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World Media on ISIS, Iraq and Syria Part - 13

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Desk

05 August, 2014


 Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas As Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent

By David D. Kirkpatrick

 Money, Cars and Guns: How Islamic State Recruits the Young

By Khoulou Al-Amery

 Questions on ‘Islamic State’ and Mosul Captives

By Murat Yetkin

 Is The Levant Of Pluralism Heading Into Darkness?

By Nayla Tueni



Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent

By David D. Kirkpatrick

July 31, 2014

Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbours to end the fighting.

Not this time.

After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.

“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Centre in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents.

“I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummelling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.”

Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.

But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”

“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked.

The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.

But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.

Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.

And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region, just as it has since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood one year ago. (Egyptian prosecutors have charged Hamas with instigating violence in Egypt, killing its soldiers and police officers, and even breaking Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 2011 uprising.)

The diatribes against Hamas by at least one popular pro-government talk show host in Egypt were so extreme that the government of Israel broadcast some of them into Gaza.

“They use it to say, ‘See, your supposed friends are encouraging us to kill you!’ ” Maisam Abumorr, a Palestinian student in Gaza City, said in a telephone interview.

Some pro-government Egyptian talk shows broadcast in Gaza “are saying the Egyptian Army should help the Israeli Army get rid of Hamas,” she said.

At the same time, Egypt has infuriated Gazans by continuing its policy of shutting down tunnels used for cross-border smuggling into the Gaza Strip and keeping border crossings closed, exacerbating a scarcity of food, water and medical supplies after three weeks of fighting.

“Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, and the Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews,” said Salhan al-Hirish, a storekeeper in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. “They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, and now they are going after Hamas.”

Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas.

For Washington, the shift poses new obstacles to its efforts to end the fighting. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies continue to talk with Hamas, as they did under former President Hosni Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, Cairo’s new animosity toward the group has called into question the effectiveness of that channel, especially after the response to Egypt’s first proposal.

As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.

But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.

For Israeli hawks, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating.

“The reading here is that, aside from Hamas and Qatar, most of the Arab governments are either indifferent or willing to follow the leadership of Egypt,” said Martin Kramer, president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and an American-Israeli scholar of Islamist and Arab politics. “No one in the Arab world is going to the Americans and telling them, ‘Stop it now,’ ” as Saudi Arabia did, for example, in response to earlier Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians, he said. “That gives the Israelis leeway.”

With the resurgence of the anti-Islamist, military-backed government in Cairo, Mr. Kramer said, the new Egyptian government and allies like Saudi Arabia appear to believe that “the Palestinian people are to bear the suffering in order to defeat Hamas, because Hamas cannot be allowed to triumph and cannot be allowed to emerge as the most powerful Palestinian player.”

Egyptian officials disputed that characterization, arguing that the new government was maintaining its support for the Palestinian people despite its deteriorating relations with Hamas, and that it had grown no closer to Israel than it was under Mr. Morsi or Mr. Mubarak.

“We have a historical responsibility toward the Palestinians, and that is not related to our stance on any specific faction,” said a senior Egyptian diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. “Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Palestine.”

Egyptian officials noted that the Egyptian military and the Red Crescent had delivered medical supplies and other aid to Gaza. Cairo continues to keep open lines of communication with Hamas, including allowing a senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouq, to reside in Cairo.

Other analysts, though, argued that Egypt and its Arab allies were trying to balance their own overriding dislike for Hamas against their citizens’ emotional support for the Palestinians, a balancing act that could grow more challenging as the Gaza carnage mounts.

“The pendulum of the Arab Spring has swung in Israel’s favour, just like it had earlier swung in the opposite direction,” said Mr. Elgindy, the former Palestinian adviser.

“But I am not sure the story is finished at this point.”


Money, Cars and Guns: How Islamic State Recruits The Young

By Khoulou Al-Amery

August 4, 2014

The people of the city of Jurf Al-Sakhar, in the Babil governorate of Iraq, know little about the young Mohammed Marzouk.

All they did know was that despite barely being able to complete his university education at the Faculty of Education, he showed up one day driving a luxury car that was beyond the reach of those wealthier than him.

The young twenty-something failed to secure himself a government job after graduation, as he once wished. However, he managed to land a job with the Islamic State (IS) that came with a good salary, a weapon and a luxury car. After joining the group he took up the responsibility of recruiting young people in the region where they live.

Many of the young people in Marzouk’s area see working with IS as an opportunity to appear powerful and respected by the residents who support the extremist group. IS took the city in order to cut a road in the south leading up to the capital Baghdad. The town of Jurf Al-Sakhar is also linked to Anbar province, which was seized by IS a few months ago.

Battles are taking place almost daily in the area, resulting in the destruction of homes. Empty houses are often booby-trapped by IS fighters who wait for the army to enter before detonating them, and they have managed to kill many young soldiers in the army. However, the soldiers are no longer falling for this trick as they avoid entering empty houses and if they do, they make sure to exit them swiftly.

The city continues to suffer ongoing clashes between both sides, each controlling different parts.

Marzouk attracted not only the young people of Jurf Al-Sakhar to work with IS, but also his former classmates in al-Haswah and Latifiya, two small cities in the governorates of Babil and Baghdad, respectively, and located in the so-called area of north Babil. The area is now known as the "Triangle of Death" following the sectarian battles that took place in 2006 and 2007.

Since the proclamation of the Islamic State, the group has run its operations in the Sunni-majority region in Mosul and started to attract many young people to its ranks elsewhere, as it did in Mosul. IS managed to lure young unemployed people and teenagers just as many militias have.

IS has been tempting young people into joining its ranks by offering them money, power and the chance to take revenge on the people of their region, whether Sunnis or Shiites, from another military neighborhood or militia.

Marzouk has been showing up a lot in the city lately, followed by many young people wishing for a chance to join IS. He has been changed from a deprived young man into a leader with prestige, money and the power to recruit young people at his whim.

Nevertheless, Marzouk is not aware that all sectarian and extremist militias will one day come to an end, as was and continues to be the case of many similar groups. The people will never forget who caused the death of many innocent people merely because of their religion.


Questions on ‘Islamic State’ and Mosul Captives

By Murat Yetkin


Turkey is entering a critical week regarding the direction of its near future.

A week from today, on Aug. 11, it will be clear if Turkey elected its 12th president in the first round on Aug. 10.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems pretty sure about a victory. His supporters are attacking their opponents on social media and mocking them as “losers.” It is an exemplary contradiction for Erdogan’s conservative Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) that came into power with the rhetoric of being the voice of “the losers” against “the winners” of the secular establishment.

If elected next week, being a super-charged (with a 50 percent plus vote, more than his own government) as the “president elect,” Erdogan might take critical steps until he officially takes the chair from incumbent President Abdullah Gül on Aug. 28, as a preparation for the “New Turkey” he desires.

Apart from the cleansing operation against Gülenists in the government and judiciary system, Erdogan gives utmost importance to restructuring the military according to his needs.

The Supreme Military Board (YAS) meetings scheduled to start today, Aug. 4, take place at a critical time in that regard.

There are a series of important topics on the political-military agenda, such as the following:

1- The new threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or shortly, the Islamic State (IS), is getting bigger with new advances now on the Kurdish frontier. The IS is still holding 49 Turkish captives, including the Turkish Consul General, taken captive June 13. Iraqi Turkmens complain they cannot attract the necessary care from Ankara. Yet, no political directive from the Erdogan government to the military is of public knowledge.

2- The IS threat affects Turkey’s Kurdish dialogue process badly, too. As a result of IS’s pressure on the Kurdish liberated zone “Rojava” in Syria, the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have engaged in clashes with the Turkish military on the border last week, the first time in two years since Erdogan initiated a proxy dialogue with the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan through National Intelligence (MIT).

3- There are uncertainties regarding the future of the Kurdish dialogue, which is still considered by government directives to the military as the number one threat to security. Dengir Firat, the former number two of Erdogan’s AK Parti, who resigned last week, claims Erdogan could release Öcalan in the framework of declaring amnesty to military officers who were given heavy jail terms in cases like Ergenekon and Balyoz. Erdogan claims the cases are understood to be a plot by Gülenists, the supporters of his former close ally Fethullah Gülen, a moderate Islamist scholar who lives in the U.S.

4- Erdogan asked Chief of Staff General Necdet Özel for a cleansing of Gülenists in the army, similar to the one going on in civil service. The soldiers think it was the Gülenists who set them up, but with the green light from Erdogan’s government. There are mixed feelings there.

5- And in the middle of all those topics, the Turkish Armed Forces are undergoing one of the largest restructuring efforts in the last decades. The existing four land force armies will merge into two, for a smaller, but more effective Turkish army according to NATO needs. But it could mean additions on the officers’ shoulders who are already influenced by the psyche of those ranking officers released in the Ergenekon or Balyoz cases, waiting to be back on duty.

Reports on Özel’s possible resignation under the circumstances before the critical YAS meetings have been denied by the National Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz.

On the other hand, another statement from Yilmaz was denied by Foreign Ministry officials recently. That statement was about the possible release of Turkish captives by IS in a few days’ time, which added fuel to the fire of speculations among opposition circles that government has already made a deal with the Islamists for the release of captives in Mosul, before the first round of the presidential elections.

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said it was actually Erdogan himself who was taken captive by the ‘IS’ who turned Erdogan into the “whipping boy of the Middle East;” he claimed Erdogan has spent much of Turkey’s credit, evidenced by the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama no longer talks to him on the phone directly.

Under the current circumstances, there are three burning questions in Ankara:

1- Since the lives of the captives in Mosul are very dear to the country, will the ‘Islamic State’ release the Turkish captives?

2- If they do, when is the IS going to release them? Will that be before the voting on Aug. 10?

3- If they do, what would they expect from the Turkish government in return? It would be naive to expect ransom money from Turkey – like the Arab tribes expected in return of truck drivers held hostage – since the IS also seized Mosul’s oil and gas fields. Will there be a kind of political expectation from the Turkish government in return for the release of the captives in Mosul?

As major developments in the region unfold with possible outcomes of regime and border changes, those questions are on the immediate agenda of Erdogan who is expected to become the first President elect of Turkey by next week.


Is The Levant Of Pluralism Heading Into Darkness?

By Nayla Tueni

2 August 2014

The Lebanese parliament convened on Saturday to voice solidarity with Gaza, which is under a barbaric aggression, and to voice its rejection of other barbaric attacks taking place in Mosul, other Iraqi areas and perhaps Syria.

The difference is huge between those who are unquestionably our enemy and those who were a partner in Arabism and citizenship.

Israel’s threat still exists today Ghassan Tueni and other Orthodox intellectuals used to consider Israel to be the biggest threat to eastern Christianity because it seeks to empty the Levant of its Christians in order to cancel diversity and fight Islam or rather revive Sunni-Shiite struggle and get Muslims occupied with their domestic struggles for 100 years. Israel would thus rest assured particularly of the burden of Western solidarity and global Christian sympathy with the Christians of the Levant.

but add to it a new threat that targets the Christians first and revives Sunni-Shiite strife second. It's the threat of Islamic takfiris who don’t respect at all any humane or cultural values. They attack this humane and cultural heritage and destroy its history as well as all consecutive civilizations.

The imminent danger currently posed to the Levant serves Israel’s aims. Firstly, because it achieves its goal of emptying the region of its Christians and, secondly, of reviving a historical struggle, the beginning of which we are witnessing but without knowing when it will conclude.

However, we will not consider the crimes committed against Mosul’s Christians and other Christians in Iraq and Syria – like the abduction of two bishops – as acts of Islam as this does not only serve Israel’s aim of fuelling religious struggles among Muslims and Christians but it also leads toward considering this Takfiri state as Islam.

Failure of Moderate Muslims

However, Christians are in great pain over the failure of moderate Muslims’ failure in deterring this phenomenon. There’s also great disappointment due to the absence of Arab initiatives and movements aimed at pressing toward ending this genocide in Iraq. It’s as if the residents of Gaza are first-class, Arab citizens while Arab Christians in Iraq do not deserve stances of solidarity from all Arab countries.

Cancelling diversity in this East certainly harms the Christians because it displaces them from their homeland but it may take them toward countries that are safer and more civilized and stable. However, its negative effects on Muslims are worse because it takes them back to the logic of unilateralism. They’d close in on themselves and go backward in terms of civilization. This would therefore paint a dark image of Islam itself and this is something we do not wish because we accepted to live together and we hold on to this as a life choice and as per our deep faith in Christianity which loves others, as Bishop George Khodor wrote in An-Nahar while discussing the meaning of fasting in Ramadan.

So will Arab initiatives that meet this approach and that express a silent majority be launched? Or will Arabs give up to this wave of crimes?

Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column.