April 14/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 19/31-37/:"Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint
Letter to the Hebrews 12/12-21/:"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal. You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears. You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’)

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/17
Let’s hope it is the beginning of the end/Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
Al-Qidiya project and developing entertainment /Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
Syria between Obama and Trump/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
Shayrat missile strike, a historical event/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
Saudis Criticize Government's Leniency Towards Preacher's Incitement-Filled Sermons/MEMRI/April 13/17
Iranian Website Specializing In Syrian War Reports: Gas Attack Intended To Save Iranian/Syrian Frontline In Khan Sheikhoun Region From Breakdown/MEMRI/April 13/17
Time to Tackle the Muslim Brotherhood/Jagdish N. Singh/Gatestone Institute/April 13/17
Which Way Will France Go/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 13/17
Spicer's Mistake and the Democrat's Over-Reaction/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/April 12/17
Paradise Lost: The Rise and Fall of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by Tam /Tam Hussein/Syria Comment/ April 12/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 13-14/17
ICRC Urges Lebanese Authorities to Pass Law on Missing Persons and Provide Answers to Their Families
Aoun: The Lebanese Will Get a New Voting System
Report: Baabda Circles Explain Aoun's 'Historic' Move
Al-Rahi Says Won't Tolerate Extension, Urges Electoral Law that Preserves Everyone
Hariri Marks Civil War Anniversary: Our Responsibility is to Prevent Another War
Hariri Receives Delegation from US Congress
Jumblat Slams Latest Electoral Law Proposal as 'Product of Sick Mentality'
Army Commander: Bids to Move Clashes Outside Ain el-Hilweh Will be Deterred
General Security Arrests 'Terrorist' Brother of Slain Militant Mansour
Clash between two families in Khaldeh
Life returns to normal in Sidon, neighborhood
Hajjar: We choose vacuum over extension if left with these two options
Merehbi meets director of Egmont Institute, Belgian Ambassador
Man Arrested in Aley for Raping Four Syrian Children
Palestinian Force Deploys in Ain el-Hilweh after Clashes

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 13-14/17
US drops ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan:
Trump Says 'Things Will Work Out Fine' with Russia, Presses China on N. Korea
Assad Says Chemical Attack '100% Fabrication'
Syria’s Assad: Idlib chemical attack ‘fabrication’
Russia vetoes UN resolution on Syria chemical attack
Trump: It is time to end Syria’s ‘brutal civil war’
France Says Russia 'Bears a Heavy Responsibility' over Syria Veto
Britain 'Dismayed' by Russia's U.N. Syria Veto
US-led coalition mistakenly kills 18 militia allies in Syria: Pentagon
Chemical weapons experts in Turkey to investigate alleged Syrian sarin attack
Sisi Vows to Hunt Down Egypt Church Bombers in Tawadros Visit
Abbas Seeks 'Unprecedented' Steps to End Palestinian Split
Malala Yousafzai becomes youngest ever to get honorary Canadian citizenship
United States’ first female Muslim judge found dead in Hudson River

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 13-14/17
Truman State University: Robert Spencer Set to Speak, Left-Fascists Call for Violence
Australia: Islamic group produces video calling wife-beating “a beautiful blessing”
Libya: African migrants sold as slaves in slave markets
UK: Muslim rape gang in court over 170 charges of sexual exploitation of 18 children
Fight Xenophobia” group firebombs Marine Le Pen’s Paris HQ
Sweden trying to track down over 10,000 rejected refugees who are in hiding
Gazan version of Snakes and Ladders trains children in “jihad” and “the Islamic faith”
Chicago: Two Muslims held ISIS flag at park, spoke of throwing gays off Sears Tower
Germany: Muslim author receives death threats for criticizing Islam
Minneapolis: Muslim Sharia vigilante aims to create “Sharia-controlled zone”
Hugh Fitzgerald: A Few Scenes, Drawn from Life, of the Latest in Muslim Outreach (Part II)
PA TV: “Promised Land” = Land where Jews will be exterminated by divine decree
Germany: Muslim arrested over soccer bus attack was Islamic State member in Iraq
Italy: Muslim truck driver who posted jihad material to be “deradicalized”

Links From Christian Today Site on April 13-14/17
Good Friday just got better'. Christians condemn shocking Tesco cheap beer advert
Egyptian Coptic priest delivers inspiring Christian message to bombers: 'Thank you, we are praying for you'
Politicians who do God: How do Trump, May, Merkel and Blair square their public lives and private faith?
Pastors who have gay children should resign and repent, says conservative pastor
Serial child abuser priest Gerald Ridsdale pleads guilty to 20 more charges against 11 children
Britain needs some of Aslan's 'deep magic' to reimagine its future, says Archbishop of Canterbury
Katy Perry accused of being 'ruled by Satan' after rejecting gay 'conversion therapy'
Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Have we lost our national nerve?'
Security stepped up at churches in Egypt as Easter approaches

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 13-14/17
ICRC Urges Lebanese Authorities to Pass Law on Missing Persons and Provide Answers to Their Families
Naharnet/April 13/17/Forty-two years after the civil war began in Lebanon, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls on the Lebanese authorities to pass a law that will help clarify the fate of those who have gone missing during armed conflicts in the country since 1975. The ICRC also urges the authorities to approve a project to collect biological reference samples from the missing persons’ families, an ICRC statement said on Thursday. “The families of missing persons have been waiting for years, anxious to receive news about their loved ones,” said Fabrizzio Carboni, head of the ICRC delegation in Lebanon. “Unfortunately, we are running out of time: mothers and fathers are dying heartbroken without knowing what happened to their sons and daughters. They have a right to know, and it is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities to provide some answers.”
Thousands of people from all sides and backgrounds went missing in Lebanon during the civil war, and their fate remains unknown. Under international humanitarian law, government authorities are required to clarify the fate of persons who go missing in conflict situations. However, Lebanon has yet to take the necessary steps. “Looking at the priorities of the Lebanese government, we feel that the suffering of missing persons’ families is underappreciated,” said Carboni. “This should change. A law on missing persons and a mechanism to provide answers should be made a priority.”
Since 2012, the ICRC has actively supported the Lebanese authorities in fulfilling their responsibility to clarify the fate of missing persons. The organization has been interviewing families to gather crucial and detailed information about their missing loved ones and collecting biological reference samples from their close relatives for future DNA analysis and identification efforts. The ICRC is standing by the families and responding to their specific needs. In 2015, it launched an accompaniment project in Aley, Baabda, Chouf and Sidon to create a support network for them. Carboni said: “The families have a pressing need to learn the fate of their missing loved ones. Since the beginning of the civil war, we’ve been helping them. Today, we need the Lebanese authorities to assume their responsibilities.”The ICRC has been present in Lebanon since 1967 and has carried out its humanitarian work through periods of conflict, including the 1975-1990 civil war. The organization is currently responding to the rapidly growing needs of displaced people fleeing war and violence across the region along with the communities hosting them

Aoun: The Lebanese Will Get a New Voting System
Naharnet/April 13/17/President Michel Aoun assured the Lebanese on Thursday that a new electoral law will be devised as was promised in his oath of office, and praised the reactions following his decision to suspend the parliament for one month, the National News Agency reported. “The Lebanese will have a new law, just like I vowed in my oath of office. I am confident that the related authorities are going to intensify their meetings in order to reach a law that preserves the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Aoun told his visitors. On his announcement on Wednesday where he invoked his constitutional powers to adjourn the parliament for one month, Aoun said: “I hope the deadline provided by the decision will be an additional opportunity during which a new law for the parliamentary elections will be agreed that reflects the aspirations of the Lebanese and their hopes.”Presidential Palace sources told VDL (93.3) that “potentials are high and the cabinet could meet next week and tackle the voting system file now that disagreements between the parties have narrowed.”They also pointed out that the ministerial committee tasked with following up on the file plans to complete it before submitting it to the cabinet. On Wednesday, Aoun addressed the nation from the Presidential Palace and said he is invoking his constitutional powers to adjourn the parliament for one month. Lebanon's deputies were set to vote in Parliament on Thursday to postpone national elections and extend their term for a third time since 2013. The President justified the adjournment to give legislators time to craft a new election law and hold elections as quickly as possible. Lebanon's political parties say it is time to scrap the country's 1960 voting law that allocates seats by religious sect, but disagree over what system should replace it. Aoun says he was elected president last October with the mandate of ushering in a new law, and elections. Opposition parties and civic groups are threatening demonstrations against any parliamentary extension tomorrow.

Report: Baabda Circles Explain Aoun's 'Historic' Move
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 13/17/President Michel Aoun's move where he invoked his constitutional powers to adjourn the parliament for one month, is only the second in Lebanon's history since 1926, media reports said on Thursday. In their first interpretation, Presidential Palace sources told al-Joumhouria daily that “Aoun has used his constitutional powers to freeze the work of the parliament under article 59 of the constitution, replicating a similar move in 1926 when then president did the same.” The sources stressed that Aoun's step “constitutes a full exercise of the President's powers that came to control an emerging crisis as the result of ignoring the role and jurisdictions of the President.”“None of the former presidents have used this jurisdiction before the Taef Agreement,” the sources noted, adding “they used to send messages to the parliament that were recited by the Speaker in the first public session held and then placed in the drawer.”On Wednesday, Aoun addressed the nation from the Presidential Palace and said he is invoking his constitutional powers to adjourn the parliament for one month. Lebanon's deputies were set to vote in Parliament on Thursday to postpone national elections and extend their term for a third time since 2013. The President justified the adjournment to give legislators time to craft a new election law and hold elections as quickly as possible.Lebanon's political parties say it is time to scrap the country's 1960 voting law that allocates seats by religious sect, but disagree over what system should replace it. Aoun says he was elected president last October with the mandate of ushering in a new law, and elections. Opposition parties and civic groups are threatening demonstrations against any parliamentary extension tomorrow. Article 59 of the Constitution (as amended by Constitutional Law issued on October 17, 1927) says: The President of the Republic may postpone the meeting of the parliament to a period not exceeding one month and shall not do so twice in a single term.

Al-Rahi Says Won't Tolerate Extension, Urges Electoral Law that Preserves Everyone
Naharnet/April 13/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi warned Thursday that he will not tolerate an extension of parliament's term, as he called for an electoral law that does not “eliminate” any Lebanese component. “We want an electoral law that preserves all components... We are against exclusion, elimination and any monopolization of power,” al-Rahi said in an interview on LBCI TV. “There won't be an electoral law if every person wants it to be tailored to fit their size,” the patriarch cautioned. Commenting on President Michel Aoun's use of his presidential powers to suspend parliament and prevent it from extending its own term for a third time in less than four years, al-Rahi voiced concerns that the political parties might fail anew to agree on a new electoral law during the one-month period ahead of parliament's next meeting. He also rejected a new extension of parliament's term and noted that the 1960 electoral law is “still in effect.”“We would accept technical extension, even for a full year, if such a step is accompanied by a new electoral law,” al-Rahi added. He also congratulated Aoun on his constitutional move and Speaker Nabih Berri on “his responsiveness.” “We thank President Aoun for his efforts to rescue the situation in Lebanon,” al-Rahi added.

Hariri Marks Civil War Anniversary: Our Responsibility is to Prevent Another War
Naharnet/April 13/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri marked the 42nd anniversary of Lebanon's civil war and said that everyone in the country must help in preventing anything that leads to another state of war. “When the civil war broke out in Lebanon no body knew it would last for 15 years, killing tens of thousands, wounding many and displacing the Lebanese people and destroying the economy,” said Hariri in a video released on his Twitter and Facebook pages. “On this day, we must remember that civil war and we should know well that shall Lebanon fall, God forbid, in another we will never know when it would end,” stressed Hariri. He said it is everybody's responsibility to prevent Lebanon from sliding into anything similar. The political authority has done its part at that level said Hariri: “At the political level we have done what we should to that end. We ended the presidential vacuum, the paralysis at the government, parliament and institutions. “However, we need each one of you to help us deter the danger from any recurrent war,” stressed Hariri as he urged the Lebanese to help raise a vigilant generation and to “keep away from sectarian rhetoric that inadvertently feed the specter of war.” “Lebanon deserves a chance for peace and stability,” concluded Hariri. The Lebanese civil war erupted in 1975 and ended in 1990 by the Saudi-sponsored Taef accord. About a fifth of the country’s population was lost during the conflict that pitted local and regional powers against each other.

Hariri Receives Delegation from US Congress
Naharnet/April 13/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri received Wednesday evening at the Grand Serail, a delegation from the US congress where talks focused on several issues including US aid to the Lebanese security apparatuses. US congressman Harold Rogers was heading the delegation that arrived in Lebanon for a visit on April 12 and was comprised of six congressmen. Hariri met the delegation in the presence of the US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, his media office said in a statement. Discussions focused on the developments in Lebanon and the region as well as the issue of American aid to the Lebanese army and security forces, it said. Media reports said the meeting affirmed the US continued support for Lebanon, the army and security apparatuses.

Jumblat Slams Latest Electoral Law Proposal as 'Product of Sick Mentality'
Naharnet/April 13/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Thursday lashed out at a proposed electoral law that involves sectarian voting in the first round as “divisive” and the product of a “sick mentality.”“Forty-two years later, a sick mentality is bringing us an electoral law that separates and divides (the Lebanese) instead of unifying them and bringing them together,” Jumblat tweeted, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Lebanese civil war. Earlier in the day, Jumblat had told LBCI television that the “mere mention of sectarian voting is a termination of partnership.” Jumblat's remarks follow Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil's announcement that the political parties have reached a “preliminary agreement” over a new electoral law. “A preliminary agreement on a new electoral law took place today among all the components. It takes into consideration correct representation, proportional representation and the winner-takes-all system, in order to properly represent the components of the Lebanese society,” Bassil told MTV on Wednesday evening. “The idea that we have largely agreed on is known as the 'qualification law' and the main parties have agreed to it and we are keen on everyone's approval of it,” Bassil added. The reported agreement was reached after extensive negotiations on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to al-Akhbar newspaper. The system had been initially proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri several months ago before being eventually endorsed by Bassil. In the first round, voting takes place in the current 26 districts and voters are not allowed to vote for candidates from other sects. Two candidates for each sectarian seat qualify for the second round during which voting would take place in 10 newly-defined electoral districts and according to a non-sectarian proportional representation polling system. “The FPM and Prime Minister Saad Hariri will seek to secure the approval of the Lebanese Forces and the PSP,” al-Akhbar said. The second round's ten districts are Akkar, North, Baalbek-Hermel, Zahle-West Bekaa, Northern Mount Lebanon (Jbeil, Keserwan, Metn, Baabda), Southern Mount Lebanon (Chouf and Aley), Beirut 1 (Ashrafieh, Rmeil, Medawwar, Marfa, Saifi, Bashoura), Beirut 2 (Ras Beirut, Dar el-Mreisseh, Mina el-Hosn, Zoqaq el-Blat, Mazraa, Mousaitbeh), South (Sidon, Tyre, Zahrani, Jezzine), and Nabatiyeh (Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Marjeyoun, Hasbaya).

Army Commander: Bids to Move Clashes Outside Ain el-Hilweh Will be Deterred
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 13/17/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun stressed on Thursday that the army will respond firmly to any attempt to move the armed clashes out of the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, the National News Agency reported. “The army will firmly respond to any bid aiming to target military positions or residential areas around the camp, or attempts to move the clashes outside,” said Aoun while touring the army's units deployed in the southern city of Sidon and in the vicinity of Ain el-Hilweh. Aoun asked leaders of the army units to “intensify security measures mainly around the camp and on the entrances leading to it in a bid to protect civilians and prevent outlaws from sneaking in.”The army commander pointed out saying “it is unacceptable for infighting triggered by terror and extremist groups to erupt from time to time, endangering the safety of Palestinians and people in the vicinity of the camp, and negatively affecting the economic and living situation in Sidon. “The safety of Palestinian camps and any part of Lebanon's territory is part of the overall national security. It is therefore in everyone's interest to contribute to the preservation of stability and not provide safe haven for terrorists and wanted fugitives,” he concluded. Clashes between security forces and radical Islamists erupted on Friday in the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon which made residents flee. Traces of violence spilled beyond the camp's boundaries, and Lebanon's authorities closed the highway connecting the city to southern Lebanon. Sidon's government hospital was struck by a rocket. Representatives of several of the largest Palestinian factions, including Fatah, ordered the Islamist fighter Bilal Badr and his followers to hand themselves over to the authorities or face a decisive crackdown. The camp's radical groups have regularly fallen afoul of Palestinian security forces for hiding fugitives from the Lebanese law. Per an agreement with the PLO, Lebanon's security forces are not authorized to enter the camp.

General Security Arrests 'Terrorist' Brother of Slain Militant Mansour
Naharnet/April 13/17/General Security on Thursday announced the arrest of the “dangerous terrorist fugitive” Jalal Mansour, who is the brother of slain Islamist militant Osama Mansour who was killed in a confrontation with security forces in 2015. “After obtaining information about the presence of a dangerous terrorist wanted on charges related to murder, terrorism and fighting against the Lebanese army, and after identifying the aforementioned person as the terrorist Jalal Mansour, a brother of the terrorist Osama Mansour, a General Security special force raided his hideout in the North and arrested him,” a General Security statement said. It said the man, who was wanted on more than 40 arrest warrants, had changed his appearance and chosen a fake name with the aim of concealing his real identity. “During interrogation, he confessed to belonging to a group previously led by fugitive terrorist Shadi al-Mawlawi and slain terrorist Osama Mansour and that he had pledged allegiance to the terrorist al-Nusra Front group and fought alongside it in a military battle against the Lebanese army with the aim of declaring an Islamic emirate in the North,” the statement added. “He also confessed to kidnapping a soldier in the city of Tripoli, trading in arms and transporting arms to the terrorist al-Nusra Front group, and recruiting militants on behalf of the aforementioned group and sending them to Syria for military training,” General Security added.The detainee was referred to the judiciary after interrogation.

Clash between two families in Khaldeh
Thu 13 Apr 2017/NNA - A dispute erupted on Thursday in Khaldeh between Nawfal and Askar families, and escalated into armed clashes, the NNA correspondent said. Fire shooting was exchanged between the members of these two families which forced security forces and the Army to intervene and cordon off the area of the clash.

Life returns to normal in Sidon, neighborhood

Thu 13 Apr 2017/NNA - Life almost returned to normal in the southern city of Sidon, after five days of paralysis in its trade markets and economic and social institutions due to the security situation that prevailed in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, NNA reporter said on Thursday. The joint factional force of Ein el-Hilweh camp managed to deploy in all points of the camp's neighborhood, with the cooperation of all the Palestinian forces and the support of the Lebanese army to achieve security and stability in the city of Sidon and vicinity. In this framework, the gov-run Sidon hospital resumed its normal medical functions.

Hajjar: We choose vacuum over extension if left with these two options
Thu 13 Apr 2017 at 18:35 Politics/NNA - Future Movement bloc member, MP Mohammed Hajjar, said in an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station "We as a future movement are making every effort to reach a new electoral law," highlighting "the political struggle in the country and the catastrophic scenario which would have happened yesterday."He pointed out that "the Future Movement is almost the only team that offers concessions to prevent collapse and destruction, stressing the need to approve a law before May 15. Hajjar considered that "the extension has become a reality after the fall of all legal deadlines. If we were to choose between extension and vacuum, we would certainly choose vacuum."

Merehbi meets director of Egmont Institute, Belgian Ambassador
Thu 13 Apr 2017 at 21:03 Politics/NNA - Minister of State for Refugees Affairs, Mouin Merehbi, met on Thursday with the Director of the Royal Institute of International Relations "Egmont" in Brussels, Ambassador Marc Otte, and the Belgian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alex Lenaerts. Merehbi said it was essential for Lebanon and the Syrian people that the European Union plays its normal role in the region, particularly in the search for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, with the aim of putting an end to the bloodshed in this country. "The genocide carried out by the Syrian regime and the Daesh terrorist organization against the Syrian people is not only a threat to Lebanon and the region but also to Belgium and Europe," the minister said. He then highlighted the challenges facing the Lebanese due to the difficult economic situation and the burden of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The minister called upon Ambassadors Otte and Lenaerts to encourage Belgium and the EU to support the investment plan which will have a positive impact on the country's economy. For his part, Otte, who visited Bekaa and the South to inquire about the situation of Syrian refugees and host Lebanese societies, applauded Lebanon's efforts in terms of welcoming refugees. Concerning the Brussels Conference on the future of Syria and the region, he said it was a prelude to more support for Lebanon. The Belgian ambassador, for his part, welcomed the care provided by the Lebanese, especially the sons of Akkar, to the displaced Syrian, hoping that projects would be developed to help host communities in this region, such as the Bekaa.

Man Arrested in Aley for Raping Four Syrian Children
Naharnet/April 13/17/A 45-year-old Syrian man has been arrested in the city of Aley on charges of molesting and raping four Syrian children, the Internal Security Forces said on Thursday. “After obtaining information about the presence of an individual who molested and raped a number of Syrian children, an ISF Intelligence Branch patrol raided the suspect's residence in the city of Aley and arrested him in the Ain Hala area,” an ISF statement said. “During interrogation, he confessed to luring and raping four Syrian children born in the years 2010, 2008, 2006 and 2001 and that he had repeated his crime several times with some of them,” the statement added. The ISF said “pornographic footage showing two of the children” was found on the man's cellphone. The detainee was eventually referred to the ISF's Human Trafficking and Moral Protection Bureau for further investigations.

Palestinian Force Deploys in Ain el-Hilweh after Clashes
A local Palestinian security force deployed across southern Lebanon's Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp on Thursday, a commander said, ending a week of sporadic clashes with an extremist group. The fighting, which left nine dead and more than 50 wounded, had prompted many to flee their homes and forced schools and shops in and around the camp to close. The commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the local security force, which includes 100 fighters from several Palestinian factions, was able to deploy throughout the camp after a ceasefire late Wednesday night. The Lebanese army does not enter the camp by long-standing convention. "Security forces deployed in the al-Tiri neighborhood, which had been the focal point of the clashes," the commander said. He added that "extremist Islamist groups" had withdrawn from some areas to avoid further clashes. Fighting erupted late Friday after Palestinian factions deployed throughout Ain el-Hilweh as part of an operation aimed at combating the influence of a local Islamist group linked to Bilal Badr, a wanted militant. The commander said Badr had refused to give himself up to Palestinian security forces to be handed over to the Lebanese authorities. Badr is wanted on suspicion of "terrorism", firearms offenses and belonging to an armed group, according to a Lebanese security official. An AFP correspondent said the camp had suffered major damage and that some residents had been trapped inside their homes throughout the fighting. Local activist Asef Moussa told AFP that "dozens of young people will volunteer on Friday to clean the streets and clear up the damage and rubble left by the fighting."The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said it welcomed the return to calm. "UNRWA... is working to restore its services in the camp as quickly as possible," said its local affairs director Claudio Cordone, adding that UNRWA would resume its activities on Friday morning. Ain el-Hilweh is the most densely populated Palestinian camp in Lebanon. Home to multiple armed factions including extremist groups, it has been plagued by intermittent clashes. Lebanese security forces do not enter Palestinian refugee camps, where security is managed by joint committees of Palestinian factions.
Ain el-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 13-14/17
US drops ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan: Pentagon

Reuters, Washington Thursday, 13 April 2017/The United States dropped a massive GBU-43 bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday against a series of caves used by ISIS militants, the military said. It was the first time the United States has used this size of bomb in a conflict. It was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said. Also known as the “mother of all bombs,” the GBU-43 is a 21,600 pound (9,797 kg) GPS-guided munition and was first tested in March 2003, just days before the start of the Iraq war. General John Nicholson, the head of US and international forces in Afghanistan, said the bomb was used against caves and bunkers housing fighters of the ISIS in Afghanistan, also known as ISIS-K. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K,” Nicholson said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how much damage the bomb did.

Trump Says 'Things Will Work Out Fine' with Russia, Presses China on N. Korea
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/17/U.S. President Donald Trump expressed confidence Thursday that U.S.-Russian relations will "work out fine" after icy bilateral talks in Moscow, as he looked to China to "deal properly" with North Korea. Trump faces crucial tests in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, with tensions building on both fronts over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria and a mounting challenge from North Korea's Kim Jong-il. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday that relations between Washington and Moscow, a key ally of the Damascus regime, were at a "low point." "Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia," Trump said in his tweet. "At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!" he added. The Russians are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against U.S. charges that his air force dropped a bomb loaded with the nerve agent sarin on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun on April 4, killing 87 people, many of them children. Russia on Wednesday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation into the attack. In an exclusive interview with AFP, Assad insisted his army had given up its chemical weapons and called reports of the attack "fabrication." On North Korea, with Pyongyang reportedly poised to conduct a nuclear test, Trump said he had "great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea."He however added: "If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will!" A U.S. monitoring group said North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site is "primed and ready" to conduct its sixth nuclear test, possibly to coincide with celebrations Saturday marking the birthdate of regime founder Kim Il-Sung. The Voice of America, quoting U.S. government and other sources, said North Korea "has apparently placed a nuclear device in a tunnel and it could be detonated Saturday AM Korea time."Trump has asked his advisers to give him all options for dealing with the nuclear-armed North, and a U.S. carrier strike group has been ordered to the region as a precaution.

Assad Says Chemical Attack '100% Fabrication'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/17/Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has accused the West of fabricating a suspected chemical weapons attack that prompted an unprecedented U.S. missile strike, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus. The embattled leader, whose country has been ravaged by six years of war, said his firepower had not been affected by the attack ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump, but acknowledged that further strikes were possible. He also insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks in 2013 and would never use the banned arms. His comments came in an interview conducted at his office Wednesday, his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun. "Definitely, a hundred percent for us, it's fabrication," he added of the incident which killed 87 people, including 31 children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor. "Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack," said Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.
'A lot of fake videos'
The suspected attack on Khan Sheikhun, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, comes in the seventh year of the country's brutal war, which has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced over half the population. Assad said evidence of the suspected chemical attack came only from "a branch of al-Qaida," referring to a former jihadist affiliate among the groups that control Idlib. Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth as desperate medics working with meager resources struggled to treat them, caused global shock waves. But Assad, who appeared relaxed, said it was "not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now." "We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?""Who committed the attack if there was an attack?" Syria's government signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreed to hand over its stockpiles in 2013, under a Russian-brokered deal. The agreement averted U.S. military action after a sarin attack on a rebel area outside Damascus that killed hundreds of people and was blamed by much of the international community on Assad's government.
'Not convincing by any means'
Damascus denied responsibility, but agreed to turn over its stockpiles, while continuing to wage war against opposition forces. In recent months, Assad's army has clawed back significant territory, including capturing the one-time rebel bastion of eastern Aleppo. Key to the turnaround has been support from ally Russia, which launched a military intervention to bolster Assad in September 2015. The Syrian president said his forces had no military reason to hit Khan Sheikhun, describing it as having no strategic value and being far from the current battlefront. "This story is not convincing by any means," he said. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has begun an investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Syria cooperate with the probe. And Assad said he could "only allow any investigation when it's impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won't use it for politicized purposes." He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles under the 2013 deal.
'We gave up our arsenal'
"There was no order to make any attack, we don't have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago," he said. "Even if we have them, we wouldn't use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our The OPCW has blamed Assad's government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine. The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct U.S. military action against Assad's government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack. Assad said his Russian allies "didn't warn us... because the Americans called them maybe a few minutes before." And he said more U.S. attacks "could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria."But he insisted his forces were unaffected by the U.S. strike. "Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn't been affected by this strike." Trump's administration initially took a hands-off approach to Syria, with Assad raising the possibility the new U.S. president could even be a "natural ally."But he said the American strike showed Washington was "not serious in fighting terrorists." International efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis have proved fruitless, with successive rounds of talks producing no result. The conflict has evolved into a complex multi-front war involving the regime, rebels, jihadists and Kurdish forces, as well as the Russian and Turkish militaries, and a U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

Syria’s Assad: Idlib chemical attack ‘fabrication’
Reuters, Beirut Thursday, 13 April 2017/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said an alleged poison gas attack blamed on his government last week in Idlib province was “100 percent fabrication,” news agency AFP reported on Thursday.
Assad also said Syria’s military had given up all chemical weapons, AFP said on its Twitter account, quoting remarks in an interview with the Syrian president.
The United States and its allies say the Syrian military carried out the attack, something Syria has already denied.

Russia vetoes UN resolution on Syria chemical attack

The Associated Press, United Nations Thursday, 13 April 2017/Russia vetoed a UN resolution Wednesday that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in a town in northern Syria and demanded a speedy investigation, triggering clashes between Moscow and the measure’s Western backers. The vote on the Security Council resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States was 10 in favor, Russia and Bolivia against, and China, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia abstaining. It was the eighth veto by Russia on a Western-backed Syria resolution and reflected the deep division that has left the UN’s most powerful body struggling to tackle the use of banned chemical weapons and to help end the six-year Syrian conflict. China has vetoed six resolutions. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council before the vote that a resolution was unnecessary, and the draft put forward by the Western powers pre-judged that the Syrian government was responsible for the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun in which nearly 90 people died. Safronkov said Russia’s Foreign Minister asked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during talks earlier Wednesday in Moscow to jointly request the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “to immediately put together an independent international mission” to visit Khan Sheikhoun and the air base that the US attacked in retaliation. Tillerson is considering the request, he said, “and we expect that Washington will have a constructive reaction.”
Russia has criticized previous investigations carried out by the OPCW and the United Nations which blamed the Syrian government for at least three chemical weapons attacks without visiting the sites. Safronkov reiterated Wednesday that an investigation cannot be conducted remotely and experts must be drawn from a wide geographical basis. The attack on Khan Sheikhoun is expected to be near the top of the agenda when the OPCW’s executive committee meets Thursday at the organization’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Both the Syrian government and opposition have asked for an independent investigation Safronkov said, “whereas the OPCW is doing nothing, for reasons unknown.”Looking at the resolution’s supporters sitting around the horseshoe-shaped table in the Security Council, he said: “You are afraid of an impartial investigation” that the Syrian government was being blamed for chemical weapons attacks carried out by extremists.After the vote, Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew looked at Safronkov and asked: “How could anyone look at the faces of lifeless children” and yet veto this resolution? US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council: “We want to work with Russia to advance a political process in Syria. We want Russia to use its influence over the Assad regime to stop the madness and the cruelty we see every day on the ground.”“Today’s vote could have been a turning point,” she said. But “with its veto, Russia said no to accountability. ... Russia now has a lot to prove.”

Trump: It is time to end Syria’s ‘brutal civil war’
AFP, Washington Thursday, 13 April 2017/US President Donald Trump told allies it was time to end Syria’s “brutal” civil war Wednesday, as he branded the country’s leader Bashar al-Assad a “butcher” and questioned Russia’s role in a suspected chemical attack. Trump, standing alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, called on allies to “work together to resolve the disaster” in Syria and thanked them for condemning Assad’s suspected sarin attack in Khan Sheikhun. “Vicious slaughter of innocent civilians with chemical weapons including the barbaric killing of small and helpless children and babies must be forcefully rejected by any nation that values human life,” Trump told reporters. “That’s a butcher. That’s a butcher. So I felt we had to do something about it. I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing, and it was very, very successfully done,” he added. “It is time to end this brutal civil war, defeat terrorists and allow refugees to return home.”Trump’s comments came shortly after Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have compelled Damascus to cooperate with an investigation of the attack. Trump said it was “certainly possible” that Russia President Vladimir Putin knew about the attack, blamed on Assad, indicating Russian officials were present at the source airbase, which Trump later bombed. “I would like to think that they didn’t know, but certainly they could have. They were there. So we’ll find out,” he said. Trump also praised China for abstaining during the UN vote. He met President Xi Jinping last week in Florida and spoke again to the Chinese leader on Tuesday. “I think it’s wonderful that they abstained,” he said. “We’re honored by the vote. That’s the vote that should have taken place.”'

France Says Russia 'Bears a Heavy Responsibility' over Syria Veto
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/17/France on Wednesday blasted Russia's vetoing of a U.N. draft resolution demanding the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation into a suspected chemical attack. "Russia bears a heavy responsibility through its systematic opposition -- in order to protect its ally Assad -- to a multilateral response to the issue of Syria," the office of French President Francois Hollande said in a statement. The resolution "was designed to allow a rapid, thorough inquiry by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to establish responsibility for the chemical attacks on April 4 in Idlib province", the statement said. Russia's veto was the eighth time it had chosen to oppose a majority of the (U.N. Security) Council in this way, it added.
"Only the coming together of the international community in favor of a political transition in Syria will allow this martyred country to find peace, stability and sovereignty again.
"France will continue to mobilize in this way."

Britain 'Dismayed' by Russia's U.N. Syria Veto
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/17/British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was "dismayed" by Russia's veto on Wednesday of a U.N. draft resolution on the suspected chemical attack in Syria. "This puts Russia on the wrong side of the argument," Johnson said in a statement issued in London. Russia blocked a draft United Nations resolution demanding that the Syrian regime cooperated with an investigation into the attack, which the West blames on President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
"The international community sought to make clear that any use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere is unacceptable and that those responsible will face consequences," Johnson said. "So I am dismayed that Russia has once again blocked the U.N. Security Council and in so doing refused to condemn the use of chemical weapons or support a full U.N. investigation into the attack. "This puts Russia on the wrong side of the argument. But it doesn't have to be this way." He said the Group of Seven industrial powers were ready to work with Russia to end the six-year civil war in Syria by finding a political solution, and were unanimous that Assad had "no long term future" in the country. "So Russia faces a choice: it can continue acting as a lifeline for Assad's murderous regime, or it could live up to its responsibilities as a global power, and use its influence over the regime to bring six long years of failed ceasefires and false dawns to an end," said Johnson. Britain, France and the United States put forward the U.N. draft resolution in response to the suspected sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 that left 87 dead, including 31 children. British analysis of samples from the site concluded that sarin, or a substance like it, was used. Britain believes it is "highly likely the Assad regime was responsible," Johnson said.

US-led coalition mistakenly kills 18 militia allies in Syria: Pentagon
Reuters, Washington Thursday, 13 April 2017/A US-led air strike mistakenly killed 18 members of a Kurdish and Arab militia backed by Washington south of the Syrian city of Tabqa, the Pentagon said on Thursday. The US-led coalition forces struck the position on Tuesday after another partner in the fight wrongly told them its was occupied by ISIS militants, the Pentagon said, underlining the complex nature of the conflict. “The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” the statement added. The SDF is fighting in a campaign to encircle and ultimately capture Raqqa city, ISIS’s main base of operations in Syria. The militia has closed in on the ISIS-held Tabqa area, a focus of heavy fighting, about 40 km (25 miles) west of Raqqa. The SDF said its leadership was working with the coalition to investigate the incident and prevent it from happening again.“In the area of military operations near Tabqa and as a result of error, a painful incident took place” causing several casualties, the SDF said in a statement.

Chemical weapons experts in Turkey to investigate alleged Syrian sarin attack
Reuters, Amsterdam Thursday, 13 April 2017/A team of experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog has been sent to Turkey to collect samples as part of an investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria last week that killed 87 people. The fact finding mission was sent from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague to gather bio-metric samples and interview survivors, sources told Reuters on Thursday. The toxic gas attack on April 4, which killed scores of children, prompted the United States to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base and widened a rift between the United States and Russia, a close Syrian ally. Also read: Monitor says Syria drops barrel bombs despite US warning; Syria denies. The OPCW mission will determine whether chemical weapons were used, but is not mandated to assign blame. Its findings, expected in 3-4 weeks, will be passed to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation tasked with identifying individuals or institutions responsible for using chemical weapons. Investigators have concluded that sarin, chlorine and sulphur mustard gas have been used in Syria's civil war. Government forces used chlorine, while Islamic State militants used sulphur mustard. Last week’s bombing in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held province of Idlib near the Turkish border was the most lethal since a sarin attack on Aug. 21, 2013 killed hundreds in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Sisi Vows to Hunt Down Egypt Church Bombers in Tawadros Visit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/17/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged to hunt down the perpetrators of last week's twin church bombings as he visited Coptic Pope Tawadros II on Thursday, his office said. Sisi's visit to the papal seat in Cairo came a day after the interior ministry identified one of the two suicide bombers who struck two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, killing 45 people. The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, which followed a December 11 suicide bombing that killed 29 people in a Cairo church. Sisi said "state agencies were exerting their utmost effort to chase down the perpetrators of those vile acts," the presidency said in a statement. The interior ministry on Wednesday offered a 100,000-pound (about $5,500) reward for information leading to the arrest of 18 suspects it said were members of jihadist cells linked to the the church attacks. Sunday's first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, north of Cairo, killed 28 people. The second struck outside Saint Mark's church in Alexandria, killing 17 people after a suicide bomber was prevented from entering the building. Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency after the bombings and called on the army to protect "vital" installations around the country. The Coptic Church said on Wednesday it would cut back Easter celebrations to a single mass after the bombings. The violence came ahead of Catholic Pope Francis' first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said will go ahead as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the

Abbas Seeks 'Unprecedented' Steps to End Palestinian Split
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 13/17/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will take "unprecedented steps" to end the political division between his West Bank-based autonomy government and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007. The rivals failed to reconcile. A unity government set up by Abbas in 2014 never got off the ground in Gaza. Abbas said in comments published by the official news agency WAFA late Wednesday that "we are going to take unprecedented steps in coming days to end the division." He did not explain. Measures will likely include financial pressure on Hamas. In a recent blow to Gaza's fragile economy, Abbas slashed by one-third the salaries of 60,000 ex-civil servants and troops who have stayed home since the Hamas takeover but continue to get paid.

Malala Yousafzai becomes youngest ever to get honorary Canadian citizenship
The Associated Press, Toronto Thursday, 13 April 2017/Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai returned to Canada on Wednesday to receive her honorary citizenship and address the country’s lawmakers after her first visit to Parliament in 2014 was put off because of a terror attack.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented her with a framed certificate of citizenship. She’s only the sixth person to receive the honor and the youngest ever. The 19-year-old Pakistani activist was 15 when she shot in the head by Taliban militants while returning from school. She was targeted for advocating women’s education. She won world acclaim for her campaign and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Malala originally was scheduled to receive honorary citizenship in October 2014, but the Canadian Parliament was stormed by an armed terrorist that day. The gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Ottawa’s war memorial shortly before storming Parliament in an attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death. “The man who attacked Parliament Hill called himself a Muslim – but he did not share my faith. He did not share the faith of one and a half billion Muslims living in peace around the world. He did not share our Islam – a religion of learning, compassion and mercy,” she said to applause. Malala also praised Canada for welcoming more than 40,000 Syrian refugees, and appeared to add an appeal to the US as well. “I pray that you continue to open your homes and your hearts to the world’s most defenseless children and families,” she said, “and I hope your neighbors will follow your example.” And she joked about Trudeau, Canada’s 45-year-old prime minister. “People are always talking about how young he is. They say he is the second youngest prime minister in Canada's history. He does yoga, he has tattoos,” she said. “When I was coming here everyone was telling me to shake his hand and let us know how he looks in reality. People were just so excited for me to meet Trudeau. I don't think anyone cared about the Canadian honorary citizenship.”The other five honorary citizens are the Dalai Lama, the Aga Khan, Nelson Mandela, Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

United States’ first female Muslim judge found dead in Hudson River

Reuters, New York Thursday, 13 April /A groundbreaking black jurist who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge was found dead in New York’s Hudson River on Wednesday, police said.Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court, was found floating off Manhattan’s west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (1545 GMT), a police spokesman said. Police pulled Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Her family identified her and an autopsy would determine the cause of death, the spokesman said. Abdus-Salaam, a native of Washington, D.C., became the first African-American woman appointed to the Court of Appeals when Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo named her to the state’s high court in 2013. “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all,” Cuomo said in a statement. The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History said Abdus-Salaam was the first female Muslim to serve as a US judge. Citing unidentified sources, the New York Post reported that Abdus-Salaam had been reported missing from her New York home earlier on Wednesday. Attempts to reach her family were unsuccessful. A graduate of Barnard College and Columbia Law School, Abdus-Salaam started her law career with East Brooklyn Legal Services and served as a New York state assistant attorney general, according to the Court of Appeals website.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/17
Let’s hope it is the beginning of the end
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
Let us forget about fake ‘nationalist’ condemnation, and shedding crocodile tears on doubtful sovereignty, since Syria became nothing but a ‘mailbox’ for exchanging regional international political messages. Let us also look deeper into a situation whereby human lives have become irrelevant against a crescendo of chatter about false ‘Rejectionism’ and folkloric ‘Arabism’.
Given all the above, it has to be said that the main culprit responsible for violating Syria’s sovereignty is he who has never cherished it, and never cared about the lives and dignity of Syrian citizens.
Personally, I am not one who supports foreign intervention; and most certainly, do not gloat about our misfortunes and defeats. I do not and would not call on foreign powers to occupy our lands, and open for them the gates of what are supposed to be ‘homelands’ … not detentions centers where people are abused and humiliated.
In fact, it pains me deeply to see foreign military aircraft ‘touring’ the skies of Arab countries taken away from their people not by an old enemy (that we have been verbally attacking for 70 years), but by some of their own. It pains me even more to see the inability of those to confront the real enemy, while – thanks to habit and ‘inheritance’ – they have mastered the skill of confronting their co-citizens when they seek the most basic human rights.
After the US ‘Tomahawk’ strikes against the Sh’ayrat Air Base (in Homs Province), which was for several years a source of death and misery to Syria’s cities and countryside, I heard and read about ‘angry’ reactions from fellow Arabs who do not seem to refuse murder as a means of dialogue with protesters.
This strike must not be a mere reaction, but rather a first phase in a genuine strategy that deals realistically and candidly with rulers and governments who have proven beyond any doubt that do not care about dialogue, consensus, co-existence and human rights
What is worse was that they considered the American strikes as:
1- A violation of Syria’s ‘sovereignty’, as if Syria is nothing but a regime that is until this very moment bargaining with foreign powers on how to partition it along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines; and engages in systematic population exchange under international auspices.
2- A “punishment” to the regime “for opposing Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine”, as Dr. Buthaina Sha’ban ‘brilliantly’ reminded us.
However, the fact is that there has been a sinister relationship of reciprocated services between the Bashar Al-Assad regime and its supporters – namely, Iran – on one side, and ISIS and its ilk on the other. The latter never really believed in the Syrian popular uprising, never fought for it, but rather fought against it and worked hard to destroy it from within whenever possible.
This picture was always clear to the US and Western powers. Washington in particular, knew quite a lot about the Syrian situation during Barack Obama’s presidency; but unfortunately Obama’s priorities were somewhere else.
The JCPOA (i.e. the nuclear agreement) with Iran was Washington’s main goal; and to insure its implementation, Obama and his staff were happy to sacrifice the Syrian people as well as America’s traditional Middle East allies and friends in order to keep Tehran happy, and allow it to spread its sway from the Zagros Mountains to the Levant coast, and from the Arabia Gulf to Bab Al-Mandeb strait.
For six years since the start of the Syrian uprising, and three years after discovering the reality of Obama’s position, The Damascus regime and its backers in Tehran and Moscow had received all the reassurances they needed to escalate their war.
They benefited from the following positions adopted by Washington:
1- Continuous refusal of enforcing ‘safe havens’ and ‘no-fly zones’ intended to deter the regime and protect the refugees and displaced; while Russia and China – through their ‘vetoes’ – have prevented the international community from stopping the regime’s carnage.
2- Stubborn rejection – despite pleas to the contrary – to provide the Syrian Opposition with suitable quality weapons needed to confront and neutralize the regime’s arsenal, replenished by Moscow via a permanent ‘air bridge’.
3- Failure to seriously check against the flagrant military activities of pro-Iran sectarian militias, which have inflamed sectarian polarization, nurtured frustration and despair, and eventually extremism in Syria.
4- Failure to back the trend of moderation and openness within the Syrian Opposition, given its aforementioned stances, and then claiming that the opposition was ‘incapable’ of confronting the regime. It then gave its support to secessionist (Kurdish) militias not only threatening Syria’s territorial integrity, but also its neighbors’, specifically, Turkey.
5- Failure to foresee, and then face up to, Russian direct combat involvement, which is now a reality in many parts of Syria. This Russian involvement has exacerbated the refugee crisis – especially, after the fall of Aleppo – and given it global repercussions reflected in human tragedies and rise of anti-foreigners racist extreme Right in Europe.
The unhappy situation
Thus, the Obama administration, which refused even to deter Al-Assad, emboldened Tehran and Moscow, and handed them the regional initiative in the Middle East; weakening in the process players who had considered themselves friends of America if not its strategic allies. This unhappy situation has increased the political and humanitarian costs, and decreased the chances of a victory for moderates against extremists in Syria and elsewhere.
What President Donald Trump did, by ordering a punitive strike in retaliation against the use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, was the first sign of ‘deterrence’. ‘Deterrence’ of the murder and displacement machine, its sponsors and operators.
It was the only action needed and required from Washington but never materialized. This strike must not be a mere reaction, but rather a first phase in a genuine strategy that deals realistically and candidly with rulers and governments who have proven beyond any doubt that do not care about dialogue, consensus, co-existence and human rights.
Al-Assad regime and its backers carried on with their genocide in Syria, even after Washington had announced that toppling Al-Assad was no longer an American priority. This clearly underlines the futility of any dialogue with it. Defeating ISIS’ extremism can only be achieved by backing the forces of moderation. This means getting rid of those exploiting extremism, and thus forcing the victims of discrimination to condone and accept it.
In short, I do not want to see the end of the Damascus regime for Donald Trump’s sake, but rather as a sign of respect to the souls of child victims like Hamzah Al-Khatib, Wassim Zakkour, Alan Kurdi, and Aya and Ahmad Abdul Hamid Al-Yusuf, as well the stunned innocent face of Omran Daqneesh and the tears of every mother, father, sister and brother throughout Syria.

Al-Qidiya project and developing entertainment options
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s announcement of the project to build an entertainment city in Al-Qidiya indicates the country’s engagement in the industries of manufacture and innovation on the entertainment front instead of just being a consumer. The city, which covers an area of 334 square kilometers, marks a serious phase toward establishing professional entertainment in the country. During spring break few days ago, border crossings were packed with people heading from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. This was in addition to many who traveled by air. The purpose of traveling was leisure entertainment, sitting in cafés, watching movies, enjoying concerts and celebrating with music. All these are means of relaxation. Citizens want these means available in their cities.Every person has the right to decide whether he wants to stay at home or go outdoors. Entertainment is a matter of choice made available within the city and based on people’s different tastes
Matter of choice
Entertainment is not obligatory but a choice. It does not cancel any other activity. It is one’s right not to attend concerts or go to amusement parks or outdoor recreation centers. Every person has the right to decide whether he wants to stay at home or go outdoors. Entertainment is a matter of choice made available within the city and based on people’s different tastes. The deputy crown prince is part of the young generation, which represents the biggest segment of our society. They know what they want and what they aspire for. Entertainment and fun are essential elements of this aspiration; especially considering it means Saudi money will be spent within their own country instead of being spent in other countries.

Syria between Obama and Trump
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
It has been clear since the second year of the Syrian revolution that Syria has turned into an international battlefield where armed militias fight to serve the interests of international powers, or to be more accurate, the revolution transformed into a project to destroy the Syrian state. Russia’s messages were clear when it said that it will not give up its only foothold in this turbulent region. China’s position was completely similar to Russia’s and this might have been the case either because it wants to serve its own interests or to spite the Americans especially that Russian President Vladimir Putin was taken by surprise in Libya.
This is in addition to Putin’s eternal dream of restoring the past glory of the Russian empire. A hesitant American president empowered Putin and made him braver. It goes without saying that that there was no chemistry whatsoever between the leaders of the two major powers.
Four years ago, President Barack Obama had the chance to intervene in Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons to kill innocent people. Back then, the world felt that the US will end the crisis which was unprecedented given its brutality, due to acts committed by the regime and terrorist militias.
However, Obama backed down from his red lines in the last minute after he was convinced that the Syrian regime gave up its internationally-prohibited arms. If a hesitant Obama was serious about intervening, he would have intervened regardless of everything especially that Syria has become an arena for the most notorious terrorist organizations, like ISIS and Hezbollah, and it has become a hotbed for all forms of Iranian intervention.
Obama’s weak stance, which upset America’s allies across the world especially in the Middle East, made Iran and Russia feel that they are before a weak and hesitant American command. As a result, they doubled their intervention in Syrian affairs to the extent that the presence of Iran’s generals on Syrian territory became common.
A hesitant American president empowered Putin and made him braver. It goes without saying that that there was no chemistry whatsoever between the leaders of the two major powers. A strategic plan? Obama was a hands-on president who followed up on every single detail. Yet, his retreat from intervening in Syria was not a result of a strategic plan and did not aim to serve a larger American interest. Obama knew that it is important for a superpower, like the US, to intervene when necessary in order to restore balance and security to the world. Is there a bigger necessity than intervening to fight a butcher who is killing his own people using prohibited weapons? However, Obama’s calculations were purely personal. His intervention in Syria would have angered Iran and he could not bear that as Iran was his only way of attaining personal glory. His record did not bear any achievement that history will document. There was only the nuclear agreement, which he achieved via the friend of Iran’s mullahs and his Secretary of State John Kerry. They succeeded in recording a historical achievement for Obama at the expense of America’s prestige, its historical allies and the blood of the innocent in Syria.

Shayrat missile strike, a historical event
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/April 13/17
American missiles destroyed the Syrian military al-Shayrat air base on Friday dawn, so what is the significance of this attack? Can we consider it a historical event? Or must we wait until American President Donald Trump’s policy towards the Syrian crisis unfolds? The attack clearly states that America no longer looks at the world through neutral eyes and no longer adopts an isolationist policy. It is back to assuming its international responsibility and the status it is worthy of as the biggest empire we’ve known throughout history and our current time. Restoring this role means reconsidering many international problems across the world. What’s also significant is that the arena in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, is no longer only Russia’s and Iran’s playground. The major player is now back and it is involved in the region’s conflicts. The issue of terrorism, and specifically ISIS, will no longer be used as a bargaining a chip for deceit and to drive bargains but will be addressed via effective and practical policies. This is in addition to other implications. Can we consider the strike a historical event? Yes, it is and we can say so before America’s entire policy as regards the Syrian crisis unfolds. America has launched a new phase in the history of the region and the world – a phase during which the US announced it will not keep silent over crimes being committed against humanity in Syria.
Retreat over
The strike is a frank announcement that years of American retreat are over. Obama’s eight years which were marked by weakness and wasting opportunities are now over. These eight years during which Obama supported the Iranian regime in several ways – by flagrantly overlooking all of Tehran’s roles in destruction and terrorism – are now over and there is a new vision when it comes to dealing with all the issues that Obama intentionally ignored. The strike also indicates America’s return to international causes as the greatest power in history. The US is not only the strongest in terms of its military but it is also the most powerful on the political, economic, cultural and technological fronts. Therefore, this return is definitely a historical event. In this context, however, must we wait to know Trump’s complete vision for a solution in Syria?
During moments of historical change, countries which are more prepared are the ones which win and states which are flexible the most in terms of dealing with this change benefit a lot. Gulf countries know well what the Syrian people want and know well they can help them and stand by them whether when it comes to politics or on the ground. They have never stopped supporting these oppressed people and did not wait until the world changed. The answer is yes because the Syrian crisis is very complicated and the proposed solutions are many and differ according to the different interests of major players in the region and the world. Arab countries and the Syrian people must contribute as much as they can to influence the establishment of this vision and of the proposed political solutions. This influence must also guarantee the interests of Arabs and the Syrian people.
Arab countries are not neutral towards the Syrian crisis. Most of them – particularly Gulf countries – support the rights of the Syrian people and reject the crimes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian regime and the Russian cover. What’s new today is that America is no longer neutral and it has announced its readiness to practically engage in the Syrian crisis. The question, however, is to what extent will it be involved? How can this be beneficial? During moments of historical change, countries which are more prepared are the ones which win and states which are flexible the most in terms of dealing with this change benefit a lot. Gulf countries know well what the Syrian people want and know well they can help them and stand by them whether when it comes to politics or on the ground. They have never stopped supporting these oppressed people and did not wait until the world changed.
When it comes to Iran, that rogue country which is the most evil in the region and the world, Gulf countries have confronted it everywhere, diminished its influence, and threats and competently overcame eight years during which their biggest ally, America, was out of the picture. Therefore, they are today poised to making bigger gains and providing qualitative support that alters formulae in this tragic crisis which is unprecedented in the history of the modern world.

Saudis Criticize Government's Leniency Towards Preacher's Incitement-Filled Sermons
MEMRI/April 13/17
In recent months Saudi media, and Saudis on social media, have been in an uproar over Saudi cleric Saeed bin Farwah, his controversial sermons, and the Saudi authorities' responses to them. In the first of these sermons, delivered June 19, 2015, bin Farwah had attacked Nasser Al-Qasabi, a Saudi comedian, TV personality, and star of the hit TV show Selfie,[1] calling him an "infidel" and expressing his wish "that Allah leave no bone unbroken in the body of that piece of filth."
Following this sermon, social media users expressed their objections to the cleric using the hashtag "Saeed bin Farwah calls Nasser Al-Qasabi an infidel." Al-Qasabi sued bin Farwah for slander, and the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs launched an investigation of bin Farwah.[2]
On October 31, 2016, Saudi and Arab media reported that bin Farwah had been convicted of making statements against and condemning Al-Qasabi, and sentenced him to 45 days in prison.[3]
Even after bin Farwah's conviction, a month later, on November 29, 2016, another of his sermons was posted to YouTube; in this one, he harshly criticized fathers who send their daughters abroad to study pharmacology and medicine. This, he said, was the same as pimping out their daughters, whom he referred to as prostitutes.[4] Outrage against bin Farwah again erupted in the country, and the media featured numerous op-eds condemning him; on Twitter, there was intense commentary under the hashtag "Saeed bin Farwah slanders society." The cleric was also included in Twitter polls on "the worst personality of 2016," and was the winner of one of them.[5]
On November 30, the day after this second sermon was posted, Saudi Chief Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh condemned bin Farwah, and called on the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to make preachers like him aware of their mistakes, or to remove them altogether.[6] The ministry, for its part, stated that this was an old sermon, from about six years ago, and that steps had been taken at that time against the imam who had allowed bin Farwah to deliver it. The ministry also stressed that bin Farwah is not a ministry-appointed preacher and is not authorized to deliver sermons as an official shari'a preacher.[7]
As the commentary against bin Farwah raged on social media, on January 15, 2017, a Saudi appellate court overturned his October 2016 slander conviction, because of his good reputation and because he is a religious figure – and also because in his criticism of Al-Qasabi, he never mentioned him by name. The court ordered a retrial, and on February 16, 2017, the original conviction was reinstated.[8]
A particularly strong reaction to bin Farwah's sermons took the form of a cartoon showing a preacher vomiting green bile all over the heads of the worshippers, who in turn thank him for his statements. The cartoon was published on November 11, 2016, following the posting on YouTube of the sermon against girls studying pharmacology and medicine, and was disseminated on Twitter after bin Farwah's conviction was overturned.
Preacher vomits on congregants, and one says to him: "May Allah repay you with kindness" (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, November 30, 2016)
Some of the articles in the Saudi press on bin Farwah's sermons notably criticized the Saudi establishment's leniency towards him, and also criticized Saudi society for enabling bin Farwah and others like him to operate freely. His light sentence for his statements against Al-Qasabi, they said, could encourage others to do likewise; they added that there was no place for his ilk in the mosque pulpits during Friday prayers.
Following are excerpts from several articles on this controversy:
Criticism Of Saudi Court: Bin Farwah's Light Sentence Is No Deterrent – And Will Only Encourage Others
In a November 3, 2016 article in the Saudi daily 'Okaz, Saudi journalist Ahmad Al-Zahrani criticized the brevity – only 45 days – of bin Farwah's prison sentence for slander, and argued that this sentence did not reflect the severity of his actions. Not only did it pose no deterrent, he added, it could even embolden others to follow in bin Farwah's footsteps. He wrote: "Early this week, it was reported in the dailies and on television that a mosque preacher in the 'Asir region had been sentenced to 45 days in prison after being convicted of denouncing and cursing the artist Nasser Al-Qasabi. [The preacher] called [Al-Qasabi] names that do not befit a Muslim, such as 'infidel,' and also delivered a virulent sermon [against him]... The imam of the mosque [bin Farwah] merely denied having been convicted of anything in this affair.
"Some might say that an artist is a public figure, and that it is only natural that his artistic activity should be subject to criticism. This is true, and moreover, [artists] measure the success of anything they do in terms of how much of a reaction it triggers, including anger. This is not the problem. The problem is the venue where the attack [on the artist took place, namely a mosque. The attack] included highly offensive remarks, some of which amounted to slander and to excluding [Al-Qasabi] from the fold of the religion. According to the Mosque Document issued by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs,[9] sermons delivered from a mosque pulpit must be limited to preaching and to guiding people on the right path, and must avoid sectorial or political issues, as well as insults to individuals, whether explicit or implicit...
"The hearings for determining the sentence in Al-Qasabi's case continued for about a year and a half, and the term of imprisonment imposed [on bin Farwah] does not exceed the duration of his detention for questioning. Moreover, the convicted man [bin Farwah] may be pardoned and released after serving [only] half of his sentence, especially considering that he knows the Koran by heart and is considered a virtuous person. The sentence [handed down] cannot be described as a deterrent; in fact, it may prompt others to stage similar attacks. The strangest aspect of the entire affair is that the video [of the sermon in which bin Farwah accused Al-Qasabi of unbelief] has not been removed from YouTube, which will encourage thousands of people to look for it and to listen to it again. After all this, is it accurate to say that Al-Qasabi won this lawsuit?"[10]
Saudi Writers: More Aggressive Steps Should Be Taken Against All Extremist Preachers
The bin Farwah sermon that was posted on YouTube in November 2016, about fathers sending their daughters abroad to study pharmacology and medicine and which referred to these fathers as pimps and the daughters as prostitutes, also sparked widespread reactions in the Saudi press.
A few days after the sermon appeared on YouTube, in a December 4, 2016 article, senior Saudi journalist and former Al-Arabiya TV director Turki Al-Dakhil expressed his satisfaction at the Saudi mufti's condemnation of bin Farwah but criticized the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Saudi society itself for their reactions to the sermon. Bin Farwah's preaching style, he said, should not be repeated again and again in Saudi mosques. He wrote: "The extremist discourse has run into trouble after the honorable mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh made his statements – which [themselves came in the wake of] sweeping public outrage at a sermon by a fanatic who described male and female [students] sent [to study] medicine and pharmacology [abroad] and their families in terms unfit for printing in the paper. Despite this, the preacher stuck [to his guns] and did not heed [the outrage].
"We have had three decades of monopoly of the pulpits and weekly castigation of the public. Every Friday, a worshipper is admonished, reproached, and castigated... Our mistake is that we continue to submit to these warmongering, inciting, chastising sermons.
"There are times when the preacher is passionate and annoyed that people listen submissively, not out of respect for the sermon but [out of respect] for the Prophet [Muhammad's] commandment – that is, that those who do not heed Friday sermons will not be rewarded [in the afterlife] for attending them. Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Tawfiq Al-Sudairi believed that the preacher [bin Farwah] has deviated from the ministry's path and absolutely does not represent it. But this begs the question: How was this man given the opportunity to speak several times, in this same style, which deviates from [the norms of] manners and culture?!
"The mufti's comments were timely. The pulpit must be defended against zealotry and invective. This is especially true because the public devotes itself to worshiping God on Friday in an attempt to grow closer to Him, and seeks a worthy sermon... or preaching delivered in a purely religious manner, not in catastrophic political and ideological language."[11]
Saudi journalist Sa'd Al-Dossari likewise criticized the ministry's actions vis-à-vis bin Farwah. In his column in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, he stressed that sermons like bin Farwah's are not isolated incidents, and called to put an end to them. He wrote: "There is nothing new in the appearance atop a pulpit of a man who distorts religion and society and who creates a scandal that turns [everyone] against us, inside and outside Saudi Arabia. Therefore, we must urgently find a comprehensive solution to this phenomenon. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs must take harsher steps against anyone showing signs of extremism...
"Several days ago, the [chief] mufti spoke his mind about those who take advantage of the pulpits, saying that they are committing a grave action and that they do not comprehend [the gravity] of their actions, and calling for their removal. As for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs – it says every time that it took the steps necessary – [yet] we do not know the nature of these steps, their effectiveness as deterrents, and whether they are sufficient to end this serious phenomenon, as the mufti referred to it...
"The fear is that some, perhaps unintentionally, take the implementation of [deterrent] measures lightly. As a result, these same extremists dismiss the obligation to obey [these measures], and shortly thereafter they are back in another affair that is even more extreme."[12]
[1] For more on the TV show, which aired during Ramadan in 2015 and dealt with current events in Saudi society such as extremism, domestic violence, and Saudi youths joining ISIS, and the media stir it caused, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1176, 'Selfie' – Satirical Saudi TV Show Sends Shockwaves Through The Kingdom, July 16, 2015.
[2], June 20, 2015.
[3], October 31, 2016; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), October 31, November 1, 2016; Eremnews, October 31, 2016.
[4], November 29, 2016.
[5], December 24, 2016;, January 23, 2017.
[6], November 30, 2016.
[7], December 1, 2016.
[8] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 15, February 16, 2017.
[9] The document sets out the roles of mosque employees, the requirements they must meet, and the terms of their employment. Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), June 23, 2013;, August 15, 2014.
[10] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 3, 2016.
[11] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), December 4, 2016.
[12] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), December 6, 2016.

Iranian Website Specializing In Syrian War Reports: Gas Attack Intended To Save Iranian/Syrian Frontline In Khan Sheikhoun Region From Breakdown
MEMRI/April 13/17
The April 4 Sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, just one day after the U.S. administration changed its position vis-à-vis Syrian President Al-Assad, declaring that his removal from power was no longer a priority, raised questions regarding the underlying motive for the attack. Indeed, the initial Russian claim that the attack had been fabricated by opponents of the Syrian regime was based on its being so clearly against Syrian interests.
While it is now largely accepted that the Syrian regime carried out the attack, the motivation underlying it remains enigmatic, giving rise to conspiracy theories.
Iranian Website Specializing In Syrian War Reports Provides The Explanation: To Prevent Breakdown Of Iranian/Syrian Frontline
On April 7, 2017, WarReports, an Iranian research group dedicated to monitoring and covering Iran's role in the war in Syria and Iraq,[1] published a report on its Facebook page, explaining why the Syrian regime had carried out the gas attack.[2] It claimed that the attack had been "in support of the Iranian-affiliated ground forces, Hizbullah, and the Syrian army, all of which were stationed several kilometers behind the frontline." According to the report, in the past three weeks there had been 21 casualties from among the IRGC forces and the Fatimiyun Afghani Shi'ite militia located in Hama.[3] The report included a map of the region, showing the retreat southward of the Iranian-backed forces from the Khan Sheikhoun region, a retreat that threatened to turn into a complete breakdown of the front. The attack, therefore, was intended to curb the rebel thrust in K
The report further stated that hitting the civilian population in the rebel-held areas was a known tactic of the Syrian regime, intended to crush the fighting spirit of the forces and to stop their operations. This was the case in the August 2013 gas attack on Ghouta, Damascus, and the October 2015 cluster-bomb attack on the civilization population of eastern Aleppo.
It should be noted that in a recent White House intelligence briefing, officials gave the same rationale for the Syrian regime attack, without providing further details: "They were losing in a particularly important area. That’s what drove [the attack]."[4]
Map legend:
Red areas: territory held by Iranian/Syrian-regime forces
Green areas: territory held by the Jabhat Fath Al-Sham (formerly JNS) armed rebels
Red circle: Khan Sheikhoun
Red arrows: distance from Khan Sheikhoun to the Iranian-backed forces
Black dotted line opposition frontline prior to March 21 operations and Iranian forces retreat
Red dotted line: current opposition frontline following the Iranian forces retreat
[1]; Twitter: @warreports. Facebook:
[3] The website provided a link to the image of one of the IRGC members killed there.

Time to Tackle the Muslim Brotherhood
Jagdish N. Singh/Gatestone Institute/April 13/17
The final report of the Senate's "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001" revealed that U.S.-stationed Saudi intelligence officers, who provided assistance to the hijackers ahead of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, were in direct contact with senior members of the American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
During the Taliban regime in Kabul, the Brotherhood had training camps in Afghanistan for Kashmiri militants fighting against India and Central Asian states.
In his inaugural address on January 20, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to "unite the civilized world against... and eradicate radical Islamic terrorism." So far, however, the administration in Washington, like its predecessors, has done little to rein in one of the key sources of this growing global phenomenon -- the Muslim Brotherhood.
Founded by Sheikh Hassan al-Banna in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood does not always openly advocate violence. But its main agenda is to establish a worldwide Islamic Caliphate by way of the sword. As its motto reads: "The Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; death for the sake of Allah is our wish."
The emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its founder, Hassan al-Banna.
The Brotherhood's hostility towards the United States has been clear. It not only backed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but founded al Qaeda, nineteen of whose operatives perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
The final report of the Senate's "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001" -- released in December 2002 -- revealed that U.S.-stationed Saudi intelligence officers, who provided assistance to the hijackers ahead of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, were in direct contact with senior members of the American branch of the Brotherhood.
Where future operations are concerned, the Brotherhood currently instructs its members:
"...use diverse and varied surveillance systems to gather information...not look for confrontation with adversaries, at the local or the global scale, which would be disproportionate...and master the art of the possible on a temporary basis without abusing the basic [Islamic] principles."
Unlike the Obama administration, which viewed the Brotherhood "as a moderate alternative to more violent Islamist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State," the new U.S. government is taking a tougher rhetorical stance.
In his Senate confirmation hearings on January 11, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to "agents of radical Islam like al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and certain elements within Iran."
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), together with Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) reintroduced two bills aimed at holding Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for violent, Islamist, anti-Western ideology and enabling the U.S. to stifle the groups' funding.
Moderate Muslims, too, favor action against the Brotherhood. Lebanese Shiite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hajj Hassan, founder of the American-Muslim Alliance, on the face of it possibly not the most objective commentator on a predominately Sunni organization, called on Trump to designate the Brotherhood as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization."
In February, Hassan told Fox News:
"Terrorism is the enemy of the whole humanity, including Muslims; these Takfiri [apostate] terrorist organizations distort the real image of Islam and offen[d] Muslims who want to live in peace and security with all segments of the society... This group since its inception practiced killing crimes and terror attacks in the Arab world. In Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and other countries their clerics call for violence."
Washington can and should expect support, as well, from the civilized international community in tackling the Brotherhood, which poses a threat to the entire world. Indeed, the organization has active followers in more than 70 countries. One of these is India, which has an obligation to back the U.S. in the war against the Brotherhood and affiliate terrorist organizations, such as ISIS.
New Delhi can ill afford to overlook that during the Taliban regime in Kabul, the Brotherhood had training camps in Afghanistan for Kashmiri militants fighting against India and Central Asian states.
The time is not only ripe for the U.S. and its allies to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood; it is well overdue.
*The author is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Which Way Will France Go?
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 13/17
After two years and 238 deaths at the hands of Islamic terrorism, what did France do to defeat radical Islam? Almost nothing.
If Emmanuel Macron wins, France as we have known it can be considered pretty much over. By blaming "colonialism" for French troubles in the Arab world, and calling it "a crime against humanity", he has effectively legitimized Muslim extremist violence against the French Republic.
In just two years, Muslim organizations in France have dragged to trial great writers such as Georges Bensoussan, Pascal Bruckner, and Renaud Camus. It is the Islamists' dream coming true: seeing "Islamophobes" on trial to restrict their freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdo's physical massacre was therefore followed by an intellectual one.
It was a sort of farewell to the army. During a brief visit to the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle last December, French President François Hollande honored the French soldiers involved in "Operation Chammal" against the Islamic State. After two years and 238 deaths at the hands of Islamic terrorism, what did France do to defeat radical Islam? Almost nothing.
It is this legacy of indifference that is at stake in the looming French presidential elections. If Marine Le Pen or François Fillon win, it means that France has rejected this autocratic legacy and wants to try a different, braver way. If Emmanuel Macron wins, France as we have known it can be considered pretty much over. Macron is, for example, against taking away French nationality from jihadists. Terrorism, Islam and security are almost absent from Macron's vocabulary and platform, and he is in favor of lowering France's state of emergency. By blaming "colonialism" for French troubles in the Arab world, and calling it "a crime against humanity", he has effectively legitimized Muslim extremist violence against the French Republic.
As General Vincent Desportes wrote in his new book, La dernière Bataille de France ("The Last Battle of France"):
"President Hollande said on November 15 that it would be ruthless, we were at war ... but we do not make war! History shows that in the eternal struggle between the shield and the sword, the sword is still a step forward and winning".
In the past two years, France only used the shield.
France's fake war began in Paris with a massacre at the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Twelve cartoonists and policemen were massacred by two brothers who shouted, "We avenged Muhammad, we killed Charlie Hebdo". After a few days of marches, vigils, candles and collective statements such as "Je Suis Charlie", half of the French intelligentsia was ready to go and hide underground, protected by the police. These are academics, intellectuals, novelists, journalists. The most famous is Michel Houellebecq, the author of the book Submission. Then there is Éric Zemmour, the author of the book, Suicide Française ("The French Suicide"); then the team of Charlie Hebdo, along with its director, Riss (Laurent Sourisseau); Mohammed Sifaoui, a French-Algerian journalist who wrote Combattre le terrorisme islamiste ("Combating Islamist Terrorism"); Frédéric Haziza, radio journalist and author at the journal, Canard Enchaîné; and Philippe Val, the former director of Charlie Hebdo. The latest to run was the Franco-Algerian journalist Zineb Rhazaoui; surrounded by six policemen, she left Charlie Hebdo after saying that her newspaper had capitulated to terror and refused to run more cartoons of Muhammad.
"Charb? Where is Charb?" were the words that echoed in the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, the day he and his colleagues were murdered. "Charb" was Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the magazine that had published cartoons of Muhammad. Charb was working on a short book, On Blasphemy, Islamophobia and the true enemies of free expression, posthumously published. Charb's book attacked self-righteous intellectuals, who for years had been claiming that Charlie Hebdo was responsible for its own troubles, a childlike view, popular throughout Europe. It is based on the notion that if everyone would just keep quiet, these problems would not exist. Presumably, therefore, if no one had pointed out the threats of Nazism or Communism, Nazism and Communism would have quietly have vanished of their own accord. Unfortunately, that approach was tried; it did not work. The book also criticized "sectarian activists", whom he said have been trying "to impose on the judicial authorities the political concept of 'Islamophobia'".
As for "the Left", he wrote: "It is time to end this disgusting paternalism of the intellectual left" -- meaning its moral sanctimony. Charb delivered these pages to his publisher on January 5. Two days later he was murdered.
Now, some of these people he was calling out are trying to hide their cowardice by attacking him. In recent weeks, a number of cultural events in France have tried to "deprogram" the public from paying attention this extremely important book. A theatrical adaptation of it, attended by one of the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, Marika Bret, was scheduled to take place at the University of Lille. However, the president of the University, Xavier Vandendriessche, said he feared "excesses" and the "atmosphere", so he eliminated Charb from the program. Twice. The play's director, Gérald Dumont, sent a letter to the Minister of Culture, Audrey Azoulay, mentioning "censorship".
At the same time, Charb's book also disappeared from two events at a cultural festival in Avignon. "How to reduce the dead to silence", tweeted Raphaël Glucksmann. "Killed in 2015, banned in 2017", Bernard-Henri Lévy summed up.
During the past two years, the publishing industry itself has played a central role in censoring and supporting censorship, by censoring itself. The philosopher Michel Onfray refused to release his book, Thinking Islam, in French and it first came out in Italian. The German writer, Hamed Abdel Samad saw his book Der islamische Faschismus: Eine Analyse ("Islamic Fascism: An Analysis"), a bestseller in Germany, censored in French by the publishing house Piranha.
The French courts, meanwhile, revived le délit d'opinion -- a penal offense for expressing political opinions, now an "intellectual crime". It was explained by Véronique Grousset in Le Figaro:
"Insidiously, the law blurred the distinction between the discussion of ideas and the personal attack. Many organizations are struggling to bring their opponents to justice".
It means that the legal system is hauling writers and journalists to court for expressing specific ideas, in particular criticism of Islam.
In just two years in France, Muslim organizations have dragged to trial great writers such as Georges Bensoussan, Pascal Bruckner, and Renaud Camus. It is the Islamists' dream coming true: seeing "Islamophobes" on trial to punish their freedom of expression.
Charlie Hebdo's physical massacre was therefore followed by an intellectual one: today, Charb's important book cannot find a room in France for a public reading; it should, instead, be protected as a legacy of courage and truth.
Even in French theaters, free speech is being crushed. Films about Islam have been cancelled: "The Apostle" by Carron Director, on Muslim converts to Christianity; "Timbuktu" on the Islamist takeover of Mali, and Nicolas Boukhrief's "Made in France", about a jihadist cell. A poster for "Made in France" -- a Kalashnikov over the Eiffel Tower -- was already in the Paris metro when ISIS went into action on the night of November 13, 2016. Immediately, the film's release was suspended, with the promise that the film would be back in theaters. "Made in France" is now only available "on-demand". Another film, "Les Salafistes", was screened with a notice banning minors. The Interior Ministry called for a total ban.
After the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the country seemed for a short time to return to normalcy. Meanwhile, thousands of Jews were packing up to leave France. At the request of local Jewish community leaders, the Jewish skullcap disappeared from the streets of Marseille, and in Toulouse, after an Islamic terrorist murdered a Jewish teacher and three children in 2012, 300 Jewish families pack up and left.
In the daily newspaper Le Figaro, Hadrien Desuin, an expert on international relations, compared the last two years to the "phony war" that France did not fight in 1939-40. Paris, while declaring a war against Germany, as it now declares a war against terrorism, simply refused to fight. For a whole year, France, crouching behind a Maginot Line that it foolishly believed was invincible did not fire a single gun against the Germans who were spreading throughout Europe at the time. Similarly, General Vincent Desportes explains in his book The Last Battle of France that Operation Sentinel, in which French soldiers are now deployed in the streets, is a "show", and that "the Islamic State is not afraid of our aircraft. You have to attack by land, terrorizing. We have the means to do it, but it takes political courage". According to Desportes, Operation Sentinel "changes nothing".
France's never-begun war on terror also collapsed around the three most important measures: removing French citizenship from jihadists, "de-radicalizing" them and closing their salafist mosques.
There are at least 20 among 2,500 famous radical mosques that need to close now. The Territorial Information Center (SCRT) recommended that there are 124 salafist mosques in France that should close. Only Marine Le Pen has demanded that.
Three days after the November 13 Paris massacres, President Hollande announced a constitutional reform that would strip French citizenship from Islamic terrorists. Faced with the impossibility of finding a shared text by both Houses, as well as with the resignation of his Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Hollande was forced to cancel the move. It means that hundreds of French citizens who went to Syria for jihad can now return to their country of origin and murder more innocent people there.
The Bataclan Theater -- the scene of a massacre in which 90 people were murdered and many others wounded on November 13, 2015 -- recently reopened with a concert by the performer Sting. His last song was "Inshallah" (Arabic for "If Allah Wills"). That is the state of France's last two years: starting with "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the greatest"), chanted by the jihadists who slaughtered 80 people, and ending with a phony invocation to Allah by a British singer. "Inshallah," said Sting from the stage, "that wonderful word". "Rebirth at the Bataclan," the newspaper Libération wrote as its headline.
The director of the Bataclan told Jesse Hughes, the head of American band Eagles of Death Metal: "There are things you cannot forgive." True. Except that France has forgiven everything. The drawing on the cover of Charlie Hebdo after the massacre -- a weeping Muhammad saying, "All is forgiven" -- was the start of France's psychological surrender.
Left: The cover of Charlie Hebdo after the massacre of its staff -- a weeping Muhammad saying, "All is forgiven" -- was the start of France's psychological surrender. Right: When the Bataclan Theater (where 90 people were murdered in November 2015) recently reopened with a concert by the performer Sting, his last song was "Inshallah" (Arabic for "If Allah Wills").
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Spicer's Mistake and the Democrat's Over-Reaction
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/April 12/17
Sean Spicer made a serious mistake when he compared Bashar Al-Assad to Hitler, and to make matters worse, he got his facts wrong. He quickly and fully apologized. There was no hint of anti-Semitism in his historical mistake and his apology should have ended the matter. But his political enemies decided to exploit his mistake by pandering to Jews. In doing so, it is they who are exploiting the memory of the six million during the Passover Holiday.
The Democratic National Committee issued a rebuke with the headline "We will not stand for anti-Semitism." Its content included the following: "Denying the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime is a tried and true tactic used by Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups that have become emboldened since Donald Trump first announced his campaign for president." By placing Hitler and Trump in the same sentence, the DNC committed a mistake similar to that for which they justly criticized Spicer. Moreover, the DNC itself, is co-chaired by a man who for many years did "stand for anti-Semitism" -- namely Keith Ellison who stood by the notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, while denying that he was aware of Farrakhan's very public Jew-hatred. It is the epitome of Chutzpah for the DNC to falsely accuse Spicer of standing by anti-Semitism while it is they who are co-chaired by a man who committed that sin.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority leaders, falsely accused Spicer of "downplaying the horror of the Holocaust." But by leveling that false accusation, Pelosi herself is exploiting the tragedy.
Steven Goldstein, a hard-left radical who heads a phony organization that calls itself "The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect," accused Spicer of "engage[ing] in Holocaust denial." He called Spicer's mistake a "most evil slur" against the Jewish people. Goldstein claims to speak for the Jewish people, but he represents only himself and a few handfuls of radical followers who are not in any way representative of the mainstream Jewish community. He repeatedly exploits the Holocaust in order to gain publicity for him and his tiny group of followers. Shame on them!
These over the top reactions to a historical mistake made by Spicer that was not motivated by anti-Semitism represents political exploitation of the Holocaust. Spicer was wrong in seeking to bolster his argument against Assad by referring to Hitler, and his political opponents are wrong in exploiting the tragedy of the Holocaust to score partisan points against him.
The difference is that Spicer gaffe was not in any way pre-meditated, whereas the exploitation by his enemies was carefully calculated for political gain. All sides must stop using references to Hitler and the Holocaust in political dialogue. Historical analogies are by their nature generally flawed. Analogies to the Holocaust are always misguided, and often offensive, even if not so intended.
On CNN the other night, Don Lemon asked me if I was "offended as a Jew" by what Spicer had said. The truth is that I was offended as someone who cares about historical accuracy by Spicer's apparent lack of knowledge regarding the Nazi's use of chemicals such as Zyklon B to murder Jews during the Holocaust. But it never occurred to me that Spicer's misstatements were motivated by anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial or an intent to "slur" the Jewish people. Nor do I believe that those who have accused him of such evil motivations actually believe it. They deliberately attributed an evil motive to him in order to pander to Jewish listeners. That offends me more than anything Spicer did.
Extreme right wing anti-Semitism continues to be a problem in many parts of Europe and among a relatively small group of "alt-right" Americans. But hard left and Muslim extremist anti-Semitism is a far greater problem in America today, especially on university campuses. So those of us who hate all forms of anti-Semitism and bigotry, regardless of its source, must fight this evil on a non-partisan basis. We must get our priorities straight, focusing on the greatest dangers regardless of whether they come from the right or the left, from Republicans or Democrats. The fight against bigotry is a bi-partisan issue and must not be exploited for partisan gain.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Paradise Lost: The Rise and Fall of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by Tam Hussein
Tam Hussein/Syria Comment/ April 12/17
I entered Najiyeh, a small town of no consequence, without their permission. The town claimed to be an ISIS principality. The claim seemed ridiculous but as we drove in to the town it seemed less so. They had fixed the prices, the markets were bustling, even the gold shops were open. It was a stark contrast to what I had heard about their ‘state’. I understood why the people accepted their rule; order is key in conflict especially in one as brutal as this. Even non-ISIS people in the surrounding countryside told me good things about them. “You could bring your case to their courts”, they would say, “and it would be resolved with out fear or favour”. Their entry reminded me of the Taliban being welcomed with loud cheering and flowers in Kabul but they left with the inhabitants shaving off their beards and smoking cigarettes even if they had never touched one before.
A few months later I met Abu ‘Ali in Tarsus, Turkey. The young commander from Ansar al-Sham looked like a young St. Paul, dark black beard with long hair that was slightly thinning on top. He was recovering from a leg injury that if miracles weren’t real, should mean him being minus one leg. The wound was horror personified. Abu ‘Ali informed me that the people alongside the local battalions had kicked ISIS out of Najiyeh.
“Why?” I asked.
“They were harsh people” he replied, I noticed disappointment in his face, it was as if they had betrayed the Syrians. The Revolution, if you will, had made these insignificant men into Mujahideen, warriors of God. Some of these men had been eking out their existence as smugglers, farmers or hiding from the authorities. The Revolution had made them. Now the likes of Abu ‘Ali who had emerged from the mosques calling for the removal of Assad, facing live bullets after Friday prayers were lectured to by Abu so-and-so al-Britani who, only six months ago, was checking out some winding girl’s batty rider in some funked up club. Here came Abu so-and-so to the land of Muslim scholarship and lectured the people on the intricacies of kufr, taghut, tawheed and the incompatibility of Islamic theology with democracy. Syrians didn’t need lessons in creed. They wanted to stop the barrel bombs from killing their children.
A few years later in Saraqeb, whilst filming with Jund al-Aqsa, I was told that the local leader of Ahrar al-Sham had shot the local ISIS emir in the back. The ISIS emir, a native of the city, considered it sacrilege to turn his gun against his co-religionists. However, the leader of Ahrar had no compulsion in dispatching him to eternity. The people had liked the ISIS emir but these same people had also defaced the testimony of faith in the Islamic State’s court house. They wrote sarcastic comments over it. ISIS would no doubt consider it apostasy, still none of the locals had renounced Islam but they too, like the Kabulis had shaved off their beards, increased their smoking even though they readily admitted that smoking was ‘forbidden’ in Islam. More recently, incredulously, I heard an Iraqi man preferring the Iranian backed Shi’te militia, the Popular Mobilisation Group in Mosul instead of ISIS. Moslawis had few issues in raising the Iraqi flag and lowering the ISIS flag, even though everyone knew that the former banner was born in the gentlemen’s clubs in London and the latter in Abbasid Baghdad. And yet without any sense of irony, Moslawis had preferred the latter. Why when everyone professed to be Muslims, did the ISIS come to this? Why did al-Baghdadi’s nascent project fail?
Anthony Quinn plays Hamza the uncle of the Prophet and Omar Mokhtar
Arguably, ISIS did not lose because of a determined opponent, for they are not short of courage and military experts attest to their mastery of asymmetric warfare. ISIS lost because the local populace stopped believing in them. So much so that the people reviled them more than they reviled Assad. People hate Assad because he killed their children but they hate ISIS for stabbing them in the back whilst they were trying to overthrow former. Assad never claimed to be ‘Islamic’ and in a way, nothing was expected from him. He could do what he wanted, he was after all from a long tradition of Middle Eastern tyrants who crushed uprisings whether they be Muslim Brotherhood, Iraqi marsh Arabs or Shi’ites. Brutal cruelty was expected. Even though the deaths inflicted by ISIS remain minuscule compared to the former, when ISIS claimed to be ‘Islamic’ and acted with such wanton cruelty, it provoked disgust and revulsion from even the most dissolute of Muslims. Even that hard drinking, stripper ogling Muslim who puts his head down on the carpet once a year if that, knows that the bar has been raised. He knows that it is unbefitting for a ‘holy warrior’ to behave thus.
Whatever Graeme Wood argues about ISIS and its level of ‘Islamicness’, what Ahmed on the street recognises instinctively is that al-Baghdadi and his group are far from ‘Islamic’; no Fatwa needed. Muslims are inculcated with a conception of what a Mujahid or ‘holy warrior’ is meant to be. The stories of the Companions of the Prophet, Hamza the lion of God or Omar Mokhtar the lion of the desert, both usually in the guise of Anthony Quinn are found in their mothers’ milk. Sons are named Mujahid, Ghazi, Faris and Shaheed in the hope that they epitomise that exceptional person who perfects his moral and martial virtues in a situation where bestial brutality is permissible and yet he manages to retain his humanity. The nobility of man is truly tested in war.
A eulogy of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. This is a classical genre in Arabic literature.
It is here that al-Baghdadi and his men have failed so miserably. His heroes who populate the telegram channels make Muslims recoil. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, his deputy, is certainly eloquent and no doubt courageous but ordinary in his brutality and harshness, no matter how many texts his eulogist claims he has studied. Jihadi John too is ordinary in his inhumanity. Go to the local halal butcher on Harrow Road, London and he will tell you that Islamic rites dictate that an animal should be given its final sip of water and slaughtered away from the gaze of another animal to lessen its distress and that of the other animals. Yet, here stands Jihadi John slaughtering innocent men in front of the whole world so brazenly. There is no sense of shame, even Cain felt ashamed after he killed Abel.
There seems to be something thoroughly modern about Jihadi John’s actions as he points that knife at you. Arguably, Jihadi John’s actions have roots in the London of the Nineties, when Jihadi snuff tapes were sold openly outside mosques. These videos showed in graphic detail the exploits of the Chechen mujahideen against Russian aggression in Chechnya. One of the Imam’s who used to teach in Lisson Green youth club, where Mohammed Emwazi used to attend, recalls that soon those tapes:
“…became dark there was a Russian beheaded by some Chechens, and whenever I saw the brothers, some of them would creep up from behind and greet you by cutting you in the neck.”
Perhaps the mood music for Mohammed Emwazi’s deeds had been set up then. The Imam continues:
“I remember, even at the time that this is not how you greet each other, and I always reminded the brothers that the point of Jihad is not to be blood thirsty and I used to quote the hadith of the Prophet: “Don’t look forward to meeting your enemy, but if you meet him remain steadfast.”
Jihadi John is unrecognisable as a mujahid by your average Muslim, but take Jihadi John to the cold harsh streets of West London and any road man who listens to Stormzy recognises his deed to be pure gangsta.
The mujahid of now is very different from the mujahid of then. Let us demonstrate this with a tangible example, let us use a paragon of a holy warrior of the 19th century, Abdel Kader al-Jaza’iri. He was also known as the Commander of the Faithful although, admittedly, under the suzerainty of the Sultan of Morocco. Abdel Kader, like al-Baghdadi, tried to build a state by uniting the various tribes in Algeria and was harsh to those who collaborated with the French. Like al-Baghdadi, he was a scholar, a jurist and descended from prophetic lineage. He fought the French invaders and was described by his foes and friends alike as a fearless military genius and as illusive as al-Baghdadi. William Thackeray wrote of him:
Nor less quick to slay in battle than in peace to spare and save,
Of brave men wisest councillor, of wise councillors most brave;
How the eye that flashed destruction could beam gentleness and love,
How lion in thee mated lamb, how eagle mated dove!
And yet the gulf between al-Jaza’iri and al-Baghdadi, as Thackeray’s poem shows is vast. Whilst war is harsh and brutal, the former was known for his chivalry and treated his prisoners humanely; so much so that these prisoners of war petitioned France to release him when he found himself in the same predicament. Some even offered to be his guard of honour on account of the kindness he had shown them. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi showed no quarter. He burns and drowns his prisoners alive. Abdel Kader condemned his brother in law for massacring prisoners, the latter revels in it and encourages it. The sadism is so creative that one wonders whether there is a whole unit in Raqqah whose sole job is to come up with creative and cruel ways to execute people. Al-Baghdadi, this product of the Iraq war, has embraced terror wholeheartedly.
Abdel Kader is careful not to harm civilians. When sectarian riots broke out in the Christian quarter of Damascus he saves countless number of Christians. Al-Baghdadi sends a suicide bomber on Palm Sunday to a Coptic church in Tanta and murders countless. The former honoured men of religion; priests were allowed to minister to the French POWs and act as go-betweens. The latter kidnaps the Jesuit priest Father Paolo Dall’Oglio. The fate of the man committed to building bridges between faiths, remains unknown. Abdel Kader stops the practice of beheading prisoners, the latter puts their heads on social media. The former releases those who renounce their faith to escape, al-Baghdadi doesn’t care if they have converted or not. If they do not accept the Caliphate he’ll send one of his soldiers to ram an explosive laden car into a busy market or get one of his soldiers to line up in rows and offer the evening prayer and then detonate his explosives belt.
As one former ISIS fighter told me, “Dawla [Islamic State] isn’t all that it’s made out to be you know.”
You think? One can’t help but ask how many lives he had to take to come to that conclusion?
“Don’t worry” he reassures me, “they were apostates anyway.”
Fantastic. Lessons have been learnt then, no nightmares when he goes to sleep.
On a final note, Abdel Kader realised that noble ends have noble means. He surrendered because he realised that his battle with the French would be too hard on the surrounding tribes and submitted to Providence. For as the old Islamic adage goes, victory lay in His hands. And yet History wrote this loser to become the victor. Abdel Kader gained universal admiration. His enemies who once reviled him honoured him. The ultimate proof of his moral character comes from the people of Bordeaux who voted to get his name on to the ballot paper for the French presidential elections. As the Progres d’Indre et Loire notes:
“We have learned that certain voters of Bordeaux were so impressed by the manners, the character and royal air of Abd el-Kader, they put his name on the ballot for president of the Republic. If this idea spreads it will hurt Louis-Napoleon. To be a good president one must have a reputation of courage, wisdom and talent. Of the two, would not Abd el-Kader better meet those conditions?”
ISIS and The Challenge of Modernity
In Reims, the nameless flowerless grave of Saïd Kouachi, the Charlie Hebdo attacker, is slightly apart from the other dead souls. It is as if he would offend the repose of the interred Muslim souls. In this solitary place one of the sons of the dead asked me what I was doing taking photographs of this newly dug grave. I couldn’t deceive the man and told him whose grave it was. The Franco-Algerian spat on Kouachi’s grave and cursed him. The man, no doubt loved the Prophet just as much as Saïd Kouachi did and yet he shouted: “How is my father going to have peace next to this dog!”
Kouachi didn’t belong to ISIS, but Kouachi and indeed Ahmed Coulibaly one of his companions had the same father. I pitied Saïd Kouachi, few Muslims will ever raise their hands in prayers for this man’s soul. His children would be ashamed to acknowledge him and they will feel strongly the shame of Oedipus Rex himself. I would wager that if I had asked that French Algerian visitor to his father’s grave whether Kouachi was a Mujahid, I would know what that reply would be. He may have understood Kouachi’s anger, he may have experienced the deep racism of French society towards its Muslim population, but I know what his reply would be. I have asked similar questions in all the major terror attacks in the European mainland, Paris, Brussels, London, Stockholm and the average Muslim knows that these men are far from Abdel Kader or Hadji Murat. Kouachi lies in a nameless grave remembered by none. Abdel Kader has a city named Elkader no less than in Iowa and Hadji Murat has a novella written in his honour by an old foe of his, Leo Tolstoy. Both Abdel Kader and Murat lost, and yet Providence in spite of the victor writing history, has preserved their names. They inspire universal admiration. They were ‘holy warriors’ if you will, where as Saïd Kouachi at best was just a ‘warrior’ and at worst a butcher- and a very modern butcher at that.
Let us use General Petraeus’ playbook, Jean Lartéguy’s, The Centurions, to demonstrate the last assertion. Ostensibly, The Centurions follows the journey of several French paratroop officers from defeat at the hands of the Communists in Indo-China to a victory of sorts in Algiers. But in the process of defeating the F.L.N in Algiers they loose something of themselves. Whilst the novel is blind to the century of oppression that Algerians tasted, it is nevertheless a deep rumination on modern warfare and based on Lartéguy’s own experiences as a paratrooper and war correspondent. Lartéguy realises very quickly that the F.L.N used Jihad as a rallying cry for independence, but what it produced was something thoroughly different: it created an Ersatz France. This is why the novel is useful for this essay. Arguably, ISIS too has done the same and produced something that appears to be a bastardised version of what a caliphate is ‘meant’ to look like in their very modern mindsets.
In some ways what Abbas and Mohammed expected of these very ordinary fighters who called themselves mujahideen were exceptional standards in virtue. What they got instead were merely the usual fare. They were like everyone else, they looted, they robbed, they killed and behaved just like every other militia in the world. There was a banality in them and an absence of holiness. Al-Baghdadi was just like Saddam Hussein, ordinary. He was part of the fabric of rulers and tyrants in the region’s bloody history from Saffah to Sisi who massacred men for worldly authority. There was very little difference between a mujahid, a warrior and a terrorist. It is as an F.L.N leader opines in The Centurions:
“what difference do you see in the pilot who drops cans of napalm on a Mechta from the safety of his aircraft and a terrorist who places a bomb in the Souq- the terrorist requires far more courage.”
But the F.L.N leader forgets that what was expected from the Mujahid was not just the courage to step into a truck laden with explosives. The modern mujahid might be a master of asymmetric warfare but he was not meant to be stuffing explosive booby traps into dolls and toys such as those found in Mosul. For whilst the Prophet has said “war is trickery” would he sanction such an act? Does the Muslim martial tradition not abhor such things? Otherwise surely the ‘holiness’ of the warrior has been lost to the banal ordinariness of all warriors. Is he merely an ‘atheist’ mujahid like Mahmoudi in The Centurions, who prays but does not believe in God? Is he then the sort of Mujahid who has to suppress his moral conscience for the sake of victory? The modern Jihadi seems to have sent paradise to hell, and is simply not too bothered if children, the elderly, women, monks, fruit trees or the enemy’s flock are destroyed, even if his religious tradition forbids him from touching them. This Jihadi seems to revel in it. Mohammed Rezgui, for instance, filmed himself elated before gunning down innocent British tourists in Sousse, Tunisia. But the post mortem autopsy seems to suggest that the drugs found in Rezgui’s body created:
“The feeling of exhaustion, aggression and extreme anger that leads to murders being committed. Another effect of these drugs is that they enhance physical and mental performance.”
Why would a holy warrior need to take an amphetamine type drug in order to commit a ‘virtuous’ act? What exactly was he suppressing? Was he like those French paratroopers who were suppressing that feeling of guilt that the intangible soul within knows is committing something morally reprehensible?
In some ways then, the Jihadi is so thoroughly modern that the average Muslim on the streets turns around and says: hang on, this isn’t what we were told by our mothers and fathers. We weren’t reared on Osama bin Laden or Zawahiri but on Hamza, the Lion of God. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had become just like the French Paratroopers and F.L.N leaders in The Centurions: in order to win they had to loose their souls.
Come, let us be generous, and afford al-Baghdadi some empathy as we do with the protagonists in The Centurions. We are generous towards Esclavier even as he slits the throats of all the men in an Algerian village. Perhaps the reason why al-Baghdadi joined Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda franchise was for similar reasons outlined by the head of French intelligence in Algeria, Jean Vajour who noted the heavy handed tactics of the French:
“To send in tank units, to destroy villages, to bombard certain zones, this is no longer a fine comb, it is using a sledgehammer to kill fleas. And what is much more serious, it is to encourage the young- and sometimes the less young to go into the Maquis [rural guerrilla fighters]”
Perhaps the heavy handed tactics used by US army in Fallujah led the not so young al-Baghdadi, to join the insurgents. Maybe at one point this Abu Bakr was just an ordinary man, a devout man who to all accounts lead prayers at his mosque, played around with the kids, listened quietly to the complaints of the locals and advised them on Islamic law since he possessed a doctorate. On Fridays he played football on the dusty streets of North Samarra, a suburb of Baghdad. Maybe this is how his life would have continued till the end of his days. But war has a way of twisting men’s souls, and just like the French paratroopers in The Centurions who spent several years in the camps of the Communists, Abu Bakr too ended up in Camp Bucca. His captors taught this Dr. Ibrahim Awad or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a thing or to. Like officer Mirendelle in The Centurions, he too learnt how to mediate, how to win alliances and how the Americans behaved. Perhaps just like the French Paratroopers who learnt much from the Communists and applied the lessons with deadly effect in Algeria, Abu Bakr too learnt things in Camp Bucca and applied it to deadly affect. He certainly learnt how to put people in orange jump suits. When he emerged, he experienced the intensity of asymmetric warfare, he learnt that stuffing bombs inside corpses and dogs were effective, how to create grey zones by dividing Sunnis from Shi’ites, how to sit completely still when a drone flew ahead and the art of illusiveness. He learnt all such things over the years without rest or respite- constantly hunted with a price on his head. Perhaps, by the time the Syrian uprising began, he became that amoral man in The Centurions, Captain Julien Boisfeuras, an expert in unconventional and political warfare, who like the real life monster captain Paul Aussaresses tortured, waterboarded, raped, electrocuted a man in the balls, if only to achieve victory. Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, in the light of modern warfare, fitted in with that landscape. In fact perhaps, all of us given the circumstances, could become just like him. Consider Youssef Ben Khedda, a pharmacist, whose hands according to Alistair Horne’s masterful A Savage War of Peace, were clean. Horne writes:
“He wrote a joint letter to Alger Républicain complaining about the blind arrests. Two days later he too was in prison, followed shortly by his fellow signatories; immediately he was released, five months later, he joined the F.L.N”
Could this story of ‘radicalisation’ not apply to al-Baghdadi or even us? Isn’t that human nature? When the Nazis invaded France what tactics did the Free French use against them? Billion dollar armies can afford to have rules, resistance movements have to make conscious choices to have them or not. It even begs the question whether the likes of Abdel Kader could even be allowed to flourish in the murky ethical terrain of modern warfare.
And yet it is perhaps what Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had become that the Muslim guy and gal on the street recoils at. “That’s precisely it” says one worshipper in Norbury mosque, “we can all be like him but that’s not what a mujahid is meant to be! He’s meant to be like Imam Ali when the Arab spits at him as he is about to kill him, he leaves him”. The anger is visible in his face, Abu Bakr doesn’t deserve the title of mujahid. Perhaps the political philosopher John Gray is spot on when he says that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State:
“…shares more with the modern revolutionary tradition than any ancient form of Islamic rule. Though they’d hate to hear it, these violent jihadists owe the way they organise themselves and their utopian goals to the modern West”
And everything he does seem to support Gray’s view. Al-Baghdadi, calling on terror attacks on the West, is following Abu Bakr Naji’s tactics outlined in his tract, The Management of Savagery. The intention is to create grey zones that divide the population into an ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ scenario. These tactics, these very modern tactics were advocated by the Brazilian guerrilla leader Carlos Marighela, and also used by the F.L.N as one of Lartéguy’s protagonists observes:
“…a bomb exploded….at the cafeteria some medical orderlies laid a child screaming with pain, on a stretcher- another bomb exploded in 5 October in Algiers killing nine Moslem passengers. Horror reigned in Algiers- horror was succeeded by fear and hatred- Moslems began to be beaten up without rhyme or reason. Europeans got rid of their old Arab servants and Fatmahs who had been part of the family for twenty years. Within a few days Bab al-Oued witnessed a distinct rift between the Moslems on one hand and the Jews and Europeans on the other. This was exactly what the F.L.N wanted to divide that ill-defined zone and split up its inhabitants who tended to resemble one another more and more. For they had so many things in common, certain nonchalance, love of gossip, contempt for women, jealousy, irresponsibility and inclination to day dream.” [pp.452-453]
French atrocities in Algeria bolstered the F.L.N.
ISIS realised what the French paratroop officers understood in fighting the F.L.N; in order to win they had to get on an equal footing with the native population. They had to get “as covered with mud and blood as they are. Then one shall be able to fight them, and in the process we’ll lose our souls, if we really have souls.” And so the paratroopers extended the ill treatment of native Algerians and did things irrespective of legality; they massacred, tortured and raped. They took the local women away, treated them like queens as they ironed and washed for them and then returned them to their men. The French thought they were freeing the Algerian woman from Arab patriarchy and emasculating them by showing how little control they had over them. But when they met a troublesome one, they simply raped her. As one of the Paratroop officers recognised:
“…the ghastly law of the new type of war. But he had to get accustomed to it, to harden himself and shed all those deeply in-grained, out-of-date notions which make for the greatness of Western man but at the same time prevent himself from protecting himself”- [p490]
And the truth was these French paratroopers as Lartéguy says, fought an enemy very much like themselves. Some of the F.L.N leaders were former officers, some were university educated metropolitans treated with disdain in Paris cafes like many French of North African descent are treated to this day. They were thoroughly modern creatures and so employed the same tactics as the paratroopers. They massacred Pieds Noirs civilians in Philippeville, they liquidated their own members, gouged out the eyes of collaborators and believed that the end justified the means. Arguably, ISIS mirrors what the F.L.N did in Lartéguy’s novel. But where as the F.L.N in Lartéguy’s model understood that they were moderns somewhere along the line, Abu Bakr and friends did not understand the fact that they were too.
For al-Baghdadi is in a sort of denial. He has failed to deal with modernity itself and in it lie the seeds of his defeat. It is this reason that made the people of Najiyeh boot ISIS out, the commander of Ahrar shoot the ISIS emir and the locals scrawl sarcastic comments on their Shariah court. This inability to grasp modernity, to understand that a process has occurred between their ‘Islamic State’ and the past. The Muslim world has experienced a traumatic rupture, not just defeat, humiliation and loss but colonisation, industrialisation and societal changes which have fundamentally altered the times we live in. In the past, life was organised and configured differently, the same rules which applied to the pre-modern world cannot be applied anymore. The Islamic State is like a car crash victim who, after recovering, thinks he can just go back to living the same way when in reality his limbs do not function in the same way. He can’t come to terms with his accident and so disasters ensue. Since he can not remember what the past looks like before the crash, he conjures it up just like the F.L.N leader does in The Centurions:
“There’s only one word for me Istiqlal, independence. Its a deep fine-sounding word and rings in the ears of the poor fellahin [farmers] more loudly than poverty, social security or free medical assistance. We Algerians steeped as we are in Islam are in greater need of dreams and dignity than practical care. And you? What word have you got to offer? If its better than mine you’ve won.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came up with ‘Khilafa ‘ala minhaj an-Nubuwwa’-‘the Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology’, and the Muslim world looked up for a second, with a sense of hope and nostalgia; for this was their historical past, just as the British looks to their Empire, their Raj and the Battle of Britain nostalgically, not quite coming to terms with the fact that they are no longer a great power. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi tried to realise the word ‘Khilafa’. But what did the word ‘Khilafa’ mean in the context of modernity and the post-colonial world? In the Pre-Modern Islamicate, people were divided into millets or religious communities because that was the reality on the ground. Now we had the concept of citizenship, this is the new reality. ISIS denied this new reality and sought to extract the Jizyah, the poll tax from Syrian Christians thinking that it was more merciful on them than paying higher taxes. These Christians who had lived on that land for millennia would be paying this Jizyah to Abu Marwan or Luqman from Ghafsa, Tunisia. ISIS failed to comprehend that even if the Jizyah was lower, and the Christian is protected by the Muslim armies, in the modern context it is simply put, humiliation. We are all sons of egalité now, whether we like it or not. The Syrian Christian has for generations grown up with the concept of equality. In fact, he may be like the ancient Northern Syrian tribe of Ghassasina who preferred to pay a higher tax rate to the second Caliph, Umar, than accept the status of second class and pay the Jizyah. In the past, the French made Arabs in Algiers wear the necklace akin to the Star of David to signify that they had ‘submitted’ to French laws. Arabs accepted it in the 19th century. Jews wore different colours in the Middle East during the Medieval period. Modern man cannot accept any of these things, even if it is deemed for their own ‘good’. ISIS couldn’t come to terms with this.
In fact, al-Baghdadi creates what Benedict Anderson calls “an imagined community” through the use of powerful propaganda, tapping into the emotions of many Muslims. This isn’t just a cynical attempt, Graeme Wood is right here, ISIS are True Believers-zealots. They may have been former secular officers who were thrown into Abu Ghraib but, just like the F.L.N commander in The Centurions, they had rediscovered their religion, their reality had been shaken with the fall of the modern Iraqi state. These highly trained officers couldn’t just return to the coffee shops to smoke a fat Zaghloul and drink bitter coffee, lamenting the presence of US marines on their streets. That jarred with their sense of honour, no, they would return to Fallujah and Mosul where their families were and fight. These officers did what an Algerian officer in The Centurion did, they gave their failed country “a history and a personality.” They grabbed the black ‘Abbasid’ flag and made it synonymous with Islamicate. Heavily reliant on ‘salvation history’, they created a vision that the banner of Islam spread from East to West. They ignored historical reality where at one point there were three caliphates that vied for power with each other, and that even after the fall of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad, no caliph existed at all for several years. ISIS did what Lartéguy says happened in Algeria, they created a history based on the cemeteries of the dead not based on historical reality. It was Fake News caliphated. As one F.L.N leader says, congratulating a French paratroop officer on his country’s contribution to the creation of modern Algeria:
“The Algerian people have been scarred by war, their existence has been too disturbed to turn the clock back at this stage. You yourselves are creating Algeria through this war, by uniting all the races, Berbers, Arabs, Kabyles and Chaouias. The rebels should be almost grateful to you for the violent measures of repression you have taken.” [p473]
And so the invasion and the sectarianism within Iraq and lately Syria helped to create this ‘nation’ if you will. When ISIS broke through the Sykes-Picot border, it was seen as restoring parity between the oppressed and the oppressor. It was like Horne says of France’s defeat at Dien Bien Phu by the Viet Minh in 1954:
“Suddenly this unbelievable defeat deprived the French army of its baraka, [blessing] making it look curiously mortal for the first time.”
ISIS’ ‘yes we can’ moment
The breaching of the Sykes-Picot line was the biggest paradigm shift since Ben Ali fell in the Middle East. It showed the world and indeed Muslims that the status quo can be changed, that the West’s grip on the Muslim world was not supreme. This was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s ‘Yes we can’ moment and perhaps his legacy even as we begin to write his obituary. In post-colonial theory at least, he had done what Franz Fanon believed was essential between coloniser and colonised. He had restored parity, not through the coloniser granting him his freedom which instilled an inferiority complex in the manumitted. Rather, he took it by giving the coloniser a bloody nose. When ISIS broke through Sykes-Picot, they had restored a sense of honour for many in the Middle East. Similarly, when the Islamic State reintroduced concubinage and traditional female roles, they reasserted this injured manhood. And yet at the same time, they displayed their inability to accept that modernity had changed us so fundamentally that Jefferson could own slaves and still be considered a ‘good’ and ‘virtuous’ man then. But today, should he practise the same thing, he’d be considered a monster.
ISIS may have signalled its independence by purporting to ‘mint’ gold coins and arbitrarily declaring ‘provinces’ all over the Muslim world and yet, just like the Algerian officer Mahmoudi in The Centurions, who knew that Algeria could not exist without France, the Islamic State also demonstrated that it could not exist outside of the modern world. The creation of uniform ISIS courts were in reality the importing of Western law courts, which made the Rule of Law the basis of the state. Partly, ISIS knew that it had to compete with that model and partly because it didn’t know anything else. On one hand, it was proof of their ingenuity at state building, but also an admission that the paradigm to beat was still the Western model. According to Wael Hallaq’s Impossible State, Islamic history didn’t have uniform law courts as we see them in modern nation states. Far from it, they were extremely organic and functional affairs tailored to the needs of the local community. The historical Islamicate had never made the Rule of Law, king. Now it did. Similarly, when ISIS introduced ISHS, Islamic State Health Services, it based itself on the British National Health Services, NHS, rather than the hospitals of Medieval Andalusia. ISIS then, could not exist outside of time, theirs was a modern project however much it tried to deny it. ISIS’ predicament was like that of the Jihadist who blew up the ancient Buddha statues or the temples in Palmyra for being an expression of infidelity and irreligion but did not realise that his Nike trainers were paying homage to a Greek deity.
In al-Baghdadi’s denial of modernity therein lies his demise. His group failed because the Mohammed and Ayesha in Raqqah and Mosul instinctively realised that they were un-Islamic in spite of the long beard, ankle swingers and tooth stick. It is likely that there will be other groups who will want to emulate ISIS, but for them to be successful they will have to come to terms with modernity. One suspects that they too will fail. Sometimes an old timer can grasp the un-tangible better than many learned men. These ancient looking men don’t know many religious texts but have an earthy piety and remain a reliquary of wisdom that sees things plainly.
“Now these youngsters,” says wispy bearded uncle Forid sitting in Brick Lane mosque waiting to meet his Maker, “are running around killing this and committing God knows what sin thinking that they are doing the Prophet’s work! Idiots! They are so far from him! When the Mehdi comes everything going to be fine.” Uncle Forid is resigned to the arrival of the Mehdi, the messianic saviour who will come at the end of time in Muslim apocalyptic narratives. Uncle Forid knows that the youth are too impatient, they want paradise now. They don’t want to lose. The youth forget that what goes on in the world is often a reflection of a sick heart. They forget that the Muslim pantheon contains plenty of winners but also plenty of losers; Abdel Kader, Hadji Murat, Imam Shamil, Omar Mokhtar but history honoured them because they remained true to their martial tradition and moral code. To eternity, it seems, winning isn’t everything. An anecdote of Omar Mokhtar told to me by a Tunisian activist is pertinent here: one of Omar Mokhtar’s Mujahideen demanded that two Italian POWs be given no quarter just like the Italians did to them. Omar Mokhtar replied: ‘They are not our teachers’. Whoever comes after the fall of Mosul will need to convince a sceptical Muslim population, tired of the killing and the blood, that they match up to mujahids like Omar Mokhtar.