By Ghaleb Kandil
The assassination of former Minister Mohammad Chatah is part of a series of attempts to cause internal discord and strife in Lebanon, through clashes in Tripoli suicide attacks, car bombings and assassinations. These criminal and terrorist acts are implemented by Takfirists groups as the result of Israeli-Saudi joint efforts, intended to push Lebanon into a huge fire.
The first consequence of the assassination is exacerbating sectarian tensions in the country, particularly in Tripoli, the hometown of the deceased. All previous attempts to raise tension through attacks and other crimes, in the southern suburbs of Beirut and Tripoli, had not led to the breaking point.
The first information showing the involvement of Fatah al-Islam terrorist group in the assassination of Chatah did not put an end to ready accusations, launched before the beginning of the investigations.
The most serious is that the March-14 coalition quickly grasped the political objectives of the assassination, which aims above all to widen the political gap in the country, which is already divided on the Syrian conflict. This coalition is eager to torpedo any attempt to form a national unity government, only able to play the role of safety valve, and has focused on the political exploitation of Mohammad Chatah blood to push the confrontation in a country which has not a government, at the threshold of a presidential election that looks difficult. In doing so, March-14 executes the orders of its regional sponsor, Saudi Arabia, who sabotaged the last eight months, all efforts to form a new government.
March-14 has raised the bar of conditions requiring not only a government without Hezbollah, a major political and popular players in the country, but claiming that the security portfolio be given to him.
The statements of former Prime Ministers Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, immediately after the assassination, expressed a clear desire to cause a political explosion in the country, either by accusing Hezbollah of the crime or calling for the formation of a government of March-14.
The Saudi decision to push the situation to the explosion is clear in Saad Hariri and March-14 statements.
What will be the next steps in the escalation triggered by March-14?
The attitude of this political camp takes no account of the national interest, which should be a combination of efforts to cope with takfirist-terrorist cells operating in the country. Instead, March-14 works to ensure a favorable climate for these extremist groups whose primary target is the Lebanese Army.
Murderers of Mohammad Chatah wanted to make their crime the spark that will plunge Lebanon into a serious crisis, and the positions of the March-14 leaders exacerbate tensions, without worrying about the impact of their actions on stability and security. For them, Lebanon should only serve as an arena, where Saudi Arabia will try to compensate for its disappointments and defeats in Syria. They believe that the land of the cedar can be a consolation prize for the Wahhabi kingdom, surrounded by the crisis, and who sees its influence diminishing, even in its private court: the Gulf.
Michel Sleiman, Lebanese President
«This cowardly act, whatever the messages it carries are, will only make the Lebanese more determined to protect their country and preserve it as a space for peace, stability and dialogue in the face of the terrorists who only understand the language of killing and bombing. Lebanese leaders and citizens should express solidarity and help towards the formation of a new government that would take over the national responsibilities during this period.»
Nabih Berry, Lebanese Speaker of Parliament
«This crime is a ring of a long chain of assassinations aimed at turning Lebanon into an arena for settling accounts and creating strife between religions and sects. This horrific terrorist crime that claimed the lives of former Minister Mohammad Chatah and a number of citizens and which injured many other citizens aimed at keeping Lebanon in the midst of tension. This terrorist act is highly condemned and vigilance is required from everyone.»
Michel Aoun, Free Patriotic Movement
«We announce our condemnation every time a bombing targets innocent civilians or political personalities and leaders. What is required is the presence of people who hold positions of responsibility and who uphold these responsibilities. We warn everyone from launching indiscriminate political accusations and from fanning the flames, because if fire takes hold it will burn everyone and won’t spare anyone.»
Walid Joumblatt, Progressive Socialist Party leader
«The assassination of Chatah is a negative message to all the moderates and should be received with restraint. It is a very negative message to all those who act wisely and should be faced with more acts of wisdom. The assassination is an act of terrorism that killed a distinguished personality and statesman who adopted the language of dialogue, rationality and moderation.»
Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader
«The assassination of Chatah, the symbol of moderation, dialogue and intellect, raises further questions regarding the extent of hostility reached by those who adopt a hegemonic approach and advocate annihilation through the use of power. Has Mohammad Chatah annoyed them that much? Is this how those who claim to be saddened by the crimes of Takfiris fight the Takfiris? The assassination is not an isolated act, but is part of a series of assassinations that targeted several March-14 figures. Our confrontation with the killers is open. The Cedar Revolution continues until the resurrection of Lebanon is achieved.»
Ashraf Rifi, Former Internal Security Forces
«From Tripoli that brought the martyred Minister Mohammad Chatah to the world, we tell every Lebanese who grieves for the loss of the greatest of our personalities amid the struggle for sovereignty, freedom and independence… that this crime will not break our will. We will keep going along the path and we will achieve, with the Lebanese people, everything we planned for together in order to retrieve this country from the jaws of the dragon. The perpetrators of the assassination will be pursued by international justice and will be brought to account for every drop of blood that was shed.»
Omran al-Zohbi, Syiran Infirmation Minister
«These wrong and arbitrary accusations are made in a context of political hatred. Some figures in Lebanon have never stopped accusing Damascus every time a painful assassination takes place in the brother country Lebanon.»
• The March-14 alliance condemned on Friday the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah and implied that the Syria regime and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah were responsible for his killing. “The killer, with its Lebanese allies, is the one that is targeting Lebanon in Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon and Syria in Daraa, Aleppo, and Damascus,” Future bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora said after the March-14 alliance’s emergency meeting. “We demand that this assassination be referred to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” he added. Siniora also said, “We received the criminals’ bloody message and our reply is that Lebanon will remain free as tyrants will fall.” “Lebanon will remain a country for all Lebanese in spite of the criminals,” he stated.
• Hezbollah said on Friday that former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah’s assassination only benefits Lebanon’s enemies. “This ugly crime aims at destroying the country and is a sinful attempt to target stability and national unity which only benefits Lebanon’s enemies,” Hezbollah said in a statement. The party called on the Lebanese people to be “rational and wise in dealing with dangers facing their country.” Hezbollah also called on security and judicial agencies to be fully alert and to exert efforts to reveal the perpetrators.
• Dozens of rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad were killed Friday in a Syrian army ambush in the Qalamoun region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based group said the dawn attack came “in the area located between Marah and Qustul, near the historic town of Maalula.” The watchdog, which relies on activists countrywide for its reports, could not provide an exact toll, but said “another 20 rebels” were wounded. State news agency SANA quoted an unidentified military source as saying that “a unit of our brave army ambushed and killed dozens of terrorists from Al-Nusra Front.” The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra and other Islamist battalions first entered the ancient Christian town of Maalula in Damascus province in September. They were briefly driven out by the army before quickly reclaiming it. The rebels have for several weeks reportedly held a group of 12 nuns from the town.
• Saudi Arabia and Kuwait advised its citizens against traveling to the country in the wake of the latest assassination that targeted former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah. “Due to the deterioration of the security situation in Lebanon, the embassy renews its warning for its citizens against traveling to Lebanon,” a statement issued by the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon said. “It also urges the Saudi citizens already present in Lebanon to return to their homeland for the sake of their own security.” In turn, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry advised “all Kuwaiti citizens” to avoid traveling to Lebanon “amid the critical circumstances witnessed by the brotherly country.” According to a ministry official quoted by the Kuwaiti News Agency, the ministry also called on its citizens present in Lebanon to “quickly” leave the country.
• Informed sources quoted by Al Akhbar reported that President Michel Sleiman traveled to Paris to get clear answers regarding the possibility for him to settle in France at the end of his mandate, following his eventual election to head the International Organization of Francophonie. In this context, same sources recall his previous attempts to obtain illegal French passports.
• The Two Omanis nationals kidnapped in the Baalbek area of eastern Lebanon on Thursday, were released, according to a statement of the Foreign Affairs ministry in Masqat on Sunday. Two Omanis were abducted near Baalbek this evening after having taken a taxi from Beirut airport to the Beqaa.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
(December 28, 2013)
The assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah on Friday was a blow to a renewed attempt to bridge differences between the March-14 and March-8 groups.
A prominent party within the March-14 coalition proposed an initiative to the March-8 group whereby a new government would be formed that includes the main components of the national dialogue committee.
The proposal, reportedly presented last week, would guarantee a blocking third for the March-8 group, which, in return, would work for facilitating the election of a new president, or, failing that, the new government will be allowed to take over the presidential powers.
According to sources, the slain former minister was “one of the main godfathers of such a proposal.” “These efforts, which aimed at dissociating the internal issues from regional struggles… seemed to be currently prevented from being put into practice.” “The assassination of Chatah, which is not far removed from the regional and international struggle, came to spoil the attempts to rebuild trust between March-14 and March-8.” “Did the assassination of Chatah torpedo the government agreement that was being discussed?” the sources inquired.
As Safir (December 27, 2013)
An observer excludes a government of fait accompli, the extension of Michel Sleiman’s mandate, and the possibility of vacuum at the Presidency of the Republic, considering that all these scenarios are likely to destabilize the country. The analysis of the observer is based on the theory saying that any action taken on the issue of the presidential election is dependent on the answer to the question whether it is likely to affect the stability or not in the country, which still has regional and international coverage. This analysis undermines another perspective which refers to a preconceived plan to generalize the vacuum in state institutions in order to provoke an inevitable conflagration, the objective of such a scenario is to pave the way for a compromise and to establish a new political formula. On an another hand, a leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) considers that the interests of the great powers do not take into account “small priorities.” These countries, the source added, are not interested, for example, in the stability in Syria, Iraq and Egypt. So it is not possible to say with certainty that they have fears for stability in Lebanon, although this fear is motivated by the desire to protect Israel, because sometimes says the source, it is the instability that preserves the interests of Israel.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily, close to March-14 Coalition)
(December 28, 2013)
Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel warned against precipitating into launching accusations following the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah.
“It is important to wait for [the result] of the investigation, especially after Takfiri and extremist criminal organizations have cropped up in Lebanon,” Gemayel said in a statement to An-Nahar on Saturday.
“It is therefore too early to launch accusations and point the finger [at suspects] here and there, and what is required is for the security agencies to lead the investigations to uncover the perpetrators as soon as possible.”
The Kataeb Party leader also said that the killing of Chatah was an attack against Lebanon “on all levels.” He added that his death was a loss for the moderate political strand in the country.
An Nahar (December 26, 2013)
A diplomatic source in Paris reports that France follows with great interest the Lebanese issue, and is eager to maintain stability in the country and supports the “Baabda Declaration” which calls to take Lebanon away from regional crises, particularly Syrian conflict. Sources related to the Elysée are reporting growing concern with respect to the vacuum that exists already in Lebanese institutions, given the presence of a caretaker government which does not have all its prerogatives and the inability to establish a new Cabinet, as well as the perspective of vacuum that could take over the Presidency of the Republic, in the event that a new president would be elected on time. Such an eventuality will place Lebanon in danger, especially if the Syrian crisis continues and the Geneva conference 2 fails to achieve the requested objectives, which would prolong the conflict in Syria, which has a negative impact on Lebanon.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
By Firas Choufi (27 December, 2013)
A Saudi preacher has posted images of himself preaching to residents of the Druze villages of Jabal al-Summaq in the Idlib countryside, leading them in prayer and teaching them about Islam – the Wahhabi version of course. Reports coming from Syria’s Idlib day after day show that a fire is smoldering under the ashes of Druze villages.
Fortunately for Jaramana or Suweida in Syria, or even Aley and Hasbaiya in Lebanon, the takfiri groups wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq cannot hope to impose their absolute control on these Druze-majority regions. However, this does not mean that other Syrian villages, be they Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, or Druze, will not be subjected to the types of deadly attacks that takfiri gangs have been inflicting on the Syrian people. Having said that, it seems that the Druze villages, located in Jabal al-Summaq in the Syrian governorate of Idlib, are the least fortunate.
The validity of the reports, holding that 18 Druze villages in Idlib “had converted to Islam,” was settled when a Said Saad al-Din al-Ghamidi posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts pictures of a trip he had made to Druze villages in Idlib, including Banabel and Qalb Lawzeh. The pictures show Ghamidi leading worshippers in prayer in a Druze temple.
Incidentally, Ghamdi holds a “doctorate” in Islamic law from a religious university in Saudi Arabia. He hails from the city of Dammam. Like many Saudi clerics, he declares non-Sunni Islamic sects and all those who do not adhere to the Wahhabi brand of Sharia as heretical. Ghamdi also sees Christians as dhimmis – second-class citizens – and opposes allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Ghamidi happens to be one of the leading financiers of takfiri groups in Syria, regularly collecting donations from Saudi Arabia to purchase weapons for the jihadis. On one occasion he tweeted that he had supplied funds to one group to acquire rockets to “pound the Nusairis [derogatory term for Alawis] in Latakia.” Very overtly, Ghamdi posted the details of his trip to Syria through the city of Antioch, and his page shows him traveling between Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, and Saudi legally, through official airports in these countries.
Ghamdi did not stop there. The cleric posted pictures of residents of Druze villages receiving him and his companions in their temples and homes, after they declared they were converting to Islam. Other pictures showed a plot of land donated by a Druze elder to build a mosque at Ghamidi’s request, and the Saudi cleric’s aides taking down names to provide them with food aid packages.
Ghamidi told his followers that 18 Druze villages had been converted to Islam, “despite limited capabilities and the difficulties of this path.” Is this the new norm to be expected in the “liberated” areas?
Since the start of the Syrian crisis, the Druze in Idlib have not borne arms on the side of the Syrian army, or formed local armed committees. On the contrary, the Druze community here has taken a stance of “positive neutrality” vis-à-vis the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As opposition Local Coordination Committees and what is left of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) attest in Idlib, the Druze have contributed greatly to the protection of Syrians who came to their villages after being displaced from their villages nearby, including families of the militants who, since the beginning of the crisis, were involved in attacks against Syrian army and security positions.
Their story seems similar to that of the fighters from Suweida who defected with dissident Syrian army Lieutenant Khaldoun Zainuddin, and fought alongside the armed opposition in Deraa for more than two years. But when al-Nusra Front grew powerful, it arrested some and killed others.
This doesn’t mean that the Druze in Idlib have endorsed the uprising or that they oppose it. How can they have genuine attitudes to begin with, being scattered across small villages in a vast geographical area that had quickly fallen into the hands of the FSA? The question becomes only more valid when the FSA-controlled areas have now themselves fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda affiliates like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front.
This is not the issue anyway. No doubt, images and reports such as the ones involving the Saudi cleric’s feats leave a deep scar on the psyche of every Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian, whether they support the forces fighting the takfiris, or whether they are reassessing their options to choose what is best for their country.
The majority of Druze religious and political leaders do not want to comment on the reports about Ghamidi, believing that “this does not help but could hurt,” despite the popular restlessness and collective anxiety felt in Druze areas. Nevertheless, informed Lebanese sources indicate that all mediation efforts with Turkey to pacify Druze villages have failed.
Meanwhile, other Syrian sources state that Turkey, despite its concern over increased takfiri activity along its border, still wants to turn northern Syria into an ethnically pure region, allowing it to isolate Iskenderun and other regions of Syria that Turkey has seized from the Syrian coast.
Letter Declaring Conversion to Islam: Renouncing Esotericism and the Hindu Doctrine of Reincarnation
Ghamidi posted a text he said was a letter sent by the elders of the Druze villages of Jabal al-Summaq nearly a month ago, declaring their conversion to Islam. The handwritten letter stated:
“We…in the villages of the Idlib governorate named herein … attest that there is no god but God … and that Mohammad, his slave and messenger, is the seal of the prophets … We renounce those who falsely attributed us to the cursed reprehensible man Mohammad bin Islamil al-Darazi, and renounce him and his esoteric doctrine, the founder of the Druze creed which we renounce and declare an infidel all those who follow it.”
The letter then declares a conversion to an orthodox brand of Sunni doctrine, with obvious Wahhabi undertones, renouncing the “Hindu” doctrine of reincarnation that the Druze traditionally believe in.
Al Akhbar (December 27, 2013)
According to most observers concerned with the formation of the new Lebanese government, President Michel Suleiman is relatively convinced that Hezbollah cannot be fooled into extending his term. He understands that the Saudis want him to put the country in the hands of Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, without extending his own term.
Suleiman received information that some of the colleagues of Future Bloc MP Hadi Hobeich, particularly MPs Boutros Harb and Robert Ghanem, who were having dinner at MP Farid Makari’s house, were making fun of Hobeich’s “fanciful and illegal” proposal to keep the president after the end of his term. Later, Hobeich would hear harsh words on his rash proposal from former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and MP Ammar Houri.
Hobeich retracted his proposal in a television appearance, after having promised to propose it to the Future Bloc. Based on that, President Suleiman visited Paris, aiming to get a definitive answer about the possibility of living in France at the end of his term and assuming the general secretariat of the Francophonie.
People close to the president said he was optimistic after the visit. A veteran minister said that from experience, when a president escalates his rhetoric at the end of his term, he is setting up to be a Christian chief. This is out of the question for Suleiman.
Accordingly, March-8 seems certain that Suleiman will fulfill the final item of his presidential agenda and sign the decree for the Salam government, which, at the very least, will not include Hezbollah.
March-8 has also dropped from its plans a scenario, which entailed that its ministers would not deliver their ministries to the new governments, since the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is certain that caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati will give Salam the keys to the Grand Serail. His ministers and those of MP Walid Jumblatt are also expected to do the same.
In this situation, there will be one government and some rogue ministers. Legal experts also concur that such a government would be legitimate, despite breaking the National Pact, since Article 64 of the constitution stipulates that a government formed by the president and prime minister “shall not exercise its powers before getting a vote of confidence [in parliament], except within the narrow definition of caretaking.” This should supposedly have been reflected in the latest warnings by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, who told Suleiman and Salam not to go along with the Saudi proposal to exclude Hezbollah from the government.
This is the gist of the discussion about the government. However, the debate about presidential candidates has already begun, putting the number of presidential hopefuls at 10: Amin Gemayel, Michel Aoun, Suleiman Frangieh, Samir Geagea, Jean Obeid, Riad Salameh, Jean Kahwaji, Boutros Harb, Robert Ghanem, and Ziad Baroud.
The last candidate is working in the shadows, hopeful for a miracle from the Maronite patriarch, allowing Cardinal Beshara al-Rai to send him to the presidential palace. However, the two independent candidates and Future Movement MPs cannot find any priest, banker, or ambassador to give them a hand. We are left with the “Maronite Four,” in addition to the “Neutral Three,” to use a polite term for their position in the current conflict.
In this context, there are three arenas for the competition. In the first, there is MP Frangieh and Lebanese Forces commander Geagea, who rose to fame after the 1978 Ehden massacre, which Frangieh survived by coincidence. Geagea, “based on his vision,” expects his side to achieve a total victory by taking the presidency and negotiating on the position of parliamentary speaker, after throwing Nasrallah in jail, facilitating the sale of Hezbollah’s weapons, and transferring the money to the Lebanese Forces’ private accounts.
Frangieh, on the other hand, is waiting for a new settlement, which would redistribute powers and give the presidency and the parliament to hawks on his side, with the Future Movement heading the government through Saad Hariri. Hariri’s supporters would chose Frangieh over Aoun at any time. Frangieh’s Marada Movement say they support Aoun’s nomination and are very secretive about the outcome of presidential negotiations with their allies in Dahiyeh and Damascus.
In all events, Geagea will become a serious candidate if his side achieves a resounding victory, and the same goes for Frangieh. But in light of the current balance, two candidates represent the existing schism: former President Amin Gemayel from March-14 and former army commander Michel Aoun from March-8. It is enough to see Gemayel smiling at the Iranian ambassador and Aoun’s joy in receiving the US ambassador, to note the similar plans they have to return to the presidential palace in Baabda. However, Aoun is confronting Geagea to give him a push, while Geagea is completely ignoring Gemayel’s candidacy.
It should be noted that Gemayel had transferred the presidency to Aoun on 23 September 1988. Aoun later became a national hero a month after that date, not because of his actions, but because of what Gemayel and Geagea were doing. In the 2008 by-elections, many residents of Metn said they were unfamiliar with Aoun’s candidate Nazem al-Khoury, but they knew Gemayel, so they will vote for Khoury.
In this context, information from the Lebanese Forces and Walid Jumblatt confirms that they and the Future Movement would prefer Aoun over Gemayel. Geagea does not want to waste all his efforts, dating from 1982, to limit Gemayel’s influence, and Jumblatt cannot imagine him in Baabda, due to bad personal experiences (the war of the mountains and other things). The Future Movement does not want to pay the price of having a president that is only an ally in words.
The third arena will be set in the event of a political agreement – most probably regional – to safeguard Lebanon from the disruption, which would be caused by the two sides fighting it out, a void in the presidency, or the repercussions of a one-sided government. The competition here will be between three candidates who have not yet declared their nomination. The chaos, which would be caused by Suleiman’s departure, will pave the way for the “grip,” according to a former minister, represented by army commander Jean Kahwaji. Several sources in the FPM maintain that Kahwaji is Hezbollah’s number-one choice, despite several official denials by the party.
Although Kahwaji knows that Future Movement MPs will not have an influence on his nomination, he succeeded in winning some of them over. The movement’s General Secretary Ahmad Hariri, and MPs Hobeich, Riad Rahhal, Khaled Zahraman, and Mohammed Hajjar speak positively of him. Kahwaji is actually relying on their ability to change the popular mood in their regions, which are incubating anti-army groups. “Friends of the Leader,” who are putting up signs in several official establishments, such as officer clubs, are promoting European interests in supporting the army, as a sign of adopting Kahwaji’s move from Yarze to Baabda.
However, observers maintain that there is no information about the true position of the Saudis and the United States from Kahwaji, despite the efforts exerted by former Defense Minister Elias al-Murr in promoting his friends to the Americans. Until now, Kahwaji is supported by Michel al-Murr, but there is a strong veto by Aoun regarding his candidacy.
Lebanese Central Bank (BDL) governor Riad Salameh, on the other hand, represents a point of convergence between several opposing sides. The first is between Frangieh and the Lebanese Forces, who had one of its ministers call on Aoun to consent to his candidacy. The second convergence is between the Future Movement and Mikati.
But Nabih Berri, like Aoun and Jumblatt, prefers former minister Jean Obeid to Kahwaji or Salameh, if the choice is limited to these three. Obeid might be able to capitalize on his strong relations with Saudi officials concerned with this issue and his agreement with former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on most issues, including the extension of Emile Lahoud’s presidential term. Obeid believes this saves him from a veto by the Future Movement.
Obeid could get the support of Berri, Aoun, the Future Movement, and Jumblatt in the second phase, if none of the strong Maronite candidates are chosen. The only veto would come from the Lebanese Forces, which is employing all its capacity to convince Qatari diplomacy (which listens carefully to what Obeid has to say) and the public (which knows about Obeid’s visit to Syrian intelligence officer Ghazi Kanaan to pay condolences after Kanaan committed suicide) that Obeid is linked to the Syrians.
Kahwaji is using the military establishment as a crutch to reach the presidential palace. Obeid is dependent on a strangely connected regional network and several local friends.
There is serious fear of a void in the Future Movement, mainly among its MPs. A Beirut MP describes the presidential void, regardless of the government, as a means for Hezbollah to lead all sides to a settlement that does not stop at merely choosing a president. It could be something similar to the 2008 Doha agreement, which included a reconciliation between March-14 and the Syrian regime, in addition to the identity of the new president.
Future Bloc head Siniora has enough experience and pragmatism to convince regional powers that it would be impossible for any Maronite from his side to become president. However, he prefers a president who would repay the Future Movement for its role in his nomination and take the country’s balances into account, especially one whose personal relations with regional and international decision-makers brought him to power. In the offices of FPM MPs, the same anxieties about a presidential void are expressed, which, in their calculations, will only serve to bring Kahwaji into office.
Amin Gemayel likes to say that the candidate is the message. In his case, this would be a bona fide disaster. Obeid, on the other hand, does not believe that a personal resume has anything to do with reaching the presidency. “It has to do with one’s direction” – and his luck.
Luck or God’s will? Hamid Frangieh went and Suleiman Frangieh arrived. Bashir Gemayel was killed and Amin Gemayel took the seat. Rene Mouawad was assassinated and Elias Hrawi elected.
Al Akhbar (December 24, 2013)
In an interview with Al-Akhbar, the Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch, Gregory III Laham, stressed thattakfiris – radical Islamists who declare their opponents as apostates – target all Syrians, “but especially Christians as of late, being the weakest link.” Laham revealed that a meeting will be held by the World Council of Churches in Geneva a week before the Geneva II Syria peace conference, and said he was hoping the three Syrian patriarchs would be invited to attend Geneva II, even as observers.
Damascus – Syria is living a tragedy that is bearing heavily on all Syrians, proclaimed Patriarch Gregory III Laham of Antioch, spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The patriarch said that the crisis in his country has so far caused the displacement of around six million Syrians, mostly Muslims, in addition to more than 120,000 casualties, also mostly Muslims.
“The devastation has affected nearly 500 mosques and 60 churches,” he added, “which means that it is clear the tragedy has spared no one in Syria.”
Laham continued, “Some takfiris have jumped into the fray and corrupted the Syrian opposition. It seems clear that these people have atakfiri ideology that singles out Christians, Alawis, Druze, and all those who do not subscribe to their ideas, views, and laws. They target everyone. Recently, they have specifically targeted Christians as the weakest link, as we have seen in Maaloula and Sadad. But what is certain is that these people are strangers to Syrian culture, and even Muslims are afraid of them.”
Addressing fears about attempts to completely uproot the Christians of Syria, Laham said, “With God’s help we are steadfast and we shall stay. If anyone is wagering on uprooting Christians from Syria and the Levant then they are deluded. We from time immemorial have been living together as Syrians of all affiliations. This is one of the most important features of Syria in particular, and the Levant in general.”
Laham said, “The Orient without its Christians will inevitably lose its identity.” The patriarch then added, “We have a common history, and there should be joint Christian-Muslim determination to stand by one another. No one should declare anyone an apostate. … We can stay, we want to stay, and we must stay. I believe that this slogan should be upheld by everyone, and I had said in my Christmas message: Give me a united Arab-Islamic world, and I can guarantee you that all my children would remain here.”
Trying to Fulfill Our Duty
Concerning the efforts that the church and the Catholic Patriarchate have undertaken, Laham said, “I would like to assure our children that we never for one day hesitated to do everything that we can do. We have made a lot of efforts since the crisis began. Since 2011, the Patriarchate has provided aid to those affected by the crisis, both Christians and non-Christians. The value of aid is about $40,000 monthly.”
Laham continued, “We have fulfilled our role when it comes to clarifying what is happening to international public opinion and international bodies, be they ecumenical or political. I personally participated in many meetings and made a number of proposals. For example, I called at the Word Council of Churches meeting in Geneva on September 18 for a global church-led campaign, based on three core principles: no weapons, no violence, no war but peace, reconciliation, and dialogue, and the need to go to Geneva II, in addition to entrenching Islamic-Christian coexistence in the Arab Middle East.”
Patriarch Laham told Al-Akhbar that the World Council of Churches called for a new meeting in Geneva to be held next month, one week ahead of Geneva II. The meeting would aim to devise proposals, and produce a working paper in an effort to push forward the political process and stop the bloodshed.
Concerning Geneva II, scheduled for 22 January 2014, Laham said, “We are praying for the conference to be held and for it to succeed. I hope to be invited, I, Patriarch John X Yazigi [Greek Orthodox patriarch of Antioch] and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I [Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch] to Geneva II, even if as observers, to fulfill our role in bringing divergent views together to achieve reconciliation. We are not with a particular regime but are with Syria the state and the homeland that accommodates all its people and guarantees peace for them.”
No New Information on Kidnapped Bishops and Nuns
With regard to the kidnapping of Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, Patriarch Laham explained that he is in constant contact with Patriarchs Yazigi and Zakka. He said he spoke to them recently about this matter, and was told that there were no new developments on the two kidnapped bishops or the nuns who were taken from Maaloula.
Laham renewed his prayers throughAl-Akhbar for the safety of the nuns, and said, “Wherever they are, there will be a monastery there, with their constant prayers. We are praying for their safety and the safety of the two dear bishops, and for this ordeal to have a happy ending.”
Laham said he plans to spend Christmas in Egypt in fulfillment of an old tradition “to visit our children and our churches and check in on them, but Syria will most certainly be present in our hearts and our prayers.”
The talk about targeting Christians in Syria sounds trivial in a country where everything is being targeted, beginning with the notion of the homeland itself. Fast-paced developments – especially in the second half of 2013 – make the fact that Christians are being targeted indisputable, yet this is something that should be seen as a more dramatic stage of the onslaught on the entire Syrian people.
In principle, the raids on Maaloula in 2013 cannot be seen in isolation from the chants heard at the beginning of the Syrian crisis, calling on Christians to “leave to Beirut.” On the ground, the outcome of directly targeting Christians, and anti-Christian attitudes, was that up to 450,000 Christians have left their homes in Syria, according to Patriarch Laham.
A quick calculation reveals that up to 10 percent of Syrian Christians have left, bearing in mind that there is no accurate figure on the real number of Christians who were displaced internally.
Along the same lines, the targeting of the Christian clergy cannot be seen in isolation from attacks against Syrian clerics in general. Meanwhile, churches, just like mosques, have had their share of the devastation, and so did Christian antiquities – just like the rest of Syrian antiquities.
Thus, in light of the unchecked spread of takfiri groups, and the growing influence of extremist groups, the more accurate equation is not Christians versus Islamic extremists, but Syrians versus extremism. Indeed, it is important to remember that most Muslims follow the example of Prophet Mohammad bin Abdullah, and not Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, founder of Wahhabism.
United Press International (American press agency, December 23, 2013)
A Salafi movement in Jordan has revealed that nearly 10 000 foreign militants were killed in Syria since the foreign-hatched conflict hit the country in 2011.
The Jordanian Jihadi Salafi Movement said that some 9936 extremist militants from different parts of the world, especially from Tunisia, Libya and Iraq, have been killed during the nearly three years of conflict in Syria. Some 1902 Tunisians, 1807 Libyans, 1432 Iraqis, 800 Palestinians and 202 Jordanians were among the victims. Many extremists are trying to destabilize Syria under the banner of al-Qaeda terrorist network.
According to the data, some 828 Lebanese, 821 Egyptians, 714 Saudis, 571 Yemenis, 412 Moroccans, 274 Algerians, 71 Kuwaitis, 42 Somalis, 21 Bahrainis, 19 Omanis, 9 Emiratis, 8 Qataris, 3 Sudanese, 1 Mauritians, and nearly 30 others from Caucasus and Albania have lost their lives in Syria conflict. The report says most of the dead are affiliated to the terrorist groups of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Other news reports say several extremists from Europe, America and Australia are fighting in Syria.
A recent British defense study showed that about 100 000 militants, fragmented into 1 000 groups, are fighting in Syria against the government and people.
The extracts of the study by defense consultancy, IHS Jane’s, were published on September 16.
IHS Jane’s estimates that some 10 000 militants are fighting for groups affiliated with al-Qaeda such as al-Nusra Front, and the rest fight for different militant groups.
Jerusalem Post (Israeli daily, December 26, 2013)
By David Bukay
From the first day, the so-called “Arab Spring” was in fact a dark anarchic Islamic winter. Yet, the media has disseminated the idea — as if the internet, Facebook, and Twitter have produced a new situation in the Middle East: a young Arab generation that adopts Western ideals and yearns for democratic values, civil rights, and freedoms. Unfortunately this was just another wishful thinking, a mirror image, a cultural ignorance even a stupidity. In reality, this dark anarchic Islamic winter symbolizes the demise of the Arab state and the retreat towards primordialism. It is not a step forward towards democracy and open modern societies, but a huge retreat to stagnation and Islamism.
This situation takes its highest toll in Syria, where it has become not only a failed state but a demolished one. At the start, the Syrian violence of deep upheaval was not an internal war between an oppressive regime against democratic opposition supported by the people, but against al-Qaida affiliated groups from all over the world that are now concentrating in Syria. It is symbolized by the call of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida , that Syria is now the most important Islamic front, and victory there means the advent of al-Qaida to regional even world hegemony. Indeed, what we see in Syria are domestic anarchic groups and external ones form Iraq; Lebanon; AQAP al-Qaida Arabian Peninsula); AQIM (al-Qaida Islamic Maghreb); from Afghanistan; Pakistan; Chechnya; Turkmenistan; even from China. Syria is physically demolished; and its cities are ruined, with millions of refugees fleeing to the neighboring states. _The scope and amount of the groups, majority of them are al-Qaida Affiliated groups, is long, exhausting and terrifying. A short list includes the following: Jabhat al-Nusra, the biggest al-Qaida affiliated group; Qatā’ib Ahrār al-Shām; `Usbat Liwā’ al-Tawhīd; `Usbab Qatā’ib al-Haqq; Fath al-Islām; Qatā’ib Abdallah Azām; `Usbat al-Ansār; Qatā’ib Shuhadā’ al-Barā’ Ibn Mālik; Qatā’ib Umar al-Faruq; Jaish al-Islām; Qatā’ib al-Ansār; and al-Majlis al-Thawri. Jabhat al-Tahrīr includes over ten Salafī-Takfīrī sub-groups; and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, includes the same. Some other groups are organized under al-Jabha al-Islāmiyah; and Ahfād Qatā’ib al-Rasul, with four groups. There are also Jihadi converted Muslims from Europe, Africa, and the US, recruited and organized by Abu Ahmed al-Iraqi. The last estimation by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London is that between 3,300 and 11,000 foreigners from 70 nations are fighting now against Assad.
Whether we like it or not, the situation in Syria is clear: a legitimate regime is fighting to its existence against the worst enemy of the Free World. The flag of al-Qaida is already waving in parts of Northern Syria, i.e. on May 22, 2012, al-Qaida group coalition in Syria has declared the establishment of the “Islamic Emirate of the Levant” there. Alongside with the terrorist murderous operations, these groups are already perpetrating genocide and ethnic cleansing of the minorities, mainly the Christians. Indeed, if one wishes to understand a selected situation, the plight of the Christian minority is an illuminating symbol. The objective of al-Qaida has already declared by al-Zawahiri: “toppling Bashar Takfīrī (infidel) regime and establishing the Islamic state based on the Sharī`ah.”
More than any other place, Syria exemplifies the free world failures to understand the reality in the Middle East. Syria exhibits the cultural-civilizational dilemma of misconceptions and fallacies. There are many fallacies that hinder us from understanding the situation and establishing a proper policy: political correctness, ignorance, the politics of leaders and stupidity, but the most important component is the mirror image. It means that you look at your opponent and analyze his behavior and actions according to your set of beliefs and values. The mirror image is the projection of you in the mirror. You relate to your opponent with the same definitional attitudes and operational codes and you project your own past situation and experiences to your opponent, as if he is like you.
Questions should be addressed concerning the situation in Syria. When the democratic world condemns Assad as a cruel bloody dictator, and accuses him of butchering his own people, does it really has the accurate knowledge and the reliable information of the domestic situation in Syria and who are the forces operating there? Does the reality match the myths disseminated around about who are the butchers? Moreover, does it take into consideration that all the political leaders in the Arab-Islamic polity during its entire history are coercive brutal and oppressing? By that, is Bashar Assad really different in dictatorial and brutal terms from all other contemporary and previous historical leaders?
Another set of questions relate to outer forces. Does the Assad regime pose a greater threat to international security than the Al-Qaida elements fighting there? Do we really believe that toppling the Syrian regime means weakening Iran and Hezbollah, and turning the balance of power in the ME in favor of Western interests? Are the forces fighting Assad, called ‘the opposition,’ pro-Western and more democratic forces? Shouldn’t we deeply be concerned that toppling Assad regime could strengthen the al-Qaida affiliated groups, thereby endangering the regional and in time even the global security?
A third set of questions are, what will happen to Syria after toppling Assad? Will Syria become more stable and tranquil with the opposition rule? What will be the regional balance of power and the political stability of Jordan and Lebanon, let alone Israel? What will be the fate of the religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, like the Christians and the Druses? Above all what will happen to the Alawite minority? Isn’t it highly probable that pervasive bloodshed massacre, a full-fledged genocide will be conducted against them?
The best of this disastrous policy is seen in Syria, with its climax the threat to intervene militarily to topple Bashar Assad. The best pronouncement of the situation was made by a Syrian general: “why the world does not understand that we are the last dam that blocks the flood of Islamism in Europe? What blindness!” And the US, stubbornly, with huge extent of stupidity, continues to support evil. It is as if it has not learned the lessons of Afghanistan where it supported Bin Laden and al-Mujahidin al-Afghan; and has not learned the lessons of supporting Khomeini against the Shah, both immediately turned against her.
It must be clearly stated: Bashar’s disappearance means the persistence of domestic chaotic anarchic situation in Syria, like Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Contrary to the US (and Israel) wishful thinking, the regime that will emerge will be no democratic and not liberal; not pro-Western and not a secular regime with the Free Syrian Army; even not a Muslim regime like the Muslim Brotherhood style Egypt, Out of the anarchy and chaos reigns in Syria, the highest probability is for al-Qaida affiliated groups to win over. The consequences to the regional stability are horrific: they will endanger the surrounding states. Bashar downfall also means deteriorating and exacerbating the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict to bloody wars.
As for the US: Did the US learn the lessons of toppling Qaddafi in Libya? The result is that the flag of al-Qaida -affiliated groups (AQIM) waves openly in Benghazi and the groups’ activity is now seen in Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, directing to Algeria and Morocco to the west, and uniting with al-Qaida affiliate Boko Haram in Nigeria. On the east, AQIM has reached a collaboration with Somalia’s al-Qaida affiliate group, al-Shabāb, and together they threaten Kenya and Ethiopia. AQIM has also close relationships with Hamas in Gaza, and al-Qaida groups in Sinai.
The Independent (British daily, December 29, 2013)
Anti-Shia hate propaganda spread by Sunni religious figures sponsored by, or based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, is creating the ingredients for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world. Iraq and Syria have seen the most violence, with the majority of the 766 civilian fatalities in Iraq this month being Shia pilgrims killed by suicide bombers from the al-Qa’ida umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). The anti-Shia hostility of this organisation, now operating from Baghdad to Beirut, is so extreme that last month it had to apologise for beheading one of its own wounded fighters in Aleppo – because he was mistakenly believed to have muttered the name of Shia saints as he lay on a stretcher.
At the beginning of December, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula killed 53 doctors and nurses and wounded 162 in an attack on a hospital in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, which had been threatened for not taking care of wounded militants by a commentator on an extreme Sunni satellite TV station. Days before the attack, he announced that armies and tribes would assault the hospital “to take revenge for our brothers. We say this and, by the grace of Allah, we will do it”.
Skilled use of the internet and access to satellite television funded by or based in Sunni states has been central to the resurgence of al-Qa’ida across the Middle East, to a degree that Western politicians have so far failed to grasp. In the last year, Isis has become the most powerful single rebel military force in Iraq and Syria, partly because of its ability to recruit suicide bombers and fanatical fighters through the social media. Western intelligence agencies, such as the NSA in the US, much criticised for spying on the internet communications of their own citizens, have paid much less attention to open and instantly accessible calls for sectarian murder that are in plain view. Critics say that this is in keeping with a tradition since 9/11 of Western governments not wishing to hold Saudi Arabia or the Gulf monarchies responsible for funding extreme Sunni jihadi groups and propagandists supporting them through private donations.
Satellite television, internet, YouTube and Twitter content, frequently emanating from or financed by oil states in the Arabian peninsula, are at the centre of a campaign to spread sectarian hatred to every corner of the Muslim world, including places where Shia are a vulnerable minority, such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Malaysia. In Benghazi, in effect the capital of eastern Libya, a jihadi group uploaded a video of the execution of an Iraqi professor who admitted to being a Shia, saying they had shot him in revenge for the execution of Sunni militants by the Iraqi government.
YouTube-inspired divisions are not confined to the Middle East: in London’s Edgware Road there was a fracas this summer when a Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) cleric held a rally in the face of objections from local Shia shopkeepers. Impelled by television preachers and the social media, sectarian animosities are deepening among hitherto moderate Sunni and Shia, with one Shia figure in the UK saying that “Even in London you could open the address books of most Sunni without finding any Shia names, and vice versa.”
The hate propaganda is often gory and calls openly for religious war. One anti-Shia satellite television station shows a grouping of Shia clerical leaders, mostly from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, labelled as “Satan’s assistants”. Another asks “Oh Sunni Muslims, how long will you wait when your sons are led to be hanged in Iraq? Is it now time to break the shackles?” A picture of a woman in black walking between what appear to be two militiamen is entitled “Shia men in Syria rape Sunni sisters”, and another shows the back of a pick-up truck heaped with dead bodies in uniform, titled “The destiny of Syrian Army and Shia soldiers”. Some pictures are intended to intimidate, such as one showing an armed convoy on a road in Yemen, with a message addressed to the Shia saying: “Sunni tribes are on the way”.
Sectarian animosities between Sunni and Shia have existed down the centuries, but have greatly intensified since the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that followed it. Hatreds increased after the US invasion of Iraq and the takeover of what had been a Sunni-run state under Saddam Hussein by the majority Shia community, which generated a ferocious sectarian civil war that peaked in 2006-07 and ended with a Shia victory. Opposition to Iran and the new Shia-run state of Iraq led to Sunni rulers emphasising the Shia threat. Shia activists point in particular to the establishment in 2009 of two satellite channels, Safa TV and Wesal TV, which they accuse of having strong anti-Shia bias. They say that Saudi clerics have shown great skill in communicating extreme sectarian views through modern communications technology such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, giving them a much wider audience than they had previously enjoyed.
An example of the inflammatory views being pumped out over YouTube is a sermon by Nabil al-Awadi, a cleric in Kuwait, who has 3.4 million followers on Twitter. His speech is devoted to “exposing the biggest conspiracy the Muslim world faces”, which turns out to be a plot “conceived in Qom [the Shia holy city in Iran], and handled by sayyids and chiefs in Tehran, to get rid of the nation of Islam, aiming to desecrate the Kaaba [the building in Mecca that is Islam’s most sacred site] brick by brick”.
Mr Awadi relates that Iraq fell to an enemy whom he does not name, but he clearly means the Shia, often referred to as Safavids after the Iranian dynasty of that name. He says that in Iraq “they were killing the imams with drills in their heads until they are dead and they put the bodies in acid to burn until they died”. But the speaker looks forward to a holy war or jihad in Syria, where a great battle for the future of Islam will be fought and won. He warns that “they did not know that jihad is staying and will put fear in their hearts even if they are in Washington, even if they are in London, even if they are in Moscow”.
In Egypt, the Shia are only a small minority, but a cleric named Mohamed Zoghbi reacted furiously to the suggestion that they appear on satellite television to debate religious differences. “We would cut off their fingers and cut off their tongues,” he said. “I must cut off the Shia breath in Egypt.” Bloodthirsty threats like this have great influence on ordinary viewers, since many Egyptians watch religious channels continuously and believe the opinions expressed on them. An example of what this kind of incitement can mean for Shia living in communities where Sunni are the overwhelming majority was demonstrated in June in the small village of Zawyat Abu Musalam, in Giza governorate in Egypt. Some 40 Shia families had previously lived in the village until an enraged mob, led by Salafist sheikhs, burned five houses and lynched four Shia, including a prominent local figure.
Video films of the lynching, which took place in daylight, show the savage and merciless attacks to which Shia minorities in many countries are now being subjected.
Hazem Barakat, an eyewitness and photojournalist, minutely recorded what happened and recorded it on Twitter in real time. “For three weeks, the Salafist sheikhs in the village have been attacking the Shias and accusing them of being infidels and spreading debauchery,” he told Ahram Online. Film of the incident shows a man, who looks as if he may already be dead, being dragged through a narrow street in the village by a mob. Among the four dead was 66-year-old Hassan Shehata, a well-known Shia leader who had been twice jailed under Hosni Mubarak for “contempt for religion”. Police came to the village but arrived late. “They were just watching the public lynching like everyone else and did not stop anything,” said Mr Barakat.
A significant sign of the mood in Egypt is that immediately after the lynchings, a TV host said that Mr Shehata had been killed because he had insulted the Prophet Mohamed’s relatives. Several Salafist and conservative Facebook pages are cited by Ahram Online as having lauded the murders, saying that this was the beginning of eliminating all the three million Shia in Egypt.
Given that Shia make up between 150 and 200 million of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, they are a small and usually vulnerable minority in all countries aside from Iran and Iraq, though they are numerous in Lebanon, Pakistan and India. In Tunisia last year, a pro-Palestinian march by Shia in the city of Gabes was attacked by Salafists chanting, “There is no god but Allah and the Shia are the enemies of God.” Tunisian eyewitnesses cite the influence of Egyptian and Saudi religious channels, combined with the Salafists claiming to be the last defence against an exaggerated threat of a takeover by Iran and the Shia.
The propaganda war became more intense from 2006 on, when there were mass killings of Sunni in Baghdad which, having previously been a mixed city, is now dominated by the Shia, with Sunnis confined to enclaves mostly in the west of the city. The Sunni community in Iraq started a protest movement against persecution and denial of political, social and economic rights in December 2012. As the Iraqi government failed to conciliate the Sunni with concessions, a peaceful protest movement mutated into armed resistance.
The enhanced prestige and popularity of the Shia paramilitary movement Hezbollah, after its success against Israel’s air and ground assault in 2006, may also be a reason why Sunni governments tolerated stepped-up sectarian attacks on the Shia. These often take the form of claims that Iran is seeking to take over the region. In Bahrain, the Sunni monarchy repeatedly asserted that it saw an Iranian hand behind the Arab Spring protests in early 2011, though its own international inquiry later found no evidence for this. When President Obama said in September that Bahrain, along with Iraq and Syria, suffered from sectarian tensions, the Bahraini government furiously denied that any such thing was true.
Social media, satellite television, Facebook and YouTube, which were praised at the start of the Arab Spring as the means for a progressive breakthrough for freedom of expression, have turned into channels for instilling hatred and fear. Fighters in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other countries beset by violence often draw their knowledge of the world from a limited number of fanatical internet preachers and commentators calling for holy war by Sunni against Shia; often such people are crucial in sending young volunteers to fight and die in Syria and Iraq.
A recent study of dead rebel fighters in Syria by Aaron Y Zelin of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation indicates that jihadi death notices revealing country of origin show that 267 came from Saudi Arabia, 201 from Libya, 182 from Tunisia and 95 from Jordan. The great majority had joined Isis and the al-Nusra Front, both of which are highly sectarian organisations. A deeply dangerous development is that the foreign fighters, inspired by film of atrocities and appeals to religious faith, may sign up to go to Syria but often end up as suicide bombers in Iraq, where violence has increased spectacularly in the past 12 months.
There is now a fast-expanding pool of jihadis willing to fight and die anywhere. The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies may find, as happened in Afghanistan 30 years ago, that, by funding or tolerating the dissemination of Sunni-Shia hate, they have created a sectarian Frankenstein’s monster of religious fanatics beyond their control.
New Orient News
New Orient Center for Strategic Policies