Tag Archives: Al-Qaeda


The so-called Arab Spring continues to look like a Barren Winter. The extreme Muslim right-wing not only likes fighting, they apparently enjoy fighting each other. Unfortunately, banished swords that spread their religion across the Middle East and Africa have now been exchanged for bombs and AK-47 rifles. Not a pretty sight.

Not much as changed since the lid blew off the bottle except the conflicts between the jihadists continue to re-arrange the labels on the groups. Recently, al-Qaida central announced it was breaking ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Within Syria, the civil war has agonizingly dragged on because of these tensions. There have been several violent confrontations between ISIS fighters and the Al-Nustra front. While they are supposed to be battling Assad, they appear to be spending more time killing each other. As a result, Assad has gained the upper hand and is now in control of the warfare. America has backed away from intervention because arming the opponents of Assad could turn out to be worst than the dictator. The rebels who showed up to finish the rebellion are finishing off each other.

This is an old story in the Arab world. Some scholars have suggested that the nature of the Arabic language creates a propensity for aggression. Certainly, the last several decades have only added new chapters to the story of right-wing Muslim violence.

In Egypt, the government’s violent response to the Muslim Brotherhood continues. A few weeks ago, a judge sentenced the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and 682 other people to death. The military-backed  government maintains its massive crackdown against all supporters of Mohammed Morsi, calling their actions “war against terrorism” which is a thinly veiled propaganda cover justifying their own violence. Hopefully, an appeal will save some of these lives. However, this is another example of using violence to justify violence.

These are sad times for the Brotherhood. The victory of Morsi has turned into a bitter defeat to the world-wide organization and its desire to restore the Caliphate. In many Arab countries, they now face bitter opposition. The movement doesn’t give up easily, but barring an unexpected reversal of political events, it is dead in Egypt.

However, a group calling itself Islamic Jihad has sprung up and is now challenging Hamas for control of Gaza. Though small, they are still doing what grabs public attention. They claim to be protecting the Palestinian people from incursions from Israel. Last month in an hour they fired more than a hundred rockets into Israel. Backed by funds from Iran, they are free of any governing group and can fly by night, creating noises making them sound bigger than they are. They are another expression of the preoccupation with violence.

While all the shooting continues, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to press the PLO and Israel to continue their negotiations. Washington will spread blame on both sides to foster continuing discussions. What the State Department never seems to recognize is that the PLO and the Arab League have one fundamental objective: to annihilate Israel. There’s that old propensity for violence again. It remains difficult to talk to the barrel of a rifle.

That cold winter wind just keeps on blowing.

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            Recently, the surviving head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, sent out an order instructing his followers to stop attacking churches and focus on other targets. His statement was telling as it reflected the current struggle to keep Al-Qaeda functioning. American assaults have fundamentally disabled the group and fragmented its affiliates. The destruction of this organization has been a major victory for America. Of course, this has not stopped the ideology of the terrorist group from spreading across the Middle East and spawning subsidiary groups. However, Zawahri’s statement reflects the fact that terrorists had made Christians and churches one of their targets.

            Christians have been under attack!

As reported earlier, across the Middle East Christians are a religious minority controlling no territory and are at the mercy of whatever country they reside in. At the beginning of the 20th century, Christians comprised 20% of the Middle Eastern population. Today, the number is 2% to 5% and dwindling fast. For decades,  Egyptian Christians (called Copts) have liven in fear of assaults and mob killings. Christian women have been forced to marry Muslim men in order to reduce the Christian population.

Following the Orthodox calendar, the Copts recently celebrated Christmas amid unusually tight security. Across Egypt, fear that Islamic militants loyal to ousted President Mohammed Morsi would target churches created the need for armed protection. Churches held the usual Midnight Mass several hours early to allow congregants time to get home before late night raids would target them. Services were held in the town of Dalgar, south of Cairo, in a building with no roof or windows. Muslims had looted and burned the church in August. Such conditions have created the exodus from countries like Syria, Iraq, and certainly Iran.

On Christmas Day, 137 people were killed in the Christian districts of Baghdad. Such attacks brought responses from Canterbury and Rome. Pope Francis recently said, “We won’t resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.” England’s Prince Charles recently noted that his efforts to build bridges between Muslims and Christians have been deliberately destroyed. The time has come for the West to recognize the Sunni-Shiite religious war also includes assaults on Christians because of purely religious reasons.

Regardless of what the west seeks in planting democracy, the rule of liberty and freedom is squashed in countries that have become Islamists societies. Whether it is Sunnis or Shittes, whoever prevails will impose their ideals and positions on the rest of the society. Sorry. That’s what the past reveals. Muslim theology emphasizes fidelity to its conception of divine law. The emergence of social pluralism has not been possible in states where this ideology prevails.

The United States government appears to shy away from this issue. Unfortunate. It’s time to wake up to the fact that a war is currently being waged against Middle East Christians.

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            Since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve been surveying various aspects of the region to give readers some sense of what to expect in 2014. Of course, such prognostications are always dubious and the Middle-East is particularly unpredictable. Having hedged my bets, I’m batting a 1000 for Egypt. This past week voters poured into the streets to approve the General Sissi backed revised constitution. Voter’s response provides an endorsement for Sissi’s run at the office of  president. The ducks are all in a row.

            In contrast, Israel’s position is good and bad news. Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has been a severe blow to Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip. Dreams of importing terrorist equipment across the Egyptian border are now gone. At the other end of Israel, Hezbollah has had serious setbacks inside Lebanon. In addition, they lost fighters in the Syrian war and are now seen with suspicion because of supporting the Assad regime. Hezbollah had been an irritant for Israel. The lessening of pressure is positive.

One of the most hopeful signs is Iran’s seeming acceptance of nuclear control. T Media reports the centrifuges have been turned off and the possibility of nuclear armament is fading fast. U.N. inspectors will come in on a weekly basis. Iranian hard-liners call the agreement a “poisoned chalice’ and oppose President Rouhani’s efforts. Their opposition is the most positive sign that the deal is for real. Keeping nuclear weapons out of jihadist’s hands is great news for Israel.

On the other hand…

Sunni jihadist units that have connection with Al Qaeda have turned up as a new significant problem. The so-called “Arab Spring” brought radical change to countries like Libya, also sent a wave of political unrest across other countries. A rise in terrorism has been one of these consequences. The struggles in Iraq with endless bombings have given new concern about vulnerability on Israel’s eastern flank.

Syria remains a cause for concern. This week rebel units announced they would boycott peace talks in Geneva if Iran comes to the table. United Nation’s leadership had invited Iran but the rebel threat caused a withdrawal of the invitation. Such instability renews Israeli anxiety. Israel has had the position in regard to Assad “better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know.” They know the rebel movement is now dominated by jihadist’s elements that would turn Syria into another Iran. Israel realizes no one can bargain with these radicals. It is a “to-the-death” fight with these Muslim radicals.

If the extremists prevail, the region will remain unstable. Their anarchical viewpoints make them perpetual enemies of the state of Israel. Israel’s best defense is to make a settlement with the Palestinians (which doesn’t appear likely) and take that problem off the table. Other voices in Israel see an agreement as impossible and suggest the region should be annexed. The Palestinians can take a hike. Such a response would indeed set off a fire storm. However, the pressure inside Israel is to make no concessions to the Palestinians for the sake of their own security.

The bottom line? The coming year will not be easy for Israel. (of course it never has been) Israel must keep their powder dry and be prepared.

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Filed under Egypt, Israel, middle east, Syria


            Syria continues to be off the measuring scale for centers of treachery. Everywhere one looks it is a downhill slide. And there’s no end in sight.

            The Assad regime has made it clear that there is no end to how far they will go to stay in power. Far from having won the war, the entry of Hezbollah has tipped the balance of power in their direction today. However, the use of chemical weapons still expresses desperation on the part of the government.

By the way, the chemical attack was not part of a new rationale for Assad.  The Syrian government is not recovering vast swathes of rebel held territory. Assad’s forces particularly had trouble in recovering the eastern Ghouta territory that is part of the suburbs of Damascus city. Both the rebels and Assad’s force refer to the Jobar area as the key to Damascus. Jobar is where the last chemical attack occurred.

If Assad could drive the rebels out of Jobar and eastern Ghouta, it would offer the government renewed control in this section of Damascus. The chemical attack on Jobar was the first step in an offensive to recover this area. This is not the first time Assad has tried chemical attacks in this area. While President Obama has been reluctant to admit it, Assad has used chemicals for tactical reasons during the past year. Britain drew this conclusion much earlier. Their government’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down confirmed Syria’s use of sarin month’s back.

Apparently, the latest attack that finally got Washington’s ire up was a miscalculation that killed more civilians than was intended. A slight miscalculation that added over a thousand women and children to the death toll of more than 100,000 casualties.

Chemical attacks aren’t the only slippery slope inside Syria. One of the reasons the rebels have not made more process has come from the growing number of jihadis entering the country. These Muslim forces related to Al-Qaeda have a similar fascination with death and are increasingly killing other more moderate rebels. One of the reasons the United States has been reluctant to supply arms to the rebellion is the existence of this element. These radical groups have been some of the most effective forces on the battlefield. Nevertheless, turf wars and retaliatory killings have evolved into ferocious battles that are increasingly becoming a war within a war. Of course, the winner in these rebel battles with themselves is Assad. The big losers are the moderates as territory slips away into the hands of the Islamists and jihadist fighters.

The reluctance of America to make any sort of decisive stand has allowed Russia to conceal much of this action or offer lame excuses for what has occurred. Time is on no one’s side in this mayhem –except death’s.

Remember that old folk song from America’s anti-war movement days? “Where Have All The Flower’s Gone.” The last stanza was “gone to graveyards every one.” That’s where the slippery slope ends in Syria.

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