January 22/15

Bible Quotation for today/In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious,
Isaiah04/01-06: In that day seven women  will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!” In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.  Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.  It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 21-22/15
Nasrallah’s Next Move/Tariq Alhomayed /Asharq Al Awsat/January 21/15
Hezbollah’s response will reveal much about its multiple roles/Rami G. Khouri/The Daily Star/January 21/15

Does Europe Have No-go Zones/Daniel Pipes/The Blaze/January 21/15
U.S. Signals Shift on How to End Syrian Civil War/ANNE BARNARD/SOMINI SENGUPTAJAN/January 21/15
Sophisticated Russian S-400 missiles for Iran under new military pact, S-300s for Egypt, Syria, Hizballah/DEBKAfile/January 21/15
Female Genital Mutilation a Growing Problem in Iran/Irfan al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz/The Weekly Standard/January 21/15

Lebanese Related News published on January 21-22/15
Khoury Concludes STL Testimony: Syria Ignored International Calls to Avoid Harming Hariri, Jumblat
Israeli Army Says No Sign of Infiltration from Lebanon after Heightened Alert
Israeli tanks reposition along Lebanon border
Aoun-Geagea meet imminent; agreement ‘to take time’: MP
Lebanon gas prices drop by another LL500
Fatfat fears new Lebanon-Israel war after Golan Heights strike
Israel warned, thousands mourn slain Iran general
Qatar welcomes Lebanese expats: Derian
Kahwagi visits troops in Arsal
Berri: Israel's Quneitra Strike Has Placed Iran on its Border
Qahwaji Inspects Troops in Arsal, Warns Confrontation with Terrorists 'is Not over'
Judiciary Charges 12 Accused in Yves Naufal Murder
Lebanon gas prices drop by another LL500
Israeli  Airstrike: A domestic strategy
Thousands in Tehran mourn Iranian general killed by Israel'
March 14 Denounces Israeli Raid: It is Clear Evidence of Hizbullah's Involvement in Syria
South Bids Farewell to Young Hizbullah Fighters 'Kazem' and 'Sayyed Jawad'
Army Arrests Man who 'Hosted' Jabal Mohsen Suicide Bombers
Mazloum Lauds Dialogue between Christians: Bkirki Awaiting Substantial Results
Senior Palestinian Official Rejects Attempts to Turn Camps into Fugitives Safe Haven

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 21-22/15
President Obama’s State of the Union reflects ‘strong’ America
Palestinian attacker stabs passengers on Tel Aviv bus
France: Qatar terrorism financing charges not true
Peshmerga seeking greater independence from Baghdad: commander
Pope praises large families after 'rabbits' remark
Boko Haram leader claims massacre in Baga
Houthis accused of enacting a coup
Houthis guard Yemeni president’s home but deny toppling Hadi
Aden airport shut in solidarity with Yemen president
Russian pledges terror cooperation with West
Syria regime raid on ISIS killed 43: new toll
Car bomb kills seven in Homs, Syria: governor
AirAsia jet's alarms 'screaming' before crash
Sisi’s call for national election coalition “impossible”: party leader
Prosecutor: France charges four men with helping Paris gunman
Britain’s inquiry into Iraq war delayed again
Russia: U.S. ‘wants to dominate the world’  
Turkish parliament votes against corruption trial for ex-ministers

Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
Grand jury indicts Ohio Muslim for jihad plot to bomb U.S. Capito
Uganda: Imam allegedly beats 12-year-old daughter to death for converting to Christianity
A dozen former French soldiers are now waging jihad for the Islamic State
European ‘No-Go’ Zones: Fact or Fiction?
French Prime Minister blames Muslim terror on France’s own “ethnic apartheid”
Vanderbilt University: Muslim Brotherhood-linked student group tries to bully professor who criticized Islam into silence
International Union of Muslim Scholars calls on UN to criminalize “contempt of religions
Valerie Jarrett explains why Obama won’t say “Islamic” terrorism: there are other kinds of terrorism, too
Obama’s SOTU: “We continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims”
Palestinian” stabs 12 in Tel Aviv bus jihad attack

Nasrallah’s Next Move
Tariq Alhomayed /Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 21 Jan, 2015
A few days ago, Hassan Nasrallah vowed that the axis of resistance—Iran, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and Hezbollah—will not stand idly by in the face of Israeli strikes against Assad’s regime. What is Nasrallah’s position now after the painful and humiliating Israeli airstrikes targeting leaders from his very own group in Syria?
Nasrallah has found himself in an increasingly difficult position. It is not just the question of Tel Aviv embarrassing Nasrallah in front of Arab public opinion, particularly when the extent of the crimes that Hezbollah has committed in Syria in defense of the Assad regime is something that all Arabs are well aware of. Rather, Nasrallah is facing a predicament within Hezbollah and among his followers. This is certainly the greatest humiliation that Israel has dealt Nasrallah in recent history. Tel Aviv’s targeting of senior Hezbollah and Iranian commanders in the Golan Heights, including Imad Mughniyah’s son, can only be viewed as a provocation. The timing of this operation, just days after Nasrallah threatened to retaliate against any Israeli attack, is particularly striking. The intelligence that Israel used to carry out the attack, which targeted a number of senior figures, proves that Tel Aviv has infiltrated Hezbollah more than anyone could have imagined and comes despite the group’s earlier announcement that it had uncovered an Israeli agent operating within its ranks.
So what will Nasrallah do now, not in terms of avenging himself against Israel but rather in terms of saving face in front his group and followers? Will he swallow this bitter Israeli strike which resulted in the death of the son of Imad Mughniyah, who himself was killed at the hands of Israel? Can he possibly pretend to not have issued those defiant threats just days ago?
Will he simply sit back and accept his defeat in front of Hezbollah and his followers, or will he launch a new war against Israel, knowing deep down that no one is now willing to come and rescue him? At this point we should remember that despite all the propaganda speeches in which he accused Arab countries of treason, Nasrallah came out in 2006—during Hezbollah’s war with Israel—to beg those who “love Lebanon” to stop the war, which, once it came to an end, he dubbed a “divine victory.”
What will Nasrallah do now, given his limited options and the fact that Iran is keener to negotiate with the US than place these nuclear negotiations in jeopardy by helping him?
Nasrallah said that any Israeli airstrikes on Syria represented a strike against the entire “axis of resistance.” He stressed that any strikes would not go “unanswered,” claiming to speak not just for Hezbollah but the entire so-called “axis of resistance.” So, now that the airstrikes have fallen, we must await Nasrallah’s next move .

Khoury Concludes STL Testimony: Syria Ignored International Calls to Avoid Harming Hariri, Jumblat
Naharnet /Former MP Ghattas Khoury concluded on Wednesday his testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, revealing that the Syrian regime did not heed calls to refrain from harming Lebanese officials. He said in his cross-examination by the Defense: “The international community had warned Syria against harming former Premier Rafik Hariri and MP Walid Jumblat, but it ignored it.”“Damascus did not care about the international community's calls as demonstrated by what happened and what is happening now in Syria,” he said reference to Hariri's assassination in 2005 and to the ongoing conflict in the neighboring country. He spoke of efforts to bring together the various factions of the Lebanese opposition, lamenting that it was only possible after Hariri's assassination. The opposition groups finally gathered on the same day as his assassination on February 14, 2005, recalled Khoury. Asked about the issue of “false witnesses” in the Hariri assassination case, the former MP said that this matter is political and was only brought up during the tenure of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.On Tuesday, Khoury recounted details of the events that preceded Rafik Hariri's assassination. He claimed that there were threats against his life by the Syrian regime, referring to an al-Hayat article mentioned to him by slain Minister Bassel Fleihan in 2005. The article addressed alleged threats by Syria against Hariri and Jumblat. The STL is tackling the February 2005 assassination of Hariri and 22 others in a major bombing in Beirut. It is currently listening to the testimonies of a number of witnesses who were close to Hariri in the months preceding the assassination. Hamadeh gave his testimony in late 2014 and journalist Faisal Salman gave his testimony at the resumption of the hearings in 2015. Khoury's testimony will be followed by witness Salim Diab on January 22 and 23.

Israeli Army Says No Sign of Infiltration from Lebanon after Heightened Alert
Naharnet/Israeli forces went briefly on high alert near the border with Lebanon on Wednesday evening, closing roads and asking residents to stay indoors, following reports of a suspected infiltration by a number of militants. “After sending troops to the area, the IDF (Israeli army) Spokesman announced no infiltration has occurred, but asked that residents remained in their homes,” the website of Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported.
“Suspicious figures were identified near the border fence,” the website reported.
It said residents of Manara, Yiftah, Malkia, Dovev and Avivim in the Ramim mountain range area were instructed to stay in their homes, as security squads were called in to the area.
Al-Arabiya television reported that five suspected infiltrators “vanished” the moment the Israeli army arrived at the area.
“All roadways have been reopened and authorities declared that there was no sign of suspicious activity in the area,” Israel's Jerusalem Post newspaper reported later on Wednesday.
The alleged incident occurred near Reches Ramim close to the Lebanese border. Israeli security forces patrolled the area to rule out any militant infiltration.
Meanwhile, Lebanon's National News Agency said the Israeli army fired flares over the western part of Lebanon's southern border region and above the sea “from Naqoura to al-Qasmiyeh.”
Israel was already on high alert over a possible retaliation by Hizbullah, after an unprecedented Israeli airstrike on Syria's Quneitra killed six Hizbullah fighters.
The slain operatives included senior commander Mohammed Issa and Jihad Mughniyeh, a son of Hizbullah's top military commander Imad Mughniyeh who was killed in a 2008 assassination in Damascus that was blamed on Israel.
Top Iranian general Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was also among the victims of the Quneitra strike on Sunday.

Aoun-Geagea meet imminent; agreement ‘to take time’: MP
The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015/BEIRUT: Arch Christian rivals Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea could meet at any moment, Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra said Wednesday, while cautioning that any agreement between the two would not be made overnight.
“The meeting between Lebanese Forces chief Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement head Aoun could happen at any moment, but any agreement might take longer because we need to reach a series of agreements and this needs several meetings,” Zahra told LBCI in a television interview. Zahra saw no reason for the preliminary meeting not to take place, stating that it needs preparation and that it will not be announced ahead of time due to security concerns. The MP said that the Christian factions’ dialogue is the result of a series of initiatives related to the presidential elections, emphasizing that there have been widespread positive reactions to the attempts to initiate dialogue. Officials from both parties have been hinting for weeks that a meeting between Aoun and Geagea, who are also presidential rivals, would soon take place in a bid to end the presidential stalemate. Lebanon has been without a president since former head of state Michel Sleiman’s term ended last May.

Qatar welcomes Lebanese expats: Grand Mufti Derian
The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian assured Lebanese expatriates in Qatar that the oil-rich Gulf emirate welcomed them as long as they respected its laws and did not commit any violations. “Qatar opened its heart to you (Lebanese expatriates) and in return you should place Qatar in your heart by safeguarding (peaceful) life and respecting its laws,” Derian told the Lebanese expat community in Doha at a dinner Tuesday. In the comments released Wednesday, Derian was implicitly assuring his audience that they would not be punished over the controversial speech made two weeks ago by Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah in which he denounced Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member Bahrain for cracking down on its protest movement and arresting opposition leaders. Derian said Qatari officials he had met during his visit assured him that the Lebanese are treated in a friendly and respectful way, and constitute an essential factor in the development of the Gulf country. Derian had called earlier Tuesday, after a meeting with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani in Doha, for respecting the principle of non-interference in the affairs of Arab countries, stressing that Nasrallah’s comments on Bahrain did not reflect the policies of Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni religious authority in Lebanon. Many Lebanese expats, especially Shiites, fear that their residence and businesses in GCC countries could be hurt if those countries impose punitive measures on them as a result of Lebanese politicians' criticisms of GCC policies.

Israeli tanks take up positions along Lebanon border
Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015
KFAR KILA, Lebanon: Israeli tanks were witnessed taking up new positions along Lebanon’s southeastern border Wednesday, as UNIFIL and Lebanese Army troops boost their patrols in the area amid tensions following a deadly weekend Israeli strike on a Hezbollah convoy in the Golan Heights. “Five Israeli tanks repositioned from the Riaq [military outpost] to the highlands southeast of the Metula settlement,” a security source told The Daily Star. UNIFIL helicopters were observed carrying out their routine reconnaissance flights over the Blue Line as a number of shepherds reported seeing Israeli military vehicles and flashing lights across the border. Residents of the southeast village of Kfar Kila also reported hearing rumbles of Israeli vehicles positioning in the valleys south of the Metula settlement.
“We have spotted the movements in addition to the high overflights of Israeli military aircraft in most of the Lebanese southern airspace,” a UNIFIL officer told The Daily Star.  Meanwhile, a Lebanese Army statement said Israeli warplanes flew over southern Lebanese border villages as well as territorial waters opposite Ras Naqoura, Qassmieh and Abu Aswad between 6:50 p.m. - 8:10 p.m. Tuesday. The statement said an Israeli reconnaissance jet also hovered over areas in southern and eastern Lebanon as well as over Beirut and its suburbs between 1:40 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Israeli media have reported that the Jewish state is bolstering its forces along the border in anticipation of a retaliatory attack after a missile strike killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian commander in Syria’s Golan Heights Sunday.
A Lebanese security source told The Daily Star that two Syrian fighters affiliated with Hezbollah were also killed in the Israeli strike.

Fatfat fears new Lebanon-Israel war after Golan Heights strike
The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon and Syria have been placed under the tutelage of Iran, Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said Wednesday, expressing fears of being dragged into a new war with Israel after the weekend strike on a Hezbollah convoy in Syria. “Fears of war between Hezbollah and Israel exist after the party [Hezbollah] showed no concern [to safeguard] the Lebanese interests as it implements an Iranian agenda,” Fatfat said in an interview with Elnashra news site. He pointed to recent remarks made by Iranian officials who warned of a “harsh” and “heavy handed” response to Israel’s Sunday airstrike that killed six Hezbollah members in addition to an Iranian commander in Syria’s Golan Heights. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency Tuesday that Iran would respond to the attack with "ruinous thunderbolts." "These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad and provided another indication about the nearing collapse of the Zionist entity. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts after their crime in Qunaitra," he said. “The Revolutionary Guard will fight to the end of the Zionist regime ... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics,” he added. These comments “threaten to drag Lebanon into a war [with Israel],” Fatfat argued. He said signs show that “both Lebanon and Syria are under Iranian tutelage.” Fatfat also expressed regret that “Hezbollah is prioritizing Iranian interests above Lebanese interests.”He stressed that the decision over Hezbollah’s arms and its fight in Syria was not up to the resistance group but to Iran. “Recent Iranian comments undoubtedly confirm this.” The Future Movement lawmaker also accused Hezbollah of having a role in hindering Lebanese presidential election by “implementing Iran’s policy.”
“Otherwise,” Fatfat said, Hezbollah “would have facilitated the election process.”He said Tehran was putting pressure through Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun in order to keep the presidential election card in its hand to use it in the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

Pope rows back from 'rabbits' comments, praises large families
Jan. 21, 2015/Agence France Presse/VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis Wednesday described large families as a "gift from God," just days after he said Catholics did not need to "breed like rabbits."In an apparent attempt to put the controversial comments he made on his way back from a visit to the Philippines into context, the Argentinian argued that the global economic system is the primary cause of poverty, rather than overpopulation. "The meetings with families and young people in Manila were important moments during the visit to the Philippines," Francis told a crowd of around 7,000 gathered in St Peter's square for his weekly audience. "Healthy families are essential to the life of society. "It provides us with consolation and hope to see so many large families who welcome children as a gift from God.
"These families know that each child is a blessing." The Argentinian pontiff surprised reporters on the papal plane Sunday by recounting an anecdote about how he had once asked a mother who had seven children by caesarian section and was pregnant with her eighth if she wanted to "leave behind seven young orphans.""She said, 'I trust in God.' But God gave us the means to be responsible," Francis said. "Some think - and excuse the term - that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits." Following the church's teachings did not mean "Christians should have children one after the other," he added in comments that made headlines worldwide. Catholic teaching prohibits the use of artificial contraception but allows the use of the so-called rhythm method, where couples avoid unwanted pregnancy by planning sex on days during the woman's menstrual cycle on which she is less likely to conceive.

Berri: Israel's Quneitra Strike Has Placed Iran on its Border
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri warned on Wednesday of the dangerouseness of Israel's strike on Syria's Quneitra region, saying that it committed a “strategic error.”He said: “Through this crime, Israel placed Iran on its border.”He made his remarks during his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his Ain el-Tineh residence. Furthermore, the speaker noted that the strike will not affect the dialogue between Hizbullah and the Mustaqbal Movement. “The talks have yielded direct results in that tensions have been eased and Lebanon's internal scene has been fortified,” remarked Berri. He later sent a cable of condolence to Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the death of Iranian General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and other officials during the Quneitra strike. Earlier, Berri had accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of timing a deadly air raid on Hizbullah in the Golan Heights for political purposes linked to the upcoming elections. Local dailies on Wednesday quoted Berri as saying that Netanyahu was “fighting the elections with blood.” “He could win because he always resorts to this method,” the speaker reportedly told his visitors on Tuesday. The Israeli PM “demonstrated in Paris against terrorism and returned (home) to practice it in Quneitra,” said Berri. The speaker was referring to Netanyahu's presence in a march by world leaders in the French capital following deadly terrorist attacks earlier this month. Israel carried out on Sunday an air strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in an area called Quneitra, killing Jihad Mughniyeh, a prominent Hizbullah fighter, a senior Iranian general, and five other party members. Berri was asked by his visitors on whether the air raid would have repercussions on Lebanon. He answered: “It's not up to Israel to decide when and where Hizbullah would respond.”“Hizbullah's leadership would choose the date and place of retaliation,” said Berri.

March 14 Denounces Israeli Raid: It is Clear Evidence of Hizbullah's Involvement in Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 14 hours ago/The March 14 General Secretariat condemned on Wednesday the Israeli airstrike on Hizbullah fighters in Syria's Golan, however, considering it as clear evidence of the party's involvement in the fighting in the neighboring country, “which violates the broad Lebanese unanimity.” In a statement issued after its weekly meeting, the General Secretariat stressed that Hizbullah insists, through its ongoing engagement in battles in Syria, on transferring sedition into Lebanon, despite all of its claims.
The General Secretariat reiterated calls on Hizbullah to "immediately" withdraw from Syria and return Lebanon under the state's conditions, as per the constitution. The statement also warned the party from retaliating to Israel from Lebanon, underlining the importance of holding on to U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which has proven its effectiveness. "The Lebanese state is the sole authority tasked with safeguarding the country," it added. Hizbullah said Israel carried out Sunday's strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which killed Jihad Mughniyeh, a prominent Hizbullah fighter, a senior Iranian general, and five other party members. Israel has gone on high alert for possible attacks by Hizbullah. It has beefed up its air defenses and increasing surveillance along its northern frontier following the airstrike.
The Jewish state and Hizbullah are bitter enemies and fought a bloody month-long war in the summer of 2006. The General Secretariat also denounced the assault against Lebanese lawyers by Syrian counterparts on Sunday during a speech on terrorism at the Conference of Arab Lawyers in Cairo. It valued Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi's initiative to follow up on the case, lauding the stances of the Beirut Bar Association and Tripoli Bar Association.

Qahwaji Inspects Troops in Arsal, Warns Confrontation with Terrorists 'is Not over'
Naharnet/Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji hailed on Wednesday the role of the military in thwarting terrorism in Lebanon, most notably in the northeastern region of Arsal and the northern city of Tripoli. He said while inspecting troops deployed in Arsal: “We have achieved several impressive national accomplishments, but that does not mean that our confrontation with terrorism is over.”“We are prepared to confront the crises and they will not be more challenging than the ones we faced in the past,” he remarked.
“The army's ongoing efforts and sacrifices halted the infiltration of terrorists,” said Qahwaji. “The military is determined to prevent the spread of terrorism in Lebanon no matter the cost or sacrifices,” he declared. “The army's keenness on controlling the border and its daily achievements in combating terrorist cells inside of Lebanon are what protected and will continue to protect Lebanon's unity against the threat of strife and chaos,” he stressed. He therefore called on the troops to always remain prepared to confront different challenges.
Qahwaji later inspected the frontlines of the Lebanese army posts in Wadi Hmeid, al-Masyada and Wadi al-Hosn. Jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group are entrenched on the outskirts of the town on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border.
In August, they overran Arsal and engaged in deadly fighting with the army. Around 20 troops were killed while at least 35 soldiers and policemen were taken hostage by the retreating militants. Four of them have been so far executed.

Lebanon gas prices drop by another LL500
The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s gas prices have decreased by another LL500 ($.33) amid the global slide in oil prices, the state-run National News Agency said Wednesday.  The price of 20 liters of 95-octane and 98-octane gasoline are now at LL21,900 and LL22,500, respectively, the report said, which is LL500 less since the last report issued two weeks ago. The price of diesel also dropped by LL700 Wednesday to LL14,700, and price of a gas canister fell by LL900, the NNA said. Lebanon has witnessed a sharp decrease in fuel prices over the past few weeks. Brent crude hit a five-and-a-half-year low of less than $50 a barrel. Benchmark Brent crude futures fell to $48.30 a barrel Tuesday.

France says Qatar terrorism financing charges 'not true'
Agence France Presse/Jan. 21, 2015 /PARIS: A French probe has shown that regular accusations leveled at Qatar that it finances terrorism are "not true," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday. "We had our intelligence services carry out precise investigations that showed that was not true," Fabius said of the lingering accusations against the tiny, oil-rich Gulf state. The French government has come under pressure from opposition parties after the jihadi attacks in Paris to review its diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged financing of extremists in the Sahel, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria. U.S. officials have accused Qatar of not doing enough to stop private fundraising for terrorist groups. In March last year the U.S. Treasury's under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, said Qatar had become "such a permissive terrorist financing environment, that several major Qatar-based fundraisers act as local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising networks that are based in Kuwait." In 2013 the U.S. designated as a terrorist an Al-Qaeda "financier and facilitator" in Qatar, Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nu'aymi, accused of transferring millions of dollars to affiliates in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen over the past ten years. The Qatari ambassador to Paris, Meshal Hamad Al-Thani, Tuesday denied his country supported terrorist organizations. "The idea that Qatar finances or supports terrorists and terrorism appears to have become a generally accepted assumption in the debate on extremism in Europe," he said. "To be clear, Qatar does not finance or support any terrorist organization."
The ambassador said Qatar has "taken drastic measures so that no Qatari citizen can privately finance groups."

Israeli  Airstrike: A domestic strategy
The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015
Speculation and commentary continue to swirl in the wake of Sunday’s Israeli strike in the Golan Heights, particularly about the intended targets. But on one level, it might be prudent to focus on the old adage, “all politics is local.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing one of the biggest challenges of his political career, namely an election in less than two months. The military operation – an airstrike – is one of the least risky moves, and one that can only work to boost his popularity at home. Meanwhile, Israel is also experiencing domestic political anxiety because its leaders and experts are fully aware that since the Iranian Revolution 35 years ago, Washington and Tehran have never been closer than they are today. Their pursuit of an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program could usher in a new phase in the Middle East, one in which Israel’s share of influence has little chance of expanding, but rather is set to shrink. Israel is also an adept reader of the political climate in neighboring states; time and time again, it has been able to exploit weakness and division to its decisive advantage. On the one hand, Israel is feeling the strain of an international climate that is steadily turning against it. But on the other, the huge level of intervention by Iran and Hezbollah in the Syrian war, along with the general state of disarray and tension in Lebanon, and the chaotic state of Syria, mean that Israel is being given a golden opportunity to get away with such cross-border military strikes. In other words, it would be surprising if Israel did not exploit such favorable conditions – in its view – to do what it did Sunday.

housands in Tehran mourn Iranian general killed by Israel
Agence France Presse/Jan. 21, 2015
TEHRAN: Thousands gathered Wednesday in Tehran at a funeral procession for a Revolutionary Guards general killed by Israel, after his commander warned the Jewish state it should "await destructive thunderbolts."General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi died alongside six fighters from Hezbollah in the attack Sunday near Qunaitra on the Syrian-controled side of the Golan Heights. Allahdadi's coffin was draped in an Iranian flag as it was carried into a Guards base in southeast Tehran. He is to be buried Thursday in Pariz, a town in the southern province of Kerman."The path of martyr Allahdadi is unstoppable and will be continued until the liberation of the Holy Quds (Jerusalem) and obliteration of the Zionist regime," Guards commander Major General Ali Jafari said at a ceremony at the base, according to the official IRNA news agency. The mourners chanted "Death to Israel" and burned two Israeli flags. Allahdadi died alongside Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of an assassinated Hezbollah commander, and Mohammed Issa, a fighter responsible for the group's operations in Syria and Iraq. An Israeli security source told AFP that one of its helicopters carried out the strike but a United Nations' observer force in the Golan Sunday raised the possibility that drones may have been used. On Tuesday, Jafari took aim at Israel, saying "the Zionists should await destructive thunderbolts." "They have in the past seen our wrath," he said, adding that the Guards "will continue its support for Muslim fighters and combatants in the region." Once solely focused on fighting Israel, Hezbollah is now deeply involved in the war in neighboring Syria, where it backs President Bashar Assad. Shiite Iran is Assad's main regional ally in his war against the mainly Sunni rebels seeking to overthrow him. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television said the group's six fighters were killed as they carried out reconnaissance. But an Israeli security source said it had carried out a strike on "terrorists" who were preparing an attack on the Jewish state. The incident came days after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to retaliate against Israel for its repeated strikes on targets in Syria and boasted the movement was stronger than ever. He touted its sophisticated arsenal, including Fateh-110 missiles, which have a range of 200 kilometers or more and are capable of hitting much of Israel. In 2006, Israel fought a bloody war against Hezbollah that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Hezbollah’s response will reveal much about its multiple roles
Rami G. Khouri/The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015
The Israeli attack Sunday in the Syrian Golan Heights that killed Hezbollah and Iranian officials has understandably generated much speculation primarily about whether, when and how Hezbollah will retaliate against Israeli targets. The easy answer is that, of course Hezbollah will respond in some manner that it deems appropriate, but this is really not the most significant aspect of what happened. That label must go to two related phenomena: the tangled dynamics of Hezbollah’s relations inside Lebanon and around the Middle East, and the fact that the Israeli attack in Syria – an almost routine event, sadly – actually hit three targets in one, namely Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. How those three members of the resistance and deterrence front will or can retaliate against Israel strikes me as the significant issue here. That is because it can clarify the consequences of Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese politics and in the resistance and deterrence front in the wider Middle East.
Years ago, Hezbollah was a simpler actor, defined mainly by its two most successful legacies: military resistance to Israel, and the mobilization and lifting up the Lebanese Shiite community from the bottom of Lebanese society to dominance of the national governance system (even though that dominance usually played out behind the scenes and took the form of blocking decisions the party disliked, until outcomes were reached that it liked). Today, Hezbollah is a different and more complex actor. This reflects new, or merely more explicit, elements of the party’s basic dimensions: its active warfare and military deterrence against Israel; its fighting in Syria to maintain the Assad regime; its fighting against takfiri militants such as Nusra Front inside Lebanon; its continued structural and strategic links with Iran; and its dialogue with the Future Movement in Lebanon to reduce domestic polarization and reconstitute a legitimate governance system with a functioning parliament and presidency.
At the turn of the century, Hezbollah was widely acclaimed in much of Lebanon and the region for leading the battle to liberate south Lebanon from Israeli occupation. With every post-2000 military engagement with Israel that caused great destruction and human dislocation inside Lebanon, Hezbollah’s luster has dimmed a bit. Today the very polarized Lebanese see the party either as the nation’s savior and protector, or as a dangerous Iranian Trojan horse. The latter argue that Hezbollah is an instrument of Iranian foreign policy that ridicules Lebanese sovereignty and endangers all Lebanese by keeping them hostage to open-ended conflict with Israel that serves Iranian strategic interests. That argument about whether Hezbollah serves Lebanese or Iranian interests has gone on for years and remains inconclusive.
Hezbollah’s active military and intelligence work in the northeast of Lebanon and its cooperation with the revived and strengthened Lebanese Armed Forces is a new dimension of its actions and priorities, one which most Lebanese are grateful for because they know that its military capabilities are a valuable element in repelling takfiri assaults from Syria by groups such as the Nusra Front. So quite a few Lebanese now have another reason to simultaneously criticize Hezbollah for entangling Lebanon deeper in the war in Syria, which has entered Lebanon in a frightening manner, and quietly appreciate the party for its role in fighting alongside the Lebanese Armed Forces against the takfiris and maintaining Lebanon’s integrity.
So the answer to the common question of whether Lebanese citizens support or oppose Hezbollah is “a little of both.” This complexity which has now replaced the formerly linear and one-dimensional attitudes to Hezbollah is matched by similar multi-faceted regional entanglements. Hezbollah-Syria-Iran is a single unit in geostrategic terms, and in recent years, Iraq and Hamas variously have been part of that alignment. So when Israel struck against all three parties in the Golan Heights Sunday, it meant that analyzing when and how any retaliation would occur had to consider the condition, interests, capabilities and broader strategic interests of Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.
That mini-universe automatically dovetails into a much wider cosmos that includes the United States, Russia, as well as the dynamics of the global oil markets, Sunni-Shiite tensions in the Middle East, fighting against ISIS, and other factors that directly link Israeli, Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah relations to half a dozen major dynamics in the Middle East and further afield.
With a few notable exceptions, here is not a deep history of Syria and Iran directly attacking Israel or Israeli interests (perhaps, as some argue, because they have always left this dangerous task to Hezbollah). So the focus of speculation today rests largely on what Hezbollah will do. Yet Hezbollah’s options for action are more constrained than ever due to the fact that it is simultaneously fighting and negotiating in the turbulent Lebanese-Syrian theater. The party still faces immense pushback from millions of Lebanese who do not want to see their country destroyed because of Iranian and Syrian-backed decisions by Hezbollah to fight Israel, which it is able and willing to do. Hezbollah probably also has a new challenge which is to tighten up its security system. This follows the recent capture of one of its members identified as an Israeli spy. The probability is that Israeli intelligence was behind the Sunday attack, reflecting continuing security leaks in what had always been a well-sealed system. Because of all these linked local, regional and global factors, any expected retaliation against Israel in the near future will reveal much about the state of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran and the condition of their resistance and deterrence front.
**Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. Follow him on Twitter @RamiKhouri.

Sophisticated Russian S-400 missiles for Iran under new military pact, S-300s for Egypt, Syria, Hizballah
DEBKAfile Special Report January 21, 2015
The cash-strapped Russians have become less choosy these days about clients for their prized S-300 defensive systems and even more advanced S-400 missiles. They are now ready to sell the former - not just to Iran, but also to Egypt, Syria and the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah.
Iran won this breakthrough with the signing of a new military cooperation pact in Tehran Tuesday, Jan. 20, between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Iranian counterpart Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan.
“The two countries have decided to settle the S-300s problem," the Iranian defense ministry said, while Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, a former ministry official, added: "A step was taken in the direction of cooperation on the economy and arms technology, at least for such defensive systems as the S-300 and S-400. Probably we will deliver them."
The S-300 has been a bone of contention between Moscow and Tehran since 2007, when Russia contracted to sell Iran the S-300 missile system, for which Tehran paid $800 m, and never delivered because of strong objections by United States and Israel.
Today, both Iran and Russia are under Western sanctions and willing to help each other impede US Middle East interventions. President Obama is leaning hard on Europe to withhold arms and weapons systems from the Russian army, to punish President Vladimir Putin for his actions in Ukraine and his annexation of Crimea.
Until now, the Russians were wary of burning all their bridges to the US administration and sidestepped outright confrontation with Washington by keeping open controlled exit hatches, in case an opening for a fresh start presented itself.
One such hatch served to set Russia and the United States on the same side of the table in the six-power nuclear talks with Iran.
However, as the prospect receded of further let-ups in the frozen relations between Presidents Obama and Putin, Moscow began shutting those exits down.
Five months ago, Moscow signed a huge $3.5 bn arms deal with Egypt, financed by Saudi Arabia. This closed the Egyptian military market to the US munitions industry.
With its cooperation pact of Jan. 20, Russia became the Iranian armed forces’ primary supplier of new and sophisticated weapons systems,up to and including S-400 missiles - in defiance of the arms embargo against the Islamic Republic and US policies at large.
Iran's Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, in particular, stood up and urged greater cooperation as a means of opposing American ambitions in the region. "Iran and Russia are able to confront the expansionist intervention and greed of the United States through cooperation, synergy and activating strategic potential capacities," Dehghan said. "As two neighbors, Iran and Russia have common viewpoints toward political, regional and global issues."
He said that the new agreement includes expanded counter-terrorism cooperation, exchanges of military personnel for training purposes and an understanding for each country's navy to more frequently use the other's ports. They already cooperate in supporting Syria's Bashar Assad. Most of all, debkafile’s political sources note that the pact with Moscow strengthens Tehran’s hand in the ongoing nuclear talks with the six powers. Iran’s negotiators are better able to stand up to the efforts of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to extract more concessions on its nuclear ambitions, in order to reach a comprehensive accord, after interminable postponements, by the next deadline of June 30, 2015.
The S-300 missile system, which is designed to intercept aircraft and missiles, including cruise missiles, was for years the emblem of the most advanced Russian weaponry, capable in Iranian hands of deterring Israel from attacking their nuclear program.
However, over the years, the Israeli Air Force will have developed and tested methods, whether by aerial or cyber warfare, for beating the S-300, whose workings became increasingly exposed as they were supplied to European countries, notably Greece.
On the quiet, as recently as 2013, Russia let Iran and Syria have components of S-300 batteries as installments in advance of supplies of complete systems. Last year, Moscow promised to consider future supplies to Hizballah in Lebanon as well.
Russia’s policy evidently envisages Israel’s partial encirclement by batteries of S-300 missile systems from the north and south and both S-300 and S-400 batteries from Iran to the east.

Does Europe Have No-go Zones?
by Daniel Pipes/The Blaze
January 20, 2015
Comments by Steven Emerson on Fox News have prompted a heated debate over whether predominantly Muslim "no-go" zones exist in Europe. On Jan. 11, Emerson said they "exist throughout Europe … they're places where the governments like France, Britain, Sweden, Germany don't exercise any sovereignty. .. you basically have zones where Shariah courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don't go in, and where it's basically a separate country almost, a country within a country."
Although Emerson, whom I admire for his moral courage and investigative skills, immediately apologized for his "terrible error" of saying that cities like Birmingham, England, "are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go," he did not address the larger question of whether no-go zones, in fact, do "exist throughout Europe" and are places where governments "don't exercise any sovereignty."
Is he right about this?
In a 2006 weblog entry, I called Muslim enclaves in Europe no-go zones as a non-euphemistic equivalent for the French phrase Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones. No-go zones subsequently became standard in English to describe Muslim-majority areas in West Europe.
After spending time in the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris in January 2013, as well as in their counterparts in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Stockholm, however, I have had second thoughts. I found that those areas "are not full-fledged no-go zones" --- meaning places where the government had lost control of territory. No war lords dominate; Shari'a is not the law of the land. I expressed regret back then for having used the term no-go zones.
So, what are these places? A unique and as-yet un-named mix.
On the one hand, West European states can intervene anywhere and at any time in their sovereign territory. As the shoot-out in Verviers and the subsequent raids in Belgium suggest, their overwhelming advantage in force – including military, intelligence, and police – means they have not ceded control.
After a terrorist attack in May 2014, police were out in force in the Jewish area of Antwerp, Belgium.
On the other hand, governments often choose not to impose their will on Muslim-majority areas, allowing them considerable autonomy, including in some cases the Shariah courts that Emerson mentioned. Alcohol and pork are effectively banned in these districts, polygamy and burqas commonplace, police enter only warily and in force, and Muslims get away with offences illegal for the rest of population.
The Rotherham, England, child sex scandal offers a powerful example. An official inquiry found that for sixteen years, 1997-2013, a ring of Muslim men sexually exploited – through abduction, rape, gang rape, trafficking, prostitution, torture – at least 1,400 non-Muslim girls as young as 11. The police received voluminous complaints from the girls' parents but did nothing; they could have acted, but chose not to.
According to the inquiry, "the Police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime." Even more alarming, in some cases, "fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene." Worse, the girls "were arrested for offences such as breach of the peace or being drunk and disorderly, with no action taken against the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault against children."
Another example, also British, was the so-called Operation Trojan Horse that flourished from 2007 until 2014, in which (again, according to an official inquiry), a group of school functionaries developed "a strategy to take over a number of schools in Birmingham and run them on strict Islamic principles."
What does one call Rotherham and Birmingham? They are not no-go zones, neither in terms of geography or sovereignty. This is where we – Emerson, others (such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal), and I stumbled. The English language lacks a readily-available term for this. And for good reason: I know of no historical parallel, in which a majority population accepts the customs and even the criminality of a poorer and weaker immigrant community. The world has never seen anything comparable to the contemporary West's blend of achievement, timidity, and guilt, of hugely superior power matched by a deep reluctance to use it.
Instead of no-go zones, I propose semi-autonomous sectors, a term that emphasizes their indistinct and non-geographic nature – thus permitting a more accurate discussion of what is, arguably, West Europe's most acute problem.
**Mr. Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

U.S. Signals Shift on How to End Syrian Civil War
By ANNE BARNARD and SOMINI SENGUPTAJAN. 19, 2015 /The New York Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon — American support for a pair of diplomatic initiatives in Syria underscores the shifting views of how to end the civil war there and the West’s quiet retreat from its demand that the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, step down immediately.
The Obama administration maintains that a lasting political solution requires Mr. Assad’s exit. But facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.
That shift comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism. American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.
Now, the United States and other Western countries have publicly welcomed initiatives — one from the United Nations and one from Russia — that postpone any revival of the United States-backed Geneva framework, which called for a wholesale transfer of power to a “transitional governing body.” The last Geneva talks failed a year ago amid vehement disagreement over whether that body could include Mr. Assad.
One of the new concepts is a United Nations proposal to “freeze” the fighting on the ground, first in the strategic crossroads city of Aleppo. The other is an initiative from Russia, Mr. Assad’s most powerful supporter, to try to spur talks between the warring sides in Moscow in late January. Diplomats and others briefed on the plans say one Russian vision is of power-sharing between Mr. Assad’s government and some opposition figures, and perhaps parliamentary elections that would precede any change in the presidency.
But the diplomatic proposals face serious challenges, relying on the leader of a rump state who is propped up by foreign powers and hemmed in by a growing and effective extremist force that wants to build a caliphate. Many of America’s allies in the Syrian opposition reject the plans, and there is little indication that Mr. Assad or his main allies, Russia and Iran, feel any need to compromise. The American-backed Free Syrian Army is on the ropes in northern Syria, once its stronghold, and insurgents disagree among themselves over military and political strategy.
And perhaps most of all, the Islamic State controls half of Syria’s territory, though mostly desert, and it has managed to strengthen its grip even as the United States and its allies try to oust it from neighboring Iraq.
Still, Secretary of State John Kerry declared last week that the United States welcomed both initiatives. He made no call for Mr. Assad’s resignation, a notable omission for Mr. Kerry, who has typically insisted on it in public remarks. Instead, he spoke of Mr. Assad as a leader who needed to change his policies.
“It is time for President Assad, the Assad regime, to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria, basically because of their efforts to remove Assad,” Mr. Kerry said.
On Thursday in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy for the crisis in Syria, also signaled a tactical shift, saying that “new factors” such as the growth of the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, must be taken into account. He said there was no point in trying to organize a third round of Geneva talks before building unambiguous support from both the Syrian government and its opponents for some kind of “Syrian political process.”
The urgent search for a political solution, Mr. de Mistura said, must “bear in mind” not only the Geneva framework, “but also the need to adjust aspirations without preconditions, in line with the new factors which have come up in the reality of the area, such as ISIS.”
The shifts reflect a longstanding view among United Nations officials in Syria that the West must adapt to the reality that Syrian insurgents have failed to defeat Mr. Assad. Syrians on both sides have said frequently in interviews that they fear the growing influence of foreign militants, and while they mistrust all international players that have financed warring parties, they are willing to explore compromise with other Syrians.
Western diplomats who had long called for Mr. Assad’s immediate resignation say now that while he must not indefinitely control crucial institutions like the military, a more gradual transition may be worth considering.
One Western diplomat at the United Nations said that while a “post-Assad phase” must eventually come, “the exact timing of that, we can discuss,” as long as the solution does not “cement his position in power.”
Western leaders now openly talk about a deal allowing some current officials to remain to prevent Syria from disintegrating, like Iraq and Libya.
“The political solution will of course include some elements of the regime because we don’t want to see the pillars of the state fall apart. We would end up with a situation like Iraq,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told a French radio station last Monday.
At the same time, such statements have further alienated Washington from ordinary anti-Assad Syrians and rank-and-file insurgents, reinforcing the idea that the West has decided to tolerate Mr. Assad.
The view that the United States supports Mr. Assad is spreading even among the groups receiving direct American financing, groups deemed moderate enough to receive arms and work with a United States-run operations center in Turkey. A fighter with Harakat Hazm, one such group, said Wednesday that America was “looking for loopholes to reach a political solution and keep al-Assad.”
Tarek Fares, a secular Syrian Army defector who long fought with the loose-knit nationalist groups known as the Free Syrian Army but who has lately quit fighting, joked bitterly about American policy one recent night in Antakya, Turkey. “This is how the Americans talk,” he said. “They say, ‘We have a red line, we will support you, we will arm you.’ They do nothing, and then after four years they tell you Assad is the best option.”
The United Nations freeze proposal tries to improve on efforts over the last 18 months inside Syria, where the government and insurgents have reached local cease-fire deals to restore basic services and aid delivery — most recently on Thursday in the Waer neighborhood of the city of Homs.
But those cease-fires have never had the imprimatur of international bodies, and they often collapse. With a few exceptions they have amounted to insurgents’ surrender to a government strategy of siege and starvation.
Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Mistura, said that his plan would not resemble the past cease-fires, and that the United Nations, not the Syrian government, would be the guarantor. Yet even the modest Aleppo proposal is on shaky ground. While Mr. Assad has said he will consider it, his government has not signed off on the plan; Mr. de Mistura’s deputy arrived Sunday in Damascus for consultations.
The Moscow talks are arguably in worse shape. While Mr. Kerry said he hoped the talks “could be helpful,” several crucial opposition groups have refused to attend and say the United States has not pressured them to go.
That leaves American policy ambiguous, offering only modest verbal support to the new mediation efforts while continuing to finance some Syrian insurgents, yet not enough to seriously threaten Mr. Assad. Even a new program to train them to fight ISIS will not field fighters until May.
Critics argue that Washington is simply trying to disengage and offload the Syria problem to Mr. Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, even at the cost of empowering them.
Still, any attempt to bring the parties to the table should be considered constructive, another Western diplomat said. “You can’t say to the Russians, ‘Go to hell.’ ”
Anne Barnard reported from Beirut, and Somini Sengupta from the United Nations. Reporting was contributed by Nick Cumming-Bruce and Michael R. Gordon from Geneva, and Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad from Beirut.

Female Genital Mutilation a Growing Problem in Iran
Irfan al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard
January 20, 2015
According to Stop FGM Middle East, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that female genital mutilation is permissible, but not obligatory.
The hideous practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is neither an exclusively Muslim nor a principally Middle Eastern phenomenon. It exists among non-Muslims through wide areas of Africa.
But in Iraq and Iran, FGM is mainly associated with Kurds. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, which is fighting against the terrorists of the so-called "Islamic State," has pursued a substantive effort to eradicate FGM. As reported here, the KRG parliament introduced legislation prohibiting FGM in 2007. The law was passed in 2011 and forbade, additionally, child marriage, so-called "honor murders," and other abuses suffered typically by women. In 2010, the KRG health ministry produced a plan to eliminate FGM and called on Islamic clergy to condemn the custom.
Last year, Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, director in Iraq of a German-based charity, WADI—the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Cooperation—said in an interview that FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan had declined dramatically, and that measurable success in stopping FGM there could be credited to the political change that began in 1991. "Saddam Hussein lost power here back in 1991. There is a relative degree of freedom," von der Osten-Sacken said. That freedom—and other achievements by the Iraqi Kurds—were made possible, as should be recognized, by the decision of President George H.W. Bush to impose a "no-fly zone" over Iraqi Kurdistan.
By contrast, "the existence of FGM in Iran is a well-kept secret," according to the organization Stop FGM Middle East. On November 25, 2014, Radio Farda, the U.S.-backed Farsi-language broadcast directed to Iran, aired a 30-minute documentary on FGM under the rule of the Islamic Republic. Translated by Stop FGM Middle East, the transcript revealed yet another cruel feature of Iranian life, reinforced by the hypocrisy of the ruling clerics.
FGM in Iran is concentrated in the northwestern provinces of Iranian Azerbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and Ilam, and the Persian Gulf province of Hormozgan.
Radio Farda noted that in 2014 Iran was added, for the first time, to the global list of countries in which FGM is present. The media agency interviewed Iranian researcher Rayeyeh Mozafarian, of the University of Shiraz, who accumulated interviews on FGM between 2007 and 2009. She stated, "FGM is carried out in private houses by midwives and not by surgeons in hospitals." FGM goes unmentioned in Iranian law, which does criminalize mutilation of the body. But Mozafarian determined, "Despite the practice being liable to prosecution, practically nobody is charged. . . . No victim files charges against her own parents."
Mozafarian specified that FGM in Iran is concentrated in the northwestern provinces of Iranian Azerbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and Ilam, and the Persian Gulf province of Hormozgan. She denied that FGM is a cultural problem and identified it with Islam, since, she argued, "People say that women who do not let themselves be cut are not Muslims." But Mozafarian stipulated, "there are differences in opinion in Islam" about FGM. Women's rights activist and lawyer Bayan Azizi, in speaking to Radio Farda, referred to these as border regions along a female-cutting "line."
Some Iranian clerics support FGM, but exiled Iranian cleric Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, who opposes the theocratic state and lives in Germany, disagreed with them. He informed Radio Farda, "female circumcision is not mentioned . . . in the Koran or in the Sunna or Hadiths [traditions derived from accounts of Muhammad's oral teachings]. . . . For the past 1,400 years there was no reflection of this topic in books by Islamic scholars or clerics. It is certain that there is nothing in the Koran."
He added, "Islam does not have an ascetic view of sexuality. . . . But unfortunately, there are such views in our religious culture. Therefore, control of the female body is important and sex and the sexual drive are seen as bad." That is a motivation for infliction of FGM on young girls—to diminish their interest in sex, even after marriage.
As described in the Radio Farda documentary, the impact of FGM on women and their marriages is often devastating. A woman identified only as Roja said, "In my opinion the biggest problem in Iran is sexuality. Many marriages break up because of it, because they don't speak openly about it. Because the partners often have sexual problems."

Parvin Zabihi, a prominent Iranian Kurdish advocate for women's rights, told Radio Farda,
The men want it. We must talk first about acceptance in society. Society believes that circumcised girls are more innocent and such girls get more proposals of marriage and are more favored. This means that it is actually something the men want.
Responding to an interviewer's query as to whether the ameliorative rhetoric of president Hassan Rouhani will bring FGM to an end in Iran, Rayeyeh Mozafarian pointed out that legal measures against FGM in Iran are "often talked about, but not implemented." As in other contexts, the Iranian clergy are inclined to avoid, rather than confront, the shameful problems under their dominion.
Official brutality and indifference continue to define the lives of ordinary Iranians. Meaningless promises are made to Iranians and to the world by the clerical dictatorship. Even fighting the so-called Islamic State, Iraqi Kurds have advantages denied their relatives east of the border.
Irfan Al-Alawi is executive director of the London-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC.