LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/The Miracle Of Reviving Lazarus From the Grave
John 11/01-16: "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him."
Bible Quotation For Today/I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death
Letter to the Philippians 03/01-12: "Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 10-11/15
Will Camp David end Hezbollah/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 10/15
U.S. State Dept. Invites Muslim Leaders, Denies Christians/Raymond Ibrahim/May 10/15
The Difference Between Islam and Islamism/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/May 9/15
Is Camp David meant as a marketing tool for the Iran deal/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 10/15
A Turkish-Saudi push against Bashar al-Assad/Sinem Cengiz/Al Arabiya/May 10/15
Camp David: A summit and its discontents/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/May 10/15
Clouds Over Camp David Summit/Ray Takeyh/Council On Foreign Relations/May 10/15
A Turkish-Saudi Military Offensive on Syria/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/May 10/15
Lebanese Related News published on May 10-11/15
Lebanese Army will not 'slip' into Qalamoun battle: Kahwagi
Army soldier laid to rest 9 months after death
Dialogue with Aoun 'strategic': Geagea
Al-Rahi Hopes Officials Would 'Freely' Elect New President
Salam from Higher Islamic Council Elections: We Fear for Fate of Moderation in Lebanon
Arsal Municipal Chief Says Hizbullah's Qalamoun Battle Has Not Reached Town
Report: FPM to Suspend Participation in Cabinet over Security Appointments Dispute
Rifi Says Arsal Hostages Deal in 'Final Phase', Kidnappers Procrastinate over Financial Conditions
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 10-11/15
Raul Castro meets pope, says might return to the Church
Arab League close to forming unified military force
Bid to smuggle explosives into Saudi Arabia from Bahrain foiled
Saudi-led coalition accuses Houthis of ‘hiding’ among Yemeni civilians
Yemen rebel allies accept Saudi cease-fire proposal
UN-chartered ship docks in Yemen with fuel for aid deliveries
King Salman: A man who means business on his first 100 days
Syria rebels storm besieged regime loyalists: activists
Netanyahu: Israel foiled Iran's efforts to open new front on Golan
Netanyahu Seeks to Hike Number of Ministers in New Govt.
Football: Palestine to host Saudi Arabia on West Bank
Several dead in shooting in Switzerland
Republican candidates talk tough on ISIS, but offer few specifics
Queen Elizabeth marks WWII anniversary at London service
Militants set off bombs outside Egypt judge's home: police
Turkish PM visits historic tomb in Syria: government
Flight from Cairo to Abu Dhabi diverted for security reasons
Militants Set Off Bombs outside Egypt Judge's Home
Muslim doctor who joined Islamic State: “I saw this as part of my jihad for Islam”
A horde of
Elias Bejjani/The majority of Lebanon's politicians are mere evil merchants. They are hungry for both money and power and have no respect for their citizens. Lebanon's salvation can not be achieved with such thugs.
Vatican thanks pope for mediation role with U.S.
By AFP | Vatican City/Sunday, 10 May 2015
Cuban President Raul Castro met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Sunday, thanking the pontiff for his role in brokering the recent rapprochement between Havana and Washington, a papal spokesman said. “Raul Castro thanked the Pope for his mediation between Cuba and the United States,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi of the exchange that also focused on Francis’ upcoming visit to Cuba. The first South American pope played a key role in secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba, which led to the surprise announcement in December that the two countries would seek to restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of tensions. During the audience Castro offered the pontiff a painting by Cuban artist Kcho inspired by the plight of illegal immigrants stranded at sea.
The pope in turn presented Castro a medal of Martin de Tours, a French saint celebrated for having given his coat to a beggar, and urged others to “clothe and support the poor.”Castro, who was accompanied by his Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, held what was scheduled as a “strictly private” meeting with the pontiff in a small room adjoining the Paul VI Audience Hall, where large gatherings are held in the Vatican. Pope Francis arrived ten minutes ahead of Castro. A dozen unformed Swiss Guards stood to attention in front of the building when the limousine bearing the Cuban flag arrived. The Holy See has revealed the Argentine pope personally mediated between the U.S. and Cuba, and that the Vatican hosted delegations from the two countries in October.U.S. theologian Miguel Diaz, a former ambassador to the Holy See, said Francis would reprise the words of late Polish pope John Paul II, who made a historic first papal visit to Cuba in 1998. “Let Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba,” John Paul II urged during a visit in 1998, when he was accompanied by Jorge Bergoglio, then auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires and now Pope Francis. The pope will “certainly reiterate” John Paul II’s message, “now that Cuba is trying to step up its involvement in the economic world and international relations,” Diaz told the Italian news agency Adnkronos. Castro’s Vatican visit, announced only Tuesday, follows a visit to Russia, where the Cuban leader attended a grandiose World War II victory parade on Saturday. He will meet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome later on Sunday. The Vatican announced last month that Pope Francis would visit Cuba in September, becoming only the third pontiff to do so after John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.
Lebanese Army will not 'slip'
into Qalamoun battle: Kahwagi
The Daily Star/May. 10, 2015/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army will not “slip” into any war inside the Syrian area of Qalamoun, where Hezbollah and the Syrian army are currently fighting jihadis, Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said. According to a report by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat newspaper’s Sunday release, Kahwagi assured security officials in a meeting Saturday that the Army “is ready to confront any assault on Lebanese sovereignty and push back any infiltration [attempt] by militants.” However, he also emphasized that the military’s responsibility “is limited to dealing with attacks on Lebanese territory,” saying it will not “slip into participation.” Quoting Army sources, Al-Hayat said that officials were positive about Lebanon’s safety in light of the escalation near its borders, and assured that “the security situation in under control.” Spillover to Lebanon is not expected to exceed what has already happened, when random mortars were fired by militants on eastern Lebanese villages, the officials suggested. Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have been engaged in fierce battle with Syrian rebels and jihadis near the eastern Lebanese borders in the Qalamoun hills. During the last few days of battles, militants were forced to withdraw and the Hezbollah-backed Syrian troops took over large hills in the area.
soldier laid to rest 9 months after death
Nidal al-Solh| The Daily Star/May. 10, 2015 /HAWSH SNID, Lebanon: Nine months after his death in clashes with jihadis in northeast Lebanon, Army soldier Ali Qassem Ali was laid to rest in his hometown in the Bekaa Valley Sunday. The body was handed to Lebanese authorities by ISIS on May 1 and underwent DNA tests to verify the soldier's identity. Ali was killed by ISIS militants during the clashes of Arsal last August, and his body was taken by ISIS, who also holding nine Lebanese servicemen captive. Ali’s mother collapsed in tears as the coffin reached the parents’ residence in Hawsh Snid, another Bekaa village. The funeral’s convoy departed from Beirut at 10 a.m., according to an Army statement. The military music unit played the goodbye symphony for their fallen colleague as others carried the coffin over their shoulders, walking around the soldier's lifelong home. The body was then driven to as-Sayyeda Khawla holy site in Baalbek and will be laid to rest at 5 p.m. at his hometown Khreibeh.
Hopes Officials Would 'Freely' Elect New President
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi lamented on Sunday the ongoing vacancy in the presidency, urging officials to perform their constitutional duties to stage the presidential elections. He hoped during his Sunday sermon that lawmakers would “bravely arm themselves with the freedom of choice and opinion” in electing a candidate.“They should adopt actual initiatives that would enable them to elect a head of state before May 25,” he added. Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, 2014 when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the polls.
with Aoun 'strategic': Geagea
The Daily Star/May. 10, 2015
BEIRUT: The dialogue with the Free Patriotic Movement has strategic dimensions, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea announced Sunday, saying the two parties have reached an agreement on several legislative priorities. “The FPM-LF dialogue has begun taking strategic and not merely tactical dimensions,” Geagea told a crowd of party affiliates who gathered in Germany for the annual Lebanese Forces conference in Europe. “The presidential question is undoubtedly on the discussion table, but beside that, we are discussing other points and our meetings are ongoing.”Speaking to the conference via Skype, Geagea said the “declaration of intent between the two parties was ready and would be announced soon."Officials from the two groups have been meeting for months to prepare for the joint declaration, which will reveal points of agreement between the parties on certain key issues in Lebanon. “We agree on boycotting any [Parliament] session if the electoral and naturalization laws are not on the top of its agenda,” he said. The two parties have also announced their support for extending Lebanese citizenship to expat communities abroad. The move has been mainly championed by Christian parties, given the popular estimation that the majority of Lebanese expats are Christians. Both the LF and FPM are also opposed to the current electoral law, known as the 1960 law, holding that it allows the election of Christian lawmakers by the votes of non-Christians, thus reflecting an inaccurate picture of partisan popularities. Geagea, who is part of the March 14 bloc, also took on Iran during his speech, accusing the country of preventing the election of a president in Lebanon. “There is an Iranian decision not to hold presidential elections in Lebanon and to keep it as a card to use in a certain deal on the regional level,” he said. He also explained that his party’s main objectives currently are to create an electronic government system to “end corruption in the state, and to fight drugs, which have become “a widespread disease in our society.”
Municipal Chief Says Hizbullah's Qalamoun Battle Has Not Reached Town
Naharnet /Municipal chief of Arsal Ali al-Hujeiri stressed that the battles between Hizbullah and the Syrian regime against opposition groups have not reached the northeastern border town, reported the Kuwaiti daily al-Anba on Sunday. He told the daily: “Hizbullah does not have any fighters in Ras Baalbek or on the outskirts of Arsal.” “It is not in the party's interest to expand the area of its fighting because this is a very large area,” he explained in reference to the ongoing battles for control of the Syrian border area of al-Qalamoun.
Hujeiri emphasized that the fighting is currently limited to the outskirts of Brital and Baalbek in Lebanon and the Assal al-Wared in Syria. Fighting intensified in the past week in the mountainous al-Qalamoun region across the border from Lebanon, where militants from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front are entrenched. Hizbullah and Syrian government troops took control on Thursday of strategic heights in al-Qalamoun that abuts Lebanon's eastern border. The control of the area on the outskirts of Assal al-Wared came following heavy clashes with al-Nusra Front. Later in the week, Hizbullah fighters backed by the Syrian army completely seized the outskirts of al-Juba town, which forced Islamists militants to flee the area towards Ras al-Maarah, Fleita and al-Rahwa, along the Lebanese border.
Netanyahu: Israel foiled Iran's
efforts to open new front on Golan
By HERB KEINON/J.Post/05/10/2015/Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the start of a cabinet meeting Sunday morning, mentioned that since the outgoing government's first cabinet meeting two years ago, the region has been in constant tumult. “Despite the many attempts to challenge us from our borders, we fended off all these efforts without exception,” he said. Netanyahu mentioned Hezbollah in south Lebanon, the efforts by Iran to open up a new front against Israel on the Golan Heights, attempts to transfer advanced weaponry from Syria to Lebanon, and efforts by Hamas to carry out a “strategic attack” against Israel in the south. “During Operation Protective Edge, we delivered Hamas the most powerful blow it has received since its creation,” he said. “We are prepared for all developments from that front.”More than anything, he said, the previous government acted to prevent Iran from getting nuclear arms. “These efforts are continuing, and we will not stop,” he said. “We will preserve Israel's right to defend itself by itself under any conditions and in any situation.”
Netanyahu said Israel's attempts to make diplomatic progress with the Palestinians were foiled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to make “difficult decisions,” opting instead to leave the negotiations with Israel, turn unilaterally to the international arena, and enter an alliance with Hamas. Sunday's cabinet meeting also brought upon the approval of a bill that would allow the incoming government to raise the number of ministers and deputy ministers. The controversial bill, which has come under blistering attack from Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid for wasting taxpayers money, is expected to come to the Knesset for a vote on Monday. Netanyahu must appoint the new government's ministers by Wednesday. Lapid spearheaded legislation in the last Knesset that would limit the size of Israel's government's to 18 ministers, and four deputy ministers. The government Netanyahu put together in 2009 had 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers, and the last government in 2013 began with 22 ministers and eight deputies.
Will Camp David end Hezbollah?
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
There are two parties standing against the agreement formula between the West and Iran regarding the Tehran’s nuclear program: Gulf Arab states and Israel. It’s certain that President Barack Obama will seek to present reassurances for each party. Yesterday, my column discussed Gulf objections to the matter. But what about Israel, the country harnessing the most influence on U.S. decisions? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently won the premiership seat for the third time in a row. Now Obama has to be more serious when dealing with him, after trying his luck and standing against Bibi before the elections. The White House won’t easily be able to pass bills in Congress on the final Iranian nuclear agreement without taking into account Israeli reservations.
Everything has a price in the bazar of politics, and Obama must please Israel. There are promises made by the U.S. administration to reinforce Israel’s defenses in order to guarantee that Tel Aviv continues to be superior over Iran and the region. Israel’s demands, which are more important to them than any weapons, will be to rearrange geopolitical surroundings that are of harm to its security and are linked to Iran.
Let’s recall that ever since the 1980s, Iran’s strategy has been confronting the West by forming proxies in the region to fight on its behalf and to be used to serve its own political aims. Lebanese party Hezbollah is the major proxy and there are Palestinian factions as well, among them Hamas. Proxies usually serve the Iranian agenda – for example, as part of Iran’s struggle with the U.S. and Britain during the 1980s, Hezbollah kidnapped American and British university teachers, clerics and spies. The most important task was to open a continuous war front via Lebanon to pressure Israel in order to serve Iranian aims. Most Israeli wars in Lebanon had nothing to do with the Lebanese people themselves. Lebanon was used as a battlefield because it was weak. This was first achieved via Palestinian organizations, but after the Palestinian Liberation Organization was exiled, the confrontation was naturalized via other parties, of which Hezbollah was a major one. The Iranians formed Hezbollah for that purpose. Although the commanders in Tehran and their allies have always raised the slogan of defending Palestine, they mostly played several roles in the regional struggle between Iran and its rivals.
Everything has a price in the bazaar of politics, and Obama must please Israel
I think there won’t be a Western-Iranian deal to end the 35-year-old state of war between them, without taking into consideration the issue of Iran’s proxies, and particularly Hezbollah and Hamas. I completely rule out a nuclear deal framework while allowing Iran to threaten Israel’s security directly on its borders. Therefore, there would be a need to cancel Hezbollah’s military assignment. I think Hezbollah’s command won’t hate the idea of no longer serving as an Iranian brigade against Israel. Despite the heavy propaganda, Hezbollah has suffered painful defeats in its wars against Israel due to an unequal balance of powers. Hezbollah had to tolerate these defeats because this was the nature of the proxy whose job is to stir trouble on behalf of Iran and tolerate losses that would be compensated for after each war.
We’ve recently seen how Hezbollah’s tasks varied as a result of the plurality of Iran’s regional wars, and Hezbollah had to send its sons to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of Iran. After the nuclear agreement is signed, it’s expected that Lebanon’s wars with Israel will be over. However, we don’t know if Iran will continue to use Hezbollah in its current and upcoming wars. In this case, Hezbollah will continue to be a militia that lives off Iranian financial support, and Lebanon will therefore remain in a state of instability for years. Or the U.S. and its allies can pressure Iran within the context of the nuclear deal and the upcoming Camp David summit, thus obliging it to end the wars it had waged via its regional proxies – wars which are the major reason behind the lasting chaos.
There’s also Hamas, which like Hezbollah, has been for long linked to Syria’s and Iran’s interests and directives as it engaged in several wars against Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to serve the two masters of Damascus and Tehran. There have always been complaints within Hamas against this connection with Iran; however, Hamas’ command always claimed there was a need for foreign support. But now due to recent developments, which include Iran’s end to antagonizing Israel and the new Egyptian regime considering itself in a confrontation against Hamas, the latter’s leaders are in a difficult situation and they have offered Israel a plan for a long-term 15-year truce. Of course they don’t call it peace but all peace treaties are in fact long-term truces. Israel may accept it because it would also help increase Palestinian divisions.The American-Iranian agreement continues to be the most dangerous possible development. It will have several repercussions on the region and we don’t know whether they will be positive or negative as it will end a situation which has been the major reason behind most regional struggles which had first erupted at the start of the Iranian revolution.
Republican candidates talk tough on
ISIS, but offer few specifics
By Reuters | Greenville, S.C.
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Seeking an edge on the national security issue, Republican presidential hopefuls on Saturday seized on the attack in Texas this week for which ISIS claimed responsibility as an example of the threat they say the militant group poses to the United States.
"It's not a matter of if another attempt is made on American soil, it is when," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said at a gathering of declared or potential contenders in South Carolina. "I want a leader who is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us."
Two men were fatally shot on Sunday after opening fire with assault rifles at a heavily guarded exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas.
The Syria- and Iraq-based ISIS claimed responsibility, but offered no proof. U.S. officials have said they doubted the militant group's direct involvement.
Several Republican hopefuls who came to Greenville to address conservative voters in the early primary-voting state referred to the Texas attack in their comments.
But for Republicans, the struggle against ISIS presents a challenge and a conundrum: How to talk tough about taking on the militants without rattling the nerves of voters worried about the country being plunged into yet another extended war in the Middle East.
Walker, like many of his fellow speakers, was short on specifics about how his approach to combating ISIS would differ significantly from that of President Barack Obama.
The president has sought to slow the militants' advance by providing support to Iraqi forces on the ground, backed by an air campaign by Washington and its allies in the region.
He has ruled out using U.S. troops in large numbers.
Obama's request in February that Congress authorize the use of military force against ISIS has made little headway.
His fellow Democrats worry about getting involved in another Middle East war, while the Republicans who control Congress want stronger measures than what Obama proposed.
Emerging as a top issue
The situation would seem to offer Republicans a political opportunity.
Recent polls have shown national security and the fear of terrorism emerging as a top issue in the race in a way it did not in 2008 and 2012.
In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released this week, voters listed national security as their second priority, behind the economy.
For Republicans, the issue ranked first.
The fight against ISIS and what Republican speakers described as a radical Islamic ideology dominated the discussion on Saturday.
That meant plenty of tough talk, but little in the way of concrete proposals.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was one of the few speakers to mention deploying U.S ground forces to Iraq and Syria.
"The idea we would rule out ground troops is ridiculous," he said in an interview, although adding: "Nobody is saying we're sending in ground troops today."
More typical was the rhetoric of Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, who suggested the Obama administration was pursuing a half-hearted strategy in the fight against ISIS.
He said the United States should "load the bombers up and bomb them back to the 7th century."
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has announced his candidacy, quoted the popular film "Taken" in describing his strategy against the militants. "We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you," he said.
In a state where evangelicals comprise a significant and influential share of the Republican electorate, Walker, Rubio and Carly Fiorina, who announced her candidacy this week, referred to the beheadings of Christians by ISIS.
"When I see Christians from Egypt and elsewhere around the world shot or beheaded just because of their faith, that's something I feel right here, you feel in your heart and your soul," said Walker, who has yet to enter the race.
Several potential contenders lambasted Obama for his refusal to describe the militants as adherents to a radical religious code and painted the conflict as one comparable to America's struggle against German Nazism and Soviet Communism.
"The great issue of our time is a battle between the Western values of freedom and this totalitarian worldview of Islamic fanatics," said former Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Is Camp David meant as a marketing
tool for the Iran deal?
Saturday, 9 May 2015
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
U.S. President Barack Obama is known for his persuasive talents. Indeed, the upcoming Camp David summit may not only ease the minds of the invited GCC leaders and calm the anger aroused by the impending Iranian nuclear agreement. It may also turn a new page in the history of the region. Still, we are skeptical, because the task seems too difficult and complex to achieve.
Obama’s initiative has been a positive step following the series of negative measures the Gulf countries believe the U.S. has taken against them in the negotiations with Iran – measures they feel have failed to take into account the enormous risks to other countries in the region. One writer, defending Obama, argues that the president's open policy of seeking to resolve old tensions is not limited to Iran; he reinitiated ties with Cuba after 50 years, without imposing any conditions on Havana.
However, it is wrong to compare Iran to Cuba. Iran is a malignant force, while Cuba is benign and no longer represents a threat to any party. Tehran’s religious ideology is based on change and domination; it took part in the violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Gaza, Yemen, Sudan and Central Africa, and further afield; Iran has been active in South-East Asia, and involved in the bombings in Argentina. Cuba’s hostile military and political activities, on the other hand, ended at the beginning of the millennium, a decade and a half ago.
If the architect of the U.S. agreement wants to reassure everyone around the table at Camp David, he will hear a long list of issues linked to Iran
Both the matters to be discussed, and intentions of the participants at the Camp David summit, will make negotiations tricky. The Gulf states fear that the imminent nuclear agreement will solely deal with Iran’s nuclear program, thus opening the floodgates for Iran to threaten the Gulf’s very existence.
If the architect of the U.S. agreement wants to reassure everyone around the table at Camp David, he will hear a long list of issues linked to Iran. Many clashes between Iran and the Gulf countries may arise on land and at sea as a result of the potential vacuum left after the signing of any nuclear agreement, if the United States reduces its military presence or decides to remain neutral. Therefore, the imminent deal between Iran and the U.S. poses a major threat to the countries of the Gulf region – not a source of security and stability, as the White House claims.
A marketing tool?
What can be seen as positive is that Obama decided to address these concerns and objections at Camp David before any deal is signed with Iran, in order for Arab Gulf leaders to pose questions about the nature of the mysterious agreement and its potential repercussions on their nations. There is also a perception among them that the Camp David summit is just a marketing tool, from which Obama wants to promote the deal without making any real commitments or giving any clear answers.
What commitments could the U.S. government and other Western countries provide to ensure the security and stability of the Gulf? Arms sales and missile shields will not be enough; the most important thing is to get an explicit commitment that sets the boundaries for any attack from Iran or its allies against the Gulf countries. Such a commitment has succeeded in maintaining the stability of the Gulf region over the past five decades, with the exception of the war waged by Saddam Hussein on Kuwait. Due to this commitment and an American presence, Iran did not dare to cross the waters of the Gulf.
Such a commitment would not only help in maintaining the stability of the Gulf and guaranteeing the supply of oil to world markets, but would also be important to an Iran divided by internal conflict between its institutions and leaders. There are two groups in Iran; the first includes extremists who believe in expansion and domination, and the second wants to focus on internal reforms and end all foreign exploits. A strong American stance, guarding against Iran’s exploitation of any nuclear agreement and pledging to maintain the security of the Gulf region, would strengthen the position of moderate Iranian leaders, and would push Iran towards seeking reconciliation and regional stability.
A Turkish-Saudi push against Bashar
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Sinem Cengiz/Al Arabiya
While all eyes are fixed on the upcoming June 7 parliamentary elections in Turkey, there are multiple reports recently circulated in the Western and Arab media regarding the possibility of creating a joint Turkish-Saudi alliance against Syrian regime.
Following an unsubstantiated report published in Huffington Post last month claiming that there were high-level talks between Ankara and Riyadh with the aim of forming a military alliance to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Associated Press published a recent unconfirmed analysis stating that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have converged on a common strategy to topple Assad regime. The report followed a claim by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Gürsel Tekin, who stated that Ankara plans to send ground troops to Syria before upcoming election.
The Turkish government didn’t reply to the claims immediately – a situation that further raised concerns over the reality of Turkish intervention to Syria.
Yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu dismissed the prospects for Turkish military intervention in Syria, but added that the balances in the war-torn country was shifting in the favor of the opposition forces wrestling to oust Assad, while there has been no confirmation from the Saudi side whether such cooperation exists.
Despite several reports regarding Turkish-Saudi alliance in Syria, Davutoğlu underlined that there was no new development between two countries regarding Syria; however, noted that Turkey’s ties with the kingdom have been very positive in recent months.
And needless to say, ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia began to mend with the new King Salman, who engaged into efforts to strengthen his country’s relations with the main regional powers, particularly Turkey.
After a period of standoff between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Riyadh earlier this year, where he had a meeting with the new king. In this meeting, two countries agreed to boost the support to the Syrian opposition in a way that aims at yielding results.
Turkish-Saudi cooperation is essential for the interests of both sides as well as for stability in the region
The Syrian opposition believes that the improved relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the regional consensus has had a positive impact on the unification of the groups on the ground fighting against Syrian regime. The recent gains of the opposition forces in the northern province of Idlib, has also raised hopes regarding the possibility of Turkish-Saudi cooperation in Syria.
Both Ankara and Riyadh are aware that there are several problems in the region that necessitate a close cooperation between two countries. Among the first of all is Syria, where two countries seek for the fall of the Syrian regime.
Same track, one goal
From the very beginning of the Syrian crisis, Ankara and Riyadh managed to be in the same track with the goal to overthrow Assad and establish a more friendly government that will not pose a threat to the stability of the region. However, which groups should be supported in the opposition was not the only point of divergence between Turkey and Saudi Arabia but also the post-Assad era in Syria was the point that the two countries separated.
However, the realities on the ground seems to have pushed both Ankara and Riyadh to put aside any differences.
A strong cooperation between Ankara and Riyadh based on common interests is essential to secure the national security interests of the both countries. Among these interests, curbing Iranian expansion in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, seems to be the priority.
However, despite common goals, a realization of a Turkish-Saudi military alliance in Syria seems to face several challenges. The first challenge is related to the military realities on the ground. Although both Turkey and Saudi Arabia – two U.S. allies – are frustrated over Washington’s reluctance in Syria and its disengagement from the Middle East, it is still not clear whether two countries will have the enough ability to realize such an operation without the support of the U.S. Also, in such an operation, it is significant to calculate the reaction of Tehran, which struggles at all costs to ensure the survival of the Syrian regime.
Secondly, at a time when Turkey has entered into a tense election climate, the Turkish public may not give a green light to such an intervention. Lastly, it is still not clear what such a unilateral action will result in. However, in any case, whether it is military or not, Turkish-Saudi cooperation is essential for the interests of both sides as well as for stability in the region.
Camp David: A summit and its
Saturday, 9 May 2015
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
The choice of Camp David as the site for the first ever summit meeting between President Obama and the Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was meant to send a symbolic signal to the Arab leaders present – that the American president wants to spend some quality time with them at that bucolic retreat, which he has only used once before for a summit meeting such as this, for the 38th G8 summit in May 2012. But it’s not symbolism that the GCC leaders are concerned with, rather it’s the nightmarish reality of the unraveling of a century-old political order and the fraying of a large swath of Arab lands around them, as well as an ascendant (and in most of their minds belligerent) Iran, trying to ensure its regional hegemony by projecting its power, sometimes directly but mostly by proxy, to build an alternative, if still vague, political scaffolding on the rubble of the dying order.
The purpose of the conclave is to reassure the Gulf allies that the United States will remain committed to the security of the region. Any nuclear deal with Iran will not be at the expense of the safety of the Arab nations present, and the U.S. remains determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Gulf Arabs are seeking a new, more explicit, and institutionalized ‘security architecture’ in the region, to be erected by the U.S., and which helps guard against Iran – containing its regional ambitions, challenging its meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and protecting against violent Islamists like the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda. Because there is no overarching strategy underpinning this security architecture, it remains vague and is given various names; “security guarantees, given the behavior of Iran in the region, given the rise of the extremist threat,” as the UAE envoy to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, said recently, or, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Paris on Friday, “a series of new commitments that will create, between the United States and the GCC, a new security understanding, a new set of security initiatives”.
Conflicting wishes and divergent visions
Publicly, both sides are stressing the need to strengthen the security cooperation, the common struggle against terrorism, and the imperative of containing Iran’s destabilizing policies. Ideally, some GCC states would like to sign binding defense treaties with the United States, but they know that this is beyond the realm of the possible, given the strong reluctance of the administration and opposition from Congress to anything that could conceivably diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). Still, some of them will push for a ‘strong, explicit and a written commitment from the President’, as one official said, that if a member of the GCC states is attacked by a foreign power, the United States will come to its defense. But, there is a strong reluctance within the Obama administration to enter into any long term and legally binding military commitment in the Gulf region, at a time when the administration is trying to ‘rebalance’ or ‘pivot’ to Asia, and after more than six years of setbacks and disillusionments in the region ranging from the collapsed Palestine-Israel peace efforts, the failed Libya intervention, the horrendous blunders in Syria, and the unraveling of the political/security structures that the U.S. had left in Iraq before its withdrawal. Publicly, U.S. officials say that there are no plans to reduce America’s high military profile in the Middle East (more than 35 thousand military personnel), but privately, they say that in 10 to 15 years the U.S. should not have more than few thousand military advisors, trainers and technicians involved in intelligence gathering and operating drones.
It is ironic that those Arab officials who are pushing for explicit and written security guarantees from President Obama – from a memorandum of understanding to a military doctrine – have low expectations of the Camp David summit achieving serious breakthroughs
The qualitative and breathtaking transformation of the energy landscape in America brought about by new technology (fracking, amongst others) which allowed the U.S. to increase its oil output by four million barrels a day in the last six years, has created the much exaggerated impression in some Arab capitals that the U.S. will no longer be interested in investing in the stability of the Gulf region and patrolling the vital sea lanes. However, this is not necessarily the case – oil is an international commodity and its prices are determined by the laws of supply and demand, meaning that disruption of oil production in the Gulf region will reverberate globally.
In search of the elusive Obama doctrine
One would assume that President Obama will reassure his Arab visitors, that the U.S. will not abandon the region any time soon, and that he will reiterate America’s commitment to maintain stability in the Gulf region and his willingness to sell them more sophisticated weapons system; but it is very unlikely that he would be able to satisfy their core demand of first containing, then rolling back Iran’s strategic and tactical gains in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and recently Yemen, as well as providing them with unequivocal security guarantees including a nuclear umbrella, or providing them with meaningful assurances regarding the so-called ‘sunset clause’, when the restrictions on Iran’s enrichment activities expire after a decade or fifteen years, bringing it closer than before to developing nuclear weapons if it chooses. Containing Iran’s regional meddling should start in Syria, but as former ambassador and current vice president of Brookings Institution Martin Indyk said at a recent Atlantic Council event, “President Obama is reluctant to engage on Syria”, maybe because he has certain strong views that he is not willing to change. A former senior official who left the Obama administration recently confided to an Arab diplomat America’s abject weakness in dealing with Iran’s destabilizing activities; “we are not convinced that we can make a difference if we push hard against Iran”.
Some Gulf leaders would like to see President Obama issuing a strong declarative statement regarding Iran and security in the Gulf, amounting to something akin to the Carter Doctrine of January 1980. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian revolution – two momentous events that occurred in 1979 – and fearing Soviet encroachment into the waters of the Gulf, president Jimmy Carter, and a Democrat to boot, proclaimed in his State of the Union speech what became known as the Carter Doctrine which was directed against the Soviet Union: ‘An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force’. That doctrine led to the formation of the so-called Rapid Deployment Force for military contingencies in the Gulf region, the military antecedent of Central Command. In those ‘good old days’, most of America’s military profile was somewhere ‘behind the horizon’ because it was felt that large military footprints could backfire politically. That arrangement was succinctly and eloquently summarized by one astute Arab observer who told an American interlocutor “we want you to be like the wind; we want to feel you but we don’t want to see you”. The Times They Are a-Changin' indeed.
Persia’s fascinating pull
A similar Obama doctrine aimed at Iran is hard to see, given the President’s desire for what one of his senior aides said recently of entering into a ‘grand bargain’ with Iran. It may be too late and too difficult to enter into such a grand bargain with Iran, if only because of the opposition of the Iranian leadership, but that does not mean that the Obama administration is averse to entering into ‘pragmatic’ arrangements against common enemies. This explains firstly the tactical and implicit cooperation between the U.S. military and the Iran-led, Iran-trained Iraqi Shiite militias in the confrontation with ISIS, and secondly Washington’s aversion to seriously undermine the Assad regime in Syria, for fear of damaging the prospects of a nuclear deal with Tehran and suffering Iranian retaliations against American personnel in Iraq (a fear that was expressed repeatedly by more than one senior administration official). Obama’s view of Iran – a difficult, meddling, at times intimidating, but essentially rational actor with a degree of predictability and a clear sense of identity and purpose, important characteristics that could only be the product of an ancient civilization – is totally alien to the Gulf Arabs who don’t want to live in the shadows of a belligerent Iran, notwithstanding its civilizational heft. It is fascinating to observe Obama’s fascination with Iran, and with the possibilities of a grand opening, or grand bargain with that ancient land, something that Obama brought with him to the White House from the moment he arrived there. Obama’s fascination with Iran is reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s fascination with the historic opening to China. You don’t have to deconstruct Obama’s references to Iran in his speeches and interviews to see and feel the fascination with Persia and its attendant possibilities.
A trust deficit
It is ironic that those Arab officials who are pushing for explicit and written security guarantees from President Obama – from a memorandum of understanding to a military doctrine – have low expectations of the Camp David summit achieving serious breakthroughs. In blunt, private conversations you hear the bitter disappointments and disillusionments of six and half years. They speak of a ‘trust deficit’ when they address President Obama’s assurances, promises and threats. Two senior Arab officials from two GCC states were discussing why they should insist on written security assurances, when, as one of them mentioned, there was a pattern of presidential dissembling; the President threatened to attack Syria, and then reneged; he repeatedly promised to equip and train the Syrian opposition, but he was not serious and kept dragging his feet and providing limited, tentative support until the beginning of the fifth year of the conflict. The official noted dryly that the Obama administration negotiated secretly with Iran regarding the nuclear program and kept its allies in the dark.
Many in the GCC subscribe to the view that President Obama’s reluctance to push hard for a residual force in Iraq, and his denial that former Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s sectarian policies have accelerated Iraq’s unraveling, are in part responsible for opening the door for Iran to essentially become the dominant foreign power in Iraq. Obama’s dithering on Syria, his inactions, and his disingenuous claims that he was being pushed to ‘invade’ Syria, are also responsible in part for the historic tragedy that Syria is today. Many in the region are convinced that the Obama administration will not pursue any serious initiatives to revive the Palestinian-Israeli talks, or play a leading role in preventing Libya from sliding completely into civil war, even though the U.S. played a leading role in toppling the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
Taming the tiger
The Iranian regime has proven repeatedly its political dexterity, and its diabolical genius in mastering the art of proxy wars, when it showed from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon, and now to Yemen, that it is capable of fighting Sunni Arabs with Shiite Arabs. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been using these Shiite militias – from the Lebanese Hezbollah and various Iraqi Shiite armed groups, to the Houthis in Yemen – as their foot soldiers. Hezbollah have been their most effective Janissaries, dispatching their highly mobile and disciplined units to fight in Syria and Iraq. An Arab diplomat wondered recently: What would happen if an Arab country began arming Sunnis in Iran or members of the Arabic speaking communities in Southern Iran?
All this was taking place during the nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and the P-5 plus one, and at a time when the Iranian economy was supposed to be in free fall. There is concern in the Middle East that sanctions relief in the wake of a final nuclear deal will add more than $120 billion in frozen assets to Iran’s coffers. Surely some of this wealth will be diverted to finance their designs in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Taming the Iranian tiger will not be easy, and there are no signs that the U.S. is planning to ease the region away from the suffocating shadow of the ayatollah. In the meantime, many in the Middle East, including America’s skeptical allies, are watching with trepidation and wondering if in the remaining 18 months of its tenure, the Obama administration will be able to stop the historic fraying of the region. 18 months is too long a time. Sometimes in America a month can stretch into an eternity of anticipation and discontent. Lord have mercy…
Arab League close to forming unified
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the Arab League is moving closer to forming a joint Arab military force, pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Saturday. “Technical teams are already working to develop a vision to establish a joint Arab force, and this will be ready within the next four months,” Shukri said on the sidelines of a state visit to Eritrea. Speaking about Yemen, the FM said: “There can be no doubt that the situation in Yemen requires serious effort in order to find a solution to the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the suffering of the Yemeni people. We need to find a way to return legitimacy and restore stability to Yemen.” “Egypt is continuing its participation in the alliance and is doing everything in its power to stop the escalation,” Shukri said. “We are in contact with our partners to provide assistance and help reach a political framework conducive to securing a ceasefire, returning Yemen’s legitimate government to power and ensuring Yemeni security and stability,” he added. In March, Arab leaders said during an Arab League summit in Egypt that they wish to create a joint military force to help maintain security within the region. The announcement came in the wake of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen to battle Iranian-backed Houthi militias.
Clouds Over Camp David Summit
Author: Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
May 10, 2015
Council On Foreign Relations
On May 14, President Barack Obama will host at Camp David the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain. It is a mission to reassure allies concerned about the U.S. commitment to the Gulf region and its determination to forestall an Iranian nuclear bomb. It is also a mission destined to disappoint. The incongruity of objectives between the United States and the Gulf regimes has seldom been greater.
The Arab potentates would like to see the United States disarm and defang Iran, change the balance of power in the Syrian civil war against Bashir al-Assad, and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Washington would like to pivot to Asia and leave behind the morass of Middle Eastern politics. It is hard to see how a symbolic gathering can bridge this chasm.
U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh in January. (Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)
The difficulties between the two sides are compounded by the multiplying divisions within and between Arab states. In 1965, Malcolm Kerr, a historian of the Middle East, published a pithy book titled The Arab Cold War. The book chronicled how the Middle East was being polarized between radical republics and the conservative monarchies. The forces of militancy led by Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser were challenging the monarchies as relics of a discredited past. This regional cold war bitterly divided the Arab world. It was a conflict waged by proxies, spies and, in the case of Yemen, by actual troops from Egypt supporting the Yemeni government and support for tribal forces from Saudi Arabia. The United States was an active player in that Arab cold war, as it buttressed the monarchies and actively pressured the revolutionary states.
The Arab cold war finally ended in 1967 when Israel destroyed the combined armies of Egypt and Syria. It was only after their momentous defeat by Israeli armor that Arab radicals called off their campaign against the oil-rich kingdoms. They no longer sought to displace those regimes but appealed to them for aid, which the monarchies provided as the price of ending the conflict.
The Middle East today is similarly fractured. This time the divisions are driven not by ideological struggles but sectarian identities. The incumbent Sunni states seek to rebuff a resurgent Iran and its Shia allies. This conflict is playing itself out in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Bahrain and, most dramatically, in Syria.
The new cold war differs from its predecessor in one important respect: It is about religion and not politics. As such, it is hard to see how it will end. Ideological disagreement can eventually dissipate, but religious discord is much more difficult to ease. Hovering over all this is a potential arms control agreement between the United States and Iran that the Arab states fear will pave the way for an Iranian bomb.
Today, U.S. priorities in the Middle East are starkly different than those of the Gulf sheikdoms. The White House’s foremost objective is to secure a compromise nuclear arms control agreement with the Islamic Republic. From Washington’s perspective there is no such thing as a perfect agreement. The Obama administration considers an accord that imposes some restrictions on Iran’s program with an intrusive inspection process preferable to either continuing with the sanctions policy or using force.
The Gulf Arab states see the emerging agreement as technologically permissive, with Iran being allowed too high a level of uranium enrichment capacity, and are particularly concerned about its sunset clause, in which essential restrictions on Iran’s enrichment activities expire after a decade. Moreover, many in the Gulf fear that the accord will lead to a U.S.-Iran rapprochement at their expense. After all, if the United States and Iran can settle the thorny nuclear crisis, why would they not cooperate on other issues of concern? The United States, this line of thinking holds, would treat Iran as a pivotal regional state whereby its interests will be taken into account as Washington plots its strategy. At a time when the Gulf states are desperate to contain the surge of Iranian influence, such fears have preoccupied them.
The Arab regimes see a series of conflicts that the United States must resolve and a series of failing states that it must rehabilitate. Washington’s gaze is more narrow.
The two sides that will gather in Camp David see different things as they look across the region. The Arab regimes see a series of conflicts that the United States must resolve and a series of failing states that it must rehabilitate. Washington’s gaze is more narrow and its ambitions more circumspect. The United States remains committed to its war on terrorism in the region with its reliance on drones. It is seeking to degrade the self-declared Islamic State and prevent it from taking over strategic cities in Iraq.
Beyond that, there is no real U.S. Middle East policy to speak of. After much investment, the administration seems disinclined to resume its peace-making efforts between Israel and the Palestinian entity. The task of resuming any peace process is that much more difficult given the contentious relations between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The White House has no stomach for nation building even among nations it helped to destroy, such as Libya. And as far as containing Iran, while America may not go as far toward resuming ties with Iran as the Gulf regimes fear, it is not beyond reaching tactical accommodations with Tehran in places such as Iraq and on issues such as dealing with the Islamic State.
Symbolism or Substance?
Given such disparate views, what can one expect from the summit at Camp David? There will surely be much rhetoric about the durability and the importance of the alliance. A friendship forged by Franklin D. Roosevelt and sustained by every president since will be celebrated. The Gulf rulers will likely be promised more arms, and there may yet be additional deployments of U.S. naval forces in the region. Intelligence cooperation and counterterrorism measures will be stressed. All parties will insist on the history of the alliance while avoiding its problematic future.
However, beneath the soothing rhetoric, the reality of disagreement will be hard to conceal. The Gulf sheikdoms will not get a commitment from the administration for a fundamental disarmament of Iran. What the United States has conceded in terms of enrichment capacity and a limited duration of the impending accord will not be reversed in a manner that will satisfy the Gulf rulers. The administration will find it difficult to renew its peacemaking diplomacy or compel either Israel or the Palestinians to adjust their views. Nor will the Gulf regimes find a United States ready to intervene in a measurable way in the Syrian civil war. In Iraq, the United States will continue to conduct counterterrorism operations while Iranian influence penetrates domestic politics. And the failed states of Libya and Yemen will continue to fail without U.S. support.
The Middle East is entering a vulnerable and violent transition. This time it is doing so without America. After years of war and disappointments, the United States is eyeing a new continent with its own promises and rewards. It remains to be seen whether the twenty-first century will be an Asian century. However, it is unlikely to be a century when the United States doubles down on its commitment to the Middle East and expends precious resources to stabilize a region coming undone.
U.S. State Dept. Invites Muslim
Leaders, Denies Christians
May 10, 2015
"After the [Christian governor] told them [U.S. authorities] that they were ignoring the 12 Shariah states who (sic) institutionalized persecution ... he suddenly developed visa problems. ... The question remains -- why is the U.S. downplaying or denying the attacks against Christians?" — Emmanuel Ogebe, Nigerian human rights lawyer based in Washington D.C.
"In the same week that the State Dept says it will take the engagement of religious leaders seriously ... it refuses a visa to a persecuted Christian nun who has fled ISIS, Sister Diana." — Chris Seiple, President, Institute for Global Engagement.
Late on the evening of May 8, Newsmax TV announced that pressure from Americans acquainted with Sister Diana Momeka's visa rejection has just caused the State Department to reverse its decision and permit her entry into the United States. Until then, however, she and others were barred
After inviting a number of foreign religious leaders, mostly Muslim, the U.S. State Department, for the second time in a row, denied the sole Christian representative a visa -- despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Christians are the ones being persecuted by Muslims.
Sister Diana, an influential Iraqi Christian leader and spokeswoman who was scheduled to visit the U.S. to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Mideast, earlier this month was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department, even though she had visited the U.S. before, most recently in 2012.
Sister Diana was to be one of a delegation of religious leaders from Iraq -- including Shia and Yazidi -- to visit Washington, D.C., to describe the situation of their people. Every single religious leader from this delegation was granted a visa -- except for the only Christian representative, Sister Diana.
Similarly, in March 2014, after the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) brought together the governors of Nigeria's mostly Muslim northern states for a conference in the U.S., the State Department had also blocked the visa of the region's only Christian governor, Jonah David Jang, an ordained minister, citing "administrative" problems. The USIP confirmed that all 19 northern governors were invited, but the organization did not respond to requests for comments on why they would hold talks without the region's only Christian governor.
According to Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian human rights lawyer based in Washington D.C., the Christian governor's "visa problems" are due to anti-Christian bias in the U.S. government:
The U.S. insists that Muslims are the primary victims of Boko Haram. It also claims that Christians discriminate against Muslims in Plateau, which is one of the few Christian majority states in the north. After the [Christian governor] told them [U.S. authorities] that they were ignoring the 12 Shariah states who (sic) institutionalized persecution ... he suddenly developed visa problems. ... The question remains -- why is the U.S. downplaying or denying the attacks against Christians?
Regarding Sister Diana, determined Christian and human rights activists in the U.S. called on the State Department to reverse its decision. According to Johnnie Moore, an activist who met her in Iraq: "Sister Momeka is a gift to the world and a humanitarian whose work reminded me -- when I met her in Iraq -- of Mother Teresa. It is incomprehensible to me that the State Department would not be inviting Momeka on an official visit to the United States, as opposed to barring her from entry."
The Iraqi Christian nun, Sister Diana Momeka (left), this month received a visa to visit the U.S. as part of a delegation of foreign religious leaders. The State Dept. had originally denied her visa request, only allowing in non-Christian delegates. Last year, the United States Institute for Peace invited to the U.S. the Muslim governors of Nigeria's northern states, but the sole Christian governor, Plateau State Gov. Jonah David Jang (right), was denied a visa.
Chris Seiple, President of the Institute for Global Engagement, wrote in a post, "In the same week that the State Dept says it will take the engagement of religious leaders seriously (as announced in its quadrennial review two days ago), it refuses a visa to a persecuted Christian nun who has fled ISIS, Sister Diana."
Similarly, discussing the nun's visa denial, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said: "This is an administration which never seems to find a good enough excuse to help Christians, but always finds an excuse to apologize for terrorists ... I hope that as it gets attention that Secretary [of State John] Kerry will reverse it. If he doesn't, Congress has to investigate, and the person who made this decision ought to be fired."
In an interview on Newsmax TV with host J.D. Hayworth, Johnnie Moore credited Newsmax TV viewers with helping to put enormous pressure on the Obama administration to allow Sister Diana Momeka to come to Washington to talk about the persecution of Christians in her war-torn nation: "It worked -- people raised their voices. They wrote their congressmen and senators, they put pressure on everybody, everywhere. ... She has been approved. ... It's exhibit A of what happens when people in this country start raising their voices."
But Ogebe's question remains: Why is the U.S. downplaying or denying attacks against Christians?
A Turkish-Saudi Military Offensive on
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute
May 10, 2015 at 4:00 am
Syria's Scud-C ballistic missiles put several big Turkish cities "within range."
Half of the Turkish squadrons that would fly over Syrian skies may not be able to return home safely.
Turkey simply does not have a long-range anti-missile defense architecture to counter the Syrian (and/or Iranian) missiles.
On June 22, 2012, a Turkish RF-4E military reconnaissance aircraft took off from an air base in eastern Turkey. It flew at low altitude, as most spy planes do, and violated Syrian airspace before it was hit -- most likely -- by a missile fired from a Syrian- or Russian-operated air defense system.
Two Turkish pilots were killed. Their bodies were later recovered from the Mediterranean Sea with help from a US ship.
Turkey was all rage. Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed revenge. The Turks claimed their aircraft was flying on a training mission. It was most likely flying on a mission to spy on air defense systems in Syria.
Nearly three years later, on the morning of March 25, a Russian-made Syrian Scud missile, estimated to have been fired from a range of 180 kilometers, exploded near the Reyhanli district in Turkey's southernmost city of Hatay, near the Syrian border. The missile left a 15-meter-wide crater in a stream bed, broke the windows of the surrounding houses, caused the roof of a building in the nearby military base to collapse, damaged two military vehicles and inflicted minor injuries on five Turkish civilians.
Luckily, there were no fatalities. But the incident, once again, revealed something about the comparative military capabilities of NATO's second biggest army, and a much weaker but sufficiently deterrent enemy.
Syrian regime soldiers prepare to fire a ballistic missile.
Lately, there have been reports that Sunni regional allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia were planning a joint military offensive against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus, a Nusayri nemesis for both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The reports claimed that the planned operation would involve both ground troops and air strikes.
There are a number of reasons, both on the local (Turkish) level and on the regional level, why this is not a realistic scenario.
Presumably, the Turkish-Saudi force would attack the forces of the Assad regime in order to topple Assad (a Turkish wish) and block Iran-backed Shiite dominance in the region (a Saudi and Turkish wish). Turkey wants Assad out in order to build a Muslim Brotherhood type of regime in Syria. But despite unconfirmed reports of a softer Saudi opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, the facts on the ground remain simple: The Muslim Brotherhood is the worst enemy of Saudi Arabia's staunch regional ally, Egypt. Moreover, the timing of the alleged Turkish-Saudi offensive against Syria (but actually targeted more against Iran) looks unrealistic, given Iran's looming nuclear deal with the West.
From a Turkish perspective, there are more practical reasons why war with Syria is probably a distant possibility. First, the Turkish government faces critical parliamentary elections on June 7, and politically it cannot afford Turkish soldiers returning home in coffins.
Second, and more importantly, there are simple military facts that can turn a Turkish military campaign against Syria into a national disaster. The Syrian side of the Turkish border with Syria is home to more than 20 different radical Islamist and Kurdish groups, including the Islamic State, most of which are hostile to Turkey to different degrees. The groups fighting Assad's forces and supported by Turkey make up the smallest and weakest contingencies. A cross-border operation would be too risky for the Turkish military.
Worse, any Turkish air raid to bomb Damascus would expose Turkish aircraft to the risk of being hit by the powerful air defenses in Syria. Turkish warplanes are not outfitted with the critical stand-off jammer systems that would blind enemy radars. Half of the squadrons of Turkish fighters that would fly over Syrian skies may not be able to return home safely.
Then there is the bigger risk of Syrian missiles. The Scud that hit Turkish territory on March 25 proved that the US/NATO Patriot missiles stationed in southern and eastern Turkey could only protect the areas in their immediate vicinity. But Assad not only has Scuds he can fire from a range of 180-200 kilometers; he has in his arsenal unknown numbers of Scud-C ballistic missiles, which have a range of 500 kilometers, putting several big Turkish cities "within range."
Turkey simply does not have a long-range anti-missile defense architecture to counter Syrian (and/or Iranian) missiles. Being a member of the alliance, it can rely on naval NATO assets to counter such threats, but that would be too risky a gamble.
It is true that the Erdogan administration has been weighing military options against Assad for the past couple of years. It is also true that Erdogan has an obsession about getting rid of Assad and is not the most peaceful leader in the region. All the same, the Turkish president is not a suicidal man. The odds are slim for a Turkish-Saudi military offensive against Assad's Syria.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Turkish PM visits historic tomb in Syria: government
Agence France Presse/May 10, 2015
ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled into Syria Sunday to visit a relocated historic tomb inside the country, his office said.
The trip, which was not announced in advance, is the first such visit by a Turkish political leader to the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder Osman I, just 200 meters (650 feet) from the Turkish border inside Syrian territory.
Davutoglu visited Turkish troops who are permanently stationed at the tomb, which now lies in the settlement of Eshme and is easily visible from Turkish territory, his office said.
In February, hundreds of Turkish soldiers staged an unprecedented incursion deep inside Syrian territory to move the tomb from its previous location.
The tomb complex, which is considered sovereign Turkish territory, had been located some 37 kilometers (23 miles) inside Syrian territory. But the government ordered the tomb, which has a permanent honor guard of Turkish troops, to be moved due to security concerns as it was located in territory controlled by ISIS.
Army chief of staff Necdet Ozel, flanked by commanders from land and air forces, visited the tomb in March.
The tomb of Suleyman Shah, who is said to have died in 1236, is considered Turkish territory under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between the Turkish authorities and France, which then controlled French-mandated Syria.
The latest visit comes amid speculation that Turkey is preparing to intervene militarily in Syria, a claim rejected by Davutoglu.
Some politicians in the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) claimed this week that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) might resort to military operations in Syria to boost its popularity ahead of a June 7 parliamentary election. "No, there is no situation right now that requires Turkey's involvement," Davutoglu told Turkish media this weekend, labeling the claims as "empty words". Davutoglu was due to continue his election rally on Sunday in the city of Sanliurfa in the southeast near the Syrian border