LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January
How Terrorism Harms Radical Islam/Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/January 09/15
Europe Between Fear and Hope/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/January 09/15
Islam vs. West: An ongoing clash of civilizations/Sever Plocker/Ynetnews/January 09/15
Who's to Blame in Iraq? Part I: The Shi'a Side/Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Foreign Policy/January 09/15
Behind the Russian peace plan for Syria/Michael Young| The Daily Star/January 09/15
Is Iran playing along sectarian lines in Iraq/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/January 09/15
Sisi’s religious revolution for tolerance/Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya/January 09/15
Profs Cover for Muslim Brotherhood Front/Andrew Harrod/Jihad Watch/January 09/15
Lebanese Related News published on January 09-10/15
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi Slams Campaigns against Church, Says Baabda Crisis Linked to Sunni-Shiite Strife
'Takfiri' groups offend Prophet more than cartoons: Nasrallah
Nasrallah Links Presidency to Aoun-Geagea Talks, Says Hizbullah Fighters Fully Prepared on Border
Report: Assad Building Hizbullah-Guarded Nuclear Plant 2 Kms from Lebanon
Report: Lebanese Intelligence Warns of Attacks in France
Hale Emphasizes Importance of Dialogue, Maronite Patriarchate Role to Resolve Presidential Deadlock
Kataeb: Leniency in Garbage Crisis Unacceptable, Privatizing Landfills is Govt.'s Duty
Hundreds of south Lebanon motorists stuck in snow
Waste dispute paralyzes Cabinet as Kataeb opposes treatment plan
Lebanon to slap taxes on imported goods
Hariri did not want Syrian enmity: friend
Entry requirements new territory for Lebanon
Zina takes one more life as she leaves Lebanon
Army arrests terror suspect in east Lebanon
Physicians chief rejects new medical schools
Storm prompts urgent appeal for Syria aid
Lebanese leaders condemn Charlie Hebdo attack
French ambassador visits Ibrahim
EDL gradually restores electricity in most areas
Zina takes one more life as she leaves Lebanon
Landfills or incinerators for Lebanon?
MP Hariri praises security efforts in Palestinian camps
Curb Paris fallout
Hariri in 'solidarity' with France over Charlie killings
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Paris under third terror attack – two with hostages after Islamists storm kosher mini-market, killing two people
At least two killed in hostage drama east of Paris
French forces hunt massacre suspects
Egypt consumer inflation rose in December
French police close in on suspected killers, new shoot-out in Paris
Yemen: Suspect in Hebdo attack fought for Al-Qaeda
Schools evacuated near Hebdo suspects' siege
Paris hostage-taker 'knows' one Charlie Hebdo killer
Activists: 2,100 people died in Syrian prisons last year
Egypt: Parliamentary elections to begin on March 21
Moscow talks to be based on Geneva Communique: Russian diplomat
Syria’s Al-Qaeda attacks besieged Shi’ite villages
Syrian rebels to receive US training to fight Assad, says opposition official
Swedish far-right leader reported to police for ‘anti-Islam comment’
Iran’s Rouhani condemns killing in name of Islam
Partner of slain Charlie Hebdo editor blames attack on lacking security
Racist graffiti scrawled on French mosque
Three Saudis behind attack along Iraq border
Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
Bill Maher: Hundreds of millions of Muslims support Charlie Hebdo jihad
Nigeria: 2,000 missing and bodies littering streets as Muslims raid town
New York Times reports, then scrubs jihadis’ references to Qur’an and Islam
Paris: Jihadi who killed policewoman takes hostages in Jewish bakery
Charlie Hebdo jihadis take hostages, say they want to die as martyrs
Canada: Muslim cleric says cartoons of religious leaders should be outlawed
At least four hostages killed at Paris kosher supermarket besieged by Islamic jihadist
Video: Robert Spencer on Hannity on Sharia No-Go Zones in France and the Charlie Hebdo jihadists
Video: Robert Spencer on Sun TV on the Charlie Hebdo jihad mass murder
Robert Spencer: Bill Donohue: Those Cartoonists Had It Coming
Charlie Hebdo jihad mass murderers and kosher bakery jihadist killed, hostages killed also
Curb Paris fallout
The Daily Star/Jan. 09, 2015/As France – and the rest of the world – continues to mourn the murder of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper’s offices Wednesday, it is vital that the attackers are not allowed to achieve their greater aims of creating further divisions in Europe. Two French mosques were attacked the day after the massacre, and this is exactly what the cowardly terrorists behind the Paris attack will have wanted, to ignite a series of violent incidents and revenge attacks, to create a cycle of violence which draws in more and more people on either side. The far right has already been gaining ground across Europe over the last few years, as many have decided to see links between a dire economic climate and social friction with increased migration. The Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA movement, has already been rallying around 10,000 to 15,000 people to its weekly rallies in Dresden and Cologne, among other places. The Paris attack will only further exacerbate these tensions, encouraging support for far-right groups. Mosque attacks or further curtailment of religious rights will likely cause greater sympathy for Islamist causes. While practical steps are needed now, it is not as simple as preventing young men from returning from Syria, or from entering office blocks with machine guns. The reasons why people become extremists must be tackled. This attack was not just about Charlie Hebdo insulting Islam in the past. It was about feelings of disenfranchisement and oppression, not just in terms of Muslims in Europe but about Muslims across the world. But the extremist groups to which the attackers belong – or at least have been inspired by – are killing more Muslims themselves than anyone else.
Nasrallah Links Presidency to
Aoun-Geagea Talks, Says Hizbullah Fighters Fully Prepared on Border
Naharnet/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced Friday that his party's fighters are maintaining full preparedness on the eastern border to confront any takfiri assault, alongside the army and security forces, noting that the inter-Christian dialogue that got underway might lead to resolving the presidential crisis. “I salute the officers and soldiers of the army and the Islamic resistance who are deployed on the border and are protecting the country against Israeli and takfiri terrorist attacks,” Nasrallah said in a televised address during a ceremony held by the Hizbullah-affiliated al-Imdad Islamic Charitable Association. “They are defending their people in snow, cold and harsh conditions, but they are insisting on steadfastness and perseverance. They are shouldering this major national and religious responsibility because they are the true followers of the Prophet of God (Mohammed) and the real defenders of the Lebanese people,” Nasrallah added, referring to Hizbullah's fighters and the Lebanese army's soldiers. Hizbullah's leader expressed relief that the security situation “has been very good since several months due to the achievements of the army and security forces.”“The army, security forces and the jihadist fighters of the resistance are defying the snow and enduring pain and exhaustion to protect us,” said Nasrallah. Playing down recent media reports, he reassured that “the takfiris are too weak to be able to launch broad assaults, contrary to what some media outlets are claiming.” “Reports of a broad military assault are baseless and the country is full of men and brave women. We remained resilient in the face of the world's strongest armies,” Nasrallah stressed. He also underlined that the Lebanese are not helpless in the face of any danger. “The same as we defeated the Israelis, terrorists and takfiris, we will defeat all the threats. Death, wounds, burdens or accusations cannot change the jihadist fighters' determination to protect their people and villages,” Nasrallah added. As for the issue of the dialogue that got underway between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement, Hizbullah's leader reassured the Lebanese that “it is moving forward with the required seriousness from the two parties.” “It greatly benefits the country and it is enough that the situation in the country has largely calmed down,” he pointed out. “Based on the two (dialogue) sessions and their atmosphere, we can speak of major positivity that may lead to tangible results,” Nasrallah stated.“We have been realistic from the very first day and we didn't announce high expectations. Some parties do not want dialogue, but it leaves a positive impact on the general situations,” he added. Nasrallah, however, admitted that dialogue with al-Mustaqbal will not resolve any of the main thorny issues. “We did not say that dialogue will resolve the dispute over the defense strategy, the arms of the resistance or the fighting in Syria. We said that we're living in a region that is witnessing a storm and we must seek a way to prevent the country's collapse,” he pointed out. “Can we reach agreements over certain topics? Yes, it is possible and certain if the positivity continues,” he added. Reassuring the other Lebanese political forces, Nasrallah noted that “this dialogue is not a replacement to the dialogue of the other forces.” “We support and assist any dialogue between all parties and groups in Lebanon,” he said. Nasrallah also highlighted the importance of the upcoming dialogue between Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, which is being preceded by preparatory meetings between FPM and LF officials. “We are among the parties that are insisting on holding the presidential elections and we support inter-Christian dialogue which might lead to holding this election. Only the Lebanese can elect a president and foreign forces cannot do anything for us,” said Nasrallah. “I have always called on everyone not to burn bridges because we have no choice but to sit together, engage in dialogue and continue our path together.”
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi
Slams Campaigns against Church, Says Baabda Crisis Linked to Sunni-Shiite Strife
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi slammed on Friday some journalists and TV stations without naming them for reports and shows that “contradict moral values” and said Lebanon's presidential crisis is linked to Sunni-Shiite discord. “Some writings and TV shows are violating sanctity and resorting to deception and lies for money-making purposes,” said al-Rahi. “We are witnessing media campaigns against us at the expense of moral and cultural values,” the patriarch told journalists who report on church affairs. “Such campaigns on church institutions and Christianity are a form of advertisement,” he said during the meeting with the reporters at the seat of the patriarchate in Bkirki. Al-Rahi stressed he does not act alone and that he coordinates with Maronite bishops on church-related matters.
“The patriarchate is an institution,” he said. “It shouldn't be dealt with the way is being currently treated.” Some newspaper articles and TV shows have recently reported about alleged corruption in religious institutions. At the start of his speech, al-Rahi stressed that he would not discuss political issues. But he later told reporters during a chat that the church hopes for the success of dialogue among politicians. He also hoped that MPs would not miss another chance to elect a new president. On Wednesday, the parliament failed in a new round of elections to find a successor to President Michel Suleiman whose term ended in May. “No one can deny that the election of a president is linked to the Sunni-Shiite strife and both Iran and Saudi Arabia have a say in it,” al-Rahi said. The presidential deadlock and other crises have compelled al-Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah representatives to hold talks. A similar dialogue is expected to be held between Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, who are both candidates aiming for the country's top Christian post. The rivalry between the two alliances, which they belong to, has left Baabda Palace vacant. During his chat with reporters, al-Rahi revealed that he held secret talks last week with the Maronite leaders to discuss with them the political crisis.
"Dialogue is ongoing," he said.
Lebanese leaders condemn Charlie Hebdo attack
Edy Semaan/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Strong condemnations of the deadly raid on the Paris office of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by Lebanese leaders continued to pour in Thursday, as France held a day of national mourning. Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam telephoned his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, to extend his condolences. Salam expressed Lebanon’s solidarity with the French people during their ordeal, and reiterated his condemnation of the horrible crime, adding that Islam was innocent of the violent atrocities carried out in its name. The noon attack by three gunmen, suspected to be militant Islamists taking revenge for the newspaper’s long-term satirization of Islam, left 12 dead. It constituted France’s deadliest terror attack in half a century.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said that “nothing ever justifies the barbaric and heinous crime that targeted Charlie Hebdo.”“The time has come for an intellectual and political Islamic awakening and renaissance that will give Islam renewed credibility,” he said. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk sent a fax to his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve, condemning the attack and reaffirming his solidarity with “free” France. “This coward and barbaric attack not only struck at freedom of expression but also at free journalists and Islam’s moderate values,” his letter said. Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said in a tweet Thursday afternoon: “We deplore and condemn the terrorist act that happened in Paris, even if we were not surprised by it, since we have repeatedly warned French leaders about the inevitable expansion of terrorism to their country.”
Another top Christian leader, Lebanese Forces Chief Samir Geagea, sent a letter to Hollande Thursday denouncing the attack and describing it as a “barbaric act.”“France will face this challenge and justice will be done. The country of human rights will remain a source of the freedom of expression.”The Future Movement released a statement condemning the attack after a meeting at Saad Hariri’s downtown residence, calling it a “shock ... since France represents an example of forgiveness and rejection of violence.”
In a separate statement, head of the Future bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, said the perpetrators “committed a crime against humanity that isn’t justifiable by any religion and isn’t covered by any law,” adding that Islam is a “religion of forgiveness and peace that rejects violence.”
Defense Minister Samir Moqbel sent a fax to both Hollande and his French counterpart, condemning the “flagrant assault” and stressing the “necessity of cooperation to counter terrorism.”
The newspaper has been accused several times in the past of disrespecting religious communities by publishing cartoons ridiculing Prophet Mohammad and Jesus Christ, among other figures.
The attack, which saw gunmen storm the newspaper offices while reportedly shouting “Allahu akbar,” has prompted fiery debate about the relationship between terror and Islam. As a result, several prominent Lebanese religious figures also chose to tackle head-on the crime’s alleged Islamic aspect.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called for the respect of every religion, its rituals and values, in order for the sanctity of human life to be cherished and for people to be able to live together in peace.
“The blood of the victims of yesterday’s terrorist act and the blood of victims of similar crimes compel everyone to work on building a world of brotherhood, love and peace,” he said.
“The [patriarch] offers in the name of the Maronite church his deepest and sincerest condolences to the families of the victims of the infamous crime that targeted yesterday the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris,” the secretariat of the Maronite Patriarchate added in a statement.
Lebanese Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, Higher Islamic Shiite Council Deputy Head Abdel-Amir Qabalan and Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hasan released a joint statement expressing their great sorrow over the “brutal and heinous crime.”
“Every crime committed in the name of religion, any religion, is an assault on that same religion and an offense to it and to all its believers,” they said.
“Those who have committed this awful massacre represent only the world of crime. Thus we call on the French authorities to chase and capture them, and put them on trial so their punishment would be a lesson to other like-minded criminals.”
Shiite scholar Sayyed Ali Fadlallah also denounced the attack. “This aggressive approach is not approved by Islam,” he said in a speech during the 28th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran.
“It has become clear that this phenomenon, which started due to many reasons, is now a global threat,” he added, warning of the possibility of Muslims in France and elsewhere in Europe suffering backlash for this act.
Waste dispute paralyzes Cabinet as Kataeb opposes treatment plan
Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star/Jan. 09, 2015 /BEIRUT: Discord over a controversial proposal to treat solid waste paralyzed Cabinet Thursday, with Prime Minister Tammam Salam vowing to hold no more sessions before consensus was reached on the plan. Salam adjourned the five-hour session after Kataeb Party ministers voiced opposition to the plan to treat solid wastes as proposed by Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk, saying it lacked transparency. According to the Environment Ministry, Lebanon produces 1.57 million tons of solid waste a year, an amount that grows at an annual rate of 1.65 percent. The plan would divide Lebanon into five blocs and request the Council of Development and Reconstruction to launch tenders to award contracts to companies to collect, transport and treat solid waste in each of these areas. The Kataeb ministers stood opposed to several components of the plan, including the way Beirut and Mount Lebanon were divided and the fact that the companies would choose the locations of dumps and incinerators on their own. The party also argued that the plan did not grant municipalities the right to collect and transport trash. Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, from Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party, said the Cabinet reached an agreement on the divisions of blocs. But Chehayeb said there was a “mystery” surrounding the Kataeb ministers’ stance. The session failed when Kataeb ministers questioned how contracts would be awarded to companies and were not convinced of the plan. Ministerial sources told The Daily Star Kataeb ministers argued that the manner in which contracts were awarded ought to be transparent, and voiced suspicions that contracts had already been earmarked for certain companies even before the tenders were launched. On his way into the session, Economy Minister Alain Hakim, from the Kataeb Party, said that “everybody knows that MP Walid Jumblatt has his own company ready to collect and treat waste.”But Hakim later retracted his remarks, saying he was “not optimistic about a resolution to the issue.” The Kataeb Party’s stance enraged Salam, who adjourned the session, stressing that he would not call for another session until consensus was reached between ministers. It is the first time Salam has resorted to such a move. In comments after the session, Chehayeb disputed an earlier claim made by Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi in which he said Cabinet agreed to amend the tender document, something the Kataeb Party had called for, saying: “Unfortunately, Azzi does not know what he’s talking about.”Machnouk said that the issues that had halted discussions “were not worth the opposition.”Cabinet’s failure to reach an agreement on a plan to treat solid waste threatened to flood Beirut’s streets with trash after Jan. 17, the date when the contract between the government and Sukleen, the company responsible for sweeping and cleaning the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, expires. By that date the government is also supposed to close the landfill in the Chouf town of Naameh where Sukleen trucks dump their haul. Created as a six-year project in 1997, the landfill is now 18 years old and has exceeded its maximum capacity by five times, frustrating the residents of the area with its odor and gas emissions. But the issue is a source of dispute between Machnouk and PSP ministers. While Machnouk argues that the deadline should be pushed back until new companies tasked with collecting and treating waste are selected, PSP ministers insist that the dump should be closed on time. Most PSP supporters live in the Chouf, and residents of Naameh have threatened to close the dump themselves by Jan. 17 if the government does not act.
Lebanon to slap taxes on imported goods
Dana Halawi/he Daily Star/Jan. 09, 2015 |
BEIRUT: Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said Thursday he was planning to gradually impose Customs duties on certain imported commodities in order to protect the Lebanese industrial sector. “From now on, I will pursue a policy that relies mostly on imposing Customs duties on imported products and mainly goods that are subsidized by their countries of origin and which pose great competition to Lebanese industries,” he told a meeting held with the Lebanese-Chinese businessmen association. Hajj Hasan argued that the government’s role was to facilitate the export of Lebanese products and not to remove obstacles facing foreign imports. “One of the main measures that should be taken in this respect is to impose Customs on imports to boost the consumption of Lebanese products in our market,” he said.
“This will also limit our trade deficit, which reached $16.7 billion last year and which constitutes a third of our GDP,” he added. Hajj Hasan warned of the negative impact of the deterioration in some economic indicators – including the increase of the public debt to $60 billion and the decline in industrial exports – on Lebanon’s economy.
Lebanese industrial exports plunged by some 9.2 percent in the first eight months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, despite the government’s ongoing efforts to open up new markets for local industries, according to statistics issued by the Industry Ministry in December of 2014. Sources from the Industry Ministry told The Daily Star that two weeks ago the Cabinet renewed its decision to impose Customs duties on imported aluminum to support the local production of this commodity. The source said that the minister had already announced his plan to impose duties on leather, iron, plastic, paper and food products. “These measures will be taken gradually,” the source added.
The new planned measure was met positively by some industrialists interviewed by The Daily Star. “I pay tribute to his excellency the industry minister, who is supporting the industrial cause,” said Fadi Gemayel, president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists.
Gemayel argued that industrialists could be supported either by compensating them for the excessive cost of energy they are incurring in their operations or through the imposition of duties on imported goods that are already being manufactured in Lebanon.
Gemayel gave the example of glass bottles and jars that are used in agro food industries. “The energy cost of glass bottles and jars is very high, for instance,” Gemayel said. He also questioned how Lebanon could have a prosperous agro food industry if it had to import empty jars and bottles from abroad. He said the cost of energy for energy-intensive industries constitutes around 35 percent of the sales price. “The cost of energy that we pay is much higher than what [other] industrialists pay in the region,” he added.
Gemayel argued that the cost of resolving the issue of intensive energy industries was in the range of $30 million to $40 million a year, a relatively small amount when compared to the deficit of Electricite du Liban, which costs the state around $2 billion a year.
“It is worth paying such an amount because energy-intensive industries provide around 7,000 jobs,” he said. “At the end of the day, Customs duties on some commodities can also be used to finance this excessive energy cost,” he added.
Gemayel stressed that many countries levy very high Customs duties and many have even increased tariffs before joining the WTO, while Lebanon continues to impose very low Customs duties. Jacques Sarraf, an industrialist and former ALI president, described the step as positive. “Minister Hajj Hassan is very organized and works according to laws and we do need such courageous decisions,” he said. “Commodities that are being smuggled into Lebanon and that are affecting Lebanese industries must be subject to Customs,” he added.
Gemayel said that the industrial sector had been suffering from a lack of proper economic and industrial policies. “We only have support from [the Central Bank] with [its] subsidized loans that have proven effective in fostering exports, in addition to support from the ministry,” he added.
French forces hunt massacre suspects
Agence France Presse/Jan. 09, 2015
PARIS: Elite French security forces deployed helicopters in a nighttime manhunt Thursday for the two brothers accused of slaughtering 12 people in an Islamist attack on a satirical weekly in Paris. “The search will continue tonight with the help of five helicopters,” a police source told AFP in the tiny village of Villers-Cotterets, northeast of the capital, where the suspects earlier robbed a petrol station and abandoned their getaway car. The fugitives were thought to be behind Wednesday’s bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo, the worst terrorist attack in France for half a century, which the gunmen said they carried out as revenge for the weekly’s repeated publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad. About 24 hours into the manhunt, they were identified after robbing the village petrol station, 80 kilometers from Paris, before fleeing again, possibly on foot and still armed with at least a Kalashnikov, police said.Special police units rushed to the scene, backed by helicopters.
Moving methodically, officers in heavy black bulletproof vests went house to house, rifles at the ready, under the nervous eyes of local residents. An AFP reporter saw them storm one house. The fact that they didn’t find the suspects only added to the mounting tension.
“I live near the woods,” said village resident Roseline, a grandmother. “I’m afraid. Night is falling and they could be hiding nearby.”A maximum security alert declared in the capital Wednesday was expanded to the region where the manhunt took place.
ISIS hailed the brothers as “heroes” on its Al-Bayan radio station. In a further sign of the attackers’ motives, a source close to the case said that Molotov cocktails and jihadi-style flags had been discovered in another getaway vehicle used by the attackers and abandoned in Paris. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that an international meeting on terrorism would take place in Paris Sunday, including U.S. and European officials.
As the dramatic chase unfolded, bells tolled across France at midday, public transport paused and people gathered outside the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in pouring rain with banners reading “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). Several thousand people gathered in Paris late Thursday, hours after groups of people right across the country stood at midday to mark a minute of silence. Television footage showed children at a Muslim school in the northern city of Lille holding up sheets of paper emblazoned “not in my name.”Across the world, crowds gathered from Moscow to Washington under the banner “I am Charlie” to show support for the controversial weekly, which had angered Muslims by repeatedly lampooning the Prophet Mohammed and was seen by supporters as an emblem of free speech. Meanwhile, several other incidents rocked the jittery nation. Just south of Paris, a man with an automatic rifle shot dead a policewoman and wounded a city employee – an act that prosecutors said they were treating as terrorism, but which Cazeneuve said was not “at this stage” thought to be linked to Wednesday’s attack. There was also an explosion at a kebab shop in eastern France, with no casualties immediately reported. And two Muslim places of worship were shot at, prosecutors said.
Declaring Thursday a national day of mourning – only the fifth in the last 50 years – President Francois Hollande called the bloodbath “an act of exceptional barbarity.”The Eiffel Tower, usually as much a Paris landmark at night as during the day, dimmed its lights at 8 p.m.
The government also called for large demonstrations to show solidarity across the country Sunday. National television ran constant live coverage of the manhunt for the masked, black-clad gunmen, who shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest”) while killing some of France’s most outspoken journalists, as well as two policemen. Arrest warrants were issued for Cherif Kouachi, 32, a known jihadi convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq, and his 34-year-old brother Said. Both were born in Paris and are French nationals of Algerian origin. Cazeneuve said tjat nine other people had been detained in the hunt for the brothers.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, meanwhile, told French radio the two suspects were known to intelligence services and were “no doubt” being tracked before Wednesday’s attack. Mourad Hamyd, an 18-year-old suspected of being an accomplice in the attack, handed himself in after he saw his name “circulating on social media,” police sources said. It was not clear what role, if any, he played in the attack. Hollande ordered flags to fly at half-mast for three days in France and convened an emergency Cabinet meeting. After calling for “national unity,” Hollande invited arch-rival and opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy to the Elysee Palace, his first visit since losing power in 2012. Even before the attack, France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim population, was on high alert like many countries that have seen citizens leave to fight alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria. U.S. President Barack Obama led the global condemnation of what he called a “cowardly, evil” assault.Charlie Hebdo will come out next week with a print-run of 1 million despite the decimation of its staff, a columnist for the weekly said
Europe Between Fear and Hope
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 9 Jan, 2015
For the past six months the German city of Dresden has been the site of gatherings every Monday under the banner of “Saving Europe from Islamization.” The group that started the exercise calls itself “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West” (PEGIDA), and has succeeded in forming branches in 18 other German cities. Dresden is an historic city with a distinguished cultural and artistic legacy. It is also a tragic city, reduced to rubble by British and American bombers during the final phase of the Second World War, then ransacked by the Soviet Army and then put firmly behind the iron curtain as part of Communist East Germany.
When we first visited Dresden in 1974, the city still advertised its historic wounds in the shape of charred carcasses of historic buildings, including churches, left ruined as reminders of a tragic past. But, at that time, Dresden was regaining enough courage to nurture dissent against the Soviet Empire. It was one of few places in East Germany where people dared contact foreign visitors and, more significantly, offer foreign reporters a hint of their true feelings. Therefore, it came as no surprise that, from the 1980s onwards, Dresden spearheaded a growing popular revolt against the Communist regime. By the mid-1980s Dresden had become the scene of weekly gatherings calling for the Berlin Wall to be pulled down. One key slogan was “Let People Go Free!”
Taking those weekly gatherings as a model, PEGIDA has started its own demonstrations. There are, however, a number of crucial differences between then and now. In fact, if one wished to be unkind to PEGIDA, one might suggest that the current weekly gatherings may well be mere caricatures of those historic anti-Communist demonstrations.
The first difference is that the “Let People Go Free” gatherings wanted a wall to be pulled down while PEGIDA is asking for a wall, albeit a legal and political one, to be erected. The old gatherings asked that people be free to go where they liked. The new ones ask that some people not be allowed to go where they want, even when they are fleeing murderous regimes such as that of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
The second difference is that the old demonstrations challenged an adversary that was easily identifiable on ideological and organizational grounds. The Soviet Union was a tangible reality, a monolith with its own ideological, political, military, and security structures and transnational nomenclature from the Elbe to the Far East. Islam, the target of PEGIDA, however, is neither a political monolith nor an ideology, and even less an empire. Nor does Islam have tanks on the streets of Dresden or any other German city for that matter. Ironically, among German cities, Dresden has one of the lowest percentages of Muslims among its population and even immigrants in general. The third and perhaps more important difference is that the old demonstrations were inspired by hope and orientated towards the future while the current ones are prompted by fear, with the promise of a return to a past that never existed.
Finally, the old anti-Communist demonstrations attracted a large measure of support across the two halves of a divided Germany and beyond and thus acted as a unifying factor. The new gatherings, however, have divided Germans, with anti-PEGIDA marches organized in more than a dozen cities, at times on a much larger scale. Even worse, from the point of view of PEGIDA leaders, their anti-Islamic stance is, in fact, preventing a proper discussion on immigration, a real issue in Europe, and the place of Islam as the latest religion with a mass audience in the old continent. The politically correct elites of Europe find it easy to brand PEGIDA as neo-Nazis and compare their campaign to that launched by Hitler against the Jews. To close down any discussion in Germany it is often sufficient to recall the “bad old days” of the Third Reich and use the concept of “historic guilt” as a stick with which to beat those outside the political mainstream into silence and submission.
PEGIDA is pointing to a number of real problems but at the same time is offering false and, in some cases dangerous, solutions. Europe is passing through a crisis of identity prompted by the fading of its Christian heritage, the increasingly exposed shortcomings of its democracy, and loss of trust in an economic system that promises a great deal but fails to deliver. Thus, PEGIDA is part of a broader European malaise that has given a boost to radical and even extremist groups both on the left and right. Movements such as PEGIDA, including the National Front in France, UKIP in Britain, Syriza in Greece, Indignandos (Indignants) in Spain, and the Swedish Democrats among many others, feed on that malaise and, in turn, fuel it.
Europe’s cultural malaise has been a subject of introspection and speculation for more than a decade. The former Pope Benedict XVI penned two books about it, suggesting a revival of the continent’s “Christian roots,” a position that found sympathetic echoes among “free-thinking” Germans, notably the philosopher Jürgen Habermas.
Movements like PEGIDA encourage those who wish to erect a cordon sanitaire against any proper discussion of a number of complex issues including that of the relationship between Europe and its Muslim citizens. However, a cordon sanitaire could also demarcate a cultural ghetto, making it even more difficult for Europe to offer its Muslim citizens a proper space while inspiring in some Muslims a sense that they have been rejected, which, in turn, attracts thousands of young European Muslims to the deadly caricature of jihad offered by Middle Eastern terrorist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s start-up “caliphate”. While history shows that hope does not always inspire creativity, fear always leads to self-defeating destruction.
Islam vs. West: An ongoing clash of civilizations
Sever Plocker/Ynetnews/Published: 01.09.15
Op-ed: Journalists murdered in Paris were not victims of a battle over freedom of press; they were victims of a war between radical Islam's world view and Western liberalism's world view.
It would be a big mistake to see the terror attack in Paris as an attack on the freedom of the press. Such a statement puts the massacre in the French capital in line with attacks against journalists by members of a Colombian drug cartel or the Chechen mafia.
That's not the case. The goal of the attack on the office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was not to frighten newspaper editors so that they would not publish one cartoon or another. The goal was to show and prove who controls the streets and consciousness of the French Republic: The Western liberalism or the fanatical Islam.This is a clash of civilizations, not a gang's intimidation campaign.
Many in Europe are finding it difficult to accept this perspective, let alone agree with it. As far as they are concerned, the Muslim terror in the continent has no supreme goal apart from just sowing terror.
And it's not so complicated to buy those who have no ideological urges with economic means: We'll renovate a few housing blocks, fix a few pavements, open a few kindergartens – and voila! There goes terror, along with the threat to the freedom of the press. How convenient.
It hasn't gone, and it won't go. In order to defeat the Islamic terror in Europe, it's not enough to invest in the security and intelligence services and train police officers to so that they will at least know how to shoot. It must be countered with a clear alternative: The ethical liberal system, which is prepared to fight for its future with all its might, not to give up and not to capitulate.
It only sounds simple. The Western popular culture is filled today with half truths, blurred facts and a wrong use of language which is politically correct and objectively false.
The complete exclusion of the Muslim-liberal conflict from the popular discourse in Europe is leading, naturally, to its powerful appearance in other places and in different forms.
When the elite shamelessly lies to the citizens, saying that "there is no problem of Islam here," it is singlehandedly brining about the outburst and reinforcement of the racist, demagogic, neo-fascist moments, which put democracy in danger.
The great Winston Churchill recruited the entire British nation to a war of "blood, toil, tears and sweat" against the Nazis, turning a conflict between powers over Europe's border into an uncompromising battle over the continent's character, values and future.
The current focus on certain cartoons published by the targeted newspaper, as if they can explain the massacre, is the refuge of people who are refusing to open their eyes. They believe that they are better off not seeing reality, in the sense of "if I don't see the evil, perhaps it will go away on its own." Perhaps, but the chance of that happening is close to zero.
The journalists who were murdered in Paris on Wednesday were therefore not victims of a battle over the freedom of the press. They were victims of a war between the world view of the radical Islam and the world view of Western humanism, a war which will go on and increase and claim victims until it is won by one side.
French police close in on suspected killers, new shoot-out in Paris
By By John Irish/Reuters
DAMMARTIN-EN-GOELE, France (Reuters) - French forces sealed off a small northern town where police sources said gunmen had seized at least one hostage, and shooting broke out in Paris as the biggest security dragnet of modern times closed on chief suspects in an attack on a Paris journal.
The attack has raised questions in France about policing, surveillance of radicals, far-right politics, religion and censorship - all in a country still struggling to integrate its five-million-head Muslim population, the EU's largest.
On Friday, police vans, armoured cars and ambulances ringed the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, set in marsh and woodland, and helicopters hovered overhead. Residents were told to stay at home and schools near a printing works where two gunmen were holed up were evacuated.
A second hostage-taking was reported at a Paris kosher supermarket. AFP news agency was cited by French media as saying at least two had been killed in a shoot-out there, but police said they could not confirm any deaths.
The Interior Ministry said security forces surrounding a small print works in Dammartin-en-Goele were trying to make contact with the gunmen, who had earlier in the day evaded police in a high-speed car chase on a highway to Paris.
Yves Albarello, local MP for the Seine-et-Marne department and member of the crisis cell put in place by authorities, told iTELE the two suspects had let it be known that they wanted to die “as martyrs”.
The gunmen had been on the run since they stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical journal known for its ridicule of Islam and other religions as well as political figures. Western leaders condemned the attack as an assault on democracy. Al Qaeda's North Africa branch praised the gunmen as "knight(s) of truth".
A senior Yemeni intelligence source told Reuters one of the two suspects was in Yemen for several months in 2011 for religious studies; but there was no confirmed information whether he was trained by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
THIRD PARIS ATTACK IN TWO DAYS
News of a further shootout, in Paris, a third in two days, demonstrated the scale of the threat facing French authorities and the force of nearly 90,000 mobilised nationwide for the search action.
A police source said several people were taken hostage at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris after a shootout involving a man armed with two guns.
The source said he bore a resemblance to the gunman suspected of killing a policewoman in a separate shooting in southern Paris on Thursday and believed to be a member of the same jihadist group, Butte Chaumont, as the two Hebdo suspects.
Police released pictures of a 32-year-old man, Amedy Coulibaly, and a 26-year-old woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, wanted in connection with the southern Paris incident.
The prospect of multiple attacks is one that has troubled Western security services since Islamist militants hit a number of targets in Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.
Yohann Bardoux, a plumber whose office is two doors down from the printing shop where the hostage-taking was playing out stayed away from work after hearing gunfire. But he said his mother was in the building next door to the printing shop.
"Of course I'm worried about her, I hope it all comes down soon, and turns out well," Bardoux said.
"They are everywhere. It's really jumping. They've blocked the whole zone, we've got helicopters overhead, the police presence is impressive."
A spokesman for Charles-de-Gaulle airport said all its runways were open but that landings were only taking place at the two south terminals.
A senior Yemeni intelligence source told Reuters one of the two suspects was in Yemen for several months in 2011 for religious studies; but there was no confirmed information whether he was trained by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The gunmen shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) as they carried out the attack, which has been described by President Francois Hollande and other world leaders as an attack on the fundamentals of democracy.
The attack has raised fears in other capitals of similar actions. Western leaders have long feared Islamist militants drawn into fighting in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere could launch attacks in their home countries on their return.
London suffered an assault on its transport system in 2005, four years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States. More recent attacks have been carried out by militants in countries including India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Kenya.
The fugitive suspects are both in their early 30s, and were already under police surveillance. One, Cherif Kouachi, was jailed for 18 months for trying to travel to Iraq a decade ago to fight as part of an Islamist cell.
U.S. and European sources close to the investigation said the second, Said Kouachi, was in Yemen in 2011 for several months training with AQAP, one of al Qaeda's most active wings.
U.S. government sources said both were listed in two U.S. security databases, a highly classified database containing information on 1.2 million possible counter-terrorism suspects, called TIDE, and the much smaller "no fly" list maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, an inter-agency unit.
Amid local media reports of isolated incidents of violence directed at Muslims in France, Hollande and his Socialist government have called on the French not to blame the Islamic faith for the Charlie Hebdo killings.
Questions about surveillance
Hollande has held talks with opposition leaders and, in a rare move, invited Marine Le Pen, leader of the resurgent anti-immigrant National Front, to his Elysee Palace for discussions on Friday.
Many European newspapers either re-published Charlie Hebdo cartoons or lampooned the killers with images of their own.
The younger Kouachi brother's jail sentence for trying to fight in Iraq a decade ago, and more recent tangles with the authorities over suspected involvement in militant plots, raised questions over whether police could have done more to watch them.
Cherif Kouachi was arrested on Jan. 25, 2005 preparing to fly to Syria en route to Iraq. He served 18 months of a three-year sentence.
"He was part of a group of young people who were a little lost, confused, not really fanatics in the proper sense of the word," lawyer Vincent Ollivier, who represented Cherif in the case, told Liberation daily.
In 2010 he was suspected of being part of a group that tried to break from prison Smain Ali Belkacem, a militant jailed for the 1995 bombings of Paris train and metro stations that killed eight people and wounded 120. The case against Cherif Kouachi was dismissed for lack of evidence
Who's to Blame in Iraq? Part I: The
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Foreign Policy
Originally published under the title, "The Impasse in Iraq (Part 1: The Shi'a Side)."
The conventional wisdom that former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (right) was less conciliatory than his successor, Haidar Abadi (left), is flawed.
It has become a truism that resolution of the current crisis in Iraq, which has seen major cities — most notably Mosul — fall out of government control at the hands of the Islamic State (IS), will require some form of 'reconciliation' between the Shia majority that has led Iraq's governments since the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the Sunni Arabs, who likely constitute no more than 20-25% of Iraq's population but were seen as dominant since the formation of the modern Iraqi state. 'Reconciliation' in the predominant understanding is expected to entail some kind of central government outreach to Sunnis.
However, is that really forthcoming? If not, why not? The new Iraqi premier Haider Abadi — hailing from the Islamic Da'wah Party of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki — is generally seen as a more conciliatory figure than Maliki, who is in contrast widely condemned for perceived sectarian policies that led to the deterioration in the security situation. However, reconciliation must entail more than mere allocation of government positions to Sunni political figures who have become ever more detached from their constituencies. It must also include reforms on the ground that will make Sunni locals more amenable to working with the security reforms and integrate them into the post-Saddam order.
Maliki allowed for meaningful reforms to de-Ba'athification to be put to parliament, but the legislation quickly died, most notably facing opposition from the Sadrists.
One place to start would be amendments to de-Ba'athification legislation that was initiated after the overthrow of Saddam's regime and came to be seen as 'de-Sunnification'. And in that regard, nothing seems forthcoming.
The response to the Sunni protests of 2013 is instructive here. While it is widely claimed that Maliki did not attempt to make any concessions to protestor demands, such conventional wisdom is untrue. Through working with then deputy Sunni premier Saleh al-Mutlaq, Maliki allowed for meaningful reforms to de-Ba'athification to be put to parliament, but the legislation quickly died, most notably facing opposition from the Sadrists.
It is indeed telling that when it came to this rather important issue on reconciliation, Maliki comes across as the moderate, illustrating the wider Shia political spectrum's reluctance to consider such reforms, fearful at least of a supposed return to the prior Sunni-dominated order. More recent attempts at Sunni empowerment in the form of provincial autonomy have similarly been put down across the spectrum, partly due to belief that greater autonomy would only create problems akin to the constant disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad.
Iranian-backed Shia militias are eclipsing the Iraqi government.
Today, the notion of de-Ba'athification amendments is not even put to discussion. Indeed, the rise of IS, with the collapse of conventional army divisions caused by the group's conquests in the north of the country, has only compounded the impasse, because it has helped midwife the birth of dozens of Shia militias while strengthening in particular the hand of long-established Iranian proxies (Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata'ib Hezbollah, Badr), the last of which was awarded the Interior Ministry and has spearheaded military operations south of Baghdad and in the mixed province of Diyala. For the militias, the struggle is perceived — not wholly without justification — as existential in light of IS's genocidal anti-Shia sentiments.
Yet that only further damages chances at reconciliation, as the general tendency among Shia militias is to treat all Sunnis in a combat zone as IS, which has resulted in ethnic cleansing in areas like Jurf al-Sakhr (south of Baghdad) and the wider Baghdad belt area.Considering that the militias are unlikely to simply disband and will seek to exert influence, Abadi's efforts will likely only be undercut further. This is well illustrated in the recent hostility shown by Kata'ib Hezbollah to Abadi's floundering 'National Guard' legislation that aims to create local Sunni forces to fight IS, saying it will treat the formations as an 'American-affiliated Sahwa.'
As Iranian proxies in particular frame the recent upheaval as an American conspiracy against Iraq, such enmity is sure to create conflict and hinder a coordinated effort to roll back IS. But is the impasse wholly or primarily to be blamed on the Shia side? Stay tuned for part two, which will explore the issues regarding Sunnis and Iraq's impasse.
**Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Behind the Russian peace plan for Syria
Jan. 08, 2015
**Michael Young| The Daily Star
Earlier this week, Khaled Khoja, the new head of the Syria opposition in exile, rejected a Russian proposal to attend talks in Moscow to end the Syrian conflict. Khoja was right to doubt Russian intentions, but officials in Moscow are probably thinking in very different terms.
There has been confusion over precisely what Moscow wants for Syria. We know the Russians seek to hold meetings in Moscow with members of the Syrian regime and opposition groups, who presumably, when the time is right, would then talk with each other.
Some media outlets, including the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar, have suggested the format will be similar to what was discussed prior to the Geneva conference a year ago: the formation of a transitional government with executive powers that would pave the way to a new constitution and a presidential election. Al-Akhbar affirmed that during this period President Bashar Assad would retain control over the army and security apparatus.
However, observers have remarked that Russia is actually moving away from the Geneva format on Syria. The idea of a transitional government, no matter how logical it may seem given Syria’s realities, implicitly suggests a move away from Assad. Reportedly, this has not been well received by Iran and Hezbollah. The new Russian initiative may be an effort to hit two birds with one stone: to address Iranian displeasure and shape a diplomatic initiative that adapts to the new situation in Syria, where the focus lately has been on defeating ISIS.
From the perspective of the opposition in exile, this represents a potential minefield. Given the exiles’ limited influence inside Syria, any effort to integrate them into peace negotiations must be viewed with considerable suspicion. Making Khoja and his comrades part of a process could fragment Assad’s enemies further and heighten discord within the already largely discredited exiled opposition. This would ultimately ensure that Assad is recognized internationally as the only game in town.
Given international fears of the jihadi groups in Syria, such an objective seems reachable. The United States has no real policy when it comes to Syria, despite President Barack Obama’s promises to train and arm “moderate” rebel units. And last October Obama wrote Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to underline that both Iran and the U.S. had parallel interests in fighting ISIS, and to reassure him that coalition airstrikes would not target Assad’s forces.
As the Russians have watched American incoherence and gauged the depth of regional rivalries over Syria, not least the clashing agendas of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, they have seen an opportunity. At the same time the United Nations has appointed an envoy, Staffan de Mistura, who has limited his ambitions for a solution, preferring to start with efforts to freeze the conflict in certain locations before building on this, without addressing the more contentious issue of Assad’s fate.
The Russians realize there is fatigue in the Middle East and internationally with the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict. Assad knows what he is doing when his forces engage in the massive displacement of populations. As is its way, the Syrian regime has created a regional humanitarian problem so enormous that governments no longer are insisting on his exit, so keen are they to bring an end to the Syrian nightmare. Moscow will exploit this mood to impose its diplomatic preferences.
Khoja’s rejection of the Russian proposal was not surprising. But circumstances will continue to change, and the weaker the so-called moderates become, the more likely they may be to embrace a diplomatic initiative to save themselves. And once that happens, the Russians would be in a better position to bring the exiled opposition, along with the so-called internal opposition, together with the regime in a resolution project, giving Assad new legitimacy. Those opposing such moves could then be denounced as “extremists” in league with the jihadis.
The more pertinent matter is how long the regime can last. While we appear to be in a military stalemate, Assad’s forces have been seriously depleted, obliging them to forcibly conscript young men. Even in the Alawite community the enthusiasm for fighting on behalf of Assad is next to nil. The Syrian army is not winning decisive engagements, and it appears that even its efforts to surround rebels in Aleppo have been unsuccessful.
The Russians must sense that their diplomacy is not likely to make much headway in the near term. But that’s not their aim. By putting it into circulation now, they have shifted attention away from the Geneva format, which the Syrian regime doesn’t like and which the Russians were unwilling to impose on Assad when the Geneva conference was held almost a year ago.
The Russians are also positioning themselves as prime interlocutors on Syria, and have been careful to make it appear that they are working in parallel with de Mistura. In that way, as circumstances change and the international community decides to move resolutely toward a peace plan for Syria, the Russians will be better placed to put their favored plan forward, perhaps in coordination with the U.N.
The Russians apparently understand something the Obama administration doesn’t: that for any anti-ISIS campaign to be successful, the Syrian conflict must be brought to an end. The Russians are seeking to use this logic to keep the regime in place, knowing that efforts to remove it, rapidly or slowly, will probably be opposed by Iran. With America unconcerned, the Russians have an opening, even if their plan is delayed weeks, months or years. What’s important is that it become the only plan on the table.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.
Is Iran playing along sectarian lines
Friday, 9 January 2015
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
The instability and crisis in Iraq has provided two intriguing platforms for Iranian leaders. First of all, Tehran can utilize these developments as a means to establish itself as a legitimate, credible, regional power in assisting other conflict-inflicted states. In other words, Iran can replace American efforts in the region with informed and constructive policies that define Tehran as a benevolent regional power. The Islamic Republic can also take the path of investing in some religious and political groups while excluding others.
From the perspective of the Iranian leaders, since the U.S. has failed to constructively manage the civil war, crisis, along with the socio-political and socio-economic landscapes of Iraq, the Islamic Republic is in a position to potentially replace the U.S. as a regional hegemonic stance.
“In order to utilize Iraq as a bulwark against other Sunni countries in the region, Iran’s foreign policy in Iraq increasingly highlights Tehran’s emphasis on investing in Shiite militia groups”
To some extent, one can make the argument that in fact, Iran has gained from American foreign policy gaffs, Iraq’s civil war, and the political instability. The spillover of the Syrian civil war into Iraq, has also ratcheted up Tehran’s geopolitical and security influence in Iraq.
In order for Tehran to emerge as a legitimate state actor and in order to win the popular vote of the ordinary people across the region (Sunni and Shiite) in the long term, it needs to carry out an inclusive and articulate foreign policy agenda which would represent the Islamic Republic as an objective arbitrator willing to listen to the demands of all sides and attempting to resolve conflicts constructively.
The question remains, will Iranian leaders grasp this opportunity and redefine its foreign policy and character?
Iran: The major gainer
Although the U.S. is spending a considerable amount of political capital, financial means and plans to send thousands of American troops to train Iraqi forces, the Islamic Republic is the state actor which increasingly shapes Iraq’s policies, controlling its security and military institutions, and exerting more political, economic, social and religious influence in Iraq.
According to Iranian Fars news agency, despite the West, and particularly American efforts, Iraq has recently signed an agreement with Iran to allow its forces to train Iraqi forces. After the agreement Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi stated “We assume Iran’s increased support for the Iraqi armed forces as a strategic necessity.” The killing of one of the high officials of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi, which was attended by thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards including General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds forces, has revealed Tehran’s determination to ratchet up its influence in the political, security and strategic destiny of Iraq.
While the crisis and instability in Iraq continues, Tehran-Baghdad cooperation had been ratcheting up on several spectrums including security, training forces, institutional, financial and transportation. For example, this week, according to Fars News, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli stated that Iraq has requested Tehran to assist in the area of transportation, particularly the construction of Najaf-Karbala railway.
Iran: Ruler of all of the Shiites across the region?
The realities on the ground reveal that Iran’s regional foreign policy is concerned with exclusivity, ambiguities, political opportunism that capitalizes on the sectarian character (Shia-Sunni divide) of Iraq and other countries in the region including Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
In order to utilize Iraq as a bulwark against other Sunni countries in the region, Iran’s foreign policy in Iraq increasingly highlights Tehran’s emphasis on investing in Shiite militia groups, using the ruling Shiite coalition in Baghdad, and increasingly defining Iraq as Shitte versus Sunni.
The Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stated “Shiite and Sunni leaders should be vigilant that Islam’s enemies not drag Muslims into civil wars which would play into the hands of terrorist groups like [ISIS], Boko Haram, the al-Nusra Front, Wahhabis and Salafists.” In addition, Deputy General Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Brigadier General Hussein Salami said “Iran will do anything to protect the unity of Iraq in fighting against ISIS militants.”
Nevertheless, Tehran’s financial and military investments in Iraq, the shaping of other countries through the sectarian lines such as directly strengthening Shiite groups (such as Kata’ib Hezbollah, Iranian-backed Shiite Iraqi proxy, Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, other militia groups in Syria) shows that Tehran has chosen a direction upon which it attempts to define itself as ruler of the Shiite population across the region rather than an objective arbiter.
The continuing civil war in Iraq provides a crucial platform for the Islamic Republic to project itself as a legitimate regional power to rely on, if it takes a uniting and inclusive position rather than an exclusive and sectarian one. Secondly, the civil war also provides a ripe platform to utilize political opportunism and manipulate the domestic developments. By increasingly shaping the domestic and foreign policy of Iraq, it appears that Iran has decided so far to invest in the second option.
Sisi’s religious revolution for
Friday, 9 January 2015
Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya
Last week Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for a religious revolution. If I am not mistaken this would be the first time a Muslim head of state has called for such. The statement was made during an occasion commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammad. The location was one of the largest and oldest Muslim religious institutions in the world, Al-Azhar. The audience was filled with religious scholars affiliated with this institution and others. His main critique was “that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sanctified over the years to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible is antagonizing the entire world.” He believes that those texts call upon Muslims to wage jihad against the world and he exclaims: “Is it possible that 1.6 million Muslims should want to kill the rest of the world’s seven billion inhabitants so that they themselves may live?”
And then he concludes that “we are in need of a religious revolution” and that unless that happens Islam will be torn apart and destroyed. What he meant of course was the interpretations of the Quran and the traditions of Islam which created a sharp divide between the Muslim and the non-Muslim, and made it mandatory for a Muslim to either proselytize the world, or subjugate it. This sharp divide was picked up by contemporary Muslim fundamentalists and developed to become a central component of their Islamist fledged ideology. From the Muslim Brotherhood, to Hezbollah to ISIS the one common thread is that “the world is misguided and we are the vanguards of truth who will guide them or subjugate them.”
Whenever there is a call for reformation some analysts bring up Martin Luther’s reformation. Some may even go as far to consider the Lutheran reformation the standard against which religious reformations are assessed. And the first question asked would be: What about religious institutional authority? Would this revolution dismantle or weaken those institutions? Clearly in the case of Al-Azhar this is not the case. But this is not a Lutheran revolution, nor should it be.
“If Sisi here wants to exploit religion to get rid of the radicals, then I am with him”
The Lutheran reformation had an enormous effect on the course of European history, but Luther himself was not tolerant and some of his views would seem harsh to the average individual living today. So should we follow suit? This is not to belittle Luther’s achievement. He was a man of his times, and his greatest achievement was in changing the course of Christianity. The specific issues which concerned him were also inspired by his time, and many of the values we criticize him for today were only developed in the centuries that followed. A contemporary religious reformation or revolution needs to be inspired by its own challenges and not by those of another era. If clerical authority was in Luther’s time a major issue to challenge; it does not mean that every future religious revolution should target that.
During the past 100 years, Islam underwent a few not revolutions but rather devolutions; transformations which deformed religion. If a cleric from the 18th century were brought back to life he would see a religion very alien to him. Unlike what some people think, many facets of today’s Islam were not a return to the past. They were a deformation of the past, and not a progression to the future. The most important example is that of politicizing Islam; a process which was championed by the Muslim Brotherhood. This was indeed devolution; it created a religion totally alien to the Islam practiced a hundred years ago. What we need now to is to revolt against that, not to regain a pristine past version of Islam but rather to generate one which fits our time and historical moment.
Politics as a savior
There have been many attempts to reform Islam. But they all failed. The only ones who succeeded in changing the face of Islam were the Muslim Brotherhood Islamists who, inspired by totalitarian ideologies, produced a totalitarian deformation of Islam and then presented it to the world as the only proper religion. All other Islamists passive and violent, including Shiite Islamists such as Ayatollah Khomeini, were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood version of Islam. Now we need a counter strike. But the fact is that it can only be done with state commitment. The tide of the past hundred years cannot be turned by intellectuals or activists or good willed religious clerics. This needs a state.
Of course there is the concern that politicians exploit religion to their own ends. I will not argue against that; but what I will say that if Sisi here wants to exploit religion to get rid of the radicals, then I am with him. If he wants to promote religious tolerance for his own ends, then I am also with him. If he wants a pluralistic Islam, to serve his own ends then I am with him. If he wants the weekly religious sermons in Friday prayers to stop cursing Jews, Christians, and infidels then I am also with him. Daniel Moynihan, a late American Senator, once remarked, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Perhaps Sisi’s revolution is an important step in saving Islam from itself.
Paris under third terror attack – two
with hostages after Islamists storm kosher mini-market, killing two people
DEBKAfile Special Report January 9, 2015
At least two people were killed and six hostages seized when the gunmen responsible for murdering a policewoman earlier this week, identified as Amedy Coulibaly and a woman Hayat Boumeddiene, stormed a kosher grocery in the Marais district of Paris Friday, Jan. 9, and took six hostages. Northeast of Paris, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who murdered 12 people in the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, are holed up in a factory near Dammartin-en-Goelle with at least one hostage. Under siege, they are threatening to die “as martyrs.” The pair at the Jewish store say the siege of the Kouachi brothers and themselves must be lifted, else they will execute the six hostages.
A nearby Jewish school is in lockdown and Jewish businesses in France advised to shut their doors and take extreme precautions.
debkafile reported earlier Friday:
The two Charlie Hebdo terrorists were Friday, Jan. 9 holed up in a printing plant outside Dammartin-en-Goele northeast of Paris, with one or more hostages after a shootout with police. They were surrounded by hundreds of police backed by helicopters overhead. Negotiations for the release of hostages were met with the Islamist gunmen’s willingness to “die as martyrs” rather than surrender.
This was the first time Said and Cherif Kouachi were located nearly three days after they massacred 12 people at the magazine in Paris, despite a manhunt by 88,000 police officers, soldiers, security and intelligence personnel. .
The French authorities must admit to failure on two counts: Nabbing the two Islamic terrorists on the run and averting two terrorist attacks in Paris, in which three police officers paid with their lives - although the brothers, at least, were long known to French and Western anti-terror services as terror threats.
debkafile’s counterterrorism experts account for this apparent blindness by those agencies’ over-reliance on technology and double agents, instead of planting ears to the ground on the spot in the terrorists’ natural habitats.
Consequently, Western governments, including Washington, have become inured to admitting after major terrorist attacks in the last three years that the perpetrators’ identities and intentions were actually known in advance to their intelligence and anti-terror agencies. And even, in a few cases, double agents had been recruited and planted inside international Islamic terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda.
Even so, when it came to the point, these known jihadis were never deterred from carrying out major terrorist crimes. This was demonstrated in a number of atrocities:
On April 15, 2013, the brothers Tamerlan Tsarnayev, 26, and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, 19, tried to blow up the Boston Marathon.
On May 22, in the same year, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowalo performed an Islamist rite on the streets of London by decapitating the British serviceman Lee Rigby.
A year earlier, on March 2012, Mohammed Merah was responsible for two attacks: He murdered two French commandos in Montauban for France’s participation in the Afghan war, then slew the teacher and pupils of a Jewish school in Toulouse
On May 24, 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, from the North of France, was able to attack the Jewish Museum in Brussels and kill the Israeli couple, Miriam and Emanuel Riva, as well as a Frenchwoman and Belgian citizen. This was despite the fact that French intelligence had been keeping an eye on Nemmouche because of his association with groups of Islamists who fought in the Syrian war in 2013.
Friday, Jan. 9, the Kouachi brothers were found on the US no-fly list of Americans and foreigners who are barred from flying to the States because of specific security concerns. They were therefore familiar names to counterterrorist agencies when, two days earlier, they murdered 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris, including the editor and top French cartoonists and two police officers.
Both had known records.
Cherif had spent time in a French prison in the early 20s for terrorist activities in connection with the recruitment of fighters in the Iraq War, while Said spent time in Yemen four years ago training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Their bloody outrage in the heart of Paris did not fit the “lone wolf” or “lunatic” epithet attached to recent terror attacks in France, along with the argument that such actions are impossible to predict or thwart. This argument was heard after a string of attacks on a synagogue, a Jewish-owned printing plant and the mowing down of Christmas shoppers by a vehicle.
There was no question that this was a targeted multiple assassination that called for detailed planning and reconnaissance, as well as knowledge of the location of the editorial board room and the timetable of board meetings attended by the targeted journalists.
In terms of logistics, the perpetrators would have had to get hold of Kalachnikov assault rifles, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, gloves, balaclavas and masks, as well as a vehicle for arrival and getaway from the scene of the slaughter.
All these arrangements point to a complex, well-oiled support network, with experience in combat, terror, logistics, intelligence and communications. operations.
Nonetheless, neither the French DGSE (external security) nor the DGSI (internal security) got wind of the murderous conspiracy afoot against the satirical magazine, which was famous for its irreverent cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as well as holy figures of other religions.
Their signal intelligence (SIGINT) should have at least picked up the chatter which usually precedes terrorist activity. However, this omen too may have escaped them because of incorrect or unfocused “tuning” to suspect communications sites.
French intelligence runs a network called Frenchelon (the counterpart of the US Echelon), which enjoys free rein and huge budgets and is capable of intercepting any voice, linear, cellular or computerized communications transmitted worldwide. This system operates aggressively from French embassies and other institutions in foreign countries, including Israel. Its overriding task is to forestall terrorist activity on French soil and abroad, and it works in partnership with the US FBI and the British MI6 and MI5.
The warning by MI5 domestic security chief, Andrew Parker, the day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre of a growing threat of “mass casualty attacks” was indeed timely. He said “intelligence pointed to the existence of specific plots.” But the UK official also admitted that although three terrorist plots had been foiled in recent months, “it was almost inevitable that one would eventually succeed.”
And therein lies the rub.
The failure of the mighty, many-branched Frenchelon to spot Said and Cherif Kouachi’s plans for the magazine massacre and locate them after the attack when they were on the loose were the symptomatic result of Western over-dependence on technical intelligence and waiver of human intelligence inside the Muslim communities of Paris, Europe and the United States. Anti-terror agencies are therefore short of real-time, tactical information on terror plots afoot - or even the states of mind current in those communities. Both are essential for pinning down violence before it erupts.
In consequence, the two terrorists, instead of being located by the army chasing them, broke cover first and staged the Dammartin-en-Goele hostage-stunt northeast of Paris. They said they are ready to die as martyrs rather than surrendering, so that they can go down in a cloud of Islamist glory.
How Terrorism Harms Radical Islam
Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times
January 9, 2015
An epidemic of recent high-profile attacks by Muslims in the name of Islam – in Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Australia, Pakistan, and France – raises an obvious question: How do the Islamist perpetrators figure that murdering an honor guard, driving cars into pedestrians, slaughtering non-Muslim bus passengers, taking hostage the patrons of a café, or massacring army kids and cartoonists will achieve their goal of applying Islamic law and building a caliphate?
Logically, their violence only helps if it terrorizes their enemies and compels them to bend to the Islamists' wishes; intimidation, after all, is the essence of terrorism. Sometimes, Islamist terrorism does achieve this objective. For example, to stay out of trouble, a sizeable number of artists have censored themselves concerning Islam; and the botched government response to the 2004 Madrid train bombings helped the opposition party win an election, then withdraw Spanish forces from Iraq.
As a rule, however, terrorism leads not to intimidation but to anger and hostility. Instead of cowing a population, it raises consciousness and provokes hatred for the Islamist cause among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Rather than advance the Islamist cause, high profile acts of violence harm it. Some prominent examples:
•9/11 removed Islamism from the shadows where it had flourished, stimulating an American-led "war on terror" and a large increase in anti-Islamic sentiment;
•The 2004 massacre of school children in Beslan poisoned Russian attitudes toward Muslims and helped Vladimir Putin consolidate power;
•The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing locked down a large metropolitan area, giving millions a first-hand taste of Islamist oppression.
•Wednesday's killing of twelve in Paris created a national mood of defiance that put Islamists on the defensive as never before. If the first hours anticipate future developments, a significant portion of the French electorate will demand more effective measures against radical Islam.
Ironically, obscure acts of terror do not have this counterproductive effect. To take one of many examples, when an Egyptian Muslim beheaded two Coptic Christians in New Jersey in 2013, few took notice and little anger ensued. Because of reluctance among police, politicians, the press, and the professoriate, most jihadi-style attacks of this nature tend not to publicized, thus avoiding an increase in anti-Islamic sentiments. (Sadly, those with a duty to protect too often hide the truth.)
If high-profile violence is counterproductive, why do Islamists persist in this self-defeating behavior? Out of anger andbecause of a violent disposition.
Yusuf Ibrahim beheaded two Egyptian Christians in New Jersey – and hardly anyone noticed.
Anger: Islamists, especially the more extreme ones, exude bitterness, bile, resentment, and envy. They celebrate the medieval period, when Muslims were the richest, most advanced, and most powerful of peoples, and interpret Muslim decline as the result of Western duplicity and betrayal. Only by striking back righteously at these conniving Crusaders and Zionists can Muslims regain their rightful place of honor and power. Expressing anger becomes an end in itself, leading to myopia, an inability to plan, an absence of strategic thinking, and pulsating grandiosity.
A violent disposition: Exulting in their sense of direct knowledge of God's will, Islamists favor violence. To make the enemy cower in fear, then smite him is the ultimate Islamist dream, a fulfillment of intense ill will, a triumph of Islam's superiority over other religions and those Muslims who lack the fire of their faith. Suicide bombings, beheadings, gangland-style murders, and other acts of grotesque recrimination express a deep desire for vengeance.
In the long term, then, these acts of violence do immense damage to the Islamist cause. Turned around, the victims of that violence – some 10,000 fatalities in 2,800 attacks in 2013 alone – did not die in vain but unwittingly sacrificed their lives in a dreadful war of wills. Targeted assassinations, such as those against the French cartoonists, have an outsized impact on public opinion.
In sum, self-indulgence and strategic ineptitude are the hallmarks the Islamist campaign. The catastrophe of the Islamist program is matched by the ineptitude of its tactics. And so, I conclude, its fate will be the same dust-heap of history where fascism and communism can be found. Like those two other totalitarianisms, it promises terrible destruction and many deaths before ultimately failing. The war will be long and painful but in the end, again, the forces of civilization will vanquish those of barbarism.
The recent drumbeat of terrorism in the name of Islam may appear to help the Islamist cause. In fact, it brings its agenda closer to a deserved collapse.
**Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Profs Cover for Muslim Brotherhood Front
Andrew Harrod/Jihad Watch
January 09, 2015
"I am simply a Muslim . . . one who submits to God," neither Sunni nor Shiite, stated Abdulaziz Sachedina, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) Chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University, at a recent IIIT panel. Nonetheless, "The Need for Intra-Muslim Dialogue," which took place before about thirty-five in the conference room of IIIT headquarters in Virginia following evening Muslim prayer, indicated why Islamic ecumenism remains largely a pious hope.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-linked IIIT is a promoter of the MB's propagandistic "Islamization of knowledge" movement and the widely-used "Islamophobia" canard, with disturbingly deep connections to the field of Middle East studies. Additionally, IIIT has endorsed an English translation of the brutal, yet authoritative fourteenth-century sharia manual Reliance of the Traveler, while maintaining disturbingly deep connections to the field of Middle East studies. Accordingly, panelists included Imam Abolfazl Bahram Nahidian, a radical Shiite supporter of Iran's Islamic Republic and an anti-Israel 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and Mohamed Magid, former president of the MB-front group the Islamic Society of North America. Also present were IIIT officers Abubaker Al Shingieti, a former high ranking official in Sudan's genocidal Islamic Republic, the MB supporter Jamal Barzinji, and Barzinji's like-minded high school friend from Iraq, Hisham Altalib.
Amidst such dubious characters appeared IIIT research director Ermin Sinanović. With no evident official concern, Sinanović teaches Middle Eastern politics to America's future warriors as an assistant professor of political science at the United States Naval Academy. He opened the panel by stating that current Shiite-Sunni conflicts "urge us to think deeply" about "long overdue" intra-Muslim dialogue. Even more important is a "Quranic imperative" forbidding "enmity among Muslims," Sinanović argued, quoting Quran 3:102-103. He urged participants in this "academic forum" to "keep it open, yet civil; respectful, and yet critical."
IIIT is a promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood's propagandistic "Islamization of knowledge" movement.
Sachedina, who is of mixed Shiite-Sunni parentage, repeated his previous support for sectarian tolerance, declaring that "we are not here to do the takfir," or apostasy pronouncement, "to decide who is right, who is wrong." He described how doctrinally divergent Shiites and Sunnis "believe in certain things" taught to "children in the Sunday schools." Yet, he added, there was "no way of stating categorically what happened in the early days of Islam" to validate these beliefs.
The Quran records how Islam's "early community was . . . on the verge of breaking down completely," Sachedina continued. To learn about early Islam's sectarian divisions, he noted, "you just have to open Tabari," a tenth-century Muslim historian. In his twenty-three years as Islam's claimed prophet, Muhammad could not "transform" an Arab "tribal culture into a united spiritual, moral culture."
Sachedina admitted that mosques in the U.S. often consign "non-kosher" people from the opposing sect to "some kind of isolation." Similarly, he added, many mosques "never ask a Christian priest to come and talk to us" because Muslims "are afraid" Christians "will corrupt what we believe." "We have locked up ourselves into a small cocoon of our own self-righteous attitude," he concluded, exhibiting rare self-reflection within Islam.
Sachedina explained that a Shiite-Sunni "division of even knowledge" often excludes Shiite works from libraries in Sunni-majority Arab countries, even as Iranian libraries include Sunni writings because of a Shiite desire to expressly refute the texts of Islam's Sunni majority. Mirroring Iranian condemnation of Sunnis, Saudi clerics condemn Shiites as "heretics" who "don't follow the Sunna at all," while Jordanian professors with whom Sachedina spoke during the Iran-Iraq war referred to Shiites as kuffar, or infidel. An Iraqi Sunni questioner confirmed that, in her experience, the "Arab Sunna are very arrogant," both in terms of Shiites and nonconforming Sunnis.
Referring to a Shiite-Sunni "history of constant struggle," Sachedina elaborated on the gruesome details: "If the walls around Teheran . . . would speak," they would tell of "thousands of Shias interred alive." Strangely, he then claimed that Islam calls for "restorative justice," not harsh sectarian penalties, to invoke Muslim reconciliation. Employing an analogy in which he accused Jews of "using the Holocaust to go on demanding this and that," did little to demonstrate his stated commitment to moving beyond the past.
The panelists' discussion of historical Shiite-Sunni hostility should give pause to ubiquitous protestations of Islam's pacific nature.
"Dialogue cannot only occur with the niceties," Sachedina continued, noting that among the "sore points" for Sunnis is the Shiite use of taqiyya, or Quran-sanctioned deception, a "survival strategy" for a "minority . . . under very adverse conditions." Shiites also engage in the "wrong practice" of cursing Muhammad's companions, or sahabah, who opposed the Shiites, but, he concluded, doctrinal disagreement should not entail that Muslims "throw mud." An audience questioner concurred that the sahabah are "very crucial for the Sunni."
Responding to Sachedina, Magid, a Sunni, expressed his support for "honest dialogue." He remarked upon "extremists in both Shia and Sunni" who label each other's blood "halal," thereby justifying their murders as infidels on YouTube. Studying past Sunni-Shia scholastic interaction can "neutralize the issue of history," he concluded.
Sachedina asserted that the situation in the U.S. presents a "unique opportunity" for Muslim dialogue, given the distance from the Middle East's "big havoc." American Muslims, Barzinji agreed, "can be the role model for the Muslim ummah." Sinanović, meanwhile, invoked Muhammad as the "best example" of human behavior (per Quran 33:21), and Muhammad's conquest of Mecca as the "most beautiful example of humility," two hagiographic assertions that ignore Muhammad's brutal biography.
The panelists' discussion of historical Shiite-Sunni hostility should give pause to ubiquitous protestations of Islam's pacific nature. As Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger has noted, if Muslims cannot find peace among themselves, how will they find peace with non-Muslims? Devout Muslims fighting each other over questions of faith while fanatically rejecting doubt and debate can still turn their fervor towards outsiders. IIIT's unmerited respectability in academia and elsewhere indicates just how broad and deep such dangerous currents can run. Islam's unbelievers should beware.
**Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project; follow him on twitter at @AEHarrod. He wrote this essay for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.