Archive for the ‘Middle East’ category

Updated: Mordechai Kedar destroys Muslim claims to Jerusalem on Al-Jazeera TV – full video with English subtitles

December 27, 2017

When posted the video of Mordechai Kedar speaking on Al-Jazeera TV, I only had a subtitled version of a 2 minute segment. I noted that I didn’t have the full video with English subtitles and that I would update if I found it.

Reader Gideon Kantorovich very kindly sent me the video of the full interview (10 minutes) complete with English subtitles, which I hereby post below.

Enjoy Mordechai Kedar’s wit and his deep knowledge of Islam and Arab culture:

 

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East

October 14, 2017

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East, Gatestone Institute, Philip Carl Salzman, October 14, 2017

Many Middle Easterners see the disasters around them, and blame outsiders: “It is the fault of the Jews”; “The British did this to us”; “The Americans are to blame.”[5] Many Western academics and commentators say the same, dignifying this counter-historic theory with the label “postcolonialism.” But given that tribal dynamics were dominant in the region for a thousand years since the foundation of Islam, and thousands of years before that, blaming outsiders for regional dynamics is hardly credible. Nonetheless, “postcolonialists” will claim that pointing to regional culture as the foundation of regional dynamics is “blaming the victim.” We in the West, unlike Middle Easterners, love “victims.” But what if Middle Easterners are victims of the limitations and shortcomings of their own culture?

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Peace is not possible in the Middle East because values and goals other than peace are more important to Middle Easterners. Most important to Middle Easterners are loyalty to kin, clan, and cult, and the honour that is won by such loyalty.

There was no group and no loyalty above the tribe or tribal confederation until the rise of Islam. With Islam, a new, higher, more encompassing level of loyalty was defined. All people were divided between Muslims and infidels, and the world was divided between the Dar al-Islam, the land of believers and peace, and Dar al-harb, the land of unbelievers and war. Following the tribal ideology of loyalty, Muslims should unite against infidels, and would receive not only honour, but heavenly rewards.

Honour is gained in victory. Losing is regarded as deeply humiliating. Only the prospects of a future victory and the regaining of honour drives people forward. An example is the Arab-Israel conflict, in the course of which the despised Jews repeatedly defeated the armies of Arab states. This was not so much a material disaster for the Arabs, as it was a cultural one in which honor was lost. The only way to regain honor is to defeat and destroy Israel, the explicit goal of the Palestinians: “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” This why no agreement over land or boundaries will bring peace: peace does not restore honor.

We in the West, unlike Middle Easterners, love “victims.” But what if Middle Easterners are victims of the limitations and shortcomings of their own culture?

Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East. What one sees is strong, kin-based, group loyalty defense and solidarity, and the political opposition of lineages, whether large or small.[1] This raised the question how unity and peace could arrive in a system based on opposition.

Peace is not possible in the Middle East because values and goals other than peace are more important to Middle Easterners. Most important to Middle Easterners are loyalty to kin, clan, and cult, and the honour which is won by such loyalty. These are the cultural imperatives, the primary values, held and celebrated. When conflict arises and conflict-parties form based on loyal allegiance, the conflict is regarded as appropriate and proper.

The results of absolute commitment to kin and cult groups, and the structural opposition to all others, can be seen throughout Middle Eastern history, including contemporary events, where conflict has been rife. Turks, Arabs and Iranians have launched military campaigns to suppress Kurds. Meanwhile, Christians, Yazidis, Baha’is and Jews, among others, have been, and continue to be ethnically cleansed. Arabs and Persians, and Sunnis and Shiites, each try to gain power over the other in a competition that has been one of the main underlying factors of the Iraq-Iran war, the Saddam Hussein regime, and the current catastrophe in Syria. Turks invaded Greek Orthodox Cyprus in 1974 and have occupied it since. Multiple Muslim states have invaded the minuscule Jewish state of Israel three times, and Palestinians daily celebrate the murder of Jews.

Some Middle Easterners, and some in the West, prefer to attribute the problems of the Middle East to outsiders, such as Western imperialists, but it seems odd to suggest that the local inhabitants have no agency and no responsibility for their activities in this disastrous region, high not only in conflict and brutality, but low by all world standards in human development.

If one looks to local conditions to understand local conflicts, the first thing to understand is that Arab culture, through the ages and at the present time, has been built on the foundation of Bedouin tribal culture. Most of the population of northern Arabia at the time of the emergence of Islam was Bedouin, and during the period of rapid expansion following the adoption of Islam, the Arab Muslim army consisted of Bedouin tribal units. The Bedouin, nomadic and pastoral for the most part, were formed into tribes, which are regional defense and security groups.[2]

Bedouin tribes were organized by basing groups on descent through the male line. Close relatives in conflict activated only small groups, while distant relatives in conflict activated large groups. If, for example, members of cousin groups were in conflict, no one else was involved. But if members of tribal sections were in conflict, all cousins and larger groups in a tribal section would unite in opposition to the other tribal section. So, what group a tribesmen thought himself a member of was circumstantial, depending on who was involved in a conflict.

Relations between descent groups were always oppositional in principle, with tribes as a whole seeing themselves in opposition to other tribes. The main structural relation between groups at the same genealogical and demographic level could be said to be balanced opposition. The strongest political norm among tribesmen was loyalty to, and active support of, one’s kin group, small or large. One must always support closer kin against more distant kin. Loyalty was rewarded with honour. Not supporting your kin was dishonourable. The systemic result was often a stand-off, the threat of full scale conflict with another group of the same size and determination acting as deterrence against frivolous adventures. That there were not more conflicts than the many making up tribal history, is due to that deterrence.

There was no group and no loyalty above the tribe or tribal confederation until the rise of Islam. With Islam, a new, higher, more encompassing level of loyalty was defined. All people were divided between Muslims and infidels, and the world was divided between the Dar al-Islam, the land of believers and peace, and Dar al-harb, the land of unbelievers and war. Following the tribal ideology of loyalty, Muslims should unite against infidels, and would receive not only honour, but heavenly rewards.

Honour is gained in victory.[3] Self-sacrifice in the attempt is lauded, but honour comes from winning. Having lost and being a victim is not an esteemed position in Arab society. Having lost in a political struggle results in loss of honour. This is felt deeply as a loss that should be corrected. Losing is regarded as deeply humiliating. Only the prospects of a future victory and the regaining of honour drives people forward. An example is the Arab-Israel conflict, in the course of which the despised Jews repeatedly defeated the armies of Arab states. This was not so much a material disaster for the Arabs, as it was a cultural one in which honour was lost. The only way to regain honour is to defeat and destroy Israel, the explicit goal of the Palestinians: “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” This why no agreement over land or boundaries will bring peace: peace does not restore honour.

None of this is unknown to Arab commentators, who repeatedly refer to the tribal nature of their culture and society. Of course, today, few Middle Easterners live in tents and raise camels, but villagers and urbanites share the same tribal assumptions and values. According to the Tunisian intellectual Al-Afif al-Akhdar, the Arabs cherish their “deep-culture of tribal vengefulness” and consequent “fixated, brooding, vengeful mentality.”[4] Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has said that “We need an ideological revolution; our tribal mentality has destroyed our society.”

Dr. Salman Masalha, an Israeli Druze literary intellectual, argues:

“The tribal nature of Arab societies is deeply embedded in the past, and its roots date back through Arab history to the pre-Islamic era. … Since Arab societies are tribal in nature, the various forms of monarchies and emirates are the natural continuation of this ingrained social structure in which tribal loyalty comes before all else.”

Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian-born American scholar, wrote in the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat:

“The Arabs, even after the arrival of Islam, were never “ideological” people who sought to develop an intellectual vision of ourselves and the outside world. Instead, we are the people of blood relations and family ties, or “Shalal” as we call it in Egypt. … Despite the fact that Islam was the greatest intellectual revolution in our history, we, as Arabs, have succeeded in adapting Islam to serve the tribe, the family, and the clan. Islamic history began as an intellectual revolution, and as a history of ideas and countries; however, after the beginning of the Orthodox Caliphate, it was transformed into a somewhat tribal state. The State of Islam became the Umayyad State, and after that the Abbasid, the Fatimid, and so on and so forth. This means that we now have a history of tribes instead of a history of ideas. … Has this tribal history, alongside tribal and family loyalties and the priority of blood relations over intellectual relations gone forever after the “Arab spring?” Of course not; what has happened is that the families and tribes have dressed themselves up in the cloak of revolutions in Yemen and in Libya, and in Egypt the opposition consists of tribes rather than concepts.”

Pictured: Bedouin men in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The history of the Middle East, the centuries of tribal wars, and the ongoing fissures in Arab society all testify to the Arab tribal culture and structural opposition. There may have been good reasons to stick with tribal culture and organization in pre-modern times: states and empires were despotic, exploitative, and heavily dependent on slave-labor, and tribal organization gave some people a chance to remain independent. In recent times, with the modern state model, governments in the Middle East have tried to establish states, but these have foundered on tribal loyalties and oppositions, which do not fit with constitutional states. Rulers in the region have all turned to coercion to maintain their positions, making all Muslim states in the region despotic.

Many Middle Easterners see the disasters around them, and blame outsiders: “It is the fault of the Jews”; “The British did this to us”; “The Americans are to blame.”[5] Many Western academics and commentators say the same, dignifying this counter-historic theory with the label “postcolonialism.” But given that tribal dynamics were dominant in the region for a thousand years since the foundation of Islam, and thousands of years before that, blaming outsiders for regional dynamics is hardly credible. Nonetheless, “postcolonialists” will claim that pointing to regional culture as the foundation of regional dynamics is “blaming the victim.” We in the West, unlike Middle Easterners, love “victims.” But what if Middle Easterners are victims of the limitations and shortcomings of their own culture?

Philip Carl Salzman is Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Canada.


[1] Philip Carl Salzman, Black Tents of Baluchistan, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

[2] Philip Carl Salzman, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2008.

[3] Frank Henderson Stewart, Honor, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.; Gideon M. Kressel, Ascendancy through Aggression, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1996.

[4] Quoted in Barry Rubin, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Hoboken, NY: Wiley, 2006), 80-81.

[5] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel, NY: Free Press, 2007, p. 47.

“Drip-Drip” Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017

May 28, 2017

“Drip-Drip” Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017, Gatestone InstituteRaymond Ibrahim, May 28, 2017

“They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the military?” — Christian man fleeing Al-Arish, Egypt; video.

“Historical churches in Iran being destroyed while UNESCO overlooks,” is the title of one report.

On the same day as Pakistan’s government charged an elderly Christian man with blasphemy — which carries a death penalty — it acquitted 106 Muslims of burning down an entire Christian village.

The Islamic State is at it again. More stories of atrocities against Christians continued to surface. In one, a Christian man, Meghrik, said the bus in which he was riding in Syria was stopped at what turned out to be an ISIS checkpoint. Three men dressed in black entered and began checking all the passengers’ identification papers. “Are you a Christian?” they asked him. “No,” he said. He explained that he was raised by Christian parents and his family name was Christian, but that he was not. “You’re lying,” the fighter said. “Your name says you’re a Christian. Come with me.” He was taken to an ISIS judge who “concluded that he was a Christian” and said “You’re sentenced to death.” Thereafter Meghrik was severely whipped and tortured. At one point, he was thrown in a hole in the ground and surrounded by an execution squad prepared to fire. After 10 days of this treatment and for unknown reasons — Meghrik cites a miracle and is now a devout Christian — he was released.

While much of the world acknowledges that the Islamic State is engaged in acts of genocide against religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, in other Muslim states, such as Pakistan, Christians and other non-Muslim minorities are experiencing a “drip-drip genocide“, said the noted author, journalist and Pakistani politician Farahnaz Ispahani:

“Right before the partition of India and Pakistan, we had a very healthy balance of religions other than Islam. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zoroastrians. Pakistan goes from 23 per cent [non-Muslim at the time of partition in 1947], which is almost a quarter of its population, to three per cent today. I call it a ‘drip drip genocide’, because it’s the most dangerous kind of wiping out of religious communities…. It doesn’t happen in one day. It doesn’t happen over a few months. Little by little by little, laws and institutions and bureaucracies and penal codes, textbooks that malign other communities, until you come to the point of having this sort of jihadi culture that is running rampant.”

Other accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in February 2017 include, but are not limited to, the following:

The Slaughter of Christians in Egypt

As in January, when five different Christians were killed in four separate hate crimes around the country, another murderous wave took non-Muslim minorities by storm, this time in al-Arish, Sinai. The murders may have resulted from a video released in February by the “Islamic State in Egypt.” In the video, masked militants promise more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross” — a reference to the Coptic Christians of Egypt, of whom they also refer to as their “favorite prey” and “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.” One of the militants, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, added, “God gave orders to kill every infidel.” Below is a list of Christians murdered in al-Arish:

  • January 30: A 35-year-old Christian was in his small shop working with his wife and young son when three masked men walked in, opened fire and killed him. The masked men then sat around his shop table, eating chips and drinking soda, while the bodies lay in a pool of blood before the terrified wife and child.
  • February 13: A 57-year-old Christian laborer was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son on a crowded street in broad daylight. The men, after murdering the father, seized his young son and took him to an unknown location (where, if precedent is accurate, he is likely being tortured or possibly killed, if a hefty ransom is not paid).
  • February 16: A 45-year-old Christian schoolteacher was moonlighting at his shoe store with his wife, when masked men walked in the crowded shop and shot him dead.
  • February 17: A 40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire and killed him. He leaves a widow and two children.
  • February 22: Islamic State affiliates killed a 65-year-old Christian man by shooting him in the head. They then abducted and tortured his 45-year-old son before burning him alive and dumping his charred remains near a schoolyard.
  • February 23: A Christian plumber was shot dead in front of his wife and children at their home.

After the slayings, at least 300 Christians living in al-Arish fled their homes, with nothing but their clothes on their backs and their children in their hands. In a video of these Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the military?” Another woman yells at the camera:

“Tell the whole world, look — we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people! Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools. Why? Why all this injustice?! Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us? We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!”

“We loved our country but our country doesn’t love us,” said the brother of one of the slain.

Muslim Abduction, Rape, Murder and Mutilation of Christian Women

Pakistan: Hours after being dropped off at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Punjab by her brother, Tania Mariyam, a 12-year-old Christian girl, was found dead in a canal. Despite all the evidence to the contrary — including her clothes being ripped off and signs of drugging — police investigations concluded that she had committed suicide. After three weeks of pressure from Mariyam’s family and human rights groups, who insisted that the girl had been raped and murdered — as so many Christian girls (and boys) in Pakistan have been before her — police finally conceded that she had not killed herself. Even so, “the severe delays,” says the British Pakistani Christian Association, “mean that much of the evidence has been lost.”

“There was a disgusting police cover up,” the murdered girl’s father said, “and I fear that they have colluded with the murderer and know more than they are letting on. They do not care about Christians.”

West Africa: According to a report, “Muslims radicals punished the [14-year-old] daughter of a Christian missionary for her faith by subjecting her to brutal female genital mutilation. Currently, the young woman remains in a coma, struggling for her life.” Lydia’s father, Yoonus, formerly a Muslim scholar, had converted to Christianity. When the local Muslim community heard of this — and that he “was now leading Muslims to Christ” — they “urged him to return to Islam and promised to give him gifts if he rejected Christianity. However, Yoonus and his family refused to renounce their faith, resulting in increased persecution,” including the attack on his daughter.

Egypt: Two new cases surfaced of young Christian girls being abducted with the indifference or complicity of the authorities. After Rania Eed Fawzy, 17, failed to return home, her parents and lawyer said it was “an incident of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam.” They “filed a complaint with the local police that a Muslim male named Rabee Radi Naghi had taken their daughter against her will.” When the family lawyer contacted the Egyptian Attorney General, Nabil Ahmed Sadek, requesting “to remove Rania from hiding and deliver her to one of the Christian Orthodox homeless youth shelters”—as “[n]ormally in such cases the local authorities know where the kidnap victim is kept” — the Attorney General refused and said, “[T]he girl embraced Islam, what do you want?”

As the report explains, even if she did freely convert, “a child in Egypt is considered a minor until age 21. Until [one comes] of age, conversion from one religion to another is illegal.”

“In such kidnapping cases, however, the authorities always settle the issue by accepting the minor Christian girl’s ‘conversion’ to Islam … never the other way around. In conversion from Islam to Christianity complaints, police go above and beyond their role to retrieve the girl and warn her of death from apostasy. Such cases suit the purposes of ideological jihad. By removing a non-Muslim young woman of child-bearing age from the Christian community, adding her to the Muslim girl population to bear Muslim children serves to increase the Muslim population while decreasing Christian numbers.”

Separately, after an apparent ruse caused the older brother of Hanan Adly, an 18-year-old Christian girl, to step out of the house one night, she disappeared from the family farm. The family and their lawyer made a formal complaint to the police, accusing a neighbor, Mohamed Ahmed Nubi Soliman, 27, of kidnapping her. Prosecutors summoned the man and “he admitted a connection with the incident. However, he was released due to lack of physical evidence,” says the report.

“A national security investigation was ordered, but … there has been no progress with the case, despite protests outside the police station by friends and family of Hanan.”

Mali: A Christian nun was kidnapped in the Muslim-majority African nation with “no claims or demands for ransom”, said a local Christian leader. Sister Cecilia Narváez Argoti, of Colombian background, belonged to the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

“The kidnappers arrived on 7 February from a secluded location a bit far from the village where Sister Cecilia and her sisters were. They broke into the missionary center and plundered money and computer equipment. They then escaped with the ambulance of the medical center with the nun.”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches

Central African Republic: Supporters of a Muslim rebel group destroyed two churches and killed a pastor in what are described as “revenge attacks.” After the national security forces, backed by UN peacekeepers, launched a military operation to interrogate Youssouf Malinga, a local Muslim militia leader known as the “Big Man,” he and his men opened fire on the security forces and killed two passersby. Security forces responded with fire and killed Malinga and one of his men; three soldiers were also injured in the shootout. Malinga’s supporters responded by surrounding an apostolic church and stabbing its pastor to death. “More than two dozen people were wounded. At least two churches were destroyed, along with a school,” in the “revenge attacks,” the report adds. “Central African Republic was plunged into civil war in 2013 following the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by Muslim rebels from the Seleka militia.”

Congo: Churches are “being desecrated and Christian nuns terrorised by ‘violent thugs’ amid a wave of increased hostility on Christians,” according to reports. Elsewhere the “thugs” are described as “Islamist extremists.” In February alone, “the extremists” burned a major seminary and

“sow[ed] terror among the Carmelite Sisters in nearby Kananga…. The extremists also attacked the St. Dominic church in the town of Limete. They ‘overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church,’ the archbishop said.”

Iran: “Historical churches in Iran being destroyed while UNESCO overlooks,” is the title of one report. After explaining that “Destroying church buildings has a long record in the history of the Islamic regime of Iran,” it gives several examples in recent times. Sometimes churches are attacked by “extremist Muslims” who destroy crosses, statues, and icons with sledgehammers and axes; other times the government is responsible. In one case, “judicial authorities in Kerman issued a ruling for a historical church building in their city to be brought down, even though a few years earlier this church had been registered as a national heritage site”; in another instance, a “historical evangelical church building in Mashhad that had been registered as a national heritage site in 2005, was destroyed.” There “are around five hundred registered church buildings in Iran, with many of them abandoned or on the verge of destruction.”

Sudan: The government ordered the “demolition of at least 25 church buildings” in the Khartoum area, relates one report. The government claimed the churches were built on land zoned for other uses, although mosques located in the same area were spared from the demolition order. Christian leaders said this is “not an isolated act” but rather part of a wider “crack-down” on Christianity that “should be taken with wider perspective.” The Sudan Council of Churches denounced the order and called on the government to reconsider the decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. But Mohamad el Sheikh Mohamad, general manager of Khartoum State’s land department in the Ministry of Physical Planning, said the order should be implemented immediately. “Sudan since 2012 has bulldozed church buildings and harassed and expelled foreign Christians,” the report concludes.

Nigeria: The Christian Association of Nigeria is calling on the nation’s government to help rebuild destroyed churches in the Muslim majority regions of the nation’s northeastern states. This comes after a report revealed that “at least 900 Christian places of worship have been destroyed by Boko Haram since the [militant Islamic] group began its violent activities.” U.S. lawmakers said that Nigeria is the worst nation in which to be Christian. Christopher Smith, Chairman of US House of Representatives’ Sub-committee on Africa, said that both his staff and he have “investigated the crises facing Christians in Nigeria today” and

“made several visits to Nigeria, speaking with Christians and Muslim religious leaders across the country and visiting fire-bombed churches, such as in Jos…. Unfortunately, Nigeria has been cited as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world and impunity for those responsible for the killing of Christians seem to be widespread.”

What makes the African nation so hostile to Christians is Boko Haram, a militant Muslim group, which has “forced Christians to convert and forced Muslims to adhere to its extreme interpretation of Islam.”

Pakistan: Catholic churches and schools in the Lahore area closed down after a Taliban splinter group, which had killed seventy Christians on Easter Day, 2016, carried out a suicide bombing at a rally and killed at least 14 people. The group had vowed a year ago that it planned on launching “more devastating attacks that will target Christians and other religious minorities as well as government installations.”

CAIRO, EGYPT – DECEMBER 11: Christians rally in the street outside the church of St Peter and St Paul in the Coptic Cathedral complex after a bomb exploded on December 11, 2016 in Cairo, Egypt.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

On January 28, a court acquitted 106 Muslims of burning down an entire Christian village in 2013 — including 150 homes and three churches. The attack came after one of its inhabitants, Sawan Masih, was accused of blasphemy. More than 80 prosecution witnesses, 63 of them with statements recorded about the attack, said they did not recognize any of the 106 accused. So they were all released.

Also on January 28, the government arrested an elderly Christian man on the charge of blasphemy — which carries a maximum death penalty. A mosque leader accused Mukhtar Masih, 70, of writing two letters containing derogatory remarks about the Koran and Muhammad. The report cites a source who said that “the charges against Masih were fabricated by local Muslims seeking to seize his property.” Nonetheless, police raided the elderly man’s home the same day and took his entire family into custody. His family was released but he was booked on charges of blasphemy, and beaten in an attempt to force him to admit to it.

Separately, the Pakistani government denied that “Christian minorities are being targeted by the country’s controversial blasphemy laws,” says another report — despite the well-known fact that religious minorities, chief among them Christians, are the demographic group most prone to being accused and convicted of blasphemy, to say nothing of being beaten, lynched, and burned alive in mob attacks. After alleging that, of 129 cases of blasphemy, 99 were leveled against fellow Muslims, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said “religious minorities are not being embroiled in blasphemy cases more than Muslims.” However, “[s]everal different persecution watchdog groups have pointed out that Christians are often heavily targeted by blasphemy laws.” Pakistani human rights activist Wilson Chowdhry said officials are “twisting statistics”:

“Sadly, Mr Khan’s comments… [and] contrived results have failed to recognize that Christians in recent years have become the number one target of blasphemy allegations. It is our belief that a large proportion of the 26 percent of blasphemy convictions listed against minorities will have sentenced Christians, yet we contribute only 1.6 percent of the entire national population.”

Muslim Hate for and Discrimination against Christians

Egypt: Fadi, a 15-year-old Christian boy, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of what human rights activists say is a false accusation. Last summer, a Muslim neighbor accused him of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old Muslim boy. Investigations and forensic examinations were performed but revealed no evidence of sexual activity. The family was still ordered to leave the village and the charges remained. According to Fadi’s mother, Hana, he was targeted only because their Muslim neighbors, whose grandfather is an influential imam at the local mosque, “don’t like Christians.” She adds: the “judge convicted my son to 15 years because he is a Christian. If he was a Muslim boy, the judge would acquit him when he saw the forensic report, because the forensic report absolved my son,” but “because my son is Christian,” the judge “believed the speech of [the Muslim boy’s] father instead of the forensic report.”

Turkey: The Islamic terrorist who opened fire on an Istanbul nightclub during New Year’s Eve celebrations confessed that “I wanted to stage the attack on Christians in order to exact revenge on them for their acts committed all over the world. My aim was to kill Christians.” But for a variety of reasons that made it difficult for him to launch a spectacular attack on Christians, Abdulkadir Masharipov, of Uzbeki origin, ended up killing 39 people and wounded 65 others at a nightclub. He laments that he did not die then and there as a “martyr”: “When I was out of bullets, I threw two stun grenades. I put the third one near my face to commit suicide, but I didn’t die. I survived, but I entered Reina [nightclub] to die.” Apparently to hurry him on his way to what he sought on the day of attack, Islamic paradise, Abdulkadir said that “it would be good if he were given capital punishment.”

Iraq: Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue to be hostile to a Christian militia group also fighting the Islamic State. After William J. Murray, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Freedom Coalition, visited the Christian town of Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plain, he wrote that it

“has enemies other than the ruthless Islamic State, or ISIS, which left it in ruins. Currently the Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga, is blocking aid to the NPU [Nineveh Protection Unit] that guards the town, because the NPU is the Assyrian Christian militia. It is the only armed Christian group in Iraq…. While for appearance and funding from Washington, the Kurds support Christian interests for now, the historical relationship between the two groups includes participation in slaughtering Christians by the tens of thousands. There is no room for a Christian enclave, particularly one that is armed, in the future of an independent state of Kurdistan…”

Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

France: A new study revealed that, in the Western European nation with the largest Muslim population, the overwhelming majority of “religious attacks” are against Christians. “Acts targeting Christian places accounted for 90% of all attacks on places of worship (Christians, Jews or Muslims).” Although the government responded to these statistics by saying that “all these acts have no religious motivation,” and that out of 949 attacks on churches, “there was a possible ‘satanic motivation’ in 14 cases and an ‘anarchist’ motivation in 25,” it did not reveal the source behind the other 910 attacks. Another report, however, from neighboring Germany gives a hint:

“Last year in Dülmen, following the arrival of well over a million [mostly Muslim] migrants in Germany, local media said ‘not a day goes by’ without attacks on Christian religious statues.”

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

Before and After Sharia Law: A cautionary tale

April 23, 2017

Before and After Sharia Law: A cautionary tale, Rebel Media via YouTube, April 23, 2017

(Please see also, San Diego School District Pushes CAIR-Assisted ‘Anti-Islamophobia’ Plan and Sharia-Advocate Sarsour to Give Graduation Address at CUNY. Worried yet? — DM)

 

Islamist Attacks on Holidays

April 20, 2017

Islamist Attacks on Holidays, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Noah Beck, April 20, 2017

Nearly 50 people were murdered on Palm Sunday when Islamic State terrorists bombed two Coptic churches in an Easter celebration-nightmare. The next day, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate launched rockets at Israel.

Just before Christmas, a terrorist claimed by the Islamic State rammed a truck into Berlin’s crowded Christmas market, killing 12 people. And in Australia, a group of self-radicalized Islamists planned to attack St Paul’s Cathedral. In 2011, Nigerian Islamists murdered nearly 40 Catholic worshipers in a Christmas Day attack.

Terrorists attack where and when they can. But they seem keenly aware that turning holidays into horror can carry greater shock and terror. In 2002, 30 Israeli civilians were massacred and 140 injured by a Hamas suicide bomber who blew himself up as they sat for the seder, the traditional Passover meal, at the Park Hotel in Netanya.

It isn’t just terrorists who see advantages in striking during holidays. The 1973 Yom Kippur War may be the most famous example, when the armies of two Muslim-majority states, Egypt and Syria, attacked Israel on the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar. That war produced an estimated 20,000 deaths.

Christians and Jews aren’t the only religious groups that have been targeted by Islamists during non-Muslim holy days. The Hindu festival of Diwali has also been attacked. In 2005, a series of bombs killed over 60 people and injured hundreds in Delhi; a Pakistan-based Islamist terrorist group, the Islamic Revolutionary Front, claimed responsibility. Last October, Indian police arrested an Islamist cell inspired by the Islamic State for planning an attack during Diwali.

Muslims are also victimized by Islamist attacks in increasing volume. A 2015 mosque bombing in Yemen killed 29 people during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid. Last July, also during Eid, three people were killed at a Bangladesh checkpoint when gunmen carrying bombs tried to attack the country’s largest Eid gathering, which attracted an estimated 300,000 worshippers.

Last May, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approached, a spokesman for the Islamic State urged jihadists to “make it, with God’s permission, a month of pain for infidels everywhere.” Days later, as Ramadan celebrations stretched past midnight in central Baghdad, a minivan packed with explosives blew up and killed at least 143 people.

Terrorists also target secular holidays. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France, killed 85 people and injured hundreds more in a truck-ramming terrorist attack as people gathered for a Bastille Day celebration. In New York last fall, dump trumps were deployed to protect the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, after the Islamic State called it an “excellent target.”

Holidays are often chosen because they are “optimal attack days,” in terms of gathering large crowds into soft targets like houses of worship, religious markets, ceremonial gatherings, and parades. Last November, U.S. officials warned that the coming holiday season could mean “opportunities for violent extremists” to attack.

A terrorist attack on a holiday is also more likely to attract media attention. And because holidays draw tourists, well-timed attacks can amplify the economic damage that would be wrought by terror even on a non-holiday. After a spate of attacks toward the end of 2015, “about 10% of American travelers have canceled a trip … eliminating a potential $8.2 billion in travel spending,” reported MarketWatch.

But ISIS, al-Qaida and other Islamist terrorist groups believe they are waging a holy war above all else. Attacking infidels, be they Christians, Jews or Muslims of other sects, motivates jihadis more than anything else. “Those who targeted churches on holiday celebrations tend to be professional terrorist groups,” Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, told the IPT. By contrast, “mob attacks happen either on a Friday, after an especially potent sermon, or whenever infidels need to be put in their place (e.g., a Christian accused of blasphemy, then the church in his village gets torched).”

In 2015, Islamic State warnings of future attacks against Christians noted that Christians were their “favorite prey” and no longer protected as “dhimmis,” a reference to non-Muslims in Islam who may, in exchange for paying the jizya tax, receive some state protection.

Thus, within the larger context of a holy war, attacks on non-Muslim holy days can be viewed as part of the more general Islamist strategy of humiliation, forced submission to Islam, and the denial of any competing religion. Attacking on Diwali or Christmas or Yom Kippur is essentially declaring that such “infidel” holy days ought to be desecrated rather than respected. The symbolic message is akin to the one communicated by the two Islamists who entered a French cathedral and beheaded an octogenarian priest, Jacques Hamel, during mass services last July.

Attacking places of worship on holy days – when they are most used by and relevant to their congregations – is also a good way to undermine these religious institutions and their supporters. If Islamist terror makes churches the most vulnerable on the days when they are most crowded, how will those houses of worship attract enough followers to sustain themselves? And how will their congregants practice their faith? The Coptic Pope curbed some Easter celebrations in Egypt after the recent Palm Sunday blasts.

Such questions may help to explain why Christians, who have lived in the Middle East – the birthplace of Christianity – for millennia now constitute only about 3 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago.

Indeed, the only non-Muslim country in the entire Middle East is also the safest place for non-Muslims in the region, including Christians, Druze, and Bahai. “Christians and other minorities in Israel prosper and grow,” says Shadi Khalloul, founder of the Israeli Aramaic Movement. “[W]hile in other countries in the Middle East, as well as in the Palestinian Authority, they suffer heavily from the Islamic movement and persecution – until forced to disappear.”

Mission accomplished in Syria

April 12, 2017

Mission accomplished in Syria, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May. April 12, 2017

(Accomplished or just begun? — DM)

Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

************************

If you’re still unsure about whether U.S. President Donald Trump did the right thing when he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week, consider the alternative.

He knew that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had yet again used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians, women and children prominent among them. He knew that Iran and Russia had enabled this atrocity, as they have many others. He knew he had two choices.

He could shrug, instruct his U.N. ambassador to deliver a tearful speech calling on the “international community” to do something, and then go play a round of golf. Or he could demonstrate that the United States still has the power and the grit to stand up to tyrants and terrorists, thereby beginning to re-establish America’s deterrent capability.

In other words, this was what Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz would call a no-brainer. (Well, loosely translated.) A mission was accomplished. Do harder missions lie ahead? Yes, of course. But I suspect Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have made that abundantly clear to the new president.

We now know for certain that Russia failed to live up to its 2013 commitment to ensure that Assad surrendered all his illegal chemical weapons under the deal it brokered. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acerbically questioned whether that was the result of complicity or incompetence or whether Russia allowed itself to be duped by Assad.

The strike ordered by President Trump was not “unbelievably small” — then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of the punishment then-President Barack Obama decided not to impose in response to Assad’s earlier use of chemical weapons. It was big enough to make clear that American diplomats are again carrying big sticks. (For Obama to insist that diplomacy and force are alternatives was patently absurd.)

Conveniently, Trump was dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the strikes occurred. It’s fair to speculate that Xi is today thinking harder about American requests to rein in Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator whose drive to acquire nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the American mainland has become what Tillerson called an “imminent” threat.

Having passed his first major national security test, Trump is now obliged to demonstrate firmness and consistency. What plans might the Pentagon have on the shelf to respond to further provocations? The next round of Tomahawk missiles could permanently ground Assad’s air force. That would make it easier to then establish no-fly zones. If such measures do not alter the calculations of Assad and his Iranian and Russian patrons, consideration could be given to leveling his defense, intelligence and command-and-control centers as well.

Another idea under discussion: setting up safe havens, or, to use a better term, “self-protection zones,” for those fleeing the Syrian regime and various jihadist forces, Sunni and Shiite alike. Israel and Jordan could help the inhabitants of such areas adjacent to their borders defend themselves. The Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis could contribute to the cost. Might this lead to the partition of Syria? Most likely, but it’s difficult to imagine a “political solution” that would not include such readjustments.

All this, while useful and perhaps even necessary, should be seen as insufficient. Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe but only one piece in a much larger geopolitical puzzle. Sooner rather than later, the Trump administration needs to develop what Obama refused to contemplate: a comprehensive and coherent strategy to counter the belligerent, imperialist and supremacist forces that have emerged from the Middle East and are now spreading like weeds around the world.

The Islamic State group will of course need to be driven off the lands on which it has attempted to establish a caliphate. After that, its terrorists will have to be hunted, along with those of al-Qaida, wherever they hide (e.g., Egypt where, over the weekend, they bombed two Coptic Christian churches).

But — and this is crucial — accomplishing these missions must not serve to further empower Iran’s jihadist rulers, who dream of establishing an expanding imamate, the Shiite version of a caliphate.

Most immediately, Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

That the United States cannot solve all the world’s problems was one of Trump’s campaign themes. But the implication is not necessarily, as some of his supporters hoped, that he would turn a blind eye to all atrocities and threats not already within America’s borders.

In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and communists, enemies whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.

In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. If Trump has grasped that within his first 100 days, he’s not off to such a bad start.

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference

April 5, 2017

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference, White House via YouTube, April 5, 2017

Leon Panetta enters the ‘No Spin Zone’

March 17, 2017

Leon Panetta enters the ‘No Spin Zone’, Fox News via YouTube, March 16, 2017

As the blurb beneath the video states,

Former CIA Director discusses U.S. troops in combat and American surveillance controversies on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security

March 1, 2017

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security, Long War Journal, February 28, 2017

Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee Counterterrorism and Intelligence, on the future of counterterrorism and addressing the evolving threat to domestic security.

Chairman King, Ranking Member Rice, and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. The terrorist threat has evolved greatly since the September 11, 2001 hijackings. The U.S. arguably faces a more diverse set of threats today than ever. In my written and oral testimony, I intend to highlight both the scope of these threats, as well as some of what I think are the underappreciated risks.

My key points are as follows:

– The U.S. military and intelligence services have waged a prolific counterterrorism campaign to suppress threats to America. It is often argued that because no large-scale plot has been successful in the U.S. since 9/11 that the risk of such an attack is overblown. This argument ignores the fact that numerous plots, in various stages of development, have been thwarted since 2001. Meanwhile, Europe has been hit with larger-scale operations. In addition, the U.S. and its allies frequently target jihadists who are suspected of plotting against the West. America’s counterterrorism strategy is mainly intended to disrupt potentially significant operations that are in the pipeline.

-Over the past several years, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies claim to have struck numerous Islamic State (or ISIS) and al Qaeda “external operatives” in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. These so-called “external operatives” are involved in anti-Western plotting. Had they not been targeted, it is likely that at least some of their plans would have come to fruition. Importantly, it is likely that many “external operatives” remain in the game, and are still laying the groundwork for attacks in the U.S. and the West.

-In addition, the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to adapt new messages in an attempt to inspire attacks abroad. U.S. law enforcement has been forced to spend significant resources to stop “inspired” plots. As we all know, some of them have not been thwarted. The Islamic State’s caliphate declaration in 2014 heightened the threat of inspired attacks, as would-be jihadists were lured to the false promises of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause.

-The Islamic State also developed a system for “remote-controlling” attacks in the West and elsewhere. This system relies on digital operatives who connect with aspiring jihadis via social media applications. The Islamic State has had more success with these types of small-scale operations in Europe. But as I explain in my written testimony, the FBI has uncovered a string of plots inside the U.S. involving these same virtual planners.

-The refugee crisis is predominately a humanitarian concern. The Islamic State has used migrant and refugee flows to infiltrate terrorists into Europe. Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda could seek to do the same with respect to the U.S., however, they have other means for sneaking jihadists into the country as well. While some terrorists have slipped into the West alongside refugees, the U.S. should remain focused on identifying specific threats.

-More than 15 years after 9/11, al Qaeda remains poorly understood. Most of al Qaeda’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in several countries. But as al Qaeda’s insurgency footprint has spread, so has the organization’s capacity for plotting against the West. On 9/11, al Qaeda’s anti-Western plotting was primarily confined to Afghanistan, with logistical support networks in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Testifying before the Senate in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper warned that the al Qaeda threat to the West now emanates from multiple countries. Clapper testified that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” To this list we can add Yemen. And jihadists from Africa have been involved in anti-Western plotting as well. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S. from Afghanistan.

Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to seek ways to inspire terrorism inside the U.S. and they are using both new and old messages in pursuit of this goal.

The jihadists have long sought to inspire individuals or small groups of people to commit acts of terrorism for their cause. Individual terrorists are often described as “lone wolves,” but that term is misleading. If a person is acting in the name of a global, ideological cause, then he or she cannot be considered a “lone wolf,” even if the individual in question has zero contact with others. In fact, single attackers often express their support for the jihadists’ cause in ways that show the clear influence of propaganda.

Indeed, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) first began to aggressively market the idea of “individual” or “lone” operations years ago. AQAP’s Inspire magazine is intended to provide would-be jihadists with everything they could need to commit an attack without professional training or contact. Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP ideologue who was fluent in English, was an especially effective advocate for these types of plots. Despite the fact that Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011, his teachings remain widely available on the internet.

The Islamic State capitalized on the groundwork laid by Awlaki and AQAP. In fact, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s operation took these ideas and aggressively marketed them with an added incentive. Al Qaeda has told its followers that it wants to eventually resurrect an Islamic caliphate. Beginning in mid-2014, the Islamic State began to tell its followers that it had already done so in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate has also instructed followers that it would be better for them to strike inside their home countries in the West, rather than migrate abroad for jihad. The Islamic State has consistently marketed this message.

In May 2016, for instance, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani told followers that if foreign governments “have shut the door of hijrah [migration] in your faces,” then they should “open the door of jihad in theirs,” meaning in the West. “Make your deed a source of their regret,” Adnani continued. “Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them.”

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State,” Adnani told his audience, “then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” Adnani told jihadists that they should “not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land,” nor should they “underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahidin and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”

The Islamic State continued to push this message after Adnani’s death in August 2016.

In at least several cases, we have seen individual jihadists who were first influenced by Awlaki and AQAP gravitate to the Islamic State’s cause. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife were responsible for the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino massacre. They pledged allegiance to Baghdadi on social media, but Farook had drawn inspiration from Awlaki and AQAP’s Inspire years earlier.

Omar Mateen swore allegiance to Baghdadi repeatedly on the night of his assault on a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. However, a Muslim who knew Mateen previously reported to the FBI that Mateen was going down the extremist path. He told the FBI in 2014 that Mateen was watching Awlaki’s videos. It was not until approximately two years later, in early June 2016, that Mateen killed 49 people and wounded dozens more in the name of the supposed caliphate.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man who allegedly planted bombs throughout New York and New Jersey in September 2016, left behind a notebook. In it, Rahami mentioned Osama bin Laden, “guidance” from Awlaki, an also referenced Islamic State spokesman Adnani. Federal prosecutors wrote in the complaint that Rahami specifically wrote about “the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This was Adnani’s key message, and remains a theme in Islamic State propaganda.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that other individuals who sought to support the Islamic State were first exposed to Awlaki’s teachings as well.

These cases demonstrate that the jihadis have developed a well of ideas from which individual adherents can draw, but it may take years for them to act on these beliefs, if they ever act on them at all. There is no question that the Islamic State has had greater success of late in influencing people to act in its name. But al Qaeda continues to produce recruiting materials and to experiment with new concepts for individual attacks as well.

Al Qaeda and its branches have recently called for revenge for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in a U.S. prison earlier this month. Rahman was convicted by a U.S. court for his involvement in plots against New York City landmarks in the mid-1990s. Since then, al Qaeda has used Rahman’s “will” to prophesize his death and to proactively blame the U.S. for it. Approximately 20 years after al Qaeda first started pushing this theme, Rahman finally died. Al Qaeda’s continued use of Rahman’s prediction, which is really just jihadist propaganda, demonstrates how these groups can use the same concepts for years, whether or not the facts are consistent with their messaging. Al Qaeda also recently published a kidnapping guide based on old lectures by Saif al Adel, a senior figure in the group. Al Adel may or may not be currently in Syria. Al Qaeda is using his lectures on kidnappings and hostage operations as a way to potentially teach others how to carry them out. The guide was published in both Arabic and English, meaning that al Qaeda seeks an audience in the West for al Adel’s designs.

Both the Islamic State and AQAP also continue to produce English-language magazines for online audiences. The 15th issue of Inspire, which was released last year, provided instructions for carrying out “professional assassinations.” AQAP has been creating lists of high-profile targets in the U.S. and elsewhere that they hope supporters will use in selecting potential victims. AQAP’s idea is to maximize the impact of “lone” attacks by focusing on wealthy businessmen or other well-known individuals. AQAP has advocated for, and praised, indiscriminate attacks as well. But the group has critiqued some attacks (such as the Orlando massacre at a LGBT nightclub) for supposedly muddying the jihadists’ message. AQAP is trying to lay the groundwork for more targeted operations. For example, the January 2015 assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris was set in motion by al Qaeda and AQAP. Inspire even specifically identified the intended victims beforehand. Al Qaeda would like individual actors, with no foreign ties, to emulate such precise hits.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has lowered the bar for what is considered a successful attack, pushing people to use cars, knives, or whatever weapons they can get in their hands. The Islamic State claimed that both the September 2016 mall stabbings in Minnesota and the vehicular assault at Ohio State University in November 2016 were the work of its “soldiers.” It may be the case that there were no digital ties between these attackers and the Islamic State. However, there is often more to the story of how the Islamic State guides such small-scale operations.

The Islamic State has sought to carry out attacks inside the U.S. via “remote-controlled” terrorists.

A series of attacks in Europe and elsewhere around the globe have been carried out by jihadists who were in contact, via social media applications, with Islamic State handlers in Syria and Iraq. The so-called caliphate’s members have been able to remotely guide willing recruits through small-scale plots that did not require much sophistication. These plots targeted victims in France, Germany, Russia, and other countries. In some cases, terrorists have received virtual support right up until the moment of their attack. The Islamic State has had more success orchestrating “remote-controlled” plots in Europe, but the jihadist group has also tried to carry out similar plots inside the U.S.

Since 2015, if not earlier, the U.S.-led coalition has launched airstrikes against the Islamic State operatives responsible for these operations. Jihadists such Rachid Kassim, Junaid Hussain, and Abu Issa al Amriki have all been targeted. Both Hussain and al Amriki sought to “remotely-control” attacks inside the U.S. They have reached into other countries as well. For example, British Prime Minister David Cameron connected Hussain to plots in the UK. And Hussain’s wife, Sally Jones, has also reportedly used the web to connect with female recruits.

Kassim was tracked to a location near Mosul, Iraq earlier this month. Hussain was killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa, Syria on August 24, 2015. Along with his wife, al Amriki perished in an airstrike near Al Bab, Syria on April 22, 2016. But law enforcement officials are still dealing with their legacy and it is possible that others will continue with their methods.

In this section, I will briefly outline several cases in which Hussain and al Amriki were in contact with convicted or suspected terror recruits inside the U.S. In a number of cases, the FBI has used confidential informants or other methods in sting operations to stop these recruits. It should be noted that it is not always clear how much of a threat a suspect really posed and the press has questioned the FBI’s methods in some of these cases. I have included the examples below to demonstrate how the Islamic State’s digital operatives have contacted potential jihadists across the U.S.

For example, Hussain was likely in contact with the two gunmen who opened fire at an event dedicated to drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammed in Garland, Texas on May 3, 2015. As first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, Hussain (tweeting under one of his aliases) quickly claimed the gunmen were acting on behalf of the caliphate. Then, in June 2015, Hussain claimed on Twitter that he had encouraged Usaamah Rahim, an Islamic State supporter, to carry a knife in case anyone attempted to arrest him. Rahim was shot and killed by police in Boston after allegedly wielding the blade. The DOJ subsequently confirmed that Rahim was “was communicating with [Islamic State] members overseas, including Junaid Hussain.”

On July 7, 2016, Munir Abdulkader, of West Chester, Ohio, pleaded guilty to various terrorism-related charges. According to the DOJ, Abdulkader communicated with Hussain, who “directed and encouraged Abdulkader to plan and execute a violent attack within the United States.” In conversations with both Hussain and a “confidential human source,” Abdulkader discussed a plot “to kill an identified military employee on account of his position with the U.S. government.” Abdulkader planned to abduct “the employee at the employee’s home” and then film this person’s execution. After murdering the military employee, Abdulkader “planned to perpetrate a violent attack on a police station in the Southern District of Ohio using firearms and Molotov cocktails.” Hussain repeatedly encouraged Islamic State followers to attack U.S. military personnel, just as Abdulkader planned.

On August 11, 2016, Emanuel Lutchman of Rochester, New York pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State as part of a planned New Year’s Eve attack. Lutchman admittedly conspired with Abu Issa al Amriki after he “initiated online contact” with the Islamic State planner on Christmas Day 2015. “In a series of subsequent communications,” DOJ noted, al Amriki “told Lutchman to plan an attack on New Year’s Eve and kill a number of kuffar [nonbelievers].” Al Amriki wanted Lutchman “to write something before the attack and give it to” an Islamic State member, “so that after the attack the [Islamic State] member could post it online to announce Lutchman’s allegiance” to the so-called caliphate. Lutchman wanted to join the Islamic State overseas, but al Amriki encouraged him to strike inside the U.S., as it would better serve the jihadists’ cause. “New years [sic] is here soon,” al Amriki typed to Lutchman. “Do operations and kill some kuffar.” Al Amriki also promised Lutchman some assistance in traveling to Syria or Libya, if the conditions were right. Lutchman divulged his contacts with al Amriki to individuals who, “unbeknownst to Lutchman,” were “cooperating with the FBI.”

On November 7, 2016, Aaron Travis Daniels, also known as Harun Muhammad and Abu Yusef, was arrested at an airport in Columbus, Ohio. He was reportedly en route to Trinidad, but he allegedly intended to travel to Libya for jihad. According to DOJ, Daniels was in contact with Abu Issa al Amriki, who acted as a “recruiter and external attack planner.” Daniels said at one point that it was al Amriki who “suggested” he go to Libya “to support jihad” and he allegedly “wired money to an intermediary” for al Amriki. The DOJ did not allege that Daniels planned to commit an attack in Ohio or elsewhere inside the U.S. Still, the allegations are significant because Daniels was allegedly in contact with al Amriki.

On November 29, 2016, Justin Nojan Sullivan, of Morganton, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges. “Sullivan was in contact and plotted with now-deceased Syria-based terrorist Junaid Hussain to execute acts of mass violence in the United States in the name of the” Islamic State, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord said in a statement. Sullivan and Hussain “conspired” to “plan mass shooting attacks in North Carolina and Virginia,” with Sullivan intending “to kill hundreds of innocent people.”

On February 10, 2017, the DOJ announced that two New York City residents, Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni, pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. “Working with [Islamic State] fighters located overseas, Saleh and Mumuni also coordinated their plot to conduct a terrorist attack in New York City,” the DOJ explained. Saleh, from Queens, sought and received instructions from an [Islamic State] attack facilitator to create a pressure-cooker bomb and discussed with the same [Islamic State] attack facilitator potential targets for a terrorist attack in New York City.” Saleh “also sought and received religious authorization from an [Islamic State] fighter permitting Mumuni to conduct a suicide ‘martyrdom’ attack by using a pressure-cooker bomb against law enforcement officers who were following the co-conspirators and thus preventing them from traveling to join” the Islamic State. Federal prosecutors revealed that the “attack facilitator” Saleh was talking to was, in fact, Junaid Hussain.

Also on February 10, 2017, Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, a Virginia man and former member of the Army National Guard, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years supervised release for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. According to the DOJ, Jalloh was in contact with Islamic State members both in person and online. He met Islamic State members in Nigeria during a “six-month trip to Africa” and also “began communicating online with” an Islamic State member located overseas during this time. The Islamic State member “brokered” Jalloh’s “introduction” to the FBI’s confidential human source. This means the U.S. government’s intelligence was so good in this case that the digital handler was actually fooled into leading Jalloh into a dead-end. Still, Jalloh considered “conducting an attack similar to the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood, Texas,” which left 13 people dead and dozens more wounded.

More than 15 years after the 9/11 hijackings, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S.

Al Qaeda has not been able to replicate its most devastating attack in history, the September 11, 2001 hijackings. But this does not mean the al Qaeda threat has disappeared. Instead, al Qaeda has evolved. There are multiple explanations for why the U.S. has not been struck with another 9/11-style, mass casualty operation. These reasons include: the inherent difficulty in planning large-scale attacks, America’s improved defenses, and a prolific counterterrorism campaign overseas.

In addition, contrary to a widely-held assumption in counterterrorism circles, al Qaeda has not made striking the U.S. its sole priority. In fact, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has even ordered his men in Syria to stand down at times, as they prioritized the war against Bashar al Assad’s regime over bombings, hijackings, or other assaults in the West. However, Zawahiri could change his calculation at any time, and it would then be up to America’s intelligence and law enforcement officials to detect and thwart specific plots launched from Syria. One additional caveat here is warranted. Despite the fact that Zawahiri has not given the final green light for an anti-Western operation launched from Syrian soil, al Qaeda has been laying the groundwork for such attacks in Syria and elsewhere. There is a risk that al Qaeda could seek to launch Mumbai-style attacks in American or European cities, bomb trains or other mass transit locations, plant sophisticated explosives on Western airliners, or dream up some other horrible attack.

In September 2014, the Obama administration announced that it launched airstrikes against al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group” in Syria. There was some confusion surrounding this group. The Khorasan Shura is an elite body within al Qaeda and part of this group is dedicated to launching “external operations,” that is, attacks in the West. Several significant leaders in the Khorasan Group were previously based in Iran, where al Qaeda maintains a core facilitation hub. In fact, at least two Khorasan figures previously headed al Qaeda’s Iran-based network, which shuttles operatives throughout the Middle East and sometimes into the West. As I have previously testified before this committee, some foiled al Qaeda plots against the West were facilitated by operatives based in Iran.

Al Qaeda began relocating senior operatives to Syria in 2011. And the U.S. has targeted known or obscure al Qaeda veterans in Syria in the years since, often citing their presumed threat to the U.S. and the West. I will not list all of these operatives here, but we regularly track the al Qaeda figures targeted in drone strikes at FDD’s Long War Journal.

During the final months of the Obama administration, American military and intelligence officials highlighted al Qaeda’s continued plotting against the U.S. on multiple occasions. And there was also a shift in America’s air campaign, from targeted strikes on individual al Qaeda operatives in Syria to bombings intended to destroy whole training camps or other facilities. In addition, the U.S. Treasury and State Departments began to designate terrorist leaders within al Qaeda’s branch in Syria who may not play any direct role in international operations. This change in tactics reflects the realization that al Qaeda has built its largest paramilitary force in history in Syria. And while only part of this force may have an eye on the West, there is often no easy way to delineate between jihadists involved in al Qaeda’s insurgency operations and those who are participating in plots against America or European nations.

In October 2016, the Defense Department announced that the U.S. had carried out “transregional” airstrikes against al Qaeda’s “external” operatives in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda “doesn’t recognize borders when they conspire to commit terrorist attacks against the West, and we will continue to work with our partners and allies to find and destroy their leaders, their fighters and their cells that are planning attacks externally,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said shortly after the bombings. Davis added that some of al Qaeda’s “external” plotters enjoyed a “friendly, hospitable environment” within Al Nusrah Front, which was the name used by al Qaeda’s guerrilla army in Syria until mid-2016. Davis added that the jihadists targeted “are people who are from outside Syria in many cases and who are focused on external operations.”

The Pentagon provided short descriptions for each of the al Qaeda operatives targeted in October 2016. On October 17, Haydar Kirkan was killed in Idlib, Syria. He was “a long-serving and experienced facilitator and courier for al Qaeda in Syria,” who “had ties to al Qaeda senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden.” Davis added that Kirkan “was al Qaeda’s senior external terror attack planner in Syria, Turkey and Europe.” Kirkan oversaw a significant network inside Turkey. The U.S. has killed a number of individuals with backgrounds similar to Kirkan since 2014.

On October 21, an AQAP leader known as Abu Hadi al-Bayhani and four others were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen’s Marib governorate. The Pentagon tied al-Bayhani to AQAP’s “external” plotting, noting that the al Qaeda arm relies on “leaders like Bayhani to build and maintain safe havens” from which it “plans external operations.”

Then, on October 23, two senior al Qaeda leaders, Farouq al-Qahtani and Bilal al-Utabi, were killed in airstrikes in Afghanistan. Qahtani was one of al Qaeda’s most prominent figures in the Afghan insurgency, as he was the group’s emir for eastern Afghanistan and coordinated operations with the Taliban. Osama bin Laden’s files indicate that Qahtani was responsible for re-establishing al Qaeda’s safe havens in Afghanistan in 2010, if not earlier. But Qahtani was also tasked with plotting attacks in the West.

General John W. Nicholson, the Commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, described the threat posed by Qahtani in a recent interview with the CTC Sentinel, a publication produced by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Gen. Nicholson described Qahtani as al Qaeda’s “external operations director,” saying that he was “actively involved in the last year in plotting attacks against the United States.” Nicholson added this warning: “There’s active plotting against our homeland going on in Afghanistan. If we relieve pressure on this system, then they’re going to be able to advance their work more quickly than they would otherwise.”

Kirkan, Bayhani, and Qahtani are just some of the men involved in anti-Western plotting who have been killed in recent bombings. And these targeted airstrikes are just part of the picture.

In October 2015, the U.S. and its Afghan allies destroyed what was probably the largest al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan’s history in the Shorabak district of Kandahar. The facility was an estimated 30 square miles in size, making it bigger than any of al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 camps.

The U.S. military says that approximately 250 al Qaeda operatives were killed or captured in Afghanistan in 2016. This is far more than the U.S. government’s longstanding estimate for al Qaeda’s entire force structure in all of Afghanistan. For years, U.S. officials claimed there was just 50 to 100 al Qaeda jihadists throughout the entire country.

On January 20, the Defense Department announced that “more than 150 al Qaeda terrorists” had been killed in Syria since the beginning of 2017. In addition to individual terrorists involved in plotting against the West, the U.S. struck the Shaykh Sulayman training camp, which had been “operational since at least 2013.”

The reality is that al Qaeda now operates large training camps in more countries today than on 9/11. The next 9/11-style plotters could be in those camps, or fighting in jihadist insurgencies, right now. If so, it will be up to America’s offensive counterterrorism campaign and its defenses to stop them.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

The Significance, Ramifications, And Messages Of Hizbullah’s Show Of Military Force In Al-Qusayr, Syria

January 4, 2017

The Significance, Ramifications, And Messages Of Hizbullah’s Show Of Military Force In Al-Qusayr, Syria, MRMRI, Yael Yehoshua*, January 3, 2016

On November 13, 2016, Hizbullah marked its annual Martyr Day by holding its first military parade in a Syrian town, Al-Qusayr, which Hizbullah took over in 2013 following a long and bloody battle with rebel forces, and which has since become the main symbol of the organization’s involvement in the Syria war alongside the Assad regime. The parade featured hundreds of fighters in military uniforms, tanks, U.S.-made M113 armored personnel carriers, cannon, machine guns, and an armored regiment. Also marching was the Al-Radwan division, comprising some 10,000 fighters from Hizbullah’s “intervention forces” and “special forces” fighting in Syria, which constitute the spearhead of the organization in the country.[1]

By holding this parade at this time and at this location, Hizbullah was informing its rivals, locally and in the region – that is, political players in Lebanon, the Syrian rebels and their Arab supporters, and the West and Israel – that it is now a powerful cross-border military force that can control areas outside Lebanon’s borders. The parade did indeed cause a tremendous stir among Hizbullah supporters, as well as among the organization’s opponents.

This paper will review the significance and ramifications of the parade in Al-Qusayr and the messages that it sent.

1295aPhotos from the parade. Arabipress.org, November 13, 2016; Addiyar.com, November 14, 2016
1295bPhotos from the parade. Nn-lb.com, November 13, 2016

Hizbullah Underlines Its Presence On Syrian Soil

Hizbullah’s holding the parade on Syrian soil, particularly in Al-Qusayr, is a symbolic yet highly significant act showing the organization’s control of part of Syrian territory. Al-Qusayr is the jewel in the crown of Hizbullah’s  military involvement in Syria and is seared into the memories of the Syrian rebels as an arena in which they were defeated by Hizbullah in 2013 after a bitter battle that lasted weeks and involved many losses on both sides. Moreover, Al-Qusayr is also Hizbullah’s gateway into Syria. After capturing it from the rebels, Hizbullah emptied it of its residents and turned it into a center for its headquarters and into a staging area for its fighters arriving from Lebanon, from which they leave for other battle fronts in Syria.

Also, holding the parade on Syrian soil as opposed to Lebanese soil is a blatant attempt by Hizbullah to highlight its presence in Syria and signal that this presence has become a known, established and certain fact. It may also reflect Hizbullah’s view of Al-Qusayr and its surroundings as its own military territory, and not as Syrian territory – with no consideration whatsoever for Syria’s sovereignty or for Lebanon’s position on this. [2] Hizbullah deputy secretary general Na’im Qassem hinted at this when he said, several days after the parade: “We are in Syria, and we do not need to give any explanation or justification for this. We stand alongside the Syrian army and the Syrian state.”[3]

Qassem’s statements were backed up by statements by Lebanese Army Gen. (ret.) Amin Hatit, who is close to Hizbullah: “Hizbullah’s presence in Syria is something basic… As far as we are concerned, there is no difference between Al-Qusayr and South [Lebanon].”[4]

By holding it on its Martyr Day, Hizbullah also intended the parade to convey a message to the Shi’ite public in Lebanon, which supports Hizbullah and is the source of its political power and its fighters, that despite its losses Hizbullah has remained strong. For Lebanese Shi’ites, many of whom have been killed and wounded in the past four years of Hizbullah’s fighting in Syria, and particularly in the ongoing battle for Aleppo, the parade was meant to boost morale and signal that the losses had not been in vain but had only further strengthened the organization and made it possible for it to become a regional power.

Hizbullah’s Transition From A Resistance Force To A Quasi-Regular Army

Hizbullah’s demonstration of its military strength by parading hundreds of its soldiers with tanks, cannon, machine guns, and so on also reflected its wish to send the message that it was now a well-trained and well-armed force, with new units, resembling an experienced regular army, and was no longer a resistance militia waging guerilla warfare against Israel.

This upgrade of its military and deterrence capabilities is the result of its military experience in Syria fighting the anti-regime rebels. In this context, Lebanese daily newspapers quoted Na’im Qassem making statements about Hizbullah’s military capability. The Lebanese Al-Mudun daily quoted Qassem as saying: “Hizbullah has added expertise, fighting capability, and military capabilities. This force is becoming more powerful and more developed, into something greater than resistance and less than a regular army.”[5] The Al-Safir daily quoted him as saying: “Now we have a trained army and the resistance is no longer based on methods of guerilla warfare. We are better armed and better trained, and we have advanced professional knowledge.”[6] It should be noted that an official Hizbullah communique denied that Qassem had called Hizbullah an army.[7]

It appears that Hizbullah’s show of strength at this time was because of achievements in the field by both it and its camp, the resistance axis. These achievements included the strengthening of Hizbullah, the Syrian army, and the militias that have been operating alongside the Syrian army since the beginning of Russia’s military involvement in Syria over a year ago along with the upsurge in the political status of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the Arab world and in the West, and the bolstering of Iran’s regional and international status because of its increased military presence in Iraq and Syria and in the wake of the nuclear agreement and the election of the Hizbullah ally Michel Aoun to the Lebanese presidency.

 

Hizbullah As A Cross-Border Regional Force

Alongside the messages it sent locally, the parade was aimed at letting the region know that Hizbullah is a cross-border military force that is not bound by any particular territory and does not recognize the Syria-Lebanon border, or other borders between Middle East states, set by the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Hizbullah and its sponsor, Iran, which itself is striving to spread its Islamic Revolution and “Rule of the Jurisprudent” doctrine, do not consider geographic borders to be significant, and are deepening their penetration of many countries in the region. This approach is expressed by the military involvement of Iran and its agents in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and by Hizbullah’s complete military control of part of Syrian soil, including the Al-Qusayr region.

The military parade sent a message not only to the rebels in Syria, but also to their sponsors in the Arab and Muslim world – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – underlining that the resistance axis in Syria has the upper hand, and that Hizbullah will not hesitate to show its power anywhere it needs to in order to subjugate its opponents. On this matter, Lebanese Army Gen. (ret.) Amin Hatit said: “Had Hizbullah wanted to send a message to Lebanon, it would have held the demonstration there, not in Syria, and what it did in Al-Qusayr is a message to the region.”[8]

In an interview with the Iranian website Tasnim, which is close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qassem said: “If we want to look [at this] realistically, we see that Hizbullah has become a regional power. The way in which Hizbullah is confronting both the Zionist enemy and the takfiriyyoun [i.e. the Salafi-jihadi organizations]… shows that the organization is a regional power, and the changes in the region are proof of that.”[9]

Also, Nasser Qandil, editor of the pro-Syria Lebanese daily Al-Bina and an Assad associate, wrote in a November 16, 2016 article titled “Hizbullah – The New Middle East Army” that the organization is a cross-border force and that the borders between countries mean nothing to it. He stated that Hizbullah has become the “Middle East Army” because of its military capabilities and because it is a military force that crosses borders, and that it has achieved this by virtue of the popular organizations in the region that assist it, which comprise approximately a million fighters spread across the Middle East. These forces share its wars and its positions, and see Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah as a leader “with special status and as a source of authority for the wars in the Middle East.” He added that in actuality Hizbullah “has torn up Sykes-Picot” by transforming the areas of Syria that border Lebanon’s east and northeast into a “direct and vital continuation of the resistance.”

In this context, Qandil added that as Israel’s military strength and Saudi Arabia’s economic and political strength were waning, and as Al-Qaeda was failing, and as the U.S. was more preoccupied with domestic affairs and Russia was concerned about neutralizing other regional forces such as Turkey, “Hizbullah and the network of its allies is developing, becoming like a soft-[power] state that lives in the bosom of several countries. [Hizbullah] is not a rival [to the states on whose soil it exists], but complements them, living and developing at their consent as a deterrent force and as added strategic value. Thus, this force is becoming the most important fact emerging with the beginning of the 21st century… and no force in existence can threaten the growth of this new army of the Middle East that is deployed from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and from Aleppo to Bab Al-Mandeb.”[10]

 

Hizbullah As An Independent Force Operating Outside Lebanese Laws And Institutions

The Al-Qusayr military parade has great significance also vis-à-vis Lebanon. Hizbullah’s control in the Al-Qusayr region erases the Lebanon-Syria border and creates a single large, contiguous swath of territory from Syria to the northern Beqa’a, one of its strongholds in Lebanon, without the Lebanese government’s agreement and under harsh criticism from various political elements in that country.[11]

By holding the parade, Hizbullah has again proven, to Lebanon and to the entire world, that it is not subject to Lebanon’s laws and institutions, but that it operates according to its own interests and the interests of Iran and the resistance axis. As far as it is concerned, its presence in Syria depends solely on it, not on any decision by the Lebanese state. On this, Qassem said: “We stand alongside the Syrian army and the Syrian state, and without our intervention in Syria, the terrorists would enter every place in Lebanon. The issue of our involvement in Syria is no longer under discussion by Lebanese circles.”[12]

This message was discordant to Hizbullah’s opponents within Lebanon, who expressed harsh criticism of the Al-Qusayr parade. Ashraf Rifi, justice minister in Lebanon’s interim government, a bitter enemy of Hizbullah, said that this parade sends a message threatening Lebanon’s sovereignty. He tweeted: “Hizbullah has blatantly shown its military strength in occupied Syria… What will ‘the strong president’ [Michel Aoun] say about the armed militia that has become an army that is participating in the occupation of Syria, and dividing and killing its people?” He added that “Lebanon is in danger” and called on all the forces opposing the Iranian sponsorship of Lebanon to act together “to save Lebanon that Hizbullah has exploited with shari’a backing and has turned into a platform in service of Iran’s plans.”[13]

Other criticism came from Ali Al-Husseini, in his column in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, associated with the March 14 Forces: “It is odd that this parade was held at the same time as preparations were being carried out by the Lebanese army for [Lebanon’s November 22] Independence Day… The message to Lebanon is that Hizbullah is an independent force that is not subjugate to the laws of the Lebanese state and does not want [Lebanon] to be independent… Hizbullah has established itself as an occupier and has declared Al-Qusayr and other regions [in Syria] to be under its control and its aegis from now on, and declared that negotiation on them in the future will be only with [Hizbullah] and according to its conditions.”[14]

 

Hizbullah As A Deterrent Force In Lebanon’s Internal Politics

Hizbullah’s parade, which also came several weeks after its ally Michel Aoun was elected Lebanon’s president,[15] and at the height of consultations for the establishment of a new government headed by Sa’ad Al-Hariri, head of the Al-Mustaqbal stream, was also a way of flexing its muscles at various forces in Lebanon’s political arena, particularly at President Aoun and his party which are still considered Hizbullah allies. This show of strength was aimed at reiterating that the organization had military power and that it would not agree to any changes to the political balance of power that were not in its favor, and would also not allow its weapons to be touched.

While Aoun’s election was considered a victory for Hizbullah and for the March 8 Forces that it heads, there is, according to reports in the Lebanese media, great apprehension in Hizbullah and in the March 8 Forces that Aoun will end his sweeping support for the resistance, and will moderate his stance, compromise, and lean more towards the center than he has in the past, and will show neutrality towards both the March 14 Forces and the March 8 Forces.

The cooperation between Aoun (who represents the majority of Christians in the country after forming an alliance with the Christian Lebanese Forces party led by Samir Geagea) and Al-Hariri (who represents the majority of Sunnis) – cooperation which led to Aoun’s election and to the appointment of Al-Hariri to establish the next government – is also of concern to the Shi’ite Hizbullah. Its main fear stems from the possibility of shifts in the political power balance in the country, because Aoun’s alliance with Hizbullah foe Geagea has created a powerful, cohesive Christian group that has shared out the government portfolios among its members, at the expense of the other Christian parties who belong to the March 8 Forces – and Aoun is likely to prioritize this powerful Christian group over his alliance with Hizbullah and his support for the resistance.

These apprehensions also increased following visits by Saudi and Qatari emissaries to Aoun, following which the latter promised that Saudi Arabia will be the first stop on his visits to Arab countries, and in light of his statement, as part of his wish to establish Lebanon as an independent actor, that Lebanon under his leadership would “adopt an independent policy and will not be subjugated to anyone.”[16]

 

Hizbullah As An Anti-Israel Deterrent Force From Both Lebanese And Syrian Territory

Hizbullah also used the parade to convey a message about its position on a war against Israel. In light of its military involvement in Syria fighting the rebels alongside the Assad regime, Hizbullah was accused by elements in and out of Lebanon of abandoning the path of resistance against Israel, and of having become an accessory to the Iranian plan to eliminate the Sunni presence in Syria. In response, with the parade, Hizbullah sought to clarify that establishing its might in Syria was part of the plan of the resistance that serves its war against Israel and intensifies its anti-Israel deterrence. On this topic, Na’im Qassem said that upgrading Hizbullah’s capabilities and transforming it into a real military force “is sufficient to deter the Israeli enemy.”[17]

That the parade was an attempt by Hizbullah to demonstrate its strength to Israel was also expressed by the fact that the main element marching in it was from the Al Radwan division, revealed here for the first time. According to a Lebanese source,[18] this division was thought up by the late Hizbullah chief of staff ‘Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in 2008, and comprises some 10,000 fighters trained at Hizbullah bases specifically built for this purpose in Al-Qusayr. The division was initially established to invade Israel’s Galilee during the next conflict there, but is right now fighting the rebels in Syria and gaining combat experience, and Hizbullah considers it its spearhead in Syria. Having fighters from this division marching in the parade is a message to Israel that the Al-Radwan division, which it considers a deterring force against Israel, is complete and ready for action against it at a moment’s notice.

‘Abdallah Kamah wrote on the Lebanese website Alhadathnews.net: “At a time when the warriors of the Al-Radwan [division] are fighting and gaining combat experience in Syria, they see the Galilee as their strategic goal. In order to achieve this goal, we must prepare for a war [with Israel], which ‘Imad Mughniyeh had said ‘would be different from those that came before it.’ This difference opens the door to adopt new [combat] methods, because this campaign will not be the same as in the past, when it was conducted according to a scenario where the enemy invades and the resistance ambushes and charges, or fires rockets from groves and using mobile, manually-operated, ground-based launchers. Moreover, the next war, as Hizbullah showed yesterday, will be more offensive than defensive, and will include armored vehicles entering the occupied Upper Galilee.”[19] It should be mentioned in this context that in a February 2011 speech marking the third anniversary of Mughniyeh’s assassination, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel, and warned that in the next conflict he would order his men to take over the Galilee.[20]

Moreover, by holding the parade on Syrian soil, Hizbullah challenged Israel’s opposition to the establishment of Hizbullah forces in Syria, specifically in the Golan Heights. Increasing its presence in the Syrian Golan is part of the organization’s plan to expand the arena of conflict with Israel from southern Lebanon to the Golan Heights, and transform them into a single front that transcends political borders. Back in January 2016, Nasrallah stated that Hizbullah will no longer recognize either the rules of combat with Israel or the separation between the South Lebanon and Golan Heights fronts.[21] In May 2016, Ibrahim Al-Amin, head of the board of directors of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, stated that the organization had established a resistance infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights with the help of local residents.[22]

In an article published a few days after the parade, the political editor of the Lebanese daily Al-Safir implied that that one of the reasons Hizbullah is establishing itself in Syria is to open an additional front against Israel in the Golan Heights: “The weapons displayed by Hizbullah [at the parade] are weapons that [regular] armies have, and this is a clear message to Israel that the arena for every future campaign will absolutely not be limited to certain Lebanese borders and to a local population that either does or does not support [the resistance], but will rather be an arena that is more energetic, deeper, and broader – strategically, geographically, and militarily.”[23]

*Yael Yehoshua is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel

 

 

[1] For more on the military parade, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6677, Special Dispatch No. 6677, Hizbullah Military Parade In Syrian Town Of Al-Qusayr: Tanks, Cannon, And Machine Guns, November 14, 2016. It should be noted that the Lebanese army denied claims that the M113 APCs and other military equipment in the parade belonged to it. Al-Nahar (Lebanon), November 15, 2016.

[2] Al-Mudun (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[3] Al-Safir (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[4] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), November 14, 2016.

[5] Al-Mudun (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[6] Al-Safir (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[7] Alahednews.com, November 16, 2016.

[8] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), November 14, 2016.

[9] Tasnim (Iran), November 22, 2016.

[10] Al-Bina (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[11] For more on Lebanese criticism of Hizbullah’s involvement in the fighting in Syria, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 980, Lebanon Openly Enters Fighting In Syria, June 13, 2013; Special Dispatch No. 6383, Lebanese Writer: Hizbullah Is No Longer A Resistance Organization, But An Occupier And Target For Resistance, April 12, 2016; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1147, Lebanese Elements Furious Over Hizbullah’s Activity In Golan, Shebaa Farms, Critical Of Nasrallah’s Statements About Uniting Lebanese, Syrian Resistance Fronts, March 11, 2016.

[12] Al-Safir (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[13] Twitter.com/Ashraf_Rifi, November 14, 2016.

[14] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), November 15, 2016.

[15] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1276, Al-Hariri’s Choice Of Hizbullah Ally Aoun For Lebanese Presidency Is Another March 14 Forces Concession To Pro-Iran Axis, October 28, 2016.

[16] Al-Safir (Lebanon), November 12, 2016; Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 26, 2016.

[17] Al-Mudun (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.

[18] For example, Alhadathnews.net, November 15, 2016.

[19] Alhadathnews.net, November 15, 2016.

[20] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 17, 2011. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6051, The Emergence Of ‘Galilee Force’ – Palestinian Forces Fighting Alongside Syrian Regime, May 20, 2015.

[21] For Lebanese criticism of Nasrallah’s statement, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5994, Lebanese Elements Furious Over Hizbullah’s Activity In Golan, Shebaa Farms; Slam Nasrallah’s Statements About Uniting Lebanese, Syrian Resistance Fronts, March 10, 2015; For more on Hizbullah and Iranian IRGC activity in the Syrian Golan on the Israeli border, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1138, Following Killing Of Hizbullah Operative Jihad Mughniyah, New Information Comes To Light Regarding Hizbullah, Iranian Activity In Syrian Golan On Israeli Border, January 28, 2015; MEMRI Daily Brief No. 1146, From The Mediterranean to the Golan, Iran Builds Active Front And Direct Military Presence On Israel’s Border To Deter Israel And Further Ideology Of Eliminating The Zionist Regime, February 16, 2015.

[22] For more on Hizbullah’s activity in the Golan, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6039, Board Chairman Of Pro-Hizbullah Lebanese Daily: Hizbullah Has Established Resistance Infrastructure In Syrian Golan In Cooperation With Locals, April 30, 2015.

[23] Al-Safir (Lebanon), November 16, 2016.