January 27/15

Bible Quotation for today/Jonah Flees From the Lord
Jonah 01/01-17:"The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.  The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.  At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 26-27/15
Obama turns a blind eye and it’s no accident/Raghida Dergham /Al Arabiya/January 26/15
Charlie Hebdo, Syria’s war and jihadist exhibitionism/Dr. Halla Diyab/Al Arabiya/January 26/15  

Lebanese Related News published on January 26-27/15
Report: 'Strong' Israeli Warning to Lebanon on Possible Retaliatory Attack
Killing of Sgt. Maj. Ghassan Ajjaj  ‘professional’
ISF Intelligence Officer Gunned Down in Zgharta as Army Seizes Bomb
Hizbullah, Mustaqbal Stress 'Firm Support for Army' in Anti-Terror Fight
Report: Mawlawi Joins Terror Groups in Arsal as Mansour's Whereabouts Unknown
Kataeb Urges 'Military Zone' on Eastern Border, Says Dialogue Priority Must be Electing President
2 Dead in Qab Elias Collision, 3 Hurt in 15 Cars, Truck Pileup in Bchamoun
Kataeb Urges 'Military Zone' on Eastern Border, Says Dialogue Priority Must be Electing President
Khalil Refers to General Prosecution Case of Spoiled Shrimp in Lebanese Market
Army Arrests Suspected Terrorist in Beirut's Southern Suburbs
Geagea Says Hizbullah, IS Two Sides of Same Coin
Al-Rahi Begins Recovery Period in Bkirki after Successful Surgery
Salam Determined to Improve Cabinet Work despite Troubles
Mashnouq Vows Not to Back Down until Ain el-Hilweh Fugitives Handed over to State
Report: Berri, Hariri Discussed Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue
Report: 'Strong' Israeli Warning to Lebanon on Possible Retaliatory Attack
Geagea Says Hizbullah, IS Two Sides of Same Coin
Al-Rahi Begins Recovery Period in Bkirki after Successful Surgery
Report: Berri, Hariri Discussed Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue
Hezbollah delegation pays condolences to Asiri

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 26-27/15
Canadian Troops Again Battle IS Group in Iraq
Assad Dismisses U.S. Plans to Train Rebels
U.S.: Battle not over in Syria's Kobane
Israel Dismisses 43 Soldiers who Refused to Serve
Kurds Defeat Islamic State Jihadists in Syria's Kobane
IS Urges New Attacks after Charlie Hebdo Killings

516 'Brotherhood Elements' Arrested on Egypt Anniversary
IS 'Not a State, Not Justified by Islam', Says Top Egyptian Cleric
Iraq Forces 'Liberate' Diyala Province from IS
Yemen’s Houthis ‘similar’ to Lebanon’s Hezbollah: Iran official
U.N. Envoy in Talks to end Yemen Crisis
Shi’ite rebels violently disperse demonstrators in Yemen
Greek leftist Tsipras sworn in as PM to fight bailout terms
Mubarak's sons freed from Egyptian prison
Egypt sees bloody day on fourth anniversary of uprising
Ex-CIA officer convicted in New York Times leak case
World leaders, Saudi people offer condolences on passing of King Abdullah

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Police warn they’ll clamp down hard on anti-Muslim acts on Australia Day
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US halted Israeli arms transfer to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram
Islamic State demands release of jihad murderer to spare Japanese hostage

Report: 'Strong' Israeli Warning to Lebanon on Possible Retaliatory Attack
Naharnet /Israel has sent a strong warning to Lebanon that it would respond to any attack by Hizbullah on Israel whether on its territories or abroad, Western diplomatic sources said. The sources told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published on Monday that the warning was delivered to the Lebanese authorities by several ambassadors based in Lebanon. The Israeli threat came over fears that Hizbullah would retaliate to an air strike on its members on the Syrian side of the Golan Height. The January 18 attack on the Hizbullah convoy in the area of Quneitra left six Hizbullah members and an Iranian general dead. Al-Hayat's sources said several Lebanese officials were informed by the Western ambassadors that Tel Aviv would hold Hizbullah directly responsible for any attack inside or outside Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visited the Israeli army's northern command over the weekend, saying the Jewish State will not tolerate attempts to harm it. He said Israel would respond “with force against any such attempt.”

Killing of Sgt. Maj. Ghassan Ajjaj  ‘professional’
The Daily Star/26.01.15
BEIRUT/MARYATA, Lebanon: Preliminary investigations into the case of a 47-year-old police officer who was shot dead in his car outside his home in a northern Zghorta village suggest that the killing was a targeted assassination carried out by professionals.
First Sgt. Maj. Ghassan Ajjaj, father of four and head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch in the village of Maryata, was shot in the head with a single bullet late Sunday. According to a security source, the assassin, who positioned himself in the victim’s garden – 10 meters away from the target – shot a single bullet that pierced through the windshield of his car, hit his left eye and exited through the back of his skull. The gunman appeared to have carefully calculated his position, indicating that the killer had previous knowledge of where the victim parks his car. This detail led investigators to believe that the attack was premeditated, and that the killer had monitored the victim prior to firing the shot.The accuracy of the assassin’s aim indicated that the perpetrator was a professionally trained assassin and not your everyday gunman, the source said. The motive behind the murder has evaded investigators. But police are looking into the possibility that the crime was motivated by the Information Branch’s crackdown on terror suspects in Zghorta. Investigators are looking into cases managed by Ajjaj in an attempt to identify the perpetrators. Hamad Ajjaj, the victim’s cousin, told The Daily Star that the officer faced a number of indirect threats before his murder.
In an incident which occurred roughly two years ago, unknown perpetrators torched his car. The victim’s cousin noted that Ajjaj’s position made him highly susceptible to threats and conflicts with a number of people. “Any arrest he made would disturb someone,” he said, adding that he believed the assassination was driven by a similar sentiment. When asked if Ajjaj was working on a sensitive case before his death, the cousin said that investigations are singling out controversial files that could have prompted the attack. The cousin refused to disclose the exact nature of the files until investigations are concluded. The cousin said the crime was “something new to the close-knit community in the village.”“We thought these incidents were far from us,” he said. Another relative, who was present at a funeral ceremony held in Maryata Monday, told The Daily Star that the assassination was a “political and security message.”The relative, who did not want to be identified by name, said Ajjaj was responsible for overseeing the security of zones ranging from Tripoli’s Baddawi neighborhood to the nearby town of Dinnieh when political leaders made visits to the area. In an outpouring of grief, the village of Maryata bid farewell to the ISF officer in a funeral ceremony held at the town’s mosque. The funeral was attended by crowds of the area’s residents, as well as representatives from the country’s security agencies.

ISF Intelligence Officer Gunned Down in Zgharta as Army Seizes Bomb
Naharnet //26.01.15/An Internal Security Forces intelligence officer was killed at dawn Monday after gunmen opened fire at him in the northern district of Zgharta, the ISF and the state-run National News Agency said, while an explosive device was seized later in the day in the region.NNA said Chief Warrant Officer Ghassan Ajaj, 47, died after an armed man shot him near his house in the town of Meryata. According to MTV, Ajaj entered the house's garage after returning home around 11:00 pm. “He was shot dead by a gunman who was lurking in an orange grove near the house,” MTV added. Ajaj's wife told the TV network that her husband had said that he sensed that his life was threatened “without revealing any other details.”“He used to switch cars every now and then,” the wife noted. In the evening, MTV reported that “there is a link between the assassination of Ajaj and the investigations into the blasts that targeted al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques in Tripoli” in August 2013. Meanwhile, a security source told LBCI television that the officer was murdered “in connection with his work at the ISF Intelligence Bureau.” “His assassination is a terrorist operation and a message to the bureau,” the source said. The ISF said in a communique that Ajaj was shot dead by unknown assailants. He had served in several posts and received medals of honor during his career. He is survived by his wife and four children, it added. However, the communique did not reveal the circumstances of his murder. In another security development in the Zgharta region, the army announced Monday evening that a military intelligence force had raided a room in Zgharta's Karm al-Tin area where it arrested two Syrian nationals. “An explosive device, four mortar shells, an 83mm rocket, three hand grenades and a quantity of various ammunition were seized at the room,” the army added.

Hizbullah, Mustaqbal Stress 'Firm Support for Army' in Anti-Terror Fight
Naharnet /Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement on Monday stressed their “firm support” for the Lebanese army in its fight against terrorist groups, following deadly weekend clashes against jihadist militants in Ras Baalbek's outskirts. “The conferees underlined their firm stance on supporting the army and security forces through all means in their efforts to confront terrorism and protect Lebanon,” said a statement issued by the two parties after their fourth dialogue session in Ain al-Tineh. The army fought fierce battles against extremist militants on Syria's border on Friday and Saturday, in which nine soldiers were killed and more than 20 wounded. Dozens of gunmen were also killed or wounded in the clashes that erupted in the outskirts of the Bekaa border region of Ras Baalbek. Hizbullah has several military posts along the poorly demarcated Lebanese-Syrian border. In their statement, the two parties also hailed “the dialogue's positive progress and the impact it has left on the public opinion.”They also agreed to take “some practical steps that can boost the atmosphere of stability.”Dialogue between the two rivals had kicked off on December 23, 2014. Following the third session on January 16, the conferees declared that they had made “clear progress” that might lead to results that can help “consolidate national stability.”

Geagea Says Hizbullah, IS Two Sides of Same Coin
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea has said that Hizbullah and the extremist Islamic State group are enemies but have closely related features of one idea. “Hizbullah is the IS's enemy and they are fighting each other,” Geagea told UAE's Alroeya newspaper in an interview published on Monday. “But dogmatically, it (Hizbullah) and the IS are the two sides of a single political currency which is political Islam. The presence of one of them nurtures the other,” he said. Hizbullah has sent its fighters to Syria to help the troops of President Bashar Assad. “Hizbullah's presence in Syria pushed many (sides) to adopt terrorism, which we totally reject,” Geagea said. He said the crimes committed by regime troops and the IS are the same. “Except that the crimes of Assad are much bigger than those committed by the IS.” Syria's uprising began in March 2011 when Assad's troops began clamping down on anti-regime demonstrations. It then erupted into a civil war with rebels seeking to topple him. “Terrorism would be eradicated when the dictatorship in Syria is eliminated and replaced by a democratic system,” the LF chief told his interviewer. As for Iraq, the different factions should agree on political solutions to help the country face the threat of terrorists, he said. Asked whether he thought that the Christians in the Arab world were under threat. Geagea said: “I believe that moderate Christians and Muslims are being targeted.” But he called for giving special care to some Christian minorities for being unable to confront major events. Turning to the terrorist threat facing Lebanon, Geagea said: “The logic of the state will eventually win.”“The state lies on the path of history while extremism goes in the other direction,” he added. Geagea expressed confidence in the Lebanese army and its unity, saying it is “capable to easily wipe it (terrorism) off.”

Al-Rahi Begins Recovery Period in Bkirki after Successful Surgery
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi was discharged from the hospital on Monday after undergoing a minor brain surgery over the weekend. Al-Rahi returned to the patriarchal seat in Bkirki after recovering at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Notre Dame de Secours in Jbeil where he underwent a “successful” surgery on Friday to remove a blood clot in the head. The patriarch was admitted on Thursday to the Eye and Ear Hospital in Naccache after feeling ill and then he was taken to the hospital in Jbeil. Top officials visited al-Rahi, including a Hizbullah delegation and Army Intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel, to check on his health.

Report: Mawlawi Joins Terror Groups in Arsal as Mansour's Whereabouts Unknown
Naharnet/Top Islamist fugitives Shadi al-Mawlawi and Osama Mansour have reportedly fled the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh to the northeastern border town of Arsal. According to As Safir newspaper published on Monday, Mawlawi joined the terrorist groups that are entrenched on the outskirts of Arsal. However, the whereabouts of Mansour remain unknown. The daily said that investigations are ongoing to locate the duo Islamists. Mansour and Mawlawi disappeared from the northern city of Tripoli following gunbattles between their followers and the Lebanese army in October. Reports have said that at least one of them is hiding in Ain el-Hilweh. On Sunday, media reports said that Mawlawi fled the camp disguised in women clothes and using fake identification papers, the same way he entered it in November. Mawlawi is expected to issue a statement or a voice message to confirm the report.

Report: Berri, Hariri Discussed Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri has discussed with al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri the talks between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal representatives, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Monday. The daily said that Berri's short meeting with Hariri was held in Riyadh over the weekend when the speaker extended his condolences on the death of Saudi King Abdullah . The speaker did not rule out that discussions between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal would continue to focus on the security situation in the country and the efforts exerted to reduce sectarian tension.According to al-Joumhouria, Berri expressed his stance during a meeting with several officials who visited him on Sunday. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials are expected to hold on Monday the fourth round of talks in Ain el-Tineh under Berri's sponsorship. Al-Joumhouria expected the dialogue session to be “exceptional” given the deadly Israeli attack on a Hizbullah convoy in Syria on January 18, and the possible retaliation to it, in addition to a speech that the party leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is expected to make next Friday. The fourth round could also be exceptional over the resumption of battles between the Lebanese army and terrorists on the border with Syria, the daily said.

Kataeb Urges 'Military Zone' on Eastern Border, Says Dialogue Priority Must be Electing President
Naharnet /The Kataeb Party called Monday for controlling the border and declaring the eastern border region a "military zone" as it urged the Lebanese parties to speed up the ongoing dialogues in order to elect a president. In a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau, Kataeb expressed its “confidence in the Lebanese Army and its role in defending its citizens and land, as well as its pride in the unity among Lebanese every time the country is facing a dangerous test.” The party also offered “its deep condolences to the Army Command and the martyrs' families over the death of the soldiers” in recent clashes with extremist groups in the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Ras Baalbek. "What happened in Ras Baalbek cost the military institution heroes who joined a long list of their colleagues, and it was an attempt to attract Lebanon into the Syrian war by creating new facts on the ground on the the eastern border,” it added. Kataeb called for “controlling the border and declaring the eastern border region a military zone” as it urged “the speedy implementation of the Bekaa's security plan.”  The army announced on Friday that eight of its troops were killed and several others wounded in clashes with terrorists in the Tallat al-Hamra region in Ras Baalbek's outskirts. Kataeb also urged “the parties to speed up the dialogues among them or limit their agendas to one topic – the election of a president.”  “This will send a strong message to all those trying to harm the country,” the party added. It was referring to separate talks that got underway between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement and between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces.  Separately, Kataeb stated that “the party feels sorry for the loss of King Abdullah, who had always expressed his love towards Lebanon and supported Lebanon's causes.”"We offer our deep condolences over the death of King Abdullah and wish King Salman success in leading his nation,” it added. King Salman acceded to the throne last Friday after his half-brother King Abdullah died aged about 90, following a reign of almost 10 years.

IS Urges New Attacks after Charlie Hebdo Killings
Naharnet/The Islamic State jihadist group Monday urged Muslims to carry out new attacks after the targeting of France's Charlie Hebdo magazine, in a recording by its spokesman posted online. Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, referring to attacks in France, Australia, Canada and Belgium, urged "Muslims in Europe and the infidel West to attack the Crusaders where they are." "We promise that in the Christian bastions they will continue to live in a state of alert, of terror, of fear and insecurity... You have seen nothing yet," the recording said. He added that the group would consider as "enemies" those Muslims who were able to carry out such attacks but failed to do so. The threat is just the latest instance in which the jihadist group has urged Muslims to carry out attacks in the West.
It comes after 17 people were killed in deadly assaults on January 7-9 in Paris against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket. Of the three attackers, only one appeared to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, but the group endorsed the killings in the message. It also made reference to attacks last year in Australia, Canada and Belgium. Western intelligence agencies have regularly raised the alarm about the possibility that Western sympathizers of IS and other jihadist groups could carry out attacks in the West.
Their concerns have been heightened by the thousands of Western recruits who have flocked to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside jihadist groups. Agence France Presse

Assad Dismisses U.S. Plans to Train Rebels

Naharnet/Syrian President Bashar Assad said U.S. plans to train vetted rebels to fight the Islamic State group were "illusory" as they would eventually defect to the jihadists, in an interview published Monday. The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground. Washington has backed the Syrian opposition since early in the uprising and has unveiled plans to train more than 5,000 vetted rebels in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to fight IS. Assad said the planned U.S.-trained force would be "illegal" and would be treated like any other rebel group. "They are going to be fought like any other illegal militia fighting against the Syrian army," he said. "Bringing 5,000 (fighters) from the outside will make most of them defect and join ISIS (Islamic State) and other groups.
"The idea itself... is illusory."
The Pentagon has itself acknowledged that identifying and vetting potential rebel recruits for training is a difficult task that cannot be accomplished quickly without significant risks.
Assad questioned the seriousness of the U.S.-led campaign against the jihadists. "What we've seen so far is just, let's say, window-dressing, nothing real," he said. "Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of al-Qaida? They didn't," Assad said. He was referring to his government's longstanding accusations that Ankara has backed rebel groups including IS's jihadist rivals in al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front.
Assad said the nearly four-year-old conflict could only be ended with a political solution, but cast doubt on the value of talks being organised this week by his key ally Russia. The dialogue, which was due to open later on Monday, was intended to bring together government and opposition representatives, but the main exiled opposition bloc, the National Coalition, is boycotting. Assad said his government would attend, but asked: "Who do you negotiate with?
"We have institutions, we have an army and we have influence," he said. "The people we are going to negotiate with, who do they represent?" His government has long argued that the exiled opposition does not represent people inside Syria, accusing it of being "puppets" of its main foreign backers, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States. Agence France Presse

Mubarak's sons freed from Egyptian prison
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News /Monday, 26 January 2015
The two sons of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak were released from prison early on Monday, prison officials told Reuters news agency, a day after the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled the autocrat. An Egyptian court last week ordered the release of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak as they had served the maximum pretrial detention pending a retrial. The decision sparked furious reactions from many in Egypt who viewed the Mubarak sons as symbols of corruption. State media reported on Friday that they had been released.
But prison officials said on Sunday that the release of the two had been delayed at the last minute, to avoid further inflaming opponents of the new government. Their charges included embezzling at least $16 million earmarked for the maintenance of presidential palaces.
[With AFP and Reuters]

Kurds Defeat Islamic State Jihadists in Syria's Kobane
Naharnet /Kurdish militia drove the Islamic State group from the Syrian town of Kobane and raised their flags on Monday, dealing the jihadists a heavy blow after months of heavy fighting.
Across the border in Iraq, meanwhile, a top army officer announced troops had "liberated" Diyala province from IS jihadists.
In Syria, the Kurdish advance in Kobane, on the frontier with Turkey, marked the culmination of a battle lasting more than four months in which nearly 1,800 people were killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had "expelled all Islamic State fighters from Kobane and have full control of the town".
"The Kurds are pursuing some jihadists on the eastern outskirts of Kobane, but there is no more fighting inside now," said the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman.
Kurdish forces were carrying out "mopping-up operations" against remaining IS forces in the Maqtala district, on the town's eastern outskirts.
YPG spokesman Polat Jan also announced the news on Twitter, writing: "Congratulations to humanity, Kurdistan, and the people of Kobane on the liberation of Kobane."
Mustafa Ebdi, an activist from the town, said the "fighting has stopped".
YPG forces were "advancing carefully in Maqtala because of the threat of mines and car bombs," he added.
The Kurdish advance came after the Pentagon said the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq had carried out 17 air strikes against jihadist positions in Kobane within 24 hours.
The targets included "tactical units" and "fighting positions" as well as an IS vehicle and staging areas. The loss of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, would be an important defeat for IS. The group has lost 1,196 fighters since it began its advance on the town on September 16, said the Britain-based Observatory. At one point, the jihadist group had looked poised to overrun Kobane. IS wielded sophisticated weapons captured from military bases in Syria and Iraq and committed hundreds of fighters to the battle.
But Kurdish forces gradually pushed back the jihadists with the help of the US-led air raids and a group of fighters from Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces.
Analysts say the loss of Kobane is both a symbolic and strategic blow for IS, which set its sights on the small town in a bid to cement its control over a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.
Since the group emerged in its current form in 2013, it has captured large swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq.
It has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory under its control, and gained a reputation for brutality, including executions and torture.
But its apparent failure in Kobane could put the brakes on its plans for expansion in Syria. "Despite all that manpower, all that sophisticated weaponry, IS couldn't get the city, so it's a big blow for their plans and its a great achievement for the Kurds," said analyst Mutlu Civiroglu. "Kobane sets an example on the ground, showing that when you have skilled fighters on the ground with the support of air strikes, this danger, these forces, can be stopped and eliminated."
Civilians were largely spared in the fighting because they evacuated en masse, mostly across the border into Turkey, in the early stages of the battle. Over the border in Iraq, the army announced another defeat for IS, with the recapture of Diyala province.
"We announce the liberation of Diyala from the (IS) organization," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said.
"Iraqi forces are in complete control of all the cities and districts and subdistricts of Diyala province."
The general said there would still be clashes however against IS in the rural Hamreen mountains, which stretch across multiple provinces, including Diyala.
Among international forces training the Iraqi military, Canadian special forces have twice exchanged gunfire with IS fighters since the first confirmed ground battle in Iraq between Western troops and the jihadists earlier this month, a senior officer in Ottawa said.
"Two similar events have occurred over the last week and, in both cases, Canadian special operations forces, again acting in self-defense, effectively returned fire, neutralizing the threat," said Captain Paul Forget. No Canadians were injured.
Agence France Presse

Obama turns a blind eye and it’s no accident
Monday, 26 January 2015
Raghida Dergham /Al Arabiya
What was absent in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was more intriguing than what was said.
Clearly, President Obama wanted the American people to acknowledge what he considers his own achievement in the remarkable recovery of the U.S. economy following the crisis. He wanted the American people to remember him as the president who rescued the United States from inherited wars and outsourced the initial “war on terror” so that no more American soldiers return in coffins to their country and so that American citizens no longer pay the price.
He boasted about having ended U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, declared the opening of a new page with Cuba, and called on Congress to authorize military action against ISIS. He mentioned Iraq and Syria from the standpoint of the war on ISIS, and mentioned supporting the moderate Syrian opposition in passing and also in the context of the war on ISIS.
But Obama did not mention Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at all, even though he had declared in previous speeches that Assad had lost legitimacy and that he must step down. He mentioned Iran only in relation to nuclear negotiations and his intention to veto any attempt by Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran during the negotiations. He deliberately ignored the Iranian military role in Syria and Iraq, and ignored the Israeli military strike that claimed the lives of senior Hezbollah and Iranian commanders in the Syrian Golan. He did not address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, even though he had made the resolution of the conflict his top priority at the start of his first term. More importantly, President Obama did not mention Yemen -- a major theater of his secret drone war on al-Qaeda in collaboration with the Yemeni government -- even as the Iranian-backed Houthis were carrying out a coup against the same government while Obama was delivering the state of the union address. Interestingly as well, Obama did not mention al-Qaeda. In effect, this the first time since the attacks of 9/11 that al-Qaeda is not mentioned in the traditional annual speech given by the U.S. president.
Addressing America
It might be said: Why should the U.S. president talk about the tribal, sectarian, and authoritarian insanity in Yemen, when he is addressing the American people about the state of their country? Why should the U.S. president say anything to disturb the climate of reassurance for the economic recovery and the priorities of the middle class to talk about the consequences of not reaching a nuclear deal with Iran? Who said that the American people - or the U.S. president - is unwilling to entrust it to others to fight the war on ISIS in their own territories so that this war is not fought in American cities? Moreover, who said that Obama’s policy, which is averse to involvement in Syria, was not in the U.S. interest, after it became clear that Syria really is Iran’s Vietnam and after Russia realized it would inherit a fragmented Syria infested with extremist groups ready to take revenge against Russian policies in both Syria and Russia? Incidentally, isn’t it being said that the decline in oil prices, which has brought Iran and Russia to their knees, is U.S.-approved? Why should President Barack Obama detail all these “achievements” in the state of the union address?
“What was absent in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was more intriguing than what was said ”
The state of the world is certainly not the responsibility of the United States alone or the making of U.S. cunningness alone. However, the United States is not completely innocent vis-a-vis the world situation. The United States drafts policies that serve its interests for the long term and that do not stop with a president’s four-year or eight-year term. No doubt, U.S. policies in their majority are practical and pragmatic, sometimes to the extent that they contradict claims of moral superiority among Americans. This is a superpower that does not stop at anything that would slow down the fast train guaranteeing U.S. monopoly of superpower status. It places its economic, geopolitical, and strategic interests above any friendships and alliances, possibly with the exception of the alliance with Israel. Those who assumed that the U.S. invitation for them to join the VIP car is irreversible and that it entitled them to permanent partnership soon found themselves cast off at a passing station, being bade farewell and dispensed of.
The perception of U.S. President Barack Obama in the minds of non-Americans who pinned hopes on his promises that he showered on the world is not a good one. He was the man who tickled the fancies and dreams of a majority around the world, before everyone woke up to the pragmatic reality and fell into disappointment. Those who were disappointed in him have the right to be angry and to condemn him, because Obama made broad promises beyond his country that made people feel part of his popular base. But the practical reality is that Barack Obama is a U.S. president not a world president. He is part of the establishment in the United States, which drafts long-term U.S. policy and preserves U.S. interests above all other considerations. Nevertheless, there is no choice for him but to bear the consequences of the policies he chose for the executive branch, even if they were part of strategies drafted decades ago for decades to come.
Reading what was mentioned in the State of the Union address and what was absent is worthwhile, but overdoing it is harmful because the U.S. president is a part but not the whole of U.S. strategic policy. Tactics are important for those concerned with power in various positions, whether they are in power or are seeking to be in power. Because the Arab region is filled with both types, there will be many interpretations for what was said and what was left unsaid in the state of union address, because the impact on the men in power and those seeking power will be translated as actions on the American arena.
Avoiding others’ wars
In Yemen, where U.S. drones have been waging a war on al-Qaeda for years, the drone strategy is demonstratively flawed because it is not being accompanied by intelligence gathering on the ground to make the drone war more effective. But because Obama’s policy based on fulfilling the desires of the U.S. people is governed by the “cleanness” of U.S. wars, in the sense that no American blood should be spilled, the policy of flying over the ground in Yemen continued while the U.S. was content with watching the most dangerous development in a multilateral war, which has reached the extent of a coup ready to topple a government that is friendly to the United States.
The policy of turning a blind eyed that the Obama administration adopted in many places does not necessarily mean that the Obama administration chose one party over the other. It is simply a tactic in the strategy that seeks to avoid others’ wars, and part of a clear policy pursued under Obama based on attrition.
If the response to the insolence of the Iranian-backed Houthis who think they can control Yemen, is to let them be exhausted by al-Qaeda, then so be it. Let Yemen be a graveyard for both sides, just like Syria became a graveyard for all sides in a war of attrition that will not end in favor of any of the parties to it. The United States is not a direct party in these wars of attrition. This is a policy and it is no accident.
This policy is not wise. It is a risky investment that fuels the growth of extremism in all its forms, no matter how much it currently and provisionally serves the policy of not being dragged into involvement pursued by President Obama. True, the soil is fertile and ready for extremism in the Arab region at the slightest instigation from anyone - not necessarily from the United States alone - but the U.S. policy towards the region is not innocent and has led the Arab region into a spiral of bloody and chaotic change. It is not something transient or accidental that the United States abandoned under Obama U.S. allies in power. In some of these allies’ cases, their countries descended into the law of the jungle and breathtaking fragmentations like in Libya. In others, the former allies returned to take revenge against the U.S. policy of exclusion against them, such as former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is now in an alliance with the Houthis to return to power, even if this should happen over the ruins of Yemen.
The other risky aspect in U.S. policy is the deliberate decision as long as it serves U.S. interests. The U.S. ruling establishment with its various departments and agencies realizes that it has in its hands both tools to induce and tools to punish that perhaps no other country possesses. It also knows that world leaders -- even those who are extremely hostile to the United States -- have an implicit desire to be partners of Washington. In U.S. calculations, these leaders are primed for U.S. deception though suggestion and allusion to them that they are ready for rehabilitation or partnership projects.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems ready at this stage to bet on a project of de facto partnership with the United States in the war on ISIS. He may assume that he is in the process of being rehabilitated by the United States and that he will be spared from the policy of exclusion.
Assad must have felt greatly relieved for what was left unsaid in the state of the union speech, forgetting that the U.S. official policy still calls on him to step down. Perhaps Assad read in the U.S. press that the Obama administration is not in a hurry for him to step down, but ignored the rest of the sentence which is that the administration wants his departure to be gradual and is preparing to separate him from the remainder of the pillars of the Syrian regime in power. Perhaps Assad believes that he has been given three years that the Americans say is needed to defeat ISIS, and believes he can outmaneuver the United States and turn things in his favor and remain in power. These are Assad’s calculations and dreams, as it seems, but it is not unlikely that Washington is feeding those dreams and calculations through the policy of deception.
Even with the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose rules boast of being cunning and politically savvy, they have learned not to assume American naivety. They learned that the poles of power in the United States are not simpletons.
A segment of the rulers in Iran, such as the Revolutionary Guard, believes they can outsmart the Americans, allying with them in Iraq in the war on ISIS, and driving them to accept their ally Assad in power with a strong role given to them in Syria under the banner of partnership in the war on ISIS. For this reason, senior Iranian military “advisers” and fighters are going to Syria to support their ally Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside the regime in Damascus, with cover from the U.S. policy of turning a blind eye. However, the Israeli attack in the Golan which killed senior Iranian and Hezbollah commanders has reminded those concerned that turning a blind eye does not mean an blank cheque without oversight and accountability.
This is an American and Israeli message to Iran and Hezbollah via the Golan. The American message to the rulers in Iran is that Washington indeed wants a nuclear deal with Tehran, provided that the agreement would be free of Iranian “cunningness” as it tries to outsmart American “naivety”. Washington is watching Iran become implicated in Yemen after becoming over-implicated in Syria. It is watching the effects of falling oil prices and sanctions on Iran with reassurance. The “state of the American union” is good. This is the message to world leaders led by Vladimir Putin, who has for long bet on the naivety of the United States.

Charlie Hebdo, Syria’s war and jihadist exhibitionism
Monday, 26 January 2015
Dr. Halla Diyab/Al Arabiya
In the words of BBC thriller show, The Fall, DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) said, after her privacy was violated by a serial killer: “Modern life is such an unholy mix of voyeurism and exhibitionism," and "people perpetually broadcasting their internal and external selves."
So much can reflect on how modern violence can pride itself on exhibiting its atrocities on both personal and public domains. Modern jihadist terrorism is not an exception. It has been subscribing to this exhibitionist and self-broadcasting culture.
Modern jihadist exhibitionism
Although the Charlie Hebdo massacre carries the signature of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and despite the current hostility it has with ISIS, the massacre’s perpetrators internalize the rising face of modern jihadist exhibitionism which has defined ISIS’s “inward” strategy and its “importance of autonomy” culture.
With a bitter compulsion to seek public attention, one of the masked Kouachi’ brothers was described as proudly holding his index finger “skyward as he [reveled] in his crime before he [joined] his brother in a black getaway car” yelling and justifying his barbaric crime.
The scene of the cold-blooded murderer bragging in the middle of the street illustrates the psychology of the jihadists who derive their gratification from being observed by the very public they tend to terrorize. Exhibiting violence does not alienate nor marginalize the jihadist perpetrators; on the contrary, it pushes them to the center of the world’s attention which is what they yearn for. There are too many facets of how the modern jihadists desire to be seen and perceived publically. Hours after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Kouachi brothers were caught on CCTV with their masks off while robbing a petrol station at gunpoint in Villers-Cotterets.
“The current wars and so called “revolutions” in the Arab world inspire a deformed definition of freedom”
With an impulsive compulsion to be publically identified, one of the Kouachis seemed comfortable walking around with his ammunition at the petrol station, filling a plastic bag with food, his face shamelessly visible.
Although they do not view themselves as delinquents, the way homegrown jihadists introduce themselves to the public is shrouded with complex layers of customized façade.
They bounce on a dividing line between life and death, madness and reason, civilization and barbarism.
On the other hand, fellow Paris attacker Amedy Coulibaly’s videos represent two facades of his identity. In the posts where he pledges allegiance to ISIS, he revived Osama Bin Laden’s videos appearing in a white gown [galabia], head wrapped, propping a gun laid on the wall to his right side and an ISIS flag on the wall above. Coulibaly addresses the world crossed legged on a modern wooden floor allegedly in a Parisian flat, conveying an implicit contradiction between the modernity suggested by the spatial surroundings, and the subconscious tendency of Coulibaly to adopt a traditional seated position normally seen in Jihadist videos. The scene portrays Coulibaly justifying a barbaric action within a civilized setting.
The post-Arab Spring era
The confusion in the modern Jihadist manifestations and the impact of the confused messages has been conveyed by the violence in the post-Arab Spring era and the Syrian war.
The Arab Spring exposed the world to several scenes of extreme exhibitionist violence varying from witnessing the violent killing of Muammar Qaddafi to the obscene scenes of Syrian rebels allegedly eating the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier.
These acts of violence were filmed by their very perpetrators and shamelessly posted online to be watched, shared, and re-uploaded by millions. Both these acts were committed in the name of freedom and by those who advocate themselves as freedom fighters.
The kind of freedom these perpetrators promote is the senseless freedom of violence which they manufactured to legitimize their own inhumane acts. This brings into question what kind of freedom the Arab Spring and recent Middle East wars revive and inspire? Is freedom about the right to kill? Is freedom about the right to chop off heads? Is freedom about the right to eat and rip your opponent’s body apart?
The perpetrators shot to fame and were the center of global media attention. Exhibiting violence then became more volatile.
Alleged Syrian rebels claimed the beheading of a Christian man, 250 soldiers were publicly executed by ISIS in Iraq, a 17-year-old boy was crucified in Syria and Western journalists were beheaded on video.
There is no difference between the Paris attack as a cultural war against intellectual liberty and freedom of expression, and the killing of the Iraqi human rights lawyer; Salih al-Nuaimi who was seized and executed last September for criticizing ISIS on Facebook.
These daily scenes of chopped heads and mutilated bodies are all justified, so the jihadists believe, on religious grounds, or for benevolent purposes; “to defend oppressed people.”
By feeding this culture of violent exhibitionism, the current wars and so called “revolutions” in the Arab world inspire a deformed definition of freedom to young generations.
Watching violence has gradually become an internet sensation, as despite people’s disgust and condemnations, they still watch those videos.