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Bible Quotation For
Today/The Sign of Immanuel
Isaiah 07/01-25: "1When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the Nile delta in Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave your head and private parts, and to cut off your beard also. In that day, a person will keep alive a young cow and two goats. And because of the abundance of the milk they give, there will be curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. Hunters will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.".
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on
Sorting Out the Saudi Succession/Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz/The Weekly Standard/February 05/15
Innovate or stagnate/Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum /Al AArabiya/February 05/15
ISIS’ savagery: The beginning of the end/Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya/February 05/15
Yemen’s Houthis’ over-ambition bounces back/Manuel Almeida/Al Arabiya/February 05/15
Lebanese Related News published on February 05-06/15
Salam Heads to Munich to Attend Security Conference
UNSC condemns killing of Spanish peacekeeper
Health Ministry closes unlicensed dental tool distributor
Derian from Cairo: Radicals don't speak for Islam
Jumblatt seeks to delay of STL testimony: report
Lebanon’s presidential vacuum: Adventure in farce
Beirut Governor Orders Karantina Fish Market Shut
Three Syrians Detained for Providing Compatriots with Fake Entry Documents
USA Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Warns Nusra Could Intensify Operations in Lebanon
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Girault to Head to Vatican for Talks with al-Rahi
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Pope Francis: 'Everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of sexual abuse'
Wife of kosher supermarket terrorist said spotted in ISIS video
Jordan king cites Clint Eastwood in revenge vow
Jordan King Visits Grieving Family of Executed Pilot
Jordanian airstrikes kill 55 ISIS militants, one commander
King of Jordan vows “relentless” war on ISIS
Iraqi Christians to take up arms against ISIS
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves. (Youtube)
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Top al-Qaeda militant in Yemen dead in U.S. drone strike: AQAP
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Pope Francis: 'Everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of sexual abuse'
By REUTERS /02/05/2015
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Thursday ordered Roman Catholic bishops around the world to fully cooperate with a commission he set up to protect children from sexual abuse by clerics and to give the issue top priority even if it unearths new scandals. The pope sent the letter to the bishops and heads of religious institutions a day before the commission, which he established last year, was due to hold its first full meeting. In the letter, the pope says: "Everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused." "Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children ...priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors," he said. One of the members of the commission, Marie Collins of Ireland, herself a victim of sexual abuse, told Reuters that commission members had asked the pope to write a letter to thwart any resistance from bishops to its work. The 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church has been hit by scandal involving the sexual abuse of children by priests around the world in the past 15 years. Since his election in March, 2013, Francis has several times vowed zero tolerance for offenders but victims of abuse want him to do more and make bishops who allegedly covered up the abuse accountable
Heads to Munich to Attend Security Conference
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam traveled on Thursday to Germany at the head of a ministerial delegation to take part in the three-day Munich Security Conference (MSC). Salam is expected to address around midnight Friday more than 40 heads of government and state, along with 60-odd foreign and defense ministers including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov. His 10-minute speech will focus on the Lebanese army and its battle against terrorism, which compels fortifying its military capabilities, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported earlier on Thursday. Salam will tackle the lingering Syrian refugees crisis, reiterating its impact on the security, social and economic levels in Lebanon. U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has registered 1.5 million arrivals, but many more are thought to be in the country unregistered, and thousands have entered Lebanon through illegal crossings. The influx has tested the country's limited resources, as well as the patience of its citizens, particularly as security has deteriorated. The premier is expected to hold meetings with heads of state on the sidelines of the conference. The event's organizer, veteran German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, said the meeting will discuss what he called an unprecedented upsurge in global crises over the past year, and the inability of the international community to tackle them.
Cairo: Radicals don't speak for Islam
The Daily Star/Feb. 05, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian blasted jihadi militant groups which he said were carrying out crimes against humanity and are not related whatsoever to Islam which is based on mercy and respect for human dignity. In comments he made to Lebanese expatriates in Egypt, published Thursday, Derian said, “terrorism is infiltrating the world under the pretext of religion, while Islam is free of any criminal act against the human being.” “The actions carried out by certain (militant) groups, undermining human dignity, freedoms and rights are not related to Islam in anyway, but are sheer terrorist and radical acts,” Derian said, stressing that Islam “is the religion of mercy and tolerance.” The cleric, who represents the highest religious Sunni authority in Lebanon, also emphasized that dialogue was the only suitable means for settling inter-Lebanese divisions. “(Political) matters in Lebanon could only be settled through dialogue which we support and hope it would lead to electing a new president of the republic, reactivating state institutions, and safeguarding Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty,” Derian said. Derian is on an official visit to Egypt, during which he had met the Egyptian Mufti Sheikh Shawki Allam to discuss cooperation between them in order to encourage religious moderation and tolerance.
presidential vacuum: Adventure in farce
The Daily Star/Feb. 05, 2015/Nearly nine months into Lebanon’s presidential vacuum, and much of society is apparently dangerously complacent about the leadership gap, a situation which many politicians appear to be welcoming. French presidential and Middle East envoy Jean-Francois Girault reiterated Tuesday that his government was doing all it could to help the process along, while at the same time stressing that it was a Lebanese issue that should be overseen by the Lebanese. But are these not mutually exclusive statements?
This sentiment has also been expressed recently by ambassadors and other representatives from Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the Vatican and others. If it were really true that these countries sought not to interfere in the presidential nomination process in Lebanon, why, then, are they discussing it so often, and making so many trips to Lebanon, trips which often coincide with other events in the region? The continued presidential vacancy is an apparent adventure in farce and renders Lebanon akin to a failed state. And all the while the Future Movement and Hezbollah busy themselves with discussing the need to end political posters and celebratory gunfire. No one can deny these are topics that need addressing, but there are surely larger problems that need to be dealt with, including the small matter of the presidential vacuum; the security situation; the STL; Lebanon’s involvement vis-a-vis Syria. It is quite clear that many Lebanese politicians are doing their utmost to drive the country toward the abyss. If certain individuals can do nothing productive for the country, they would do well to withdraw from political life altogether.
to delay of STL testimony: report
The Daily Star/Feb. 05, 2015/BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt has requested the postponement of his testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, according to local daily Al-Akhbar. The report Thursday said Jumblatt has asked the STL to be the last witness to be called in to give him time to prepare his personal testimony. Al-Akhbar said Jumblatt was keen that his testimony would not hurt the ongoing dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement or Lebanon’s stability. The STL is probing the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who perished in a massive blast with 21 other people near the Saint George Hotel in Beirut.
Authorities Begin Removing Political Posters, Slogans
Naharnet/A campaign to remove party banners and photos from Beirut and several cities was launched on Thursday, the result of talks between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal Movement. The governor of Beirut, Ziad Shebib, told reporters that 90 percent of political slogans and posters have already been removed. “We will work from now on to make Beirut appear civilized,” he said about the campaign which is carried out in cooperation with Beirut police and the capital's firefighting department. “The operation is ongoing in all regions without exception,” he added. Governor of the North Elie Nohra also oversaw the implementation of the campaign in the northern city of Tripoli. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq met with the governors on Monday to discuss the issue. They agreed to remove Hizbullah, al-Mustaqbal and Amal Movement banners and flags from the streets of Beirut and along the coastal highway from Tripoli to the southern city of Sidon. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials, who have been holding talks in Ain el-Tineh under Speaker Nabih Berri's sponsorship since December, welcomed on Tuesday the steps to eliminate the posters and portraits. The dialogue between the rival parties' representatives is aimed at defusing tension.
Orders Karantina Fish Market Shut
Naharnet/The Governor of Beirut ordered on Thursday the closure of the fish market in Karantina for not meeting health standards, three months after he gave similar instructions to shut the slaughterhouse in the same area for renovations, which prompted angry vendors to block the vital road outside the facility. Governor Ziad Shebib visited the market and gave the fish traders until Friday to sell their catch. But the traders objected, telling reporters who accompanied Shebib in his inspection that the decision would leave them jobless. “We have hundreds of customers and the fish is fresh,” said one of them. “We should have been given at least a one-month notice,” he added. Later on Thursday, the vendors blocked the Port road in protest, which caused a severe traffic jam on the Karantina highway and the nearby roads that lead to Mathaf and Ashrafieh. The road remained closed for around half an hour. “How can you shut down the market without taking samples from our shops? Are we in a school and a decision was taken to close the classes?” an angry trader asked. “Beirut's governor must protect us, we the sons of the capital, and if he can't let him resign immediately,” the vendors said, in remarks carried by the National News Agency. The governor will keep the market shut until renovation work is done. Shebib took a similar measure in November when he ordered the Karantina slaughterhouse shut after health ministry inspectors revealed bad safety and health conditions. The abattoir is now under renovation. The closure of the facilities came as part of a campaign launched by Health Minister Wael Abou Faour in October to press for better health and food safety standards.
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves. (Youtube)
By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters | Geneva
Wednesday, 4 February 2015
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive, a United Nations watchdog said on Wednesday.
Iraqi boys aged under 18 are increasingly being used by the militant group as suicide bombers, bomb makers, informants or human shields to protect facilities against U.S.-led air strikes, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.
“We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities,” committee expert Renate Winter told a news briefing. “The scope of the problem is huge.”
Children from the Yazidi sect or Christian communities, but also Shi’ites and Sunnis, have been victims, she said.
“We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding,” Winter told Reuters. “There was a video placed (online) that showed children at a very young age, approximately eight years of age and younger, to be trained already to become child soldiers.”
Islamic State is a breakaway al Qaeda group that declared an Islamic caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq last summer. It has killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes, in what the United Nations has called a reign of terror.
On Tuesday, the group, which is also known as ISIL, released a video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive.
The U.N. body, which reviewed Iraq’s record for the first time since 1998, denounced “the systematic killing of children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities by the so-called ISIL, including several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive”.
A large number of children have been killed or badly wounded during air strikes or shelling by Iraqi security forces, while others had died of “dehydration, starvation and heat”, it said.
ISIL has committed “systematic sexual violence”, including “the abduction and sexual enslavement of children”, it said.
“Children of minorities have been captured in many places... sold in the market place with tags, price tags on them, they have been sold as slaves,” Winter said, giving no details.
The 18 independent experts who worked on the report called on Iraqi authorities to take all necessary measures to “rescue children” under the control of Islamic State and to prosecute perpetrators of crimes.
“There is a duty of a state to protect all its children. The point is just how are they going to do that in such a situation?”, Winter said.
cites Clint Eastwood in revenge vow
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 5 February 2015
While local reports revealed Wednesday that the Jordanian King Abdullah will authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, a U.S. official described the Arab monarch as citing a Hollywood movie character when expressing his wrath upon hearing that the militants had burned his countryman pilot alive during his captivity.
“He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie,” Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king, told Fox News Channel in an interview aired Wednesday.
King Abdullah had to cut his U.S. trip short after hearing the news that Moaz al-Kasasbeh was burned alive.
During a private session with members of the House Armed Services Committee lawmakers, the king expressed his anger by citing American movie icon Clint Eastwood.
“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen,” said the Marine Corps veteran.
However, Hunter would not say which part of “Unforgiven” the king quoted, but noted it was where Eastwood’s character describes how he is going to deliver his retribution.
“He’s angry,” Hunter said of King Abdullah. “They’re starting more sorties tomorrow than they’ve ever had. They’re starting tomorrow. And he said, ‘The only problem we’re going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.’”
“He’s ready to get it on,” Hunter added. “He really is. It reminded me of how we were after 9/11. We were ready to give it to them.”
Hunter also said that the lawmakers and King Abdullah did not make any mention of U.S. President Barack Obama.
He added: “ISIS is now going to regret this … because King Abdullah is not Barack Obama.”
The Jordan Times reported that thousands of Jordanians gathered on Wednesday to receive King Abdullah.
The Jordan times also reported that mosques and churches around the Kingdom held prayers on Wednesday in memory of al-Kasasbeh.
King not flying missions
Meanwhile, a Jordanian government official on Thursday told Al Arabiya News that King Abdullah was not flying missions against ISIS himself, after local media reports – also taken by some international outlets - indicated he is set to do so.
The official also noted that observers should refrain from calling King Abdullah a fighter pilot as he does not officially hold the title. He is, however, the commander-in-chief of the Jordanian Air Force.
The king is a trained combatant, part of the parachute brigade and flies civilian planes and helicopters, the official added.
Iraqi Christians to take up arms against ISIS
Dina al-Shibeeb, Al Arabiya News
Wednesday, 4 February 2015
Several Iraqi Christian armed forces will “soon” join the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in an attempt to regain control of their in the northern Ninveh Plain after they were seized by the militant group last year, a Christian lawmaker said Wednesday.
“The objective is to liberate their land in Nineveh Plain and to take charge of security in these areas afterward,” said Yaco Jacob, a Christian parliamentarian at the Kurdistan Parliament.
Jacob is member of the political bureau of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), which is one of the country’s Christian political parties, with two deputies in the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad and two representatives in the Kurdistan parliament in Erbil.
The ADM has operated paramilitaries since the 1980s, when it allied with the Kurds to wage an insurgency against Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Christian force currently has 2,000 men who volunteered to fight ISIS.
Christian groups began rebuilding their armed forces in August 2014, a week after the Ninevah plain exodus, seen by some as the worse disaster to have ever affected the Iraqi Christians.
Other minorities like the Yazidis and the Shabaks live in the Nineveh Plain and were also affected by the ISIS’s advance on their lands.
The volunteer fighters are made of Assyrians - the native people of the Ninveh Plain – who are also Orthodox Christians and their Catholic counterpart, the Chaldeans.
Jacob said some of the forces are receiving training in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. “After obtaining permission and coordinating with the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, we started sending more than 450 Christian men to a military camp for training in Kurdistan.”
“The Iraqi army did not fight ISIS in Mosul nor the Peshmerga fought in Nineveh plain. Christians and Yazidis were left on their one in Ninveh Plain and Sinjar,” Jacob said.
Jacob said the 450 strong force taking training in Kurdish areas was “the first batch” and that there were plans to train more fighters.
“We hope for second and third batches. We have the ability and capability to carry arms and defend our land under the national Iraqi security umbrella. I don’t’ speak of a militia, I speak of young men, who will be in the future part of the national security service,” he added.
He said neither the central government in Baghdad nor the Kurdish regional government is giving them needed support to build their force.
“We did not receive any help from Baghdad or Erbil,” he said, adding that the volunteer force was being sponsored by Christians living in Iraq and abroad.
Steven Nabil, an Iraqi Christian activist, said many of the first batch volunteers were Internally Displaced Persons, including those expelled from Mosul by ISIS.
Nabil said the idea to arm Christians in Iraq was being considered for years, but disputes between Baghdad and Erbil have delayed its implementation.
“The Christians and other minorities such as Yazidis and Shabak need to arm up, the time now is different,” he said.
“We need to face the enemy and not just sit in our tents,” he said.
Yemen’s Houthis’ over-ambition bounces
Manuel Almeida/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 5 February 2015
When the sun rose in Yemen on Thursday, the leadership of the revivalist Zaydi movement Ansarullah woke up to a reality they created but probably would have rather have avoided.
On Sunday, soon after the National Conference in a sports hall in Sanaa drew to a close, Ansarullah (also known as the Houthis) issued a final statement on the conference’s main conclusions and demands. Among those demands was a three-day-deadline, which expired on Wednesday evening, for Yemen’s political parties to reach a solution to the current crisis. Otherwise, the statement read, the “revolutionary leadership” will take over and act as decision maker during the transitional period.
“Since taking over the capital in September, the Houthi’s leadership got comfortable with using Hadi’s weak government as window-dressing”
The conference’s official title might give an idea of all-inclusive gathering, but most political parties boycotted the event organized by Ansarullah. A few tribal leaders attended. So did some members of Yemen’s long-time ruling party General People’s Congress and military officers, yet another sign that there was cooperation between Ansarullah and political and military factions loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
While the conference went on, anti-Ansarullah demonstrations took place in various cities, including Taiz, Ibb, Aden and Sanaa’s Tahrir Square. The violent disruption of the protests in the capital by Ansarullah fighters and their harassment campaign of local journalists and activists helped to undo the movement’s populist mantle and uncover its more disquieting side.
The U.N. secretary-general’s special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, confirmed a few days ago that recently-resigned President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi remains effectively under house arrest. Hadi said he could reconsider his resignation if Ansarullah abandons the capital and security is restored. However, Ansarullah has recently established a reputation for not honouring their part of the deals they make, another reason why Hadi’s immediate comeback looks unlikely.
Since taking over the capital in September, the movement’s leadership got comfortable with using Hadi’s weak government as window-dressing while they effectively called the shots. Emboldened by their new position, they went a few steps too far in pressuring the government to the point it had not options but to resign. Their insistence for Hadi to backtrack on the resignation he submitted last week is a sign of Ansarullah’s anxiety about a situation they did not seem to expect.
Ansarullah’s military offensive across much of north and central Yemen also added new groups to their long list of enemies. They are not only a primary target for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Powerful tribes in Marib and al-Bayda have already turned against them and serious tensions verging on armed clashes between the northern Zaydi movement and Salafist groups have resumed.
New round of talks
Despite a new round of talks (the sixth one) between Ansarullah and Yemen’s main political parties under the watch of Benomar, the political backlash against Ansarullah undermined the chances of any breakthrough in this latest round even before the three day deadline. Yemen’s main parties suspended their participation in the talks and demanded that parliament convenes to consider Hadi’s resignation. According to the constitution, if Hadi’s resignation is confirmed, the parliamentary speaker will take over until elections are held.
Adding to the already difficult situation Ansarullah leadership find themselves in, the withdrawal of the General People’s Congress from the talks might be an indication that the predictable end to the collusion between Saleh and the Zaydi movement is close. Considering the influence Saleh and his cohort still hold, this would be no insignificant development.
Southern representatives also boycotted the talks, calling it as a waste of time. They rejected Ansarullah’s proposal to form a six-member transitional presidential council. The creation last week of the National Southern Body for Liberation and Independence, under the leadership of former southern opposition politician Abdulrahman al-Jifri, is the latest attempt at forming an umbrella movement for southern secessionism.
Ansarullah’s take-over of Sanaa
The swiftness of Ansarullah’s take-over of Sanaa in September was too quickly dismissed as the outcome of chaos and lack of leadership in the capital. Yet the so-called neutrality of the army in the face of the rebels’ offensive was decisive. That neutrality is partially a matter of competing allegiances within the army. It could have also been retaliation for the Hadi government’s attempts to restructure the military. The army, or what is left of it, will not stand aside indefinitely and clashes between army units and Ansarullah fighters have been reported over the last couple of weeks.
The deadline that Ansarullah imposed on Yemen’s political parties will turn into an imposition on themselves. To live up to their ultimatum, they are now forced to form a transitional ruling council that will be illegitimate, will not be recognized by the majority of Yemenis, and will surely be un-prepared to govern. Ansarullah will be widely blamed if things go from bad to worse and there is plenty of potential for that.
While Western press coverage of this latest crisis in Yemen obsesses about the threat posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a far greater threat afflicts 16 million Yemenis in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
ISIS’ savagery: The beginning of the end
Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 5 February 2015
The brutal sadistic horror that ISIS put on display this week by showcasing the burning of 26-year-old Jordanian Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh is by no means a sign of strength. Coming on the heels of significant losses from Kobane to Diyala, and triggering a new front with Jordan, ISIS has effectively hastened its own demise.
The collapse of ISIS will not come overnight and it might take years absent of a genuine political process in both Iraq and Syria. But in the Arab and Muslim streets, ISIS before February 3 is not the same after, and the ashes of a young Arab pilot are a turning point in how the region views the group. While ISIS has killed and maimed thousands of Syrians and Iraqis, and decapitated American, British and Japanese hostages, the public burning of Moaz al-Kasasbeh struck a chord in the Middle East. There is a sudden realization that this brutality has gone too far, that it’s destroying the Arab and Muslim core and changing the cultural fabric of the Middle East.
The ISIS video might have won the group points on style but it failed miserably on strategy. The production team that assembled the notorious images delivered a well-executed horror show: hooded fighters with machine guns on the empty hills of Raqqa (Northeast of Syria) watching an unarmed defenseless young Muslim walking to the cage of death. But if the idea from the video was to stir chaos in the Hashemite Kingdom, ISIS has achieved just the opposite. Jordanian tribes, the military and the public are rallying in unprecedented fashion behind King Abdullah II and his government.
“Opening a new front with Jordan is strategically and politically foolish for ISIS”
Opening a new front with Jordan is strategically and politically foolish for ISIS. The group is already under fire from a broad international air campaign, Kurdish and Iraqi and Syrian fighters as well as Shiite militias.
Regionally, ISIS’ savagery has brought a rare moment of agreement among political nemesis in the Arab world. Here is Hezbollah an ally of the Assad regime and on the opposite side Muslim cleric Yousef al-Qardawy both condemning ISIS.
The group that exploited disaffected Iraqis and Syrians last June as it vanquished Mosul and Raqqa and Deir Azzor, has very little to offer today besides fear and terror. As it ransacks libraries in Mosul, sells kids, rapes girls and stones women, while failing at providing social services, the Caliphate is seen to be detouring to the old tactics of its founder Abu Musaab Zarqawi.
The backlash over ISIS’ killing of Moaz al-Kasasbeh comes at a critical political juncture for the organization. While the gruesome burning is believed to have occurred in early January, its release this week was to overshadow losses for ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
ISIS has recently lost its five-month battle in Kobane, its Chemical Weapons expert Abu Malik has been killed, it’s being pushed back in the Diyala province and there is increased speculation about a growing rift between its former-Baathists’ wing and the religious fanatics. A senior U.S. official also points out that many foreign fighters with the group have stopped buying into the Caliph’s propaganda and had refused orders to go up to Kobane and fight in what has become a death trap for ISIS.
The reverse of military fortunes for ISIS has to be accompanied by aggressive political action plan. Airstrikes will not rid ancient Mesopotamia of ISIS and sectarian militias fighting the group cannot bring its defeat. Rolling back the group requires a bottom-up approach that incorporates a political roadmap on the local level and is endorsed regionally for both Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi government is taking some strides in this direction by approving a draft law for a national guard force to empower the Iraqi Sunnis. There is also more political chatter in Washington and regional capitals on the possibility of enlisting ground troops (Arab troops) in fighting ISIS. Syria, on the other hand, is a more daunting challenge with a deepening political crisis, and a weakened moderate opposition. It is no coincidence that ISIS killed most of its hostages in Syria and moved the families of its leaders from Mosul to Raqqa.
The horrendous burning of Moaz al-Kasasbeh has magnified the bankrupt ideology and hypocrisy of ISIS. If orchestrated right by the coalition and regional countries, this turning point in ISIS’ image could provide an opportunity to address the political frustrations that gave birth to the group in the first place, proving that only by reversing them, it can be defeated.
Innovate or stagnate
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum /Al AArabiya
Wednesday, 4 February 2015
Innovative governments attract talent, perform efficiently and continually upgrade their systems and services. They empower citizens to cultivate their collective energy
Companies, like people, grow old. They start life small and eager to survive, fuelled by youthful energy and fresh ideas. They compete, expand, mature, and eventually, with few exceptions, fade into obscurity. The same is true of governments: they, too, can lose the hunger and ambition of youth and allow themselves to become complacent.
Consider this: only 11 percent of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 still exist today, while the average time that companies stay in the top 500 has fallen from 75 years to 15 years. In this age of rapid change, those who lag behind become irrelevant — in a heartbeat. Countries whose governments grow old face the same fate as outdated companies. Their choice is simple: innovate, or become irrelevant.
The race for national competitiveness is every bit as fierce as the competition among companies in the marketplace. Countries compete for investment, talent, growth, and opportunity in a globalized world, and those that are pushed out of the running surrender the greatest prize of all: human development, prosperity, and happiness for their people.
To avoid this fate, governments must focus on what really matters: how to be like the 11 percent of companies that have remained, through the decades, in the top 500. The lifecycle of companies should teach governments that the secret of eternal youth is constant innovation – seizing opportunities and behaving like the dynamic, entrepreneurial companies that are defining today’s world and shaping its future.
The secret to the renewal of life for corporations, to the evolution of civilizations, and to the development of humanity is simple: innovation. I am always amazed when governments think they are an exception to the rule; that they are above the need for innovation. Innovation in government is not an intellectual luxury, a topic to be confined to seminars and panel discussions, or a matter only of administrative reforms. It is the recipe for human survival and development, the fuel for constant progress, and the blueprint for a nation’s rise.
“Innovation in government is not an intellectual luxury, a topic to be confined to seminars and panel discussions, or a matter only of administrative reforms. It is the recipe for human survival and development, the fuel for constant progress, and the blueprint for a nation’s rise.”
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
The first key to business-like innovation in government is a focus on skills. Companies in the top tier of innovation invest continuously in their employees to provide them with the right skills for the marketplace. Governments must do the same, by constantly upgrading skills and nurturing innovation — among their own employees, across key sectors of the economy, and at the foundations of the education system. Governments that fail to equip new generations as leaders for their time are condemning them to be led by other, more innovative nations.
A U.S. Department of Labor study found that 65 percent of children currently in primary school will grow up to work in jobs that do not exist today. Another study at Oxford University found that 47 percent of job categories are at high risk of ceasing to exist because they can be automated through technology.
So, how do we prepare our children and future generations for such times? How do we equip our countries to compete, not only today, but in the coming decades as well? The answer lies in innovation. We must hone our children’s creativity and provide them with the analytical and communication skills needed to channel it toward productive ends.
The second key to transforming governments into engines of innovation is to shift the balance of investment toward intangibles, as in the private sector. Whereas more than 80 percent of the value of the S&P 500 consisted of tangible assets 40 years ago, today that ratio is reversed: more than 80 percent of the largest companies’ value is intangible – the knowledge and skills of their employees and the intellectual property embedded in their products.
Governments, too, should think strategically about rebalancing spending away from tangible infrastructure like roads and buildings, and toward intangibles like education, research and development.
It is no secret that the United States and Europe together annually spend more than $250 billion (Dh917.5 billion) of public funds on R&D to maintain their leading positions. Likewise, a key driver of rapid development in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea has been their strategic decision to shift public expenditure away from hard infrastructure and toward the “soft” infrastructure needed to build and sustain a knowledge economy. Likewise, the British government spends markedly more of its budget on such intangibles than on tangible assets.
Most of today’s transformative companies are well known for having an innovative corporate culture and working environment that inspires and empowers employees. Governments that set an example for innovation have the power to implant a nationwide culture of creativity. When such a culture takes root, people feel inspired to run further with their ideas, to aim higher with their ambitions, and to pursue bigger dreams. That is how countries that encourage innovation take the lead – and stay there.
To sustain innovation, businesses must attract and retain the most creative and productive minds. In this age of global mobility, countries, too, go head to head in the battle for talent. Global cities compete to provide an ideal life and work environment for innovators, and to harness their creativity to become stronger and more competitive still.
Innovative governments do the same thing on a national scale. They attract talent, perform efficiently, and continually upgrade their systems and services. They empower citizens to cultivate their collective energy and develop their potential, and thus become drivers for their countries’ growth and advancement in the world arena. Above all, they value human minds and help people become better guardians and builders of our planet.
For governments, innovation is an existential question. Only those that sustain innovation can drive change in the world, because these are the governments that never grow old.
***His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
US coalition against ISIS is fraying. Gulf Arab partners mull withdrawal over Iran’s involvement
DEBKAfile Special Report February 5, 2015
The group of nations US President Barack Obama assembled last September for an air offence against ISIS inroads in Iraq and Syria is fraying. Wednesday, Feb. 4, US officials admitted that the United Arab Emirates had suspended its air attacks in early December, directly after a Jordanian bomber was downed over the Islamic State’s Syrian headquarters in Raqqa and its pilot Lt. Mu’ath al Kassasbeh was taken prisoner.
He was later burned alive by Islamic State executioners, as a video released this week revealed.
Although the UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain joined the coalition from the start, most observers believe their participation was more symbolic than active. Iraq has no air force to speak of and its army turned tail against Islamic State forces; the Saudis allotted a trifling number of planes to the effort; while Bahrain doesn’t have an air force at all. The UAE has the biggest and most modern air force in the Gulf region and so its withdrawal is a major blow to Washington’s war effort, such as it is.
It is noteworthy that neither Washington nor Amman has disclosed the scope of Jordan’s aerial activity since the pilot was captured.
The UAE dropped out more than a month ago, when it turned out after the Jordanian pilot’s capture that no personnel or facilities had been put in place to rescue air crews whose planes crashed behind enemy lines. The nearest US facility able to respond to this contingency is located in Kuwait, too far away to be able to reach downed air crews in time to save them from capture. This was and remains a source of major concern for all the air crews taking part in the coalition offensive.
The four Gulf Arab participants in the US-led group entertain profound reservations on another score: Iran’s increasing involvement in the US-led war on ISIS and the growing operational coordination between the two powers – especially in the Iraq arena – compared with Washington’s dwindling cooperation with the Gulf participants.
It is feared in Riyadh – and not just in Abu Dhabi – that the joint US-Iranian war effort against the Islamic State is providing a screen behind which the Obama administration is opening doors for Iran to advance its regional aspirations.
They are adamantly opposed to Obama’s policy in this regard and are loath to lend their air strength for its support. Therefore the entire Gulf component, and not just the UAE, may be quietly taking its leave of the US-led coalition against ISIS.
Wife of kosher supermarket terrorist said spotted in ISIS
Ynetnews/Published: 02.05.15/ Israel News
Reports say French authorities looking into suspicions that Hayat Boumeddiene, wife of terrorist Amedy Coulibaly, has been spotted in ISIS promo video called ‘Blow up France 2’.
French authorities are reportedly examining suspicions that Hayat Boumeddiene, the wife of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist behind the attack on a kosher supermarket in the outskirts of Paris, has appeared in a video released by the Islamic State group.
According to a report by CNN, Boumeddiene seems to appear in the video, dubbed “Blow up France 2”, wearing camouflage and holding arms together with other group fighters.
The video was released Tuesday and shows an ISIS fighter praising the January attacks in France which killed 17 people and three terrorists, in an attack on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and in a Paris kosher supermarket. In the video, the speaker calls for new attacks in France. "French authorities are investigating the possibility this woman could be Hayat Boumeddiene," a source told CNN after the video went public.
The 26-year-old is partner to Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three gunmen shot dead by police after three days of mayhem in France. Police suspect she might have had a hand in Coulibaly's supermarket hostage-taking.
She had a religious ceremony in 2009 to "marry" Coulibaly, though such unions are not recognized in France unless preceded by a civil ceremony conducted by local officials, and the couple lived in a modest apartment in a poor suburb south of Paris.
Le Parisien newspaper said she lost her job as a cashier because she insisted on wearing top-to-toe Islamic wear known as a niqab.
Boumeddiene accompanied Coulibaly several times to a forest in central southern France to fire a crossbow. Le Monde published several photos of the couple holding up the weapon, with Boumeddiene wearing her niqab.
Boumeddiene fled Paris before the attacks and is wanted for questioning as a possible accomplice. She was in Turkey five days before the killings and then crossed into Syria on Jan. 8, Turkish officials said.
Footage from security cameras posted on the HaberTurk news website showed a woman it identified as Boumeddiene walking with a man to passport control at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport after flying in from Madrid.
The woman is wearing a long dress and winter coat and her head is covered with a white head scarf. Her companion has a short pony tail. She is seen briefly conversing with a Turkish immigration officer before the undated footage ends.
An official French police photograph shows Boumeddiene as a young woman with long dark hair hitched back over her ears. French media released photos purporting to be of a fully-veiled Boumeddiene, posing with a cross-bow, in what they said was a 2010 training session in the mountainous Cantal region.
French media described her as one of seven children whose mother died when she was young and whose delivery-man father struggled to keep working while looking after the family.
**Rachel Cadars and Reuters contributed to this report
Sorting Out the Saudi Succession
Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard
February 06, 2015
Following the death of King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Aziz, at 90 or 91, on the night of January 22-23, Saudi Arabia is very likely to continue its policies of opposition to Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and its participation in the coalition effort against the Islamic State. These alignments are not an expression of mere rivalry between Sunni Saudis and Shia Iranians, or between Saudi fundamentalists and ISIS radicals. They embody a two-front life and death defense of Saudi society. To strengthen national unity in this dual effort, King Salman should pursue the reform course, however slow, initiated by King Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most opaque country in the world, particularly with regard to the politics of its monarchy.
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most opaque country in the world, particularly with regard to the politics of its monarchy. One thing is certain: Abdullah's reputation as a cautious reformer was belied by the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, after the king had entered a hospital at the end of December. Badawi was subjected to the first 50 of a decreed 1,000 lashes—to be administered over 20 weeks—in Jidda, the Saudi commercial capital, on January 9.
Outrage at the torture inflicted on Badawi only two days after the global demonstrations in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo may have diminished the enthusiasm of Saudi authorities in his persecution. The Saudi position on the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was ambiguous, which fed the controversy. The official Saudi Press Agency "deplored" the magazine's "mocking of Islam" even as a Saudi representative was sent to the Paris rally in support of the magazine.
Liberal blogger Raif Badawi is, in effect, being tortured by the Saudi state for expressing dissent.
After Badawi's first session of whipping, further such torments have been postponed for three weeks, according to AFP. The blogger's health was endangered by the beating, and the BBC, reporting on January 16, said the office of King Abdullah had referred the Badawi case to the Saudi Supreme Court. Badawi may be released under an amnesty granted by the new king. On January 30, Suad Al-Shammari, a lawyer and female cofounder of Badawi's blog, was freed by Saudi authorities after 90 days in a women's prison in Jidda.
Badawi had earlier been charged with apostasy from Islam, bringing a probable death sentence, but that allegation was dismissed by a Saudi court in 2013. The blogger was, however, judged guilty of "insulting Islam"—for writing in favor of secular rule and against the silliness of Saudi Arabia's ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics (such as an unidentified television preacher who decreed that modern astronomers should be penalized for encouraging skepticism about fundamentalist Islamic doctrines).
Given that the Muslims once led the world in astronomical observation, such Wahhabi sermons would be ludicrous were the consequences for criticizing them not so tragic. Badawi wrote on his blog, as quoted by the Guardian,
This venerable preacher has drawn my attention to a truth that had been hidden from me and my dear readers—namely, the existence of the so-called 'Sharia astronomer.' What a wonderful appellation! In my humble experience and in the course of my not inconsiderable research into the universe, its origins and the stars, I have never once come across this term. I advise NASA to abandon its telescopes and, instead, turn to our Sharia astronomers, whose keen vision and insight surpass the agency's obsolete telescopes.
The House of Saud is locked in a 250-year old alliance with the Wahhabi clergy, which administers religious affairs as the sole official interpreters of Saudi Islam.
The intersection of Abdullah's death throes and the flogging of Badawi may illustrate the situation of the desert kingdom today. The Saudi state is not technically a theocracy—the royal family rules, not the clerics—but the House of Saud is locked in a 250-year old alliance with the Wahhabi clergy, which administers religious affairs as the sole official interpreters of Saudi Islam. The steps King Abdullah took to open up and modernize his country were opposed by the intransigent Wahhabis, even if they refrained from criticizing him publicly.
It is tempting to view as mere hypocrisy the relationship between the Saudi royals and the "House of the Sheikh," as the descendants of the Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Wahhabi sect, are denominated—especially in their dealings with the West. The Saudi princes flatter the West and collect oil income, while their Wahhabi partners propagate a form of Islam that aims at the destruction of the global order. The brutal ideology of the Islamic State is, clearly, a metastasized Wahhabism.
A more difficult but ultimately more productive perspective would analyze the internal contradictions of the Saudi state, especially those affecting the royal family and their relations with the Wahhabi clerics.
King Abdullah has been succeeded on the Saudi throne by his half-brother Salman, who is 79 years old. King Salman has named another of his half-brothers, Muqrin, aged 69, as crown prince, the designated heir. King Salman is a member of the prominent group of seven sons of the modern Saudi kingdom's founder, Abd Al-Aziz, known in the West as Ibn Saud, and a favorite among his many wives, Hussah Bint Ahmad Al-Sudairi. The "Sudairi Seven" included King Fahd, who was born in 1921 and reigned from 1982 to 2005, and Crown Prince Nayef (1933-2012).
Nayef was feared as the hardest Wahhabi at the heights of power, when he occupied the Ministry of the Interior, from 1975 until his death. He was infamous for blaming the atrocities of 9/11 on "Zionists." His son, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad, has been appointed to head the Interior Ministry. Muhammad is relatively young, at 55. He is also believed to harbor extreme Wahhabi views.
King Salman's choice of Adel al-Toraifi, the young and urbane former general manager of Al-Arabiya TV, as the new cultural and information minister has been well received by secular Saudis.
Have the Sudairis, with their demonstrable weakness in the face of Wahhabi radicalism, returned to power? Perhaps. But if so, they have not brought the most famous of their offspring with them: former Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, a second-generation Sudairi.
King Salman has already announced a series of cabinet changes. One was the dismissal of Prince Bandar from the Saudi national security council. More remarkably, Salman appointed Adel al-Toraifi as the new cultural and information minister. Al-Toraifi, a suit-and-tie wearing professional, is the former general manager of Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television, which operates from Dubai.
Additionally, Salman has installed Muhammad al-Suwaiyel as minister for telecommunications and information technology. Al-Suwaiyel is the former head of the King Abdullah City of Science and Technology, a massive coeducational university. That may be the most absurd aspect of the persecution of the blogger Badawi—that he defended the same modern scientific principles that Abdullah hoped to teach young Saudis.
King Salman has appointed Abdul Rahman Al-Sanad to head the feared Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV).
Because of the power of the Wahhabi elite, another of King Salman's new appointments will excite considerable speculation in the kingdom. Salman has assigned Abdul Rahman Al-Sanad to head the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), known to Saudis as the hai'a (commission) or mutawiyin ("pious volunteers"). Described typically as a "religious police," the hai'a are more aptly called "morals patrols."
In the past, they stalked the cities of the kingdom with leather-covered sticks, terrorizing those who were slow to run to mosque services when the call to prayer was sounded, women who allowed the all-covering abaya to slip and expose a bit of ankle, hands, or face, and members of the Saudi Shia minority. King Abdullah provided for changes in the habits of the mutawiyin, under the direction of Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh, a direct descendant of the founder of Wahhabism. Like Abdullah, Al-Sheikh demonstrated reform attitudes, imposing new restrictions on the mutawiyin, including a prohibition on interfering with people, by arresting, interrogating, or searching them without a warrant from the local governor.
Yet in 2013 Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh, acting as head of the "morals patrols," tried to prevent Saudis from using social media like Twitter as a threat to social unity. His successor, Al-Sanad, has a background in Islamic law, with degrees from two prominent Wahhabi institutions, the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and the University of Medina. The charges against the blogger Badawi included his reference to the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University as a "den of terrorists." Indeed, the institution is commonly designated "the terrorist factory" by moderate Saudis.
It will be revealing to see how Al-Sanad treats his responsibilities as head of the "morals patrols." But in light of the undeniable commitment of King Abdullah to scientific education, Saudi Arabia could find itself with a government of technocrats. That would be a positive outcome, to say the least.
**Irfan Al-Alawi is executive director of the London-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC.