Friday, July 12, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: Hizb'Allah and the Bloody Syrian Chronicles

by Mordechai Kedar 

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

On Tuesday, July 9, at 10:15, a car bomb exploded in the center of Shi'ite-populated Dahiya, Beirut's southernmost neighborhood, where the headquarters and administrative offices for the hundreds of Hizb'Allah organizations operating under the umbrella of that Shi'ite terror organization are located. The Shi'ites feel totally secure in Dahiya, because it is a large enclave populated solely by Shi'ites, and it is located on the outskirts of Beirut, the western part of which is Sunni and the Northeastern part of which is Christian. But the reason for the Shi'ites' sense of security in Dahiya is also their vulnerable point: Hizb'Allah cannot impose too many long-range limits on its people's movements, and this enabled the terrorists to bring the car bomb into Dahiya despite the fact that the heads of Hizb'Allah know that there are many who would like to sow death among its residents and destruction in the streets.

The apparent target of the attack was the Center for Islamist Cooperation, a large commercial center in the neighborhood of Bir al-Abed, which also serves as an operational center for many of Hizb'Allah's offshoot organizations. There is speculation that the explosion was meant to eliminate a specific senior Hizb'Allah figure that might have been passing by in the street, but the timing of the explosion signifies what the correct interpretation is: this was the first day of the month of Ramadan, a festive month characterized by lively crowds of people shopping in the streets, principally in the morning hours when it is not hot yet and people have not yet felt the effects of the fast. The terror attack was meant to destroy the joy of Ramadan for the Shi'ites and turn it into a time of mourning.

The accusing finger reflexively pointed southward, toward Israel. Members of Lebanese parliament from the Hizb'Allah party broadcast the usual preworded declaration stating that "Israel's fingerprints are soaked with the blood of the victims", but no one takes this declaration seriously, even those who broadcast it. They know very well that the attacker is one or more of four possibilities: Jabhat al-Nusra - the Sunni Salafi organization fighting in Syria against the Asad regime; the Free Syrian Army, which keeps its distance from the al-Qaeda-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra; supporters of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, the Salafi from Sidon; or Sunnis from Tripoli, who burst into the streets of the northern city in a frenzy of joy and firing in the air when they heard of the attack in Dahiya. All of them - as well as Shi'ite Hizb'Allah - are sunk up to their necks in the battles of the Syrian civil war, and the attack in Dahiya is another element of this battle.

It is interesting that all of the official Lebanese spokesmen, even Hizb'Allah's opposition, condemn the attack. Supporters condemn it for understandable reasons, and detractors condemn it because they fear that anyone who does not condemn the attack severely will himself be suspected of being involved in it, thus inviting acts of very painful revenge from Hizb'Allah, who knows how to do it: the truck bomb that assassinated Rafiq al-Hariri was most likely a product of the "Party of G-d". Everyone remembers the fourteen years of civil war (1975-1989)
quite well, and there are fears that events such as the attack in Dahiya might reignite the civil war because of the hostility between sects and between political groups, which exists in any case in Lebanon, and the charged atmosphere resulting from Hizb'Allah's involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Even Sa'ad al-Hariri, the chief opposition to Hizb'Allah, condemned the attack and claimed that it was an attack against all the Lebanese people, without distinction of religion or sect. He called on all the Lebanese sides to unite in an effort to keep Lebanon out of any "regional struggles", though he knows quite well that Hizb'Allah is involved up to Hasan Nasrallah's ears in every "regional struggle" between Iran and the Sunni world, as well as the fateful struggle between the Asad regime and its opposition. In Lebanon, politicians' declarations reflect reality like a distorted mirror, presenting a picture that is the opposite of reality.

There are those who search for the guilty party in slightly more distant regions. In on-line media there is someone who places the responsibility for the attack on the Saudis, who spread the radical, Wahhabi version of Islam all over the Islamic world, and says that they are the ones who cause Sunnis to consider the Shi'ites as infidels, and suitable targets for jihad. Some accuse the Gulf states, especially Qatar, because of the money that they spread all over the region in the war against ever-increasing Iranian hegemony. Nevertheless, there are also those who also ask: "What was
Hizb'Allah's actual target - which area or which person - when the car bomb blew up prematurely in Hizb'Allah's own secure zone"?

However, here it must be noted that even within the Shi'ite sect in Lebanon
there are those who oppose Hizb'Allah and its involvement in the bloody events in Syria. For years, a Shi'ite sage by the name of Muhammad Ali al-Husseini has been operating in Lebanon. He  presents himself as the general secretary of an organization named the Arab Islamic Council, the name testifying to its general-Islamic and Arabic orientation, contrary to the divisive  Iranian orientation of Hizb'Allah. Al-Husseini advocates unity among all religious streams and sects in the Arab world under the political umbrella of the modern Arab state, because the state is the only framework that can assure life, tranquility and development to all communities enabling everyone to gain from the stability. Moreover: according to al-Husseini's approach, every believing Muslim has a religious duty to accept the state framework and to behave according to the laws of the state (as in "dina dimalkuta dina" in Judaism) because this is the only way that Arab citizens can keep themselves - as individuals and as a collective - from being manipulated by foreign states. There is only one way to interpret such discourse in Lebanon: it is a call to oppose Hizb'Allah's Iranian orientation and to oppose any action - even educational and philanthropic - whose purpose is to instill Iranian influence into the Lebanese framework.

 Al-Husseini strongly objects to the phenomenon of armed militias in Arab states that operate according to a sectarian or organizational agenda, because it is this phenomenon - he claims - which is the source of
Arab societies' chronic distress. Al-Husseini's approach has won him many friends from Arab states, even from within the ruling family of Sunni, Wahhabi, Saudi Arabia, but it also places him in continual conflict with Hizb'Allah. However,  al-Husseini has been operating for many years in Lebanon, and up until now no one - even Hizb'Allah - has tried to assassinate him. Furthermore, in his speeches, Hassan Nasrallah notes with great pride the fact that he is a democrat who does not silence his opposition, even those who criticize him within the Shi'ite sect, such as Muhammad Ali al-Husseini. The reason that Hizb'Allah tolerates al-Husseini is that al-Husseini has no armed militia and therefore does not pose any real danger to Hizb'Allah. It also allows Hizb'Allah to appear as a tolerant organization that can tolerate criticism.

Surprisingly, the more severe opposition to Nasrallah and Hizb'Allah's military involvement in Syria comes from within Hizb'Allah itself. Lately, it has been publicized that mothers of Hizb'Allah soldiers call on Nasrallah to bring their sons out of the Syrian hell because their sons enlisted for the purpose of "resistance", to fight Israel and Zionism, not to ruin Syria and kill its people. It is widely accepted that these "mothers" (perhaps the Lebanese version of the Israeli "Four Mothers" organization) express the growing public mood among the Shi'ites in Lebanon, for a number of reasons. The first is the high number of Hizb'Allah casualties - fatalities and wounded - in Lebanon. Several hundred have been sacrificed on the altar of keeping the infidel, Alawite Asad regime in power with no end in sight of the war or the casualties, and without seeing a worthy reason for them to sacrifice their lives and health. The second reason is the Lebanese Shi'ites increasing fear that in the end Asad will fall anyway, and those who will have taken him down - chiefly the Salafi Jihadists - will carry out their threat that "After they succeed in eliminating the mouse of Damascus they will come to eliminate the rat of Beirut". Many in the Shi'ite community fear that if Asad falls  there will be no one to save them from the knives of the jihadists who threaten the Shi'ites in Lebanon with slaughter or decapitation.

Syria and Lebanon - Inextricably Intertwined

The close interweaving between the events in Syria and Lebanon should not surprise anyone. Hafez Asad, the tree from which the present Syrian mass murderer fell, used to say that Syria and Lebanon are one people that was divided into two states, and therefore - for example - they do not require mutual recognition and don't need to open an embassy in each others' states. Anyone with eyes in his head understood that this saying is intended to hide a painful truth which is totally different. Hafez Asad never saw Lebanon as a legitimate independent entity, because it was born of an illegal relationship between Catholic France and the Lebanese Christian Maronites, who are also Catholic, and they wanted a state for themselves despite the fact that they are an inseparable part of Greater Syria. He felt that Lebanon - like Jordan and Palestine - belong to Greater Syria, and this is how he related to the citizens of Lebanon. As he felt free to slaughter his citizens without restraint, he also saw no problem in cutting off the lives of the citizens of Lebanon, and also the citizens of Israel, another illegitimate creation of the British-Zionist plot.

Hafez's son, Bashar, was forced to recognize Lebanon and open a Syrian embassy as a result of the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005, but he also considers Lebanon as part of Syria in every way. Today, the Gordian knot between the two states is clearer than ever: on one hand Hizb'Allah soldiers are becoming the main assault force of the tired, worn out Syrian army, and on the other hand - by the end of the present year, a fifth of the residents of Lebanon will be Syrian refugees, and the Syrian anarchy flows unrestricted into the Lebanese public experience in the form of a cruel sectarian war and ruthless elimination of opposition.

The condition of the Asad regime continues to deteriorate, despite tactical successes that he occasionally achieves such as the one in al-Qusayr two months ago. In Homs there is all-out war and large sections of the third largest city in Syria have become ruins. A few days ago, a rear base of the Syrian army near the port city of Latakia was attacked, and the explosions of ammunition caused
reverberations that shook the entire area. There are rumors that the base was the main ammunition supply of Asad's army and that important weapons systems like the s-300 anti-aircraft missiles and shore-to-sea Yakhont type missiles were hit. There are also many rumors about the identity of the operatives who managed to blow up the base: the Free Syrian Army, jabahat al-Nusra, a neighboring state such as Turkey or Israel, jets that took off from aircraft carriers sailing in the Mediterranean Sea - namely, American, and there were even those who said that the attack was caused by Cruise missiles that reached the Syrian base after having traveled thousands of kilometers.

Whatever the reason for the explosion in Syria , it proves that someone is watching Syria with a magnifying glass, and hears everything that goes on there despite
the stupid fool Edward Snowden's traitorous actions. Whoever is watching, draws the correct conclusions and takes the necessary steps to prevent the bloody regime in Syria from becoming too strong, and from giving weapons that are too dangerous to terror organizations like Hizb'Allah, to repay them for the support that Hizb'Allah is giving to their friends in Damascus.

The world is not overjoyed to support the rebels in Syria, because they seem to us - and to a great extent correctly - like al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda jihadi organization was supplied with Western weapons and in the beginning they used the weapons against the Soviets. But after the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden turned the organization's
operation against the West in general and the United States in particular. No doubt this is a bad precedent, and there are many who caution the West against supporting the rebels in Syria because they also have the potential to become enemies of the West. They claim that "the devil you know", meaning a weakened Asad, is better than to open the door to the "devil you don't know", meaning the jihadis.

But there is another negative consideration: the Asad regime is the backbone of the Arabic tentacle of the Iranian octopus, and the elimination of Asad would necessarily bring  about a significant weakening of Iranian influence on the Arab world in general and on Hizb'Allah in particular. This is the real reason for Hizb'Allah's involvement in Syria. If we must decide today whom to support - the Sunni jihadis or the Iran-Syria-Hizb'Allah coalition - it seems to this writer that it is more important to strike the Iranian coalition than the jihadis, because Iran is on the threshold of joining the nuclear club and the jihadis are not. True, they could become international terrorists according to the teachings of bin Laden, but they can not sow physical destruction and economic paralysis like a nuclear Iran.

A nuclear Iran would threaten the stability of the regimes in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in an unprecedented way, since it has already succeeded to tame the "democratic" Iraqi regime and pull it under the Iranian umbrella. Iran intends to take over Afghanistan
next year, immediately after the withdrawal of Western forces from there, just as it threatens the stability of the Islamic republics to its north. The fall of Asad would deal a severe blow to  Iran's attempts to create regional hegemony. Therefore, the interest to the West in toppling Asad is stronger than the fear of terrorist acts that might be carried out by the jihadis in the future, because the fear of terrorism would exist even if Asad remains in his seat.

The only conclusion to draw from the events in Lebanon and Syria is that the civilized world must rid itself of the Asad-Hizb'Allah-Iran coalition even at the expense of supporting jihadis, because they can be dealt with in a later phase.

From this honorable podium we wish a "Ramadan Karim" to the entire Islamic nation and especially to those who love peace. 


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translator's Notes: 

Dina dimalkhuta dina : Aramaic for "The law of the kingdom is the law", meaning that Jews are obligated to abide by the laws of the country they live in.

The Four Mothers : A group of four women, all mothers of soldiers, which objected to Israel's presence in Lebanon before the withdrawal of 2000 and advocated unilateral withdrawal.

Ramadan Karim: A Noble (month of) Ramadan, the Muslim month-long observance  of fasting and repentance for Muslims)

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

Of Untreated Sewage and Peace Talks

by Evelyn Gordon

Though Secretary of State John Kerry’s next trip to the Mideast may be delayed by his wife’s illness, he fully intends to continue his shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. There are many reasons why this effort is misguided, including the one Jonathan noted yesterday–the PA’s nonstop indoctrination of its people in vicious anti-Semitic hatred. But here’s another: the untreated West Bank sewage contaminating groundwater and streams on both sides of the Green Line.

What, you may ask, does untreated sewage have to do with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? The following Haaretz report provides an answer:
Attempts at Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on this issue have largely gone nowhere, mainly because the Palestinian Authority refuses to cooperate with the settlements. Thus it refused to connect Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank to an Israeli sewage line because the line also serves several settlements. It also nixed a proposed treatment plant that would serve both Palestinian towns and the settlement of Ariel.
In other words, the PA would rather let its own waterways be polluted–including the mountain aquifer, a major source of drinking water for both Palestinians and Israelis–than do something as simple as connect to an Israeli sewage line or cooperate on a treatment plant. But how can peace be possible when the PA would rather risk its own citizens’ health than cooperate with its ostensible “peace partner” to solve the problem?

Nor is this a fluke: The PA opposes even the most innocuous forms of cooperation with Israel. In May, for instance, its ruling Fatah party denounced a soccer game for Israeli and Palestinian teens organized with EU support, while Fatah activists posted threatening messages on the Internet against both players and organizers. But how can peace be possible if the PA won’t even let its children play soccer with Israelis?

Or consider the PA’s recent campaign against Israeli journalists. As anyone familiar with Israel knows, Israeli journalists are far more likely than most Israelis to believe peace is achievable, blame their own government for its non-achievement and support Palestinian demands for more Israeli concessions. Yet now, as the Washington Post reported in May, Israeli journalists are being thrown out of PA press conferences and harassed by PA security personnel; Palestinian journalists who have ties with Israeli colleagues are being labeled “collaborators”; and “Organizations that once brought Palestinian and Israeli journalists together for professional conferences no longer sponsor such events, because Palestinian reporters say it will hurt their careers to participate.”

Needless to say, this would seem self-defeating, as it alienates some of the PA’s most influential Israeli supporters. But the more serious problem is this: If Palestinians will no longer talk with even the most pro-Palestinian Israelis, which Israelis will they talk to?

Under these circumstances, peace talks don’t stand a chance. So I’d like to propose that Kerry attempt a more modest achievement: persuade the PA to connect its cities to Israeli sewage lines. That might actually be doable. And unlike the pie-in-the-sky diplomacy he’s pursuing now, it would genuinely improve both Palestinian and Israeli lives.

Evelyn Gordon


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

Britain: "Rape Jihad" Against Children

by Soeren Kern

"As one police officer said to me, 'There isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.' We should start from the assumption that children are being sexually exploited right the way across the country." — Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children's Commissioner for England
A court in London has sentenced seven members of a Muslim child grooming gang based in Oxford to at least 95 years in prison for raping, torturing and trafficking British girls as young as 11.

The high-profile trial was the latest in a rapidly growing list of grooming cases that are forcing politically correct Britons to confront the previously taboo subject of endemic sexual abuse of children by predatory Muslim paedophile gangs.

The 18-week trial drew unwelcome attention to the sordid reality that police, social workers, teachers, neighbors, politicians and the media have for decades downplayed the severity of the crimes perpetrated against British children because they were afraid of being accused of "Islamophobia" or racism.

The seven members of the Oxford child grooming gang who were found guilty (clockwise from top left): Kamar Jamil, Akhtar Dogar, Anjum Dogar, Assad Hussain, Mohammed Karrar, Bassam Karrar, and Zeeshan Ahmed.

According to government estimates that are believed to be "just the tip of the iceberg," at least 2,500 British children have so far been confirmed to be victims of grooming gangs, and another 20,000 children are at risk of sexual exploitation. At least 27 police forces are currently investigating 54 alleged child grooming gangs across England and Wales.

Judge Peter Rook, who presided over the trial that ended on June 27 at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales (aka the Old Bailey), sentenced five of the men to life in prison and ordered them to serve a minimum of between 12 and 20 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Rook said the severity of the jail terms -- which are longer than those in other high-profile grooming cases such as those in Rochdale, Derby and Telford -- were meant to send a message to abusers that they would be targeted and brought to justice.

After reading the sentence, Rook said the men -- who are from Pakistan and Eritrea (see profiles here) -- had committed "a series of sexual crimes of the utmost depravity" and had targeted "young girls because they were vulnerable, underage and out of control."

The ringleaders of the gang, brothers Akhtar Dogar, 32, and Anjum Dogar, 31, were given life sentences and were told by the judge that they had been found guilty of "exceptionally grave crimes." They are to remain in prison for a minimum of 17 years before becoming eligible for parole.

A second pair of brothers, Bassam Karrar, 33, and Mohammed Karrar, 38, were also given life sentences. Mohammed Karrar was given a minimum sentence of 20 years for the "dreadful offenses" he committed against the girls, including one child whom he branded with the letter "M" for Mohammed. He began pimping the girl when she was only 11, and forced her to have a backstreet abortion when she was 12.

In graphic testimony, one of the victims told the court that Mohammed Karrar would charge men £500 ($750) to have sex with her. They would take her to homes in High Wycombe where she would be subjected to gang rapes, incidents that she described as "torture sex." The men would tie her up and gag her mouth with a ball to stop her cries from being heard. The men would play out abuse fantasies; sometimes she was left bleeding for days afterwards.

In one of her few acts of defiance, she threatened Mohammed Karrar with his own lock knife as he was preparing to rape her; he knocked her out with a metal baseball bat.

Mohammed's younger brother, Bassam Karrar, who was found guilty of brutally raping and attacking a 14-year-old girl while he was high on cocaine, was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years.

Kamar Jamil, 27, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 12 years. Assad Hussain, 32, and Zeeshan Ahmed, 28, were both jailed for seven years.

The six victims who gave evidence were aged between 11 and 15 when the abuse took place. They were plied with drugs and alcohol, repeatedly raped, sold and trafficked as prostitutes, all at a time during which when they were supposedly in the safekeeping of local authorities.

The trial -- details of which were so disturbing that jury members were excused from ever having to sit on a jury again -- exposed years of failings by Thames Valley police and Oxford social services. The court heard that the girls were abused between 2004 and 2012 and that police were told about the crimes as early as 2006, that they were contacted at least six times by victims, but failed to act.

The mother of Girl "A" said the police and social services had failed to protect the girls and made her and other family members feel as if they were overreacting. She said: "I can recall countless incidents when I have been upset and frustrated by various professional bodies."

The mother of Girl "C" told the British newspaper The Guardian that she had begged social services staff to rescue her daughter from the rape gang. She said that her daughter's abusers had threatened to cut the girl's face off and promised to slit the throats of her family members. She said that they had been forced to leave their home after the men had threatened to decapitate family members.

Despite irrefutable evidence that the girls were being sexually abused, no one -- according to a report published by the House of Commons on June 5 -- acted to draw all the facts together, apparently due to fears by police and social workers that they would be accused of racism against Muslims.

The report, "Child Sexual Exploitation and the Response to Localized Grooming," states: "Evidence presented to us suggests that there is a model of localized grooming of Pakistani-heritage men targeting young White girls. This must be acknowledged by official agencies, who we were concerned to hear in some areas of particular community tension, had reportedly been slow to draw attention to the issue for fear of affecting community cohesion. The condemnation from those communities of this vile crime should demonstrate that there is no excuse for tip-toeing around this issue. It is important that police, social workers and others be able to raise their concerns freely, without fear of being labelled racist."

These allegations have been confirmed by the imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, Taj Hargey, who says race and religion are inextricably linked to the spate of grooming rings in which Muslim men are targeting under-age white girls.

Writing in the Daily Mail on May 15, Hargey states: "Apart from its sheer depravity, what also depresses me about this case is the widespread refusal to face up to its hard realities. The fact is that the vicious activities of the Oxford ring are bound up with religion and race: religion, because all the perpetrators, though they had different nationalities, were Muslim; and race, because they deliberately targeted vulnerable white girls, whom they appeared to regard as 'easy meat', to use one of their revealing, racist phrases."

"But as so often in fearful, politically correct modern Britain," Hargey continues, "there is a craven unwillingness to face up to this reality. Commentators and politicians tip-toe around it, hiding behind weasel words. … Part of the reason this scandal happened at all is precisely because of such politically correct thinking. All the agencies of the state, including the police, the social services and the care system, seemed eager to ignore the sickening exploitation that was happening before their eyes. Terrified of accusations of racism, desperate not to undermine the official creed of cultural diversity, they took no action against obvious abuse."

According to Hargey, "Another sign of the cowardly approach to these horrors is the constant reference to the criminals as 'Asians' rather than as 'Muslims.' In this context, Asian is a completely meaningless term. The men were not from China, or India or Sri Lanka or even Bangladesh. They were all from either Pakistan or Eritrea, which is, in fact, in East Africa rather than Asia."

He also says the grooming rings in Britain are actually being promoted by imams who encourage followers to believe that white women deserve to be "punished." He writes that Muslims in Britain "have been drip-fed for years [with] a far less uplifting doctrine, one that denigrates all women, but treats whites with particular contempt. In the misguided orthodoxy that now prevails in many mosques, including several of those in Oxford, men are unfortunately taught that women are second-class citizens, little more than chattels or possessions over whom they have absolute authority."

Hargey points to a telling incident in the trial when it was revealed that Mohammed Karrar branded one of the girls with an "M," as if she were a cow. He writes, "'Now, if you have sex with someone else, he'll know that you belong to me,' said this criminal, highlighting an attitude where women are seen as nothing more than personal property. The view of some Islamic preachers towards white women can be appalling. They encourage their followers to believe that these women are habitually promiscuous, decadent and sleazy -- sins which are made all the worse by the fact that they are kaffurs or non-believers. Their dress code, from mini-skirts to sleeveless tops, is deemed to reflect their impure and immoral outlook. According to this mentality, these white women deserve to be punished for their behavior by being exploited and degraded."

According to the British Children's Minister, Tim Loughton, "We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg now. For too long it was something of a taboo issue in this country, little spoken about, little appreciated, little acknowledged or dealt with." He also said the grooming cases raise "very troubling questions about the attitude of the perpetrators, all but one of whom were from Pakistani backgrounds, towards white girls. Nothing is gained by shying away from that."

During a recent House of Commons hearing on "Child Sexual Exploitation and the Response to Localized Grooming" the Deputy Children's Commissioner for England, Sue Berelowitz, said: "What I am uncovering is that sexual exploitation of children is happening all over the country. As one police officer who was the lead in a very big investigation in a very lovely, leafy, rural part of the country said to me: 'There isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.' The evidence that has come to the fore during the course of my inquiry is that that, unfortunately, appears to be the case."

Berelowitz continued: "We should start from the assumption that children are being sexually exploited right the way across the country. In urban, rural and metropolitan areas, I have hard evidence of children being sexually exploited. That is part of what is going on in some parts of our country. It is very sadistic. It is very violent. It is very ugly."

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.

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

Iran Exile Group Claims Evidence of Hidden Nuclear Site

by Naharnet Newsdesk

An exiled Iranian opposition group claimed on Thursday to have evidence of a hidden nuclear site located in tunnels beneath a mountain near the town of Damavand, 70 kilometers (44 miles) northeast of Tehran.

The Paris-based militant group the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), alleges the site has existed since 2006 with the first series of subterranean tunnels and four external depots recently completed.

The group also claims the recently elected president Hassan Rohani, a former nuclear negotiator, had a "key role" in the program.

Founded in the 1960s to oppose the rule of the Shah, the MEK was considered a terrorist organization by the United States until last year, and has provided information about the Iranian nuclear program on several occasions.

"The organization of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) has discovered credible evidence of a secret new nuclear site, gathered over a year by 50 sources in various parts of the regime," said a statement from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the umbrella group of which MEK is a part.

"The codename of the project is 'Ma'adane-e Charq' (literally 'the mine of the east') or 'Project Kossar.' This site is hidden in a series of tunnels under a mountain near the town of Damavand," it said.

The report added that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, is also a managing director of a company the MEK claims is overseeing the project's "nuclear, biological and chemical programs."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has attempted to speak to Fakhrizadeh in the past without success.

The "next phase" of the project will be the construction of up to 30 tunnels and 30 depots, the report added.

The report concluded: "These revelations demonstrate once again that the Mullahs' regime has no intention of stopping or even suspending the development of a nuclear weapon," the MEK said, calling on the IAEA to visit the secret site.

Naharnet Newsdesk


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U.S. in the Middle East: Good Intentions, Terrible Results

by Ali Salim

The Americans continue to support various Islamic organizations, such as Egypt's threatened Muslim Brotherhood, in the vain hope that they will cooperate and create "stable" institutions. The Americans have deluded themselves into thinking that the the Islamists will forget their anti-Crusader agenda -- the driving force behind everything they do -- and their ultimate goal of Muslim world domination.
Whether or not America won in Afghanistan is a question that will have to be answered by history. What can be said with certainty, however, is that the West did not slink away with its tail between its legs the way the Soviets did. The Soviets, for those with short memories, were shredded by the Taliban, who, with American weapons and the cunning of the Afghan cheetah, outmaneuvered the clumsy Soviet special forces and their fleets of tanks, APCs and attack helicopters.

The unfortunate part of the saga is that the Taliban and its rotten fruit, Al-Qaeda, repaid its American benefactors by ramming two planes into the World Trade Center and are plotting to do worse. However, the Pentagon seems to have come to the realization that radical Islam will not honor a treaty made with a non-Muslim regime or government. As far as Islam is concerned, treaties made with infidels are ephemeral and function only as leverage for Islamic goals, and are fated to be unilaterally violated when the Muslims feel the time has come. Once the ultimate goal of Muslim world domination has been achieved, the treaties will be worthless and non-Muslims will be forced to convert.

The Israelis made a mistake in the 1970s when they allowed Sheikh Yassin to set up the social organization called Mujama al-Islamiya in the Gaza Strip as a counterweight to the PLO. The organization later took the name Hamas, committed endless terrorist activities against Israeli citizens and has never given up its stated goal of destroying the State of Israel. The Israelis made a similar mistake when they helped the Shi'ite Amal party and the various associations in the Lebanese villages in their efforts to get the Palestinians terrorist organizations -- which harassed the Shi'ite villagers and raped their women -- out of Lebanon. As soon as Arafat and his cronies had been driven out, with Israeli help, the Shi'ites founded Hezbollah, which, thanks to Iran, has the military capabilities of a small country and has been using them to attempt to obliterate Israel.

The American road to hell in the Middle East is paved, as usual, with good intentions and terrible results. When the Americans pulled out of Iraq, after toppling Saddam Hussein, the Shi'ites took over the country: the men of President Al-Maliki work for Iran, along with the Assad regime in Syria. Now, when the Americans are getting ready to pull out of Afghanistan, the future of the country remains an open question and the issue of President Karzai vs. the Taliban remains unresolved. The Taliban's demand to establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan based on the Sharia, Islamic law from the 7th century, does not bode well for President Karzai.

Despite the lessons of the past, the Americans continue to support various Islamic organizations, such as Egypt's threatened Muslim Brotherhood, in the vain hope that they will cooperate and create "stable" institutions, or at least have a positive relationship with the West. The Americans have deluded themselves into thinking that the Islamists will somehow forget both their anti-Crusader agenda -- the driving force behind everything they do -- and the Islamists' ultimate goal of Muslim world domination.

Free Syrian Army soldiers (Source: WikiMedia Commons)
The American mistakes in the Middle East were caused by naiveté, by not being familiar with Arab-Muslim society and its codes. There are, however, signs that, while currently deliberating military aid and advanced weaponry for Syria, the Americans have learned a lesson or two about radical Islam and the way it works.

Their problem is what weapons to send; to whom to send them; how to send them so that they do not find their way into the hands of the Islamist gangs operating side by side with the Syrian opposition, and how to keep the arms from being turned, in the future, against the Americans and their allies.

Recently, in Doha, Qatar, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promised Prime Minister Hamad al-Thani, before he turned his country over to his son, that the Americans would supply the Syrian opposition with arms to stop the slaughter of the Sunni population. Apparently the Americans have understood that the civil war in Syria is only the tip of the iceberg of Iranian-Russian interests, and will have consequences not only for the Middle East but also for the regional and global status of the United States.

America's decision to support the Syrian opposition signals a change in policy that overcomes its previous hesitation. It has now formulated a plan that takes all possibilities into account. Supplying weapons to General Salim Idris, the (secular) commander of the rebel so-called "Free Syrian Army" forces may neutralize the forces of Iran and Hezbollah which operate with Russian support.

If the weapons do in fact influence the balance of power on the ground, this change might send a message to the Iranians and the Russians, telling them that America is not prepared to have Russia erode its status in the Middle East and will not accept more procrastination and threats -- and that America has decided to take action. Both the Russians and the Assad regime openly warned Europe not to supply arms to the rebels. Sending American arms to the opposition is the first step in stopping Russia and cutting off both direct and indirect (through Iraq and Lebanon) Iranian support for the Assad regime. It can only be hoped that the American weapons will force Assad to move toward an interim government. In the final analysis, the Syrian civil war may end with a radical Islamic takeover of Syria, a risk one can only hope -- what with all the other Arab Spring Islamist takeovers -- that the West has no intention of taking.

The Syrian regime responded to the American decision to arm the rebels with anger and threats, and declared it would not be blackmailed. After the Geneva II conference was sabotaged, largely by the Russians, it should have become clear that the time for procrastination and naiveté was over. The rebel announcement of the Al-Qadissiya operation in Aleppo in recent weeks meant a Sunni counterattack was on the table, overtly supported by the Western countries in response to the organized Shi'ite slaughter of Syria's Sunnis. The arms race between the United States and Russia is escalating in Syria. Relations between the two superpowers are heading for an unavoidable -- and unprecedented -- clash. Which country is the world betting will back down?

Ali Salim


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

A Tale of Two Choices in Syria

by Michael Curtis

In June 2013 a resolution of the UN Security Council expressing "grave concerns" about the military offensive in the town of Qusayr by the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad against rebel forces failed to pass because of the opposition of China and Russia. The response of the United States Administration, delivered by Jen Psaki, the spokesperson of the State Department, was, "We fail to understand Russia's reasoning as it continues to block attempts at the UNSC to address the urgent situation" in Syria. The official Russian reply was that the resolution was not timely because the Syrian army was in the midst of finishing a "counter-terrorist operation."

For the two great powers the Syrian imbroglio is a tale of two choices. President Vladimir Putin has made a clear choice, to support the Assad regime for various reasons. President Obama has made a choice of non-involvement in any major effort to support the opposition to the regime. He did suggest that Bashar al Assad step aside, and said, "cruelty must be confronted for the sake of justice and human dignity." But no confrontation followed. This logically follows from Obama's commitment to end America's military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, his desire to speed up the withdrawal of the 63,000 U.S. forces now in that country, and his interest in a complete withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from Iraq. 

The essential and disturbing reality is that Russia has a definite policy about events in the Middle East while the current U.S. Administration is more indefinite. The State Department spokesperson should be aware that Russian policy can be explained in terms both of recent history and current issues. Some form of cordial relationship between Russia and Syria can be traced back to the early post-World War II years. The relationship was strengthened after the military coup in Syria in February 1954, and even more after the later coup and subsequent seizure of power by Air Force Commander Hafez al Assad in March 1971. In 1972, a peace and security pact was signed between Syria and the Soviet Union which began supplying more arms to its partner.

Unlike Egypt under Anwar Sadat who made peace with Israel and expelled 20,000 Soviet "advisers" in July 1972, Syria never broke links with the Soviet bloc and must be regarded as Russia's most favored client state in the Middle East. In October 1980, Leonid Brezhnev, then head of the Soviet Union, signed a treaty of friendship with Hafez al Assad. In April 1987 Mikhail Gorbachev guaranteed that the Soviet Union would supply Syria with economic and military aid, in spite of differences between the two countries over the Iran-Iraq war, during which Syria had sided with the United States against Saddam Hussein. 

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Putin, as President of Russia, meeting with Bashar al Assad in January 2005 in Moscow, announced he would annul three-quarters of the Syrian debt to the Soviet Union. The two declared that the special ties begun between the Soviet Union and Syria would be renewed. The Syrian leader in August 2008, in discussions with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, declared support for the Russian military operation in Georgia. Bashar al Assad must now be seen as the closest Arab ally of Russia. Syria never cut its ties with Russia as Egyptian President Sadat did.

All these arrangements are not so much demonstrations of friendly association but rather evidence of a client-patron relationship based on mutual convenience, and mutual hostility towards the State of Israel. Over the last decade the patron has vetoed or prevented the adoption of resolutions in the UN Security Council critical of Syria on a number of occasions; in October 2011, February 2012, July 2012, and June 2013. At the same time the patron benefits both economically and strategically. 

First are the economic relations. Last year Russia exported more than $1.1 billion in goods, including petroleum products, grains, electrical equipment, to Syria and invested more than $20 billion in its infrastructure, tourism, and energy industries. Particularly important is Stroitansgaz, a natural gas construction company, the largest Russian operation in Syria. Total trade between the two countries was $1.9 billion. In addition, Russia has sold Syria about $4 billion in arms, and the supply is increasing with MiG-29 fighter planes, antiaircraft missiles, antitank rockets, submarines, and smaller arms. Though Syria has sometimes been reluctant to pay its debts, the arms sales to Syria amount to about ten percent of Russia's total weapons exports. Russia has benefitted from this not only financially, but also because it has been able to observe how successful the supplied weapons were in operation. 

Strategically, Russia , since an agreement in 1971, has benefitted from the naval supply and maintenance base at Tartus, its only base in the Mediterranean for its Black Sea Fleet. Since 2008 it is available as a permanent base for Russia's nuclear-armed warships. Over the last few years the base has been renovated to allow access to larger vessels.

Russia has had a long history of asserting its role as protector of the Orthodox Churches under Ottoman rule. Some of its leaders even called for the occupation of Constantinople to revive Christianity there. In an ironic twist the secular Russia stakes a claim to be the protector of Christians in the Middle East, and is directly concerned about the fate of the one million Christians, over half of whom belong to the Orthodox Church, who constitute about 4.5 percent of the Syrian population. The Russian leaders, both Medvedev and Putin, have congratulated the Patriarch Kirill and thanked him for his role in Russia's spiritual revival. Noticeably, the Patriarch visited Syria in 2012 to renew contact with the Syriac Orthodox Church. 

Personal relationships exist since some 30,000 Russians are married to Syrians. More important, and a major factor in explaining the Russian position, is the fear of the increasing Islamic Sunni extremism in the north Caucasus, particularly in Chechnya, most of whose 1.5 million population adhere to Sunni Islam. Putin is aware that 15 percent of Russians are Muslims and that his problem is to maintain internal stability. During the bitter wars with Russia, 1994-96, and 1999-2003, the fighters in Chechnya took on a more Islamic outlook, and the extreme Salafists became more prominent. Putin may well be worried that this group may disrupt the Olympic Winter Games to be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in February 2014.

On Syria, the Russian attitude seems firm. Clearly the Russians regret that they abstained and did not veto the United Nations approved the decision on March 17, 2011 to set up a no fly zone in Libya, which they assumed was intended to protect civilians there, but which it fact led to the overthrow and death of Gaddafi. They are not willing to agree to any similar arrangement in Syria. The U.S. State Department should not fail to understand Russia's policy and reasoning. On the contrary it should be working on counteracting or overcoming that policy.

Michael Curtis


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How the Syrian Civil War and Egyptian Coup Positively Transform Israel’s Strategic Situation

by Barry Rubin

There are some subtle issues coming out of the Syrian civil war for Israel. It is clear that Israel is neutral on the war, that it isn’t going to get dragged into it, and that the longer the war goes on it doesn’t damage Israeli national security.
It should be equally clear, however, that in the end Israel wants the rebels to win. Syria’s regime is supported by Hizballah, Iran, and the Assad government. These are the greater of the two evils. The coup against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime greatly reduced the threat of Sunni Islamism.compared to that of Iran.
Again, it should be underlined, however, that the difference isn’t perceived as huge. Military institutions are generally more favorable to the rebels, given their anti-Iran nuclear weapons’ emphasis. Other agencies remember, however, that a Sunni Islamist Syria will still be a problem.
There are several other aspects, however, of the Syria situation for Israel.
Hamas: With Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood thrown out of office, Hamas poses  much less of a threat.
Instead of having Egypt as a patron, Egypt is now a greater enemy than it was under Mubarak. That then breaks up the issue of a Brotherhood Egypt, Hamas, and Syria.
Egypt: And speaking of Egypt, the transformation for Israel’s strategy almost approaches the victory of the 1967 war except this is not a victory over Egypt but a tremendous enhancement of cooperation. The threat of the dissolution of the peace treaty and a potential new war has been replaced by a prospect of deeper peace and more strategic help.
The draining of terrorist resources and energies. Syria is now a target, as well as Iraq for Sunni terrorists; and now do is Egypt, too.
The Golan Heights:  Israel will not come down from the strategic Golan for  ”forever.”  With either Sunni or Shia extremists in charge of Syria, the anti-Israel stance of Syria is going to be strong under any conceivable government. At the same time, that Syrian government will be weaker. The United States is in temporary or permanent eclipse and cannot possibly—and will not—exercise major leverage on Syrian. You can bet that without a utopian transformation of the region Israel will remain on the Golan.
Lebanon: It seems equally clear that Hizballah has very much reduced support from the Lebanese, Syria, Sunni Islamist leaders, and others. Given this situation, Hizballah cannot attack Israel, certainly not while its best troops are tied down in Syria. And if the rebels win in Syria, they will take on Hizballah, also supporting Lebanese Sunni Islamists.  Hizballah will be too busy fighting against fellow Arabs to start a war with Israel.
Kurds: This is the best moment for Kurds politically in modern history, with a ceasefire with Turkey and its help in Syria; a de facto state in northern Iraq though it will not be a full-fledged state; and autonomy in Syria.  Central and southern Iraq are booming with terrorism but Kurdistan (the Kurdish Regional Government) is booming with prosperity.
The fact is that the Kurds do not share in the Arab blood feud with Israel. In both Iraq and Syria, the Kurds want good relations and commerce with Israel. Whether the dealings would be overt or covert, this new political relationship is going to be a significant factor in the Middle East.
Druze: The Druze have a tougher time since they do not have a strategic boundary with a friendly country as do the Kurds. Nevertheless the Druze are at a historical turning point. They have given their loyalty to the Syrian regime, with the Golani Druze showing special devotion fueled largely by fear and the fate of relatives on the other side of the border.
Now, however, they see the Assad regime in trouble. At this point the loyalty must be questioned. Would a Sunni Islamist regime be so kind to them? On the one hand, the Druze have served not with the rebels but with the regime. Second, when all is said and done the Druze are infidels, even worse former Muslims centuries ago.Of course, the Druze still in Syria will claim their devotion to the Sunni Islamist regime in the hope of not being massacred.
But Druze from the Golan have asked from Israeli authorities about bringing in refugees from Syria. Might persecuted Druze take Israeli citizenship and take the step of joining their fate, as individuals or collectively, with Israel as their cousins across the border did in 1948?
Iran: Obviously, if the regime loses in Syria that will weaken Iran. But there’s something more here. If Iran loses any thought of Tehran bidding for Arab hegemony because the split between Sunni and Shia is so bloody and passionate. But, if Iran wins the bitterness has the same effect. The dominant conflict in the region is now the Sunni-Shia one.
And with Middle East hegemony out of Iran’s reach, Iran has less reason to threaten Israel or to consider using nuclear weapons against it. Why would Tehran do so when it will not impress the Arabs, in fact in the middle of an all-out battle with the Sunni Arabs?
Christians: While Israel only has about a 2 percent Christian minority (about 150,000 people), there seems to be some change. A priest and a young woman have spoken for support despite harassment and an Arab Christian party is forming. These will probably not catch on with large numbers of people but with the conflict against Israel being joined by the conflict against Christian Arabs–including real intimidation of Christians on the West Bank by Muslims must have some effect. This has been added to with a war on Christians in Egypt (Copts will be big targets in the coming Islamist insurgency and the new government won’t provide much protection), Syria, Iraq, and the Gaza Strip. Where else do Christians have a safe haven in the region?
Finally, Syria has done something momentous in regional terms. It has broken the myth of the “Israel card” or of “linkage.” You can still argue that an Arab ruler can make political capital by blaming Israel or that solving the Arab-Israeli or Israel-Palestinian conflict will fix everything in the region.
Given the peculiarities of Western diplomacy, this doesn’t seem to put much of a dent in “linkage,” the idea that the “Arab-Israeli conflict” (perhaps we should start putting it in quotation marks, is the prime problem, passionate priority, and always the key to solving the Middle East. Lots of people in the West believe it but surely it must be fewer? 

This article is published on PJMedia.

Barry Rubin


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