March 09/15

Bible Quotation For Today/The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands
Luke 09/37-45: "On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here. ’While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying."

Bible Quotation For Today/ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Second Letter to the Corinthians 09,01a/.05-15/"Now it is not necessary for me to write to you about the ministry to the saints, So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion. The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;
for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!'

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 07-08/15
The Tikrit Question/
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/March 8/15

Lebanese Related News published on  March 08-09/15
Salam rules out security coordination with Syria
Nouhad Machnouk: the elegant go-getter
Hariri: No neutrality in fight against jihadis
Al-Rahi Urges Lawmakers to Realize Risks of Presidential Vacuum

4 Injured in Brawl between Lebanese, Syrians in Shebaa
Islamic militant Fadel Shaker Denies Role in Abra Battle, Wants to Return to 'Normal Life'
Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar Denies Kerry's Remarks over Presidential Election
Lebanese TV host fires back after being told to ‘shut up’ by cleric
Radicalized Lebanese pop star wants to go back to ‘normal life
One dead in bombing near French supermarket in Egypt
Report: Negotiations with Abductors of Servicemen Hit Brick Wall
Cafeteria, Bakery, Pastry Factory Shut in North after Food Poisoning
Several Hurt as Gas Canister Explodes at Ketermaya Bakery
Shabtini: No President before Iran-U.S. Deal, Hizbullah Clinging to Arms for Self-Defense
Model UN puts AUB on the map
Lebanese journalist set for World Bank role

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  March 08-09/15
Iran top leader appears amid death rumors
Obama vows to 'walk away' from bad Iran deal
Netanyahu: West vows not to rush into bad deal
Netanyahu's secret peace offer to Palestinians revealed
Netanyahu Poll Challenger Urges End to Israel Isolation
Israel's intelligence chief visits United States
Israeli hostage in Nigeria released for ransom
Chechnya Policeman 'Confesses' Involvement in Nemtsov Murder
Kuwaiti Lawyer for Jihadi John's Father Quits the Case
UAE to Try Kuwaiti ex-MP for 'Inciting Sedition'
German Woman Fighter Dead in Kurd-IS Clashes in Syria
U.S. General Says Escalating Air War on IS Not the Answer
Report: 300-plus British IS Jihadists Have Returned Home
Iraq calls for air power to protect antiquities
Iraq preparing for Tikrit offensive
Hadi reveals new details of Saleh’s involvement with Iran, Houthis: source
Britain derailing efforts to lift UN arms embargo on Libya: UN representative
New EU sanctions prove Assad’s collusion with ISIS: British foreign secretary

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
Pakistan Taliban: “Muslims are commanded by Allah to keep their enemies terrorized”
UK: Teen Army cadets defy jihad threat & dhimmi authorities by wearing their uniforms
UK plans airline laws to stop Muslims in Britain from joining Islamic State
Boko Haram murders 50 as it pledges allegiance to the Islamic State

Salam rules out security coordination with Syrian regime
Hasan LakkisHussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Mar. 09, 2015
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam called Sunday for national unity to ward off security threats arising from the war in Syria and ruled out coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies to face Syria-based jihadis, citing the government’s disassociation policy.
Meanwhile, March 14 parties are putting the final touches on a 100-plus member National Council set to be announced on the 10th anniversary of the alliance Saturday, political sources told The Daily Star. The council, comprising March 14 politicians and activists, will replace the coalition’s General Secretariat currently headed by former MP Fares Soueid, the sources said.
Speaking to visitors at his Moseitbeh residence, Salam warned that the threat of terrorist groups that had targeted Lebanon in the past still existed, saying these groups are active in several Lebanese areas. He said the Lebanese Army has full government support in its ongoing battle against terrorism.
“The security plan or plans require complete coordination among military apparatuses,” Salam said. “The Army has received full political support from the government to achieve security and stability inside the country.”
Referring to the fallout of the conflict in Syria in Lebanon, Salam said: “In order to stave off these [security] risks that might come from outside the border as a result of the situation there [in Syria], what is required is to remain united, especially since these risks exist and are permanent.”
Salam said the government’s declared policy to distance Lebanon from the conflict in Syria prevented military cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian armies to face threats posed by Islamist militants entrenched near the border with Lebanon. “We cannot at present depart from the disassociation policy,” he said.
A number of March 8 politicians, including Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, have called on the government to coordinate its anti-terror efforts with the Syrian army to face ISIS and Nusra Front militants holed up in rugged areas near the border with Syria threatening to destabilize Lebanon.
Salam said priority is given to equipping the Lebanese Army and security forces with weapons to help them in the battle against terrorism. He said the first shipment of French weapons to the Lebanese Army funded by a $3 billion Saudi grant would arrive in April. He added that implementation of the other $1 billion Saudi grant, supervised by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to buy arms for the Army and security forces, went on at a quicker pace.
Salam vowed not to allow the Cabinet’s work to be stalled anymore.
“Cabinet sessions will not be obstructed from now on,” he said.
“The Cabinet is responsible for running the citizens’ affairs. Priorities will be approved during the new chance given to the Cabinet, a move that will help shield the internal front,” he said.
“Amid the presidential vacuum, the Cabinet approach should be positive and avoid obstruction under the extraordinary circumstances,” Salam said. “Reactivation of the Cabinet’s work will lead to an improvement of the situation and follow up stability, security and the ongoing dialogue between a number of political parties.”
He was referring to the ongoing dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah and talks between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement.
Following a three-week suspension of Cabinet sessions caused by a rift over a decision-making mechanism, Salam last Thursday chaired a Cabinet meeting, telling ministers that he would no longer allow them to obstruct the government’s work.
The Cabinet has approved a new mechanism aimed at speeding its work, replacing a method which had severely reduced its productivity over the past nine months. Under the new system, regular decisions – particularly those affecting citizen’s daily lives – will be made by “consensus,” but will not necessarily require the consent of all 24 ministers, as was the case previously.
Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai slammed lawmakers for failing to elect a new president over the past eight months while they had met last year to extend Parliament’s mandate.
“It’s high time for the Lebanese, particularly the nation’s lawmakers and political blocs, to stand before God and their conscience to realize the horrendous effect of the failure to elect a head of state and the paralysis this has caused to Parliament which has extended its mandate while at the same time it has failed to elect a president,” Rai said in Sunday’s sermon in Bkirki.
“It’s high time [for the MPs] to realize the horrendous effect of the presidential vacuum, which has thrown the government into a crisis with itself, has stalled appointments and emptied Lebanese embassies of its ambassadors.”
For his part, Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem urged the party’s political rivals not to bet on regional and international developments to influence the presidential election.
“We should make our choices on our own,” Qassem said, addressing students affiliated with Hezbollah. “Lebanon is not on the agenda of any international and regional deal at the moment. They [regional and international powers] have bigger concerns than Lebanon.”
Separately, Hezbollah officials hit back at U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale for criticizing the party.
“The U.S. ambassador took advantage of an official platform to breach international standards of conduct and diplomatic norms by waging a campaign against the Lebanese resistance,” Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi said during a ceremony in south Lebanon.
He likened Hale’s remarks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the Congress last week, saying the ambassador aimed to create divisions among the Lebanese. “It has become necessary for this ambassador, who behaves as though he operates in a non-sovereign state, to abide by diplomatic norms and protocol,” Musawi said.
In a statement after meeting Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Friday, Hale accused Hezbollah of harming Lebanon’s stability by sending forces to fight in Syria and violating the government’s disassociation policy on the Syrian conflict.
“Hezbollah continues to make life and death decisions for all of Lebanon, yet consults no one, is accountable to no Lebanese, and answers to foreign powers,” Hale said, referring to Iran, Hezbollah’s benefactor.
Hezbollah MP Nawar Saheli told Hale to shut up. “We in the resistance are the maker of the culture of life because the heroic martyrs had made with their blood life for all of us,” Saheli said in a speech at an educational ceremony in the Bekaa city of Hermel. “We are proud of what we are doing on the border with Palestine and in Syria and everywhere in which we must be.” He called on “Ambassador Hale to shut up and to look into the Zionist enemy’s violations of U.N. resolutions.”

Lebanese TV host fires back after being told to ‘shut up’ by cleric
By Staff writer / Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 8 March 2015/Lebanese TV presenter Rima Karaki fired back at a Muslim Cleric after he told her to “shut up” during an interview this week. The argument started when the TV host asked the cleric to cut his answer due to time restriction after he had started to speak about the historical consequences of Christian involvement in the Middle East instead of the recent wave of Christians joining ISIS. “Please don’t get all worked up,” Karaki, who was presenting a talk show on al Jadid channel, said. “We respect you and know you want to give a complete answer.” But Al Seba’i did not accept Karaki’s comment. “Are you done?” he asked. “Shut up so I can talk.” Karaki carried on by saying: “Just a second. Either there is mutual respect or the conversation is over.”Karaki later asked producers to cut off his microphone and move on with the program.

Al-Rahi Urges Lawmakers to Realize Risks of Presidential Vacuum
NaharnetظMaronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi reiterated on Sunday calls on lawmakers to end the parliament paralysis and elect a new head of state. “It is time for the Lebanese, in particular the MPs to wake their conscience and realize the risks taken by the delay in electing a new president,” al-Rahi said during his Sunday sermon. He stressed that the presidential vacuum is paralyzing the parliament, which forcefully extended its term but obstructed the presidency elections. “They should recognize the atrocity committed by the presidential vacuum, which is risking the stability of the cabinet, obstructing the appointment of civil servants and emptying the embassies from its ambassadors,” al-Rahi added. The patriarch called on lawmakers to acknowledge their “personal sins.”
Vacuum striking the presidential post is having a tough impact on the cabinet and the parliament as the state is threatened with further crises over ongoing rows between the political arch-foes. Lebanon has been without a head state since May when the term of President Michel Suleiman ended without the election of his successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the elections. The differences between the ministers on the amendment of the mechanism prompted Prime Minister Tammam Salam to suspend sessions in the past two weeks giving way for the cabinet members to reach an agreement on the formula, which he wants it to be based on article 65 of the constitution. The current mechanism, which was adopted after the cabinet assumed the prerogative of the president in accordance with the constitution, states that ministers should give unanimous support to the government's decisions. But it proved to be troublesome after some ministers resorted to veto power. The sessions resumed on Thursday.

Hariri: No neutrality in fight against jihadis
The Daily Star/Mar. 09, 2015
BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Sunday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi during a visit to Cairo aimed at reaffirming support for moderation in the face of Islamist extremism roiling the Middle East.
Speaking to reporters after the one-hour meeting at the Ittihadiah Palace in Cairo, Hariri also said Lebanon’s relations with Iran should be mutually beneficial.
The head of the Future Movement said he reiterated to Sisi the condolences of the Lebanese people over “the martyrs killed at the hand of terrorism.” He was referring to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians in Libya by ISIS militants last month.
“I confirmed our support to Egypt in the face of the forces of evil and extremism,” Hariri said, according to a statement released by his media office.
“We are in the same boat, facing an enemy of religion, values, and Arab and Islamic civilization. There is no room for neutrality in this confrontation,” he said. “We are on the side of Arab and Islamic moderation and that is in the side which Egypt, its leadership and people, have chosen, in solidarity with all our brethren in the [Arab] states of moderation.”
Hariri said extremism existed in Iran and is practiced by ISIS and the Nusra Front. However, he said he did not consider Iran, despite his criticism of its role in the region, to be an enemy.
Hariri said he discussed with Sisi the 9-month-old presidential deadlock and Lebanon’s ongoing battle against terrorism.
“Discussions focused on the situation in the region and Lebanon, and all the problems in the region. We also talked in detail about the interest of Lebanon and the Arabs,” he said.
“We see, just as Egypt does, that moderation means facing all kinds of extremism and not only one kind. Extremism exists, whether the Iranian extremism or the extremism of Daesh [ISIS] and Nusra. We also talked about Lebanon’s confrontation against extremism, and President Sisi hoped that Lebanon would elect a president and this is the hope of all countries.”
Hariri said the talks covered Iran’s growing influence in the region. “Of course, we discussed this issue and stressed that there are risks surrounding the Arab world today,” he said. “An Arab strategy should be hammered out to face all these risks. I can honestly say that we have remarks concerning Iran, but this does not mean that we are against Iran. We want our relations with Iran to benefit both Lebanon and Iran, and not solely Iran.”
The 4-year-old conflict in Syria was also discussed by Sisi and Hariri, who said that Egypt and other countries backed Geneva conference decisions that called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
“Egypt and all countries support the ‘Geneva I’ and ‘Geneva II’ decisions and I do not see that Egypt has a different position,” Hariri said.
“The problem is that the Syrian regime says something and does something else. There is a global consensus that this regime cannot continue the way it is now. The Geneva I and II solutions require the regime of Bashar Assad to leave power. Thus, if the Syrian regime accepts ‘Geneva I,’ then it should step aside and there would be a power transfer as stipulated by the ‘Geneva I’ conference.”
Hariri, who was accompanied by former MPs Bassem Sabaa and Ghattas Khoury, later met with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Mohammad Ahmed al-Tayeb, with whom he discussed the situation in the region.
It was Hariri’s first meeting with Sisi since the former army chief took office last year after overthrowing Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar Denies Kerry's Remarks over Presidential Election
Naharnet /Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar denied on Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry informed him that Washington is optimistic that a new head of state would be elected within two months after a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran is reached.
“Kerry didn't inform me when I met with him in Paris that a president would be elected within two months,” Matar said in comments to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3). He stressed that the meeting was “accidental” and lasted not more than 4 minutes. Al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported earlier that Matar and Kerry held a 45-minute meeting on Saturday in the French capital Paris. Sources told the newspaper that Kerry clarified to Matar that “Washington is optimistic that a nuclear deal with Iran could help in resolving the Lebanese presidential crisis within two month.” The sources noted that “President Barack Obama keen to end the standoff with Iran over the nuclear crisis,” revealing that Saudi Arabia is completely aware of the details of the agreement with Tehran and the stages it reached.
Kerry asked Matar to convey his message to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. Lebanon has been without a head state since May when the term of President Michel Suleiman ended without the election of his successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the elections. Saudi Arabia and the west continuously express their support to the March 14 alliance, while Iran voices its support to the March 8 coalition, in particular Hizbullah. The U.S. secretary of state spent three days in Switzerland earlier this week huddled with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the latest round of intense negotiations seeking to hammer out a deal as a March 31 deadline looms. Fears have been raised both in Europe and Israel that the deal could leave much of Iran's uranium enrichment capability in place -- in particular that Tehran would still have thousands of centrifuges which spin uranium gas into high-grade fissile material capable of fueling a nuclear weapon. Iran has long denied seeking to arm itself with an atomic bomb, insisting its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes.

Report: Negotiations with Abductors of Servicemen Hit Brick Wall
Naharnet/Negotiations with al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) over the release of captive Lebanese servicemen had ceased, media reports said on Sunday. According to Nizam Mogheit, the brother of soldier Ibrahim who was taken hostage by ISIL, information obtained by the families of kidnapped troops and policemen indicate that negotiations with al-Nusra Front led by Sheikh Mustapha al-Hujeiri, who is also known as Abu Taqiyeh and hails from Bekaa border village of Arsal, and that with ISIL and led by Ahmed Fleiti, the town's deputy municipal chief, reached a dead end. “The relatives will hold a meeting soon to determine their new endeavors in light of the absence of any cooperation between them and the concerned state authority, in particular the crisis cell,” Mogheit said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. Prime Minister Tammam Salam chaired on Thursday a meeting for the ministerial crisis cell tasked with following up on the case of the abducted servicemen. He warned that the families will be ready to escalate their measures in mid-March. “We have thousands of ways to escalate our moves other than blocking roads... we are ready as long as three months of discretion and patience weren't enough to achieve any progress,” Mogheit remarked.
A number of soldiers and policemen were abducted by al-Nusra Front and IS group gunmen in the wake of clashes in Arsal in August. A few of them have since been released, four were executed, and the rest remain held. The captors have been demanding the release of Islamists held in Lebanon as a condition to set them free. Media reports said recently that al-Nusra Front handed over to the Qatari appointed mediator a list of its demands in return for the release of the Lebanese soldiers and policemen in its captivity. Sources told Asharq al-Awsat that Hizbullah said that it can't exert any effort to reach a breakthrough in the case, adding: “The party can only pray that the captive men return home safe.”

Islamic militant Fadel Shaker Denies Role in Abra Battle, Wants to Return to 'Normal Life'
Naharnet/Former pop star turned Islamic militant Fadel Shaker, who has been on the run for nearly two years, has said he wants to return to his "normal, natural life" with his friends and family. In an interview with LBCI TV released Saturday, Shaker also denied fighting alongside the gunmen of Islamist cleric Ahmed al-Asir in the fierce 2013 clashes with the army in the Sidon suburb of Abra. At least 18 soldiers and dozens of gunmen were killed in the fighting. Shaker, who has now shaved his beard, said he "never carried a weapon."
The interview is one of the man's rare public appearances since a video uploaded to YouTube during the street fighting. In that video, he called his enemies pigs and dogs. Shaker and more than 50 other suspected militants face charges of committing crimes against the military. LBCI said the interview was filmed at the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon. Though he grew to become one of the Arab world's most famous singers, Shaker suffered through a miserable childhood of poverty, which a onetime musician friend says helped lead him down a dark path later in life.Now in his mid-forties, Shaker was born to a Palestinian mother and Lebanese father in the country's biggest Palestinian refugee camp, Ain al-Hilweh. Born Fadel Shmandur, he began his career as a popular wedding singer who performed from the rooftops of the camp, an over-crowded and hopeless place. In his prime, Shaker sang love songs that were instant region-wide hits. He released his first album in the late nineties, and continued to perform until 2011. Shaker's brother had long been a strict Muslim, and he tried for years to convince him to leave music. But it wasn't until after the outbreak of an uprising in Syria against President Bashar Assad that Shaker became convinced that singing is haram, or forbidden in Islam. Shaker soon became the best-known face of Asir's small movement of openly sectarian, Sunni radicals and praised the cleric as "the lion of the Sunnis."

Obama Says U.S. to 'Walk Away' if Verifiable Iran Nuclear Deal Not Reached
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/President Barack Obama assured in a taped television interview Sunday that the United States was prepared to "walk away" from nuclear talks with Iran if a verifiable deal cannot be reached with Tehran. Obama made the comments Saturday as US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris to smooth over differences with France, which has pressed for greater guarantees that an agreement will stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, and a bruising speech to Congress earlier in the week by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "If there is no deal then we walk away," Obama said in the interview, which aired on "CBS News Sunday Morning" and in expanded form on the network's "Face the Nation" show. "If we cannot verify that they are not going to obtain a nuclear weapon, that there's a breakout period so that even if they cheated we would be able to have enough time to take action -- if we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it," he said. Netanyahu, who charged in an impassioned speech to Congress Tuesday that a nuclear deal would pave the way for an Iranian bomb, showed no sign of budging in an interview on the same "Face the Nation."
- Netanyahu 'a lot more circumspect' -
"I do not trust inspections with totalitarian regimes," he said."And so I'd be a lot more circumspect. In fact, what I'm suggesting is that you contract Iran's nuclear program, so there's less to inspect."Obama said the Iranians have negotiated seriously and progress has been made "in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist. "And I would say that over the next month or so, we're going to be able to determine whether or not their system is able to accept what would be an extraordinarily reasonable deal, if in fact, as they say, they are only interested in peaceful nuclear programs. "And if we have unprecedented transparency in that system, if we are able to verify that in fact they are not developing weapons systems, then there's a deal to be had, but that's going to require them to accept the kind of verification and constraints on their program that so far, at least, they have not been willing to say yes to."
Obama said the negotiations on Iran's nuclear program were gaining "greater urgency because we have been negotiating for over a year." "And the good news is during this period Iran has abided by the terms of (an interim) agreement. We know what is happening on the ground in Iran. They have not advanced their nuclear program. "So we're not losing anything through these talks. On the other hand, you get to a point in negotiations where it is not a matter of technical issues any more, it is a matter of political will."
- French concerns -
In Paris, Kerry also agreed with the French that there were still gaps to overcome in the "critical weeks" ahead. "We want an agreement that's solid," Kerry told reporters after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.Fabius had expressed his concerns over the deal on Friday, saying "as regards the numbers, controls and the length of the agreement, the situation is still not sufficient." Iran has long denied seeking to arm itself with an atomic bomb, insisting its nuclear program is for energy production and other civilian purposes.
Agence France Presse

The Tikrit Question
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Sunday, 8 Mar, 2015
A conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq was always an inevitability because there are only two possible outcomes: Either you chase them, or they chase you. There is no border demarcation, and no one recognizes the authority of the other. Iraqi forces are now taking the lead in the city of Tikrit, one of the two most important cities seized by ISIS in Iraq.
Iraqi forces have also gained ground in most of Salah Al-Din province and will most probably completely liberate it from terrorist groups, if only for a short period of time. This is because there are Iranian forces and sectarian militias fighting alongside the Iraqi army who will sadly replace ISIS. Photos and information coming out of Salah Al-Din confirm that these forces have already committed sectarian-motivated crimes.
The liberation of Tikrit and indeed every inch of Iraqi territory is a national duty that amply demonstrates the integrity of the state’s authority. Tikrit and its environs must remain under the authority of the Iraqi state.
However, if the aim is simply to take control of Tikrit and expel ISIS, allowing sectarian infighting and partisan alliances, then this will only be a temporary victory. Under such conditions, ISIS will certainly return to take control of Tikrit, and with local popular support. The war now has clear sectarian and ethnic dimensions, with Iranian-backed militias intimidating the inhabitants of these besieged regions.
Most of the military activities on the ground are being aided by the West. The US is providing precious intelligence, observing the movements of terrorists and monitoring the status of the territories under their control.
What is unfolding in Iraq more resembles a Sunni-Shi’ite conflict that has nothing to do with liberating territory from ISIS. Will Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces, be able to stop the sectarian war after ISIS are driven out? Unfortunately Iraq’s Sunni community have now been angered by him and his policies, even through they were happy when he first took up the post and pledged to work towards reconciliation. Believing that he has failed to meet these promises, Iraq’s Sunnis now view Abadi as being weak.
They fear that the situation in Iraq will deteriorate even further and become completely out of control. There are fears of Iraq facing the same fate as Syria where the situation on the ground has turned into ongoing battles between the Alawites and the Sunnis. Even if the regime in Damascus is dismissing this reading of the situation, this is something that has become increasingly clear, particularly following the involvement of Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Americans have to understand the nature of the conflict. They have found themselves dragged back to Iraq because of ISIS provocations and the threat it represented to the Iraqi government during the final days of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s term. His administration sustained a number of defeats which enabled extremists to seize important sites and even threaten the capital.
The Americans played an active role in the transfer of power from Maliki to Abadi, and later acknowledged that Maliki’s policies were responsible for the situation the country had reached. Despite this, they now find themselves part of a camp that is pursuing similar policies to Maliki, namely assisting sectarian groups.
They might be able to liberate all of Iraq’s territory and eradicate ISIS and other rebels, but this would just be a prelude to a new sectarian conflict, similar to the one currently raging in Syria. How will the United States benefit from supporting the Iraqi army without a political process that ensures that one side is not backed at the expense of all others?
The Americans must realize that they have now become part of the region’s repugnant sectarianism, fighting alongside Alawites in Syria and Shi’ites in Iraq, while negotiating with Shi’ite Iran on the nuclear issue. All three scenarios have a negative impact on the region’s Sunni community, or at least this is how it seems. The Americans have placed themselves in an unprecedented, terrible trap.
We hoped, and are still hoping, that the United States will participate in isolating Assad, the Syrian regime and its sectarianism, and support the moderate opposition that includes all religions and ethnic groups. We hope that Washington will refrain from supporting the government in Baghdad unless it agrees to become representative of all Iraqis.
Widening the sectarian wars in the region will not serve the West. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front, Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and others are nothing more than the outcome of these blind policies. The West should help promote moderate civilian institutions against religious hardliners, not support the extremists to achieve any kind of victory, whatever the justification.

New EU sanctions prove Assad’s collusion with ISIS: British foreign secretary
List includes businessman accused of brokering oil deals between the group and the Syrian regime
Brussels and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—08 March/15
New European Union sanctions targeting aides of the Syrian regime prove that President Bashar Al-Assad’s claims of being the last bulwark against jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the country are a “sham,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said on Saturday.
The EU issued sanctions against “seven persons and six entities providing support to the Syrian regime as well as benefitting from it” on Friday. They included George Haswani, a prominent Syrian businessman said to be in direct contact with Assad and accused of brokering oil deals between the regime and ISIS.
The Syrian government has maintained since the beginning of the conflict in the country in 2011 that it is battling terrorist groups such as ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front and not its own people.
But in the statement, Hammond said the EU’s including Haswani on its sanctions list gave “yet another indication that Assad’s ‘war’ on [ISIS] is a sham and that he supports them financially.”
The sanctions against Haswani represent one of the first official positions taken by Western countries acknowledging the links between the terror group and the Syrian regime, a position long maintained by those in the region and beyond.
The sanctions, which comprise asset freezes and travel bans on individuals, also targeted those responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013, which killed up to 1,729 people in the Damascus suburb, according to estimates.
“We are targeting developers, proliferators and users of chemical weapons,” Hammond added.
They included businessman Bayan Al-Bitar, who heads two manufacturing and information technology companies under the authority of the country’s defense ministry, and is said to have helped the Syrian regime manufacture chemical weapons
Another is Ghassan Abbas, who is in charge of a scientific research center in Jamraya, 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) northwest of Damascus, and accused of being directly involved in the Ghouta attack.
Hammond also said in the statement the sanctions were targeting “businessmen and companies supporting the brutal Shabiha militias” allied to the Syrian regime and accused of committing numerous atrocities against civilians.
They included Hamsho Trading, a manufacturing company accused of helping fund the Shabiha, as well as its chief executive Emad Hamsho and its subsidiary Syria Steel, which Hamsho uses to manufacture arms for the Syrian regime.
This brings the total number of EU-sanctioned individuals and entities involved in the Syrian conflict to 218 and 69, respectively.
Hammond stressed that the EU would “continue applying pressure to the regime until it reassesses its position, ends the violence and engages in meaningful negotiations with the moderate opposition.”