Saturday, June 14, 2014

An 'Islamic State' Is Born

by Jonathan Spyer

In a stunning and deeply significant development, the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organization this week captured the city of Mosul. They then moved on to take Tikrit unopposed and according to reports yesterday were headed toward the capital, Baghdad.
Five-hundred thousand people have fled Mosul in the wake of its conquest by the jihadis. The city, which has an Arab majority population along with large Kurdish and Turkmen minorities, is Iraq's second largest. Its capture was the latest and most significant success in an offensive launched by the ISIS jihadis a week ago.

It also represents a calamitous defeat for the US-trained security forces of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

ISIS is the most brutal and best-organized of the jihadi elements that have emerged in Iraq and Syria over the last decade. It now controls a contiguous area of territory stretching from deep into western Iraq and including the cities of Mosul and Falluja, across the border into Syria, taking in the province of Raqqa, including its capital Raqqa City, and continuing until the border with Turkey. The movement has a presence as far as the southern suburbs of Baghdad.

The ISIS offensive into Iraq was well-planned, and its execution shows the extent to which ISIS sees its activities in Iraq and Syria as part of a single conflict.

The movement withdrew forces from outlying parts of Syria's Idlib and Aleppo provinces in January.

At the time, this was presented by Syrian rebels as a defeat they had inflicted on ISIS, but eyewitnesses confirmed that hardly any fighting took place.

The offensive operations against the Kurdish YPG militia in the Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) area also tailed off.

The reason is now clear: ISIS was withdrawing forces and consolidating the western border of its "Islamic state," in order to focus on expanding the eastern border deep inside Iraq.

The "Syrian" civil war long ago burst its borders, to become a sectarian conflict taking in the territory of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. ISIS's tactical offensive has cast this fact into bold relief.

It is also, by necessity, bringing about cross-border cooperation between those elements targeted by ISIS.

The area to the north of ISIS's "Islamic state" is controlled by the Kurds. But relations between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Massoud Barzani in northern Iraq and the (PKK)-associated PYD's three areas of control in northern Syria have worsened in recent months. Intra-Kurdish violence has not occurred, but the KRG has kept the border between the two areas tightly sealed – leading to PYD accusations that the KRG's close strategic relations with Turkey were causing it to support the Turkish position against Syria's Kurds.

The ISIS offensive appears to have repaired relations between the two Kurdish areas.

The latest gains by the movement in Mosul bring it within a few kilometers of the first checkpoints of Barzani's Peshmerga forces. Thus, there is a common ISIS-Kurdish border stretching across PYD and KRG-controlled areas.

The result: YPG and Peshmerga commanders have conducted meetings at the border crossings over the last few days, to coordinate their defensive actions against ISIS. The Samalka border crossing, closed for three months, was opened this week to allow refugees to travel back to Syrian Kurdistan, according to Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a Dutch journalist and researcher at the Jamestown Foundation, currently reporting in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

So the cross-border Islamist entity is facing a renewed Kurdish alliance to its north. But what of the Baghdad government? Maliki's armed forces may have performed atrociously in recent days, but he remains part of the Middle East's single most powerful functioning alliance – the Iran-led regional bloc.

The emerging reality in western Iraq creates difficulties for the Iranians. Their client in Damascus, the Assad regime, has largely recovered its fortunes in recent months. Aided by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah, Syrian regime forces are close to encircling rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo.

This little-reported process is causing deep alarm among supporters of the rebellion. Should Syrian President Bashar Assad succeed in besieging and starving out Aleppo, this will definitively end the long stalemate between the regime and the Sunni rebels, possibly paving the way for a regime attempt to roll up the remainder of rebel-controlled Syria.

But even as one Iranian client triumphs, another – Maliki – has lost large portions of his territory to a jihadi force, in the opening moves of what could be a renewed sectarian war on the soil of Iraq. And while the Syrian rebels may be disunited and poorly organized, this is not true of ISIS – a disciplined, determined and savage force.

This means that the Iranians may in the weeks and months ahead be forced to increase support and attention to their beleaguered client in Baghdad, even as he struggles to form a new government following the parliamentary elections in April.

Maliki's declaration of a general mobilization is more likely to produce a Shi'ite sectarian military response, and hence continued sectarian fighting against a background of political paralysis.

Therefore, the key point is that the "Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham" is no longer the name of a movement, or the expression of an aspiration. As of now, it is a descriptive term applying to a de facto sovereign space, taking in a large swath of western Iraq and eastern and northern Syria.

The powerful Iran-led Shi'ite alliance will in the period ahead undoubtedly seek to destroy this state.

The Kurdish entities to the north will seek to defend themselves against both sides.

The result of all this cannot be known. The reality is one of sectarian war over the ruins of Iraq and Syria.

Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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

Israel Should Exploit Palestinian "Unity" - Here's How

by Malcolm Lowe

The essential point that Israel needs to grasp, and to make understood internationally at every opportunity, is this: President Abbas will not become responsible for rockets in Gaza only when they are fired; he has made himself responsible for those rockets – and for their elimination – now.
Let the US Congress, too, tell the new Palestinian government: "Since you now rule over Gaza, you will not get any more money from us until you agree to surrender all those rockets in Gaza to be destroyed under international control."

The formation of a Palestinian "unity" government, endorsed jointly by Fatah and Hamas, completely wrong-footed the government of Israel. This should not have happened. Unlike earlier schemes for Palestinian unity, it had been clear long enough that this one was going to bear fruit. There was ample time for Israel to have planned a response that went beyond an unqualified rejection.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) shakes hands with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh during negotiations in 2007 for a short-lived unity government. (Image source: Palestinian Press Office)
That response failed: both the US Administration and the European Commission have shown themselves sympathetic to working with the new Palestinian Authority [PA] government. Meanwhile, Israeli "intransigence" was labeled in many quarters, once again, as the prime obstacle to peace. So now, according to the latest rumors, "Israel seeks return of PA forces to Gaza, dismantling of Hamas military arm." Israel has "launched an international diplomatic campaign" to press that demand upon the EU and the US.

But this would make things only worse. Hamas can simply enroll its own Gaza security personnel into the Palestinian Police and carry on as before, except that their salaries will now be paid from money donated to the Palestinian Authority. One of the reasons why Hamas agreed to the unity government was precisely that Hamas has lately experienced difficulties in paying its gunmen.

As to what the Israeli response should have been, and now should be, Israel can take a lesson from US Secretary of State John Kerry. In September 2013, we recall, US foreign policy was in grave difficulties over Syria. President Obama could not evade his promise to respond forcefully to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons, but the Congress was unwilling to back him and the UK's House of Commons had refused to do so. This writer happened to witness the televised press conference in London where Kerry rescued his master.

On that occasion, Kerry showed himself to be both thoroughly well informed and instructively articulate. So it was, too, when Margaret Brennan from CBS asked in regard of Syrian President Assad: " there anything at this point that his government could do or offer that would stop an attack?" Kerry answered impromptu: "Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously."

To general surprise, the Russian government took up this idea immediately and enforced it upon the Syrian regime, for whose survival Russian patronage was indispensable. In the meantime, despite the evidence of Syrian foot-dragging, much the greater part of Syria's chemical weapon capacity has been removed. No country should be more grateful for this than Israel. That those weapons should not fall into Islamist hands, that indeed they should disappear, is the greatest concern that Israel has in respect of the civil war in Syria. Israeli politicians should never criticize Kerry, however validly, without remembering to thank him for it.

So now let us draw the lesson for Palestinian "unity," whatever that is going to mean. Among Israel's other inadequate responses have been proclamations that it will henceforth hold President Abbas responsible for every rocket fired from Gaza. The essential point that Israel needs to grasp, and to make understood internationally at every opportunity, is this: President Abbas will not become responsible for rockets in Gaza only when they are fired; he has made himself responsible for those rockets – and for their elimination – now.

The new Palestinian government restores the rule of the PA to Gaza. So under its jurisdiction fall the rockets in Gaza and – for that matter – also the network of tunnels that Hamas has built with the aim of penetrating into Israel and kidnapping more Israelis.

What Israel can and should do, therefore, is to proclaim that it will deal with Abbas and his new government only (to paraphrase Kerry) on the following two conditions: "The Palestinian government must turn over every single bit of the rockets in Gaza to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. And allow a full and total accounting for the tunnels built out of Gaza toward Israel and enable the international community to come and destroy them all, every single bit."

Israel certainly has the right to make those two demands. Both the rockets and the tunnels constitute glaring violations of all the agreements between Israel and the PLO; Israel should not be expected to tolerate such violations in any area governed by the PA. Israel had exempted Abbas from the obligation to deal with those violations merely because Gaza had removed itself from PA rule.

Like Kerry in the case of Syria, Israel might be surprised by positive reactions. For example, the US administration wants to continue to finance the PA, but many in the Congress are opposed to it in view of the involvement of Hamas. So let the US Congress, too, tell the new Palestinian government: "Since you now rule over Gaza, you will not get any more money from us until you agree to surrender all those rockets in Gaza to be destroyed under international control."

Failing that, Israel has the power to frustrate further Palestinian plans if those conditions are not met. Whereas the US was and is far from Syria, Israel is right on top of the PA. So Israel can demand that "every bit" of the rockets and the tunnels be removed, if not "in the next week," then within the six months that the Palestinians have decreed for organizing elections. Otherwise, Israel can threaten, there will be no negotiations – and probably no elections either.

Malcolm Lowe


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

Who Lost Iraq?

by Arnold Ahlert

The evolution of al-Qaeda from Iraq to Syria 

Iraq’s disintegration may be imminent, as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears incapable of stopping the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The terrorist offshoot of al Qaeda now has its sights set on the capital city of Baghdad. Adding to the chaos, the city of Kirkuk was overtaken by Kurdish soldiers absent any resistance by government forces. After having ignored the prescient warnings of Iraq’s fragility post-U.S. abandonment, the Obama administration and Democratic Party’s determination to end America’s involvement in Iraq irrespective of events on the ground is rapidly approaching its inevitable—and disastrous—conclusion.

Those events on the ground are changing dramatically and quickly. On Tuesday, after only five days of resistance, the city of Mosul fell into terrorist hands as ISIS seized government buildings, the airport, and large quantities of U.S.-supplied weaponry, when Iraqi security forces and police reportedly abandoned their posts and joined the 500,000 refugees fleeing the city of 1.8 million residents. ISIS fighters also freed up to 2,400 prisoners from jails in the northern Nineveh province, reprising the successful raids they conducted against the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons last July. On Wednesday the Turkish consulate was also taken and its diplomatic staff was kidnapped, precipitating an emergency gathering of Turkish officials by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss their options.

Yet by far the most daunting aspect of Mosul’s seizure are reports that the terrorist organization gained access to $500 billion Iraqi dinars, or $425 million, making it one of the richest, if not the richest, terrorist organization in the world. Gunmen initially looted Mosul’s central bank, and according to Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of the Nineveh province, they garnered additional funds from numerous banks across the city as well as a “large quantity of gold bullion.” Regional analyst Brown Moses tweeted that such a windfall will “buy a whole lot of Jihad,” further noting that “with $425 million, ISIS could pay 60,000 fighters around $600 a month for a year.”

In Kirkuk, Kurdish security forces known as the “Peshmerga” took control Tuesday of the oil-rich city that has been the focus of a long-running dispute between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds. The Kurds have autonomous control of their own region in the northern part of the nation, and while Kirkuk sits just outside of that area, the Kurds have long considered it to be their historical capital. And once again, government security forces fled without a fight. “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” said Secretary-General of the Ministry of Peshmerga Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now.”

Maliki, who in an earlier televised conference called a national emergency while urging the public and government to unite “to confront this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi,” alluded to the fact that military was disloyal. He also called for a 10 PM curfew in Baghdad and the surrounding towns, while Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the formation of “peace units to defend the holy sites of both Muslims and Christians in Iraq, in cooperation with the government.” Other Shi’ite leaders reported that four brigades known as the Kataibe Brigade, the Assaib Brigade, the Imam al-Sadr Brigade and the armed wing of the Badr Organization had been hastily assembled to protect Baghdad and the government. Each group contains 2500-3000 fighters.

Wednesday also saw the capture of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s former hometown, by ISIS forces, but by yesterday, state-run Iraqiya TV claimed the city had been re-captured by government forces. Yet a later report by Al-Sumaria television indicated the battle for control of the city was ongoing.

By late Wednesday, ISIS was joined by Sunni militants alienated from Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government, and together they were battling government forces at the northern entrance of Samarra, a city only 70 miles north of Baghdad. Samarra is home to the Askariya Shrine, one of the Shi’ites’ most treasured religious symbols. Its golden dome was shattered by a bomb in 2006 in an effort to ignite a sectarian civil war, and ISIS commanders once again threatened to destroy it if those defending it refused to lay down their arms.

It was initially reported that government soldiers offered little resistance, leading to speculation that they have been ordered to surrender. In an interview, a local commander in the Salahuddin Province that contains the city of Tikrit, confirmed that assessment. “We received phone calls from high-ranking commanders asking us to give up,” he claimed. “I questioned them on this, and they said, ‘This is an order.’ ” Residents of Tikrit also reported that government soldiers willingly gave up their weapons and uniforms to the militants, a notable deviation from the expectation that they would be killed on the spot.

By Thursday, the battle for Samarra had reportedly tilted in the government’s favor. The Long War Journal noted attempts by ISIS to enter the city had been blunted by government forces that stopped an armed convoy from entering the city. Aircraft deployed by the government were part of the equation, as were the aforementioned Shi’ite brigades organized for the battle.

The battle for Tikrit had reportedly turned as well—courtesy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Two battalions of the Quds Forces have been sent to aid Maliki, and combined Iraqi-Iranian forces have retaken 85 percent of that city, according to security forces from both nations. The combined forces were also helping the government retain control of Baghdad and Najaf and Kabala. While Iran is helping a fellow Shi’ite ally, keeping ISIS out of Najaf and Kabala, which are sacred sites on a par with Mecca and Medina.

Unfortunately, Thursday also saw Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish factions boycott a meeting of the Iraqi parliament preventing a quorum from being attained for a vote on declaring the national state of emergency requested by Maliki, two days earlier. The factions, already alienated by Maliki’s preferential treatment of the nation’s Shi’ite majority, were adamantly opposed to giving extraordinary powers to the Shi’ite Prime Minister.

That reality was also reflected by reports that a number of former Ba’athist military commanders from the Hussein era had joined forced with ISIS in the effort to overthrow the Maliki regime. “These groups were unified by the same goal, which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form the Sunni Region,” said Abu Karam, a senior Baathist leader and a former high-ranking army officer, who said planning for the offensive had begun two years ago. “The decisive battle will be in northern Baghdad. These groups will not stop in Tikrit and will keep moving toward Baghdad.”

In other words, the ultimate stability of the government—and Iraq itself— remains very much in question.

In the meantime, reports indicate that Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider providing air support to his government, in the form of drones, airmen and drone pilots. “What we really need right now are drone strikes and air strikes,” said a senior Iraqi official Wednesday. Such appeals have so far been rebuffed. Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to comment on the requests. “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions,” she said in a statement. “The current focus of our discussions with the government of Iraq and our policy considerations is to build the capacity of the Iraqis to successfully confront” ISIS. However, on Thursday afternoon, President Obama hinted at some flexibility. “I don’t rule out anything,” he said in response to a question about possible air strikes. “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria.”

Such a statement strains credulity. For the last three years the president and his administration have done nothing to mitigate the rise of ISIS, which has transformed itself from a terrorist group into a full blown army that controls a cross-border swath of territory from Mosul up through the Anbar province, and west to the Syrian town of Al Bab on the outskirts of Aleppo. “This organization has grown into a military organization that is no longer conducting terrorist activities exclusively but is conducting conventional military operations,” said retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane, who was a key advisor to Gen. David Petraeus during the war in Iraq. “They are attacking Iraqi military positions with company-and battalion-size formations. And in the face of that the Iraqi security forces have not been able to stand up to it.”

That inability is a direct consequence of Obama’s determination to completely withdraw from Iraq in December of 2011, irrespective of events on the ground and advice of military commanders. Withdrawal was precipitated by the president’s failure to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed some U.S. troops to remain in country. And while the media prefer to blame Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the fault lies squarely with a president who demonstrated a calculated indifference towards negotiating a deal in 2011 similar to the one George W. Bush procured in 2008 under far more difficult circumstances.

The result was President Obama’s commitment of only 3000-5000 troops to Iraq following the 2011 withdrawal. That number seriously undercut the recommendations of his military commanders who had asked for 20,000 troops to carry out such missions as counterterrorist operations, diplomat support — and the training and support for Iraqi security forces. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen would have been satisfied with 10,000 troops, but Obama rejected this. The Maliki government, already risking a domestic backlash for keeping any troops in the nation, concluded that the political risks involved weren’t worth it when Obama was so transparently unserious.

His fellow Democrats are no better. Ever since the 2004 presidential campaign, when anti-war activist Howard Dean temporarily vaulted to the head of the Democratic pack of presidential contenders, many of the same Democrats who initially supported the war began their long and ultimately successful campaign to undermine it in order to gain political advantage.  This includes current Secretary of State John Kerry, who had said there was “no question in my mind that Saddam Hussein has to be toppled one way or another,” Vice President Joe Biden, who said that “Saddam either has to be separated from his weapons or taken out of power,” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who cast her vote for war authorization “with conviction.” By the 2004 election, however — after unanimously voting to demolish the country’s existing political infrastructure — these Democrats spoke of little else but abandoning Iraq and allowing it to degenerate into the sectarian chaos on display today.

After ten years, the Left’s wish for Iraq has finally been realized. Democrats are now in a lurch justifying the descent of the country. Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Thursday, Clinton hypocritically bemoaned the “dreadful, deteriorating situation,” which she herself played a role in engineering, and claimed she “could not have predicted the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create a new state.” However, the rise of ISIS, due to the dramatic withdrawal of U.S. forces, has been predicted for quite some time. Just last February, a threat assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency asserted that the ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah,” due to the weak security environment “since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011.”

Obama, Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party received ample warning about where their sabotage of Iraq would lead. And despite the clear disaster unfolding in the country, Obama and his party will reprise the same inadequate troop level/scheduled departure strategy in Afghanistan. Does a similar fiasco await us there? Americans should expect nothing less from a party at the helm that conflates abandoning wars with winning them.

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to, and He may be reached at


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

If there is one article you read today on Iraq...

by Rick Moran

Max Boot has a clarifying article in The Weekly Standard today that boils away most of the spin about what's happening in Iraq and whose fault it is. 

After giving some historical context to the rise of the ISIS, Boot analyzes the catastrophe for America underway in the Levant:
It is hard to exaggerate how much of a disaster this is, not only for Syria and Iraq and their neighbors, but for the United States. Rising oil prices (crude oil rose to over $112 a barrel last week), which could torpedo a weak economic recovery, are just the start of it. Senior intelligence officials have testified recently that they fear Syria could become a launching ground for attacks against the United States. Similar concerns now must extend to Iraq. Certainly, the track record of Islamist militants suggests that whenever they control a piece of terrain—whether Afghanistan before 2001 or Mali in 2013—they immediately set up training camps for foreign jihadists, some of whom then filter back to their home countries to commit atrocities. At the least, neighboring states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be destabilized by the growing strength of ISIS; at the worst, the American homeland and Americans overseas will be threatened.
How did this disaster come about and what can be done about it? Critics of the Iraq war affix blame to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade in 2003. But there is no guarantee that, even absent American intervention, Saddam Hussein would have had any more luck staying in power than other Arab despots. A civil war might well have broken out in Iraq anyway, as has been the case in Syria and Libya. It is true that Bush’s mismanagement from 2003 to 2007 aggravated the situation, especially his foolish decisions to disband the Iraqi Army without sending enough U.S. troops to fill the vacuum and to purge Baathists from the government in a process that was hijacked by Shiite militants such as Ahmad Chalabi. This created the lawless conditions out of which both Sunni and Shiite extremists arose. 
The “surge,” however, turned the tide and created an opening for a more stable and democratic Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq was decimated in 2007-08. As a result Shiite militias such as Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army lost their rationale of protecting Shiites from Sunni terrorism. Violence fell by more than 90 percent, and Iraqi politics began to function. But that tenuous calm started to unravel the minute that U.S. troops pulled out at the end of 2011.
And the biggest unraveller was Prime Minister Maliki who, given his head by a negligent administration, began to persecute Sunnis, leading directly to the resurrection of ISIS.
Freed of effective American oversight, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave full vent to his Shiite sectarian tendencies by persecuting senior Sunni politicians and many of the Sunni commanders who, as part of the American-backed Sons of Iraq, had once fought against al Qaeda. Fearing that they no longer had a place in Iraqi politics, many Sunnis welcomed back ISIS as their defenders. The Iraqi military, in turn, was unable to effectively combat the growing terrorist threat because it had been deprived of American military support and because Maliki stuffed its senior ranks with incompetent party hacks beholden to him. The prime minister further politicized the military, and thus made it less effective, by circumventing the normal chain of command to issue dubious orders to lower-ranking officers. Many soldiers now lack the confidence that they are fighting for Iraqi national interests rather than for a sectarian Shiite agenda. That helps to explain why many of them, especially Sunnis, are so willing to run from a fight against enemies who are fanatically dedicated.
Boots' solution: Special ops forces, air strikes, the return of military advisors and intel people in exchange for political reforms, including perhaps the ouster of Maliki. Boot questions whether we have that kind of leverage, and he's right, but that it's probably our best play. 

My personal opinion is that the situation is irretreivable and short of sending in tens of thousands of troops to keep the two sides apart, they are going to fight until there's little blood left to spill. No "reforms" will work because there is so much distrust on the Sunni side. ISIS has been revitalized because the Sunni community felt threatened by Maliki's Shia dictatorship. When people turn to terrorists to protect them, you know the situation is beyond saving.

Read the rest of Boot's analysis which is the sharpest I've read on the situation in Iraq to date.

Rick Moran


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

Lebanon is a Fiction

by Mike Konrad

Lebanon, the dream of Mideast Christians is over.  It has ceased to exist as a functional nation state.  Islam destroyed it.

Right now, Lebanon can be divided into four regions.  The center is Christian.  The North is Sunni.  The South is Shia.  The fourth region is Beirut, which is a mix.  Though stuck in the Christian center of Lebanon, the wealth of Beirut -- originally a Christian achievement -- has attracted Druze, Muslims, and others.  The consequence is that even if Lebanon were split into three independent nations, no way could be found to split Beirut.  A peaceful separation of Lebanon is not possible.

It is the southern region, south of the Litani River, which is the chief problem.  The south of Lebanon is heavily Shia.  This is Hezb’allah territory.  They are a nation unto themselves with broad local support.  While Hezb’allah claims loyalty to Lebanon, in actuality it rules the Lebanon by fiat from the south.   Hezb’allah really is an Iranian and Syrian proxy force whose aim is to destroy Israel.

Hezb’allah came into the picture as an Iranian and Syrian proxy who entered into the Lebanese Civil War -- started by Sunni Palestinians -- in order to "resist" the Israeli intervention intended to help the Christians and throw the PLO out of Lebanon.  In 1983, Hezb’allah became famous when its suicide bombers attacked American and French peacekeeping forces in Beirut, killing hundreds.  Suicide bombing was a tactic foreign to the Western forces -- and at that time, the military could not deal with it.  America and France quit the area.  Hezb’allah had won.

During the next two decades, Hezb’allah would really earn their dues and fame by fighting Israeli forces in south Lebanon.  In 1983, Israel had set up a military zone south of the Litani River in Lebanon to prevent terror attacks on northern Israel.  Hezb’allah responded with professional squads of guerrillas who harassed Israeli forces non-stop.  This was a well-funded, world-class professional force, not local freedom fighters, as they liked to portray themselves. 

In 2000, Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon almost overnight.  The hated Israelis had run away.  Hezb’allah had won.  The Muslims had had their first major victory; and their first world class army.
IDF Chief Gantz Says Hezb’llah is Better Armed Than Most Nations – the Algemeiner
The only thing was: Hezb’allah had no intention of restoring power in the south to the government in Beirut.  Oh, the government in Beirut was allowed to remain in place, provided it did not interfere with Hezb’allah's "resistance," but Hezb’allah remained the power behind the throne.

Anytime a Christian or Sunni in Beirut wanted to rein in Hezb’allah, the guns were displayed and the reformers were put in their place. In 2005, Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by agents of Hezb’allah.  His crime?  Hariri wanted Lebanon to be free of Syria, Hezb’allah's patron.  So much for Hezb’allah's claim about liberating Lebanon.

In 2006, Hezb’allah started a war with Israel, without any government knowledge or permission.  The politicians were too frightened to do anything but praise Hezb’allah for resisting the Israelis. In secret, however, reports came out that the politicians were furious.  Would they say anything?  Criticism of Hezb’allah is dangerous.

Lebanese Christians were beyond furious.  They were tired of Hezb’allah running the country.  However, when Israel started bombing targets in Christian towns, the Christians were understandably upset.
"The Christians were supporting Israel in 2006 until they started bombing their bridges," - Ha'aretz
But even Israeli commanders had to admit that Hezb’allah was not the PLO.  They were not scared rabbits who ran at the first whiff of cordite.  Hezb’allah stood and fought.  Fearing major casualties, the Israelis negotiated a withdrawal after destroying Lebanon by air. 

On paper, Israel was winning.  Lebanon was shattered; but Israel had taken a hit.  Thousand of rockets had fallen on Israel.  Many Israelis were sleeping on beaches to avoid building collapses.  Israel was no longer invulnerable.  On the land war in Lebanon, Israel was winning, but not without casualties.

Yet, Israel quit again, without obtaining a clear-cut victory.  In the twisted logic of many, Hezb’allah had beaten Israel twice.  Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Hezb’allah, was now the Muslim equivalent of a rock star.  Of course, Lebanon was set back 20 years; but what did Nasrallah care?  Hezb’allah was not about Lebanon, it was only about destroying Israel.

In 2008, in an honest attempt to re-assert sovereignty, the Beirut government tried to shut down Hezb’allah's separate telecommunications network, and to remove Beirut's airport security chief, an ally of Hezb’allah.  The government was tired of smuggling through ports of entry and secret communications behind their back.  Hezb’allah threatened civil war.  Street fighting in Beirut occurred.  In the end, Hezb’allah won. The government rescinded the decrees under fire.

By now, it should be obvious that the Beirut government is powerless to do anything but collect garbage and meet diplomats.  It exists at Hezb’allah's sufferance only to keep up pretenses; and because Hezb’allah does not care about Lebanon enough to control it.  Hezb’allah exists only to wage war on Israel.  Free elections are allowed, not so much because they are rigged, but rather because they are pointless.  Let the people elect whom they want.  Hezb’allah controls the show.

Hezb’allah may now have 80,000 missiles.  Longer range, more destructive.  If another war occurs, on paper, Hezb’allah has the potential to flatten Israel by launching thousands of missiles per day.  Israel has no choice but to knock out Hezb’allah quickly.

Israel says it will hold the Beirut government responsible for Hezb’allah's actions, as if Beirut could control Hezb’allah when Israel failed twice.  In this case, Israel is blaming the hostage; and may be out of line.

While all this is going on, Sunni Salafist extremists are taking over the north of Lebanon.  They hate the Shia -- and would fight Hezb’allah, except that the Christians are in-between both groups.  Both sides, the Sunni Salafists and the Shia Hezb’allah, have sent volunteers to fight in Syria for opposing sides.

About 1 million Syrian refugees have landed in Lebanon, adding to the half-million Palestinians that no one wants.

With an official population of only 4.8 million, Lebanon has lots control of her borders, her citizenry, her sovereignty, etc.  Lebanon does not exist, except as a tool to be used by Palestinians, Sunni Salafists, Shia Iran, secular Syria, or whomever cares to manipulate her.  The government is a fiction.  Their Army breaks up into sectarian militias at the first sign of real trouble.

The Christians -- the only civilized group -- have rebounded in number, but not enough to overcome the Syrian refugees.  Christians are 41% of the citizenry; but between Hezb’allah in the south, Salafists in the north, and a million Syrian refugees, the Christians will be lucky to survive.  The Saudis are pumping money into Lebanon trying to bring it into a Saudi orbit in order to counter Iran and Syria who actually run Lebanon through Hezb’allah; but in fact, Lebanon is a tinderbox waiting to explode at the first spark.

The Christians, who usually have relatives in the West, should git while the gittin' is good. Lebanon will not survive the next war.  Make no mistake, a war will come.  Israel has already struck pre-emptively to prevent the arrival of major weapons being sent to Hezb’allah from Syria.  If Israel attacks Iran, it will have to simultaneously hit Hezb’allah, or face tens of thousands of missiles being fired in retaliation.

Pity Lebanon! Though beautiful in climate and natural wonders, it never had a chance. The Palestinians, the Sunni Muslims, the Shia Hezb’allah, and Salafists never cared about Lebanon -- only the Christians did.  The Christians should leave, drawing some small satisfaction that the Muslims who ruined their country will have to live with the consequences.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website,, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.


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Liberating Libya: General Vows to Crush Terrorists

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

"They are armed; I do not think talks will work with them. These are international criminals from Europe, Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, we are not defending only Libya, but now the entire world. If we expel them from Libya they will just go somewhere else." — Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
Because Haftar prefers war over dialogue, the international media have been trying to discredit him. They have been trying to present him as a killer, and saying that he represents a disaster for Libya.

Libya has a new man, willing to fight against Islamist extremists. Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar, commander-in-chief of a breakaway military force, and denounced by the Libyan central government, has been described as the new "Libyan Al-Sisi."

Just as newly elected Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared open war on the Muslim Brotherhood, Haftar vows to crush Islamists in Libya.

Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
Sisi seems to be Haftar's role model. The Libyan general is willing to follow Sisi's model in what he sees as a fight against Egypt's and Libya's common enemy: the Muslim Brotherhood [MB].

In a recent interview in the Saudi-owned daily, Asharq Al-Awsat, Haftar defined the MB as a "malignant disease that is seeking to spread throughout the bones of the Arab world."

To fight Islamism, Haftar has launched "Operation Dignity," a military campaign against Islamist militia groups in Benghazi.

In May, Haftar's forces assaulted terrorists there, including anti-aircraft batteries in the east of the city. The magazine Al-Majalla reported that the commander-in-chief of Libya's Air Force, Col. Gomaa Al-Abbani, in a televised address, publicly backed Haftar's offensive against Islamist militias in the east of the country. "The Air Force's Chief of Staff announces its full accession to Operation Dignity," Abbani said, and called on the Libyan people to "support the armed forces in their battle against terrorism and to restore security."

Earlier in May, Libya's Special Forces announced that it would be joining Haftar's forces. Libya's Interior Ministry, Military Intelligence Directorate and Tripoli's Police Directorate also announced their support for Operation Dignity.

According to, Haftar commands a growing force of possibly thousands of men with a core group of 500-1000. In addition, Haftar's forces use sophisticated weapons, air raids, and urban tactics. Because Haftar prefers war over dialogue, the international media have been trying to discredit him. They have been describing him as a killer, and saying that that he represents a disaster for Libya.

But according to Haftar -- also an American citizen who spent 20 years in the U.S. after rebelling against the Gaddafi regime in the 1980s -- a war on terror is the only solution to get rid of Islamists. "We see that confrontation is the solution. What is the discussion? They are armed. I do not think talks will work with them. These are criminals, international criminals from Europe and Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, we are not defending only Libya, we are now defending the entire world. The criminals who escape and the killers, they move from place to place. If we expel them from Libya they will just go somewhere else, but if we follow them everywhere, the situation will be different for all countries that fight terrorism."

As the Egyptian media outlet Al-Ahram reports, "Operation Dignity" also expanded to "include political aims related to the nature of the current interim authority." Haftar wants to fight Islamists not only in the battlefield, but also politically. Last month, evidently worried by the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood in government, Haftar led loyal armed gunmen in storming the General National Congress [GNC], Libya's interim legislative body, and demanded its suspension and the creation of a civil assembly of judges to administer the state and supervise general elections. On June 9, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the parliament's election last month of Ahmed Maiteg as prime minister was unconstitutional, leading Maiteg to declare that he was stepping down.

According to Al-Ahram, storming the GNC reflected the political motives behind Operation Dignity. "It seeks to build up a challenge to the mounting grip of the Islamist alliance ... over the interim government ... more recently, the Islamist majority extended the term of the GNC, which had been set to end in February, until December 2014."

Haftar is now the Islamists' number one enemy in Libya. Last week, Haftar managed to escape an assassination attempt organized by Islamist movements. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] has labeled Haftar an "enemy of Islam" and urged Libyans to fight him. "We call on you to unite to remove the symbol of treachery and apostasy, Khalifa Haftar ... the traitor Haftar has launched a war against Islam on the pretext of fighting terrorism. We warn our Libyan brothers that the criminal Haftar is carrying out a crusader plan against sharia [Islamic law], and we especially urge the Libyan heroes of the revolution strongly to resist it", AQIM announced in a statement posted on jihadist internet forums.

In an official statement, the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood has also accused Haftar of leading a "desperate coup attempt," and called on the Libyan people "not to be distracted by calls inciting discord."

International media has labeled Haftar a "renegade." Haftar, however, does not agree, and stresses that Libya's military is behind him, and that what he is doing is in Libya's best interests.

Haftar told Asharq Al-Awsat: "I am an officer in the Libyan Army who is committed to carrying out my duty towards the Libyan people. We always ask ourselves what we can give to our people, who have given us everything. This is my only job, and I stand always ready to give the Libyan people whatever they need."

Last month, Haftar said -- after possibly thousands demonstrated in Tripoli, Benghazi and other cities such as Ajdabiya and Gharghour to support him in his campaign against terrorists -- that the Libyan people had given him a "mandate" to press ahead with his offensive. Many demonstrators carried banners with slogans such as, "No to terrorism" and "We want a nation with dignity, not a state of militias."

Soon after this show of support, Haftar declared that there would be "no steps backward until the country is liberated; security and stability restored, and freedom and democracy established."

Al-Ahram also reported that, in an interview with the Dutch website, "Here's Your Voice," Haftar said that his campaign against Islamist militants could take anywhere from three months to a year. It is impossible to bring it to a conclusion quicker, he said, because, "We face an enemy that is not systematic, that fights from different places and that receives support from its counterparts abroad."

Like Sisi, Haftar is determined to finish off the Muslim Brotherhood without any compromise. Asked by Asharq Al-Awsat whether he intends completely to "purge" the Brotherhood from Libyan territory, Haftar said: "Yes ... completely. I am not looking for reconciliation."

Anna Mahjar-Barducci


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Netanyahu Confirms: Teens Kidnapped byTterrorist Organization

by Ben Hartman, Staff

Netanyahu says kidnapping was true result of recent unity government that was forged between Fatah and Hamas; PM to convene cabinet Saturday evening following announcement.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed the three yeshiva students who disappeared Thursday night were indeed kidnapped by a terrorist organization in his first on-camera statement Saturday evening.

"Naturally, I cannot share everything we know, not at this time; however, I can say this: Our boys were kidnapped by a terrorist organization. This is absolutely clear; there is no doubt about this," said the prime minister.

Netanyahu said that Israel was doing everything in its power to bring the boys home, and reiterated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is responsible for their well-being.

"We see Abbas and the PA as responsible for all attacks that come from their territory, either Gaza or the West Bank," he said. "The claim that they are not responsible because it was in Area C is baseless. The attackers came from Palestinian Authority areas and the Authority is responsible."
The prime minister said that the kidnapping was the "true result" of the recent unity government forged between the Fatah and the Hamas that caused Israel to suspend the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.  

"The unity with Hamas, opens the door for Hamas to control the West Bank. There is no possibility to talk about peace with Israel while you talk about unity with a group that wants to destroy Israel," Netanyahu said.

"In our area states are under threat of attack from extremist Islam and terror groups. Over and over we see that we can trust only ourselves, the IDF, the Shin Bet and Israeli citizens and soldiers," he added.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz who took part in the press conference with Netanyahu on Saturday said the military would expand the scope of its operations to retrieve the abducted youths, while keeping an eye on Gaza and the northern arena.

Following his televised update, Netanyahu was scheduled to convene his cabinet.

Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and the head of the Shin Bet, Yoram Cohen, earlier in the day on Saturday as well as meeting with senior defense officials on Friday.
Meanwhile, Yuval Diskin, former chief of the Shin Bet, took the opportunity of the kidnapping to speak out on Saturday against releasing Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.

"We should end the policy of exchanging terrorists for kidnapped soldiers, or end the policy of freeing terrorists and we should rather freeze West Bank settlement building during peace talks with the Palestinians," Diskin wrote on his Facebook page.

"The prisoner releases are the principal motivators for further kidnappings," he added.   
IDF special forces continued to search for the three Israeli teens on Saturday. Security forces have made "some progress" overnight in a massive effort to track down the location of three Israeli youths kidnapped by a Palestinian terrorist cell in the West Bank, a senior security source said.

The names of the missing yeshiva students were cleared on Saturday for publication.

The boys are: Naftali Frankel, 16 from Nof Ayalon near Modi'in; Gilad Shaar, 16, from Talmon in the West Bank near Ramallah, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 from Elad in central Israel near Petah Tikva. Of the three boys, Naftali Frankel was named as the dual American-Israeli citizen.

Beginning Saturday evening police went on high alert across the country, with the intent to "in order to prevent incidents of incitement, provocation and disturbances from all sides", according to National Police Spokesman Rafi Yafeh.

He also said that they had cancelled a national training drill scheduled to begin on Sunday and that National Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino, currently attending a conference in the United States, has cut his trip short in order to return to oversee the police efforts.

Crime scene forensic examiners from the Judea and Samaria District continue to check a car found torched in the Hebron area Friday morning, which is widely suspected of being linked to the kidnapping.

The Israel Prison Service is also wary of possible disturbances among security prisoners, but as of Saturday afternoon they said that there had been no rioting or violence, or celebrations on the part of the Palestinian security prisoners behind bars in Israel.

Ben Hartman, Staff


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