Where is the PM when Quebec Needs Him?: Lysiane Gagnon, Globe & Mail, Jan. 20, 2016— Terrorism doesn’t fit into Justin Trudeau’s sunny views.
West Ignoring Grave Threat from IS in Libya, Israeli Terror Experts Warn: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2016 — Despite battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the West is woefully neglecting the spread of the terrorist group in Libya…
Tunisia's Fragile Post-Revolutionary Order: Daniel Zisenwine, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2016— On June 26, 2015, a lone gunman attacked a beachfront hotel in the Tunisian city of Sousse, exclusively targeting foreign tourists.
Goodbye Iran, Hello Israel? Sudan Changes its Approach: Roi Kais, Ynet, Jan. 21, 2016 — Relations between Israel and Sudan may be experiencing an unexpected, albeit slight, thaw.
Terrorism is a Crime Against the Human Race. Trudeau Should Say So: Tasha Kheiriddin, IPolitics, Jan. 18, 2015
This One-Eyed Terrorist is the Leader of the al-Qaida Faction Behind Burkina Faso Attack: Stewart Bell, National Post, Jan. 17, 2016
Libya's Descent into Chaos: Yehudit Ronen, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2016
Senegal, a Peaceful Islamic Democracy, Is Jarred by Fears of Militancy: Dionne Searcey, New York Times, Dec. 12, 2015
Globe & Mail, Jan. 20, 2016
Terrorism doesn’t fit into Justin Trudeau’s sunny views. The Prime Minister didn’t see fit to join the hundreds of Quebeckers who gathered on Monday to honour the memory of the six Quebeckers killed by Islamist terrorists in Ouagadougou, although the day before he made a point of visiting a mosque in Peterborough, Ont., that had been damaged by arson.
Six humanitarian workers from Lac-Beauport, a suburb of Quebec City, were killed last Friday in Burkina Faso’s capital in attacks claimed by a group known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The day before, another Quebecker, Tahar Amer-Ouali, was killed in a terrorist attack by the Islamic State in Jakarta. Not since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have so many Canadians died in terrorist attacks.
Apparently, the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t see the point in changing Mr. Trudeau’s schedule so that he could attend the grieving ceremony in Lac-Beauport on Monday. The least he could have done would have been to express a bit of emotion and anger. “Instead,” wrote La Presse columnist Vincent Marissal, “what we had were a mild condemnation and empty words, and nothing about the government’s plan to fight terrorism.”
Mr. Trudeau reacted to the tragedy that struck home with a feeble, conventional expression of condolences, as if he were a reluctant visitor to a funeral home. In a statement issued Saturday, he said he was “deeply saddened by the senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians,” phrasing that suggests these acts were done randomly by a few mad people with no specific agenda.
Last November, he had the same reaction to the mass killings in Paris. Alone among world leaders – even U.S. President Barack Obama departed from his characteristic phlegm to express his revolt at the attacks and resolve in fighting terrorism – Mr. Trudeau reacted with a brief and spineless expression of condolences that left many observers puzzled.
The Paris attacks were not enough to change his plan to recall Canadian fighter jets from the coalition fighting the Islamic State. He stuck to his candid pacifist stand even as the other members of the coalition were stepping up their military efforts. The result is that Canada has lost its standing among its allies.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was shut out of a high-level strategic meeting between the coalition partners being held Wednesday in Paris. Even Italy and the Netherlands will be represented, but Canada’s chair will be empty. The government hasn’t yet announced the plan that is supposed to replace the fighter jets mission, nor did it say how it intends to protect the hundreds of Canadians involved in humanitarian work in Africa (about a dozen Quebec non-governmental organizations are operating in Burkina Faso).
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was too warlike. Now, we have the other extreme: a prime minister who hates conflicts and sees the world through a New Age prism in which everything can be solved with love and understanding. Unfortunately, the country he leads doesn’t live in a dream world. Maybe Mr. Trudeau’s timidity is also due to the fear of raising anti-Muslim sentiments. But this is a misplaced fear: Canadians are not stupid and they know that the huge majority of Muslims have nothing to do with radical Islam. And Muslims are often the first victims of the murderous groups who reign by terror over large parts of the Middle East and Africa.
Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2016
Despite battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the West is woefully neglecting the spread of the terrorist group in Libya, where it poses a supreme danger not only to the Middle East and North Africa, but also to Europe, according to Israeli terrorism researchers.
“Libya is the only country besides Syria and Iraq where IS controls a large territory and controls government infrastructure, including a power plant, port, and economical ports,” said Reuven Erlich, a former senior officer in military intelligence and currently the head of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC). “We think that IS’s establishment in Libya poses a grave threat and it needs to be taken very seriously by Europe and the US.”
Several researchers at ITIC, which operates under the Israel Intelligence and Heritage Commemorations Center, spent a full year examining IS’s activity in Libya, and this week are publishing their worrying conclusions in a 175-paper report, entitled “ISIS in Libya: a Major Regional and International Threat.”
“So far, there hasn’t been an effective response by the international community,” Erlich told The Times of Israel. “The American and European strategy focuses on IS’s infrastructure in Syria and Iraq. But it all but ignores Libya. Libya is not just another country. It’s a country where IS rules over territory — the only place besides Iraq and Syria where it actually rules over parts of land – and therefore the US and Europe would be well advised to pay more attention to this issue and compose a strategy relating to Libya. Otherwise, the problem will soon find itself in their backyard.”
There has been the “occasional targeted killing of a terrorist,” but by and large in Libya, Erlich lamented, the Americans and the Europeans “have no comprehensive strategy regarding the combat against IS. And that’s a problem that should not be ignored.”
Since the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been in a perpetual state of civil war, making it fertile ground for the infiltration of a terrorist group such as IS. But while a large coalition has been formed to attack the organization in its home base in Syria and tackle it in Iraq, it has been allowed to fester mostly uninterrupted in North Africa. “The branch of ISIS in Libya exploited the lack of a functioning government and the absence of international intervention to establish itself in the region around Sirte and from there to aspire to spread throughout Libya,” according to the ITIC report.
On February 18, 2015, IS conquered the large coastal city of Sirte in north-central Libya, which has since been functioning as the group’s capital in the country. “Sirte has a seaport, international airport, army bases, economic projects, oil installations and various government facilities. It is also Muammar Qaddafi’s birthplace and his tribe’s power base,” reads the report, an advance copy of which was made available to The Times of Israel.
In and around Sirte, IS built up a large military infrastructure for terrorism and guerrilla warfare against targets inside and outside Libya, the researchers write. Domestically, the organization attacks mainly government-supported military and militias, but has also executed Copts from Egypt and Christians from Eritrea. “The establishment of ISIS in Libya increases the chaos and anarchy already plaguing the country, making it difficult to stabilize a central government,” the 175-page report reads.
Outside the country, IS’s primary target is Tunisia, due to its relative weakness, and also because it has symbolic value as the birthplace of the Arab Spring, according to the researchers. In the future, however, IS may increase its support for jihadist organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan, the report warns. The Libyan branch of IS also has close ties with Nigeria’s jihadist Boko Haram and with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the group’s franchise in the Sinai Peninsula. Through Libya’s 1,115 kilometer-long border with Egypt, the local IS fighters may also smuggle weapons into the country, which may make their way to Gaza, the researchers posit.
Westerns should be particularly concerned about Libya’s proximity to Italy, which “makes ISIS’s presence there potentially dangerous not only to Italy but to all of Europe,” the document warns. “Their closeness may encourage ISIS to send terrorist operatives to Italy and other European countries once it has established itself in Sirte and other locations.” IS has already threatened terror attacks in Rome, which as the seat of the Vatican represents the Catholic world.
Some countries — such as France, the US, Egypt and Tunisia — are increasingly aware of the threats posed by an IS stronghold in Libya, the authors concede. “However, while the strategy the United States has implemented against ISIS since September 2014 professes to provide a comprehensive response to the challenge posed by ISIS, in reality it does not, because it focuses on Iraq and Syria. Therefore, it does not provide a response to ISIS’s spread to other countries, especially Libya and Egypt, and to the local and regional threats inherent therein,” they write.
“To deal with the overall threats of ISIS’s entrenchment in Libya, the United States and its European and Arab allies will have to change their concept of the anti-ISIS campaign,” the study concludes. “Their strategy should be extended to Libya and the other countries where ISIS is trying to establish itself, which would make it more comprehensive.”
Security experts widely acknowledge that IS gaining a foothold in Libya could have dramatic implications, but not everyone agrees with the Israeli researchers’ claim that the West is not doing enough to counter the threat. “In Europe, people are talking about it, the French and the Italians for example. The Americans are not talking about it. The Americans don’t like talking about it because if you talk about it there is the presumption of the need for action,” said François Heisbourg, a former security adviser to the French defense minister who currently chairs the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Over the last two months, the French air force has been flying numerous reconnaissance flights over Libya and it is likely that Paris is involved in other forms of information collection as well, he said. “Would I be surprised if there were eventual French bombing operations in Libya? No, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2016
On June 26, 2015, a lone gunman attacked a beachfront hotel in the Tunisian city of Sousse, exclusively targeting foreign tourists. By the time he was shot to death by the security forces, the 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui had murdered thirty-eight people, many of them British tourists vacationing in the seaside resort. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) quickly claimed responsibility for the atrocity.
One of the worst in Tunisian history, the attack occurred just over three months after the killing of twenty-two people (including seventeen foreign nationals) at the Bardo National Museum in the capital city of Tunis. While both attacks were clearly aimed at Tunisia's tourist industry, a vital source of foreign revenue that had been struggling to regain its footing since the 2010-11 revolution, they also threatened to undermine Tunisia's tenuous democratic system established in the years following the revolution.
Further endangering this system is the large number of young Tunisians (estimated at several thousand) who have rushed to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of ISIS. There is much about which to be concerned, given the untested capacity of the country's new political structures to confront such widespread jihadist activity (in addition to the host of other challenges faced). While many Western governments aptly view Tunisia as a bright light in an otherwise bleak regional landscape, it would be misleading to consider post-revolutionary Tunisia a foolproof success story. In order to truly succeed, the government will need to address many lingering economic and political issues as well as inspire the younger generation and reduce the appeal of violent jihadists
The uprising was triggered in December 2010 by the self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor from the minor town of Sidi Bou Zid, who set himself on fire in front of the local government offices in a desperate act of protest. While he was not the first Tunisian to embrace such a desperate act, his image reverberated across diverse segments of Tunisian society. Mounting frustration over deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, along with rising resentment against a corrupt regime that seemed out of touch with the lives of ordinary Tunisians unleashed a torrent of anger against the government.
Bouazizi was inaccurately presented on social media as an unemployed university graduate, forced to sell produce to support his family. This cyber image resonated with scores of young Tunisians, who, frustrated by their stalled economic progress, identified with this fictional image. Other segments of society sided with the frustrated, educated younger generation. These included the population of peripheral towns like Sidi Bou Zid, which took to the streets after Bouazizi's deed. Spontaneous protests spread across the country, reaching the capital in early January. Initial demands for social justice and improved economic opportunities gave way to unprecedented calls for President Ben Ali to step down. On January 13, 2011, the president delivered a televised address to the nation, in which he claimed that he "understood" the protesters, vowed to address their grievances and pledged not to seek reelection. These statements did little to calm the demonstrators, who returned to the streets of central Tunis the next day. By early evening of January 14, Tunisia's media announced that Ben Ali and his family had fled the country for Saudi Arabia where they received asylum.
News of Ben Ali's departure shocked the public. Few anticipated such an outcome, and many feared for the country's internal stability. At first, some of Ben Ali's cronies believed that political turmoil in the country had ended with the president's flight, that their own positions were secure, and that Tunisia would maintain its existing political structure. That assumption was quickly proved false by angry protesters who resumed their demonstrations, demanding that the Ben Ali regime be completely dismantled. From the demonstrators' perspective, the Tunisian revolution was far from over. As the protests intensified, the Tunisian military refused to intervene or suppress the demonstrations. The remaining officials of the Ben Ali regime ultimately relented; by early March, the ruling Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique party was dismantled. A veteran Tunisian political figure, Beji Caid Essebsi, was appointed interim prime minister, and the country embarked on a transition process aimed at transforming the political system and establishing democracy.
Tunisia's potential for restructuring its political system was considered high, owing in large part to features specific to the country. These include a tradition of political moderation and compromise and a homogeneous, well-educated society. The fact that the military largely removed itself from political life also suggested that, unlike other countries, the armed forces would not intervene. But the obstacles the country faced throughout the ensuing years were substantial and could potentially have disrupted these efforts at any phase. Tunisia also came under stress as a result of the revolution in nearby Libya, which sent thousands of refugees into its territory. On the domestic front, there was no guarantee that Tunisian society would be able to construct a bottom-up democratic system and navigate a process that would avoid a "winner takes all" mentality between rival political forces.
Difficult relations between Tunisia's Islamists and the secular forces that opposed them presented a major challenge to efforts to construct a new political system. The Ben Ali regime had taken an uncompromising position toward Islamist movements, particularly the most organized of them, the Ennahda (Renaissance) faction, whose activities were banned while thousands of its supporters and leaders had been imprisoned and tortured. Some of its leaders had gone into exile abroad, including the movement's leading figure, Rachid al-Ghannouchi. There was no way of knowing how the Islamist movement would fare under the changed political circumstances of a post-revolutionary state…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Ynet, Jan. 21, 2016
Relations between Israel and Sudan may be experiencing an unexpected, albeit slight, thaw. A few days ago, an "international Sudanese dialogue forum" came to a close in Sudan, aimed at uniting the various dominant parties and armed groups in the country. During the forum, which was launched in October by President Omar al-Bashir, the groups discussed various topics such as state law, personal freedoms and foreign policy.
Surprisingly, the issue of normalizing relations with Israel came up a number of times over the three months.
"There is no justification for Sudan having hostile relations with Israel, because it will pay a political and economical price for it," said the head of the Sudanese Independent Party, who viewed the lifting of US sanctions against Sudan as the opening point for normalizing ties with Jerusalem. The sanctions were put in place around two decades ago as a response to Sudan's support for terrorism.
The statements of the Sudanese Independent Party chairman were surprising, but not as surprising as those of Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour. "The matter of normalized relations with Israel is something that can be looked into," Ghandour said during a convention in the capital Khartoum, in response to an argument heard at the event that Sudan's belligerent stance towards Israel is an embarrassment to Washington. According to this argument, improved ties with Israel would open the door to creating better ties with the US government. Ghandour's announcement stirred up controversy in Arabic media, leading him to clarify that Sudan is not linking its relations with any specific country to those with another state.
Participants at the forum understood the message that the foreign minister was sending them and several dozen said that they support the establishment of ties with Israel under certain conditions. "The Arab League supports this approach," said one forum member, Ibrahim Sliman.
Members of al-Bashir's ruling party say that there has been no discussion relating to relations with Israel in any party meetings. Al-Bashir, who is subject to an international arrest warrant by the Hague for war crimes, said in November 2012 that normalization with Israel is a "red line." His declaration came shortly after Israel attacked a weapons factory in the center of Khartoum.
The surprising dialogue that has arisen surrounding Israel-Sudan relations is likely due to the dramatic developments in the Middle East over the last few months. Nonetheless, it seems that full normalization is still some way off. Sudan appears to have been edging closer to the moderate Sunni camp over the last two years, while distancing itself from Iran's Shi'i leadership. Two weeks ago, Sudan cut its diplomatic ties with Iran following an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Over the last few years foreign and Sudanese media have addressed Israel Air Force attacks inside Sudan, aimed at, according to the reports, preventing weapons deliveries to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah.
Relations between Sudan and "resistance movements," i.e. Hamas and Hezbollah, strengthened during the 1990s, particularly since al-Bashir's assumption of power. Sudan's support for Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden embroiled it in a dispute with the US, which hurt Khartoum both politically and economically.
The change began in September 2014 when al-Bashir closed Iranian centers in Sudan and expelled the Iranian cultural attaché under the claim that he had spread Shi'ism in the Sunni country. Sudan was one of the first countries to join the war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are supported by Iran. The peak was reached with Sudan's severing of diplomatic ties with Iran two weeks ago, a step taken by a number of other Sunni countries.
It is not inconceivable that Sudan's actions are a means of winning financial rewards from Saudi Arabia and that it is interested in normalizing ties with Israel in order to improve its financial situation. It is worth remembering that one American visitor who leaked to Wikileaks quoted an adviser to President al-Bashar, Mustafa Osman Ismail, saying in a meeting with senior state officials: "If things with the US go well, you will help us ease matters with Israel, your closest ally in the region."
Terrorism is a Crime Against the Human Race. Trudeau Should Say So: Tasha Kheiriddin, IPolitics, Jan. 18, 2015—Last week, seven Canadians were killed in two separate terrorist attacks.
This One-Eyed Terrorist is the Leader of the al-Qaida Faction Behind Burkina Faso Attack: Stewart Bell, National Post, Jan. 17, 2016 —The siege at the Splendid Hotel was still underway when the North African branch of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the bloodshed, which it said was to punish the “disbelieving West” and incite youths to “jihad in the cause of Allah.”
Libya's Descent into Chaos: Yehudit Ronen, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2016—The overthrow of Libya's long-reigning dictator Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi by an international coalition in the summer and autumn of 2011was hailed at the time as paving the way for a "New Libya."
Senegal, a Peaceful Islamic Democracy, Is Jarred by Fears of Militancy: Dionne Searcey, New York Times, Dec. 12, 2015— Raids for suspects in the Paris attacks flashed across the television at the Sow family house in this small village along Senegal’s coastline.