LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Jesus Triumph Entrance To Jerusalem
John 12/12-22: "The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord the King of Israel!
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’ His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.
The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him! ’Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus."
Bible Quotation For Today/ I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ
"Letter to the Philippians01/01/13: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ;"
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March
Raising Children to be Soldiers of Allah/Monir Hussain/March 28/15
The CIA Doesn't Know Why Muslims Join ISIS/Raymond Ibrahim/PJ Media/March 28/15
Why Yemen Matters/Daniel Pipes/Washington Times/28/15
Yemen: A war with political purpose/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 28/15
A war of all against all/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/March 28-29/15
Why 'Operation: Decisive Storm' is Iran’s worst nightmare/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/March 28/15
Lebanese Related News published on March
Lebanon supports Yemen's sovereignty, Salam tells Arab summit
Samaha to Stand Trial on April 20
Kahwagi, Moqbel discuss Army border operations
Large fire ravages refugee tents in Akkar
Abou Faour Says Assad Plotting Assassinations in Lebanon to Interfere in Country's Affairs
Army's Elite Forces Control New Posts on Outskirts of Arsal
Announcement of Landmark Deal between FPM, LF Near
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Iran FM Confident as Nuclear Deal Deadline Looms
German FM says Iran talks in ‘endgame’
Iranian general in Sanaa to organize Yemen rebel counter-offensive for Saudi-led attacks
Yemen's president calls Houthis 'stooges of Iran'
Saudi force hits Aden base: Yemeni official
Hadi will not return to Aden 'for now': FM
Saudi navy evacuates diplomats from Aden
Saudi King at Arab Summit: Intervention in Yemen to Continue until it is 'Secure'
Saudi King vows to continue Yemen campaign
Egypt calls for joint Arab military force at summit
Saudi-led air strikes target fresh Houthi advance on Aden: residents
Reports: One of Saleh’s sons wounded in Yemen
Saleh calls for end to ‘Decisive Storm,’ urges Yemen dialogue
Heavy Saudi bombing shakes Sanaa for third day
Canada Offers Condolences on the Death of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
Bomb near Cairo University wounds 8
Nusra-led rebels seize Syria's Idlib city: activists and fighters
Idlib city falls to Nusra after 5-day battle
U.N. chief admits ‘shame,’ ‘anger’ over failure in Syria
Saudi Arabia restores ambassador to Sweden
Jihad Watch Latest News
Wives of the Islamic State: “When one husband gets martyred, it’s like a celebration”
UK: Father of girl who joined ISIS was at rally boasting of Muslim conquest of USA
Nigeria: Muslim leader says he’ll murder people who vote
UK: New Islam museum hopes to offset image created by Islamic jihadis
Somalia: Islamic jihadists storm Mogadishu hotel, murder at least nine people
NY gang boss resurfaced at Florida mosque, sending jihadists overseas
Tunisia arrests 23 in jihad terror cell over museum attack
Victorious Entry into Jerusalem -Palm Sunday
By: Elias Bejjani*
(Psalm118/26): "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh! We have blessed You out of the house of Yahweh".
On the seventh Lantern Sunday, known as the "Palm Sunday", our Maronite Catholic Church celebrates the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The joyful and faithful people of this Holy City and their children welcomed Jesus with innocent spontaneity and declared Him a King. Through His glorious and modest entry the essence of His Godly royalty that we share with Him in baptism and anointing of Chrism was revealed. Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, the "Palm Sunday", marks the Seventh Lantern Sunday, the last one before Easter Day, (The Resurrection).
During the past six Lantern weeks, we the believers are ought to have renewed and rekindled our faith and reverence through genuine fasting, contemplation, penance, prayers, repentance and acts of charity. By now we are expected to have fully understood the core of love, freedom, and justice that enables us to enter into a renewed world of worship that encompasses the family, the congregation, the community and the nation.
Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time to participate in the Jewish Passover Holiday. He was fully aware that the day of His suffering and death was approaching and unlike all times, He did not stop the people from declaring Him a king and accepted to enter the city while they were happily chanting : "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”.(John 12/13). Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19/39-40). Jesus entered Jerusalem to willingly sacrifice Himself, die on the cross, redeem us and absolve our original sin.
On the Palm Sunday we take our children and grandchildren to celebrate the mass and the special procession while happily they are carrying candles decorated with lilies and roses. Men and women hold palm fronds with olive branches, and actively participate in the Palm Procession with modesty, love and joy crying out loudly: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21/09).
On the Palm Sunday through the procession, prayers, and mass we renew our confidence and trust in Jesus. We beg Him for peace and commit ourselves to always tame all kinds of evil hostilities, forgive others and act as peace and love advocates and defend man's dignity and his basic human rights. "Ephesians 2:14": "For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us"
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus' story into Jerusalem appears in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19). The four accounts shows clearly that the Triumphal Entry was a significant event, not only to the people of Jesus’ day, but to Christians throughout history.
The Triumphal Entry as it appeared in Saint John's Gospel, (12/12-19), as follows : "On the next day a great multitude had come to the feast. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet him, and cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it. As it is written, “Don’t be afraid, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King comes, sitting on a donkey’s colt. ”His disciples didn’t understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him, and that they had done these things to Him. The multitude therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, was testifying about it. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him.” Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast. These, therefore, came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn, Andrew came with Philip, and they told Jesus."
The multitude welcomed Jesus, His disciples and followers while chanting: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”.(John 12/13). His entry was so humble, meek simple and spontaneous. He did not ride in a chariot pulled by horses as earthly kings and conquerors do, He did not have armed guards, nor officials escorting him. He did not come to Jerusalem to fight, rule, judge or settle scores with any one, but to offer Himself a sacrifice for our salvation.
Before entering Jerusalem, He stopped in the city of Bethany, where Lazarus (whom he raised from the tomb) with his two sisters Mary and Martha lived. In Hebrew Bethany means "The House of the Poor". His stop in Bethany before reaching Jerusalem was a sign of both His acceptance of poverty and His readiness to offer Himself as a sacrifice. He is the One who accepted poverty for our own benefit and came to live in poverty with the poor and escort them to heaven, the Kingdom of His Father.
After His short Stop in Bethany, Jesus entered Jerusalem to fulfill all the prophecies, purposes and the work of the Lord since the dawn of history. All the scripture accounts were fulfilled and completed with his suffering, torture, crucifixion, death and resurrection. On the Cross, He cried with a loud voice: “It is finished.” He bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.(John19/30)
The multitude welcomed Jesus when He entered Jerusalem so one of the Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled. (Zechariah 9:9-10): "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth".
The crowd welcomed Jesus for different reasons and numerous expectations. There were those who came to listen to His message and believed in Him, while others sought a miraculous cure for their ailments and they got what they came for, but many others envisaged in Him a mortal King that could liberate their country, Israel, and free them from the yoke of the Roman occupation. Those were disappointed when Jesus told them: "My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom" (John 18/36)
Christ came to Jerusalem to die on its soil and fulfill the scriptures. It was His choice where to die in Jerusalem as He has said previously: "should not be a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem" (Luke 13/33): "Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem".
He has also warned Jerusalem because in it all the prophets were killed: (Luke 13:34-35): "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! "behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord".
Explanation of the Palm Sunday Procession Symbols
The crowd chanted, "Hosanna to the Son of David" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21/09), because Jesus was is a descendant of David. Hosanna in the highest is originated in the Psalm 118/25: "Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success". It is a call for help and salvation as also meant by the Psalm 26/11: "But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me". Hosanna also means: God enlightened us and will never abandon us, Jesus' is a salvation for the world"
Spreading cloth and trees' branches in front of Jesus to walk on them was an Old Testament tradition that refers to love, obedience, submission, triumph and loyalty. (2 Kings 09/13): "They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, "Jehu is king!". In the old days Spreading garments before a dignitary was a symbol of submission.
Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, and the "Daughter of Zion" is Jerusalem. The term is synonymous with "paradise" and the sky in its religious dimensions.
Carrying palm and olive branches and waving with them expresses joy, peace, longing for eternity and triumph. Palm branches are a sign of victory and praise, while Olive branches are a token of joy, peace and durability. The Lord was coming to Jerusalem to conquer death by death and secure eternity for the faithful. It is worth mentioning that the olive tree is a symbol for peace and its oil a means of holiness immortality with which Kings, Saints, children and the sick were anointed.
The name "King of Israel," symbolizes the kingship of the Jews who were waiting for Jehovah to liberate them from the Roman occupation.
O, Lord Jesus, strengthen our faith to feel closer to You and to Your mercy when in trouble;
O, Lord Jesus, empower us with the grace of patience and meekness to endure persecution, humiliation and rejection and always be Your followers.
O, Lord Let Your eternal peace and gracious love prevail all over the world.
A joyous Palm Sunday to all
Question: "What is Palm Sunday?"
Answer: Palm Sunday is the day we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, exactly one week before His resurrection (Matthew 21:1–11). As Jesus entered the holy city, He neared the culmination of a long journey toward Golgotha. He had come to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and now was the time—this was the place—to secure that salvation. Palm Sunday marked the start of what is often called “Passion Week,” the final seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Palm Sunday was the “beginning of the end” of Jesus’ work on earth.
Palm Sunday began with Jesus and His disciples traveling over the Mount of Olives. The Lord sent two disciples ahead into the village of Bethphage to find an animal to ride. They found the unbroken colt of a donkey, just as Jesus had said they would (Luke 19:29–30). When they untied the colt, the owners began to question them. The disciples responded with the answer Jesus had provided: “The Lord needs it” (Luke 19:31–34). Amazingly, the owners were satisfied with that answer and let the disciples go. “They brought [the donkey] to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35).
As Jesus ascended toward Jerusalem, a large multitude gathered around Him. This crowd understood that Jesus was the Messiah; what they did not understand was that it wasn’t time to set up the kingdom yet—although Jesus had tried to tell them so (Luke 19:11–12). The crowd’s actions along the road give rise to the name “Palm Sunday”: “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:8). In strewing their cloaks on the road, the people were giving Jesus the royal treatment—King Jehu was given similar honor at his coronation (2 Kings 9:13). John records the detail that the branches they cut were from palm trees (John 12:13).
On that first Palm Sunday, the people also honored Jesus verbally: “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ / ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ / ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” (Matthew 21:9). In their praise of Jesus, the Jewish crowds were quoting Psalm 118:25–26, an acknowledged prophecy of the Christ. The allusion to a Messianic psalm drew resentment from the religious leaders present: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” (Luke 19:39). However, Jesus saw no need to rebuke those who told the truth. He replied, “I tell you . . . if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).
Some 450 to 500 years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah had prophesied the event we now call Palm Sunday: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! / Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! / See, your king comes to you, / righteous and victorious, / lowly and riding on a donkey, / on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). The prophecy was fulfilled in every particular, and it was indeed a time of rejoicing, as Jerusalem welcomed their King. Unfortunately, the celebration was not to last. The crowds looked for a Messiah who would rescue them politically and free them nationally, but Jesus had come to save them spiritually. First things first, and mankind’s primary need is spiritual, not political, cultural, or national salvation.
Even as the coatless multitudes waved the palm branches and shouted for joy, they missed the true reason for Jesus’ presence. They could neither see nor understand the cross. That’s why, “as [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies . . . will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41–47). It is a tragic thing to see the Savior but not recognize Him for who He is. The crowds who were crying out “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were crying out “Crucify Him!” five days later (Matthew 27:22–23).
There is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10–11). The worship will be real then. Also, John records a scene in heaven that features the eternal celebration of the risen Lord: “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, emphasis added). These palm-bearing saints will shout, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (verse 10), and who can measure sum of their joy?
Question: "What is Passion Week / Holy Week?"
Answer: Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Also included within Passion Week are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Passion Week begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday on the back of a colt as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.
Passion Week contained several memorable events. Jesus cleansed the Temple for the second time (Luke 19:45-46), then disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Then He gave His Olivet Discourse on the end times and taught many things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus ate His Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room (Luke 22:7-38), then went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54-23:25).
Following the trials, Jesus was scourged at the hands of the Roman soldiers, then was forced to carry His own instrument of execution (the Cross) through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows). Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, was buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then gloriously resurrected.
It is referred to as Passion Week because in that time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. What should our attitude be during Passion Week? We should be passionate in our worship of Jesus and in our proclamation of His Gospel! As He suffered for us, so should we be willing to suffer for the cause of following Him and proclaiming the message of His death and resurrection.
**Recommended Resources: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Logos Bible Software.
Lebanon supports Yemen's sovereignty, Salam tells Arab summit
The Daily Star/Mar. 28, 2015 /BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam offered an ambiguous position towards the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen during the Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh Saturday, saying Beirut supported any move that preserves Sanaa's “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”“Out of its keenness on supporting constitutional legitimacy in Yemen and [supporting] Arab consensus and the unity and stability of all Arab states, [Lebanon] announces its support for any Arab stance that preserves Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in addition to the cohesion of its social fabric,” Salam said at the close of Saturday’s session. Addressing a drowsy audience, Salam was the last speaker of the night, voicing Lebanon’s support for a political settlement to resolve the internal disputes in Yemen. Such a solution, he said, must be independent of any foreign interference in the internal affairs of Arab states. In line with Lebanon’s policy of dissociation from regional conflicts, the premier called on the Arab League to distance his country from “all regional struggles that may have a negative impact on the situation in Lebanon.”But he did not explicitly voice his support or rejection of the Saudi-led military actions launched Thursday against Houthi targets in Yemen, largely echoing a speech made by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil two days earlier in Egypt in which little was revealed. Salam also lamented the absence of a Lebanese president, saying the 10-month long vacuum has disrupted political institutions and hampered the economy. While Salam maneuvered carefully around the issue of the Yemen, he was direct in his support for the proposed creation of a joint Arab force to confront terrorism in the region. Bassil, during his speech at the Arab foreign ministers conference in Sharm el-Sheikh Thursday, also said that Lebanon “did not oppose the idea of forming an Arab military force.” “Maybe Lebanon will benefit from it [one day], God forbid,” he added, speaking on the sidelines of the conference. Salam arrived to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh Saturday morning to head the Lebanese delegation participating in the annual summit. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi briefly met with the Lebanese premier in the airport’s VIP lounge, alongside Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
Salam also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on the sidelines of the summit.
Micheal Samaha to Stand Trial on April 20
Naharnet/The Permanent Military Tribunal reportedly decided to separate the trial of former pro-Syrian Information Minister Michel Samaha from that of Syrian security chief General Ali Mamlouk. According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Saturday, Samaha will stand trial on April 20. A judicial source told the daily that the trial will not be adjourned anew over the failure to summon Mamlouk. Samaha, who is considered close to the Syrian regime, was arrested in August 2012 for planning attacks in Lebanon along with two Syrian officials.
His trial includes Mamlouk and a Syrian colonel identified only by his first name Adnan. The trial kicked off in June 2013 but has been adjourned on several occasions for failing to summon Mamlouk and Adnan. The former minister and two Syrian official were indicted "for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders." The Lebanese judiciary sent Syria a formal notification of the warrants and charges, but received no response. In the event of a non-response, Lebanese law allows for the trial against Samaha to proceed with Mamlouk being tried in absentia, but the court has not so far suggested it would take that approach.
Announcement of Landmark Deal between FPM, LF Near
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun met with Lebanese forces official Melhem Riachi to hand him his comments on the final draft of the "declaration of intent" as dialogue between the Christian rivals is advancing at steady pace. “We will later on announce new practical steps,” Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday. He stressed that the local and foreign developments compel more harmony and unity among the Lebanese, in particular the Christians. Friday's meeting between Aoun and Riachi was held in presence of Kanaan. The FPM chief handed over to Riachi his comments on the “declaration of intent” between the two parties, the daily said, pointing out that he only made slight changes to the draft.
According to An Nahar newspaper, the declaration of the document will be crowned with a meeting between Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea, saying that the timing and venue of the talks will be decided later on. Both Geagea and Aoun have announced their candidacies for the presidency. Their rivalry, in addition to other issues, have left Baabda Palace vacant since President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ended in May last year. The dialogue between the two parties recently kicked off in an attempt to defuse tension and safeguard the country.
Army's Elite Forces Control New Posts on Outskirts of Arsal
Naharnet /The army's elite forces advanced towards the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal and controlled strategic posts, An Nahar newspaper reported on Saturday. The daily said that the army controlled during the “unique” military operation, which kicked off at dawn on Friday, advanced posts on the outskirts of the Bekaa border towns Qaa and Nahle after gunmen fled their positions. A military source told the newspaper that the “rapid and swift” operation was a follow up for a similar one carried out in Tallet al-Hamra in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek. The army said in a communique issued on Friday that troops controlled, during the military operation on the outskirts of Arsal, positions that were used by terrorist groups to infiltrate Lebanon and assault soldiers. In February, the Lebanese army advanced on the outskirts of the villages of Ras Baalbek and Arsal, establishing new checkpoints and surveillance posts. The Islamic State, which controls several areas in Syria and Iraq, aims to spread to Lebanon as its fighters position in the outskirts of Bekaa towns bordering Syria and the Lebanese army is in adamant efforts to stop their efforts to infiltrate the country. The jihadists remain entrenched on the outskirts of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border. The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used to transport weapons and fighters. The army has been targeting gunmen along the country's eastern border to prevent them from advancing.
Canada Offers Condolences on the Death of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
March 27, 2015 - Ottawa, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“It is with sadness that I learned today of the death of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. As head of the Apostolic See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon from 1976 until his death on March 26, His Holiness led the Assyrian Church of the East through a period of hardship and change. Through his advocacy for the Assyrian community, and in his efforts to promote ecumenism and unity with other churches, His Holiness will be remembered both as a great pastor to his people and as a strong advocate for religious freedom.
“I express my sincere condolences to the Assyrian Christian community at this time.”
The CIA Doesn't Know Why Muslims Join ISIS
Raymond Ibrahim/PJ Media
March 18, 2015
Originally published under the title, "CIA Says Muslims Join ISIS Because of … Economics."
CIA Director John Brennan could use some pointers on why Muslims join ISIS.
Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations on March 13, CIA Director John Brennan said that "the Islamic State had 'snowballed' beyond Iraq and Syria, estimating that at least 20,000 fighters from more than 90 countries have gone to join the militant group, several thousand of them from Western nations, including the United States."
"Left unchecked, the group would pose a serious danger not only to Syria and Iraq, but to the wider region and beyond, including the threat of attacks in the homelands of the United States and our partners," said Brennan.
Left unclear in his speech is why the Islamic State—which Obama and his crew regularly insist has nothing to do with Islam—is "snowballing"; why 20,000 "fighters" (AKA "Muslims") are joining it.
Almost one year ago to the day, however, at the same Council of Foreign Relations gathering, Brennan did explain what makes Muslims from all around the world join the Islamic jihad (then under the rubric of "Al-Qaeda"). After assuring all in attendance that al-Qaeda's ideology is "a perverse and very corrupt interpretation of the Qur'an"; that "al-Qaeda has hijacked" Islam; that "they have really distorted the teachings of Muhammad"—Brennan still confirmed that, even so "that ideology, that agenda of al-Qaeda has gained resonance and following in many parts of the world."
The widespread tendency to project Western cultural explanations onto non-Western people is the height of arrogance and ethnocentrism.
When asked why such a "perverse and very corrupt" understanding of Islam—one that has "distorted the teachings of Muhammad"—so resonates among Muslims, the CIA responded by saying that it was being "fed a lot of times by, you know, political repression, by economic, you know, disenfranchisement, by, you know, lack of education and ignorance, so there—there are a number of phenomena right now that I think are fueling the fires of, you know, this ideology."
Interestingly, if you watch the video clip of Brennan's speech, you will note that he only "you knows" in the above quotation (four times) and right before it, when he says that al-Qaeda has "distorted the teachings of Muhammad, you know, for violent purposes."
The rest of his talk is relatively smooth. Could Brennan be self-conscious of his own equivocations—hence all these stilted "you knows" in one sentence?
Could he be aware of the Rand Corporation report on counterterrorism, prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2009? It found that "Terrorists are not particularly impoverished, uneducated, or afflicted by mental disease. Demographically, their most important characteristic is normalcy (within their environment). Terrorist leaders actually tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds."
Or consider the following excerpt from Understanding Terror Networks, by Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer who worked closely with jihadi groups in Afghanistan (emphasis mine):
There was a definite shift in degree of devotion to Islam in adulthood by the mujahedin [jihadis], preceding their recruitment into the jihad. This is not surprising given the fact that the global Salafi jihad is a Muslim revivalist organization. Of the 155 mujahedin on whom I could find relevant information, all but one were considerably more devout right before joining the jihad than they had been as children. More than 99 percent were very religious at that time, often donning Afghan, Pakistani, or traditional Arabic garb and growing beards…
"Devotion to Islam" is what causes Muslims to join the Islamic State. Despite this very obvious fact, Obama officials constantly deny it, offering more "sensible" motives. Thus during a recent interview on MSNBC's Hardball, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that one of "the root causes that leads people to join these groups," a reference to the Islamic State, is a "lack of opportunity for jobs."
"Political repression," "economic disenfranchisement," "lack of education and ignorance," and now a "lack of opportunity for jobs." These, according to the Obama administration, are why countless, nameless Muslims from all around the world are waging jihad—not the commonsensical fact that jihad is integral to Islam, doctrinally and historically.
A final point of interest. This widespread tendency to project Western cultural explanations onto non-Western people is the height of arrogance and ethnocentrism—precisely what progressives and multiculturalists constantly warn against. Yet the irony is that such "open-minded" proponents of cultural relativism are also the ones most prone to ignore Islamic teachings. When Brennan, Harf et al insist that jihadis are really not motivated by religion but rather are products of political, economic, and social forces, is this total dismissal of the "other" and his peculiar motivations (in favor of familiar, Western paradigms) not the epitome of cultural arrogance?
**Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).
Raising Children to be Soldiers of
March 28, 2015
"Moreover [the children's] mindset [in the Islamic Madrasa education] is nurtured with a message of hatred towards all non-Muslim communities... Islam is the only true religion, all other religions are false -- this is what they are taught from the beginning by the Madrasa teacher. They also chant nonstop the mantra that all nonbelievers (in Islam) are Kafirs and infidels fit to be destroyed by all true Muslims." — Shudhansu S. Tunga, author of A 20 Million Billion Trillion Dollar Loss: The Story of India's Downslide Independence.
In such a small land as Bangladesh, roughly the size of the U.S. state of Iowa, there are 15,000 officially registered madrasas, accompanied by 200,000 teachers "teaching" four million "students." If one adds to it the number of unregistered madrasas, the number is as high as 64,000.
"Bangladesh is appeasing the most insidious and violent strains of Islam... That appeasement of theocratic demands and naked threats must end, now." — Bob Churchill, Director of Communications, International Humanist and Ethical Union.
One can imagine from the number of madrasas and mosques -- abetted by a government that turns a blind eye to lawlessness -- how many people listening to hate preaching are now being raised to be "Soldiers of Allah."
Dissent is not tolerated in the monolithic Islamic society of Bangladesh. Extremist Islamic forces not only vandalize the idols and temples of the Hindus or Buddhists, they are also kill anyone who speaks out against radicalization or Islamization.
The extremist Islamic forces mostly target university teachers, engineers, writers and bloggers, one after another -- whoever is not in total accord with their faith, including anyone secular-minded.
Notably, it was after the founding the International Islamic Front for Jihad in 1998, that Bangladesh experienced the first major attack conducted by Islamists, on March 6, 1999. It killed 10 and critically injured 105 innocent people who were listening to music at a cultural program organized by Udichi, a secular cultural organization.
Since then, many terrorist attacks have taken place in Bangladesh. Nonetheless, the country's politicians do not take initiatives to prevent Islamic radicalization, presumably in fear of displeasing the country's huge Muslim populace. Rather, every incoming government not only winks and nods the Islamists, but also provides room to nurture extremism. Bangladesh, a country roughly size of the U.S. state of Iowa, has 15,000 officially registered Madrasas [Islamic religious schools], accompanied by 200,000 teachers "teaching" four million "students." If one adds to it the number of unregistered madrasas, the number is as high as 64,000.
It is no secret anymore that the madrasa is the main extremist breeding factory. Shudhansu S. Tunga writes,
"Frankly, the Madrasa education instead of uplifting the Muslim boys and girls, is keeping them downgraded on many points, especially to face today's job market competition. Moreover, their mindset is nurtured with a message of hatred towards all non-Muslim communities. This is the gravest of dangers not only for the future of the Muslims but also for the whole mankind. Islam is the only true religion, all other religions are false─ this is what they are taught from the beginning by the Madrasa teacher. They also chant nonstop the mantra that all non-believers (in Islam) are Kafirs and infidels fit to be destroyed by all true Muslims."
In such a small land, there are also 250,399 mosques where believers are being summoned to hate non-Muslims. They especially curse the Jews by using the anti-Semitic Koranic verses and the widely read hadiths.
Bangladesh is now one of the most dangerous places for a dissident to live. Murders this year include Samiulla Afridi and Avijit Roy.
Samiulla Afridi, the lawyer who represented Dr. Shakil Afridi (no relation), on February 26. Dr. Afridi conducted a vaccination program to help the Central Intelligence Agency locate Usama bin Laden. His murder was presumably retribution for having represented the doctor, whom the US let remain in a Pakistani jail.
Avijit Roy, an American citizen of Bangladeshi origin, who had a PhD in software engineering from Singapore, was hacked to death on March 17 after attending a book fair with his wife, also wounded in the attack. Roy, an engineer, was also the author of several books on science, atheism and freedom of expression. He was the founder of Mukto-Mona ["Free Mind"] blog, and well known for his writings which opposed religious fundamentalism. No one of course has been caught. It is not known if anyone has even looked for the perpetrators of both crimes.
The Director of Communications of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Bob Churchill, said,
"Those who made the most credible threats on Roy's life have been allowed to do so with impunity, and now he is dead. As Roy himself warned, Bangladesh is appeasing the most insidious and violent strains of Islamism, and he knew his own life was under threat. That appeasement of theocratic demands and naked threats must end, now."
In an emotional piece in The Guardian, Alom Shaha writes,
"It is a land of lush green fields nourished by brightly burning sun. This is what is depicted on the nation's flag, a design that rejects the religious symbolism found in those of India and Pakistan -- the latter of which Bangladesh fought a bitter war of independence, partly so it could become a secular state. But that early commitment has been betrayed and instead Bangladesh has become a nation where those promoting secular values can expect to live their lives in fear, be threatened with death, and even brutally killed."
Avijit Roy was not the first victim targeted by the Islamists in Bangladesh. Last year, Ahmed Rajib Haider, an architect by profession, was also hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers from an Islamist militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team. It takes its ideology from Yemen, based on statements from the Al-Qaeda ideologue, Anwar Al-Awlaki, and associated with the Jamaat-E-Islami party in Bangladesh.
The same group attacked another blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, who through his writings opposed the Quranic chapter 4, verse 34, which says, "A man can beat his wife, if she does not obey her husband."
Mohiuddin, also involved with Mukto-Mona blog, was arrested by the Bangladeshi authorities for "hurting religious beliefs."
Professor Humayun Azad was an esteemed university teacher, and one of the most prominent scholars in the country. On February 27, 2004, Islamists attacked him him with machete; he narrowly escaped death. But on August 11, 2004, he was found dead in his apartment in Munich, Germany, where he had arrived a week earlier to conduct a research on the German poet, Heinrich Heine.
Bangladeshi militants have had longstanding relations with Al-Qaeda and its leaders, including Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri. According to reports, Bangladesh's first openly-formed Islamist militant outfit, Harkat-ul-Jihad (Huji), is closely linked with Al-Qaeda. Huji emerged from a group of Bangladeshi Afghan war veterans, who had gone to Afghanistan and joined with mujaheedin ["jihad warriors"], addressed the press conference.
There are reports that Bin Laden, in February 1998, came up with a coalition of Islamic militants named "International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders" to fight against the U.S. Among five coalition founders, one of the Bangladeshi militants and Zawahiri were signatories of a statement, issued in February 1998.
Major Gen (Ret). Abdur Rashid, a Bangladeshi security analyst, said, "Many Bangladeshi militants had visited or re-visited Afghanistan through Pakistan and maintained the links established earlier. The communication between them became easier with the availability of internet."
One can imagine from the number of madrasas and mosques -- abetted by a government that turns a blind eye to lawlessness -- how many people listening to hate preaching are now being raised to be "Soldiers of Allah."
**Monir Hussain is based in Bangladesh.
Why Yemen Matters
Daniel Pipes/Washington Times
March 28, 2015
The Middle East witnessed something radically new two days ago, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen's president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. "Operation Decisive Storm" prompts many reflections:
Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.
Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel's early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross purposes and ineffectively. How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran. This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence. It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat.
Arab leaders have a long history of meeting but not cooperating. From the right: King Hussein of Jordan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in September 1970.
Yemen at the center of attention: Yemen played a peripheral role in the Bible, in the rise of Islam, and in modern times; it's never been the focus of world concern – until suddenly now. Yemen resembles other once-marginal countries – the Koreas, Cuba, the Vietnams, Afghanistan – which out of nowhere became the focus of global concern.
The Middle East cold war went hot: The Iranian and Saudi regimes have headed dueling blocs for about a decade. They did combat as the U.S. and Soviet governments once did – via contending ideologies, espionage, aid, trade, and covert action. On March 26, that cold war went hot, where it's likely long to remain.
Can the Saudi-led coalition win? Highly unlikely, as these are rookies taking on Iran's battle-hardened allies in a forbidding terrain.
Islamists dominate: The leaders of both blocs share much: both aspire universally to apply the sacred law of Islam (the Shari'a), both despise infidels, and both turned faith into ideology. Their falling out confirms Islamism as the Middle East's only game, permitting its proponents the luxury to fight each other.
The Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance in decline: A third alliance of Sunni revisionists somewhere between the Shi'i revolutionaries and the Sunni status-quotians has been active during recent years in many countries – Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya. But now, in part thanks to diplomacy initiated by the brand-new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, its members are gravitating toward their Sunni co-religionists.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has done something unprecedented in putting together a military coalition.
Isolated Iran: Yes, a belligerent Tehran now boasts of dominating four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana'a) but that's also its problem: abrupt Iranian gains have many in the region (including such previously friendly states as Pakistan and Sudan) fearing Iran.
Sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict: If the Obama administration and European leaders remain obsessed with Palestinians, seeing them as key to the region, regional players have far more urgent priorities. Not only does Israel hardly concern them but the Jewish state serves as a tacit auxiliary of the Saudi-led bloc. Does this change mark a long-term shift in Arab attitudes toward Israel? Probably not; when the Iran crisis fades, expect attention to return to the Palestinians and Israel, as it always does.
American policy in disarray: Middle East hands rightly scoffed in 2009 when Barack Obama and his fellow naïfs expected that by leaving Iraq, smiling at Tehran, and trying harder at Arab-Israeli negotiations they would fix the region, permitting a "pivot" to East Asia. Instead, the incompetents squatting atop the U.S. government cannot keep up with fast-moving, adverse events, many of its own creation (anarchy in Libya, tensions with traditional allies, a more bellicose Iran).
Impact on a deal with Iran: Although Washington has folded on many positions in negotiations with Iran and done the mullah's regime many favors (for example, not listing it or its Hizbullah ally as terrorist), it drew a line in Yemen, offering the anti-Iran coalition some support. Will Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i now stomp out of the talks? Highly unlikely, for the deal offered him is too sweet to turn down.
American diplomats meet again with their Iranian counterparts to capitulate on yet another difference.
In sum, Salman's skilled diplomacy and his readiness to use force in Yemen responds to the deadly combination of Arab anarchy, Iranian aggression, and Obama weakness in a way that will shape the region for years.
Iranian general in Sanaa to organize
Yemen rebel counter-offensive for Saudi-led attacks
DEBKAfile Special Report March 28, 2015
Tehran took less than 48 hours for a decision to hit back at the surprise air and naval attack launched by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Egypt Thursday, March 26, to contain the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels’ sweep through Yemeni cities. debkafile’s military sources report that Iran’s top war commander, Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, landed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa Friday, March 27 to organize a counter-offensive and open Iran’s third direct Middle East warfront after Syria (in support of Bashar Assad) and Iraq (with the US against ISIS).
The Saudi-GCC-Egyptian intervention found the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels at the gates of the big port of Aden, which commands the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb, the vital gateway for oil shipping between the Indian Ocean and Gulf through the Suez Canal and Mediterranean. Certain Yemeni army units have joined the rebels. They are armed with advanced US weapons that were supplied for the war on al Qaeda and now serve the revolt against a Yemeni regime recognized by Washington.
This rebel force had already seized most of Yemen’s cities and stretches of its Red Sea coast.
Soleimani’s arrival in Sanaa signaled Tehran’s determination not to give up an inch of the ground gained by its proxies, while underscoring its demand for dominance as the leading Middle East power, promised by Washington in return for accepting a framework deal on its nuclear program.
US officials persist in their public pretense that the diplomatic and the military arenas are unconnected. So the deal is presented as close to signing by the March 31 deadline, while the flames of Shiite-Sunni violence are allowed to spread into another corner of the Middle East.
In the coming hours, Egyptian and Saudi naval and marine forces are planning landings in Aden, according to their military sources. They will fight to contain the Houthi march across Yemen and prevent the fall of its last major town, after two days of Saudi and Gulf air strikes against rebel positions around Yemen.
debkafile’s military sources report that the Saudi and Gulf air forces and Egyptian sea units managed in their first 48 hours to cut off Iran’s air and sea supplies to the Houthi rebels. Gen. Soleimeni will need to find a means of breaking the Saudi-Egyptian blockade and restoring supply routes. Above all, he must determine whether or not to co-opt Iranian air and sea forces to the Yemeni front and so leading them into head-to-head battle against Saudi Arabia and its ten Sunni allies.
Egyptian and Iranian warships maneuvering for control of the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb were reported to have clashed Thursday, the first day of the Sunni intervention in the Yemen conflict.
From outside the region, Pakistan stands ready to step into the contest, promising Friday “a strong response” to any threat to “Saudi integrity.” This opened the door for the Pakistani army to be drawn into the wars of Arabia against Iran alongside the majority of Arab Sunni nations.
Islamabad was responding to a Houthi warning to invade the southern Saudi provinces of Asir, Najran and Jizan, for which they counted on a welcome by the local Saudi populations, most of which belong to the minority Ismaili sect, that is closer to the Iranian Shiite and Houthi Zaydi than to the dominant Sunni faith of the Saudi royal regime.
Friday night, President Barack Obama spoke with Saudi King Salman and reaffirmed US support for the military action taken in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies, the White House said in a statement.
Obama and King Salman agreed that their goal is to achieve lasting stability in Yemen through a negotiated political solution, the statement said. Obama also underscored his commitment to Saudi Arabia's security.
Yemen's president calls Houthis 'stooges of Iran'
Hamza HendawiAhmed Al-Haj| Associated Press/Mar. 28, 2015 |
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt: Yemen's embattled president on Saturday called Shiite rebels who forced him to flee the country "stooges of Iran," directly blaming the Islamic Republic for the chaos there and demanding airstrikes against rebel positions continue until they surrender.
With Egypt's president also calling for a regional Arab military force and another Gulf diplomat separately warning Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen could go on for months, the specter of a regional conflict pitting Arab nations against Shiite power Iran also has been raised.
The comments by Arab leaders including Yemeni President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled his country only days earlier, came at an Arab summit largely focusing on the chaos there caused by the advance of the rebels, known as Houthis.
Other leaders, including the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, obliquely referenced Iran earlier at the summit held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They blamed the Persian country for meddling in the affairs of Arab nations, with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi saying, without mentioning Iran by name, that it was "spreading its ailment in the body."
"This (Arab) nation, in its darkest hour, had never been faced a challenge to its existence and a threat to its identity like the one it's facing now," el-Sissi said. "This threatens our national security and (we) cannot ignore its consequences for the Arab identity."
Hadi directly challenged Iran in his remarks and called for his supporters to rise up in peaceful protest against the Houthis.
"I say to the puppets of Iran and its toys: ... You've destroyed Yemen," Hadi said.
Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though the Islamic Republic has provided humanitarian and other aid. Officials in Iran had no immediate comment on Hadi's remarks.
Hadi also said the airstrikes launched by Saudi Arabia and its allies against the Houthis must not stop before the rebels surrender and return medium and heavy weapons they looted from army depots across much of the country. Saudi Arabia's monarch, King Salman, earlier pledged that the military campaign in Yemen would not stop before security and stability are restored.
Hadi fled Yemen earlier this week, making his way to Saudi Arabia after leaving the southern coastal city of Aden in the face of a push into southern Yemen by the Houthis and their allies, including forces loyal to ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
El-Sissi also endorsed a resolution adopted by Arab foreign ministers on Thursday for the creation of an Arab military force, saying the Arab world was currently facing unprecedented threats. He also described as "inevitable" the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
Already, some backers of Iran have begun to step away from supporting it over Yemen. On Saturday, the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, issued a statement offering support for Hadi, as opposed to the rebels.
A Gulf diplomatic official, meanwhile, told reporters that the airstrikes campaign was planned to last for one month, but that coalition nations were prepared for the probability of going on for five to six months.
"Ultimately the whole idea is to achieve the political objective, which is the return of legitimacy of Yemen and a return to the political process," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to brief journalists by name.
The official also claimed that around 5,000 Iranian, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militiamen were on the ground in Yemen supporting the Houthis. They are trainers, group leaders and instructors, he added. His claim could not be independently corroborated.
Around six weeks ago, he said, satellite imagery from Yemen showed the repositioning of Scud missiles toward Saudi Arabia. Airstrikes have so far destroyed 21 Scud missiles, he said.
Meanwhile Saturday, Yemeni military officials said an explosion rocked the Jabal al-Hadid military camp in Aden that houses a weapons depot and had been taken by pro-Saleh forces, killing and wounding several people. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information otherwise. Security officials speaking anonymously for the same reasons said that three people were killed in different areas of Aden on Saturday.
The Saudi Press Agency also reported Saturday that its navy had evacuated 86 diplomats and others from Aden on Wednesday. It did not identify the nationalities of all those it evacuated in the operation, though it said diplomats from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar were on hand Saturday when those evacuated arrived at a Jiddah naval base.
Pakistan also announced Saturday it had two planes standing by to evacuate its citizens.
Dozens of foreign diplomats, including United Nations staff, still were awaiting evacuation Saturday by air in Sanaa, airport officials said on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Heavy Saudi bombing shakes Sanaa for third day
Agence France Presse/Mar. 28, 2015
SANAA: Arab warplanes pounded Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen for a third night while President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi held summit talks in Egypt Saturday with regional allies seeking to prevent his overthrow. The deeply tribal and impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, on the front line of the U.S. battle against Al-Qaeda, is the scene of the latest emerging proxy struggle between Middle East powers. An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies, is battling to avoid having a pro-Iran regime on its doorstep, as Shiite Houthi rebels tighten the noose around Hadi's southern stronghold. Heavy strikes shook the rebel-held capital Sanaa for a third consecutive night until dawn on Saturday, residents said. "It was an intense night of bombing and the windows shook," said a foreigner working for an international aid organization in Sanaa.
"People want to leave but there are no flights out of Yemen," she said. According to an AFP photographer, it was the most violent night of raids heard in the capital since the Saudi-led operation began. He said the bombing was felt throughout the night until dawn.
The air strikes apparently mainly targeted arms depots and other military facilities outside Sanaa, witnesses said. Saudi Arabia says more than 10 countries have joined the Arab coalition defending Hadi, who arrived in Egypt on Friday to join allies at a weekend summit, a day after he surfaced in Riyadh. He went into hiding earlier in the week as rebel forces bore down on his refuge in the main southern city of Aden and a warplane attacked the presidential palace. - 'Unprecedented' threats -
The Arab summit, which opened Saturday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, is expected to back the offensive against the rebels and approve the creation of a joint military force to tackle extremists.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told fellow Arab leaders the region faced "unprecedented" threats.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman vowed that the military intervention his government is leading would continue until it brings "security" to the Yemeni people. The situation has become increasingly tense in Aden with rebel forces clashing with anti-Houthi militiamen in several areas, raising fears that Hadi's last bastion could fall. On Friday, at least eight people were killed in fighting around the city's international airport. Saudi warships evacuated dozens of foreign diplomats from Aden hours before the kingdom launched air strikes on the advancing rebels, state television said Saturday. The official SPA news agency said that 86 people had been pulled out on Wednesday. It was only announced after their arrival at a Saudi naval base in Jeddah on Saturday aboard two vessels.
Saudi Arabia has vowed to do "whatever it takes" to prevent Hadi's overthrow, accusing Shiite Iran of backing the attempted takeover by the Houthi rebels, who have seized swathes of the country. But experts say the kingdom will be reluctant to send in ground troops for fear of getting bogged down in a protracted conflict.
- U.S. support -
U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington shared a "collective goal" with its regional ally to see stability in Yemen. Obama offered support to King Salman in a phone conversation as it emerged the U.S. military had rescued two Saudi pilots forced to eject from their fighter jet over the sea off Yemen after a technical problem. Amid the air raids and scattered fighting, a call for a ceasefire was issued by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, suspected of being allied with the rebels.
Dozens of civilians are reported to have been killed in Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Huthis and their allies.
An army unit loyal to Saleh, along with Shiite militiamen, captured two towns in Abyan province to the east of Aden, military sources said. The rebels have also clashed with Sunni tribes as they push south. Iran has reacted furiously to the air strikes, calling them a violation of Yemen's sovereignty. "Any military action against an independent country is wrong and will only result in a deepening crisis and more deaths among innocents," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
The conflict has raised a major hurdle to Washington's longstanding drone war against Al-Qaeda militants who have exploited the power vacuum since Saleh's downfall in 2012.
Washington has pledged logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led campaign.
Yemen: A war with political purpose
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 28 March 2015
The size of regional and foreign concern over the war in Yemen has exceeded expectations. Concerned governments and international institutions have frankly expressed their views on the events. Most of them have voiced their understanding of the importance of protecting the Yemeni regime which was subjected to a destructive process that would have inevitably engaged Yemen in a long-term and dangerous civil war, much like what is happening in Syria and Libya.
There was a lot of patience during past negotiations and while concessions were made to both those who oppose and reject the regime, it was all for the sake of achieving reconciliation. However when those who oppose the regime resorted to weapons, seized the capital and a number of governorates, and tried to murder President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, after subjecting him to house arrest at his presidential palace and detaining high-ranking government officials, the only option left was foreign military intervention. After all, the Yemeni government is a legitimate government with no military power to protect it as it confronts a gang that has bluntly expressed violent intents.
This is what pushed most regional governments and superpowers to support the military move in Yemen. Attacks were only launched after meeting all required conditions and legal justifications. They were also only launched after the establishment of a coalition which expresses the concerned countries’ stance as well as the inclusion of regional institutions, such as the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Also, the operation had attained the support of the U.S. and Britain, while the United Nations had recognized Hadi’s legitimacy and the legal right to call for intervention after the rebels chased him to the temporary capital of Aden, threatening to kill him. Thus, most countries frankly supported the military campaign, Decisive Storm.
Some, such as Iran and Hezbollah, opposed the attack. This was expected considering their ties to the Houthis from the very beginning. However, generally speaking, this military campaign is one of the few politically, diplomatically and legally organized campaigns ever, and this is what led the states that had doubts at the beginning of the campaign to declare their support the next day.
The military campaign’s true political role
Although the fighter jets shelled posts which had been previously singled out and targeted rebels’ stations and forces, the political solution, as formulated by the U.N. representative, was not ruled out. The main aim is not to get rid of the Houthis or other opposition forces as this is impossible and it’s not even the goal. The aim is to protect the Yemeni state, its regime, institutions and figures and to protect the people and country from the chaos of fighting and civil war.
The main aim is not to get rid of the Houthis or other opposition forces as this is impossible and it’s not even the goal
The military campaign has a political role as well. It is to push all parties towards a solution under the U.N. umbrella and according to what U.N. Security Council members have agreed on. Armed rebels must realize that the transitional Yemeni government, that does not harness significant military power, is in fact legitimate and that there is a large military force which is willing to protect it if needed. The second chapter after the military campaign is political and it’s about the return of all parties to negotiating and searching for a political solution which does not exclude anyone. Yemen was and still is a matter of concern for the United Nations. U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, who’s been working non-stop since the beginning of the revolution in 2011, has been regularly submitting his reports to his overseers. He had supervised the reconciliatory solution by assigning the transitional government and an interim president to hold elections for Yemenis to choose whomever they want to lead them. Isolated president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi rebels decided to challenge the reconciliatory plan and resorted to force in order to sabotage the political process and seize power. They deployed their armed members in several cities and governorates in order to subjugate the Yemeni people by force. Those who understand the Yemeni case can understand and support the efforts of the U.N and the needs of Saudi Arabia - the biggest country neighboring Yemen - and the rest of the GCC, who are directly affected by Yemen’s security, to militarily intervene to support legitimacy. Those who try to make the battle look like it’s a war with no international plan and no legitimacy only care about keeping the fighting ongoing in a country which suffers from a lack of resources but has an abundance of arms and is on the verge of a civil war.
A war of all against all
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
It has come to pass that in that long arc stretching from North Africa, through the Fertile Crescent and all the way to Yemen all is falling down. States, and non-state actors, sects and tribes, as well as armies, marauding killers, fanatic legionnaires, proxies and millenarians waving swords while hallucinating about the end of time, all are locked in a dizzying free fall with no deliverance in sight. In the past an ‘Arab Cold War’ raged between conservatives monarchies allied with the U.S. and Arab nationalist republics allied with the Soviet Union, there were also limited civil wars, and cross border clashes, and a number of Arab-Israeli wars, and fleeting Western sponsored alliances.
The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia while it is framed by many as a sectarian one is in fact a political conflict over national security interests and influence.
And while at times the political rhetoric sounded apocalyptic, and some wars like the Iran-Iraq war kept smoldering for years, the regional order did not collapse and those states whose borders were drawn as ‘lines in the sands’ proved resilient. But the current cataclysmic, multiple battlefields within and across borders have led to unprecedented disintegration of the state system and the fragmentation of societies, with the cancer of sectarianism spreading particularly in a very ailing Arab body politics. It shall come to pass also, that since it took decades of political dysfunction, economic and cultural stagnation and repressive governance to bring the Arabs to this nadir and the region to this impasse that it will take decades for these complex struggles to run their courses, and for the sectarian, political, ethnic and regional fault lines to settle into new patterns after the total exhaustion of the warriors.
The sad collapse of Arabia Felix
In the second decade of the twenty first century, the most common form of warfare in the Middle East (and South Asia) has been that of the phenomenon of the non-state actors battling each other’s while fighting and or receiving aid from their state sponsors. Sometimes these non-state actors act independently, (The Islamic State ISIS) but in many cases they act as powerful proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon) to states unwilling to risk all, in all-out conventional conflicts. The decision by the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) led by Saudi Arabia along with other Arab and Sunni majority states like Pakistan to militarily intervene in Yemen in support of the Yemeni government against the Houthi rebellion supported by Iran, will be seen –regardless of how the military campaign unfolds- as a milestone in the current cataclysmic regional wars, stretching the front of Sunni-Shiite bloodletting from Yemen on the Indian Ocean, through Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and ending in Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea. This nascent coalition, which was brought about partially by America’s reluctance to check Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions, represents the first attempt by regional powers, mostly majority Sunni states to check and roll back Iran’s regional gains. While it is true that Iran did not create the so-called ‘Houthi problem’ it is also true that Iran has exploited the Houthis’ political grievances and became their ally.
Yemen’s slow descent towards disintegration has been in the making for years. The long reign of the former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh has dragged the country to civil strife and near economic collapse. Saleh’s cynical alliance with the Houthis partly explains Yemen’s full descent into civil war. The famed prosperous ancient land the Romans called Arabia Felix (happy Arabia) today is neither whole nor happy, nor prosperous. There are four Arab majority states engulfed in civil wars: Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Three of them; Syria, Iraq and Yemen have devolved into proxy wars involving the United States, Iran and many traditional friends and allies of the United States such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Into the wild
America’s decisions and alliances in the region of late have been tentative, contradictory, and tactical. The U.S. was quick to declare its support of the Saudi-led anti Houthi and anti-Iranian campaign in Yemen and lending logistical and Intelligence assistance. At the same time in Iraq, the U.S. is using its air power to cover the Shiite-led (and Iranian advised) land campaign to regain Tikrit from ISIS. In Iraq the U.S. is implicitly ‘partnering’ with Iran against ISIS. In Yemen the U.S. is publicly ‘partnering’ with the GCC against the Houthis, Iran’s friends. In Syria, the U.S. co-exists with the Assad regime, even while attacking, verbally of course, the regime’s savage use of barrel bombs and Chlorine gas, without denouncing Iran, the very country that saved the regime from imminent collapse. All the while the U.S. is very eager to reach a historic nuclear deal with Iran which will inevitably raise the ire of Arabs, Turks and Israelis.
The wars in Iraq and Yemen have forced the U.S. to make some surreal and painful decisions, ranging from reluctantly accepting the rising influence of Iraqi Shiite militias in the campaign against ISIS, to trying to destroy the American arsenal that fell into the hands of ISIS in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. President Obama’s words last year that America’s war against Al Qaeda in Yemen has been successful have come to haunt him. If President Obama’s decision not to hasten the fall of President Assad in Syria and to arm and equip the moderate Syrian opposition can explain in part at least his dismal record there, one can say the reverse in Yamen. Washington’s single fixation on combatting Al Qaeda in Yemen, and Obama’s failure to provide fuller and stronger support to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi blinded the U.S. to the rising threat of the Houthis. In Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the Obama Administration was caught off guard when it failed to see the dangerous rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or the collapse of the Iraqi army last summer, or the extent of the Houthi rebellion.
The raging civil wars, the emergence of ISIS, and the deepening Sunni-Shiite conflict and the resulting proxy wars of all against all, happened on President Obama’s watch, presenting his administration with a multiplicity of crisis and tough choices. Of course, President Obama is not responsible for the collapse of the regional state system. Arabs, Iranians and others are responsible in the main for their predicament. But president Obama’s deeply flawed decisions on Syria (not to deliver on promises to the opposition or threats to Assad’s regime) and his reluctance to challenge the sectarian policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Malaki have contributed to the chaos.
A war of all against all
The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia while it is framed by many as a sectarian one is in fact a political conflict over national security interests and influence. Sectarianism is a powerful tool for social/political mobilization, and a lethal weapon for demonization. People rarely fight each other over theological disputations, and even when they do that, they should be reminded that at core the conflict is political and can be understood rationally. The sectarian fires have only been stoked in the last few decades, with few milestones contributing to it; the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the conflict between the Islamists in Syria and the Assad dynasty since 1970, and finally the American invasion of Iraq.
Iran has been especially effective in inspiring and helping the Shiite Arabs, many of whom may have felt a sense of political empowerment following the Revolution of 1979. Iran played a crucial role in the creation, funding and training of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the conflicts of Syria and Iraq, Iran coordinated with Hezbollah in Lebanon and used it as an auxiliary force. Similar relations were developed between Iran and Iraqi Shiite groups. To put it bluntly, Iran can and is fighting its Arab foes by deploying Arab Shiites as auxiliaries as we have seen in Syria and Iraq in the last few years. No Sunni Arab or non-Arab power can make such a claim.
In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes paints a grim reality of life in the absence of order, a condition he called the state of nature, where the dominant rule is that there are no rules, a situation that leads to a ‘war of all against all’. The fraying or the collapse of the nation-state in the Arab world resulting in civil wars, proxy wars, the emergence of the marauding religious extremists have combined to push the region into a state of ‘war of all against all’. No Deus ex machina (a device employed in Greek tragedy allowing for divine intervention) will intervene to end this Arab tragedy. Civil wars are usually ended by one side winning the fight decisively, or when exhaustion forces a compromise or by foreign intervention. None of the regional sponsors of proxies is powerful enough to establish regional hegemony without serious challenges. There will come a moment in history where Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Israelis, Kurds and others, Sunnis and Shiites, Christian and Jews and atheists will be utterly exhausted before they realize that in a ‘war of all against all’ everyone loses. I shudder when I think that, I will not see that moment of bliss in my lifetime.
Why 'Operation: Decisive Storm' is
Iran’s worst nightmare
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Often, scholars and politicians have made the argument that regional powers in the Middle East are opposed to a nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers due to the nuclear technicalities of the deal or restoring relationships between Tehran and the U.S. Nevertheless, this premise fails to shed light on the underlying concerns, nuances and intricacies of such a nuclear deal as well as Iran’s multi-front role in the region.
The underlying regional concerns are not primarily linked to the potential reaching of a final nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic or easing of ties between the West and Tehran. At the end of the day, regional powers would welcome and be satisfied with a nuclear deal that can ratchet down regional tension, eliminate the possibility of the Islamic Republic to become a nuclear state, and prevent a nuclear arms race.
But what is most worrying is the expanding empire of the Islamic Republic across the Arab world from Beirut to Baghdad, and from Sanaa to Damascus, as the nuclear talks reach the final stages and as no political will exists among the world powers to cease Iran’s military expansion.
Establishing another proxy in Yemen
Iran’s Quds forces have long being linked to the Houthis. The Islamic Republic continues to fund and provide military support to the Houthis (by smuggling weapons such as AK-47s, surface-to-air missiles as well as rocket-propelled grenades) in order to establish another proxy in the Arab world.
Iran’s long-term strategic and geopolitical objectives in Yemen are clear. The Islamic Republic's attempt to have a robust foothold near the border of Saudi Arabia, as well as in the Gulf Peninsula, will tip the balance of power in favor of Tehran.
By empowering the Houthis, Tehran would ensure that Saudi Arabia is experiencing grave national security concerns, the possibility of conflict spill-over, and internal instability. In addition, by influencing Yemeni politics through the Houthis, Iranian leaders can pressure Saudi Arabia to accept Iran’s political, strategic and economic dominance in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as well.
Regional robust actions such as Operation Decisive Storm are sometimes required in order to set limits to Iran’s hegemonic, imperialistic objectives
The latest advancement of the Houthis supported the interests of the Islamic Republic until recently. There was a need for robust action against Iran’s hegemonic ambitions. Nevertheless, the West was resistant to act.
From geopolitical, strategic and humanitarian perspective, the robust military action, Operation Decisive Storm, is a calculated and intelligent move to send a strong signal to the Islamic Republic that its interference in another Arab state will not be overlooked. In other words, Arab states do not have to wait for the West to act against Iran’s covert activities and support for Shiite loyalist-militias in the region.
The tightening grip over another Arab capital
As the nuclear talks between Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - the five permanent members of the Security Council - plus Germany (P5+1) and the Islamic Republic appear to show progress towards a final agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the world powers (specifically the United States) have chosen to turn a blind eye on Iran’s military expansion in the Arab states, and particularly in Yemen.
Iran’s long term strategic and geopolitical agenda should not be overlooked. Iranian leaders’ hegemonic ambition is to consolidate and strengthen its grip on the Arab states, and to have control over Arab capitals from Beirut to Baghdad and from Sanaa to Damascus.
The Islamic Republic’s ambitions to expand its empire during the nuclear talks and regional insecurities are carried out through several platforms. Central figures, such as Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, hardliners such as Ali Reza Zakani, Tehran's representative in the Iranian parliament and a close figure to the Iranian supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Supreme Leader himself, play a crucial role in fulfilling Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.
Iranian leaders are not even concerned about repercussions from boasting about their grip over Arab capitals. Zakani recently bragged about having control over Arab capitals, "Three Arab capitals have today ended up in the hands of Iran and belong to the Islamic Iranian revolution". He added that Sanaa will soon be under the grip on the Islamic Republic as well. According to him, most of Yemen’s territories will soon be under the power of the Shiite group, the Houthis, supported by the Islamic Republic.
The second platform that the Islamic Republic utilizes is sponsoring, financing, equipping, training and advising loyalist and heterodox Shiite groups across the region. The number of these militia groups is on the rise and they operate as a pawn to serve the geopolitical, strategic, economic, ideological and national interests of the ruling clerics.
America's lack of political willingness to act
As the Islamic Republic creates such Shiite groups across the region to “protect” Arab capitals, Tehran centralizes its power across the region. In addition, after the creation of new Shiite groups, the elimination of these proxies will not be a simple task, for they will be ingrained in the socio-political and socio-economic fabric of the society.
In addition, these loyalist militia groups are game changers in the region, tipping the balance of power further in favor of the Islamic Republic and its regional hegemonic ambitions.
The expansion of Iran’s military and loyalist-militia groups in the region transcends Tehran’s political ambitions. The ideological tenet of this expansion and of Tehran’s overall growing regional empire (under the banner of Popular Mobilization Forces: an umbrella institution of Shiite armed groups) are crucial facets to analyze.
More fundamentally, as the final nuclear deal approaches, and as Tehran witnesses the weakness of Washington and other powers when deciding to overlook Iran’s militaristic and imperialistic activities in the region, Tehran has become more emboldened and vocal when it comes to its military expansion.
Iranian leaders boast about their role in Arab states projecting Tehran as a savior for the Arab world. As Zakani stated, according to Iran’s Rasa new agency “had Hajj Qassem Soleimani not intervened in Iraq, Baghdad would have fallen, and the same applies to Syria; without the will of Iran, Syria would have fallen”.
Nevertheless, by the U.S. being so concentrated on a nuclear deal and President Obama being so focused on leaving behind a historic legacy regarding a nuclear deal with Iran, the unintended consequences of such an inefficient foreign policy are being ignored and overshadowed. Although the U.S. has military bases in the region, it has evidently chosen to ignore Iran’s military expansion.
The concerns of regional countries about the nuclear deal is not solely linked to the nuclear technicalities of the deal or Iran-West rapprochement, but are primarily related to Iran’s growing empire as well as the consequences of such a nuclear deal leading Tehran to apply more assertive and expansionist foreign policy in the region.
Regional robust actions such as Operation Decisive Storm are sometimes required in order to set limits to Iran’s hegemonic, imperialistic objectives, and interference in other Arab states’ affairs, as well as in order to prevent the destabilizing effects emanating from the growing militia rebels sponsored by the Islamic Republic.