The position of the Caliph is a symbolic role. As a religious and political leader, he has the right of obedience after being chosen by the Shoura Council as was the case with Omar al-Baghdadi (Hamid Dawood al-Zawawi) and then Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Also, Zarqawi formed the Mujahideen Shoura Council and appointed Abu Abdul Rahman al-Baghdadi as its president. The marginalization and insignificance of the role of Caliph and his successor is manifested in the appointment of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who according to dissident elements, are described as “random” and not asked to lead for legal competence or combat experience.
According to Abu Suleiman al-Otaibi, an ISIS judge in Iraq, the efficiency of the so-called “Commander of the Faithful;” Abu Omar al-Baghdadi does not know what is going on around him, and doesn’t object to anything at all.” Al-Otaibi added that Abu Bakr was not known to the majority of leaders. Because of poor communication, everyone was confused about who chose him as the leader. As for the ethnic and tribal ties to Quraysh, assigning Ibrahim Awad al-Badri was considered a trick by members of the organization's Consultative Council to legitimize the position of the Caliph.
Not from the Prophet’s family or the Baghdadis
According to a research conducted by an ISIS militant Abu Ahmed, Baghdadi belongs to the tribe of Albu Badri and was born in Samarra. He said: “Albu Badri and the Badriins are not from the family or related to the prophet’s family, popular known as “Al al-bait”. “Al-Baghdadi did not receive a doctorate in the science of Tajweed as it is claimed,” said the Khorasan fighter. “The leader of ISIS wasn’t a doctor of Sharia or a Baghdadi nor a Qurashi nor a descendant of Al Hassan or Al Hussein. The link to Quraysh is a “ciché attributed to him and it is a lie,” he said.
The leader of the organization is a postman
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a mere “post office”. It was as if fighters would come and throw bulk of mail in the yard of his house and then another fighter comes and takes the mail from him. Radical groups have also played down the importance of the position of the Caliph. According to Abu Duaa al-Samarrai, Baghdadi was only a symbol and the weakest link in the organization. “The killing of al-Baghdadi will not affect the approach and the strength of the organization. Any Iraqi figure can be assigned and attributed to Quraysh, and at the moment there are no specific names for whoever will succeed.”
A trick to assign Baghdadi
The appointment of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi came after Abu Hamza al-Muhajir took command of the organization, which sought to establish an umbrella for the various fighting factions in Iraq and forced those who objected to the project to accept Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. As a result, al-Qaeda and other dissidents branched out from it. After Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was killed on April 19, 2010 along with his war minister, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the ISIS of Iraq unit replaced its leaders. Haji Bakr resorted to a malicious trick as he contacted each official separately to appoint Abu Duaa Samarrai as Amir instead of Abu Omar Baghdadi. Most people around him agreed without really knowing “the postman,” thinking that he is experienced and has a significant past. He was also an old comrade of Zarqawi and a “Qureshi Husseini Baghdadi,” so most of the princes accepted him as their leader before they themselves got toppled.
Da’esh/leadership – After the reported news about the death of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the organization is expected to shortly announce the name of its new leader, who will succeed Baghdadi, in order to maintain unity among its members, defend its survival and ensure its continuity it was reported on the 15 Jul 17. In a brief statement issued by ISIS a few days ago, the organization mourned its dead leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and called on its members to remain united, keep it up in the strongholds and not get dragged behind the sedition. ISIS is witnessing a critical time, especially after the recent strikes received in Iraq and the successive defeats over the past months, during which it lost most of its leaders. A few leaders were left, the most important of which is the leader of the organization in Libya Jalaluddin al-Tunisi, who is one of the most important names qualified to succeed Baghdadi. The real name of Jalaluddin al-Tunisi who is from Tunisia as his name suggests, is Mohamed Ben Salem al-Ayouni. He was born in 1982 in the Masaken region of the coastal province of Sousse. He immigrated to France since the 90s and managed to obtain the French citizenship before returning to Tunisia upon the revolution. In 2011, he went to Tunisia and then moved to Syria to participate in the war. He announced in 2014 that he joined ISIS after the killing of the commander of the “Ghoraba battalion.” He became the battalion’s leader and became one of the most important leaders in the organization and very close to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He made his first appearance on the media in a video on the borders between Syria and Iraq in 2014. After the losses of ISIS in Libya, specifically in the city of Sirte last year, Baghdadi appointed him as the Emir of the organization in Libya because he believed that he was able to win battles and maintain the presence of the organization there, as well as good relations with some of the other extremist groups in North Africa, such as Oqba ibn Nafi who is affiliated with al-Qaeda. Tunisi was able to convince some of the members there to defect and join ISIS. Since the North African region is at the top of the regions where ISIS is seeking to expand and survive and with its recent collapse in Iraq, the organization might seek to expand again in African countries starting from Libya, which is still in a state of chaos when it comes to security. Libya, especially its insecure south, provides a safe haven for insurgents and terrorists in order to operate freely, reorganize, recruit and train members. It also helps in the financing through the smuggling of goods in order to cover up as soon as possible for the recent fall of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Bahrain – Authorities in Bahrain announced on the 29 Jun 17 the arrest of seven people suspected of carrying out or plotting attacks in the Gulf kingdom. Five of those detained were believed to have formed a cell of the Al-Ashtar Brigades militant group and were accused of being behind three attacks on the armed forces, said security chief General Tarek al-Hassan.
Explosives and chemicals used to make homemade bombs were seized during the arrest operation, the same source said. The two other people arrested were accused of carrying out surveillance in preparation for attacks on the security forces. Bahrain has been shaken by sporadic unrest since a crackdown in 2011 on protests led by Shiites calling for democratic reforms and an end to their alleged marginalisation. Dozens of Shiites, including many regime opponents, have been sentenced in recent years to heavy prison sentences for violence that accompanied the protests. The authorities deny any discrimination against Shiites and regularly accuse Iran of interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs, which Tehran denies.
Iran – A vast convention hall located north of Paris was the scene of a massive Iranian Diaspora gathering who voiced their demand for a better future through regime change in Tehran. Hundreds of dignitaries from the Arab World, United States and Europe stood alongside the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its President Maryam Rajavi in condemning Tehran’s meddling throughout the Middle East as the main obstacle to establish peace and security in at least four regional states. The keynote speaker on the 1 Jul 17 was Rajavi, who called on the international community to recognize the NCRI as the voice representing the Iranian people, evict Iran from the Middle East end the appeasement policy and welcome a strong strategy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s call for regime change.
Considering the tumultuous conditions brought about across the Middle East as a result of Iran’s disastrous meddling, the presence of an important name in the Arab World voiced a very significant statement. “The Iranian people are the first victims of Khomeini’s dictatorship,” said Turki Faisal, former Saudi ambassador in the United States and United Kingdom. “Your effort in challenging this regime is legitimate and your resistance for the liberation of the Iranian people of all ethnicities, including Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Turks and Fars of the mullahs’ evil, as Mrs. Rajavi said, is a legitimate struggle.” In a sign of a united Middle East position in the face of Iran’s belligerence, numerous Arab delegations including many former and current officials from more than a dozen regional countries participated in the convention. In their colourful array of speeches these representatives of hundreds of millions of people who have suffered from the mullahs’ support for terrorism placed their fists down saying enough is enough. Following four decades of endless destruction and misery brewed by Tehran’s mullahs across the region, these nations are more than ever supporting the NCRI platform advocating regime change.
Tehran’s main rival
Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi spearheaded the 1 Jul 17 convention. “Our people want a constitution based on freedom, democracy and equality. The time has come for the international community to heed the demands of the people of Iran,” she said. Rajavi shed light on a subject less taken into consideration about Iran, being the very fact that the roots of Tehran’s foreign wars are found in its domestic crises. “Out of the past 38 years, the mullahs were engaged in war with Iraq for eight years, have been at war with the people of Syria for six years, and have pursued confrontation with the international community for more than ten years to build an atomic bomb. The Iranian Resistance is proud that it has stood up to the mullahs’ religious fascism in all these three spheres: It has been the flag-bearer of peace and freedom; it has been a vanguard in defending the people of Syria, and it has led the way for a non-nuclear Iran,” Rajavi added. “We have welcomed the statements made at the Arab, Islamic, American Summit in Riyadh against the Iranian regime’s terrorist and destabilizing activities. Nevertheless, we emphasize that the ultimate solution to the crisis in the region and confronting groups like ISIS, is the overthrow of the Iranian regime by the Iranian people and Resistance,” she continued. Placing forward the most important changes needed, Rajavi stated people’s demands in their struggle for freedom and democracy.
1) The international community must recognize the NCRI as the sole legitimate voice representing Iranian people.
2) Bringing a lasting end to the highly-flawed policy of engagement and appeasement vis-à-vis Tehran.
3) Establishing a strong position of standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s will of seeking an end to the mullahs’ rule through regime change.
Politicians and high-profile figures from the United States and Europe gave more weight to a complementary message of this conference: the mullahs do not represent the Iranian people and it is high time for the international community to acknowledge this nation’s true demand for regime change. Representing a rare bipartisan initiative in Washington, American dignitaries including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Mayor Rudi Giuliani, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Governor Ed Rendell and a substantial slate of dozens of other political and military officials joined the ranks of many others voicing their support. “You, I, my government and your leadership, we see Iran in exactly the same way. The regime is evil and it must go. #FreeIran,” said Mayor Giuliani. “I think it’s fair to say that the Trump administration has much fewer illusions about the nature of the Iranian dictatorship. I think it’s fair to say that Secretary of Defence Mattis in his years in the Central Command understands exactly who the Iranian dictatorship is…I think it’s fair to say that the National Security Advisor, General McMaster, in his years of service in the Middle East, knows exactly who the Iranian dictatorship is,” said former US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Iran has been suffering a series of setbacks following last month’s Riyadh Summit. Couple that with the Trump administration continuing to evaluate its comprehensive Iran policy, the mullahs in Tehran have every reason to be extremely concerned about how the bleak the future is.
Iran – Prince Turki al-Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Islamic Studies, said in his speech on the 1 Jul 17 at the Iranian opposition conference in Paris that “the Iranian government is the greatest sponsor of terrorism” in the world. Al-Faisal said, “Khomeini sought to export revolutions and coups to the region.” Al-Faisal stressed that the Iranian elections are undemocratic and illegitimate because Khamenei appoints the candidates, saying, “the behavior of the Iranian regime does not qualify it to be a democratic system.” Prince Al-Faisal said, “Officials of the Iranian regime should be presented to the International Criminal Court.” Several figures who participated in the Iranian opposition conference in Paris called for supporting the struggle of the Iranian people calling for change by overthrowing Tehran’s regime. Among the attendees of the conference were parliamentary delegations from Britain, Italy, Albania, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria – as well as various other European countries.
Iran – Reports from German intelligence agencies show that Iran is still attempt to procure illicit technology, including parts for the operation of its heavy water reactor, which was shuttered under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Benjamin Weinthal reported for theWeekly Standard on Friday the 7 Jul 17. A report from the state of Hamburg concluded, “there is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic polices in 2016” following the announcement of the nuclear deal, which temporarily limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions in sanctions relief. Iran has continued seeking “missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program,” the report added. Also according to the Hamburg report, three German citizens were charged with violating export bans for sending 51 specialized valves to Iran. The parts can be used in Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor, which “can be used to develop plutonium for nuclear weapons” and was shut down as part of the nuclear deal. In general, Iran is seeking “products and scientific know-how for the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well [as] missile technology,” the report noted. The 181-page report documented 49 separate instances of Iran engaging in illegal procurement and terrorist activities, such as cyberwarfare, espionage, and support for the terrorist group Hezbollah. An incident detailed in an intelligence report from the state of Baden-Württemberg documented the effort of a Chinese export-import firm to locally purchase “complex metal producing machines.” After Berlin’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control requested a special permission for the machines to be shipped to Iran, Baden-Württemberg’s intelligence agency warned the company that the machines were set to be illegally diverted to Iran. “This case shows that so-called indirect-deliveries across third countries is still Iran’s procurement strategy,” the report observed. A 339-page report from Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, equivalent to the FBI in the United States, noted that Iran has also continued pursuing its ballistic missile program. The report noted that while the terms of the deal called upon Iran not to advance its ballistic missile program, “The amount of evidence found for attempts to acquire proliferation-sensitive material for missile technology/the missile program, which is not covered by the [nuclear deal], remained about the same.” (While the nuclear deal did not focus on other Iranian violations of international law, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which implemented the accord, “called upon” Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”) Weinthal reported on Saturday the 8 Jul 17 in the Jerusalem Post that the federal German report also found that Iran continued to surveil local Israeli and Jewish institutions. “The State of Israel, its representatives and supporters as well as members of the Jewish religious community are among the declared enemies of Iran. Even the agreement made between Iran and the Western world to settle the nuclear conflict has not changed this attitude,” the report found. “Therefore, Iranian intelligence-related organizations continue to spy on (pro-) Jewish and Israeli targets in Germany.” This year’s German intelligence reports are consistent with those issued in previous years. Two years ago, despite the ongoing nuclear talks (and right before the talks concluded in an agreement), German intelligence agencies found that Iran was evading the existing sanctions on acquiring both nuclear and ballistic missile technology. Iran’s continued effort to procure nuclear and other prohibited technology prompted Weinthal and Emanuele Ottolenghi to ask at the time, “If Western powers are reluctant to penalize Iran for trying to evade sanctions because they’re afraid of spoiling the negotiations, what will happen in the future when Western powers have even more invested in preserving an agreement?” Last year, German intelligence agencies reported that Iran was actively seeking chemical and biological weapons capabilities in Germany. Weinthal reported earlier this year that there is evidence that Iran played a significant role in developing Syria’s chemical weapons program.
This article is published courtesy of The Tower
Iran/IRGC/Why IRGC is enemy of Islam and a major source of terrorism (15 Jul 17) – In 1979, after decades of oppression, people in Iran courageously stood up to the Shah dictatorship and demonstrated power of the people by toppling him. But their hopes of freedom were soon crushed when Khomeini was able to deceive them with false promises to establish a bloody reign of terror, based on a state principle called velayat-e-faqih. We must not be deceived by media outlets, which try to compare Iran’s state principle to other countries in the region. Velayat-e-faqih means that the faqih, a so-called Islamic jurist, is the custodian of all Muslims until the missing 12th Imam Mahdi reappears. By nature, he must rule not only people in Iran but Muslims all over the world and has the divine duty to give global fatwas and intervene into other nations to “free” them. This is manifested in the preamble of the Iranian constitution of 1979 when it says: “[T]he Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) […] will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world”. We can see here that one main goal of IRGC is the export of “revolution” into other countries. There can never be peace as long as the whole world has been taken over by Iran’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Therefore, we see that the IRGC is meddling in different countries in the region. No other country has a similar state form as Iran with the exception of ISIS. By nature these two ideologies are similar with the difference that Iran claims to be “Shiite” while ISIS claiming to be “Sunni”. The Saudi Crown Prince therefore has every reason to say that dialogue with such a regime is impossible. These interpretations counter the main principles of Islam which means submission and roots in the very Arabic word peace. When we take a look at the biography of Prophet Mohammad, he was always aiming to achieve peace treaties even if disadvantaging Muslims. It’s worth mentioning that Allah sent him an Ayah for victory (Quran 48:1) not after the winning of a fight but after making a peace treaty in Hudaibiyyah. These very principles are also found in the Quran which particularly aims to make people humble and loving.
Use of force
Similarly, also according to “Shiite” interpretations of Islam, Imam Ali called for the use of force only in situations of defence and only unless a necessity exists, forbidding even further violence when the enemy is injured and defenceless and from attacking innocent bystanders. This is manifested in important Shia sources such as Nahj al-Balagha. Most “Shiite” scholars therefore reject Khomeini’s ideology and his state principle. We can therefore clearly see that the manifestation of the IRGC’s exportation of the ‘revolution’ through violence counters the very teachings of Islam. It is because of the exportation of terror through groups such as the IRGC, al-Qaeda and ISIS that many people have a wrong perception of Islam today. These groups are therefore enemies of Islam. They misuse the banner of religion to teach anti-religious doctrines. According to the famous cleric Ayatollah Taleghani this is the most dangerous ideology possible, because here fundamentalism is justified through higher powers. In recent years we have unfortunately seen numerous attempts to appease the Iranian regime. The Obama administration, for economic and geopolitical reasons, followed a policy of appeasement with Iran and gave them billions of dollars that were used for sectarian policies, terror and the export of its “revolution”. Even former US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged in an interview that Iran will use money from sanction relief for terrorism. Qatar also helps Iran when it stroke deals and held meetings with notorious IRGC Commander Qassem Suleimani as recently in Baghdad and by spreading a pro-Iranian narrative on Al Jazeera. Therefore among other reasons Qatar is rightfully targeted by its Gulf neighbors for its involvement in global terrorism.
Economy and IRGC
Moreover according to sources from the Iranian opposition, at least 40 percent of the economy is in the hands of the IRGC. Thence many economic deals with Iran will in the end have no other result than the strengthening of the IRGC and the export of terrorism. Iran’s involvement in terror, assassinations and cooperation with terror groups such as Al Qaeda is well documented and was even mentioned by US President Donald Trump. These failed policies of appeasement have endangered the Middle East and were a main cause for the birth of so-called ISIS. When Iran’s sectarian forces started to massacre the ‘Sunni’ community in Iraq and Syria with help from their governments, many ‘Sunnis’ by nature became more extreme and wanted to retaliate. According to former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, the positions and policies adopted by former Iraqi PM Maliki against Iraq’s Sunni community paved the path for the rise and growth of ISIS. Moreover, in a Fox News interview in November 2014, John Kerry acknowledged how Assad facilitated the release of 1,500 extremist prisoners which parallel to the release of 1,000 prisoners by Maliki in Iraq led to the foundation of ISIS. To stop fundamentalism and sectarianism in the region, it is important to target the ultimate cause of instability. That can only happen when the international community places the IRGC on its terror lists and starts to confront it. Western governments must no longer listen to corporations and lobbyists who try to benefit from instability but must help the rising people in Iran to topple the anti-religious regime. This will be a huge step to replace the darkness of terror that has taken hostage the people of the Middle East with the bright light of a new dawn of peace, the ultimate aim of Islam.
Iraq/Analysis: Are Iraq death squads awaiting the return of Nouri al-Maliki? (Tony Duheaume 14 Jul 17) – Since the invasion of Iraq by Coalition troops to bring down Saddam Hussein, the Iranians have been infiltrating Iraq’s political system, its security services, and all its government institutions, both national and local, to turn the country into a virtual satellite state of the Iranian regime. With the situation in both Syria and Iraq the way they are right now, with Iran having a powerful presence in each, through both its conventional armed forces, and those of its proxy forces such as Hezbollah and various militia groups – plus the aid of its newly acquired ally Russia which is also looking for a foothold in the area – the Iranian regime’s hegemonic desires for regional control are now well on track. Since the emergence of ISIS, the death squads of Iraq’s former prime minister Nouri Maliki have now been completely revived by the Iranian regime to aid Iraqi troops in their fight against ISIS. Amalgamated with similar Shiite militia groups, under the collective name of the Popular Mobilisation Units, they have been deployed to counteract the incompetence of the Iraqi army, which had virtually capitulated during the early days of the fight against ISIS. It was in June 2014, when ISIS militants overran Mosul, Iraq’s ill-trained, badly equipped and undisciplined regular army, had not only failed to hold its ground against the invading force, it had also in many areas, dumped its weapons and taken to its heels. Conveniently for the Iranians, this came at a time when Obama had stated there would be no American boots on the ground, and with US forces only backing the Iraqis in an advisory role and with air strikes, the Iranians were invited to step in by the Iraqi administration to coordinate ground operations, which was begrudgingly approved by Washington. The Popular Mobilization Units were created by a secretive branch of the Iraqi government known as the Popular Mobilisation Committee or Hashd Shaabi, and to Iran’s advantage, many of its number had received training from the Iranian IRGC Qods Force. Their chosen leader was Jamal Jaafar Mohammad, aka: Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, the one-time commander of the secretive Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah (KH), who was also a former Badr Brigade commander, known to be linked to several deadly terror attacks, and as a pointer toward his true allegiance. Mohandis is also a close confidant of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who eventually began to integrate these militia groups into the Iraqi army, giving its commanders full control over regular units.
Loyalty to the regime
Mostly led by Sunni-hating fanatics, whose loyalty is toward the Tehran regime, these Shiite militias are once again wreaking havoc. On several occasions, as ISIS was advancing rapidly toward Baghdad, these groups used the opportunity of the “fog of war” to commit atrocities against Sunnis. During January 2014, with Nouri Maliki at the helm, ISIS had taken Fallujah, and things were beginning to look bleak for the Iraqi administration, as after launching a full-scale attack against Anbar Province, IS militia forces fast took control of Anbar’s regional capital Ramadi. As the situation worsened, ISIS seemed to be invincible in its onslaught, and Iraqi government forces, struck with reckless abandonment, began dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas, targeting houses, mosques and markets, killing at least 22 people. It was during this assault that mortar shells and rockets were used against Fallujah General Hospital, with the building suffering severe damage. Even after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had become prime minister in September 2014, a man who had spent much of his life living in exile in Britain, and was seen by many as a moderate, these types of appalling atrocities continued. Just in the same way as they had done with Assad, the Iranian regime had backed Maliki to the hilt, and although they have appeared to have done much the same with his predecessor Abadi, the new prime minister has proven to be more resistant to Iranian influence, for fear of being tarred as a puppet of the Iranian regime. With the Americans already favouring Abadi over his belligerent predecessor Maliki, they have offered future military assistance in the form of having US and Coalition troops remain in the country, although in public, Abadi seems to be rejecting the idea.
Acts of terror
But as far as the acts of terror being committed by the Popular Mobilization Units are concerned, they cannot claim them to have just simply committed in the heat of battle, as their past history suggests otherwise. But considering some of these atrocities had taken place under the tenure of the more moderate Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi what would the prospects for future peace efforts be, should Nouri Maliki return to power any time soon. Because the next time around, Maliki would be implementing his divisive, and pernicious racial policies, using a military fully controlled by Popular Mobilisation Unit commanders, with an agenda of ridding Iraq of any form of Sunni control. All of this backed by the Iranian administration, who are desperate to see a Shiite Islamic republic in Iraq, modelled after their own, and fully controlled from Tehran by their Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Sadly, such a prospect might not be too far in the distant future as Maliki is now campaigning to get his old job back and running neck-and-neck with the present incumbent prime minister. Should Tehran’s man Maliki win, Iraq would most certainly be returning to the dark old days when rampant death squads roamed the streets, a time when badly mutilated bodies turned up in profusion, dumped in ditches after being tortured in the secret dungeons spread across Iraq, set up by National Intelligence Service. So, the death squads that had caused so much havoc for coalition troops during their occupation of Iraq, have now found themselves fighting alongside Iraqi troops, not only hitting back at advancing ISIS forces, but also responsible for committing atrocities against the innocent Sunni population. With these militias better armed than before, with more control than ever, they are no doubt readying themselves to once again be pitted against civilians in the role of death squads, should their revered leader Nouri al-Maliki once more become prime minister.
Israel/Palestine – Two Israeli policemen died after Palestinian gunmen reportedly opened fire near Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City, before they too were killed in a gunfight. Israeli police said the three gunmen reached one of the gates near the Al Aqsa compound, opened fire and fled towards Al Aqsa mosque where they were shot dead by police officers on the 14 Jul 17. Israeli police later ordered the closure of the compound, saying there would be no prayers at the site on that Friday. The three attackers were armed with two machine guns, a pistol and a knife, according to Israeli police. They were then pursued inside the Al Aqsa mosque compound. In the courtyard of the compound a final gun battle ensued between the gunmen and Israeli security forces. Management of Al Aqsa mosque said the bodies of two Palestinians were inside the courtyard of the mosque compound. The ancient, marble-and-stone compound houses the Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, and the 7th century Dome of the Rock. Thousands pray there every Friday. Following the incident, access to the Old City was restricted. "Forbidding the Friday prayer is an unfair procedure," Sheikh Omar Keswani, a religious official at Al Aqsa said. "What happened earlier is now being taken advantage of by the Israeli right to impose a new reality in Al Aqsa mosque." In a separate incident on the 14 Jul 17 Israeli forces shot dead an 18-year-old Palestinian during a raid in Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians during the raid it was reported. Since September 2015, Israeli forces have killed more than 254 Palestinians, most of them said by Israel to be attackers. In that same period, Palestinian attackers have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist.
Follow-on Report: Palestine/Hamas – Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers are calling on Palestinians to attack Israeli forces in Jerusalem after a sacred site was closed following a deadly assault there. Hamas described the closure of the site - known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount - in a statement on the 15 Jul 17 as a “religious war” and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called on the Palestinian “uprising” to target the Israeli army and West Bank settlers. Israel made the rare move after three Palestinian assailants opened fire there on Friday, killing two Israeli police officers before being shot dead. The Muslim-administered site is revered by both Muslims and Jews. Israel says it won’t reopen before the 16 Jul 17. Hamas has staged a rally celebrating the attack.
Qatar/al-Nusra Front/Al-Arabiya English (6 Jul 17) – A video showing Al-Jazeera anchor Ahmad Mansour interviewing the leader of the al-Nusra Front in Syria or Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, has reappeared on social media platforms. While Mansour drew attention to the fact that there is no difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, the most interesting part remains the target of the dialogue itself. The goal of Al Jazeera anchor was to whitewash Al Nusra Front and present it as a militant party with an honourable cause. The interview brings to the forefront the issue of Qatar’s relationship with terrorist organizations, and most importantly al-Nusra Front. What proves that Qatar is involved in supporting terrorism is that al-Jazeera arranged the meeting with the leader of al-Nusra Front to try to promote its ideology, improve the image of its leader Mohammad al-Julani to support him to take power in Syria after Assad, although he (al-Julani) is internationally recognized as the leader of a terrorist organization. Sources said then that Doha had suggested financing the front if it gets detached from other extremely violent groups, and al-Julani had agreed.
Sources revealed that the mediation by the Kuwaiti Salafist Umma Party between al-Nusra Front that is pro al-Qaeda in Syria, has the ulterior aim to disconnect the Front from other groups in order to remove it from the lists of terrorist organizations and add it to moderate Islamist factions in Syria. The al-Nusra Front leader al-Julani, according to reports, told his followers that he wanted to declare an emirate and revoke his outfit’s long-standing allegiance to al-Qaeda. He told his followers that when he pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, it was an allegiance of war and not a general pledge of allegiance, and thus, he can revoke it since he has already established his own Emirate, which had been repudiated by al-Zawahiri. Reports said that Doha had then sent a representative to meet with al-Nusra leaders, including Abu Faraj al-Masri (who was later killed), to arrange a television interview with al-Julani and support him as a moderate figure. Then Ahmad Mansour met with the head of the front, but the latter insisted on hiding his face. The reports added that after holding these discussions with Doha, al-Nusra Front split and an internal division took place as the first faction led by Palestinian Abu Qatada rejected the appearance of Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the leader of the Front, on the Qatari al-Jazeera channel with Ahmad Mansour. However, this interview was welcomed by another al-Nusra dissident faction led by Abumaria al-Qahtani. A series of assassinations targeting the leaders of al-Nusra began, and among them was Ahmad Salama Mabruk, known as Abu Faraj al-Masri. Al Nusra is one example in a vast Qatari network of so-called Islamist-leaning proxies that spans former Iraqi and Syrian generals, Taliban insurgents, Sudanese rebels, Somali and Yemeni Islamists. One of the earliest signs of the ties with the terrorist group was when Qatar conducted negotiations with al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, that freed American writer Peter Theo Curtis in August. “Done,” Qatari intelligence chief Ghanim Khalifa al-Kubaisi reportedly texted a contact after the release was completed, according to many US media outlets.
Sowing seeds of al-Qaeda
In the 1990s, activist Salafist activists merged the ideology of Gulf’s clerical establishments with the politicized goals of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was one of repercussions that were seen in the aftermath of the curbs that Muslim Brotherhood members were subject in many Arab countries, especially in Egypt. Some of these thinkers would become the first incarnations of al- Qaeda, and one of them was the current leader of al-Qaeda itself Ayman Zawahiri, while others gained a strong foothold in liberated Kuwait, where the first activist Salafi political party was formed. But over the last 15 years in particular, Doha has become a "de facto operating hub for a deeply interconnected community of Salafists living there," Foreign Policy wrote in 2014. Controversial scholars have been hosted by ministries and charities like the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad al Thani Charity, regulated by the Qatari Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which is “probably the biggest and most influential activist Salafi-controlled relief organization in the world,” according to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Cover of charity
Foreign Policy magazine added that in 2003, the US Congress was made aware that Qatari charities have financial ties with figures from al-Qaeda, providing employment and documentation. In 2010, an arm of the Qatari government made a donation to help build a $1.2 million mosque in Yemen for a sheikh, Abdel Wahab al-Humayqani, designated as a fund-raiser for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. (Qatari Embassy officials and Yemeni government officials both attended the opening.) Salah Eddin Elzein, head of the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, a think tank associated with the Qatar-owned satellite network, was quoted by Foreign Policy in 2014, as saying “Islamists came [to the region] in the 1980s, and Qatar was trying to ally itself with the forces that it saw as those most likely to be the dominant forces for the future.” The first battlefield test of Qatar’s proxy chain was in Tunisia and especially in Libya. During the 2011 uprising in Libya, Qatar supported an Islamist militia in Benghazi known as Rafallah al-Sehati which has strong ties with Ansar al-Shariah, the militant group that played a role in the death of the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and who stormed the US embassy in Tunis, the same day, and in many assassinations that took place in both Libya and Tunisia (among the assassinated the two famous opposition leaders in Tunisia Chokri Belaid and Mohammed Brahmi.) In Libya, Doha "collected businessmen, old Brotherhood friends, and scholars, with tens of millions of dollars and 20,000 tons of arms,” the Wall Street Journal later estimated, and it worked and still working well for Qatar which decided to play the same game in Syria. Like the tendering of a contract, Doha issued a call for bidders to help with the regime’s overthrow. “When we started our battalion [in 2012], the Qataris said, ‘Send us a list of your members. Send us a list of what you want — the salaries and support needs,'” Hossam, a Syrian restaurant owner, remembers in an interview with Foreign Policy. Throughout 2012 and early 2013, activist Salafists in Kuwait teamed up with Syrian expatriates to build, fund, and supply extremist brigades that would eventually become groups such as al-Nusra Front and its close ally, Ahrar al-Sham. One donor was the Kuwaiti Jihadi-scholar Hajjaj al-Ajmi, who was designated by the US Treasury Department as a funder of terrorism for backing al-Nusra Front. Ajmi runs the so-called People’s Commission for the Support of the Syrian Revolution. But back in June 2012, Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs invited him to speak in Al Khor, where he said that “the priority is the support for the jihadists and arming them not the humanitarian aid.”
His ‘second country’
One of Ajmi’s Kuwaiti colleagues, a person named Mohammad al-Owaihan, also used Qatar as a base, calling it his “second country” in a tweet, according to many media outlets. Ajmi’s role as fund-raiser is one example of how Doha has increasingly managed its backing of a “spectrum of groups around the region by providing safe haven, diplomatic mediation, financial aid and, in certain instances, weapons,” according to New York Times. The newspaper added in one of its reports, “after his pitch, which he recorded in 2012 and which still circulates on the Internet, a sportscaster from the government-owned network, Al Jazeera, lauded him.” “Sheikh Ajmi knows best” about helping Syrians, the sportscaster, Mohamed Sadoun El-Kawary, declared from the same stage. In December 2013, former Deir Ezzor Free Syrian Army commander Saddam al-Jamal announced in a video that he was joining the ISIS because “as days passed, we realized that groups were projects that were funded by foreign countries, especially Qatar,” he said. Qatar argued in late 2012 that the world should worry about radicals later. “I am very much against excluding anyone at this stage, or bracketing them as terrorists, or bracketing them as al- Qaeda,” Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, then minister of state for foreign affairs, argued at a security conference in December of that year. The same opinion was repeated by Emir Tamim in his interview with CNN, saying that it would be a “big mistake” to lump together all groups in Syria as extremists. Doha, in fact, never mentioned the al-Nusra Front by name when it comments on terrorist groups list. With Syria and Iraq in chaos, both countries are now populated by a range of extremist actors whom Washington won’t want to negotiate with. Doha’s up for that job.
Release of UN peacekeepers
Qatar was called in to help negotiate the release of 45 UN peacekeepers taken captive by al-Nusra Front — and it announced that it had successfully won the soldiers’ release. Qatar insists that a ransom was not paid; perhaps the network of Doha-based funders gave the government a certain leverage over the group. Or it just may be that the al- Qaeda affiliate wants something even more valuable. One player that has severely tested the effectiveness of Qatar’s strategy is the Nusra Front, which like the ISIS is widely regarded as unacceptable to all parties in the Syrian conflict and was not invited to Riyadh. Al Nusra also released 16 Lebanese soldiers and policemen as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by Qatar, a deal that news outlets reported included a $25 million cash payment, which Qatar has again denied, according to previous Reuters' report.
“Al Nusra wants recognition, they want to be seen both in and outside Syria as a partner so they can establish a lasting foothold in the country,” said Marwan Shehada, a Jordanian expert on Islamist groups in an earlier interview with Reuters. On many occasions, experts emphasized that in al-Nusra Front’s official demands regarding releasing hostages, for example, it had asked to be taken off the UN sanctions list as it wants to be seen as a legitimate partner. One expert has told Foreign Policy that Qatar might be able to offer them a platform in the future. It added “that’s essentially what Qatar has long offered its friends: a platform, with access to money, media, and political capital.”
Saudi Arabia/United States/Iran (ANALYSIS: Is it time for the US and Saudi Arabia to combine efforts on Iran? 10 Jul 17) – The new administration in Washington has chosen to stand alongside its Arab allies to voice a clear message. This is how this message reads: The regime in Iran is domestically repressive and resorts to flagrant human rights violations, and expansionist outside of its borders, wreaking havoc across the Middle East and beyond. To take the next needed step, an all-out strategy is necessary to rein in Tehran and confront its belligerence inside the country and beyond. Far too long the international community has failed to recognize the fact that the regime in Iran is controlled by aggressive fanatics that will literally stop at nothing to seek their interests, while knowing their internal status is extremely fragile.
While it is high time for the United States to lead the West and Saudi Arabia to lead the Arab world in this initiative, there is no need to launch yet another devastating war in the Middle East. The past 16 years have taught us many important lessons:
- The war in Afghanistan toppled the rule of Taliban and the al-Qaeda safe haven, and yet the lack of a legitimate post-war strategy allowed Iran take complete advantage of this void.
- The invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and again played into the hands of Tehran’s regime, providing it the opportunity to spread its devious mentality of fundamentalism, sectarian extremism and terrorism.
- The Arab Spring has reiterated to us that without an alternative opposition, no regime change will render any positive outcome. The current state of Libya is an unfortunate reminder.
- Most important of all, the international community is coming to understand that a policy of engagement and appeasement vis-à-vis the regime in Iran will only further fuel instability. Take the cases of Syria and Yemen, for example, where Iran has allocated enormous manpower and financial/logistical resources to create the mayhem it thrives on.
On a broader scale where Iran’s counterparts were the P5+1, thanks again to Obama’s highly flawed approach, the regime has been able to cheat around the nuclear accord. Tehran has staged over a dozen ballistic missile tests despite being strictly forbidden by UN Security Council sanctions. New reports from German intelligence indicates further illicit measures by Iran’s operatives painting a very disturbing image. “Iran is targeting German companies in its bid to advance its missile program, in possible violation of an international agreement, and at least on occasion with the aid of a Chinese company,” Fox News reported citing a damning 181-page German intelligence agency report. Tehran is actively seeking to obtain “products and scientific know-how for the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well as missile technology,” according to the report, adding the mullahs are using various fronts to target German companies. Further disturbing revelations regarding the Obama administration’s poorly crafted nuclear deal with Iran found little or no decrease has been witnessed in Iran’s effort to obtain the technology needed for missiles capable of delivering nuclear warhead as payloads, according to Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). To add insult to injury, with North Korea successfully test-launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile and on the path to its sixth nuclear detonation, there are increasing voices of concern over the possibility of Pyongyang selling more of its ballistic missiles, the technology or maybe even a nuclear warhead to Tehran. With a windfall of billions of dollars flowing into Iran after the nuclear deal and oil sanctions lifted, Iran has both the money and oil that North Korea craves.
Bold, necessary measures
Washington and Riyadh should begin pushing back at Tehran by targeting this regime’s financial assets to begin with. Considering the fact that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, known as the regime’s praetorians, control around 40 percent of the country’s economy, it is vital to designate this entity as a foreign terrorist organization. If not, its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, Shiite proxies in Syria, sectarian groups in Iraq and the Houthis of Yemen, to name a few, will continue. And peace will forever elude the Middle East. The international community should finally begin pressuring the ruling mullahs by standing alongside the Iranian people and their struggle for freedom and democracy. The recent presidential “election” and protests before and after have proven the rift between Iran’s population and the regime is elevating dangerously against the regime’s interests. The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, led by its President Maryam Rajavi, has presented a 10-point plan able to facilitate the changes needed for the better good of the Iranian people, and nations across the Middle East. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), being the main NCRI member, enjoys a vast network of supporters inside Iran and has blown the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It is time for the mullahs in Tehran to understand pressures will rise from the international community unless they succumb to the demands of the Iranian people for the future they deserve, being the democracy and freedom they have been wrongly robbed of for the past four decades.
Saudi Arabia/Yemen/Houthi’s – The Saudi forces in Jazan area carried out military operations on sites occupied by the Houthi militias and the guards of ousted Saleh in the province of Harad, which is about 9 km from the Saudi border. The Saudi forces began targeting militants with their artillery, after detecting them via thermal cameras. The militants’ approach towards the Saudi border was an attempt to open a new military front to launch the missiles towards the Saudi provinces. There were reports that the militias fired several shells at uninhabited areas before moving towards the Saudi border. Military sources confirmed that Saudi forces were able to kill more than 20 insurgents and injure others, as well as destroying strongholds where the militias were hiding.
Syria – Three car bombings have struck Damascus, according to state media, killing at least eight people and injuring a dozen others in one of the blasts, in the biggest such attack in the Syrian capital since Mar 17. One of the suicide bombers blew himself up at Tahrir Square in central Damascus after being encircled by the authorities on the 2 Jul 17. State TV said eight people were killed and at least a dozen others wounded in that attack. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors developments through a network of activists on the ground, put the death toll at nine. The other two car bombs were pursued and detonated by security forces on the road to Damascus airport southeast of the city. State TV said the casualty toll had been minimised because the security forces had prevented "the terrorists from reaching their targets", saying they had aimed to target busy areas on the first day back to work after the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Damascus has been spared the large-scale battles that have devastated other major Syrian cities during the country's six-year civil war. But dozens of people have been killed in bombings, particularly on the outskirts of the city. In mid-Mar 17 bomb attacks on a courthouse and restaurant in Damascus killed 32 people. They were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. That came days after two explosions that left 74 dead in the capital's Old City and were claimed by the hardline Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham alliance, led by the former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
Syria – A Syrian rebel group accused the Syrian army of using chlorine gas against its fighters on the 1 Jul 17 in battles east of Damascus - an accusation the military swiftly denied as a fabrication. The Failaq al-Rahman group said more than 30 people suffered suffocation as a result of the attack in Ain Tarma in the Eastern Ghouta region, which government forces have been battling to take back from insurgents. In a statement circulated by state-run media, a military source said the army command completely denied the accusation. "It has not used any chemical weapons in the past, and will not use them at any time". The United States said on the 28 Jun 17 the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared so far to have heeded a warning issued earlier in the week not to carry out a chemical weapons attack after saying it saw possible preparations for one. A joint United Nations and OPCW investigation has found Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015 and that Islamic State militants used mustard gas.