Thursday, August 22, 2013

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Christians under siege
In the region as a whole, Christians account for between 2% and 5% of the region’s population, versus 20% 100 years ago. Lebanon’s Christians are at the mercy of the Shi’ite Hezbollah, whereas in Syria Christians are victimized by Sunnis. In Iraq they are walloped by everyone. In the Palestinian Authority Christian numbers are falling sharply too, as evidenced by the Muslim majority in once- Christian Bethlehem. Gaza’s Christians are running for their lives.
The one steadily growing Christian community in the Middle East is to be found in much-maligned little Israel.
Only under Jewish sovereignty are Christians safe and free from serial terror and harm. But the one beacon of genuine liberality in an unkind and callously intolerant region is hardly likely to win accolades from the self-styled enlightened world.
What are Western vital interests in the Middle East?
All of which makes it abundantly obvious by now that Arab democracy remains a very distant prospect. There can be no democracy without democrats; without the acceptance of minority rights – including religious minorities and women; without a modicum of law and order and economic sustenance; without the creation of genuine economic opportunities and social mobility for the largely disenfranchised youth of the region; without proper institution building and without the rise of civilian control over the military.
None of this can be achieved short-term by merely spouting pro-democracy slogans. Short-term goals should be economic stabilisation and security – none of which can be achieved by sanctioning the Egyptian military, especially given that Gulf financial support makes Western leverage insignificant and suspension of aid ineffectual.
Western governments should do better than entrust their national interests and foreign policy goals in the region to an incoherent sequence of statements spurred by emotional responses to evolving events they have no control over and are hardly responsible for. They should instead seek clearly to define their interests; understand how best to promote them; and balance them with a long-term commitment to democratisation.
Steinitz: Intelligence confirms Syrian use of chemical weapons
Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz said Thursday that chemical weapons were used in the previous day’s attack in Syria that left hundreds, and according to some reports thousands, dead in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.
“According to our intelligence assesments, chemical weapons were used [in the previous day's attack], and of course not for the first time,” Steinitz told Israel Radio.
Steinitz appeared to be blaming Syrian President Bashar Assad, calling his regime “exceptionally cruel.”
“The international community condemns [these attacks], there are investigations… nothing practical or substantial has been done these past two years in order to stop these massacres of civilians by the Assad regime,” Steinitz said.
France: Force is an option in Syria if gas attack confirmed
France’s foreign minister called Thursday for unspecified forceful action against Syria if it were shown that Bashar Assad’s regime massacred its citizens with chemical weapons.
The statement, by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, came the morning after Russia and China blocked a motion co-authored by France at the UN Security Council, which harshly condemned the use of chemical weapons and called on Syria to allow UN inspectors to look into Wednesday’s alleged attack.
A chronicle of narrow interests
Obama is a rather suspicious president well versed in safeguarding his presidency against all threats. His United States will act on the Syrian front, or anywhere else in the Middle East, only when Obama fears that a lack of involvement threatens his presidency. Obama's persistent war against al-Qaida, by use of any means at his disposal, does not fit with the image of an isolationist president, rather a president who acts determinedly only according to the narrow interests of the White House.
He is set on puling troops out of long-time war zones, because this will help improve his status in Washington. If he becomes convinced that chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria -- he will act in conjunction with other international elements.
Obama can't, or won't
Assad sees, and understands, that Obama doesn't want to, or can't, or simply doesn't know what to do. His foreign policy record is quite embarrassing. In the meantime, as Assad massacres his people and retains power in Syria, an Egyptian court decides to release deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from prison after clearing him of corruption charges. Mubarak is not finished with the justice system quite yet, but what sweet revenge for a man who gets to leave the man who usurped his seat, Mohammed Morsi, and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohammed Badie, behind him in prison, and more importantly, his immediate successor former Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, now unemployed, who didn't protect him.
Much like the French revolution, the Egyptian revolution is bringing nothing but harm to the Egyptians.
And above all, Israeli officials should be asking themselves one simple question: What kind of message is Obama conveying to Iran with his conduct in the Middle East?
Jeffrey Goldberg: Does Anybody Care If Assad Uses Chemical Weapons Again?
The second question is, why would the Assad regime launch its biggest chemical attack on rebels and civilians precisely at the moment when a UN inspection team was parked in Damascus? The answer to that question is easy: Because Assad believes that no one -- not the UN, not President Obama, not other Western powers, not the Arab League -- will do a damn thing to stop him.
There is a good chance he is correct.
BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic
Unfortunately though, Sam Farah’s report does not appear to have made it to the Middle East page, the video page, or any other page on the BBC Arabic website. Isn’t this exactly the kind of news which the BBC claims to be providing for people who are unlikely to hear it from the media in their own countries?
Disinformation: ‘Pravda’ May Be Gone, but Now There’s ‘Russia Today’
While it’s unsurprising that the network’s coverage of the Syrian uprising would track closely with positions staked out by the Kremlin—for example, when Russia vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the regime, an RT correspondent stressed that the resolution “could have sent an unbalanced signal to all sides of the conflict”—RT hasn’t simply promoted an anti-interventionist or anti-NATO viewpoint. Instead, it has frequently parroted Assad’s narrative by providing a platform for paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists to dispute that civilians are being killed by the regime, accuse America and Israel of being behind the deaths of Syrian civilians, and argue that the government in Damascus is a beacon of tolerance in the region.
Lebanon: Hezbollah Commander Assassinated
A leading supporter of the Hezbollah terrorist group was assassinated in Tripoli on Thursday.
Al-Mouri was gunned down by "masked men on motorbikes," along with a security official and a bystander, according to a security source quoted by the Lebanese Naharnet website.
The 40 year-old leader of a pro-Hezbollah Sunni militia was standing at the entrance to his home along with the two other men when the gunmen drove up and shot them.
The true face of the Muslim Brotherhood
If the Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters believe in peaceful protests and peaceful means of achieving goals, why did they burn churches down? Why did they incite hatred and violence through speeches in their camps in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda? Why did their spokesperson say that the Muslim Brotherhood cannot control the anger of its members and supporters? Why did they use weapons against police stations and during their protests in different parts of the country over the last few days? There are images and videos explicitly showing some pro-Morsi supporters using weapons. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay confirmed that, and added that Egyptians need to be reminded that they should prioritize Egypt, rather than their differing positions.
The West should wake up and look seriously at the dangerous situation in Egypt and the true face of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptians should establish ‘popular committees’ to protect their areas, as they did during the 25 January Revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood should denounce violence and accept that ousted president Morsi damaged both the country and democracy.
Morsi Supporters Call for 'Day of Martyrs' on Friday
Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have no intention of backing down on their protests against the military.
With Friday, the day on which the largest protests usually take place following prayers at the mosques, just around the corner, a group of Morsi supporters is calling on Egyptians to hold "Friday of Martyrs" protests against the military.
US Egyptians plan rally at White House against 'Brotherhood terrorism'
The anti-Brotherhood protest is planned to gather at the White House and then move to The Washington Post offices, CNN, then to the headquarters of Islamic Council on American–Islamic Relations, which the group accused of being the Brotherhood's "embassy" in Washington. The rally's final destination is planned to be the Egyptian military attaché’s office in Washington where they intend to "praise the Egyptian army for its heroic stand against MB terrorism".
The protest organizers said they will provide buses to carry demonstrators from various Coptic churches in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina and North Carolina. They said the demonstrators will include "both Muslims and Copts."
Egyptian military chief orders army to rebuild every Coptic church burned by the Muslim Brotherhood
A political master stroke, although I don’t think this is aimed at pressuring Obama into not cutting U.S. aid. Sisi doesn’t care about that; the Saudis will pick up the slack if we yank our measly $2 billion. This is, I think, designed not only to solidify Christian support for the military in Egypt (which was already solid) but to signal to western Christians who are reading news stories about massacres that the military’s the protector of pluralism against Islamism. And that PR will help if/when Egypt needs a loan from the IMF, which might otherwise be inclined not to do business with an outfit that’s shooting protesters in the street.
‘Iran would barely retaliate if its nuclear program were attacked’
Iran is unlikely to unleash a war in response to a military strike on its nuclear facilities, Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said, estimating that possible retaliation would include not more than “two or three days of missile fire” against Israel and/or Western targets in the region, causing “very limited damage.”
Speaking to The Times of Israel earlier this week, Steinitz predicted that Iran’s new President Hasan Rouhani will offer minor goodwill steps to signal his willingness to compromise on the nuclear question, which he will follow up with demands to ease the sanctions while the regime continues to inch toward weapons capability. Steinitz urged the international community not to be fooled by Rouhani’s seemingly moderate rhetoric, and called instead for an internationally endorsed deadline that, if crossed, would be followed by the destruction of the country’s military facilities.
Iranian Schools Prepare Students for 'Drone Hunting'
A section on hunting and downing spy drones is to be included in the Iranian school curriculum, said Lieutenant Commander of the Basij Forces, Brigadier General Ali Fazli
Iran has already started teaching the course tp students in junior and senior high schools. Their two to three hour courses focus on ‘civil defense.’
The Iranian government has long sought a larger role for the military in the country's education system.
UK Islamic TV Station Fined for Encouraging Murder
Noor TV, an Islamic television station which broadcasts from the UK, has been fined £85,000 (more than $130,000) for comments inciting murder made by one of its presenters during a call-in show.
In December, Ofcom - Britain's media regulating body - ruled that the station had breached broadcasting codes after Presenter Allama Muhammad Farooq Nizami urged Muslims to murder anyone who disrespects the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
"There is no disagreement about this," he said at the time. "There is absolutely no doubt about it that the punishment for the person who shows disrespect for the Prophet is death."

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