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21 July 2014

Saudi-Israeli alliance is forged in Palestinian blood

This Saudi-Israeli alliance is forged in blood, Palestinian blood, the blood on Sunday of over 100 souls in Shejaiya. There are many hands behind the Israeli army’s onslaught on Gaza. America is not unhappy that Hamas is getting such a beating.  As footage of the scenes of carnage on the streets of Shejaiya was coming through, John Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that Israel had every right to defend itself and the US ambassador Dan Shapiro told Israel’s Channel 2 news that the US would seek to help moderate forces become stronger in Gaza, meaning the Palestinian Authority.

Nor is Egypt overcome with grief. Its foreign minister Sameh Shoukry held Hamas responsible for civilian deaths after their rejection of the ceasefire.

Neither matter to Netanyahu as much as the third undeclared partner in this unholy alliance, for neither on their own could give him the cover he needs for a military operation of this ferocity. And that can come not from a handwringing but impotent parent like the US. Such permission can only come from a brother Arab.

The attack on Gaza comes by Saudi Royal Appointment. This royal warrant is nothing less than an open secret in Israel, and both former and serving defense officials are relaxed when they talk about it.  Former Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz surprised the presenter on Channel 10 by saying Israel had to specify a role for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the demilitarisation of Hamas. Asked what he meant by that, he added that Saudi and Emirati funds should be used to rebuild Gaza after Hamas had been defanged.

Amos Gilad, the Israeli defence establishment’s point man with Mubarak’s Egypt and now director of the Israeli defence ministry's policy and political-military relations department told the academic James Dorsey recently: "Everything is underground, nothing is public. But our security cooperation with Egypt and the Gulf states is unique. This is the best period of security and diplomatic relations with the Arab.”

The celebration is mutual. King Abdullah let it be known that he had phoned President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to approve of an Egyptian ceasefire initiative which had not been put to Hamas, and had the Jerusalem Post quoting analysts about whether a ceasefire was ever seriously intended.

Mossad and Saudi intelligence officials meet regularly: The two sides conferred when the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was about to be deposed in Egypt and they are hand in glove on Iran , both in preparing for an Israel strike over Saudi airspace and in sabotaging the existing nuclear programme. There has even been a well sourced claim that the Saudis are financing most of Israel’s very expensive campaign against Iran.

Why do Saudi Arabia and Israel make such comfortable bedfellows? For decades both countries have had a similar feeling in their gut when they look around them: fear. Their reaction was similar. Each felt they could only insure themselves against their neighbours by invading them (Lebanon, Yemen) or by funding proxy wars and coups (Syria, Egypt, Libya). They have enemies or rivals in common - Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Hamas in Gaza, and Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere. And they have common allies, too - the US and British military industrial establishments, Fatah strongman and US asset Mohammed Dahlan who tried to take over Gaza once, and will probably be ready to do so again.

The difference today is that for the first time in their two countries’ history there is open co-ordination between the two military powers.  Abdullah’s nephew Prince Turki has been the public face of this rapprochement, which was first signalled by the Saudi publication of a book by an Israeli academic. The prince flew to Brussels in May to meet General Amos Yadlin, the former intelligence chief who has been indicted by a court in Turkey for his role in the storming of the Mavi Marmara.

It could be argued that there is nothing sinister about Prince Turki’s involvement in the Israeli debate and that his motives are both peaceful and laudable. The prince is a staunch supporter of a laudable peace initiative proposed by the Saudi King Abdullah. The Arab Peace Initiative supported by 22 Arab States and 56 Muslim countries would indeed have been a basis for peace had Israel not ignored it some 12 years ago.

Prince Turki waxed lyrical about the prospect of peace in an article published by Haaretz. In it he wrote: “And what a pleasure it would be to be able to invite not just the Palestinians but also the Israelis I would meet to come and visit me in Riyadh, where they can visit my ancestral home in Dir’iyyah, which suffered at the hands of Ibrahim Pasha the same fate as Jerusalem did at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Romans.”

It's the means, not the end which expose the true human cost of these alliances. Prince Turki’s promotion of the Arab Peace Initiative comes at the cost of abandoning the kingdom’s historical support of Palestinian resistance.

The well connected Saudi analyst Jamal Khashogji made this very point when he talked in coded language about the number of intellectuals who attack the notion of resistance: "Regrettably, the number of such intellectuals here in Saudi Arabia is higher than average. If such a trend continues it will destroy the kingdom's honourable claim to support and defend the Palestinian cause since the time of its founder, King Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud."

Peace would indeed be welcome to everyone, not least  Gaza at the moment. The means by which Israel’s allies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are going about achieving it, by encouraging Israel to deal Hamas a crippling blow, calls into question what is really going on here. Turki’s father King Faisal bin Abdulaziz would be turning in his grave at what the son is putting his name to.

This Saudi-Israeli alliance is forged in blood, Palestinian blood, the blood on Sunday of over 100 souls in Shejaiya.

- David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian, from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent. The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/saudi-israeli-alliance-forged-blood-601611381#sthash.RM3uVDxG.dpuf


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The Tragedies of Ukraine and Gaza

The news coming out of both eastern Ukraine and the Gaza Strip has exposed the helplessness of the West in trying to cope with and resolve two intractable crises.
In Ukraine, the government has blamed pro-Russian separatists for the downing on July 17 of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The plane was carrying 283 passengers and fifteen crew members. There are no reports of survivors. Pro-Russian rebels and the Kremlin have denied any involvement.
In the Middle East on the same day, Israel was preparing to send troops into the Gaza Strip. The Israeli security forces said they wanted to bomb concrete tunnels through which Hamas, the radical Islamist movement that controls Gaza, has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel.

Israel has already inflicted terrible suffering on the people of Gaza. More than 200 civilians, including 40 children, have been killed since the current wave of violence began, according to the United Nations. One Israeli has been killed.
Until now, the United States and the European Union have reacted to the Ukraine crisis by imposing sanctions on Russia, and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an extraordinary degree of helplessness.
Yet the longer these crises last, the more the parties to both conflicts will become hardened and inured to pressure from the Americans or the Europeans. Moreover, if these two conflicts continue, the possibility will only increase that they will spill over into their respective regions.
Transnistria, a Russian-backed breakaway region of Moldova that borders Ukraine, is a tinderbox in the making. Can one imagine pro-Russian rebels launching an uprising in Transnistria that would provoke Moldova’s weak government into reacting militarily? How would neighboring Romania, an EU and NATO member, respond? Bucharest has its own ambitions toward Moldova, which is predominantly Romanian speaking.
Nor should the intense Russian propaganda currently being fed to Russian minorities in the Baltic states be forgotten amid efforts to maintain the stability of these countries.
The United States and the EU but also Russia have to find ways to work together—and quickly. It is in Russia’s interests to do so. Otherwise, the EU seems prepared to ratchet up its sanctions against Moscow.
Yet it is simply impossible to know what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-term intentions are toward eastern Ukraine. If, as many fear, Putin intends to spread instability and provoke his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, into going on the offensive in the region, then the casualties and refugees will increase. The losers will be many. The only glimmer of hope from the terrible plane crash is that it just might be a catalyst for serious negotiations.
Meanwhile, on Israel’s bombing of Gaza, the United States and Israel have asked Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to mediate. But there is no love lost between Hamas and Sisi, who has banned the Muslim Brotherhood, another Islamist movement, in his country.
As for the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, he is toothless. It is remarkable that Palestinians in the West Bank haven’t either rebelled against his corrupt leadership or even become radicalized as a result of being locked in by Jewish settlements.
Some analysts have suggested that the United States and the EU should simply walk away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That, they argue, would force the two sides to deal with one another directly rather than playing the Americans and the Europeans off against each other. Well, the West stood by in Syria, and look at what happened there.
Unfortunately, it will take a much greater catastrophe in the Middle East than anything seen so far to move the Israelis and Palestinians toward a sustainable agreement—unless the United States is really serious about mediating.
http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=56195


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19 July 2014

US and Israeli Exceptionalism

Recently, the US House of Representatives voiced unanimous support for the Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza. Many opponents of Israel’s continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians pointed, like they always do, to the disproportionate influence the so-called Israeli Lobby has in Congress. While this is an established and verifiable fact, I would argue that the Lobby is just a manifestation of a less obvious but essential reason for the neverending support Israel receives from Washington and its apologists in the US media.

As a resident of the United States one hears repeatedly of an illusion many fellow residents share. That illusion is called American exceptionalism. In short, the essence of this illusion is that the United States is a blessed nation whose actions in war, peace and otherwise are measured differently than those of almost every other nation. This means that the genocide of the indigenous peoples living on the continent that cleared the land for the settler-invaders was not mass murder, but a holy mission. It also means that every war undertaken by those invaders and their descendants were also missions of their god and undertaken for the purest of motives. This mythology has served the powerful well.

Despair is the absence of hope. That defines the current reality. Washington and its armed forces act at will. The same can be said for Washington’s occasionally ornery client (some would say puppet) operating from Tel Aviv. The state of Israel, like its protector and benefactor the United States, assumes a similar right to disregard international laws and conventions it demands every other nation follow. Likewise, the founding fathers of Israel created documents replete with high-sounding ideals like freedom, justice and peace and demanded that the previous inhabitants of the land they were stealing accept the new reality or flee. If those previous inhabitants refused, the very same ideals were used to force their departure or die. Indeed, in Palestine this process continues. Sadly, in the United States the majority of the native peoples were buried long ago.

Not long after the first British landed on the shores of what is now Massachusetts, the Pequot peoples realized their intention to chase them from their lands. THe colonial settlers, in their smug, Christian certainty, needed little rationalization to undertake their endeavor. The perception most settlers had of the Pequot and other native peoples can be summed up in the worlds of Richard Mather who, in a sermon delivered in Boston, denounced the Pequot as the “accursed seeds of Canaan.” Other preachers equated the colonists war against the Pequot with the battles of KIng David in the old testament, thereby making the war for the Pequot lands a holy war where the only possibility for a holy servant of god was victory. This war was one of the first of many by the British, then American settlers intended to make the New World theirs.

Although the founder of Zionism Theodor Herzl considered his philosophy to be a secular one, there has always been a religious element. Indeed, Israel’s “Declaration of Independence,” opens with the declaration “Eretz Israel [Hebrew: The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.” In making this claim, the founders of Israel linked their nation to the Judeo-Christian biblical tradition. Further on in the same document, those founders refer to the British colonial mandate Balfour Declaration to establish their legal right to the land they were stealing. By acknowledging the biblical land of Israel and the colonial mandate for Palestine, Israel’s founders made clear their allegiance to the western colonialist tradition. More importantly, and disastrously, they paved the way for their ongoing occupation of Palestine and the neverending war against its people.

Israel’s founding documents (and the utterings of many of its politicians during its earlier years) insist on the nation’s allegiance to principles of freedom and fairness for all of its inhabitants. Likewise, a call for peace and cooperation with its neighbors was issued. However, a nation founded by the theft of others’ lands, homes and places of worship is bound to find adhering to those principles to be impossible. This will certainly be the case if actions of the new nation display little intention to follow its stated principles. Like the young nation called the United States, the nation of Israel was founded by stealing land and the spilling of blood. Also, like the young United States, Israel quickly proved that its lofty principles of its founding documents applied only to certain inhabitants of the newly created nation.

In the early American colonies (and in the United States once it was its own entity), the indigenous nations that fought back were accused of cowardice and deceit because they fought asymmetrically. Instead of making themselves easy targets and engaging the settlers and Washington’s cavalry head-on, the fighters utilized guerrilla means in their battle against the encroaching settlers. Civilians were killed by Native American fighters and occasionally gruesome massacres and acts occurred. Yet, even the most gruesome of those acts lacks in comparison to instances like the Sand Creek massacre or the Trail of Tears. Furthermore, the essential foundation of the settler endeavor to rid the North American continent of its indigenous peoples is rivaled by only a few other such instances in history; ironically one such instance is the Nazi attempt to deport and/or kill all the Jewish people in the lands under its control. In Israel, the fighters in the Palestinians’ struggle to keep the lands they consider theirs have also been called cowards due to the means they wage that struggle. Of course, actions like suicide bombings and car bombs are despicable and difficult if not impossible to justify. However, to pretend that the Palestinians use of these and other guerrilla means of warfare are somehow more repugnant or cowardly than Israel’s use of US fighter bombers and missiles against the people of Gaza is just plain dishonest.

Both Washington and Tel Aviv claim an exceptionalism that objectively does not exist. However, the fact that both nations believe such an exceptionalism does exist makes it an element in the actions those nations undertake. It provides the citizens of those nations with a rationale for their prejudices and it enables a system based on those prejudices to operate. This can be seen on the daily attacks on Latin American immigrants in the United States by individuals, politicians, and police agencies just like it is seen in the constant humiliation and abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In extreme moments, that exceptionalism provides a rationale for mass murder like that currently taking place in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military (with US provided weaponry) or that undertaken by Washington in countries too numerous to count.

Both nations were founded by a group of predominantly secular men (and in Israel’s case a woman or two). Relative to their size, in their history as secular nations both have killed too many to count; both nations also oppressed and continue to oppress too many to count; both nations make alliances with dictators and racist states whose crimes are oftentimes equally bloody; and both nations justified their actions as being for the betterment of humanity. In reality, they are almost always for the betterment of those who benefit from them the most. All too many of the rest of us remain accomplices to their continued barbarity.

By RON JACOBS, counterpunch.org

14 July 2014

A life inside Al Qaeda


By Jason Burke 
MORTEN Storm is a former biker turned European militant Islamist blowhard, turned Al Qaeda associate close to some of the most senior operational extremists in the world, turned spy, turned whistleblower. This is, it`s not unfair to say, an unusual combination.

Storm grew up in a tough, workingclass coastal Danish town. His alcoholic father left home, his stepfather beat him and he committed his first armed robbery at 13. There followed multiple expulsions, special schools and a promising career as a boxer curtailed by indiscipline. By his mid teens, he was involved in a local street gang mainly composed of local Palestinian, Turks and Iranian immigrants.

`I gravitated to [them]. I felt like an outsider in Korsor and I always identified with the underdog,` he says early in this fascinating account of a decade or so spent inside both militant Sunni Muslim activism and security services`counterterrorism.

Leaving the neighbourhood street toughs, Storm graduated to the Bandidos, a biker gang, and enjoyed much violence, casual sex and drugs.

The gangster declared himself a Muslim and enjoyed the comradeship of other Muslims he knew from the neighbourhood. None of them took the strictures of faith very seriously or knew many of its teachings. They celebrated his conversion by going on a drinking binge.

But another bout of jail hardened Storm`s Islamic faith and changed his perception of the world beyond Demark. When he fled to London to avoid angry members of his former gang, he ended up in central London`s Regent`s Park mosque; then he was offered a Saudi-funded scholarship to study Arabic and his new faith at an ultra-conservative religious school in Yemen. He accepted and this first trip to the Middle East marked the real start of his extraordinary journey through 15 years of extremism in Britain, Denmark and Yemen.

Accounts of My Time in Al Qaeda are numerous enough for them to constitute a sub-genre,but there are no others in which the main protagonist has also played such an extensive role for Western security services, and, more crucially, is prepared to reveal so much.

Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank, the two CNN journalists who have written the bool< with Storm, have done ahnejob ofgivingcontexttohis story and appear to have tested much ofhis account.The resultisa credible narrative that illuminates both violent Islamic extremism and the intelligence community`s efforts to fight it. Neither the Islamists nor the spooks come out of it particularly well.

After learning Arabic and soaking up the teachings of some of the mostconservative contemporary Islamic thinkers, Storm left Yemen for the UK. This was the end of the 1990s and London was home to many exiled radicals calling for violence overseas. The Danish convert quickly found new friends and he spent time with Omar Bakri Mohammed Fostok, the leader of the Al-Muhajiroun group. British activism existed on the very margins cultural, political, social of mainstream society. Staying in grubby flats in run-down social housing estates, living off welfare and petty (or occasionally more serious) crime, Storm and his associates inhabited a world of overstayed visas, violent online videos, idolised preachers, frustration and alienation.

Throughout the book, militantactivism is revealed to be amateurish but nonetheless a threat. Storm`s own credentials as a militant were reaffirmed continually by his apparent closeness to well-known activists and ideologues.

The most prominent of these, and a central character in his account, is Anwar al-Awlaki, a charismatic US-born radical cleric of Yemeni origins who would eventually be regarded as second only to Osama bin Ladenin posing the greatest threat to Western security. Al-Awlaki, the son of a senior figure in a major local tribe, invited Storm to dinner when the young Danish convert was back in Yemen in early 2006, and impressed him greatly.

Even so, Storm was beginning to doubt the message. He `began to reconsider some of the justifications for the killing and maiming of civilians`, he writes. `Now I thought of the twin towers, Bali, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005. My loss of faith was as frightening as it was sudden.

Storm was not alone, and Lister and Cruickshank miss an opportunity to point out that tens of millions of people across the Islamic world, including very many who had been broadly sympathetic to the aims of the extremistsin the period following the US and British invasion of Iraq, were having the same doubts. From Morocco to Malaysia, levels of support that were high in 2004 or 2005 had declined by 2007.

Both MI5, the UK`s domestic counter-intelligence agency, and PET, the Danish intelligence service, had previously attempted to recruit Storm, with no success. Having repudiated his former `brothers`, he dug out a card with a number on it and called.

From here on, the narrative gathers pace, becoming a spy thriller written in spy-thriller prose. Detailed accounts by participants of how Western intelligence agencies attempted to kill major Al Qaeda figures are rare, and Storm`s descriptions of meetings, training sessions and discussions are revelatory. He recounts a series of episodes working as an informant for MI5 (back to the dingy flats and the mosques), for PET in Denmark and, eventually, for the CIA.

Storm`s portrayal of the spooks is unflattering. From the philandering, flashy, hard-drinking PET, to the stand-offish, rule-obsessed Brits, to the arrogant, wealthy CIA, no one comes out well. The degree to which the agencies conform to national stereotype is jarring, but his account of the lavish post-mission `debriefing` sessions with Danish handlers in luxury hotels in Bangkok and Lisbon is nonetheless more than plausible.

Indeed, much has subsequently been confirmed by internal official inquiries in Denmark.

Storm, astonishingly, taped meetings with the CIA by leaving his iPhone recording and this material, too,corroborates his story.

His relationship with all the agencies eventually fell apart after the CIA set out to kill Al-Awlaqi. The cleric`s vehicle was destroyed by a missile fired from an unmanned drone in September 2011. Storm claims that a flash drive he delivered to Al-Awlagi led the Americans to their target. The CIA denied this and Storm lost out on a promised $5 million reward. He had fallen out with MI5 and MI6 long before, in part because they suspected he had become involved in an assassination attempt, something prohibited by UK law. His relationship with the PET ended in acrimony too, as he went public with his story.

Storm repeatedly insists that he was led into radical Islamic violence by a `quest to fight for the underdog` Equally important, perhaps, was his desire to be one of the team, to be liked, even to be admired by the gangsters, the aspirant militants in the UK, the hardened networks in the Arab Peninsula and the security services. Terrorism is less a matter of faceless organisations than a social activity one which, in nature if not purpose or justification, is much like any other.
-By arrangement with the Guardian Dawn.com



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Who`s policing terrorists on social media?

By Ronan Farrow 
`THE graves are only half empty; who will help us fill them?` Twenty years ago, that rallying cry on Rwandan radio helped explode ethnic enmity into one of history`s worst atrocities. In today`s Iraq, another vicious conflict between a formerly empowered ethnic minority and a longsubjugated majority is causing the deaths of thousands. At its heart is another mass-media appeal to bloodlust on radio`s modern-day equivalent: social media. This time, the world may have a chance to stop what it failed to in Rwanda.

The Sunni Islamic State insurgents, locked in a deadly struggle with Iraq`s Shia majority, excel online. They command a plethora of official and unofficial channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. `Take up arms, take up arms, O soldiers of the Islamic State. And fight, fight!` commands one recent propaganda reel, featuring a sermon from the group`s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The material is often slickly produced, like The Clanging of Swords IV, a glossy, feature-length film replete with slow-motion action scenes. Much of it is available in English, directly targeting the recruit s with Western passports that have become one of the organisation`s more dangerous assets.

And almost all of it appeals to the young: manipulated images of Islamic State fighters and their grisly massacres with video game-savvy captions like, `This is our Call of Duty`.

But officials at social media companies are leery of adjudicating what should be taken down and what should be left alone. `One person`s terrorist is another person`s freedom fighter,` one senior executive told me on condition of anonymity. Making that call is `not something we`d want to do`.

So official Islamic State accounts often remain on Twitter for weeks and accumulate tens of thousands of followers before being removed. A few propaganda videos have been taken off YouTube for `violating YouTube`s policy on shocking and disgusting content`, according to the notice on one removed video. But countless others remain, including a recent sermon by Baghdadi, posted through an account claiming to be Islamic Stateaffiliated.

There are legitimate free-speech questions here: how should media coverage of propaganda be treated? What about peaceful lectures by otherwise violent terrorists? But those gray areas don`t excuse a lack of enforcement against direct calls for murder, which these companies supposedly ban. `I understand there are freedom-ofspeech concerns, but I don`t think that describes what`s going on with much of the content on YouTube,` says Evan Kohlmann, a counterterrorism analyst with Flashpoint Partners and NBC News. `No one`s suggesting they remove all journalistic clips ... This is about extremely explicit content, calling for violence.

Another objection is practical. There`s simply too much content to monitor and too many waysfor it to resurface when quashed. An executive at one major social media company described it as the `whack-a-mole` phenomenon take down one video, it springs up elsewhere. But flawed enforcement shouldn`t excuse inaction now any more than it did in Rwanda 20 years ago, when the US government deemed the use of radio-jamming technology too legally complex, too expensive, too impractical. The perfect, then as now, was the enemy of the good.

More troubling still is the fact that these companies already know how to police and remove content that violates the law. Every major social media network employs algorithms that automatically detect and prevent the posting of child pornography. Many, including YouTube, use a similar technique to prevent copyrighted material from hitting the web. Why not, in overt cases such as beheading videos and calls for blood, employ a similar system? Indeed, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook all strictly refuse to police content themselves instead relying on third parties, mostly users around the world, to flag objectionable material.

But the constant torrent of new content is not a burden that can be practically managed by the crowd any more than companies expect users to serve as the prime monitor for child pornography.

As always, beneath legitimate practical and ethical concerns, there is a question about the bottom line. Individuals involved in content removal policies at the major social media companies, speaking to me on condition of anonymity, said that`s a driving factor in their thinking. `We can`t police any content ourselves,` one explained. Added another: `The second we get into reviewing any content ourselves, record labels say, `You should be reviewing all videos for copyright violations, too.

Yet past is prologue. The world, with each lamentation of `never again`, has cursed its failure to stop Rwanda`s deadly broadcasts. A furious Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, once complained that the US `refused to use its technology` when it could have. A Harvard University study found that jamming the broadcasts could have saved tens of thousands of lives.

The Islamic State`s campaign of incitement is `definitely reminiscent of Rwanda`, said John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official focused on Africa who has studied Rwanda for years. Now as then, exploiting sectarian hatred can quickly turn deadly on a massive scale. Now as then, cracking down on calls to kill isno panacea,butitcanhelp.

These companies have a moral obligation to do more. And US law should not create a legal barrier for them to act when lives are on the line. The current regime enforced ignorance and halfmeasures may be among our apologies when we say `never again` over Iraq.

Dawn.com By arrangement with The Washington Post



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Dreams of an Islamic caliphate


A member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham stands on an armoured personnel carrier as he holds aloft a flag. — Reuters
A member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham stands on an armoured personnel carrier as he holds aloft a flag. — Reuters
“O God do not allow us to go stray after showing the right path. Remove our differences. End our miseries. Teach us to love each other,” prayed the Imam at a Friday congregation in Virginia.
“Ameen,” said the worshippers, with tears rolling down their cheeks.
“Encourage unity among Muslims. Help the Muslims of Palestine and Myanmar,” prayed the Imam.
“Ameen,” said the congregation, which included Pakistanis, Indians, Afghans and Arabs.
As the prayer ended, they split in small groups, each speaking a different language, and walked out of the mosque.
Some of them would gather again at iftar, at a local mosque or a restaurant, each ethnic group sitting separately.


Islam promotes collective demonstration of faith. The five prayers, the annual fasting and the Haj all encourage Muslims to get together, causing some to believe this collective display of faith would also foster greater political unity within the ummah.
But this demonstration of unity has often been confined to religious rituals. Even the Organisation of Islamic States, which is supposed to represent all the Muslims of the world, has never gone beyond a symbolic demonstration of unity.
So far, all efforts to turn this fraternity into a political reality have failed, mainly because there are not many among Muslims who desire a common political identity.
Some groups blame the absence of an Islamic state for the lack of political unity among the Muslims. They believe that an Islamic state would be a centre of attraction for all Muslims and by successfully implementing the Sharia; this state can also lay the foundation for an Islamic caliphate.
This state would ultimately lead to the creation of a caliphate, i.e. one government for all Muslims.
Unfortunately, all efforts to create such a state have failed. Instead of fostering unity, such efforts have often ended in creating new discords, which further weakened the Muslims.
With the proclamation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Muslims now assumedly have two states and two caliphs to choose from - one in the Middle East and the other in Afghanistan. Both have grand designs and want to bring the entire Muslim world under the yoke of the new caliphs.


The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is still a political movement. It can only become a reality if two existing Muslim states – Syria and Iraq – collapse. Both also have to split on sectarian and ethnic lines to make space for the new state.
This will require Syria to divide into Shia and Sunni enclaves, and the Sunni side to join the proposed state. Other religious and ethnic groups living in the present day Syria will have to fend for themselves.
Iraq has to face a similar fate, splitting into three states: one each for the Shias and Sunnis and one for the Kurds. The Iraqi Christians will apparently be forced to become Dhimmis or leave the country.
The split will lead to the creation of two immediate blocs, with Iran leading the Shia blocs, which may include the Shia areas of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
On the Sunni side, the transition will be less smooth as Saudi Arabia and other major Arab states will compete with each other to lead the bloc. Besides, it is still doubtful if Saudi Arabia would like to have an Islamic state on its borders.
By financing the military takeover in Egypt, the Saudis have made it very obvious that they are in no mood to allow a religious party, the Muslim Brotherhood, to run an Arab state. And ISIS, which will be run by hardcore al Qaeda militants, could be more dangerous for the Saudis than a Brotherhood-led Egypt. After all, al Qaeda started in the kingdom as a political group, which wanted to end the Saudi monarchy.


The present day crisis in Iraq, however, has allowed the gradual emergence of a semi-independent state within its border, that of Kurdistan. It is more homogenous than the two states that the ISIS activists are trying to form because it is dominated by one ethnic group, the Kurds.
But a fully independent state of Kurdistan will face strong resistance from all its neighbours. Turkey, which has a large Kurdish minority, has already declared that it will not accept any new development that encourages its own Kurds to secede.
Iran and Syria too have Kurdish enclaves and will not look at this new state with favour. The Sunni Iraq will have its own dispute with Kurdistan over the oil city of Kirkuk.
Since all oil wells will end up in the Shia and Kurdish parts of the country, the Sunni Iraq will have to fight both for a share.
These will be the immediate consequences of the creation of an Islamic state in the Middle East, if it ever happens. And it is apparent that none of these developments will help the Muslim ummah or strengthen its unity.
Unlike ISIS, the other Islamic state, that of Afghanistan, is not an unknown commodity. The Islamic emirate of Afghanistan had existed before, from 1996 to 2001. And there are not many Afghans who remember it fondly.


The Taliban emirate reduced Islam to flogging, beating, beheading, and forcing women to stay indoors. It denied them education and health facilities and, in some cases, forced them to marry Taliban commanders.
It strained Afghanistan’s ties with the rest of the world and turned it into an international pariah. Its unholy alliance with al Qaeda led to the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks in the United States, and, consequently, to the US invasion, which ended the Taliban rule.
There are no reasons to believe that a new Taliban emirate in Afghanistan will be any different from the previous emirate.
Pakistan is another nation that dreams of creating an Islamic state, although within its borders.
By Anwar Iqbal http://www.dawn.com/news/1118796/dreams-of-an-islamic-caliphate
Related:  Caliphate: Redundant or Relevant? 

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13 July 2014

ISIS’s cascading effect

 
A PAKISTANI militant group Tehreek-i-Khilafat’s declaration of allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), now calling itself the Islamic State, has surprised many. Though most analysts are suspicious of the declaration and see it as insignificant, because little is known about the group, it does indicate that ISIS has started to inspire some individuals and groups in Pakistan with similar objectives.

The rise of the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s inspired many Islamist political and militant movements across the world. Afghanistan became an attractive destination for thousands of Muslim radicals hailing from different parts of world. Today, ISIS is attracting Islamist militants and also financial resources in an almost similar way. As Pakistani militants and religious organisations do not operate in isolation, it is natural for them to draw inspiration from ISIS.

Indeed, the ideological association and operational linkage between the Pakistani militants and ISIS are not at all new. Pakistani militants were part of the group from its inception. Many militants from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Balochistan and Punjab factions constitute the best fighting force of ISIS. It was LeJ militants who set up the Ghazi Abdul Rasheed training camp in the Iraqi city of Arbil in 2013. The militants trained in the camp constituted the Ghazi Force.

Western nations are concerned about their nationals who have joined the ranks of ISIS and other militant groups in Syria and Iraq. But for Pakistan such a threat is far bigger because once the LeJ and other Pakistani militants fighting in Syria and Iraq return to Pakistan, they will add to the sectarian violence, besides strengthening their respective militant groups.

As Pakistani militants do not operate in isolation, it is natural for them to draw inspiration from ISIS.
As far as the Tehreek-i-Khilafat is concerned, the Omer media, the media wing of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, describes the group as a TTP affiliate in Karachi and regularly publishes reports on its terrorist activities. Also, the Tehreek-i-Khilafat has an online presence and has claimed responsibility for some attacks on police and the Rangers in Karachi.

According to Omer media reports, the group came into existence in 2012. Abu Jandal Khurasani is the so-called spokesperson who claims that the group is aiming to get back Muslim territories from the control of the local puppets of imperialist forces, and to establish a caliphate in Pakistan. The group is a strong critic of democracy, like the TTP, and believes that democracy is un-Islamic.

The ideology espoused by the Tehreek-i-Khilafat is not new to Pakistan; most violent and many non-violent Islamist groups in Pakistan believe in it, and even reject what religious forces have achieved thus far in Pakistan. The country presents a unique and complex case of religious activism which cannot be compared with that in any other Muslim country. Multiple religious organisations are operating in the country with different objectives and they have a mixed bag of successes and failures.

Religious forces made early gains on the Islamisation front by managing to define the ideological discourse of the state through the Objectives Resolution of 1949. They also had their say in the shape of a formal constitutional acknowledgment that laws considered divine will have precedence over those made by parliament. They also managed to get many Sharia laws adopted during the rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

Despite these significant achievements, the religious forces are still struggling for absolute Islamisation of the state. At the same time, the religious forces believe that this objective cannot be achieved until they get control over the state. That is why their agendas are largely political and revolve around capturing power.

The religio-political parties claim they are custodians of the larger religious discourse and tradition in the country. However, in the last two decades, another form of religious organisation has also emerged. It comprises the agents of Islamisation and religio-socialisation but believes that change is impossible within the parameters of the Constitution and with the current political dispensation. It deems democracy and the democratic process inadequate for the change it pursues and advocates.

Some of them see democracy as an idea contrary to the Islamic principles of governance and want to replace it with their own version of the Sharia. Others such as Tanzeemul Ikhwan and Tanzeem-i-Islami believe that the Sharia cannot be introduced in its entirety through the democratic electoral process and consider the use of force to achieve power as an alternative.

These organisations have sectarian and militant tendencies but the dominant approach is characterised by their quest for a complete change of the system. This is contrary to the approach of the religio-political parties, which focus on a gradual change within the system.

Despite the varying approaches adopted by religious organisations and religio-political parties for the enforcement of the Sharia, many extremist groups believe that the change is impossible within the Constitution and current system. Nor do they believe in a mass struggle for bringing about change. They believe in armed revolt against the state and its defence apparatus. The TTP, LeJ and smaller groups like the Tehreek-i-Khilafat fall in this category.

The appeal of their message increases when Islamists succeed elsewhere in the world. But it builds pressure on the leaders of non-violent Islamic movements and political parties because their followers and cadres start comparing the achievements of their leadership with that of Islamist movements succeeding elsewhere.

At the time of the rise of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, non-violent religious groups and religio-political parties had associated themselves with the Taliban with a view to sharing the latter’s successes but they will find it hard to associate with ISIS.

Achieving a goal within the shorter time frame always attracts ideological movements, and spurs extremists to adopt violent ways. If ISIS sustains its momentum and the group succeeds in maintaining its control over the captured territories, it can cause frustration in the cadre of groups such as Hizbut Tahrir and the students’ wings of religio-political parties that believe in non-violent struggle for the establishment of a caliphate.
By Muhammad Amir Rana: The writer is a security analyst.
http://www.dawn.com/news/1118838/isiss-cascading-effect
  1. BBC News - Profile: Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)

    www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24179084
    The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is a jihadist group active in Iraq and Syria.ISIS was formed in April 2013 and grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
  2. ISIL: Rising power in Iraq and Syria - Al Jazeera

    www.aljazeera.com/.../isil-eminent-threat-iraq-syria-20...
    Jun 11, 2014
    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has outgrown even ... death, the group rebranded as the Islamic ...
  3. Isis Islamists destroy cigarettes in Raqqa, Syria – video ...

    www.theguardian.com › News › World news › Syria
    Apr 4, 2014
    Islamist fighters in Raqqa, Syria, burn a truckload of confiscated cigarettes. The men, part of the Islamic State in ...
  4. The Evolution of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant ...

    www.stratfor.com/.../evolution-islamic-state-iraq-and-l...
    Jun 20, 2014
    Its operations in Syria have caused it to change its name to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also ...


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