. official said the Bush administration relied on a theory of national self-defense to kill Mughniyah, claiming he was a lawful target because he was actively plotting against the United States or its forces in Iraq, making him a continued and imminent threat who could not be captured. Such a legal rationale would have allowed the CIA to avoid violating the 1981 blanket ban on assassinations in Executive Order 12333. The order does not define assassination.
In sanctioning a 2011 operation to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and an influential propaganda leader for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, the Justice Department made a similar argument. Noting that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had targeted U.S. commercial aircraft and asserting that Awlaki had an operational role in the group, government lawyers said he was a continued and imminent threat and could not feasibly be captured.
“It’s fairly clear that the government has at least some authority to use lethal force in self-defense even outside the context of ongoing armed conflict,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law. “The million-dollar question is whether the facts actually support a determination that such force was necessary and appropriate in each case.”
The CIA and Mossad worked together to monitor Mughniyah in Damascus for months prior to the killing and to determine where the bomb should be planted, according to the former officials.
In the leadup to the operation, U.S. intelligence officials had assured lawmakers in a classified briefing that there would be no collateral damage, former officials said.
Implicated in multiple cases
At the time of his death, Mughniyah had been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Americans, stretching back to the embassy bombing in Beirut that killed 63 people, including eight CIA officers. Hezbollah, supported by Iran, was involved in a long-running shadow war with Israel and its principal backer, the United States.
The embassy bombing placed Hezbollah squarely in the sights of the CIA, a focus that, in some respects, foreshadowed the targeting of Mughniyah. In his 1987 book “Veil,” Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward reported that CIA Director William Casey encouraged the Saudis to sponsor an attempt to kill a Hezbollah leader. The 1985 attempt on the life of Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah with a car bomb failed, but killed 80 people, and he fled to Iran. Mughniyah’s brother was among those killed.
Former agency officials said Mughniyah was involved in the 1984 kidnapping and torture of the CIA’s station chief in Lebanon, William F. Buckley. The officials said Mughniyah arranged for videotapes of the brutal interrogation sessions of Buckley to be sent to the agency. Buckley was later killed.
Mughniyah was indicted in U.S. federal court in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 shortly after it took off from Athens and the slaying of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, a passenger on the plane. Mughniyah was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $5 million reward offered for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
He was also suspected of involvement by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials in the planning of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
For the Israelis, among numerous attacks, he was involved in the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed four Israeli civilians and 25 Argentinians, and the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in the city that killed 85 people.
“Mughniyah and his group were responsible for the deaths of many Americans,” said James Bernazzani, who was chief of the FBI’s Hezbollah unit in the late 1990s and later the deputy director for law enforcement at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.
The Bush administration regarded Hezbollah — Mughniyah, in particular — as a threat to the United States. In 2008, several months after he was killed, Michael Chertoff, then secretary of homeland security, said Hezbollah was a threat to national security. “To be honest, they make al-Qaeda look like a minor league team,” he said.
Beginning in 2003, Hezbollah, with the assistance of Iran, began to train and arm Shiite militant groups in Iraq, which later began attacking coalition forces, according to Matthew Levitt, who recently wrote a book about Hezbollah and is director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
The Hezbollah-trained militias proved to be a deadly enemy, wounding or killing hundreds of American troops. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated and coalition casualties spiked in 2006, the United States decided it had to stanch the losses.
The Bush administration issued orders to kill or capture Iranian operatives targeting American troops and attempting to destabilize Iraq. It also approved a list of operations directed at Hezbollah, officials said. The mandate applied directly to the group’s notorious international operations chief.
“There was an open license to find, fix and finish Mughniyah and anybody affiliated with him,” said a former U.S. official who served in Baghdad.
In January 2007, Bush, in an address to the nation, singled out Iran and Syria, two countries with the closest ties to Hezbollah.
“These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,” Bush said. “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
Shortly after Bush’s speech, Hezbollah’s involvement in Iraq became clearer. On Jan. 20, 2007, five American soldiers were killed in Karbala. That March, Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative with ties to Mughniyah, was captured by the British along with two others and turned over to U.S. forces.
While in U.S. custody, Daqduq confessed to playing a key role in the killing of the soldiers and provided the United States with a deeper understanding of Hezbollah’s networks, said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who served as executive officer to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq.
“In interrogations with these folks, we finally discovered the full nature of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in Iraq,” Mansoor said, noting that by then Iran had “outsourced the advisory effort to Hezbollah.” Mansoor said he had no knowledge of the operation that killed Mughniyah.
U.S. officials said Mughniyah played a pivotal role in linking Hezbollah to the Shiite militias that were working with Iran. It remains unclear if he ever entered Iraq. One former U.S. senior military official said there was information he traveled to Basra in southern Iraq in 2006, but it was not confirmed.
Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq when Mughniyah was killed, said: “All I can say is that as long as he drew breath, he was a threat, whether in Lebanon, Iraq or anywhere else. He was a very intelligent, dedicated, effective operator on the black side.”
Crocker said that he didn’t know anything about the operation to kill the Hezbollah operative and had doubts about Mughniyah traveling to Iraq. That said, he added: “When I heard about it, I was one damn happy man.”
Terrorism discussion widens
U.S. officials had explored ways to capture or kill Mughniyah for years. Those scenarios gained new urgency in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks when the Bush administration turned to the CIA and the U.S. military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command for stepped-up plans to stop major terrorist operatives — including those without ties to al-Qaeda or the 9/11 plot.
A former U.S. official described a secret meeting in Israel in 2002 involving senior JSOC officers and the chief of the Israeli military intelligence service. Amid a broader discussion of counterterrorism issues, the JSOC visitors raised the prospect of killing Mughniyah in such an offhanded fashion that their Israeli hosts were stunned.
“When we said we would be willing to explore opportunities to target him, they practically fell out of their chairs,” the former U.S. official said. The former official said that JSOC had not developed any specific plan but was exploring scenarios against potential terrorism targets and wanted to gauge Israel’s willingness to serve as an evacuation point for U.S. commando teams.
The former official said that the JSOC approach envisioned a commando-style raid with U.S. Special Operations teams directly involved, not the sort of cloak-and-dagger operation that occurred years later.
“It never went anywhere,” said the former official, who was unaware of the CIA-Israeli operation to kill Mughniyah.
Still, the 2002 encounter suggests that Mughniyah continued to be a focus for U.S. counterterrorism officials even after their overwhelming attention had shifted to al-Qaeda.
“We never took our eye off Hezbollah, but our plate was full with al-Qaeda,” said Bernazzani, who retired from the FBI in 2008 and said he had no knowledge of the operation to kill Mughniyah.
A window of opportunity
It is not clear when the CIA first realized Mughniyah was living in Damascus, but his whereabouts were known for at least a year before he was killed. One of the former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Israelis were first to approach the CIA about a joint operation to kill him in Damascus.
The agency had a well-established clandestine infrastructure in Damascus that the Israelis could utilize.
Officials said the Israelis wanted to pull the trigger as payback. “It was revenge,” another former official said. The Americans didn’t care as long as Mughniyah was dead, the official said, and there was little fear of blowback because Hezbollah would most probably blame the Israelis.
Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli military intelligence until 2010, said Mughniyah was positioned right under the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.
“He was the commander and chief of all military and terror operations,” Yadlin said, who declined to discuss Mughniyah’s demise. “He was the agent of the Iranians.”
The operation to target Mughniyah came at a time when the CIA and Mossad were working closely to thwart the nuclear ambitions of Syria and Iran. The CIA had helped the Mossad verify that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor, leading to an Israeli airstrike on the facility in 2007. Israel and the United States were actively trying to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program.
Once Mughniyah was located in Damascus, the intelligence agencies began building a “pattern of life” profile, looking at his routine for vulnerabilities.
Mossad officials suggested occasional walks in the evening — when Mughniyah was unescorted — presented an opportunity. CIA officers with extensive undercover experience secured a safe house in a building near his apartment.
Planning for the operation was exhaustive. An Israeli proposal to place a bomb in the saddlebags of a bicycle or motorcycle was rejected because of concerns that the explosive charge might not project outward properly. The bomb had to be repeatedly tested and reconfigured to minimize the blast area. The location where Mughniyah was killed was close to a girls’ school.
One official said the bomb was tested many times at Harvey Point, a facility in North Carolina where the CIA would later construct a replica of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Officials eventually concluded they had a bomb that could be used with no risk of others being killed or injured.
Mughniyah wasn’t alone in his confidence to operate freely in Damascus. During the operation, the CIA and Mossad had a chance to kill Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, as he and Mughniyah walked together. Soleimani was an archenemy of Israel and had also orchestrated the training of Shiite militias in Iraq.
“At one point, the two men were standing there, same place, same street. All they had to do was push the button,” said one former official.
But the operatives didn’t have the legal authority to kill Soleimani, the officials said. There had been no presidential finding to do so.
When the bomb used to target Mughniyah was detonated, officials estimated the “kill zone” extended approximately 20 feet. The bomb was “very shaped and very charged,” an intelligence official recalled.
There was no collateral damage. “None. Not any,” the official said.
Facial recognition technology, another former official said, was used to confirm Mughniyah’s identity after he walked out of a restaurant in his neighborhood and moments before the bomb was detonated.
After the attack, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah blamed Israel for the killing and swore revenge: “Zionists, if you want an open war, let it be an open war anywhere.”
In fact, the damage to Hezbollah may have been compounded by the fact that the man charged with exacting revenge on Israel was a suspected Israeli asset. He was recently reported to be on trial in a Hezbollah court in Lebanon, but the group’s leader has downplayed the spy’s importance.
In a statement in 2008 after Mughniyah’s death, the office of then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said: “Israel rejects the attempt by terror groups to attribute to it any involvement in this incident. We have nothing further to add.”
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the time: “The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a coldblooded killer, a mass murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost.”
Inside the intelligence community, a former official recalled, “It wasn’t jubilation.”“We did what we had to,” the official said, “and let’s move on.”
***William Booth in Jerusalem and Greg Miller, Karen DeYoung, Anne Gearan and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.
***Adam Goldman reports on terrorism and national security for The Washington Post.
***Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. She focuses on issues relating to intelligence, technology and civil liberties.
How the CIA Took Down Hezbollah's Top
Terrorist, Imad Mugniyah
BY JEFF STEIN 1/31/15/Newsweek
Before there was Osama Bin Laden, there was Imad Mugniyah, Hezbollah’s terrorist mastermind.
He was called the "father of smoke," because he disappeared like a wisp after engineering his spectacular terrorist attacks, including two that took the lives of hundreds of Americans in Lebanon in 1983 alone.
By most accounts, Imad Mugniyah killed more Americans than Al-Qaeda before most people had even heard of Bin Laden. By the mid-1980s, he topped the FBI’s Most Wanted list. But to the CIA, especially, he was public enemy No. 1 — Mugniyah engineered the 1983 obliteration of the American Embassy in Beirut, which killed legendary CIA Middle East hand Robert Ames — and directed the kidnapping and murder of Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley. Mugniyah was also credited with quarterbacking the bombing of the Marine and French paratrooper barracks at the Beirut airport in 1983, the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 843 — which resulted in the death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem — and a score of other kidnappings and assassinations. He was also suspected of orchestrating two bombings in Buenos Aires, the first on the Israeli embassy in 1992, and the second at a Jewish community center two and a half years later.
But in February 2008, the CIA caught up with the terrorist kingpin in Damascus. A powerful car bomb liquidated him in the same way he had killed so many others.
Media reports fingered Israel's legendary Mossad for the hit. But according to former U.S. intelligence officials interviewed by Newsweek, the Mugniyah hit was a CIA operation, authorized personally by President George W. Bush and carried out by the CIA under the direct supervision of then-director Michael Hayden and a very, very small group of top CIA officials.
"That was us," said a former official who participated in the project, on condition of anonymity to discuss the operation. "The Israelis told us where he was and gave us logistical help. But we designed the bomb that killed him and supervised the operation."
Said another source, a former senior CIA operative with deep Middle East experience: "It was an Israeli-American operation. Everybody knows CIA did it—everybody in the Middle East anyway.” The CIA’s authorship of Mugniyah’s bloody death, the operative said, should have been told long ago. “It sends the message that we will track you down, no matter how much time it takes,” he said. “The other side needs to know this.”
“GO WITH GOD”
Mugniyah’s death warrant may have been signed as far back as the Reagan administration, in a presidential “finding” authorizing the terrorist’s capture or assassination after the bombings of the Marine barracks and American Embassy, the former CIA official said. But apparently U.S. counterterrorist operatives couldn’t find him.
In 2007, however, Mossad’s then-chief, Meir Dagan, tipped the CIA off to a Mugniyah hideout in Damascus, said another source involved in the hunt.
“Dagan said basically, ‘We have acquired the location of him and we know that he has a lot of American blood on his hands and so we would like to offer this up to you in terms of what would you like to do with him?”
Dagan did not respond to a request for comment.
On the CIA’s seventh floor, Hayden convened a discreet meeting on Mugniyah. The initial discussion group was at first limited to Hayden's deputy, Steve Kappes; Michael Sulick, boss of the Directorate of Clandestine services (the agency’s spy corps); and Mike Walker, chief of the Near East Division; and a few aides.
(When queried by Newsweek, the CIA and all the participants named in this story refused to acknowledge any agency involvement in the operation.)
At first, Hayden, a former Air Force general, was excited about the chance to exterminate a man who had killed so many Americans, including some of the CIA’s finest officers, recalled one former official. But he soon had second thoughts.
“General Hayden, at first, was all for this,” the former official said, “But slowly, or maybe not so slowly, the realization set in for him that he was ordering an assassination, that basically he was putting out a hit. And once he became pretty much cognizant of the fact that he was basically ordering the murder of someone, he got cold feet. He didn’t fancy himself as a Corleone.”
And he wasn’t, really. That role would ultimately fall to the president.
“Obviously [Hayden] had to get authority for this, and authority could come from only one person, and that would be POTUS," said the participant. “So he went down to see President Bush. It took Bush apparently only about 30 seconds to say, ‘Yes, and why haven’t you done this already? You have my blessing. Go with God.’”
A ban on assassinations had been in place since 1975, but evidently suspected terrorists weren’t protected by it. (Bush’s former national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, refused comment when contacted by Newsweek last year.)
CHOOSING A WEAPON
On the seventh floor, planning for a hit lurched forward. CIA Acting Counsel John Rizzo green-lighted the project, an authoritative source said. The group tossed around various assassination scenarios involving poison or a rifle shot, but discarded them as too difficult or risky in Damascus, a city tightly controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s secret police.
“Shooting—you got to make sure he’s dead, for one thing,” a participant said. “You got to get close to him. And how do you get the shooter out? Even if it’s a sniper from aways out, there’s got to be an egress route for the person, or persons, to get out before the Syrians shut the area down. So that was ruled out.”
“There was no way to capture him,” the source added. “I mean, what would you do with him? So it came down to being a kill operation.”
The decision was made to use a bomb. But what kind? Weeks, and then months, passed as the CIA’s bomb technicians presented Hayden with various devices. They were all too big.
Frustration was building, both inside the building and out. In Israel, the delays were “driving Dagan and Mossad absolutely bonkers,” said a participant in the planning. “If it was up to them, he would’ve been dead long before this. Because of all the controls, it was taking a long time.”
Bomb experts in the CIA’s Office of Technical Services were being sent back again and again, on Hayden’s orders, to make a device that would limit its lethal blast to a small radius.
“It went from being a traditional car bomb, with a load of C-4 or Semtex or something packed into car chassis, into a very narrowly focused, very tailored weapon, which turned into basically a very large claymore mine, if you will, a shaped charge” hidden in the center of a rear tire mounted on the back of a Toyota or Mitsubishi SUV, a source said. “It was designed to throw out everything in a specific direction.”
Hayden liked the idea. The technicians tested bomb prototypes at a clandestine facility at Harvey Point, near Myock, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, CIA and Mossad agents in Syria were keeping an eye on Mugniyah, the participant said. “We had folks in Damascus and we’re doing this as well, but nobody could do it like Mossad.”
The CIA’s Near East Division, meanwhile, was working on the logistics of getting a bomb into Syria and placing it in a car that Mugniyah would walk by.
“The vehicle would be purchased locally in Damascus,” the planning participant said. “The device would be taken into Syria. Everybody figured we would fly it into Jordan and get it across the border from Jordan into Syria clandestinely.”
But in late December, with the bomb ready and Mugniyah firmly in their sights, Hayden “started to get really cold feet again,” the participant said. He decided to go see President Bush personally—on Christmas Eve 2007, at Camp David.
“On Christmas Eve morning, he and [Deputy CIA Director Steven] Kappes fly up to Camp David to see POTUS, to say, ‘Okay, look, here’s what we got, everything is in place, do we still have the go-ahead?’ And POTUS basically threw both of them out, saying, ‘Why are you up here wasting my time on Christmas Eve? Get the fuck out and go do this. Not quite in those terms. But it was, ‘Yes, I’ve already given you my approval. Go do this; go with God.’”
Hayden and Kappes choppered back to CIA headquarters and called a meeting in the director’s conference room. With Christmas fast approaching, the corridors were nearly empty.
“He comes back, he holds one last meeting where he got together everyone involved,” recalled a source involved in the planning. “It was mid-afternoon, Christmas Eve. There were not a lot of people in the building. Everyone’s already scooted out for Christmas. But they go over everything one more time: Here’s a device, it’s not too big, it’s not too small…”
Hayden was in his seat at the head of the long, shiny table. A model of the bomb had been placed in front of him, a planning participant said. The real thing had been flown to Jordan.
“He looks at it, asks some questions, and after about a 30-second delay—you could hear the seconds ticking away in the clock of his credenza—he says, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”
SIX SECONDS IN DAMASCUS
A call came from Jordan the next day, Christmas. The bomb had been successfully driven into Syria. A rendezvous was made with another CIA operative in Damascus, who took possession of the bomb and installed it on an SUV obtained locally.
Then the waiting began—again.
“One of the things they had to wait for, believe it or not, was for a parking space to open up. There were a couple of spaces outside the apartment building that gave them the opportunity, but there was one in particular that that would be the most efficient, if you will,” for killing Mugniyah, the participant said.
Finally, the car was in place. But then there were always other people around. Weeks more went by. Hayden’s demands that only Mugniyah be killed, and no one else, with no collateral damage, had to be met.
“It was always either he wasn’t alone, or he had his kids with him, or somebody else with him, or there were casuals in the area, or he was gone, he was in the Bekka [Valley] or someplace else, he wasn’t in his apartment,” the participant said. “The rules of engagement were so tight that he probably walked past the thing dozens of times but they just couldn’t do anything because somebody was there or it just didn’t fit into the rules of engagement.”
“They were keeping watch on this just about all the time,” he added. “They were taking shifts, a station officer and a Mossad officer. The Mossad officer was there just to make the confirmation that, 'yeah, that’s him.'”
The kill was made all the harder by the way the bomb would be detonated. There was a two-second delay from the time the CIA and Mossad agents in the lookout post pushed the button to when the bomb exploded. Under the plan, the Mossad agent would ID Mugniyah, and the CIA man would press the remote control.
“So you would have to count—one, one thousand; two, one thousand... “ the participant said. “They had about six seconds from the time he came out of the apartment door to the time he moved out of the danger zone. So they had to do it really fast.”
Finally, on the night of February 12, 2008, after two months of round-the-clock surveillance, they caught Mugniyah alone.
“They made a positive ID. Click. One, one thousand; two, one thousand...ka-boom. It separated Mr. Mugniyah’s arms, legs, and head from the remainder of his torso, which was catapulted about 50 feet through a window,” the participant said. “It worked exactly like it was supposed to.”
Twenty thousand people turned out for Mugniyah’s funeral in Beirut, many screaming “Death to Israel.”
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied responsibility. "Israel rejects the attempt by terrorist elements to ascribe to it any involvement whatsoever in this incident," his office said in a statement .
The CIA was pleased with Mugniyah’s murder, but not so pleased as to take credit for it. Agency officials always feared Hezbollah would feel a need to retaliate.
Since Mugniyah’s demise, no Americans are known to have died at the hands of Hezbollah. Experts on the region ascribe that to the organization’s evolution from a guerrilla and terrorist group to a key political party in Lebanon, beginning in 1992. Today, Hezbollah's military arm is fighting the Islamic State in Syria, in parallel with, if not in coordination with, the U.S.
But the group's tit-for-tat war with Israel continues. Last week, Hezbollah ambushed several Israeli vehicles patrolling the Lebanese border, killing two IDF soldiers and wounding seven. The attack was in response to an earlier Israeli air assault that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and several Hezbollah commanders. One of the latter was Jihad Mugniyah, the son of the legendary terrorist.
At an event to commemorate Jihad Mugniyah's death in Beirut, mourners held pictures of his late father, Imad. They are now buried side by side.
**Newsweek senior writer Jonathan Broder contributed to this report
What is to be done about Arab Pathologies?
Saturday, 31 January 2015
Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya
"What is to be done?" - Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." - Karl Marx
Over the last year I tried in this space and elsewhere to analyze, explore and understand the complex reasons and conditions that led to the historic upheavals that swept a number of majority Arab countries, and drove some to civil wars, others to unprecedented political polarization, causing enormous human agony, economic dislocations, ethnic and religious cleansing, the fraying of national institutions, and exposing already fragile states to the depredations and machinations of ‘friendly’ neighbors and regional and international powers. Unless politically motivated violence is contained then stopped, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are threatened with dissolution as unitary states. Other states, particularly those that experienced wrenching civil wars in recent decades such as Algeria, Lebanon and Sudan are on the brink or moving there. Even in Egypt, the oldest political entity in the world, the most ‘centralized’ modern Arab state we see that state institutions and civil society are fraying under the weight of political polarization, tension over the identity, ethos and the direction of the country, and a nascent and nasty growing campaign of violence waged by Islamist terrorist groups, that could lead to further domestic suppression of even peaceful dissent.
I have struggled like others, Arabs and non-Arabs to go beyond describing the ills afflicting the various Arab body politics, and to deconstruct the causes of the political and cultural pathologies of the region, convinced all along that they cannot be reduced to one over-arching cause. Like others, I pointed out to systemic oppression, denial of free political and cultural space, massive violations of human rights everywhere but in varying degrees (even in despotism, there is a hierarchy) economic dislocation , and an entrenched culture of corruption, and denial of human agency which gave rise to uncritical beliefs in conspiracy theories. While Arabs are in the main responsible for their current predicaments, outsiders at times made bad conditions much worse, such as the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Theory and Praxis
A recurring theme in Philosophy (and Literature) has been the dichotomy of theory and action ( for the ancient Greeks Praxis denotes the activities engaged in by citizens –free men- in realizing concepts, theories and turning them into practicing ideas). Philosophers from Aristotle, to St. Augustine, and all the way to Marx and Hannah Arendt grappled with this dichotomy. Some of the best characters in classical novels exemplified the tensions between those who see the world through a contemplative mind and those who seek to shake it, embrace it or change it through action. In Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund we see the tension between the contemplative Narcissus who leads a spiritual life in the monastery and the Passionate Goldmund who leads a life of adventure and free wandering. In Nikos Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek the tension is between the shy bookish ‘Boss’, and Alexis Zorba a passionate sensuous adventurer, fighter and dancer. Of course, an ideal life should fuse contemplation and Praxis.
Marx, Lenin and Gilbert Becaud
Regardless of the causes of the ills afflicting the Arab body politics, (for some scholars and analysts, they range from the Sykes-Picot Agreement, to the theory of rentier state, autocracy and all the way to climate change), it is clear now that as Lenin said in 1901 the “burning question” confronting us is ‘What is to be done?’ to prevent these societies from literally burning themselves while sliding into a Hobbesian ‘State of Nature’, culminating in a ‘war of all against all’. Now, that the analysts, commentators (do we have serious philosophers?) have interpreted the problems of the Arab world, the point as Marx said ‘is to change it.’ A friend of mine, an insightful analyst of the Arab world who happens to know from the inside the trepidations and reluctance that animate the Obama administration’s dealing with Arab crisis put Lenin’s question and Marx’s observation simply and very effectively to me in the title of a song. After listening to my critique of President Obama’s Syria policy posted here last week, he smiled and said; fine, we have diagnosed the problem, but as that old song asked 'What Now, My Love?'
For those too young to remember, 'What Now, My Love?' is the English translation of Gilbert Becaud’s French classic Et maintenant. The song was covered by who’s who in America’s pantheon of singers including Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Elvis Presley among others.
Two weeks ago I have written that ‘The essence of the current Arab predicament is that the West cannot save the Arabs from themselves, and the Arabs are unable or unwilling to exorcize their demons on their own.’
“But to save Syria from ISIS, we have to save Syria from the Assad regime, the very magnet that attracted ISIS ”
We have to start with certain self-evident truths. To leave these countries to their own devices, and to the not-so-tender mercies of some of their neighbors, is to leave them on a long tragic trajectory. And with the recent terror in Europe, the world, should know that what happens say in Syria or Iraq or Yemen will not stay in these borderless entities. The world is already involved albeit in a reluctant way in a limited war in Iraq and Syria against the dark and nihilistic forces, of the so-called “Islamic State’ (ISIS) and was involved in the early phase of Libya’s (continuing) civil wars.
The peoples of these states, Arabs and non-Arabs who are still interested in reconstituting these brittle states as unitary nation-states, and not allow themselves to descent into their parochial primordial loyalties and identities as Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Zaydis, Kurds, Turkmens, Druze and others, should seek the conditional help of outside powers and international organizations as well as the support of those neighboring states interested in ending the chaos. It will be extremely difficult, and maybe impossible to restore these broken societies, but at least those who believe in enlightened self-interest should give it a genuine try.
Another self-evident truth, is that only the United States can and should (in the name of enlightened self-interest) and as the world’s sole superpower, organize an International and regional coalition to take the military battle to ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. Washington may have modest goals in Iraq (containing ISIS, prevent the fall of Baghdad and major Kurdish cities and help liberate Mosul, but not to destroy ISIS) but the White House, as senior military officers know does NOT have a strategy for Syria. It is ludicrous, to insist on an ‘Iraq first’ strategy, that does not make any military sense, when the enemy treat Syria and Iraq as ONE front. Another self-evident truth is that to save Iraq from ISIS, we have to save Syria from ISIS.
But to save Syria from ISIS, we have to save Syria from the Assad regime, the very magnet that attracted ISIS and the other devils rejects to Syria. For the U.S. and its allies to continue to attack ISIS targets, and spare the military of the Assad regime, while delaying the implementation of its declared plans to train and equip moderate Syrian fighters opposed to Assad, and cutting off financial aid to some brigades in the North, (a sure recipe for driving them to the well-financed Nusra Front) is to condemns Syria to a long stalemate and possible actual partition, along with the creation of a permanent Syrian diaspora nation. As it is, the U.S. has lost the trust of many Syrian ‘moderates’ the kind it needs to defeat the Jihadi fanatics, because of its undeclared understanding with Assad and the Iranians; we don’t bomb your positions, and you don’t fire at our bombers, we won’t destroy your air force to prevent your helicopters from throwing barrel bombs against civilians, and you (Iranians) will spare our personnel in Iraq, military and civilians from Improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
True it is difficult now, after almost 4 years of bloody conflict and steady fragmentation to build a unified Syrian military opposition, but the U.S. should help those non-Islamist nationalist groups who want to rebuild a civil state. The U.S. should expedite its training program; resume financial support and military supplies to groups that have proven that they can fight both the regime and ISIS. The U.S. should ignore those Islamist groups that are not affiliated with ISIS and Nusra and are willing to fight them and fight the regime at the same time. Most importantly, the U.S. should restate categorically, that it will work with Syrians and their neighbors to make sure that Syria’s future will be free of Assad and his henchmen, and ISIS and Nusra.
Other policy prescriptions
The U.S., the European Union, the United Nations, the international non-governmental organizations, and possibly some regional states should adopt certain political principles and prescriptions that can be used in dealing with these crisis, knowing full well that there is no one solution that fits all. These states may be part of what is loosely called the Arab world, but we don’t call it world for nothing. Even the Arabs in this world are not alike, not to mention the myriad of ancient non-Arab and non-Muslim communities that have lived in that world for centuries or millennia. The Egyptians and the Yemenis for instance are even separated by Arabic dialects, not to mention social and cultural differences and habits. And yet to ignore the cultural similarities and historical legacies that on one level or another bind these societies will be to ignore the obvious.
One crucial self-evident truth that is badly needed as a concept and a political tool in states like Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Syria is federalism. To allow these states to disintegrate to their primordial component is to condemn them to perpetual violence. It will be nearly impossible to restore these states without stitching them together through federal structures. The concept is not alien to the region as some would allege. Libya is one state that was born in 1951 as a federal state, combining the three historical regions of Libya; Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the East and Fezzan in the south. A new federal system would have to allow for the demographic changes that occurred in the last 63n years, the urbanizations and the new facts on the ground created by the continuing strife.
A federal system would devolve certain responsibilities and authorities from the central government to local and regional bodies and communities, providing them with as much autonomy as possible along with their share of the national budget (dependent on population, and the size of the autonomous region) to spend on education, health service and other local affairs . This system will respect and honor the cultural, linguistic and ethnic characteristics of the components of the unified nation. In this system the central government will be responsible for foreign affairs and will have monopoly on the means of coercion (one component of national sovereignty) to defend the state against foreign aggression.
Federalism and administrative decentralization will go a long way to assure the religious and ethnic minorities whose existential fears have been heightened because of the violence that led to mass killings and expulsion of communities because of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, particularly in Syria, and Iraq, but also in Yemen and Libya.
Exclude the exclusionists
One of the disastrous decisions adopted by the Libyan government in 2013 was the passage of the controversial and vindictive Political Isolation Law (PIL) which was similar to the infamous de-Baathification policy in Iraq (itself derived from denazification in Germany after WWII) that is to exclude from the new government those who served the Ancien Régime. The (PIL) in Libya, like de-Baathification in Iraq was abused for political purposes by some leaders, and was used to violate human rights, delay reconciliation and depriving the new government and administration of competent and experienced leaders and technocrats. Those former regime members, with no blood on their hands and whose government service did not involve violations of human rights should be given another chance to serve their countries. This principle should be applied everywhere. The U.N. and specialized NGO’s should be heavily involved in any elections taking place during the transitions.
After the invasion of Iraq, it should be clear that the U.S. should not seek the chimera of establishing democracies overnight in societies that were tortured for decades by brutal regimes. Even in America, democracy required multiple struggles to end the disenfranchisement of women (the right to vote exercised for the first time in 1920) and African-Americans (Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965). But the U.S. should apply certain basic principles in dealing with Arab states, those undergoing rough transitions (Egypt) and those suffering from civil strife; Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, as well as its other Arab and non-Arab allies in the region. The U.S. and the EU should support and defend basic human rights; they should not accept arbitrary arrests, and not tolerate imprisoning peaceful political dissidents, call for due process and a vibrant media, push for reforming the local police, and gradually push for professionalizing the militaries, and literally raise hell against torture.
Finally, the U.S. and the EU and the international financial institutions, and NGOs along with neighboring states, should adopt a regional economic plan (a Middle Eastern version of the Marshall Plan) for the reconstruction of the devastated states. The aid should be conditioned on enacting legal and bureaucratic reforms to lessen the chances of corruption and briberies. There should be particular focus on the private sector, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in wealth-creation and to particularly help the poor financially and technically, to make the transition from the ‘shadow’ economy, where they are forced to operate, to a sunny economic cycle. This is a tall order, but these historic challenges require comparable historic responses. I hope I answered my friend’s query 'What Now, My Love?'
Egypt’s FGM conviction is a milestone
- but what next?
Saturday, 31 January 2015
Yara al-Wazir/Al Arabiya
This week, Egypt’s judicial system crossed a milestone for women: for the first time in history, a doctor was convicted for female genital mutilation. Raslan Fadl, the doctor who performed the procedure that ended up killing 13-year-old Sohair al-Bataa in a village in northern Egypt, was sentenced to two years for manslaughter, and an additional three months for performing FGM. This isn’t just a great leap towards justice for Sohair’s family, rather for women all over the world who suffer from this out-dated procedure. What Sohair’s death, combined with this sentence, generated is an immense amount of noise for a crime that the United Nations estimates 91% of married Egyptian women may have had to go through.
Civil society is making a difference
Many accredit FGM to be a cultural issue. Activists have spoken out about it and there are numerous NGOs based in Egypt and the region that call for the practice to stop. The statistics speak volumes: between 2005 and 2008, the number of women who supported FGM practices in Egypt fell from 41% to 31%, according to a U.N. report. The head of the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness led the efforts to bring this case to justice.
What the statistics do tell, however, is a scary story of what the future may hold. There are more women who would circumcise their daughters in the future, than those who are circumcised themselves. The case of the convicted doctor is exactly what is needed to change this culture: even if the practice is supported within certain communities, doctors will now think twice before carrying it out. “Female circumcision is not a religious practice. Above all, it is a cultural practice that is outdated and unnecessary” However, this also opens up a can of worms: without sterile environments where this procedure can take place, families may take matters into their own hands. In 2008, doctors performed 72% of the circumcisions; this means that there is a significant part of the community who took matters into their own hands.
The Egyptian government needs to make sure that just as this doctor was prosecuted, so called ‘dayas’ and nurses must also be held accountable for their actions. In Yemen alone, a report by the World Health Organization showed the death rate due to the procedure, or complications of the procedure, reached 2.3%. This means that there are more Sohair al-Bataa’s out there who have lost their lives. Their cases are yet to see justice, and this horrible breach on women’s lives is not receiving the attention it deserves.
The end is near – all we need to speak up
Female circumcision is not a religious practice. Above all, it is a cultural practice that is outdated and unnecessary. NGOs are doing what they can, international organisations such as the U.N. and the WHO are doing what they can, and legislation is doing what it can. The single missing link that can generate enough awareness to end this practice is for clerics and religious leaders to speak out to those who wrongly believe it is a religious practice. It takes at least a generation or two to change a mindset. However, with this verdict, doctors will think twice before performing the procedure. Civil society NGOs will work ten times as hard to end FGM, because their efforts are finally being recognized by both the law, and by a new culture.