Tag: Sinai

IRAN’S LAND CORRIDOR AND HEGEMONIC GOAL POSE SIGNIFICANT RISKS FOR ISRAEL & REGION

Waking Up to the Iranian Threat: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 15, 2018— Perusing global media coverage of the sharp skirmish on our northern border last weekend, I was struck by the fact that few outlets focused on the Iranian aggression.

Russia and the Israeli-Syrian-Iranian Confrontation: Emil Avdaliani, BESA, Feb. 15, 2018— Russian politicians have been surprisingly mute on the Israeli airstrikes in Syria that took place on February 11.

‘Outside-In’ is ‘Inside Out’: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Feb. 9, 2018— Sinai strikes are a reminder that Israel should never count on Arab states to guarantee its safety. It’s the other way around.

Quest for Arab Democracy: David Pryce-Jones, National Review, Dec. 31, 2017— One day in December 2010, a policewoman in a small and rather humdrum town in Tunisia slapped the face of Mohamed Bouazizi.

 

On Topic Links

 

Why Sunni Middle East ‘Powers’ Cannot Win Their Own Battles: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018

How to Restore US Credibility in the Middle East: Michael Oren, CNN, Jan. 31, 2018

Surviving Donald Trump: Israel’s Strategic Options: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Feb. 2, 2018

Trump Echoes Talleyrand in Middle East Diplomacy: EJ Kimball, The Daily Caller, Feb. 2, 2018

 

 

 

WAKING UP TO THE IRANIAN THREAT

David M. Weinberg

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 15, 2018

 

Perusing global media coverage of the sharp skirmish on our northern border last weekend, I was struck by the fact that few outlets focused on the Iranian aggression. Instead, the story was played out as a clash between Israel and Syria. This is a serious mistake. It is an error in analysis that belies a deeper and more dangerous trend, which is the tendency of Western observers to ignore the root of so much evil in the region: Iran.

 

It continually surprises me that public figures I meet here, visiting from North America and Europe, are truly not aware of the scope of Iranian muckraking and troublemaking in the region. Generally, they know that there are bad actors at play here, from al-Qaida and ISIS to Hezbollah, but they don’t have a comprehensive picture of Iranian belligerence and ambition, or the transformative, tectonic threat of Iran to Middle East stability. If anything, they often think that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (former US president Barack Obama’s nuclear deal) has shunted concerns about Iran to the back-burner, and that the ayatollahs are now placidly focusing on rebuilding their society and economy.

 

But, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The Islamic Republic is on an aggressive march across the Middle East, presenting significant security challenges to Israel, to moderate Sunni Arab countries, and to Western interests. Iran does not hide its overarching revolutionary ambitions: to export its brand of radical Islamism globally, to dominate the region, and to destroy Israel.

 

So, for the purposes of briefing those who haven’t been paying sufficient attention, here is a summary of the treacherous Iranian record: Iran is carving out a corridor of control – a Shi’ite land bridge – stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, including major parts of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Quds Force, various Shi’ite militias, and the Hezbollah organization. This corridor gives Iran a broad strategic base for aggression across the region.

 

Iran is establishing air and naval bases on the Mediterranean and Red seas, and especially in Syria, in order to project regional power. It has also stepped-up its harassment of international shipping and Western naval operations in the Persian Gulf. Iran is inserting militia forces into many regional conflicts, including support for the Houthi rebels in the Yemeni civil war. It seeks control of the Horn of Africa and the entrance to the Red Sea – a critical strategic choke point on international shipping. Iran is fomenting subversion in Middle East countries that are Western allies, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. It is particularly focused on destabilizing the Hashemite regime in Jordan in order to gain access to Israel’s longest border (its border with Jordan) and from there to penetrate Israel’s heartland.

 

Iran is arming guerrilla armies on Israel’s northern border (Hezbollah), southern border (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and terrorist undergrounds in the West Bank. It has equipped Hezbollah with an arsenal of more than 150,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel, and supplied Hamas with the arms and rockets that fueled three military confrontations with Israel over the past decade. Iran is sponsoring terrorism against Western, Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, including unambiguous funding, logistical support, planning and personnel for terrorist attacks that span the globe – from Buenos Aires to Burgas. Iran maintains an active terrorist network of proxies, agents and sleeper cells worldwide.

 

Iran is building a long-term nuclear military option, under the cover of the 2015 nuclear deal; an agreement that expires within a decade and which legitimizes Iranian uranium enrichment and advanced nuclear research as it sunsets. Iran is developing a formidable long-range missile arsenal of great technological variability, including solid and liquid propellant ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The latest Iranian missile, called the Khorramshahr, seems to be based on the North Korean BM-25 missile with a range of 3,500 km. The Iranian ballistic missile program is in violation of United Nations Security Council prohibitions.

 

Iran is threatening Israel with war and destruction. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, regularly refers to Israel as a cancerous tumor in the Middle East that must be removed, and speaks of the complete liberation of Palestine (meaning, the destruction of Israel) through jihad. Israel and Iran have essentially been in a war of stealth since the early 1980s (when Hezbollah was formed), but now Iranian generals and military forces have decamped on Israel’s border with Syria and have moved to direct and open military confrontation with Israel. Last weekend, the Iranian military launched an attack drone from Syria on a spy mission into Israel, and commanded the antiaircraft batteries that subsequently fired on Israeli jets (and hit a $50 million F-16I – the first Israeli jet felled by enemy fire in 30 years).

 

With the weakening of ISIS, the growing strength of Russia in Syria, and the continuing retraction of American involvement in the region, Iran apparently feels emboldened enough to escalate its confrontation with Israel. Iran is also confident enough to continue to oppress its own people, with no regard for human rights or free speech. It had no problem putting down large anti-corruption protests that erupted this winter, and the ayatollahs continue to hunt down and assassinate critics of the regime abroad, too. It is time to pay attention to the grave Iranian threat to us all.

 

                                                                       

 

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RUSSIA AND THE ISRAELI-SYRIAN-IRANIAN CONFRONTATION

Emil Avdaliani

BESA, Feb. 15, 2018

 

Russian politicians have been surprisingly mute on the Israeli airstrikes in Syria that took place on February 11. Nothing notable has been said beyond an official statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry urging all sides to show restraint and avoid actions that could lead to further complications.

 

The quiet reflects the Kremlin’s tough position. Moscow has been cooperating closely with both Israel and Iran of late, hence is in no position to unequivocally take sides. As Irina Zvyagelskaya, member of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, put it, “The situation for Russia is difficult as our country has good relations with Iran and Israel, which share deep differences.” Other political commentators say that nothing new has in fact occurred, as Israel has always vowed to destroy military buildups near its borders. The action was entirely foreseeable, they argue, in view of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s comments during his visit to Moscow in late January.

 

At the same time, many Russians are wondering to what extent the Kremlin will allow Israel to continue to carry out preventive strikes on Syrian soil. The incident suggested that an Israeli-Syrian military engagement could evolve into a serious situation that could spin out of Russian control. This is worrisome to the Russians, as they are keen to keep the balance in Syria.

 

On a broader level, the latest incident shows how ineffective Russian efforts have become to maintain a dominant position on the Syrian battlefield. The Turkish operation in Afrin, in the north of the country, made clear that Moscow is unable to forestall the growth of Ankara’s influence. Iranian proxy forces are now close to the Israeli border, and Russia failed to accomplish anything significant in this respect at the Sochi Conference in late January. Comments in the Russian media hint that, strategically speaking, Russia does not want Israel – a powerful player – to enter the already overcrowded Syrian battlefield. This is particularly true as Moscow is working right now on solidifying its positions following important military victories. Deep Israeli involvement could unravel Russia’s dominant role in Syria.

 

At the same time, suggestions in the Russian media over the past few days point to an interesting scenario in which the Israeli involvement in Syria forces Russia to more openly declare a pro-Iranian strategy. Up to this point, Moscow has consistently tried – at least officially – to cooperate with both countries. Alternatively, some Russian pundits surmise that because Moscow has been concerned that its major ally, Iran, might try to seize the strategic opportunity through its proxies and increase its clout in Syria, the Kremlin might welcome – if not Israel’s total engagement in Syria – at least some actions that limit Tehran’s power.

 

At a January 30 meeting with Russian President Putin in Moscow, just days before the incident, Netanyahu said, “[t]he most important thing I think is to make sure that we understand each other and that we don’t shoot down each other’s planes.” Indeed, over the past two days, some Russian analysts have raised the idea that the Israeli involvement in the Syrian conflict will be confined solely to maintaining its own security along the borders. Overall, the tone of the Russian media towards Israel’s actions has been neutral, while remaining studiously noncommittal about those of Iran.

 

Considering Israel’s security imperatives, it is arguable that the Israeli intervention was expected. Tehran is gaining the most from the Syrian chaos. It is likely that Israel will have to respond again, even if the Golan Heights are not directly threatened. As there are no other official statements from Russian officials, nor direct government leaks in leading Russian dailies such as Kommersant, Izvestia and others, Moscow’s position will be important to watch. Like most players in Syria, the Russians would not welcome additional actors in the country. However, the Kremlin will not be able to forestall further possible Israeli involvement in Syria.                                                              

 

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‘OUTSIDE-IN’ IS ‘INSIDE OUT’

Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, Feb. 9, 2018

 

Sinai strikes are a reminder that Israel should never count on Arab states to guarantee its safety. It’s the other way around. We’re not hearing much anymore about President Donald Trump’s desire to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. But though the peace process is currently in the deep freeze, the concept that animated Trump’s approach lives on. The idea was called “outside-in,” and the conceit of it was that moderate Arab nations like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia would persuade the Palestinians to make peace, and then supply the money and muscle to make it stick. It had the virtue of being rooted in the hard truths of realpolitik, rather than utopian peace fantasies, and seemed to promise the kind of paradigm change that might actually make a difference.

 

But the notion that Arab states can be relied upon to safeguard Israel’s security in a theoretical peace deal is as much a pipe dream as Shimon Peres’ “New Middle East” vision of Israel and the Palestinians acting like Belgium and the Netherlands in the aftermath of Oslo. Far from the Arabs protecting Israel, the reality is that Israel protects them. That’s the upshot of a report from this past weekend’s New York Times about Israel conducting a bombing campaign in the Sinai. The Egyptians are apparently not only cooperating with Israel in a battle against al Qaeda terrorists there, but have given their assent to Israeli air strikes against them on Egyptian territory. This would have been unimaginable a few years ago. The peninsula was the crucible of four Arab-Israeli wars as Israeli forces repeatedly bested the Egyptians. After the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty that followed Anwar Sadat’s dramatic visit to Jerusalem in 1977, the Sinai was a source of concern to those who thought the “cold peace” might disappear altogether.

 

But the aftermath of the Arab Spring protests that brought down Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, led to a change. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood brought the most populous Arab nation to the brink; however, when a coup backed by a mass uprising brought the military back into power, they knew who they could count on. The current Egyptian government understood that the Obama administration, which had helped pushed Mubarak out, was not a reliable friend. Israel was its main ally in the struggle against Islamist terror and the Muslim Brotherhood. That led to a joint effort to isolate Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, an offshoot of the Brotherhood. And when the Egyptians lost effective control of the Sinai where al Qaeda terrorists operate, cooperation with Israel became even more important.

 

Despite the size of Egypt’s military and the fact that it has, as part of the deal that led to the peace treaty with Israel, been given $1.5 billion in U.S. aid every year, it needs Israel if it’s to maintain control of the Sinai. As the Times reports, for more than two years, Israel has conducted weekly strikes on the area via drones, helicopters and jets. All of them were apparently carried out with the direct approval of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

 

The same is true of the much vaunted under-the-table alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis couldn’t persuade P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas to engage in peace talks with the Israel and the United States. But they look to the Israelis as a strategic ally in their struggle with Iran, which is just as, if not more of, a threat to the desert kingdom and other Gulf emirates than it is to the Jewish state.

 

Given its pose as the guardian of Islam, the Saudis are unlikely to convert their closeted relationship with Israel into an open one. Nor will Egypt or Jordan, whose government is even more dependent on Israel for its survival, stop supporting anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations as they try to appease the anti-Semitic sentiments of their populations. But that won’t stop them from looking to Israel to save them from their enemies. With Iran now firmly established in Syria and Lebanon under the effective control of Tehran’s Hezbollah auxiliaries, the region is a tinderbox. Yet the ability of Israel and the Arab states to cooperate acts as a deterrent against a bad situation that’s growing worse, even though expectations that these alliances can positively impact the peace process with the Palestinians remain unfounded.

 

Former Secretary of State John Kerry proposed that Egypt and Jordan would guarantee Israel’s security as part of a peace deal in which it would be expected to give up the West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Others have mooted the same role for the Saudis. But if neither Egypt nor Jordan can guarantee their own security, how can they be expected to protect Israel against terrorism and the implicit threat that a terrorist state in the West Bank, like the one that currently exists in Gaza, would pose to its future?

 

Seen in that light, the “outside-in” strategy touted by the Trump foreign-policy team is, at least as far as the peace process is concerned, just as much of an intellectual snare as anything produced by the Obama administration. The cold hard reality is that as long as the Palestinians refuse to concede defeat in their century-old war against Zionism, all such clever strategies are a waste of time.

 

That makes Israel’s role as the defender of moderate Arabs—and America’s sole reliable and democratic ally in the region—even more important. What’s going on in the Sinai proves this surprising but irrefutable principle: While Israel can trust no one but itself to safeguard its security, its former Arab enemies can now trust no one but Israel to ensure their survival.

 

 

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QUEST FOR ARAB DEMOCRACY

David Pryce-Jones

National Review, Dec. 31, 2017

 

One day in December 2010, a policewoman in a small and rather humdrum town in Tunisia slapped the face of Mohamed Bouazizi. The dispute was over his permit to be selling fruit and vegetables off a barrow. The injustice that he encountered, and the humiliation, drove the poor man to take his life. Just as a butterfly fluttering its wings is supposed to cause a cascade of faraway atmospheric effects, this suicide set off a movement of protest and solidarity in one Arab country after another. The monarchies and republics in which Arabs live are, in reality, dictatorships, and the time had apparently arrived for them to reform and take their place in what was supposed to be an emerging worldwide democratic order.

 

What became known as the Arab Spring did not live up to these expectations; far from it. Since 2010, Arab countries have suffered civil war, coups, terrorism, invasion by foreign powers, genocide, the sale of women in slave markets, the ruin of historic cities and monuments, the death of civilians by the hundreds of thousands, and the flight of refugees in their millions. The rise of the Islamic State, self-described as a caliphate, redesigned the boundaries of Syria and Iraq, countries that may not be reconstituted for a very long time, if ever. Islamist volunteers in this misappropriated territory murdered, beheaded, crucified, or tortured to death, often in public, whomever they pleased. Libya, Yemen, and Lebanon are also states in varying stages of collapse. A whole civilization seems to be coming apart.

 

The proper human response to such calamity is that something ought to be done about it. Elliott Abrams takes it for granted in Realism and Democracy that the United States can and should come to the rescue. His career has given him authority to comment on matters of power politics. In the Reagan administration, he was assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs (1981–85) and assistant secretary for inter-American affairs (1985–89); he later served as President George W. Bush’s adviser for global democracy strategy (2005–09). His sympathies are very wide, his quotations from the academic literature are numerous and apt, and his prose is almost miraculously jargon-free.

 

His introductory chapter, almost a hundred pages long, is a kind of handbook to the mindsets of American policymakers concerning the Middle East in recent decades. The U.S. approach during the Cold War was perhaps an unfair great-power exercise but at least it kept the peace after its fashion. The most frequent cause of a clash during that era was some independent but rash manipulation on the part of one of the superpowers’ clients. The superpowers’ balancing of laissez-faire and a tight fist was usually enough to keep major clients such as Turkey and Iran, and even Arab-nationalist dictators, on the straight and narrow path of cooperation with them. Those times are over. In the absence of the external pressures of the Cold War, former clients are now in a position to pursue their own ambitions, forming alliances and enmities without regard for Western interests. Military intervention in Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere so far has only sustained or increased the level of instability. The sole alternative is to make a moralizing speech, but if the decision not to intervene militarily has already been taken, this is pointlessly sanctimonious.

 

Put simply, what Realism and Democracy is asking is whether the United States should deal with the present free-for-all in the role of policeman or of paramedic. Abrams takes his lead from President Reagan, once his boss, who was convinced that whatever Arabs might do or say, basically they want the same freedom as Americans, and they are able to acquire it, too. In this view, freedom is the function of democracy, and democracy in turn is the function of human rights. In the course of his career, Abrams also met and admired the like-minded senators Scoop Jackson and Daniel Moynihan and, last but not least, George W. Bush, the president who did his best to give freedom to Iraqis. Proud to be an unreconstructed Reaganite, Abrams further awards himself the title of neo-con.

 

In contrast, he has not much good to say of President Nixon or his secretary of state Henry Kissinger, the leading proponents of the different doctrine that goes by the name of “realism.” If they judged military intervention to be in the national interest, they ordered it, but the main geostrategic goal of their day was détente with the Soviet Union. The pursuit of democracy and human rights was bound to be understood in Moscow as anti-Communist incitement, in particular encouraging dissidents who then were likely to be deported to the Gulag…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]     

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Why Sunni Middle East ‘Powers’ Cannot Win Their Own Battles: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018— The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula, bringing into stark focus the close military cooperation that has developed between Jerusalem and Cairo.

How to Restore US Credibility in the Middle East: Michael Oren, CNN, Jan. 31, 2018— As Israel's ambassador to Washington and, later, as a member of its government, I held many conversations with Arab diplomats, ministers, journalists and businessmen from Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States. All candidly offered their views on the Middle East and, without exception, all believed that America was secretly allied with Iran.

Surviving Donald Trump: Israel’s Strategic Options: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Feb. 2, 2018— While Israel has always been determinedly self-reliant on core matters of national security, this posture needs to become even more explicit in the disjointed “Trump Era.”

Trump Echoes Talleyrand in Middle East Diplomacy: EJ Kimball, The Daily Caller, Feb. 2, 2018— President Trump's public diplomacy, from his first days in office to his State of the Union speech earlier this week, often appears inspired by the immortal words of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna in 1814: "If it goes without saying, it would go better by saying it."

                                                              

 

 

EGYPT, WITH HELP FROM ISRAEL, WAGES WAR ON ISLAMIST TERRORISM WITH ELECTION LOOMING

Egypt’s New Campaign Against Islamic State in Sinai: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Feb. 11, 2018 — The three months that Egyptian President Sisi allotted to the chief of staff, General Muhammad Hegazy, to eradicate Islamic State terrorism in northern Sinai will soon end.

New Egyptian Era: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2018— It is no secret that new and surprising alliances have been formed between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region.

Why Sunni Middle East ‘Powers’ Cannot Win Their Own Battles: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018— The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula…

Palestinians: The Hamas-ISIS War, Corrupt Leaders: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2018— What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other.

 

On Topic Links

 

What's Behind the Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation in Sinai?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2018

Egypt Election Appears to Follow an Old Formula: Hamza Hendaw, Times of Israel, Jan. 28, 2018

Egypt's War Against the Gaza Tunnels: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Feb. 4, 2018

Egypt’s Phantom Airline (Video): Jewish Press, Feb. 11, 2018

 

 

 

EGYPT’S NEW CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE IN SINAI

Yoni Ben Menachem

JCPA, Feb. 11, 2018

 

The three months that Egyptian President Sisi allotted to the chief of staff, General Muhammad Hegazy, to eradicate Islamic State terrorism in northern Sinai will soon end. The terror has been going on for four years. Sisi gave the order to destroy the terror group after Islamic State murdered more than 300 worshippers in an attack last November on the Al-Rawdah Mosque in northern Sinai.

 

In recent days the Egyptian army has launched a large-scale military operation in northern Sinai, aimed at carrying out the final stage of creating a five-kilometer buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza. Hundreds of soldiers including special forces, as well as tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy engineering equipment, have been brought to the area. Bedouin sources believe this operation is being coordinated with Israel, since it involves much larger forces than what the military annex of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty allows.

 

The Egyptian army has already begun to operate in several neighborhoods of the city of Rafah, destroying homes and evacuating residents to facilitate widening the buffer zone. Last week there were several shooting incidents. Islamic State fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at Egyptian military forces in the midst of their work, also firing at them with light weapons.

 

Northern Sinai residents believe that the Egyptian army plans to uproot all the homes in Rafah and disperse thousands of its residents to various locations in Sinai, thereby ensuring its control of northern Sinai and the defeat of the Islamic State. In the northern Sinai city of El-Arish as well, the Egyptian army has begun a large-scale endeavor of building a five-kilometer security zone around the city’s airport.  About a month ago Islamic State terrorists tried to assassinate the visiting Egyptian defense minister and interior minister by firing an antitank missile from one of the fields adjoining the airport. The missile struck a helicopter not long before the two officials boarded it.

 

The Egyptian army plans to annex about half the territory of El-Arish to the new security zone, and has already begun destroying homes and fields and evacuating residents. On February 7, the Shehab News Agency reported that the Egyptian army had put all the hospitals in the city of Ismailia on a state of alert, anticipating an influx of wounded. Ismailia is about 200 kilometers from El-Arish, and the army’s assessment is that El-Arish residents will resist evacuation with acts of extreme violence.

 

The Egyptian chief of staff’s exact plans still are not clear. Northern Sinai residents, however, in light of the large size of the forces brought to northern Sinai in recent days and the launching of the engineering works, are deeply apprehensive. Sisi has tried unsuccessfully for four years to eradicate terror in Sinai. In recent months the Islamic State contingent has been reinforced by hundreds of experienced fighters from Syria and Iraq after the group’s defeat in the battles there, and these fighters come with advanced weaponry. Sisi cannot yet boast significant achievements in this war. As the presidential elections approach, he needs security achievements that he can display to the Egyptian people, even though his victory in the elections is assured since only one candidate is running against him.

 

Does erasing Rafah from the map and completing the expanded buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza constitute an image of victory that the Egyptian president wants to tout in the run-up to the elections? The answer may be yes. Sisi intends to visit the area when the tasks are finished, and he may declare the defeat of the northern Sinai terror and ask the Egyptian people to restore their trust in the country’s defense establishment. The Islamic State is believed to have about 1,000 fighters in the area. According to a February 7 report on Egypt’s Aman website, the group’s leader in northern Sinai is Rassem Abu Jazar, who gained extensive combat experience in Syria. Although the group announced that Abu Jazar had been killed in Syria, an interrogation of members of an Islamic State cell captured last week by the Egyptian army revealed that this was an attempt to cover his tracks.

 

The Islamic State’s fighters are skilled at guerrilla warfare, and Bedouin sources in northern Sinai report that ISIS is well aware of the Egyptian army’s plans and is planning to move its operations to the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zawid. It will take another few weeks to know whether the Egyptian chief of staff has fulfilled President Sisi’s goal of wiping out terror in northern Sinai. It appears that bloody fighting is imminent.                                                       

 

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NEW EGYPTIAN ERA

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2018

 

It is no secret that new and surprising alliances have been formed between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region. Iran has been killing Arab Sunnis and taking control of their land in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Islamic State and other proponents of political Islam have posed a threat to regimes in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, to name a few. Israel, with its military capabilities, extensive intelligence and advanced technologies, is viewed by many Arab regimes in the region as an important and perhaps even an essential ally in the fight against Islamists, whether they be Sunnis or Shi’ites.

 

The New York Times revealed yet another example of how Israel has proven to be critical to continued regional stability. According a report published over the weekend, for more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have been carrying out clandestine attacks – over 100 of them – against Islamists operating in Sinai, in full coordination with Egypt’s military regime headed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The cooperation serves both Egyptian and Israeli interests, according to the Times report. For Egypt, the Israeli military involvement is critical for the successful fight against Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and other Islamist terrorist groups operating in the Sinai.

 

Before Israel’s reported involvement, it seemed that Egypt was losing the battle. On July 1, 2015, Islamists briefly captured control of the northern Sinai town Sheikh Zuweid. In October of the same year, the terrorists shot down a Russian charter jet, killing all 224 people aboard. The air strikes – which according to the report, Israel launched at the end of 2015 – tipped the tide in favor of the Egyptians, say American sources quoted by the Times. Israel, meanwhile, has a vested interest in ensuring that Islamists are prevented from taking control of Sinai, which is located on Israel’s southern border.

 

Gradually, it seems the semi-clandestine cooperation between Egypt and Israel is becoming widely known in diplomatic and military circles. Zack Gold, an analyst and specialist on the Sinai Peninsula who was interviewed by the Times, likened the under-the-radar cooperation between Egyptian and Israel to Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. Though, according to foreign news sources, Israel has atomic bombs, the Jewish state has never officially affirmed this, which allows Israel to deny the claim while at the same time enjoying the deterrence afforded countries with nuclear weapons.

 

Similarly, both Israel and Egypt are wary of publicizing their cooperation in Sinai for fear that doing so will spark opposition within Egyptian society, where Israel is regularly pillorized. Leaders from neither country wish to see a backlash. As a result, no official sources on either side are willing to confirm the military cooperation in Sinai. At the same time, the two countries see the cooperation as essential to the continued stability of the Sinai Peninsula. The idea that the cooperation is not a complete secret also serves as something of a deterrent for Islamist groups with aspirations to expand their operations in the Sinai.

 

We believe, however, that the strengthening ties between Israel and countries like Egypt should cease to remain a secret. It has been over four decades since Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. Yet relations remain uneasy, due entirely to stereotypes and antisemitic sentiments perpetuated in Egyptian society. The time has come for the Egyptian president and other Egyptian leaders who benefit from Israeli support to begin changing Egyptian public opinion about Israel. It is, after all, the role of true leaders to initiate change and lead their people, not just to be the slaves of public opinion.

 

Iran and Islamic State, not Israel, are the ones endangering Arab lives, undermining Arab governments and conquering Arab land. Not only is Israel not a threat to Arabs, it is a country that has proven to be instrumental in confronting and stopping Iran and IS. Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s muted response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a positive step. Now it is time for Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s 2016 visit to Jerusalem to be followed by one by Sisi. Covert military cooperation should be translated into full-fledged and open diplomatic relations and end the uneasy peace between Jerusalem and Cairo.             

 

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WHY SUNNI MIDDLE EAST ‘POWERS’ CANNOT WIN THEIR OWN BATTLES

Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018

 

The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula, bringing into stark focus the close military cooperation that has developed between Jerusalem and Cairo. According to the Times, since 2015 Israel has conducted more than 100 strikes in the Peninsula, where the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province—formerly the Al-Qa’ida-linked Ansar Beit al Maqdis—has waged an insurgency since the counter-revolution that brought President Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi to power.

 

One of the report’s “bombshells” was the assertion that Israel’s actions in Sinai have come with al-Sisi’s total approval, albeit the president has been remiss to publicize the coordination given the Egyptian populace harbors near-universal negative attitudes towards the Jewish state. For its part, Israel has a significant interest in maintaining order in the vast Egyptian territory which borders the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, both to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Palestinian enclave and also to ensure that the Sinai Province cannot build up its arsenals—primarily with advanced arms originating from Libya and Sudan—to a level that could pose a significant strategic threat.

 

While much has been made about the rapprochement between Israel and Egypt—and, more broadly, the Jewish state’s burgeoning ties with regional Sunni countries driven by a shared goal to counter Islamist terrorists, in general, and Iran’s expansionism and potential nuclearization, in particular—less attention has been paid to Cairo’s inability to do its own dirty work; this, despite being led by a military regime supported to the tune of $1.3 billion in annual American aid.

 

The number of active Sinai Province members is believed to be between 1,000 and 1,500. By contrast, the Egyptian military has an estimated 450,000 active personnel and nearly a million reserve forces. It has some of the most modern weaponry available to it both on the ground and in the skies—some 4,000 combat tanks, 350 fighter jets and more than 250 attack helicopters—whereas the Sinai Province perpetrates most of its attacks using improvised explosive devices and automatic rifles. Nevertheless, even as Egypt has increased its anti-ISIS operations only 150-200 terrorists were eliminated in Sinai in 2017 whereas some 100 Egyptian security officials and approximately 500 civilians were killed over the same time frame. Such a ratio, given Cairo’s military superiority, raises serious questions about the efficacy of its undertakings.

 

According to Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former deputy head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence, while Egypt faces a significant challenge in rooting out terrorists embedded within the local population, the army has nonetheless performed unspectacularly. “It took the Egyptians six years to even prepare a very limited war in the Sinai,” he explained to The Media Line, “which shows that the army is plagued by inefficiencies, which permeate all aspects of Egypt’s society. They have the right tools to deal with ISIS, maybe not to eradicate it completely, but at least to stop terrorists from perpetrating attacks like the one on the [al-Rawda] mosque [in November] that killed more than 300 people.”

 

Dr. Neriah believes the Egyptian military’s failures are even more concerning given that Israel permitted Cairo to deploy large amounts of personnel and heavy weaponry into the Peninsula in contravention of the 1979 peace treaty signed between the countries. He attributes the struggle primarily to an enormous bureaucracy that has made the Egyptian army inflexible, with decisions made extremely slowly and orders needing to go through multiple channels before they are carried out. And as regards President al-Sisi, “he is part of the system itself and cannot move too far against it as he has to manage the interests of many people.”

 

Egypt’s apparent deficiencies are mirrored by those of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, which has made a mess of a three-year-long campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Riyadh, with tens of billions of dollars-worth of U.S.-made military hardware has been unable to overcome the vastly inferior Shiite force. Whereas Saudi Arabia has nearly a quarter of a million active military personnel, the Houthis have an estimated 100,000 total followers, including a large percentage of unarmed loyalists.

 

Dr. Yoel Guzansky, Senior Research at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies and a former Israeli National Security Council staffer, noted to The Media Line that the Saudis did not send any ground troops to Yemen and have instead relied upon local mercenaries whose alliances are fleeting, as evidenced by the recent fighting between Yemeni government forces and southern secessionists who were previously aligned with Riyadh. He also suggested that mistakes have been made at the political level, particularly by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who has come under fire for his directing of the conflict.

 

“MBS may not have really thought this through,” Dr. Guzansky explained, “and if you look at other initiatives such as the boycott of Qatar and the forced resignation of [Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri, the Saudi leader appears a bit impulsive.” Moreover, he concluded, “while it is hard for any country to fight this kind of guerilla warfare, especially from 40,000 feet, it is amazing that the Saudis, with the fourth biggest defense budget in the world, need U.S. refueling of its planes as well as American intelligence and logistical help on the ground.”

 

Meanwhile, Turkey, which has the second largest army of any NATO member, has had dubious success thus far in its offensive against the Kurdish YPG in Afrin, Syria. Ankara launched the military campaign on January 20 against a largely isolated Kurdish force numbering approximately 10,000 fighters, who must be distinguished from units directly backed by U.S. forces located further eastward. On Saturday, the Turkish military incurred seven fatalities, as “Operation Olive Branch,” intended to extend Ankara’s buffer zone inside Syria to around 20 miles, risks spiraling out of control. Specifically, the Turkish offensive places it on a collision course with Washington, whose NATO compatriot is taking on its main ally in Syria, the Kurds, who were instrumental in retaking the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa. Furthermore, if the Turkish assault moves towards the town of Manbij, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned, there is a very real risk of direct clashes with U.S. troops.

 

In Turkey’s case, many analysts attribute the dysfunction to Erdogan’s purge of the armed forces in the wake of the July 2016 attempted coup. Hundreds, if not thousands of generals and officers were dismissed from their positions, leading to a situation whereby Turkey’s military—estimated at about 750,000 personnel, half of whom are reservists—today has more fighter planes than available pilots. Notably, the former head of Turkey’s Second Army, who was previously responsible for overseeing the border with Syria, is languishing in prison. And there have been numerous incidents of Turkish military miscues in Syria, leading some observers to postulate that the Kurds may stand a chance of defeating the Afrin offensive…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]          

 

Contents

PALESTINIANS: THE HAMAS-ISIS WAR, CORRUPT LEADERS

Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2018

 

What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other. Take, for example, the Islamic terror groups Hamas and Islamic State (ISIS). Although the two groups share the same ideology and seek to kill anyone who obstructs their effort to spread their version of Islam to the rest of the world, it now seems that the throats they are looking to slit are each other's.

 

The quarrel between Hamas and ISIS is not a spat between good guys and bad guys. Rather, it is a dispute between two bloodthirsty, vicious and ruthless Islamic terror groups that have the blood of countless non-Muslims on their hands. Until recently, Hamas and ISIS were said to be working together, especially in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Hamas has been providing fighters to ISIS in return for weapons smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The cooperation between the two groups enabled ISIS to carry out a series of terror attacks against the Egyptian army and civilians in Sinai.

 

The past few months, however, have seen a rapid deterioration in relations between Hamas and ISIS, particularly in light of Hamas's effort to mend fences with the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi. The new rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt has apparently enraged ISIS, prompting it to declare war on its Palestinian sister group, Hamas. Hamas, for its part, has also been wary of ISIS's attempts to infiltrate the Gaza Strip and undermine the regime Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement there.

 

Hamas brooks no competition. Instead, the group zealously maintains its death grip on the two million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. Hamas already has Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction trying to rein it in, so the last thing it needs is for a rival Islamic group to challenge its rule in Gaza. But now it is official: Hamas and ISIS are at war with each other. This dispute, of course, should be seen as good news. There is nothing more comforting than watching two radical Islamic groups rip each other to bits. All one can do now is wish both groups total success!

 

The war between the two terror groups reached its peak this week, with revelations that ISIS had plotted to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. According to an Egyptian intelligence report, Hamas recently arrested 18 ISIS suspects who planned to carry out the assassination in the Gaza Strip. The ISIS cell evidently was planning to place explosives in the "White Mosque" in the Gaza Strip, where Haniyeh prays, the reports said. The plot, they added, was uncovered thanks to cooperation between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.

 

Earlier, Hamas had announced that its security forces arrested two ISIS terrorists who infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Sinai. According to Hamas, the two terrorists confessed during interrogation that one of the goals of ISIS in Sinai was to prevent humanitarian aid from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The arrests came shortly after ISIS released a video featuring the execution of two Hamas members in Sinai. One of the men was identified as Musa Abu Zmat, a senior commander of the military wing of Hamas, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Abu Zmat was found guilty of smuggling weapons from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. He was killed with a single shot to the head.

 

ISIS later released another video in which it accused Hamas of "betraying" the Palestinians by arresting Muslim extremists in the Gaza Strip. ISIS also charged Hamas of failing to thwart U.S. President Donald Trump's recent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and of receiving financial aid from Iran. In the video, ISIS also called for attacking Hamas figures and installations, as well as Christians in the Gaza Strip…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

What's Behind the Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation in Sinai?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2018—For more than two years “unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 air strikes,” claims a report in Saturday’s New York Times. This report reveals what has been quietly rumored for years. It also provides more evidence for the unprecedented levels of security cooperation that have developed between Egypt and Israel.

Egypt Election Appears to Follow an Old Formula: Hamza Hendaw, Times of Israel, Jan. 28, 2018—To some Egyptians, it looks like the old days are back. With one potential challenger after another arrested, quitting or being forced out of the race, the March presidential election is increasingly taking on the character of the one-candidate referendums held for decades by Egypt’s authoritarian rulers.

Egypt's War Against the Gaza Tunnels: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Feb. 4, 2018—The Egyptian army announced on February 2, 2018, the destruction of a tunnel under the Gaza border. A spokesman said that explosive devices in three warehouses, as well as a tunnel used by "terrorists," were destroyed.

Egypt’s Phantom Airline (Video): Jewish Press, Feb. 11, 2018—Arab Blogger, Nas, recently visited Israel and flew here from Egypt on a phantom Egyptian airline called Air Sinai. He was surprised because the actual airplane had no name on it, as well as no logo, symbols or branding to indicate that it was an Egyptian airline or that it even exists. They don’t even have a website. They may have a physical office in Tel Aviv.

                                                              

 

 

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.]    

 

 

Contents

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.

                                                              

 

 

EGYPT, FACING SINAI-BASED JIHADIS AND A FAILING ECONOMY, IMPROVES TIES WITH ISRAEL & RUSSIA

Latest Tunnel Strike Puts Hamas Leaders in a Tough Spot with Cairo: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Jan. 14, 2018— Hamas leaders find themselves in a worrisome situation.

ISIS Sets Its Sights on Gaza: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018— There is nothing more delightful than watching two Islamic terror groups fight each other to the death.

Egypt Versus the New York Times: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 29, 2017 — The full repercussions of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have yet to be felt.

Egypt’s Nuclear Deal with Russia: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, BESA, Jan. 8, 2018— Egypt is taking its nuclear energy effort out of the deep freeze.

 

On Topic Links

 

Ancient Egyptian Monastery Closed and Christmas Canceled: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Jan. 10, 2018

Can Sisi Rival Gain Support of Egypt's Copts in 2018 Elections?: Ahmed Fouad, Al-Monitor, Dec. 18, 2017

Egypt's Al-Azhar University: Moderation or Dissimulation?: A. Z. Mohamed, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018

Protecting His Nation From Puppeteers and Belly Dancers: Declan Walsh, New York Times, Jan. 12, 2017

 

 

LATEST TUNNEL STRIKE PUTS HAMAS

LEADERS IN A TOUGH SPOT WITH CAIRO

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Jan. 14, 2018

 

Hamas leaders find themselves in a worrisome situation. Another of their tunnels penetrating into Israeli territory has been exposed and destroyed. In total, two of their tunnels have been destroyed in about two and a half months (another one, possibly two, belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has also been demolished), and it seems like Hamas is quickly losing its most significant strategic weapon ahead of the next possible military confrontation with Israel.

 

Yes, the terror group still has its rockets — and due to the success of the Iron Dome defense system, it has focused on developing short-range rockets with large warheads and mortars. But still, the attack tunnels were considered the crowning glory of Hamas’s military capabilities. Now, it’s becoming clear, that weapon is about to lose its relevance. This could push Hamas to initiate an offensive in the near future in an attempt to utilize its remaining tunnels reaching into Israeli territory.

 

But the probability of such a scenario is not high. Had Hamas leaders in Gaza, headed by Yahya Sinwar, wanted to do so, they would have acted a long time ago. It is clear that the group’s leaders in the Strip are not interested right now in an outbreak of violence. That could have been deduced from Hamas’s lack of reaction after the March assassination of Mazen Fuqha, its Gaza operative who directed terror networks in the West Bank, and of course more recently after the various tunnels were demolished.

 

Hamas’s wish to avert a military confrontation at this time can also be inferred from its actions to prevent escalation with Israel, like arresting operatives belonging to “rogue” organizations and the remarkable deployment of “restraint forces” whose job is to foil attacks on Israeli territory. Indeed, rockets are still lobbed from time to time at Israeli towns, but it is now clear that those attacks aren’t being carried out with Hamas’s blessing. The organization is also continuously trying to lower the tensions with Egypt, including cutting its various ties with Sinai Province — the Islamic State’s branch in the peninsula — which led to the latter declaring Hamas a “heretic” group that needs to be fought.

 

In this context, the route of the tunnel destroyed Saturday is a source of great embarrassment to the Hamas leadership as it seeks to strengthen its ties with Cairo. Less than a week has passed since senior Egyptian intelligence officials toured the border between Sinai and Gaza with Hamas officials, to closely monitor Hamas’s actions to prevent smuggling into and out of Gaza, and also to prevent terror operatives from crossing from the Strip into Sinai. Relations between Cairo and the organization’s elite in Gaza have greatly improved in recent months, with leaders Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh perceived in Egypt as important partners in the significant moves toward inter-Palestinian reconciliation. And yet, it now emerges that under the nose of the Egyptian security system, Hamas has not only allowed the construction of a tunnel that can be used for the smuggling of good(s) and fighters; it has apparently constructed it itself.

 

One can only imagine the conversation that Hamas leaders will have with Egyptian intelligence officials demanding explanations on the nature of the tunnel, and what they knew and didn’t know about it. The tunnel passed directly under the triple border between Gaza, Egypt and Israel, where the Kerem Shalom border crossing operates. It probably also reached places where it could have been used for attacks on Israeli soil and for entry into Egypt. This isn’t the first and won’t be the last time Hamas is making use of the crossing’s space. The fact that it is the main windpipe for Gaza’s economy doesn’t seem to have had an impact on the group’s military decision-making.

 

Time after time, we’ve learned how much the suffering of Gaza’s residents could have been mitigated, and how much could have been invested in improving their well-being, if funds were not used for tunnels and rockets. But Hamas, as usual, doesn’t care. At the same time, the terror group is making huge efforts to shift the blame for the humanitarian situation in Gaza onto Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The blows to Hamas’s strategic weapon — the tunnels — could cause the group to focus its efforts on other weapons: drones (as in the incident of the swarm of drones that attacked the Russian base in Syria), commando forces, multicopter drones and more. It isn’t at all easy to change a well-established modus operandi worked on for years with great financial expenditure and physical exertion — but Hamas may do just that in the face of recent Israeli success…

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

 

Contents

ISIS SETS ITS SIGHTS ON GAZA

Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018

           

There is nothing more delightful than watching two Islamic terror groups fight each other to the death. For several years now, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ISIS in Sinai have been cooperating with each other, especially in smuggling weapons and terrorists over the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It was a win-win: Hamas supplied ISIS with terrorists; ISIS supplied Hamas with weapons that were smuggled into the Gaza Strip. It appears, however, that the honeymoon between the two terror groups is over.

 

Last week, ISIS published a video documenting the execution of one of its men after he was found guilty of smuggling weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The execution of Musa Abu Zmat, a former Hamas terrorist who fled the Gaza Strip to join ISIS, took place in Sinai. A screenshot from the ISIS video, showing Musa Abu Zmat, a former Hamas terrorist, blindfolded and awaiting execution. In the video, the ISIS terrorists accuse Abu Zmat of being an "apostate" for smuggling weapons to Hamas's armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, in Gaza. They also accuse Abu Zmat of smuggling dozens of people from Al-Arish, in the Sinai, into the Gaza Strip.

 

The ISIS terrorist who carried out the execution by a single shot to the head has been identified as Mohammed Al-Dajni, who is also from the Gaza Strip but fled to Sinai to join ISIS. Al-Dajni's father, Abu Rashed, is a senior Hamas official who previously held a top position in the health services in the Gaza Strip. Another ISIS operative who appeared in the execution video has been identified as Abu Kathem Al-Makdisi. In the video, Al-Makdisi is referred to as a "sharia judge." He is the one who read out verdict against Abu Zmat before the execution. Al-Makdisi also condemns Hamas in the video and calls on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to join ISIS.

 

Palestinian sources say that Al-Makdisi's real name is Hamzeh Al-Zamli, a convicted thief who fled the Gaza Strip several years ago. The sources note that he had been convicted of robbing several businesses in Gaza before he crossed the border to Sinai. The families of the two ISIS executioners (Al-Dajni and Al-Makdisi) have issued strong statements condemning and disowning their sons.

 

Here is what we need to learn from this video: There are many Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who have joined ISIS in the past few years. It is worth noting that ISIS and its affiliates in Sinai have carried out many atrocities against Egyptian civilians and the Egyptian army. Many of the Palestinians who have been joining ISIS are former members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Some even held senior positions in the armed wings of those two terror groups. The business of smuggling weapons and terrorists across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has flourished for many years. Until recently, ISIS and Hamas were in full cooperation on the smuggling business and this has undoubtedly facilitated some of the major terror attacks carried out by ISIS in Sinai in recent years.

 

ISIS is making it clear that it now has its eyes set on the Gaza Strip. By calling on Palestinians to rebel against Hamas, ISIS is hoping to facilitate its mission of infiltrating the Gaza Strip. Previous attempts by ISIS to infiltrate the Gaza Strip have been successfully thwarted by Hamas. Hamas brooks no competition. Ever. It shows that despite its denials, Hamas is involved in smuggling weapons from Sinai into the Gaza Strip. The man who was executed by ISIS last week was accused of smuggling weapons for Hamas's military wing inside the Gaza Strip. This means that he was either a double agent (for Hamas and ISIS) or that he did something to annoy his ISIS cohorts. Hamas has repeatedly assured the Egyptian authorities that it has no links to ISIS in Sinai and that it supports Egypt's war on terrorism. This is quite a statement from a terror group. The Egyptian authorities have taken the claim with a grain of salt and continue to impose a blockade on the Gaza Strip by keeping the Rafah border crossing shut.

 

To be clear: the latest dispute between Hamas and ISIS is not a power struggle between good guys and bad guys. This is a power struggle between bad guys and bad guys. It is a power struggle between two ruthless Islamic jihadi terror groups who even have much in common regarding strategy and ideology. Both groups want to spread sharia and eliminate the "infidels" and "apostates." Both groups are responsible for some of the most horrific terror attacks and atrocities in modern history. While Hamas is probably the lesser of the evils in this instance, it is far from moderate. Ironically, it is probably Hamas's cooperation with ISIS that has brought Hamas to its current level of deterioration. Hamas wanted help from ISIS to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and they got it. Hamas, in return, allowed ISIS terrorists to cross back and forth into the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

 

For now, no one knows where this ISIS-Hamas feud is headed. What is certain is that the ongoing attempts by ISIS to infiltrate the Palestinian arena should worry not only Palestinians, but Israel and Egypt as well. If ISIS manages to get a toehold in the Gaza Strip, they will be that much closer to Israel's doorstep, and their jihadis minutes from Israeli towns and cities. For the Egyptians, this means that one day they will have to fight ISIS not only in the Sinai, but also inside the Gaza Strip. The biggest losers, once again: the Palestinians.           

                                                                       

 

Contents

EGYPT VERSUS THE NEW YORK TIMES

Neville Teller

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 14, 2018

 

The full repercussions of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have yet to be felt.  One rather strange little by-product does not seem to have grabbed the world’s attention as yet.  It is a story capable of a number of interpretations, not all of them complimentary to the principal players.

 

The facts are these.  On January 6, 2018 the New York Times published an exclusive news item based on four audio recordings that it said it had obtained.  The Times report did not vouchsafe precisely how they had come into its possession. These recordings, it said, took place shortly after Trump had startled the world by announcing that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.  They were, it said, recordings of telephone conversations between an officer in Egypt’s Intelligence Service, Captain Ashraf al-Kholi, and four very well-known Egyptian media personalities, three of them hosts of influential talk shows. The TV hosts were Azmy Megahed, Mofid Fawzy, and Saeed Hassaseen. The fourth person contacted by al-Kholi was Egyptian movie star Yousra.

 

Captain al-Kholi told the four people he phoned that Egypt, “like all our Arab brothers,” would denounce Trump’s decision in public, but that conflict with Israel was not in Egypt’s national interest. He suggested that instead of condemning Trump’s decision, these media personalities should persuade their viewers to accept it.  In its report, the New York Times included the interesting information that TV chat show host Azmi Megahed had confirmed the authenticity of the recordings, and had described al-KhoIi as a longtime acquaintance.

                                                    

The Times article, which was immediately published on-line, raised a torrent of furious commentary in Egypt’s pro-government media and in parliament, where it was denounced as part of an international conspiracy to embarrass Egypt. This accusation was partly confirmed when the very same audio recordings were broadcast by an Istanbul-based television network linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. The suggestion of a connection with the Brotherhood, which Egypt has banned as a terrorist group, added to the outrage from supporters of the Egyptian government.

 

Once in the public domain, an allegation that Egyptian intelligence had secretly attempted to sway public opinion in favor of accepting Trump’s decision on Jerusalem could not go unanswered.  Four days later Egypt’s prosecutor general, Nabil Sadek. ordered a criminal investigation. The New York Times article, he maintained, “undermines Egypt’s security and public peace, and harms the country’s public interest.”

         

The next developments were as one might have expected.  Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) released a statement denying the accuracy of the Times report on almost every count.  No one named Ashraf al-Kholi, it maintained, worked for the intelligence service.  Fawzi had not presented any TV programs for years, and Hassaseen’s show had ended weeks before Trump’s declaration, and he was not currently presenting any program on air. As for Yousra, SIS said that she was a movie actress totally unconnected with TV talk shows.

         

Much of this may be true, but it has little relevance to the high profile enjoyed by those particular individuals among the Egyptian public.  And it seems clear that SIS, and perhaps other organs of the state, subsequently subjected them to intense political pressure.  It was not long before Megahed publicly retracted his original statement authenticating the recordings and claiming that he was an old acquaintance of Kholi.  In an Egyptian television interview Megahed said that the New York Times had misquoted him. “This is the first time I’ve heard of this Kholi man,” he said.

                                                     

Next, actress Yousra and the other TV anchors denied knowing anyone named al-Kholi or participating in telephone conversations with him. Yousra claimed not to have been in Egypt at the time they were reported to have taken place.  The clear implication is that the recordings were faked.  Not unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories followed.  Pro-government television anchors called on the Times to explain how the recordings ended up with the Brotherhood-affiliated TV channel, and suggested that the newspaper was secretly in cahoots with Qatar. Egypt is one of four Arab nations that imposed a punishing boycott on Qatar last June, accusing it of financing Islamist terrorism and sheltering Brotherhood leaders.

         

The speaker of parliament, Ali Abdel Aal, went along with this, and said the article proved that the Times was allied with the Brotherhood and with Qatar, and was stoking controversy in advance of Egypt’s forthcoming presidential elections. Finally all the SIS could do was issue a statement asserting that Egypt had repeatedly declared its “inalienable position on Jerusalem,” side-stepping the fact that, in doing so, it was confirming what al-Kholi had said would be the official stance. A stout riposte was provided by Michael Slackman, the Times’s international editor.  “Our story was a deeply reported, consequential piece of journalism,” he said, “and we stand fully behind it. The audio recordings were provided to the Times by an intermediary supportive of the Palestinian cause, but we had no agenda other than giving our readers the facts they needed to know.”

 

This whole episode, true or false, comes at a delicate time for Egypt politically. The first round of new presidential elections is scheduled for March 26. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is running for re-election, faces only a weak rival since his principal challenger, former prime minister Ahmed Shafik, pulled out of the race (Shafik’s lawyers claimed that officials had pressed him to quit on the threat of corruption prosecutions).  All the same, the Egyptian public is unlikely to look kindly on a government-inspired endorsement – even a covert one – of Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.  The last thing Sisi wants, come March, is a poor turnout in his presidential poll.  The result of the prosecutor general’s criminal investigation into the New York Times report is bound to make interesting reading.      

                                                                       

 

Contents

EGYPT’S NUCLEAR DEAL WITH RUSSIA

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek

BESA, Jan. 8, 2018

 

Egypt is taking its nuclear energy effort out of the deep freeze. On December 11, 2017, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Cairo, the two countries signed a nuclear agreement that reflects a convergence of their interests: Russia would like to return to its position as the dominant power in the Middle East, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi wants to rehabilitate his country’s economy and once again make Egypt a central actor in the Arab world.

 

The agreement stipulates that Russia’s Rosatom Corporation will build a nuclear power plant at El-Dabaa, about 140 kilometers west of Alexandria.  The plant will include four light-water reactors for electricity production, each with a 1,200-megawatt output. Egypt and Rosatom also concluded that a storage depot would be built beside the nuclear plant to hold spent nuclear fuel from the reactors before it is sent to Russia for reprocessing. Test runs of the first reactor are expected in 2022 and its full commissioning is anticipated in 2026. Rosatom estimates that the project will be completed in 2028 or 2029.

 

Russia will also build factories in Egypt for the domestic manufacture of nuclear plant components, bringing in the required expertise; and Rosatom will service the plant for 60 years. According to reports, the project will cost about $30 billion, with $25 billion to be provided by Russia as a loan to be repaid over 35 years. There are many gas deposits in Egypt as well as oil fields, but the country’s faulty pricing policy and economic crisis have caused the energy industries to collapse. With a population now numbering 104 million, Egypt urgently needs nuclear power to improve its energy sector.

 

Many in Egypt, from disparate parts of the population, oppose building a nuclear plant at El-Dabaa. Businesspeople want to develop tourism in the area, which is on the seacoast; some are concerned about environmental damage; and the Bedouin tribes in the area claim the land has been stolen from them. In February 2012, amid the chaos in Egypt following the revolution, the El-Dabaa site was attacked by thousands of Bedouin; the costs from damage and the looting of equipment were estimated at $80 million.

 

Egypt’s plans to build a nuclear reactor go back to the days of Nasser. As Egyptian energy expert Ali Saidi, who served as electricity and energy minister from 1999 to 2001, told Al-Monitor in September 2015: “At first, the nuclear project was stopped because of the 1967 war. It was to be implemented with the Soviet Union at that time … The project was bid upon in the 1970s in a competition between US companies, after US President Richard Nixon promised to provide nuclear plants to both Egypt and Israel. Then a US law was passed obliging countries acquiring nuclear plant technologies to be subject to inspection standards from the country of origin, which was America, so the project stopped.”

 

Saidi added that in the 1980s, during Mubarak’s presidency, American and French companies competed over the nuclear plant project. He explained that the project was dropped from the agenda for two reasons: negative public opinion in Egypt after the disaster of the Ukrainian Chernobyl reactor (1986), and the discovery of gas deposits in the 1990s. Saidi focused solely on the civilian aspect of nuclear energy in Egypt as a source of electricity production. However, Israeli intelligence has suspected for years that Egypt is interested in covertly building a military nuclear potential – from the crisis of the German scientists, who helped Egypt develop ballistic missiles in 1962, through the Mubarak presidency. Naturally, the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons has had an effect on Egypt’s nuclear development efforts. Egypt’s entry into the nuclear arena was primarily impelled, however, by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arab policy and by his view of Egypt as a leading country in the Arab world.

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Ancient Egyptian Monastery Closed and Christmas Canceled: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Jan. 10, 2018—Local authorities decided to close down the Saint Catherine Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on January 5 and January 6, when Christmas church services are held according to the Coptic Orthodox calendar. The general directorate of tourist police further ordered all tourist companies not to lead tours to the historic monastery.

Can Sisi Rival Gain Support of Egypt's Copts in 2018 Elections?: Ahmed Fouad, Al-Monitor, Dec. 18, 2017—Just like in 2012, religious institutions in Egypt continue to influence the actions of candidates running for the 2018 presidential elections. Local press reports from Nov. 30 said that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had contacted a number of politicians, including leaders in the Salafist Nour Party, before he announced Nov. 29 his intention to run for the 2018 elections.

Egypt's Al-Azhar University: Moderation or Dissimulation?: A. Z. Mohamed, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018—Al-Azhar University seemed to have either an ambivalent attitude or a two-faced, taqiyah [dissimulation] one regarding tolerance towards Christians in particular and Islamic moderation in general, according to a report, "Two Faces Of Egypt's Al-Azhar: Promoting Goodwill, Tolerance Towards Christians In Informational Holiday Campaign – But Refusing To Do The Same In Its School Curricula," disclosed by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Protecting His Nation From Puppeteers and Belly Dancers: Declan Walsh, New York Times, Jan. 12, 2017—In a cluttered corner of his labyrinthine law office, amid dog-eared files and half-empty coffee cups, Samir Sabry stood over a computer screen, his face grave as a stone, watching a clip of a potty-mouthed puppet.

 

                                                              

 

 

EGYPT STRUGGLES TO CURB ISLAMIST TERROR AND ATTACKS ON RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

Mosque Attack is a Testament to Egypt’s Impotence in Sinai: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2017— The terror attack Friday at a mosque in the small northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abd wasn’t especially sophisticated.

Why Does ISIS Kill Muslims?: Raymond Ibrahim, FrontPage Magazine, Nov. 27, 2017— On Friday, November 24, some 30 gunmen carrying the Islamic State flag bombed and stormed a Sufi mosque in Egypt's North Sinai, about 125 miles northeast of Cairo.

Egypt's Peace Interest: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Nov. 28, 2017— Forty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, and after a long hiatus due to the "Arab Spring" and ensuing "Islamic winter" that hit the country, Egypt has returned to playing a leading role in the region.

For How Long Will the Peace Treaty with Egypt be Robust?: Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017— Israel is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

 

On Topic Links

 

Islam and Freedom of Religion: Philip Carl Salzman, Frontier Centre, Oct. 25, 2017

In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai: Declan Walsh and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017

Egypt-Israel Cooperation Likely to Increase after Sinai Massacre: United With Israel, Nov. 27, 2017

Remembering Anwar Sadat’s Legacy: Yehuda Yaakov, Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 2017

                                                           

 

 

 

MOSQUE ATTACK IS A

TESTAMENT TO EGYPT’S IMPOTENCE IN SINAI      

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2017

 

The terror attack Friday at a mosque in the small northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abd wasn’t especially sophisticated. Rather than advanced military skills, the gruesome scene was testimony only to the moral blindness and cruelty of the perpetrators. First, they set off two bombs inside the mosque, which was thronged with Friday worshipers. Then, when the survivors streamed toward the exits, terrorists waited outside in all-terrain vehicles, picking off those who emerged.

 

In that fashion, some 305 people were killed and 128 wounded. Based on assessments on social media, before the attack, Bir al-Abd was a town of some 1,500 souls, meaning that about one in three of its residents was a casualty. As of Saturday evening, there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the immediate suspicion falls on Islamic State’s Sinai Province, the group formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Its leader, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Osama (his real name is Muhammad al-Isawi), took over after his predecessor, Abu Du’a al-Ansari, was assassinated in August 2016.

 

The pretext for Friday’s attack was likely the mosque’s affiliation with Islam’s mystical Sufi stream. It is known as the birthplace of Sheikh Eid al-Jariri, considered the founder of Sufism in the Sinai. The Islamic State, like al-Qaeda and other radical Sunni organizations before it, has denounced the Sufis. But for IS it isn’t merely about religious differences: In the past two years, the Sufis have worked in tight cooperation with Egyptian security forces in the peninsula in an effort to counter the Islamic State and curb recruitment among the local Beduin.

 

Recent months have also seen a clan war that has pitted several tribes (notably Tarabin) against the Islamic State. The spate of mutual killings, which has included beheadings (not only on the part of IS), may also be connected to Friday’s attack. Last May, tribesmen executed eight Sinai Province operatives in retribution for a car bomb the terror group detonated near a Tarabin encampment. Among the triggers for those incidents was Sinai Province’s effort to take control of smuggling along the border with the Gaza Strip and to stem the flow of cigarettes, which they forbid, into the Sinai. Those restrictions threatened the livelihood of the Tarabins, who responded with violence.

 

But beyond IS cruelty and inter-tribal strife, what this attack drives home – and not for the first time – is the extent of the difficulty facing the Egyptian army in its efforts to counter the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai. Indeed, the frequency of attacks in mainland Egypt has gone down of late, and even within the Sinai the military has been able to operate relatively unmolested. Yet, Egyptian intelligence has come up against obvious difficulties in its effort to gain a real foothold in the peninsula, including amassing sufficient human and technological assets to clamp down on terrorism there.

 

In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s attack, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi declared a new military onslaught against the perpetrators. Hours later, reports emerged of airstrikes against terror targets and dozens of dead among the insurgents. The question is what prevented Egypt from taking such action before the attack, and why previous efforts in the wake of earlier attacks did not yield significant gains.

 

Egypt has long refrained from embarking on an extensive operation, in the vein of the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank and Gaza in 2002. Perhaps the cost of such a campaign would be prohibitive, or maybe it’s that as long as terrorism is more-or-less confined to the northeastern Sinai, Cairo doesn’t care as much. Eventually, though, those same terrorists who decimated the small town of Bir al-Abd will target vacationers on the sunny shores of the Red Sea, and then in Cairo itself.

 

                                                                       

Contents

WHY DOES ISIS KILL MUSLIMS?

Raymond Ibrahim

FrontPage Magazine, Nov. 27, 2017

 

On Friday, November 24, some 30 gunmen carrying the Islamic State flag bombed and stormed a Sufi mosque in Egypt's North Sinai, about 125 miles northeast of Cairo. They managed to massacre at least 305 people, 27 of whom were children. "The scene was horrific," said Ibrahim Sheteewi, an eyewitness. "The bodies were scattered on the ground outside the mosque. I hope God punishes them for this."

 

Not only is this considered the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt, but one of the strangest as well. As the NYT explains, "The scale and ruthlessness of the assault, in an area racked by an Islamist insurgency, sent shock waves across the nation — not just for the number of deaths but also for the choice of target. Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, where the Islamic State has targeted Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims but avoided Muslim places of worship." Indeed, whereas the bombing and burning of churches and the slaughter of Christians in Egypt at the hands of, not just ISIS, but Muslim mobs and murderers, is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Egypt, attacks on mosques in the name of jihad naturally are.

 

ISIS does not view its Muslim victims as true Muslims. One Muslim cleric from the region who requested anonymity best voiced the general view: "I can't believe they attacked a mosque." In the West, this selfsame shock of Muslim on Muslim terrorism is used to support the politically correct mantra that terror groups such as the Islamic State truly have nothing to do with Islam—otherwise they would not bomb mosques and kill fellow worshippers of Allah. Because the attack occurred late Friday—and, as of this writing, it is only Sunday, meaning still the weekend—capitalizing on this tragedy as a way to distance Islam from terrorism has not yet begun in the West; but, if precedent is any indicator, it soon will.

 

For example, last year during the closing days of Ramadan, a spate of terror attacks occurred in Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia—all Muslim nations; these were followed by a media outpouring of "told you Islam wasn't responsible for terrorism," or, to quote Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, "Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They [Islamic State] do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism." Speaking after the San Bernardino terror attack that left 14 dead, Barrack Obama agreed: "ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death… Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim." After the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, which left 130 people dead, the UK's Independent published an article titled, "Paris attacks: Isis responsible for more Muslim deaths than western victims." And the Daily Beast argued that, "Before the Paris horror, ISIS was killing Muslims on a daily basis. We Muslims despise these crazy people more than anyone else does…. But the number one victim of this barbaric terror group is Muslims. That's undisputed."

 

Along with distancing Islam from violence—real Muslims are not supposed to kill other Muslims in the name of jihad—this argument further clouds the issue of who is the true victim of Islamic terrorism: Why talk about the Muslim slaughter of non-Muslims—whether Western people, Israelis, or Christian minorities under Islam—when it is Muslims who are the primary victims most deserving of sympathy?

 

Killing 'fellow Muslims' doesn't make ISIS un-Islamic. The problem with this argument, however, is that the Islamic State does not view its victims as Muslims. Indeed, mainstream Sunni Islam—the world's dominant strand of Islam which 90 percent of the world's Muslims, including ISIS, adhere to—views all non-Sunnis as false Muslims; at best, they are heretics who need to submit to the "true Islam." This is largely how Sunnis view Shias and vice versa—hence their perennial war. While Western talking heads tend to lump them all together as "Muslims"—thus reaching the erroneous conclusion that ISIS is un-Islamic because it kills "fellow Muslims"—each group views the other as enemies.

 

A saying attributed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad even validates this: "This umma [nation] of mine will split into seventy-three sects; one will be in paradise and seventy-two will be in hell." When asked which sect was the true one, the prophet replied, "al–jama'a," that is, the group which most literally follows the example or "sunna" of Muhammad.

 

Overall, then, when Sunni jihadis slaughter Shias—or Sufis, Druze, and Baha'i—they do so under the exact same logic as when they slaughter Christian minorities, or European, American, and Israeli citizens: all are infidels who must either embrace the true faith, be subjugated, or die.

 

Concerning Sufis in particular, last January an ISIS commander situated in Sinai "outlined the group's hatred for Sufis and their practices, including the veneration of tombs, the sacrificial slaughter of animals and what he termed 'sorcery and soothsaying.'" The Islamic State has further referred to Sufism as a "disease" that needs to be "eradicated." Accordingly, a year ago, ISIS beheaded Sulayman Abu Hiraz, a Sufi cleric reportedly over 100 years old, on the charge of sorcery.

 

The argument that ISIS and other jihadi organizations kill fellow Muslims proves nothing. Muslims have been slaughtering Muslims on the accusation that they are "not Islamic enough" or the wrong "kinds" of Muslims from the start: So what can the open non-Muslim—such as the Western infidel—expect? Indeed, if anything, that ISIS kills other "Muslims" only further validates the supremacist and intolerant aspects of Sunnism, which is hardly limited to ISIS. Just look to our good "friend and ally," Saudi Arabia, the official religion of which is Sunni Islam, and witness the subhuman treatment Shia minorities experience. In the end, it's just jihad and more jihad, for all and sundry.

 

 

 

Contents

EGYPT'S PEACE INTEREST

Prof. Eyal Zisser

Israel Hayom, Nov. 28, 2017

 

Forty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, and after a long hiatus due to the "Arab Spring" and ensuing "Islamic winter" that hit the country, Egypt has returned to playing a leading role in the region. More specifically, in the Israeli context, Egypt is also an integral part of U.S. efforts to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

For the most part, the Arab world has grown weary of the Palestinian issue. Most Arab countries are preoccupied with their own troubles, with problems that are more urgent and more important to them than helping the Palestinians resolve their internal disputes or the conflict with Israel.

 

For Egypt, however, this matter is neither distant nor irrelevant. From its perspective, pushing the peace process forward could help Egypt cope with a bevy of serious problems knocking on its doorstep. First, the threat of jihadist terrorism, which has hit the country repeatedly and just last week claimed the lives of hundreds of Sinai residents in a horrific slaughter at a mosque. In Egypt's view, Islamic State and its "Sinai branch" are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt proper. For Cairo, Islamic State is a terrorist organization that perpetrates attacks in the distant Sinai Peninsula, while the Muslim Brotherhood is a potentially lethal cancer eating at the heart of the Egyptian body.

 

Hamas is a sister movement of the Muslim Brotherhood and in the past has aided Islamic State in Sinai. Like Israel, Egypt recognizes reality and understands that Hamas will not suddenly disappear from the face of the earth. Egypt hopes that a peace process, preceded by an inter-Palestinian reconciliation process, would "contain" the Hamas threat and perhaps, in the long term, even pave the way for the Palestinian Authority to oust the terrorist organization from Gaza. The Egyptians are not naive, but their national interest is to lower the flames, and any progress or even discussion of peace can help them.

 

In contrast to his predecessor Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi is determined to improve the Egyptian economy, a requirement for ensuring the country's long-term stability. But for this to happen, Sissi needs an atmosphere of peace. Even more importantly, he needs generous monetary aid from the United States – Russia, after all, can provide weapons, not dollars.

 

Egypt used to be leader of the Arab world. Now, though, it looks on longingly as Iran and Turkey try to claim the leadership crown for themselves. Egypt's return to the helm of the Arab world and Middle East depends on how it fares against Iran and Turkey, unlike in the past when it largely depended on conflict with Israel. This too, requires a diplomatic process.

 

These are all good reasons for Egypt to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians; it certainly will not be upset if a peace agreement is reached.

 

                                                                       

 

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FOR HOW LONG WILL THE PEACE TREATY WITH EGYPT BE ROBUST?

Efraim Inbar

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017

 

Israel is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The move by Egypt, the largest and strongest Arab state, changed the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

Sadat violated the Arab taboo against good neighborly relations with the Jewish state and opened the way for additional peace agreements. The defection of Egypt from the Arab military coalition eliminated the option of a two-front conventional war against Israel and saved the Israeli taxpayer billions of dollars. The heavy price paid by Israel to Egypt was total withdrawal from the Sinai and removal of settlements. But, in retrospect, it worked out well, turning Israel into “the land had peace for forty years.”

 

The peace treaty withstood many difficult tests: Israel’s strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1982, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the 1987 Palestinian uprising, Israeli measures against the Palestinian terrorism campaign since 2000 and the Israel-Gaza wars. Even the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt (2012-13) did not cancel the peace treaty.

 

Unfortunately, Israeli expectations for normal inter-state and people-to-people interactions were not realized. The rooted cultural and religious barriers to having good relations with the Jewish state have been too difficult to overcome. In the Arab world, Israel is mostly seen as an alien body. For Egypt, this has not changed after 40 years of formal peace. In the absence of drastic change in the Arab educational systems, these perceptions of Jews and their state will continue. Hopes for peaceful relations with Arab countries – such as between the US and Canada – are fanciful dreams. This insight should be taken into consideration when calculating the Israeli price for Arab peace offers.

 

Moreover, the robustness of the peace treaty is not self-evident. History teaches us that most wars break out in violation of a peace treaty. The survival of the peace treaty seems threatened by several developments. We have to remember that the change in Egypt’s position toward Israel was a result of Cairo gradually preferring the US to the Soviet Union.

 

Egypt realized that the US had greater leverage on Israel in its attempt to gain back the Sinai. However, its pro-American orientation is not a constant. Nowadays, the US seems to have become a less desirable ally. Its international standing has deteriorated and its Middle East policy, under presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, favors disengagement rather than involvement.

 

At the same time, Russia has become more influential in the region. Egypt seems to sense the change and now buys Russian weapons. It also purchased two Russian nuclear reactors, which has created a long-term dependency upon Moscow. A change in Egypt’s foreign policy orientation also affects its relations with Israel. The region, whose character is changing due to the ascendance of Iran, also provides reasons to worry.

 

States in the region are aware of a projected American weakness and are left with only two choices when facing an Iran that cooperates with Russia. They can form an alliance to curb Iranian influence (the choice of Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States) or get closer to Iran (the choice of Turkey and Qatar). Egypt is usually seen as part of the Sunni moderate camp that fears greater Iranian clout. Egypt is much more dependent upon financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Nevertheless, Egypt supported Bashar Assad in Syria – an Iranian ally. If the Gulf region falls under Iranian influence, Cairo might have to adopt a different posture and also look for support in Tehran. This might put an end to the peace treaty with Israel.

 

Finally, the large growth of the Egyptian military and its modernization is a source of concern. The growth of the Egyptian air force, navy and land forces remains a mystery, particularly with no enemy on Egyptian borders in sight. The investments in logistics infrastructure from Cairo eastwards and the building of tunnels under the Suez Canal seem to have no reasonable civilian rationale. Moreover, the demilitarization of Sinai, the most important stabilizing element in the peace treaty, has been eroded, as Israel agreed to the infusion of Egyptian units into the Sinai to fight the radical Islamic insurgency.

 

While an Egyptian-Israeli military confrontation is unlikely, we see the emergence of conditions that make an Egyptian attack easier. Everything must be done by Jerusalem to preserve the peace treaty with Egypt, but Israel should still prepare itself for worst-case scenarios.

 

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Islam and Freedom of Religion: Philip Carl Salzman, Frontier Centre, Oct. 25, 2017—Islam is difficult for Westerners to understand because we view it through our own cultural categories. Our categories have been formed by the post-Enlightenment and post-industrial revolution in the West. Modern Western society has been organized on the basis of occupational specialization and division of labour. This is why we see our societies divided among distinct spheres of activity: familial, economic, political, cultural, and religious.

In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai: Declan Walsh and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017—After militants massacred 305 people at a packed mosque on Friday in a stunning assault on a sacred place, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded as he knows best.

Egypt-Israel Cooperation Likely to Increase after Sinai Massacre: Algemeiner, Nov. 27, 2017—After terrorists killed more than 300 people during prayers at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Friday, experts say that weaknesses in the Arab country’s counter-terrorism operations will likely lead to increased Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation.

Remembering Anwar Sadat’s Legacy: Yehuda Yaakov, Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 2017—Forty years ago — on Nov. 19, 1977 — Egyptian President Anwar Sadat embarked on a groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem. The 1979 peace treaty he later signed with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin set in motion the unmistakable dynamic of the Israeli-Arab rapprochement we witness today.

WESTERN LEADERS & PROGRESSIVES DENY ISLAM-TERROR CONNECTION AND SUPPORT NIQAB

Surprise! Study Shows Islamic Terrorism is Islamic: Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 31, 2017— Western leaders insist that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.

The Jewish Blindspot to the Horrors of the Niqab: Barbara Kay, National Post, Oct. 31, 2017— Sir Salman Rushdie spoke at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library last week. We were two of an estimated 700-strong (mostly Jewish) audience.

Burkas, Niqabs Pose Public Safety Risk: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Oct. 24, 2017— The slur of "racism" has been hurled at Muslims who support Quebec's Bill 62 — the new law banning face coverings, for example the burka and niqab, when giving or receiving government services.

Islamic State Threat is Alive at Israel’s Doorstep Despite Terror Group’s Losses Elsewhere: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, Oct. 26, 2017— During the last several months, Islamic State has seen its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria erode at the hands of a U.S.-backed coalition.

 

On Topic Links

 

Via Rail Plotters Weren’t Sick or Addicted — They Were Evil, FBI Undercover Agent Says: Tom Blackwell, National Post, Oct. 24, 2017

Rohingya Refugee Crisis: The Role of Islamist Terrorists: Lawrence A. Franklin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 25, 2017

Saudi Women Behind the Wheel: Prince Mohammed’s Litmus Test: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Oct. 4, 2017

New Study: Most UK Jihadists Tied to Non-Violent Islamism: IPT News, Oct 2, 2017

 

           

SURPRISE! STUDY SHOWS ISLAMIC TERRORISM IS ISLAMIC                                                                      

Judith Bergman

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 31, 2017

 

Western leaders insist that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Evidence to the contrary appeared again this week from Mohamad Jamal Khweis, an ISIS recruit from the United States who said in a 2016 interview with Kurdistan24, "Our daily life was basically prayer, eating and learning about the religion for about eight hours." Khweis was sentenced to 20 years in prison on October 27 for providing material support to ISIS, according to CBS News. As early as 2001, immediately after 9/11, then-President George W. Bush gave a speech in which he claimed that in the United States, the terrorist acts in which over 3,000 people were killed "violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith" and that "Islam is peace".

 

Twelve years and many spectacular terrorist attacks later, in 2013, when two jihadists murdered Lee Rigby in broad daylight in London, the prime minister at the time, David Cameron, declared that the attack was "a betrayal of Islam… there is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act". In January 2015, jihadists in Paris shouting "Allahu Akbar" attacked Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, murdering 15 people. French President François Hollande said that the jihadists had "nothing to do with the Muslim faith". Two years later, when a jihadist targeted the very heart of European democratic civilization, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge, British PM Theresa May said: "It is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism and the perversion of a great faith".

 

In the face of hundreds of Muslim terrorists yelling "Allahu Akbar" while bombing, shooting, stabbing, and car-ramming thousands of innocent civilians to death and wounding thousands of others, it would be reasonable to assume that elected representatives might feel obliged to put their denial of reality on hold long enough to read at least bits of the Quran. They might start by reading the commands in "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them…" (9:5), or, "So fight them until there is no more fitna [strife] and all submit to the religion of Allah" (8:39).

 

If that is asking too much, perhaps they might be willing to consider a recent study by Islamic theologian and professor of Islamic religious education at the University of Vienna, Ednan Aslan, which was commissioned by the Austrian ministry of Foreign Affairs. The purpose of the 310-page study, which was conducted over 18 months and involved interviews with 29 Muslims who were all jailed or in juvenile detention (over half for having committed terrorist offenses) was reportedly to investigate the role that Islam plays in the radicalization of young Muslims in Austria. The study showed that jihadists are not, as Western leaders claim, ignorant of Islam and therefore "perverting" it. On the contrary, the jihadists apparently have a deep understanding of Islamic theology. Aslan explicitly warns against reducing the issue of Islamic terrorism to questions of "frustrated individuals, who have no perspective, are illiterate and have misunderstood Islam".

 

The study found that three factors were particularly relevant to the radicalization process of the interviewees. The first factor was Islam itself: The interviewees had actively participated in their own radicalization, by engaging with the content, norms and standards of Islamic doctrine, and had apparently found this engagement to be a positive turning point in their lives. The study describes the approach to Islam of these men as "Salafism", which it defines as the view that Islam comprises all aspects of life, religious, personal and societal. Moreover, the majority of the men evidently came from religious Muslim homes and were therefore already familiar with the foundations of Islam. The study explicitly states that the prevailing assumption that the majority of radicalized Muslims know very little about Islam could not be confirmed by the interviewers' findings.

 

The second factor was the environment: the specific mosques and imams to which the men went and on which they relied. Although the internet evidently did play a role in the radicalization process, the study showed that face-to-face encounters were more important, and that dawa, proselytizing Islam, played a central role in this process, as the men themselves became missionaries for Islam. Notably, the study showed that the level of theological knowledge determined the individual's role in the hierarchy — the more knowledge they had of Islam, the more authority they had. The third factor was the establishment of a "them and us" distinction between the radicalized men and the rest of the world, especially the belief that the West is an enemy of the Muslim world. The distinction also involved a rejection of democracy and a commitment to the establishment of a caliphate governed by sharia law, which the men want to bring about either through dawa (proselytizing) or violence (jihad)…

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

                                                                       

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THE JEWISH BLINDSPOT TO THE HORRORS OF THE NIQAB                                                  

Barbara Kay

National Post, Oct. 31, 2017

 

Sir Salman Rushdie spoke at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library last week. We were two of an estimated 700-strong (mostly Jewish) audience. Rushdie’s insightful and entertaining address on “literature and politics in the modern world” was excellent, but the evening’s most noteworthy moment arrived with the Q&A, when, inevitably, his response was solicited regarding Quebec’s new Bill 62, which bans face coverings in the realm of public services. Rushdie gracefully sidestepped any comment on the law itself, but did express a robust opinion on the niqab.

 

His own family, Rushdie said, ranged from atheism to full Islamic practice, but “Not even the religious members would accept wearing a veil. They would say it is an instrument of oppression.” My husband and I applauded loudly, but few others did. Rushdie added, “Muslim women in the West who see it as an expression of identity are guilty of what Karl Marx called ‘false consciousness.’ A lot of women are forced to wear the veil. To choose to wear it, in my view, assists in the oppression of their sisters in those parts of the world.”

 

At this point I clapped even more enthusiastically and (alone) bellowed, “Bravo!” But most of the audience continued to sit on their hands. To say I was disappointed in my fellow Jews is an understatement. Here, after all, is a man who knows Islamic fundamentalism and oppression first hand, having endured 20 years of tense vigilance following fatwas against his life for the alleged crime of insulting Islam.

 

The tepid reaction to Rushdie’s statements thus struck me as a rebuke both to Rushdie’s personal ordeal and to the wisdom he brings to the face-covering debate as a critical insider. It’s also proof that even someone of Rushdie’s moral authority is powerless to shift liberal Jews’ reflexive instinct to identify with a perceived underdog, whatever the actual stakes at issue. I even had the sneaking suspicion that if a niqab’d woman in the audience had risen to shake her fist at Rushdie, she would have sparked an approving ovation.

 

I understand why young people are loath to criticize any cultural practice by the Other. They’ve long been steeped in cultural Marxism, which encourages white guilt and forbids criticism of official victim groups, including Muslims (but not Jews). But how did so many of my pre-Marxist, classically liberal Jewish contemporaries, who were, age-wise, disproportionately represented in the audience — especially the women, feminists one and all — fall for what public intellectual Phyllis Chesler calls a “faux feminism” that is “Islamically correct”?

 

I had assumed that my opinion on Bill 62 — that it is a fair law that privileges socially-level communications over a misogynist tribal custom — had solid, if minority, support in my community. The Rushdie evening disabused me of that illusion. Yet, I remain bewildered that Rushdie’s words don’t ring as true to my peers as they do to me. And not just Rushdie. Many Muslims are as “triggered” by the niqab as I am, and for better reason: they came to Canada to escape what it represents in those Islamic countries where it is customary (or obligatory) to wear it. They’re eager to speak up, but most media are too busy romancing the niqab-wearers to hear them.

 

Here’s a thought experiment I’d put to my progressive Jewish friends: How do you feel about the “frumqa”? “Frum” means religious in Yiddish. A frumqa is the Jewish burqa, worn by a few hundred Haredi women in Jerusalem who are sometimes called the “Taliban women.” The frumqa’s creator, Bruria Keren says she wears it “to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman’s body parts is sexually aroused … Even if he doesn’t sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves.”

 

I’m glad the frumqa exists for one reason: I can say I find it disturbing in itself and abusive to girls without being called Islamophobic. I can freely say that Haredi fundamentalism and the obsessive gender extremism it incubates is a blot on the Jewish halachic and cultural landscape. Please don’t speak to me of a Jewish woman’s “right” to wear such a travesty of “tzniut” (modesty in dress and behaviour). Indoctrinated women, like inebriated women, are not competent to give informed consent to practices that reduce them to sexual and reproductive “things.”

 

I’d wager there isn’t a single Jewish woman in that Rushdie audience who wouldn’t privately express her visceral disgust with the frumqa, and who furthermore wouldn’t turn a hair if it were banned in Israel (it can’t be: the Haredim hold too much political power there). But over the Other’s burqas they draw a politically correct veil. Forgive me if I conclude it isn’t just Muslim women in the West who are guilty of false consciousness.

 

Contents

BURKAS, NIQABS POSE PUBLIC SAFETY RISK

Tarek Fatah

Toronto Sun, Oct. 24, 2017

 

The slur of "racism" has been hurled at Muslims who support Quebec's Bill 62 — the new law banning face coverings, for example the burka and niqab, when giving or receiving government services. From Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne to Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, many white politicians and liberal media commentators have been quick to label any support of Bill 62 racist.

 

Since I, a Muslim, support Bill 62, I guess that makes me a racist. Indeed, it's not uncommon to hear whispers suggesting Muslims like me who support the burka and niqab ban are "sell-outs" within the Muslim community. And that white politicians who oppose Bill 62 are trying to salvage the reputation of our community, despite our supposed betrayal.

 

Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown are fierce political rivals, but both have been quick to label any support of Bill 62 racist. After all, what do these politicians have to lose? The political race to the bottom to curry favour with the so-called "Muslim vote bank" in Canada, as they see it, has worked well for both Conservatives and Liberals, charmed as they are by many second-generation radical Muslims who were born in Canada, some of whom hate Western civilization more than their parents do.

 

But none of the attacks on Quebec's burka/niqab ban were more disingenuous than one told by a well-coiffed hijabi on Canadian television recently, dismissing the public safety aspect of people wearing facemasks. This young Muslim woman claimed there has not been a single incident where someone wearing a burka committed a crime. To set the record straight, here are just a few examples of criminal activities committed by men and women wearing burkas and other face coverings in Canada:

 

Two months ago, on Aug. 17, 2017, an armed robbery took place at a Scotia Bank branch in Milton, Ontario. Police said one of the two suspects was wearing a balaclava; On Sept. 9, 2015, two burka-wearing male teens charged into a Toronto bank in the Yonge Street and Highway 401 area. Both were later arrested in Ajax; On Oct. 14, 2014, two men wearing burkas robbed a Toronto jewelery store in the York Mills and Leslie Street area, and walked away with $500,000 worth of gold and precious stones; On Aug. 18, 2010 an armed robbery by two masked men took place at a Scotiabank branch in Vaughan, north of Toronto; Ottawa police have in the past cited a handful of robberies in that city involving male suspects using Muslim women's religious garments as disguises.

 

Some of us will never forget how a young Toronto Muslim woman, Bano Shahdady, threw off her burka as she was divorcing her husband, only to be stalked by him disguised in a burka. He entered her apartment building and killed her in July 2011. It was a story few media were willing to delve into, but because I knew the family, one journalist did report about this burka-related murder that almost went unreported.

 

Around the world, numerous criminals have fled arrest wearing burkas, everywhere from London's Heathrow airport to the infamous Lal Masjid armed revolt by jihadis in Islamabad. My plea to vote-grabbing Canadian politicians of all political stripes in English-speaking Canada is, for once, be honest. Put the racist card aside and recognize burkas and niqabs pose a serious public safety risk.

 

 

Contents

ISLAMIC STATE THREAT IS ALIVE AT ISRAEL’S DOORSTEP

DESPITE TERROR GROUP’S LOSSES ELSEWHERE

Yaakov Lappin

JNS, Oct. 26, 2017

 

During the last several months, Islamic State has seen its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria erode at the hands of a U.S.-backed coalition. With the recent liberation of Islamic State’s de-facto capital in Raqqa, Syria, by coalition forces, many experts see the jihadist group attempting to bounce back by shifting from “state-building” to bolstering its terror network, including by exploiting lawless areas of the Middle East.

In Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, despite ongoing efforts by the Egyptian military, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group continues to deliver a succession of painful, deadly attacks on the Arab country’s security forces. With Islamic State’s losses in Syria and Iraq piling up, the Sinai remains an area where the terrorist organization is active and on the attack.  Occasionally, Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate, known as Sinai Province, fires rockets into southern Israel—including an attack in mid-October, sending residents of the Eshkol region fleeing for cover.

 

Yoram Schweitzer, head of the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, pointed out that Egyptian authorities do not operate in the Sinai like they do in the Egyptian heartland. Egypt’s counter-terrorist campaign “has some achievements, but not enough to solve the problem and to significantly lower ISIS’s activities.”

 

Egypt has struggled to integrate its security forces effectively, or deploy sufficient special forces, but has been able to cause real damage to Sinai Province during the past year and a half, Schweitzer said. “I don’t think Sinai Province is getting stronger. To a certain extent, it is weaker, but not enough to be repressed,” he told JNS.org. Egypt’s efforts are now receiving support from Bedouin tribes in the Sinai—like the Tarabin tribe—who have grown resentful of Islamic State’s presence, said Schweitzer, a former head of the Counter International Terror Section in the IDF. “The effort is better, but we see that terrorism isn’t breaking,” he said.

 

“They are still able to strike and kill soldiers in high numbers. The Egyptians can’t solve this problem,” Schweitzer added. One possible reason for this, he said, is the fact that Egypt “still doesn’t see Sinai as central enough. So long as there are not massive attacks in the Egyptian heartland, hitting senior government officials or tourist sites, this view will not change.”

 

An Israeli security source closely familiar with the Sinai sector offered rare confirmation of what she described as “tactical cooperation” between Israeli and Egyptian security forces on the border. “We have the same interests,” the source told JNS.org. “We both want to defend the border. We both understand that we are targets for terrorism. Hence we coordinate. It is clear to everyone who the enemy is, and that it is not us or them.” As evidence, the source pointed out that for the past year and a half, Egypt’s border police forces have constructed posts so that their openings face the Israeli side. “They did this out of an understanding that we have a common interest,” she said. “They understand that Israel is the safe side.”

 

The Israeli security source said that once in a while, Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate finds “ways to signal to us that we are in their crosshairs.” Israel does not confirm or deny reports that it launches air strikes on Islamic State in the Sinai, though the terror organization has accused the Jewish state of doing so repeatedly. It is difficult to estimate the size of Sinai Province, but assessments range from between hundreds and a few thousand members, the Israeli source stated. “Its weapons capabilities are varied. It has explosives that are both industrial and homemade, and a rocket stockpile that is not large,” she said. 

 

Asked about the scope of the threat to Israel, the source said, “As of now, our understanding is that Sinai Province’s leadership has issued a directive to focus efforts against the Egyptian security forces. We see that this directive is being followed.” The source was quick to point out that “this does not mean they like us. We are taking into account the fact that a decision, and having the ability, is what separates us from an attack against us.”

 

The IDF is building up its ability to deal with a variety of potential attacks from terrorists in the Sinai—including attempts to infiltrate into Israel and conduct a major attack. “Anything that approaches this sector comes under intense surveillance,” the source said. The Israeli military’s surveillance goes far beyond the Israel-Egypt border fence; any unusual movements are “checked thoroughly,” the source said. Various Israeli intelligence forces have joined forces to keep the area “clean from terrorism,” she added.

 

The source does not believe that Islamic State is getting stronger in the Sinai, but rather, that the terror group has succeeded in maintaining its power there, while it grows weaker in the rest of the Middle East. “They created an ability to continue attacking, keeping up their ‘output,’ and it turns out they can continue to recruit successfully,” she said. “This has not happened in other ISIS zones.” One reason for Islamic State’s continued presence in the Sinai, said the source, is that “for many years…Sinai has been the backyard of Egypt. There was no orderly Egyptian political sovereignty there. This created fertile ground for terrorism to grow uninterrupted.”

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Via Rail Plotters Weren’t Sick or Addicted — They Were Evil, FBI Undercover Agent Says: Tom Blackwell, National Post, Oct. 24, 2017—By the time he was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to wreck a Via Rail train and other terrorist acts, Chiheb Esseghaier had been diagnosed as psychotic, having gone on incoherent rants, spit at a witness and fallen asleep during his trial.

Rohingya Refugee Crisis: The Role of Islamist Terrorists: Lawrence A. Franklin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 25, 2017—Although the media has extensively covered the Burmese Army's expulsion of Muslim Rohingya people from Rakhine Province in Myanmar — and although no one is recommending the horrors of murder or mass expulsions — little attention has been paid to Rohingya ties to international Islamic terrorism.

Saudi Women Behind the Wheel: Prince Mohammed’s Litmus Test: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Oct. 4, 2017—If last week’s national day celebrations, during which women were for the first time allowed to enter a stadium, is anything to go by, opposition to the lifting of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women’s driving is likely to be limited to protests on social media.

New Study: Most UK Jihadists Tied to Non-Violent Islamism: IPT News, Oct 2, 2017—Ties to non-violent Islamism are strongly associated with an eventual embrace of jihadism, according to a new study that explores the trajectories of British jihadists.

 

 

 

EGYPT, SOMALIA, & LIBYA FACE ONGOING ISLAMIST TERRORIST THREATS

Land of Terror: ISIS Alive and Kicking in Sinai: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, Oct. 17, 2017 — The Islamic State implemented a double strategic move in the Sinai area on Sunday night.

The Terror Group as Brutal as ISIS: Megan Palin, New York Post, Oct. 17, 2017— A young girl accused of adultery is forced into a hole in the ground and buried up to her neck in front of about 1,000 spectators who have come to the football stadium to watch her death.

Is Al-Azhar University a Global Security Threat?: Cynthia Farahat, American Thinker, Aug. 23, 2017 — Al-Azhar University, the world’s largest Sunni Islamic educational institution, is where many of the world’s most brutal terrorists received their formal religious training.

Benghazi at the Bar: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Oct. 16, 2017 — "I want them to hate him," a federal prosecutor said quietly on the evening of October 2 as his colleagues packed up.

 

On Topic Links

 

Netanyahu-Sisi Meeting Highlights Warming Ties Between Israel and Arab World: Adam Abrams, JNS, Sept. 2017

A North Korean Ship Was Seized off Egypt with a Huge Cache of Weapons Destined for a Surprising Buyer: Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2017

Census Intensifies Concern in Cairo Over Soaring Population: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 2017

"Our Lives Have Turned into Hell" Muslim Persecution of Christians, May 2017: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 15, 2017

LAND OF TERROR: ISIS ALIVE AND KICKING IN SINAI

Ron Ben-Yishai

Ynet, Oct. 17, 2017

 

The Islamic State implemented a double strategic move in the Sinai area on Sunday night. First it fired rockets into Israel’s populated area in the Gaza vicinity, and several hours later it launched a major attack on the Egyptian army in the Sheikh Zuweid area near El-Arish.

 

These two operations, which the organization claimed responsibility for, had two purposes: One, to demonstrate that despite being beaten in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and being driven away from them, ISIS is still alive and kicking; and two, to disrupt Hamas’ reconciliation agreement with Fatah and its tightening relations with Egypt. Both the reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian organizations, and mainly the cooperation agreement with Egypt, contradict ISIS’s interests. The rocket fire into Israel, in the Gaza vicinity, is therefore aimed at raising the tensions and perhaps leading to an escalation and an active military conflict between the Gazan terror organization and Israel.

 

Another purpose of the ISIS operation is to attract activists who are fleeing Syria and Iraq and looking for a new area of activity on behalf of ISIS and its Salafi ideology. ISIS has been forced to painfully give up a key part of its religious ideology, which separates the organization from al-Qaeda and other Salafi groups—the caliphate idea. It has lost the territory it took over in Syria and Iraq, which it declared the area under “caliphate” sovereignty and under the control of the “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In Iraq, the area was conquered by government forces with heavy backing from the Americans, the Kurds and Shiite militias sent by Iran. In Syria, the area was mainly conquered by a Kurdish Arab militia which receives American aid and backing.

 

The caliphate idea was one of the things that allowed ISIS to gain a lot of capital as a result of enslaving the local population, selling oil from the wells it took over, demanding ransom for hostages and imposing taxes on the population. All this is now slipping from its fingers and threatening to disappear. ISIS is losing one stronghold after another in the area defined as a caliphate, and these places are also being occupied by the Syrian army with Russian and Iranian backing. The IDF’s Intelligence Directorate estimated a long time ago that in such a situation, ISIS would seek two alternative channels. This first channel is mass attacks in Western Europe, North America and Africa, which are carried out not only by ISIS people who have returned from or fled Syria and Iraq, but also by locals inspired by ISIS’s social media activity. These “inspiration attacks,” as they are called in the West, allow ISIS to keep gaining prestige and supporters despite the blows it is suffering in the Middle East.

 

The second channel is decentralizing ISIS’s activity outside Syria and Iraq. The attempt to turn Libya into an ISIS center failed, and the organization members are now mainly left with Sinai and Boko Haram’s area of activity in Africa. The Sinai Peninsula, despite being a limited area in which the Egyptian government is constantly fighting the Islamist organization, is still an attractive place where ISIS occasionally scores achievements. The organization also threatens the Suez Canal and the ships that cross it and is capable of expanding its activity from there into Egypt.

 

A number of Bedouin tribe leaders in Sinai, mainly in the south and center of the peninsula, recently protested ISIS’s activity following promises they received from the Egyptian government and because ISIS is disentangling the traditional-family-tribal fabric that has characterized the Bedouin tribes in Sinai until now. The tribe leaders managed to restrict ISIS’s activity in southern and central Sinai, but the organization is still active in northern Sinai and is executing suicide bombings and successful attacks on the Egyptian army and police. These attacks are not only murderous but also sophisticated, and because they are carried out in several places simultaneously, they almost always claim a heavy price from the Egyptian security forces.

 

Egypt is operating its air force and armored forces in Sinai unlimitedly, while Israel is turning a blind eye to the massive amounts of forces and weapons Egypt is bringing into Sinai in contradiction of the security appendix of the peace agreement between the two countries. Recently, Egypt also succeed in reaching an agreement with Hamas, disconnecting ISIS from its ideological logistic backing and from the route it used to have for evacuating injured activists into the Gaza Strip.

 

Under its new leader in the strip, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas prefers to ease the Gazans’ distress and reach an agreement with Egypt and a reconciliation agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rather than continue the alliance and the aid provided to the organization. That is the reason he has stepped up the security measures in the Philadelphi Route and is preventing ISIS people from moving in and out of the strip. He is also arresting activists of ISIS-affiliated Salafi organizations within the strip quite intensively. As a result, ISIS feels the need to act against the enemies of its Sinai branch—Egypt, which is fighting the organization with certain yet insufficient success, and Hamas, which is currently cooperating with Egypt in a bid to ease the lives of the strip’s residents.

 

Sunday night’s operation did bring ISIS the return it had hoped for, at least in the short run. The Rafah Crossing, which had been closed for four months, was not opened Monday morning, and the strip’s residents were unable to leave for Egypt or return to Gaza. The second achievement is the rocket fire against Israel, which boosts ISIS’s prestige in the Muslim world and strengthens its image as an organization that fights not only Muslims but also Jews and the other heretics…

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

                                                                       

Contents

THE TERROR GROUP AS BRUTAL AS ISIS

                                                  Megan Palin

New York Post, Oct. 17, 2017

 

A young girl accused of adultery is forced into a hole in the ground and buried up to her neck in front of about 1,000 spectators who have come to the football stadium to watch her death. Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, 13, pleads with her captors to “don’t kill me” before a truckload of stones is rolled in and about 50 fighters from the al-Shabaab militia start to hurl them toward her. She’s being punished for reporting that three men had raped her in the southern port city of Kismayo in Somalia.

 

After about 10 minutes of Duholow being violently struck by stones, two nurses are instructed to dig her up and check if she’s still alive. She is. Barely. So they put her back into the hole and the men continue to pelt her with stones until she is dead. “This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups,” Amnesty International’s Somalia campaigner David Copeman said at the time.

 

It was Oct. 27, 2008, and the terror group responsible for the killing was relatively new, but since then it has grown bigger and deadlier. Al-Shabaab — a terror group lesser known than ISIS but just as brutal — imposes its own version of Islamic law, which includes dress regulations and public mutilations, and has an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. The name translates to “The Youth” in Arabic. It’s been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in a string of guerrilla-style terror attacks, making it Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group.

 

The group is suspected to be responsible for the deadly truck bombing that killed at least 276 people and injured 300 on a crowded Mogadishu street on Saturday. The blast occurred in Hodan, a bustling commercial district which has many shops, hotels and businesses, in the city’s northwest. Several experts said the truck was probably carrying at least 1,100 pounds of explosives. A second car bomb exploded two hours later, injuring two people. Somalia’s government blamed the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab extremist group for what it called a “national disaster.”

 

However, al-Shabaab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital, has yet to comment. The group has a history of not claiming attacks where the scale provokes massive public outrage. Al-Shabaab carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally backed government. It has already killed more than 4,281 people, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset. It has also been known to cut off the hands of alleged thieves and regularly stones to death those accused of adultery.

 

Somalia has been battling al-Shabaab insurgents since 2007 with the help of 22,000 troops from the African Union and a US counter-terrorism campaign.  The militants emerged out of a bitter insurgency fighting Ethiopia, whose troops entered Somalia in a US-backed invasion in 2006 to topple the Islamic Courts Union that was then controlling Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab militants were pushed out of Mogadishu and other major towns across Somalia by African Union and Somali troops in 2011. But the al-Shabaab militants maintained control of rural areas and have continued to launch attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia, as well as terrorist raids in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

 

The Garissa University massacre in Kenya, which took place near the border with Somalia, was the bloodiest attack in the region prior to the truck bombing last weekend. A total of 148 people died in 2015 when gunmen stormed the university at dawn and targeted Christian students. It followed an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping center in 2013, in which at least 68 people were killed. In Westgate and other attacks, the militants spared Muslims, while killing those unable to recite verses from the Koran. According to the Nairobi-based Sahan think tank, at least 723 people were killed and over 1,000 injured in bomb attacks during 2016 in Somalia.

 

Prior to last weekend, there hadn’t been a major terrorist attack in the country since Somalia’s presidential election in February. But the latest explosion has shattered hopes of recovery in an impoverished country left fragile by decades of conflict and again raised doubts over the government’s ability to secure the seaside city of more than 2 million people. The recent attacks in Somalia came after the new government threatened to renew efforts to tackle radical Islamic terror in the region and the US military stepped up its focus on the extremist group.

 

In a mysterious move, Somalia’s defense minister Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed and army chief Gen. Ahmed Jimale Gedi both resigned last week, without explanation. The Aamin Ambulance group, an independent organization based in Mogadishu, said the attack was a grim new milestone in the war. “In our 10-year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” it tweeted. Earlier this year, the country teetered on the brink of famine, in large part because of the effect of fighting on agriculture and the distribution of humanitarian aid.

 

 

Contents

IS AL-AZHAR UNIVERSITY A GLOBAL SECURITY THREAT?                                                             

Cynthia Farahat

American Thinker, Aug. 23, 2017

 

Al-Azhar University, the world’s largest Sunni Islamic educational institution, is where many of the world’s most brutal terrorists received their formal religious training. This is to be expected, given the nature of the material taught there. Al-Azhar has thousands of affiliated mosques, schools, learning centers, and universities around the world, such as the Islamic American University in Michigan. The institution has also been unofficially controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood for decades.

 

According to the most recent data released by the Egyptian government, there were 297,000 students studying at al-Azhar University in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, there were 39,000 foreign students studying at al-Azhar. These students are taught the theological legitimacy of cannibalizing infidels, gruesome ways to torture non-Muslims to death, and the importance of raping and humiliating non-Muslim women.  This explains why numerous Egyptian public figures and intellectuals have called for a terrorism investigation of al-Azhar University. For example, Egyptian historian, Sayyid Al-Qemany, called upon the Egyptian government to designate al-Azhar University as terrorist organization.

 

In 2015, El-Youm el-Sabi, an Egyptian newspaper, published an investigative report about the curriculum at al-Azhar University. According to the report, one of the books called, al-Iqn’a fi Hal Alfaz ibn Abi Shoga’a (Convincing arguments according to Abi Shoga’a), taught to al-Azhar’s high school students states, “Any Muslim, can kill an apostate and eat him, as well kill infidel warriors even if they are young or female and they can also be eaten, because they are not granted any protection.”  On the treatment of non-Muslims, the report quotes the same book as saying, “to preserve one’s self from the evil of an infidel, any Muslim can gouge their eyes out, or mutilate their hands and legs, or sever one arm and one leg.” Even Muslims aren’t safe from al-Azhar’s teachings. According to the same the report, another book states, “Any Muslim is allowed to kill a fornicator, a warrior, or a [Muslim] who misses prayer, even without permission of the [ruling] Imam.”

 

This is expected given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the organization. Not only does the Muslim Brotherhood use the university to recruit hundreds of thousands of students to adopt ISIS-style beliefs, the Brotherhood used the organization to train young people for combat. For example, In 2006, a video leaked from inside al-Azhar showed 50 masked young members of the Brotherhood in black uniforms, performing a military exercises in front of the head of al-Azhar University, resulting in a government investigation and arrests in what later became known as, “the case of al-Azhar militia.”

 

Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the world’s most brutal Islamists either worked for al-Azhar, or graduated it from it. For example, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, is a graduate from al-Azhar. Also, the first leader of al-Qaeda Abdulla Azzam (1941 –1989), studied at al-Azhar. The spiritual mentor for Osama Bin Laden (1957 –2011), and a leader of the international arm of al-Qaeda, Omar Abdel Rahman (1938 – 2017), known as “the Blind Sheikh,” was a scholar at al-Azhar.  The Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini (1897-1974), studied at al-Azhar University. As well as, Abu Osama al-Masri the mastermind of the Russian plane crash over Sinai in 2015

 

Not only is al-Azhar involved in the spreading of the violent Sunni Wahhabi sect, the government funded institution uses Egyptian blasphemy law to imprison critics of its radical teachings, halting any hope for Islamic reformation. For example, the President of al-Azhar University recently declare that Muslim scholar Islam el-Behery, who was previously imprisoned in Egypt for blasphemy, “an apostate of Islam.” According to the al-Azhar’s Sunni theology, apostasy is punishable by death. Al-Azhar is also responsible for the apostasy Fatwa that resulted in the murder of Egyptian secular figure Farag Fouda (1945-1992). After uproar in Egypt against the University for essentially placing a hit on Mr. Behery by calling him an apostate of Islam, it’s president was forced to resign, but the militant teachings remain untouched…

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

 

 

 

Contents

BENGHAZI AT THE BAR

Jenna Lifhits

Weekly Standard, Oct. 16, 2017

 

"I want them to hate him," a federal prosecutor said quietly on the evening of October 2 as his colleagues packed up. It had been a long first day in the trial of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the man charged with instigating the tragic 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Khatallah, a middle-aged man with a long gray and yellow beard, sat quietly for over five hours in one of the wood-paneled courtrooms of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse—barely fidgeting, not looking at the benches to his left, which were filled with government officials, reporters, and spectators all looking at him.

 

His six-week trial is going to revive the controversy over Benghazi. The violent attacks that occurred at the U.S. mission and a nearby CIA annex on the night of September 11, 2012, left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They also triggered hyperbolic remarks and partisan rancor. The contradictory statements and foggy accounts of the night’s events from Obama administration officials led to intense efforts by Congress to pin down exactly what happened. Lawmakers held hearings and produced lengthy reports. But many questions were left unanswered. Monday marked the first day of a trial that should set the story straight.

 

Khatallah is facing 18 counts, including murder and providing material support for terrorists. He has pleaded not guilty on all charges. He wore a blank expression as a top federal prosecutor laid out what to expect in the weeks ahead. Jurors, he promised, would hear from a man named “Ali” who, at the behest of the U.S. government and in exchange for $7 million, grew close to Khatallah in Libya and lured him to his capture in 2014. “I would have killed all the Americans that night,” Khatallah allegedly told Ali of the Benghazi attacks, “if others had not gotten involved and stopped me.”

 

They’ll hear emotional retellings from people at the U.S. mission and CIA annex the night of the attacks, as well as testimony from arson and weapons experts. All of it, assistant U.S. attorney John Crabb argued, will prove one thing: that Abu Khatallah is responsible for the deaths of four Americans. “Those four Americans were killed because the defendant hates America with a vengeance,” he told jurors. “He didn’t light the fires, and he didn’t fire the mortars,” but Khatallah planned the attacks, incited the fighters, and ensured that no one interfered with the assault or helped the besieged Americans, Crabb said. “He got others to do his dirty work.”

 

About a week before the attacks, Khatallah and a few of his associates stocked up on weapons at a militia camp, Crabb reported. Aided by an elaborate model of the compound and annex as well as video footage, Crabb then walked the jury through the events of the night. He referred to the participants in the attacks as Khatallah’s “associates.” Crabb barely touched on Khatallah’s terror affiliations or those of the other attackers. He mentioned Ubaydah bin Jarrah (UBJ), a militia led by Khatallah, which sought to establish sharia in Libya, and he referenced Ansar al Sharia (AAS), which merged with UBJ around 2011. "I want them to hate him," a federal prosecutor said quietly on the evening of October 2 as his colleagues packed up. It had been a long first day in the trial of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the man charged with instigating the tragic 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

 

Khatallah, a middle-aged man with a long gray and yellow beard, sat quietly for over five hours in one of the wood-paneled courtrooms of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse—barely fidgeting, not looking at the benches to his left, which were filled with government officials, reporters, and spectators all looking at him. His six-week trial is going to revive the controversy over Benghazi. The violent attacks that occurred at the U.S. mission and a nearby CIA annex on the night of September 11, 2012, left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They also triggered hyperbolic remarks and partisan rancor. The contradictory statements and foggy accounts of the night’s events from Obama administration officials led to intense efforts by Congress to pin down exactly what happened. Lawmakers held hearings and produced lengthy reports. But many questions were left unanswered. Monday marked the first day of a trial that should set the story straight…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Netanyahu-Sisi Meeting Highlights Warming Ties Between Israel and Arab World: Adam Abrams, JNS, Sept. 2017—At a time of warming relations between Israel and Arab states, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held his first public meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

A North Korean Ship Was Seized off Egypt with a Huge Cache of Weapons Destined for a Surprising Buyer: Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2017—Last August, a secret message was passed from Washington to Cairo warning about a mysterious vessel steaming toward the Suez Canal. The bulk freighter named Jie Shun was flying Cambodian colors but had sailed from North Korea, the warning said, with a North Korean crew and an unknown cargo shrouded by heavy tarps.

Census Intensifies Concern in Cairo Over Soaring Population: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 2017—Egypt is grappling with a challenge its president, Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, has implied is as dangerous to the country’s future as terrorism: runaway population growth. The publication Saturday of results of a national census has heightened concern that the growth – about two million newborns a year – is smothering prospects for sustained economic recovery and could further swell the ranks of young people unable to find work, generating social unrest.

"Our Lives Have Turned into Hell" Muslim Persecution of Christians, May 2017: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 15, 2017—One month after Islamic militants bombed two Egyptian churches during Palm Sunday and killed nearly 50 people in April 2017, several SUVs, on May 26, stopped two buses transporting dozens of Christians to the ancient Coptic Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in the desert south of Cairo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHILE EGYPT’S RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL & SUEZ EXPANSION ARE ENCOURAGING, IT’S ECONOMY, & ISLAMIST VIOLENCE, WORSEN

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

 

 

Egyptians and Their Leaders are Warming to Jews, Israel: Times of Israel, Aug. 6, 2015 — It’s been a particularly challenging summer for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Suez Canal Upgrade May Not Ease Egypt’s Economic Journey: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Aug. 6, 2015 — “Egypt Rejoices,” the television networks and newspapers declared, announcing “Egypt’s gift to the world.”

The Sinai – An Epicenter of a Mounting Islamist Insurgency: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, July 20, 2015 — A recent attack on a military vessel north to Rafah is the second attack against a maritime Egyptian target in the Mediterranean, conducted by ISIS affiliated group and a part of the group's initiative to extend the theaters of conflict beyond the territory of Sinai.

3 U.S. Defeats: Vietnam, Iraq and Now Iran: David Brooks, New York Times, Aug. 7, 2015  — The purpose of war, military or economic, is to get your enemy to do something it would rather not do.

 

On Topic Links

 

Arabs Eye Iran Nuclear Deal With Distrust, Disapproval: Brennan Weiss, Washington Times, Aug. 5, 2015

US Sending Eight F-16 Fighter Jets To Egyptian Military: Tim Marcin, International Business Times, July 30, 2015

The U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue: Drift Along the Nile: Amy Hawthorne, Council on Foreign Relations, July 29, 2015

Israel 'Forgotten' by Egypt Yet Again: Ynet, Aug. 10, 2015

Egyptian Show That’s Flattering to Jews is a Surprise Hit Among Palestinians: William Booth & Sufian Taha, Washington Post, July 17, 2015

 

         

EGYPTIANS AND THEIR LEADERS ARE WARMING TO JEWS, ISRAEL                                             

Times of Israel, Aug. 6, 2015

 

It’s been a particularly challenging summer for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Within one week in late June and early July, his attorney general was assassinated in the upscale Cairo suburb of Heliopolis and an Islamic State affiliate launched a two-day siege in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.

 

But just days after the bloody Sinai battle, Sissi put aside two hours to meet with a delegation from the American Jewish Committee, the global Jewish advocacy group, and then delivered a matter-of-fact account of the meeting to the state-run Middle East News Agency. The conversation revolved around regional terrorism threats, the stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the nuclear deal with Iran and the preservation of Egyptian Jewish heritage, according to the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, Jason Isaacson, who coordinated the delegation.

 

The AJC meeting at the presidential palace came at a time when Egyptian attitudes about Jews are changing. Egyptians are reassessing 1950s-era nationalization policies that squeezed out the Jewish community and other ethnic minorities. The word “Jew” is used less frequently as a curse word, and the historical TV drama “Jewish Quarter” was a breakout hit during Ramadan. The series cast the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood as a greater threat to Egypt’s unity and security than the Jews and, sometimes, even the Zionists. (Past TV series during Ramadan have traded in negative tropes and stereotypes about Jewish “treachery” and hostility, so “Jewish Quarter” represented a major departure.)

 

“I find more tolerance,” said Isaacson, referring to the period since Sissi came to power in 2013. “I find more respect for Israel and more feeling of commonality between Egyptian and Israeli strategic concerns with common attitudes towards Hamas, especially toward the connections between Hamas and other extremist groups.”

 

Officially, fewer than eight Jews remain in this capital city — all of them elderly women. The community’s leader, Magda Haroun, last month opened the heavily guarded and rarely used Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in downtown Cairo for an interfaith Ramadan Iftar event, the daily break-fast meal during the holy month. (There were some 75,000 Jews in Egypt before 1948, but in the 1950s the Jewish population was largely stripped of citizenship and assets by then President Gamal Abdel Nasser.) The meeting also coincided with a warming trend between Sissi, the strongman who leads the world’s most populous Arab country, and Israel. In June, Egypt appointed Hazem Khairat as its new ambassador to Tel Aviv. Sissi’s predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, long affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, had recalled the previous ambassador in November 2012 after the Israeli Air Force struck and killed a top Hamas military commander and launched an eight-day offensive in the Gaza Strip.

 

Israel’s war last summer in Gaza threw in sharp relief just how far from favor Hamas, founded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has fallen in official Cairo since Sissi’s ascent to power. (Morsi was removed in a 2013 military takeover orchestrated by Sissi, who became president the following year.) As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge unfolded, Egypt’s state-sanctioned TV stations specifically deployed the term “terrorist” to describe Hamas-launched missile attacks on Israel. And in the wake of increased activity in the Sinai by affiliates of the Islamic State, the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command and the Egyptian Army in Sinai are increasingly sharing intelligence on the movement of for-profit weapons smugglers and ideologically motivated militants.

 

Sissi’s administration has also been widely criticized in the West for clamping down on free speech and press freedoms, and for jailing political opponents. Washington withheld funds and equipment from Egypt after a particularly violent confrontation in August 2013 between government troops and supporters of Morsi, a clash that left more than 600 dead on the streets of Cairo. In March, President Obama restored most of the $1.3 billion in annual military funding, and the Pentagon resumed shipments of new Harpoon missiles, F-16 fighter jets and replacement kits for Abrams tanks. The Egyptian Air Force’s ability to deploy F-16s allowed government troops to beat back the assault against Sheik Zuweid by Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, an ISIS-affiliated group.

 

If any one figure in Egypt deserves credit for the contemporary shift in attitudes, perhaps it is Amir Ramses, whose recent two-part documentary project “The Jews of Egypt” and “End of a Journey” explores the rise and demise of the Jewish communities of Cairo and Alexandria between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. Ramses, a middle-class Muslim from Cairo, battled official censors here under the administrations of both Morsi and Hosni Mubarak, and Islamists were particularly rankled by the documentary’s revisiting of the “Balfour Day” riots instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1945. They coincided with the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 letter declaring Britain’s intention to set up a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Yet last year, Ramses’ films were screened in Egypt to critical acclaim.

 

Ramses said he was intrigued by stories from his grandparents about Jewish, Greek and Italian neighbors whose different foods and folkways added an international flair to the metropolis — a flair that is now decidedly absent. “The big picture I am trying to draw,” he said, “is an image of the pre-1952 society through the window of the diversity of a cosmopolitan way of living in Cairo.”

                                                                                   

                                                                       

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SUEZ CANAL UPGRADE MAY NOT EASE EGYPT’S ECONOMIC JOURNEY

David D. Kirkpatrick    

New York Times, Aug. 6, 2015

 

“Egypt Rejoices,” the television networks and newspapers declared, announcing “Egypt’s gift to the world.” Businesses were closed, the streets of Cairo were empty, and the airwaves were full of patriotic songs and music videos — all featuring adoring images of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi interspersed with footage of cargo sailing toward the sea. With a pageant of soaring jets and singing schoolgirls that lasted hours, Mr. Sisi on Thursday inaugurated what he called “the new Suez Canal” and portrayed it as the cornerstone of his plans for an economic turnaround.

 

“Egyptians needed to confirm to themselves and the world that they still can,” Mr. Sisi declared to an audience of dignitaries assembled near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia for the opening. He called it “an additional artery of prosperity for the world.” On Friday, every imam in Egypt is expected to preach about its benefits and cite the example of a trench dug by the Prophet Muhammad that led to a battlefield victory, according to instructions from the religious authorities.

 

The “new canal,” however, is in reality a parallel side channel running about one-third the length of the existing waterway. And Mr. Sisi’s promises about its rewards, economists and businessmen say, will depend on the resolution of the same problems holding back the rest of Egypt’s economy, including poor government and a lack of transparency, dependability and public security. The hype about the canal, some analysts say, does little to ease the doubts of investors.

 

Mr. Sisi’s other signature development project — the construction of a new capital to partly replace Cairo — has fallen apart just months after its grand unveiling, in March. Moves to close the government’s yawning deficit and to stabilize the currency appear to have stalled. And energy shortages, foreign exchange restrictions and the growing threat of antigovernment violence are significant impediments to the kind of investments the government is forecasting, economists say. The real advantage of the new channel is that it is expected to lower the average transit time for ships, possibly by several hours. But Mr. Sisi’s government has told Egyptians that the canal’s expansion aims to add $100 million a year to the economy and create a million jobs, and “those numbers are just totally impossible,” said Reem Abdel Halim, an Egyptian economist.

 

The president set a one-year deadline for digging the new channel, greatly increasing the cost, which came in at more than $8 billion, according to Egyptian officials. But the rush provided only symbolism and no tangible payoff, economists said. The existing canal is operating well below maximum capacity, in part because shipping volumes remain below their peak eight years ago. Transport volumes are sagging again this year because of the economic downturn in China and reduced Western demand for Persian Gulf oil. “Three years would have been just as sound,” said Ragui Assaad, a fellow at the Economic Research Forum here and a professor at the University of Minnesota.

 

The ups and downs make any projections of future canal tolls highly speculative at best, said Peter Hinchliffe, the secretary general of the International Shipping Federation. His organization estimates that the total shipping volume will grow by more than 30 percent over 10 years, but Mr. Sisi’s government projects that the added channel will more than double the canal’s toll revenue by 2023, to $13.2 billion a year from about $5.3 billion. Mr. Hinchliffe recalled an old saying: “Predictions are great, until you start talking about the future.”

 

Completed in 1869, the original canal revolutionized international trade by connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a shortcut between East and West that spared ships the long journey around the southern tip of Africa. The canal stretched a hundred miles, and 20,000 conscripts a year worked 10 years digging it, according to the official history.

 

Parts of the canal are too narrow for two-way traffic. Canal authorities arrange for ships to take turns passing in convoys heading in alternate directions, and Egypt has been trying for decades to reduce the bottlenecks. The authorities added three side channels in 1955 and another three in 1980. The government has also worked in recent decades on dredging projects to deepen the canal for ever-larger ships.

 

The new side channel to open on Thursday adds 30 miles in an attempt to allow two-way traffic for more of the passage. Although the new channel will not yet allow two-way traffic for the full length of the canal, it will expedite passage by allowing longer or more frequent convoys to pass. That can help attract traffic. For shipping companies deciding between the Suez Canal and other routes, “it is all about time, and ‘how much time can I save?’ ” said Willy C. Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies manufacturing and transportation.

 

The creation of jobs, however, will depend on attracting investors to build factories or logistics facilities in planned industrial zones around the canal. And experts said there was little reason to think that shorter transit time would attract investors put off by the other challenges of doing business in Egypt. “Sure, Egypt needs that kind of infrastructure to produce jobs, but, oh man, have they got a long way to go,” Professor Shih said.

 

Militant attacks in Cairo and North Sinai have scared away investors, economists said, and Mr. Sisi appears to be forgoing economic changes for short-term political stability. His government spent billions of dollars in aid from Persian Gulf monarchies to improve Egypt’s energy infrastructure and avoid recurring blackouts. But economists and business groups say the government has deprived industries of power to placate consumers. While blackouts have all but ceased for homes in Cairo, “the improvement in homes this year came partly at the expense of factories,” said Mohamed Hanafy, the executive director of the metal industries section of Egypt’s quasi-governmental industrial federation. “The halts and interruptions for factories have increased compared to last year.”…

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

                                   

                                                                       

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THE SINAI – AN EPICENTER OF A MOUNTING ISLAMIST INSURGENCY                                                             

Dr. Shaul Shay                                                                                                                             

Israel Defense, July 20, 2015

 

An Egyptian naval vessel has caught fire near Rafah in North Sinai during a clash with fighters affiliated with the Islamic State (Sinai Province). The patrol boat spotted the fighters from the Sinai Province group on the coast of Rafah on July 16, 2015, and engaged them. The boat went up in flames during an ensuing firefight. The Egyptian military said it suffered no casualties in the attack.

 

The Islamic State's Egypt affiliate, Sinai Province, has claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. Sinai Province released a statement saying its jihadists had carried out a rocket attack on a naval vessel belonging to the "apostasy army" in the eastern Mediterranean. A series of pictures released by the group, showed a missile approaching and striking the vessel, causing a large explosion. It is not clear how the boat was hit, but Sinai Province fighters have started to deploy wire-guided missiles against tanks and armored vehicles that could be used against the boat.

 

Egyptian officials said that the ship is a troop carrier that patrols territorial waters and has frequently been used to transport army and police personnel to mainland Egypt. The sea route avoids the overland journey through Sinai, where Islamic militants target government forces.  The vessel has the capacity to carry about 70 men but it is not clear how many people were onboard when it caught fire.

 

On November 12, 2014, an Egyptian Navy patrol boat came under attack in the Mediterranean. Military sources have reported that four officers and 13 soldiers were killed in the attack. The vessel was conducting a routine patrol when it was attacked at sea by armed men on four "fishing boats". The naval vessel had been set alight in an exchange of fire with assailants. The attack took place off the coast of the Damietta province in the country's north east, about 70km from Egypt's shore. Air and naval reinforcement forces were summoned to respond to the attack and rescue operations have evacuated the wounded servicemen to a military hospital.

 

Two days later, on November 14, 2014, a group calling itself the "Youth of the Land of Kenanah" (aka Egypt) claimed responsibility for the attack on the naval vessel, declaring that it had captured eight missing troops. The group made the announcement in a video recording featuring four masked men against the backdrop of a flag associated with the ISIS militant group. An Egyptian security official claimed that the perpetrators belonged to Ansar Beit al Maqdis (Sinai province) and they attacked the Egyptian naval vessel that they thought was carrying 200 soldiers to the Sinai Peninsula. The incident in the Mediterranean came days after Ansar Beit al-Maqdis pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).

 

The Egyptian government is fighting an insurgency that has killed scores of policemen and soldiers, against Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Sinai Province) and other Sinai-based armed fighters who launched an insurgency after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. The volatile North Sinai region, where Rafah is located, is an epicenter of a mounting Islamist insurgency. On July 1, 2015, large numbers of highly trained assault forces, many of them suicide bombers, backed by auxiliaries, staged several waves of attack in an attempt to seize control of military checkpoints. Simultaneous attacks were carried out in and around Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, the area of heaviest military and police deployment. Twenty one Egyptian soldiers and over 200 militants were killed.

 

Hamas denied involvement in the Sinai attack. Yet Egyptian intelligence sources confirm that the Gaza continues to shelter hundreds, if not thousands, of potential terrorists. The attack on the military vessel north to Rafah is the second attack against a maritime Egyptian target in the Mediterranean, conducted by ISIS affiliated group and a part of the group's initiative to extend the theaters of conflict beyond the territory of Sinai. Israel has to take inconsideration that Islamic terror organizations like ISIS (Sinai Province), Hamas and other terror organizations can repeat this model of naval attack against Israeli vessels operating in the sea north to Gaza strip.                    

 

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3 U.S. DEFEATS: VIETNAM, IRAQ AND NOW IRAN                                                                         

David Brooks                                                                                                                                            

New York Times, Aug. 7, 2015

 

The purpose of war, military or economic, is to get your enemy to do something it would rather not do. Over the past several years the United States and other Western powers have engaged in an economic, clandestine and political war against Iran to force it to give up its nuclear program. Over the course of this siege, American policy makers have been very explicit about their goals. Foremost, to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Second, as John Kerry has said, to force it to dismantle a large part of its nuclear infrastructure. Third, to take away its power to enrich uranium.

 

Fourth, as President Obama has said, to close the Fordo enrichment facility. Fifth, as the chief American negotiator, Wendy Sherman, recently testified, to force Iran to come clean on all past nuclear activities by the Iranian military. Sixth, to shut down Iran’s ballistic missile program. Seventh, to have “anywhere, anytime 24/7” access to any nuclear facilities Iran retains. Eighth, as Kerry put it, to not phase down sanctions until after Iran ends its nuclear bomb-making capabilities.

 

As a report from the Foreign Policy Initiative exhaustively details, the U.S. has not fully achieved any of these objectives. The agreement delays but does not end Iran’s nuclear program. It legitimizes Iran’s status as a nuclear state. Iran will mothball some of its centrifuges, but it will not dismantle or close any of its nuclear facilities. Nuclear research and development will continue. Iran wins the right to enrich uranium. The agreement does not include “anywhere, anytime” inspections; some inspections would require a 24-day waiting period, giving the Iranians plenty of time to clean things up. After eight years, all restrictions on ballistic missiles are lifted. Sanctions are lifted once Iran has taken its initial actions.

 

Wars, military or economic, are measured by whether you achieved your stated objectives. By this standard the U.S. and its allies lost the war against Iran, but we were able to negotiate terms that gave only our partial surrender, which forces Iran to at least delay its victory. There have now been three big U.S. strategic defeats over the past several decades: Vietnam, Iraq and now Iran. The big question is, Why did we lose? Why did the combined powers of the Western world lose to a ragtag regime with a crippled economy and without much popular support?

 

The first big answer is that the Iranians just wanted victory more than we did. They were willing to withstand the kind of punishment we were prepared to mete out. Further, the Iranians were confident in their power, while the Obama administration emphasized the limits of America’s ability to influence other nations. It’s striking how little President Obama thought of the tools at his disposal. He effectively took the military option off the table. He didn’t believe much in economic sanctions. “Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure,” he argued.

 

The president concluded early on that Iran would simply not budge on fundamental things. As he argued in his highhanded and counterproductive speech Wednesday, Iran was never going to compromise its sovereignty (which is the whole point of military or economic warfare). The president hoped that a deal would change the moral nature of the regime, so he had an extra incentive to reach a deal. And the Western, Russian and Chinese sanctions regime was fragile while the Iranians were able to hang together.

 

This administration has given us a choice between two terrible options: accept the partial-surrender agreement that was negotiated or reject it and slide immediately into what is in effect our total surrender — a collapsed sanctions regime and a booming Iranian nuclear program. Many members of Congress will be tempted to accept the terms of our partial surrender as the least bad option in the wake of our defeat. I get that. But in voting for this deal they may be affixing their names to an arrangement that will increase the chance of more comprehensive war further down the road.

 

Iran is a fanatical, hegemonic, hate-filled regime. If you think its radicalism is going to be softened by a few global trade opportunities, you really haven’t been paying attention to the Middle East over the past four decades. Iran will use its $150 billion windfall to spread terror around the region and exert its power. It will incrementally but dangerously cheat on the accord. Armed with money, ballistic weapons and an eventual nuclear breakout, it will become more aggressive. As the end of the nuclear delay comes into view, the 45th or 46th president will decide that action must be taken. Economic and political defeats can be as bad as military ones. Sometimes when you surrender to a tyranny you lay the groundwork for a more cataclysmic conflict to come.                                                    

           

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On Topic

                                                                                                        

Arabs Eye Iran Nuclear Deal With Distrust, Disapproval: Brennan Weiss, Washington Times, Aug. 5, 2015—The Iran nuclear deal is proving a difficult sell to Congress, but it may be a harder pitch to people across the Arab world who are increasingly suspicious of Tehran as a regional power.

US Sending Eight F-16 Fighter Jets To Egyptian Military: Tim Marcin, International Business Times, July 30, 2015 —  The United States will deliver eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in an effort to help the country fight extremism and to bolster security in the region, according to a statement on Thursday from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The aircraft are part of a $1.3 billion plan to upgrade Egypt's military amid increased extremist threats.

The U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue: Drift Along the Nile: Amy Hawthorne, Council on Foreign Relations, July 29, 2015—On August 2, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cairo for the first U.S.-Egypt “strategic dialogue” since 2009. The high-level forum has been held on and off since the Clinton administration as part of the still-unmet goal of expanding the relationship beyond security issues into more robust trade, investment, and educational ties.

Israel 'Forgotten' by Egypt Yet Again: Ynet, Aug. 10, 2015—With all honesty, Egypt's 90 million residents deserve the great joy that flooded the squares and three canal cities over the weekend, when President

Egyptian Show That’s Flattering to Jews is a Surprise Hit Among Palestinians: William Booth & Sufian Taha, Washington Post, July 17, 2015 —A dozen Palestinian Muslim men gathered after midnight at an isolated farm house this week to indulge in a new delight. They were going to watch a soap opera about Jews. “Hush, hush. It’s starting!” someone said. The group settled down, sipped fresh lemonade, nibbled sweets, sucked on water pipes and then cranked up the volume for the opening credits of “Haret al-Yahud,” or “The Jewish Quarter.”

 

                                                                      

 

              

SINAI TERRORISTS THREATEN EGYPT, ISRAEL, & M.B.; IRAN DEAL PUTS U.S ON PATH TO WAR

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ISIS in Sinai: An International Issue: Dr. Ofer Israeli, Israel Hayom, July 9, 2015 — As his term in office winds down, U.S. President Barack Obama is facing one of the most significant challenges of his career.

ISIS in Sinai is a Serious Threat to Israel: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, July 2, 2015— The terror offensive launched Wednesday by the Islamic State (ISIS) organization in the Sinai Peninsula was aimed at undermining President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military-secular rule in Egypt.

Is Muslim Brotherhood Going Jihadist?: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2015 — The recent escalation of violence in Egypt and the security forces killing of Muslim Brotherhood leaders on Wednesday could facilitate the movement of some of the organization’s younger members to more radical jihadist groups.

The Iranian Nuclear Paradox: Reuel Marc Gerecht & Mark Dubowitz, Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2015 — The lines are clearly drawn in Washington on President Obama’s plan for a nuclear deal with Iran.

               

On Topic Links

 

Great Sphinx of Giza, Pyramids of Egypt Are Next ISIS Targets: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, July 8, 2014

Is Hamas Working With Wilayat Sinai?: Shlomi Eldar, Al Monitor, July 6, 2015

Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks Continue: Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times, July 8, 2015

Desperately Seeking Diplomatic Defeat: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, July 7, 2015

                                               

 

                            

ISIS IN SINAI: AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUE                                                                                                                

Israel Hayom, July 9, 2015

 

As his term in office winds down, U.S. President Barack Obama is facing one of the most significant challenges of his career. The Islamic State group, which thus far has operated in conflict zones like Iraq and Syria, has for the first time initiated activity in a sovereign country with a strong army — Egypt. The comprehensive and meticulously planned terrorist attack carried out last week against the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula killed dozens of soldiers. Along with the loss of human life and the damage done to the Egyptian army's reputation, the incident could lead to overall change in a volatile Middle East: the expansion of Islamic State activities to other sovereign states in the region with the goal of causing their collapse.

 

However, a comprehensive and decisive move by the international community with the United States at the helm could reshuffle the deck and curb the terrorist organization's spread. This strategy would serve the Egyptian interest of returning calm and reinforcing sovereignty in Sinai, as well as the American interest of stopping and rooting out Islamic State in the region.

 

An exhaustive strategy should use the incidents in Egypt as a case study and operate on three fronts. The first would be declaring full backing and support for the Egyptian struggle against Islamic State and lending legitimacy to Egyptian army activity in the Sinai — statements by international leaders, led by the U.S. president, about Islamic State's illegitimacy along with declarations of support for Cairo's right to operate against the terrorist group would serve this purpose. With this backing, the Egyptian president will be able to turn to his public and to other Arab countries for support for his actions. This kind of support may also lead Egypt back to the West after its recent back-and-forth between Washington and Moscow.

 

The second would be providing logistical and military support for the Egyptian army. The U.S. must lift the restrictions it previously placed on selling and transferring advanced weapons systems to the Egyptian army under the claim of human rights violations. The situation calls for jumping that hurdle temporarily and reinforcing the military capability of the Egyptian army so that it can deal with the great challenge that Islamic State poses to the integrity of its republic. The U.S. military should also provide the Egyptian army with quality intelligence, air targeting assistance and the use of other specialized military equipment that could help in the struggle.

 

With American encouragement and backing, Israel can expand its intelligence assistance to the Egyptian military, and it will be possible to bring in more troops and equipment to Sinai, bypassing the peace agreement between the two countries. This cooperation would, of course, need to be done secretly, to prevent making the Egyptian president and his regime appear as if they are collaborating with "the Zionists and the Americans."

 

Third, the international community, led by the U.S. must look at the incident in Sinai as a case study that demonstrates the need for the provision of a comprehensive defense umbrella for stable countries in the region against Islamic State. If the Americans hesitate, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states will face a similar challenge, which could ultimately lead to their collapse. Therefore, Washington must work with the leaders of these countries to deal with the future danger their regimes will face at Islamic State's hands.

 

Failed American policy in the Middle East — from Libya, to Egypt, Syria and Iraq — has bred turmoil in the region. The United States must not repeat its past mistakes of avoiding involvement in conflict situations and allowing local forces to deal with the hegemonies in various countries. Repeated American failure will cost Egypt, Israel and the entire international community far too much.

 

This proposed strategy is in line with the current American strategy against Islamic State, which is designed to stop the group's spread and to diminish its presence until it is completely annihilated. Failure would certainly lead to the organization's proliferation. Therefore the U.S. and the international community must not allow Cairo to deal with this issue alone. If Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's regime collapses, it will come at a very high price to Egypt and to the entire region.

 

                                                                       

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ISIS IN SINAI IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO ISRAEL                                                                          

Ron Ben-Yishai  

Ynet, July 2, 2015

 

The terror offensive launched Wednesday by the Islamic State (ISIS) organization in the Sinai Peninsula was aimed at undermining President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military-secular rule in Egypt. But from the reports arriving from Sinai, although they are initial and unclear, it seems that al-Sisi is not the only one who should be concerned – so should Israel.

 

In the short run, we have to prepare for the possibility that the attack on 15 posts and centers of the Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, which claimed the lives of dozens of Egyptian soldiers, will develop into an offensive towards the Israeli border. In recent years, global jihad activists in Sinai have already attacked posts of the Egyptian army and of the multinational force in northern Sinai, gained control of armored vehicles, "flattened" the border fence with them and infiltrated Israeli territory. They were stopped by an armored force with the Air Force's help.

 

The report that ISIS fighters gained control of armored vehicles on Wednesday morning requires special preparations and alert. The jihadists could drive them towards the border terminals with Israel and the border fence in order to break through them with the heavy weight of the tanks and armored personnel carriers. That is why the IDF quickly shut off the crossings and alerted all the communities along the border with Egypt, especially in its northwestern part. The instruction to the residents is to stay alert, and the IDF has also reinforced the presence of armored vehicles on the ground and unmanned aircraft monitoring what is happening near the border. The IDF is likely on the alert with helicopters and fighter jets, which Israel will not hesitate to use in case of an attempt to infiltrate its territory.

 

The battles taking place between the Egyptian army and the ISIS fighters could also develop into rocket and mortar fire towards Israel, and the Central Command is preparing for that too. In the meantime, it seems that the ISIS men are busy battling the Egyptian army, which is attacking them from the air and from the ground, but the heightened state of alert on the Israeli side will likely continue for a few more days, as experience shows that ISIS will try to create provocations on the border with Israel in a bid to cause a friction between the IDF and the Egyptian army and affect the relationship between Egypt and Israel.

 

There are good relations between the two countries today and excellent coordination between the IDF and Egyptian army, but there have already been incidents on the border in which the Egyptians expresses their discontent with the fact that the IDF opened fire at global jihad activists in Sinai who attacked, or tried to attack, communities and IDF patrols on the border fence with Egypt.

 

The greater concern, however, is over the impressive fighting abilities gained by the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis organization, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014, and its official name today is "The Caliphate in the Sinai District." The strategic and complicated attacks, from a military perspective, executed by the organization in January and this Wednesday in northern Sinai show that it is no longer a gang which only knows how to carry out sporadic fire of short-range and inaccurate rockets, or to ambush a civilian bus or an IDF patrol on the Egypt-Israel border.

 

What we are now seeing is a semi-military organization using a hybrid method of action, which combines terror and planned, coordinated military fighting. Like the other ISIS branches across the Middle East, the members of the "The Caliphate in the Sinai District" are also well equipped with weapons and modern ammunition. What we should really be concerned about is the fact that they know how to locate a large number of strategic targets, collect intelligence ahead of an operation and attack them simultaneously in accurate timing.

 

ISIS in Sinai is implementing the classic principle of war with considerable success: It attacked all the 15 targets it had chosen simultaneously, in order to create a surprise. If the attack had not been launched in coordination and at the same time, the Egyptian forces would have raised their level of alertness in the areas which had not been attacked yet. The ISIS fighters succeeded in isolating the operation area through ambushes on the roads leading to the attacked targets, thereby preventing the arrival of reinforcement. The jihadists were able to enter a police station uninterrupted, take the police officers hostage, plant mines on the streets and run wild in public, in a bid to emphasize the Egyptian army's helplessness and achieve a conscious victory.

 

These abilities and methods of action characterize ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and it seems that someone who came from there went to the trouble of training the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis activists to carry out similar attacks. The evidence is the methods of actions imported from Iraq and Syria and the use of simultaneous suicide attacks through car bombs to carry out Wednesday's attack in Sinai. That is exactly how ISIS operates in Syria and Iraq: A suicide bombing creates the shock and the breaches in the fence and in the wall through which the attacking force enters.

 

In light of these points, we should consider the possibility that one day these abilities will be directed at us, whether because the Egyptian army eases its pressure on the terrorists in Sinai or because the terrorists gain self-confidence and decide that it's time to launch a front against Israel too. It could happen sooner than we think, and we should also acknowledge the fact that the border fence cannot efficiently block a trained "army" which has experience with complicated fighting operations. ISIS is already on the fences…

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

                                                           

                                                                       

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IS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD GOING JIHADIST?        

Ariel Ben Solomon                          

Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2015

 

The recent escalation of violence in Egypt and the security forces killing of Muslim Brotherhood leaders on Wednesday could facilitate the movement of some of the organization’s younger members to more radical jihadist groups. According to recent reports, younger Brotherhood members are taking over from the group’s elders who are either in jail, killed, or in exile and pushing the group in a more radical direction.

 

The famed Islamist organization, which formed the ideological roots for more radical jihadist groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, is being outshined by its more radical kin. In response to a raid by Egyptian security forces on Wednesday that killed nine men, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, the organization called for the public to “rise in revolt to defend your homeland” in response to the killing in “cold blood.”

 

“While the youth who support the Islamist movement want to see a direct, even violent confrontation with Egypt’s army and police, the older generation believes that in order to survive, the movement needs to compromise, and keep a level head for the years to come,” wrote Maged Atef in an article in BuzzFeed this week. “Over the last six months, newly elected Brotherhood spokesperson Mohammad Montasser started issuing strongly worded statements calling for revenge and a ‘revolution that would decapitate heads,’” explained Atef.

 

Prof. Hillel Frisch of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Post that he sees two main reasons why the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to maintain its current position, and not radicalize in the jihadist direction. First, because Erdogan’s Turkey provides very comfortable asylum and support for members of the Brotherhood and uses the group to delegitimize Egypt’s government, said Frisch. And second, “because of the Brotherhood’s desire to maintain links with the United States.” “Meanwhile, the youth can do the mischief they want in Sinai and elsewhere. The situation will get worse before it gets better, but the Egyptian state will prevail,” he argued.

 

Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs today and a contributor to this newspaper, told the Post that the Brotherhood “is very bitter and overwhelmed by what has happened to them.” After they had reached the top in a democratic way after so many years of struggle and received a majority in the parliament and won the presidency, “it all crumbled so fast because of their arrogance,” asserted Mazel. “Now they are really in trouble. The organization is banned and most of their senior members are either in prison or in exile in Britain, Turkey, Qatar and other places,” he said.

 

Many Egyptians stopped supporting the group after seeing how poorly they performed while in power, which was the real reason they were ousted. The Brotherhood, which is built on total obedience to the group’s elders, “takes about five years to prepare a new Muslim Brother and the most important thing is discipline and obedience and studying in the framework of the family the never ending guidance instructions of the movement.”

 

Now, “the young generation wants to show that they don’t give in and prefer joining the jihadists openly,” argued Mazel, adding that this could bring about “the total destruction of the movement.” “We are witnessing the decline of the most important Muslim organization in modern times, an organization that aspired to create a caliphate, but lost it in the last minute and is now overtaken by the jihadists to whom they themselves gave birth.”                   

                                                                       

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THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PARADOX                                                                     

Reuel Marc Gerecht & Mark Dubowitz

Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2015

 

The lines are clearly drawn in Washington on President Obama’s plan for a nuclear deal with Iran. As negotiations for a final agreement continue well past their June 30 deadline, most Republicans oppose the deal and Democrats will not block it.

 

Many critics claim to believe that a “good deal,” which would permanently dismantle the clerical regime’s capacity to construct nuclear weapons, is still possible if Mr. Obama would augment diplomacy with the threat of more sanctions and the use of force. Although these critics accurately highlight the framework’s serious faults, they also make a mistake: More sanctions and threats of military raids now are unlikely to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear designs. We will never know whether more crippling sanctions and force could have cracked the clerical regime. We do know that the president sought the opposite path even before American and Iranian diplomats began negotiating in Europe.

 

But hawks who believe that airstrikes are the only possible option for stopping an Iranian nuke should welcome a deal perhaps more than anyone. This is because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is tailor-made to set Washington on a collision course with Tehran. The plan leaves the Islamic Republic as a threshold nuclear-weapons state and in the short-term insulates the mullahs’ regional behavior from serious American reproach. To imagine such a deal working is to imagine the Islamic Republic without its revolutionary faith. So Mr. Obama’s deal-making is in effect establishing the necessary conditions for military action after January 2017, when a new president takes office.

 

No American president would destroy Iranian nuclear sites without first exhausting diplomacy. The efforts by Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to compromise with Tehran—on uranium enrichment, verification and sanctions relief, among other concerns—are comprehensive, if nothing else. If the next president chose to strike after the Iranians stonewalled or repeatedly violated Mr. Obama’s agreement, however, the newcomer would be on much firmer political ground, at home and abroad, than if he tried without this failed accord.

 

Without a deal the past will probably repeat itself: Washington will incrementally increase sanctions while the Iranians incrementally advance their nuclear capabilities. Without a deal, diplomacy won’t die. Episodically it has continued since an Iranian opposition group revealed in 2002 the then-clandestine nuclear program. Via this meandering diplomatic route, Tehran has gotten the West to accept its nuclear progress.

 

Critics of the president who suggest that a much better agreement is within reach with more sanctions are making the same analytical error as Mr. Obama: They both assume that the Iranian regime will give priority to economics over religious ideology. The president wants to believe that Iran’s “supreme leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hasan Rouhani can be weaned from the bomb through commerce; equally war-weary sanctions enthusiasts fervently hope that economic pain alone can force the mullahs to set aside their faith. In their minds Iran is a nation that the U.S., or even Israel, can intimidate and contain.

 

The problem is that the Islamic Republic remains, as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif proudly acknowledges in his memoirs, a revolutionary Islamic movement. Such a regime by definition would never bend to America’s economic coercion and never gut the nuclear centerpiece of its military planning for 30 years and allow Westerners full and transparent access to its nuclear secrets and personnel. This is the revolutionary Islamic state that is replicating versions of the militant Lebanese Hezbollah among the Arab Shiites, ever fearful at home of seditious Western culture and prepared to use terrorism abroad.

 

Above all, the clerical regime cannot be understood without appreciating the centrality of anti-Americanism to its religious identity. The election of a Republican administration might reinvigorate Iranian fear of American military power, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 did for a year or two. But it did not stop Iran’s nuclear march, and there is no reason to believe now that Mr. Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who oversee the nuclear program, will betray all that they hold holy.

 

But a nuclear deal is not going to prevent conflict either. The presidency of the so-called pragmatic mullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from 1989 to 1997 was an aggressive period of Iranian terrorism. If President Rouhani, Mr. Rafsanjani’s former right-hand man, can pull off a nuclear agreement, we are likely to see a variation of the 1990s Iranian aggression. Such aggression has already begun. Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria and Iraq, and Iranian aid flows to the Shiite Houthis in Yemen. Wherever the Islamic Republic’s influence grows among Arab Shiites, Sunni-Shiite conflict grows worse. With greater internecine Muslim hostility, the clerical regime inevitably intensifies its anti-American propaganda and actions in an effort to compete with radical Sunnis and their competing claims to lead an anti-Western Muslim world.

 

Iranian adventurism, especially if it includes anti-American terrorism, will eventually provoke a more muscular U.S. response. The odds of Tehran respecting any nuclear deal while it pushes to increase its regional influence—unchecked by Washington—aren’t good. Mr. Obama may think he can snap back sanctions and a united Western front to counter nefarious Iranian nuclear behavior, but the odds aren’t good once European businesses start returning to the Islamic Republic. Washington has a weak track record of using extraterritorial sanctions against our richest and closest allies and trading partners. The French alone may join the Americans again to curtail Iran and European profits.

 

With a failed deal, no plausible peaceful alternatives, and Mr. Obama no longer in office, Republicans and Democrats can then debate, more seriously than before, whether military force remains an option. Odds are it will not be. When contemplating the possibility that preventive military strikes against the clerical regime won’t be a one-time affair, even a hawkish Republican president may well default to containment. But if Washington does strike, it will be because Mr. Obama showed that peaceful means don’t work against the clerics’ nuclear and regional ambitions.

 

 

 Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic                                                                                        

 

Great Sphinx of Giza, Pyramids of Egypt Are Next ISIS Targets: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, July 8, 2014—The leader of Da’esh (ISIS) is exhorting his followers in Egypt to destroy the Sphinx and the pyramids.

Is Hamas Working With Wilayat Sinai?: Shlomi Eldar, Al Monitor, July 6, 2015 —The question of whether Hamas’ military wing cooperated with Wilayat Sinai (literally Sinai Province), the organization that carried out the big terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula on July 1, is critical for Hamas.

Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks Continue: Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times, July 8, 2015—The chants of “Death to America” and the burning of American flags in the streets are as familiar a part of life here as air pollution and traffic jams. With the United States and Iran on the verge of a potentially historic nuclear accord, however, there has been a distinct change in tone: the anti-Americanism is getting even more strident.

Desperately Seeking Diplomatic Defeat: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, July 7, 2015—Imagine if, on Sept. 12, 2001, I had written a column predicting that within less than 15 ‎years, the president of the United States would be offering the world's leading sponsor of ‎terrorism a path to nuclear weapons and tens of billions of dollars. You'd have thought me a ‎lunatic.

                                                                      

 

              

TERRORISTS CELEBRATE “CALIPHATE” ANNIVERSARY WITH DEADLY SINAI ATTACK

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Scores Killed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as Militants, Army Clash: Dahlia Kholaif & Tamer El-Ghobashy Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2015 — Fierce fighting between Islamist militants and Egyptian army forces in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday left at least 117 people dead, state media said, in the bloodiest clashes between the two sides since Hosni Mubarak was forced from power in a popular revolt four years ago.

Terror Escalation in Egypt: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, July 2, 2015— In recent days, in the midst of the Islamic holy month Ramadan, a wave of terror has swept over Egypt.

The Islamic State Caliphate Turns One: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Middle East Forum, July 1, 2015 — As we pass the one-year anniversary since the announcement of ISIS's so-called "caliphate" demanding the allegiance of the world's Muslims and ultimately sovereignty over the entire world, much of the commentary has been far too ephemeral.

In Iran Talks, Khamenei Calls the Shots, Not Obama: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2015 — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be temporarily satisfied. Due to good intelligence the Iran nuclear talks will probably not be finalized before the deadline on Tuesday.

 

On Topic Links

 

Netanyahu: ISIS is Near Our Border: Itamar Eichner, Ynet, July 1, 2015

ISIS Threatens Hamas, Fatah and 'State of the Jews' in Video: Elad Benari, Arutz Sheva, July 1, 2015

For Egypt, Avenging Sinai Attack May Include Striking Gaza: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, July 2, 2014

Plan B For Iran: Michael Crowley, Politico, June 24, 2015

                                                                             

                  

SCORES KILLED IN EGYPT’S SINAI PENINSULA

AS MILITANTS, ARMY CLASH   

Dahlia Kholaif & Tamer El-Ghobashy                                                                              

Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2015

 

Fierce fighting between Islamist militants and Egyptian army forces in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday left at least 117 people dead, state media said, in the bloodiest clashes between the two sides since Hosni Mubarak was forced from power in a popular revolt four years ago. The violence, which erupted two days after Egypt’s top prosecutor was assassinated in a suspected militant bomb attack in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, underscored the government’s vulnerability in the arid, thinly populated Sinai, where the army’s stepped up counterinsurgency operations have so far had little success in quelling Islamist rebel groups, Western officials and analysts say.

 

Wednesday’s fighting flared after 70 militants launched simultaneous assaults on military checkpoints in the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwayed, an army spokesman said. The Islamist group Sinai Province, a local affiliate of Islamic State, said it carried out three suicide attacks and battled Egyptian security forces at more than 15 sites in the northern Sinai, according to a statement distributed by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors and verifies global jihadist activity.

 

In a sign of the fighting’s intensity, Egypt’s air force deployed F-16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters to Sinai to reinforce ground forces, who Egyptian officials said were slowed by improvised explosive devices planted along roads by Islamist fighters. Seventeen government soldiers were killed and 13 wounded, said a statement late Wednesday by the armed forces on late Wednesday, as the fighting subsided by nightfall and security was beefed up around the Suez Canal. More than 100 militants were also killed, the statement said.

 

The statement didn’t explain the discrepancy with earlier official statements indicating 60 soldiers had been killed and wounded in combat. None of the casualty tolls could be independently confirmed, as the government maintained a two-year restriction on media access to the northern Sinai.

 

Smoke billowing from explosions was seen across the border in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attacks as acts of “vicious terrorism” and extended his condolences to Egypt’s government, its people and the victims’ families. Israel also closed its border crossing with Egypt in the northern Sinai in what it said was a security precaution.

 

In Washington, the White House also condemned the attacks on Egyptian security forces. “The U.S. stands resolutely with Egypt amid the spate of terrorist attacks that have afflicted the country and, in the context of our long-standing partnership, will continue to assist Egypt in addressing these threats to its security,” said Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council.

 

Last week, Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani urged his group’s followers to launch massive attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, now entering its third week. Egypt’s military has been the focus of antigovernment anger in Sinai since it led the coup in 2013 that forced President Mohammed Morsi, a top Muslim Brotherhood official, from office. Mr. Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected leader in June 2012, some 15 months after mass protests that became emblematic of the Arab Spring swept Mr. Mubarak from office. The government has regularly accused the Brotherhood of being responsible for the wave of militant attacks on police and military installations in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt that followed the coup, allegations the Brotherhood has denied.

 

Although there has been no clear claim of responsibility for Monday’s killing of state prosecutor Hisham Barakat, the government blamed it on the Brotherhood. Rights groups say thousands of supporters of Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood have already been killed and jailed in a crackdown by Egyptian authorities.

 

As the fighting raged Wednesday in the Sinai, security officials said police officers killed nine armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood in a Cairo suburb. The police officers came under fire as they attempted to arrest the men, the officials told state media, and returned fire “liquidating” the threat. In a statement issued by their London office, the Brotherhood said the victims were unarmed group and had been meeting to coordinate support for the families of detainees. The group included a former Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament and several senior members of the group, the statement said.

 

Egypt’s cabinet backed also calls by President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi in the wake of Mr. Barakat’s death for tougher antiterror laws, approving legislation that will enable the country’s judiciary to expedite terrorism cases through the courts. The law is expected to be ratified by Mr. Sisi, who holds exclusive legislative authority in Egypt in the absence of a parliament. The Sinai clashes underlined the increasing strength of Islamist militant groups in Egypt and the ineffectiveness of the country’s military, Western diplomats and analysts said…

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TERROR ESCALATION IN EGYPT                                          

Yoni Ben Menachem                                                    

JCPA, 2 July, 2015

 

In recent days, in the midst of the Islamic holy month Ramadan, a wave of terror has swept over Egypt. This wave is not occurring randomly. It could have been predicted beforehand, since this month marks two important dates for terror organizations. One is the first anniversary of the declaration of the founding of ISIS’ Islamic Caliphate; the other is the second anniversary of the ouster of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government headed by President Mohamed Morsi, which transpired on June 30, 2013.

 

ISIS has fulfilled its promise to step up terror attacks during the “month of fire” of Ramadan, which it views as a worthy religious occasion for terror. After a string of attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait, Egypt’s turn has come – at the hands of ISIS’ affiliate in northern Sinai known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis or Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai in Arabic). ISIS’ affiliate indeed dominates northern Sinai, and the ISIS leadership views the area as an integral part of the Islamic Caliphate.

 

In recent months, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has reinforced the Sinai front with additional army units and senior commanders experienced in fighting terror; the army has also managed to recruit several local Bedouin tribes to the anti-ISIS struggle. However, the Egyptian army is having trouble fighting the terror effectively, and armed clashes with ISIS operatives have become a daily event.

 

On July 1, in the Sheikh Zuweid area in Sinai, 70 Egyptian soldiers were killed and wounded in a coordinated assault by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis/Islamic State fighters that included mortar and light-weapon fire at five military outposts,  as well as a car-bomb attack. According to reports from the Egyptian army, 70 armed ISIS terrorists took part in the attack. This is the first time the organization has deployed such a large military force in Sinai, indicating that its operational capability has improved.

 

The Egyptian Army mobilized F-16 jets to support ground troops.  An army spokesman reported that some 100 terrorists were killed in the ground battle and the air assault.  Photographs released by the Egyptian military spokesperson shows dead ISIS fighters all in standardized uniforms and fully outfitted with military gear. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm al-Saba’a reported on July 1 that foreign terrorists fought alongside ISIS terrorists, while Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that terrorists who came from the Gaza Strip and infiltrated through tunnels also participated in the attacks against the Egyptian army. This assault represents an unprecedented attack on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai and a serious challenge that ISIS is now posing to the Egyptian army, which will have to find a way to cope with the situation.

 

Egyptian Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat, who was assassinated on June 29 in a car-bomb attack in the heart of Cairo, is not the Egyptian legal establishment’s first victim of radical Islamic terrorists. On March 22, 1948, Muslim Brotherhood operatives assassinated Judge Ahmed el–Khazindar, an exploit that shocked Egypt at the time. No one can forget the assassination of President Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981 by Muslim radicals while he was viewing a military parade.  Just before the assassination, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a fatwa calling for his death.  Of the 20 clauses in the fatwa, only three dealt with the peace process with Israel, the rest dealt with Egypt and Sadat’s actions against the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The second anniversary of President Sisi’s accession to office on June 30 (one day after the assassination of the prosecutor-general) passed relatively quietly in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood only managed to organize a very small number of demonstrations, which ended relatively calmly. The movement, in other words, failed to bring masses of its supporters to the streets to demand the release of Morsi and dozens of other leaders of the movement who have been sentenced to death in Egyptian courts.

 

Egyptian intelligence officials believe that the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed, will continue to carry out political assassinations – for two reasons: First, it has a fierce desire to take revenge on Sisi’s government for the removal of the movement’s top leaders from power two years ago and their death sentences. Second, the movement is not succeeding to return to Egyptian political life and is losing its influence over parts of the Egyptian population.

 

Egyptian security officials think the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to organize large popular demonstrations on June 30 was to be expected, since its calls to the public evoke no great resonance among the population. Hence, the movement decided to perpetrate a “quality attack” that would shock the country, and Prosecutor-General Barakat paid the price with his life.

 

Terror attacks on police stations and on vital facilities such as generators and power stations have recently been carried out daily. Young members of the Brotherhood are involved in these attacks. On July 1, Walid al-Barsha, founder of the rebel movement Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm al-Saba’a that the Muslim Brotherhood had recently set up “quality committees” of young activists to carry out violent operations. Also on July 1, the newspaper Al-Masri al-Youm reported that young Muslim Brotherhood members have been calling on their Facebook pages for further assassinations of top government officials, including calls for the murder of Sisi, Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend, and the prosecutor Mohamed Nagi Shehata.

 

President Sisi has been ruling Egypt for only two years. He took on an Egypt burdened with difficult security and economic conditions and with complex relations with radical Islam. He needs to fight terror, mainly perpetrated by Muslim Brotherhood operatives, within the cities of Egypt itself, along with ISIS terror in Sinai. An Egyptian police force raided a Muslim Brotherhood hideout in Cairo on July 1 and killed nine terrorists, according to police and Brotherhood spokesmen.  They were wanted for acts of terror and may be tied to the assassination of Prosecutor-General Barakat. Police found in the apartment weapons, explosives, large sums of money, and e-mail correspondence with Brotherhood leaders in Qatar and Turkey. Police also said they found a “hit-list” of Egyptian political figures.

 

The war on ISIS is one that has been imposed on Egypt, as it has been imposed on other Arab states, and Sisi will have to find the right military formula to defeat the group in Sinai. President Sisi based his government’s legitimacy on animosity toward the Muslim Brotherhood, which, when it took power about three years ago, aroused loathing among the Egyptian population. Sisi has adopted the same measures that previous Egyptian presidents, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, devoted to fighting Muslim Brotherhood terror. Among other things, its leaders have been tried in civilian rather than in military courts, and many have been given death sentences that so far have not been carried out.

 

When he began serving as president, Sisi was prepared to consider mediation by Arab states to help reach a “national reconciliation” with the Muslim Brotherhood. However, as the movement ramped up its terror attacks, reconciliation ceased to be a possibility from Sisi’s standpoint. Some in the Egyptian media also speak of “uprooting the Muslim Brotherhood” and oppose reconciliation with the movement. On June 30, Sisi announced that, in light of Prosecutor-General Barakat’s murder, he seeks to hasten the implementation of the death sentences and life-imprisonment sentences that have been meted out to Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

 

It appears that Sisi, in light of security considerations and the huge efforts to salvage the economy, is opting for an iron-fist policy against the Muslim Brotherhood. The bloody conflict with them, therefore, looks likely to continue.  The latest wave of terror leaves Sisi no option;  His battle is a battle for survival, and he is not prepared to surrender to terrorism.

                                                                       

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THE ISLAMIC STATE CALIPHATE TURNS ONE                                                                             

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi                                                                               

Middle East Forum, July 1, 2015

 

As we pass the one-year anniversary since the announcement of ISIS's so-called "caliphate" demanding the allegiance of the world's Muslims and ultimately sovereignty over the entire world, much of the commentary has been far too ephemeral. The media has had a tendency to take whatever comes out immediately in the news — such as the attack today in Sinai claimed by ISIS and its threat to Hamas in Gaza — as indicative of long-term trends.

 

This is true both on the ISIS home fronts in Iraq and Syria and on the international stage as a number of official "province" (wilaya) affiliates have been announced in Sinai, Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan/Pakistan and, most recently it seems, the Caucasus area. In addition, the international export of the ISIS brand has recently seen a wave of ISIS-claimed (but not confirmed) massacres in Sinai, Kuwait and Tunisia. Illustrating the problem of the tendency to jump on developments as they come are the various proclamations that ISIS is either winning or losing in Iraq and Syria. For instance, the claim that ISIS is winning/on the march was renewed in the wake of ISIS's capture of Iraq's Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi and various towns in the Syrian Homs desert, including the ancient locality of Palmyra/Tadmur.

 

What such a generalized assessment fails to take into account is some broader context: first, as emerged from documentary evidence circulating on the ground since the end of April, ISIS leader Baghdadi had ordered for a mobilization in the Syrian provinces to reinforce the fighting fronts in Anbar and Salah ad-Din provinces, particularly calling for would-be suicide bombers and operative commandoes. Unsurprisingly then, a wave of suicide bombings proved key in throwing Iraqi forces in Ramadi into disarray. Second, the Assad regime's loss of towns in the Homs desert reflects more its own forces' weakness than ISIS's strength, as the regime has also lost other peripheral areas – in the south, on and near the border with Jordan, and in the north in Idlib province – to an assortment of Syrian rebel forces.

 

However, while ISIS could mobilize forces in Syria to reinforce fighting fronts in Iraq, it logically follows that ISIS can only focus on so many fronts at once. At the same time, largely unnoticed was the Syrian Kurdish YPG's push with coalition air support towards the key northern border town of Tel Abyad, which ISIS has now lost. Further, ISIS attempted to keep up momentum by launching a new offensive in the north Aleppo countryside in late May, aiming to retake its one-time "Emirate of Azaz" from which it strategically withdrew in February 2014. However, that offensive has largely stalled as various rebel groups including al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra mobilized reinforcements to halt further ISIS advances, leading ISIS to resort to economic siege by preventing trucks carrying fuel extracted from ISIS-held areas from entering rebel zones.

 

The picture that thus emerges is an organization that is neither winning nor losing: rather, like any long war, there is much ebb and flow. Yet some constants have definitely become clear. Most notably, in the heartland of ISIS territories, including control over major cities like Mosul and Raqqa, there is a lack of local opposition to fundamentally undermine its rule, and that dynamic is highly unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. In part, this is because of ISIS's comprehensive state presentation and bureaucratic structure that bring a sense of order amid years of chaos. The internal security apparatus and intelligence gathering is also rigid, being able to suppress signs of rebellion within ISIS's own ranks and playing members of the same tribe against each other, helping to suppress a repetition of the "Sahwa" phenomenon that rolled back ISIS's predecessor Islamic State of Iraq in the Iraq War.

 

Linked to the state presentation is the problem of ISIS financing. Since ISIS assumes all aspects of a state from education to services, there are plenty of avenues for income beyond oil and gas infrastructure and antiquities smuggling: foremost in taxes, ranging from school registration fees to garbage disposal and landline phone subscriptions. This is by far the most important revenue for ISIS, and thus the state presentation, while needing critical analysis, also needs to be taken more seriously in this context.

 

Airstrikes on oil infrastructure have not critically undermined ISIS finances, as ISIS has simply responded by raising taxes in various parts of its territories. The problem is compounded by the fact that ISIS territories do not exist in isolation from their wider milieu. People in rebel-held areas, for example, readily do business in ISIS territory, finding the security situation there ideal, as one contact in Azaz put it to me. This prevents the drying up of the cash flow in ISIS-held areas…

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

                                                                       

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IN IRAN TALKS, KHAMENEI CALLS THE SHOTS, NOT OBAMA                                                          

Yossi Melman                        

Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2015

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be temporarily satisfied. Due to good intelligence the Iran nuclear talks will probably not be finalized before the deadline on Tuesday. Every day that passes has to be considered an achievement for Netanyahu and anyone else who opposes an agreement. It is very likely the talks will be extended – although not forever.

 

The US seems anxious to clinch a deal in a matter of days. If it is achieved by July 4, Congress will have only 30 days to review the agreement. If there is no agreement by July 9, the congressional review period will be 60 days and, then, anything can happen. Thus, President Barack Obama wishes to stamp the deal as quickly as possible. But it is not entirely in his hands. The power broker is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He calls the shots.

 

After three extensive meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif left the talks in Vienna and flew home for consultations with Khamenei. Zarif and his team feared that their communication lines were intercepted. They don’t even trust their secured and coded phones and computers. Media and experts publications claimed Israeli intelligence was eavesdropping at the hotels where the various rounds of talks were taking place.

 

Zarif’s trip is also evidence that he doesn’t have the authority to finalize a deal; a deal that most of its clauses, including the stumbling blocks, have been known for months. Judging from past precedents, it is not sure that Zarif will return to Vienna with his supreme leader’s blessing. In the past, Khamenei authorized his nuclear team to sign an agreement, and then due to domestic pressure from his radicals he backed off. Khamenei’s approach may well be revisited – first let’s sign and then we’ll see.

 

One has to be completely stupid to dare predicting the chance of a deal being finalized. The gaps, as stated by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and UK, remain large. They revolve around all well-known controversial topics: the demand that Iran opens its suspected military sites for international inspection; that it makes its scientists, especially those involved in suspicious military programs in the past available for international questioning; and to accept that sanctions are not lifted until Iran meets its obligations according to the agreement once it is signed.

 

In short, the chance of clinching a deal remains to be seen. Yes, logic says an agreement is an Iranian imperative and yes, the US administration is very hot to have it. But once again with Iran’s leader having the final word anything can happen. Nothing is assured.

 

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On Topic

 

Netanyahu: ISIS is Near Our Border: Itamar Eichner, Ynet, July 1, 2015—PM offers condolences for lost ones in Islamic State attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula; 'We are partners with the Egyptians in our battle against radical Islamic terrorism.'

ISIS Threatens Hamas, Fatah and 'State of the Jews' in Video: Elad Benari, Arutz Sheva, July 1, 2015—Islamic State (ISIS) insurgents on Tuesday threatened to topple Hamas in Gaza, accusing the group of being “insufficiently stringent” about religious enforcement, according to Reuters.

For Egypt, Avenging Sinai Attack May Include Striking Gaza: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, July 2, 2014—Throughout the night, the echoes of explosions from the Egyptian airstrikes on various targets in the northern Sinai Peninsula could be heard on the Israeli side of the border.

Plan B For Iran: Michael Crowley, Politico, June 24, 2015 —President Barack Obama’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran may yet fail.