LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/Love One Other As I have Loved
John 13/31-35: "When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come."I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’"
Bible Quotation For Today/" I remember you in my prayers
Letter to the Ephesians 01/15-23: "I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 16-17/15
The U.S. and the Gulf: Those who do not ask, shall not receive/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 16/15
Killing Abu Sayyaf: what it means in the fight against ISIS/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya/May 16/15
No Big Difference between Iran and ISIS"/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/May 16/15
Erdogan's Dream: The Sultan Rules/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/May 16/15
Too much caution only discredits Hillary Clinton/David Ignatius/The Daily Star/May 16/15
Key Elements of a Strategy for the United States in the Middle East/Washington Institute/ May 16/15
The issue that could bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table/Reuters/May 16/15
First US ground operation in Syria kills ISIS oil chief - as Islamists advance on three new fronts/DEBKAfile/May 16/15
Lebanese Related News published on May 16-17/15
Nasrallah Claims Major Progress in Qalamoun Battle, Warns State on Failure to Assume Responsibilities
Defense Minister Samir Moqbel l to March 14: 'Keep your hands off the judiciary'
Hezbollah detonates car rigged with 500kg of explosives in Qalamoun: Al-Manar
Army arrests 'ISIS commander' in east Lebanon
Lebanese Army arrests 'ISIS commander' in east Lebanon: state media
More gains as Hezbollah plows on
Body of Syrian woman found in east Lebanon
Lebanese ‘Iowa 4’ still in custody over guns shipment
Hout: New cargo center can handle 165,000 tons of goods
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 16-17/15
US special forces kill senior ISIS leader in Syria: Pentagon
Obama: Deal with Palestinians not possible in coming year
Turkish jets shoot down Syrian helicopter after violating airspace: Turkish defense minister
U.S.-led coalition launches 21 air strikes against ISIS: task force
ISIS fighters withdraw from Ramadi govt compound: mayor
ISIS seizes control of northern part of Syria's Palmyra: monitor
Palestinians clash with Israeli troops on West Bank
Palestinians mark Nakba Day with protests
Meet theIsraeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
Morsi sentenced to death over prison break
Gunmen shoot dead 3 Egypt judges in Sinai
Burundi: 5 generals arrested for plotting failed coup
Uganda back on alert over new Shebab threat
Jury orders death for Boston Marathon bomber
Pope calls Abbas 'angel of peace' during Vatican meeting
Latest Jihad Watch News
Colorado: Muslim who kept sex slave refuses sex offender course as against Islam
Mohammed cartoons: If you’re not publishing, you’re pretending
Islamic State: “Our goal is killing Obama and the worshipers of the cross”
France: Muslims screaming “Hitler did not finish his work” assault Jewish woman
Catholic scholar of Islam: Caliph’s saying Islam is religion of war “very shrewd”
Morgan Brittany Praises the “Truth” Spoken on the World’s Challenging Counter-Jihad Chatfest!
Islamic State advancing in Ramadi, taking mosque and government buildings
Claims Major Progress in Qalamoun Battle, Warns State on Failure to Assume
Naharnet/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claimed on Saturday a major achievement in the battle with jihadists in the Syrian border region of Qalamoun but stopped short of announcing full victory as expected and warned the state that the people would assume their responsibilities if it failed to act. In a televised address, Nasrallah said Hizbullah has made “a major military progress” in the fighting between Syrian troops backed by his party's members and jihadists from al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group.
“There were many battles that led to the defeat of the armed men ... But we are still at the heart of the battle,” he said. “Armed groups were severely defeated and they have withdrawn from all the areas that witnessed clashes,” Nasrallah stated. “Their bases have been destroyed … and the vehicles that they had rigged with explosives were detonated.”But the Hizbullah chief warned “there would be no absolute security as long as the armed groups are present on the outskirts of (Lebanon's northeastern border town of) Arsal and the remaining part of Qalamoun's outskirts.” The Qalamoun Mountains are on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon. Some of their heights reach 2,500 meters above sea level. Nasrallah denied accusations that his party wanted to shove the army into the battle. Hizbullah is keen on keeping troops out of the fighting, he said. He also accused some officials and media outlets of leading the “psychological battle” on behalf of the jihadists and criticized them for calling the militants rebels.
“Are the armed groups that attacked Arsal and killed army officers called rebels? Or are they terrorists and murderers?” he wondered.
From the Qalamoun area, the jihadists have launched attacks inside Lebanon, including in August 2014, when fighters from al-Nusra Front and the IS briefly overran Arsal. The groups took several dozen Lebanese security forces and troops with them as hostages when they withdrew from the town into the surrounding mountains. They have since executed four of them. Nasrallah denied what he described as exaggerated media reports on the number of Hizbullah fighters killed in Qalamoun, saying the party has so far lost 13 members in the fighting. In his address, the Hizbullah secretary-general sought to garner further support from the Shiite community in the eastern Bekaa Valley and his party's strongholds by blaming the state for failing to act against the militants. “If the Lebanese state accepts the occupation of its territories and approves that armed groups attack its army … then the Lebanese people will not accept that,” he said. “The people will assume their responsibilities if the state fails to act,” he stressed. “We are in an open-ended battle. It is the right of the people in Baalbek and Hermel to look forward for the abolishment of jihadists from their outskirts,” Nasrallah said. Turning to the presidential deadlock, Nasrallah said his ally Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun is trying to propose solutions for the crisis. He urged political parties to discuss them and study them. “No one has an interest in having a vacuum,” he said. On Friday, Aoun, a presidential candidate, made several suggestions to end the vacuum at the country's top Christian post. But his proposals have not been welcomed by his rivals in the March 14 alliance.
Defense Minister Samir Moqbel l to March 14: 'Keep your hands off the judiciary'
The Daily Star/May. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: Defense Minister Samir Moqbel lended his support to the Military Tribunal Saturday against attacks by March 14 politicians who accused the court of issuing a politically biased judgment in the case of ex-minister Michel Samaha. “Threatening and slandering judges and the judiciary is not acceptable by any means,” Moqbel said, a day after the Future Bloc described the court's controversial Wedensday verdict against Samaha as a "joke."“This campaign against the Military Tribunal at this time in particular has negative repercussions on the security situation [of Lebanon],” Moqbel added. The minister said the backlash against the court would also complicate the security crackdown on terror plots in the country. He called for keeping politics out of the justice system and for respecting the independence of the judiciary. “The Military Tribunal is fulfilling its duties and carrying out its responsibilities by issuing judgments at the appropriate speed,” he said. “Reviewing its verdicts entirely prove its integrity and transparency.” “Let everyone lift his hand off the judiciary because the relevant laws are enough to guarantee justice.”Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and other March 14 officials have lashed out against the Military Tribunal since it issued a four-and-a-half-year jail sentence to Samaha over transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon. They argue that the sentence was too lenient. Samaha, who admitted in court to transporting the explosives with the intention to target political and religious figures, will be set free in December according to the verdict. Lebanon’s prison year is equivalent to nine months, and the minister has been in custody since 2012.
detonates car rigged with 500kg of explosives in Qalamoun: Al-Manar
The Daily Star/May. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah detonated a car bomb rigged with half a ton of explosives Saturday in an area of Syria's Qalamoun region it captured one day earlier, the party’s TV channel reported. “The resistance’s mujahideen have detonated a car that had been rigged with more than 500kg of highly explosive material on the Fatleh crossing in Qalamoun,” the channel said. The Fatleh crossing connects the Syrian village of Ras al-Maara to the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Nahleh. Al-Manar had announced Friday that Hezbollah and Syrian army forces seized the post from jihadi fighters, along with the entire area of Jabal al-Barouh where the crossing is located. Controlling Jabal al-Barouh marked a strategic advancement for the forces, as it overlooks the highway linking Damascus to Homs.
Al-Manar said the rigged car was abandoned by jihadis who retreated from the area, and were planning to use it to carry out a suicide attack in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and the Syrian army clashed with jihadis northeast of the strategic hill of Tallit Moussa, three days after capturing it from militants. The new battle is taking place on the outskirts of Flita, according to Al-Manar. The TV station reported later in the afternoon that Hezbollah and the Syrian forces took over two hills, north and east of Tallit Moussa. A Nusra Front field commander known as Abu Alaya and a number of other militants were killed in the clashes in Flita's outskirts, the channel added. If Hezbollah and the Syrian army capture the area and advance further north, the jihadis will have no option but to retreat towards the outskirts of Arsal, the station said. Capturing Flita’s outskirts will allow Hezbollah and Syrian forces to link the area to the outskirts Ras al-Maara, from where jihadis were ousted Friday. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is expected to tackle developments in the Qalamoun during a televised speech later Saturday. Hezbollah and the Syrian army in nearly two weeks of battles against jihadi militants have seized control of most of Qalamoun's strategic hills. Most of the jihadi groups fighting in the Qalamoun have united under the umbrella of the Army of Conquest, which is dominated by the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. ISIS is excluded from this coalition, and has been engaged in battle with its jihadi rivals in the Qalamoun amid the Hezbollah and Syrian army offensive.
Army arrests 'ISIS commander' in east Lebanon: state media
The Daily Star/May. 16, 2015/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army has arrested an ISIS commander in the northeastern village of Labweh, the state-run National News Agency said Saturday. The report said the detainee was heading from the town of Arsal, adjacent to Labweh, to north Lebanon when he was arrested at an Army checkpoint. LBCI and other Lebanese media later identified the man as Abdel-Rahman al-Bezerbashi, 21, an ISIS member who goes by the nickname "Baghdadi's grandson."They said Bezerbashi is a Lebanese national from the northern city of Tripoli, and that he had participated in attacks on the Army in both Tripoli and Arsal. However, a security source told The Daily Star that Bezerbashi has been in custody for two months, and that he was not the same person arrested Saturday. Another security source said that he could not confirm the affiliation or rank of the detainee, but said he was "suspected of having links to Syrian rebel groups."He added that the man was not carrying any identity card at the time of the arrest. ISIS has been present outside Arsal for more than one year. In August 2014, militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front briefly overran Arsal, sparking a 5-day battle with the Lebanese Army that left dozens dead. The groups abducted more than 30 Lebanese troops and policemen during the battle and transported them to the town's outskirts where around 25 are still being held hostage. Four of the original hostages have since been killed - two by ISIS and two by Nusra - and eight released.
No Big Difference between Iran and
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute
May 16, 2015 at 5:00 am
◾"The international community must aim at strategic and long-term alliances based on common values. I do not think there is a big difference between ISIS and the Iranian authorities... The Iranian regime cannot be part of a long-term solution." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Neuroscientist and spokesperson for Iran Human Rights (IHR). ◾The international community tries to solve the most immediate problems without taking into account the long-term effects of their policies. ... As long as the Iranian authorities do not have the popular support of their people, they cannot be regarded as reliable partners." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. ◾"A democratic Iran where human rights are respected is the only sustainable solution. ... This can only be achieved by more international focus on the human rights situation." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, a Norwegian-Iranian neuroscientist who left Iran together with his older siblings in the early 1980s, is the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights (IHR). The organization was started about 10 years ago as a network of defenders of human rights, and in recent years has developed a broad network inside Iran. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam (center) speaks at a protest against Iranian human rights abuses, in 2013, in Norway. (Image source: Anita Nyholt YouTube video screenshot)
"We receive reports about the human rights violations, especially the death penalty, from many prisons across the country," said Moghaddam in an interview with the Gatestone Institute.
"Every year we publish an annual report on the death penalty in Iran. About 50% of Iran's execution cases included in the report have not been announced by the official sources. We only include the cases that we manage to confirm through two independent sources. It is a difficult task, but important. People who send information about the human rights abuses can be persecuted and get heavy sentences.
"We went to Pakistan as refugees and two years later, we were sent by the UN to Norway. At that time, Ayatollah Khomeini had closed the universities and expelled most of the scholars and students (including my sister) if they were not regarded as 'loyal' to the Islamic Republic.
"This, and the indoctrination of schools, which tried to brainwash children, made our father consider sending us out for a short time until the situation changed.
"At that time no one believed that a theocratic system with medieval laws could rule a relatively modern country such as Iran for more than few years. So most Iranians who left Iran at that time believed that they would be returning home after few years."
After 35 years, however, the human rights of Iranian people are still being destroyed daily at the hands of Iranian mullahs.
"We have observed a dramatic increase in the number of executions since the election of Mr. Rouhani," says Moghaddam.
"According to our reports, the number of executions has increased by 30% since Rouhani became president. On average more than two people have been executed each day since his election."The main change since the start of Rouhani's presidency is Iran's foreign policy towards the West."Their rhetoric has changed. But human rights have not improved." Under this "moderate" Rouhani, human rights have, in fact, become far worse. In addition, even though Iranian state authorities call for "Death to America" -- not a statement "for internal consumption" -- and call for Israel to be "wiped" off the map, the Obama administration is working on a deal to give these dictators nuclear weapons. Moghaddam has some warnings to Western governments negotiating with Iran:
"No dictators without popular support are reliable partners in any deal. The Iranian regime is led by the same people as 30 years ago. The system has not changed. They have the same constitution. They have just become weaker and, after the elections of 2009, they have lost some of their most loyal supporters. It is important to keep in mind that at the present moment, the first priority of the Iranian authorities is their survival. "The regime's biggest threats are the young people. One day, anti-West slogans help them mobilize popular support and extend their survival and the next day, improving the relations with the West helps them to keep in power. In general, one should not trust dictators without popular support: their only principle is to extend their own survival."
As for Iran's dealings with the ISIS, Moghaddam says:
"The international community must aim at strategic and long term alliances based on common values. I do not think there is a big difference between the ISIS and the Iranian authorities regarding their values and their lack of respect for human rights. The Iranian regime cannot be part of a long term solution."
In an article Moghaddam wrote for the Iran Human Rights Review, he argued that the death penalty in Iran does not aim to fight crime; it is just an instrument to spread fear.
"Today we have more violent crimes and drug trafficking in the country than 20 years ago. So there is no evidence that the death penalty helps preventing crimes and the authorities are well aware of that.
"IHR has studied the execution trends in the last 10 years and we see that there is a meaningful relationship between the number and timing of the executions and the political events in the country. The executions decrease a few weeks before the presidential elections when the eyes of the international community are on the events inside the country and when the authorities want to give some hope to people in to increase their acceptance. The execution numbers increase when the authorities expect protests, or right after the protests. Execution numbers increase as the regime's need for spreading fear among the people increases."
According to Iran Human Rights, Iran is the country with the highest number of public executions.
But, says Moghaddam, "Human rights in general and the death penalty in particular are not among the priorities of the international community."
"This view is extremely short-sighted. The international community tries to solve the most immediate problems without taking into account the long-term effects of their policies.
"The maximum result the international community can achieve from the nuclear negotiations is a temporary nuclear agreement. But as long as the Iranian authorities do not have popular support and feel threatened by the people, they cannot be regarded as reliable partners.
"A democratic Iran where human rights are respected is the only sustainable solution. When the authorities have popular support and feel stable, they do not have the need to interfere in neighboring countries or pose a threat to anyone. This can only be achieved by more international focus on the human rights situation."
**Uzay Bulut is a journalist based on Ankara, Turkey.
Erdogan's Dream: The Sultan Rules
by Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute
May 16, 2015
◾Erdogan is not happy with the powers the Turkish constitution grants him. He wants more.
◾Once he has given orders, there should not be judicial, constitutional or parliamentary checks and balances. He will become the first ballot-box Sultan of the Turkish Empire of his dreams.
◾367 parliamentary votes are required to pass a constitutional amendment in parliament without a referendum, and at least 330 to make Erdogan an elected Sultan. But if he wins, he will be the president of less than half of the Turks, with the other half hating him more than ever.
It is election time in Turkey. On June 7, the Turks will go to the ballot box to elect a government and a prime minister who will rule the country for four years.
In reality, they will go to the ballot box to decide whether they want an elected Sultan or not.
Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than just to win a parliamentary majority for his Justice and Development Party (AKP). He wants a two-thirds majority, so that the constitution can be amended to introduce an executive presidential system and the Sultan can once again officially rule.
In 2013, Burhan Kuzu, the AKP's chairman of the parliament's Constitution Commission, compared the U.S. presidency to the broad powers of Turkey's prime minister (who at the time was Erdogan), saying, "Obama is a poor man, the Prime Minister is powerful."
More recently, during a press briefing after a state visit to Kazakhstan, Erdogan told a group of Turkish journalists on April 18: "Look now. Obama cannot get decisions done."
It was just another line with which he expressed his obsession to transform Turkey's parliamentary democracy into an executive presidential system "a la Turca," in which an elected man runs a one-man show with no checks and balances.
The powers the Turkish president has do not satisfy Erdogan. He is the strongman, but he wants more. He wants almost unlimited powers: He wants to be the democratically elected Sultan of a supposed emerging Turkish empire.
Despite constitutional articles that require the president to be non-partisan in domestic politics, Erdogan has been running from one public rally to another bashing opposition parties and praising the ruling AKP's "success stories" since the party came to power over 12 years ago.
Erdogan constantly says that he wants 400 MPs. He does not say for which party he wants 400 MPs. He does not have to -- everybody knows. It is the first time a Turkish president, supposedly non-partisan according to the constitution, tours the whole country in support of a political party.
Turkey has a 550-seat legislature. Any party (or parties in coalition) that wins 276 seats can form a government. But 330 votes are required to bring a constitutional amendment to referendum, and 367 to pass a constitutional amendment in parliament without a referendum. The AKP is fighting not for 276 seats to form a single-party government but, under the shadow of Erdogan, for at least 330 to make him an elected Sultan.
All opinion polls, including the opposition's, put the AKP into the lead. Although it is almost certain that the AKP will be the winner, it may yet be the loser. If a pro-Kurdish party, the People's Democracy Party (HDP) can pass the 10% electoral threshold to enter parliament, the AKP's 40% to 45% majority will only win anywhere from 280 to 310 seats, thus unable to change the constitution in line with the Sultan's wishes.
Therefore, the key to understanding the aftermath of the June 7 election is to watch the HDP's performance. If it fails to win 10% of the national vote, it will get no seats in parliament, and most of the seats it would have won will be AKP's – courtesy of the Turkish electoral system.
With the same percentage of votes, the AKP can win 280 or 330 seats depending on whether the Kurdish party makes it into parliament or not, and thus fail or succeed in amending the constitution for an "a la Turca" presidency. Unfair? Not in a country where justice is mere triviality.
Erdogan has won nine elections since 2002 – three parliamentary, three municipal, two referenda and one presidential. But he is not happy with the powers the Turkish constitution grants him. He wants more. He wants to be Turkey's elected Sultan. He does not want to be a "poor Obama." He wants, as he says, "to get decisions done." Once he has given orders, there should not be judicial, constitutional or parliamentary checks and balances. His decisions should get done -- just like a Sultan's.
In 2013, The Economist published on its cover a photomontage of Ottoman Sultan Selim III and Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to illustrate Erdogan's growing autocratic tendencies (left). In 2015, Erdogan himself posed in his palace with the costumed "16 warriors" that guard him, who are meant to represent the 16 polities in Turkic history, including the Mughal empire, Timurid empire and Ottoman empire (right).
Ottoman sultans did not get elected. If Erdogan wins, Turkey will be even more polarized and increasingly less manageable: he will be the president not of the whole country, but less than half of the Turks, with the other half hating him more than ever. If he fails, an in-house fight within AKP will probably break out, with many unhappy but so far silent AKP political figures starting to fire in every direction.
June 7 is all or nothing for Erdogan. He will either be the solitary man living in an isolated presidential palace in Ankara, hands tied by constitutional restrictions, still dreaming of a ballot-box sultanate, or he will become the first ballot-box Sultan of the Turkish Empire of his dreams.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
US special forces kill senior ISIS
leader in Syria: Pentagon
Agencies/May. 16, 2015 /WASHINGTON: U.S special forces have carried out a raid inside Syria that killed a man identified as a senior ISIS leader who helped direct the group's oil, gas and financial operations, U.S. officials said Saturday. The White House said President Barack Obama ordered the raid that killed the ISIS figure identified as Abu Sayyaf, a Tunisian national. U.S. officials informed the Tunisian government after the operation was carried out said his wife was captured in the raid. It is the first publicly declared special forces operation by U.S. forces in Syria since their failed attempt to rescue American journalist James Foley and other American hostages held by ISIS last summer. Foley was killed by the ultra-radical group, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda. The United States is leading a coalition in a military campaign to roll back the jihadi group whose self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq has reshaped the region. ISIS pressed attacks in both countries on Saturday. In Iraq, its fighters battled Iraqi security forces in the city of Ramadi, where its black flag was raised over local government headquarters Friday. Were it to fall, Ramadi would be the first major city to be won by the insurgents since an effort to push them back began last year. In Syria, they fought Syrian government forces for control of the ancient city of Palmyra, an attack that has raised fears its UNESCO World Heritage site could meet the same fate as monuments destroyed by ISIS in northern Iraq. While Washington is working closely with Iraq in the fight against ISIS, it has shunned the idea of cooperating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who it says has lost legitimacy to rule and must leave power. The United States said it did not warn Assad in advance or coordinate with his officials over the special forces raid. Conducted by U.S. personnel based out of Iraq, the raid targeted area called al-Amr in the eastern Deir al-Zor province, an ISIS stronghold rich in oil that bridges territory the group controls in Syria and Iraq. "During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. The operation was conducted "with the full consent of Iraqi authorities". There was no immediate comment from Damascus. Assad said in February he had been informed about U.S.-led air strikes against ISIS in Syria via third parties including Iraq, with which his government has close ties. A U.S. official said about a dozen fighters were killed in the overnight raid. Syrian state TV initially credited the Syrian army with carrying out the raid, saying it killed 40 ISIS militants and the group's "oil minister," who it identified by a different name. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist that tracks the war using sources on the ground, said at least 19 ISIS members were killed in an air strike in the area which it said was carried out by U.S. forces. Twelve of those killed were non-Syrians, it said.
Turkish jets shoot down Syrian
helicopter after violating airspace: Turkish defense minister
Reuters/May. 16, 2015 /ISTANBUL: Turkish armed forces on Saturday shot down a Syrian helicopter that violated Turkey's air space in the south of the country, the Turkish defense minister said. "A Syrian helicopter was downed that violated the border for a period of five minutes within a seven mile (11 kilometre) limit," Defense Minister Ismet Yilamz was quoted as saying by the Dogan news agency after Syrian reports indicated the aircraft was a drone. A Turkish military official confirmed that two F-16 fighters flying out of the Incirlik base in southern Turkey had opened fire, but was unable to give any details about the target. Syrian state media denied the reports, saying what had been shot down was a small, remotely controlled surveillance drone. Eyewitnesses in Turkey's Hatay province, which borders Syria, reported seeing an aircraft fired upon by jets and break apart in the air. The Turkish military has stepped up security in province at the border following the incident, security sources said. The Syrian denial was carried in a headline flashed on state television. NATO member Turkey has a 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria and has been outspoken in its hostility to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad has said Turkish support was a key factor in helping militant Islamist insurgents seize the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib earlier this year. Turkey denies that allegation and any suggestion it has delivered arms to Islamist militants fighting to overthrow Assad.
Morsi sentenced to death over 2011
Hamza Hendawi| Associated Press/May. 16, 2015
CAIRO: An Egyptian court Saturday sought the death penalty for former president Mohammad Morsi and 106 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in connection with a mass jail break in 2011. Morsi and his fellow defendants, including top Brotherhood leader Mohammad Badie, were convicted for killing and kidnapping policemen, attacking police facilities and breaking out of jail during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak. The court's request drew condemnations from Amnesty International and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The final ruling is expected to be made on June 2. The court sought capital punishment in a separate case for Brotherhood leader Khairat el-Shater and 15 others for conspiring with foreign militant groups against Egypt.
The rulings, like all capital sentences, will be referred to Egypt's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion. Morsi can appeal the verdict. He has said the court is not legitimate, describing legal proceedings against him as part of a coup by former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013.
Many other defendants are on the run.
The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement, propelled Morsi to election victory in 2012 following Mubarak's ouster but was driven underground after the army ouster a year later following protests against his rule.Morsi stood defiant in a court cage Saturday wearing a blue prison outfit. He smiled and pumped his fists in the air as the judge read the sentences. Other defendants, held in a courtroom cage separate from Morsi, flashed a four-finger salute symbolizing resistance to the state's anti-Islamist crackdown. From behind soundproof glass, they shouted: "Down with military rule!" Wearing white, red and blue prison jumpsuits - identifying them respectively as awaiting sentencing, condemned to death, and sentenced to a lesser penalty - they seemed to form a choir momentarily, with one prisoner leading the rest in protest chants.
Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, the influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric, was among those sentenced to death.
Muslim Brotherhood official Amr Darrag condemned the decision.
"This is a political verdict and represents a murder crime that is about to be committed, and it should be stopped by the international community," Darrag, co-founder of the dissolved Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing, told Reuters in Istanbul.
The party said in a statement the ruling "opened all options to rid the country of this gang which seized power by force." It did not elaborate. Amnesty International called the court decision "a charade based on null and void procedures" and demanded Morsi's release or retrial in a civilian court. Erdogan criticized Egypt and accused its Western allies of hypocrisy, the state-run Anatolian news agency reported. "While the West is abolishing the death penalty, they are just watching the continuation of death sentences in Egypt. They don't do anything about it," it quoted him as saying. Relations between the neighbors have deteriorated after Turkey emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Morsi's removal. The Brotherhood has close ties with Erdogan's AK Party.
Western diplomats say Egyptian officials have acknowledged it could be political suicide to execute Morsi and risk turning him into a martyr. The Brotherhood, the Middle East's oldest Islamist group, has survived decades of repression, maintaining popular support through its charities. Prosecutors say the Brotherhood planned to send "elements" to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for military training by Lebanon's Hezbollah group and Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Upon their return, they would join forces with militant groups in the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian territory that borders Israel, prosecutors alleged.
The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organization with no links to violence.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned the ruling, which included dozens of Palestinians, calling it "a crime against the Palestinian people." Hamas is an offshoot of the international Brotherhood movement. Islamic militant groups stepped up bombing and shooting attacks on security forces after Morsi's fall, killing hundreds. On Saturday, four people, including three judges, were killed in the North Sinai city of al-Arish when militants shot at their vehicle, security sources said.
The Interior Ministry said a policeman was also killed by gunmen near Cairo. Security forces have killed about 1,000 Brotherhood supporters on the streets and jailed thousands of others, according to rights groups. Some Egyptians accused Morsi of abusing power and neglecting the economy, which the Brotherhood denies, while rumors he intended to give part or all of Sinai Hamas compounded suspicions about him. At a Cairo coffee shop, some Egyptians showed signs of political apathy after years of turbulence.
"Morsi deserves the death sentence 20 times over. He was going to give away the Sinai," said cafe employee Mahmoud Osman. Customer Ali Hussein was ambivalent, saying Morsi deserved the sentence because he escaped from prison while also questioning Egypt's political transition. "I don't trust the judges frankly. We used to have democracy but we don't anymore," said the accountant. Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of widespread abuses in a crackdown on Brotherhood supporters as well as secular activists, allegations they deny. In a separate case that risks sparking anti-government backlash, a court outlawed soccer fan clubs known as "Ultras" which participated in political demonstrations and violence since the 2011 uprising.
Too much caution only discredits
David Ignatius| The Daily Star/May. 16, 2015 |
President Barack Obama, so often cool and cautious in his language, gave a full-throated roar on trade last week, saying that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was “absolutely wrong” in her criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that “her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.” I think Obama is right about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but there’s a larger point here about leadership. Governing is a contact sport. Presidents don’t accomplish great deeds without fighting for them. Often, that includes confronting rebellious members of their own party. And Obama’s tough stance seemed to have succeeded Thursday, as the Senate overcame a Democratic revolt and passed key bills to enable the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Modern presidents, from Lyndon Johnson to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, have won big legislative victories when they similarly played political hardball. That’s something Obama has learned late in his presidency, but this toughness is visible now on issues that matter to his legacy, such as the Iran nuclear deal, Cuba and free trade. He’s ready to roll opponents, even if they’re his friends.
Which raises a question: What does Hillary Clinton believe about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the Iran nuclear deal? You would assume that she’s supportive because she helped get both agreements started. But she has been a study in reticence – a trimmer checking the political winds, rather than a leader.
Clinton had it right in her memoir, “Hard Choices,” published last year: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership won’t be perfect ... but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers.” Is Clinton really running so scared from Warren that she’s ready to disown economic policies she helped shape? Does she think that running against Obama’s economic record will be good politics?
Clinton should put away the waffle iron when it comes to the Iran deal, too. As secretary of state, she launched the secret channel in Oman that passed the message that Iran could enrich uranium, in exchange for tight controls. Her experience with such secret diplomacy is one reason she’s a compelling candidate. But she has been stinting in her comments so far about the Iran pact.
The progressive rebellion against Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is mystifying, not least because the factual basis for challenging the deal seems so thin. Labor is arguing that the agreement will be a job-sucking repeat of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership would actually fix many of the weak labor and environmental provisions of NAFTA, imposing tougher standards for Canada and Mexico as well as the other signatories of the 12-nation agreement.
A recent study by Jay Chittooran for Third Way, a centrist think tank, noted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, like the 17 other U.S. trade deals negotiated since NAFTA, includes “wide-ranging and enforceable labor protections.” An alternative future, in which the Trans-Pacific Partnership fails and China writes the rules for its Asian trading partners, would effectively mean “nonexistent or watered-down labor standards,” he wrote.
Warren’s stance, too, is puzzling. She has focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s use of an arcane mediation provision known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS. Though it has been part of investment agreements for decades, Warren claims ISDS gives “a special break to giant corporations.” But a recent study by Gary Clyde Hufbauer for the Peterson Institute for International Economics noted that firms have won only 29 percent of arbitrations under a system similar to ISDS used by the World Bank since 1996.
But it’s Clinton’s rope-a-dope approach to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that deserves most attention, because it highlights her vulnerability as a candidate. Her caution conveys the sense that she’s running because she wants to get elected, rather than as the exponent of a set of beliefs. A similar sense of entitlement is apparent in her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, and in the Clinton Foundation’s harvest of contributions from foreigners.
“I’ve run my last election,” Obama said a week ago. “The only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.”
Clinton is still running, but she could take a political lesson from Obama. She needs to be a fighter. Avoiding the issues will only reinforce the sense that she is a hollow candidate. She should be taking credit for the good provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, not hedging her bets. She may be ready to run, but is she ready to lead?
**David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
Key Elements of a Strategy for the
United States in the Middle East
Samuel R. Berger, Stephen Hadley, James F. Jeffrey, Dennis Ross, and Robert Satloff
April 2015/Washington Istitute
The United States needs to take action to prevent the collapse of the state system in the Middle East and counter the rising influence of both Sunni and Shiite extremists, argues a new strategy report from The Washington Institute. Given the vital role that partnership with Sunni Arab states and peoples must play in this effort, "Iran cannot be a putative ally," the authors warn. (To read the full report, download the PDF.)
The new paper was written by a five-person bipartisan group that included two former national security advisors, Samuel Berger and Stephen Hadley; former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey James Jeffrey; former Obama administration official and longtime peace envoy Dennis Ross; and Institute executive director Robert Satloff.
Multiple and overlapping conflicts are threatening more than individual states: The entire architecture of the Middle East state system is at risk. The report argues, "Should this weakening trend continue, we will inevitably be forced to contend with plots against not just our friends but also against the American homeland." The Institute's new report offers elements of a new strategy to address this profound threat to U.S. interests.
"A strategy that preserves the state system in the Middle East, counters ISIS and rolls it back, reassures key Sunni leaders (even as we try to move them to become more inclusive and tolerant in governing), and counters the Iranians, will require a vision of how we want to move the region," the report states. "Put simply, it requires a vision in which we aim to weaken the radical Islamists -- whether Sunni or Shia."
On Iran, the authors note that a comprehensive nuclear agreement makes sense "if it allows Iran a peaceful nuclear program but denies it the capability of becoming a nuclear weapons state." In reaching the final accord, they urge the administration to work more closely with Congress now on the consequences of possible Iranian violations and provide tangible ways to reassure U.S. regional allies of U.S. commitment to their security.
More generally, the report urges action to diminish the influence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias and cautions against U.S.-Iranian cooperation in the battle against radical Sunni extremists. "Ultimately, if we hope to mobilize Sunni Arab populations of Iraq and Syria in opposition to ISIS -- an essential element to marginalizing it -- Iran cannot be a putative ally. The appearance of partnership will preempt any serious Sunni effort to delegitimize ISIS."
Key recommendations of the report include:
Concentrate on inflicting setbacks on ISIS: "Defeats and losses of territory will reduce its appeal." The report notes that U.S. ground forces are not the answer but that a viable alternative is a "U.S. air campaign along with local Arab ground forces, with the assistance and support of enhanced numbers of U.S. advisors and Special Forces personnel."
Work with local partners to create a safe haven inside Syria: "To restore our credibility and make it possible to build a more cohesive opposition that actually could change the balance of power on the ground, there needs to be a safe haven -- one that makes it possible to house refugees in Syria and that allows a legitimate, credible opposition to become more politically and militarily relevant from within Syria."
Strengthen ties with key allies such as Egypt: "No strategy designed to bolster the state system in the Middle East is possible without a functioning U.S.-Egypt relationship."
Engage privately with Israel to prevent further erosion in the bilateral relationship: "Washington should quietly reach out to the prime minister's office, perhaps with an administration outsider close to the president who could engage Netanyahu on Iran, the delegitimization movement, the Palestinian issue, and wider relations with the Arabs." The U.S.-Israel relationship, they argue, "is too important -- to each party and as a bellwether of American commitment to our allies in the region – to permit it to fray any further."
The issue that could bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table
Washington needs to address concerns that nuclear deal would re-order longtime partnerships, and the United States would gradually turn away from its traditional Sunni allies to focus on Iran.
President Barack Obama hosts a working session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David in Maryland, May 14, 2015.. (photo credit:REUTERS)
As both US and Iranian military advisers work in Iraq to stop Islamic State forces, their uneasy coexistence underscores how difficult it is to defuse the conflicts roiling the Middle East. To make any headway, Iran must be engaged as a partner. And this engagement starts with Tehran’s Gulf Arab neighbors.
The antipathy between predominantly Shi’ite Iran and its neighbors in the largely Sunni Arab Gulf states has a centuries-long history. The tensions are now fueled by Iran’s provocative actions: propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces with arms, money and training; funding groups that launch terrorist attacks across the region, and meddling in Yemen’s affairs. Iran also continues to undermine US efforts to help build a stable Iraqi government — even as Tehran works indirectly with Washington in the fight against Islamic State.
The nuclear agreement between Iran and the West, expected in late June, could be a catalyst for addressing these challenges. Under US leadership, the key Gulf powers should take small, deliberate steps to move things forward. Below-the-radar talks, akin to the US-Iran conversations in Oman two years ago, are one likely possibility. Talks on the margins of larger diplomatic meetings are another – and could start during the annual Manama dialogue, when all the Gulf region nations convene.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has repeatedly said Tehran wants talks with its Gulf neighbors about ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign-policy chief, has also called for Iran to play a role in a political transition in Syria. Yet the Gulf Arabs will likely find it difficult to trust Tehran until it demonstrates good intentions.
One major concern of the Gulf states, for example, is that an accident at an Iranian nuclear reactor would contaminate regional water and air. The new agreement’s heightened transparency should help address this. It would also remove any reason for Iran not to sign the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the 1994 International Atomic Energy Agency treaty. It is inexcusable that Iran should be the only nation outside the convention operating a nuclear power plant.
Iran could also demonstrate goodwill by inviting its neighbors to joint safety reviews of its nuclear facilities. Tehran said in February that it was ready to establish a regional safety pact to monitor nuclear facilities. How to set up these inspections could be a productive topic for regional dialogue.
The United Arab Emirates could be Iran’s model for nuclear transparency. In addition to adhering to all atomic energy agency rules on safety, security and nonproliferation, the Emirates’ national report to the Convention on Nuclear Safety shows it is meeting international benchmarks.
The Gulf Arab states most anxious about Iran’s foreign forays are necessary partners for any regional dialogue. The Emirates, for example, has expressed unease as talks with Iran moved forward, yet it also hosts a sizeable Iranian expatriate community with strong commercial ties to Iran.
The Saudi succession shakeup that made the former US ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s new foreign minister offers another opportunity to cement a constructive approach toward Iran. Despite current tensions with Washington, Saudi Arabia remains an ally that understands the need to limit Iran’s reach through diplomacy and nonmilitary means wherever possible.
For its part, the United States must continue to demonstrate that a nuclear deal with Iran does not mean abandonment of the Gulf Arab states. Washington needs to address persistent concerns that the nuclear deal would re-order longtime partnerships, and the United States would gradually turn away from its traditional Sunni allies to focus on Iran.
It is vital that Washington make clear that even though the United States has overlapping interests with Iran, it also has longstanding differences that are not easily eliminated. The news that the White House plans to discuss at the Camp David summit meeting on May 14 expanded defense cooperation and intelligence sharing with Gulf states should help allay at least some of these worries.
The Camp David meeting will likely focus on Arab desires for security assurances and military hardware. There could also be frank discussions about Iranian intentions in the region and how to counter them. Bringing up “soft power” issues, such as nuclear safety, is one way for Washington to help bring Iran and the Gulf states to the table together.
Iran will protect Palestinians, other
'oppressed' people in Middle East, Khamenei says
By REUTERS/05/16/2015/ Iran will help oppressed people in the region, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday, days after Gulf Arab leaders met US President Barack Obama and expressed concern about Iranian expansionism.
Khamenei also denounced Saudi Arabia for its role leading a coalition of Sunni-ruled Arab states against Yemen's Houthi rebels, comparing it to the pagans who ruled the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of Islam in the seventh century.
His speech to a meeting of Iranian leaders and diplomats from the Muslim world, reported by the state news agency IRNA, brought the issues of political and religious legitimacy squarely into the struggle between the two regional powers.
"Yemen, Bahrain and Palestine are oppressed, and we protect oppressed people as much as we can," IRNA quoted him as saying.
"Those people who bring suffering to Yemeni families during sacred months are even worse than the ancient pagans of Mecca," he said at the event for the holiday of Lailat al-Miraj, when Islam says the Prophet Mohammad visited heaven and met Jesus, Abraham, Moses and other prophets.
Gulf Arab leaders met with Obama on Thursday to express their concern that Iran is trying to expand its influence in the region aggressively, parallel to nuclear negotiations under way with world powers.
The US backs the Saudi-led Sunni coalition waging the military campaign against the Shi'ite Houthi rebels. Riyadh has accused Tehran of arming the Houthis.
By mentioning Bahrain, Khamenei's comments will also raise suspicions that Iran plays a role in the small island nation whose Sunni royal family is accused by rights groups of repressing dissent among the majority Shi'ite population.
Iran denies playing a role in either country, but has consistently criticized the campaign in Yemen and Saudi Arabia's influence in Bahrain, where it sent armed forces to help put down popular protests in 2011.
The standoff has raised concerns for shipping in the Gulf, a transit route for millions of barrels of oil per day. In the past month, Iranian forces have twice tried to seize commercial ships to settle legal disputes.
"Security in the Persian Gulf is in the interests of everyone... If it is insecure, it will be insecure for all," Khamenei said, indicating Iran's apparent willingness to cause disruption if attacked.
Tensions have also reached the Gulf of Aden, another crucial choke point for oil shipments, after Iran on Monday dispatched a cargo ship towards Yemen under military escort.
Forces from the Saudi-led coalition have imposed inspections on all vessels entering Yemeni waters, raising the potential for a standoff with the Iranian flotilla which is due to arrive in the coming days.
First US ground operation in Syria
kills ISIS oil chief - as Islamists advance on three new fronts
DEBKAfile Special Report May 16, 2015
America’s first ground operation in the five years of Syrian war was directed against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIS. US sources report that Special Operations forces mounted a raid Saturday, May 16, on an ISIS house in the Deir a-Zour district of eastern Syria, and killed senior Islamist commander and oil and gas chief, Abu Sayyaf, when he resisted capture. His Iraqi wife, Umm Sayyaf, was taken to Iraq for interrogation by the US troops, all of whom returned safely.
Abu Sayyaf’s importance for the Islamist group cannot be overrated as the man in charge of its commandeered oil fields in Syria and Iraq. He also managed their overseas sales in a thriving black market, netting an estimated $5million a day for bankrolling the group’s wars.
Catching him alive was the preferred object of the raid. Under interrogation, he would have been a valuable source of information on the working of the group’s illicit oil and gas trade, how it was managed, the identities of its customers and routes of payment to the ISIS war chest.
debkafile’s military sources report that the US raid was staged from Jordan, not Iraq. In normal circumstances, the Jordanians don’t permit US ground or air operations to be staged directly from their territory. However, a joint 10-day US-Jordanian war game, Eager Lion, was in progress in the Hashemite Kingdom. Some 10,000 troops from various countries, including the US, were practicing special operations against ISIS. And so the US unit was ready to hand a short distance from a high-value target at Deir a-Zour.
debkafile adds that the operation came just two days after the Arab Gulf leaders’ summit convened by President Barack Obama ended at Camp David Thursday, May 14. The war on ISIS was a key item on their agenda.
Sources in Washington disclose that the order for the raid came directly from President Barack Obama on the advice of national security council heads in the White House. The troops landed in the middle of a hotbed of fighting between the Syrian army and ISIS. They were no doubt lifted in and out of the scene at speed by helicopter.
The Islamists are in full flight on three Syrian fronts (as well as the same number in Iraq). The group has overrun Al-Sina’a, Ar-Rusafa and Al-Omal in this district, as well as seizing Saker Island in the middle of the Euphrates River north of Deir a-Zour, from which it is shelling the largest Syrian air base in eastern Syria.
Islamist fighters are also advancing on Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmor). This is a 2,000-old desert site with precious remains of antiquity, but also home to Bashar Assad’s infamous Tadmor prison, notorious for torture and summary executions.
ISIS targets near this ancient town are the biggest Syrian air base in central Syria and more oil fields. Most of the Iranian and Russian air transports delivering military equipment for the Syrian army and Hizballah land at this base.
The Islamists are additionally targeting Syrian military positions in eastern Homs.
The U.S. and the Gulf: Those who do
not ask, shall not receive
Saturday, 16 May 2015
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
U.S. President Barack Obama and delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council were among 20 delegates gathered around a large rectangular table at the Camp David retreat on Thursday. If it was not for the strong objection of the Gulf countries on the Western-Iranian nuclear deal, this meeting would not have been held. The U.S. would then have simply sent a letter through its diplomats to the Gulf explaining the details of the deal without taking into account the GCC’s opinion.
During the weeks that followed the declaration of the initial deal with Iran, the Gulf-American relationship was unsettled and several Gulf officials expressed their anger through direct and indirect messages protesting against the deal and the American standpoint. A diplomatic and media battle erupted between the two sides; President Obama tried to diminish the importance of the Gulf Arabs’ objections saying that the deal is rewarding for the Gulf countries and the whole world. Obama tried to sarcastically respond to them at times, and at other times he speciously considered that Iran deserves more attention, and that the U.S. will make up for the years of estrangement between the two countries, saying that the Iranian regime fits as a partner of the United States in the Middle East. All this increased the anger of the Arab countries that expressed their rejection, sending signals of possible suspension of all further cooperation.
The six Gulf nations were all united and they all stood together against the deal; this is what strengthened their objections. They were all keen to have a precise stance and made sure not to get drifted behind wide-ranging and unrealistic demands.
The Iranian beast
The Gulf countries did not abruptly stand against the nuclear deal or against reconciliation with Iran, because it is actually in favor of the Gulf and the world; however they objected on freeing the Iranian beast from its cage without providing security guarantees. Finally, Obama, the strategist of the deal, wanted to meet the Gulf representatives all together; they came to the Camp David compound with a joint memo. The summit that was preceded by several meetings was not limited to the discussion of the nuclear deal and Iran, as it also included all the issues that are threatening the region.
The six Gulf nations were all united and they all stood together against the Iranian nuclear deal
The demands of the Gulf countries were not entirely fulfilled but at the same time, President Obama did not ignore their objections. The U.S. assured that it will protect the Gulf region from any external attacks, namely from Iran, and in return, the Gulf pledged to abide by their security cooperation against terrorist organizations. They all agreed to peacefully resolve the issues; all this was under a new title: the Arab-U.S. Strategic Partnership.
Three long meetings were the best way to conclude this political storm and fold away the worst chapter of relations between the Gulf and the Americans seen in 70 years. The GCC did not get a stamped and sealed pact from the president vowing to protect the Gulf, but the defense commitments were clear and similar to those vowed by former U.S. presidents.
The most important point in my opinion was that Gulf diplomats were not content with a silent objection this time. On the contrary, they raised their voice, objected and insisted on their demands, thus saving the old vital and important strategic relationship between both sides. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders, who decided to fire on a Singaporean ship, did not succeed in sabotaging the negotiations. And their threats did not succeed in breaking the naval blockade on Yemen, a move which was intended to sow discord between the two sides.
Killing Abu Sayyaf: what it means in the fight against ISIS
Saturday, 16 May 2015
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya
The firefight that killed ISIS official Abu Sayyaf by U.S. Special Operations is a major achievement and long overdue against the ISIS leadership. Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured during the firefight and is currently in Iraqi military detention. There are implications of the killing that go beyond the role of the couple in ISIS’s economic operations.
Interestingly, the operation is highly reminiscent of the killing of Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi in June 2006. It is not so much the method of the killing as it is for the significance. Al-Zarqawi of course is known as the head of Al-Qaeda Iraq, the precursor to today’s ISIS. Al-Zarqawi played a major role in a number of key operations back in the 2000s in Iraq. Just as targeting Al Zarqawi to “cut off the head of the snake” the SOF operation killing Abu Sayyaf meant to not only illuminate a battlefield commander but also kill part of ISIS’s economic model of illicit criminal activity including oil sales and slavery.
now that Delta Forces have been used in Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve actually has real teeth
It is important to note the role of Jordan and American special operations forces in the Hashemite Kingdom. In Zarqa is the Joint Special Operations Command and a presence of American special operators and their equipment for raids into Syria. American special operations along with other Arab operators, have been set for such a raid for a while now because Zarqa is at the confluence of the Syrian and Iraqi borders. Jordanian special operation forces are especially well connected with the topography and network within ISIS to gather valuable intelligence.
Was Iraq in the equation?
The Iraqi part of the equation that led to the Delta force killing of Abu Sayyaf also is vital. Baghdad needs a tactical victory badly given that ISIS is now trying to control Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province in Iraq. Despite the tactical defeat of ISIS in Tikrit last month, ISIS is continuing its path of destruction. ISIS has taken over the main government compound that houses the Anbar governor’s office, police headquarters, and intelligence headquarters. Hikmat Suleiman, the spokesman for Anbar's governor stated that ISIS managed to seize the heavily fortified complex on mainly due to a lack of backing from the central Baghdad government: “For months we were complaining and telling the Security Ministries that there was no coordination," he said, adding that the military ignored requests for much needed weapons.” In other words, the Iraqi security forces may not be on top of their game.
The fact that Ramadi fell—for the time being—goes into the timing of the Abu Sayyaf raid and claims of Iraqi permission. The Abadi government, along with its Iranian-backed Shiite militias, are fighting a gruesome battle in Anbar. In addition, with Ramadi going to ISIS for the time being, ISIS is close again to Baghdad. One Gulf official told me that he questions Iraq was involved in the operation all together. “The government was certainly aware but that was the end of the story: they are too busy with their own failures.” Now there are Iraqi security forces moving on Ramadi; there perhaps may be no time for Syrian operations or coordination.
Finally, the Abu Sayyaf raid is a major statement to the participants in the Camp David meetings regarding GCC security requirements. In the wake of the discussions—which at the end of the day resulted in nothing truly new—the Obama administration is illustrating perhaps a new face on targeting ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria. Perhaps the day of enforcing red lines is actually here instead of Washington backing off. In addition, now that Delta Forces have been used in Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve actually has real teeth. That fact is highly significant in order to actually destroy the ISIS economic model.
The prognosis is that more raids may become fashionable.