Category Archives: Violence

HOW TO DESTROY YOUR INFLUENCE

BLOG 448
October 21, 2019

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WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

HOW TO DESTROY YOUR INFLUENCE

This past week America seriously demolished its leadership role in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump’s newly announced withdrawal of nearly all US troops from northern Syria has cemented Russia’s status as the predominant global military power actively engaged in the Middle East. This week, Russian troops arrived at military bases in northern Syria that the American army had hastily left just days earlier, in what can be regarded as both a literal and figurative handover of regional leadership and authority.

My opinion? No, this come straight out of The Times of Israel newspaper!

Many officials in Jerusalem are deeply worried about being abandoned by their superpower ally, as the American decision to gradually disengage from this part of the world which started under former US president Barack Obama when he drew a red line and then demonstrated that he didn’t mean what he said. The follow-up acts by Trump threaten to embolden Israel’s enemies: Iran and its allies and proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

What does Russia’s takeover really mean for Israel? Some analysts are deeply concerned, fretting about the possibility that Moscow could use surface-to-air missiles against Israeli jets attacking Iranian targets in Syria, which would effectively end Jerusalem’s campaign against Tehran’s establishment of a military foothold near Israel’s border.

Amos Yadlin, the head of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times of Israel he counts eight main reasons that motivated Russian President Vladimir Putin to get involved in the Middle East:

1.To Make Russia Great Again;

2. To again become an influential power, after the US kept it out of Egypt (1973), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011) and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process;

3. To reduce the influence of the United States;

4. To play Middle Eastern cards in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine;

5. To control ports and air bases, something the tsars dreamed of;

6. To try out weapons developed by Russia in the past decade;

7. To save Syria’s Bashar Assad — and show the world that Russians don’t throw
their allies under the bus.

8. To fight jihadists — in Syria and not in the Caucasus.

Sound scary? Ask the Kurds who were abandoned this week and without the American cover who have been slaughtered by the Turks. Today the media inside Israel is telling the story. Israelis are genuinely worried. Even stupid decisions can have serious consequences.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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QUAGMIRE QUALMS

BLOG 369 October 23, 2017

The world is increasingly struggling with a sense of uneasiness over emotionally confrontational situations. The civil war in Syria is far from over, suggesting that Iran and Russia may end up being the big winners. If the US withdraws from the Iranian nuclear agreement, then Israel is pushed to consider a preemptive strike to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear armed country. The options in the Middle East remain dangerous and alarming. Which way can anyone jump?

Strangely enough, North Korea’s ultimatum to America poses another muddy quagmire. On September 3, North Korea conducted an underground thermonuclear bomb that has upped the ante across the world. At the heart of the threat is the issue of the US government’s capacity to protect its citizens. The omen of a hydrogen bomb attack has now been aimed at bomb America as well as South Korea.  If the United States does not take the threat of a nuclear attack seriously, it will communicate profound weakness both to its allies as well as adversaries. Allies will no longer trust the connection. Should the US back away, it will be on the verge of being completely discredited by a third-rate third backwater country.

Part of what makes this scenario so scary, is that the North Koreans apparently have come to believe their own propaganda. Nut case leaders are one thing in comic books; they are another in real life.

The record of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama indicates a failure to take the North Korean threat seriously.  After all, what could this improvised country do? The answer today is plenty. Nuclear power makes such a difference.

While Kim Jong-un’s threats once sounded like a comedian’s monologue, the H-bomb no longer leaves the world laughing. Unless North Korean’s nuclear stockpile is obliterated, the world can expect Asia and the Middle East to follow suit in building nuclear arsenals.

America is now looking into a deepening quagmire. If the US turns its back on the North Korean taunts, the US looses big time. On the other hand, a preemptive strike has never been American foreign policy. Since diplomacy isn’t and hasn’t worked, is there another better alternative?

That’s the qualm! No happy alternatives have surfaced so far.

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DEATH SPECIAL DELIVERY FROM THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 315 August 22, 2016

Father Jacques Hamel had spent a life time as a Roman Catholic priest in his parish in the Normandy region , France. The 85-year-old French priest had been conducting evening worship in his Saint Etienne du Rouvrat Church when two men rushed in from the back and grabbed him. Screaming in Arabic Allah Akbar, they bend the priest over the altar rail and virtually decapitated him.

The terrified tiny congregation of two parishioners and three nuns watched in disbelief and horror. Their small number to some extent reflects the condition of the Christian faith in Western Europe. The future might well rest with a combination of African immigrants and Latin-Mass traditionalists, but the small number attending in Normandy certainly reflects the current situation.

However, we see ever more clearly what the intentions of ISIS is for other religious groups. There is no surprise in the martyrdom of Father Hamel. The extreme Muslims have never made any secret of their desire to attack churches and synagogues. As they continue to fall behind in the Iraqi and Syrian battlefields, their attacks on Christians and Jews surge forward.

In April, 2015, one of the attackers Sid Ghlam had been arrested on suspicion of planning assaults with Father Hamel’s church on his “to do” list. He had already been in contact with an ISIS leader in Syria who instructed him to attack churches and ordered Saint Etienne du Rouvay as a primary target.

In one sense there is nothing new in this story. ISIS has been murdering Christians by the thousands in their controlled territories. The media has generally not heavily reported this history because it is too gruesome. In Mosel, the heads of Christian children are on poles in the park. ISIS now tells recruits not to come to Syria or Iraq but stay in their own lands and attack the infidels at home.

France, Belgium, and Germany tell the story. The only thing that has kept England and America from these Church assaults is extreme readiness. However, France and Belgium were not negligent in their defense against terrorist. But attacks in a Church? Christians shutter at such an idea, that it is now a fact.

The propaganda that ISIS uses to inspire such assaults often comes from Medieval times. The 14thcentury cleric Ibn Rajah wrote, “In charity it is permitted to kill people and animals in the easiest way … the easiest way is to strike off the neck with the sword of violence.” Sid Ghlam must have been reading Rajah.

By the way, there should be no surprises about the killing. ISIS attacks other Muslims who disagree with them. Their basic philosophy is agree 100% with us or you are dead.

I am sure much of what I have written will sound crazy (even with the craziness of the current American political campaign going full tilt) – because it is crazy. But crazy kills.

The world had best pay close attention.

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THE FEAR FACTOR

BLOG 308 June 27, 2016

Probably the largest migration in human history has been pouring across Asia and Europe as millions flee the wars in Syria and Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East facing terrorist’s strikes. What sends them running? The fear factor.
After months of the immigration to countries like Hungry, German, France, etc., many European countries are closing their borders and pushing back. The numbers flooding into Europe have filled villages with a completely different population. Muslims are often known not to assimilate  and remain permanent outsiders. Of course, this tendency becomes threatening to locals whose ancestors have lived in these areas for millenniums. What’s the motivation behind the resistance to poor people in desperate need? The fear factor.
The most recent example of the problem was the affirmative vote in the UK to withdraw from the European Union. The impact of this decision sent ripples (more like tidal waves) across stock markets all over the world. In the United States, the Dow Jones average had just reached 18,000. After the UK vote, the market sank 600 points to a low of 17,400. The British pound dropped from around 1.75 to the dollar to a low of  130 pounds. In addition, the Brits discovered that Scotland was not going to pull out of the EU which split the unity of the United Kingdom . Multitudes immediately started petitions to rescind the vote. They had obviously miscalculated.
What was going on? Fundamentally, the immigration issue had pushed the envelope way too far. Extreme Muslim attacks in France and Belgium had greatly increased anxiety in the UK. The motivating force behind the vote?  The fear factor.
Folks who don’t think that wars and chaos on the other side of the globe have any affect on them had better take a second look. Fear doesn’t recognize border lines or passport numbers.  Recently, EJA (European Jewish Association) head Rabbi Menachem Margolin noted that 40% of European Jews choose to hide their identity.The level of anti-Semitism has grown that significantly in recent years. EJA is the largest Jewish Federation in Europe and knows the terrain well. Even during the high holidays on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when all Jews gather, 80% now stay away from synagogues. The reason?  The fear factor!
The EJA continues to believe that Jews have an integral place in Europe and must not retreat. The fight against racism and xenophobia as well as all forms of discrimination begins at an early age They are not retreating even though their constituency has worries. I believe their example points the way through these perfidious times. While there are reasons to be fearful, it is not time to retreat. The day has come to be persistent in our bravery – wherever persistence is needed. We must reject the fear factor.

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THE “FAITH” WARS

BLOG 291 February 22, 2016

Anyone who has closely followed the upheaval in the Middle East has discovered that the fundamental conflict is between Muslim Sunnis and Shiites, not countries. Americans struggle to understand how two similar religious groups can kill each other over their differences. The US populace tends to view the situation as if Southern Baptists were shooting Methodists because they do not dunk people in baptism. Americans simply don’t have a paradigm for murder, destruction of ancient artifacts, and cutting off heads because viewpoints differ.

Now let’s put one more iron in the fire. Christophobia: Christians murdered for their faith while living in the Muslim world.

On October 9, 2011, 24 Coptic Christians were killed in Cairo in clashes with the Egyptian Army. On March 8, 2011, during a large Christian demonstration in a Cairo slum, 13 people were killed and 140 injured. Terrorist attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia increased 309% from 2003 to 2010. Such is a staggering number!

Churches have been burned and parishioners imprisoned. In some countries, nothing less that the fate of Christianity is at stake. For some unexplained reason, the US government does not seem to notice or protest.

Traditionally, wars have been categorized in one of three ways: the just war, the unjust war, the religious war. The worst and most brutal conflict is religious warfare. For example, the Crusades pitted Christians against Muslims in one of the bloodiest conflicts in Middle Eastern history. Even to this hour, the name Crusader is hated in the Middle East.

Terrorist groups like Boko Haram killed more than 510 people while burning down or destroying more than 350 churches in 10 northern states. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) they used guns, gasoline bombs, and machetes on unsuspecting citizens.

Today there are virtually no Christians left in Iraq. More than 900 Assyrian Iraqi Christians were killed by terrorist violence. Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholic have fled from major Christian sites like Bethlehem because of assaults. The Middle East is quickly emptying of a significant Christian presence due to the religious wars. Most of the violence is not centrally planned and comes from spontaneous expressions of anti-Christian animosity that extend back to the period of Colonialism.

The list goes on and on.

In this season of Lent when the Christian community ponders the Crucifixion, the Christian world might remember that during the first 300 years of their existence, Christians were pacifists and refused to participate in killing. A standard was set that ultimately impacted the Roman Empire and finally brought an end to the killings in the Coliseum. A new standard with a higher global ethic must be set again.

The world must wake up to the fact that its population will inevitably have different opinions and beliefs and it is still possible to be hold varying viewpoints without resulting animosity.

We can differ without destruction.

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THE TROUBLE WITH ISIS

BLOG 286 January 18, 2016

Last week we started the New Year by considering the problems facing Israel. This week we look in the opposite direction: the problems with ISIS. While the Islamic push has been slowed, the issues have far from slipped from the headlines. The West must remember what makes this terrorist menace tick and why fringe personalities fall for their propaganda.

Regardless of what Western politicians say, ISIS is fighting a religious war and the people who are recruited believe they are fighting for Allah. History has made it clear that the worst expression of hostility is a religious war because the soldiers believe God is on their side and He sanctions every act they commit. Consequently, ISIS remains an extremists expression of medieval Islam. They believe that even their defeats were predicted in the Koran and are a sign of the approaching final battle between good and evil (of course all non-Muslims are the bad guys). When they are pushed back, it is only another indication that the final end is near.

Is such thinking powerful? Simply look at American history. William Miller believed Jesus Christ would return sometime between March 1843 and March 1844. Fifty thousand believers lined up to follow the Millerite frenzy. Joseph Smith started Mormonism with the proclamation that that the New Jerusalem would be in Jackson County, Missouri. Even today a small band of Mormons expect the resurrection of Adam and the prophets along with Joe to start the new millennium. Are these proclamations magnetic? Absolutely!

Obviously, all Muslims are not jihadists anymore than the Millerites represent biblical Christianity. However, the extremist are the order of the day in Syria, Iraq, and the new state called ISIS. Bernard Haykel, the foremost secular authority on the subject, said, “there is an assiduous, obsessive, seriousness” about their dedication to the Koran.

ISIS’s destruction of objects dating back to antiquity is violence in the name of the quest for racial purity. The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the punishments for infidelity. While the massacre of prisoners is completely repugnant to the West, the beheadings and destruction are following the prophecy and example of the prophet Muhammad in punctilious detail. ISIS is fundamentally reliving the earliest period in its history when Islam conquered with the sword. Suicide bombers get an automatic free ticket to heaven along with other benefits for killing themselves in religious warfare.

Obviously, such promises are powerful tools for recruiting soldiers. The poor and unstable are ready for their trip out of this world. Beats Obama Care all to pieces!

If the current administration believes it can bomb this ideology out of existence, they better think twice. The West has again been pulled into a war that has gone off and on for over 1,200 years. Where do we go next? There is no easy road out.

As long as Russia props up Assad as the ruler of Syria, the civil war will continue. In the meantime, more innocent people will be killed or attempt to immigrate. Sorry, but it doesn’t look like a good year ahead.

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THE SMOKE FROM ISIS CAMP FIRES

BLOG 242 March 2, 2015

Americans continue to be obsessed with the things that really count –athletic events, the Oscars, and what dresses the women wore. The country worries when professional basketball players get hurt, but can’t remember who assassinated President John Kennedy. A soldier stationed in Afghanistan said, “While I am fighting in the field, Americans are at the mall. These misplaced values are serious –because there is smoke on the horizon and the public needs to pay attention to the source of the fire.

We did pause when Kayla Mueller was killed by Islamic extremists in the Syrian-ISIS led war. Coming to the war torn world as an aid worker to alleviate suffering, Kayla took on suffering, writing home “I find God in human suffering.” What an extraordinary statement – and person! Now ISIS has gotten serious about killing Christians. Killing journalist reporting on the war wasn’t enough. After beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, they marched on in their attempts to create a self-styled caliphate. The Britain based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 90 Christians were currently being held by ISIS.

In three more days, ISIS attacked Christians in northeastern Syria pushing the number abducted the extremists to more than 220. Not only are the terrorist killing Christians, they are attempting to destroy the Assyrian heritage that extends back through the centuries even to the Akkadian civilization that is one of the cradles of all Western civilization. In Iraqi, ISIS now controls 1,800 of the countries major archaeological sites. The extremists appear to be on a rampage to destroy everything from statues to books to whatever they consider to be non-Islamic. They even attack Islamic sites that they consider to be apostate.

As I blogged earlier, American policy-makers appear reluctant to admit the Middle East is in a religious war. How any diplomat can look at pictures of priceless, ancient remainders of the beginning of history being destroyed and not get the picture is almost beyond comprehension. Westerners had best pay attention as such extremist will not stop at the Mediterranean Sea should they succeed in the Middle East.

Let’s remember how Islam spread, beginning in 620 BCE during the period of Imperial expansion. Conversion was by the sword. Accept their version of Allah or lose your head! Those days appear to have returned where even a leading Moslem cleric in England refused to condemn the beheadings by Jihadi John. And if a soldier for Islam should get killed? An instant free ticket to heaven!

The Crusaders were no better. Swords and spear killed Moslems up to the gates of Jerusalem. Eternal reward awaited those who fell in battle. Did both sides think would get to continue the war in heaven? Who knows, but such bizarre ideas rumbled along in those years.

Now they have returned.

The bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East has been run out of Syria. Possibly the oldest Christian Church in existence, they still speak Aramaic as Jesus did. With his congregation of displaced persons, he decried the destruction of the remnants of their civilization extending back well beyond 20 centuries. Perhaps, Kayla Mueller was right. Surely God is in the suffering of these Assyrian Christians running for their lives.

The smoke is on the horizon.

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LET’S GET REAL

BLOG 241 February 23, 2015

Why is it that when every American election season rolls around, the political parties send in the clowns and crazies? We get a pizza executive with a 6-6-6 plan or Donald Trump with secret information that turns out to be nonsense. The media is so frantic for a wild story they will print anything. Beat the drum! Here come the buffoons!

Yes, of course President Obama is a Christian. I personally heard him declare his personal faith in his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” at a Presidential Prayer breakfast. The roots of his activism were born in a Roman Catholic parish in Chicago. When Obama first came to Chicago, he officed in Holy Rosary Church than is now called New Day Ministries.  Yes, of course Obama loves America. You can hate his policies without talking foolishly about his personal ideology.

In contrast, what America needs today is leadership that understands how vulnerable the current Obama position on Iran is making this country. The January 18, Israeli strike on a convoy driving on Syria’s side of the Golan Heights killed Hezbollah’s head of operations in Syria, a commander of Hezbollah forces along the Syrian-Israeli border, and it is reported Iran lost three generals. The fact that these leaders were exposing themselves to such high risks indicates the degree of support that Iran is placing behind a possible attack on Israel.

Whether Democrat or Republican, Washington never seems to access the thinking of its enemies. It did not do so in Viet Nam and is again failing to pay attention to this factor in the Middle East conflicts. Fumbling to say the West is not in a religious war, they fail to say out loud that from Hezbollah to Hamas to Iran, the other side considers themselves in exactly this variety of conflict. Of all forms of warfare, the religious war is the most irrational, spontaneous, and dangerous. While they have never crossed swords with Israel, Iran hates them with a passion. The exposure of their officials to death on the Golan Heights reveals the extend of the threat that Iran remains in the Middle East.

And why is this a problem for America? The delay and leniency of pushing Iran into cancelling their nuclear arms program only gives them more time to build The Bomb. Whether you like or hate Prime Minister Netanyahu, he is coming to Washington to address the Congress because Israel would be destroyed if American is wrong at the bargaining table.

No country in the world understands the possibility of annihilation as does Israel. It appears Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barrack Obama still don’t get it.

When America backs down or away, the vacuum is filled by bad guys. Obama retreated from his red line in Syria and Putin seized Crimea. This is an old story that once featured Neville Chamberlain acquiescing the Sudetenland to Hitler. If the Obama administration doesn’t get tough with Iran at the coming bargaining table, the world may pay a horrendous price.

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MAKING SENSE OUT OF TERRORISM AND THE ONGOING STRUGGLE

BLOG 238 February 2, 2015

Of course, the terrorist spill over in France and Belgium continues to create concern. The beheading of a Japanese journalist on Saturday conveys how ruthless and tyrannical the ISIS group and other jihadists  truly are. After these attacks, one jihadist said, “Is there anything better than jihad or martyr?”

The attacks in France have backfired in Belgium. Terrorist are being identified and rounded-up. Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgian researcher said the actual number of jihadists in Belgium is around 450, less that half of what France had to deal with. On the other hand, that is still a large number in a country of only 11 million people. The large Muslim population amounts to 5 percent of the population. For example, in the Molenbeek district that are 22 known mosques and that is four times the number of churches in the same area. It is suspected there are other secret mosques in the area and the police are hot on their trail.

The reason for this large number of mosques can be found in the unemployment statistics in the Molenbeek district. The unemployment rate is 40 percent and the district is the second poorest area in Beligum. Within this area are groups like Sharia4Belgium that are actively recruiting for fighter in Syria. This group’s leader Fouad Belkacem has a long arrest record for crimes like theft and assault.

The mayor Francoise Schepman believes that the “social networking” on the streets produces these jihadists. She notes that they could have just as easily tumbled into criminality. The recruiting approach is an appeal to their exclusion from the larger society. Of course, Muslims are well known for not amalgamating with the local society. Unemployment and social struggles are a more significant factors that religious conviction she believes.

On the other side of the world, the government of Yemen has undergone a violent change through the attacks of the Houthis group. It would appear the United States is a big loser. Signs proclaim, “Death to American, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” The Houthis wear these mottos on their arm bands, paint them on buildings and walls.
Their political convictions appear to be obvious.

However, on the scene political observers suggest it may not be as bad as it first appeared. They note Houthis is not Hezbollah. Charles Schmitz, an expert on the group and professor at Towson University, says the group has deep roots in Yemen, going back thousands of years. While they do have an alliance with Iran, it is believed they will not do the bidding of Iran. Houthis are also bitter opponents of Al Qaeda who consider all Shiite Muslims to be apostates. Others note there is more common ground between Houthis and America than might be expected at first glance. It is hoped that now that they are in power, the Houthis will seek some form of relationship with the United States.

The world of jihadists terrorism and revolution continues to evolve. It is always a challenge to stay up with the players.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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A POTPOURRI YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Bl0g 234 January 12, 2014

The headlines are ablaze with the story of the Islamic terrorists attacks in France. The Middle East war has boiled over and the French are not taking the assaults sitting down. However, in these blogs I attempt to go behind the headlines and keep readers informed about the untold situations. Consequently, I will not explore the Middle Eastern terrorists story today. The media is already covering the story well.

While Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi is firmly in control, jihadists element continue in the country. Recently, the most lethal group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis released a 30 minute video showing their attack that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. Following the suicide bombing that initiated the assaults, radicals rushed in with guns blazing. Following this incident, Sisi declared a three month national emergency.

The Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen groups are the latest jihadists organizations to spring up in the Sinai desert area. These groups consider themselves a part of the ISI army. In their video, the jidhadists released a message to Sisis, “we will be the sword that cuts off your head.” Their attacks are considered a retribution for the violent crackdown by Egyptian security forces on radicals. The best the jihadists can do is hit and run because the army will stay after them.

The Egyptian government pointed a finger at the Hamas rulers in Gaza as supporting this terrorist element. Because Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, they are naturally supportive of groups opposing the current Egyptian government. At the least, Hamas had done nothing to stop the operation of the jihadists in the Gaza area they control. More over, Hamas has supported building tunnels into the northern Sinai that allow smuggling goods and weapons back and forth. While the terrorist claim an ideological relationship with ISIS, they are actually more directly related to Hamas.

Who are these nomadic Islamic terrorist running around with military weapons? Mostly they are fundamentalist with a religious impetuous to kill people they consider infidels. The Islamic State movement is not actually in the Sinai area, but they have these supporters ready to join.

In Israel, the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) just attacked with tank fire and airstrikes on targets in Gaza following Palestinian’s sniper fire. Gaza militants fired a rocket at Israel and the IDF immediately responded. Of course, the Gaza rocket assault was a direct violation of last summer’s cease fire agreement. The immediate response of Israel means that any such attacks will be met by a corresponding counter-attack from the IDF.

Trapped between Israel and Egypt, these new jihad movements are caught between fierce opponents that are capable of finishing them off.

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