May 25/15

Bible Quotation For Today/What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
John 03/05-08: Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above." The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’"

Bible Quotation For Today/You crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death,
Acts of the Apostles 02/22-28: "‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, "I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence."

The latest miracle in Lebanon
An Italian lady heard of Saint Charbel in Lebanon and decided she wanted to go with her Lebanese friend and son to visit because she was suffering from cancer. She arrived in Lebanon and went to the church to notice everything was closed. As her and her son walked back to the car a priest was walking past, the lady asked if the church was open and he answered “How can I help you?” she explained has come from Australia suffering from terminal cancer and wished to just receive a blessing from the priest. The priest said to her that he would give her a blessing now. She asked her son to take a picture of her when the priest blesses her simultaneously. She thanked him, got back in the car and left. As they were driving back to the hotel she went through the photos with her Lebanese friend on the phone that her son had taken of her receiving the blessing and suddenly realized, that the priest in the picture is actually St Charbel. It’s a miracle, She got back to Australia went to the hospital and realized after running some test she no longer had cancer.

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 24-25/15
Without a president for a year, Lebanon competes for new record/Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/May 24/15
Asylum Seekers, Beheaders and Mega Mosques/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 24/15 
Ireland referendum ends in 'yes' vote for gay marriage/Associated Press/Ynetnews/May 24/15
Nasrallah to the Shiites who criticize him: Morons and Traitors/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/ May 24/15
Obama to the Arabs: We don’t care/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/May 24/15

Lebanese Related News published on May 24-25/15
The Terrorist Nasrallah's Speech

Hariri: Defending Arsal Not Hizbullah's Responsibility, State is Our Guarantee

Al-Rahi: Presidential Crisis Cannot End without Turning to Constitution
Salam Calls for Restoring 'Solidarity that Preceded Liberation'
March 14 Delegation in Bkirki Tuesday to Announce Stance against Presidential Vacuum
Presidential election should be based on constitution: Raie
Machnouk to Qassem: ‘You want to destroy Arsal
Machnouk warns Hezbollah on Arsal assault 
Third of Lebanese above age 15 borrowed money 
Bus driver murdered in e.Lebanon gas station 
Touch general manager resigns in surprise move 

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 24-25/15
Iran denies agreement on military site inspections
ISIS columns heading from Syria toward Jordan, first targeting the border crossing

Iraqi lawmaker slams US criticism of Iraqi military
Iran general says army needs more funds to counter ISIS
Fighting destroys Yemeni-Saudi border crossing: witnesses
Top Muslim body urges protection of Syria's Palmyr
Egypt jails policeman for sexual assault on mentally ill girl
U.S. defense chief: Iraqi forces lacked will to fight ISIS
Syria says Islamic State executes hundreds in Palmyra
Egypt to open crossing with Gaza for two days
Touch general manager resigns in surprise move 
Syrian dissidents to form new coalition at Cairo meet
ISIS kills 400 civilians in Palmyra: Syrian state TV
Rampant Jihadists Firm up Control of Iraq-Syria Border
Saudi king vows to punish those behind suicide attack
300 killed in Jisr al-Shughour Hospital air raids
Syria regime helicopter comes down in Aleppo province
US: Iraq's 'will to fight' at issue after ISIS takeover Ramadi
Emirati aid shipment arrives in Yemen's Aden
Iran: UN will have 'managed access' to military sites
Israeli PM thanks US for blocking nuclear initiative
Ireland votes 'yes' for gay marriage
Morsi on trial again for 'insulting' Egypt
Libyan warplanes attack ship near port: air force commander
Italy coast guard rescues 70 Afghan, Iraqi migrants from crowded boat
At Least Five Police Killed in Taliban Attack

Latest Jihad Watch News
Iraq warns jihad terror ‘spillover’ will affect entire world
UK jihad suicide bomber is 5th pupil of the same school to join the jihad
Australia: Schools to introduce “jihadi watch” scheme
Clinton appears to rule out US ground forces to fight the Islamic State
Legitimizing Censorship: ‘Islamophobia Studies’ at Berkeley
Nigeria: Muslims set Sharia court ablaze over “insult” to Muhammad

The Lie Of the Hezbollah Liberation & Resistance Day
Elias Bejjani/May 25/15
Believe it or not, on May 25 each year since 2000 Lebanon has been celebrating a so-called "Liberation & Resistance Day." Sadly, this celebration commemorates a bogus event, and a phony heroism that did not actually take place.
On May 22, 2000 the Israeli Army unilaterally and for solely Israeli domestic reasons withdrew from the security zone of South Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425. The withdrawal was a fatal Israeli decision that has inspired the Hamas terrorism acts and the on-going havoc in the Palestinian Gaza strip.
The unilateral Israeli withdrawal created a security vacuum in south Lebanon. The Syrians who were occupying Lebanon at that time and fully controlling its government, did not allow the Lebanese Army to deploy in the south and fill this vacuum after the Israeli withdrawal. Instead Syria helped the Hezbollah militia to militarily control the whole southern region, and even patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border.
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli army's withdrawal was executed without any military battles, or even minor skirmishes with Hezbollah, or the Lebanese and Syrian armies. The Syrian regime, in a bid to justify both its on going occupation of Lebanon and the avoidance of disarming Hezbollah, came up with the "Shabaa Farms occupation big lie" and declared Hezbollah a Liberator, alleging it had forced Israel to withdrawal from South Lebanon.
Syria, in the same camouflaging and devious context, dictated to both the Lebanese parliament and government to declare May 25th a National Day under the tag of "Liberation & Reistance Day".
In reality Hezbollah did not force the Israeli withdrawal, and did not play any role in the Liberation of the southern Lebanese region. In fact both Hezbollah and Syria deliberately hindered and delayed the Israeli withdrawal for more than 14 years.
Every time the Israelis called on the Lebanese government to engage in a joint, serious effort under the United Nations umbrella to ensure a safe and mutually organized withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon, the Lebanese government refused to cooperate, did not agree to deploy its army in the south, and accused the Israelis of plotting to divide and split the Syrian-Lebanese joint track. This approach to the Israeli calls was an official Syrian decision dictated to all the Lebanese puppet governments during the Syrian occupation era.
Since then, Hezbollah has been hijacking Lebanon and its people, refusing to disarm and advocating for the annihilation of Israel. This Iranian mullahs' terrorist army stationed in Lebanon, is viciously hiding behind labels of resistance, liberation and religion. Hezbollah has recklessly jeopardized the Lebanese peoples' lives, safety, security and livelihood. It has been growing bolder and bolder in the last four years and mercilessly taking the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people hostage through terrorism, force and organized crime.
Sadly, Hezbollah is systematically devouring Lebanon day after day, and piece by piece, while at the same time marginalizing all its governmental institutions in a bid to topple the Lebanese state and erect in its place a Shiite Muslim regime, a replica of the Iranian Shiite mullahs' fundamentalist republic. Meanwhile the free world and Arabic countries are totally silent, indifferent, and idly watching from far away the horrible crime unfolding without taking any practical or tangible measures to put an end to this anti-Lebanese Syria-Iranian scheme that is executed through their spearhead, the Hezbollah armed militia.
Who is to be blamed for Hezbollah's current odd and bizarre status? Definitely the Syrians who have occupied Lebanon for more than 28 years (1976-2005). During their bloody and criminal occupation, Syria helped the Iranian Hezbollah militia build a state within Lebanon and fully control the Lebanese Shiite community.
But also the majority of the Lebanese politicians, leaders, officials and clergymen share the responsibility because they were subservient and acted in a dire Dhimmitude, selfish and cowardly manner. If these so-called Lebanese leaders had been courageous and patriotic and had not appeased Hezbollah and turned a blind eye to all its vicious and human rights atrocities, intimidation tactics, crimes and expansionism schemes, this Iranian Shiite fundamentalist militia would not have been able to erect its own mini-state in the southern suburb of Beirut, and its numerous mini-cantons in the Bekaa Valley and the South; nor would Hezbollah have been able to build its mighty military power, with 70 thousand militiamen, or stockpile more than 50 thousand missiles and force the Iranian "Wilayat Al-Faqih" religious doctrine on the Lebanese Shiite community and confiscate its decision making process and freedoms.
Since Hezbollah's emergence in 1982, these politicians have been serving their own selfish interests and not the interests of the Lebanese people and the nation. They went along with Hezbollah's schemes, deluding themselves that its militia and weaponry would remain in South Lebanon and would not turn against them.
This failure to serve the people of Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to make many Lebanese and most of the Arab-Muslim countries through its terrorism propaganda to blindly swallow its big lie of theatrical, faked resistance and Liberation.
Hezbollah would not have been able refuse to disarm in 1991, like all the other Lebanese militias in accordance to the "Taef Accord," which called for the disarmament of all militias. Hezbollah would not have become a state inside the Lebanese state, and a world-wide terrorism Iranian-Syrian tool which turned against them all after its war with Israel in year 2006 and after the UN troops were deployed on the Lebanese - Israeli borders in accordance with the UN Resolution 1701.
On May 7, 2008 Hezbollah invaded Sunni Western Beirut killing and injuring in cold blood hundreds of its civilian citizens, and attempted to take over by force Mount Lebanon.
A few days ago Hezbollah's General Secretary Sheik Hassan Nasrallah called that day (May 7, 2008) a great and glorious victory for his resistance, and threatened the Lebanese that a replicate of that day will take place if they do not succumb and obey his orders.
Hezbollah is a deadly dragon that the Lebanese politicians have been allowing him to feed on sacrifices from the southern Lebanese citizens, especially on those who were living in the "Security Zone" and who fled to Israel in May 2000 after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon. This dragon who enjoyed devouring his southern sacrifices has now turned on all the Lebanese and if they do not stand for their rights and dignity, he will keep on devouring them all one after the other.
We call on the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Parliament and on all the free and patriotic Lebanese politicians and leaders to cancel the May 25 National Day, because it is not national at all, and also to stop calling Hezbollah a resistance, put an end for its mini-state, cantons and weaponry, and secure a dignified, honorable and safe return for all the Lebanese citizens who have been taking refuge in Israel since May 2000.

*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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Nasrallah's Heretic Speech
Sayyed Nasrallah: Resistance at Its Utmost Readiness on All Fronts

Marwa Haidar /Al-Manar Website/May 24/15
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stresses that the resistance is at its utmost readiness on all fronts, noting that although Hezbollah is fighting in Syria, its eyes are still on Israel.
Speaking at a massive ceremony on the Resistance and Liberation Day, Sayyed Nasrallah urged for uniting all fronts in the Middle East to counter the Takfiri scheme, as he assured that this scheme threatens the entire region. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah
His eminence reiterated the importance of the army-people-resistance equation, noting that the countries of the region should rely on this “golden equation.”
The resistance leader said that Hezbollah will go on with its battle in Qalamoun barrens as far as all Lebanese border is secured. In this context however, his eminence noted that the Lebanese government should discuss and resolve the issue of Arsal, warning that “our people in Bekaa will keep no Takfiri militant alive” in the border town.
Sayyed Nasrallah meanwhile, called on the Bahraini regime to meet the demands of its people, noting that ISIL is on their soil.
His eminence also called on the Saudi to halt its aggression on Yemen and to facilitate the political dialogue in Geneva in the coming days.
History Repeats Itself
At the start of his speech, Sayyed Nasrallah offered condolences to residents of the Saudi region of Qatif over the suicide blast which killed and injured dozens of prayers in Imam Ali (as) Mosque two days earlier.
Sayyed Nasrallah on the Resistance and Liberation Day saluted resistance crowds, martyrs, injured people and resistance fighters along with their families. He also saluted the resistance leaders, Imam Sayyed Moussa al-Sadr, Sayyed Abbas al-Mousawi, Sheikh Ragheb Harb and Hajj Imad Moughnieh, as well as the resistance allies, Iran and Syria.
Talking about the occasion, Sayyed Nasrallah said that Hezbollah, along with other patriot factions, has taken the resistance choice, noting that this choice was not backed by some Lebanese sides.
“I will talk about the early stage of the resistance because the events which we are witnessing” similar circumstance, Sayyed Nasrallah addressed cheering crowds in the southern city of Nabatiyeh.
“When the Israeli enemy invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Lebanese disagreed over the view to this event. Some had clear understanding to the Israeli threat, while others were betting on the invasion and taking part in the massacres committed,” his eminence said.
“Since the launch of the resistance, there were sides that doubted the patriotism of the resistance.”
“Three years after its launch, the resistance managed to inflict losses upon the Israeli enemy, forcing it to withdraw to the borderland buffer zone without condition,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, referring to the Israeli withdrawal from several southern towns to the borderland buffer zone in 1985.
Sayyed Nasrallah said that following these events, the resistance persisted till 2000, the humiliating withdrawal of the Zionist entity from the south.
Hezbollah S.G. stressed meanwhile, that if there had not been resistance, the Israeli enemy would have swept Lebanon.
“This victory was by some Lebanese, though it was dedicated to all the Lebanese people.”
After talking about the resistance achievements especially the Liberation, Sayyed Nasrallah said that Lebanon today faces threats similar to the Israeli one, which is the Takfiri scheme.
“Today, the history repeats itself. The scheme which threatens the entire region, its people and armies is the Takfiri one, and ISIL is a sample.”
“Unfortunately, there are some sides that consider there is no threat posed by the Takfiris. Some of them stand neutrally, while the others are supporting these Takfiris and betting on them.”
Sayyed Nasrallah then talked about the danger posed by the Takfiris, noting that no one in Lebanon and the region is safe.
“We are before unparalleled threat, what did ISIL do in Iraq and Syria? What did it do even with people of this same trend? Instead of uniting they fought and slaughtered each other.”
“My advice to those who are silent and bet on Takfiris, they will be the first victims. Future movement leaders and MPs will be the first victims of the Takfiris,” Sayyed Nasrallah stressed.
He also urged the Christians not to be silent in the face of this threat, wondering who will protect them, their families and their churches from the Takfiri threat.
United Front
In the same context, the resistance leader urged the people and the government of the region to unite the fronts in a bid to counter the Takfiri threat.
“To overcome the Takfiris, the peoples of this region must trust themselves and unite against this enemy.”
His eminence also said that the golden equation of army-people-resistance is the solution to counter the Takfiri insurgent in any country.
In another context, Sayyed Nasrallah said that the US-led coalition allegedly operating against ISIL in Iraq and Syria was not serious in countering the terrorist group, noting that the insurgents or moving from a city to another in Iraq and Syria under Washington’s eye.
“The number of airstrikes staged by the US-led coalition throughout a year is much less than the number of the Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon during July war in 2006,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
In another context, Sayyed Nasrallah said that the US-led coalition allegedly operating against ISIL in Iraq and Syria was not serious in countering the terrorist group, noting that the insurgents or moving from a city to another in Iraq and Syria under Washington’s eye.
“The number of airstrikes staged by the US-led coalition throughout a year is much less than the number of the Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon during July war in 2006,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Qalamoun Battle
Tackling the issue of the battle taking place in Qalamoun barrens, Sayyed Nasrallah said that Hezbollah is going on with this operation, noting that is wrong to portray the battle with the Takfiris as Hezbollah’s battle.
“It is the government’s battle,” Sayyed Nasrallah stressed.
“The battle in Qalamoun barrens will continue as far as the Lebanese borders are secured,” his eminence added, noting that the issue of the border town of Arsal, which has been considered as a stronghold for Takfiris, should be discussed at the cabinet.
“It is the government’s responsibility to settle this issue…. Interior minister (Nouhad Mashnouq) says it is an occupied town. Let the government come and retake this town.”
“Don’t avoid discussing this issue at the cabinet,” Sayyed Nasrallah addressed Future movement officials.

Hariri: Defending Arsal Not Hizbullah's Responsibility, State is Our Guarantee
Naharnet/May 24/15
Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri snapped back Sunday at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah after the latter warned that his group might intervene militarily in the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Arsal to oust jihadist militants entrenched there. “We in the al-Mustaqbal movement openly declare that the Lebanese state and its legitimate institutions are our guarantee, choice and sanctuary, and any talk of other guarantees is delusional, rejected and an absurd attempt at engaging in suicidal projects,” said Hariri in a statement.
Earlier on Sunday, Nasrallah noted that if the regime, Hizbullah and their allies win in Syria, they would “represent the guarantee for all Lebanese,” warning that al-Mustaqbal and its leaders would be “the first victims” if the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups take a foothold in Lebanon. Nasrallah also vowed that his group would try and eliminate the two groups' militants from the outskirts of Arsal if the Lebanese state failed to do so.
But Hariri hit back shortly after Nasrallah's speech, underlining that “the defense of the land, sovereignty and dignity is not Hizbullah's responsibility, not in Arsal, nor in its outskirts nor anywhere else.”“Our stance on Daesh (Islamic State) and the forces of perversity and terror does not need a 'certificate of good conduct' from anyone,” he added. Slamming Nasrallah's insistence on the so-called army-people-resistance equation, Hariri emphasized that “there is no golden equation to protect Lebanon other than the equation of national consensus and putting an end to the policies of threats, intimidation and raised fists.”
“The equation of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Iraq's Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization paramilitary forces) has no place in Lebanon and we will not offer a cover for that under any circumstances,” added Hariri. “Where is the benefit in linking the fate of Nabatiyeh, Baalbek and Arsal to the fate of (Iraq's) Ramadi and Mosul, (Syria's) Palmyra, (Yemen's) Saada and other regions? To which abyss do they want to take Lebanon? What kind of war are they asking the Shiite sect and the sons of tribes in Baalbek and Hermel to engage in?” Hariri went on to say.
The IS group has recently seized control of Ramadi and Palmyra, extending its so-called “caliphate” that straddles both Iraq and Syria. “For years now, we have been calling for rapprochement in order to protect Lebanon and national coexistence, but there are parties who are insisting on moving from one war to another and from one blaze to another,” Hariri lamented. “For years now, we have been calling for devising a national strategy that protects Lebanon from terrorism and the surrounding flames, and that recognizes for the Lebanese army and legitimate security forces their exclusive right to protect national security,” the ex-PM stated.
He accused Hizbullah of “exerting efforts to impede this national mission” and of telling the Lebanese that “their army is weak and incompetent.”“They want to turn Lebanon's border into the last lifeline for a faltering regime, which the battles in Qalamoun and barrel bomb raids will not enable to escape from its inevitable fate,” Hariri added. “It is very easy to dissociate Lebanon from the regional blazes through returning to the state and its authority and uniting behind the army and legitimate forces in the protection of the border and the fight against the threats of terrorism,” he said. The former premier also stressed that the coming together of the Lebanese is “the only way to open the door to real reconciliations, ending the presidential vacuum and restoring normalcy in state institutions.”

March 14 Delegation in Bkirki Tuesday to Announce Stance against Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet /The seat of the Maronite patriarchate of Bkirki is expected to witness a “demonstration” by March 14 lawmakers aimed at voicing their condemnation of the ongoing vacuum in the presidency, reported the daily al-Mustaqbal on Sunday.The meeting at Bkirki will be crowned with a speech by Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi during which he will urge officials to elect a new head of state, parliamentary sources from the Mustaqbal bloc told the daily. Representatives of the various participating parliamentary blocs will also deliver speeches on the occasion. Al-Rahi had on Saturday reiterated his condemnation of the lawmakers' ongoing failure to elect a president. “A body without a head will lead to its death,” he warned during a visit of the district of Batroun. “We cannot accept the fragmentation of our nation as a result of the absence of a head of state,” he added. He said it is “shameful” that a year has passed since the presidential vacuum began. Lebanon has been without a president since May 24, 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.

Salam Calls for Restoring 'Solidarity that Preceded Liberation'
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam hoped Sunday on the 15th anniversary of the liberation of the South from Israeli occupation that the Lebanese will manage to restore the “solidarity and national unity” that “protected” Hizbullah's armed resistance.
“I congratulate all Lebanese on this great victory that was achieved through the epic battle of resistance, steadfastness and sacrifice that was fought by all the groups and components of our people,” said Salam in a statement marking the Liberation and Resistance Day. “We also call to mind the solidarity and national unity that preceded and accompanied this achievement and represented an environment that protected the acts of the resistance, which we hope will be restored these days as we face our political crises,” the PM added. He voiced confidence that the Lebanese “who together made the achievement of liberation in the year 2000” are capable of “overcoming disputes and putting the national interest first.” Salam hoped the Lebanese parties will manage to “reach understandings that would revive the constitutional institutions and contribute to preserving security and stability in this difficult period that our region is going through.”He also saluted “the martyrs of the resistance, Lebanese army and civilians who fell in the South and the rest of Lebanese regions, from the moment resistance against occupation started till the major victory that was achieved in the year 2000.”Israel occupied much of southern Lebanon for 22 years between 1978 and 2000 and its invading army reached the capital Beirut in 1982. It also fought a devastating 2006 war with Hizbullah in which more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Lebanon. Hizbullah spearheaded military operations against the Israeli army after the civil war but many political forces criticized the party for maintaining its military structure and huge arsenal of arms after Israel pulled out its forces in the year 2000.

Machnouk to Qassem: ‘You want to destroy Arsal’
The Daily Star/ May. 24, 2015/BEIRUT: Interior Minister and Future Movement official Nouhad Machnouk said Sunday that the latest comments by Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qassem implied a plan to “destroy, not liberate Arsal.” In comments published in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper Sunday, Machnouk said the outskirts of Arsal could only be liberated by the Army. “Liberating Arsal must not be through a sectarian attack,” Machnouk said. “This mission is the responsibility of the state and the Lebanese Army and security forces.” “They are the only people concerned with liberating Arsal or any inch of Lebanese land, and we highly trust the Army and its leader.”Qassem had warned in a speech Saturday that although his group would welcome a decision by the Army to liberate the outskirts of Arsal, any lack of action will definitely lead to Hezbollah taking matters into its own hands. He also said that Hezbollah would be happy to cooperate with the Future Movement if such an operation becomes a reality. Thousands of militants from Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, ISIS and other Syrian rebel groups operate in the outskirts of Arsal and the nearby Qalamoun area, where Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have continued to advance since they launched an offensive earlier this month. Arsal is considered a hideout for jihadis in case they incur further losses in Qalamoun and retreat north.Qassem compared the situation to that of Ramadi, where the (Shiite) Popular Mobilization forces were told not to intervene so the battle would not be seen as sectarian in character. Ramadi was later taken by ISIS and now volunteer militias have been called in to assist in retaking the city from the jihadi group. “We will not repeat the same experience in Lebanon,” Qassem said. Machnouk said the comments by Qassem and those referred to Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Saturday would normally affect the ongoing dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah. Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is also a proponent of an Army operation to push militants out of Arsal’s outskirts. In his recent speeches, he said the presence of jihadis inside Lebanese territory is a threat to all Lebanese citizens, calling on the Army to fight an ‘inevitable’ fight to liberate the area. ISIS and the Nusra Front, who have been fighting each other in Qalamoun for weeks, hold 25 Lebanese servicemen as captives in Arsal’s outskirts.Nusra has vowed to “eradicate” ISIS from Qalamoun after several provocations by the notorious fundamentalist group.

Presidential election should be based on constitution: Rai
The Daily Star/May. 24, 2015 /BEIRUT: The constitution should be the basis of any solution for the now one-year-old Lebanese presidential crisis, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said while delivering a sermon Sunday. “The way to elect a president is by returning to the constitution in any initiative,” Rai said during Sunday mass. “We pray that political officials would return to the truth of the constitution and the National Pact to fulfill their duties in finding an exit from the [presidential] vacuum.”Rai’s comments came in light of a recent proposal by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun in which he suggested electing a president through a popular vote, which would require constitutional amendments. March 14 and Progressive Socialist Party officials have rejected the initiative over the proposed amendments.
However, Aoun’s proposal contained three other suggestions for solving the crisis: 1- To hold a public referendum to know who among the presidential candidates enjoys the most support. The winner would then be elected president by Parliament. 2- To allow Parliament to hold an election in which one of two of its most popular Maronite MPs would stand as candidates. 3- A new Parliament is elected based on a new electoral law that is more representative of the people, and then lawmakers would in turn choose a president. Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, 2014, when President Michel Sleiman's term expired. Political parties have so far failed to elect a successor, with neither of the two main political camps, March 8 and March 14, capable of securing a majority vote in Parliament.
Aoun is the official candidate for the March 8 camp, while Geagea remains March 14's candidate.

Saudi king vows to punish those behind suicide attack: state news agency
Ian Timberlake| Agencies/May. 24, 2015/RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman said Sunday he was heartbroken over a suicide bombing that killed 21 people at a Shiite mosque in the kingdom, state news agency SPA reported, a conciliatory statement as sectarian strife intensifies in the region. Salman said anyone linked to the attack, claimed by the Islamist militant group ISIS, or who sympathized with it, would be brought to justice. "We were pained by the enormity of the crime of this terrorist aggression which contradicts Islamic and humanitarian values," the king said in a message to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who is also the interior minister. "Any participant, planner, supporter or sympathizer with this heinous crime will be held accountable, tried and will receive the punishment he deserves," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia would never stop fighting militants. A Sunni Muslim militant blew himself up in the al-Qadeeh village mosque in Saudi Arabia's heavily Shiite east during Friday prayers, in one of the worst attacks in the kingdom in years. The Saudi Interior Ministry said there was evidence of a link between ISIS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a militant cell in Saudi Arabia that had included the mosque bomber, identified as Saudi citizen Saleh bin Abdul Rahman Saleh Qashimi. An unidentified subordinate of Baghdadi communicated with five Saudi men, now in Saudi custody, belonging to the same cell as Qashimi, ministry spokesman Bassam al-Attiyeh said. "We're talking about a terrorist infrastructure, we're talking about a very broad organization that operates within the country," al-Attiyeh told reporters in the capital Riyadh. "This organization starts with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and under him the suspect whom we've mentioned, and one grade below him their combat and bombing wing ... under which is the killings and assassinations wing which undertook the al-Qadeeh incident." The bombing in Saudi Arabia has come as tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are on the increase in the region. Some clerics in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and mainstay of its Sunni denomination, are deeply hostile towards Shiites, whom they regard as apostates. Saudi Arabia is also part of an international coalition carrying out bombing strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, and ISIS has threatened to launch revenge attacks. Saudi and Gulf governments fear that sectarian wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq where they and other Sunni Muslim allies are fighting groups close to Shiite archrival Iran will radicalize their citizens.

Iran general says army needs more funds to counter ISIS
Agence France Presse/May. 24, 2015 /TEHRAN: A senior Iranian military official told parliament Sunday the armed forces need a bigger budget to confront the ISIS whose influence is growing in neighboring countries. "We have to face a new threat in the region. Terrorist groups are close to our borders," General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan who commands Iran's ground forces told parliament, media reported. "Today we see the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. Iran's army and its elite Revolutionary Guards must be strengthened to be able "to buy tanks, transport vehicles and to overhaul our helicopters," he was quoted as saying. ISIS, which has seized chunks of Syria and Iraq to the west of Iran has also gained a foothold in its eastern neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan. The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John F Campbell has said that ISIS was recruiting fighters in Afghanistan, but are not yet operational there. "There's recruiting going on in Afghanistan, there is recruiting going on in Pakistan. There is money being passed back and forth," he told reporters on Saturday in Kabul. In May, ISIS claimed its first attack in Pakistan, where pistol-wielding gunmen stormed a bus carrying members of the minority Shiite Ismaili community, killing at least 43 people.
The Iranian general, who warned that "the battle is on the ground", did not say by how much the defence budget should be increased. For the fiscal year ending in March 2016, the defence budget was increased by more than 30 percent to reach some $10 billion dollars. In addition, the armed forces receive $1.2 billion from sovereign funds. Pourdastan told parliament that when IS launched its offensive in Iraq in June last year jihadists advanced to Jalula, just 40 kilometers from the Iranian border. "In less than three days, we sent five brigades to the borders and our reconnaissance helicopters penetrated 40 kilometers into Iraq," Pourdastan added. Shiite regional power Iran has military advisers in Iraq and Syria and provides financial and military support to the governments of both countries in their fight against the Sunni extremists.

Nasrallah to the Shiites who criticize him: Morons and Traitors
Written by : Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Sunday, 24 May, 2015
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently slammed those criticizing him, saying: “Anyone who says anything contrary to what is said here is a moron, is blind, and a traitor. The Shi’ites of the American embassy are traitors, agents, and morons. No one can alter our convictions. We won’t be silent anymore and we will no longer humor anyone.”
However, this time Nasrallah’s angry and threatening statements were not directed against his usual rivals. They are directed against Shi’ites in Lebanon. These statements reveal the extent of such disputes and expose the increasing criticisms against him, after a prolonged Syrian war and after the proliferation of conflicts—in which Lebanon’s Shi’ites are required to participate in order to meet the demands of Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah being one.
A few days before this angry speech, Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, visited Beirut to deliver a message to Nasrallah. This message was probably what was behind the Hezbollah chief’s frustration and his call to further mobilize his party’s ranks. It is also probably why he made the threats to his opponents.
Nasrallah’s speech reveals divisions and disputes within the Shi’ite community, which had previously stood as a symbol of obedience where there was a majority in support of him and an opposing, but silent, minority. However, now after Hezbollah’s accumulating losses in Syria and Iraq, a rising tide of dissent in the group’s ranks seems to be threatening his status—unlike how things were in the past when no one dared to hold him accountable.
Some may say that Hezbollah is not the only group currently drowning in the quicksand since there are conflicts and struggles undermining almost every group in the entire region. This is true. However, the difference is that other parties were always destined to join these conflicts since they are taking place on their own turf. Hezbollah, on the other hand, is fighting in Syria alongside the Assad regime based on promises made by Iran to Assad that they will use any means to defend him. Hezbollah have thus become like mercenaries who are brought from Iraq and Afghanistan to fight far away from home upon an Iranian arrangement. As time passed and as more of Hezbollah’s fighters died—though these are rarely made public—the group began to run out of excuses, the first of which being that it is fighting in Syria to “defend sacred shrines.”
When it was later revealed that most of its fighters were meeting their ends in areas far away from these shrines, the group came up with another excuse: that it was fighting in Syria as part of preemptive measures to defend Lebanon. “If we hadn’t fought in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus, we would have had to fight in Baalbek, Hermel, Ghaziyeh and other areas [in Lebanon],” Nasrallah said. Of course, it is illogical to go to war in a large country to prevent a war in your own country. In fact, it is this selfsame act which will end up bringing war to you! Hezbollah’s participation in the war in Syria with its extremist Shi’ite fighters brought thousands of extremist Sunnis to the frontline to counter them. The war in Syria thus turned into a Shi’ite–Sunni–Alawite conflict.
Hezbollah’s war in Syria is an Iranian war, and a lost cause too. Hezbollah’s fighters will later see that Tehran will have to sell them out. By this I mean Iran will eventually need make compromises at their expense in order to take one of two paths: either provide a safe exit from Syria (that is, admit complete defeat), or accept a solution which sees Bashar Al-Assad leave power—a solution which both the Iranian and Syrian regimes have thus far rejected and which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. As such, Hezbollah does not have a compelling excuse to fight in Syria. The Iranians are fighting there because of their desire to gain influence in the region—and due to their general megalomaniacal predilections. Hezbollah’s participation alongside the Iranians in this war will bring about two disasters: the group will suffer untold human losses, more numerous than the combined losses it suffered during its wars with Israel throughout the past 30 years; moreover, this participation alongside Iran will attract extremist groups to Lebanon, groups which will threaten all the factions in the country and ignite a war on its territory.
The defeats, the corpses, the wounds, the broken promises, and the ongoing war all show that the Hezbollah command’s only choice is to respond to Tehran’s demands until its last fighter goes down.
In his speech, Nasrallah called on his followers to support him amid the criticism, doubts, and objections. “Now it is time for mobilization,” he said. “Everyone can participate even by just speaking out. Whoever has any credibility among people [must speak out] and contribute to this mobilization. Scholars must speak out. Those who have a martyred child must also speak out.”
What is more dangerous here is that Nasrallah has not concealed what may soon be his greatest adventure yet: “In the next phase, we may announce a general mobilization [that applies] to everyone. I am saying we may fight everywhere.” (“Everywhere” here means sending more fighters to Iraq and Yemen.) And since Nasrallah knows he is increasingly being rejected by the Shi’ite community, he took time to threaten those who oppose him: “We won’t remain silent anymore. We will look those who speak to us [with objections] in the eye and tell them ‘You are a traitor!’ whether they are young or old.”

Obama to the Arabs: We don’t care
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 24 May 2015
It shall be written that in the second decade of the twenty first century, when the forces of authoritarianism, Islamist zealotry, and sectarian fanaticism plunged large swaths of the Arab world into a state of ‘the war of all against all’, the reaction of the world’s sole great world power, was equivocal, indecisive, deceptive and cynical. It is axiomatic that Arabs are in the main responsible for their tragic conditions, but it is also self-evident that the United States did, over the years contribute politically and militarily to the immense human tragedies unfolding along a brittle political order collapsing under its own weight.
The United States cannot retrench or resign from a broken region, assuming that it could escape being haunted – and maybe hunted- by the daemons unleashed, in part for sure, by its disastrous invasion of Iraq, its botched and incomplete intervention in Libya, and all the legacies of decades of support of Arab authoritarianism. Yet, this is what the Obama administration is trying to do. All his protestations aside, President Obama in the second half of his second term is not seriously trying to resolve any of the conflicts of the region, including those that he had contributed to, but merely applying half-measures particularly in Syria and Iraq designed to buy him time, while kicking the can down the road to his successor and hoping to avoid disasters he will not be able to ignore, such as the Islamic State (ISIS) knocking at the gates of Baghdad. It shall be written, that Obama inherited a broken Arab world from his predecessor George W. Bush, but that he will bequeath to his successor a shattered Arab world, partly because of his flawed leadership.
There was one pivotal moment during the recent Camp David summit between President Obama and the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that resonated deeply with the Arab leaders according to a participant. The president said to his guests that he invited them because he cares about the region, but that in fact ‘the American people don’t care.’ One wonders if the President was channeling his own deep seated doubts about America’s ability to shape events in that complex region, more than reflecting the supposed ambivalence of the American people.
Words, words, words
President Obama never wanted his tepid support for the Syrian opposition to be translated into effective means to topple the Assad regime, and in fact one can see that with Syria’s national nightmare entering its fifth year, the Obama administration is very concerned that the recent battlefield setbacks suffered by the Syrian army and its allies could lead to the collapse of the Assad regime, hence its return to the position of ‘Assad still represents the least worst option in Syria’. President Obama and his aides still dissemble when they turn the argument of their critics on its head by claiming that they are being asked to ‘invade’ Syria or ‘impose’ a solution on it, when no serious scholar or expert ever suggested such a policy. But the White House did perfect this Syria straw man argument to the point where administration officials seem to believe their own disinformation. The U.S. policy on Syria is cynical because one of the operating principles seems to be to provide the rebels with enough arms not to lose the war, but not enough to defeat the Assad regime.
Well into the sixth year of his presidency, President Obama has little to show for in the Middle East
Recently, the Obama administration has created a similar Iraqi straw man. To begin with, the President’s limited and tentative military actions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria betray his public boasts that he is pursuing a policy of ‘degrading then destroying’ ISIS, when in fact he is at most trying to contain the threat of ISIS and leaving the task of destroying the monstrous organization to the next president. Following the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi into the hands of ISIS, the President called it a ‘tactical setback’ but rejected the notion that the U.S. is losing the war. His Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey was more colorful when he dryly said ‘the Iraqi Security Forces was not driven out of Ramadi, They drove out of Ramadi.’
Secretary of state John Kerry claimed that Ramadi will be retaken within days but he was engaging in wishful thinking, then there were hints of a review of the Iraq strategy, only to be corrected by the spokesperson of the state department that ‘there’s no formal strategy review’. Commenting on the Ramadi debacle White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that the war on ISIS is still in the ‘degrade phase’ and that President Obama believes that his successor will continue the fight. The straw man reared its head when Earnest stressed Obama’s belief that helping the Iraqis in degrading ISIS is the best long term strategy, instead of a ‘full-scale reinvasion’ as if there is serious talk of a full reinvasion of Iraq.
Judging by his admittedly eloquent speeches, one cannot escape concluding that President Obama believes that his words at times have the force of actions; it is as if you don’t have to follow up on your demands of Assad to step down, or to deliver on threats of retribution if the Syrian despot crosses the president’s red line, or to continue demanding that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should freeze settlements in Palestinian territories, or asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop his aggression against Ukraine. President Obama, after more than six years in office still acts as if accommodation and negotiations can resolve every intractable problem regardless of who are the antagonists. He still behaves, as one observer puts it, as if he does not believe that the U.S. has enemies in the world.
Killing past, present and future
In one week the hordes of ISIS stormed and occupied two important cities hundreds of miles apart in Iraq and Syria, proving once again the limits of the U.S. led international coalition against ISIS, which is winning because of its well-earned reputation as a merciless terror organization and because of the weakness of its enemies. A nagging question was asked repeatedly; why is it that the U.S. led coalition failed to bomb ISIS’ columns advancing against the important Syrian city of Palmyra with its unique and breathtaking archaeological treasures, in broad daylight and in the open desert?
This is particularly disturbing given ISIS’ savage war against all cultures and civilizations deemed ‘un-Islamic’ in their fanatic and primitive views. The Assad regime and ISIS are destroying Syria’s present and future, the regime uses barrel bombs against civilians to uproot communities and cleanse (mostly Sunni) neighborhoods to create new demographic facts on the ground. ISIS’s brutal reputation, its ritualistic murdering of people by swords and machetes intimidate ancient communities like the Assyrians, Yazidis and Christians and force them to flee. The Assad regime and ISIS leave in their wake only victims and desolation. And while the Assad regime’s forces never hesitated in bombing archaeological and ancient forts occupied by rebels, ISIS’ zealots relish destroying non-Muslim archaeological sites, including structures revered by Muslims like the sacking of Jonah’s tomb.
The zealots of ISIS are the modern equivalent of a Biblical plague of locusts. This has been their impact on ancient cities and communities; they plundered Assyrian cities including the famed Nimrud once the capital of the Assyrian Empire, bulldozed temples and statutes, ransacked ancient manuscripts, and smashed statutes of deities at the Mosul Museum.
Bride of the desert
The sprawling ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its Greek, Roman and Arab architecture contains archeological wonders not found outside the Eastern Mediterranean region. The thought that the fanatics of ISIS will bulldoze Palmyra’s magnificent amphitheater, the temple of Baal and its roman columns, should send shivers down the spine of every civilized person anywhere in the world. Yes, we lament human loses but we should lament those special stones that still speak to us as eloquently as those artists who carved them. It is a false dichotomy that posits that ancient and historic but ‘dead stones’ should not be among our priorities in Syria and Iraq. Those Syrians, who are fighting for a better future, are also fighting as those who inherited the marvels and histories of the various peoples and cultures that made Palmyra, Aleppo and Damascus, great cities.
If Palmyra, called by Syrians the ‘bride of the desert’ is destroyed, even partially, all of humanity will be poorer. The deep cultural scars that have been inflicted on Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs in Syria and on Nimrud and Mosul in Iraq will never heal. The passage of time may lessen the pain, but it will not diminish, nor should it our collective memories of it.
Silent sectarian cleansing
At the time of ISIS’ depredations in Iraq and Syria, another reminder that the most efficient killers in these orgies of violence remain the state actors, came in the form of another sober report by the Naame Shaam a group of Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese activists that focuses on the destructive role of the Iranian regime in Syria. The title of the report speaks for itself ‘silent sectarian cleansing: Iranian role in mass demolition and population transfers in Syria’.
The reports which is based on mostly open sources, documents with satellite photos, and statistics the frightening role of Iran and its proxies, mostly the Lebanese based Hezbollah, in restructuring almost every aspect of life in Syria. The report provide cases of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria by the Assad regime with the support and complicity of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The report accuses the Syrian regime, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah of ‘systematic forced displacement of Syrian civilians and the destruction and appropriation of their property in certain parts of Syria, such as Damascus and Homs’. The reports documents how the demolition and reconstruction in some areas are intended to punish those communities supporting the revolution, the majority of which happened to be Sunni. The satellite photos show areas of demolished homes in Tadamoun district in Damascus, and near the Mezzeh airport.
The objective of the cleansing is to get rid of ‘unwanted elements’ and replacing them with Syrian Alawites (an offshoot of mainstream Shiism). The ultimate objective is to secure the Damascus-Homs-Coast (where the majority of the Alawites live) corridor along Lebanon’s eastern borders, with its mostly Shiite inhabitants, in order to create a contiguous geographic and demographic area. Such area could become a rump Shiite state, and it will maintain Iran’s links with its most valuable ally, Hezbollah which is now an integral part of Iran’s deterrence strategy against Israel.
Naame Shaam director Fouad Hamdan who visited Washington recently and met with human rights groups, and government officials to galvanize support to pressure the International Criminal Court to investigate these alleged war crimes, stressed that the report specifically names General Qassem Soleimani who is in charge of overseas operations of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as the main culprit who should stand trial.
Arid results
It is unlikely that the recent setbacks in Ramadi and Palmyra will lead President Obama to alter his Middle East policy, particularly at this sensitive point in the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, which is seen by some analysts as one of the reasons Obama does not want to antagonize Iran in Syria by taking on Syria’s air defenses or any other military target.
Well into the sixth year of his presidency, President Obama has little to show for in the Middle East. It is practically impossible to maintain the integrity of Iraq as a unitary state, when the Kurds who constitute more than quarter of the population want to determine their future. (The current Kurdish leadership is the last that speak Arabic). Syria is literally in flames, and it was on President Obama’s watch, and after his warnings to Assad, that Syrian civilians were at the receiving end of chemical weapons. Libya is descending towards more fragmentations, bloodletting and the creation of large ungoverned spaces ideal for groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Yemen’s conflicts will continue to fester for some time to come, and its economic challenges will make governance more difficult than ever. Egypt’s alienation from the Obama administration will continue, and it might discover that the problem is deeper and it involves the Washington ‘establishment’ and not only the Obama administration. And there is no hope of reviving the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. This poor record, makes it imperative for the President to reach a historic nuclear deal with Iran.
In one week President Obama made it clear to the GCC states, to the Iraqis and to the Syrians, that his concept of American engagement in the Middle East is limited to ‘partnerships’, but that they have to lead themselves, fight their own wars, (with conditional backing from the U.S.) and settle their own conflicts. There is a positive element in this approach. Arabs should take the lead in charting their own destinies, and should exercise more responsibilities. But that does not relieve the U.S. from its leadership burdens in the region; deterring predatory states, combatting terrorism and extremism, providing protective umbrella to its allies and contain the proliferations of weapons of mass destruction and settling the protracted conflicts. The U.S. cannot afford to ‘pivot’ away from the Middle East, and adopt a retrenchment mode and call it strategy. President Obama’s policy of retrenchment has called into question the quality of his leadership. If the economy continues to improve, the role of the U.S. in a rapidly changing world, and the quality and role of America’s leadership in the world should be at the heart of the presidential race in 2016.

Ireland referendum ends in 'yes' vote for gay marriage
Associated Press/Ynetnews/Published: 05.24.15/ Israel News
In landslide vote with 62.1% in favor, Irish change decades of history as a strictly conservative Christian nation.
Ireland's citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday - a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a "social revolution."
Friday's referendum saw 62.1% of Irish voters say "yes" to changing the nation's constitution to define marriage as a union between two people regardless of their sex. Outside Dublin Castle, watching the results announcement in its cobblestoned courtyard, thousands of gay rights activists cheered, hugged and cried at the news.
"With today's vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people," Prime Minister Enda Kenny proclaimed
as he welcomed the outcome. Beside him, Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton declared the victory "a magical moving moment, when the world's beating heart is in Ireland."
Ireland is the first country to approve gay marriage in a popular national vote. Nineteen other countries, including most US states, have legalized the practice through their legislatures and courts.
The unexpectedly strong percentage of approval surprised both sides. More than 1.2 million Irish voters backed the "yes" side to less than 750,000 voting "no." Only one of Ireland's 43 constituencies recorded a narrow "no" majority, Roscommon-South Leitrim in the boggy midlands.
Analysts credited the "yes" side with adeptly employing social media to mobilize young, first-time voters, tens of thousands of whom voted for the first time Friday. The "yes" campaign also featured moving personal stories from prominent Irish people - either coming out as gays or describing their hopes for gay children - that helped convince wavering voters to back equal marriage rights.
Both Catholic Church leaders and gay rights advocates said the result signaled a social revolution in Ireland, where only a few decades ago the authority of Catholic teaching was reinforced by voters who massively backed bans on abortion and divorce in the 1980s.
Voters legalized divorce by a razor-thin margin in 1995 and now, by a firm majority, have dismissed the Catholic Church's repeated calls to reject gay marriage. Abortion, still outlawed, looms as the country's next great social policy fight.
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the "overwhelming vote" against church teaching on gay marriage meant that Catholic leaders in Ireland needed urgently to find a new message and voice for reaching Ireland's young.
"It's a social revolution. ... The church needs to do a reality check right across the board," said Martin, who suggested that some church figures who argued for gay marriage's rejection came across as harsh, damning and unloving, the opposite of their intention.
"Have we drifted completely away from young people?" he asked. "Most of those people who voted 'yes' are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years."
David Quinn, leader of the Catholic think tank Iona Institute, said he was troubled by the fact that no political party and only a half-dozen politicians backed the "no" cause.
"The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view," he said.
Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, a Cork politician whose opposition party is traditionally closest to the Catholic Church, said he couldn't in good conscience back the anti-gay marriage side.
"It's simply wrong in the 21st century to oppress people because of their sexuality," he said.
After the result was announced, thousands of celebrants flooded into the Irish capital's pubs and clubs - none more popular Saturday night than the city's few gay venues.
At the George, Ireland's oldest gay pub, drag queens danced and lip-synced to Queen and the founding father of Ireland's gay rights campaign, Sen. David Norris, basked in the greatest accomplishment of the movement's 40-year history.
"The people in this small island off the western coast of Europe have said to the rest of the world: This is what it is to be decent, to be civilized, and to be tolerant! And let the rest of the world catch up!" Norris, 70, shouted with jubilant zeal to the hundreds packing the disco ball-lit hall.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Norris waged an often lonely two-decade legal fight to force Ireland to quash its Victorian-era laws outlawing homosexual acts. Ireland finally complied in 1993, becoming the last European Union country to do so. This time, the gay community in Ireland managed to build a decisive base of support.
"People from the LGBT community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, or friends and co-workers and colleagues, we're a majority," said Leo Varadkar, a 36-year-old Irish Cabinet minister who in January announced on national radio that he was gay. "For me it wasn't just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution."
Many gay couples took the moment to declare their intentions or renew their vows. One lesbian couple in Limerick proposed on bended knee at the vote count there, while one of Ireland's most prominent advocates for gay marriage, American-born Sen. Katherine Zappone, asked her wife live on Irish TV: "Today in this new Ireland, Ann Louise Gilligan, will you marry me?"
The couple, who met at Boston College and already were married legally in Canada in 2003, sued Ireland unsuccessfully in 2006 to have their marriage recognized as valid. Once parliament passes enabling legislation by this summer, that Canadian wedding license will become legal in Ireland. But Zappone and Gilligan, a former nun, still plan an Irish ceremony.
"There's nothing like an Irish wedding," Zappone said.
The Dublin Castle crowds saved their greatest roars of approval for Panti Bliss, Ireland's most famous drag queen, who strode gingerly into the castle's central square in high heels and a body-hugging floral dress to conduct a joint live interview on Irish TV beside Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Sinn Fein party chief Gerry Adams.
"It feels like we asked the whole country to marry us and they just said yes," said Panti, aka Rory O'Neill, who in a viral-internet speech last year inspired a national debate on the level of homophobia in Irish society.
"Today's vote isn't actually for 46-year-old aging drag queens like me. This vote is about all the young faces out there," Panti said, gesturing to the square-full of mostly 20-something onlookers, some donning rainbow-colored feather boas and parasols. Panti said that within a few years going to a gay marriage "will become an ordinary, normal part of life - and that's what changes hearts and minds."
When asked whether she - Panti's preferred gender of pronoun - intended to marry, the already surreal scene turned flirty. "Sure, why not, if I can find the right fella," Panti said, slyly putting an arm around a beaming Adams. Laughter cascaded through the crowd.
Political analyst Sean Donnelly, who has covered Irish referendums for decades, said Saturday's landslide marked a stunning generational shift. He noted that two decades ago in Ireland's last tortuous vote challenging a benchmark Catholic teaching, voters barely approved divorce - but only because heavy rain deterred voters in the then-conservative west. More than half of Ireland's constituencies recorded "no" majorities to divorce.
Not this time. Even far-flung Donegal in Ireland's northwest corner, renowned for its reactionary record of voting against the national mood, voted "yes" to gay marriage.
"We're in a new country," Donnelly said. "When I was reared up, the church was all powerful and the word 'gay' wasn't even in use in those days. How things have moved from my childhood to now."

Iran: UN will have 'managed access' to military sites

Associated Press /Ynetnews/Published: 05.24.15
Iran has agreed to grant United Nations inspectors "managed access" to military sites as part of a future deal over its contested nuclear program, a negotiator said Sunday, apparently contradicting earlier comments by the nation's supreme leader. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister's comments, carried by state television, came after he and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended a reportedly stormy closed session of parliament. "Iran has agreed to grant managed access to military sites," state TV quoted Araghchi as saying Sunday.
Lawmaker Ahmad Shoohani, a member of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee who attended the closed-door session, said restricted inspections of military sites will be carried out under strict control and specific circumstances.
"Managed access will be in a shape where UN inspectors will have the possibility of taking environmental samples from the vicinity of military sites," Shoohani said. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed Wednesday to not allow international inspection of Iran's military sites or access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement. Iran's military leaders also angrily have refused such demands. The state TV report did not elaborate on Araghchi's comments apparently contradicting those two powerful forces in the Iranian government. Iran and six world powers - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - hope to work out terms of a final nuclear deal before a June 30 deadline. Inspection of military sites suspected to be taking part in the nuclear program is a top priority of the US
The West fears Iran's program could allow it to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes. The broadcast also quoted Araghchi as saying Iranian negotiators rejected demands that its scientists be interviewed. "Americans are after interviewing our nuclear scientists. We didn't accept it," state TV quoted him as saying. Iran's nuclear scientists have been the targets of attacks before both inside the Islamic Republic and elsewhere. The country also views the interviews as tantamount to a criminal interrogation.

Exclusive: ISIS columns heading from Syria toward Jordan, first targeting the border crossing
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 24, 2015/The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIS – was on the move Sunday, May 24, from central Syria to the Jordanian border, debkafile’s exclusive military sources report. They were advancing from the central town of Palmyra, which they seized last week, in columns of US-made tanks and armored cars taken booty in Iraq. No Syrian military force was there to block their advance on the border. Our sources report that the initial ISIS mission is to take control of the eastern section of the border, including the meeting point between the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi frontiers. They are estimated to cover the 250 km from Palmyra to the Jordanian border byTuesday, May 26, passing through Deir el-Zour in the east, which they already occupy. After the border crossing, ISIS is expected to seize villages and towns in northeastern Jordan, especially Ar Ruwayshid, where 800,000 Syrian refugees shelter. The Jordanian army, our sources report, had the foresight earlier this month to reinforce its western frontier against a potential ISIS assault on the frontier from point where it links with the Israeli and Syrian borders and up to the Tanaf border crossing, However, the Islamists are heading for the eastern sections whic the Jordanian army did not fortify with extra troops. It is important to note that the United States maintains in the Kingdom of Jordan 7,000 special operations troops and an air force unit to guard its northwestern border with Syria. Most are stationed at Jordanian military bases in Mafraq, opposite the central sector of the border with Syria. By reaching Jordan’s doorstep, the Islamic State is posing a challenge to President Barack Obama and forcing him to reach a decision, avoided thus far, about sending US troops to confront the terrorists. The ISIS approach may stir into action the clandestine cells the group maintains in the towns of central Jordan with strong local support. ISIS is popular in the kingdom, especially in the southern regions abutting on Israel and Saudi Arabia. Ma’an is seen as an Islamic State stronghold in southern Jordan.

Without a president for a year, Lebanon competes for new record
Inability to elect a successor to Michel Sulaiman threatens internal stability
May 24, 2015/Gulf News
By Joseph A. KechichianSenior Writer
Beirut: Fond of seeking entries in the Guinness World Records over the largest plates of hummus or tabbouleh, two favourite local dishes that are “100 per cent Lebanese,” politicians in this country are on the verge of establishing a new record — their inability to elect a new head-of-state.
Regrettably, few anticipate a resolution over the short-term as two leading coalitions — the pro-Iranian March 8 and pro-Arab March 14 — are deadlocked over their putative candidates. A full year into the vacancy, citizens remain aghast at worsening conditions, unable to alter or even influence their elites.
Except for their first gathering on April 23, 2014 that failed to elect a successor to President Michel Sulaiman by the required two-thirds majority, the Lebanese Parliament, which is composed of 128 deputies, scrubbed 25 successive sessions for lack of a quorum. Simply stated, the country’s politicians could not agree on the very identity of the next president who, it was worth repeating, only required a simple majority of 65 votes after the second ballot. Sulaiman’s term ended on May 25, 2014 and while the Lebanese became habituated to the vacancy, what functioned was haphazard, amid increasing turmoil on several fronts, topped by a huge refugee crisis, bubbling sectarian tensions, and regular clashes along the border with Syria especially in the Northern Arsal region. Resigned to their fates, the Lebanese pretended that their country functioned, and although life continued, it was neither felicitous nor risk-free.
Leading candidates
The two leading candidates for president are old-time rivals, 63-year-old Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces and the presumed March 14 alliance designee, and 81-year-old Free Patriotic Movement leader General Michel Aoun, of the March 8 alliance that is led by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Importantly, the two men have been adversaries since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, with Geagea sentenced to death for war crimes (but pardoned in full by parliament in 2005 because the trial and sentencing was done under Syrian tutelage that was known for its irregularities), and Aoun fleeing to the French Embassy in 1989 before he was whisked to Paris, at a time when he opposed Damascus. Aoun made a volte-face after his return to Beirut in 2005 and is now fully in the Syrian camp, believing that he can accede to the presidency with the Baath regime’s blessings.
To be sure, regional conflicts, especially the raging civil war in Syria, literally ensure that no presidential elections can be held in Lebanon anytime soon. Indeed, most observers believed that Beirut was caught in the regional whirlwinds that now pit Iran against Saudi Arabia, whose priorities are elsewhere. Both March 8 and March 14 backers are waging direct and/or proxy wars in Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, which means that the election of a president for Lebanon remained low on the list of priorities.
What complicated matters further were personal considerations, allegedly advanced by Aoun, who was engaged in behind the scenes negotiations for a deal that would guarantee the appointment of his son-in-law, Commando Regiment chief Brig General Chamel Roukoz, as army chief. According to widespread rumours, Aoun would only withdraw his candidacy from the presidential run if Roukoz ascended to the top military position, something that Sa’ad Hariri, the Future Movement, ruled out. Hariri supposedly informed Aoun that the appointment of a new army commander could not occur ahead of the election of a new head of state. Interestingly, the daily Al Nahar had reported that Hariri did not object to the Roukoz appointment, though he stressed that ending the presidential vacuum was a must before any other considerations. In the event, these machinations illustrated that sensitive military posts that required the utmost attention were neglected by political elites, unable to prioritise and serve the country’s national security interests.
The year-long delay that Beirut lived through was not uncommon in contemporary Lebanese history as the presidency was left vacant for months on end during the 1975-1990 civil war. More recently, a seven-month vacancy occurred in 2008, and only ended after Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar intervened to literally buy a term’s (six-years) worth of peace. Few believed that a similar arrangement was possible today even if local politicians salivated at such an option. Simply stated, sharp sectarian fault lines between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite populations, along with an equally troubling division among the country’s Christians, prevented the adoption of compromises. Comically, parliament’s sole accomplishment during the past year was to hold a single vote to extend its own mandate, with no prospects to fulfil a constitutional duty and elect a president. All to set a new Guinness World Record.

Asylum Seekers, Beheaders and Mega Mosques
One Month of Islam in Europe: April 2015
by Soeren Kern

Hackers claiming to belong to the Islamic State attacked TV5Monde, a French television network, and knocked it off the air globally. The network broadcasts in more than 200 countries. "Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control." — Yves Bigot, Director General, TV5Monde.
"We hate no one. We fight for our freedom and hence we object to totalitarian Islam, but we do not hate Muslims.... I am happy that we in the Netherlands and in Germany are allowed to demonstrate against each other. Without violence. Without hatred." — Geert Wilders, Dresden, Germany, April 13, 2015.
"I've come here [to Syria] to behead infidels. I am ready. At some point, we'll be in Switzerland." — Jihadist who has had a Swiss passport since 1995, in a social media message.

In Austria, a new report from the Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt) revealed that 34,070 illegal immigrants arrived in Austria in 2014, a 24% jump over 2013. Most of the migrants came from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Kosovo. More than half, roughly 20,750 of the migrants, hired smugglers to bring them to Austria; the remainder arrived on their own. More than two-thirds of the migrants arrived from Italy (51.6%) and Hungary (34.4%). On April 7, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called on the European Union to launch a military operation against the Islamic State. He also called for a crackdown on so-called foreign fighters in Europe. Kurz said: "We are a militarily neutral country, but in terms of the Islamic State, our position is clear: Humanitarian aid for the victims is necessary, but much more needs to be done." Also in April, a 17-year-old girl whose parents sent her to an Asian Muslim country to be married against her will was returned to Austria after she managed to alert the Austrian foreign ministry about her plight. Because of loopholes in the law, the girl's parents, Muslim immigrants still living in Austria, were not punished. As a future deterrent, Austrian Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstätter said the government would ask Parliament to approve an amendment to Section 106a of the Austrian criminal code to stipulate that anyone convicted of coercing someone into marriage could face up to five years in prison. Some 200 Austrian women and girls are subjected to a forced marriage each year.
Meanwhile, a "tolerance survey" found that 65% of Austrians are opposed to a family member converting to Islam, and 64% are opposed to the building of a mosque in their neighborhood. In Britain, Irfan Chishti, an imam from the Rochdale Council of Mosques, warned that the reach of the Islamic State is spreading "far and fast" throughout the British Muslim community. "No one is immune to it, he said. "The tentacles of ISIS really are spreading so quickly, not just into homes but into palms, via the internet on phones." On April 5, the Sunday Times reported as many as 100 Islamist teachers and teaching assistants could face lifetime bans from working in schools as a result of an investigation into their alleged links to the so-called Trojan Horse scandal. The paper revealed that the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), the profession's watchdog that can ban teachers from classrooms, was considering possible disciplinary cases against current and former staff members at schools in Birmingham, where hardline Islamists were attempting to take control of state schools. In London, a court ruled that a Libyan immigrant, convicted of more than 70 criminal offenses, would be allowed to remain in the UK because he is an alcoholic. The 53-year-old man, who first came to Britain to study aeronautical engineering in 1981, successfully argued that he would face physical punishment and imprisonment in his homeland, where alcohol consumption is illegal. Judge Jonathan Perkins ruled that returning the man to Libya would "expose him to a risk of ill-treatment" and "interfere disproportionately with his private and family life." In Birmingham, Mohammed Waqar, 23, and Mohammed Siddique, 60, pleaded not guilty to charges that they had beaten a ten-year-old boy at the Jamia Mosque in Sparkbrook for wrongly reciting the Koran. The two men face up to ten years in prison for the offense of cruelty to a person under 16.
More news about Islam in Britain during April 2015 can be found here.
In Bulgaria, public prosecutors pressed charges against eight Islamists for carrying out subversive activities. All of the defendants were accused of being members of an Islamic extremist group that spread Islamist propaganda, including calls for the establishment of Islamic Sharia law in Bulgaria. The move is part of a broader crackdown on Islamic extremism in the country, where Muslims make up approximately 10% of the total population. In Denmark, a 23-year-old man from Copenhagen had his passport confiscated after he was suspected of attempting to join the Islamic State in Syria. It was the first use of a new law that came into effect on March 1 that gives police the right to confiscate passports and impose travel bans on Danish citizens suspected of planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight. At least 115 Danes have become foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, 19 of whom have been killed, according to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service PET. In France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls revealed that more than 1,550 French citizens or residents are involved in terrorist networks in Syria and Iraq. The figures have almost tripled since January 2014. Addressing the National Assembly on April 13, Valls said that a controversial new law aimed at increasing the powers of French intelligence services was needed to prevent another Charlie Hebdo-style of attack in France. The law allows the intelligence services to carry out surveillance activities without first obtaining a judge's authorization. Valls refuted the idea that the law is the equivalent to a French "Patriot Act." An opinion poll published on April 13 found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of French citizens were in favor of restricting civil liberties in order to combat terrorism. Only 33% said they were opposed to having their freedoms reduced, although this number increased significantly among younger respondents.
On April 27, the Justice Ministry said that French police are investigating 125 terrorism cases connected to the conflict in Syria. Most of the cases involve people hoping to help the Islamic State. Of the 166 people who have been taken in for questioning, 113 have been jailed and are awaiting trial. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told Le Parisien newspaper that 39 cases have been opened, and 35 people charged, since the beginning of 2015. On April 22, French police arrested Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a 24-year-old Algerian computer science student who was suspected of planning an attack on Christian churches in Villejuif, a suburb south of Paris. He was arrested after apparently shooting himself by accident. Police found three Kalashnikov assault rifles, handguns, ammunition and bulletproof vests, as well as documents linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, in his car and home. Police said Ghlam had expressed a desire to join the Islamic State in Syria. On April 8, hackers claiming to belong to the Islamic State attacked TV5Monde, a French television network, and knocked it off the air globally. The network broadcasts in more than 200 countries. "We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State," the broadcaster's director general Yves Bigot said. The hackers accused French President François Hollande of having committed "an unforgivable mistake" by joining a US-led military coalition carrying out air strikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria. On April 4, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, called for the number of mosques in France to be doubled over the next two years. Speaking at a gathering of French Islamic organisations in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget, Boubakeur said that 2,200 mosques are "not enough" for the "seven million Muslims living in France."
On April 15, a 21-year-old Muslim was arrested after destroying more than 200 gravestones at a Catholic cemetery in Saint-Roch de Castres, a town near Toulouse in southern France. Police said the man was sent to the hospital because he was in a "delusional state and unable to communicate."Meanwhile, a 15-year-old Muslim girl in the northeastern town of Charleville-Mezieres was banned from class twice for wearing a long black skirt, which the head teacher considered to be a religious symbol and a violation of France's secularism laws. In Germany, Dutch politician Geert Wilders addressed a rally of the German grassroots anti-Islamization movement known as PEGIDA in the eastern city of Dresden on April 13. Wilders said that there is "nothing wrong with being proud German patriots. There is nothing wrong with wanting Germany to remain free and democratic. There is nothing wrong with preserving our own Judeo-Christian civilization. That is our duty." He added:
"Most of the politicians, media, churches and academics are looking away from the threat of Islamization. They are afraid. But you are not. "We hate no one. We fight for our freedom and hence we object to totalitarian Islam, but we do not hate Muslims. Neither do we hate our political opponents who are protesting here in Dresden against us. I am happy that we in Germany and the Netherlands are allowed to demonstrate against each other. Without violence. Without hatred."  On April 8, Federal Police Chief Dieter Romann revealed that more than 57,000 people had tried to enter the country illegally in 2014, a 75% jump in comparison to 2013. In addition, police arrested 27,000 people who had managed to enter the country and were living there illegally, a 40% jump. Most of the illegal immigrants were from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Kosovo, Serbia, Somalia and Syria. On April 22, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a center-right think tank based in Berlin, announced the launch of the "Muslimisches Forum Deutschland." The new forum aims to promote the voices of liberal Muslims in order to counter-balance the influence of conservative Muslim groups in Germany.
On April 30, police in Oberursel, a town near Frankfurt, foiled an alleged Islamic terror attack on a professional cycling race. Authorities detained a 35-year-old Turkish-German man and his 34-year-old Turkish wife. Police were alerted after the man attempted to purchase large amounts of bomb-making materials under a false name. Police said the couple was active in Frankfurt's Salafist community and were supporters of al-Qaeda. In Greece, Chatitze Molla Sali, 65-year-old Muslim widow in north-eastern province of Thrace has taken an inheritance dispute to the European Court of Human Rights. After the woman's husband died in 2008, she was to receive his estate, but his family disputed the inheritance based on Islamic Sharia law. Although Sali's won her case in a civil court, Greece's Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that matters of inheritance involving members of the Muslim minority must be settled by a mufti (Islamic scholar), in accordance with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which allows minority communities in Greece and Turkey to live according to their existing religious customs. The Greek government is apparently wary of abandoning the Lausanne Treaty for fear of retaliation against the Greek community in Turkey. Sali said: "I was overwhelmed. But I decided to fight and take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. I'm a Greek citizen and Europe must uphold my rights." In Hungary, plans emerged for the construction of a mega-mosque in Budapest. A YouTube video posted by the Turkish government's Religious Affairs Directorate, the Diyanet, shows an architectural rendition of a sprawling complex that includes a mosque with four towering minarets, a cultural center, a guest house and extensive gardens.
Also in April, controversy erupted over the Hungarian edition of French author Michel Houellebecq's new novel "Submission," which has a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood winning the French presidential elections and introducing Islamic Sharia law in the country. While the cover of the French edition has no images whatsoever, the Hungarian cover shows an image of Mona Lisa covered in an Islamic veil. The French newspaper L'Obs claimed that it is a manifestation of "Islamophobia." In Italy, supporters of the Islamic State posted photographs of well-known landmarks in Rome other Italian cities. The pictures included small pieces of paper that included the logo of the Islamic State along with threatening notes. One read: "We are on your streets, we are locating targets." Another read: "We are waiting for zero hour."On April 24, police arrested 10 members of a jihadist cell that was accused of planning terror attacks in Italy, including a possible assassination attempt against the Pope. The cell, comprised of Pakistanis and Afghans, was operating from the island of Sardinia. Among those detained was Sultan Wali Khan, the head of the Islamic community of Olbia, a city in northeastern Sardinia. Police said intelligence intercepts indicated that Khan had been in regular contact with two Pakistani suicide bombers who were believed to have made their way to Rome. At least eight members of the cell remain at large. Meanwhile, police in Sicily arrested 15 Muslim immigrants from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal for allegedly throwing 12 fellow passengers into the Mediterranean Sea during a voyage from Libya to Italy on the night of April 14. The victims were murdered because they were Christians. The men are being charged with homicide "aggravated by religious hatred."
In the Netherlands, a group of Muslim parents are suing the Dutch government for failing to prevent their children from travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State. The lawsuit is being initiated by Mohamed Nidalha, a Moroccan immigrant living in Leiden, whose Dutch-born son Reda is now in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State. In an interview with Radio West, Nidalha said he went to the police asking for help, but they told him they could do nothing because Reda, who is now 20 years old, was an adult when he decided to travel to Syria last summer. According to Nidalha, Reda was radicalized through the Internet, where he came into contact with jihadist recruiter aptly named Abu Jihad. In a phone call, Reda told his sister that he travelled to Syria to "help small children and raped women." Nidalha said he decided to file the lawsuit after Turkish police arrested a 27-year-old Dutch woman from Leiden in early April who was allegedly attempting to travel to Syria. Turkish authorities said the woman, identified only as Monique S., was arrested at a hotel in Antalya, where she was waiting to be taken to Syria. Based on an Interpol arrest warrant, Turkey sent the woman back to the Netherlands. According to Nidalha, there is a double standard at play because Monique was returned to the Netherlands but Reda was not. Meanwhile, a 23-year-old jihadist from Amsterdam named Omar H. was reportedly killed on the battlefield in northern Syria. He had slipped out of the Netherlands in late 2014. The Islamic State congratulated Omar's parents over the death of their son. Another Dutch jihadi said: "Omar has become a martyr, just like he had hoped. It sounds cruel, but I am glad for him and his family."
In Norway, the Dagbladet newspaper on April 23 reported that an Islamic State fighter who was filmed beheading a man in the Syrian city of Raqqa is a Norwegian who goes by the name Abu Shahrazaad al-Narwegi (Arabic for the Norwegian). The victim was a former Sharia judge who had tried to escape from the Islamic State and settle in Qatar. Norwegian police estimate that more than 140 Norwegians have joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In Spain, police in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia arrested eleven members of a jihadist cell that was planning to behead a random person in Barcelona. The cell, which prosecutors say was actively recruiting jihadists for the Islamic State, is also accused of planning to bomb public and private buildings in Catalonia, including a Jewish bookstore in Barcelona. The cell — known as the Islamic Brotherhood for the Preaching of Jihad — was broken up on April 8, when more than 350 police officers conducted seven raids in five Catalan municipalities. According to police, the cell's primary objective was to show that terrorist attacks such as those perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could be carried out in the West. In Switzerland, a 25-year-old man became the first suspected Swiss jihadist to be prevented from travelling abroad when he was arrested at Zurich airport on April 7 before boarding a flight to Turkey. The individual, whose identity has not been made public, was released on April 20. He has been banned from travelling and has had his passport and ID confiscated. According to the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service, there have been 55 known cases of people leaving Switzerland between 2001 and September 2014 to fight in jihadist conflicts — including 35 just since May 2013. Of the total, 31 went to Iraq or Syria, while 24 went to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia On April 18, a 21-year-old Swiss-Turkish jihadist who was holding his wife and child "hostage" in Syria released them near the town of Reyhanli, on the Syrian-Turkish border. The woman, a German national who converted to Islam, followed the man to Turkey in October 2014 thinking that the couple would be vacationing there. Once in Turkey, however, the husband took the woman to the Idlib region of Syria and held here there against her will. The child was born in March.
The woman's plight came to light in early March, when Swiss public television's Rundschau news program aired an audio clip from the woman saying: "I want to go home. Please help me."The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office said the man, who has had a Swiss passport since 1995, joined the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria and Lebanon. In a social media message, he wrote: "I've come here [to Syria] to behead infidels. I am ready. At some point we'll be in Switzerland.

*/Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.