LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Feast of St Joseph the Virgin, the Spouse of the Virgin
Bible Quotation For Today/Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 01/18-25: "Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus."
Bible Quotation For Today/I pray
therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your
Letter to the Ephesians 03/01-13: "This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power.
Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March
The Niqab is the Flag of Islamism/Tarek Fatah/The Toronto Sun/March 18/15
Hero of the Middle East: The Israeli Messenger/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone/March 18/15
Why the Israeli voter reelected Binyamin Netanyahu and strengthened his Likud/DEBKAfile/March 18/15
As Netanyahu wins, the U.S. disengages/Michael Young/The Daily Star/March 19/15
Lebanese Related News
published on March 18-19/15
Future-Hezbollah tension defused, talks resume
Bassem al-Sabeh at the STL: Lahoud had motive to kill Hariri: STL defense
Tripoli residents pessimistic on city’s future
Hobeika designs celebrate feminine positivity
Syrian, Iraqi Christians in Lebanon Plead for International Assistance
Moqbel Decides to Extend Term of Intelligence Chief by Six Months
Armenian protests trap Turkish ambassador in Beirut theater
LU students boycott classes after Fanar shooting
March 14 Describes Verbal Assaults as 'Direct Threats'
Kanaan, Riachi Put Final Touches on Document of Agreement
Clash at ABC Ashrafieh as Armenians Protest Turkish Film
Syrian Gunmen Kill Arsal Resident in Drive-by Shooting
Syrian 'Nuclear Equipment' Keep Beirut Authorities Busy
Berri Advises Saniora to Work in Lebanon's Interest despite Exchange of Accusations
Washington Warns of Attempts to Finance Terrorism via Lebanon's Banks
Banking Body's Tenure Ends as New Members Await Decision on their Mission
Aoun, Jumblat Meeting 'Positive', Tackles Issues of Mutual Concern
And News published on March 18-19/15
U.S. rebukes Netanyahu on Mideast policy
Palestinians turn to world after Netanyahu win
EU Still 'Committed' to Peace after Netanyahu Win, U.S. Gives Tepid Reaction
40 U.S. Lawmakers Introduce 'Armenian Genocide' Resolution
Iran downplays chances of nuclear deal this week
U.S. admits Latakia drone was shot down
Assad sacks head of Military Security
Tunisia vows ‘no mercy’ after attack kills 19
Prominent Yemeni journalist and Houthi activist killed
Bangladesh may be on verge of political meltdown
Canada PM Says Will Extend and Expand Iraq Mission
Pope Francis to Visit U.N. on September 25
No role for Iran, Turkey in Mosul offensive: Nineveh governor
GCC says will not allow Yemen to become terrorist haven
Yemen’s Hadi seeks to reinstate released PM: presidential aide
Analysis: Saudi Arabia imposing “red lines” in relations with West
Opinion: Arabs should take the lead on Syria
Jihad Watch Latest News
Saudi grand mufti calls for demolition of churches
Grand Mufti of Egypt: No place for terror in Islam
Tunisia: Islamic jihadists murder 21, including 17 foreign tourists, at museum
Pentagon loses track of $500 million in weapons, equipment given to Yemen
UK: Cameron pulls report on Muslim Brotherhood at last minute
Denmark: Islamic group approves of Charlie Hebdo massacre, gets approval for mosque
Indonesia: Top Muslim clerics issue fatwa calling for death for gays
France: Pro-jihad “comedian” guilty of “condoning terrorism”
Pakistan: Islamic jihadists murder lawyer for doctor who helped CIA find Osama
Video: UK Muslim spokesmen explain Islam’s death penalty for apostasy, hilarity ensues
Netanyahu wins, New York Times crestfallen
Yes, Netanyahu is a great leader
Elias Bejjani/March 18/15
Yes, Netanyahu is a great leader and the Middle East is blessed by him winning the elections.
Personally I see that currently he is the only historic world-wide leader in power.
He is the only world-wide leader that logically and patriotically is standing courageously, loudly and faith-wise against the Iranian Terrorists and their expansion schemes and terrorism.
This Israeli hero defeated by the support of his people President Obama who viciously did all his best to fail him in the elections.
In his last speech in front of the USA congress, Netanyahu did not only speak for Israel, but more eloquently, wisely and loudly on behalf of all the Arab countries and peoples.
Sadly the Arab leaders, with no exception at all have as always double standard approaches, and do not have the needed courage, wisdom and patriotism to join forces with Netanyahu to at least not defeat the Iranian Mullahs, but to contain their mad and uncontrolled territorial crazy and denominational ambitions. In summary, As a Canadian of Lebanese descent, I am very proud that Canada is a role model in this context. It supports Netanyahu’s anti Iranian terrorism choices with no hesitation, and at the same time stands tall like our Lebanese Holy Cedars in its on going global fight against terrorism and terrorists.
Bassem al-Sabeh at the STL: Lahoud had motive to kill Hariri: STL defense
Elise Knutsen/The Daily Star/Mar. 19, 2015
BEIRUT: Former President Emile Lahoud and his “clique in the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus” may have had motive to kill former Prime Minister Hariri, according to a defense lawyer at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Referencing excerpts from a report by an unidentified U.N. analyst, defense lawyer Guénaël Mettraux suggested that while Hariri’s ties with the Syrian regime were on the mend at the time of his assassination, he was on particularly bad terms with then-President Emile Lahoud.
Hariri’s rapprochement with the Syrian regime and his anticipated success in the 2005 parliamentary polls posed a risk to Lahoud’s own political fortunes, Mettraux suggested.
Hariri’s political ally Bassem al-Sabeh, however, denied knowledge of any rapprochement between the Syrian regime and Hariri.
While cross-examining Sabeh in court, Mettraux advanced the idea that the Syrian regime and Hariri had turned a new page in their historically fraught relationship.
Mettraux quoted former Minister Mohsen Dalloul, who told U.N. investigators in 2010 that at the time of his death Hariri was “happy” about his improving ties with the Syrian regime. Specifically, Hariri was heartened after a meeting with Walid al-Moallem, who had been appointed as Syria’s foreign minister just weeks before Hariri was assassinated.
Moallem traveled to Beirut and met with Hariri in early February 2005 in what Mettraux suggested was perceived as a “conciliatory gesture in Beirut.”
At the meeting, Hariri claimed Emile Lahoud was spying on him.
“There is someone here named Emile Lahoud who has someone from your side working with him here, and they have nothing to do but ... specialize on Rafik Hariri. They send reports, they may send a report about the thing now, that we’re sitting together,” Hariri complained to Moallem.
Mettraux later questioned Sabeh about issues raised by an unidentified analyst working for the UNIIIC who, in 2007, wrote a report about the political context in Lebanon at the time of Hariri’s assassination.
The author suggested that the thaw in relations between Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad facilitated by Moallem may have “been conducted at the expense” of Lahoud and a “clique” of top Lebanese and Syrian security operatives in Lebanon who were poised to to lose influence in the country.
According to the author, “Lahoud’s interests were not always synonymous with Syria’s,” a point which Sabeh challenged.
Noting the “rapprochement” between Hariri and Damascus, the author of the report questioned “whether the network could have conspired against Hariri with or even without the knowledge or consent of the Syrian President Bashar Assad.”
When pressed on that point, however, Sabeh said he had no knowledge of any détente between the former prime minister and Assad.
“Assuming there was one,” Mettraux asked Sabeh, “do you think that this loss of influence could have been a motive behind the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri?”
Sabeh said it was “not proper” to answer a “hypothetical question.”
Throughout the day, Mettraux highlighted statements made by Sabeh and others to U.N. investigators suggesting that Hezbollah and Hariri were on fine terms leading up to the assassination.
Mettraux represents the interests of Assad Hasan Sabra, one of five Hezbollah members who have been charged in absentia with plotting Hariri’s assassination and the ensuing cover-up.
While Mettraux highlighted the positive relationship between Hariri and Hezbollah and the improving rapport between the ex-premier and the Syrian regime, he carefully cast Emile Lahoud in a suspicious light.
Mettraux asked Sabeh if he had heard the rumor that Lahoud “was swimming, and he was told that Rafik Hariri had been killed, and he just continued swimming.”
“That was a rumor, a rumor that I do not wish to comment on,” Sabeh said flatly.
March 14 Describes Verbal Assaults as
Naharnet/The March 14 General Secretariat considered on Wednesday the verbal attacks against the March 14 figures who marked the coalition's 10th anniversary over the weekend as a a direct threat against them. “The alliance's decision to establish its National Council is the result of 10 years of struggle, sacrifices and principles,” the secretariat said in a statement after its weekly meeting. Tension between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement soared over the weekend when several Hizbullah officials criticized the March 14 alliance after the coalition strongly criticized what they called “the role of Iran and its proxies, topped by Hizbullah.”d the party of implicating Lebanon in regional conflicts and seeking to prolong the presidential vacuum. Concerning the expulsion of Lebanese from the United Arab Emirates, the secretariat called on Hizbullah to assume its responsibilities and respect the legitimacy of all countries in order to safeguard the interests of the Lebanese abroad. UAE's decision to deport Lebanese expats from the Gulf country is reportedly related to their staunch support to Hizbullah and its allies. On Sunday, several Lebanese deported from UAE arrived in Beirut for the second day in a row. Most of the expats have been residing in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. The move was reportedly in retaliation to a speech by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah which contained a strong attack against countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council. On the ongoing presidential crisis, the March 14 statement urged the political arch-foes to elect a new head of state and "stop wasting chances."
The statement continued: "Lebanon is bigger than us all and its interests are far more important than the narrow interests of political leaders."MPs failed for the 20th time last week to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor. Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting electoral sessions due to a disagreement with the March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate.
Washington Warns of Attempts to
Finance Terrorism via Lebanon's Banks
Naharnet 18.03.05/U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser reportedly warned during a short visit to Beirut from attempts to involve Lebanese banks in money laundering operations to finance terrorism.
According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Wednesday, Glaser, who met with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and a delegation from the Lebanese Association of Banks, said that funds to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from some Gulf countries could pass through Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. He pointed out that “banks in Lebanon could be used to reach the global banking sector,” sources told al-Akhbar newspaper. The U.S. official also discussed measures that would reduce the flow of illicit money, which could be used to fund terrorist organizations and operations. For his part, head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon Francois Bassil stressed Lebanon's keenness to combat money laundering and the funding of terrorism. Glaser, according to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Beirut on Tuesday, encouraged Lebanese authorities and financial institutions to continue their work to combat the threat of illicit financing and prevent attempts to evade U.S. and international financial sanctions from Iran and Syria, in particular.
He also met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jebran Bassil and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq. He reiterated the U.S. commitment to work with Lebanon to continue protecting Lebanon’s financial system from abuse by terrorism threats.
Future-Hezbollah tensions defused as
Wassim Mroueh/ The Daily Star/Mar. 19, 2015
BEIRUT: The Future Movement and Hezbollah agreed during their eighth dialogue session Wednesday to bury the weekend’s tensions and restore the momentum which characterized their earlier meetings. “Attendees stressed the need to maintain serious and continuous dialogue, as it is a main pillar in the preservation of the stability of the country, and protects Lebanon from what is happening in the region,” read a terse joint statement released following the four-hour talks. “The [two parties] also agreed to continue discussing items on the agenda with the same momentum which characterized the first [dialogue session].” Ain al-Tineh residence of Speaker Nabih Berri, the talks are aimed at helping elect a new president and improving Sunni-Shiite relations.
After initial progress in reducing sectarian tension through the removal of political banners, tension soared again in recent days, with officials from both groups trading accusations in media. As in past sessions, the Future bloc was represented by Nader Hariri, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s chief of staff, as well as Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and MP Samir Jisr.
Attending the talks on behalf of Hezbollah were Hussein Khalil, a political aide to party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan and MP Hassan Fadlallah. Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, a political aide to Amal leader Nabih Berri, was also present. Wednesday also saw developments in an ongoing controversy over the extension of military appointments. An Army source told The Daily Star that Defense Minister Samir Moqbel would likely sign in the coming hours a decree extending the term of Brig. Edmond Fadel, director-general of Army Intelligence, for six months. Fadel had been scheduled to retire Friday. Moqbel’s decision is controversial, as Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun has opposed extending the terms of top security officials, many which are due to expire soon. The term of Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, head of the Internal Security Forces, expires in June, while Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi is due to retire in September.
Aoun has said the extensions violate the law and demoralize officers, and has dismissed accusations by rivals that his stance is aimed at paving the way for his son-in-law, Brig. Shamel Rukoz, to succeed Kahwagi as head of the army. Moqbel has argued that he is acting in line with his prerogatives as a defense minister. MP Salim Salhab, from Aoun’s bloc, told the Central News Agency that he was lobbying against Moqbel’s declaration that he is allowed to postpone the retirements of security officials. Salhab contends that any such action must be made by governmental decree.
“We will then try to convince ministers to oppose such a decree,” he added. “This is our priority, particularly [given the impending] retirement date of the director-general of Army Intelligence.” Salhab said that Aoun’s Tuesday visit to MP Walid Jumblatt, was part of this effort.
“Coordination with Hezbollah on this issue is ongoing, but we have not received their answer yet, and we do not know how they will respond if the issue is raised,” Salhab said, adding that the FPM had also contacted officials from other parties.
Moqbel discussed the issue of security appointments with Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday.
“I come to Speaker Nabih Berri to listen to him, [like I do] every time there are critical issues which require decisions, whether for [security] appointments or other issues,” Moqbel said.
“As a defense minister, I behave 100 percent in accordance with the law – everything is clear – [but] there are some whose opinions run counter to mine,” Moqbel added, in reference to Aoun.
Sources familiar with the issue told The Daily Star that Moqbel proposed to Berri that the agenda of an upcoming session includes a draft law he prepared that would raise the retirement age of officers.
Rather than jeopardizing the unity of the Cabinet by having it take on such a bill, 10 MPs could present it directly to Parliament for endorsement.
Passage of such a law would constitute a compromise, as it would raise the retirement age of all officers, including those hoping to succeed the current heads of security services.
MPs who attended Berri’s weekly meeting with lawmakers said the speaker announced that Parliament’s Secretariat would convene on March 24 to set the agenda for a future legislative session.
Berri also called on Parliament’s Joint Committees to continue work on the public sector wage scale bill, which he hopes can be finalized and added to the agenda, and said that he was waiting for the Cabinet to refer the draft budget to Parliament following its presentation by Finance Minister Khalil.
The speaker also stated that Lebanon would stand to gain from a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.
“An American-Iranian nuclear agreement, if reached, would have important repercussions in the region,” Berri told officials at his Beirut residence Wednesday. “One of the [outcomes] would be the reopening of [diplomatic] channels between Tehran and Riyadh, which would have positive results on Lebanon.”
Kanaan, Riachi Put Final Touches on
Document of Agreement
Naharnet/A meeting was held between Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan and Lebanese Forces official Melhem Riachi to discuss the “final touches” on the “declaration of intent” paper between the two parties, al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The two officials added an 18th article to the document of principles during the meeting, which was held on Tuesday night. They also tackled the establishment of a roadmap for the second stage of the dialogue and a preliminary discussion regarding the matters that will be included in the talks between the two parties. FPM chief MP Michel Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea are both presidential candidates. Their rivalry and other factors have left Baabda Palace vacant sine President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May last year.
Geagea considered last week during a televised interview that “major progress” has been achieved in talks with the FPM, pointing out that he introduced amendments to 16 out of 17 points in the paper before sending it back to Aoun. The dialogue between the FPM and the LF is expected to be crowned with a meeting between the old-time rivals.
Hero of the Middle East: The Israeli Messenger
March 18, 2015
In its evident, inexplicable eagerness to sign just about any deal with Iran to allow it nuclear weapons capability, the U.S. State Department has removed Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah -- two of the world most undisguised promoters of terror -- from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations List.
Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, has even openly admitted that Iran's diplomacy with the U.S. is an active "jihad." How much plainer does a message have to get?
The Islamists have nothing but contempt for Europe's weakness.
The West needs to paralyze Iran, rather than appease it.
A series of significant defeats to Islamist organizations will counter the effects of their efforts to entice young people to join them, especially ISIS.
In these terrible times, critical for the future of our region, Netanyahu spoke to the representatives of the American people, despite the objections of many Israelis and Americans. He was willing to accept personal, political and diplomatic setbacks in order to look after his people's security.
We are all also hoping that that the government of Israel will focus even more on bringing the Arabs of Israel into the Israeli fold. Otherwise a "fifth column" could form and harden that will drive them into the open and waiting arms of Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Arab-Israeli politicians might also focus more on helping such an effort, rather than, as many Arab politicians do, lash out and blame others for what is wrong -- a lazy, destructive substitute for actually helping improve the lives of their people.
Ever since Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, came back from his recent visit to the United States, it has repeatedly been shown that he was right to stand before Congress and issue his warnings. Tehran's Ayatollahs have not only held a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, where they targeted a simulated a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, they also displayed new missiles that could paralyze all the shipping in the Gulf.
Iran has already surrounded the oilfields of the Middle East, and is openly increasing its efforts to bring down the "Big Satan," the United States. Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, has even openly admitted that Iran's diplomacy with the U.S. is an active "jihad." How much plainer does a message have to get?
Iran has not only taken over Yemen, Lebanon and Syria It is also in the process of taking over -- presumably with the help of its negotiations with the U.S. -- Bahrain, Iraq, Libya and parts of South America, especially Venezuela, with its vast reserves of uranium, and Bolivia, now with a suspected nuclear installation.
In its evident, inexplicable eagerness to sign just about any deal with Iran to allow it to achieve nuclear capability, the U.S. State Department has removed Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah -- two of the world's most undisguised promoters of terror -- from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations List, presumably at Iran's request.
After Republican Senators sent a letter to Iran warning that any agreement with the U.S. would have to be endorsed by Congress, the Iranians used it to claim that the United States is so weak it is about to fall apart. The king of Saudi Arabia said that if the U.S. did not halt Iran's nuclear program, Saudi Arabia would begin enriching its own uranium, to acquire a nuclear potential equal to that of Iran.
Ashraf Ramelah, president of the Christian human rights organization Voice of the Copts, asked House Speaker John Boehner to invite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to address Congress, to warn America of the mistake it clearly intends to make. The members of the Arab League met in Riyadh to warn America of the approaching disaster.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently hinted that the agreement with Iran was not particularly urgent, and claimed that should the talks fail, the United States had alternatives.
Apparently with the sole objective of embarrassing Netanyahu, no one in the U.S. administration was willing to admit that he was right, or that unfortunately there were many American individuals and organizations actively intervening in the Israeli elections, with the goal of toppling Netanyahu. The U.S. Administration clearly wanted to replace him with Yitzhak Herzog, who is weak -- another link in the chain of American foreign policy failures, from Allende and the Shah of Iran to Mubarak, all victims of the political and diplomatic elite's ignorance and lack of political common sense.
The lesson President Obama has not yet learned from his experience with Arabs is that anyone who deliberately ignores or applauds when his own fanatic Muslim nationals (or guests) kill "infidels" will eventually be repaid with the killing of his own non-extremist Muslims. That is exactly what is going to happen in Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Lebanon and other countries that support terrorism.
The Western world should be wary, and not be tempted into breathing a sigh of relief because the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the burning of the Jordanian pilot. The Muslim Brotherhood, which consistently preaches the murder of innocents of every stripe, is currently trying to cover its tracks regarding murder carried out in the name of Islam through the taqiyya, which permits Muslims to lie to "protect" Islam -- in this case against the global wave of outrage against Islamist terrorism. Perhaps they condemn the burning alive of the pilot because, according to Islam, only Allah can burn someone to death. But behind their pious declarations they are overjoyed by his death, and continue inciting their followers to murder more of those they have designated as "infidels," while every day designating still more.
That Hamas and ISIS identify with one another, collaborate and have almost identical goals was made clear recently by the arrests Hamas operatives in the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that they vandalized the memorial set up in Ramallah for the murdered Jordanian pilot.
In their misguided, fumbling experiments, EU officials, along with the Arab League foreign ministers, are forming a united front to fight Islamist terrorism, while including the very countries known consistently to support it. These include Turkey, which mainly supports ISIS, and Qatar, which supports the Islamist terrorist organizations in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.
Despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamist terrorist organizations thrive in Arab states -- although in some they have been outlawed -- the West, especially the Obama Administration, doggedly refuses to outlaw them and insists they are peace-loving religious organizations. For some intriguing reason, the leaders of the Western world find it impossible to see the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist terrorist organizations it fosters.
Obama's behavior underlies the conspiracy theory, common in the Middle East, that he is a Muslim Brotherhood mole.
The U.S. Administration refuses to recognize the dangerous game Turkey is playing by ignoring the West's sanctions on Iran. Despite the fact that Turkey is a member of NATO, it has, in fact, upgraded and improved its trade agreements with Iran.
The European Union, in its cowardice and folly, has removed Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestinian branch, from its list of designated terrorist organizations. Europe refuses to change its stance, even though barely a week ago, Egypt designated the entire Hamas movement a terrorist organization. Hamas supports ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula and within Egypt itself, as they attack government, security and civilian targets.
The Islamists have nothing but contempt for Europe's weakness, and in the meantime, ISIS's wave of success in Iraq and Syria, and its brand as "powerful," encourage young, impressionable Muslims to join its ranks.
In the meantime, in the wake of rising Islamist sentiment in the Muslim communities of Europe and the U.S., imams and Islamist activists have been falling over themselves to reassure the public. They have opened mosques to casual visitors, in an effort to allay their fears and downplay the threat, as if a Westerner on a guided tour could possibly understand the degree of propaganda and incitement churned out behind closed doors, in classrooms and libraries.
The wages America pays Iran, in return for questionable aid it may or may not receive in the fight against ISIS, only serve to strengthen the Ayatollahs and their collaborators -- Russia, Syria and Hezbollah -- and ease the sanctions against Iran to make it stronger, enabling further expansion. And that is before Iran achieves nuclear weapons capability. What about after?
The saga will likely end with an agreement ending the sanctions on Iran, permitting it to build its nuclear bomb "for peaceful purposes," while in the meantime Iran will have taken over Yemen, completed its new line of "defensive" missiles, of the sort that will be able to reach Europe and be loaded onto submarines.
The soon-to-be-signed agreement between Iran and the United States not only abandons the Sunni Arab states and Israel to their fates; it also paves the way for an inevitable nuclear arms race involving Sunni states, carried out in the vain hope that they will be able to contain the Shi'ites before they launch a nuclear Armageddon on the Middle East.
There is also the rumored approaching death of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Thus, any agreement signed with the Iranians won't be worth the paper it is printed on, because no one knows who will replace him and if his replacement will agree to honor any commitments signed by the previous regime.
Instead of strengthening moderate Sunni states such as Egypt and the Gulf States, both of which are exploring an innovative, moderate, contemporary Islam, America has chosen to support the Muslim Brotherhood, which has fooled it into thinking it is not doing its utmost to weaken those moderate states.
The U.S. is driving a wedge into the unity of the Sunni Arab world and weakening its efforts to counter Iran.
To misrepresent the agreement with Iran, the Obama Administration enlisted European countries to create a smokescreen and media white noise, labeling Israel's failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians as the only important issue problem the Middle East.
They are using Europe to turn Israel into a leper, as if it is Israel's bound duty to accept American dictates because of its dependence on the American veto in the UN. Obama's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, instead of focusing on the catastrophically serious Iranian threat, recently made the hostile statement that Israel must now resolve the Palestinian issue.
The efforts Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has made to convince Congress not to support the agreement with Iran were brutally attacked by the White House, which is apparently only open to hearing opinions that agree with it.
Despite reservations regarding Netanyahu's hard line in Israel's negotiations with Palestinians, many of us in the Middle East are of the opinion that he is another real hero of the Middle East.
Many people here are also hoping that as the Arab Israeli vote was the third largest bloc in the yesterday's election, perhaps now the government of Israel will focus more on bringing the Arabs of Israel even closer and more comfortably into the Israeli fold. Otherwise, there is the serious possibility that a "fifth column" could form and harden, one that will drive the Arab Israelis into the open and waiting arms of Hamas and other terrorist groups.
We also hope that the Arab Israeli politicians will focus more on such an effort, rather than, as many Arab politicians do, lashing out and blaming others for what is wrong -- a lazy, destructive substitute for actually helping improve the lives of their people.
In these terrible times, critical for the future of our region, Netanyahu spoke to the representatives of the American people, despite the objections of many Israelis and Americans. He was willing to accept personal, political and diplomatic setbacks in order look after his people's security. Throughout history, prophets have often been without honor in their own countries, and have been rejected by the very people who should pay attention to them. There is, it seems, in every culture, a deep and real wish to kill the messenger.
The West would do well to understand that anyone really interested in fighting terrorism needs to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood movement -- all its branches, wherever they are. Even more, it needs to paralyze Iran, rather than appease it.
The West's dark, contradictory dealings with Turkey, Qatar, Iran and other shadowy regimes serve the growth of Islamist terrorist organizations. They destroy the chance for any success against radical Islam.
The fight against Islamist organizations needs to be creative, deliberate and continuous, to keep them from gaining even one victory either on the ground or in their propaganda campaigns. The Muslim public must not view them as attractive, or see joining them a sign of success. A series of significant defeats to Islamist organizations will counter the effects of their efforts to entice young people to join them, especially ISIS.
It is sad that in the face of the coming catastrophe, Western leaders -- either blind, naïve or malevolent -- are going to make a deal and appease Iran, just as a deal was made to appease Hitler in 1938.
**Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
The Niqab is the Flag of Islamism
Tarek Fatah/The Toronto Sun/March 17, 2015
An 18-year-old British ISIS member, known by her twitter handle @UmmKhattab_, posted this image of herself last year.
In Khaled Hosseini's soul-piercing novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, the character Nana, a poor, unwed mother, tells her five-year-old daughter, Mariam: "Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam."
Hosseini's best-selling novel was about life in Afghanistan, but in the 30 words above he sums up the way men govern the lives of women across much of the Muslim world. Like Mariam, millions of Muslim girls are told very early in life by their mothers that their place in society is one of submission; submission not to God, but to man.
Hosseini's 2007 book remained at number one on the New York Times bestseller list for four months. In its first week on the market, it sold over one million copies. But if there is someone who seems not to have read the novel, it's Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau's recent championing of the niqab [a veil completely covering the face, but not the eyes] as a basic human right has aided Islamism in Canada and undermined millions of liberal Muslims around the world. This includes the women in my own family, not to mention my late mother, who threw away the niqab in 1946.
The niqab is today not just a medieval symbol of female servitude.
The controversy began with the case of Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani immigrant who wanted to take her Canadian citizenship oath with her face covered. On being told she could not do so, she went to court and won the right not to remove her veil, while taking the oath.
Ottawa has appealed this lower court decision, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper mounting a vigorous attack on the niqab. He told the House of Commons: "This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and I think we find that (not uncovering one's face while taking the oath of citizenship) offensive."
A few days later, he told the Commons, "Why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open and, frankly, is rooted in a culture that is anti-women?"
Harper emphasized that many moderate Muslims agreed with the government's position of banning the niqab from citizenship courts.
For his part, Trudeau tried to portray Harper as racist, equating Muslim women not being permitted to wear face masks in citizenship court to the plight of Jews who fled Nazi Germany, but were not allowed to enter Canada.
Trudeau could not have been more wrong. While the Jews on board the St. Louis were not permitted to land in Canada, and went back to near certain death, the Muslim immigrant, Zunera Ishaq, was welcomed to Canada after leaving the Islamic State of Pakistan.
Leaving her specific case aside, what is it about this piece of cloth that triggers so much self-righteous angst among so many followers of Islam? How could the covering of a woman's head or face — which is not a requirement of the Qur'an — end up as the most defining symbol of Islam?
And what is the rationale behind the obsession with the niqab among the world's Islamists?
The fact is, the niqab and, I would argue, the hijab, are today not just medieval symbols of female servitude; they also serve as flags of Islamism, dictated by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world and its equivalent in South Asia, the Jamat-e-Islami.
**Tarek Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, and a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two award-winning books: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.
Why the Israeli voter reelected Binyamin Netanyahu and strengthened his Likud
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis March 18, 2015
Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party owed its March 17 election lead of 30 seats as much to its rivals’ myopia as to the prime minister’s stunning last-ditch campaign blitz. The writing had been on the wall for weeks. On Feb. 13, debkafile reported that Netanyahu had taken to using Facebook to depict a semi-comic character on video clips that were catching on fast. But most pundits and the Tel Aviv-based political and academic establishments insisted that Bibi had had his day and the voter was bound to usher him to the exit.
This assumption, which drew heavily on personal dislike, was reflected in all the opinion polls and the media. With one voice, they hailed the Yitzhak Herzog-Tzipi Livni partnership, whose parties merged to form the left-leaning, dovish Zionist Union (former Labor party), as Israel’s great white hope and the next heads of government after Netanyahu’s long years at the helm.
While they admittedly operated in a widespread climate of popular despondency and hankering for change, Likud’s rivals also missed the strong underlying trends:
1. Negative electioneering rarely works. The opposition kicked off its campaign with the “anyone but Bibi” slogan and smear tactics against the prime minister, his wife Sarah and their personal lifestyle, as justification for Likud’s ouster and the left-wing camp’s installment in government.
The tactic’s very intensity boomeranged, when Bibi craftily turned it into an asset. He reached out to the voter as the underdog who had been unjustly vilified by the “haves.”
2. Another opposition tactic which misfired was the campaign to demonstrate Israeli society as exploited and abused by a bad government which, for example, had run the health and education systems into the ground.
The average Israeli has plenty of cause for complaint in terms of the crippling wage gap, lack of affordable housing, and a soulless bureaucracy. Clamors to address these malaises must and will be addressed.
But by and large, many of the public services on offer are of a high standard compared with most Western countries. Unemployment is down to 5 percent, food prices are falling and the currency is strong.
Potable water is in unlimited supply as a result of huge government expenditure on desalination plants; a highway and road network connects all corners of the country and a rail system is finally being built. Communications rates are cheap.
Although the housing shortage for the average home-buyer far pre-dated the Likud-led government, the outgoing administration was on its way to providing solutions in response to popular pressure.
Three of the five parties Netanyahu quickly approached to join his new coalition ran on a social ticket and are deeply committed to making life better for young families and the middle class at large.
3. Opposition parties claimed they lost the election because security issues overshadowed the economy. This too was groundless.
The average voter not only re-elected Likud for another term, but shrank the smaller right-wing parties. This boosted Netanyahu’s support in parliament from a low 18 seats to thirty. With this setup, he need no longer be prey to the harassments of small partners, but will enjoy greater leeway for his government to get important jobs done.
4. A common convention has always been that an Israeli prime minister who falls out with an American president must go and make way for a politician able to heal the rift and restore good relations with Washington.
This presumption has been superseded by four changes:
--- The average Israeli is a lot better informed on events taking place in the Middle East countries around his country’s borders, where he sees hotbeds of instability, civil war bloodbaths and galloping Islamic radicalism. In his six (interrupted) years as prime minister, Netanyahu established sophisticated defense fortifications in the north and the south. Vast national resources were also invested in upgrading the operational capabilities of the army, air force and navy. Therefore, another slogan hurled against him that national security declined on his watch failed to connect.
--- The Israeli voter was not so much worried by the way Netanyahu stood up to President Barack Obama’s policies in the Middle East as he admired his pluck in defending national interests.
Herzog and Livni’s pledge to improve relations with the Obama administration, instead of being a vote-catcher had the opposite effect. While better relations are desired, the average Israeli is not prepared to pay for them by concessions on security.
--- The two most recent waves of immigrants to Israel from Russia and France have altered Israel’s demographic makeup and colored its perception of national and security issues. Neither group is stranger to brushes with radical Islam, on the one hand, or arguments with the United States, on the other. Both prefer pro-reactive responses to hostile challenges rather than knuckling under. Groups with this attitude tend not to be attracted by dovish, left-leaning politicians.
--- For all these reasons, the conflict with the Palestinians became sidelined in the election campaign as a non-issue.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah,Saudi
grand mufti calls for demolition of churches
Times of Israel staff /March 18, 2015
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah says Christian religious sites in Arabian Peninsula must be razed in accordance with Muslim law
Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric called on Tuesday for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula after legislators in the Gulf state of Kuwait moved to pass laws banning the construction of religious sites associated with Christianity
Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who serves as the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, said the destruction of churches was absolutely necessary and is required by Islamic law, Arabic media reported.
Abdullah, who is considered to be the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, also serves as the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.
Last month, Osama Al-Munawer, a Kuwaiti member of parliament, announced his plans to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country, according to the Arabian Businesses news site. Al-Munawer later clarified that the law would only apply to new churches, while old ones would be allowed to stay erect.
As Netanyahu wins, the U.S. disengages
Michael Young/The Daily Star/Mar. 19, 2015
Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in Israel’s general elections means that any hope of serious negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians – never particularly high in the first place – is now virtually nil.
But more uncertain, and interesting, is what it will do to relations between the United States and Israel.
Under Barack Obama, the United States has adopted a radically new vision for the Middle East and Israel’s status in it. Obama seeks to put in place a regional balance of power, one in which Iran would play a major role. A nuclear deal with Tehran is the cornerstone of that effort. It would allow the Americans to disengage from a region that has been a drain on their limited resources; a region that, to Obama, offers few long-term advantages.
This American attitude has helped Netanyahu, but it also contains many risks for Israel. The Israeli prime minister can delight in the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is today of little concern to Obama, who regards American mediation as a thankless, unending task destined to fail. That allows the Israelis to pursue their occupation of Palestinian land at will and ensure that no peace deal ever becomes possible.
But there is also a downside. Obama’s implicit message is that in a new Middle East Israel will more or less be on its own, having to invent a new purpose for itself in the emerging regional realignment, across from Iran. And as a more unpredictable region takes form, Israel’s power will be eroded by its inability to reach a settlement with the nearly 4 million Palestinians in and around the territories it controls.
America will not abandon Israel, any more than it will Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But nor will it expend valuable political capital to save Israel from itself. Especially when Israelis seem unwilling to understand the urgency of a peace settlement with the Palestinians. The reality is that Israel has no solution to the demographic time bomb in its midst.
In the looming Middle East this time bomb will be turned against Israel in a new regional struggle for power. Looking around at other regional powerhouses, Israel knows that not one of them – Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Iran – has any sympathy for Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Not one would fail to use the Palestinians against Israel if that ever became necessary, and in all cases this is virtually inevitable.
One might argue that Obama has two years left in office, therefore that his sharp reorientation in the region is a momentary lapse. Perhaps, but the president is hardly an anomaly. Many American officials are increasingly tired of a Middle East that has sapped their country’s energies in the past decade and a half, while offering no compensations. Israel has many friends in the U.S. Congress, but that’s primarily for domestic electoral reasons. No one in his right mind would seriously wager on Israel or the Arabs advancing a successful project of regional reconciliation and betterment.
In other words it would be a mistake to assume that Obama is a fleeting phenomenon. The idea of a regional balance of power, if it is seen as ultimately creating stability, may be embraced by many future American leaders. The strategic importance of the Middle East to the United States is no longer what it was, with America now a major oil producer. If anyone suffers it will be the Chinese, who rely on the Middle East for more than 50 percent of their oil. Let the region become China’s headache then, would be the resentful rationale in Washington.
In his speech before the U.S. Congress, Netanyahu clearly had more than an inkling of this. His speech was focused on a nuclear deal with Iran, but the broader message was that Iran was moving ahead with a project of regional hegemony, and that the Obama administration was implicitly favoring this.
As Netanyahu put it, “Iran’s goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its Revolutionary Guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Backed by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Backed by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke point on the world’s oil supply.”
Netanyahu is a disgraceful figure, and if he forms a government he will only push the region into new catastrophes. But he is right in seeing a fundamental change in the American approach. Yet his victory may only serve to accelerate Obama’s shift, reinforcing the president’s conviction that Israelis are incapable of making difficult choices with the Palestinians. Let them pay the price for their stubbornness, he may be thinking; but there is no reason for the United States to do so as well.
Those who will welcome Netanyahu’s win are the Iranians. An Israeli villain allows them to advance their agenda more easily. Tehran grasped Obama’s intentions early on, and now they are preparing to square off against an Israel stuck in its ways, surrounded by countries disgusted with its policies. And this time the Americans may simply stand by, allowing things happen.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.
U.S. rebukes victorious Netanyahu on Mideast policy
Agencies/Mar. 19, 2015
CLEVELAND: The White House Wednesday scolded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following his re-election victory for abandoning his commitment to negotiate for a Palestinian state and for what it called “divisive” campaign rhetoric toward Israel’s minority Arab voters.
Even as President Barack Obama’s administration congratulated Netanyahu for his party’s decisive win in Tuesday’s ballot, the White House signaled its deep disagreements – and thorny relationship – with Netanyahu will persist on issues ranging from Middle East peacemaking to Iran nuclear diplomacy.
Netanyahu’s Likud party looked set to win 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, comfortably defeating the center-left Zionist Union opposition with 24 seats, after exit polls on the night of the election showed the two sides to be in a near dead heat.
A united list of 1948 Palestinian parties came third.
The result was a dramatic and unexpected victory for Netanyahu – the last opinion polls four days before the vote had shown Likud trailing the Zionist Union by four seats.
President Reuven Rivlin said he would launch consultations with party leaders Sunday to try and form a new government as soon as possible.
Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union, conceded defeat and congratulated Netanyahu, adding that he would not seek to join a Netanyahu-led government.
Although Netanyahu must still put together a coalition to remain in power, his victory all but guarantees that Israel’s president will give him the first opportunity to form a government, putting him on course to become the longest-serving leader in Israeli history.
In a hard-right shift in the final days of campaigning, Netanyahu backtracked on his support for eventual creation of a Palestinian state, the cornerstone of over two decades of peace efforts – and promised to go on building Jewish settlements on occupied land. Such policies could put him on a new collision course with the Obama administration.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to a two-state solution and said that based on Netanyahu’s comments, “the United States will evaluate our approach to this situation moving forward.”
He said the U.S. believes that establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel is “the best way to defuse regional tensions.”
Netanyahu’s insistence that there will be no Palestinian state while he holds office – seen as a maneuver to mobilize his right-wing base when his re-election prospects were flagging – angered the Palestinians and drew criticism from the United Nations and European governments. Chances for restarting long-stalled Middle East peace moves already had been very low.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Cleveland, Earnest said the administration would communicate its concern directly to the Israeli government over criticized rhetoric used by Netanyahu’s campaign.
He charged on election day in Israel that left-wingers were trying to get Arab-Israeli voters out “in droves” to sway the election against him.
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest said. “It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.” Palestinians comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s population of 8 million and have long complained about discrimination.
Two weeks ago Netanyahu defied Obama with a politically divisive speech to Congress attacking U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran. The final days of campaigning only served to deepen tensions with the White House.
Despite U.S. concerns, Earnest said Secretary of State John Kerry had called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election victory and Obama would follow suit “in coming days.”
“The unprecedented security cooperation between the United States and Israel, including our strong military and intelligence relationship will continue and that relationship will continue,” Earnest said.
U.S. officials had left little doubt they hoped for an election outcome that would create a new ruling coalition more in sync with – or at least less hostile to – Obama’s agenda, especially with an end-of-March deadline looming for a nuclear deal in negotiations between Tehran and world powers.
The United Nations and France also said they expected Israel to continue with the Middle East peace process to negotiate a Palestinian state.
“Only the creation of viable sovereign Palestinian state ... will ensure peace and prosperity in the Middle East,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement, calling for negotiations to resume to achieve “a comprehensive and lasting peace accord.”
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator in peace talks that collapsed last year, lamented “the success of a campaign based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.