Tag: ISLAMIC WORLD

SAUDI CROWN PRINCE “MBS” DISCUSSES MODERNIZATION, REFORM, & ISRAEL DURING U.S. TRIP

Our Fair Weathered Saudi Friend: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 8, 2018— Have we entered a new period of sweetness and light with our Arab neighbors?

Saudi Arabia Can Win Islam’s War of Ideas: John Hannah, Foreign Policy, Mar. 15, 2018— When U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the White House later this month, there will be no shortage of urgent issues to discuss

The Saudi Arabia-Middle East Studies Love Affair Is Over: A.J. Caschetta, New English Review, March 19, 2018— There’s a new political order taking shape in the Middle East, and it’s shaking up the academic order that has dominated Middle East studies for over three decades.

The Qatar Opposition: Avoiding the Hariri Miscalculation: Irina Tsukerman, BESA, Mar. 12, 2018— Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s tendered his resignation while he was in Riyadh, purportedly under pressure from the Saudi government.

 

On Topic Links

Saudi Crown Prince Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist, Talks up Future Ties: Times of Israel, Apr. 2, 2018

What a Crown Prince Wants: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 25, 2018

Saudi Arabia Signals Ambition for $80 Oil Price: Javier Blas, Bloomberg, Apr. 10, 2018

Qatar’s farewell to the GCC?: Stasa Salacanin, Alarby, Mar. 25, 2018

 

 

OUR FAIR WEATHERED SAUDI FRIEND

Caroline Glick

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 8, 2018

Have we entered a new period of sweetness and light with our Arab neighbors? On Monday The Atlantic published an interview the magazine’s editor Jeffrey Goldberg conducted with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Hours after its publication, the responses began pouring in.

The basic line, repeated by all major newspapers, is that the Saudi crown prince recognized Israel’s right to exist. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt gushed about it on his Twitter feed. Referring to the interview as “amazing,” Greenblatt wrote that “all should watch [Muhammad bin Salman]. He is far from perfect [and] there is a long road ahead, but in a region long dominated by hateful despots, [the prince] envisions a very different future for Muslims, Jews, Christians and all in the Middle East.” Other commentators were even more exhilarated.

Are the prince’s fans correct? Is his ascendance to the Saudi crown the harbinger of a reformation of Islam and the beginning of a new era in Islamic relations with the Jews and the world as a whole? Not really. Most of the reports on the interview have focused on the prince’s remarks in which he ostensibly recognized Israel’s right to exist. But did he actually recognize Israel’s right to exist? Did he distinguish himself from all the other Arab leaders who to date have recognized that Israel exists but not admitted it has a right to exist? Let’s check the text.

Goldberg asked the prince, “Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?” Muhammad replied, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.” Does this mean that he recognized Israel’s right to exist in the Land of Israel? Maybe. Maybe not.

Where is the Israelis’ “own land”? In Jerusalem? In New York? Goldberg tried to find out. He asked, “You have no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” Muhammad responded, “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.” In other words, it certainly appears that the prince has a religious-based objection to the existence of Israel. Sort of.

As Dr. Harold Rhode, a recently retired adviser on Islamic Affairs in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense explains, during much of his conversation with Goldberg, Muhammad engaged in the Islamic practice of “taqiyya,” or dissimulation for the benefit of Islam. According to the Koran, Muslims are permitted to lie about Islam to advance the faith. This conclusion is easily reached when considering his responses to other questions, which like his answer regarding Israel, were deliberately imprecise. Goldberg asked Muhammad simple direct questions and he responded with answers that were either misleading or open to multiple interpretations.

Consider their discussion of Wahhabism. Since Saudi Arabia was established 85 years ago, it has been governed under Wahhabist Islam. Wahhabism, a school of Islam founded in the 18th century by the radical Islamic scholar Ibn Abdel el-Wahhab, views itself as the only legitimate version of Islam. Wahhabism calls for the abrogation of all novel interpretations of Islam. It aspires to Islamic global dominion. And upholds jihad. Since at least 1979, the Saudis have invested billions of petrodollars in spreading Wahhabist Islam throughout the world. But when Goldberg asked Muhammad about those petrodollars, the crown prince acted like he didn’t know what Goldberg was talking about. “This Wahhabism, please define it for us. We’re not familiar with it. We don’t know about it,” Muhammad said innocently.

Goldberg responded with amazement, “What do you mean you don’t know about it?” Unmoved, he responded, “What is Wahhabism?” Goldberg replied, “You’re the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. You know what Wahhabism is.” Muhammad countered, “No one can define this Wahhabism.” He then proceeded to deny any connection with the creed of Saudi Arabia while boldly and entirely dishonestly presenting the kingdom as a paragon of religious tolerance where all forms of Islam, including Shi’ite Islam, are treated equally.

Another statement from Muhammad that generated significant interest was his claim that there is no Islamic religious duty to propagate Islam in the non-Islamic world today. In his words, “Today in non-Muslim countries, every human being has the right to choose his or her belief. Religious books can be bought in every country. The message is delivered. Now it is no longer a duty for us to fight for the propagation of Islam.”

While Muhammad’s statement is refreshingly straightforward, its meaning is less so. He made his statement as a way of arguing that the calls for jihad and the establishment of a caliphate by the Muslim Brotherhood are un-Islamic. Certainly, it would be significant if the Saudis stopped funding the radical mosques they founded worldwide. It would be even more significant if he said that his regime is ordering the mosques the Saudis established throughout the world to preach peaceful coexistence with the non-Islamic world and to reject jihad. But he said nothing of the sort. Moreover, it is hard to take his claims seriously since he then went on to deny any familiarity with Wahhabism, the creed that has ruled his kingdom for four generations…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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SAUDI ARABIA CAN WIN ISLAM’S WAR OF IDEAS

John Hannah

Foreign Policy, Mar. 15, 2018

 

…Nearly two decades after 9/11, America’s greatest failure in the war on terrorism has almost certainly been its inability to delegitimize the extremist ideas fueling groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The United States has killed tens of thousands of fighters, disrupted revenue streams, and shuttered social media accounts. What it hasn’t done effectively is discredit the hate-filled doctrine that continues to draw a steady stream of recruits to the terrorist cause — leaving it to confront this unsettling reality: By an order of magnitude, al Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama understood that we wouldn’t be able to just kill our way out of the conflict with radical Islamists. Each devoted considerable resources to what’s been called the “battle for hearts and minds.” Whether through programs to promote democracy or counter violent extremism, both administrations made ample efforts to dissuade Muslims around the world from the path of murderous jihad — but to little avail.

What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply can’t. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world.

Unfortunately, for decades that power was wielded largely for ill. In an effort to counter the threat of Iran’s 1979 Shiite revolution, and burnish their legitimacy at home with powerful religious conservatives, Saudi rulers plowed billions of dollars annually into spreading the kingdom’s extremely harsh version of Islam — aka Wahhabism — around the world. Saudi funds built mosques and schools on every continent. They trained radical clerics and teachers to staff them. They distributed editions of the Koran and school textbooks heavily skewed toward messages of hatred against anyone — including other Muslims — who failed to toe the line of Wahhabi orthodoxy. In this way, millions of young believers from Mali to Malaysia, from Belgium to Bangladesh, have had their idea of what it means to be a good Muslim insidiously shaped by a narrative that systematically dehumanized the “other” — creating a large pool of potential recruits who inevitably had a heightened susceptibility to the siren song of jihadism.

Enter the enormous promise of Mohammed bin Salman. For months, the crown prince and his closest advisors have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” He’s vowed that “now is the time to get rid of it” and declared that “we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”

It’s not just talk, either. At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hard-line clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. Women can now open businesses without the approval of a male guardian. They’re being allowed to enter the military for the first time and attend sporting and cultural events. This summer, the ban on women driving will disappear.

Now, the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. His willingness to “destroy” the monster of global jihadism that the kingdom helped create needs to be turned into a concrete action plan. To their credit, the Saudis have already invested heavily in a center focused on countering extremism in cyberspace. Trump should press to make the ideological battle an institutionalized feature of the U.S.-Saudi dialogue. A bilateral working group should quietly be established to develop a strategy that can be jointly monitored. More than a decade ago, the U.S. Treasury did something similar to help the Saudis get on top of their terror finance problem, and by all accounts the collaboration has produced significant results.

There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished — this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification. Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

On the Saudi side, the effort could be well led by a Mohammed bin Salman ally, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the new head of the powerful Muslim World League — an organization once at the forefront of exporting Wahhabism. Mohammed bin Issa has already taken extraordinary steps such as visiting a French synagogue and issuing an unprecedented letter condemning Holocaust denial. A masterstroke would be taking on an independent advisor in the mold of Farah Pandith, a Muslim-American woman of Indian descent who served for five years as the U.S. representative to Muslim communities. In that job, she traveled to 80 countries, witnessing firsthand Wahhabism’s destructive impact at a local level. While a fierce critic of the Saudi legacy, Pandith also understands the opportunity that Mohammed bin Salman presents and the imperative of converting it into concrete, positive change on the ground…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

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THE SAUDI ARABIA-MIDDLE EAST STUDIES LOVE AFFAIR IS OVER

A.J. Caschetta

New English Review, March 19, 2018

 

There’s a new political order taking shape in the Middle East, and it’s shaking up the academic order that has dominated Middle East studies for over three decades. With Iran, Qatar, Turkey, and what’s left of Assad’s Syria on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, and Israel on the other, academics are finding new enemies and new allies. Saudi Arabia, once an important ally and benefactor of Middle East specialists, suddenly finds itself subjected to the contempt usually reserved for Israel.Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince.

Under the old order, the field of Middle East studies benefitted enormously from what Israeli diplomat Dore Gold calls Saudi Arabia’s “massive campaign to bring Wahhabi Islam to the world.” In 1976, Saudi Arabia made its first donation to an American university: one million dollars to the University of Southern California. Since then, Saudi kings, princes, and oil tycoons have gone in search of cooperative institutions and scholars to lend the imprimatur of a respected university to their “activist philanthropy.” Universities were given millions of dollars, while individuals benefitted from the trickle-down effect with ample funding for conferences, academic publishing houses, and jobs. This greatly amplified professors’ bias against Israel while pandering to Saudi sensibilities, helping to normalize reactionary Islam.

Now, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Saudi Arabia has undertaken an impressive series of reforms, and yet he has become academia’s newest target.  But it’s not only the Saudis under attack; the left is turning on its own. For instance, last November when famed liberal columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times that “The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is Saudi Arabia,” he found himself smeared a week later in an open letterto the Times by seven “Senior Middle East Scholars.” The scholars labeled Friedman the prince’s dupe and denounced his article as propaganda, suggesting in dictatorial fashion that he be “investigated and perhaps even suspended for writing it.”

In rhetoric that recalls the left’s treatment of Israeli leaders, MbS was described as “the mastermind of an illegal war that has devastated the lives of millions, and today borders on genocide.” The real Arab Spring, they insisted, “was an attempt by young people . . . to democratize their political systems,” and Friedman’s misapplication of the phrase shows that he “is divorced from reality.” Granted, any Saudi reform package deserves a healthy dose of skepticism, and the Vision 2030 program is no exception, but MbS has already made progress unimaginable a few years ago.

One would think these efforts would be encouraged, but instead MbS was scolded: “while a Saudi woman might soon be able to drive, bin Salman has shown no willingness to clamp down on Saudi funding of many of the most extreme religious forces in the Muslim world.” It’s gratifying to witness academics who are willing to acknowledge “extreme forces in the Muslim world,” much less “clamp down” on its funding, but where have they been? The repressive nature of previous Saudi royals has never been a secret, so why the frantic outburst over a prince who might actually diminish repression?

One component of the field’s new hostility is its support for Saudi Arabia’s nemesis, Iran. Many influential academics are convinced there are moderate forces within the Iranian regime that should be respected, and they continue to support the JCPOA, Obama’s ineffective nuclear deal.

Another factor is the chill in Saudi-Qatari relations. Many Middle East studies specialists, including three of the “senior scholars” who want Friedman fired, write for Al-Jazeera, an organ of the state-owned Qatar Media Corporation that welcomes an anti-Saudi outlook. Perhaps the luster of an Al-Jazeera article on one’s radical chic resume will be diminished with the recent bipartisan congressional call for an investigation into the network…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                 

      

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THE QATAR OPPOSITION: AVOIDING THE HARIRI MISCALCULATION

Irina Tsukerman

BESA, Mar. 12, 2018

 

Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s tendered his resignation while he was in Riyadh, purportedly under pressure from the Saudi government. Shortly after his return to Lebanon, he then withdrew his resignation and awkwardly tried to claim that it had been done for dramatic effect. This non-resignation drew concern, if not outright mockery – not because it took place under duress, but because it failed so spectacularly. Now, Hariri, in an effort to mitigate the damage done to the public image of all the parties involved, is taking his first trip to the kingdom since these events.

The thrust of the original story is that Hariri was invited to Saudi Arabia and there was induced to resign. Some speculated that he was being held hostage until he agreed, though all parties denied these rumors. Regardless, the apparent purpose of the move was to send a signal to Hezbollah, the Islamist terrorist organization and Iranian proxy that now controls most of the Lebanese government and institutions. Many Christians residing in Lebanon have chosen to align themselves with Hezbollah, which likewise enjoys popular support among the Shiite citizens of the country. The power play failed for a straightforward reason: as Hezbollah largely controls the government, it doesn’t much matter whether Hariri or someone else is in place. Anyone who is neither Hezbollah nor its ally is essentially a powerless puppet in Lebanon.

Why the Saudis ever thought that Hariri carried sufficient weight to shift the political direction in Lebanon is the real enigma here. The operation also plainly lacked finesse and drew the kind of international attention, speculation, conspiracy theories, and outrage that were almost certain to backfire on its originators. Although the Saudis and the UAE have assisted Lebanon with the issue of displaced Syrians, by 2016, the kingdom had cut billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Lebanon, allowing Tehran to move in even further.

By November 2017, it had become clear that the Saudis view Hezbollah (and the remnants of the Lebanese government, which has been subsumed into the organization) as an aggressor state in cahoots with Iran, Qatar, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Nor are they wrong. The aggressive strategy of countering Iranian proxies and allies makes sense. However, the execution of this operation could have enjoyed greater success had the Saudis 1) not alienated much of their popular support through the punitive cuts in humanitarian aid; and 2) differentiated between Hezbollah and its facilitators and regular people who, in many cases, have ended up supporting the organization for lack of any better alternatives.

However, despite the harsh criticism levied at Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman over this episode, it was no more than a bump in the road, and the line of reasoning behind it was essentially correct. The Lebanese leadership opposed to Hezbollah cannot go along to get along; it enables the worst practices of the organization and thus betrays its constituents.

The Saudis should not be discouraged by the vocal reactions of the international community, but rather refine their approach in Lebanon and try to reengage with a combination of hard and soft power after taking some time to plan out the next steps. Those steps are not hard to define. Riyadh can surely recommit to providing assistance, but this time restructure its efforts to bypass the enemy-led government and corrupt institutions. It can focus instead on education and skills training, encourage entrepreneurship, and direct grassroots humanitarian relief, as well as diversify its proactive partnerships…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

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On Topic Links

Saudi Crown Prince Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist, Talks up Future Ties: Times of Israel, Apr. 2, 2018—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview published Monday, recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.

What a Crown Prince Wants: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 25, 2018—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is here to rebrand. If all goes well, his visit to the US this week will wow Americans with Saudi Arabia’s new progressivism, increase US investment in the Saudi economy, and align the US and Saudi strategies in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia Signals Ambition for $80 Oil Price: Javier Blas, Bloomberg, Apr. 10, 2018—Saudi Arabia wants to get oil prices near $80 a barrel to pay for the government’s crowded policy agenda and support the valuation of state energy giant Aramco before an initial public offering.

Qatar’s farewell to the GCC?: Stasa Salacanin, Alarby, Mar. 25, 2018—Last June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain took an unprecedented action against a fellow GCC member, cutting all political, diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. The GCC trio – joined by Egypt – accused Doha of endangering regional stability by allegedly supporting terrorist organisation and other Islamist movements, along with forging cordial relations with their arch-foe Iran.

 

I.S. THREAT GROWS IN SINAI, PAKISTAN, AFRICA—AND PERSISTS IN IRAQ—DESPITE DEFEAT OF CALIPHATE

The ISIS Threat: Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2018— Will the Islamic State forces in Sinai take part in the next clash between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip?

Analysis: Is ISIS Done For?: Yochanan Visser, Arutz Sheva, Dec. 17, 2017— The United States and Iraq celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State on the Sunday after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the Jihadist organization had been driven out of the country.

ISIS in Sinai: Battered, Weakened But Still Dangerous: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2018— Jihadi organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which morphed into “the Sinai Province of the Islamic State”…

ISIS Takes Hold in Pakistan: Kaswar Klasra, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2017— Concern over the extent of the presence and power of ISIS in Pakistan resurfaced on December 17, when a suicide-bombing at a church in Quetta left at least nine worshipers dead and more than 50 seriously wounded.

 

On Topic Links

 

Syria's Post-ISIS Future (Audio): Hillel Frisch, Middle East Forum, Jan. 3, 2018

Returning ISIS Jihadists Pose Long, Uncharted Challenge: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Oct. 16, 2017

Are Jihadi Motives Really a Mystery?: Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media, Jan. 5, 2018

The Jihadist Threat Won't End With ISIS' Defeat: Barbara F. Walter, Foreign Affairs, Dec. 22, 2017

 

 

 

THE ISIS THREAT

Nadav Shragai

Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2018

 

Will the Islamic State forces in Sinai take part in the next clash between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip?

Officials in the intelligence community who are monitoring the group's growing strength and movements on the Sinai Peninsula tend to think so, and Israel is preparing accordingly. The IDF has even notified communities in the Eshkol Regional Council that it is considering lengthening the anti-tunnel barrier that has been dug along the Gaza border to areas on Israel's border with Egypt to counter Islamic State in Sinai.

 

The Institute for National Security Studies has been busy studying the jihadi group for years. This week, the institute presented President Reuven Rivlin with its annual security assessment. Among other issues, the report discusses the potential for a major terrorist event in Islamic State-controlled Sinai. "If there is another war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas and other organizations there, we can assume that the parts of Sinai controlled by the Islamic State will also take part in it,"Lt. Col. (res.) Yoram Schweitzer, who heads the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the INSS and is an expert in the field, says In an interview with Israel Hayom.

 

As someone who has spent years studying the globalization of suicide terrorist attacks, and who formerly served as head of the IDF's international counterterrorism department, Schweitzer shares the belief that ISIS in Sinai will not remain idle if another clash erupts in the south. He can point out family ties and mutual interests that Hamas in Gaza and the ISIS leadership in Sinai share. "Although ISIS sees Hamas as heretics, and there are deep ideological divides between the two groups, the relations between Hamas in Gaza and the Islamic State in Sinai include mutual interests, a history of cooperating on weapons smuggling and some Hamas members who crossed the border and joined ISIS in Sinai.

 

"The two groups mix. There are some Hamas members who were disappointed with the group and crossed over to operate as part of [ISIS] in Sinai, and there are clans in Gaza and Sinai who have some members who are active in Hamas in Gaza and others who are active within the framework of ISIS in Sinai," Schweitzer says. The analyst goes on to discuss the "complicated organizational ties between Hamas and ISIS in Sinai, which have had ups and downs." "Even when the Egyptians are putting heavy pressure on Hamas, the group does not turn over members of ISIS-Sinai who have sought shelter in Gaza," he adds. According to Schweitzer, this means that "Hamas is still leaving itself room to cooperate with ISIS in Sinai. A supply and weapons smuggling pipeline to Gaza, with assistance from ISIS-Sinai, is turning out to be an interest stronger than the fear of threats from Egypt, which is demanding that Hamas turn in Islamic State operatives who are hiding in Gaza."

 

Islamic State in Sinai has proved its military capabilities and professionalism over the past few years, in particular in recent months. The possibility of ISIS in Sinai taking part in the next round of Gaza fighting demands that we review what the organization has managed to perpetrate against Egyptian and Israeli targets these past few years. The worst terrorist attack ISIS in Sinai has carried out against an Egyptian target took place at the Sufi al-Rawdah Mosque in northern Sinai at the end of this past November. A total of 311 worshippers were killed, including dozens of children. The unusual target was apparently chosen because the Sawarka Bedouin clan and the mosque's imam were cast as vigorous opponents of the Islamic State and as collaborators with the Egyptian government's war on ISIS.

 

The al-Rawdah bombing was the worst terrorist attack in the history of modern Egypt, and it came after ISIS terrorists managed to slip a bomb onto a Russian tourist plane in Sharm a-Sheikh in October of 2015. The plane blew up in mid-air, and all passengers and crew – 224 people in all – were killed. Every year for the past three years, more than 400 Egyptian civilians and members of Egypt's security forces meet their deaths in jihadi terrorist attacks, mainly executed by Islamic State. The attacks are not limited to Sinai; they are creeping into Egypt proper. Often, they target the country's Coptic Christians and tourist destinations in Egypt and Sinai, like the shooting attack at St. Catherine's monastery last April.

 

According to foreign reports, as well as reports from the Islamic State delegation in Sinai, Israel is helping Egypt fight ISIS terrorism, contributing intelligence and airstrikes. This is prompting ISIS in Sinai to attack Israeli targets as well, although the jihadis in Sinai had Israel in their crosshairs long before Israel was involved in any way in Egypt's efforts to eradicate the jihadis from the Sinai Peninsula.

 

As early as October 2004, three explosives-rigged cars blew up at the main Israeli tourist destinations in Sinai – the Taba Hilton and the Ras al-Shitan beach, killing 34 people, 12 of whom were Israelis. In the summer of 2011, Salafi jihadis managed to infiltrate Israel from Sinai and attack two Egged buses and a number of cars near Eilat, close to the Egyptian border. Six Israeli civilians, an IDF soldier, and a member of the Israel Police special forces were killed in these attacks. A year later, the Sinai terrorists almost managed to perpetrate a disastrous attack when they used an explosives-rigged APC and truck to breach the Israeli border near Kerem Shalom. The truck hit an old British "pillbox" guard post at the border crossing and blew up, while the APC continued moving forward into Israeli territory until an IDF attack helicopter destroyed it with a missile.

 

Between 2011-2012, the natural gas pipeline running from Al-Arish in Sinai to Israel and Jordan was sabotaged 15 times. The Sinai-based terrorists have also fired rockets, although relatively few, at Israel over the years. Between 2010 and 2015, 22 Grad rockets were fired at Eilat and the communities in the Eshkol region. Three years ago, ISIS in Sinai claimed responsibility for one of the rocket attacks for the first time, after firing three rockets toward the Eshkol Regional Council. In 2017, another six rockets were fired, four at Eilat and two at the Eshkol region. The concern now is that in the next clash with Hamas, ISIS in Sinai will launch rocket attacks against Israeli communities, this time more numerous…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

 

 

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ANALYSIS: IS ISIS DONE FOR?

Yochanan Visser

Arutz Sheva, Dec. 17, 2017    

 

The United States and Iraq celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State on the Sunday after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the Jihadist organization had been driven out of the country. "Today, our troops were able to purge islands of Nineveh and Anbar in full, and they (the forces) are now fully controlling the Iraqi-Syrian borders,” al-Abadi said…“These victories are not only for the Iraqis alone, though the Iraqis were themselves who achieved such victories with their sacrifices. But the victories are for all Arabs, Muslims and the world alike,” the Iraqi leader added.

 

“Honorable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated, the flag of Iraq is flying high today over all Iraqi territory and at the farthest point on the border,” according to al-Abadi who declared Sunday a national holiday. The U.S. State Department followed suit with spokeswoman Heather Nauert issuing a statement congratulating the Iraqi people and “the brave Iraqi Security Forces, many of whom lost their lives heroically fighting ISIS." Nauert cautioned, however, that the victory in Iraq doesn’t mean the war against terrorism and even Islamic State in Iraq is over.

 

A day after she issued her warning ISIS suicide bombers tried to attack the Iraqi city of Rashad but the assault was foiled by the Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias which killed 10 Islamic State terrorists. It didn’t prevent al-Abadi from organizing a military parade in Baghdad with soldiers of the Iraqi army marching through the center of the city while helicopters and warplanes were flying overhead.

 

The announcement about the final victory over ISIS in Iraq came two days after the Russian army declared victory over the barbaric group in Syria. Both statements seem to be premature, however, and an Iraqi MP even accused al-Abadi of electoral propaganda by declaring victory over Islamic State at this point. Hushyar Abdullah, a member of the Iraqi security and defense committee, wrote on his Facebook account that ISIS is still able of creating new battle fronts in Iraq. “Domestic and foreign reasons that led to the emergence of ISIS still persist in Iraq and the region,” he added according to The Baghdad Post. Abdullah said the political failures in Iraq are “at their worst level,” but didn’t elaborate.

 

Experts agree with Abdullah and warn a repeat of al-Qaeda’s resurrection in Iraq, which led to the founding of the Islamic State group, could happen because “the earth on which IS flourished” has not dried out. “The jihadists have been deprived of oxygen and defeated militarily but the womb from which they emerged remains fertile.” Karim Bitar a French Middle East expert warned. He meant economic and social problems as well as marginalizing minorities and widespread corruption in the central government in Iraq. Another huge problem is that in Iraq a whole generation has grown up knowing only cruel war and being brainwashed by Islamist ideology.

 

To understand why it is premature to celebrate victory over the Islamic State group one should take a look at the broader picture of the war against ISIS. Take, for example, what is happening in Egypt and Libya, as well as countries in Asia, Africa and the Western nations. In Egypt Islamic State is on the rise despite a four-year-old campaign by the Egyptian military and continues to expand its destabilizing activities in the country of 90 million. Wilayat Sinai, the local ISIS branch, which began its activities under the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has roughly 1200 fighters in the Sinai Peninsula, 80 percent of them foreigners according to the Woodrow Wilson Center.

 

The Jihadist group carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s history at the end of November and has expanded its terrorist operations to the densely populated Nile Delta and to the desert in western Egypt all the way up to the porous Libyan border. Via that border, ISIS terrorists who fled from Syria and Iraq are now regrouping in Libya – that thought it also had routed the Jihadist group after the fall of its local capital Sirte.

 

Then there is Gaza where ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror groups are more and more challenging Hamas rule over the enclave in southern Israel and who are reportedly behind the renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities and communities in the vicinity of Gaza. Islamic State also has a presence on the Golan Heights where it operates under the name Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. Channel 2 in Israel reported in October on several senior ISIS commanders who fled from Iraq and Syria and were recruiting local youth who were receiving military training in camps a few kilometers from the Israeli border.

 

Farther away in Africa Islamic State’s ideology is leading to the formation of new terror groups which joined their brothers of Boko Haram in Nigeria, an Islamist group that swore allegiance to ISIS in 2015. In Niger and Somalia ISIS’ affiliates have already staged deadly terrorist attacks which aim to destabilize the countries to the point the regime collapses. In the middle of October the ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shahaab killed at least 276 people when a truck bomb flattened the center of Mogadishu in Somalia.

 

Pakistan and Afghanistan in Asia have also proven to be fertile ground for Islamic State’s radical Islamist ideology and have witnessed a number of devastating terror attacks committed by local ISIS affiliates. Further east in the Philippines ISIS founded a new branch which operates under the name Al-Shabaab and committed a massacre in the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, leaving more than 200 people dead this summer.

 

Then there is Europe where returning ISIS terrorists are increasingly staging so-called lone wolf attacks on Westerners and are forming local terror cells which, like in Spain, are able to wreak havoc. Some 1,200 Islamic State terrorists have returned to European countries and Andrew Parker, the director of the MI5 British intelligence service, warns that the threat they pose is evolving rapidly. “That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly, and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before,” according to Parker. The United Kingdom tops the list of countries which are harboring ISIS terrorists, with 425 individuals who fought in Syria and Iraq.

 

The threat Islamic State poses to the world now tops the list of worries among the public. A Pew Research Center report from August 2017 showed that 61 percent of people interviewed in countries across the globe said Islamic State remains the greatest threat worldwide.

                                                           

                                                                       

Contents

ISIS IN SINAI: BATTERED, WEAKENED BUT STILL DANGEROUS

Zvi Mazel

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2018

 

Jihadi organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which morphed into “the Sinai Province of the Islamic State” when it pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, is slowly losing steam. Torn apart by internal strife and new enemies it is less and less active. Terrorist attacks plummeted from 594 in 2015, to fewer than half that in 2016 and 2017, according to a recent report of Al-Ahram Weekly. This is due to several factors, first and foremost, the Egyptian Army which is doing much better since it killed the organization’s leader Abu Anas el Ansari in May 2016.

 

ISIS appointed in his stead Abu Hajer al-Hashemi, who is not Egyptian and is rumored to be a former Iraqi Army officer. More non-Egyptians were appointed to the leadership of the group or swelled the terrorists’ rank and file. Among them were deserters from the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, who fled the Gaza Strip because they were dissatisfied with what they perceived as the lack of resolve of Hamas against Israel and against the Palestinian Authority.

 

The growing influence of these “foreigners” led to significant changes. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis no longer took into consideration the tribal intricacies of northern Sinai and did not hesitate to target local civilians and Beduin, even those who in the past had demonstrated sympathy toward the jihadists. The new policy was following the basic tenet of Islamic State: Apply maximum savagery to terrify to reach its goal: setting up an Islamic regime based on the Shari’a and ruled by a caliph.

 

The November 24 massacre at Al-Rawdah Mosque, linked to the Sufi school of Islam, was a stark demonstration of that new policy. More than 300 civilians were killed in the attack carried out during the Friday morning prayers. The large Tarrabin tribe, which in the past had helped the jihadists, supplying them with information and affording them sanctuary, then turned hostile and greatly hampered their movements. According to reports, armed tribesmen had started unspecified operations against the jihadists last summer. Meanwhile, there were bitter conflicts between the “Egyptians” and the newcomers among the terrorists.

 

The tribe’s hostility combined with the growing pressure from the army led to the desertion of many militants. Some went back to Gaza, others departed for Libya. Those who did not want to leave the Sinai Peninsula joined another terrorist group, The Army of Islam, which protects them from the vengeance of Daesh. It is a small organization affiliated with al-Qaida that appeared in 2011 and lately carried out two attacks, against the army and against Daesh. Worse, there were incidents between the two sides inside Daesh. Some weeks ago, 20 bodies were found in a desert area south of El-Arish, apparently the result of an armed confrontation between their followers…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                           

           

Contents

ISIS TAKES HOLD IN PAKISTAN

Kaswar Klasra

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2017

 

Concern over the extent of the presence and power of ISIS in Pakistan resurfaced on December 17, when a suicide-bombing at a church in Quetta left at least nine worshipers dead and more than 50 seriously wounded. Had Pakistani security forces not responded swiftly to the attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church — where 400 men, women and children were attending Sunday services – the assailants "would have managed to reach the main hall of the building, and the death toll would have been much higher," Sarfraz Bugti, the provincial home minister of the Baluchistan province, where Quetta is located, told Gatestone Institute.

 

Responsibility for the attack — in which two terrorists, clad in explosive vests and armed with AK-47 rifles — was later claimed by ISIS, which has an impressive record of honesty in taking credit for attacks, in a statement published by the Amaq News Agency. This was the sixth ISIS attack in Pakistan in the past year and a half. The first took place on August 8, 2016, when a suicide bomber killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 100 in an attack on a crowd of lawyers and journalists gathered in a government hospital in Quetta — in the province that borders Afghanistan and Iran — to mourn a lawyer who had been murdered earlier in the day. The attack was claimed by a joint ISIS-Taliban faction.

 

On October 24, 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a police training college in Quetta. The assault, committed by three heavily armed terrorists against sleeping cadets, left more than 60 dead and more than 165 others wounded. On February 16, 2017, an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber blew himself up at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan's Sindh province, killing more than 90 worshipers and wounding more than 300. On April 18, 2017, the Pakistani army foiled a planned Easter suicide bombing against Christians in Lahore. Given the amount of explosives recovered from the perpetrators, had the attack succeeded, there would have been mass casualties.

 

On May 12, 2017, an ISIS suicide bombing on the convoy of the deputy chairman of the Pakistani Senate, traveling on the National Highway in the Mastung District of Baluchistan, left at least 28 people dead and 40 wounded. On August 12, 2017, an ISIS suicide bombing on a convoy of the Pakistani military in Quetta left 15 people dead – among them eight soldiers – and 40 others wounded.

 

All of the above attacks could have been anticipated. In February 2016, the director general of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau warned the government that ISIS was emerging as a threat, with Pakistani terrorists providing a foothold for the group, whose Pakistani branch is called Walayat-e-Khurasan. Operatives in neighboring Afghanistan have also been playing a major role in the terrorist network. ISIS enlists "partners of convenience" in Afghanistan and "outsources" terror attacks to Pakistani organizations — such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — a recent UN Security Council counter-terrorism report revealed. In addition — according to Punjabi Law Minister Rana Sanaullah — as many as 100 Pakistanis left the country in 2015 to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

 

Both revelations are interesting in light of the fact — told to reporters in Islamabad by Pakistani Ambassador to Iraq Ali Yasin Muhammad Karim after the liberation of Mosul in July 2017 — that Pakistan secretly supported Iraq in the fight against the terrorist group. "Pakistan's security forces have the capability and expertise to deal with terrorist groups," Mohammad Ali, an Islamabad-based security expert, told Gatestone Institute. "I hope they take the threat from ISIS seriously."…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Syria's Post-ISIS Future (Audio): Hillel Frisch, Middle East Forum, Jan. 3, 2018—With the demise of the Islamic State, Syrian President Basher Assad defeated the foremost threat to his regime thanks to Russian and Iranian support. But with substantial parts of Syria held by Kurdish forces, key strategic areas dominated by Turkey, and remnants of jihadist forces still active, the regime has yet to regain full control over his rebellious subjects.

Returning ISIS Jihadists Pose Long, Uncharted Challenge: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Oct. 16, 2017—For months now, Western counterterrorism experts have sounded the alarm: as ISIS loses ground, foreign fighters from America and Europe may try returning home. When they do, the experts cautioned, they will carry the terror threat with them, ready and willing to strike. Law enforcement needs to be prepared.

Are Jihadi Motives Really a Mystery?: Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media, Jan. 5, 2018—The so-called mainstream media's approach to and apologias for Islamic terrorism have become as predictable as they are farcical.

The Jihadist Threat Won't End With ISIS' Defeat: Barbara F. Walter, Foreign Affairs, Dec. 22, 2017—Since October, the Islamic State (or ISIS) has appeared to be on the verge of defeat. Yet even if ISIS were never to reemerge, the United States is no more secure against the jihadist threat than it was in the past.

                                                              

 

 

FALL OF I.S. IN IRAQ & SYRIA, AMIDST ONGOING SECTARIAN CONFLICT, STRENGTHENS SHIITE AXIS

ISIS: Some Things Cannot Be Killed Off: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, BESA, Oct. 26, 2017 — As the city of Raqqa, the capital of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” falls to the Free Syrian Army, made up primarily of Kurdish and Syrian militias, the question is what the aftermath of ISIS will look like.

Real Threat to the West: Why Can’t Britain See It?: Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017 — Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has been making some remarkable comments.

Israel Takes On the Shia Crescent: Joseph Klein, Frontpage, Oct. 2, 2017 — Despite Israel's repeated warnings, Barack Obama's reckless appeasement of the Iranian regime has enabled its rise as a hegemonic threat in the Middle East region as well as a threat to international peace and security.

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East: Philip Carl Salzman, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 14, 2017— Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Fall of Kirkuk: An IRGC Production: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 22, 2017

What Iraq’s Recent Moves Against Kurds Mean for Israel and Region: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017

The U.S. is on a Collision Course with Iran in the Middle East: Liz Sly, Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2017

Between the Iranian Threat and the Palestinian State Threat: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 22, 2017

 

 

 

ISIS: SOME THINGS CANNOT BE KILLED OFF

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

BESA, Oct. 26, 2017

 

As the city of Raqqa, the capital of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” falls to the Free Syrian Army, made up primarily of Kurdish and Syrian militias, the question is what the aftermath of ISIS will look like. The answer is threefold and involves the organization, its members, and its ideology.

 

The organization may well be routed and eradicated. The large swathe of territory it controlled will be divided among Syria, Iran, Turkey, and the Kurds, and its government institutions will become relics of the past. The attempt to reestablish the Islamic caliphate failed because the Muslim world – not only the “infidels” – despised its gruesome, seventh-century execution methods.

 

Most of the organization’s members are already elsewhere, however, and they carry a sense of righteousness in their hearts. They feel betrayed and will seek revenge against all those who attacked them. Those include the Kurds and the coalition countries; Muslims who stood by and did not help them, such as former Soviet bloc countries; and countries that helped but then abandoned them along the way, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

 

These jihadists have dispersed in many countries. They are establishing proxies in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, the Philippines, and elsewhere, with each branch adjusting its structure and activities to the environment in which it operates. Variables include the degree to which local governments effectively wield power, the degree to which the local Muslim population is supportive, and the degree to which a terrorist organizational infrastructure already exists and can be utilized. We saw a similar phenomenon after the defeat of al-Qaida in Afghanistan in late 2001, when one of its offshoots settled in Iraq and joined with the local Sunni population and the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s army to form ISIS. Beginning in April 2003, it began exploiting the weak central government in Baghdad, and in March 2011, the government in Damascus.

 

Every local proxy, however, will suffer from the same fundamental problems prevalent in any radical Islamic group. There will be disagreements within the group over Sharia law and its implementation; over ruling a territory or remaining a non-sovereign jihadist entity; the severity of punishment for offenders; the title of leader (whether he will be named caliph or not) and his authority; the group’s relations with similarly minded organizations; the status structure within the organization (Arabs versus non-Arabs, Muslims by birth versus Muslims by conversion), and more. There will also be the problem of hostility between the Islamic organization and the local population, Muslim or otherwise, over which it wants to rule. In addition, the international community’s traditionally negative view of Islamic terrorist organizations could lead to all-out war.

 

Another question is how the Islamic world will be affected by the dashed dream of a caliphate. The fall of ISIS will assuredly bolster those who oppose political Islam. On the other hand, the fall of the Sunni organization strengthens the Shiite axis. The slow crawl of Sunni leaders (Turkey and Saudi Arabia) towards Iran is one sign of the Shiite axis’s growing power at the expense of the Sunnis. (US President Donald Trump’s recent speech might slow this trend down, depending on the action the US takes.)

 

The idea of an Islamic caliphate is not dead. It is alive and well in religious scriptures, textbooks, Friday sermons, internet forums, and the hearts of many millions. In the near or distant future it will be resurrected, shake off the memory of recent events, and begin anew. There will always be people who dream of ancient glory, of the resurrection of ancestral Salafism and its forefathers – the prophet Muhammad and his cohort, who “lived an ideal and proper lifestyle and showed us the right path for any place, time and environment.”

 

What is clear is that the fight against the “heretic, permissive, hedonistic, materialistic, drugged and inebriated West” will persist through lone-wolf or small-cell terrorist attacks. Countries around the world will continue to suffer from ramming attacks, stabbings, shootings, rapes, violence against women and children, public vandalism, and other variances of jihad against all those who do not belong to the religion of Muhammad. ISIS may well disappear as an organization, but the world is likely to continue feeling the evil ideology this organization has instilled in the hearts and minds of too many Muslims.     

 

Contents

REAL THREAT TO THE WEST: WHY CAN’T BRITAIN SEE IT?

                                       Melanie Phillips

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017

 

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has been making some remarkable comments. In an interview with The Guardian, the recently designated heir to the Saudi throne said the desert kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years. He blamed the extremist Wahhabi form of Islam, which successive leaders “didn’t know how to deal with” and which had created a problem around the world.

 

“Now is the time to get rid of it,” he said. Saudi Arabia would now revert to “what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. Seventy percent of the Saudis are younger than 30. Honestly, we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts. We will destroy them now and immediately.”

 

Open to all religions? Churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? An end to the Wahhabi extremism which has spawned jihadism across the globe? Can he be serious? We know the prince is a reformer. Aware that the oil weapon is fast disappearing as the price of crude falls, he wants to open up the economy. That means modernization. Recently, Saudi women were given the right to drive. Religious police have been reined in and deprived of their powers of arrest. Small moves maybe, but anathema to the hard-line clerics.

 

Is it possible, though, to close Pandora’s jihadi box? Was Saudi Arabia ever religiously moderate? The prince says it became extreme only in response to the 1979 Iranian revolution. That is not quite true. The creed of Wahhabi Islam, which seeks to proselytize via the sword both non-Muslims and not-extreme-enough Muslims to its ferocious dogma, was imposed under the chieftain Muhammad al-Saud in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

After the Iranian revolution, an attempt was made to overthrow the House of Saud on the grounds that it had deviated from the true Wahhabi path. In a deal made with the clerics, the Saudi rulers not only hardened religious rules at home but poured money into spreading the jihad through mosques, madrasas and universities across the world.

 

The prince’s reformist agenda goes hand in hand with the kingdom’s tactical alliance with America in the common fight against Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy, Iran – in which it is cooperating below-the-radar with Israel, too. To the British government, with its close economic ties with Saudi Arabia, these reformist noises come as a relief, since Saudi human rights abuses continue to cause it severe embarrassment. Nevertheless, Britain is not on the same page as Saudi Arabia in trying to constrain Iran. Perversely, Britain remains intent upon a course of action that is instead empowering Iran by continuing to support the cynical and dangerous nuclear deal the UK helped US president Barack Obama broker in 2015.

 

President Donald Trump has now refused to certify Iran’s compliance with that deal, saying Iran has breached it several times by exceeding the limits it set on heavy water and centrifuge testing. More remarkably, the deal’s own terms allow Iran to make a mockery of its fundamental purpose in constraining Iran’s nuclear weapons program, for the inspection procedure takes place only at sites where Iran has agreed to allow inspection. These exclude its military sites. The deal’s proponents can claim that a robust inspection is being applied, while Iran is able to evade inspection of the sites that really matter.

 

Recently the International Atomic Energy Authority stated it could not verify that Iran is “fully implementing the agreement” by not engaging in activities that would allow it to make a nuclear explosive device. When it came to inspections, said the IAEA, “our tools are limited.” According to the Institute for Science and International Security, as of the last quarterly report released in August, the IAEA had not visited any military site in Iran since implementation of the deal.

 

In any event, the deal does not prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons, because its “sunset clause” allows it to do so in 10 or 15 years’ time – and reports suggest it has the capacity to develop them extremely quickly. Worse still, the deal allows Iran to develop ballistic missiles. Sanctions relief has enabled it to pour money into its proxy army Hezbollah, promote Hamas terrorism and spread its influence and terrorism into Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

 

Yet the British government not only helped create but still implacably supports this terrible capitulation to Iranian power. Parting company with Trump, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the nuclear deal is “a crucial agreement that neutralized Iran’s nuclear threat” which has “undoubtedly made the world a safer place.” What planet is he living on? Iran is marching toward regional hegemony. In Iraq, there are reports that its Quds Force has been coordinating with Iraqi government officials to recruit the most effective ISIS fighters and release them from Iraqi prisons. These fighters are being organized, trained, and equipped to attack US and other regional forces.

 

Despite all this, however, the threat that worries Britain most is not Iran, but the prospect of war against Iran. The fact that Iran has been waging war against the West since 1979, in the course of which it has repeatedly attacked Western targets, murdered countless civilians and been responsible for the deaths of many British and American soldiers in Iraq, is brushed aside. Unless it really does reform itself, Saudi Arabia will continue to pose a threat from its religious extremism. Nevertheless, it is an ally against the greater enemy at this time: Iran. The Iranian regime must be defeated. It is shocking that, unlike President Trump, Britain is intent on appeasing it.                                                                    

 

Contents

ISRAEL TAKES ON THE SHIA CRESCENT                                                   

Joseph Klein

Frontpage, Oct. 2, 2017

 

Despite Israel's repeated warnings, Barack Obama's reckless appeasement of the Iranian regime has enabled its rise as a hegemonic threat in the Middle East region as well as a threat to international peace and security. In 2009, Obama turned his back on millions of dissidents in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, who were peacefully protesting the rigged election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. In 2011, Obama precipitously removed the remaining U.S. combat troops from Iraq, giving rise to ISIS’s re-emergence in Iraq from its bases in Syria. The radical Shiite Iranian regime purported to come to the “rescue” of both countries from the Sunni terrorists, turning Iraq into a virtual vassal state of the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the process. Obama's disastrous nuclear deal with Iran legitimized Iran's path to eventually becoming a nuclear-armed state, while immediately filling its coffers with billions of dollars to fund its aggression.

 

Meanwhile, Syria has become ground zero for Iran's execution of its regional ambitions, which is to establish its Shiite Crescent connecting with its allies, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This plan has included the establishment of a land route that Iranian-backed militias secured in June, beginning on Iran’s border with Iraq and running across Iraq and Syria all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This road makes Iran’s job easier in supplying arms by land, as well as by air and sea, to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and to equip Iran’s own forces fighting inside of Syria in support of Assad. This helps explain why Iran has placed so much importance on helping the Syrian regime establish control over the Deir ez-Zor area in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border.

 

“Everything depends now on the Americans’ willingness to stop this,” said an Iraqi Kurdish official who was quoted in a New Yorker article. However, U.S.-led coalition forces apparently have done next to nothing to stop this major advance in Iran’s Shiite Crescent expansion. “Obama ran down our options in Syria so thoroughly, by the time this administration took over,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The Iranian influence is spreading because they are so heavily involved in regime activities,” Tabler added. “It’s a new monster.”

 

Furthermore, Iran has funded and armed its terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which has sent its militia from its home base of Lebanon to fight alongside Assad's forces.  And Iran has used Syria as a transit point for shipment of sophisticated rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon for future use against Israeli population centers. Despite the fact that Hezbollah has American blood on its hands, the U.S.-led coalition has chosen not to do anything about Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, bought and paid for by Iran.

 

While Israel chose not to take sides in Syria's civil war with military intervention of its own, it has bombed weapons storage facilities and convoys inside Syria for its own protection. Just recently, on September 7th, Israeli jets struck a Syrian weapons facility near Masyaf, which was reported to have been used for the production of chemical weapons and the storage of missiles. Israel will also do what is necessary to repel Iranian-backed forces if they edge too close to areas near the Golan Heights, shrinking the buffer between Israel and Iranian controlled territories.

 

However, such tactical measures may not be enough to thwart Iran’s larger ambitions. In light of intelligence reports that Assad may be ready to invite Iran to set up military bases in Syria, Israeli leaders have concluded that they cannot wait until the Trump administration decides to deal more forcefully with Iran's growing use of Syria as a staging area for carrying out its expansionist Shiite Crescent strategy.  “Their overriding concern in Syria is the free reign that all the major players there seem willing to afford Iran and its various proxies in the country,” wrote Jonathan Spyer in an article for Foreign Policy. As long as nobody else is addressing the concern Iran’s growing control raises in a satisfactory manner, “Israel is determined to continue addressing it on its own.”

 

At least, Israel has a more sympathetic ear in the Trump administration than it did in the Obama administration for raising its concerns about Iran’s growing threat, not only to Israel but to U.S. interests in the region and beyond. President Trump’s sharp denunciation of the Iranian regime during his address to the UN General Assembly represented a welcome departure from the Obama administration’s milquetoast approach to Iran.

 

As the U.S.-led coalition continues to drive ISIS from its bases of operation in Syria, the Trump administration has proclaimed its intention not to allow Iran to turn Syria into its own satellite, as Iran has essentially done in Iraq. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the “so called liberation of areas by Assad’s forces and Iranian proxies could actually accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome.” He claimed that the Trump administration’s “objectives are to weaken Iranian influence across the region broadly,” without discussing the means to accomplish those objectives. Whether the Trump administration follows through remains to be seen. In the meantime, Israel will have to deal with the fallout of Iran’s ambitions in Syria itself.

                                                                       

 

Contents

WHY THERE IS NO PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Philip Carl Salzman

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 14, 2017

 

Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East. What one sees is strong, kin-based, group loyalty defense and solidarity, and the political opposition of lineages, whether large or small. This raised the question how unity and peace could arrive in a system based on opposition.

 

Peace is not possible in the Middle East because values and goals other than peace are more important to Middle Easterners. Most important to Middle Easterners are loyalty to kin, clan, and cult, and the honour which is won by such loyalty. These are the cultural imperatives, the primary values, held and celebrated. When conflict arises and conflict-parties form based on loyal allegiance, the conflict is regarded as appropriate and proper.

 

The results of absolute commitment to kin and cult groups, and the structural opposition to all others, can be seen throughout Middle Eastern history, including contemporary events, where conflict has been rife. Turks, Arabs and Iranians have launched military campaigns to suppress Kurds. Meanwhile, Christians, Yazidis, Baha'is and Jews, among others, have been, and continue to be ethnically cleansed. Arabs and Persians, and Sunnis and Shiites, each try to gain power over the other in a competition that has been one of the main underlying factors of the Iraq-Iran war, the Saddam Hussein regime, and the current catastrophe in Syria. Turks invaded Greek Orthodox Cyprus in 1974 and have occupied it since. Multiple Muslim states have invaded the minuscule Jewish state of Israel three times, and Palestinians daily celebrate the murder of Jews.

 

Some Middle Easterners, and some in the West, prefer to attribute the problems of the Middle East to outsiders, such as Western imperialists, but it seems odd to suggest that the local inhabitants have no agency and no responsibility for their activities in this disastrous region, high not only in conflict and brutality, but low by all world standards in human development.

 

If one looks to local conditions to understand local conflicts, the first thing to understand is that Arab culture, through the ages and at the present time, has been built on the foundation of Bedouin tribal culture. Most of the population of northern Arabia at the time of the emergence of Islam was Bedouin, and during the period of rapid expansion following the adoption of Islam, the Arab Muslim army consisted of Bedouin tribal units. The Bedouin, nomadic and pastoral for the most part, were formed into tribes, which are regional defense and security groups.

 

Bedouin tribes were organized by basing groups on descent through the male line. Close relatives in conflict activated only small groups, while distant relatives in conflict activated large groups. If, for example, members of cousin groups were in conflict, no one else was involved. But if members of tribal sections were in conflict, all cousins and larger groups in a tribal section would unite in opposition to the other tribal section. So, what group a tribesmen thought himself a member of was circumstantial, depending on who was involved in a conflict.

 

Relations between descent groups were always oppositional in principle, with tribes as a whole seeing themselves in opposition to other tribes. The main structural relation between groups at the same genealogical and demographic level could be said to be balanced opposition. The strongest political norm among tribesmen was loyalty to, and active support of, one's kin group, small or large. One must always support closer kin against more distant kin. Loyalty was rewarded with honour. Not supporting your kin was dishonourable. The systemic result was often a stand-off, the threat of full scale conflict with another group of the same size and determination acting as deterrence against frivolous adventures. That there were not more conflicts than the many making up tribal history, is due to that deterrence…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

The Fall of Kirkuk: An IRGC Production: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 22, 2017—Iraqi forces took Kirkuk city from the Kurds this week with hardly a shot fired. Twenty-two Kurdish fighters were killed in the sporadic and disorganized resistance, while seven Iraqi soldiers also lost their lives.

What Iraq’s Recent Moves Against Kurds Mean for Israel and Region: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017—On Sunday, Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi began a historic visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is meeting the king of Saudi Arabia and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The U.S. is on a Collision Course with Iran in the Middle East: Liz Sly, Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2017—President Trump’s assertive new strategy toward Iran is already colliding with the reality of Tehran’s vastly expanded influence in the Middle East as a result of the Islamic State war.

Between the Iranian Threat and the Palestinian State Threat: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 22, 2017—The greatest threat to Israel’s existence is neither Shiite militias on the Golan border nor the Iranian nuclear threat, which are of physical and military nature.

 

 

 

EUROPE’S MIGRATION CRISIS CONNECTED TO FAILURE TO CONFRONT ISLAMIST EXTREMISM

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

Real Action Needed Against ISIL, Not Sloganeering: National Post, Aug. 15, 2015— The reports are scattered, with little hope of speedy confirmation from Western reporters.

Saving Tunisia From ISIS: Mustapha Tlili, New York Times, Aug. 3, 2015 — “Who lost Tunisia?” This question may well haunt future European leaders.

Europe's Great Migration Crisis: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, July 12, 2015 — Europe's migration crisis is exposing the deep divisions that exist within the European Union, which European federalists have long hailed as a model for post-nationalism and global citizenship.

How to Get a Better Deal With Iran: Mark Dubowitz, Foreign Policy, Aug. 17, 2015— The Iran nuclear deal is a ticking time bomb.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Illegitimate Libyan Government Is Funding the Terrorists Who Killed Chris Stevens: Ann Marlowe, National Review, July 20, 2015

Migration Crisis Pits EU’s East Against West: Anton Troianovski & Margit Feher, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 19, 2015

For French-Algerians and Algerian-French, No Place to Truly Call Home: Amir Jalal Zerdoumi, New York Times, Aug. 15, 2015

Libya Seeks Airstrikes Against ISIS Branch: New York Times, Aug. 15, 2015

 

 

         

REAL ACTION NEEDED AGAINST ISIL, NOT SLOGANEERING                                                                      

National Post, Aug. 15, 2015

 

The reports are scattered, with little hope of speedy confirmation from Western reporters. But there are mounting indications that, over the last several hours and days, the Islamic State has massacred hundreds in the Libyan town of Sirte. Local militias in the area had tried to resist encroaching Islamic State influence and are now reportedly paying for their resistance with their lives, including reports of wounded men being executed in their hospital beds.

 

Ho-hum. Another day, another ISIL atrocity. In recent days, the New York Times has detailed at length the brutal but highly organized, even bureaucratized, system of sexual slavery that thousands of young Yazidi girls and women are trapped in. Herded into pens, displayed for sale, raped repeatedly, their bodies are the war booty ISIL uses to reward its soldiers and entice new ones to join the fight. On Friday, reports emerged that U.S. intelligence officials believe that ISIL forces recently used chemical weapons — mustard gas, specifically, a blistering agent that damages the skin and lung tissue — during a battle against unprotected Kurdish militiamen.

 

The world has known such evil before. But never has the evil so openly celebrated its own depravity. You might have expected that to make it easier to rally decent nations to take up the fight against this group. But no. Other than a half-hearted allied air campaign, which has only partially contained its spread, the world seems little interested in putting an end to ISIL’s rule over millions.

Indeed, even as casualties mount and the rape camps remain much in demand, in North America, ISIL is treated as an issue fit only for domestic politicking. In the United States, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has been trading barbs with Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Both accuse the other of sharing responsibility for ISIL’s rise. Bush’s brother, of course, was George W. Bush, whose botching of the Iraq war left the country in no condition to resist ISIL’s spread. Clinton, in contrast, was secretary of state when the Obama administration too-hastily withdrew the last U.S. troops from Iraq, though many U.S. officials — including Clinton herself, she claims — believed Iraq still needed support from the U.S. military to remain stable.

 

In Canada, of course, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the tough-on-terror candidate, while the opposition parties squirm uncomfortably with every new ISIL outrage and try to explain why they would end even Canada’s relatively minor contribution to the allied effort. The Conservatives feel this is a winning issue for them, and hammer away at it often. While North American politicians posture and position, ISIL continues to grow. It now controls half of Syria, Iraq’s second-largest city and is spreading into Libya. Talking points on the domestic barbecue circuit are of little help to the sex slaves of the Islamic States, to the Kurdish militiamen breathing blistering fumes or the millions of displaced people crowding makeshift refugee camps.

 

It’s true that there is no immediate or obvious solution to the crisis. But that is no excuse not to be working on one. The suffering populations of the region need a real plan for confronting ISIL and a commitment to see it through. Instead, the leaders of the free world exchange slogans and sound bites in hopes of scoring rhetoric points off their political opponents. It is common to say, of past atrocities, “never again.” But sorrowful vows long after the fact are no substitute for action in the here and now.

 

                                                                       

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SAVING TUNISIA FROM ISIS                                                                                                         

Mustapha Tlili

New York Times, Aug. 3, 2015

 

“Who lost Tunisia?” This question may well haunt future European leaders. As Hervé Morin, a former French defense minister, recently warned, Europe — and France in particular — cannot afford to wait until the black flag of the Islamic State is hoisted above the presidential palace in Tunis. Sadly, this bleak scenario can no longer be dismissed as an alarmist exaggeration. Only weeks after the Bardo National Museum massacre in March, a jihadist struck again in June, this time at Sousse, a popular beach resort, killing dozens of European vacationers. The attack’s clear objective was to destroy Tunisia’s tourism industry, destabilizing the economy and undermining the new democratic state.

 

The carnage at Sousse exposed the Tunisian authorities’ inability to tackle on their own the country’s growing security challenges. Tunisia’s successful transition to democracy, the legitimacy of its government and the bravery of its armed forces are not enough to save it. Nor should anyone in Europe and the West comfort themselves with the idea that the jihadist movement will eventually self-destruct.

 

From their new theater of operations in Tunisia, the terrorists aim at extending their caliphate to Europe and beyond — a stated ambition of the Islamic State. In a video released in February of the brutal execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, an Islamic State leader gazes out across the Mediterranean horizon and, in flowery classical Arabic, compares the coming battles in Europe to early Islam’s struggle against Rome.

 

The instability in Libya that followed the ouster of Muammar el-Qaddafi has turned that country, Tunisia’s immediate neighbor to the east, into a vast training camp and huge arms bazaar for Islamist terrorists of all stripes. The Islamic State, as the most barbaric, determined and messianic of them all, has been gaining ground there. Tunisia’s president, Beji Caid Essebsi, is fully aware of the mortal dangers his country confronts in the aftermath of the Sousse attack. Declaring a state of emergency last month, he warned that another large-scale terrorist attack could cause the state to collapse.

 

Tunisia’s vulnerability has its roots in the postcolonial era. Habib Bourguiba, the first president after independence in 1956, was eager to modernize his nation, but he was wary of the military coups that plagued other countries in the region at the time. So he spent a great part of the national budget on education and starved the army of resources. His successor, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, continued on the same path, but as his administration turned dictatorial, he developed a strong police force. As a result, after the 2011 revolution that deposed Mr. Ben Ali, Tunisia inherited a discredited police force and a small army, which, though professional, was poorly funded and ill equipped. The police force was largely disbanded by the new authorities and has yet to be effectively reconstituted.

 

Tunisia also faces a threat from within. After decades of repression, the country’s youth face high unemployment and poor prospects; some are susceptible to radicalization by the jihadists’ sophisticated social media recruitment campaigns and by the proselytization of Salafist preachers from the Persian Gulf region. As many as 3,000 Tunisians have traveled to fight in the Syrian civil war, and hundreds more have become combatants in Libya. Some of these fighters return to Tunisia to spread havoc, as was the case in the Bardo Museum and Sousse attacks.

 

Despite this precarious situation, a recent survey suggested that more than three-quarters of Tunisians approve of the coalition government’s response to the crisis. And there is a consensus of support for new emergency measures, such as the crackdown on mosques linked to radical Salafist imams; restrictions on the travel of young Tunisians to parts of the Middle East; and the adoption by Parliament of a new antiterrorism law, which was passed by an overwhelming majority. Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the main Islamist party, Ennahda, has been vocal in his support for the administration’s response.

 

Tunisia, though, has been caught ill prepared to fight the threat of fanaticism. After meeting Mr. Essebsi in Washington in May, President Obama demonstrated a clear commitment when he conferred on Tunisia the status of “major ally.” The United States already supplies military aid, but Mr. Essebsi emphasized that more economic assistance was needed. “Our friends need to help us,” he said, “but we want stronger cooperation.” The Council of Europe recently reaffirmed its support for Tunisia’s young democracy, and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain promised a “full spectrum” of antiterrorist assistance in the wake of the Sousse massacre. For obvious geographical and historical reasons, Europe is more closely linked to Tunisia than the United States will ever be. European leaders should follow the American lead.

 

To prevent the Islamic State from making Tunisia a beachhead for attacks on Europe, Mr. Cameron, along with President François Hollande of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, should make a joint visit to Tunis. To provide Tunisia’s army and reorganized police force with greater support in the fight for control of their country, the European powers should offer Tunisia a security commitment that includes free access to arms, military training and intelligence-sharing.

 

Since the United States has already named Tunisia a “major ally,” why not also invite Tunisia to become an “aspirant country” for eventual membership in NATO on the basis of shared democratic values and common security interests? These values and interests are, after all, directly opposed to those of the Islamic State and its ideological kin. Europe has a strong interest in a secure, democratic Tunisia and must come to its aid. Only if it does so can we ensure that the question “Who lost Tunisia?” is one we will never have to answer.                                     

        

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EUROPE'S GREAT MIGRATION CRISIS                                                                                 

Soeren Kern                                                                                                        

Gatestone Institute, July 12, 2015

 

Europe's migration crisis is exposing the deep divisions that exist within the European Union, which European federalists have long hailed as a model for post-nationalism and global citizenship. Faced with an avalanche of migrants, a growing number of EU member states have moved decisively to put their own national interests above notions of EU solidarity. Hungary's parliament, for instance, has approved the construction of a massive border fence with Serbia as part of a new anti-immigration law that also tightens asylum rules.

 

The move is aimed at stopping tens of thousands of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East from entering Hungary, which has become a key gateway for illegal immigration into the European Union. Hungarian officials say drastic measures are necessary because of the EU's inaction in the face of an unprecedented migration crisis, which has seen more than 150,000 migrants cross into Europe during the first six months of 2015. More than 715,000 people have applied for asylum in the EU during the past twelve months.

 

Hungarian lawmakers on July 6 voted 151 to 41 in favor of building a 4-meter-high (13-foot) fence along the 175-kilometer (110-mile) border with Serbia. The measure aims to cut off the so-called Western Balkan Route, which constitutes the main land route through Eastern Europe for migrants who enter the EU from Turkey via Greece and Bulgaria. More than 60,000 people have entered Hungary illegally during the first six months of 2015, a nearly 900% increase over the same period in 2014, according to Frontex, the European border agency. Approximately 95% of the migrants entering Hungary — most coming from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Kosovo — cross into the country from Serbia, which unlike Hungary is not a member of the EU.

 

Hungary forms part of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, which means that once migrants are inside the country, they can travel freely throughout most of the rest of the EU without further border checks. In 2014, Hungary received more refugees per capita than any other EU country apart from Sweden. Although most of the migrants entering Hungary continue onward to wealthier countries in Western Europe, a growing number of refugees are deciding to stay in Hungary. During the first three months of 2015, Hungary received the largest number of asylum requests as a share of population of any EU member state.

 

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has justified the moves as necessary to defend his country. "The Hungarian government is committed to defending Hungary and defending the Hungarian people from the immigration pressure," he said. "Hungary cannot allow itself to wait any longer. Naturally, we hope there will be a joint European solution." Critics say the decision to build a fence evokes memories of the Cold War, when Europe was divided between East and West. "We have only recently taken down walls in Europe," said the EU's spokesperson for migration, Natasha Bertaud. "We should not be putting them up."

 

An unnamed European diplomat told the Telegraph newspaper: "This is a scandal. Hungary, which was the first Communist country to dismantle the Iron Curtain, is now building a new curtain on its southern border." Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pointed to the big picture consequences of untrammeled immigration from Muslim countries. Speaking at a conference in honor of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who recently turned 85, Orban warned that the influx of so many migrants was threatening "the face of European civilization" which "will never again be what it is now." He added: "There is no way back from a multicultural Europe. Neither to a Christian Europe, nor to the world of national cultures."

 

Hungary is not the only EU country that has been building or fortifying walls and fences to keep migrants out. Bulgaria has built a 33-km (21-mile), three-meter-high (10-foot) barbed wire fence along its border with its southeastern neighbor Turkey in an effort to limit the influx of migrants from Syria and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The Interior Ministry has also deployed more than one thousand police officers to patrol the Turkish border.

 

Greece has erected a 10.5-km, four-meter-high barbed-wire fence along part of its border with Turkey. The Greek wall is said to be responsible for diverting migration routes toward neighboring Bulgaria and, consequently, for construction of the wall there. Spain has fortified fences in the North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla as record numbers of migrants are jumping over the barriers from neighboring Morocco. Border police registered more than 19,000 attempts to jump the fence at Melilla in 2014, up 350% on 2013, according to the Interior Ministry. Nearly 7,500 migrants successfully entered Ceuta and Melilla in 2014, including 3,305 from Syria.

 

The UK is setting up more than two miles of nine-foot-high security fencing at the Channel Tunnel port of Calais in northern France, in an attempt to stop thousands of illegal migrants breaking into trucks bound for the UK. Currently, more than 3,000 migrants are camped in and around Calais hoping to make it to Britain. More than 39,000 would-be illegal immigrants were prevented from crossing the Channel in the 12 months prior to April, more than double the previous year…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

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HOW TO GET A BETTER DEAL WITH IRAN                                                                            

Mark Dubowitz                                                                                                                                        

Foreign Policy, Aug. 17, 2015

 

The Iran nuclear deal is a ticking time bomb. Its key provisions sunset too quickly, and it grants Iran too much leverage to engage in nuclear blackmail. To defuse it, Congress needs to do what it has done dozens of times in the past including during the Cold War in requiring changes to key U.S.-Soviet arms control agreements: Demand a better deal. And contrary to the President Barack Obama’s threats, this doesn’t have to lead to war.

 

First, let’s review why this deal is so dangerous. The sunset clauses — the fatal flaw of the agreement — permit critical nuclear, arms, and ballistic missile restrictions to disappear over a five- to 15-year period. Tehran must simply abide by the agreement to soon emerge as a threshold nuclear power with an industrial-size enrichment program. Similarly, it must only hang tight to reach near-zero breakout time; find a clandestine sneak-out pathway powered by easier-to-hide advanced centrifuges; build an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles; gain access to heavy weaponry like more sophisticated combat aircraft, attack helicopters, and battle tanks after the lifting of the U.N. conventional arms embargo after five years; and develop an economy increasingly immunized against future sanctions pressure. Iran can achieve all this without even cheating by simply waiting for the sunset dates to be reached; but cheating will only get Tehran there faster, for example, if it refuses physical access by the International Atomic Energy Agency to suspicious sites and Washington can’t get European support to punish Iranian stonewalling.

 

And it gets worse. If world powers reimpose sanctions in response to Iranian noncompliance, Tehran can void the deal. The nuclear agreement explicitly contemplates in paragraphs 26 and 37 of the main text that Iran will walk away from the deal if sanctions are reimposed in response to an Iranian violation. It also contains an explicit requirement in paragraph 29 of the main text for the United States and the EU to do nothing to interfere with the “normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.” Let’s call these Iran’s “nuclear snap backs,” wherein Tehran will threaten nuclear escalation if the world powers try to force it back into compliance with the agreement.

 

But even without this arrow in their quiver, the Iranians over time will be immunized from economic shocks. Once European companies are sufficiently invested in Iran’s lucrative markets, any Iranian violations of the deal are likely to provoke disagreements between Washington and its European allies. Indeed, why would Europe agree to new sanctions when they have big money on the line? Their arguments against new nuclear sanctions will include questions about the credibility of evidence, the seriousness of the nuclear infractions, the appropriate level of response, and likely Iranian retaliation.

 

This dynamic undeniably threatens the effectiveness of the agreement’s Joint Commission — an eight-member body comprised of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, a representative from the EU, as well as Russia, China, and Iran — established to monitor the implementation of the deal. While an even more difficult-to-achieve unanimous decision is required for most decisions, a simple 5-to-3 majority is needed to get approval should Iran object for all-important IAEA access to suspect Iranian sites. The administration designed this scheme to bypass Russia and China if they take Iran’s side in a dispute. Washington assumes it can always count on European votes. But this is a mistake. Europe will have strong economic incentives to demur, particularly as pressure from European business lobbies grows, and good reason to buck the United States if Iran threatens a nuclear snap back. While Washington can unilaterally reimpose U.N. sanctions if the issue does not get resolved and it “deems the issue to constitute significant non-performance,” it is unlikely to do this in the face of European resistance.

 

The same dynamics apply to the reimposition of non-nuclear sanctions, such as terrorism or human rights sanctions. On July 20, Iran informed the U.N. Security Council, stating that it may “reconsider its commitments” under the agreement if “new sanctions” are imposed “irrespective of whether such new sanctions are introduced on nuclear related or other grounds.” Would Europe agree to a U.S. plan to reimpose terrorism sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran if it was found — once again — to be financing terrorism? This is doubtful given that Tehran would threaten to return to its nuclear activities including large-scale uranium enrichment, putting not just European investments but the entire nuclear deal in jeopardy.

 

In other words, Europe’s fear of a collapsed deal and lost billions would erode American leverage and diminish our ability to reapply snap back economic sanctions. And as Washington’s influence steadily weakens, its options become increasingly limited. Over time, with sanctions off the table, American or Israeli military force could become the only option to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon. If and when that war comes, Iran will be far stronger — economically and militarily — than it is today. So, what’s the alternative? The president says there is none. He’s wrong. Congress can and should require the administration to amend the agreement’s fatal flaws, such as the sunset clause and the nuclear snap back.

 

There is ample precedent to amend the deal. Congress has required amendments to more than 200 treaties before receiving Senate consent, including significant bilateral Cold War arms control agreements with the Soviets like the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty, as well as multilateral agreements like the Chemical Weapons Convention negotiated with 87 participating countries, including Iran, by President Bill Clinton. And it’s not just Republicans putting up obstacles. During the Cold War, Democratic senators like Henry Jackson withstood pressure from Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger who insisted that the deals they negotiated go unchanged. This all happened at a time when Moscow had thousands of nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at America.

 

Should Congress follow in this proud tradition and disapprove of the Iran deal, there are three possible scenarios. Each presents challenges. But each is preferable to this fatally flawed agreement…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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On Topic

                                                                                                        

The Illegitimate Libyan Government Is Funding the Terrorists Who Killed Chris Stevens: Ann Marlowe, National Review, July 20, 2015 — On June 14 of this year, American F-15 fighter-bombers struck a meeting of high-level terrorist leaders in Libya, targeting the notorious North African al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar but also hitting members of Ansar al-Sharia, an increasingly important terror group in the region.

Migration Crisis Pits EU’s East Against West: Anton Troianovski & Margit Feher, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 19, 2015 — Slovakia says it will take in 200 Syrian refugees to help fellow European Union countries cope with an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants—but with a condition: All 200 of them have to be Christians

For French-Algerians and Algerian-French, No Place to Truly Call Home: Amir Jalal Zerdoumi, New York Times, Aug. 15, 2015— The fishermen of Cap Falcon, a peaceful beach on Algeria’s western Mediterranean coast, swear they can see the Spanish mountaintops when the weather is clear. So tantalizingly close is Europe, the beach is a favorite launching point for the “harragas,” as illegal migrants are known here.

Libya Seeks Airstrikes Against ISIS Branch: New York Times, Aug. 15, 2015 — Libya’s internationally recognized government has asked fellow Arab states to conduct airstrikes against the Libyan branch of the Islamic State in the coastal city of Surt, a cabinet statement said on Saturday.

 

 

                                                                      

 

              

EMBOLDENED BY RECENT VICTORIES, AND U.S. DISENGAGEMENT, MIDDLE EAST VACUUM INCREASINGLY FILLED BY EXTREMISTS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

The Middle East's Future Looks a Lot Like Iraq: Tom Wilson, Real Clear World, May 29, 2015— Today's Middle East is arguably more volatile and more dangerous than it has been for centuries.

Obama Has Given Up on Iraq: Max Boot, Commentary, May 29, 2015 — White House press secretary Josh Earnest was busy yesterday commenting on the calamitous situation in Iraq—and in the process making it even worse.

ISIL Militants ‘Not Muslims': Millions Fleeing Their Homes as Terrorist Group Takes Over Iraqi Towns: Matthew Fisher, National Post, May 24, 2015 — Noura Mahmoud has been so terrorized by her family’s brushes with ISIL she wanted to be called by a pseudonym rather than reveal even her first name.

Islamic Jizya: Fact and Fiction: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, May 29, 2015— Muslim demands for non-Muslim “infidels” to pay jizya on pain of death are growing, even as the West fluctuates between having no clue what jizya is and thinking that jizya is an example of “tolerance” in Islam.

 

On Topic Links

 

Implications of the Fall of Key Syrian and Iraqi Cities to ISIS: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, May 27, 2015

The Ugly Reality is That the Islamic State Could Win: John McLaughlin, National Post, May 28, 2015

ISIS Attacks on the West: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, May 21, 2015

Is Turkey Still Arming Islamic State?: Burak Bekdil, Middle East Forum, May 25, 2015

 

                  

THE MIDDLE EAST'S FUTURE LOOKS A LOT LIKE IRAQ

Tom Wilson                                                                                                                  

Real Clear World, May 29, 2015

 

Today's Middle East is arguably more volatile and more dangerous than it has been for centuries. The rise of Islamic State and the prospect of a nuclear Iran each represent an unprecedented threat to global security. All the while the West appears increasingly at a loss as to what to do about any of this. Britain and America's influence in the region has weakened, and this newly emerging reality looks set to create some strange and previously inconceivable alliances.
 
Reports have been emerging from Middle Eastern news agencies of a secret meeting recently held in Jordan. What was particularly intriguing about this previously unpublicized gathering was that it reportedly brought together Israeli diplomats with those from Arab countries that officially have no dealings with the Jewish State; we can assume that figures from the Gulf countries were among those in attendance.
 
All the more interesting, it is being widely reported that the meeting was essentially convened to plan for a Middle East from which America has more or less retreated. Other reports claim that some of the Sunni states expressed openness to entering into security cooperation with Israel. If true, this indicates just how concerned the Sunni states are about the rise of a nuclear Iran, and just how little faith they have in U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy for negotiating Iran's nuclear program away.
 
Of course, we don't know that the approach adopted by Obama will outlive his presidency. But the worries of many of America's traditional allies in the region are clear. If America does continue to retreat from the Middle East, the vacuum left behind will quickly be filled by others. That could lead to an entire region that looks much as Iraq does today. Since Obama pulled U.S. forces out of Iraq at the end of 2011, the country has been lost to a tug-of-war between the Iranian-backed, Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and the Sunni Islamists militants who are now largely expressed through the Islamic State.
 
No one would deny that Iraq went through some dark days during the era of former U.S. President George W. Bush. But following the surge strategy launched in 2008, order was being restored, and it looked like there might be good reason for optimism. Now, as the Obama administration increasingly disengages from the Middle East, the region is slipping into turmoil, hurtling from one crisis to the next. Desperate times indeed call for desperate measures, and if the Gulf states are now reaching out to Israel, we know just how desperate things have become.
 
The policies pursued by Obama in the Middle East have either simply failed, or worse, they have completely backfired. Take the airstrikes against ISIS that we were told would turn back the advancing jihadist tide. The recent fall of Ramadi makes clear that this approach isn't working. And then there is the administration's strategy on Iran, which was supposed to restrain Iranian ambitions and prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. But the negotiations now look well on their way to achieving the opposite.
 
At the very time that Washington is pushing for reconciliation, the Iranians have been showing signs of becoming more belligerent, not less. By harassing international shipping along the Strait of Hormuz, as they have been in recent weeks, the Iranians are sending a pretty clear message – just in case the message of "Death to America" that continues to echo out across the public squares of Tehran wasn't clear enough.
 
Worse, it is not only the Iranians that have read the West's negotiation stance as a sign of weakness. No longer believing that the Obama administration will stop Iran, the Saudis are now threatening to develop their own nuclear capabilities and match those of Iran. The very negotiations that are meant to be preventing nuclear proliferation in the region may now be about to trigger a nuclear arms race in one of the most unstable parts of the world.
 
As the Gulf countries have dramatically increased their spending on military hardware, it is also worth remembering that back in 2010 it emerged from WikiLeaks that the Saudis were preparing to allow Israel to use their airspace for a strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. It's always been fashionable to complain about American heavyhandedness in the Middle East. But under president Obama we are beginning to see what the alternative might look like.

                                                                       

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OBAMA HAS GIVEN UP ON IRAQ                                                                                                      

Max Boot                                                                                                             

Commentary, May 29, 2015

 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was busy yesterday commenting on the calamitous situation in Iraq—and in the process making it even worse. He told Fox News: “The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.” And then on NPR he rejected calls to send 25,000 or so troops to Iraq, saying:

 

“We are unwilling to dedicate that kind of blood and treasure to Iraq again. We saw what the result of that previous investment was. And that is not discounting the bravery and courage of our men and women in uniform – they had a substantial impact on the security situation there. But the Iraqi people, and because of the failed leadership of Prime Minister Maliki, was not able to capitalize on it. So our strategy right now is predicated on building up the capacity of those local forces and giving them another opportunity to control the security situation inside their own country and to do so with the support of the United States and our coalition partners. But we’re not going to be able to do it for them.”

 

This comes only days after Defense Secretary Ash Carter excoriated Iraqi troops for their lack of will to fight. What does it say about the US will to fight when the White House spokesman is saying that Iraq is so unimportant that we will not take any responsibility for the outcome there? That we are not willing to dedicate American “blood and treasure” to defeat ISIS?

 

The obvious takeaway is that this White House has little will or desire to oppose ISIS — that this president doesn’t see the destruction of ISIS as an important US national security objective even though that is exactly what he pledged to achieve. Once again, there is a major disconnect between the president’s strong rhetoric (“we will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” he promised on Sept. 10), and his anemic actions that can only cause a further loss of American credibility.

 

Another obvious takeaway is that not even the failure of Obama’s present strategy will cause him to rethink his approach. The loss of Ramadi has not shaken him out of his complacency. He’s willing to send 3,000 advisers and some warplanes under very restrictive rules of engagement, but that’s about it. Beyond that, the Iraqis are on their own. The White House just doesn’t care that much.

 

That’s quite a message to send to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been deployed to Iraq since 2003, and especially to the relatives of the 4,491 who gave their lives there (as well as the tens of thousands wounded, many severely). Obama, via his spokesman, seems to be saying that their sacrifices didn’t matter much because the US has no overriding security interest in Iraq.

 

That is also the message that Obama is sending, of course, to those US military personnel currently deployed to Iraq. One can only imagine what it does for their morale to hear the chief spokesman of their commander-in-chief — the man who sent them into harm’s way — explaining how unimportant their mission is.

 

But the worst effect of Josh Earnest’s seeming sangfroid about the future of Iraq is the message that he sends to Iraqis themselves. They are caught between two blood-thirsty ogres: ISIS and Iran. The US is the only outside force that could conceivably bolster a third alternative — a more moderate alternative — that would have wide appeal to Iraqis. That’s what we were doing until 2012, and with considerable success. But Obama was not willing to play that role anymore. He pulled out US troops and not even the consequent rise of ISIS is causing him to making a serious commitment.

 

So what he is basically signaling to Iraqis is that they need to choose sides among the outside powers that, unlike the U.S., ARE willing to risk blood and treasure in Iraq. Inevitably that means Sunnis will choose to go with ISIS and Shiites with Iran’s Quds Force.

 

It’s astonishing that even after all these years in power President Obama and his aides still have not grasped the importance of displaying presidential will in warfare. The lack of that will has already undermined the US mission in Afghanistan (remember that 18-month timeline on the surge that Obama ordered in 2009?) and it is now making progress hard to imagine in Iraq, much less in Syria.                                                                   

                                                                       

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ISIL MILITANTS ‘NOT MUSLIMS': MILLIONS FLEEING THEIR HOMES                        

AS TERRORIST GROUP TAKES OVER IRAQI TOWNS                                                                           

Matthew Fisher                                                                                                                            

National Post, May 24, 2015

 

Noura Mahmoud has been so terrorized by her family’s brushes with ISIL she wanted to be called by a pseudonym rather than reveal even her first name. Noura and her family were uprooted from their hardscrabble but tolerable life in an ISIL-controlled farming village in nearby Hawija earlier this year, swapping that home for another that — except for a few pillows and blankets — is utterly bereft of everything including furniture, electricity or running water in this still peaceful Kurdish-controlled town near Kirkuk.

 

They fled after ISIL made it plain that Noura’s husband would be killed because he had once been a member of the Iraqi security forces. “It’s horrible. I know they hate us, but for what reason? We are all Iraqis,” the 28-year-old woman said as she held her four-year-old mentally handicapped son, Nozad, in her arms. Noura and Nozad arrived in Dibis during one of the many spasms in the fighting that has been taking place a few kilometres down the road. They have lots of company. Houses on every street in town are sheltering shattered Arab families who largely depend on handouts from their new Kurdish neighbours to survive. There are many other such enclaves of escapees all over the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

 

This has become a nightmare without end as fresh floods of IDPs, as the UN calls them, are swamping those places in Iraq and Syria which ISIL has not yet conquered, putting further strain on already meagre resources. Iraq’s latest convulsion occurred last week. Tens of thousands of Sunni refugees fled the city of Ramadi after Iraqi security forces again abandoned their posts, their vehicles and their weapons rather than defend the population against ISIL.

 

A conservative estimate would be that there are more than 10 million Syrians and Iraqis who have been uprooted. However, so many have moved in so many waves from so many places to so many different places that it is almost impossible to get an accurate count of refugees and internally displaced people who are now spread across the historical centre of the Middle East. In Iraq the number of internally displaced is thought by Refugees International to number 3.5 million. At least 300,000 of these IDPs are in or near Kirkuk, which ISIL regards as a bigger prize than Mosul or Ramadi because Kirkuk is the biggest oil- and gas-producing centre in the country.

 

What separates Noura Mahmoud from many others who have joined this exodus in Kurdistan is that they, like the rest of the IDPs in Dibis, are Sunnis. Many of those who fled earlier from ISIL have been Christian Iraqis or other religious minorities from the Mosul area such as Yazidis whom the Islamic fundamentalists regard as devil-worshipping infidels. Mohammed Amin is an 86-year-old Kurdish elder. He lives with his extended family alongside Sunnis who recently arrived from a nearby town that ISIL seized last year.

 

With Kurdish and Arabic all-news television channels his constant companions, Amin knows in granular detail what ISIL has been up to. “The difference between Kurds and Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIL) turns out to be that we consider the humanitarian aspect more than they do,” Amin said as he squatted in his living room fretting over his black worry beads. “Those Arabs whose homes have been destroyed can be safe here.” Asked about ISIL’s claim that it is acting in the name of God, Amin slowly shook his head in disgust. “They are not Muslims,” the octogenarian said. “True Muslims do not behave as they do. No matter what your differences are, you do not kidnap women or murder Christians including women who are pregnant.”

 

As for ISIL’s future, without suggesting any way this might happen, Amin predicted that “they will vanish.”

 

A couple of blocks away, Rabea Abd Awad said he had paid a taxi driver US$800 to take him, his brother and their families on a circuitous 19-hour journey via Baghdad to Dubis that used to take only 30 minutes. After several harrowing inquisitions at checkpoints he reached safety with, literally, only the shirt on his back.

 

“I tolerated Daesh not allowing me to smoke, showing up unannounced at my home to rob and steal, planting landmines on my property and keeping lists that showed whether we had gone to the mosque five times every day and condemning us as non-believers if we didn’t,” the wheat farmer said. “But I knew we had to escape when they forced us to swear an oath of loyalty and fight alongside them.

 

“I had an uncle who was kidnapped and has not been heard from since and another uncle who was detained for 22 days for the crime of staring at them. What I feared more than anything was that they would try to touch our women, because if they did that we would have immediately had to fight them to the death. Their behaviour is barbaric.”

 

While the Kurds continue to slowly take land away from ISIL, the picture in central and western Iraq is growing darker and Noura Mahmoud despairs for the country’s future. As Nozad stares off blankly into space his mother says while she and her immediate family are safe for the moment, her relatives tell her they could be murdered at any time. “There is no solution for this mess because there is no solution for Daesh,” she said.                               

                                                                       

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ISLAMIC JIZYA: FACT AND FICTION                                                                                      

Raymond Ibrahim

Frontpage, May 29, 2015

 

Muslim demands for non-Muslim “infidels” to pay jizya on pain of death are growing, even as the West fluctuates between having no clue what jizya is and thinking that jizya is an example of “tolerance” in Islam.

In the video where the Islamic State slaughters some 30 Christian Ethiopians in Libya last April, the spokesman repeatedly pointed out that payment of jizya (which the impoverished Ethiopian migrant workers could not render, nor the 21 Copts before them) is the only way for Christians around the world to safeguard their lives:

 

“But whoever refuses [to pay jizya] will see nothing from us but the edge of a spear. The men will be killed and the children will be enslaved, and their wealth will be taken as booty. This is the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.” When the Islamic State invaded ancient Christian regions around the Ninevah Plain last June, it again declared: “We offer them [Assyrian Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”

 

The Islamic State—which most Western politicians ludicrously insist “has nothing to do with Islam”—is not alone in calling for jizya from Christian “infidels.” In 2002, Saudi Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman, discussing the Muslim prophet’s prediction that Islam will eventually conquer Rome, said, “We will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it. Yes, the Christians . . . will yet pay us the jizya, in humiliation, or they will convert to Islam.”

 

And in a video recently posted, Sheik ‘Issam Amira appears giving a sermon in Al Aqsa Mosque where he laments that too many Muslims think jihad is only for defense against aggressors, when in fact Muslims are also obligated to wage offensive jihad against non-Muslims: When you face your pagan enemy, call them—either to Islam, jizya, or seek Allah’s help and fight them. Even if they do not fight [or initiate hostilities], fight them!… Fight them! When? When they fight you? No, when they refuse to convert to Islam or refuse to pay jizya…. Whether they like it or not, we will subjugate them to Allah’s authority.”

 

In short, if the Islamic State is enforcing jizya on “infidels,” demands for its return are on the increase all around the Muslim world. Put differently, if Abu Shadi, an Egyptian Salfi leader, once declared that Egypt’s Christians “must either convert to Islam, pay jizya, or prepare for war,” Dr. Amani Tawfiq, a female professor at Egypt’s Mansoura University, once said that “If Egypt wants to slowly but surely get out of its economic situation and address poverty in the country, the jizya has to be imposed on the Copts.”

 

So what exactly is jizya? The word jizya appears in Koran 9:29, in an injunction that should be familiar by now: “Fight those among the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what Allah and his Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth, until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (emphasis added).” In the hadith, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad, regularly calls on Muslims to demand jizya of non-Muslims:  “If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay jizya, seek Allah’s help and fight them.” The second “righteous caliph,” Omar al-Khattab, reportedly said that any conquered “infidel” who refuses to convert to Islam “must pay the jizya out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.”

 

This theme of non-Muslim degradation appears regularly in the commentaries of Islam’s authorities. According to the Medieval Islamic Civilization Encyclopedia, Muslim “jurists came to view certain repressive and humiliating aspects of dhimma as de rigueur. Dhimmis [subjugated non-Muslim Christians and Jews] were required to pay the jizya publicly, in broad daylight, with hands turned palm upward, and to receive a smart smack on the forehead or the nape of the neck from the collection officer.”

 

Some of Islam’s jurists mandated a number of other humiliating rituals at the time of jizya payment, including that the presiding Muslim official slap, choke, and in some cases pull the beard of the paying dhimmi, who might even be required to approach the official on all fours, in bestial fashion. The root meaning of the Arabic word “jizya” is simply to “repay” or “recompense,” basically to “compensate” for something.  According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary, the standard Arabic-English dictionary, jizya is something that “takes the place” of something else, or “serves instead.” Simply put, conquered non-Muslims were to purchase their lives, which were otherwise forfeit to their Muslim conquerors, with money. Instead of taking their lives, they took their money.  As one medieval jurist succinctly put it, “their lives and their possessions are only protected by reason of payment of jizya.”

 

Past and increasingly present, Muslims profited immensely by exacting jizya from conquered peoples. For instance, Amr bin al-As, the companion of Muhammad who conquered Christian Egypt in the early 640s, tortured and killed any Christian Copt who tried to conceal his wealth. When a Copt inquired of him, “How much jizya are we to pay?” the Islamic hero replied, “If you give me all that you own—from the ground to the ceiling—I will not tell you how much you owe. Instead, you [the Christian Copts] are our treasure chest, so that, if we are in need, you will be in need, and if things are easy for us, they will be easy for you.”

 

Yet even that was not enough. Caliph Uthman later chided Amr bin al-As because another governor of Egypt had managed to increase the caliphate’s treasury double what Amr had. In the words of Uthman, the “milk camels [Egypt’s Christians, that is] . . . yielded more milk.” Years later, yet another caliph, Suliman Abdul Malik, wrote to the governor of Egypt advising him “to milk the camel until it gives no more milk, and until it milks blood.” Little wonder Egypt went from being almost entirely Christian in the seventh century to today having a mere 10%—and steadily dwindling, thanks to ongoing persecution—Christian minority…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

                                                                                     

On Topic

 

Implications of the Fall of Key Syrian and Iraqi Cities to ISIS: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, May 27, 2015—With the fall of Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) in Syria and Ramadi, east of Baghdad, to the Islamic State (IS), and the fall of the strategic town in the north of Syria – Jisr el Shughur – to the Jabhat el Nusra, the Middle East has entered a new phase in the disintegration of its nation-states.

The Ugly Reality is That the Islamic State Could Win: John McLaughlin, National Post, May 28, 2015—Let’s think the unthinkable: Could the Islamic State win?

ISIS Attacks on the West: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, May 21, 2015—The May 3 assault on a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, prompted much discussion about the assailants' connections to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh. Did ISIS run them as agents? Are they part of a new network of terror in the West?

Is Turkey Still Arming Islamic State?: Burak Bekdil, Middle East Forum, May 25, 2015 —Ali Babacan, a world-renowned economist and Turkey's mild-mannered Deputy Prime Minister, put it realistically in a recent speech: "Public trust in the justice system is in steady decline."

 

              

              

ON ISRAEL, HARPER SPEAKS FROM THE HEART—AS ISLAMISTS DESTROY M.E. HERITAGE AND MUNICH CONFRONTS ITS NAZI PAST

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

Harper’s Principled Stand on Israel: National Post, May 25, 2015— It would be easy to scoff, in a worldly wise way, at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent speech in Montreal.

A Meeting of Kindred Spirits in Iraq: Paul Merkley, Baysview Review, May 1, 2015 — The activities described in two news items recently noted by Daily Mail (U.K.) pretty well sum up the progress being made these days by the group which several months ago declared the inauguration of the Caliphate — universal rule of the Godly as proclaimed by Muhammad himself.

Hebrew Inscriptions, Jewels of Palmyra’s Jewish Past, May be Lost Forever: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 25, 2015 — Among the archaeological gems from Palmyra, the pearl of Syria’s desert, at risk after the Islamic State’s takeover last week are vestiges of its Jewish past

Munich Museum Is Another Step in Acknowledging the City’s Nazi Past: Melissa Eddy, New York Times, May 1, 2015— The Nazis first displayed their overt hunger for power in lock-step parades through Munich’s elegant Königsplatz.

 

On Topic Links

 

Forgotten Facts and Distorted History of the Mideast: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, May 28, 2015

“Whoever Disbelieves, Strike Off His Head” Muslim Persecution of Christians, February 2015: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Ma

y 14, 2015

At Easter Services, Iraqi Christians Under Threat From ISIS Consider Leaving Middle East: Campbell MacDiarmid, National Post, Apr. 5, 2015

The Ancient Ruins Terror Can’t Destroy: Patrick Symmes, New York Times, May 23, 2015

 

                            

HARPER’S PRINCIPLED STAND ON ISRAEL                                                                        

National Post, May 25, 2015

 

It would be easy to scoff, in a worldly wise way, at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent speech in Montreal. Harper, in town to receive the first-ever King David Award from the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, spoke of the deep friendship between Canada and Israel, of the unique challenges Israel faces as the sole democracy in the Middle East and of his government’s unwavering support for the Jewish state.

“Our government recognizes that Israel is a friend. A nation of democracy and constancy in a region of repression and instability,” said Harper. “Canada will continue to stand by Israel through fire and water.”

 

And yet, to the cynics, “Harper’s just courting the Jewish vote!” “It’s all strategy!” “We’re just talking tough because we lost out on that UN Security Council seat!” Yes, it’s easy to be cynical — too easy. There are any number of issues on which the prime minister deserves criticism, and many more on which his motives might be doubted. His support for Israel, however, is not one of them. It is honest, it is principled, and it is right. No one would suggest that Israel is above criticism. We share the concerns expressed by others that some Israeli policies and practices — particularly expanding West Bank settlements — have been unhelpful to the cause of peace in the Middle East. But we are also mindful that no other Western democracy, as Israel assuredly is, has had to live as it has since its founding: surrounded by hostile neighbours, on the front lines of a perpetual war.

 

Most Westerners, especially North Americans, have long enjoyed the ability to fight our wars on someone else’s real estate. With our civilian populations relatively immune from attack and the ugliness of war kept pleasantly out of view, we have enjoyed all the luxuries that a life of seemingly costless freedom has to offer. We forget how hard and painful defending a free society can be.

 

Members of our armed forces, our veterans and their families know this truth. For too many of them, it is seared into their flesh and bones. But the rest of us, those who live comfortably removed from the daily threat of attack, might not appreciate what an achievement it is for Israel to have maintained its democratic ideals as well as it has while living under siege all these many years.

 

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any society doing a better job of balancing the competing demands of maintaining civil rights at home, protecting innocent civilian life in enemy territory during war — and, of course, protecting its own citizens from attack. The defence of the nation is the first responsibility of any government, as it is the first right of any people. Why would we deny the people of Israel the same right? And yet there are those who, while mouthing the principle in the abstract, take issue whenever it is exercised. Israel, it seems, has a right to defend itself, so long as it does not use its army.

 

For Israel’s supporters, the points above are familiar, even clichéd. They’ve been said before. In time, we’re sure we’ll have cause to say them again. But it is rare to hear a political leader set aside the soothing bromides of diplomacy — on the one hand this but on the other hand that — and say so clearly, without equivocation, what should not need to be said, and yet most desperately does: Israel is a tiny country doing its best to make a future for itself in a part of world where too many of its neighbours want it destroyed. As Harper said: “Israel is the frontline of free and democratic nations, and any who turn their back on Israel, or turn a blind eye to the nature of Israel’s enemies, do so in the long run at their own peril.”

 

Though many will dismiss the prime minister’s recent remarks as mere political grandstanding, they should look deeper. We often say we’d like our leaders to speak from their hearts instead of reading off talking points. Last week, Harper did exactly that.

                                                                       

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A MEETING OF KINDRED SPIRITS IN IRAQ                                                                                   

Paul Merkley                                                                                                      

Baysview Review, May 1, 2015

 

The activities described in two news items recently noted by Daily Mail (U.K.) pretty well sum up the progress being made these days by the group which several months ago declared the inauguration of the Caliphate — universal rule of the Godly as proclaimed by Muhammad himself.

 

“Shock [sic] new video shows ISIS thugs smashing historic Iraqi city of Nimrud with barrel bombs, bulldozers and jackhammers in orgy of destruction slammed as a war crime by the United Nations … ‘God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statues worshipped instead of Allah in the past days,’ one militant says in the video.  Another militant vows that ‘whenever we seize a piece of land, we will remove signs of idolatry and spread monotheism.’…

 

It is important for us to grasp that the methods by which this progress has been achieved and on account of which unlimited future progress is anticipated by these zealots are those mandated in the mission statement of the Prophet Himself: “When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [Islam],” he instructed the faithful, “then strike off their necks.” [Qur’an 47:4.]

 

Raymond Ibrahim notes that in the earliest Muslim literature there are exact parallels for the entire range of sadistically-inspired behavior that we have come to expect from ISIS – “beheadings and mutilations … humiliation and gestures of triumph (feet on chest of fallen victim, dragging his body, or head, on the ground), laughter, mockery, and celebration (for the hearts of the believers are now ‘healed.’)”… Muhammad would surely never begrudge these servants his full marks for clarity of purpose and for candour in regard to the principles and their goals.

 

We do not have to assume that in net terms ISIS is gaining on the ground – that is, that it governs more lives today than it did yesterday. Nobody really knows the answer to this question. Since the formation of the anti-ISIS Alliance spectacular losses of fighting manpower have been suffered by ISIS. Vast territory which was won in a spectacular manner just months ago in Iraq and in Syria has been abandoned by ISIS, apparently without net gain by ISIS in territory or population.

 

At the same time, it has to be kept in mind, that ISIS does not wholly-own the franchise in the field of Islamic Empire-building at this hour: other equally-bloody-minded organizations – Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, AQAP, al-Shaba, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, etc — all of whom hate each other more than they hate us – are increasingly active in the same cause. Their intramural differences mean nothing to us; and the moment we begin to image that they should, then it is game over. What cannot be denied is that more people every day are being dragged into Islamic slavery…

 

At the same time, the mainstream (that is, secular) media are working hard to keep our eyes averted from the imminent elimination of Christianity from the Arab world. (For dispatches from this front we are almost entirely dependent on dedicated Christian news-gatherers including Open Doors and the Voice of the Martyrs… But increasing sensitivity to this crisis in secular media is represented (inter alia) by “Christians who use the language of Jesus being uprooted by Islamic state.”…

 

But there may be a small victory for clarity to be reported on one front. Substantial news coverage is now suddenly being given to stories about the “barbaric” campaign of destruction of antiquities of all kinds in areas under ISIS rule. At Hatra, Nimrud, Nineveh and Khorsabad and other sites where ruins remain from the days of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 BC to 609 BC) official ISIS gangs have been systematically destroying everything. These deeds are eliciting alarm about the fate of “Our Cultural Heritage.”

 

Leadership on this theme is coming from the United Nations – which, it must be said, has not been at the forefront of the fight to save the living Christian people fleeing from Islamic zealotry in Iraq or anywhere else. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO has condemned the latest IS attack on antiquities in Iraq as a “mad, destructive act that accentuates the horror of the situation… With their hammers and explosives they are also obliterating the site itself [Nimrud], clearly determined to wipe out all traces of the history of Iraq’s people.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

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HEBREW INSCRIPTIONS, JEWELS OF PALMYRA’S

JEWISH PAST, MAY BE LOST FOREVER                                                                                         

Ilan Ben Zion                                                                                                                               

Times of Israel, May 25, 2015

 

Among the archaeological gems from Palmyra, the pearl of Syria’s desert, at risk after the Islamic State’s takeover last week are vestiges of its Jewish past, including the longest Biblical Hebrew inscription from antiquity: the opening verses of the Shema carved into a stone doorway. Western archaeologists who visited the site in the 19th and 20th century discovered Hebrew verses etched into the doorframe of a house in the ancient city. But whether that inscription is still at the site is unclear.

 

The last time a European scholar documented it in situ was 1933, when Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University photographed it. “What may have happened to it since is anyone’s guess,” Professor David Noy, co-author of Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis (Jewish Inscriptions of the Near East), said in an email on Friday.

 

Palmyra was one of the Roman Empire’s major cities, rising to prominence in the first centuries of the common era as a vassal state and entrepôt connecting West and East. Situated at an oasis in the desert frontier separating the empires of Rome and Parthia, Palmyra grew to an estimated population of 150,000-200,000 at its height in the third century CE. Textiles, perfumes, spices and gems came from India and the Far East, and metals, glass, wine and cash from Rome passed overland, bypassing the longer Red Sea trade route.

 

Because of its unique location, Palmyrene culture and art exhibited a fusion of Roman and Persian traditions. Traditional Mesopotamian mud bricks comprised the majority of the city’s architecture, Jørgen Christian Meyer, an archaeologist from the University of Bergen explained, but temples to Semitic gods such as Bel, Baalshamin and Al-lat were constructed in Classical style with stout columns hewn of stone.

When the city was abandoned following its destruction in 273 CE and left to the elements, the mud brick disintegrated, leaving behind a petrified forest of stone columns.

 

During its centuries of prosperity and decline it was home to a thriving Jewish community. “What we see in Palmyra is a multicultural, and possibly also a multi-identity city,” Meyer, who headed a Norwegian-Syrian archaeological excavation at the site in 2011, just as the civil war started heating up. “Here we’ve got this mixture of Greek, Aramaic, Middle Eastern, Roman culture. This is fantastic.” “That’s why it’s a unique place from a historical point of view, a cultural point of view,” he said.

 

That fusion included Jews. Two locally produced terra cotta lamps found next to one of the great pagan temples bear menorahs on either side of a conch, suggesting close integration of Jews and gentiles. Known in Hebrew and Aramaic as Tadmor, Jewish legend attributed the city’s construction to King Solomon. Josephus Flavius, writing in the first century CE, ascribed its construction to King Solomon, saying that the city of Tamar referred to in Kings I was the “very great city” Josephus’s contemporaries knew in the Syrian Desert.

 

“Now the reason why this city lay so remote from the parts of Syria that are inhabited is this, that below there is no water to be had, and that it is in that place only that there are springs and pits of water,” the Jewish Roman historian said. “When he had therefore built this city, and encompassed it with very strong walls, he gave it the name of Tadmor, and that is the name it is still called by at this day among the Syrians, but the Greeks name it Palmyra.”

 

Modern scholars, however, dispute the veracity of Josephus’s claim that it was built by Solomon. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Classical city of Palmyra didn’t predate the first century BCE, and the biblical city of Tamar was likely in today’s Negev Desert…

 

Nonetheless, during Palmyra’s height during the Roman era, the city became home to a substantial Jewish community, as testified in Jewish texts. Two 3rd century CE Jewish tombs in Beit Shearim, outside Haifa, identify individuals as the interred sons of Palmyrenes. A passage in the Mishnah, compiled in the first to third centuries CE, also refers to one Miriam of Palmyra as living in the city during the first century CE. “It’s clear that there was a serious Jewish community. Jews from [Palmyra] brought them for burial [in Israel] and wrote on the sarcophagus that they were from there.” Daniel Vainstub of Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said. “We know from the Talmud that some of the locals converted to Judaism.”

 

But most significantly, etched into the doorway of a house in central Palmyra, northeast of its main colonnaded street, were the four opening lines of the Shema, one of the central Jewish prayers, verses from the book of Deuteronomy. Scholars have debated whether it was an entryway to a synagogue, but now they lean toward it having been a private home. The Biblical passage differs from the traditional text only inasmuch as it substitutes God’s name Yahweh for adonai — my Lord.

 

On the sides of the doorway were two other apotropaic inscriptions in Hebrew script believed taken from Deuteronomy as well. It was last photographed in the 1930s, and scholars contacted by the Times of Israel couldn’t ascertain whether it was still at the site, or whether in the intervening decades it was destroyed or sold on the black market.  “They’re part of the limited but clear evidence for Jews at Palmyra,” Tawny Holm, a Jewish Studies professor at Pennsylvania State University, said of the missing finds. They likely dated from before the 6th century CE, possibly from before the city’s destruction in 272-3, but “the inscription could have been added later,” she noted…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

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MUNICH MUSEUM IS ANOTHER STEP IN

ACKNOWLEDGING THE CITY’S NAZI PAST                                                                                   

Melissa Eddy

New York Times, May 1, 2015

 

The Nazis first displayed their overt hunger for power in lock-step parades through Munich’s elegant Königsplatz. Today, against the backdrop of imposing neo-Classical buildings, the striking white form of the city’s new Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism appears oddly misplaced. It is too simple, too clean. That incongruity was the desired effect of the center, which opened its doors to the public on Friday, more than a decade after it was first approved. It is meant to force both residents and tourists in the Bavarian capital to stop and ask themselves: What is that building? And why is it here, in Munich?

 

Winfried Nerdinger, the museum’s director, who has worked since 1988 to see the center realized, said that the structure and its contents were designed to provide sobering answers. “This is a perpetrator site,” Mr. Nerdinger said. “Those who carried out the crimes actually sat here, and the emphasis is on retracing how it could have come to this.” The permanent exhibition follows the rise of the Nazi Party chronologically over three floors. Using a mixture of images, text and an audio guide, the center examines how the Nazi movement grew out of the German Workers’ Party, or D.A.P., founded in a Munich beer hall in 1919; was embraced by middle-class society; and grew into a force that spread throughout Germany and later Europe, leading to World War II and the Holocaust.

 

The exhibition starts on the fourth floor and works its way down, leading visitors through the role that Munich and its society played in creating fertile ground for the far right and the radical anti-Semitism preached by the Nazis. The lower floors are dedicated to an examination of how postwar Munich handled its Nazi history and how anti-Semitism and racial discrimination remain relevant today, through news reports and a study of neo-Nazis in the city. During the opening ceremony on Thursday, several dozen neo-Nazis gathered at the edge of the security perimeter, decrying the center as misleading, unnecessary and a waste of public funds.

 

Mr. Nerdinger said his main goal was education: “to examine what lessons can be taken away from this site, and how are they relevant in the present day?” Although some in the German news media criticized the exhibition as little more than a well-presented, life-size history book, its message seemed to reach and resonate with the visitors who turned up on the May 1 Labor Day holiday for its opening… Germany, more than most countries, has dedicated itself to working through the questions of its past crimes. In Bavaria alone, the memorial sites include the Dachau concentration camp and documentation centers at the Nazis’ rally grounds in Nuremberg and at the Obersalzberg mountain retreat, with its view of the Alps, where Adolf Hitler hosted foreign guests and Munich intellectuals. All are meant to recall the past and warn of its implications for the future.

 

But as the country struggles to cope with an influx of some 200,000 migrants fleeing conflict and poverty last year alone, reminders of Nazi sentiments have emerged. Refugee shelters in Bavarian villages have been defaced with swastikas or set on fire. In Dresden, thousands of Germans have joined weekly demonstrations against Muslims and other immigrants. While those demonstrations, organized by the anti-immigrant movement Pegida, drew support from across the country, nowhere were the counterprotests stronger than in Munich, where several hundred anti-immigrant demonstrators were drowned out by thousands who turned up to send a message of tolerance and diversity.

 

Yet Munich, more than any other place in Germany, has struggled to come to terms with its fall from what Thomas Mann described in 1926 as a society “once healthy and gay” to “a hotbed of reactionary sentiment and the seat of inflexibility and resistance to the will of the times.” After a thwarted communist revolution and a crippling economic depression, the far right found legitimacy among much of the upper middle class, which welcomed Hitler and his newly established party.

 

In 1930, the Nazis purchased an elegant villa just east of the Königsplatz, where they established their headquarters. Known as the Braunes Haus, or Brown House, the building was largely destroyed by bombing and cleared by the American Army after World War II. For decades, the site sat vacant, until the city decided to build the center there at a cost of more than $31 million…From a vantage point on the third floor, visitors can gaze out at the former Führerbau — today home to the Munich University of Music and Theater — where Hitler signed the treaty decreeing that Czechoslovakia cede the Sudetenland in 1938, while screens show film footage of Nazi parades past the site…

 

For decades after the United States Army marched into Munich on April 30, 1945 — 70 years to the day before the center’s opening ceremony — proudly brandishing the sign removed from the city limits declaring “Munich, Capital of the Movement,” the city preferred to think of itself as a “global city with heart,” largely ignoring the role it had played in giving birth to the Nazi movement. In the 1980s, that began to change. The municipal authorities conducted a study of the city’s role in Nazi-era history. At the same time, younger Germans were beginning to explore who had suffered under the Nazis…

 

In 2001, Munich set out to build the Documentation Center, to confront its past by examining the question of how and why it happened, while reminding visitors that history remains relevant. “The Nazi period will remain a thorn in Germany’s side,” said Andreas Wirsching, director of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich. “We will continually be confronted with the question of how it could be that such a highly civilized country plunged into such an abyss of transgression, into a regime of injustice and murder. That is a lasting question of humanity that can be nightmarishly relevant.”

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

Forgotten Facts and Distorted History of the Mideast: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, May 28, 2015—The Middle East is in flames and the world community is still clinging to the theory that when a Palestinian state arises, peace will descend upon the region.

“Whoever Disbelieves, Strike Off His Head” Muslim Persecution of Christians, February 2015: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, May 14, 2015—Throughout February, members of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, the Copts, were slaughtered.
At Easter Services, Iraqi Christians Under Threat From ISIS Consider Leaving Middle East: Campbell MacDiarmid, National Post, Apr. 5, 2015—For many Iraqi Christians commemorating Easter Sunday, this year’s church services were not just a time for marking the Resurrection, but a time to reflect on their future, with many considering new beginnings overseas.

The Ancient Ruins Terror Can’t Destroy: Patrick Symmes, New York Times, May 23, 2015 —The guard from the antiquities authority was asleep when I arrived at the Temple of Bel, deep in the Syrian desert.

              

              

REGIONAL ROUND-UP (II): AS SISI TAKES ON TURKEY-BACKED HAMAS, U.S. STRUGGLES WITH YEMEN “SUCCESS” & AFGHAN PULL-OUT

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Angry Egypt Feels the Squeeze From Jihadis, US and Hamas:  Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Mar. 12, 2015 — There is one thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can take comfort in regarding his relations with the US administration …

Hamas in Turkey: "Humanitarian Activity": Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 6, 2015 — In 2012, Abdullah Gul, then President of Turkey, when asked by reporters whether Hamas would open an office in Istanbul, said: "Contacts [with Hamas] continue. Time will tell where the dimension of our cooperation will lead us to."

Diplomat Debunks Obama’s Yemen ‘Success’ Story: Andrew Harrod, Frontpage, Feb. 16, 2015 — Yemen has been an “always almost failing state” for as long as Ambassador Barbara K. Bodine can remember …

Dueling Mosques and an American Beacon in Afghanistan: S. Frederick Starr, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2015 — Two new initiatives focused in Kabul but originating in the Middle East threaten to draw Afghanistan into the vortex of Middle Eastern strife and to undermine prospects for a secular government.

 

On Topic Links

 

Al-Sisi and the Sinai Jihadis: Yoram Meital, Jerusalem Report, Mar. 8, 2015

Hamas Drones Said to Enter Egyptian Airspace: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Mar. 11, 2014

The Islamic Armageddon Lies Between Turkey and ISIS: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, Feb. 26, 2015

Yemen’s Houthis Seek Iran, Russia and China Ties: Hakim Almasmari & Asa Fitch, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 6, 2014

The Hardest (and Most Important) Job in Afghanistan: Azam Ahmed, New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014

                                                                                                                                      

         

ANGRY EGYPT FEELS THE SQUEEZE FROM JIHADIS, US AND HAMAS                                                    

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Mar. 12, 2015

 

There is one thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can take comfort in regarding his relations with the US administration — he is not the only Middle Eastern leader struggling to understand American President Barack Obama. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has also been at a loss in recent weeks amid the administration’s almost surreal conduct towards Cairo.

 

On Monday Sissi was asked what he and the other Arab allies thought of US leadership in the region. It is hard to put his response in words, mainly due to his prolonged silence. “Difficult question,” he said after some moments, while his body language expressed contempt and disgust. “The suspending of US equipment and arms was an indicator for the public that the United States is not standing by the Egyptians.”

 

It turns out that although the American administration recently agreed to provide the Egyptian Air Force with Apache attack helicopters, it has been making it increasingly difficult for Cairo to make additional military purchases. For example, the US is delaying the shipment of tanks, spare parts and other weapons that the army desperately needs in its war against Islamic State.

 

Egypt is currently facing the extremist group on two fronts: in the Sinai Peninsula, where Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis militants swore allegiance to IS, and to the west in Libya, where jihadists sworn to the group have established substantial military bases, gaining hold over territory in the country while simultaneously sending terrorists into Egypt. The mass execution of 21 Coptic Egyptians, who were in Libya seeking employment, led Sissi to authorize an Egyptian air assault against Islamic State targets in Libya.

 

Yet precisely during these difficult days for the Egyptians, Washington is delaying military assistance deliveries to Cairo, even as the White House and State Department preach in praise of the war against the Islamic State group, and go so far as to hint at plans to cooperate with Iran against the organization. Why? According to an Egyptian official, the formal explanation is that Cairo does not respect human rights. That is possible. But Egyptians cannot figure out how the Americans are prioritizing: Was the Muslim Brotherhood more respectful of human rights? Or the Iranian regime? Or the Islamic State and its friends?

Why is Egypt, which has become a vital player  in the war against Islamic extremism and Islamic State expansionism, being punished by the Americans?

 

Wednesday morning, yet again, a terror attack was carried out against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Another Egyptian officer was killed in North Sinai border town of Rafah. On Tuesday, two Egyptian soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in el-Arish, and for a moment it seemed as if the terror groups active in Sinai were overwhelming Egyptian security efforts. This is not the case, though. The vast majority of the attacks these days are being carried out in the northeastern tip of the peninsula, near the Gaza border. In the rest of the Sinai, there are rarely any security incidents. Just last month, the Egyptian army killed dozens of terrorists in the Sinai, mostly in the el-Arish and Rafah areas. Elite army units, the air force and UAV forces, are among the 14 battalions currently active in the region.

 

The area of the attacks and the proximity to the border raise strong suspicion in Egypt that the Sinai terrorists are receiving significant assistance from the Gaza Strip. This, in essence, is the source of the blatant hostility between Hamas and the Egyptian administration. Egypt’s attitude towards Hamas these days is far worse than Israel’s stance towards the terror group. Cairo closely followed reports…earlier this week regarding the various long-term ceasefire offers channeled through Western intermediaries, and Israel’s forgiving attitude toward Hamas was ill-accepted and even mocked. Egyptians fail to understand why Israel, which has been targeted so many times by Hamas and continues to prepare for the next war, insists on maintaining Hamas’s rule over Gaza.

 

First, it is no secret that terrorists in the Sinai receive weapons from Gaza and train there. The constant campaign to destroy tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and the Sinai continues, though Egyptian intelligence is aware Hamas fighters are overseeing efforts to rebuild the tunnels. The Islamists even use partially destroyed tunnels in order to dig out new ones. All the while, maritime smuggling continues. The Times of Israel was made aware of a list of Egyptian demands presented to Hamas as a condition for thawing relations: 1. Extradition to Egypt of Sinai terror suspects currently in Gaza. A prominent figure on the list is Shadi el-Menei, an Egyptian who fled to Gaza after being involved in Sinai terror attacks. 2. The closure of the smuggling tunnels. 3. Termination of terrorist training and arming. None of these requirements has been fulfilled by Hamas so far…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]               

                                                                       

                                                                                   

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HAMAS IN TURKEY: "HUMANITARIAN ACTIVITY"                                                                                

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Mar. 6, 2015

 

In 2012, Abdullah Gul, then President of Turkey, when asked by reporters whether Hamas would open an office in Istanbul, said: "Contacts [with Hamas] continue. Time will tell where the dimension of our cooperation will lead us to." Gul is a moderate Islamist compared to his successor as President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Guess what time told. Eight years after the 2006 visit to Turkey of the head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, the Islamist organization — deemed a terror group by Egypt, the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Japan — was coordinating its efforts in the West Bank with logistical support from a command center in Istanbul — a fact that annoyed even the Palestinian Authority (PA).

 

In 2014, Turkey was also host to Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas commander whom the PA accuses of planning multiple attacks against Israeli targets. The newspaper Israel Hayom calls Arouri "an infamous arch-terrorist believed to be responsible for dozens of attacks against Israelis." According to the Israeli media, the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) has evidence that the deadly attacks against Israelis were planned at the Hamas headquarters in Istanbul. In November, the Shin Bet reported the arrest in the West Bank of members of a cell preparing to attack Israeli targets, who had received military training abroad under the leadership of Hamas in Turkey. Last August, speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, Arouri admitted that Hamas was behind the "heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades, which captured three settlers in Hebron." The three teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas operatives, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence that led to the vicious 50-day war in Gaza.

 

In December, Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon asserted that Hamas operatives in Istanbul were plotting terrorist attacks to be carried out in the West Bank and Gaza. "Hamas," he said, "is trying to build terrorism infrastructure in Judea and Samaria that will carry out attacks in different forms, and we must work aggressively and determinately against this." Ya'alon also claimed, when he met with then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Washington, that Hamas moved its bureau from Damascus to Istanbul for the first time in late October 2014. His accusations came a month after Israel filed a complaint with NATO for Turkey's role in supporting terrorism by harboring and supporting Hamas officials. The complaint specifically mentioned Arouri, who has lived in Turkey since 2010. Also in December, a Hamas leader, speaking to World Net Daily on condition of anonymity, confirmed that his organization was using NATO member Turkey as a base for logistics, training and planning terrorist attacks.

 

When so much was in the public domain, the U.S. administration shyly felt compelled to act, and appealed to Ankara to prevent Hamas's military activity originating from any base on Turkish soil. After all, Turkey was a NATO ally and most allies viewed Hamas as a terrorist organization. Turkish diplomats and security officials neither deny nor confirm that Hamas has a logistical hub in Turkey. "Call it a bureau or anything else," said one official privately. Another senior official weighed in: "Hamas' activity in Turkey is limited to coordinating humanitarian aid and media work." A recent report in Al-Monitor quoted a Turkish diplomat as saying, "Turkey has a dialogue with Hamas but will absolutely not allow any terror organization to operate on its soil."

 

That line is where verbal "creativity" comes into the picture: "Turkey will not allow any terror organization to operate on its soil." Yes and no. Yes, because Turkey openly declares that it does not view Hamas as a terrorist organization. And no, because Hamas is in fact a terrorist organization. In January, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: "For us, Hamas is not a terror organization; it has never committed any act of terror." But that was not Ankara's first sleight-of-hand for an entity that vows to kill every last Jew on earth. President Erdogan has repeatedly described Hamas militants as "freedom fighters." In December, Davutoglu hosted Mashaal at a high-profile party congress in Konya, Central Turkey. Taking the stage at the event, Mashaal congratulated the Turkish people "for having Erdogan and Davutoglu." Thundering applause, Palestinian flags waving passionately and thousands of AKP fans shouting, "Down with Israel!"

 

The scope of Hamas's activity through Turkish territory is an open secret. Hamas and Turkish officials claim the nature of that activity is humanitarian. Maybe. But in the real world, kidnapping Israeli teenagers and hitting Israeli cities with rockets might actually be considered a "humanitarian activity" by most Islamists, whether Palestinian or Turkish. The choice of Istanbul to host the Hamas bureau is not totally irrelevant: Tens of thousands of people in Istanbul take to the streets in the great metropolis every year to commemorate "Jerusalem Day," in which they customarily burn Israeli and American flags and chant, "Down with Israel, down with America!"   

                                                                    

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DIPLOMAT DEBUNKS OBAMA’S YEMEN ‘SUCCESS’ STORY                                                                             

Andrew Harrod                                                                                                                            

Frontpage, Feb. 16, 2015

 

Yemen has been an “always almost failing state” for as long as Ambassador Barbara K. Bodine can remember, she affirmed in her February 3 Georgetown University luncheon lecture, “Yemen: If This is a Policy Success, What Does Failure Look Like?”  The truth of Bodine’s sobering presentation to a fifty-person conference room packed to standing-room-only was confirmed when, eight days later, America’s embassy in the capital Sanaa fell to Houthi rebels and U.S. Marines were forced to destroy their weapons before fleeing the country to prevent them from falling into rebel hands. The humiliating failure of American policy demonstrated that, President Barack Obama’s wishful thinking notwithstanding, Yemen will not be a policy success anytime soon.

 

Bodine, a career Foreign Service officer with extensive experience in the Middle East, directs Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.  She spoke at the invitation of Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU).  Associate director of ACMCU and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Professor of Islamic Civilization Jonathan Brown moderated and professor emeritus John Voll attended. According to Bodine, Obama left professionals with experience in Yemen “all baffled” when he “touted Yemen as a success” of anti-terrorism policy in a September address.  “Whatever Yemen is, it is not yet a success,” she stated, describing the “resource deprived” country whose Sunni majority was overtaken by an insurgency of Shiite Houthi rebels supported by Iran earlier this year.  Bodine warned that “solutions based on our timelines” do not work for a country like Yemen, which “never really gets fully stable, but . . . doesn’t quite go off the cliff, either.”  Yemenis “do conflict resolution so well because they do conflict prevention so poorly,” she added.

 

Bodine criticized the Obama administration’s emphasis on using drones to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is, “in many ways . . . the smallest problem in Yemen” given its instability.  In her words, “drones have gone from being a tool to a strategy,” but they “tend . . . to piss people off” and do “not make friends” among local Yemenis when unaccompanied by explanation.  She also criticized the “efficacy” of drones given that AQAP has grown from hundreds of followers in 2009 to thousands who now control Yemeni territory.  Moreover, the Yemeni military, “never . . . a strong institution,” is often bested by Yemeni tribes and desperately needs aid.

 

Bodine lamented that drone strikes “have corroded an already fairly fragile state” and caused Yemenis to view Americans as merely “fighting a proxy war” while “not . . . engaged in governance” that benefits the populace.  Americans “need to be seen as visible” in their ongoing aid to Yemen and to change their rhetoric from “always talking about al-Qaeda,” which causes Yemenis to “think that all we are is drones.”  Not countering Yemeni “drivers of instability” entails that problems other than AQAP will plague the strategically placed country.  A failed Yemeni state, for example, with twenty-five million refugees would mean that “Saudi Arabia has a problem.”

 

Yemen has “played host to other people’s proxy battles over the millennia,” Bodine noted, such as that between the Saudi Royal Family and Egypt’s former dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser during the Cold War.  Iranians “muck around” in Yemen, supporting the Houthis as a means of countering the Saudis, who, in turn, “muck around” in Syria by providing aid to the rebels fighting that country’s dictator, Bashar Assad, an Iranian ally.  However, she noted, Saudi Arabia’s “existential worry” in Yemen is not the Houthis, but AQAP.  “If you are overly confused, you are doing well,” she joked, in reference to Yemen’s convoluted political dynamics. Audience members did not challenge Bodine’s presentation, with one person agreeing with her assessment that “drones are ineffective” and commenting on the “lack of depth in our understanding of foreign policy.”  Similarly, Georgetown adjunct professor Joseph Saba, a specialist in fragile state development with World Bank experience in Yemen, concurred that “American interests are deeper and broader” in Yemen than drone policy.

 

Bodine succeeded in her principal objective of urging a dramatic rethinking of American policy towards Muslim-majority societies.  Yemen’s decent into chaos contradicts Obama’s premature proclamation of “success,” while the future remains as murky in Afghanistan as it does with incessant efforts to achieve “land for peace” in the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The shifting sectarian political sands in the region allow for groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to implement what Bodine termed a “brutal” yet “very clear idea” of “governing philosophy.”  Such daunting realities demand policies derived from a clear grasp of the region’s history and current affairs, not vapid pronouncements of victory based on little more than fantasy.

                                                                       

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DUELING MOSQUES AND AN AMERICAN BEACON IN AFGHANISTAN                                                                

S. Frederick Starr                                               

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2015

 

Two new initiatives focused in Kabul but originating in the Middle East threaten to draw Afghanistan into the vortex of Middle Eastern strife and to undermine prospects for a secular government. America will need to present an alternative to forces that seek to roll back much of what has been accomplished in Afghanistan.

 

In November, Saudi Arabia launched a huge new mosque and Islamic Center on a hill in Kabul’s center. The Saudi ambassador declared unconvincingly that the mosque’s purpose is to fight terrorism and “present a moderate and true face of Islam.” Iran is also constructing a mosque in central Kabul and, if asked, would probably make the same claim. Both complexes include a mosque and school, but the similarity ends there. One will promote the Saudi’s hard-line Sunni Wahabbism, while the other will propagate the Ayatollahs’ hard-line Shiite Islam.

 

Just as these two states and religions are engaged in an undeclared but bloody war in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, they are at loggerheads in Afghanistan and view the struggle there as a zero-sum game. If either prevails, Afghanistan will be the loser.

 

So far the country has largely escaped the strife arising from the millennium-old conflict between Sunni and Shiite Islam and the more ancient struggle between Persians and Arabs. Afghans do not consider theirs to be a Middle Eastern country. Even the branch of Islamic law that prevails in Afghanistan, the relatively mild Hanafi school, sets it apart from the Saudis and Iranians.

 

If Afghanistan is pulled in either direction it will draw the country into a brutal religious storm. No less serious, either alternative poses a direct threat to the ideal—lost for decades but now taking hold again—of an educated and modern Afghanistan based on secular laws and open to new knowledge in all spheres; of a country where jobs are accessible equally to men and women, and where education challenges minds rather than inculcates doctrines.

 

Has America offered any alternative to the threat posed by these dueling mosques? It has in the form of the American University of Afghanistan, chartered in 2004 as the country’s first private and independent institution of higher education. Laura Bush launched construction the following year by announcing a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Since then public and private donors have helped the university increase its faculty, build or remodel facilities, increase course offerings and expand its crucial scholarship program.

 

The university now offers programs in political science, public administration, business administration and computer science. Stanford helped create a five-year M.A. program in law; an M.B.A. program has opened, and a school of agriculture is planned. The university has even set up branch centers in three provincial capitals, where 300 young Afghan teacher trainers have begun spreading the university’s knowledge and values into thousands of school classrooms across Afghanistan.

 

Last month I delivered the graduation address at the university. The scene would have been familiar at any American college campus, as the graduates laughed, cried and tossed their mortarboards into the air. This is the wonder of the place. I met graduates with illiterate cousins who had fought with the Taliban. Others told me they had farmed or peddled dry goods to pay tuition. There were men and women who had already started their own businesses, while others who were determined to pursue careers in education.

 

At the epicenter of the new campus stands the gleaming new International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development. Some of the graduates perched their mortarboards atop Islamic scarfs while others came dressed in the height of Western fashion. The fact that half of all incoming students are women shows that the American University of Afghanistan has figured out how to translate its vision into reality.

 

Some of the parents and relatives at the ceremony were educated and prosperous, others barely literate. Two fathers told me through tears that “these children are our dream of a better life,” and “if they have no future, then Afghanistan has no future.”

 

Who is paying for this educational miracle? The question is important, since most of the campus has yet to be built and 70% of students require need-based financial aid. There is scarcely money to pay faculty salaries, and few Americans have stepped forward to fund urgently needed scholarships. Unlike either the Saudi or Iranian mosques, the American University here has no endowment.

 

Pondering these statistics, I think back over the years since 2001 and the enormous sacrifice the U.S. has made. Not just to fight al Queda or the Taliban, but to build a better life for Afghans, so their country—and ours—will never again fall prey to such barbarians.

 

What reasonable nation would sacrifice the lives of 2,254 of its young men and women fighting in Afghanistan and then pull back from funding an institution that can help prevent the kind of desperation that led to 9/11? What sane investor would sink $1 trillion into a country and then walk away?

 

Every day it becomes clearer what will happen if America takes this course, as we watch the Saudi and Iranian minarets going up in Kabul and read the grim news from Paris. The new university can be a powerful and enduring symbol of America’s values. But if it is not sustained, thousands of young men and women—people who could make their country the kind of place America fought for—will have been abandoned to a grim fate. If this happens, our promises will ring hollow and our sacrifice in lives and treasure will have been for nothing.

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

Al-Sisi and the Sinai Jihadis: Yoram Meital, Jerusalem Report, Mar. 8, 2015—  In a lethal attack in late January, radical Sunni militants killed some 40 Egyptian soldiers and security personnel, most of them in the city of El Arish in northern Sinai.

Hamas Drones Said to Enter Egyptian Airspace: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Mar. 11, 2014—Hamas drones reportedly flew out of the Gaza Strip and into Egyptian airspace above the Sinai Peninsula several times last week as the Egyptian army stood by helpless to prevent the incursions.

The Islamic Armageddon Lies Between Turkey and ISIS: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, Feb. 26, 2015 —Turkey sent a large armed force 23 miles into Syria on February 21, 2015, to a tiny enclave containing the mausoleum and body of a revered Ottoman leader who lived almost 800 years ago.

Yemen’s Houthis Seek Iran, Russia and China Ties: Hakim Almasmari & Asa Fitch, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 6, 2014—Houthi militants controlling Yemen’s capital are trying to build ties with Iran, Russia and China to offset Western and Saudi support for the country’s ousted president.

The Hardest (and Most Important) Job in Afghanistan: Azam Ahmed, New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014—A week on the front lines with the Afghan National Police.

                

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doris Strub Epstein: GROUP FORMING TO RAISE PUBLIC AWARENESS OF YEZIDI GENOCIDE; “THE WORLD IS SILENT” SAYS YAZIDI SPOKESMAN

 

 

 

 

 

The genocidal atrocities being perpetrated daily on the Yazidi people by the Islamic State  have vanished from media radar.   They have been targeted by the IS  for death, forced conversion and sexual slavery. The killing, the torture of thousands; the abduction of girls as young as eight, raped, sold, used as sex slaves by IS fighters, continues unabated. 

Last Friday morning a group met with Yazidis at the Zionist Centre on Marlee, to hear their story and to help raise public awareness of their plight. Participating was Dr. Mordechai Kedar, renowned Arab and Middle East expert, whose cutting edge ideas and leadership abilities have led many to call him the Winston Churchill of our day.  A professor at Bar Ilan University, he also served for many years in the  IDF's Intelligence, specializing on all facets of Islam.  He was in town for a series of lectures.

Hearing Mirza Ismail talk about his people, was eerily reminiscent of the history of the  Jewish people.  He is Chairman of the  Yezidi Human Rights Organization International.  Like the Jews, the Yezidis are an ancient  people, dating back 6,000 years.  Their origin is in the heart of Mesopotamia, the birth place of civilization. They have been attacked again and again over the centuries by Islamic forces, "just because we have a different culture and religion".  Today they are on the verge of annihilation.  "And the world is silent", he told the group in despair.  The Yazidis have an ancient monotheistic religion that is neither Christian nor Muslim.

The present plight of the Yazidis is disturbingly similar to what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. They were persecuted and targeted for  genocide simply because they were Jews and were abandoned by the world.  This time the enemy is wearing black hoods instead of brown shirts.

There are 500,000 -700,000 Yazidis, largely based in Northern Iraq in the province of Nineveh and Mt. Sinjar. But they are also in Syria , Turkey, Iran, Russia, Georgia and Armenia, forced to flee their ancient homelands.  Some are also in the US and about 85 families live in Canada.

In August, 2014, ISIS attacked and took over the Kurdish controlled town of Sinjhar, driving more than 50,00 Yazidis out of their homes and fleeing for their lives to Sinjar Mountain.  An estimated 10,000 men have been executed and as many as 7,000 women and girls have been made sex slaves and sold.  Four hundred escaped and told horrific tales of brutality; multiple rape – 20 to 30 times daily – beatings, being forced to give blood to wounded ISIS fighters. 

Eyewitnesses report stories of beheadings, rape and children dying of starvation and dehydration. William Devlin, a New York pastor who visited in January, called the present situation of more than 300,000 refugees "genocidal and insane" in dire need of humanitarian aid. In the camp "hospitals" there are no doctors.  "For the Yazidis there is no doctors without borders", Merza told the group.  Why in the 21st Century, everybody knows, but nobody cares about our lives?" Furthermore, they are treated "with no respect" by the Muslim UN workers in the camps, he said.

Twelve thousand are still on Mt. Sinjar, totally isolated, lacking food, water and "most important," said Mirza, "arms.  "The US and Europe are giving arms to the Kurds to give to the Yazidis, but they don't.  The world thinks the Kurds are protecting them, but they don't give them any support." Mirza connected Dr. Kedar by telephone to a Yazidi on Mt. Sinjar. They spoke in Arabic.  I could hear the desperation in his voice over the speaker phone. "The world is not taking them seriously.  They have no power because they are not sufficiently organized," said Dr. Kedar.  He proceeded to tell them how to "package" themselves to get the attention of the media and the world.  "If you are not on the media, you don't exist," he said.  Later he arranged a meeting for them with the Indian Consul General.

"Our voices must be their voices," said JIMENA's (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) president, Gina Waldman.  "Their plight must be our plight."

ISLAMISM

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Russia’s Demographic Revolution: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Oct. 22, 2013— The stabbing murder on October 10 of an ethnic Russian, Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, apparently by a Muslim from Azerbaijan, led to anti-immigrant disturbances in Moscow, vandalism and assaults, and the arrest of 1,200. It brought a major tension in Russian life to the fore.

Outside the World’s Media Glare, Bangladesh is Fighting Against Militant Islam: Jonathan Kay, National Post, Oct. 15, 2013 — A single spasm of violence that shook Egypt earlier this month serves as a metaphor for what’s become of the Arab Spring. In fact, it’s a useful symbol of the existential religio-political crisis unfolding everywhere in the Islamic world.
Inspiring Hope Among Muslim Women: Fouad Ajami, New York Post, Oct. 17, 2013  —The picture on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times was worth a thousand words. Young Pakistani girls, one of them clutching a notebook, were awaiting the news from Oslo. Their heroine, Malala Yousafzai, was in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Iraq Tips Toward the AbyssBret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2013: — Fifty-four Iraqis were killed and another 70 injured Sunday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Baghdad cafe. But you probably didn't catch the news.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

It’s Time for the ‘Muslim 500’ to Make Their Voices Heard: Afsun Qureshi, National Post, Oct. 21, 2013

Islamists Target Islamists: Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 21, 2013

Talk About Political Dysfunction: Jason Pack & Mohamed Eljarh, New York Times,  Oct. 19, 2013

New Islamist Approach to Turks in Germany: Veli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 11, 2013

 

RUSSIA’S DEMOGRAPHIC REVOLUTION

Daniel Pipes

National Review, Oct. 22, 2013

 

The stabbing murder on October 10 of an ethnic Russian, Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, apparently by a Muslim from Azerbaijan, led to antimigrant disturbances in Moscow, vandalism and assaults, and the arrest of 1,200. It brought a major tension in Russian life to the fore. Not only do ethnic Muslims account for 21–23 million of Russia’s total population of 144 million, or 15 percent, but their proportion is fast growing. Alcoholism-plagued ethnic Russians are said to have European birth rates and African life-expectancy, with the former just 1.4 per woman and the latter 60 years for men. In Moscow, ethnic Christian women have 1.1 children. In contrast, Muslim women bear 2.3 children on average and have fewer abortions than their Russian counterparts. In Moscow, Tatar women have six children and Chechen and Ingush women have ten on average. In addition, some 3 to 4 million Muslims have moved to Russia from ex-republics of the USSR, mainly Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan; and some ethnic Russians are converting to Islam.

 

These trends mean that Christians are declining in numbers by 0.6 percent a year and Muslims increasing by that same amount, which will have dramatic effects over time. Some analysts foresee Muslims becoming a majority in the 21st century — a demographic revolution that would fundamentally change the country’s character. Paul Goble, an expert on Russian minorities, concludes that “Russia is going through a religious transformation that will be of even greater consequence for the international community than the collapse of the Soviet Union.” A Russian commentator he quotes envisions a mosque on Red Square in Moscow. The facile assumption that Moscow is and will remain Western-oriented “is no longer valid,” he argues. In particular, he predicts that the Muslim demographic surge “will have a profound impact on Russian foreign policy.”

 

Within a few years, Muslims will make up half the conscripts in the Russian army. Joseph A. D’Agostino of the Population Research Institute asks: “Will such a military operate effectively given the fury that many domestic Muslims feel toward the Russian military’s tactics in the Muslim region of Chechnya? What if other Muslim regions of Russia — some of which contain huge oil reserves — rebel against Moscow? Will Muslim soldiers fight and kill to keep them part of the Russian motherland?”

 

Russia’s increasingly confident Muslims, who constitute the majority of 57 of the country’s 182 ethnic groups, have started to use the term “Muslim Russia” to signal their ambitions. According to Muslim analyst Daniyal Isayev, this term affirms that Islam is “an inalienable part of Russia” and that “Russia as a state and civilization could not exist without Islam and the Muslims.” He notes that Muslims preceded ethnic Russians in much of the territory that is now Russia. His sweeping claims for Muslims include the exaggerations that they made critical contributions to Russia’s culture and its military victories.

 

Such talk can cause ethnic Russians to shudder over the country’s population loss of at least 700,000 people a year. Some have returned to their faith and some have turned against Muslims. The reactions against a “Muslim Russia” include biased media portrayals of Muslims, attacks on mosques and other crimes, efforts to block Muslim immigration, and the rise of extreme Russian nationalist groups such as Alexander Belov’s “Movement against Illegal Immigration.” The Kremlin has responded to the issue in contradictory ways. Then-president Dmitri Medvedev tried appeasement in 2009 by stressing the importance of Islam to Russia, noting that “Muslim foundations are making an important contribution to promoting peace in society, providing spiritual and moral education for many people, as well as fighting extremism and xenophobia.” He also announced that, because of its large Muslim population, “Russia does not need to seek friendship with the Muslim world: Our country is an organic part of this world.”

 

But, as Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council points out, “the Kremlin has discriminated against its Muslim minority and ignored (even abetted) the rise of corrosive xenophobia among its citizens. This has bred resentment and alienation among Russia’s Muslims — sentiments that radical Islamic groups have been all too eager to exploit.” Added to existing Islamic-supremacist attitudes, this results in an increasingly restive Muslim minority.

 

Discussions of Islam in Europe tend to focus on places like Britain and Sweden, but Russia, the country with the largest Muslim community in both relative and absolute terms, is above all the place to watch. The anti-immigrant violence this week will surely be followed by much worse problems.

 

Contents

OUTSIDE THE WORLD’S MEDIA GLARE,

BANGLADESH IS FIGHTING AGAINST MILITANT ISLAM
Jonathan Kay

National Post, Oct. 15, 2013

 

A single spasm of violence that shook Egypt earlier this month serves as a metaphor for what’s become of the Arab Spring. In fact, it’s a useful symbol of the existential religio-political crisis unfolding everywhere in the Islamic world. Sunday, October 6 marked the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The war didn’t end with an Arab victory. But Arab armies pushed into Israeli territory in the campaign’s early stages, and struck existential panic into the Jewish state’s citizens. In Egypt, this early thrust restored a measure of credibility and pride to a military establishment that had seen its forces annihilated in a matter of days during the Six Day War in 1967. For four decades, the date has served as a rallying point for Egyptians of all stripes.

 

But 10 days ago, when Egyptians took to the streets for October 6 celebrations, they were divided into two camps. “As the military’s supporters celebrated the anniversary in Tahrir Square in Cairo with music and fireworks, officers and armed civilian loyalists set upon Islamist protesters who were also trying to reach the square, driving back their marches with tear gas and gunfire,” The New York Times reported. “[The] Islamist supporters, who have re-branded themselves under the banner of the ‘anti-coup’ movement … said they intended to salute ‘the soldiers who fought the October war — so our brave army regains its commitment to the true Egyptian military doctrine and knows the difference between the enemy and its people.’”

 

The fact that Egypt’ Islamists and military secularists can’t even join together in staging a remembrance event for the Arab-Israeli War is telling. For a century, anti-Zionism has been the only creed binding Arab nations together (especially in Lebanon, where Hezbollah’s radical agenda is otherwise completely antithetical to the conceit of a sovereign and united Lebanese state). It’s the creed that allowed Hamas and Fatah to co-exist under Yasser Arafat, and it once gave a measure of legitimacy to the Assad dynasty in Syria.

 

But now, Muslims in the region are turning inward. In the propaganda and political demands articulated by the Egyptian government and its Islamist critics, Israel barely registers anymore. The memory of the last major war in the Sinai, which took place before most Egyptians were born, now is just a contentious branding gimmick. The larger question of “What defines us — secularist nationalism, or an unquestioning obedience to the dogmas of Islam?” — is what most politically engaged Egyptians really care about. Analogous debates (often accompanied by hideous violence) are taking place in Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Kashmir, Afghanistan, the Muslim areas of the former USSR and, in an embryonic form, the nations of the Persian Gulf.

 

And then there’s Bangladesh, a country that gets scant attention in the Western media, but actually is home to more Muslims than any Arab country. Like Egyptians, Bangladeshis also are engaged in an existential, and occasionally violent, fight over the character of their nation. In 1971, what is now Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in a hideously bloody campaign that featured ethnic cleansing and genocide. The schism between Islamists and secularists became permanently embedded in the new country’s character during that conflict, because local Islamist leaders took sides with Pakistan.

 

Unlike the citizens of Egypt — where the legacy of the early 1970s has been a crutch to national unity — Bangladeshis remain embittered about events that took place four decades ago, especially since some of the anti-independence fighters who committed war crimes during that period later rose to become prominent Islamist political figures in Jamaat-e-Islami, an organization that now seeks the creation of a theocratic state governed under shariah, and which is roughly comparable to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

 

Political developments in Bangladesh and Egypt are now very much running in parallel. In August, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court banned Jamaat-e-Islami from contesting elections, just as Egypt’s new leaders have similarly cracked down on the Brotherhood. And last month, the Court sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami lieutenant Abdul Quader Molla to death for the rape and murder of hundreds of Bengali civilians during the war. (Molla is now 65 years old. At the time of his crimes, he was a college student.)

 

In Egypt, the political struggle between Islamists and secularists has produced moral confusion in the West. Supporting the country’s current military-dominated government is problematic, since its leaders took power through a coup. But the theocratic tendencies of deposed president Mohamed Morsi also were troubling — even if the Muslim Brotherhood, unlike Jamaat-e-Islami, isn’t prominently infested with leaders who committed war crimes.

 

The moral stakes are more plain in Bangladesh than they are in Egypt. In 1971, Bangladeshis saw the face of militant Islam on their own blood-soaked streets for months on end. Moreover, Pakistan itself, the country from which Bangladesh broke free four decades ago, provides Bangladesh with a case study in the depths of dysfunction, repression and terrorism produced by Muslim theocratic movements.

 

Bangladesh is a country with many problems, as Western critics of the country’s garment industry will tell you. But its situation can only be made worse by Islamists bent on pushing it in the direction of Somalia, Sudan, Taliban-led Afghanistan, Gaza, Iran or Waziristan. Whether in the Middle East, or in South Asia, the world doesn’t need another theocracy.

 

Contents

 

INSPIRING HOPE AMONG MUSLIM WOMEN

Fouad Ajami

New York Post, Oct. 16, 2013

The picture on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times was worth a thousand words. Young Pakistani girls, one of them clutching a notebook, were awaiting the news from Oslo. Their heroine, Malala Yousafzai, was in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize. They were to be disappointed. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was given the honor.

What girls in the Muslim world thought and hoped for was of no concern to the selection committee, which knew what it was doing. But let us — in the fashion of The Tablet magazine, which, unimpressed with the selection of Alice Munro for the Nobel in literature, “gave” the award instead to Philip Roth — announce that Malala won. The news release would have been stirring. It would have celebrated the recipient’s age — Malala is 16; the average age of the winners had been 62. It would have hailed the schoolgirl’s courage and resilience. It was only a year ago that a would-be assassin boarded Malala’s school bus in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and shot her point-blank in the head. The shooter had asked for her by name. She had given an amazing answer: “I am Malala.” (This would become the title of her memoir.)

 

Tranquil, wealthy Oslo would have done a world of good for modern Islam, because Malala had come to embody the cause of freedom for young Muslim girls. Upon reaching puberty, girls throughout the Muslim world enter into a kind of bondage. What freedom they knew is taken away. They become temptresses, the enforcers of misogyny maintain and social virtue demands their seclusion. The Taliban on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border are a breed apart in their fierce oppression of women. Their worldview, it seems, rests on keeping women separate and under lock and key.

 

As her biography has it, Malala, the daughter of an enlightened educator, ran afoul of the Taliban by speaking out in favor of the education of girls. At 11, she kept a diary for the BBC about her hopes and daily routine. She was articulate, and foreign reporters and dignitaries were drawn to her. The assailant who boarded her school bus had been dispatched to serve a warrant on the very idea of modernism. Malala would not be silenced. She was taken to a British military hospital in Birmingham, and she recovered. Last July she turned up at the United Nations, delivering a speech with startling composure. “So here I stand, one girl among many,” she said. By then, she knew she had become the standard-bearer in the fight against the afflictions that torment Islam. She didn’t want to be herded into an early marriage; she didn’t want to be silenced. She sought the company of books and the joys of learning.

 

There is something odd about the place of women in the Islamic world today. Things were a good deal better for them in the early and middle years of the last century. This repression, this phobia, has come with the rise to power of the Islamists — half-educated men who take the faith literally and employ the techniques of modernity in their war against it. The tale repeats from one Muslim country to the other: the journey toward modernity broken in the 1980s. Religious bigots rose, mainly in the crowded cities, newly urbanized men who weaponized the faith and bent it to their needs. Malala’s birthplace, Pakistan, was once freer than it is today. The first three decades of its national life (1947 to the late 1970s) were dominated by a secular culture. The nation’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had meant Pakistan to be a state for the Muslims but not an Islamic state — a crucial distinction. A stern soldier, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, seized power and imposed a stultifying mix of despotism and religious conformity.

 

Malala matters. Onto her, untold millions can project their hopes for a dignified life within the faith. If Islamic modernity is to have a chance, Malala should be embraced by Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. In her modesty and dignity, she should be Islam’s beloved daughter, her journey a return to the early promise of Muslim modernism.

Contents

 

 

IRAQ TIPS TOWARD THE ABYSS

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2013

 

Fifty-four Iraqis were killed and another 70 injured Sunday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Baghdad cafe. But you probably didn't catch the news. The tree falls in the forest, the country collapses in the desert, and the question remains the same: Does either of them make a sound if nobody can be bothered to listen? Iraq, where 4,488 Americans recently and bravely gave their lives, and over which Washington obsessed for two decades, has effectively ceased to exist for the purposes of U.S. politics. The show has been canceled; there will be no reruns. Barack Obama's Iraq achievement is that you are now free to think of suicide bombings in Baghdad as you might a mud slide in Pakistan or a cholera outbreak in Haiti: As a bad, but remote, fact.

 

Except there have been a lot of suicide bombings lately in Iraq. Consider just the past two months: Aug. 22: Insurgent attacks, including a suicide bomber at a wedding, kill 24 people throughout the country. Aug. 23: A suicide bomber kills 36 people in a park in northern Baghdad. Sept. 21: Two suicide bombers kill 72 mourners at a Shiite funeral in Baghdad. Sept. 22: A suicide bomber kills 16 and wounds 35 at another Baghdad funeral. Sept. 23: At yet another funeral, two more suicide bombers murder at least 14. Oct. 5: A suicide bomber kills 66 Shiite pilgrims and injures 80 in Baghdad. Oct. 6: A wave of attacks kill at least 33 people throughout the country, including 12 children at an elementary school. Oct. 7: A wave of bombings hit multiple neighborhoods in Baghdad and kill at least 45. Oct. 17: Another 61 people die in nine car bomb explosions.

 

Altogether some 7,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this year, approaching levels last seen in 2008. Most of the killing has been done by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a group that in 2009 had been so thoroughly beaten by the combination of the U.S. surge and the Sunni Awakening that it barely existed. Now it's back, killing more people than any other al Qaeda franchise, attempting to tip Iraq toward civil war and joining ranks with its jihadist allies in Syria. At what point does all this start to, you know, worry us? Maybe when they start killing Americans again. Until then, the reflex political reaction regarding the return of AQI is to insist that it is a local group with mostly local ambitions, and that it is largely a reaction to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's purportedly anti-Sunni policies. Nothing in life is harder to unseat than a settled and comfortable assumption.

 

Still, assumptions must inevitably run up against facts. No ostensibly "local" al Qaeda branch has ever remained local for long, a point brought home last month when Somalia's al-Shabaab went on an epic killing spree at Nairobi's Westgate Mall. By doing so little to stop the spiralling chaos in Iraq and Syria, the administration isn't keeping America out of harm's way. It is allowing the next generation of jihadists to incubate, hatch and grow, mostly undisturbed by us. For more on how that works out, think about U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, 1989-2001.

 

It's also a fact that, despite his reputation as an inveterate sectarian, Mr. Maliki still runs a more-or-less democratic state, an American achievement worth trying to preserve. He faces elections next year, does not have a united Shiite bloc and has been reaching out to Sunnis in order to find a political settlement. The effort includes allowing former Baathists to hold government offices and devolving power from the central government to the provinces. The problem in Iraq isn't that Mr. Maliki is too much of an autocrat. It's that America took itself almost entirely out of the picture.

 

The point doesn't square with the conventional wisdom that developed about Iraq midway through the last decade. Back then, the idea was that it was America's presence in the country that strengthened AQI, and that America's departure was therefore bound to weaken it. "Without that rallying cry [of opposing U.S. occupation], what would al Qaeda have left?" the Cato Institute's Christopher Preble and Justin Logan asked in late 2005. The answer, as this year's bloody mounting toll testifies, is plenty.

 

Let's make this simple: What al Qaeda wants is power. It believes it can achieve power through what one of its theoreticians once called "the management of savagery." The more chaotic the Middle East, the more hospitable it is to al Qaeda's goals. That is why Mr. Obama's retreat from Iraq and his refusal to intervene in Syria in the war's early days have been such a boon to al Qaeda. The longer this goes on, the stronger al Qaeda will get.

Mr. Maliki is scheduled to visit the White House next week. Iraq has been asking the U.S. for help with counterterrorism, including the use of U.S. drones to help secure its porous border with Syria. An administration more mindful of U.S. security interests than of its campaign slogans should help the Iraqis out. Americans may think they've changed the channel on Iraq, but the grisly show goes on. Pay attention before it gets worse.

 

Contents

On Topic

 

 

It’s Time for the ‘Muslim 500’ to Make Their Voices Heard: Afsun Qureshi, National Post, Oct. 21, 2013—“Don’t you feel embarrassed, even frustrated about being a Muslim right about now?” I asked a family member who is a particularly devoted follower of Islam.

Islamists Target Islamists: Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 21, 2013: — The thought that the lot of us — both Muslims and "Islamophobes" — are all finding our way onto the same death lists might suggest to some of the Islamists that the problem is not everybody else's, but their own.

Talk About Political Dysfunction: Jason Pack & Mohamed Eljarh, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2013  —On Oct. 5, American Special Forces captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, an operative of Al Qaeda living in Libya. Five days later, a group of Libyan militiamen kidnapped their own prime minister, Ali Zeidan.

New Islamist Approach to Turks in Germany: Veli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 11, 2013  —The alignment of a German Islamist party with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP tends to demonstrate that an AKP campaign to penetrate and, ultimately, dominate German Turks has begun in earnest.

 
 

 

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ARTIFICIAL PEARLS, REAL SWINE: AFRICAN “STATES” CONFRONT POST-LIBYA ISLAMISTS

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Contents:                          

 

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In Mali, the Domino Theory is Real: Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, Jan. 23, 2013—As the French military intervention in Mali nears the end of its second week, French and Malian forces have begun making slow advances into the territory controlled by several different Islamist and separatist groups. What began a year ago as a Tuareg secessionist rebellion fuelled by weapons and mercenaries returning from Libya expanded into a larger war Jan. 11, when France attacked advancing Islamist forces that were moving towards Mali’s capital, Bamako.

 

Al-Qaeda's Soft Power Strategy in Yemen: Daniel Green, Washington Institute, Jan.24, 2013—Learning from jihadist mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has become adept at aligning with local political movements and building popular support in Yemen. In doing so, it has morphed into an insurgency while retaining its roots as a terrorist group.

 

Nigeria – Where Every Problem is Too Hard to Fix: Gwyne Dyer, The New Zealand Herald, Jan 2, 2013—It is not known if the word "dysfunctional" was invented specifically to describe the Nigerian state but the word certainly fills the bill. The political institutions of Africa's biggest country are incapable of dealing with even the smallest challenge.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

'Darker Sides': The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of 'Sahelistan': Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl, Thilo Thielke, Der Spiegel, Jan 28, 2013

Connecting the Dots in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: Abukar Arman, The Commentator, Jan. 7 2013

The Mali Blowback: Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative, Jan. 18, 2013
Mali and the al-Qaeda Trap: Paul Rogers, Real Clear World, Jan. 25, 2013

 

 

IN MALI, THE DOMINO THEORY IS REAL

 

Daniel Larison

The American Conservative, Jan. 23, 2013

 

As the French military intervention in Mali nears the end of its second week, French and Malian forces have begun making slow advances into the territory controlled by several different Islamist and separatist groups. What began a year ago as a Tuareg secessionist rebellion fueled by weapons and mercenaries returning from Libya expanded into a larger war Jan. 11, when France attacked advancing Islamist forces that were moving towards Mali’s capital, Bamako. Unlike most previous Western interventions over the last two decades, France is here supporting the internationally recognized government of Mali, and its intervention has so far been welcomed by most Malians as necessary for the defense of their country. Unfortunately, French intervention now likely would not have been necessary had it not been for the intervention in Libya in 2011 that the last French president demanded and the U.S. backed. Had Western governments foreseen the possible consequences of toppling one government two years ago, there might be no need to rescue another one from disaster now.

 

France says it will continue fighting until the Malian government’s control over its northern territory is restored and Islamist groups are defeated, which promises to be a protracted, open-ended commitment for a nation that was already weary of its role in Afghanistan and unable to wage the war in Libya without substantial American help. The U.S. role in the conflict remains a minimal one, confined so far to intelligence assistance and logistical support. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) does pose a real security threat to North and West Africa, and it could pose a threat to Europe, but the threat to the U.S. from AQIM is minimal, if it exists at all. The U.S. has far less at stake in this fight than France or the countries in the region, so it is appropriate that they bear the costs of countering that threat.

 

The Libyan war did not create Mali’s internal divisions, which have existed since independence, but the destabilizing effects of changing one regime in the region exacerbated many of the country’s political weaknesses. As a result, the country was effectively cut in half, its democratically-elected president was overthrown in a coup, and hundreds of thousands of its people have been forced to become refugees. Adding to the embarrassment of Western interventionists, up until then Mali had been something of the poster child for successful democratization and development in Africa. Now it is in danger of being reduced to an even more misleading caricature as “another Afghanistan” or “another Somalia.” But thinking in these terms is bound to fail. Mali’s predicament has to be understood on its own terms.

 

Despite broad French and Malian support for French intervention, it is far from obvious that President Hollande’s decision was a wise or well-considered one. One of the few prominent French opponents of that decision, Dominique de Villepin, voiced his doubts shortly after the intervention began:

 

In Mali, none of the conditions for success are met. We will fight blindfolded absent a clear objective for the war. Stopping the southward advance of the jihadists, and retaking the north, eradicating AQIM bases are all different wars. We will fight alone absent a reliable Malian partner. With the overthrow of the president in March and the prime minister in December, the collapse of the divided Malian army, and the overall state failure, on whom can we depend? We will fight in a void absent strong regional support. ECOWAS is in the rear and Algeria has signaled its reluctance.

 

Like Sarkozy’s decision to use force in Libya, Hollande’s decision to go to war in Mali has been a popular one and a much-needed political boost for his ailing government, but that popularity will disappear if French involvement becomes prolonged and costly. Unless Hollande limits French objectives to those that are realistic and obtainable, he will find that de Villepin was as prescient in his warnings about war in Mali as he was when he admonished the U.S. against invading Iraq.

 

As far as America is concerned, there is no compelling national interest that obliges the U.S. to become more involved in the conflict in Mali. One lesson of the Libyan war is that the U.S. shouldn’t join wars of choice that our allies insist on fighting. Americans should remember that one of the reasons the French are fighting in Mali is that our government agreed to support the last French-backed military adventure in Africa. What other countries in the region would suffer serious unintended consequences from doing the same thing in Mali? How many other countries have to be wrecked before American leaders acknowledge that their interventionist remedies often do more harm than good?

 

The Libyan intervention’s consequences in Mali tell a cautionary tale about the disaster that unnecessary war can unleash on an entire region, but most of the Obama administration’s opponents in the U.S. refuse to understand this. Instead of seeing Mali’s current woes as a warning against going to war too quickly, hawkish interventionists are already crafting a fantasy story that this is a result of excessive American passivity. This virtually guarantees that Republican hawks will keep attacking the administration for “inaction” when they could instead be trying to hold it accountable for its past recklessness in using force. Absent a credible opposition, the administration will keep receiving the benefit of the doubt from the public on foreign policy, even when it isn’t deserved.

 

If the U.S. learned anything from the Libyan war experience, it ought to be that our government should be far more cautious about resorting to force and much less willing to dismiss the importance of regional stability when considering how to respond to a brutal and abusive regime. Unfortunately, the bias in favor of (military) action in U.S. foreign-policy discourse makes it virtually impossible for these lessons to take hold.

Top of Page

 

 

 

AL-QAEDA'S SOFT POWER STRATEGY IN YEMEN
Daniel Green

Washington Institute, Jan.24, 2013
 

Learning from jihadist mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has become adept at aligning with local political movements and building popular support in Yemen. In doing so, it has morphed into an insurgency while retaining its roots as a terrorist group. To counter the group's political, legal, and social-welfare efforts in areas outside the capital, the Yemeni and U.S. governments must supplement their counterterrorism campaign by expanding services to the provinces in a decentralized fashion.
 

Since its founding in January 2009, AQAP has repeatedly attacked the United States and its interests. Washington has responded by significantly expanding its drone strikes in Yemen and bolstering the government's ability to fight AQAP itself through additional military aid and training.

 

When the Arab Spring began to sweep the region in 2011, a political crisis emerged in Yemen between then president Ali Saleh, who had ruled for over thirty years, and opponents who criticized the regime's corruption, lack of services, and leadership. As the crisis unfolded, Yemeni security forces became involved in political struggles in Sana, with many units moving from the south to the capital. Sensing a vacuum, AQAP launched a series of raids throughout the south that year, using conventional tactics to overrun large swathes of territory, including many districts and a provincial capital.
 

After seizing control of various southern Yemeni towns and districts, AQAP moved beyond its terrorist focus, adopting the characteristics of an insurgency and holding territory in order to create a nascent government. Its ability to do so was based not only on its enhanced military capabilities and the departure of government security forces, but also on its effective community engagement strategy.

 

Capitalizing on longstanding southern grievances regarding insufficient education, healthcare, security, rule of law, political representation, and economic development, AQAP sought to replicate the central government's functions throughout the region. Its political agents established a form of stability based on Islamic law, convening regular meetings with community leaders, solving local problems, and attempting to replace chaotic tribal feuds with a more ordered and religiously inspired justice system. This effort included mitigating tribal conflicts, protecting weaker tribes from stronger rivals, and creating opportunities for some ambitious locals, including weaker tribal factions, to rise beyond their social position and seize power in their communities. AQAP also provided humanitarian assistance such as fresh water and food for the indigent, basic healthcare, and educational opportunities (albeit only Quranic teachings).

 

Many of these efforts appealed to the population, not only because they were better than what the local government had provided, but also because many tribal sheiks had previously been discredited for not living up to their responsibilities. Additionally, Quran-based engagement was highly appealing to communities in which that book was often the only text residents knew.
 

Al-Qaeda's strategy in Yemen reflects many of the lessons it learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it frequently alienated locals through the brutality of its rule. In addition, Yemeni tribal structures are far stronger than in those two countries, and tribal leaders are much more adept at governing their traditional areas of control. AQAP has therefore pursued a softer approach not simply because it wants to, but because it must, since the tribes have far greater power than it currently wields.

AQAP has also been effective at joining its cause with local political movements in Yemen, as it did in Iraq with Sunni Arab nationalists. To date, it has aligned its interests with southern elements seeking greater autonomy from the central government or complete independence from Yemen (though it is probably not working with the longstanding Southern Mobility Movement).

 

Finally, al-Qaeda does not have as strong a foreign character in Yemen as it did in previous conflicts. This reduces Washington and Sana's ability to separate the population from the terrorist group by using national pride, ethnic/tribal differences, or simple xenophobia to rebuff AQAP's advances.

 

Last year, in response to AQAP's gains, the Yemeni military launched widespread operations against the group's forces in the south. Although these efforts were largely successful in pushing AQAP out of areas it overran in 2011, the group continues to pose a threat. Having retreated to its traditional safe havens in the interior, al-Qaeda has since undertaken a concerted assassination campaign against Yemeni security, military, and intelligence officials as it reconstitutes its forces.

 

In addition, the group still commands sympathy and influence in the south. To be sure, AQAP eventually reverted to harsh rule in many communities once it consolidated power there, alienating many locals and spurring the exodus of thousands from areas under its sway. Yet many others remain sympathetic to the group, not just for religious or culturally conservative reasons, but also out of a general feeling that al-Qaeda, with all its imperfections, is still a better alternative than the Yemeni government.

 

Although relief efforts for war refugees did much to improve Sana's image among southerners, only a sustained governance and development initiative — one highly synchronized with military clearing and holding operations against AQAP — will consolidate support for the central government. Yet this sort of initiative will not come naturally to Sana or Washington. The lack of such efforts following last year's clearing operations is already undermining popular support, creating another opportunity for a chastened but resilient AQAP to leverage the south against the central government. The group is already adapting its community engagement strategy by apologizing for the excesses of its recent rule and making overtures to key local leaders to lay the groundwork for reasserting control.

 

Thus far, most U.S. efforts against AQAP have been limited to counterterrorism operations, which are unable to address the fundamental issues prompting Yemenis to either tolerate the group's presence or actively support its goals. In fact, the heavy reliance on sometimes-inaccurate drone strikes has allowed AQAP to take advantage of U.S. and Yemeni mistakes and further bolster its support among the population…..

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NIGERIA – WHERE EVERY PROBLEM IS TOO HARD TO FIX

Gwyne Dyer

The New Zealand Herald, Jan 2, 2013

 

It is not known if the word "dysfunctional" was invented specifically to describe the Nigerian state – several other candidates also come to mind – but the word certainly fills the bill. The political institutions of Africa's biggest country are incapable of dealing with even the smallest challenge. Indeed, they often make matters worse.

 

Consider, for example, the way that the Nigerian Government has dealt with the Islamist terrorists of Boko Haram. Or rather, how it has failed to deal with them. Boko Haram (the phrase means "Western education is sinful") began as a loony but not very dangerous group in the northern state of Bornu who rejected everything that they perceived as "Western" science. In a BBC interview in 2009 its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, claimed that the concept of a spherical Earth is against Islamic teaching. He also denied that rain came from water evaporated by the sun.

 

Bornu is a very poor state, however, and his preaching gave him enough of a following among the poor and ignorant to make him a political threat to the established order. So hundreds of his followers were killed in a huge military and police attack on the movement in 2009, and Mohammed Yusuf himself was murdered while in police custody. That was what triggered Boko Haram's terrorist campaign.

 

Its attacks grew rapidly: by early last year Boko Haram had killed 700 people in dozens of attacks against military, police, government and media organisations and against the Christian minorities living in northern Nigeria. So last March Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, promised that the security forces would end the insurgency by June. But the death toll just kept climbing.

 

In September, an official told the Guardian newspaper, "There is no sense that the Government has a real grip. The situation is not remotely under control." Last week alone, six people died in an attack on a church on Christmas Day, seven were killed in Maiduguri, the capital of Bornu state, on December 27 and 15 Christians were abducted and murdered, mostly by slitting their throats, in a town near Maiduguri on December 28.

 

President Jonathan's response was to visit a Christian church on Sunday and congratulate the security forces on preventing many more attacks during Christmas week: "Although we still recorded some incidents, the extent of attacks which [Boko Haram] planned was not allowed to be executed." If this is what success looks like, Nigeria is in very deep trouble.

 

Part of the reason is the "security forces", which are corrupt, incompetent, and brutal. In the murderous rampages that are their common response to Boko Haram's attacks, they have probably killed more innocent people than the terrorists, and have certainly stolen more property.

 

But it is the Government that raises, trains and pays these security forces, and even in a continent where many countries have problems with the professionalism of the army and police, Nigeria's are in a class by themselves. That is ultimately because its politicians are also in a class by themselves. There are some honest and serious men and women among them, but as a group they are spectacularly cynical and self-serving.

 

One reason is Nigeria's oil: 100 million Nigerians, two-thirds of the population, live on less than a dollar a day, but there is a lot of oil money around to steal, and politics is the best way to steal it. Another is the country's tribal, regional and religious divisions, which are extreme even by African standards. In the mainly Muslim north, 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line; in the mostly Christian south, only half do.

 

Now add a ruthless Islamist terrorist group to the mix, and stir. Boko Haram's support does not just come from a tiny minority of religious fanatics and from grieving and angry people turned against the Government by the brutality of the security forces. It also comes from a huge pool of unemployed and demoralised young men who have no hope of doing anything meaningful with their lives.

 

Democracy has not transformed politics dramatically anywhere in Nigeria, but the deficit is worst in the north, where the traditional rulers protected their power by making alliances with politicians who appealed to the population's Islamic sentiments.

 

That's why all the northern states introduced sharia law around the turn of the century: to stave off popular demands for more far-reaching reforms.

 

But that solution is now failing, for the cynical politicians who became Islamist merely for tactical reasons are being outflanked by genuine fanatics who reject not only science and religious freedom but democracy itself.

 

Nigeria only has an Islamist terrorist problem at the moment, mostly centred in the north and with sporadic attacks in the Christian-majority parts of the country. But it may be heading down the road recently taken by Mali, in which Islamist extremists seize control of the north of the country and divide it in two. And lots of people in the south wouldn't mind a bit. Just seal the new border and forget about the north.

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'Darker Sides': The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of 'Sahelistan': Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke, Der Spiegel, Jan 28, 2013—France is advancing quickly against the Islamists in northern Mali, having already made it to Timbuktu. But the Sahel offers a vast sanctuary for the extremists, complete with training camps, lawlessness and plenty of ways to make money.

 

Connecting the Dots in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: Abukar Arman, The Commentator, Jan. 7 2013—Just as the temperature of ‘security threat’ slowly declines in Somalia, it rises in other parts of East Africa. Elements of mainly political, religious, and clan/ethnic nature continue to shift and create new volatile conditions. Though not entirely interdependent these conditions could create a ripple effect across different borders.  It is a high anxiety period in the region – especially the area that I would refer to as the triangle of threat: Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
 

The Mali Blowback: Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative, Jan. 18, 2013—“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s third law of physics. Its counterpart in geopolitics is “blowback,” when military action in one sphere produces an unintended and undesirable consequence in another. September 11, 2001, was blowback.

Mali and the al-Qaeda Trap: Paul Rogers, Real Clear World, Jan. 25, 2013—A series of events and statements in the early weeks of 2013 suggests that the "war on terror" declared in 2001 is entering a new phase. The escalation of war in northern Mali and the siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, followed by the sudden advice from several European governments that their citizens in Benghazi should leave immediately, all focus security attention on northern Africa. At the same time, there are signs of an increase in Islamist influence among the opposition forces in Syria's ongoing war, and of an intensified bombing campaign against government and Shi'a sites in Iraq.

 

 

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