Friday, April 19, 2013
by Evelyn Gordon
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is threatening to end relief operations for Syrian refugees, who currently number 1.3 million and counting, if it doesn’t receive the necessary funds soon. The agency says it has received only a third of the $1 billion it needs through June, and only $400 million of the $1.5 billion donors pledged earlier this year. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned explicitly that absent more funds, UNHCR will have to stop distributing food to refugees in Lebanon next month. And Jordan, which has the largest population of Syrian refugees, is threatening to close its borders to new entrants unless more aid is forthcoming urgently.
Meanwhile, another UN agency enjoys comfortable funding of about $1 billion a year to help a very different group of refugees–refugees who generally live in permanent homes rather than flimsy tents in makeshift camps; who have never faced the trauma of flight and dislocation, having lived all their lives in the place where they were born; who often have jobs that provide an income on top of their refugee benefits; and who enjoy regular access to schooling, healthcare and all the other benefits of non-refugee life. In short, these “refugees” are infinitely better off than their Syrian brethren–yet their generous funding continues undisturbed even as Syrian refugees are facing the imminent loss of such basics as food and fresh water. I am talking, of course, about UNRWA.
It has long been clear that UNRWA–which deals solely with Palestinian refugees, while UNHCR bears responsibility for all other refugees on the planet–is a major obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Since, unlike UNHCR, it grants refugee status to the original refugees’ descendants in perpetuity, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from under 700,000 in 1949 to over five million today, even as the world’s non-Palestinian refugee population has shrunk from over 100 million to under 30 million. Moreover, while UNHCR’s primary goal is to resettle refugees, UNRWA hasn’t resettled a single refugee in its history: By its definition, refugees remain refugees even after acquiring citizenship in another country. It has thereby perpetuated and exacerbated the Palestinian refugee problem to the point where it has become the single greatest obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement: Israel cannot absorb five million Palestinian refugees (though it could easily absorb the fewer than 50,000 original refugees who still remain alive), yet under UNRWA’s rules, refugee status can’t be ended except by resettlement in Israel.
But an even more basic reason for abolishing UNRWA is the harm it does to the world’s most vulnerable people–real refugees like the Syrians. Were the Palestinians handled by UNHCR like all other refugees are, UNHCR would have the budgetary flexibility to temporarily divert aid from the Palestinians, who need it far less, to people who need it more, like the Syrians today. Instead, it is forced to watch helplessly as Syrian refugees go roofless and hungry while $1 billion in aid is squandered on Palestinians with homes, jobs, and all the comforts of settled life.
Thus, anyone who claims to have a shred of genuine humanitarian concern ought to be agitating for UNRWA’s abolition and the Palestinians’ transfer to UNHCR’s auspices. Unfortunately for the Syrians, it seems that many of the world’s self-proclaimed humanitarians prefer harming Israel to helping those who need it most.
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by Ari Lieberman
On April 16, Palestinians in Gaza cheered. They danced in the streets and handed out candy and sweets to motorists and pedestrians alike. They were not however celebrating the inauguration of a new school or the completion of a hospital. Instead, they were celebrating death. On April 16, Palestinians of Gaza celebrated the Boston marathon atrocity. While our first responders were picking up severed limbs and tending to the wounded, Palestinians reveled in Boston’s misery.
The Palestinian reaction to the horrific events in Boston was unsurprising and was in fact quite predictable. After the 9-11 attacks that killed 3,000 people, the Palestinian response was quite similar. Old women were seen shrieking in jubilation while children passed out sweets and men cheered approvingly.
These are Israel’s so-called “peace partners.” These are the people who are demanding that Israel relinquish all the land liberated during the Six-Day War of 1967. And these are the people who want to establish a twenty-third dysfunctional Arab state called “Palestine” alongside Israel’s most vulnerable and populated areas.
April 17, 2013 marks the seventh anniversary of the Rosh Ha’ir suicide bombing in Tel-Aviv that claimed the lives of 11 civilians including Florida resident, 16-year-old Daniel Wultz. Then as now, civilians were targeted and murdered simply because they believed in freedom. Then as now, those who prepared the bombs made sure to pack them with an assortment of shrapnel to inflict maximum bloodletting. And then as now, Palestinian Arabs cheered as they witnessed mothers looking for their missing children and men unable to get up off the floor because of severed limbs. Their perverted culture – a culture that revels in death and destruction – encourages this type of aberrant reaction to the sufferings of others.
The Boston massacre and Rosh Ha’ir Arab homicide attack underscore the fact that the U.S. and Israel are inexorably bound by shared moral values and principles and it is precisely these principles – those which extol freedom and democracy – that infuriate our enemies. The Arab world, deeply suspicious, distrustful, misogynistic and xenophobic, is mired in medieval backwardness. Their hatred of the West, judging by their deviant reaction to the killing of innocents in Boston, New York and Tel-Aviv, is palpable.
It is time for those in the West who sanctimoniously clamor for the creation of a Palestinian state, to take a closer look at the people they are advocating for. People who cheer when civilians are butchered deserve their own [insane] asylum, not statehood.
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by Lilach Shoval
According to indictment, cell also planned a terror attack against Israeli security personnel at Temple Mount • Cell leader Nur Hamdan, 25, confesses to planning attack, says inspired by YouTube videos depicting previous attacks against Jews in Jerusalem.
According to the indictment, members of the terror cell planned to carry out a terror attack against Israeli security personnel at Temple Mount.
Indictments were filed on Wednesday against members of a recently apprehended terror cell, residents of east Jerusalem, who allegedly conspired to kidnap and murder an Israeli in order to steal his weapon.
The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Jerusalem police arrested the cell in March. According to the Shin Bet, during one of their outings, three cell members had picked up a Jewish hitchhiker, but upon learning that he was not carrying a weapon, decided to let him go. The Shin Bet says that the cell had also planned to carry out a terrorist attack at Temple Mount, including firing weapons at Israeli security personnel stationed there.
The indictment, filed with the Jerusalem District Court, charges the cell members with a host of crimes, including conspiring to commit a kidnapping, conspiring to commit murder, conspiring to assist an enemy in wartime, assisting an enemy during wartime, contact with an enemy agent, carrying illegal weapons, attempted purchase of illegal weapons, attempted robbery, attempted murder, illegal military training and obstruction of justice.
According to the Shin Bet, the leader of the cell, Nur Hamdan, 25, confessed that he had planned to carry out an attack on Temple Mount "to protect Al-Aqsa mosque." He reportedly said that he had been inspired by YouTube videos detailing terror attacks in Jerusalem, especially the 2008 attack at Mercaz Harav yeshiva (in which eight students were killed).
Hamdan allegedly approached Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in Gaza and in Nablus seeking assistance in preparing a shooting attack against Israeli targets on Temple Mount. He eventually recruited four friends from east Jerusalem to assist in the attack, the Shin Bet said.
The members of the cell allegedly trained several times near Kalandiya in northern Jerusalem, and even planned to travel to Nablus to meet with a Tanzim activist and ask him for weapons and money. In addition, the cell had allegedly planned to steal weapons from Israeli police officers, and had even built several makeshift pipe bombs for that end.
The weapons already in the cell's possession were discovered at the east Jerusalem home of additional suspect Firas Djani. The police discovered two handguns, ammunition and a pipe bomb.
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by Eli Leon, news agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Tehran moves to speed up nuclear program despite sanctions, further fueling Western concerns over its nuclear advances • "A decade of diplomatic efforts has failed," Western diplomat says.
Iranian news reports the country's nuclear progress.
|Photo credit: Press TV screen grab
Eli Leon, news agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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by Daniel Greenfield
The day before the Marathon Massacre, the New York Times had scored plaudits for running an op-ed by one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards complaining about his hard life in Guantanamo Bay.
On April 14th, the paper of broken record paid 150 dollars to an Al Qaeda member for the opportunity to complain about being force fed during his hunger strike. On April 15th the bombs went off.
The attacks of September 11 introduced a dividing line. There was the world of September 10 and the world of September 11. There was no such clear dividing line when September 11 faded from memory and we returned to a September 10 world. Nor is there an exact date for when we will return to an April 14 world in which it is okay to pay a terrorist in exchange for his propaganda. But if the media has its way, that day can’t come soon enough.
A day after the bombings, media outlets wrote that a decade without terror had come to an end. But the terror had never stopped or paused. The FBI and local law enforcement had gone on breaking up terror plots to the skepticism and ridicule of the media which accused them of violating Muslim civil rights and manufacturing threats.
Some of those plots seemed laughable. A man setting up a car bomb near a Broadway theater where crowds waiting to see The Lion King musical, kids in tow, were lining up. Underwear bombers. Shoe bombers. It became fashionable to laugh at the silly crazies trying to kill people in ridiculous ways. Almost as silly as trying to hijack planes while armed only with box cutters and then ramming those planes into buildings.
Liberal urbanites stopped breathing sighs of relief every time a terror plot was broken up and turned on law enforcement. They were suspicions that these were just setups. Representatives of Muslim groups complained that law enforcement was taking confused kids and tricking them into terrorist plots that they never could have carried out on their own.
But there was only one way to find out.
Last year the Associated Press won a Pulitzer for its attack on the NYPD’s mosque surveillance program. But that was the April 14 mindset. Now after April 15, the police are once again heroes and any editorials from imprisoned terrorists complaining about the lack of new Harry Potter novels at Gitmo have temporarily been placed on hold. But the police know better than anyone that it will not take very long for them to go from the heroes to the villains.
The long spring in which Americans didn’t have to turn on the news and see bloody body parts everywhere was made possible by the dedicated work of the very people the media spent a decade undermining. The media was undermining them on April 14, but two days later it was acknowledging that the temporary peace brought about by the work of the very people they despised had made their temporary ignorance of terror possible.
We don’t know who perpetrated the Marathon Massacre, but many of the Muslim terrorist plots broken up by the authorities would have been as deadly. And there will be others like them in the future.
Three days later in the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman used Israel as an inspirational example of getting back to business as usual while leaving no reminders that an act of terror took place. Friedman wasn’t the only one to use Israel as an example, but it’s a very bad example. Israel’s peace process locked it into a cycle of terrorism. The threat of violence is constant and no one dwells on it.
A decade after the Hamas bombing that Friedman mentioned, Obama was able to pressure Israel into cutting a deal with Turkey that will help Hamas. That is the sort of terrible mistake that gets made when you don’t dwell on terror, but pick up the pieces and move on as quickly as you can.
Refusing to dwell on terror doesn’t defeat the terrorists. It locks you into an April 14 mentality where you strive to put April 15 out of your mind as fast as possible. To move past September 11 and all the other dates like it, you must learn how to stop them from happening again; rather than forgetting that they ever happened.
What Friedman really wants is to return to April 14 as soon as possible. And he’s not alone. Few people really want to live with terror. Even the liberal desire for a more conventional “white dude” bomber is perfectly understandable because that bomber, even if he is another Bill Ayers, is part of a more conventional and controllable world.
A homegrown monster, an Eric Rudolph, Bill Ayers, Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski, would be understandable. Even Charles Manson makes more sense to liberals than Mohammed Atta, Nidal Hasan, Najibullah Zazi, Faisal Shahzad or the legion of less familiar names who plotted to carry out their own terrorist atrocities.
They cannot be talked about in terms of class, race, gender or any of the other familiar lenses that the optometrists of the left put in the glasses with which they insist we see the world. They are at war with us.
And war changes everything. War ushers in a September 11 world. An April 15 world.
April 14 is a world where terrorism really isn’t that serious, but a terrorist hunger strike is. It’s a world where terrorists are goofy men with bombs in their underwear or their shoes, where global warming is the biggest threat to the human race and we all need to think more about our white privilege.
It’s the world that the New York Times understands.
The media narrative is built on preserving that world. September 11 dealt a blow to that world, but the wound has scabbed over and the old comfortable liberal verities have come back. Now the media has its fingers crossed hoping that another “white dude” will be led out and that he will have a motive dealing with abortion or race that fits comfortably into their worldview of good lefties and evil righties. What they fear is another Islamic terrorist, another promising twenty-something from Pakistan or the Middle East, with a middle class background and a graduate degree, reciting Koranic verses.
They don’t understand him, but they fear him. Not for his ability to kill them, but for his ability to destroy the world that they have built up. A world where left is right and right is wrong and diversity solves everything and the only thing we have to fear is being frightened of people who are different than us.
They fear that the long utopian dream that they fell into after the memories of September 11 faded has come to an end with another blast and another shout of Allah Akbar.
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Asharq al-Awsat Interviews Osama Al-Nujaifi
Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Osama Al-Nujaifi, the speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives and a leading figure in Al-Iraqiya coalition led by Iyad Allawi, was once among the most optimistic of Iraqi leaders and officials about the direction of the country’s politics.
Asharq Al-Awsat found him to be more pessimistic in its recent interview with him in his Baghdad office. In a wide-ranging interview, he admitted that he feared the return to widespread violence, but struck a defiant tone on his endorsement of the demands of the protesters that have filled the squares of Sunni towns and cities in Iraq, insisting that they were merely attempting to uphold their constitutional rights, and that he has a duty to help them.
The following interview has been edited for length:
Asharq Al-Awsat: It was said that you sided with your list, Al-Iraqiya and with a certain group, namely the Sunni Arabs, when you addressed the demonstrators in Mosul and adopted their demands. What is your comment?
Osama Al-Nujaifi : I believe in national unity and in defending the oppressed whoever they are. I did not side with anyone but I now see that the injustice has centered on certain governorates and a certain group, the Sunni Arabs, as a result of policies, convictions, and actions—and not just words—by government and political parties.
Because of all this, I had to intervene and defend these people. If any injustice befalls anyone in Iraq, whether they are Shi’ites, Sunnis, Kurds, or Turkoman, I will defend them from the premise that I am first an Iraqi and that as the speaker of the Council of Representatives, I should speak on behalf of the Iraqi people, and am responsible for the application of the constitution. I have taken up the banner of defending Iraqis. The injustice centered on the western and northern governorates and I saw it as my duty to stand with the Iraqis there, work to restore their rights in full, restore the balance to the country, and have a single benchmark for dealing with Iraqis on the basis of citizenship.
If some parties want to discriminate between Iraqis and deal with them on the basis of their religion, doctrine or nationality, then they are wrong. We must respond to this injustice and reckless behavior and take a personal stand on behalf of those I represent, with those people who are victims of injustice.
Q: Do you believe that Sunni Arabs are marginalized or oppressed at present?
I said this more than two years ago, and the fact is that this is not just my conviction as a politician who knows this issue inside and out but also that of the man in the street. This marginalization, injustice, and targeting of the Sunni Arabs have become a phenomenon. Even Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the known Shi’ite leaders, mentioned this several times, as did the Shi’ite religious leadership in Najaf which has raised this issue and has spoken about it many times.
Even Shi’ite leaders who do not say this publicly say it to us in secret. They are not happy with what is happening in the country. There is one reason for this targeting of the Sunni Arabs, and it is the weakness of the one behind it, who has lost popular support and wants to incite sectarianism to win the people’s votes and scare them that there is a threat to the regime, and an attempt to return to the former regime and things like that.
We are saying that these actions are tantamount to a systematic policy pursued by some parties in government to humiliate the people and treat them as inferiors, and have been employed against certain provinces for a long period of time.
I therefore believe that hiding these facts is not right and a breach of official responsibility … As I have said, I stood with these people to defend them against the injustice befalling them and against those who have oppressed them.
Q: Do you view the demands of the demonstrators in the western and northern governorates as legitimate?
Their demands are clear and do not need explanation. They can be summed up as achieving justice, creating a balance in the state, repealing some legislation that has been used badly against their community, making government more transparent, and reforming the judiciary. All these are clear and unambiguous matters. They demand the rights enshrined in the constitution, but which have been upheld in a selective way. Some laws are all right but are implemented in a selective way, such as the Accountability and Justice Law that was applied in some governorates while others were exempted from it. There are even people in breach of this law who have been given posts and are today quite prominent, while some parts of the constitution are being ignored.
Q: But there are some demands in these demonstrations calling for bringing down the government and repealing the constitution. Do you consider this legitimate?
Some voices appeared among the demonstrators demanding the repeal of the constitution and the regime’s downfall. These are totally rejected by us and the demonstrators. Some slogans that were alien to the spirit of the demonstrators’ demands were voiced in Al-’Izzah and Al-Karamah Square in Ramadi, and these were expelled forcibly by the demonstrators from the square. Muqtada Al-Sadr praised the latter’s actions.
Q: How do you explain the raising of the flag of the former regime by some demonstrators?
That was a misguided action by a very small number of people and provides justification for some accusations. Raising the flag does not actually change anything and this represents only the person raising it. In one demonstration, some raised Al-Qaeda’s flag, and the demonstrators totally rejected it.
We are saying that there should be compliance with the constitution and the overwhelming majority of those leading and directing the demonstrators are demanding their legal constitutional rights. But when there are half a million demonstrators and then one person raises a flag here and another one there, then this represents this single person and not the demonstration or demonstrators [as a whole].
Q: Are you supporting these demonstrations for electoral reasons?
No, never. I have said before, I defend the people’s rights before and after the elections and have been doing it for a long time. The demonstrations coincided with the election date and started after the residence of Dr. Rafie Al-Isawi [a leading Al-Iraqiya member and former finance minister] was targeted.
The one who planned the persecution of Isawi was the one who ignited the latent anger at the injustice imposed on the people. These demonstrations began, spread everywhere in Iraq, and have made the demonstrators’ demand very clear. There is absolutely no connection with the elections and no one is electioneering in these demonstrations. Those stepping up to the platforms are clerics, tribal sheikhs and nationalist figures and youths, and there is not an elections poster or slogan on display.
Q: Most of you in the Al-Iraqiya List are Sunni Arab leaders, but Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi was sentenced to death on terrorism charges and is now outside Iraq. Salih Al-Mutlak was marginalized because of a statement in which he described Prime Minister Maliki as “a dictator.” Al-Isawi’s residence was raided and he was accused of protecting terrorism. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition demanded withdrawal of confidence from you as speaker of the Council of Representatives. All these names are of Sunni Arabs. What kind of national participation is being talked about?
This is the persecution that we are talking about—the sectarian way the law is applied and the obvious targeting of the symbols of the Sunni Arab community. The aim is to break the will of the Sunnis in Iraq. The one who has followed this road has made a mistake because the demonstrations are the best evidence that this was a mistake because he has circumvented the people’s feelings, weakened the country and government, disrupted the political process, and dealt selectively in a disrespectful way with ministers and leaders. When [Al-Iraqiya] ministers did not attend the cabinet meetings, he [Maliki] gave them compulsory vacations, banned them from entering their ministries, and withdrew their protection teams.
Q: Does the prime minister believe you pose a danger to him?
The danger comes from the attempt by him [Maliki] to impose a sectarian system on the country. More dangerous than this is the imposition of narrow partisan and personal agendas. The majority of the Shi’ites in Iraq are not happy with these actions and are resisting them with the means available to them. The religious leadership in Al-Najaf and Al-Sadr and the Higher Islamic Council chairman, Ammar Al-Hakim, reject these agendas.
But these actions are tantamount to a partisan and personal stand that hides behind the [Shi’ite] community and doctrine, and its aim is to consolidate the regime and liquidate its political adversaries and partners, renege on agreements, and ignore the demands for balance and justice in applying the law.
Q: You demanded the withdrawal of Iraqiya ministers in one of your speeches at the Mosul demonstrations. Why did you not discuss this issue while part of the coalition?
We discussed it as Iraqiya leaders and agreed that there must be resignation from the government. Implementation was postponed until the proper time … Dr. Rafie Al-Isawi asked the Iraqiya leadership to approve his resignation, but we proposed that he postpone this step until the resignation was collective. But there was a special circumstance in Anbar’s demonstrations, and he announced his resignation. It was the same with Agriculture Minister Dr. Izaddin Al-Dawlah, who announced his resignation after the demonstrators in Mosul were targeted with live fire, killing one of them and wounding others. Dr. Abdelkarim Al-Samarra’i tendered his resignation to the demonstrators in Samarra.
Some ministers and Iraqiya leaders returned to the cabinet and rebelled against the decision. We expect the remaining ministers to comply with Iraqiya’s decision. We are convinced that it is futile to remain in this government, and that there is a collective responsibility for what the government is doing to the Iraqi people. Any minister who remains in the cabinet carries a share of the responsibility for this misguided policy that has started to threaten the Iraqi people’s unity and cohesiveness.
Q: The government is saying that it has fulfilled a large part of the demonstrators’ demands, but the demonstrators have remained in the squares for almost four months….
It is a big lie when the Iraqi government says it has fulfilled the demonstrators’ demands. The committees it formed did not offer or achieve anything important. The demonstrators know this and are continuing their sit-ins until their legitimate demands are met. They are in their fourth month now, and I say they will not retreat even if years pass because they have broken the fear barrier and rebelled. They will not accept humiliation any more, nor the torture, the sectarian killing or oppression. Never. They are struggling for the rights of all Iraqis and not those of a particular community or sect. There must be an awakening and the return of conscience to the Iraqi political parties to force the prime minister to change his policy or replace him with another one from the National Alliance.
Q: Do you not think that your decision to withdraw from the government was late?
There was a conviction after the Erbil agreement that there should be a commitment to implementing it, that there would be coordination and cooperation, and that there would be the enactment of some important laws.
But the Erbil agreements were not implemented, and the problems started from the first day of forming the government. Since that day, we have been in a dispute with the prime minister, and have been trying to use legal and constitutional ways to change this situation. But we have not seen any response and believe that Maliki pursued deliberately this policy of total control of the security portfolio and does not accept power sharing. He did not accept partnership. He did not accept the national balance. He did not accept the internal bylaws of the premiership and left the state to proceed in a loose and haphazard way.
After securing his own position and after and the American forces’ withdrawal, he clearly targeted his adversaries and is now continuing to do so. Actually, there are not any of the partners who do not have a problem with Maliki. The Kurds are angry, and the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga are facing each other in the disputed areas. The Iraqiya coalition withdrew from the government and the Al-Sadr movement did the same. Two thirds of the ministers are outside the government today. Are all the parties and partners wrong and Maliki right? The truth is that [Maliki’s] individual policies serve the interest of one person and a small group from the Al-Da’wa Party and are against the interests and aspirations of the Iraqi people, Shi’ites, Sunnis, and Kurds alike. This is obvious to us and to the ordinary citizen.
Q: If that is the situation, and there are all these disagreements and problems, then how do you explain the prime minister’s position remaining strong and his government surviving?
There are, of course, several circumstances that have enabled him to control the country, such as his interference in the judiciary, the extensive hegemony over and taming of the judicial authority, and his harassment of the Council of Representatives and not allowing it to function properly, in cooperation with the judicial authority that started to reject everything the council legislated.
He prevented the deputies from carrying out their duty and banned the Human Rights Commission’s members from visiting jails. He closed the roads to prevent parliamentarians visiting certain areas. He has even started to say that deputies do not have immunity outside the parliament and that the immunity is inside it only, and a member of parliament can be arrested if he comes out to the media center to make a statement. He sent us an official memorandum about this.
Q: Is this conceivable?
Yes. We received an official letter from one of Maliki’s peerless advisers saying Council of Representatives members do not have immunity outside parliament. We of course answered this. But there is interference by the prime minister in the independent bodies’ work.
Q: What has been the response of parliament?
We have been arguing with him from day one, preventing him from carrying out these actions and summoning him to parliament to question him about the security situation, but he refuses to come. He has come to parliament only once in two years to answer the deputies’ questions.
The other, more important, issue is his total control of the security portfolio, the security services, and the defense, interior and national security ministries and the intelligence service. He is the prosecutor and the judge. He arrests whomever he wants, pardons whomever he wants, accuses whomever he wants, and releases whomever he wants while the judiciary is silent or collaborating with him.
It reached the point where he issued a warrant for the arrest of Rafie Al-Isawi and the warrant was circulated to the checkpoints. When the deputies cross the checkpoints, they are asked about his whereabouts. When we established the “United” coalition in which Isawi is a leading member, the army started to tear up the posters for the local elections because Isawi was on them.
Regrettably, the army and security forces commanders have joined the politics game and are getting orders directly from Maliki to target his political adversaries. More than that, the army and police are the ones putting up the elections posters for the prime minister’s list in the streets and tearing up the posters of the other lists. This is happening while the state’s institutions remain incomplete, legislation is not debated or passed, and there are no bylaws for the cabinet that specifies the nature and limits of its authority.
Q: Do you believe there is international support for the prime minister?
Certainly. The Americans and Iranians support Maliki. During his recent visit to Baghdad I met the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and he said, “We see the democratic experience in Iraq collapsing.”
I answered him: “You are the reason. You prevented his questioning in parliament last year and this year. You and the Iranians are backing Maliki in everything.”
I told him that this was interference in the affairs of Iraq, and was preventing Iraq from taking the route of democracy. He asked me about the solution for this situation and we presented proposals to him, among them the government’s resignation and the formation of a provisional one or holding early elections on the condition that they were beyond Maliki’s control, because he cannot be trusted in this matter. Maliki decided to postpone the Anbar and Ninawa elections illegally and in a sectarian way and did not consult the Council of Representatives. I say he does not wish the elections to be held in these two provinces so as to incite chaos and encourage the extremists in these areas so he can then tell the Iraqi people that the political process is futile.
What do we tell the people if the elections need to be held and they are prevented from voting? This pushes the people into taking other options far removed from the constitutional ones and this is a dangerous road that disrupts the political process and threatens Iraq’s stability.
Q: Did you not discuss this, the decision to postpone the elections in Ninawa and Anbar, in the Council of Representatives?
No. It was not referred to us. We are ready to discuss it, but what is the use of doing so? Maliki will not accept parliament’s opinion and will not implement it in the same way he did not with past decisions by the council, decisions that had the power of law. We enacted laws and he did not implement them. Some of them were revoked by the Federal Court and others were shelved. These are not the action of a constitutional state where there is a separation of powers.
Q: Members of parliament anywhere in the world are called “legislators,” but Iraq’s Federal Court has said that legislation is not one of the Council of Representatives’s tasks. What is your comment?
This is an attempt to tame parliament. Legislation, supervision, and upholding the constitution are the basic tasks of the council. It is obvious that ten of its members or one of its committees propose the laws, the draft laws come from the government or the presidency but go through the legislative process and are changed according to the deputies’ proposal or decision. Even if a draft law came from the government, it could still be changed completely. The majority votes and the laws are ratified.
But to prevent the council from carrying out its legislative tasks by a fatwa from the Federal Court means breaking the people’s power and will and taming and weakening parliament and is an attempt to tighten control over the security, political, and legislative power of the state, and impose this hegemony on the Iraqi people.
Q: What are your thought on solutions to address the current situation?
Iraq is really facing a real threat under the current policy. We fear the supremacy of violence. Demonstrators were killed in Fallujah, and not a single attacker was brought before the courts even though parliamentary committees investigated the incident and proved that the army opened fire on unarmed and peaceful demonstrators for no reason at all.
This constant friction between the army and security forces on one side and the demonstrators on the other could detonate clashes at any time. We are warning of this and saying the demonstrators’ demands must be met and those involved in shedding Iraqi blood should be brought before the judiciary, not only those who killed the demonstrators in broad daylight, but also those who tortured the detainees and yet remained in their posts and were defended.
Q: How do you view Al-Iraqiya’s coalition today? Is it strong?
It started strong and went through periods of weakness, and we can say now that it is strong. There are arguments between two groups [inside the coalition]. The first calls for making peace with Maliki at the expense of the people’s interests and says it is useless to confront him and we must remain silent until his remaining stay in power ends. The other trend, which is the majority, stresses the withdrawal from the government, standing with the demonstrators and the people’s rights, and coordinating with the other forces that are unhappy with the government’s performance. This difference in the arguments might cause a split in the List if some brothers insist on implementing their approach. Yet the majority is cohesive.
Q: Tariq Al-Hashemi, a leading member in your coalition and the vice president, reproached Iraqiya for not supporting him when he was accused and considers what happened to Isawi another example of what happened to him.
On the issue of being persecuted, this is true. Several Iraqiya leaders are on the government’s list of targets. The assassinations are in full swing. Five Iraqiya candidates in the provincial council elections were recently assassinated. But we certainly are not lax in defending brother Tariq Al-Hashemi. The list stood with and defended him from the first day. We are certain that he was subjected to an injustice and the falsification of facts. His case is one of political persecution and it reached the point of torturing his guards and the death of some of them because of the torture. Some of them were sentenced to death like he was in absentia. We could not stop this but opposed it and continue to oppose it.
We are demanding a review of the case and a re-investigation because there are parties in the government that want to punish Hashemi for his national stand and also Dr. Isawi for the same reason. Other Iraqiya leaders might face the same charge. Dr. Iyad Allawi or Osama Al-Nujaifi might be the target. The police force protecting the house of Dr. Iyad, Iraqiya’s leader and former prime minister, was withdrawn yesterday. I say that we respect Hashemi and his national history and his reproach is acceptable. For us, he remains one of Iraqiya’s leaders and are proud of him as a patriotic figure.
An Interview with Osama Al-Nujaifi
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by Raymond Ibrahim
While it is easy to confuse the recent jihadi attack on Egypt's St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo as just more of the usual, this attack has great symbolic significance, and in many ways bodes great evil for Egypt's millions of Christians.
Consider some facts: St. Mark Cathedral—named after the author of the Gospel of the same name who brought Christianity to Egypt some 600 years before Amr bin al-As brought Islam by the sword—is not simply "just another" Coptic church to be attacked and/or set aflame by a Muslim mob (see my forthcoming book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians, for a comprehensive idea of past and present Muslim attacks on Coptic churches). Instead, it is considered the most sacred building for millions of Christians around the world—above and beyond the many millions of Copts in and out of Egypt. As the only apostolic see in the entire continent of Africa, its significance and evangelizing mission extends to the whole continent, including nations such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, to name just a few. As an apostolic see—the actual seat of an apostle of Christ—the cathedral further possesses historical significance for Christianity in general.
In short, Muslim mobs—aided and abetted by the state of Egypt under Muslim Brotherhood tutelage—did not merely attack yet one more Coptic church, but rather committed an act of war against all Christianity. Such an open attack on a Christian center which holds symbolic and historic significance for all Christians—St. Mark, whose relics are in the cathedral and who authored one of the four Gospels of the Bible, belongs to all Christians not just Copts—was an open attack on a universally acknowledged Christian shrine. It was precisely these sorts of attacks on Eastern and Orthodox churches—including the destruction of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem in 1009—that presaged the way for the crusades (back when Christianity was not utterly fragmented and disunited as it is today).
Put differently, this jihadi attack on St. Mark Cathedral is no different for Copts than a jihadi attack on the Vatican would be for Catholics. Or, to maintain the analogy, but from the other side, it would be no different than a "crusader" attack on the Grand Mosque of Mecca for Muslims.
While one can only imagine how the world's Muslims would react to a "Christian/Western" assault on their most sacred of shrines, "post-Christian" Western leaders, as usual, stand idly by (not unlike Egyptian state security, which stood idly by as the Muslim mob opened fire on the cathedral).
As for Egypt's Copts, they certainly did rally to the defense of Egypt's, if not the entire continent of Africa's, most important cathedral—hence the draconian response from Egypt's interior ministry (one eyewitness said security intentionally fired 40-50 gas bombs into the compound, knocking out many Christians, including several women and children). Just as Egyptian forces were wroth with Copts when they demonstrated against the ongoing attacks on their churches in Maspero in 2011—slaughtering over 20 Christians, including by intentionally running them over with armored-vehicles—it appears that Egyptian forces were quite irked with "dhimmi" Copts boldly defending their holiest site.
On the other hand, that Copts rallied to the defense of their cathedral—or, as Reuters characterized them, "an angry young fringe … of Christianity may also be turning to violence—has further validated the Western mainstream media narrative that Egypt's Christian minority is somehow equally violent and responsible for the so-called "sectarian strife"—euphemism for Muslim persecution of Christians—plaguing Egypt.
The symbolical significance of this latest Muslim attack on Christianity was confirmed by several activists. For example, Coptic Solidarity President Adel Guindy said, "Attacking the seat of the Coptic Pope is unprecedented in the last two centuries. It was a deliberate and humiliating act demonstrating the growing Salafist-espoused culture of hate and aggressive behavior towards all non-Muslims. It amounts to a State crime."
Even the Coptic Pope, who must always be diplomatic lest his comments exacerbate matters for his flock, did not equivocate the severity of this assault on Coptic Christianity's most sacred spot—not to mention his primary residence. Among other things, Pope Tawadros said that President Muhammad Morsi had "promised to do everything to protect the cathedral but in reality we don't see this…. We need action not only words… There is no action on the ground." The Pope further confirmed that "This flagrant assault on a national symbol, the Egyptian church, has never been subjected to this in 2,000 years."
The Pope's comment "we need action not only words" was in response to President Morsi's declaration that "I consider any attack on the cathedral an attack against myself"—a declaration he made even as Egyptian state security were firing tear gas canisters into the cathedral compound and standing by watching as Muslims also opened fire on the cathedral and hurled stones and Molotov cocktails, all of which was captured by photos. (Even so, and as usual, the only people to be arrested in connection with this latest assault on Egypt's most important cathedral were Copts themselves.)
Instead of words—which, from Islamists, are absolutely worthless—what Morsi needs to address is the fact that the most unprecedented and symbolically lethal attack on a Christian place of worship in post "Arab Spring" Egypt took place right under his and the Muslim Brotherhood's authority (under Hosni Mubarak, "not so much as a pebble"—as one activist put it—was thrown at the St. Mark Cathedral, a national landmark).
This of course is consistent with the fact that, unlike all former Egyptian presidents, who were all Muslim, Islamist President Morsi is the first president to refuse to enter a church—whether during the ceremonious installation of the nation's new pope or whether during Coptic Christmas ceremonies. Could this be because the pious Morsi believes that a Christian church is like "a nightclub, [or] a gambling casino" as a prominent Egyptian fatwa council declared? Could it be that he, like other popular Muslim leaders, simply hates and is disgusted by Christians?
At any rate, here is the Muslim world's latest, most flagrant, assault on Christianity, even as Western leadership yawns—that is, when it's not actively enabling such anti-Christian animus through its wholesale support for the "Arab Spring."
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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by Jonathan S. Tobin
Over the course of the last year, President Obama has escalated his rhetoric against Iran. His repudiation of a policy of containment of a nuclear Iran and his repeated promise never to allow the Islamist regime to gain such a weapon has left him little room to maneuver. Tehran continues to stonewall the diplomatic process initiated by the United States and its partners in the P5+1 process. Just as ominously, the ayatollahs have doubled down on their efforts to strengthen their nuclear program. The number of centrifuges spinning away to enrich uranium to bomb-level grade in their underground mountain bunker facility has increased while international inspectors continue to be kept away from sites where military applications of nuclear technology can be found.
But with the clock ticking down toward the moment when the Iranians will have enough fuel to make bombs, much of the foreign policy establishment in the United States is still trying to influence the president to back away from his pledge. The Iran Project has assembled a formidable array of former diplomats and political figures to urge Obama to not just stop talking about force but also to move away from the economic sanctions he has belatedly implemented to pressure Tehran. The group, which has strong ties to the administration, has issued a new report, “Strategic Options for Iran: Balancing Pressure with Diplomacy,” that is aimed at providing a rationale for Obama to embark on yet another attempt at engagement with Iran that would effectively assure the ayatollahs that they have nothing to fear from the West.
The timing of the release of this report couldn’t be any worse. It comes only weeks after the president reaffirmed his commitment to stopping Iran during his visit to Israel and in the direct aftermath of the latest diplomatic fiasco in which the P5+1 group’s attempt to entice Tehran to give up its nukes with concessions flopped. But given the influence that signatories such as Thomas Pickering, Daniel Kurtzer, Lee Hamilton, and Richard Lugar have with the Obama foreign policy team—especially former Iran Project board member and current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel—it’s an open question as to whether this document will provide a template for a new round of appeasement of Iran.
While the report is couched in language that agrees with the objective of preventing Iran from going nuclear, its recommendations are primarily aimed at convincing Americans to embrace Tehran’s goals rather than the other way around. Reading it one quickly realizes that the author’s main fear is not so much the likelihood that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons as it is the possibility that the United States may be obligated to use force to prevent that from happening.
While the use of force, which a previous Iran Project paper signed by Hagel sought to prevent, would entail grave risks, it is increasingly clear that the alternative is not a diplomatic solution by which Iran renounces its nuclear ambition but the containment policy that Obama has specifically rejected.
But rather than endorse a strengthening of the sanctions regime which has at least inflicted some pain on the Iranian economy and given the ayatollahs at least a theoretical incentive to negotiate, the Iran Project seeks to abandon this track. Their focus is solely on negotiations.
The rationale for this puzzling strategy is an assumption that sanctions only alienate and isolate the Iranians and will never persuade them to give up positions they believe are essential to their national interests. They are probably right when they argue that the combination of diplomacy and sanctions will never convince Iran to surrender its nukes. But they fail to explain how or why Tehran would do so without the stick of sanctions or force hanging over their heads.
The report’s main interest is really not about the nuclear threat but in promoting some sort of a rapprochement between Iran and the United States. They acknowledge the wide gap between the two governments in terms of their positions on terrorism, Middle East peace and human rights. But they think it is possible for there to be mutually satisfying relations if only the Americans put to rest any fears in Tehran that the United States is interested in regime change in Iran.
It should be admitted that the chances that any putative American efforts to topple the tyrannical Islamist regime short of invasion (which not even those who advocate bombing their nuclear facilities advocate) would not meet with success given the ruthless nature of the Iranian government. But what these foreign policy “realists” are advocating is a U.S. endorsement of one of the most repressive and anti-Semitic governments in the world. This would be another betrayal of American values as well as of a suffering Iranian people, who waited in vain for the Obama administration to speak out against the 2009 crackdown against dissent.
While there are issues on which Iran and the United States might find common ground, such as the drug trade and Afghanistan, the nature of the Iranian regime is such that it is incapable of regarding America as anything but its enemy. So long as the Islamists are in charge hope of reconciliation or a restoration of the warm ties that existed prior to the 1979 revolution are absurd.
While the Obama administration was slow to enact sanctions and is still giving time to a diplomatic process that has only given the Iranians the opportunity to stall the West, it is nevertheless committed to doing the right thing on this issue. But we know the Iran Project’s siren call of appeasement resonates with many working inside Obama’s inner circle. The message between the lines in this report is one that will pave the way for a containment policy that would reward Iran for its flouting of the diplomatic process. If there is even the slightest hope left that diplomacy and sanctions will work, it is vital that the president reject this report and signal to the Iranians that they will wait in vain for the U.S. to start another bout of appeasement.
Jonathan S. Tobin
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by Barry Rubin
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been largely replaced by the Sunni Muslim-Shia Muslim conflict as the Middle East’s featured battle. While the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain largely, though not always, one of words, the Sunni-Shia battle involves multiple fronts and serious bloodshed.
Shia Muslims are a majority in Iran and Bahrain; the largest single group in Lebanon; and significant minorities in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While the ruling Alawite minority in Syria is not Shia—as almost all Sunni Muslims (but not Westerners) know, it has identified with that bloc.
The main conflict in this confrontation is in Syria, where a Sunni rebellion is likely to triumph and produce a strongly anti-Shia regime. A great deal of blood has been shed in Iraq, though there the Shia majority has triumphed.
The tension is already spreading to Lebanon, ruled largely by Shia Hizballah. In Bahrain, where a small Sunni minority rules a restive Shia majority, the government has just outlawed Hizballah as a terrorist, subversive group, even while European states have refused to do so.
By Islamizing politics to a greater degree, the victories of the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood group have deepened the Sunni-Shia battle. And, of course, on the other side, Iran, as leader of the Shia bloc, has been doing so, too, though its ambition was to be the leader of all Middle East Muslims.
Yet also, especially when it comes to Iran, the Sunni Muslim bloc is also very much an Arab one as well. Many Sunnis, especially the more militantly Islamist ones, look at Shias—and especially at Iranian Persians—as inferior people as well as heretical in terms of Islam. I don’t want to overstate that point but it is a very real factor.
This picture is clarified by a recent report by the Cordoba Foundation, a research center based in the UK and close to the Muslim Brotherhood. The name, after the Spanish city where Islamic religion and culture flourished before the Christian reconquest in the fifteenth century, may seem chosen to denote multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence. But, of course, it was picked to suggest the Islamic empire at its peak and the continued claim to every country it once ruled, including Spain.
The report is entitled Arab and Muslim National Security: Debating the Iranian Dimension and summarizes discussions among “a group of prominent and influential Islamic figures,” though no names of participants are included. The focus was to define and warn about the Shia and Iranian threat to the Sunnis and Arabs.
In the report, Iran is identified as the aggressor against the Sunni Muslim (Arab) world, pushing “its political influence through religious sectarianism.” Implicitly the discussion rejects the idea that either “the Palestinian issue” or unity as Muslims overrides the Iranian national security threat.
One concern is that of demography. ”Such demographic pockets [that is, non-Sunni Muslims and non-Arabs--BR] in some Arab countries pose a threat to society regardless of how small they are.”
Remarkably, the paper states that Iraq’s population changes “have distanced it from the Arab order.” In other words, because there are more Shia Muslims and non-Arab Kurds in Iraq, it is out of phase with other Arab states and might look toward either Tehran or Washington.
Another demographic concern is Iran’s alleged effort to convert non-Muslim Alevis in Turkey (they say they are Muslim but they aren’t really); Syrian Alawites (same story), and Yemeni Shia Muslims (of a different sect) to Iran-style Shia Islam (Twelver Shiism).
Iran has also succeeded, the paper continues, “in securing strategic victories, such as its gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia. Actually, though these are pretty limited gains in each case.
Syria, where the pro-Iran regime is likely to be replaced by a Sunni, Muslim Brotherhood one, is a setback for Iran. And by overthrowing Syria’s regime, the sponsor of Hizballah, that will cut Iran’s sponsorship of Lebanese Shia (Hizballah), “almost thirty years of hard work totally wasted.” That’s overstated but contains some basic truth.
The paper also states, accurately, “Although Islamic movements in the Arab world may seem on the surface to be homogenous and inspired by the same intellectual sources, there is lack of coordination and total chaos.” As an example it cites the Sunni Islamist movement in Iraq which faces: “Serious challenges from expanding Turkish economic interests, Iranian cultural and sectarian influence, and Kurdish expansionism.” It then asks whether the Iranian and local Shia or the Iraqi Kurds are the bigger threat.
Usually, the paper explains, the main threats are identified as the United States and Israel. Israel “still lives in the Arab consciousness as the biggest threat to Arab Islamic culture.”
Two points here. On the one hand, a group of leading Sunni Islamists is saying that Israel is not the biggest security threat to Arabs and Muslims today! On the other hand, Israel is identified as a cultural threat. Why? Because it is a socio-economic success story and thus subverts the narrative of Arab ethnic, cultural, and religious superiority or because it is a symbol of modernism?
But here’s the key conclusion:
“Prior to the Syrian revolution, there was no consensus on what constitutes the greatest threat to our national security, but it has since become evident that the Iranian threat is much bigger than American and Israeli threats.”
This is an intellectual-political earthquake in Middle East history. It in no way implies a friendly attitude toward America or Israel–which are still seen as threats–but it is an important factor to consider in Western policymaking.
One reason why Iran is such a huge threat, the paper continues, is that all Arabs and Muslims know about the United States. But Iran operates from the “inside” and in a “hidden” manner because it seems to be Muslim, Third World, anti-American, and anti-Israel. So it can fool Sunni Arab Muslims, stab them from the book, alter their culture, and take over institutions.
Thus, in Iraq, “Iran invested a lot of money and effort destroying Iraq from within through bribery and purchasing loyalties.” Of course, the real problem for the Sunni Arab Islamist movement in Iraq is that the majority of people are either Shia Muslims or Kurds who, while Sunni Muslim, have their own nationalist identity.
The paper is equally tough on Turkey, despite that country’s regime wanting to lead the Arab Sunnis. But while it is an economic threat, it doesn’t have much political or strategic leverage and is at least not trying to alter Sunni religion and culture.
While giving passing mention to the concept that Iran is merely aggressive because it has been fooled by American imperialism, the Sunni Arab Islamists claim that Iran often acts in conjunction with U.S. policy. Although you may find this idea to be strange, remember that Tehran did go along with U.S. operations against Afghanistan and Iraq, attacks which removed two of Iran’s Sunni enemies.
They conclude, “We no longer have any choice but to defend ourselves against Iran,” which holds “a sectarian, ethnic, Persian agenda.”
While the paper claims that “The United States…actually handed over Iraq to Iran and allowed it to expand into Syria,” the fact is that the West has in effect backed Sunni Islamist control over Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria. This shows, however, that the Sunni Islamists will never credit—they cannot do so ideologically—any U.S. help they receive, much less reciprocate.
What this means is that a Sunni Islamist bloc now confronts a Shia Islamist bloc. Both claim, with some evidence, the United States of supporting their enemy. The question for Western policymakers should be not to take sides—“good” Islamists against “bad” Islamists—but how to use and enhance this conflict. The worst temptation is to believe that putting one side into power–in other words, Sunni Islamists because they may hate Iran–will counter the other.
Today, aside from the undoubtedly important nuclear weapons’ issue, the main strategic threat in the Middle East is Sunni Islamism. Why? Simple. Iran cannot expand its influence successfully into Sunni Muslim majority areas yet the Arab world is overwhelmingly Sunni. Iran cannot win. Only Sunni Islamism can generate new dictatorships, repression, and conventional wars.
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