Friday, June 17, 2011

Addition of Jordan and Morocco to Gulf Cooperation Council – A New Sunni Arab Alignment Against Iran

by H. Varulkar

In recent months, the conflict between the Gulf states and Iran has escalated, culminating in February-March 2011, when the Gulf states claimed that Iran was behind Shi'ite protests in Bahrain calling for the ouster of the regime there, and that it was encouraging Shi'ite protests in Saudi Arabia. Officials from the Gulf states, chiefly from Saudi Arabia, accused Iran of meddling in the affairs of the Gulf states in order to topple their Sunni regimes and to spark unrest throughout the Gulf region. Events reached a climax on March 14, when the Gulf states dispatched thousands of Peninsula Shield Force troops to Bahrain in order to assist the regime there in suppressing Shi'ite protestors.

On May 10, 2011, as a result of this escalation, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states announced, at the conclusion of an advisory summit in Riyadh, that they welcomed Jordan's request to join the council, and invited Morocco to join as well. This announcement came as a surprise to the Arab and Islamic world. Various reports indicate that some of the delegations which participated in the meeting were themselves surprised by the announcement.

It seems that the decision to include Jordan and Morocco in the GCC was driven by a combination of motives – political, sectarian, social, and economic – and came at this particular time in order to achieve a number of goals:

  1. Creating a new Sunni alignment against Iran and the Shi'a. Saudi and Jordanian newspapers did not hide the fact that including Jordan and Morocco in the GCC is aimed at strengthening the Gulf states' military capabilities, in preparation for a possible future military conflict with Iran. Some also claimed that it was an attempt to strengthen the axis of the moderate Sunni Arab states, which had suffered a major blow recently with the ouster of Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt, one pillar of this axis. The desire to strengthen the Sunni states against the Shi'ite enemy would explain the GCC's decision to extend a membership invitation specifically to the distant Jordan and Morocco – which are both Sunni – rather than to neighboring Iraq, which has a Shi'ite majority and a Shi'ite-led government.
  2. Bolstering the internal strength and stability of the Arab monarchies, in light of the waves of popular protest and revolution which have swept the Arab world and overthrown several Arab republics, and which have also encroached on some of the Arab monarchies– chiefly Bahrain – threatening to topple their royal families.
  3. Creating a new inter-Arab political body, in light of the increasingly precarious state of the Arab League. The protests in the Arab world, particularly the Egyptian revolution that brought about the ouster of the Mubarak regime and the popular protests now threatening President Bashar Al-Assad's regime in Syria, have created a leadership vacuum in the Arab world. The Arab League, traditionally the political body that united the Arab countries and led joint Arab moves, is today barely functional. This is manifested, for example, by the cancellation of this year's Arab League summit – held annually in March – that had been slated to convene in Baghdad.

It would appear, therefore, that Jordan and Morocco's acceptance into the GCC is, among other things, an attempt by the Gulf states to make the GCC a new inter-Arab political body that will guide moves in the region and replace the Arab League – thus shifting the center of gravity and decision making in the Arab world to the Gulf region. For this reason, the Saudi press called the decision "a brilliant political move" and "a decisive and highly important stage in the political history of the Arab region and the Middle East."

The GCC's decision to accept Jordan and Morocco had its share of opponents, among them the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Kuwaiti Ummah Council members and Kuwaiti Shi'ite and Islamist columnists, and columnists in the Qatari press.


H. Varulkar

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Hearing Addresses Inmate Conversions to "Prislam"

by IPT

Los Angeles police have several active investigations involving radicalized prison converts, a commanding officer with the LAPD told a House committee hearing Wednesday.

"We have ongoing cases that involve convert prison radicals that are out in the community now," LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing told the House Homeland Security Committee.

The hearing, "The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons," was the second called by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to address radicalization within the Muslim American community. The first, held in March, included testimony of two family members of radicalized Muslims.

Wednesday's hearing focused on the threat from "Prislam," which Downing described as an extremist "cut and paste" version of Islam practiced by inmates. The resulting ideology is what former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Smith said he saw in some New Folsom prison inmates whom he prosecuted for plotting to attack Jewish targets in Los Angeles and the LAX airport.

Smith testified that Folsom inmate Kevin James created the radical prison group Jam'iyyat Ul-islam Is-Saheeh (JIS) in 1997. JIS supported the killing of Jews and the implementation of an Islamic government in the United States. James recruited a fellow inmate named Levar Washington, who recruited two others upon his release, including an LAX employee, to assist with the terror plots.

"From the prison [Kevin James] was able to set up and set out an operation cell of would be jihadists on the streets of Southern California," said Smith. "James set up a system where he would send the protocol to mail on the outside."

The person on the outside would send the protocol back to inmates inside other prisons, spreading the JIS ideology.

Several factors contribute to inmate conversions to "Prislam," witnesses testified, including the accessibility of radical literature inside prison walls and prison chaplains who espouse radical beliefs.

Downing noted that the works of radical al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood scholar and al-Qaida inspiration Sayyid Qutb can be found in prisons.

"I would not be surprised to find a copy of al-Qaida's Inspire magazine in any prison," said Patrick Dunleavy, who retired after 25 years working in the New York State prison system as its deputy inspector. Dunleavy, author of the forthcoming book, The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism's Prison Connection, also said that literature has been sent directly from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to New York State prisons.

Dunleavy's testimony emphasized the need for stricter chaplain vetting processes. He cited Imam Warith Deen Umar, former head of the New York State prisons' Muslim chaplain program, who has called the Holocaust punishment for Jews "because they were serially disobedient to Allah" and preached that Muslims should "be prepared to fight, be prepared to die, be prepared to kill." Umar called the 9/11 hijackers martyrs and heroes and has since been banned from New York State prisons.

"[Radicalization] often matures and deepens after the release," Dunleavy said, pointing to the case of four men who plotted to bomb a N.Y. synagogue and shoot missiles at U.S. military planes. The men, two of whom converted to Islam while in prison, did not know each other while incarcerated, said Dunleavy, but met each other in a mosque connected to Umar.

The four were convicted in October on charges related to the plot. Three of the defendants are set to be sentenced later this month.

Even if all chaplains were properly vetted, inmates could still spread radical versions of Islam, Dunleavy said. Sometimes, inmates will elect their own imam to supersede the authority of a government-appointed chaplain. Similarly, Smith reminded the committee that "the prison system is not in the position to say you can't preach your version of Islam to your fellow inmates."

Dunleavy's testimony echoed points made in a 2010 FBI Bulletin. "Prisoners with little training in Islam have asserted themselves as leaders among the prison population, at times misrepresenting the faith," it stated.

Witnesses and committee members spent much of the question and answer session debating the merits of the hearing's focus. Democrats criticized its focus on a specific religion and raised the specter of threats from a variety of other prison gangs.

"How many of the street gangs have an ideology that is dedicated to the destruction of the United States?" asked Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Cal. "None," witnesses replied.

"A gang member is interested in enriching themselves personally," Smith said, while jihadists are ideologically motivated to commit violence to terrorize the public.

"Prislam" is doubly dangerous, Smith said. "The jihadist mentality is basically overlaid on an individual who knows how to operate weapons," he said.

Wednesday's criticism from Democratic House members and some in the Muslim American community echoed complaints about the first radicalization hearing in March.

King defended the focus on Muslim radicalization in his opening remarks.

"The danger remains real and present, especially because of al-Qaida's announced intention to intensify attacks within the United States," he said.

King then cited a report by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., which said, "Three dozen U.S. citizens who converted to Islam while in prison have traveled to Yemen, possibly for al-Qaida training."

Several House members questioned the scope of Wednesday's hearing. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., asked the panel whether Christians are capable of radicalization. "Anyone that goes about killing in the name of God is an ideologue," Dunleavy responded. "I don't know that Christian militants have foreign country backing," he added.

"What I disagree with is the scope of this committee only focusing on one particular group," said Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Cal., calling the focus "racist" and "discriminatory." King fired back, noting that Democrats controlled the Homeland Security Committee for four years but never sought hearings on radicalization involving other groups.

Even Purdue Sociology Professor Bert Useem, who testified that prisons have not served as a major source of jihad radicalization, agreed that "jihadists are the most dangerous … They are out to damage the country," he said.

Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the committee, suggested that prison radicalization isn't a problem at all, saying only two examples have been connected to Islamist prison radicalization. "Our greatest threat is from lone wolves and solitary actors," he said. "We are not in danger from people who are already locked up."

But other participants in Wednesday's hearing emphasized that radicalization behind bars is indeed a problem. "It's a very serious issue that I don't think we yet know the scope of," said Smith. "We do have a problem. Prisons are communities at risk," Downing concluded his testimony.

Joe Molyneux, who retired last year from the FBI New Orleans office's intelligence program, agrees. Molyneux responded directly to a statement Thompson released last week, which claimed that "the facts have proven that prison radicalization is an unfounded fear in America."

"I am not sure where Congressman Bennie Thompson is coming from," he told Investigative Project on Terrorism. "It is real and is happening," Molyneux said. At least one agent in all FBI field offices serves as a liaison with area prison wardens to collect information on Islamic radicalization in the prisons.

The next radicalization hearing, scheduled for late July, will examine Americans who join the Yemeni-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), King said. The al-Qaida franchise has been linked to last year's airline cargo plot and the attempted 2009 Christmas day bombing of a Detroit airliner.


IPT (The Investigative Project on Terrorism)

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Jewish Enemies of Israel

by David Solway

It has never been easy for Israel—the understatement of the century—from the day of its establishment in 1948 when it was invaded by seven Arab armies to the present moment when it is facing multiple threats to its very survival. It suffers a history like no other nation in the world, surrounded by enemies, fighting wars on every front, infiltrated by terrorists, confronting the wetware dreams of genocidal regimes, in particular the prospect of a nuclear Iran sworn to the country’s annihilation, and subject to an international delegitimation campaign carried out via the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, spurious NGOs and “peace” organizations, labor unions, university campuses, a hostile European Union, and the efforts of an American president who wants to see the country reduced to indefensible borders.

As if this were not enough, there is yet another menace it has to face, deriving from the Cain and Abel paradigm, which has inwardly corroded the Jewish community since the thunderous instant it purportedly received the tablets from Mount Sinai: betrayal from within. The rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against Moses and his mission to create a unified and cohesive people set the tone for much of what followed in the history of the Jews. The record is inexhaustible: the backsliding tribes and their idolatrous rulers whom the Prophets railed against, the conflict between the brother states of Israel and Judea, the quarreling Jews Josephus tells us about who were in large measure responsible for the Roman victory and massacre in the first century A.D., the apostates, “wicked sons” and Court Jews who have proliferated through the ages, and those who contracted the wasting disease that Ruth Wisse in Jews and Power called “the veneration of political weakness.”

True, the quietist Jews who took refuge in ritual and scripture caused no material injury, but they, arguably, instilled an attitude of helplessness and defeatism into the plasm of the Jewish sensibility—precisely what the vigorous and determined Palmach fighters and the Zionist kibbutzniks who settled and farmed the land of Israel intended to counteract. They would no longer go “like sheep to the slaughter”; instead they put the debilitating syndrome to rest, struggled valiantly to survive and built a strong and proud country. However, the renegades and turncoats did, and continue to do, immeasurable harm. The motive for treachery seems to be immemorial. As Wisse writes, “For every Mordecai and Esther who risked their lives to protect fellow Jews, there were schemers who turned betrayal or conversion to profit.” Indeed, “the ubiquitous informer, or moser” is always with us. In the modern age they beget like rabbits on aphrodisiacs.

But it is not only a question of schemers and betrayers. There are many Jews who have turned against, or disembarrassed themselves of, their own compatriots for ostensibly “noble” reasons, like the Yevsektsiya or European and Russian Jews who joined the Bolsheviks and were instrumental in the formation of the Soviet Communist Party, until they were duly liquidated. Today, these are the Jews who embark on flotillas to abet a terrorist regime in Gaza, validate the Palestinian faux narrative, practice outreach and dialogue with Islamic murderers, vote “liberal,” pride themselves on their pacific and ecumenical ideology—a “universalist worldview,” as Daniel Gordis writes in a poignant Commentary essay, that “does not have a place for enemies”—and celebrate their birthdays in Ramallah bars festooned with “PLO posters advocating the death of Jews.”

Everywhere we look we see these broken Jews who have embraced left-wing causes, or assimilationist fatuities, or the temptations of social prestige, or the fashionable bromides of the zeitgeist that promise peace and understanding with anti-Semitic killers and despots in a pluralistic New World Order that exists only in their own febrile and disarrayed minds.

Their behavior is nothing short of scandalous: Reform and Reconstructionist Jews who profess to have as much (or more) in common with Muslims and Buddhists as with their embattled congeners in the Holy Land, espousing the Sabbatarian fiction of multiculturalism; intellectual and political recreants like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Lerner, Neve Gordon, Joel Beinin, Charles Enderlin, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Richard Falk and the contemptible Richard Goldstone who labor to abolish the Jewish state or change its character unrecognizably, siding impenitently with its adversaries; artistic Jews—I have in mind people like Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, Daniel Barenboim, Aharon Shabtai and the late Harold Pinter, among innumerable others—who give or gave succour to the enemy; media Jews who open their op-ed pages, both in Israel and America, to Palestinian “negotiators” and avowed terrorists; American Jews who vote for the most anti-Israel president who ever put his feet up on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, and who, as Isi Leibler says, have “adopt[ed] an anti-Israeli chic”; mogul Jews in the entertainment industry who tiptoe around the Islamic fact and have nothing good to say on Israel’s behalf; filmster Jews like Steven Spielberg, Eyal Sivan, Ran Edelist and Amos Gitae, among a multitudinous crew of pan-and-zoom Israel bashers, who can always be counted on to impugn the nation’s character or justify the Palestinians; and the endlessly ramifying Jewish anti-Zionist and post-Zionist organizations in Israel and the West that accuse the Jewish state of insensate aggression, or immorality, or original sin, or illegitimacy, or inflicting collective punishment on their neighbors, ad nauseam. As I wrote in Hear, O Israel!, it is almost as if there is something in the Jewish psyche that breeds sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, in the midst of an historic kinship.

These individuals and groups comprise a veritable host of Joseph’s Brothers who go about their business selling Israel out and, although they may not know it, are quite plausibly arranging for their own eventual misery. As Rabbi David Algaze of Havurat Yisrael said of Tony Kushner, the Jewish playwright who believes Israel was a mistake and falsely accuses it of engaging in “the deliberate destruction of Palestinian culture,” he “is ignoring history and history will come back to haunt him.”

The issue we are broaching is not only whether Israel can survive its obvious enemies both in the Islamic world and in the West. The situation is bad enough as it is. The issue is whether Israel can survive its own. For Israel may not win through if it is constantly maligned and attacked by a swelling fifth column of fellow Jews who may bring the same fate upon the nation as it suffered in Biblical and Roman times. The Assyrians and Babylonians and Romans of yore have not gone away; they have merely transmuted into contemporary forms.

If Israel is to survive it must be defended, or at the very least not undermined, by its ethnic compatriots in the Diaspora or the admittedly small, but influential, cadre of its fractious and deluded citizens. It must, as a minimal condition, be allowed to fight its wars in peace.


David Solway

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Islam and Nationalism

by Yoel Meltzer

One of the cornerstones of the two-state solution is the belief that the Palestinians, as well as the larger Arab world, will be satisfied with the creation of an Arab state either within the territory of Judea and Samaria alone or when combined with the smaller Gaza Strip. Either way such a country, as many of the two-state supporters claim, is all that the Arabs really want and therefore the fears that one day the Arabs will try to liberate all of “Palestine” are nothing but hot air.

In addition to whitewashing the PLO’s 1974 Phased Plan for Israel’s destruction, a plan which many argue is still in existence, as well as just being downright naïve following years of Arab belligerence, the faithful advocates of the two-state narrative are also ignoring another salient point.

As is well known the Palestinians, together with most of the Arab world, are overwhelmingly Muslim. This is a very key point because it affects the Arab outlook on state nationalism in a way that is very different from the standard Christian or Jewish perspective. For this reason it is erroneous to arrive at conclusions regarding Arab intentions based upon a non-Muslim mindset.

For instance, although in Judaism there is the concept of “the nation of Israel” (am yisrael) connecting all Jews throughout the world in a feeling of mutual allegiance and brotherhood, the existence of this international facet does not negate the distinct national aspect of Judaism, namely the obligation to establish Jewish sovereignty specifically in one area of the world known as the Land of Israel.

In Christianity the situation is different since there is no parallel concept to the “nation of Israel” fostering a kindred feeling amongst all Christians throughout the world. Thus without this binding factor a Christian living in France feels first and foremost attached to his French country and is committed to its wellbeing just as his fellow Christian in Argentina feels the same there.

In Islam, however, the situation is different from both Judaism and Christianity. There is the concept of the “ummah”, the nation of Islam, which unites all Muslims in the world as one family regardless of where they happen to dwell. Together with this there is the aggregate region where the Muslims at any one moment have complete sovereignty, itself a precondition for being allowed to freely and fully practice Islam, known as the Dar al-Islam or “abode of Islam”. Hence it is the combination of the two – the ummah creating the feeling of mutual obligation amongst all of the world’s Muslims and the Dar al-Islam, an entity which must constantly be expanded beyond its traditional Middle Eastern base – which precludes the idea of state nationalism from taking hold in the Islamic world in a way that is similar to either the Jewish or Christian world.

This being the case, it is foolish to believe that granting the Arabs another state will somehow make them sufficiently satisfied to the point of laying down their weapons and changing their ways since the whole concept of state nationalism, from a western perspective, is nonexistent in Islam. Similarly, it is wishful thinking to assume that they will ever accept the existence of a small Jewish “outpost” called the State of Israel, regardless of its size, in the heart of the Dar al-Islam.


Yoel Meltzer

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Syrian Military Splitting

by Ryan Mauro

At least 5,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey as the Assad regime is crushing Jisr al-Shughour after soldiers and police officers refused to fire on civilians. More and more stories are coming out of soldiers defecting and security personnel being executed for disobeying orders. These fissures in the military bring the threat to the Assad regime to a new height.

The U.S. is now defining the situation in Syria as a “humanitarian crisis” as the death toll approaches 1,500. The regime refuses to allow the International Committee for the Red Cross access, and Assad is ignoring phone calls from the U.N. Secretary-General. The Turkish government has turned on Assad, condemning the “atrocity,” and is preparing to host 10,000 refugees. The Turkish military is considering measures to “control and manage” the situation near Jisr al-Shughour, which is only 12 miles away from the border. Turkey may declare a buffer zone that could potentially extend into Syria.

President Bashar Assad has deployed the Republican Guards under the command of his brother, Baher, to Jisr al-Shughour. This is the regime’s most reliable force as it consists of recruits from the Allawite minority that Assad belongs to. The city became the focal point of the conflict recently after the regime claimed that “armed gangs” murdered 120 members of the security forces there. The opposition says that the truth is that they were executed by the regime for refusing to kill protesters.

The regime began a brutal offensive against Jisr al-Shughour, even using helicopters to attack its population. A “scorched earth” strategy is being employed. The city is blockaded, people are being shot in the streets, houses are being demolished, and crops are being burned up. Only about one-tenth of the 50,000 people who lived there remain. On Saturday, an army captain and 15 of his soldiers defected. An activist also reported that a lieutenant-colonel and 150 of his men about 10 kilometers west of the city have switched sides to unite with the residents of Jisr al-Shughour. About 60 soldiers that defected stayed in Jisr al-Shughour as the city was taken over this weekend. One resident who fled to Turkey said that four tanks switched sides and he saw fighting between military forces.

Videotaped testimonies of soldiers who have abandoned the army and fled to Turkey are streaming out of the country. One officer named Ali Hassan Satouf said, “They are killing my people, whether they are Christian, Allawite or Sunni. We are in the army to defend them against the Israeli enemy. It’s not the job of the army to kill our people, our families.” An officer from the 11th Battalion, Hussein Harmoush, said that the last straw for him was the “massacre” in Jisr al-Shughour.

“I announce my split from the Syrian army and I am joining the Syrian youth alongside a number of the free Arab Syrian army. Our current aim is the protection of the protesters who are asking for freedom and democracy,” Harmoush said on tape. He called on members of the security services to protect civilians and property from destruction.

“You did not join the army to protect the Assad clan. If you are an honorable officer, remain honorable, and if you are not honorable, stand by the Assad clan,” said First Lieutenant Abd Al-Razzaq Muhammad Tlas from the 5th Division.

There are even defections from the Republican Guard. Waleem Qashami told Amnesty International that he decided to quit after he saw three children, a young man, and a young woman killed in Harasta near Damascus in April. He and five others then abandoned the military. “We in the Republican Guard took an oath to protect the country, its citizens and leader, not to betray the country…We saw no armed gang. We didn’t even see anyone carrying a knife,” he said.

The questionable loyalty of the military is why the Assad regime is importing members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. Refugees in Turkey say that bearded soldiers that do not speak Arabic are involved in the attacks on Jisr al-Shughour. One farmer said that the combatants admitted they were Iranians. A soldier who escaped to Turkey confirmed that the Iranians and Hezbollah are helping the regime, and are executing those who don’t follow orders.

There have been reports of defections since the uprising began in Daraa. The chief of police of that city and some of his officers were fired by the regime, and video emerged of soldiers leading protesters. There were also clashes in Daraa between defected members of the 5th Division and Maher Assad’s 4th Division. Between 60 and 70 soldiers exchanged fire with Assad loyalists in Homs earlier this month, with one witness reporting a clash between two tanks after 200 soldiers and 14 officers defected in Arrasta.

In May, the regime claimed that 10 soldiers were murdered in Homs, but the opposition says they were killed for defecting. A group of soldiers fought for two hours in Homs to defend the residents from attack. “Stiff resistance” from civilians armed with automatic rifles and RPGs in Tabliseh and Rastan in Homs Province has also been reported. In another incident, three soldiers who defended refugees from the Shabbiha militia tried to flee to Lebanon. One died from a gunshot before making the escape. The two survivors were then arrested and handed over to the Assad regime.

The fractures in the military are a positive development, but there defections are still not of a large scale like in Libya. There is no central location that has been freed of government control like Benghazi. Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian democratic activist, says that this will not happen until the international community demands Assad’s resignation.

“Syrian army generals are the most paranoid in the world…until the West makes it clear that they view Bashar as illegitimate and they want him out, they will not make the leap themselves,” Abdulhamid told FrontPage.

He also said that the structure of the military prevents mid-level officers from rebelling. “[They must] try to refrain from engaging in too much bloodshed, or simply run. They are not in a position to arrange for a mutiny,” he said.

The regime’s violence is only causing more protests and more defections. The Assad regime may not face a major challenge from within its military yet, but the number of soldiers who have switched sides or want to quit is growing. Don’t count out the possibility of a civil war in Syria.


Ryan Mauro

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

What Happens When America Outsources Foreign Policy Leadership to the UN

by Adam Daifallah

The Western democracies are finally facing up to the reality of the mission in Libya: Containment is impossible and Moammar Gaddafi must go. But American leadership is still missing, and it is unclear if some NATO countries have the necessary willpower to take this excursion to its logical end. And, even if they do, there is still no clear plan for how to get there.

The original purpose of the Libyan mission – to protect civilians from the murderous tyrant's bombs – has failed. It was bound to. It had no clear endgame and, it appears, no contingency planning was done. The result has been a case study in confusion. Retired Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, who led the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, has called it a "dog's breakfast." This is what happens when America outsources foreign policy leadership to the U.N., as it did in this case: nothing bold gets done. The scope of the mandate to move forward is the result of a compromise to keep diverging interests happy.

However, all is not lost – and the newly assertive tone seen from some NATO members is encouraging. Yesterday, Canada joined Australia and Germany in announcing that it would formally recognize the National Transitional Council as the true government of Libya. The Obama administration remains on the relative sidelines. In Africa yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "urged" African states "to call for Gaddafi to step aside."

But making policy on the fly is never desirable. This is a desperate situation in need of desperate measures. Much more can, and should, be done. First, America ought to work harder to get all NATO members committed to the same end goal: removing Gaddafi from power and legitimizing the National Transitional Council, the rebel-led government controlling the eastern part of the country.

All NATO allies need to actively participate in the operation. At present, too many are playing too passive a role. Last week, NATO intensified its airstrikes on Tripoli, a result of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' frustration with the slow progress of the campaign. He also put the spotlight on five countries – Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, Germany and Poland – that he wished would help more. Gates called on the first three to commit to striking ground targets and not simply participate in the no-fly zone. He called for the latter two to commit military forces. (Most air strikes are being carried out by Canada, France, Britain, Denmark, Norway and Belgium.)

But military operations are not enough. The rebels need further encouragement, protection and support, which translate to military, financial and moral assistance. For example, all of Gaddafi's frozen assets (estimated at about $30 billion) should be freed and given to the National Transitional Council. This money is desperately needed for supplies and to pay the costs of running a government, for instance, paying police forces. The Senate Banking Committee will vote on Thursday to free up $4 billion in Gaddafi assets (with possibly another $4 billion later) but the money will only be used for humanitarian relief. It is not enough.

The situation is moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done. The focal point of the mission has to be Gaddafi's ouster. America needs to unequivocally state this and quit using weasel words. The Libyan dictator has made it clear on multiple occasions that he will never surrender and that martyrdom is his preferred fate. Whenever he is pushed, he pushes back harder. After last week's aerial bombardment, Gaddafi's troops unleashed a barrage of rockets and mortars against eastern rebels, killing ten and injuring 26. Another two dozen were killed Monday. These are the biggest attacks on Libyan rebels since April.

The American public, including Congress, is divided on the mission. So are the populations and governments of other NATO countries. But nations like Canada – which has also now pledged more money in humanitarian aid, on top of recognizing the new government – are showing what a difference political leadership can make. If the Obama administration were to do the same, we would be much closer to ridding the world of Gaddafi for good.


Adam Daifallah

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Britain Creating Parallel Islamic Financial System

by Soeren Kern

A British firm has launched a Sharia-compliant pension fund that will enable Muslims to save for retirement in compliance with Islamic principles.

The British government will begin offering Muslim workers Sharia-compliant pensions as of 2012. The launching of the funds, which are said to be structured around a strict code of ethics and based on the Muslim Koran and Islamic Sharia law (a religious code for living), reflects the gradual establishment of parallel Islamic financial and legal systems in British public life.

Pointon York, an independent financial services company based in Leicestershire in central England, announced on June 6 that it will begin offering four Sharia-compliant Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPP) products that do not bear interest nor invest in companies that trade in alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco or weapons, in conformity with Islamic law.

Pointon York is the first specialist SIPP provider to receive Sharia-compliant accreditation by the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), which has pioneered Islamic retail banking in the United Kingdom. The IBB will supervise the entire lifecycle of Pointon York's pension funds to ensure full compliance with Sharia legal principles.

In 2012, the British government will begin offering Muslim workers a Sharia-compliant pension fund in the public sector. A new government agency, the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST), will give Muslims who do not already have a company pension the option of investing in the HSBC Life Amanah Pension Fund, a Sharia-compliant pension scheme.

NEST initiated the procurement process for a Sharia-complaint global equity fund in January 2011, by means of a tender which generated proposals from funds across Europe. In April, NEST announced that it had appointed HSBC, a huge global banking and financial services company headquartered in London, to run the Islamic portfolio. The initial target market comprises some 200,000 Muslims in Britain.

Muslim families in Britain can already acquire Sharia-compliant baby bonds under the British government's Child Trust Fund scheme. In 2008, Britain's Financial Services Authority (FSA) authorized the establishment of the country's first Islamic insurance company as well as the country's first Sharia MasterCard, called the Cordoba Gold MasterCard.

The new financial products are seeking to fill the growing demand for Sharia-compliant financial products in Britain in the wake of Muslim mass immigration to the country.

The United Kingdom is home to an estimated 2.8 million Muslims, which is equivalent to about 4.6 percent of the overall population. In absolute terms, Britain has the third largest Muslim community in Europe, after Germany (4.1 million, 5.0 percent) and France (3.6 million, 5.7 percent.) According to a recent survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center, the Muslim population in Britain is forecasted to nearly double to 5.5 million within the next 20 years.

Little surprise, then, that Islamic banking is growing faster in Britain than it is in many Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia. According to the "Global Islamic Finance Report 2011," Britain has emerged as ground zero for Islamic banking in Europe; and London is now the main center for Islamic finance outside the Muslim world.

With $19 billion in reported Islamic banking assets, Britain's Islamic finance sector ranks number one in Europe, and number nine in the world. It dwarfs those sectors of some states where Islam is the main religion, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Egypt, according to a new report titled "The City UK Islamic Finance 2011."

More than 20 banks in Britain now offer Islamic finance products and there are five fully Islamic banks in the country. In addition, there are 55 colleges and professional institutions offering education in Islamic finance in Britain – more than anywhere else in the world.

The establishment of Britain as a global center for Islamic finance is being promoted by the British government, which has extended tax relief on Sharia-compliant mortgages to companies and has eased the trade in Islamic bonds known as Sukuk. There were five Sukuk listings at the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2010 and one in early 2011, bringing the aggregate total at the LSE to 31 listings worth nearly $20 billion.

The growth of Islamic finance comes as other aspects of Sharia law are becoming enshrined in the British legal system. At least 85 Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in the country, almost 20 times as many as previously believed. A recent study by the London-based Civitas think tank titled "Sharia Law or 'One Law for All'?" found that scores of unofficial tribunals and councils regularly apply Islamic law to resolve domestic, marital and business disputes, many operating in mosques. It warns of a "creeping" acceptance of Sharia principles in British law.

The study follows outcry over remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who has argued that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion in Britain. He also said: Sharia law in Britain is "unavoidable."

Somewhat belated efforts are now being made to push back against the spread of Sharia in Britain. Under a new bill introduced in the House of Lords, the lower chamber of the British Parliament, on June 7, Islamic courts would be forced to acknowledge the primacy of English law.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill would make it an offense punishable by five years in jail for anyone falsely claiming or implying that Sharia courts or councils have legal jurisdiction over family or criminal law. The bill, which would apply to all arbitration tribunals if passed, aims to tackle discrimination, which its supporters say is inherent in the courts, by banning the Sharia practice of giving woman's testimony only half the weight of men's.

The bill, proposed by Lady Caroline Cox-Johnson, and backed by women's rights groups and the National Secular Society, was drawn up because of "deep concerns" that Muslim women are suffering discrimination within closed Sharia law councils. Cox said she had found "considerable evidence" of women, some of whom are brought to Britain speaking little English and kept ignorant of their legal rights, suffering domestic violence or unequal access to divorce, due to discriminatory decisions made. "We cannot continue to condone this situation. Many women say: 'We came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here.'"

The bill challenging Sharia law will be viewed as a declaration of war by many Muslims who view the institutionalization of Islamic law as a key component of their political strategy of Islamifying the West. In the words of Imam Abdullah al-Hasan of the East London Mosque: "Islam is here to stay in Britain."


Soeren Kern

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confronting our Subversive Institutions

by Caroline B. Glick

Just as Israelis are denied their right to an open, objective public discourse due to the radical Left’s predominance in the media, so American Jews are denied their right to disown J Street due to the radical leftist American Jews’ takeover of key US Jewish umbrella groups.

Shimon Schiffer and Nahum Barnea are both senior political commentators for Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper. They are both also leftist extremists. In their articles in last Friday’s weekend edition of Yediot they demonstrated how their politics dictate their reporting – to the detriment of their readers and to Israeli democracy. They also demonstrated the disastrous consequences of the Left’s takeover of predominant institutions in democratic societies.


Caroline B. Glick

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Senators Challenge Obama on Foreign Policy on Israel

by Elad Benari

Several U.S. senators have decided to challenge President Barack Obama’s policy towards Israel by introducing a resolution that opposes any Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines.

The resolution was introduced last Thursday by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah and independent Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut.

“It is contrary to United States policy and our national security to have the borders of Israel return to the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967,” the resolution states.

It calls Israel “a liberal democratic ally of the United States” and notes that it has been “repeatedly attacked by authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that denied its right to exist.” It then acknowledges that the United States Government “remains steadfastly committed to the security of Israel, especially its ability to maintain secure, recognized, and defensible borders; Whereas the United States Government is resolutely bound to its policy of preserving and strengthening the capability of Israel to deter enemies and defend itself against any threat.”

The resolution then mentions the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 which recognized Israel’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” and acknowledges that “the United States has long recognized that a return to the 1967 lines would create a strategic military vulnerability for Israel and greatly impede its sovereign right to defend its borders.”

In his policy speech at the State Department on May 19, President Obama said, “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

Republican Party members were quick to criticize Obama for his statements, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (a friend of Israel who recently declared his candidacy for president in 2012) saying Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” and “disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”

After Obama’s speech, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave his own speech to Congress on May 24, in which he said that Judea and Samaria are part of the ancient Jewish homeland that our forefathers walked in and that the 650,000 Jews living there "are not ‘occupying’ the region.”

Netanyahu also stressed in his speech that Israel “will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.”

In a statement he released after he submitted the resolution, Senator Hatch said, “Boundaries that existed on June 4, 1967 placed Israel in a precarious military situation that threatened regional stability. This resolution reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to support and facilitate Israel in maintaining secure, recognized and defensible borders.”

In addition to Senator Lieberman, 29 other lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors, including Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Ben Nelson (Nebraska).


Elad Benari

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Abbas Has No Mandate

by Khaled Abu Toameh

It is time that someone in Washington started asking Abbas whether he has a clear mandate from his people to make historic decisions, including signing a peace agreement with Israel.

As the Palestinian Authority continues to threaten to ask the United Nations in September to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, someone needs to ask President Mahmoud Abbas whether he really has a mandate from his people to embark on such a step.

Today, there is no Palestinian leader who has a mandate to make any concessions to Israel in return for peace – especially when it comes to explosive issues such as the future of Jerusalem or the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.

The US Administration needs to ask Abbas whether he is also speaking on behalf of millions of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and around the world. It is not even clear these days if Abbas speaks on behalf of a majority in the PLO and Fatah.

Abbas's term in office expired in early 2009 and since then Palestinians haven't been given a chance to choose a new president through free and democratic elections.

Abbas has used Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip [in 2007] as an excuse for not holding parliamentary or presidential elections in the Palestinian territories. This sounds like a reasonable excuse in light of the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Hamas's refusal to allow Palestinians to go to the ballot boxes.

The Hamas-Fatah power struggle has also paralyzed parliamentary life in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian parliament, which is known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, has ceased to function since Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip.

In the absence of parliament and elections, the international community needs to ask Abbas about the decision-making process in the Palestinian territories and whether he represents a majority of Palestinians.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank believe that they have a monopoly over the decision-making process. Important and historic decisions, such as seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state, are being taken without an open debate in parliament and in the Fatah-controlled media.

Abbas consults only with a few PLO and Fatah officials, most of whom happen to be his loyalists.

PLO or Fatah representatives who dare to question his policies or decisions often find themselves ostracized or facing allegations of corruption and mismanagement. The case of former Fatah security commander Mohammed Dahlan is a good example.

Dahlan, a prominent member of the Fatah Central Committee, has been removed from the party for daring to criticize Abbas's performance in public. The Palestinian president has surrounded himself with officials who only agree with everything he says or does.

PLO and Fatah officials who have come out against Abbas's decision to go to the UN in September are being accused by Fatah-run newspapers and web sites of being part of an "outside conspiracy" to undermine the Palestinian Authority. Last week Abbas went a step further by blocking five news web sites under the pretext that they are run by Dahlan loyalists.

As far as the Palestinian Authority is concerned, it is a crime to be not only a collaborator with Israel, but also to support a top Fatah operative like Dahlan, who founded and headed one of the most powerful Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip after the signing of the Oslo Accords.


Khaled Abu Toameh

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Muslim Brotherhood: Anti-Americanism Linked to Anti-Semitism

by IPT

Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand in the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology, as demonstrated in a recent speech by the group's leader Mohamed Badie. To Badie, the current problems in the Middle East have historical roots in a Jewish conspiracy, coupled with Masonic and American/Western elements.

"Allah has warned us the tricks of the Jews, and their role in igniting the fire of wars," Badie said in a speech posted to the Brotherhood's Arabic-language website on June 2 and translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The Almighty said: 'Every time they light the fires of war, Allah extinguishes them; and they labor hard to spread corruption on earth: and Allah does not love the spreaders of corruption."

According to Badie, "such was their [the Jewish] plot by night and by day to divide the Muslims, old and new." Their intentions could be traced from Napoleon to the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and on to the strife in Arab nations like Sudan. "We will only gain their land by feeding the fire of animosity between them, to facilitate their destruction by our hands," Badie claimed that Herzl said at a 1903 Masonic Conference.

As a part of this conspiracy, Badie argues that the West is in collaboration with the Jews. "O Muslims: I do not think that the West wants well for Muslims good," Badie said. "I do not imagine the Americo-Zionist alliance wants our blessed revolution to reach its objectives, in the forefront of which are: that we enjoy freedom in our land, that we be independent in our decision and that we have sovereignty over our homelands."

The speech underlines assertions that the Brotherhood has not reformed its ideology, despite public pronouncements on their website and in English-language comments to the media. The organization recently generated controversy by condemning the killing of Osama bin Laden, and for its support for terrorism and a shaky commitment to democratic principles.


IPT -The Investigative Project on Terrorism

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British Official Accuses Iran of Aiding Syrian Crackdown

by IPT

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned Iran for its role in helping Syria quell the anti-government protests sweeping the country, according to the Daily Telegraph. More specifically, Hague has accused Iran of providing "equipment" and logistical support to Syria and demonstrating "hypocrisy in world affairs."

Hague's remarks are not the first British accusation leveled against Iranian-Syrian cooperation in suppressing recent protests. The top British diplomat in Iran was summoned to Tehran last Thursday to recant earlier British statements on the issue.

The most recent criticism is in response to the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 10 Syrian soldiers outside military police headquarters in the northern town of Jisr al-Shaghur, the Telegraph reports. This town made headlines earlier last week when Syrian forces launched a tank-led crackdown on protesters, causing thousands to flee to Turkey.

A Syrian military defector also told Al-Arabiya that he had been forced to fire on several soldiers last week in Jisr al-Shaghur for ignoring orders not to shoot unarmed civilians and using women and children as human shields. The government has claimed, however, that the soldiers and up to 120 others were killed by "armed gangs" in the area, and used this as a pretext for the violent operation against the town.

Despite the prolonged chaos and strong British, French, and American support for a United Nations resolution condemning the violence in Syria, efforts to initiate an international-military intervention have been thwarted by China and Russia who oppose UN condemnation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In light of this opposition, Hague asserted that there is "no prospect" of passing a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Syria. Drawing a comparison to the conflict in Libya, Hague also said the Arab League has made "no such call" for intervention in Syria similar to its support for action in Libya.

The ongoing protests in Syria to put an end to President Assad's 11-year reign have claimed the lives of at least 1,100 civilians so far.


IPT - The Investigative Project on Terrorism

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Iran Test-Fires Air Defense System Successfully


Top Iranian air defense commanders announced that the country has "successfully " test-fired a new home-made air defense system, called Mersad.

Commander of Khatam-ol-Anbia Air Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli said that Mersad air defense system and Shahin missiles - fired by Mersad systems - have been successfully test-fired and supplied to the country's air defense unit.

The ground-to-air Shahin missile is able to hit enemy jet fighters and helicopters at supersonic speed. The Mersad system is equipped with sophisticated radar signal processing technology, an advanced launcher, and electronic targeting and guidance systems.

Esmayeeli also said that Iran's radar network has been optimized and is currently in a "very suitable" condition.

In April, 2011, Iran successfully test-fired two mid-range Hawk missiles named 'Shahin' capable of tracing and targeting aggressive aircraft at low and medium altitudes.

The two Shahin missiles were launched from the home-made Mersad air defense system.

The Mersad air defense shield is a completely indigenized system developed by the Iranian experts and technicians to promote the country's combat power. The system was deployed in all Army air-defense units on Sunday to boost the country's air-defense power.

The Mersad system equipped with Shahin missiles is capable of tracing and targeting any enemy aircrafts at 70 to 150km altitude and is considered as a mid-altitude system among the country's missile defense shields.


IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Hezbollah Dominates New Lebanon Govt


Nearly five months after his appointment, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday announced the formation of a 30-member cabinet in which Hezbollah and its allies hold a majority.

Mikati, a billionaire Sunni businessman, announced his line-up following arduous negotiations over key portfolios including the justice and telecommunications ministries, now controlled by the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah alliance.

"This government is a government for all Lebanese, no matter what party they support, be it the majority or the opposition," 56-year-old Mikati told a news conference at the presidential palace.

But Lebanon's pro-Western opposition bloc, led by former premier Saad Hariri, has boycotted the new cabinet which it has slammed as a "Hezbollah government."

Mikati's cabinet -- which does not include any women -- has 19 ministers representing the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies.

The remaining 11 were chosen by Mikati, President Michel Sleiman and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

The government must now be approved by at least half of the members of Lebanon's 128-seat parliament, in which the Hezbollah-led alliance has a small majority.

In a sign of simmering discord between Mikati and the Hezbollah alliance, Druze MP Talal Arslan immediately resigned from his post as state minister in the new cabinet, accusing the premier of being a "liar" and of seeking to deprive the minority Druze of key cabinet posts.

One of the main challenges facing the new cabinet will be how to deal with a UN-backed investigation into the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Hezbollah forced the collapse of the previous government headed by Hariri's son after he refused to disavow the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The Netherlands-based court is widely expected to indict Hezbollah operatives in the killing, a move the militant group has repeatedly warned against.

Since his appointment in January with Hezbollah's blessing, Mikati has declined to spell out whether his government will cease all cooperation with the court.

In a clear sign that he does not expect a smooth road ahead, Mikati on Monday urged the Lebanese people to judge his government by its actions and not its individual members or the parties they represent.

"This government is fully aware that the future is not all rosy and that it will face obstacles, challenges and traps," he said.

A major point of contention in the negotiations over the new line-up was the interior ministry, which will now be headed by retired army general Marwan Charbel, considered close to the president.

The new foreign minister, Adnan Mansour, is a former ambassador to Iran which along with Syria is a major backer of Hezbollah.

The defense ministry is now in the hands of Hezbollah's Christian allies.

Mikati's appointment in January sparked the ire of Lebanon's Sunnis, who are largely loyal to Hariri and saw the move as a bid by Hezbollah to sideline their community.

But Mikati has endeavored to portray himself as an independent politician and not a Hezbollah puppet.

Under Lebanon's complex power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

The first head of state to congratulate Lebanon on the new government's formation was Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Damascus was forced to pull its troops out of its smaller neighbor after Hariri's assassination, ending 29 years of military and political domination.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, congratulated Mikati on the new government and said he hoped it uphold "its... commitment to Lebanon's international obligations" in a statement released by Williams' office.

The United States, a major donor to the Lebanese army which blacklists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, has warned that the formation of a government led by the militant group is likely to affect ties.


IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Turkey's Ironic Electoral System

by Daniel Pipes

To keep Kurds out of parliament, the military authors of the 1982 Turkish constitution instituted the unheard-of threshold of 10 percent, meaning that a political party that won less than that proportion of the total vote did not gain any seats. This rule has had a huge impact on Turkish political life, especially in 2002, when it transformed the AK Party's third of the votes into two thirds of the seats. It has also caused the ruling AKP party, despite its increasing popular vote, to control a steadily smaller number of the 550 seats. Note in particular the bolded numbers:

Year Votes % votes % change Seats % seats change
2002 10,800,000 34% +34% 363 66% +363
2007 16,300,000 46% +12% 341 62% -22
2011 21,400,000 50% + 4% 326 59% -15


(1) In 2002 the AKP was just shy of the 367 seats needed for a 2/3s majority that would let it unilaterally change the constitution; and in 2011, it is just short of the 330 seats needed to pass a new constitution on its own in parliament, after which it would be submitted to voters in a referendum (as happened in September 2010). Still, this small shortfall is not likely to stop the AKP from writing its own constitution. Then, watch out.

(2) Ironically, the Kurds found a way around the 10-percent threshold, by running as independents and then forming a voting bloc on arrival in parliament. Their number, by the way, rose from 20 in 2007 to 36 today.

(3) Also ironically, as the AKP strengthens on the ground – receiving twice the number of votes yesterday than it did in 2002 – it weakens in parliament. Put differently, the 10-percent ruling that doubled AKP power in 2002 has since then worked against it. Voters have wised up and are not throwing their votes away as once they did. As Jürgen Gottschlich of Der Spiegel notes, this AKP victory "almost seems like a defeat." (June 13, 2011)

The Turkish Grand National Assembly.


Daniel Pipes

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Gates' Choice: His Damage to the All-Volunteer Force

by Frank Gaffney, Jr.

[Robert Gates] has spent the past month warning about where the U.S. security posture is headed if President Obama has his way on further budget cuts, if forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan prematurely and if many of the NATO allies continue to shirk their responsibilities towards the common defense. "Headed south" would be a charitable characterization of his assessment of that direction.

Mr. Gates could not be more right, of course. It is deeply regrettable that all those in the executive branch, the Congress and the press who have, over the years, professed such admiration for him now seem so indifferent to his alarms. That is especially true of the Washington hands who so heartily welcomed the retention of the Bush administration's secretary of defense on the grounds that he was a "centrist," "non-partisan" and technocrat-turned-statesman. Bob Gates, we were assured, would serve as a brake on an untested new president with a record of problematic leftist proclivities. His own words now suggest that the brake was insufficient to the task.

Indeed, like the legendary Dutch boy - whose digits were insufficient for the leaks sprouting in the dike upon which his homeland's survival depended, Bob Gates is clearly frustrated by the lack to date of positive responses to his appeals for corrective action. His anger in a NATO ministerial and subsequent public remarks was palpable, a stark contrast to the stoical, if not flaccid, demeanor that has been his trademark.

Under present circumstances, however, there is not much the lame duck in the Pentagon E-Ring can do. Except that is in one area, one that just happens to bear directly on the future readiness of the U.S. military to fight the nation's wars. It may even prove decisive to the viability of the All Volunteer Force. That viability may, in turn, determine our ability to avoid in the years ahead, as we have for the past four decades, a return to conscription to meet our requirements for warriors in those conflicts.

The issue has arisen thanks to a shameful abuse of power perpetrated in the lame duck session late last year. President Obama rammed through a Congress repudiated at the polls legislation repealing the law that had since 1993 prohibited avowed homosexuals from serving in the armed services. Robert Gates and the also-soon-to-depart Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, played decisive roles in allaying concerns about and otherwise justifying this step. The repeal was conditioned, however, on the defense secretary, the JCS chairman and the president all certifying to Congress that the military was prepared for this change.

An honest certification to that effect would not be possible at this time in light of much evidence that the military is not ready for the adverse effects that would flow from such a repeal. Of principal concern is the intractable nature of many of the problems with accommodating not just homosexuals but the radical Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) agenda in an institution like the U.S. military in which mutual trust, unit cohesion and the effects of protracted forced intimacy may determine esprit de corps and combat readiness.

Irony of ironies, a considerable amount of such evidence was buried in a lengthy report prepared by the Pentagon's own Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) in order to justify the President's fulfillment of his promise to his LGBT political base. Predictably, hardly anybody on or off Capitol Hill actually read this massive tome. Most relied instead on the Obama administration's cherry-picked findings that were leaked pre-publication to friendly journalists in an acknowledged effort to obscure the myriad other conclusions that contradicted the party line.

One person who did read the whole Pentagon opus, though, was the inimitable Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness. Her organization's comprehensive analysis of the CRWG report shows that there will be serious and adverse repercussions for the readiness and good order and discipline of the U.S. military if the ban on service by open homosexuals is repealed. Hard questions developed by Ms. Donnelly and like-minded members of the House Armed Services Committee have yet to receive satisfactory answers.

The need for such answers and for Secretary Gates to decline to give his certification during his last few days in office have been made all the more compelling by the problems now becoming palpable: direction (subsequently countermanded) to Navy chaplains to perform gay marriages; LGBT militants using secretly recorded audiotapes to harass, and perhaps bring legal action against, military personnel given the unenviable task of providing sensitivity training to the troops to prepare for open homosexuals in the ranks; and service members' open appeals to Mr. Gates and the Congress not to take that step.

If Robert Gates is as serious as he seems to be regarding the future of the U.S. military, he has one last opportunity to prove it: By allowing his successor to make the decision about whether or not to certify that avowed gays can be imposed on the military without breaking it, a decision that will hopefully be approached only after a fresh, independent and rigorous appraisal of the true costs and real risks such a social experiment entail for America's armed forces.


Frank Gaffney, Jr. is President of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for the Washington Times.

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Lebanon's Islamist Stronghold

by Hilal Khashan

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has apparently retained the hope of a military return to Lebanon from where he summarily withdrew in 2005 following the Rafiq Hariri assassination. In a 2008 interview with a Lebanese newspaper, he accused the northern city of Tripoli of becoming a base for Islamists who posed a direct threat to Syria's security.[1] More recently, Rifat Eid, head of Tripoli's Alawite Arab Democratic Party, described the city as the "Lebanese Kandahar."[2]

The destruction of the Islamist group, Fatah al-Islam, by the Lebanese army in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp in May to September 2007 delivered a crippling blow to the radical Salafi movement in the Tripoli area.

These charges could not be further from the truth. Far from posing a threat to its immediate neighborhood, let alone to Syrian security, Tripoli's hopelessly fragmented Salafi movement is primarily non-combative, its more militant groups having long been defeated and pacified. Its devout and conservative nature notwithstanding, this movement is very much a cathartic reaction to the city's prolonged political marginalization and economic deprivation. To exaggerate the threat of Tripoli's Salafis is tantamount to fattening the sheep before the slaughter.

Historical Background

From its founding by the Phoenician seafarers in the eighth century BCE to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Tripoli maintained its status as one of the foremost cities in the eastern Mediterranean. During the Arab-Islamic era, its port was second only to Alexandria's, serving at different periods as the economic lifeline of Aleppo, Damascus, and Baghdad.

This privileged status came to an abrupt end in the wake of World War I when Tripoli's inclusion in Lebanon—against the will of its Muslim population, which would rather have been included in Syria—instantly marginalized the city. In its place, Beirut rose to prominence as the capital of the new political entity and the major site of its economy. Likewise, for some Maronite nationalists, Tripoli's inclusion in Lebanon threatened the slight Christian majority reported by the 1932 population census. The leader of the National Bloc, Emile Edde, for example, demanded the incorporation of Tripoli and its environs into Syria in order to preserve Maronite political predominance.[3]

For their part, the French, who created modern Lebanon as an essentially Christian state, had little interest in maintaining the leading political, social, and commercial standing of predominantly Sunni Tripoli, and the city's economic suppression during the French mandate (1920-43) became a tacit policy of the Lebanese state after independence. Still, Tripoli managed to reemerge as a provincial hub, unencumbered by the stress of the country's Beirut-based divisive confessional politics, serving the economic, educational, medical, and commercial needs of northern Lebanon and northwestern Syria. This, however, was not due to government policy but rather to private investments by northern Lebanese and the influx of Syrian capital after the introduction of nationalization measures in that country.

From Religious and Cultural Tolerance to Jihadism

Tripoli is often referred to as the seat of Lebanon's multifaceted Salafi trend, whose genesis coincides with the withdrawal of the last French mandate troops from the country in 1946. Home to the first Salafi reformer Rashid Rida (1865-1935), this profoundly conservative and devout city remained a rare oasis of religious and cultural diversity until the mid-1970s. This was a place where, despite infrequent social, interfaith interaction, Christian missionary schools proliferated and central roads and boulevards bore decidedly Christian names such as Nuns Street, Churches Street, Archbishop Street, and Saint Elias Street.[4] In Tripoli, Islamic religiosity tolerated the existence of Lebanon's only gambling club (known as Cheval Blanc Casino) long before the opening of Casino du Liban in 1959. Taverns and cabarets stood alongside mosques and religious institutes without a hitch.

The advent of religious organizations on a considerable scale during the 1950s and 1960s did not radicalize Tripoli or reduce its toleration of religious and cultural diversity. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood launched its activities in the city in 1956 under the name of Ibadurrahman (Servants of God). In 1964, Fathi Yakan transformed the group into al-Jama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group), which operated as a non-dissident and charitable movement. However, the repercussions of the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel altered the city's collective psyche and swayed it toward Islamism. This coincided with the militarization of the Lebanese Maronites, who were heartened by Israel's stunning victory as they sought to stem the growing tide of armed Palestinian groups. Lebanon was now on the fast track to civil war.

Civil War and Religious Mobilization

Tripoli had its share of the civil war, which raged in Lebanon from 1975 to 1989. Initial setbacks at the hands of the Syrian-supported Maronite Mirada militia of then-president Suleiman Franjiyye and the inability of Tripoli's small pan-Arab and leftist parties successfully to confront them on the battlefield, encouraged the rise of jihadist movements. Sheikh Salim ash-Shahhal, who in 1947 had founded the country's first Salafi movement al-Jama'a Muslimun (literally meaning "the group is Muslim"), transformed it into a modest military force in 1976 under the name of Nuwwat al-Jaysh al-Islami (Nucleus of the Islamic Army). Other small groups such as al-Muqawama ash-Shaabiya (Popular Resistance), Harakat Lubnan al-Arabi (Movement for Arab Lebanon) and Jundullah (Warriors of God) splintered from al-Jama'a al-Islamiya and joined Tripoli's burgeoning Harakat at-Tawhid al-Islami (Islamic Unity Movement) under the leadership of Sheikh Said Shaaban, who eventually transformed the city into an Islamic emirate between 1983 and 1985.[5] Outward manifestations of modernity disappeared with the imposition of a total ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages as well as the shuttering of movie theaters, European-style roadside cafes, and tennis and golf courts.

Shaaban took advantage of the rising pan-Islamist sentiment among Tripoli's religious and conservative population. He received a major boost from the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran, with which he identified, and from whose financial largesse he benefitted. He also relied heavily on the financial and military support of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, which maintained a strong military presence in Tripoli, especially in nearby Nahr al-Barid and al-Baddawi Palestinian refugee camps. During Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Yakan created two guerrilla movements to combat the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF): al-Mujahideen (The Jihadists) in Tripoli and al-Fajr (Dawn) in Sidon.

The Israeli eviction of the Palestine Liberation Organization from southern Lebanon and Beirut in 1982 and the Syrian expulsion of Fatah guerrillas from Tripoli in 1983 were followed in 1985 by a withering assault by Syrian allies against at-Tawhid forces, which ended in destroying the movement's military machine. The anti-at-Tawhid coalition included the Baath Party, the Communist Party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and the Alawite Arab Democratic Party. Syrian intelligence operatives and Lebanese Alawites raided at-Tawhid's stronghold in Bab at-Tibbane and massacred some six hundred Sunnis.[6] This singular incident caused an enduring schism between Tripoli and the Syrian regime and served as an impetus for the subsequent emergence of extremely radical jihadist groups, especially Usbat an-Nur (Partisans of the Divine Light) of Sheikh Hisham ash-Sharidi, assassinated by Fatah operatives in 1991.[7] The more lethal Islamist Abdulkarim as-Saadi took over the group and reintroduced it as Usbat al-Ansar (The Partisans League).

Saudi vs. Hezbollah Radicalizing

Embittered by the 1985 events, Tripoli's Salafi movement gathered momentum with the end of the civil war, which prompted many northern Lebanese clerics to return from Saudi Arabia where they had been schooled in radical Wahhabi-type religious training. In 1995, these Islamists killed Nizar Halabi, head of the pro-Syrian and Sufi-inspired Jam'iyat al-Mashari al-Khayriya al-Islamiya (Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, known as the Ahbash), triggering a harsh government response. Many Islamists fled to the Dinniye Mountain east of Tripoli and regrouped into a 300-man strong radical movement.[8] Their excommunicatory ideology toward moderate Muslims and rejection of non-Muslims in line with the religious edicts of Ibn Taymiyah, the famously radical medieval scholar, outraged the government and invited its wrath. In January 2000, the Lebanese army routed the group, killed its leader Bassam al-Kanj and apprehended dozens of combatants. Others sought refuge in Ein al-Hilwa Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.[9]

The Lebanese authorities pardoned jailed Salafis shortly after the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. In fact, Saad Hariri, who succeeded his slain father as leader of the Future Trend movement, opened up to radical Sunni movements with the prodding of Riyadh, which wanted to ensure that Sunnis were capable of standing up to the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah.[10] Salafi movements sprang up in Tripoli's poor neighborhoods such as Bab at-Tibbane, as-Suwayqa, Abi Samra, and at-Tal. The sight of heavily bearded, armed young men and turbaned Salafis striding in alleys made the once bustling city austere and unwelcoming.[11]

The Hariri assassination amounted to a coup that blunted the Saudis' thrust into Lebanon and reaffirmed the preeminence of the Syrian-Hezbollah entente. Riyadh's response came in the form of arming Tripoli's Salafis so as to allow them to stand up to Hezbollah. As noted by the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, "the regional underpinnings of Tripoli's surging jihadist Salafists are directly linked to the conflict between Damascus and Riyadh over controlling Lebanon." Indeed, while being bankrolled by Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, "every single activity by any Salafi movement is doomed to failure if it doesn't receive Saudi support."[12] Saudi aid is presently funneled through the ministry of religious endowments and a number of private associations whose activities are closely monitored by the government.[13] Philanthropic associations promoting jihad, such as al-Haramain, have been discontinued after the 9/11 attacks.

The ease with which Hezbollah managed to defeat Hariri's al-Mustaqbal militia in Beirut in 2008 convinced the Saudi leadership that they could not rely on northern Lebanese Salafis, who formed the backbone of the prime minister's militia, to serve as a countervailing military force to Hezbollah.[14] They have thus curtailed most of their military assistance and contented themselves with promoting as-Salafiya al-Ilmiya, or official Salafi, that eschews involvement in politics. So did the other Gulf Cooperation Council states, which support Tripoli's as-Salafiya al-Irja'iya,[15] the Salafi preaching group that separates belief and action and limits itself to the former.

The destruction of Fatah al-Islam by the Lebanese army in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp in May to September 2007 delivered a crippling blow to as-Salafiya al-Jihadiya (Jihadist Salafi), whose remnants had gone underground into sleeper cells. Having made its debut in the refugee camp in 2006, Fatah al-Islam doubled its initial strength of 150 fighters within less than a year as the army intelligence's persecution of young, northern Lebanese Sunnis, who asked for weapons to counter the Shiite power surge, drove them into the arms of the newly-established militant group. The growth, however, of this millennial movement was preventable. Fatah al-Islam's rise attests to the clumsiness of Lebanese army intelligence and the heavy army and civilian toll during the Nahr al-Barid fighting.

Lebanese Salafis lay the blame on Hezbollah for refusing to involve them in confronting the IDF and its South Lebanon Army surrogate, accusing Hezbollah of pretentiously labeling itself "al-Muqawama al-Islamiya" (Islamic Resistance).[16] In response to the denial of their access to the anti-Israel military campaign, the Salafis directed their energies against the national government.

In support of Hezbollah during the 2006 summer war against Israel, Yakan, the leader of the Tripoli-based Islamic Group, established the Islamic Action Front that included five pro-Syrian Sunni Islamic groups: the two factions of Tripoli's at-Tawhid movement of Hashem Minqara and Bilal Shaaban, al-Fajr forces of Abdullah at-Tiryaqi, Abdel Nasser Jabri's Islamic group in Beirut, and Zuhair Jaid in the Shuf Mountains. The front disintegrated shortly after Yakan's death when cofounder Hashem Minqara deemed it no longer viable because some of its leaders were simply using it for political and financial gain.[17]

When the fighting raged in Tripoli in May 2008 between Sunnis and Alawites, the founder of the Salafi movement, Dai al-Islam ash-Shahhal, exhorted "all committed Lebanese Muslim young men to prepare psychologically and logistically to embark upon a new period [of armed resistance]." He made it clear that he was not looking for volunteers from abroad but "direly needed financial assistance."[18] Later, as the final showdown loomed large in connection with the Hariri assassination indictments, Shahhal warned Hezbollah against "inciting Sunni fratricide in order to render the sect politically irrelevant."[19] Yet for all his exertions, he failed to persuade the Saudis to resume their financial support for rebuilding the Salafis' military machine.

Poverty-Stricken Salafis

Tripoli has no place on the Lebanese economic, developmental, and tourist map as its name "has become synonymous with poverty, misery, and deprivation."[20] With free medical services virtually nonexistent, and minimum monthly wages often as low as $170, compared to the average Lebanese wage of $335; with a youth unemployment rate of 45 percent and a truancy rate that exceeds 20 percent, it is not difficult to understand why Tripoli is such an ideal breeding ground for Salafis. Whereas 28 percent of the Lebanese population is below the poverty line, in Tripoli, it is 57 percent.[21] Annual per capita expenditure in Lebanon averages $2,700, but in Tripoli it is $1,700—compared to $4,300 in Beirut. With 9,700 persons per square kilometer, it is overcrowded.[22]

Tripoli's economic decline dates back to the 1970s when the city suffered a number of severe blows: Iraq's construction of the Basra offshore oil terminal and the Kirkuk pipeline terminal in Turkey's Ceyhan rendered Tripoli's terminal useless. The city's decaying oil refinery, which previously provided about 40 percent of Lebanon's annual refined oil needs, was permanently shut down in 1993. Its full rehabilitation at an estimated cost of $300 million can save the country up to $ 1.2 billion from the importation of refined oil derivatives.[23] Nevertheless, there is a long-standing Lebanese policy against government investment in the city. In addition, Beirut receives 83 percent of Lebanon's total banking credit compared to Tripoli's 2 percent.[24]

Since 1975, Tripoli has lost 80 percent of its economy. Forty percent was lost in 1989 alone as a result of the Assad government's decision to allow the Syrian private sector to import from the international market. While the civil war cut off Tripoli from its traditional northern Lebanese, Christian market, the Syrians severed all economic and social ties between the city and the cities of Homs, Hama, and Tartus. The scarcity of employment opportunities has negatively shaped the worldview of many of Tripoli's young men and motivated them to seek salvation in religious extremism.

Glimmer of Hope

Representatives from six moderate, northern Lebanese Salafi movements disapproved of Fatah al-Islam's militancy that culminated in the May 2007 all-out confrontation with the Lebanese army. The joint statement they issued underlined that Shari'a (Islamic law) stresses, among other things, the preservation of the pillars of dignified human living that include religion, family honor, personal safety, and pecuniary assets. The unequivocal statement called for an immediate end to the fighting, eviction of the radicals from the Nahr al-Barid refugee camp, and promotion of allegiance to state authority.[25] Combating jihadists remind many Tripoli residents, including benign Salafis, of the three dark years of terror when at-Tawhid reigned supreme in the city. Their religiosity notwithstanding, most Tripoli residents are averse to the imposition of Shari'a rule in the city.[26]

People in Tripoli's depressed areas have little faith in the government and exhibit unmistakable disenchantment with the willingness of the Lebanese political system to redeem them.[27] The city may be a bastion of the Salafi movement, but its roots are essentially non-belligerent. Militancy is not entrenched as in some Shiite neighborhoods in Lebanon or in Islamist societies like Yemen or Somalia. Deconstructing the phenomenon of Tripoli's Islamic radicalism is clearly a function of integrating it economically and culturally in the Lebanese political system. It is quite remarkable that the city has not turned far worse after more than ninety years of deliberate marginalization.

[1] Al-Bayraq (Beirut), Sept. 30, 2008.
[2] Asharq al-Awsat (London), Oct. 7, 2010.
[3] Meir Zamir, Lebanon's Quest: The Road to Statehood 1926-1939 (London: I. B. Tauris, 1997), p. 107.
[4] Ash-Shiraa (Beirut), Nov. 7, 2010.
[5] Asharq al-Awsat, May 25, 2007.
[6] Al-Mustaqbal (Beirut), Dec. 5, 2007.
[7] Asharq al-Awsat, May 25, 2007.
[8] Now Lebanon (Beirut), accessed Feb. 7, 2011.
[9] Al-Markazia (Beirut), accessed Dec. 2, 2010.
[10] Al-Akhbar (Beirut), June 8, 2010.
[11] Author interview with Rashid Jamali, former head of the Tripoli municipality, Tripoli, Dec. 18, 2010.
[12] Al-Akhbar, Sept. 5, Oct. 21, 2010.
[13] King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, Riyadh, accessed Feb. 5, 2011.
[14] Al-Akhbar, Oct. 21, 2010.
[15] Hana Ulayan, "At-Tayyarat al-Wahabiyya fish Shamal: bayna an-Nahj ad-Dini wal Maghnatis as-Sisyasi," Harakat at-Tawhid al-Islami-Majlis al-Qiyada website, Dec. 16, 2010.
[16] In March 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon, established a narrow security zone, and created the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA). It dismantled the SLA and unilaterally withdrew from the security zone in May 2000.
[17] Al-Akhbar, Dec. 1, 2009.
[18] Asharq al-Awsat, May 13, 2008.
[19] As-Safir (Beirut), Jan. 2, 2010.
[20] Talal Khuja, "Tarablus bayna al-Qal'a al-Mughlaqa wa-l-Madina al-Maftuha," Middle East Transparent website, Oct. 27, 2010.
[21] Ash-Shiraa, Nov. 1, 2010.
[22] Author interview with Jamali.
[23] Al-Liwaa (Beirut), Jan. 10, 2011.
[24] Makram Sader, "Tatawur al-Qita al-Masrifi 1990-2010," Association of Banks in Lebanon, Beirut, Dec. 2010.
[25] Now Lebanon, May 22, 2007.
[26] Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati's website, accessed Feb. 7, 2011.
[27] Author interview with Jamali.


Hilal Khashan is a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut and the author of many books and articles on Arab politics including Arabs at the Crossroads: Political Identity and Nationalism (University Press of Florida, 2000).

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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