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Bible Quotation for today/Hell as Portrayed in The Rich Man and Lazarus
Luke 16/19-31: “There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury every day. There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man's door, hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried, and in Hades, where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, ‘Father Abraham! Take pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire!’ But Abraham said, ‘Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain. Besides all that, there is a deep pit lying between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross over to us from where you are.’ The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father's house, where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain.’ Abraham said, ‘Your brothers have Moses and the prophets to warn them; your brothers should listen to what they say.’ The rich man answered, ‘That is not enough, father Abraham! But if someone were to rise from death and go to them, then they would turn from their sins.’ But Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.’”
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January
Iran Goes Ballistic/Yoel Guzansky and Yiftah S. Shapir/Middle East Quarterly/ January 16/15
Sisi’s Brave New Egypt/Raymond Ibrahim/PJ Media/January 16/15
The Internet isn’t to blame for radicalization/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/January 16/15
Lebanese Related News published on January 16-17/15
Security Situation Focus of 3rd Mustaqbal-Hizbullah Dialogue Session amid 'Clear Progress' in Discussions
Protesters across Lebanon denounce new Charlie cartoon
Lebanon controlled by 'terrorist spy': Bahraini FM
Report: Army Arrests Driver of Arsal Car Rigged with Explosives
Report: Nusra Front Brainwashing Christians to Pledge Allegiance
Man Injured in Clash with Army as Several Suspects Arrested
Khoury Resumes STL Testimony, Tackles Early Stages of Hariri's Alliance with Anti-Syria Opposition
Saniora Postpones Testimony at STL for Health Reasons
Bahrain Deems Nasrallah as 'Terrorist Agent', Arab League Urges Govt. to Clarify Stand on Claims
Jumblat Rejects Nasrallah's Bahrain Stands: Lebanese Immigrants in Gulf Must be Taken into Account
Abou Faour Scraps al-Hayat Hospital Contract, Refers Dr. to Disciplinary Board
Mustafa Dirani Loses Israel Torture Suit
Nasrallah Confirms Having Fateh-110 Missiles, Says Busted Spy Had Nothing to Do with Hizbullah Military Structure
Plumbly Advises Lebanese to Stay United, Says World Stands by Lebanon
Salam hails agreement to support local hospitals
Tripoli girl in critical condition after stabbing
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Obama Urges Congress to Hold off on Iran Sanctions While Cameron Says No New Sanctions
British PM says no new sanctions should be imposed on Iran 'now'
Obama, Cameron agree to cyber war games, joint 'cyber cell'
Europe needs to better integrate Muslim communities: Obama
Saudis 'to review' flogging of blogger Raif Badawi
Saudi Carries out 10th Beheading of 2015
ICC Prosecutor Opens Probe Into war Crimes Against Palestinians
13 Arrested over Terror Plot to Kill Belgian Police
Pentagon to Send 400 U.S. Troops to Train Syrian Rebels
Jihadists in Fierce New Attack on Syria Kurd Town
Turkey says no-fly zone needed to protect Aleppo from Assad's forces
Thousands Protest in Mauritania Against Charlie Hebdo Cartoon
Charlie Hebdo Crowd Sets Fire to French Cultural Center in Niger
U.S., UK Agree to Maintain 'Strong Sanctions' on Russia, Europe Must do More to Integrate Muslim Communities
Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
Foes of free speech take down Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs with a huge denial of service attack
India: Muslim cleric says what Charlie Hebdo jihadis did “was completely legitimate as per Sharia laws”
John Kerry takes James Taylor to Paris to sing, “You’ve Got A Friend”
Muslim cleric: “We shall chop off the head of France, with a sword that bears the words: ‘There is no god but Allah
European police arrest over two dozen Muslims in anti-terror sweeps
Pat Condell: “It’s getting hard to keep up with all these Qur’an-inspired atrocities that have nothing to do with Islam”
FreeSpeechRally: AFDI to hold “Stand With Free Speech” demo outside anti-free speech “Stand With the Prophet” conference
Florida convert to Islam gets 20 years; made videos on how to build “homemade weapons of mass destruction”
Nigeria: Islamic jihadists murdered woman while she was giving birth
Robert Spencer in FP: Pelosi to Name Muslim Brotherhood-linked Congressman to House Intel Committee
Security Situation Focus of 3rd Mustaqbal-Hizbullah Dialogue Session amid 'Clear Progress' in Discussions
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah announced about “clear progress” in the dialogue between them, and that it may lead to “results that help consolidate the nation stability.” After the the third dialogue session which took place on Friday in Ain al-Tineh the two parties discussed “ last week's political and security situation and the positive effect of the dialogue on it.”Lebanese forces transferred on Monday detainees from block B where Islamists were being held after an investigation suggested that the recent suicide bombing in the northern city of Tripoli was directed from the facility, said al-Mashnouq. The prisoners were transferred to block D, which has been renovated and has better security. Last Saturday, two suicide bombers who hail from Tripoli's al-Mankoubeen targeted a packed cafe in Jabal Mohsen, killing nine and wounding 37 others. In the last couple of days al-Mustaqbal officials spoke of some negativity in the dialogue. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq annouced that “it's still too early to talk about any progress in the talks.” Meanwhile, the chief of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora stated that “Hizbullah is not taking any actual step to achieve results from the dialogue.” However, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a interview on al-Mayadeen TV that he is “very optimistic” about the dialogue session, raising the possibility of a “written agreement” which paves the way for a meeting between him and al-Mustaqbal chief Saad Hariri. The first dialogue session between al-Mustaqbal and Hizbullah was held in Ain al-Tineh on December 23 under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri, and the second session was held on Jan. 5 with the objective of “defusing Sunni-Shiite tensions.”
Lebanon controlled by 'terrorist spy': Bahraini FM
The Daily Star/Jan. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: Lebanon is controlled by a "terrorist agent," Bahrain's Foreign Minister said Friday in reference to Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah, while criticizing the country's "fake unity." “Lebanon is a great country that was ruled by respectful men and sheikhs such as Bechara al-Khoury, Camille Chammoun, Saeb Salam and Rafik Hariri but today, unfortunately, it is controlled by a terrorist agent,” Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said on his Twitter page. “The Arab League’s statement concerning the terrorist Nasrallah is clear as day,” he added, one day after Arab foreign ministers condemned last week's speech by Nasrallah in which he criticized Bahrain's recent arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the country’s main Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq. Hezbollah's opponents frequently accuse the group's leader of being an Israeli agent. In a statement after a special meeting held in Cairo Thursday, the Arab League deemed Nasrallah's remarks a “repetitive interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain.”Bahrain earlier this week also summoned Lebanon's envoy over the speech.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil rejected the Arab League statement, saying Lebanese national unity was more important that Arab solidarity. In his Twitter response Friday, Khalifa said that the Lebanese delegation to the Arab League favors “fake national unity” over Arab unity, claiming that the Gulf Cooperation Council has saved Lebanon from strife and never failed to support it. Bahrain has been in turmoil since 2011 when authorities, backed by a Saudi-led Gulf force, crushed a pro-democracy movement.
A backer of the uprising, Nasrallah in a speech last week accused the Bahraini government of being “tyrannical and oppressive.” He also compared the Bahraini government’s behavior to the "Zionist project" which established Israel, accusing it of naturalizing Sunnis from across the region to change the country’s majority-Shiite demographic, who form the bulk of the opposition. Commenting on the affair Friday, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt criticized Nasrallah's Bahraini-Zionist comparison.
“This comparison is unacceptable, irrespective of the depth of political differences,” he said in a statement released by the party's media office. The PSP chief noted the heavy presence of Lebanese expats in Bahrain, warning that “political positions” would have a negative impact on the Lebanese diaspora.
Protesters across Lebanon denounce new Charlie cartoon
Mohammed Zaatari/Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star/Jan. 16, 2015
BEIRUT/SIDON/TRIPOLI: Hundreds of Muslim worshippers protested in Lebanon's north, south and Beirut's suburbs Friday against the most recent cartoon published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo showing the Prophet Mohammad on its cover.
In the southern Beirut suburb of Mreijeh, about 100 people gathered to denounce the controversial "survival" issue the magazine printed Wednesday showing the prophet holding a sign that read "Je suis Charlie," or "I am Charlie," after the solidarity slogan that went viral in response to last week's attacks in France that killed 17 people. Banners, flags and religious slogans adorned the walls of the streets in Mreijeh, as people wearing headbands marched in protest and a local sheikh gave a speech condemning the cartoon, which is widely viewed as an insult. In east Beirut, police briefly blocked a major road leading to the French embassy in anticipation of a protest. But the road was later reopened after protesters failed to show up. In the southern city of Sidon, Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Khaled Bin Walid mosque at the entrance of Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp after Friday prayers, shouting slogans denouncing the French magazine. “Our life is yours.. O Mohammad,” “Both Mohammad and Jesus were not safe from Charlie Hebdo,” the protesters shouted.
Children wearing headbands which read “There is no god but God, Mohammad is God’s prophet” also shouted “We will not have Mohammad insulted.” Speakers, including sheikhs and political figures, blasted Charlie Hebdo as an “atheist publication” which had slandered God’s prophets and messengers. Abu Ahmad Fadel, the representative of Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas said: “We are here to raise our voice to defend God’s prophets, especially Mohammad and Issa the son of Mariam (Jesus) against the harms done to them.”
“We should tell the world who Mohammad is. To those who do not know, Islam that was brought by Mohammad was not the Islam of terror, and not the Islam of killing, but the Islam of mercy to the world,” Fadel said.
In the meantime, security forces deployed heavily in other parts of Sidon, especially outside the French cultural center, in anticipation of possible demonstrations in protest against the French cartoons. In the northern city of Tripoli, several dozen protesters gathered in Abdel-Hamid Karami Square, also known as Al-Nour Square, to denounce the magazine. Residents of Tripoli’s Bab al-Rammel neighborhood began their protest at the Amira Mosque and marched towards Al-Nour square. The protesters raised banners that read “I would sacrifice myself for you Prophet Mohammad.” Residents of Tripoli’s Mina neighborhood also joined in on the condemnation as they mobilized outside several mosques in the northern city. The Army, however, disbanded the protests over security threats in the city, leaving no room for escalation. Simultaneously, the Army also deployed heavily around Tripoli over the recent security incidents that rocked the city. The "survival" issue that the magazine printed Wednesday received wide opposition from Islamic authorities.
The protests in Lebanon were part of a larger series of global demonstration called to denounce the cartoon.
Nusra Front Brainwashing Christians to Pledge Allegiance
Naharnet/Several Christian youth who hail from the northern coastal city of Tripoli have reportedly converted to Islam and pledged allegiance to the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front similar to Elie al-Warraq, who was detained by the military intelligence.
Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Friday that al-Warraq, 22, who resides in Tripoli and hails from the northern district of Akkar, converted to extremist Islam and pledged allegiance to al-Nusra Front similar to other youth in the northern city.
The daily said that western intelligence is also pursuing a Christian Lebanese man who converted to Islam and arrived in Beirut a month ago. “We are a patriotic family,” Tony al-Warraq, Elie's father, said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He stressed that the family supports the state and the army, expressing surprise at Elie's behavior and describing it as “abnormal.” “We obtained information recently that a group tried to involve him in a security act.”Tony expressed gratitude to the army intelligence for detaining Elie “before he got involved in any security act,” considering his son a “victim of ideas that some people planted in his mind.” Elie, who is also known as Abou Ali, according to An Nahar newspaper confessed that he was involved in a scheme targeting several areas in Akkar and Tripoli.
He also testified to the military intelligence with hefty information that helped in foiling terrorist schemes. Al-Warraq was detained along with Bassam Hussam al-Naboush and Syrian national Muhannad Ali Mohammed Abdul Qader, who were plotting to carry out terrorist operations against army posts and residential neighborhoods, the Army Command said in a communique issued on Thursday. The army said that they were moving around the country with fake Syrian and Palestinian IDs. As Safir newspaper reported that Elie's family is not certain if he converted to Islam or not as his relatives stressed that he repeatedly denied any ties with extremist groups. However, Elie's close acquaintances expressed belief that he converted to Islam without registering that at state institutions, revealing that he recited the Quran on several occasions. Elie has recently traveled to Turkey for a month on a sudden, leaving his training at the Internal Security Forces. He headed to Turkey again after a while and stayed their for two months. Sources estimated in comments to As Safir that Elie moved from Turkey into Syria during that time. Elie and al-Naboush have been under close surveillance by the security forces before they were arrested. The charges against the three detainees involve “pledging allegiance to terrorist groups, taking part in combat in Syria, attacking the (Lebanese) army, and participating in the clashes between the Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh districts of Tripoli.”Last weekend, two suicide bombers who hail from Tripoli's al-Mankoubeen targeted a packed cafe in Jabal Mohsen, killing nine and wounding 37 others.
Faour Scraps al-Hayat Hospital Contract, Refers Dr. to Disciplinary Board
Naharnet /Health Minister Wael About Faour canceled the contracts between the Ministry of Health and al-Hayat Hospital on Friday, referring a doctor to the disciplinary board and warning two pharmacists ad part of the anti-corruption campaign that he started more than two months ago. In a statement, the ministry announced that Abou Faour “scrapped the contract between the ministry and al-Hayat Hospital, and a probe will be launched into the hospital’s conduct with patients.” Abou Faour also issued a decree in which he froze the mechanism of separating doctors' fees from hospitals' dues. He stressed the importance of “the right of the citizens to obtain medicines in lower prices, which decreases their financial burdens and at the same time puts an end to some doctors and drug companies' commissions at the expense of the Lebanese people.”In another decree, the minister compelled all hospitals that have contracts with the Ministry of Health to return the medications of fatal and chronic diseases provided by the ministry that were not used for different reasons "so that the ministry can hand them to patients who deserve them." The minister also warned three pharmacists -- one in Baalbek, one in Ablah and one in Doueir -- for “violating the law of their profession and the decrees of the health ministry.”
He warned the pharmacists that repeating such violations will expose them to legal prosecution that may lead to shutting down their pharmacies. The Minister of Health also asked “the Lebanese Order of Physicians to refer a doctor to the disciplinary board after he committed violations.” The measures come amid an unprecedented food safety campaign launched by Abou Faour around a month ago in the food industry, which has so far involved restaurants, factories, farms, slaughterhouses and even the wheat silos at Beirut's port and the sugar depots at Tripoli's port.
Army Arrests Driver of Arsal Car Rigged with Explosives
Naharnet /The Lebanese army has arrested the suicide bomber whose booby-trapped vehicle was seized in the northeastern border town of Arsal on Thursday, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported. The car, which was stolen, belongs to a man from al-Hujairi family who hails from Arsal, said VDL on Friday. The army said in a communique on Thursday that it defused 120 kilograms of explosives which were planted in the Mercedes. According to media reports, the driver left the car in the area of Ain al-Shaab on the outskirts of Arsal after getting involved in an accident as a result of icy roads. He was heading to towns in the Bekaa Valley through the Labweh-Arsal road which is the only route to villages in North Bekaa. His final destination was not known however. Also Thursday, the military announced the arrest of a cell planning a series of attacks in the country.
Saniora Postpones Testimony at STL for Health Reasons
Naharnet/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon canceled on Friday next week's sessions after head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc and close friend of assassinated Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Fouad Saniora, requested to postpone it for health-related reasons.
According to a statement issued by Saniora's press office, the ex-PM filed a request to postpone his testimony before the STL for health reasons. “He didn't refuse to testify,” the statement stressed. Saniora was a close friend to Hariri and his adviser. He was appointed as Minister of Finance in Hariri's successive cabinets and was the Chairman and Managing Director of Groupe Mediterranee. In November, MP Marwan Hamadeh paved way to tackling the political motivations linked to the assassination of Hariri in 2005.
The in absentia trial of four Hizbullah members accused of murdering Hariri in February 2005 kick off at the STL in The Hague in January 2013. The blast killed 22 people including Hariri and wounded 226. Although the attack was initially blamed on four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, the court in 2011 issued arrest warrants against Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 37, all members of Hizbullah. The four suspects were indicted in 2011 with plotting the attack, but have not been arrested. A fifth, Hassan Habib Merhi, was charged late 2013 in the case and is also still at large. To date, 36 witnesses have testified before the tribunal and a total of 461 exhibits were admitted into evidence. The March 14 alliance that was produced in the aftermath of the assassination accuses Syria of being behind the murder and string of other assassinations that have plagued Lebanon over the years.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Rejects Nasrallah's Bahrain Stands: Lebanese Immigrants in Gulf Must be Taken
Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat rejected on Friday Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's stands regarding Bahrain, saying that “hundreds of thousands of Lebanese immigrants live in the gulf,” and these remarks are not in their “benefit”.In a statement issued by Jumblat's media office, he stated “on January 9, political stands were taken comparing Bahrain and its role to Israel and the Zionists who have been the historic enemies of the Arabs for decades. We must object these stands.”
On January 9, Nasrallah alleged the presence of a “Zionist-like naturalization scheme” in Bahrain. Jumblat noted that “this comparison is unacceptable even if the political differences are deep.”He also stressed that “it is important to take into consideration the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese immigrants who live in the gulf, and who are contributing effectively in the community and benefiting from living there.” "The huge money transfers sent by them to their families in Lebanon play an important role in the Lebanese economical survival,” he added. Based on that, the PSP chief stated that “it is not in their benefit to issue such political positions at this sensitive stage.” Nasrallah's stands were condemned by the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League on Thursday.
Injured in Clash with Army as Several Suspects Arrested
Naharnet /The Lebanese army said a suspect was injured in a clash after attacking a patrol in the northern city of Tripoli on Thursday night as the military announced a series of arrests it has made. The army said in its communique that the patrol came under fire by Khaled Zakaria al-Khaled when it interfered to disperse gunmen involved in a family fight in the area of al-Beddawi. The soldiers fired back, injuring al-Khaled. The patrol seized his firearm and ammunition and arrested Khaled Akram al-Hajj Deeb who was involved in the fighting, said the communique. An army patrol also raided the house of Othman Mohammed al-Abdullah, a wanted terrorist suspect, in the area of Bab al-Tabbaneh, but did not find him. It seized from his residence grenades, arms, ammunition, an explosives belt, detonators, military gear and the flags of a terrorist organization, said the communique. Another suspect was arrested in the northeastern border town of Arsal on Thursday. According to the communique, Omar Ali al-Hujairi was apprehended for smuggling food and military gear in a tractor to the outskirts of Arsal where Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front militants are hiding. A man involved in an attack on the army in the summer was among the arrested suspects on Thursday, said the military. Mohammed Ali Allaw, who was apprehended at dawn Friday in the Haret Hreik neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs, had opened fire on soldiers in al-Marj in Hermel in June, it added. An army patrol also arrested in Haret Hreik a Syrian identified as Juan Fawzi Ahmed who is wanted for attacking soldiers in October in the town of Naameh.
Dirani Loses Israel Torture Suit
Naharnet/Israel's Supreme Court has thrown out a suit by a former Lebanese prisoner seeking damages from the Jewish state for his alleged torture while in Israeli custody. The court on Thursday ruled that the nearly 15-year-old attempt by Mustafa Dirani to claim $1.3 million in compensation was not actionable in Israeli courts. This was because after his release in a January 2004 prisoner swap, he "returned to the ranks of a terrorist organization, the goal of which was to act against the state (of Israel) and even to bring about its destruction," it said.
A former security chief for the Amal movement who later founded his own group, Dirani was snatched by Israeli commandos from southern Lebanon in 1994. Israel believed he had information on missing Israeli airman Ron Arad, a navigator whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and was thought to have been captured by Amal, then handed over by Dirani to Hizbullah, which remains Israel's arch-foe in Lebanon. Thursday's court ruling, which was obtained by Agence France Presse, said that after his release and return to Lebanon in 2004 Dirani announced the merger of his group "The Believing Resistance" with Hizbullah. The ruling said that gave him the status of an enemy alien who had no recourse to Israeli courts, and threw out Dirani's claim that his Israeli interrogator, known as "Captain George", sodomized him with a police baton during questioning. "It is amazing to me that Dirani (imagines he) can be allowed, while fighting the state (of Israel) and wishing for its destruction, to use its institutions for his own needs," Chief Justice Asher Grunis wrote.
Agence France Presse.
Khoury Resumes STL Testimony, Tackles
Early Stages of Hariri's Alliance with Anti-Syria Opposition
Naharnet/Former MP Ghattas Khoury continued on Friday his testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, recounting how slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri began to ally himself with the emergent anti-Syria opposition in Lebanon in the aftermath of the extension of the term of President Emile Lahoud in September 2004. The early signs of his joining of the opposition began with Hariri's rejection of the inclusion of pro-Syria figures on electoral lists devised for the 2005 parliamentary elections. Khoury explained that the Syrian regime had prevented Hariri from coming up with his own electoral list, forcing him instead to include pro-Syria officials.
Hariri had voiced his rejection of Damascus' intentions during a meeting he held with then Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on December 22, 2004, revealed the former MP before the STL.
Syrian officials sought to include six pro-Damascus on his electoral lists, which Hariri opposed, he added.
“The Syrian regime understood Hariri's stance as a sign that he was joining the opposition,” Khoury noted. The former premier had also made his point clear during a meeting he held with then Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazali, he continued.
He told the court that the meeting between the two officials “was not good.”“Hariri informed me that he was aware that his intention to come up with electoral lists for all Lebanese regions was an act of defiance against the Syrian regime,” revealed Khoury.
The Lebanese opposition at the time however still had its doubts over Hariri, suspecting that he may be seeking to include “secret pro-Syrian officials” on his lists and it therefore sought to build trust with him, continued Khoury.
Consequently Hariri held meetings with pro-Syrian figures, then MPs Nasser Qandil, Adnan Arakji, and Bassem Yamout, to inform them that they will not be included on the lists, said Khoury. This was seen as a sign that Hariri was indeed leaning towards the opposition, explained the former lawmaker.
Hariri then tasked slain Minister Bassel Fleihan to attend Bristol gathering meetings of the opposition. Khoury explained that the former premier tasked the minister to this role in order to give himself room for political maneuvers. Earlier on Friday, the former MP said that Hariri decided to step down from his post following the extension of Lahoud's term “after he realized that a reasonable settlement with the Syria was not possible.”
Moreover, he revealed that Hariri “sensed that he was being targeted by the Syrian regime after the number of his security entourage was reduced.”The debate over the extension of Lahoud's term strained ties between Hariri and the Syrian regime and has been the focus of political testimonies before the STL.
He then spoke of the influence Damascus wielded over political life in Lebanon, particularly over the victory of Gabriel al-Murr in the 2004 Metn by-elections.
“Murr was competing in the polls against his niece Mirna al-Murr and Ghassan Mukheiber,” he explained.
Gabriel Murr was victorious, but Mirna's father, MP Michel al-Murr, appealed the victory to Lahoud, continued Khoury.
“Pressure was exerted on the Constitutional Council that eliminated his win and granted the seat to Mukheiber, who only earned 1,500 votes,” said the former MP.
“This was a flagrant example of Syria's pressure on the Lebanese judiciary and sign of the regime's claws in Lebanon,” he stressed.
He added that Gabriel al-Murr had earned hundreds of more votes than Mirna al-Murr, reaping over 33,000 votes.
“The appointment of Mukheiber to parliament through a judicial settlement and security pressure through Lahoud was a precedent in Lebanon,” he remarked.
“The opposition would have taken to the streets had Mirna al-Murr been declared the victor in the polls,” Khoury said.
The STL is tackling the February 2005 assassination of Hariri and 22 others in a major bombing in Beirut.
Fleihan, who was in Hariri's convoy, sustained severe burns during the attack. He succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later in 2005.
It is currently listening to the testimonies of a number of witnesses who were close to Hariri in the months preceding the assassination.
MP Marwan Hamadeh gave his testimony in late 2014 and journalist Faisal Salman gave his testimony at the resumption of the hearings in 2015. Khoury is scheduled to resume his testimony on January 20. He will be followed by witness Salim Diab on January 22 and 23.
Saudis 'to review' flogging of blogger Raif Badawi
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi Raif Badawi received 50 lashes last Friday
The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king's office, the BBC has learned. Blogger Raif Badawi's wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment. A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons. The punishment of Badawi, who was also fined and sentenced to 10 years in prison, caused international outcry. Badawi established Liberal Saudi Network, a now-closed online forum that sought to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia in 2008. In 2012, he was arrested in Jeddah and charged with "insulting Islam through electronic channels" and "going beyond the realm of obedience". In 2013 he was cleared of apostasy, which could have carried a death sentence.
Saudi Arabia enforces a strict version of Islamic law and does not tolerate political dissent. It has some of the highest social media usage rates in the region, and has cracked down on domestic online criticism, imposing harsh punishments. The sentence was widely condemned by human rights groups. The first round of flogging was carried out outside a mosque in Jeddah last Friday as a crowd of onlookers watched. His wife said the first 50 lashes last week were very painful, but that her husband had tried to be strong as he knew many people watching had wanted to see him suffer. A number of foreign governments, including the US, Canada, Germany and Norway, had criticised the punishment. Amnesty International said officials had delayed the second round of flogging because Badawi's wounds had not yet healed. Badawi's wife says she moved to Canada in 2012 with their three children following an attempt on her husband's life.
The Internet isn’t to blame for radicalization
By David Ignatius /Opinion writer/ January 15 /15
The Washington Post
What’s the relationship between the Internet and the surge of jihadist violence in France, Belgium and around the world? That’s the puzzle examined by Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and former CIA officer whose contrarian views on terrorism are worth a careful look.
“Blaming the Internet for radicalization is really blaming any form of communication for radicalization,” cautions Sageman. “Mere exposure to wrong ideas can explain neither their adoption nor their power to lead people to . . . political violence.”
David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. View Archive
The Internet’s role for jihadists is something subtler — and similar to its effect on any other group, he argues. Online forums allow easier communications and logistics. But they also foster the decentralization and fragmentation that Sageman has described in his books “Leaderless Jihad” and “Understanding Terror Networks.”
“The dramatic increase in the number of Muslim foreign fighters in the Levant is mostly due to the large increase in the size of the online jihadi community,” he says in an interview. But he notes that the Internet “encourages . . . decentralization because of the egalitarianism it promotes among its users. It is difficult to impose discipline or enforce one’s orders on the Internet.”
The Internet’s role isn’t to radicalize people — that happens because of perceived injustice against one’s group and other factors. But once young people are motivated, the online forums encourage “spontaneously emerging independent homegrown attacks” beyond the control of top-down command structures such as al-Qaeda.
Sageman warns against what he calls the “alarmist bias” in U.S. intelligence reports and media coverage of terrorism. The recent attacks in Paris are an example: U.S. accounts have focused on the possibility of central direction from al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. This approach is “fueling a peculiar American hysteria on terrorism, which forces politicians to be responsive and show that they are tough on terrorism.” It would be better to look at local factors, such as street-gang and prison connections, as the French media have done, argues Sageman.
Research on terrorism has been stagnant in part because so much of the information has been classified. “We have a system of terrorism research in which intelligence analysts know everything but understand nothing, while academics understand everything but know nothing,” wrote Sageman last year in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence. But research is broadening, thanks in part to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. Its Web site lists 16 academic studies on the topic of “countering violent extremism” (the preferred term, these days) and 30 mostly completed studies of counterterrorism.
Topics of these academic studies range from curbing jihadist sympathies among Somali-American youths in Minneapolis to combating radicalization of Muslims in U.S. prisons to Muslim-American attitudes toward religious law (more non-Muslims say they’d like to live under religious law than do Muslims!).
Studying terrorism is obviously a growth industry in academia. The University of Maryland project features an unclassified Global Terrorism Database that includes information on more than 125,000 terrorist attacks since 1970. The scholarly studies aren’t going to stop any suicide bombers, but they will at least provide researchers with a more nuanced picture of the threat.
The core question for Sageman is why people become radicalized in the first place. In a forthcoming book, “The Turn to Political Violence,” he argues that it’s partly because militants see themselves as soldiers defending their communities. That’s why brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi wore military outfits when they attacked the Charlie Hebdo weekly, according to Sageman. “They self-identified as soldiers and tried to play the part as they imagine soldiers act.”
This sense of being embattled seems to be a crucial motivator. Sageman cites as factors in joining a terror network: “a perceived war on one’s in-group; moral outrage at some salient injustice against one’s in-group; disillusionment with nonviolent tactics; and polarization of debate.” One takeaway from Sageman’s work is that governments and individuals need to be careful about unintentionally feeding the grievance narratives of Muslims around the world. When people are feeling insulted, it’s dangerous to insult them gratuitously again. That’s my problem with the Charlie Hebdo cover this week once again featuring the prophet Muhammad in what Muslims view as a derogatory way. Non-Muslims can say that Muslims shouldn’t be offended, but why rub an open wound?
Sisi’s Brave New Egypt?
By Raymond Ibrahim/PJ Media
January 15, 2015 in Islam, Other Matters
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues to be the antithesis of longstanding mainstream media portrayals of him.
First there was his historic speech where he, leader of the largest Arab nation, and a Muslim, accused Islamic thinking of being the scourge of humanity—in words that no Western leader would dare utter. This remarkable speech—which some say should earn him the Nobel Peace Prize—might have fallen by the wayside had it not been posted on my website and further disseminated by PJ Media’s Roger L. Simon, Michael Ledeen, Roger Kimball, and many others, including Bruce Thornton and Robert Spencer.
Instead, MSM headlines on the day of and days after Sisi’s speech included “Egypt President Sisi urged to free al-Jazeera reporter” (BBC, Jan 1), “Egyptian gays living in fear under Sisi regime” (USA Today, Jan. 2), and “George Clooney’s wife Amal risks arrest in Egypt” (Fox News, Jan. 3).
Of course, the MSM finally did report on Sisi’s speech—everyone else seemed to know about it—but, again, to portray Sisi in a negative light. Thus, after briefly quoting the Egyptian president’s call for a “religious revolution,” the New York Times immediately adds:
Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states — who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law — have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language.
In other words, jihadi terror is a product of Sisi, whom the NYT habitually portrays as an oppressive autocrat—especially for his attempts to try to de-radicalize Muslim sermons and teachings (as discussed in this article).
Next, Sisi went to the St. Mark Coptic Cathedral during Christmas Eve Mass to offer Egypt’s Christian minority his congratulations and well wishing. Here again he made history as the first Egyptian president to enter a church during Christmas mass—a thing vehemently criticized by the nation’s Islamists, including the Salafi party (Islamic law bans well wishing to non-Muslims on their religious celebrations, which is why earlier presidents—Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and of course Morsi—never attended Christmas mass).
Accordingly, the greetings Sisi received from the hundreds of Christians present were jubilant. His address was often interrupted by applause, clapping, and cheers of “We love you!” and “hand in hand”—phrases he reciprocated. Part of his speech follows:
Egypt has brought a humanistic and civilizing message to the world for millennia and we’re here today to confirm that we are capable of doing so again. Yes, a humanistic and civilizing message should once more emanate from Egypt. This is why we mustn’t call ourselves anything other than “Egyptians.” This is what we must be—Egyptians, just Egyptians, Egyptians indeed! I just want to tell you that Allah willing, Allah willing, we shall build our nation together, accommodate each other, make room for each other, and we shall like each other—love each other, love each other in earnest, so that people may see… So let me tell you once again, Happy New Year, Happy New Year to you all, Happy New Year to all Egyptians!
Sisi stood side-by-side with Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II—perhaps in remembrance of the fact that, when General Sisi first overthrew President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Pope Tawadros stood side-by-side with him—and paid a heavy price: the Brotherhood and its sympathizers unleashed a Kristallnacht of “reprisals” that saw 82 Christian churches in Egypt attacked, many destroyed.
It is also significant to recall where Sisi came to offer his well-wishing to the Christians: the St. Mark Cathedral—Coptic Christianity’s most sacred church which, under Muhammad Morsi was, for the first time in its history, savagely attacked, by both Islamists and the nation’s security (see pictures here).
Once again, all of this has either been ignored or underplayed by most mainstream media.
There is, of course, a reason the MSM, which apparently follows the Obama administration’s lead, has been unkind to Sisi. One will recall that, although Sisi led the largest revolution in world history—a revolution that saw tens of millions take to the streets and ubiquitous signs and banners calling on U.S. President Obama and U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson to stop supporting terrorism (i.e., the Brotherhood)—U.S. leadership, followed by media, spoke only of a “military coup” against a “democratically elected president,” without pointing out that this president was pushing a draconian, Islamist agenda on millions who rejected it.
So what is the significance of all this—of Sisi? First, on the surface, all of this is positive. That Sisi would criticize the Muslim world and Islamic texts and thinking—in ways his Western counterparts could never—and then continue his “controversial” behavior by entering the Coptic Christian cathedral during Christmas mass to offer his greetings to Christians—a big no-no for Muslim leaders—is unprecedented. Nor can all this be merely for show. In the last attack on a Coptic church, it was two Muslim police officers guarding the church who died—not the Christian worshippers inside—a rarity.
That Sisi remains popular in Egypt also suggests that a large percentage of Egyptians approve of his behavior. Recently, for instance, after the Paris attacks, Amru Adib, host of Cairo Today, made some extremely critical comments concerning fellow Muslims/Egyptians, including by asking them “Are you, as Muslims, content with the fact that today we are all seen as terrorists by the world?… We [Egyptians] used to bring civilization to the world, today what? — We are barbarians! Barbarians I tell you!” (More of Adib’s assertions here.)
That said, the others are still there—the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, those whom we call “Islamists,” and their many sympathizers and allies.
Worst of all, they have that “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas” that has been “sacralized over the centuries” (to use Sisi’s own words) to support them—texts and ideas that denounce Sisi as an “apostate” deserving of death, and thus promising a continued struggle for the soul of Egypt.
ICC Prosecutor Opens Probe Into war Crimes Against Palestinians
Naharnet /Israel condemned as "scandalous" the International Criminal Court's decision Friday to launch a preliminary probe into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians. The Palestinians, in contrast, said nothing "can now stop this action" from being widened into a full-scale investigation as they have requested. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he rejected the ICC decision, which he called "scandalous."He noted in a statement that since Palestine was not a state, the ICC had no jurisdiction over it, according to the court's own rules. The probe is "absurd" since "the Palestinian Authority cooperates with Hamas, a terror group that commits war crimes, in contrast to Israel that fights terror while maintaining international law, and has an independent justice system," the premier said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that the sole purpose of the preliminary examination was to "try to harm Israel's right to defend itself from terror." In a statement he said the decision was "solely motivated by political anti-Israel considerations," adding that he would recommend against cooperating with the probe.Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki welcomed the move. "Everything is going according to plan; no state and nobody can now stop this action we requested," he told AFP. "In the end, a full investigation will follow the preliminary one." Lieberman accused the court of double standards for not examining the mass killings in Syria or other conflict zones, investigating instead "the most moral army in the world." He also said he would act to "dismantle this court, a body that represents hypocrisy and gives terror a tailwind."The Palestinians formally joined the ICC earlier this month, allowing it to lodge war crimes and crimes against humanity complaints against Israel as of April. At the same time, the Palestinians also recognized the ICC's jurisdiction retroactively, to cover last summer's Israel-Hamas war in Gaza that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis. Agence France Presse
Saudi Carries out 10th Beheading of 2015
Naharnet/Saudi Arabia beheaded one of its citizens Friday for shooting dead a compatriot with a machine gun, officials said, bringing to 10 the number of executions in just over two weeks. Murdi al-Shakra had been tried and sentenced to death for murdering fellow tribesman Faraj al-Shakra, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. The beheading brings to 10 the number of executions since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally. It comes as Saudi Arabia postponed until next week Friday's flogging of blogger Raef Badawi jailed for insulting Islam, citing medical reasons, a week after he received the first 50 of a 1,000-lash sentence. Badawi's case has sparked an international outcry put the spotlight on the ultra-conservative kingdom's rigid implementation of a strict version of Islamic Sharia law. Saudi Arabia carried out the death penalty against 87 people last year, up from 78 in 2013, according to an AFP tally. The kingdom had the third-highest number of recorded executions in 2013, behind Iran and Iraq, Amnesty International said in a report.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's law. Agence France Presse
13 Arrested over Terror Plot to Kill Belgian Police
Naharnet /Belgian police arrested 13 people during a dozen raids overnight, smashing plot to kill police officers "in public roads and in police stations", prosecutors said Friday. Two Islamist suspects were shot dead during a gun battle after one of the police raids in the eastern town of Verviers on Thursday night. "The group was on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks to kill police officers in public roads and in police stations," spokesman Eric Van der Sijpt told a news conference. Police found Kalashnikov assault rifles, explosives, ammunition and communications equipment -- along with police uniforms that could have been used for the plot, he said. Belgium will also seek the extradition of two Belgian suspects from France, although there is no link seen with last week's Paris attacks, prosecutors told a news conference a day. "I can confirm that we started this investigation before the attacks in Paris," Van der Sijpt said. The "important arrests" meant that "not only a terror cell but also their support network" have been dismantled, he added. Belgian authorities charged five people with "participating in a terrorist group" following a series of raids to foil alleged imminent attacks against the police, the prosecutor's office said. Three people, including one who survived a deadly police raid in the eastern town of Verviers, were placed in custody and two others conditionally released, prosecutor spokesman Eric Van der Sijpt told AFP. He declined to identify the accused. The eight other people who had been detained following the raids in Verviers and in the Brussels area will not be prosecuted.
Van der Sijpt said an examining magistrate issued a European arrest warrant for two Belgians questioned by French customs as they tried to enter Italy after leaving Belgium in the wake of Thursday's raids. Belgian newspapers identified the survivor of the raid that killed two alleged militants in Verviers as Marouane T. His lawyer, Didier de Quevy, told newspapers from the Sudpresse group that the man denied having been implicated in a plot and having travelled to Syria, saying instead he was involved in a drug deal when police carried out the raid. Jihadist Twitter accounts identified the two men who were killed in the raid as Radwan Haqawi and Tareq Jadoun. Prosecutors said the men had opened fire with combat weapons when police intervened. Sudpresse reported that two young men -- whose names they spelt as Redwane Hajaoui and Tarik Jadaoun -- had left Verviers for Syria and had returned to their home town without their parents knowledge. Redwane Hajaoui is apparently one of the victims," Sudpresse wrote on its website. Agence France Presse.
Iran Goes Ballistic
Yoel Guzansky and Yiftah S. Shapir
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2015 (view PDF)
Gulf states' fear of Iran is hardly unfounded. Former Iranian defense minister Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, seen here, has warned that an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would result in "a blitz of missiles at the Gulf states … at strategic targets, such as refineries and power stations … dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of missiles that would be launched simultaneously at selected targets." While discussions of Iran's growing strategic threat focus almost exclusively on its nuclear capabilities and objectives, Tehran's massive ballistic missile arsenal poses a clear and present danger to both the oil installations of the Persian Gulf monarchies and to the Western military presence in the region. This in turn has prompted members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to acquire air defense and ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems at various levels and in various configurations. At the same time, endemic inter-gulf rivalries (e.g., the growing rift between Riyadh and Doha) have left these nations highly vulnerable to Iranian missile threats.
The Iranian Threat
Rather than try to match the might of the United States and its allies, Tehran has adopted the tactics of asymmetric warfare against soft targets, specifically civilian shipping and infrastructure facilities such as transport terminals, oil refineries, ports, and desalination facilities—many of which dot the Arabian side of the Gulf coast. These asymmetric tactics are intended to offset the reliance of the West and the Gulf states on advanced weapons systems. Due to its aging air force and difficulties in obtaining spare parts for its predominantly Western military hardware, Iran has chosen to focus on a gradual but methodical expansion of its ballistic missile force, building the largest surface-to-surface missile arsenal in the Middle East. These missiles are designed to be launched from the ground or the sea and to strike targets either on land or at sea. The most widely accepted assessment is that Tehran possesses more than 1,000 missiles in the 150-2,000 km range. Most of these would be ineffective in damaging naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz since they are not designed to hit moving targets and their accuracy is insufficient for such small targets. However, they would still have sufficient range to threaten directly critical oil facilities in the Gulf states.
Iran's superior surface-to-surface missile systems are a concrete and immediate threat.
Tehran is currently improving the missile accuracy and destructive power of its arsenal in addition to shortening exposure time to hostile attack through increased reliance on solid-fuel engines, which cut launch preparation time and make for easier maintenance. This ever-growing and more sophisticated arsenal has increased fears among the GCC states in recent years, especially as Iran's ballistic missile program has not received the same level of international scrutiny as its nuclear program. As a result, there is a growing concern in the Gulf that in a potential campaign against Iran, GCC strategic installations would be exposed to more intensive and prolonged missile fire than what previously had been possible. Thus, in addition to its asymmetric maritime capabilities, such as heavy reliance on large numbers of small, fast boats and midget submarines, Iran's superior surface-to-surface missile systems are a concrete and immediate threat to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Nor is this concern a figment of GCC imagination. In a rare statement, Adm. Ali Shamkhani, former Iranian defense minister and military advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i, described Tehran's possible response to the Gulf states if there were to be an attack on its nuclear facilities:
Iran would launch a blitz of missiles at the Gulf states … and the missiles wouldn't only be directed against American bases in the region but also at strategic targets, such as refineries and power stations … The goal would be to stun the American missile defense system using dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of missiles that would be launched simultaneously at selected targets.
Iran's potential nuclear capability lies somewhere in the future; its ballistic missile capabilities are here and now.
The potential fallout from such an attack would be massive: A missile attack on oil refineries and production facilities along the Gulf's western shore could have a more detrimental impact on the global economy than the more publicized possibility of an Iranian attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran would find it difficult to hermetically seal the Strait of Hormuz given the likelihood of a confrontation with the superior U.S. Navy. Thus there is a growing fear among Gulf state rulers that Iran will feel compelled to place even greater emphasis on missile attacks against them. An Iranian attack on land-based installations, whether U.S. military bases or key oil facilities, is, therefore, the most significant threat feared by those regimes. A representative of Saudi King Abdullah said the monarch "worries more about an Iranian missile launch against Saudi oil facilities than a terrorist attack … because he can take preventive measures against terrorism but not against Iranian missiles."
All six GCC members are extremely wary of Tehran. This ranges from fears of Iranian-sponsored subversive activities carried out by Shiite communities within the Gulf states, to the disruption of the oil flow through the Strait of Hormuz, to Iran's nascent nuclear project.
These fears are altering the geopolitical calculus of the region. Saudi Arabia, for example, is currently trying to mitigate the threat posed by blockage of the Straits of Hormuz by reactivating an old oil pipeline to its Red Sea ports while the UAE has opened an oil pipeline to its Indian Ocean coast in Fujaira.
An examination of where Gulf states are allocating their defense expenditures reveals what formal declarations do not: Most of these states consider Iranian ballistic missile capabilities a mortal threat and are consequently investing large sums of money to diminish it. Iran's potential nuclear capability lies somewhere in the future; its ballistic missile capabilities are here and now.
As a result, members of the GCC are engaged in what some in the press have dubbed a "shopping spree." The first glimmers of this acquisition effort can be traced back to July 2007 when Washington announced its intention to sell large amounts of weaponry to countries in the Middle East. Twenty billion dollars in sales were earmarked to the Gulf states, along with $12 billion in military aid to Egypt, and $30 billion to Israel. No details were given at the time nor were any specific weapon systems mentioned.
Then-president George W. Bush reiterated this promised deal during his last visit to the Middle East in January 2008. The assistance was meant to bolster U.S. allies against the perceived Iranian threat though some analysts believed that it was also designed to persuade Gulf states to rethink their assistance to Islamist extremist groups such as al-Qaeda.
Details of the arms deals began to emerge over the ensuing years. As things turned out, the Gulf states had ordered weapons worth much more than the initially pledged $20 billion. Most notably, almost all arms acquisitions—with the exception of sizable Saudi combat aircraft and attack helicopter purchases—went to air defense and ballistic missile defense units.
Washington was not—and still is not—the sole source for weapons acquisitions in the Gulf. All six GCC members take delivery from several suppliers—a practice which is seen almost nowhere else in the world. Currently, Riyadh acquires combat aircraft from both the United States and Britain while its navy uses French-made combat vessels. The UAE operates both American- and French-made combat aircraft as well as air defense systems made in Russia.
Even without the activism of Tehran, which seeks to drive a wedge between the six, tensions among GCC members are making it difficult to formulate a unified Gulf position. While the Gulf states see Iran's rise as a threat to their stability, they have adopted different policies toward Tehran given their divergent interests and respective strategic outlooks. Over the years, Saudi Arabia has preferred a more confrontational approach to Iran; in contrast, Oman and Qatar have chosen to maintain normal relations with the Iranians.
Gulf Air Defense
Defending a nation's air-space can be accomplished by combat aircraft (sometimes using dedicated interceptors) or by surface-to-air missiles. All GCC members have invested in both means.
The UAE operates both American- and French- made combat aircraft as well as air defense systems made in Russia. The Emirates also have advanced U.S. medium range air-to-air missile systems, such as those used with AIM-120C-7 missiles.
The investment in these systems cannot be explained solely by the perceived threat of airborne attacks though such a threat does exist. As mentioned above—Iran's conventional air power is aging and suffers from a lack of spare parts; hence its ability to conduct sufficient sorties to threaten the Gulf states is limited. Thus, this investment can be explained by two other factors.
The first is prestige. Air defense systems are sophisticated, hi-tech arrangements, only possessed by advanced and highly developed societies. GCC states aspire to be part of that "club."
More importantly, air defense systems are key and necessary components to most modern anti-ballistic missile systems. For example, the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system was originally designed to shoot down aircraft. Later upgrades have introduced the PAC-3 interceptor, which is specifically designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles. Thus a Patriot battery can be used to defend against both aircraft and ballistic missiles, using two types of interceptors.
Going state by state, this is what seems to be developing in the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms:
Bahrain, a small island kingdom to which Tehran has long staked ownership claim (and whose overwhelmingly Shiite population is not considered loyal by the ruling dynasty), finds it difficult to construct and maintain a strong military. As such, its security is guaranteed by the presence of U.S. forces—most importantly the navy's Fifth Fleet that is headquartered there—and has enjoyed the protection of two U.S. Army Patriot batteries since 2004 (set up soon after the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom). According to a Wikileaks-obtained report, the U.S. Army deployed an AN/TPY-2 forward based X-band missile defense radar in Bahrain though no official announcement has ever been made on the subject, so the question of the radar deployment to Bahrain is unresolved.
Kuwait experienced war firsthand when it was invaded by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1990, so its anxiety over an Iranian threat is acute. As a result, Kuwait holds some of the largest Patriot forces in the region, for both air defense and ballistic missile defense.
Kuwait, which sits practically cheek-by-jowl with Iran, has already experienced war in its recent past when it was invaded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1990 and liberated by a U.S.-led international coalition the following year. Thus its anxiety, expressed in part by the weapons purchases, is grounded in its own experience. As early as 1992, Kuwait procured five MIM-104 Patriot SAM batteries, Then, in December 2007, the government requested Patriot air
defense missile batteries including eighty PAC-3 missiles (which are specifically designed for ballistic missile defense) and sixty upgraded PAC-2 missiles as well as upgrades for its existing fire units (launchers) in a deal estimated at $1.36 billion.
In December 2009, however, the Kuwaiti military conducted a ballistic missile intercept test using the PAC-2 GEM-T interceptor and, as a result, in early 2010, it officially requested 209 additional GEM-T missiles for an estimated $900 million. A contract for fifty missiles was awarded in December 2010.
Then in July 2012, Kuwait requested an additional sixty PAC-3 missiles as well as ground equipment for two more Patriot batteries, four new radar systems, four new command centers, and twenty more launchers. The total estimated value of this request was $4.2 billon.
While it is difficult to ascertain whether the various requests have materialized into contracts and how much of these contracts were eventually fulfilled, it is clear that Kuwait holds some of the largest Patriot forces in the region, for both air defense and ballistic missile defense.
Oman has shown no apparent interest in ballistic missile defense and may not wish to upset its relations with Tehran.
Traveling down the coast, the kingdom of Oman has been a latecomer to air defense acquisitions. Only in October 2011 did it request a multi-layered air defense system, but even then, it has shown no apparent interest in ballistic missile defense. The reasons for this are unclear. Perhaps it does not perceive itself to be under any missile threat, or it does not believe its military can absorb such complicated systems. It may also not wish to upset its relations with Tehran.
Qatar, home to an important U.S. military base since 1996, hosts army Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries and a large U.S. Air Force air-space operation center on its soil. It also has sought to procure eleven Patriot "configuration-3" fire units, including forty-four launchers, and one thousand PAC-2 GEM-T interceptors (2012) with an estimated value of $9.9 billion. Qatar has also requested two THAAD ballistic missile defense systems. The THAAD is a dedicated system, designed to intercept various types of ballistic missiles at very high altitudes though it cannot double as an air defense system. In this, Qatar followed the UAE's lead, becoming the second foreign customer of the system. The radar accompanying a THAAD battery is an AN/TPY-2 X-band radar similar to one reportedly deployed by the U.S. military there. The deal is estimated at $6.5 billion.
The United Arab Emirates has an ongoing territorial dispute with Iran, so its threat perceptions remain strong.
The United Arab Emirates is known to be the largest arms importer in the region and is also the only Gulf state to have an ongoing territorial dispute with Iran over the small Tunb and Abu Musa islands off the Strait of Hormuz. Whether or not it has resolved its territorial dispute with Iran in a secret deal signed in December 2013, it seems that its threat perceptions remain strong.
The UAE requested nine Patriot batteries valued at $9 billion as early as 2007. Subsequent contracts were given to Raytheon and Lockheed Martin beginning in December 2008. The systems were originally to be delivered in 2013, but it is unclear whether they actually arrived and entered operational service. Also, in 2008, the UAE requested two THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense batteries, valued at $6.95 billion. The first contracts were given in early 2012. In addition, the UAE has requested forty-eight units of the Avenger point defense system for shorter-range necessities and has not hesitated to turn to other suppliers, most notably the Russians, from whom it ordered some fifty Pantsyr S-1 air defense systems.
By contrast, Saudi Arabia until now has invested very little in ballistic missile defense even though it does operate the Patriot system. This is striking as Riyadh is the only Gulf state that suffered directly from ballistic missile attacks during the 1991 Kuwait war.
Riyadh's air defense is based on Patriot PAC-2 batteries as well as vintage HAWK batteries, believed to be still active. Older Crotale and Shahin mobile air defense units provide point defense for military units. In 2011, it ordered an upgrade for its Patriot batteries—an improvement that will include converting Patriot batteries to enable them to operate the PAC-3 interceptors. The project additionally calls for upgrading some 300 existing PAC-2 interceptors to the GEM-T configuration. The contract is valued at $1.7 billion. It is unclear why a country the size of Saudi Arabia with a deep aversion to the mullahs of Shiite Iran has not requested more in the way of ballistic defense systems. However, this is due to change, as Riyadh finally decided to request 202 PAC-3 missiles with all the necessary equipment upgrades as well as logistics support and training, valued at $1.75 billion.]
An essential means of mitigating the threat of ballistic missiles is to deploy one's own in order to deter the enemy from using theirs. Saudi Arabia was the first GCC country to move in this direction, purchasing DF-3A missiles (also known by a NATO code name, CSS-2) from China in the late 1980s. Although outmoded today, they were intended to mitigate the threat of Saddam's Iraq with its ambitious nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as the perceived threat of Israel's missile force. Riyadh remained silent about its missiles and only acknowledged their possession in 2014.
With Tehran flexing its muscle more than it has in the past, Saudi Arabia has also significantly changed its public posturing, conducting a large-scale military exercise in 2014—"Seif Abdullah" (Sword of Abdullah)—including the display of hitherto concealed Chinese-made ballistic missiles.
In 2007, Saudi Arabia began to purchase CSS-5 Dong Feng 21 missiles from China. The Dong Feng 21 (DF-21) is a two-stage ballistic missile that uses solid fuel. It has a range of some 1,700 km and can carry a load of about 600 kilograms. It is much more accurate than the old DF-3A, and its CEP (circular error probability, a measure of accuracy) is estimated at about 300-400 meters. Later models of the DF-21 are also equipped with terminal guidance, enabling them to hit pinpoint targets, specifically large ships, such as aircraft carriers. It is possible that the Saudis have purchased other missiles in addition to the DF-21, including other models produced in China (such as the DF-11 or the DF-15) or even Pakistani-made missiles, such as one of the Shaheen series.
Another significant change in Riyadh's strategic behavior was the kingdom's conspicuous display of power. This included a highly publicized—and first of its kind—large-scale military exercise "Seif Abdullah" (Abdullah's Sword) in 2014, which concluded with a large, first-ever military parade in which the DF-3A ballistic missiles were displayed.
Moving to Bahrain, in October 2000, the island kingdom purchased thirty short range (and highly accurate) army tactical missiles (ATACMS) from the U.S. government. This version of the missile has a range of 165 km, which
could reach some points on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar but could not reach Kuwait, Iraq, or Iran. Ten years later, in November 2010, Bahrain requested thirty additional missiles.It is difficult to understand the military value of this acquisition, other than the high prestige associated with the possession of ballistic missiles.
The UAE first acquired the ATACMS ballistic missile system in 2006 when it requested 101 missiles, as well as twenty high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) launchers, 130 GMLRS rocket pods, and other equipment estimated at $752 million. An additional request was granted in September 2014 for twelve more HIMARS as well as one hundred more ATACMS and sixty-five more GMLRS pods.
In December 2012, an announcement was made regarding a similar sale of ATACMS and GMLRS to Qatar, which requested seven HIMARS launchers, as well as sixty ATACMS missiles, and large number of guided and unguided rockets.
Command and Control
There is no air defense system capable of functioning properly without an adequate command and control system. The same is true for the sophisticated systems used to defend against the threat of ballistic missiles. Such systems need several long-range surveillance radars capable of detecting threats as early as possible. They further require sophisticated software and trained personnel to assess each threat, determine its source and intended target, assess the existing air defense assets, and allocate the most suitable air or missile defense asset to the target. It, therefore, comes as no great surprise that many countries in the region have invested large sums in acquiring various command and control systems. Such systems are often marketed under various acronyms such as C3 systems (command, control, and communication), C4 (with computers), and C4I (with intelligence).
Many countries in the region have invested large sums in acquiring various command and control systems.
Thus Oman is set to acquire its own command and control system (alongside air defense batteries) as is the UAE, which has selected—after fierce competition—a system called DIAMONDShield produced by Lockheed Martin. In Bahrain, the U.S. Marine Corps operates and staffs an AN/TPS-59 surveillance radar. It is unclear whether the radar belongs to the United States military or to Bahrain. The U.S. Navy also deploys P-3 Orion naval surveillance aircraft in the kingdom.
In July 2013, Qatar announced a deal valued at $1.1 billion for AN/FPS-132 surveillance radar, a giant installation with a covering range up to 3,000 miles. At the time of writing, however, no contracts are known to have been actually signed.
In 2008, Riyadh contracted with the European company EADS in order to build a SAM operations center to control all its air defense assets. In 2012, another contract worth $600 million was awarded to Raytheon. It has been speculated that the new systems might be a replacement for the previous system or an enhancement of it. However, command and control systems take years to develop, install, and bring into operational status. Thus, it is not unreasonable to speculate that the two orders are intended for two different branches of the Saudi armed forces. Not much has been disclosed about these systems. Apparently the EADS is intended for direct control of the surface to air assets. The second one could be designed to integrate all branches of the Saudi armed forces or intended as a separate system for another branch such as the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) or for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). The first alternative points toward an attempt for better integration whereas the second alternative suggests mistrust and sectorialism. Unfortunately, the tendency in Saudi Arabia is for the second option where the SANG usually maintains its independence in weapon procurements.
In Bahrain, the U.S. Marine Corps operates and staffs an AN/TPS-59 surveillance radar installation. In 2007, members of the Bahrain Defense Force were trained in how to operate and maintain the systems at Lockheed Martin's Radar Systems facility in Syracuse, N.Y. The U.S. Navy also deploys P-3 Orion naval surveillance aircraft in the kingdom.
Normally a state would use such an expensive system to integrate its armed forces. Buying two different systems for two different organizations means the exact opposite. Moreover, it remains to be seen which branch of the Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (RSAAF) will take delivery.
The unique character of air defense command and control systems, with their goal to cover and provide surveillance of vast areas outside a country's boundaries, makes them particularly suitable for cooperation. Neighboring countries faced with a common threat could only benefit from a united air defense and a coordinated ballistic missile defense command and control system. Such a system would combine the inputs from all the resources of all the member states into a unified picture of threats and assets.
however, no such unified system has materialized. While the Gulf states have declared on numerous occasions that their new command and control systems will be the basis for a Gulf-wide system, as of today, the likelihood that such a structure would be implemented remains low. The Saudi case is indicative because it represents the supremacy of local and/or tribal affinities over loyalty to the greater state or the region—a trend that is particularly apparent in the desert kingdom. Indeed, it is a historical accident that the regions in Saudi Arabia are just regions and not independent entities.
Goals and Challenges
U.S. officials have said repeatedly that their ultimate goal is to develop a regional missile shield coordinated with U.S. systems. At a March 2012 GCC-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Forum in Riyadh, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that it was a top U.S. priority to help Gulf states build regional missile systems to counter Iranian missiles. The 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review declared that "the United States will work with allies and partners to strengthen regional deterrence architectures, which must be built on the foundation of strong cooperative relationships and appropriate burden sharing." Most recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, on a visit to the Gulf in December 2013, said that "the U.S. has fielded an array of missile defense capabilities, including ballistic missile defense ships, Patriot batteries, and sophisticated radar" to the Gulf. He added,
We would like to expand our security cooperation with partners in the region by working in a coordinated way with the GCC, including through the sales of U.S. defense articles through the GCC as an organization.
Although the U.S. Department of Defense faces serious budget constraints, the Obama administration has been trying to reassure GCC states of its continued commitments in the Gulf while making sure that the region's military capabilities evolve to meet new threats. Progress in missile defense, the administration hopes, will open the door to broader cooperation and burden sharing within the GCC.
Developing an effective shield over the entire GCC would require partner nations to put aside rivalries and coordinate their individual arsenals.
It would seem then that Washington's overall ballistic missile defense objectives in the Gulf include the following: the defense of U.S. forces in the region; the protection of oil infrastructures and strategic installations; the signaling of a U.S. commitment to defend the GCC states; the deterrence and, if it should come to that, containment of a nuclear Iran; improved cooperation between the GCC states; and the promotion of U.S.-made weapon systems in the region—a lucrative enterprise totaling billions of dollars and generating thousands of jobs in the United States defense sector. In contrast to U.S. efforts in Europe with NATO, Washington's BMD efforts in the Persian Gulf demonstrate more of an ad hoc nature, occurring mostly behind the scenes and on a country-by-country basis as seen by the billions of dollars in arms sales negotated bilaterally between the U.S. government and the GCC nations.
As far as the Gulf states are concerned, a critical goal—and challenge—is BMD integration, an objective that may remain hostage to inter-state rivalries. Alongside Iran's attempts to drive wedges between the six states, the difficulty of forming a more cohesive security agenda also stems from the smaller members' fear that Riyadh is attempting to increase its regional influence and force them to fall into line with its foreign policy.
Even under optimal political conditions, the technical challenges of integrating BMD assets among all GCC members would be substantive. Historic rivalries, disagreements concerning objectives, and disputes over who really is in command and control have been and continue to be the major point of contention affecting cooperation on BMD in the Persian Gulf.
Furthermore, can BMD alter Saudi proliferation decisions? Would it help discourage Riyadh from pursuing, developing, or fielding nuclear weapons? The likely answer is no. Proliferation decisions like these largely depend on the broader geopolitical context, including the Iranian future nuclear posture and the relationship between Washington and Riyadh, which has been on shaky ground throughout the Obama years. Although BMD is an essential component of GCC strategic architecture, it cannot be an alternative to an effective deterrence posture vis-à-vis Iran. Given Riyadh's historical involvement with nuclear weapons programs and its military inferiority to Tehran, it is liable to strive for a nuclear deterrent of its own.
Developing an effective shield over the entire GCC would require partner nations to put aside rivalries, share information, and coordinate their individual arsenals. Perhaps, as the threat from Tehran increases, it will be easier to achieve cooperation in this regard. However, the opposite effect may just as easily take place with some countries actually moving closer to Iran out of fear or in an attempt to piggyback on its new strength.
**Yoel Guzansky is a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University, and former Iran coordinator at Israel's National Security Council. His recent publications include The Arab Gulf States and Reform in the Middle East: Between Iran and the "Arab Spring" (Palgrave, 2014). Yiftah S. Shapir is the head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies' Middle East Military Balance project.
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 Reuters, May 15, 2014.
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 Ibid., June 28, 2012.
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