January 02/15

Bible Quotation for today/Patience in Suffering
James 05/07-12: " Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 01-02/15
The Iranian year in Syria/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/January 01-02/15

100 Days in the Hands of Terrorists/By: René Benoît/ICC's Niger Project Manager/January 01/15

The Western Media and Muslim-on-Muslim Violence/Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/January 01/15
How to Travel like a CIA Spy/ Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/ January 01/15
Iran and ISIS in Iraq/Wafiq Al-Samarrai/Asharq Al Awsat/January 01/15
Saudi King in Hospital: Succession Crisis Looms/Simon Henderson/Washington Institute/January 01/15
One Hundred Years of Jihad in Australia/Mark Durie/ 01/15

Lebanese Related News published on January 01-02/15
Pope prays for peace in hearts, families in new year
Israeli jets fly over Beirut at low altitudes
Lebanese Army Targets Gunmen Posts on Outskirts of Arsal
What sort of New Year’s Resolution should a Christian make?"
Al-Rahi Hails Dialogue between Rival Parties, Says to Break Ice Gradually
Report: Aoun Held Talks with Riachi to Wrap Up Preparations for Dialogue with LF
Omar Karami Passes Away after Long Battle with Illness
Al-Masri Urges State to Cooperate with ISIL Demands
Report: Sleeper Cells to Stage Attacks on Vital Areas
Report: Aoun Held Talks with Riachi to Wrap Up Preparations for Dialogue with LF
Syria Frees Lebanese, Palestinian Fishermen after 1-Week Detention
Bikers protest nighttime curfew in Lebanon
Orthodox patriarch calls for end to crisis in Syria
No deaths after 6-car pileup in north Lebanon

Heavy snowstorm to hit Lebanon this week
Lebanon fuel prices drop by another LL1,200

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 01-02/15
Bahrain Urges Iran to Look at Own Rights Record
Iraq violence killed 15,000 in 2014, worst in 7 years
Suicide Bombing Outside Nigeria Church, Several Injured
U.S. Aims to Quickly Train Iraq Forces for Anti-IS Fight
Jazeera Reporters to Remain in Egypt Custody Pending Retrial
Syria's war killed 76,021 in 2014: activists
'Kidnapped Italian Women in Syria' Appear in Video
France Says World Must Stop Libya from Becoming Terrorist Haven
U.S. Condemns Bahrain Jailing of Opposition Chief
Saudi Beheaded in First Execution of Year
Death Toll of Yemen Anti-Huthi Bomb Blast Rises to 49
Bahrain Urges Iran to Look at Own Rights Record
Netanyahu Reelected Head of Israel's Ruling Likud
Sweden Hit by Third Mosque Arson Attack in a Week
Oil Price Hits Fresh Five-Year Low
Canada Concerned by Dangerous Actions by the Palestinian Authority
Weather lets up briefly for AirAsia search

Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
Nigeria: Christians debunk reports that Muslims protected Christians
Survey finds one in three Germans supports anti-Islamization PEGIDA marches
Moderate” Abbas says “Palestinians” joining ICC to press war crimes charges against Israel
Yemen: Muslim tortures and murders his 10-year-old daughter for adultery
Sydney siege jihadi to packed house at mosque: “Society should behave in an Islamic manner”
A parody that is all too close to the truth
Nigeria: Islamic jihad suicide bomber blows himself up at gates of church during New Year service, wounding eight
Merkel boner: German Chancellor tells Germans not to attend anti-Islamization rallies
Al Jazeera publishes article praising stabbings, vehicular jihad attacks against Israeli civilians
David Wood and Osama Abdallah debate: Is the Islamic State Islamic?
UK Muslima arrested at airport upon her return from the Islamic State
Islamic State releases guide for how to raise jihadi children

Suicide Bombing Outside Nigeria Church, Several Injured
Naharnet/A suicide bomber blew himself up outside an evangelist church in northeast Nigeria on Thursday, injuring several people, witnesses and a rescue worker said. "There was an explosion outside the ECWA church this morning. A suicide bomber who was restrained from getting into the church blew himself up," said Abubakar Yakubu, who heads the Nigeria Red Cross in Gombe. "Luckily no one was killed but some people were mildly injured." A witness said the man arrived during the church service and refused to park his motorcycle outside a security barrier set up by church volunteers. "He insisted on riding through the barrier," said Dahiru Badamasi. "It was while he was arguing with the volunteers that his suicide belt exploded."Another witness heard an explosion and rushed outside. "I saw a man leading three children with their new dresses stained with blood," said Jummai Maifada. Northeast Nigeria has seen a relentless string of attacks blamed on Boko Haram militants, increasingly using female suicide bombers. Gombe, capital of the eponymous state, has until recently been spared the violence that has shaken the neighbouring states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, where Boko Haram has taken around 20 towns. But attacks have increased in recent weeks. A female suicide bomber was killed as she tried to enter a military barracks in Gombe on Wednesday. Seven others died in a bus explosion Wednesday in a village close to Potiskum, in Yobe state. Experts have cast doubt on Nigeria's ability to hold planned national elections in February due to rising unrest in parts of the northeast.
 Agence France Presse

Bahrain Urges Iran to Look at Own Rights Record
Naharnet/Bahrain has urged Iran to look at its own human rights record after it called for the immediate release of the Gulf kingdom's main opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman. The Bahraini foreign ministry urged Shiite Iran to keep out of the affairs of the Sunni-ruled but Shiite-majority nation for the sake of the security of the whole region. "The ministry condemns the statement by the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, regarding investigations with a Bahraini citizen, involved in a number of illegal actions and violations," it said. "It also expresses surprise and regret over Iran's adoption of such hostile policies that steer it away from the concept of good neighbourliness with the countries of the region, urging it to look after the interests of the brotherly Muslim Iranians who suffer from flagrant violations of human rights and freedom of expression." Iran urged Bahrain on Wednesday to free Salman, head of the Shiite movement Al-Wefaq, which boycotted a parliamentary election in November having dismissed it as a farce.
Shiite Iran has been accused of interfering in Bahrain's affairs ever since the Sunni ruling family crushed month-long protests led by Al-Wefaq in 2011 seeking an elected government. Strategically located just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Washington too expressed deep concern on Wednesday about Salman's detention, warning that it could only inflame the persistent violence that has gripped the kingdom since 2011. But the Bahraini authorities have repeatedly rejected Al-Wefaq's demand for an elected prime minister to replace the current government dominated by the royal family, and accuse its leader of seeking regime change by force. Agence France Presse.

Al-Rahi Hails Dialogue between Rival Parties, Says to Break Ice Gradually
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi lauded on Thursday the exerted efforts to launch dialogue between the political arch-foes to break the ice and reduce tension in Lebanon. “Dialogue between rival parties would end the ongoing dilemmas in the country,” al-Rahi said in his New Year’s Day sermon at Bkirki. The patriarch expressed hope that the exerted endeavors would lead to the election of a new head of state. The presidential post has been vacant since president Michel Suleiman's term ended on May 25. Lawmakers failed to secure the needed quorum for electing a new president despite holding 16 voting sessions, amid a boycott by the MPs of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Hizbullah. “Peace will not flourish between people as long as there are sides that are distorting the truth and violating justice and practicing oppression,” al-Rahi stressed. He noted that the state has to fully carry out its duties towards its citizens. Al-Mustaqbal movement and Hizbullah held their first meeting in Ain al-Tineh last week under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri, in an attempt to devise a “roadmap” and a “mechanism” for the coming dialogue sessions between the two parties. The Lebanese Forces and the FPM are also expected to engage in dialogue after reports revealed that Melhem Riachi, chairman of the LF communication department, and MP Ibrahim Kanaan are holding meetings away from the media spotlight to prepare the agenda for the dialogue between the leaders of the two parties.

Lebanese Army Targets Gunmen Posts on Outskirts of Arsal
Naharnet /The Lebanese army reportedly targeted on Thursday posts for militants on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal with heavy artillery, the state-run National News Agency said. NNA reported that troops shelled with heavy artillery armed men who are entrenched on al-Zamarani and al-Ajram areas on the outskirts of the village. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said that fierce battles erupted between the army and gunmen and the military brought reinforcements to the area. Heavy shelling by Syrian warplanes also targeted the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and its thud can be clearly heard in the northern Bekaa. Earlier on Thursday, NNA reported that Syrian warplanes staged several raids overnight on posts controlled by gunmen on the outskirts Arsal. The news agency said that gunmen positions in al-Ajram, Khirbet Daoud, and al-Zamarani were targeted with the raids.  The raids inflicted heavy casualties in the ranks of the armed men, NNA added, without specifying further details. Arsal's peripheries have come under frequent Syrian raids in recent months. Damascus says the airstrikes are targeting “terrorists” fleeing the Syrian region of Qalamoun. The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used since the conflict began in March 2011 to transport weapons and fighters. Jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group are entrenched on the outskirts of the town on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border. The army engaged in a fierce gun battle in August with jihadists who streamed across the border.
Fighting ended with a truce mediated by clerics, but the jihadists took with them the Lebanese army and police hostages. At least four have since been executed.

Report: Aoun Held Talks with Riachi to Wrap Up Preparations for Dialogue with LF
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is reportedly meeting in person with the media officer at the Lebanese Forces, Melhem Riachi, media reports said on Thursday. According to Ad Diyar newspaper, Aoun began meeting with Riachi over the past few days. Sources said that Aoun and Riachi are discussing a wide agenda to prepare for the long-awaited dialogue between the FPM chief and LF leader Samir Geagea. Talks reportedly highlighted the controversial presidential elections, parliamentary elections and the rights of Christians in Lebanon. Sources described the talks as “serious,” estimating that the two rival leaders will meet in the upcoming two days. MP Ibrahim Kanaan of the FPM and Riachi have recently held several meetings aimed at preparing for the Aoun-Geagea talks. On Wednesday, the LF and the FPM announced that they have decided to drop lawsuits filed against journalists and media outlets affiliated with the two political groups. Both Aoun and Geagea have announced their candidacies for the presidency. Their differences, in addition to the rivalry between the March 8 and 14 alliances, have left the presidential post vacant. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May.

Omar Karami Passes Away after Long Battle with Illness
Naharnet/Former Prime Minister Omar Karami passed away overnight Wednesday at the age of 80 after a long battle with illness. The family issued a statement on Thursday saying: “with a lot of grief we announce the death of PM Omar Karami, who passed away today.”“We have lost a precious person and the best husband, father and grand father.”His health had been deteriorating for the past two years, and he was admitted to hospital a month ago, falling into a coma a few days before his death. Karami came from a Lebanese Sunni political dynasty -- his father was one of the architects of Lebanon's independence in 1943 -- and served as prime minister twice. But both his terms ended with him resigning under public pressure. Karami was Prime Minister of Lebanon for the first time from 24 December 1990, when Selim al-Hoss gave up power, until 13 May 1992, when he resigned due to economical instability. He was sworn in again on 26 October 2004 and resigned on 19 April 2005, amid protests following the assassination of the ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri. Karami was a longtime ally of the Syrian regime and was accused of subservience to President Bashar Assad. He was educated in Cairo, and was married with four children, including son Faisal, a former minister. Prime Minister Tammam Salam offered his condolences to the family for the death of Karami, saying: “He left behind him a great legacy that will live forever in the memories of the nation.” “He realized the meaning of Lebanon and the importance of preserving coexistence,” Salam said, describing him as the “man of moderation.”Several politicians, including Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel, former PM Najib Miqati, ex-PM Fouad Saniora, Progressive Socialist Party's media official Rami Rayyes, AMAL's Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and religious figures offered their condolences to the Karami Family. The body of Karami will be buried on Friday at noon at the family's cemetery in Tripoli's Bab al-Ramel neighborhood. PM Salam later declared an official three-day period of mourning and said flags on every public building would fly at half-mast for three days from Friday to mourn the death of ex-PM Karami.

The Western Media and Muslim-on-Muslim Violence
Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine
January 01/15
Originally published under the title, "Only Muslim Schoolchildren Lives Matter?"
Earlier I looked at how Western mainstream media enable Islamic terrorism by employing an arsenal of semantic games, key phrases, convenient omissions, and moral relativism to portray such violence as a product of anything and everything—political and historical grievances, "Islamophobia," individual insanity, poverty and ignorance, territorial disputes—not Islam.
Another strategy that recently came to the fore consists of highlighting Islamic terror attacks that target other Muslims. The logic here is clear: How "Islamic" can such Islamic groups be if they attack and kill fellow Muslims? In other words, whatever the motivation, it surely cannot be Islam, since those being killed are themselves Muslims. This suggests that the terrorists themselves cannot be true Muslims since Muslims are generally forbidden by Islam to kill other Muslims (caveats exist).
Muslim persecution of Christians ... throws a wrench in the media's narrative that Islamic violence is a product of anything and everything but Islamic hate for non-Muslims.
A recent example of this is the December 16 Taliban attack on an army public school in Peshawar, where 145 people were killed, the majority being schoolchildren age 18 and under. This incident was reported all over the mainstream media, and rightfully so.
Yet this begs the question: why do similar attacks, when directed at non-Muslims—especially Christians—rarely if ever get the same sort of media coverage?
For example, in Nigeria on November 10,
A suicide bomb attack in a Christian secondary school in the town of Potiskum in Yobe state, north-eastern Nigeria, has killed at least 47 people on Monday as the students gathered for morning assembly. Boko Haram is thought to be behind the blast, having carried out several attacks on schools giving a Western-style education. Translated from Hausa, Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" of which this latest school attack is a stark reminder.
Earlier in the year in Nigeria "Boko Haram claimed the lives of 59 students at a Christian school … Some 50 men ambushed the school, then beat and shot staff and students. Once finished, they set fire to the buildings, with many students still inside. It's the fourth attack of its kind since May of last year."
On October 1 in Syria, at least 41 Alawite children—all under 12—were killed:
The massacre was one of the most severe in terms of children who died since the beginning of the conflict in Syria. According to official Syrian sources, a car bomb and a suicide bomber caused two explosions when the children came out of school, in the suburb of Akrameh inhabited mainly by Alawites, with the targeted intention to cause the highest number possible of deaths among children of the same religious community to which the Assad family belong.
Here is the testimony of an eyewitness to another Islamic attack on a Christian school in Syria, where 12 people—mostly children—were killed:
I want to tell you about Tuesday. It was a terrible day. We cried and prayed all day. Tuesday they were bombing Bab Touma, the old city of Damascus. A lot of Christians live there. There is also a Christian school—a private one. We know a lot of people in that school. Some children from our area also go to school there. When those kids went to school on Tuesday, gathered at the square like they always do, a mortar fell in their midst. Some friends passed by the school and saw that parents and teachers were carrying their wounded children out of the school, dripping with blood. They saw them running to the hospitals in panic. For me, as a mother and a teacher, I can hardly bear to imagine what these people must be going through right now. Twelve people lost their lives in that school, most of them children from the elementary school. Many more of them have lost arms and legs or have other injuries.
As for Islamic attacks on Christian schools that do not lead to casualties, these are quite common. Thus, on November 5 in Bangladesh, hundreds of Muslims, some armed with knives and machetes, attacked a Christian school. They torched its library, burned Bibles and hymnals, and committed other wanton acts of violence. According to a source, "A wave of panic swept through the school and traumatized everyone. Many students became sick in the following days." The reason for this particular attack? Muslim projection: a rumor started that the Christian school was converting Muslim students to Christianity.
How many of those Western people who could not help but hear about the Peshawar attack—considering its widespread coverage—also heard about these Islamic attacks on schools some of which also took large numbers of children lives? Not very many, I would wager.
The reason, again, is obvious: reporting Muslims killing Muslims does not contradict the mainstream media's narrative but ostensibly enforces it. For—so the simple logic goes—Muslims who kill fellow Muslims cannot be "real" Muslims to start with, and must in fact be, as Western politicians habitually characterize them, mere "criminals."
Thus, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan issued a statement condemning the Peshawar attack, adding, "The barbaric actions of the Taliban illustrate their lack of value for human life and lack of respect for the Islamic faith. These attacks only prove their selfish desire for power and willingness to murder to reach their self-serving goals."
On the other hand, it is more difficult for the media to dissemble the motives of Muslims who intentionally target and kill "the other"—outnumbered and defenseless "infidel" minorities—simply because they are "the other."
Whether small numbers or large—whether four children decapitated for refusing to renounce Christ or whether the largest massacre of Christians in Syria—Muslim persecution of Christians will rarely if ever get MSM coverage, for it throws a wrench in the media's narrative that Islamic violence is a product of anything and everything but Islamic hate for non-Muslims.
**Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).

How to Travel like a CIA Spy
Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times
January 01/15
I unreservedly condemn Edward Snowden's massive release of important U.S. government secrets. Once they're out, though, it makes no sense to ignore the information now available.
A 14-page document from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carrying the arduous bureaucratic title of Surviving Secondary: An Identity Threat Assessment of Secondary Screening Procedures at International Airports offers a case in point. Translated into normal English, this means, "How undercover agents can avoid trouble when going through passport and custom controls."
Although the study deals narrowly with the CIA's concern that its clandestine agents will be stopped in passport checks and their false identities exposed, its information holds interest to anyone who travels internationally. Indeed, it's a useful guide precisely to what not to do when landing in a foreign airport. I plan to adopt its advice for my own trips, and, as a public good, I offer some of its main points to other lawful travelers so that they too can better avoid what's known as "secondary screening" – or being plucked from the primary (or routine) line for additional questioning.
Travelers sent to secondary screening can enter a Kafkaesque world, potentially for days, in which the usual rules of due process are suspended. Agents may snoop into anything they wish, from copying to confiscating personal electronic devices, from intrusive reviews of one's life to intrusive inspections of one's body. Avoiding such experiences should rank high on any traveler's wish list.
The CIA's advice: above all, assume you're being closely watched. To you, passport and customs controls may be minor inconveniences to endure before going about your business; but from the time you leave the airplane cabin until you're spit out of the airport, powerful agencies potentially have you under intense scrutiny – and not just while you are face-to-face with an immigration official. In Mauritius, for example, the local agency uses video cameras "to observe arriving passengers as they exit the aircraft and retrieve their baggage, zooming on individuals' faces to study their expressions."
As you make your way from airplane seat to exiting the terminal, the CIA counsels natural and consistent actions.
Natural means not displaying unusually nervous behavior such as "shaking or trembling hands, rapid breathing for no apparent reason, cold sweats, pulsating carotid arteries, a flushed face, and avoidance of eye contact." Less obviously, it also means not "switching lines or studying security procedures" nor establishing "secret contact with other passengers" with whom one lacks any apparent ties.
How not to appear while traversing passport and custom controls.
Consistent means appearing to be who you say you are. Be familiar with the details of your passport, including where you have been. Speak the language of the country issuing your passport. What might seem to be trivial details can be important. For example, "carelessly packed baggage when [the] passenger is purportedly an experienced business traveler" can arouse suspicions, as can the reverse, such as using a business-class ticket for tourist travel.
Other non-intuitive red flags include: "An amount of baggage inappropriate for the length of stay." "Multiple new items, such as alarm clocks or notebooks, in baggage." "Unopened and unmarked maps, guidebooks, or other literature." "Maps of unrelated cities in baggage for a purported tourist traveler." "Camera quality not matching the traveler's profile or camera memory card insufficient for a lengthy tourist trip."
Even if you do everything right, you may still be hauled aside for secondary questioning. First, there is a random element: "many foreign airports have an administrative requirement for a minimum number of random selections." More specifically, "about 12 percent of US-bound passengers are randomly selected for additional screening at overseas airports," meaning that one can expect secondary treatment every eight trips.
Second, you may fit some obscure category; a passenger's "language capability, age, appearance, or background" can all prompt extra questioning. In El Salvador, "a military style haircut, physical fitness, casual dress, and little baggage" sufficed to focus attention on a Venezuelan government courier. In Tel Aviv, "military-aged males traveling alone with backpacks [get sent] to secondary screening, regardless of their nationality or skin color." In Egypt, "Christian-Arabs or Jews, human rights or other humanitarian workers, and individuals with advanced scientific degrees" get special attention, and even more so "US-Arabs, particularly US-Egyptians."
Running the gauntlet from airplane to street rates as one of the less pleasant experiences of foreign travel. But due care can reduce the chances of provoking the unwanted attention and the tender mercy of aggressive security services.
The Washington Times illustration for this article.
**Mr. Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

100 Days in the Hands of Terrorists
The Incredible Story of Mounira, a Christian Mother Beaten, Divorced and Abandoned for her Relationship with Jesus
By: René Benoît, ICC's Niger Project Manager
12/31/2014 Niger Republic (International Christian Concern) - In most cases, governments bent on promoting a single religion or no religion at all, religious zealots and armed militants are the world's persecutors, but for many in places like Niger, families, friends and colleagues are often the persecutors, especially for Christian converts. Sadly, throughout the world, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters are being harassed, rejected, and even murdered by relatives, friends, and members of their communities for having converted from the religion of their ancestors for a redeeming faith in Christ.
This is the story of Mounira, a convert from Islam to Christianity who has suffered beatings, divorce and abandonment for choosing to put her faith in Christ rather than Mohammed in one of the most Islamic countries in the world: Niger.
For the past two decades, Niger has had an increase in radical Islamic. Niger has historically been a tolerant state toward religious minorities, but now Islamic teachers regularly preach hatred against Christians (especially converts from Islam). They are instructing Muslims to oppress and persecute converted Christians. In his messages, the leader of Boko Haram (the Nigeria-based radical Islamic insurgency responsible for the abduction of more than 200 mostly Christian school girls in April) regularly urges Muslims to persecute and kill "all the Christians."
Niger is mostly desert of vast uninhabited spaces that house many radical Islamic insurgencies and terror groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Boko Haram. Islamic militants belonging to these and other groups regularly intimidate Christians in Niger and have, at times, forcibly converted, abducted and murdered believers for their faith. Across Niger, especially along its porous borders with Algeria, Chad, Libya, Mauritania and Nigeria, Christians live at risk of losing everything at the hands of Islamic extremists.
And yet, the faith of Christians in Niger has never withered. Rather, the Niger Christian community clings to verses like Romans 8:38, which reads, "For I'm convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power can separate us from God's love" (NIV).
Mounira comes from a very strong Muslim family and things are not easy for her today, because of her faith in the Lord Jesus. In fact, after receiving Jesus, her own family abandoned her and her son, Maoulé. After learning of her conversion, Mounira's husband developed a hatred toward her because he simply couldn't bear the fact that his wife had converted from Islam to Christianity. When Mounira's husband would catch her reading the Bible, he would snatch the scriptures from her hands and tear them to shreds. On Sunday mornings, he would lock Mounira in her room to keep her from attending church. One night, back late from work, Mounira's husband beat her unconscious for praying in a corner of the house. Thanks to her pastor, who Maoulé contacted immediately, Mounira was taken to the hospital that same night and treated back to health.
And yet, despite all of this, Mounira has never waned in her faith. Outraged by her determination to live for Christ, Mounira's husband divorced her, kicking Mounira and Maoulé onto the streets to fend for themselves.
After the divorce, Mounira's husband told Mounira's Muslim family members about her conversion. Infuriated, Mounira's family decided to murder her and arranged for some criminals to go to her house in the middle of the night to beat her to death.
By God's grace alone, the night the criminals went to Mounira's house to murder her, Mounira was at church for an overnight prayer gathering.
Her family then decided to hire a sorcerer that promised to send a satanic spirit to possess Mounira, making her fatally ill. Many Muslims in Niger still practice many customs-including sorcery-dating back to Africa's animist roots, but as the Scriptures say in Isaiah 54:17, "No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you" (NIV). In Jesus' name, Mounira was protected from spirit and the practices of the sorcerer her family hired to harm her.
For converts like Mounira, life is a constant struggle against those committed to converting them back to Islam, or seeing to their death.
That's why ICC is working with the local church and fearless Christians to provide relief to persecuted Christians, like Mounira, in their time of need. With the support of the global church, ICC was able to bless Mounira and Maoulé with three months' worth of food. We were able to buy Mounira her diabetes medication that she hadn't been able to take for months, and we were able to equip Maoulé with textbooks, note pads, pens, pencils and erasers before paying down the fees to put him back in school.
Today, Mounira is able to take joy in the Lord because of the sacrificial giving of ICC's selfless partners. In speaking with ICC's Niger Project Manager, René Benoît, Mounira said, "I'm still under threat and pressure because both my family and the one of my former husband are still looking ways to kill me. However, I rejoice every day in the Lord because he is my strength, my comforter and my protector; I know he will never forsake me. I have gone through much violence and torture from my former husband and moreover my family is making plots to kill me because I'm a Christian, but I lay everything in the hands of God."
With five loaves and two fish, Jesus met the needs of thousands. In the same way, through prayer, partnership with our brothers and sisters on the ground, and the blessings of the global body of Christ, ICC is able to meet the needs of tens of thousands, one life at a time. But, Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 9:37, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few" (NIV).
Like Mounira and Maoulé, thousands of Nigerien converts from Islam are suffering violence and abandonment for their Christian faith. The situation is critical: the compassion of the global church is needed to care for all these children of God who are abandoned by their families, beaten, tortured and threatened with death for their Christian Faith. As the book of Acts reminds us in 20:35, "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said: it is more blessed to give than to receive" (NIV).
Tens of thousands of stories of persecution remain untold in countries all across Africa, but by the grace of God, and your partnership with ICC's Hand of Hope Africa Fund, we can meet the needs of the thousands, even with five loaves and two fish.

Iran and ISIS in Iraq

Wafiq Al-Samarrai
Thursday, 1 Jan, 2015/Asharq Al Awsat
US Senator John McCain described the presence of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq as being a source of concern for the US. In the days following the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Washington issued a statement saying that the US had no intention to intervene, militarily, in Iraq to assist Baghdad. This, according to some observers, gave the green light for Iranian intervention in the country.
The fall of Mosul was shocking, but what we forget is that there were clear and explicit warnings about this which were roundly ignored by local officials blinded by their own ignorance and belief in false “conspiracies” about ISIS and its foreign backers. However, when the dust settled it became clear that it was the local Sunnis who were backing ISIS at this time, including its takeover of Tikrit. So anybody can sit and spin conspiracy theories, but the reality is that this was not an advancing army comprised solely of foreign fighters; it was local Iraqis who played a major part in what happened.
Following the ISIS advance, Iraqi forces were in a state of shock and required immediate assistance. The Arab and international media were also in a state of shock, not knowing how to frame the developing situation and jumping from one expression of alarm to another. The entire situation was deteriorating amid fears that the ISIS fighters were preparing to advance on the capital Baghdad itself. Despite this, we couldn’t imagine Baghdad falling into the hands of ISIS—the worst case scenario that we could envision was ISIS taking control of some areas outside of the capital, perhaps with the help of sleeper cells already in place, which is certainly something that the central authorities could deal with.
At the time, we also heard statements highlighting the importance of keeping Iraq’s military forces in Baghdad as a temporary precaution. While we saw Shi’ite religious authorities issuing a public call for volunteers to help fight ISIS, which resulted in a very positive response from Iraq’s Shi’ite youth. As a result of this, the Iraqi government found itself with militia forces at its disposal, in addition to its regular military.
But let us now take a look at Iran’s role in all this. It would not have been possible to stop the ISIS advance at this time were it not for Iranian assistance. The Kurdistan region quickly received shipments of arms from Tehran, as well as Iranian military advisers visiting the region to help train the troops. In Baghdad, we saw hundreds of Iranian military advisers appear on the scene, and we began to see them being deployed around Baghdad, as well as in Diyala and elsewhere. It was this deployment that helped to stem the tide of ISIS and change the equation on the ground. Iran has also carried out airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq’s Diyala governorate and Samarra province, at the behest of Iraq’s authorities.
Following all this, ISIS began to retreat to the territory that was more firmly under its control in Iraq, pushing back against Kurdish Peshmerga forces which resulted in a huge loss of morale in Erbil after Kurdish forces had initially secured a number of victories over ISIS. As a result, the US had no choice but to rethink its policy towards ISIS in Iraq, forming a broad anti-ISIS coalition. Although Iran is not formally participating in this military coalition, Iran’s presence on the ground in Iraq is now well-entrenched.
So, the fact is that Iran’s support for Iraq has been more effective than has been generally acknowledged, helping the Iraqis to protect strategic areas and stem the ISIS advance. Although the US-led anti-ISIS alliance has also been influential, it has mostly focused its attention on the areas in western Kurdistan, as well as north of Mosul. Therefore, we must acknowledge Iran’s role, whether we like it or not.

Saudi King in Hospital: Succession Crisis Looms
Simon Henderson/Washington Institute
January 01/15
The death or incapacity of King Abdullah will exacerbate tensions within the royal family over who should replace him.
The official announcement that King Abdullah had been taken into a Riyadh hospital "to undergo some medical checkups" suggests serious concern about the health of the ninety-one-year-old monarch because he is assumed to have excellent medical facilities in his own palaces. Clearly overweight, he has previously been reported to have back problems, assumed to be responsible for his difficulty standing and thus his need for a walker. Unreported problems are thought to include the consequences of years of heavy smoking.
Theoretically, his successor would be his half brother Crown Prince Salman, who is seventy-eight. Despite the appearance of robustness given by a heavy public schedule of meetings, Salman's brain is evidently ravaged by dementia. Visitors report that after a few minutes of conversation, he becomes incoherent. The fact that Salman appears in public at all is attributed to his determination to become king -- or, more likely, the ambition of his closest relatives that he should do so.
Such are the rivalries in the House of Saud that King Abdullah has been unable to displace Salman, although last March he appointed another half brother, Muqrin -- the youngest surviving son of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdulaziz, also known as Ibn Saud -- to the new position of deputy crown prince. Controversially, this meant passing over the claims of other half brothers and maneuvering in the Allegiance Council to secure an advance baya, or oath of allegiance, to try to cement Muqrin's new status. Significantly, Muqrin's confirmation was officially reported as not unanimous.
In recent months, King Abdullah's public appearances have become increasingly rare, but he has remained the top decisionmaker, meeting Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar in mid-October to resolve an intra-Gulf squabble and King Abdullah of Jordan in mid-December, probably to discuss Syria.
A power vacuum in Riyadh following the death or extended hospitalization of the Saudi monarch will prompt concern in international capitals because of Saudi Arabia's importance as the world's largest oil exporter. Despite its dominant market position, the kingdom has seemed powerless to stop the recent price fall, instead trying to preserve market share and perhaps undermine U.S. shale exploration. Other areas of concern would include the impact on the Saudi leadership's position in Arab and Muslim-majority states, particularly in coping with the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), against which Riyadh is a key member of the U.S.-led coalition. Also, simmering trouble among Iran-influenced Saudi Shiite activists is a perpetual worry.
Washington has traditionally tried to avoid influencing succession in Saudi Arabia because of lack of leverage and possible adverse consequences. But with the prospect of a messy transition, the United States will need to emphasize the importance of competent leadership emerging quickly, not relying on the mere hope that the House of Saud can sort this out itself. Although probably best done discreetly, there is also a danger that quiet diplomacy will be mistaken more widely for indifference.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. He is the author of the 2009 Policy Focus After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia and the 2013 PolicyWatch "Who Will Be the Next King of Saudi Arabia?"

What sort of New Year’s Resolution should a Christian make?"
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?
Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.
Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?
Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.
So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Jazeera Reporters to Remain in Egypt Custody Pending Retrial

Naharnet /Egypt's top court Thursday ordered a retrial of three Al-Jazeera reporters whose imprisonment on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood triggered global outrage, but kept them in custody pending a new hearing.
Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed of the broadcaster's English service were detained in December 2013 for spreading false information.
Greste and Fahmy each got seven years, and Mohamed was jailed for 10. "The Court of Cassation has accepted their appeal and ordered a retrial," Greste's defense lawyer Amr Al-Deeb said after a hearing lasting just 30 minutes.
Hopes for the journalists' release have grown following a thaw in relations between Cairo and Qatar, where their employer is based.
Both the defence and the prosecution had requested a retrial.
"I know that we should be happy for accepting the appeal, but I was hoping for my brother to be released," Fahmy's brother Adel told reporters.
"I hope the reconciliation efforts between Egypt and Qatar continue for the sake of my brother and his colleagues ... who are paying the price of a political crisis."
The Al-Jazeera reporters, who authorities say lacked proper accreditation, were sentenced in June on charges of spreading false information aiding the Muslim Brotherhood after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The Brotherhood, which saw electoral success after the ouster of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has since been declared a "terrorist organization" in Egypt.
Greste's parents told Australia's ABC ahead of the hearing that they had "confidence in the integrity of the Egyptian appeals system".
- 'Settling political scores' -
The reporters were arrested when Egypt and Qatar were at loggerheads after Morsi was removed by then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president, following mass protests against his one-year rule. "Their arrest was a settling of political scores between Egypt and Qatar," Fahmy's lawyer Negad al-Borai said.
Ties worsened when Qatar, a key backer of the Muslim Brotherhood, repeatedly denounced Morsi's overthrow, prompting Cairo to accuse Al-Jazeera of biased coverage. At least 1,400 people have died in the crackdown on Islamist supporters, most of them in August 2013 when police broke up two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.
The diplomatic row now appears to be ending following mediation by Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia, a key Sisi backer.
On December 20, Cairo told a Qatari envoy it was ready for a "new era" in relations with Doha, as the emirate offered its "full support" to Sisi. Two days later, Al-Jazeera announced the surprise closure of its Egyptian channel, which had consistently criticized Cairo since Morsi's ouster. "It is quite likely the final result will be the release of the journalists. How and when that happens is another issue," H.A. Hellyer of the Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington told Agence France Presse ahead of Thursday's hearing. Sisi himself has said he would have preferred the journalists to have been deported rather than tried.
In November, he issued a decree allowing him to deport foreigners sentenced to prison or on trial. The court also ordered a retrial for co-defendants, including four Egyptians, in the case, who were jailed for seven years on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and for "damaging the image of Egypt". Eleven other defendants, tried in absentia, including one Dutch and two British journalists, were given 10-year sentences. Agence France Presse

One Hundred Years of Jihad in Australia
Mark Durie/
January 1, 2015
Originally published under the title, "From Broken Hill to Martin Place: Individual Jihad Comes to Australia, 1915 to 2015."
One hundred years ago today, a lethal jihad attack was staged against New Year's Day picnickers in Broken Hill, Australia. This attack and the recent Martin Place siege, events separated by almost exactly a century, show striking similarities.
For Australians, the anxious question about the Martin Place attack, which has grabbed the attention of everyone, is whether this atrocity is but a harbinger of a further series of deadly attacks on Australian soil, or whether it will pass into memory as an exceptional one-off event, much as the 1915 New Year's Day massacre in Broken Hill did.
The Broken Hill Massacre
On New Year's Day, 1915, two Muslim men, Bashda Mahommed Gool and Mullah Abdullah, shot and killed four people and wounded several others before finally being killed by police. They had both come to Australia more than a decade previously.
From The Barrier Miner, January 1, 1915, p. 2.
Beginning in 1860, many Muslim cameleers came to Australia to help open up the arid outback. Today a famous train from Adelaide to Darwin is known as "The Ghan" to commemorate the contribution of the "Afghans" – as they were known (although they came from many different places across the Middle East and South Asia) – to the development of Australia.
The jihad attack was staged against a picnic train which was taking 1200 picnickers out on a New Year's Day in open ore trucks. Bashda Mahommed Gool and Mullah Abdullah first made enquiries at the station beforehand to make sure they would be in the right place at the right time to attack this particular train. They then positioned themselves on the side of a hill around 30 meters from the tracks, and opened fire as the trucks passed. Among the victims was Alma Cowie, aged 17, shot dead.
In November 2014, Shaykh al-Islam Ürgüplü Hayri, the highest religious authority of the Ottoman caliphate, issued a fatwa calling on Muslims around the world to wage holy war against the allies.
By the end of the incident the jihadi cameleers had themselves been killed by police. The two were found to have left notes to explain that they were responding to a call to jihad issued by the Ottoman Caliphate (on 11 November 1914).
Mullah Abdullah said that his intention was to die for his faith in obedience to the Sultan's order, and Mahommed Gool wrote "I must kill you and give my life for my faith, Allahu Akbar," apparently in reference to Quran Sura 9:11:
Allah has purchased of their faithful lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, kill and be killed.
The Ottoman fatwa declared that it was a religious duty "for all the Muslims in all countries, whether young or old, infantry or cavalry, to resort to jihad with all their properties and lives, as required by the Quranic verse of enfiru." The verse of enfiru (Arabic "go forth") is a reference to Sura 9:38:
You who believe! What is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the path of Allah, you cling heavily to the earth? Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless you go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place…
The jihadi cameleers left notes to explain that they were responding to a call to jihad issued by the Ottoman Caliphate.
The enfiru verse calls upon Muslims to "go forth" for jihad, or else face a painful doom under the judgement of Allah; better to fight as a martyr and go to paradise than burn in hell for hanging back.
A more detailed fatwa, "A Universal Proclamation to all the people of Islam" was published by the 'National Society of Defense of the Seat of the Caliphate' (reproduced in Andrew Bostom's Legacy of Jihad, p.216 ff). This Universal Proclamation declared that 'every Muslim without exception must be considered as a soldier' and the duty of jihad 'is enjoined upon all the peoples of Islam who are spread abroad upon the face of the whole earth':
They must know that the killing of infidels who rule over the Islamic lands has become a sacred duty, whether it be secretly or openly, as the great Koran declares in its words: "Take them and kill them whenever you come across them, and we have given you a manifest power over them by revelation. [Sura 4:91].
This fatwa goes on to define three different forms of jihad, including "individual jihad," in which an individual Muslim attacks an infidel in a solo act. It names contemporary examples of attacks on Westerners in colonial contexts which were familiar to Muslims at the time, including the killing of an English governor, Peter Galy,[1] as well as the assassination of an English chief of police in India. The fatwa suggests the use of "cutting, killing instruments". It also cites as a precedent the assassination of certain Jews by Muhammad's companions.
The fatwa urges faithful Muslims to rise up, "go out … and kill one of those who belong to the Triple Entente (Russian, France and Great Britain) of the infidels":
[L]et every individual of the Muslims in whatever place they may be, take upon him an oath to kill at least three or four of the ruling infidels, enemies of Allah, and enemies of the religion. He must take upon him this oath before Allah Most High, expecting his reward from Allah alone, and let the Muslim be confident, if there be to him no other good deed than this, nevertheless he will prosper in the day of judgment.
The two "Afghan" jihadis of Broken Hill, according to their own testimony, acted in accordance with such instructions: they went out to kill infidels as an act of individual jihad.
Another mode of jihad recommended by the 'Universal Proclamation' is 'jihad by bands', which it claims to be particularly effective when Islam is weak. The "Universal Proclamation" states:
[T]he most profitable of them is that which makes use of secret formations, and it is hoped that the Islamic world of today will profit very greatly from secret bands, and therefore it is in the degree of duty to him who wishes to participate in the Jihad that he should take council with people of experience in the formation of secret bands and gain profitable information of this kind.
"Jihad by bands" is the mode of Al-Qa'ida.
The third recommended form of jihad is "jihad by campaigns", which is warfare using armies directed by the Caliph. This is the mode the self-declared caliphate known as the Islamic State is following today.
Individual Jihad
Alma Cowie, killed in Broken Hill 1915, and Katrina Dawson, killed in Sydney 2014.
The phenomenon of individuals launching a personal jihad against non-Muslim infidels is nothing new. The precedents in the life of Muhammad are well-known and some of these were cited in the Ottoman Universal Proclamation. As the Ottoman fatwa indicated, the phenomenon was already a thorn in the side of colonial authorities a century ago.
In the Dutch occupation of Aceh, the phenomenon of individual Muslims killing Dutch people was frequent enough to be given a name, Atjeh-moorden "Acehnese murders". The Dutch authorities conducted investigations into the mental state of perpetrators of such attacks. This was not always easy: because the attacks were mounted with the intention of "killing and being killed" to attain martrydom, only a minority of attackers survived in a fit state to be investigated.
The Dutch wrestled for decades to understand the phenomenon. The psychiatrist R.A. Kern conducted a study of Atjeh-moorden and concluded that while Islamic theology accounted for the common pattern of the murders, this was not enough to determine which particular individuals might be triggered to mount such attacks: for that one needed to look to the personal circumstances of the individuals.
Nevertheless, repeated psychiatric studies of perpetrators showed that they were not mad. David Kloos summarized their findings: "Over the years, a consensus had formed among the Dutch that the Ajteh-moorden were committed deliberately, in 'cold blood' and thus 'rationally'."[2] Going for individual jihad was not normally a symptom of mental instability.
There are striking parallels between the Broken Hill massacre a century ago, and the recent Martin Place siege.
•In both cases the media puzzled over the motivation of the attackers. The Barrier Miner wrote in 1915 "The question has been asked over and over again, and by many people since yesterday morning's tragic occurrence, as to the motive of the men in attacking the picnic train with its load of women and children..."
•The attackers in both cases had resided for many years in Australia and were well-known in their communities.
•Both attacks were individual acts; although the 1915 attack by two individuals working together, they were not part of a larger network of jihadis, but were merely combining their individual efforts.
•In both cases the attackers subscribed to the dogmas of jihad in the path of Allah, and martyrdom in Holy War.
•In both cases, attackers were mobilized in response to a global call to jihad: in 1915 issued by the Ottoman Caliphate; in 2014 issued by Islamic State.
•Both global calls to jihad had specifically invited Muslims around the world to commit individual acts of jihad by killing infidels (see here on the Islamic State's call to Muslims to run over infidels with their cars).
•In both cases the perpetrators had been experiencing difficulties with the law: in the 1915 massacre, Mullah Abdullah had been convicted days before for slaughtering sheep on an unlicensed premises. In the Martin Place siege, Hojat al-Islam Muhammad Hassan Manteqi (AKA 'Sheikh' Man Haron Monis) was facing criminal charges as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and had a history of convictions for serious offenses.
There were also similarities in the way the wider community and the media responded:
•In both cases the media took pains to point out that the majority of people in the Muslim community abhorred the killings, and reported that no-one from the Muslim community wished to claim the bodies (see here and here).
•In both cases there were no reprisals against Muslims. However the Broken Hill German Club was burned down in 1915; the killings were considered to be linked to the World War I conflict as a whole, rather than as manifestations of individual jihadism.
Michael Wesley, professor of International Relations and director of the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University confidently wrote in The Australian that "this is a new and more dangerous form of terrorism," which he called "third-generation" terrorism.
According to Wesley, "first-generation" terrorism only appeared in the world in the 1960's, "second-generation" terrorism in the 1990's, and this, in its turn, "morphed" into "third generation" terrorism, which we are experiencing today.
Individual jihad ... [is] an old, old form of warfare, as old as the origins of Islam itself. The Ottoman fatwa writers knew their Koran and were qualified to draw conclusions from it.
Is individual jihad really a new phenomenon? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is, on the contrary, an old, old form of warfare, as old as the origins of Islam itself. The Ottoman fatwa writers knew their Koran and were qualified to draw conclusions from it, which did not differ from the long-established mainstream of Islamic teachings about jihad.
To discuss such things the term terrorism is inadequate and even misleading. It confuses experts like Professor Wesley, who attempt to lump the Martin Place siege into a conceptual grid which includes the IRA, in apparent ignorance of the well-documented history of jihadism.
Also misleading is the widely used term lone wolf, which implies social disengagement and dysfunction, including disconnection with the broader jihadi movement. This very Western secular construct overlooks the considerable attention in Islamic jurisprudence to the idea of warfare as an "individual obligation" (fardh al-'ayn), which is incumbent upon Muslims as individuals, even if they are not enlisted in a jihad army.
The West puzzles and puzzles over jihad. The Martin Place hostage taker "Sheikh" Monis certainly seems to have been a very unpleasant individual, and many have been tempted to write him off as crazy. However what fascinates and terrifies most is the utter ordinariness of so many jihadis. Here in Australia article after article has been published in the media pointing out how normal the young men are who have joined Islamic State. We have read how they enjoy social media, made YouTube videos, do well at school, are liked by their friends, go partying, have girlfriends, support local football teams etc. And all this is related to us as if it was the most amazing news.
Given the terrifying ordinariness of the jihadis, it is tempting to apply pejorative labels to them, to write them off as deranged misfits. This is an attempt to marginalize the problem. Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop called it 'idiotic' to refer to those who die in jihad as martyrs.
However such attempts to push the jihad phenomenon to the edges of our rational world are doomed to fail. Instead the same question keeps arising, like a persistent itch, that the Barrier Miner put on January 2, 1915: "The question has been asked over and over again, and by many people since yesterday morning's tragic occurrence, as to the motive of the men in attacking the picnic train with its load of women and children."
This question will simply not go away. In reality, the will to 'go forth' for jihad is not a manifestation of craziness – many of its actors are entirely sane. It is not a manifestation of stupidity – many of its actors are quite intelligent. It is not a manifestation of social dysfunction or poverty – many of its actors come from stable and wealthy homes. It is not a manifestation of weirdness – many of its actors are quite ordinary. Nor is it a manifestation of "morphing" trends in international relations – jihadism is as old as the hills.
Jihadi terror is a manifestation of Islamic theology. Despite the fact that so many Muslims reject jihadism, and millions of Muslims can be counted among its victims, this remains as true today as ever it has been. Yet this is something the West remains disturbingly ill-prepared to accept, engage with, or address appropriately. We stubbornly continue to seek worldview solace in misplaced explanations.
Australians are right to be deeply concerned about the Martin Place incident. History will show that this was not a one-off blip in the peaceful lives of Australians. It will certainly not take another hundred years before more Australians die at the hands of Australian jihadis on Australian soil. Such future tragedies may eventually compel us to revise and reject our inadequate worldviews. Until then it seems we must continue to wear our self-imposed blindfolds, all the while trying to defend ourselves against an enemy we cannot see and stubbornly refuse to understand.
**Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. His book The Third Choice explains the implications for Christians of living under Islamic rule.
[1] This is almost certainly a reference to the assassination of Boutros Ghaly in 1910. Ghaly was a Coptic Christian and prime minister of Egypt at the time, when the country was a de facto English protectorate although formally under the Ottomans Sultanate. The assassin was Ibrahim Nassif al-Wardani, a graduate in pharmacology from a privileged Muslim background, who been educated in Lausanne, Paris and London. This was the first of a series of assassinations in Egypt which continued up until the start of WW I. Prime Minister Boutros Ghaly was the grandfather of Boutros Boutros-Ghaly, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, after whom he is named. See Reid, Donald M. (1982). "Political Assassination in Egypt, 1910-1954". The International Journal of African Historical Studies 15 (4): 625–651.
[2] David Kloos, 'A crazy state: violence, psychiatry and colonialism in Aceh, Indonesia, ca. 1910-1942'. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 170: 25-65.

Canada Concerned by Dangerous Actions by the Palestinian Authority
January 1, 2015 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today released the following statement:
“The decision by the Palestinian Authority to seek to unilaterally accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, among other international bodies, is a concerning and dangerous development.
“Such a provocative decision only furthers the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, and will carry unfortunate consequences. Canada has expressed these concerns directly to the Palestinian Authority for nearly four years now.
“The path chosen can be reversed, and instead, the Palestinian Authority can recommit to a negotiated solution. We believe this is the only way to bring about a just and lasting peace. Israelis and Palestinians deserve nothing less.”

The Iranian year in Syria
Thursday, 1 January 2015
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
We have entered a year that carries with it unresolved regional wars, such as the Syrian crisis which pumps danger into other areas. The reason is not in the struggle between the two Syrian parties: the opposition and the government, but in the struggle between Middle Eastern countries. If the Iranians succeed at keeping the Syrian regime headed by Bashar al-Assad, they will have practically taken over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Syria is the key to Iraq's security. Therefore, Iran will have succeeded at imposing its presence over the Gulf region, and it is natural for the United States to recognize the new regional reality which may change the old balance of powers - a balance which lasted for decades in the region.
What's interesting is that the Iranians' victory will not be achieved in military battles on the ground but through political maneuvers. On the ground, their ally, Bashar al-Assad has been for two years besieged in the capital Damascus and he only exercises control over one third of Syria. As for Iraq, the situation of the central authority is weak and relies on foreign and domestic support.
Iran can score a political victory where it has failed militarily with two diplomatic maneuvers: The first one seeks to convince the West that it can confront rebellious groups, like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. It's the first time in the history of the republic that Iran participates in fighting alongside American troops. Iran is also fighting using its forces and military experts on the ground in Syria and Iraq. This Iranian move is due to Gulf reluctance and the Egyptian absence.
The second seeks to convince Arab states which are distant from the Syrian dispute, like Egypt, with political solutions, therefore pushing the Gulf countries to concede defeat in confronting the Iranian regime in Syria which is still represented by Assad who succeeded his father in 2001. Egypt remained distant from the Syrian crisis because it was preoccupied with its own revolution. Egypt, has since the beginning adopted a negative stance regarding Syrian events. It has done so during the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and under the presidency of Mohammad Mursi and it has also done so under the current administration of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. The Syrian regime has tried to appeal to the sentiment of the Egyptians for years, inventing the narrative that there's a conspiracy against Arab armies. It has thus tried to appeal to the sentiment of the Egyptian pride in its armed forces, and we all know that there's a huge difference between the Egyptian and Syrian military institutions. The latter one represents a small sect and uses security forces and the army to serve its own interests. The Russians helped advance this maneuver by helping the Iranians market the idea of establishing a government that includes opposition figures but with Assad remaining as president. This would keep the regime practically intact.
“A Syrian reconciliation based on keeping the regime without making real concessions is a major mistake which will immediately empower the Iranians in Iraq and in the Gulf later.”
As for the Egyptians, they don't see Iran as a direct threat except via the perspective of the balance of influence and regional interests. I am confident that if the Mubarak's regime was still present, Egypt would have adopted a tougher stance to eliminate Assad and support the Syrian revolution. This is because Assad has been the Iranian proxy who fought Egypt in Gaza and the West Bank and who supported the Muslim Brotherhood. The current Egyptian government either doesn't care much about how the world is developing around it or that it doesn't understand it or that it reacts only to temporary battles - like its dispute with Turkey.
In my opinion a Syrian reconciliation based on keeping the regime without making real concessions is a major mistake which will immediately empower the Iranians in Iraq and in the Gulf later. This is something the United States will accept because it falls within the concept of its new vision of dealing with any reality established in the Middle East and within the idea of breaking free of its previous regional commitments. The Russians play a role in support of Iran and Syria, just like they used to do, and they will support chaos in the region which is of interest to Western Europe and the United States. I also think that Syria will not settle with a political solution that doesn't put an end to Assad. The situation on the ground and the status quo will thus prolong as a result of Iran's continued support for Assad and as a result of Turkey's support for extremist armed groups, like al-Nusra Front - a type of support that goes against the context of the civil Syrian opposition represented by the coalition which in turn represents the entire Syrian spectrum. Most probably Turkey will change its stance after it's too late. This Turkish support of extremist groups promotes Assad's international position and polishes Iran's international image.