Saddam's Death, 66
attempt to destroy political holism in the middle east

See also: Page 65: februari 2016 - Page 67: march 2016
and The Temple Revolution
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was born April 28, 1937 and died December 30, 2006. He was the fifth President of Iraq, holding that position from July 16, 1979 until 9 April 2003. He was one of the leading members of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, and afterward, the Baghdad-based Ba’ath Party and its regional organization Ba’ath Party, Iraq Region, which advocated ba’athism, an ideological marriage of Arab nationalism with Arab socialism. (Patricia Ramos, july 2013)

"The national security of America and the security of the world could be attained if the American leaders [..] become rational, if America disengages itself from its evil alliance with Zionism, which has been scheming to exploit the world and plunge it in blood and darkness, by using America and some Western countries.
What the American peoples need mostly is someone who tells them the truth, courageously and honestly as it is.
They don’t need fanfares and cheerleaders, if they want to take a lesson from the (sept. 11) event so as to reach a real awakening, in spite of the enormity of the event that hit America.
But the world, including the rulers of America, should say all this to the American peoples, so as to have the courage to tell the truth and act according to what is right and not what to is wrong and unjust, to undertake their responsibilities in fairness and justice, and by recourse to reason..."

Saddam Hussein, INA 15-9-2002

Washington 2009: Joe Biden said that the Obama administration would seek the unvarnished truth from its spies, whether or not their information supported the goals of the government.
Standing in the foyer of the CIA agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. before the wall of 89 stars representing the CIA staff who have died in the line of duty, Mr Joe Biden said:
"We expect you to provide independent analysis, not to engage in group think. We expect you to tell us the facts as you know them wherever they may lead, not what you think we want to hear." (Tim Shipman, Telegraph, 20-2-2009)

"Knowledge is a natural right of every human being which nobody has the right to deprive him of under any pretext except in a case where a person himself does something which deprives him of that right. Ignorance will come to an end when everything is presented as it actually is and when knowledge about everything is available to each person in the manner that suits him." Muammar Gaddafi (in: The Green Book)

"There is only one antidote against propaganda, and that is a relevant sense of history and a strong collective memory. When we remember the lessons from the past, and when we remember what happened even a few days ago, then the job of the propagandists and their warmongering bosses, becomes much more difficult." (Paul de Rooij, PalestineChronicle 1-4-2003)

"Zionism [..] has transformed into an imperialistic claw used against the Arab nation. Zionism has partnered wit imperialism and participated in its economic and political plans. Moreover, it relies on its unfounded, historical belief for the purpose of destroying the Arab nation... This means maintaining the weak state of the Arab nation...
Zionism regards unity of Arabs as contradictory to its existence. Therefore, Zionism's line of defense is based on the principle that the Arab nation must be broken....
It is necessary for Zionism to revive all the old historical frictions that took place in the path of nationhood, so it can use them [..] to break up the fabric of Arab nations." (The Saddam's tapes, 1978-2001, page 67)

"A lot of rulers today still view principled people, who persist in defending their noble and just causes and who refuse to compromise at the expense of their peoples, their nations, the honour of their cause, their integrity and their principles, as a burden on them.
The policy of the United States still finds in this kind of genuine, honest and loyal people an obstacle before their evil and futile ambitions towards the world and humanity at large..." Saddam Hoessein, Oath and Speech, INA 17-10-2002

"The West creates enemies; in the past it was the communism then it became Islam, and then it became Saddam Hussein for a different reason. Now, they want to create a new enemy represented by Bashar. That's why they say that the problem is the president so he has to leave. That is why we have to focus of the real problem, not to waste our time listening to what they say." (Bashar al-Assad, 9-11-2012)

"Syria is the heart of the Middle East. Everybody knows that. If the Middle East is sick, the whole world will be unstable. In 1991, when we started the peace process, we had a lot of hope. Now, after over 20 years, things are not at square one; they’re much below that square.

So the policy should be to help peace in the region, to fight terrorism, to promote secularism, to support this area economically, to help upgrade the mind and society like you did in your country. That is the supposed mission of the United States, not to launch wars. Launching war doesn’t make you a great power." (Bashar Al-Assad, 26-1-2015)

President Bashar, 'Le Figaro' interview 3-9-2013:

"How can the parliamentarians convince the French public that their country is secular, yet at the same time it supports extremism and sectarianism in other parts of the world? How can France advocate for democracy but yet one of its closest allies – Saudi Arabia – is still living in medieval times?"
"My message to the French Parliamentarians is: go back to the principles of the French Revolution that the whole world is proud of: Liberty, Justice, Equality."

About political holism

Political holism is based on the recognition that "we" are all members of a single whole. There's no "they," even though "we" are not all alike. Because "we" are all part of the whole, and therefore interdependent, we benefit from cooperating with each other. Political holism is a way of thinking about human cultures and nations as interdependent.
Political holists search for solutions other than war to settle international disagreements. Their model of the world is one in which cooperation and negotiation, even with the enemy, even with the weak, promotes political stability more than warfare.
In an overpopulated world with planet-wide environmental problems, the development of weapons of mass destruction has rendered war obsolete as an effective means to resolve disputes.

Political dualists consider political holists unpatriotic for questioning the necessity to defeat "them." In times of impending war, political dualists tend to measure patriotism by the intensity of one's hostility to the country's immediate enemy.
Naturally, they would view as disloyalty any suggestion that the enemy is not evil, any call for cooperation with the enemy, any criticism of one's own country.
To political dualists, cooperation with the enemy means capitulation, relinquishment of the nation's position of dominance.

At its extreme, political dualism is essentially tribalism. (Betty Craige, 16-8-1997)

A Reverse Midas: "Everything we touch turns to lead. "
by Justin Raimondo, 1-2-2012

When we invaded and occupied Iraq, we didn’t just militarily defeat Iraq’s armed forces – we dismantled their army, and their police force, along with all the other institutions that held the country together.
The educational system was destroyed, and not reconstituted. The infrastructure was pulverized, and never restored. Even the physical hallmarks of a civilized society – roads, bridges, electrical plants, water facilities, museums, schools – were bombed out of existence or else left to fall into disrepair. Along with that, the spiritual and psychological infrastructure that enables a society to function – the bonds of trust, allegiance, and custom – was dissolved...
We can say, with confidence: We came, we saw, we atomized.
And we are repeating the pattern elsewhere in the region... In Syria, we are supporting rebels who are conducting a terrorist campaign against the regime, and the future of the country is looking very … Iraqi.
In short, the effects of US actions in the region amount to a reverse Midas touch: everything we touch turns to lead. ( 2012)

Albert Schweitzer: "We Are All Guilty Of Inhumanity"

What really matters is that we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity. The horror of this realization should shake us out of our lethargy so that we can direct our hopes and our intentions to the coming of an era in which war will have no place.
This hope and this will can have but one aim: to attain, through a change in spirit, that superior reason which will dissuade us from misusing the power at our disposal.
Kant, in his essay on "Perpetual Peace", which appeared in 1795, and in other publications in which he touches upon the problem of peace, states his belief that peace will come only with the increasing authority of an international code of law, in accordance with which an international court of arbitration would settle disputes between nations.
This authority, he maintains, should be based entirely on the increasing respect which in time, and for purely practical motives, men will hold for the law as such. (Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Lecture, 4-11-1954)

Adnan Mansour: “Arab League and Syria… a null role and killing money”
Syrian Arab News Agency, 15 February 2016

The Ministry of Culture held on Monday a ceremony for signing the book “Arab League and Syria… a null role and killing money” written by Adnan Mansour, former Lebanese Foreign Minister at al-Assad National Library in the presence of Vice-President Najah al-Attar.

The book sheds light on the crisis in Syria since its beginning, its track at the United Nations and the Arab League, the role of the regional countries and the Israeli occupation in the crisis, presenting reports on the missions of the Arab observers about the reality of events in Syria and the pressures practiced by Arab and international regimes on the Arab League to adopt resolutions against Syria.
Ali Abdul- Kareem, the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon said that the book provides documentation on the negative role played by the Arab League against Syria.

Adnan Mansour is a Lebanese diplomat, politician and the former minister of foreign affairs and emigrants. He was born in Borj El Barajneh on 5 January 1946 into a Shi'ite family. He obtained a bachelor's degree in administrative sciences and policies from St. Joseph University in Beirut. He holds a master's degree in political theory and a PhD in political science. He is a member of the AMAL movement.

Flashback 2011: Georgetown University Professor:
'Arab League decision will lead to division in Syria'

On Saturday, the Arab League announced the suspension of Syria and called for sanctions to be imposed on the country.
Professor Daoud Khairallah of Georgetown University, Washington, said in an interview with Press TV on Saturday that the Arab League is seeking to “create more discord within Syria, encouraging certain parts against others.” The Arab organization wants to “promote some kind of confessional sectarian strife inside the Syrian society,” Khairallah added.

The decision of the Arab League is basically against the charter and is in violation of the express provisions of the charter,” Khairallah said.
“Article 8 of the charter of the Arab League prohibits any member country from interfering in the internal affairs [of other member states], especially with respect to regime change or form of government change,” the political analyst further explained.
Professor Jamal al-Rifai from the Cairo-based Ein Shams University stressed that the conspiracy hatched against Syria is very tightened and aims at undermining the last fortress of the pan-Arabism in the region. (ChamPress 13-11-2011)

President al-Assad: “Syria will not bow down”
ChamPress 20-11-2011

LONDON- President Bashar al-Assad has stressed that Syria“will not bow down” to foreign pressure, accusing the Arab League of creating a Pretext for western military intervention.
"I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it," President al-Assad told The Sunday Times. The league's decision last week to suspend Syria was "irrelevant", he added.
The President went on to say that the only way to end unrest is to "search for the armed people, chase the armed gangs, prevent the entry of arms and weapons from neighbouring countries, prevent sabotage and enforce law and order...."

Arab League approves sanctions against Syria
Pravda, 28-11-2011

Sunday's vote in Cairo marks the first time in the league's 66-year history that it has imposed punitive economic and political sanctions on any of its 22 members.
Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, says the move also is unprecedented because of Syria's status within the regional bloc. "This is one of the six founding members of the Arab League, and a Syria which has always championed Pan-Arabism," he says.

The Syrian National Council
By: Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The Arab League coupled with a proxy group called the "Syrian National Council" (SNC) that is the creation of a tactical alliance between the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Washington, NATO, Israel, and the Persian Gulf’s petro-monarchs. It's part of a plan to oust President Bashar Al-Assad from power and install a new client government in Damascus.

It is Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that have helped hijack the League.
The GCC is comprised of the Gulf petro-sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. None of these countries are model states, let alone democracies. Their leaders have betrayed the Palestinians, helped attack Iraq, support Israel against Lebanon, demolished Libya, and now they conspire against Syria and its regional allies.
In a blatant act of hypocrisy, the unelected despots of these petro-sheikhdoms have announced that Qaddafi’s regime was “illegitimate” and now are making similar statements about Syria... (ChamPress, 30-11-2011)

The Charter of the Arab League (also known as the Pact of the League of Arab States) is the founding treaty of the Arab League.
Concluded in 1945, the agreement endorses the principle of an Arab homeland while respecting the sovereignty of the individual member states.
The internal regulations of the Council of the Arab League and the committees were agreed to in October 1951. Those of the Secretariat-General were agreed to in May 1953. (Wikipedia)

"Each member-state shall respect the systems of government established in the other member-states and regard them as exclusive concerns of those states. Each shall pledge to abstain from any action calculated to change stablished systems of government."

SNC received blessing of Qaradawi
by Patrick S. Poole, 25 Jul 2012

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have complete control of the SNC -- as testified to in multiple media reports, including the New York Times and the Washington Post...
The SNC leadership traveled to Doha, Qatar (where Safi is now based), back in February to receive the blessing of Yusef al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the international Muslim Brotherhood.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Qaradawi (born 9 September 1926) is a controversial Egyptian Islamic theologian. He is best known for his programme, ash-Shariah wal-Hayat ("Shariah and Life"), broadcast on Al Jazeera. Some of al-Qaradawi's views have been controversial in the West: he was refused an entry visa to the United Kingdom in 2008, and barred from entering France in 2012.
Al-Qaradawi has described Shi'ites as heretics ("mubtadi'oun"). Fellow member of International union of Muslim Scholars, Mohammad Salim Al-Awa criticized Qaradawi for promoting divisions among Muslims. In response, the Iranian Press Agency has described Qaradawi as "a spokesman for “international Freemasonry and rabbis". Qaradawi accused what he called "heretical" Shias of "invading" Sunni countries.

On 21 February 2011, he talked about the protests in Libya and issued a fatwa against Muammar Gaddafi:
"...To the officers and the soldiers who are able to kill Muammar Gaddafi, to whoever among them is able to shoot him with a bullet and to free the country and [God’s] servants from him, I issue this fatwa (uftî): Do it!"

March 2012: Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, told Al-Jazeera that clerics across the Muslim world agree that Assad must be fought against and even killed...

Who are the real Syrian opposition?
Professor Tim Anderson, Global Research, 14-2-2016

-- Firstly, they are the groups that created the 2005 Damascus Declaration but who sided with the state and the army in early 2011, when the Salafist insurrection hijacked the reform demonstrations.
Some of them like Haytham Manna and former minister Qadri Jamil appeared in Geneva. Others like the powerful Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) backed Bashar al Assad’s government, back in 2011. Still others sat on the sidelines, frustrated at the Muslim Brotherhood’s violent hijacking of the reform movement.
As the Damascus Declaration made plain, most of the Syrian opposition rejected both foreign sponsorship and violent attacks on the state.
-- Second are the Syrian Kurds, who were open to foreign assistance but rejected attacks on the Syrian Army and state. They have received most of their arms from Damascus. Prefering to side with the Syrian Army than the Salafists, their presence in Geneva was not tolerated by Erdogan or his clients.

The aims of the two big powers are worlds apart.
The US wanted to control the entire region...
Russia for its part has pursued its own interests in the region, backing its allies in accordance with international law. Its use of air power in Syria followed the Syria-Iran-Iraq-Hezbollah accord on ground power forces. That is the force currently prevailing on Syrian soil.
The good news is that, despite these widely differing aims, Washington and Moscow have kept talking and managed a provisional agreement at Geneva, with three heads.
The first agreement is over humanitarian aid... Second, there is a political process which (it has been agreed) must be exclusively between Syrians, unconditional and inclusive. The Syrian position, backed by Russia, is that the Syrian constitution (and the legally mandated schedule of elections) prevails until the Syrian people vote to change it.
Finally the agreement on ‘cessation of hostilities’, due almost immediately, has a task force to oversee the details. This ceasefire does not apply to any group identified by the UN Security Council as a terrorist group.

The Damascus Declaration was a statement of unity by Syrian opposition figures issued in October 2005. It criticized the Syrian government as "authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish," and called for a gradual and peaceful transition to democracy and the equality of all citizens in a secular and sovereign Syria, "founded on accord, and based on dialogue and recognition of the other."
The five-page document was signed by more than 250 opposition figures as well as parties "both secular and religious, Arab and Kurdish." The statement called for a "fair solution for the Kurdish issue in Syria in a way that insures the equality of Kurds with all other Syrian citizens".
It proved difficult to reconcile the demands of secular and leftist (anti-US and pro-Arabism) parties - 'the reformists' - with those of the pro-Washington and (Muslim Brotherhood dominated) Islamist parties - 'the radicals'- and divisions continued to plague the coalition.

Haytham Manna, 8-10-2011:
"I believe that at most, 10 percent of Syrian society supports the Muslim Brotherhood. I do not understand why they are clambering for more representation. I hope that they will be wise and rational enough to see that it is not in their interest or the interest of the revolution for them to exaggerate their role in the Syrian uprising." "The Syrian people are believers, but they don’t want any religious ideology to influence their constitution or their future."
"It is no secret to anyone that America absolutely does not want to support a revolution which seeks secular democratic change in the Arab world."
"I believe it is my duty today to create a strong, civil, national, democratic axis, as it is the only guarantee for the revolution’s success. If the revolution becomes Islamized, it will fail; if it becomes sectarian, it will fail; and if it becomes militarized, it will fail..." (Al-Akhbar, 8-10-2011)

Turkey & Saudi Arabia:
Spending billions, only for everything to go wrong
By Jeremy Salt, Palestine Chronicle, 18-2-2016

As the Syrian army advances on Raqqa and seals off supply routes to the armed gangs inside Aleppo, no surprise that there is another spike in the propaganda war, this time directed against Russia.
Frustration and anger is driving Turkish cross-border shelling of Kurdish and Syrian army positions. Yet in many respects Turkey only has itself to blame.

aleppo 2012: investing in plunder & robbery

In helping to destroy the authority of the Syrian government, Turkey created a power vacuum that was filled in the north by takfiri armed groups and the Kurds.
Had Turkey not joined the effort to destroy the government in Damascus it would not be in this position. It thus therefore shares the responsibility for what it is now calling a threat to Turkey’s security...
The ascendancy of the Syrian Kurds is only part of a spectacularly bad picture for Turkey. Whether Erdogan and Davutoglu were badly advised, whether they ignored the advice they were given five years ago, or whether this policy was all their own idea, intervention in Syria has been the greatest policy failure in Turkey’s history.

Backed by Russian air power and supported by Iran and Hezbollah the Syrian military is now in the ascendancy across the country. It is capturing key positions in the north and the south every day. Every victory only adds to the anger and frustration in Ankara and Riyadh...
The cross-border shelling does not appear to have intimidated the Kurds. Davutoglu announces that they will withdraw from their positions around Azaz but the Syrian Kurdish leader, Salih Muslim, says they will not...
Turkey has now entered into some kind of alliance with Saudi Arabia... Saudi Arabia has sent planes to the US/NATO air base at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey in preparation for a war in which its role would be entirely inconsequential. Even in Yemen it has to rely on Arab ‘allies’ and mercenaries because its own armed forces are not up to the job.
Like the Turkish government the Saudi regime has invested heavily in the Syrian war, spending billions on supporting its proxies, only for everything to go wrong...
Were the US and its allies to accept defeat the war could soon be over....

The ability of the Syrian government and military to withstand the violent assault of the past five years is a tremendous development. Like iron tempered by fire, Syria will emerge from this ordeal stronger than before. These are historic moments for the Middle East...

Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East.

The Media are Misleading the Public on Syria
By Stephen Kinzer, 19-2-2016 "Information Clearing House"

Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.
For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.

This month, people in Aleppo have finally seen glimmers of hope. The Syrian army and its allies have been pushing militants out of the city. Last week they reclaimed the main power plant. Regular electricity may soon be restored. The militants’ hold on the city could be ending...
This does not fit with Washington’s narrative. As a result, much of the American press is reporting the opposite of what is actually happening. Many news reports suggest that Aleppo has been a “liberated zone” for three years but is now being pulled back into misery.
Americans are being told that the virtuous course in Syria is to fight the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian partners. We are supposed to hope that a righteous coalition of Americans, Turks, Saudis, Kurds, and the “moderate opposition” will win.
This is convoluted nonsense, but Americans cannot be blamed for believing it. We have almost no real information about the combatants, their goals, or their tactics. Much blame for this lies with our media.
Under intense financial pressure, most American newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks have drastically reduced their corps of foreign correspondents. Much important news about the world now comes from reporters based in Washington. In that environment, access and credibility depend on acceptance of official paradigms. Reporters who cover Syria check with the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, and think tank “experts.”

Inevitably, this kind of disinformation has bled into the American presidential campaign. At the recent debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton claimed that United Nations peace efforts in Syria were based on “an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva.”
The precise opposite is true. In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton joined Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a successful effort to kill Kofi Annan’s UN peace plan because it would have accommodated Iran and kept Assad in power, at least temporarily. No one on the Milwaukee stage knew enough to challenge her.
Politicians may be forgiven for distorting their past actions... Journalism, however, is supposed to remain apart from the power elite and its inbred mendacity. In this crisis it has failed miserably.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

Kofi Annan 2012: "We should have a strong state"
"The Syrian government should be able to control the weapons."

TEHRAN, (SANA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi stressed that the ominous interference of some foreign countries in the crisis in Syria led to its continuity...
In a joint press conference with the UN Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan in Tehran on Tuesday, Salehi said "All efforts should unite to prevent the extension of the crisis in Syria and limit its repercussions and we should not allow the situation to become worse," he added...
For his part, Annan said that his talks in Tehran aim at ensuring Iran's support to find peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria...
On disarming the armed terrorist groups in Syria and preventing countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia from sending weapons to them and the role of the UN in implementing that, Annan said "The international organization seeks to defuse the violence in Syria by all sides..."

Annan stressed that the disarmament of the armed terrorist groups is a very important thing...
"I believe that the Syrian government should be able to control the weapons and we should have a strong state to prevent the spreading of the armed groups," he said. He went on to say the use of arms is not consistent with the search for a peaceful solution. (SANA, 10-7-2012)

The Syrian opposition: who's doing the talking?
Charlie Skelton,, 12 July 2012

The media have been too passive when it comes to Syrian opposition sources, without scrutinising their backgrounds and their political connections....
"They're selling the idea of military intervention and regime change, and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the "activists" and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London – the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn't necessarily pure news – it's a sales pitch, a PR campaign.
But it's never too late to ask questions, to scrutinise sources. Asking questions doesn't make you a cheerleader for Assad – that's a false argument. It just makes you less susceptible to spin. The good news is, there's a sceptic born every minute."

Dubai Former Al Jazeera anchor Luna Al Shibl (born: 30-11-1974) replaced in 2012 Jihad Maqdisi as spokesperson for the Syrian foreign ministry. Al Shibl had been working as media adviser to the Syrian regime previously. She has appeared on pro-Bashar Al Assad media and she harshly criticised Al Jazeera's coverage, accusing the channel of fabricating news.

Whatever Happened to Al Jazeera?
by RAMZY BAROUD, 14-1-2012

Al Jazeera Arabic channel [..] has failed to maintain its independence, and is growingly covering the upheaval in the Arab world from the narrow political prism of its host country (Qatar).
In Al Jazeera’s early days in the mid and late 1990s, the channel took on taboo subjects and proudly challenged the status quo. This continued with Al Jazeera’s coverage of Afghanistan and the Iraq war, when mainstream western media were disowning their own proclaimed standards of objectivity and treating Iraqis like dispensable beings underserving of even a body count.
In recent months, however, Al Jazeera has begun to change course. It has deviated from its journalistic responsibilities in Libya, and is now completely losing the plot with Syria.
The channel is in urgent need to revisit its own code of ethics, and to fulfill its promise of treating its audience “with due respect and address every issue or story with due attention to present a clear, factual and accurate picture.” (CounterPunch 2012)

Grand Mufti of Syria Underlines Importance of Media in Enlightening Society
Syrian Arab News Agency 14-5-2012

DAMASCUS, (SANA)_Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr. Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, underlined the important role of media in enlightening society and educating people.
During his meeting on Sunday with the Russian media delegation currently visiting Syria to make documentaries on the events, Hassoun said that Syria is being targeted by a fierce campaign intended to sow sedition and undermine national unity in Syria to serve the interests of colonial countries...
He called upon Arab and foreign countries to stop backing the armed terrorist groups and interferences in the Syrian internal affairs.
During a similar meeting with the Russian media delegation, Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Assistant Bishop Luca al-Khouri underlined the role of honest media in relaying the true image of what is happening in Syria, especially in light of the immoral media war which distorts facts and seeks to sow discord among countrymen.

Dr. Hassoun took office as Great Mufti of Syria in July 2005. He is a frequent speaker in interreligious and intercultural events, and his pluralistic views on interfaith dialogue (between different religions or between different Islamic denominations) has sparked criticism from stricter visions of Islam.

Saudi Foreign Minister: "This all began when you had
eight- and nine-year-old children writing graffiti on walls.."
By Samiha Shafy and Bernhard Zand, DER SPIEGEL, 19-2-2016

In an interview, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir expresses his continued support for regime change in Syria and his desire for rebels to be supplied with anti-aircraft missiles that could shift the balance of power in the war.

A Saudi 'Child' Speaking:
"There is no God but Allah,
and Bashar is his enemy."

Thousands of Islamists rallied in the Egyptian capital in support of calls by Sunni Muslim clerics for a holy war against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The demonstration took place outside a Cairo mosque where Saudi preacher Mohammed al-Arifi called in a sermon for a "jihad in the cause of Allah in Syria." Arifi urged worshippers to "unite against their enemy."
Dr Al-Arifi is a well-known scholar and lecturer from Saudi Arabia. He is a founding and honorary member of various Da’wa organisations, as well as being a member of their advisory committees. He is also a professor in King Saud University of Riyadh. Has over 14 million followers on Facebook and almost 9 million on Twitter. ( Global Post 15-6-2013)

SPIEGEL: The most complicated and dangerous situation, obviously, is the one in Syria. What does Saudi Arabia want to achieve in this conflict?
Al-Jubeir: I don't think anyone can predict what the short term will look like. In the long term, it will be a Syria without Bashar Assad.
SPIEGEL: What do you want to do now that the Assad regime has gained the upper hand?
Al-Jubeir: We have always said there are two ways to resolve Syria, and both will end up with the same result: a Syria without Bashar Assad... It is important that Bashar leaves in the beginning, not at the end of the process.
SPIEGEL: And the other option?
Al-Jubeir: The other option is that the war will continue and Bashar Assad will be defeated.

SPIEGEL: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke of the danger of "World War III" at the Munich Security Conference.
Al-Jubeir: I think this is an over-dramatization. Let's not forget: This all began when you had eight- and nine-year-old children writing graffiti on walls. Their parents were told: "You will never see them again. If you want to have children, go to your wife and make new ones."
Assad's people rebelled. He crushed them brutally. But his military could not protect him. So he asked the Iranians to come in and help. Iran sent its Revolutionary Guards into Syria, they brought in Shia militias, Hezbollah from Lebanon, militias from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, all Shia, and they couldn't help. Then he brought in Russia, and Russia will not save him.

SPIEGEL: Is Saudi Arabia in favor of supplying anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels?
Al-Jubeir: Yes. We believe that introducing surface-to-air missiles in Syria is going to change the balance of power on the ground. It will allow the moderate opposition to be able to neutralize the helicopters and aircraft that are dropping chemicals and have been carpet-bombing them, just like surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan were able to change the balance of power there.

SPIEGEL: Your Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, accused Saudi Arabia of provoking Iran by actively sponsoring violent extremist groups.
Al-Jubeir: What's the provocation that he's talking about?
SPIEGEL: Is Saudi Arabia not financing extremist groups? Zarif speaks of attacks by al-Qaida, the Syrian al-Nusra and other groups -- of attacks on Shiite mosques from Iraq to Yemen.
Al-Jubeir: Yes, but that's not us. We don't tolerate terrorism. We go after the terrorists and those who support them and those who justify their actions. Our record has been very clear, contrary to their record. They harbor al-Qaida leaders. They facilitate al-Qaida operations. They complain about Daesh, but Iran is the only country around the negotiating table that has not been attacked by either al-Qaida or Daesh.

Baath office building that was set on fire by antigovernment protesters in Dara'a, Syria, on March 21, 2011

SPIEGEL: How do you explain the ideological closeness between the Wahhabi faith in Saudi Arabia and Islamic State's ideology? How do you explain that Daesh applies, with slight differences, the same draconian punishments that the Saudi judiciary does?
Al-Jubeir: This is an oversimplification which doesn't make sense. Daesh is attacking us. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wants to destroy the Saudi state.
SPIEGEL: Are you contesting the similarities between the extremely conservative interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia and Islamic State's religious ideology?
Al-Jubeir: Unfortunately, in every religion there are people who pervert the faith. We should not take the actions of psychopaths and paint them as being representative of the whole religion.
SPIEGEL: Your judges mete out sentences that shock the world. The blogger Raif Badawi has been sentenced to prison and 1,000 lashes. On Jan. 2, 47 men were beheaded, among them Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. His nephew Ali has been sentenced to death as well and his body is to be crucified after the execution.
Al-Jubeir: We have a legal system, and we have a penal code. We have the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, and people should respect this. You don't have the death penalty, and we respect that....
Just like we respect your legal system, you should respect our legal system. You cannot impose your values on us...

Nimr was a terrorist, he recruited, he plotted, he financed and as a consequence of his actions a number of Saudi Arabian police were killed...

Hariri: Hizbullah-FPM are to Blame for Saudi Aid Suspension
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 20-2-2016

Friends: Saad Hariri &
ex-SNC-leader Ahmad Jarba

Al-Mustaqbal (Future) Movement chief MP Saad Hariri held Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement responsible for the Saudi military aid halt, reiterating that fiery rhetoric targeting Saudi Arabia is totally rejected and does not represent Lebanon's policy.
“Lebanon must put its position straight regarding the attacks that targeted the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran. Fiery statements offending the Kingdom are rejected and do not represent the policy of Lebanon,” he added.

Saudi Arabia said Friday it has halted a $3 billion program for military supplies to Lebanon in protest against Hizbullah's policies and recent diplomatic stances by the Lebanese foreign ministry.
In light of positions taken by Hizbullah the kingdom proceeded to “a total evaluation of its relations with the Lebanese republic," an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency yesterday.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran last month after demonstrators stormed its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric and activist, Nimr al-Nimr.

Saad-eddine Rafiq Al-Hariri ( born 18 April 1970) is a Saudi-Lebanese billionaire who served as the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 2009 until 2011. Hariri was prime minister from 9 November 2009 until the collapse of his cabinet on 12 January 2011 and has also been the leader of the Future Movement party since 2005. Hariri holds dual citizenship, Lebanese and Saudi Arabian.
In 2011, an official of the Future Movement warned that Shia Hezbollah "has all the characteristics of a terrorist party", and that Hezbollah is moving Lebanon toward the Iranian Shi'ite Islamic system of government. On 23 June 2013, Future Movement MP Nohad el Machnouk told Murr TV that Lebanon is under occupation by Hezbollah.

On 12 December 2012, Syria issued an arrest warrants against Hariri, Future bloc deputy Okab Sakr and Free Syrian Army official Louay Meqdad in regard to the allegations of arming and providing financial support for Syrian opposition groups. (Wikipedia info)

Flashback 2012: Hariri calls Assad ‘monster,’ rejects warrants
By Hussein Dakroub, The Daily Star, 13-12-2012

BEIRUT: Lebanon and Syria engaged in a judicial war with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri calling Syrian President Bashar Assad a “monster,” a day after Damascus issued arrest warrants for him and a member of his Future parliamentary bloc over allegations of arming and funding Syrian rebels...
Hariri scoffed at the Syrian arrest warrants issued against him, Future bloc MP Oqab Saqr and rebel Free Syrian Army official Louay Meqdad.
“It is ironic for a monster to become a human being who advocates justice and issues sentences. Bashar Assad has all the characteristics of a monster,” Hariri said in a statement released by his office.
He added that Syria’s beleaguered president has lost “his moral, humanitarian and political prerogatives” to rule: “He [Assad] is wanted and he will sooner or later stand to face justice [wanted] by the Syrian people...

Speaking to reporters after meeting Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali said he had appointed Rashad Salameh, a former Kataeb official, to file suit against “anyone who participated, incited, funded and sent arms [to Syrian rebels] and were actual accomplices in shedding the blood of Syrians.”

Russian draft resolution aimed at stopping Turkish artillery attacks
rejected by UN Security Council - By Rudaw, 20-2-1016

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region--Russia failed to garner support at an emergency United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting for its draft resolution which "strongly demands" Turkey cease its cross-border artillery attacks against Syria's Kurds and stated intentions to send ground troops into Syria.
"Russia views such trans-border strikes by Turkish artillery and artillery strikes at Syrian territory as unacceptable," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Saturday according to the Russian Tass news agency. "We can only express our regret that this draft resolution was not supported," he added.

France and the United States objected the resolution. French Ambassador Francois Delattre criticized Moscow and said it "must understand that its unconditional support to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad is a dead-end and a dead-end that could be extremely dangerous."
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power also criticized Moscow alleging that it is seeking to "distract the world" from its ongoing air campaign in Syria in support of Assad.
However US Secretary for State John Kerry said on Friday that talks between US and Russian diplomats aimed at brokering a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria have been "serious and so far constructive."
"Everyone recognizes the complexity of this endeavour, and there is certainly a lot more work to do. These discussions have been serious and so far constructive, with a few tough issues still to resolve," Kerry said.

Al-Qaeda launches new offensive on Kurdish district in Aleppo
ARA News, February 20, 2016

ALEPPO – Dozens of civilian casualties were reported on Friday in bombardment by militants of al-Qaeda on a Kurdish district in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.
Militant fighters of al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda wing in Syria, launched an attack on the Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud by mortar fire and “Hell” canon, bombing residential buildings in the war-torn district.
“More than 20 civilians were killed and dozens more wonded in the district under heavy bombardment by Nusra and its allies,” rights activist Rezan Hiddo told ARA News in Aleppo. Hiddo pointed out that the Sheikh Maqsoud district suffers a sharp shortage of medicine and food supplies as a result of siege imposed by al-Nusra Front and the Islamic Movement of Ahrar al-Sham.
This comes just one day after Turkey’s military stationed on the Syrian border bombed the Kurdish city of Afrin and nearby villages in northwestern Aleppo, which caused casualties among civilians. The Turkish bombardment has also reached the villages of Deir Ballout, Hammam, Firera, Hasna, Sanar and Hakjeh –administratively linked to Afrin.

'Moderate' Rebels cross from Turkey
Kuwait Times, 21-2-2016

Hundreds of Syrian rebels prepared to head to frontlines in northern Aleppo province yesterday, after crossing from Turkey to reinforce fighters battling Kurdish militia.
The group of 500 opposition fighters was in the border town of Azaz, after arriving from Turkey on Wednesday through the nearby Bab al-Salama crossing, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The fighters are expected to head to frontlines nearby with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has in recent days seized several former rebel bastions in Aleppo province.
The SDF-alliance is led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), and its advances have alarmed Turkey, which considers the YPG a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara.

The Observatory said the Syrian rebels are a mixture of Islamists and other fighters, with most from the Faylaq Al-Sham group.
“They came from (neighboring) Idlib province and western Aleppo, entered Turkey through (Idlib’s) Atme, and reentered Syria through Bab al-Salama”. The route allowed the rebels to avoid crossing Kurdish or regime-held territory to reach northern Aleppo, where the SDF and pro-government forces have recently advanced.
Syria expert Thomas Pierret described Faylaq al-Sham as “the official military branch of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood… a faction that is close to Turkey.”
They are called 'moderate' because they are both "anti-regime" and "anti-ISIS." Like the other Western-backed Islamist brigades they want to bring back 'Islam' to Syria.

The Kurds have long sought to unite Kurdish-majority areas in north and northeast Syria, and their latest advances could help link the areas under their control. Turkey is fiercely opposed to that goal, and has been shelling SDF positions inside Syria for days in a bid to halt the group’s advances. Elsewhere in the country, Syrian state media said regime forces had taken the village of Kinsaba in northern Latakia province, the last remaining rebel stronghold in the region.

Friends of Syria: bringing back Islam to a nation of infidels

Faylaq al-Sham - Hama, Syria 2015. Hama has become known as
a center of the anti-Ba'ath opposition in Syria, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood

Most of the brigades that are now operating under the Sham Legion were previously part of a network of rebel groups sponsored by the Commission for the Protection of Civilians (CPC), which is the real driver behind the new platform.
Set up in January 2012 by Haitham Rahmeh, a Sunni cleric who left Syria in the early 1980s before moving to Sweden, the CPC was one of the first organizations to send money and supplies to rebel groups in Homs... Rahmeh and his colleague in the CPC, Nazir Hakim, a France-based activist close to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, have since become important members of opposition coalitions such as the Syrian National Council and the National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces..
The leaders of the CPC have done their utmost to strike a distinctively pro-Saudi tone, for instance by having the commission’s two representatives in the Syrian opposition vote in favor of “the kingdom’s candidate,” Ahmad al-Jarba, during the National Coalition leadership elections in July 2013 and again in January 2014.
The CPC’s main financier, a Syrian businessman from Homs, lives in Saudi Arabia and has close ties to policymakers in the kingdom. (Carnegie Endowment 15-4-2014)

GCC countries back Saudi decision to halt aid to Lebanon
Lebanon is taking a position that is against pan-Arab interests
Saudi Gazette, Feb 21, 2016

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries expressed full support for the Saudi decision to review its relations with Lebanon and stop its scheduled aid to Lebanese army and security forces.
GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said that Lebanon has deviated from the Arab consensus, and its stand is not in harmony with the GCC position.
Bahrain News Agency quoted a statement by the Foreign Ministry that Bahrain values the Saudi decision and considers it a necessary step. The statement said that Bahrain looks forward to Lebanon to reconsider its anti-Arab position, deter terrorist group Hezbollah and halt its unacceptable practices.
UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement that Saudi Arabia’s decision came after Lebanon’s repeated anti-Arab stand.
“Lebanon’s official position has been hijacked and turned against the interests of Lebanon itself and the interests of Arabs, something evident in the so-called Hezbollah’s hijacking of Lebanon’s official decision, which led the country to taking an incongruous position that is against pan-Arab interests,” the statement stated.

All current GCC-member states are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies (Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Oman), and one federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates, composed of seven member states, each with their own emir).

Pan-Arabism, Nationalist notion of cultural and political unity among Arab countries

Its origins lie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when increased literacy led to a cultural and literary renaissance among Arabs of the Middle East. This contributed to political agitation and led to the independence of most Arab states from the Ottoman Empire (1918) and from the European powers (by the mid-20th century).
An important event was the founding in 1943 of the Baʿth Party, which formed branches in several countries and became the ruling party in Syria and Iraq. Another was the founding of the Arab League in 1945.
Pan-Arabism’s most charismatic and effective proponent was Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. After Nasser’s death, Syria’s Ḥāfiẓ al-Assad, Iraq’s Ṣaddām Ḥussein, and Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi tried to assume the mantle of Arab leadership.

Bashar al-Assad: "Arabism is not an option… It is an indispensible Identity"

"In order to confront the attempts of hitting the identity under titles, such as regimes toppling, Comrade al-Assad called to differentiate between the unique Arabism and some Arabs who hide behind Arabism, while they are, at heart and mind, and in their feelings and interests, in another place, far away from this region." Baath Arab Socialist Party website, 20-9-2015

Flashback: Gadhafi Criticizes the Arab League

"At the (2010) annual Arab summit Muammar Gaddafi criticised Arab countries for doing nothing while the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president.
...In his speech, the Libyan leader also criticised Arab disunity and inaction on the region's multiple crises.
'Where is the Arabs' dignity, their future, their very existence? Everything has disappeared,' he said.
'Our blood and our language may be one, but there is nothing that can unite us.'
Gaddafi also mocked a plan by the Arab League to start Arab cooperation on a joint nuclear programme.
'How can we do that? We hate each other, we wish ill of each other and our intelligence services conspire against each other. We are our own enemy.'"

Arab League says members free to offer Syria rebels arms
Ahram|Reuters, 6 Mar 2013

Arab states are free to offer military support to rebels fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if they wish, a final statement of Arab League ministers said on Wednesday (6-3-2013).
Previously the League had stressed that the Syrian opposition and rebels should be supported by humanitarian and diplomatic means...
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told a news conference that the ministers had invited the opposition Syrian National Coalition - an umbrella body for anti-Assad political and rebel groups - to occupy the seat of Syria at the League. This was held by Damascus until it was suspended from the organisation in 2011.

Qatar has led a push against Damascus in the League, which has been resisted by Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria. These three countries refused to endorse the final document's sections on Syria.

Vladimir Putin 2011: Who gave NATO the right to kill Gaddafi?

Flashback: Is the Arab League an instrument of Western foreign policy?
Franklin Lamb, Peoples Voice 1-4-2013

The Arab League organization was created at the time when a Zionist state was considered extremely unlikely by most countries but to make sure, an association of Arab states was organized to prevent, at all costs, the rumored project from becoming a reality.
The first decision of the newly established League of Arab States was to boycott any European-financed Zionist movement or organization that might assist in the theft of Palestine.
Today unfortunately, and perhaps fatally for the AL, the complete obverse has obtained. In countless ways the Arab League is supporting the occupation of Palestine, while allowing itself to be preempted and shaped into an instrument of Western foreign policy as it plots against its own members...

Much as the USA and its allies have corralled and preempted the UN Security Council, its agents have hijacked the League of Arab states and five other regional organizations. ...
Last week in Doha, Qatar, the proceedings amounted to a self-inflicted, perhaps fatal wound for the Arab League when it essentially declared war on one of its founding members, Syria, and replaced it with a Western-funded, staffed, and armed group with not the faintest pretense of abiding by its Charter, including Article VIII, a main pillar of the concept of a League of Arab States...

The AL members who voted to expel or sanction Syria are merely channeling the geo-political interests of the United States and Israel, which, ironically, are increasingly being viewed among the Arab pubic as “unofficial members” of the Arab League.

See also: Saddam's Death, Page 23

Iran’s Khatami, Rafsanjani urge voters to back reformists
Middle East Online, 22-2-2016

TEHRAN - Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami and his predecessor have urged voters to back reformists and moderates in Friday elections, saying a big turnout is needed to stop hardline conservatives.
Khatami, who is subject to a domestic media ban because of his support for reformist leaders in a disputed 2009 presidential election, took to YouTube late Sunday to send a message to voters.
"After the successful first step in 2013, this coalition should take the second step for the Majlis (parliament)," he said in a four-minute video, dubbing a joint ticket of reformists and moderates as "a list of hope".
He was referring to incumbent Hassan Rouhani's 2013 presidential election victory which led to a nuclear deal that ended a 13-year standoff with world powers.
In this week's election, Rouhani is looking to overturn the majority in parliament of conservatives who resisted the nuclear deal and have also opposed his broader outreach to the West.

Despite the ban on use of his image or words in Iran's print and broadcast media, Khatami, who served as president from 1997 to 2005, remains an important figure in the pro-Rouhani coalition, the Alliance of Reformists and Government Supporters.

In a barely veiled dig at hardliners, Khatami's predecessor, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said the elections were "a valuable opportunity to prevent institutionalisation of political radicalism and religious extremism in society."
Voters' support for moderates would "prove to the world" that rather than the "extremism of a limited group" the true Islam "avoids war and bloodshed in favour of kindness, peace and brotherhood," said Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997.

Seyyed Mohammad Khatami 2003
Don't vote for anti-intellectualism

"The civil society which we aspire to establish is based on our collective identity whose attainment requires the continuous and ceaseless endeavours of intellectuals and thinkers.
It is not a treasure that can be unearthed overnight, rather, it is a fountain of life and morality from whose constant effusion we will benefit.
Therefore enjoyment of this treasure is gradual and dependent on scrupulous cognizance and re-examination of our heritage as well as our doctrinal and intellectual tradition on the one hand, and sophisticated, scientific and philosophical understanding of the modern world on the other.
Hence, it is the thinkers and men of learning who are pivotal in this movement and play the principal. Our success along this path depends upon politics serving thought and virtue and not acting as a confined and restrictive framework for them.

Parties outline conditions for ceasefire in Syria
By Rudaw, 21-2-2016

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Parties in Syria are open to a ceasefire, if everyone’s conditions are met.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that he supports a ceasefire only if “terrorists” did not use it as an opportunity to gain more territory.
“We have said that we are ready to stop military operations, but the issue relates to more important factors ... such as preventing terrorists from using it to improve their positions," Assad told Spanish newspaper El Pais.
He also insists that other countries must be prevented from providing logistical support to opposition groups, singling out Turkey.
Opposition parties forming the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee have agreed to a temporary truce if Damascus and its allies, namely Russia, stop their airstrikes. They have also demanded the release of thousands of detainees being held by the Syrian state.
All sides agree on one thing – a ceasefire must allow the delivery of humanitarian aid into besieged areas.
The announcements of both sides’ ceasefire terms came on Saturday, one day after an agreed-upon deadline for cessation of hostilities. Previous ceasefire discussions have failed to produce any results.

Russia and US Agree on Steps to Stop Fighting in Syria
Sputnik News, 22-2-2016

On Monday, the Kremlin released details of the Syrian ceasefire plan the US and Russia agreed upon. The two countries had to conduct several rounds of secret negotiations before settling all details and making them public. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the plan of ceasing hostilities presents a "real step that can stop the bloodshed."
"The Russian-American agreements on a ceasefire in Syria, and their joint implementation in coordination with all participant countries of the International Syria Support Group [ISSG] can serve as an example of responsible policy, based on international law and UN principles...", Putin said.
"We will do whatever is necessary with Damascus, with the legitimate Syrian authorities," Putin said. "We are counting on the United States to do the same with its allies and the groups that it supports."

"The essence of these conditions is as follows: by 12:00 pm on February 26, 2016, all parties warring in Syria must indicate to the Russian Federation or our American partners their commitment to the cessation of hostilities. Russian and American troops will jointly delineate the territories where these groups are active.
No military action will be taken against them by the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, Russian Armed Forces and the US-led coalition.
In turn, the opposition will cease all military action against the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic and other groups supporting them." (Kremlin 22-2-2016)

The two countries will work jointly to determine which groups the ceasefire applies to.
"The main objective now that the Russian and US sides set in their joint statement is to end unnecessary bloodshed in Syria and continue the war on terror, thus facilitating the political settlement in this country," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Speaking to reporters, White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed that the White House contacted the Kremlin on Monday. "This is a moment of opportunity and we are hopeful that all the parties will capitalize on it," Earnest said. He cautioned, however, that "this is going to be difficult to implement."

Cessation of hostilities in Syria is expected to start on Saturday, February 27, according to a joint statement issued by the US State Department.
Military action, including airstrikes conducted by Syria, Russia and the US-led coalition will continue against Daesh, al-Nusra Front, as well as other UN-designated terrorist groups.
The United States and Russia have agreed to share information to effectively delineate territory occupied by terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Nusra Front, who are excluded from the Syrian cessation of hostilities.
According to the agreement, Moscow and Washington will establish a hotline for communication to exchange information on Syria.

Al-Rahi says Lebanon at 'Heart of Arab League'
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 23-2-2016

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi backed on Tuesday a statement issued by the government to reassure Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states of Lebanon’s commitment to Arab unanimity.
“I support the statement of the cabinet. Lebanon has throughout its history been known as a country with friendly ties with all states,” said al-Rahi at Rafik Hariri International Airport before traveling to Rome.
“In his nature, the Lebanese (citizen) does not have an interest in antagonizing any state,” he said. “Things should be resolved politically and diplomatically in case there is a dispute with another country,” added the patriarch.

Al-Rahi told reporters at the airport that Lebanon's Constitution is clear on its identity.
“Lebanon is one of the founding members of the Arab League,” he said. “It is also one of the founders of the United Nations and is active in it.”

The government voiced on Monday its unanimous and constant support to Arab countries, stressing Lebanon's Arab identity and its role as a founding member of the Arab League.
“We are committed to Arab consensus on the common issues," said a statement read by Prime Minister Tammam Salam after an extraordinary cabinet session held at the Grand Serail.

Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi (born on 25 February 1940, in Himlaya, Lebanon) is the 77th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, and head of the Maronite Church, a position he has held since 15 March 2011, succeeding Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. Rahi also holds the position of a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Lebanese Constitution
Republic of Lebanon, Ministry of Information

- One. Lebanon is a sovereign, free, and independent country. It is a final homeland for all its citizens. It is unified in its territory, people, and institutions within the boundaries defined in this Constitution and recognized international
- Two. Lebanon is Arab in its identity and in its association. It is a founding and active member of the League of Arab States and abides by its pacts and covenants.
Lebanon is also a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government shall embody these principals in all fields and areas without exception.

Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic - 2012
Voltaire Network | Damascus (Syria) | 26 February 2012

The Syrian Arab Republic is proud of its Arab identity and the fact that its people are an integral part of the Arab nation.
The Syrian Arab Republic embodies this belonging in its national and pan-Arab project and the work to support Arab cooperation in order to promote integration and achieve the unity of the Arab nation...
Syria has occupied an important political position as it is the beating heart of Arabism, the forefront of confrontation with the Zionist enemy and the bedrock of resistance against colonial hegemony on the Arab world and its capabilities and wealth.

Flashback: Political Islam Considers Arabism Its Enemy
By Talal Salman, Al-Monitor, October 24, 2013

When several Islamist parties came to power in the Arab world,
they branded those who disagreed with them as apostates,

Political Islam is destroying the communities that once accepted it...
All the Islamic movements want is to reach power... If the Islamists face significant opposition, they resort to religious edicts for jihad, even though they are not in the land of jihad nor in the land of nusra, which is a doctrine requiring Muslims to support their co-religionists in other countries..
The Islamists of the 21st century refused to recognize those who joined Islam before them: Muslims who are not Brotherhood members, citizens of other religions and followers of other Islamic sects who do not adhere to Brotherhood ideology, which believes in the caliphate and the absolute authority of a “just” ruler.

Qatar based Muslim Brotherhood cleric Qaradawi: fighting for a Turkey dominated 'caliphate'

Of course, the Islamists considered nationalism and Arabism heresy.
They considered communism to be atheism and a departure from Islam, and thus punishable by death. Instead of preaching their beliefs, as other Muslims have done, those Islamists, whose actions and funding are secret, have called others apostates. They also called the Christians apostates and attacked and destroyed their churches.

Political Islam treated “Arabism” as its first and last enemy, thus taking the same side as the forces of foreign domination, like the United States and the foreign forces that occupy Arab land, specifically Israel, which militarily occupies Palestine...
By this logic, political Islam finds itself in a political alliance with the United States and even the (colonial) West in general, and allied with the Zionist entity by necessity.
It behaves as if it is, together with all these forces, in an open war with the idea of ​​Arabism as a universal identity for the people of the ummah or nation.

Syrian opposition has yet to decide whether to commit to ceasefire
Daily Star (Lebanon), 24-2-2016

BEIRUT: The Syrian opposition has yet to decide whether it will commit to a U.S.-Russian plan to stop fighting in Syria Saturday, chief opposition negotiator Mohamad Alloush told Orient News Wednesday.
Alloush said the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which he is a member of, would give the final answer.
"We have until Friday," said Alloush, who heads the political office of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group - supported by Saudi-Arabia, but designated as a terrorist organization by Syria, Russia, Iran, and Egypt.

On february 4, 2016, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was open to Jaish Al Islam and Ahrar Al Sham taking part in the Geneva Syria talks, but noted that Russia still considered the groups to be terrorist organisations.
Ahrar Al Sham fights side by side with Jabhat Al Nusra in Jaish Al Fateh, a rebel alliance that made major gains against government forces in Syria’s Idlib province (The national, febr 2016).

The Saudi-backed HNC, which groups political and armed opponents of President Bashar Assad, said on Monday in a statement it had "given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities". But it said acceptance of a truce was conditional on fulfillment of previous demands including an end to blockades, free access for humanitarian aid, a release of detainees, and a halt to aerial and artillery bombardments against civilians.
One opposition concern is that the agreement allows for continued attacks on the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front - whose fighters are widely spread out in opposition-held areas - and other groups designated as terrorists by the U.N. Security Council.
An HNC spokesman said Tuesday the U.S-Russian plan for a "cessation of hostilities" included "obscure terms" and was heavily influenced by Russia, which is mounting airstrikes in support of Assad.

The al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda) aims to lead a holy war against the secular government of Bashar al-Assad.
The group has also referred to the USA and Israel as enemies of Islam and has attacked the religious beliefs of non-Sunnis in Syria, including the Alawites. They accept support from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Individuals within the front have claimed that they do not wish to massacre religious minorities, and that the more hardline rhetoric comes from the foreign jihadist elements within the front.

Flashback 2012:
Muslim Brotherhood Praises Al-Nusra

In 2012 the United States designated the Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front) as a foreign terrorist organisation and said it was trying to hijack the revolt on behalf of al Qaeda in Iraq.
The decision to blacklist al-Nusra, an important fighting force in the uprising, has triggered criticism from the powerful Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. A senior Brotherhood official said the decision was wrong and hasty.
"They are seen as (a group that) can be relied on to defend the country and the civilians against the regular army and Assad's gangs," Brotherhood deputy leader Farouq Tayfour told Reuters on Tuesday.

Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari (14-12-2012): "Since October 2011, Jabhat al-Nusra announced its responsibility for carrying out 600 attacks, including more than 40 suicide attacks and other attacks using weapons and explosive devices, in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa, Homs, Idleb and in Deir Ezzor.
From the beginning of the crisis, Syria tried hard to draw the attention of the member states to the presence of armed terrorist intervention in its internal affairs, but we faced political obstinacy and ignorance of issues related to the political geography and huge media falsification which made the senior officials of this organization deny the reality and reach wrong conclusions about the situation in Syria"...

John Kerry says partition of Syria possible if ceasefire fails
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 23 February 2016

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has said he will move towards a plan B that could involve a partition of Syria if a planned ceasefire due to start in the next few days does not materialise, or if a genuine shift to a transitional government does not take place in the coming months.
“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer,” he told the US Senate foreign relations committee on Tuesday. Kerry refused to specify details of a plan B, such as increased military involvement, beyond insisting it would be wrong to assume that Barack Obama would not countenance further action.
He also admitted it was possible Russian-backed forces could capture Aleppo, but pointed out that it has been very hard to retain territory in the five-year civil war.
Kerry suggested partition could form part of an eventual solution, saying “this can get a lot uglier and Russia has to be sitting there evaluating that too. It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if it is much longer”.
He said it would be clear in the next few months – possibly three – whether Assad was willing to compromise, insisting all sides wanted a secular, not sectarian, Syria in which all minorities are protected and the people have the right to choose their leader and future.
He continued to insist that Assad could not remain leader because he was not acceptable to those who have fought him over the past four years.

Senior Israeli officials urge sectarian partition of Syria
Press TV, Feb 15, 2016

Officials with the Israeli regime have called for the partition of the Arab country along sectarian lines.
Ram Ben-Barak, the director general of Israel's Intelligence Ministry, said the proposed breakup was “the only possible solution” to the conflict in Syria.
Israel's Minister of Military Affairs Moshe Ya'alon, who was in Munich to meet with European counterparts and Jordan's King Abdullah, echoed Ben-Barak’s remarks: "Syria as we have known it will not be united anew in the foreseeable future, and at some point I reckon that we will see enclaves, whether organized or not, formed by the various sectors that live and are fighting there," he said in a statement on Sunday. Ya'alon also voiced doubt that a ceasefire plan for Syria agreed upon recently would succeed.
The Israeli calls for dividing Syria was raised as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two regional sponsors of militant groups in Syria, have in recent weeks voiced their interest in launching a ground operation inside the country.
On February 12, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that Riyadh is ready to deploy special forces to Syria if the US-led coalition, carrying out airstrikes in the country since September 2014, decides to take such a move.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”

Flashback 2013: Imagining a Remapped Middle East
By ROBIN WRIGHT, New York Times, September 28, 2013

Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan...” Oded Yinon, in: “A strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties, 1982

Now, after 30 months of bloodletting, diversity has turned deadly, killing both people and country.
Syria has crumbled into three identifiable regions, each with its own flag and security forces. A different future is taking shape: a narrow statelet along a corridor from the south through Damascus, Homs and Hama to the northern Mediterranean coast controlled by the Assads’ minority Alawite sect. In the north, a small Kurdistan, largely autonomous since mid-2012. The biggest chunk is the Sunni-dominated heartland.
Syria’s unraveling would set precedents for the region, beginning next door. Until now, Iraq resisted falling apart because of foreign pressure, regional fear of going it alone and oil wealth that bought loyalty, at least on paper. But Syria is now sucking Iraq into its maelstrom. Over time, Iraq’s Sunni minority — notably in western Anbar Province, site of anti-government protests — may feel more commonality with eastern Syria’s Sunni majority. Together, they could form a de facto or formal Sunnistan. Iraq’s south would effectively become Shiitestan.

America & its Useful Idiots

In political jargon, useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

It has become clear that the US’s main objectives in Syria is not their expressed goal of ‘fighting ISIS’, but regime change, isolating Russian influence, the Balkanization and the creation of failed states.
US presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself stated that ‘removing Assad is the top priority”...

The US sees the Syrian state as one of the last spheres of Russian influence beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union, and a threat to its Israeli ally in the region. The presence of ISIS and other terrorists groups serves these interests.
The US has a history of using terrorism to topple governments friendly to Russia.

Al Qaeda itself was borne of the US objective to topple the Soviet friendly government of Afghanistan. The dismemberment of Russian-friendly Serbia and the creation of Kosovo was done via the same means...
Syrian Girl, Global Research, Feb 23, 2016 - First published in October 2015 at the outset of the Russian bombing campaign.

"I think the Western powers - the US, especially followed by Britain and France - are using Islamic extremism as their foot soldiers in conquering various countries.
They are quite confident that once they’ve used these fanatics to get rid of regimes they don’t like, then they will be able to take over what they want – the pieces that are left of that country for themselves...
They will keep using Islamic extremism here and they're feeling that these are the useful idiots that they can control eventually."
Diana Johnstone, Russia Today, 17-2-2016

Yaalon Says Iran Building Terror Network in Europe and U.S.
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 25-2-2016

Israel's defense minister on Wednesday accused Iran of building an international terror network that includes "sleeper cells" that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives in order to strike on command in places including Europe and the U.S.
Moshe Yaalon said Iran aims to destabilize the Middle East and other parts of the world and is training, funding and arming "emissaries" to spread a revolution. He said Tehran is the anchor of a "dangerous axis" that includes Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sanaa and other cities in the region.
"The Iranian regime through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps is building a complex terror infrastructure including sleeping cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives and are ready to act on order including in Europe and America," Yaalon said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart...
Israel considers Iran the biggest threat to the region, citing its support for anti-Israel groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, and has been an outspoken critic of the international nuclear deal with Iran.
The Israeli defense minister offered no direct evidence of such sleeper cells existing in the U.S. or Europe...

Russia in ceasefire talks with Syria armed groups
Press TV, Feb 24, 2016

Russia has begun negotiations with militant groups operating in Syria on implementing a planned ceasefire in five Syrian provinces, the defense ministry says.
The ministry said in a Wednesday statement that it has opened a coordination center in Syria that is "already carrying out work with representatives of the groups in various settlements in the provinces of Hama, Homs, Latakia, Damascus and Dara’a."
According to the statement, agreement has been reached on some local ceasefires and some "practical results" have already been secured in the north of Latakia Province as military action has been halted in several settlements there.
The announcement of negotiations came a day after Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the center is located in Hmeymim airbase, adding that the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front militants are not among the groups taking part in the negotiations.

Putin goes on diplomatic blitz seeking to bolster Syrian cease-fire deal
By Michael Birnbaum and Hugh Naylor, Washington Post, 24-2-2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin worked Wednesday to place himself in the center of efforts to secure a Syrian cease-fire, speaking by phone to the leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran and drawing promises of cooperation, according to the Kremlin.

In a rapid-fire series of conversations, Putin bridged both sides of the conflict — Iran and Russia back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Arabia sides with rebel factions — and portrayed himself as bolstering the chances of a cessation of hostilities agreed to by Washington and Moscow earlier this week.
President Assad called the proposals in the deal “an important step toward political settlement,” the Kremlin said in a statement. He also “confirmed the Syrian government’s readiness to facilitate the cease-fire’s implementation.”
Putin spoke to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, giving “a detailed explanation of the proposals” of the U.S.-Russian plan.
On Wednesday, at least according to the Kremlin, Russia and Saudi Arabia put aside their differences over Syria and were in accord on the cease-fire plan. “The king of Saudi Arabia welcomed the agreement and expressed his readiness to work together with Russia to implement” the plan, the Kremlin said.
In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged that a Syrian Kurdish faction be excluded from the accord — a move that would allow Turkey’s military to continue cross-border shelling against the group.

Russia Calls Appraisal of Turkey Shelling of Syria
Al-Alam|Press TV, 24 February 2016

Russia has called on international human rights organizations to appraise Turkish artillery shelling inside the Syria territory, denouncing as illegal Ankara’s military campaign in the crisis-hit Arab country. Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the request in a statement released on Wednesday.

"Near-border settlements are shelled form large caliber artillery weapons from Turkish territory.… We request Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and other organizations to give their official assessment to these criminal actions of the Turkish armed forces," Konashenkov said.
Over the past few days, Turkey has been shelling the positions of fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the northern parts of Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG and PYD as allies of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.

Iran Elections: Vice president casts her vote
IRNA News, 26-2-2016

Tehran, Feb 26, IRAN – Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Mollaverdi casted her vote for the fifth round of Assembly of Experts and the tenth parliament election on Friday morning.
Iranians went to the polls in over 1,063 constituencies for the fifth round of the Assembly of Experts and the tenth parliamentary elections. Some 54,915, 024 Iranians are eligible to participate in the event.
A total of 4,844 hopefuls, including about 500 women, who have been qualified from amongst 12,000 registered candidates by the Guardian Council, are taking part in the race today to occupy parliamentary seats. At least 21 people will vie for each seat in the legislature. The Assembly of Experts will also see its 88 members elected today by the people for another eight-year term.
President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday that elections are now regarded as a manifestation of political independence in the country.

Shahindokht Molaverdi: Iranian women are
the most educated and emancipated in the Middle East
Giulia Mazza, Asia News 13-2-2015

Shahindokht Molaverdi (Iranian vice president) spoke to AsiaNews about the status of women in her country. Iranian women are in a better position than those of other Islamic nations of the area in terms of education, university enrolment and health. In Iran, efforts are being made to boost women's participation and representation in politics and the economy.
During the press briefing, she noted that Iran's female population stands out in the education field. "There is no comparison with other Muslim countries in the region in terms of education, university enrolment and percentage of graduates. At present, 60 per cent of university students are women. Half of all educated people are women."
Such a good literacy level also has positive effects on health. "Women's well-being is better than in other countries," Ms Molaverdi told AsiaNews.
However, "When it comes to participation in the economy, the journey is still long," the vice president explained. "The same goes for income. For the same job, women earn less than men."
One of the most important points of the current government's programme "is to increase the presence of women in politics and decision-making positions," she said. "Our goal is to give women access to the economic and policies resources they are entitled to and deserve.

Hardliners want to keep their power and economic monopolies

Under Khamenei’s patronage, the conservatives still control the media, Friday prayers, the army, and the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran). Unlike Rouhani, they want to maintain tensions high with the rest of the world and remain involved in Mideast wars.
Above all, they want to keep their power and economic monopolies, fearful of ordinary Iranians who are increasingly restive vis-à-vis the ruling ayatollahs seen more and more as "clerical parasites".
Mohammed Khatami, president from 1997 to 2005, saw his reform plans blocked and remains banned from making public appearances or public statements.
The Guardian Council, which acts as the long arm of the supreme leader, disqualified about half of the 12,000 candidates who had applied to run in this election.
If the Rouhani line prevails in the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts, reforms could take off, giving the outgoing president a better chance at re-election when his mandate ends next year. (Asia News, 26-2-2016)

Iran's female lawmakers seek increased representation
Middle East Online, 26-2-2016

Surah Al Ahzab (The Clans 28-29):
"O Prophet, say to your wives,
"If you seek the world and its adornments, come,
I shall give you of these and send you off in a good way."

TEHRAN - It's a statistic that belies claims of equality: women hold just nine of Iran's 290 parliamentary seats. And they are highly unlikely to reverse the disparity in Friday's elections.
Representation has never neared parity -- 14 is the highest number of MPs ever elected -- and it has prompted a campaign, "Changing the male face of parliament."
The group has set a target of 50 female lawmakers, a huge leap forward on the current three-percent level of representation. "Whether it be in parliament or the Assembly of Experts, we are seeking to tackle discrimination," female activist Jila Shariatpanahi, an author and leading member of the campaign, told AFP.
The campaign is urging female and male voters to back candidates who do not have an "anti-women record" in public office or in their careers. "Our ultimate goal, over time, is to get 50 percent of parliament's members to be women," she said, stressing that age-old traditions must be broken down.
Women make up 50.4 percent of Iran's population, according to the last census.
But despite President Hassan Rouhani's cabinet having three female ministers, all vice presidents, women still dramatically lag behind men in high office.

Jila Shariatpanahi, a physicist on Iran's nuclear programme between 1975 and 1987, has studied Islamic texts closely and says their interpretation, not the actual words, is to blame: "I have reached the conclusion that we need to present new interpretations. If we have this there won't be this much discrimination imposed on women on religious grounds," she said.
"Traditionalists exist in all societies and one of their characteristics is that they fear change, and fear what could replace them," said Somayeh Tahmasebi, head of the women's section of "The List of Hope", a coalition backing Rouhani. She was among the women barred from running for the Assembly of Experts.

Surah Al Ahzab (The Clans 28-29): The discourse contained in vv. 28-35 consists of two parts. In the first part, Allah has given a notice to the wives of the Holy Prophet, who were being impatient of the straitened circumstances, to the effect:"Choose between the world and its adornments, and Allah, His Prophet and the Hereafter. If you seek the former, you should say so openly: you will not be kept back in hardship even for a day, but will be sent off gracefully. But if you seek the latter, you should cooperate with Allah and His messenger and bear patiently." (

Khaled Batarfi (Jeddah, Saoedi-Arabië ): Let's Go Back

"I ask we go back 1400 years, to the time of the Prophet, when women could ride and drive, trade and fight, judge and rule in legislation and government.
Men, then, didn’t feel bad about it. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) worked for his merchant wife, Khadeja, and told his companions to consult his other wife, Aesha, in their religious affairs. Women argued with him and his Caliphs in public.
When women were right, great men like the second Caliph, Omar, admitted their mistakes and revised laws accordingly. As for fight, we owe a great woman warrior the life of our Prophet. She was the one who defended him in the battle of Ohud when most men ran away.

How come after fourteen centuries of progress we still don’t have women ministers, ulemas, or even Shoura members?"

Putin Hopes US Understands Terrorists Not Protected by Syrian Ceasefire
Sputnik News, 26-2-2016

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russia hopes the United States understands that the fight against Daesh as well as against other terrorist groups in Syria must continue even after the cessation of hostilities agreement goes into effect, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
“However, I would like to emphasize once again that the groups of Daesh, al-Nusra Front, and other terrorist organizations recognized as such by the UN Security Council are not included [in the agreement]. The decisive fight against them will obviously continue. I would like to express my hope that no one has forgotten that besides IS there are still other terrorist organizations, as I have said already, that have been acknowledged as such by the UN Security Council,” Putin said during a meeting with the members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

Earlier this week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told RIA Novosti that Russia and the United States were in talks over the preparation of the draft UN Security Council resolution.
On Monday, the United States and Russia, the co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), announced a plan for a ceasefire between the warring parties in Syria to go into effect on Saturday, February 27. The agreement has been approved by the other 17 members of the ISSG.

Flashback 2013: Al-Qaeda in Iraq confirms Syria's Nusra is part of network
YourMiddleEast, April 9, 2013

Al-Qaeda in Iraq confirmed long-held suspicions that Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group fighting in Syria, is part of its network...
"It is time to declare to the Levant and to the world that the Al-Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq," ISI's chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said in an audio message.
The groups would be combined and called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Baghdadi said, describing Al-Nusra front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani as "one of our soldiers".
The joint group would be willing to ally with other organisations "on the condition that the country and its citizens be governed according to the rules dictated by Allah," he added.

His declaration came a day after an Al-Nusra-style suicide car bomb attack in the heart of the Syrian capital Damascus killed at least 15 people and wounded 146 others. It also came after Al-Qaeda's global chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, urged rebels to fight to establish an Islamic state in Syria (Sunday april 7).
"Let your fight be in the name of Allah and with the aim of establishing Allah's sharia (law) as the ruling system," said Zawahiri. "Do all that you can so that your holy war yields a jihadist Islamic state."

Al-Nusra Front is among the most prominent organisations involved in Syria's conflict... In December the United States announced it was labelling Al-Nusra Front a "terrorist" organisation because of suspected ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
According to the US, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq "is in control of both AQI and Al-Nusra" and reports on Internet forums used by jihadists indicate hundreds of militants have made the trip from Iraq into Syria to fight Assad's regime.

Mid 2013 tensions developed between al-Nusra and its parent organization AQI. Nusra-leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani agreed that AQI had aided al-Nusra from the beginning, but rejected a merger and renewed his pledge of allegiance to Al Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahiri.
In September 2015, AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a recorded statement that decried Baghdadi’s Islamic State as illegitimate but also suggested that al-Nusra and the Islamic State should cooperate on the ground in the face of greater enemies...

Over 100 Syrian Opposition Groups Agree with Ceasefire Plan
FARS News, 26-2-2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- More than 100 Syrian opposition groups have agreed to implement a ceasefire plan brokered by the US and Russia, media reports said.
A large number of opposition groups came to terms with the ceasefire plan in Syria on Friday, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.
On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced an agreement on cessation of hostilities between the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad and the armed opposition factions had been reached. The agreement will come into force on February 27.

On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Moscow and Washington may carry out airstrikes against those who will not adhere to the ceasefire in Syria.
Moscow does not rule out that along with the United States groups in Syria not adhering to the cessation of hostilities agreement may be bombed, Bogdanov said. "I think that together with the United States we’ll bomb everyone who doesn’t join in on the ceasefire. That is our joint statement,” he added.
The deputy foreign minister announced that all warring parties in Syria must confirm their commitment to the ceasefire by noon on February 26.

Russia, League of Arab States share common principles
TASS News Agency, February 26, 2016

Russia and the League of Arab States have confirmed the need for resolute struggle against terrorism and propaganda of extremist ideologies, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the third ministerial level meeting of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum on Friday.
"We share a common stance confined to the need for uncompromising struggle against this absolute evil by military means and by plugging the loopholes being used to support the terrorists, including the so-called Islamic State, and of course, the need for struggle against the propagation of the ideology of extremists and terrorists," he said.
Lavrov recalled that the joint statement adopted at the meeting expressed support for the Russian presidential initiative for creating a "wide anti-terrorist front on the universal international legal basis and under the aegis of the United Nations."

Regime Change Not Permissible

"We considered specific crises and conflicts in the region. We did that on the basis of common principles implying the recognition of the right of peoples determine their own future and the future of their countries, the impermissibility of external intervention in the internal political processes, the need for respecting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries of the region," Lavrov said.
"From this angle we reviewed efforts by the world community, in which Russia and the countries of the Arab world are involved, for promoting the settlement of crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya and for normalizing the situation in Iraq, Somalia and other countries."

Syrian Ceasefire: A Signal that Russia is winning the War?
By Juan Cole | Feb. 27, 2016

The regime in Damascus is no longer in danger of being overthrown for the foreseeable future.
The 4 major means of besieging and getting rid of the al-Assad government were:
- a. to cut the capital of Damascus off from resupply by cutting the route from the port of Latakia to the southern, inland seat of government by taking Homs.
- b. to take the province of Latakia, including the port, by moving west from militant-controlled Idlib province.
- c. To take all of Aleppo, the largest city, in the north, thus reducing the regime to holding only a southern rump city and isolating it in preparation for capture.
- d. For the rebels, both al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood, to move up from Deraa in the south to the capital and take it directly

ISIS-cleric: Damascus People Should Leave Their City
Syria News, Posted by: Arabi Souri October 17, 2013

During a TV interview a Wahhabi cleric warned the people of Damascus to leave their jobs, their homes immediately and head to the desert where it’ll be more secure for them.
Dr. Moath Safwat, supposed to be a PHD graduate in Wahhabism, ordered the people of Damascus and its countryside (counting more than 6 million), to immediately leave their jobs, as working in government and public institutions is aiding the regime... When his interviewer asks him where the people should go he replies: ‘Go to Ragga, Aleppo, Turkey or go to the desert’ to ‘clear the way for the mujahideen to reclaim the injustice they suffer from the Syrian regime’. (YouTube video)

All four pathways to a successful revolution have now been closed off.
Unless things change radically on the battlefield, there is no longer any prospect any time soon of a rebel victory. The implications of this situation are that the regime has survived and the rebels are on the ropes.
Moreover, if the mainly Muslim Brotherhood remnants of the Free Syrian Army maintain the ceasefire with the regime, then they are freeing up Syrian Arab Army troops to fight al-Qaeda and Daesh.
In essence, Putin has managed to divide the opposition into those willing to observe a cessation of hostilities and those who are not, or from whom Russia would not accept such an offer.
Only having to fight the Nusra Front/ al-Qaeda and Daesh gives the Syrian army and its allies an advantage. They don’t have to guard their rear positions as much, and can be more aggressive in targeting the al-Qaeda linked groups.
If the less radical Free Syria Army factions around Homs, Hama and in west Aleppo maintain the ceasefire, they are essentially entering into negotiations with [the Syrian government]. From there, the step to participating in new elections is not a very large one...
If the remaining fighting to be done in Syria is against al-Qaeda and Daesh, then Russia has a great diplomatic victory and is essentially on the same side as NATO.
The West can hardly complain about Russia doing in those two organizations, even if the US has been de factor allying with the allies of al-Qaeda until now.
The revived Syrian Arab Army and its Iranian, Iraqi and Hizbullah allies can certainly take Raqqa and polish off Daesh in Syria if they don’t have to worry about Free Syrian Army units attacking Homs or the outskirts of Damascus.
If Daesh falls, Russia will get a lot of the credit for it in places like France, which Daesh attacked twice last year in horrible acts of terrorism.

Syria Battlefields mostly Calm as Truce Takes Hold
Naharnet Newsdesk, 27-2-2016

Calm prevailed Saturday across much of war-ravaged Syria on the first day of a landmark ceasefire, as a task force led by Moscow and Washington prepared to begin monitoring the truce.
On the stroke of midnight, firing stopped in suburbs around the capital and the devastated northern city of Aleppo, AFP correspondents said, after a day of intense Russian air strikes on rebel bastions across the country.
The nationwide cessation of hostilities, which does not include jihadist groups, is the first pause in a five-year civil war...

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura said peace talks would resume on March 7 if the truce holds and more aid is delivered -- a key sticking point in negotiations. He told reporters the special task force would meet in Geneva on Saturday and that a system had been created to deal with violations. The task force, created by the 17-nation International Syria Support Group, would meet to "monitor and check" what has been happening on the ground, De Mistura said.
Moscow and Washington, co-chairs of the task force, have set up rival offices to oversee the truce along with a U.N. operation center and would be first to deal with any infractions.
De Mistura said it was important that any incidents are "quickly brought under control" and a military response should be the "last resort".

Calm held throughout the night in Aleppo city, where residents said they were considering taking their children to a rare visit to the park.
The skylines around Damascus did not feature the typical plumes of smoke or sounds of shelling in the early morning, AFP correspondents said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was also relatively quiet in the central provinces of Homs and Hama.
Less than an hour before the ceasefire began, the U.N. Security Council gave its unanimous backing to the truce in a resolution drafted by the U.S. and Russia.

Berri: Achieving Peace in Syria Will Enable Lebanon to Overcome its Crises
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 27-2-2016

Speaker Nabih Berri voiced on Saturday his support for the ceasefire deal that was reached in Syria, hoping that it will pave the way for peace in the neighboring country.
He said in a statement: “Peace in Syria will allow Lebanon to overcome its crises.” “Peace in Syria is a great Arab, Islamic, and Middle Eastern necessity and it is a guarantee for regional peace, because Syria, as history and the present have demonstrated, is a portal for peace and war in the region,” he continued.
Syria's exit from its current reality and its entry to a prosperous spring will restore the Palestinian cause as the central Arab and Muslim issue,” Berri stressed.
“We hope that God will ensure the success of the Syrian ceasefire test as the extinguishing of its fire and the return of its people to their homeland will emphasize Lebanon's peace,” he declared.

Erdoğan’s office criticizes US bill calling Muslim Brotherhood terrorist
Today's Zaman (Ankara-Turkey), February 26, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's aide and spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has criticized a bill approved on Wednesday by the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee that calls on the US Department of State to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Speaking in a press conference on Friday, Kalın said the committee's decision is “thought provoking,” adding that Turkey will continue to follow the process closely.
Kalın said the Muslim Brotherhood has not been involved in any terrorist activity in the past 30-40 years and that it was able to get elected in Egypt before the current Egyptian administration. He said designating the MB a terrorist organization will only please real terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has close ties with the MB. President Erdoğan has been one of the staunchest supporters of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who is in jail.
The committee's approval of H.R. 3892, or the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015, was passed with a vote of 17-10 on Wednesday. The bill cites national security as the reason the designation is needed.
Aside from the terrorist designation, the bill would also deny admittance into the US to those with ties to the Brotherhood.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Bill
Requiring Muslim Brotherhood be Designated Terrorist Organization
Homeland Security Today Staff, 24-2-2016

The House Committee on the Judiciary approved the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015 (HR 3892) (introduced by Republican senators Ted Cruz and Mario Diaz-Balart, 3-11-2015), which would require the Department of State to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. The bill was approved on a 17-10 vote.
Under the bill, the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015, “Expresses the sense of Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood has met the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization, and, the Department of State should so designate it.”
The legislation further would require the State Department to report to Congress within 60 days whether the Muslim Brotherhood meets the criteria for foreign terrorist designation, and, if not, which criteria have not been met.

Last December, the United Kingdom issued a report describing the brotherhood as a terrorist organization opposed to Western values.
"Aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology and activities … run counter to British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs," Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement at the time.
The Obama administration has been hesitant to call the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group, even as its allies have determined the group to be a threat.

HR 3892:
The ‘‘Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015’’

Congress finds the following (3-11-2015):
Multiple countries have declared the Society of the Muslim Brothers (commonly known as the ‘‘Muslim Brotherhood’’) a terrorist organization or proscribed the group from operating in their countries.
- In 1980, following a wave of assassinations targeting government officials and the June 16, 1979, massacre of 83 military cadets in Aleppo, the Government of Syria banned the Muslim Brotherhood from the country; and made membership in the organization punishable by death.
- In a February 14, 2003, court decision, the Russian Supreme Court described the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization; and banned the organization from operating in Russia.
- In 2013 an Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt; and the Government of Egypt officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group on March 7, 2014.
- The Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates has published a list of terrorist organizations, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood and its local affiliates.
- On March 21, 2014, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain backed the terrorist designations of the Muslim Brotherhood by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, remains headquartered in Egypt but operates throughout the world.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s long-standing motto includes the following: ‘‘Allah is our objective. he Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. [Allah is greater!]’’.
Hassan al-Banna, in a book entitled ‘‘The Way of Jihad’’, taught ‘‘Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored nor evaded. Allah has ascribed great importance to jihad and has made the reward of the martyrs and fighters in His way a splendid one. " ‘‘Jihad [means] the fighting of the unbelievers, and involves all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship and smashing their idols.’’
Hassan al-Banna also taught that ‘‘it is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated’’, and thus that the mission of Islam, as interpreted and executed by the Muslim Brotherhood, must be ‘‘to impose [Islamic] law on nations and to extend its power to the entire planet’’. While al-Banna’s plan for accomplishing this mission was multifaceted, it centrally incorporated training for and the execution of violent jihad–terrorist operations.

Al-Banna told members again and again that they were ‘‘the army of liberation, carrying on your shoulders the message of liberation; you are the battalions of salvation for this nation afflicted by calamity’’.
Al-Banna’s blueprint for revolution anticipated a final stage of ‘‘execution’’ at which point the battalions the Muslim Brotherhood had trained would ‘‘conquer . . . every obstinate tyrant’’.
This violent ideology continued to be part of the Brotherhood’s indoctrination in standard membership texts, such as Sayyid Qutb’s ‘‘Milestones’’ and Fathi Yakan’s ‘‘To Be a Muslim’’.
In Muslim Brotherhood organizations and chapters throughout the world, including in the United States, al-Banna’s originating philosophy continues to be taught..

It is the sense of Congress that:
(1) the Muslim Brotherhood meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189); and (2) the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, should exercise the Secretary of State’s statutory authority by designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.

The eye of the storm is shifting away from Syria towards Turkey
Turkey needs to readjust Syria policy to avoid further damage
Today's Zaman, February 27, 2016

Turkey's policies concerning Syria have eroded the country's international position more than any other factor due to their encouragement of radical jihadists in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stirring up of sectarian conflicts and mismanagement of relations with the Syrian Kurds and simultaneously damaging its relations with Russia, the US and the EU.
The “cessation of hostilities” agreement on Syria, effective as of Feb. 27, may be a chance for Turkey to alter a foreign policy that has dragged the country into a serious risk of war with regional actors, leading to lost friends and allies, a major refugee influx and an increased threat from terrorism. However, some analysts argue that Turkey's foreign policy in Syria may be past the point of no return.

Adnan Al-Arour, a takfirist preacher, who called for the overthrow and killing of Assad. Arour was reportedly a former member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who fled the crackdown on the group in the early 1980s and has used his platform to promote an Islamist agenda with regards to the Syrian uprising." (Global Post, 19-8-2011)

Theodore Karasik, a senior advisor at Dubai-based Gulf State Analytics, has told Sunday's Zaman that Turkey needs to “stop playing games” in Syria and “be serious.”
“Ankara has been negligent across the board when dealing with the multi-level war to the country's south by enabling extremists without thinking through the policy ramifications as well as taunting the US and Europe by putting preconditions on access to Turkey for any spectrum of operations from the country,” Karasik said.
Criticizing Ankara for threatening Europe with more migrants, Karasik said this kind of behavior is “counterproductive.”
Karasik expects that “Kurds of all stripes” are going to be a determining factor in the future of Syria and Assad is not leaving his post anytime soon..." “Turkey needs to look in the mirror and ask whether Ankara's policies are sustainable or whether all will blowback...."

In a recent conversation with Sunday's Zaman, veteran Turkish diplomat Faruk Loğoğlu said:
The eye of the storm is shifting away from Syria towards Turkey. Ankara must therefore change course and do it now.” He said the agreement to cease hostilities creates a window of opportunity for Turkey to make the necessary policy changes. According to Loğoğlu, Ankara can maintain its opposition to the Assad regime but leave his fate up to Syrians.

A political analyst on Islamic extremism and a former CIA official, Graham E. Fuller, wrote on his website on Feb. 18 that Ankara should acknowledge the reality that Assad is not going to fall anytime soon...
Fuller recommended that Ankara return to its earlier policy of standing above sectarian struggle in the region. He suggested improving relations with Iran and Iraq, cooperating with the other Gulf States on a non-sectarian basis, prioritizing the restoration of Turkish relations with Russia and to stop trying to drag NATO into unwise confrontations with Russia.

ElBaradei advises Arab states for de-escalation with Iran
Islamic Republic News Agency, 28-2-2016

Former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei advised the Arab governments for de-escalation with Iran and go ahead with consultations with Iran on regional issues.
In a recent post on his Twitter account the Egyptian politician wonders if Arabs could let wisdom govern their decision-making... He called on the Arab governments to opt for a peaceful settlement of international disputes and avoid destructive wars.
He then asked if the Arab governments could hold a dialogue with Iran, probably with Turkey also be included, to settle the regional disputes and lay down the foundation for regional security. 'Or should we continue with fighting and wait for security to come by?', he asked.
ElBaradei slammed the Arab states for forgetting the Palestinian issue, encouraging them not to let the plight of the Palestinians be marginalized...

Flashback: People Are Seeking A Separate Existence
In Nations That Are Of, By And For Themselves Alone.
By Patrick J. Buchanan 26-5-2011

Demonstration in Syria Calls for
Establishment of Islamic State

In a demonstration in Binnish, Syria (Idlib province) that took place on October 27, 2012 and was organized by the supporters of Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) branch of the "Free Syrian Army" (FSA), Jihadi militants sing a "song" whose lyrics are as follows:
"We don't need any external initiatives, Nor any pagan national councils
In spite of them, we shall establish an Islamic state..
Come on, men of proud Binnish, Let's purify our Levant from the filth of Alawites
Victory is coming with the help of the Lord of creation

"Right now, socially, we are disintegrating." So says Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency...
Indeed, post-revolutionary Egypt appears to be coming apart. Since the heady days of Tahrir Square, Salafis have been killing Christians. Churches have been destroyed. Gangs have conducted mass prison breaks. The Muslim Brotherhood brims with confidence.
"People do not feel secure," says ElBaradei, "They are buying guns."

Can the Arab revolts cope with "the cacophony of diversity ... the Arab world's variety of clans, sects, ethnicities and religions?" Or will we witness the disintegration of nations like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as we did Ethiopia and the Sudan—and of African, Latin American, Asian and European nations, as well?
With the end of the Cold War in 1991, it seemed the world was moving toward unity.
The post-Cold War era saw the expansion of the European Union, NAFTA and GATT, the creation of a World Trade Organization, the Rome Treaty for the prosecution of war crimes, the Kyoto Protocol, and the G-7 expand to the G-8 and then to the G-20. Nations seemed to be coming together to solve global problems.
Today, nations seem everywhere to be coming apart.

In the 21st century, the call of one's God and the claims of blood and soil seem more magnetic than the ideologies of the 19th and 20th century: Marxism, socialism or democracy.
People do not seem to seek equality with other cultures, faiths and tribes, but a separate existence in nations that are of, by and for themselves alone. (Buchanan Archive 2011)

Russia urges all countries to join International Bill of Human Rights
TASS Russian News Agency, 1-3-2016

"This year the international community marks two milestone dates — the 50th anniversary of adoption and 40th anniversary since entering into force of the International Bill of Human Rights," Russian deputy Russian foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said.
The document became "the first legally binding international human rights tool that marked the beginning when the states took responsibility in the human rights sphere," the Russian diplomat said.
"The main challenge for multilateral human rights structures today is the need to abandon double standards and politicization and ensure the continuity and equality of all the human rights embodied in the International Bill," Gatilov stressed.
Moscow "calls on all the countries to become participants of the International Bill — without any reservations and limits," Gatilov said adding that this could contribute to enhancing international regime of protecting and encouraging human rights.

The International Bill of Human Rights was the name given to UN General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) and two international treaties established by the United Nations.
It consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) with its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). The two covenants entered into force in 1976.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

-- Part 1 (Article 1) recognizes the right of all peoples to self-determination, including the right to "freely determine their political status", pursue their economic, social and cultural goals, and manage and dispose of their own resources.
-- Part 2 (Articles 2 – 5) obliges parties to legislate where necessary to give effect to the rights recognised in the Covenant, and to provide an effective legal remedy for any violation of those rights. It also requires the rights be recognised "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status," and to ensure that they are enjoyed equally by women.
-- Article 6 of the Covenant recognises the individual's "inherent right to life" and requires it to be protected by law. It is a "supreme right" from which no derogation can be permitted, and must be interpreted widely.. While Article 6 does not prohibit the death penalty, it restricts its application to the "most serious crimes"...

-- Article 8 prohibits slavery and enforced servitude in all situations. Article 18 mandates freedom of religion. Article 19 mandates freedom of expression. Article 20 mandates sanctions against inciting hatred.

Middle East, Arab and/or Islamic parties to the covenant:
Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Tunesia, Turkey, Yemen.
(Bahrain interprets Articles 3 (no sexual discrimination), 18 (freedom of religion) and 23 (family rights) within the context of Islamic Sharia law.)
States which are neither signatories nor parties:
Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, United Arab Emirates

“Even those Sunni tribes who were forced to pledge allegiance to Daesh
are now tired of their rule and pissed off.."
Officials argue main task of Mosul liberation be given to local population - By RUDAW, 1-3-2016

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament has revealed to Rudaw details of ongoing preparations for a military offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul, saying that a force of 40,000 strong will be needed.
Iraqi Kurdish MP Shakhawan Abdullah, who is also a member of the parliamentary security committee, said that the Peshmerga forces will participate in the offensive in a limited role. It will be mainly done by the Iraqi army, Sunni Hashd al-Watani and possibly Shiite militia.
Abdullah echoed the belief of some experts that any Shiite participation as militia groups will make the offensive and liberation of Mosul complicated.
“The battle of Mosul will not succeed without reaching a consensus among all parties and sects in Iraq,” Abdullah said.
The Iraqi government had allocated part of this year’s budget to recruit 20,000 tribal forces most of which, according to Abdullah has gone to recruiting Shiite militia. “In short, Abadi fears arming the Sunnis,”

Brigadier Firas, spokesman to the Mosul operations command told Rudaw that a big number of fighters also from local Sunni tribes have been trained for Mosul. “Men from tribes of Sabawi, Leheb, and Jibour have applied and been trained to take their city back from Daesh [ISIS] terrorists.”
Ismat Rajab, a Kurdish official in charge of Mosul affairs believes that the main task falls on the Mosul population and their participation is more essential.
“Participation of Mosul residents and Arab tribes are very important. The Americans decided to arm 15,000 men from local Arab tribes and Hashd al-Watani (a Sunni armed group) under the leadership of Atheel al-Nujaifi,” said Rajab.
“The battle will not be succeeding without Arab Sunni fighters participating in it.” The local tribes, he believes, have a great role in the coming fight.
“Even those (Sunni tribes) who were forced to pledge allegiance to Daesh are now tired of their rule and pissed off,” said Rajab.

Rouhani: "The era of confrontation is over"
Middle East Online, 1-3-2016

TEHRAN - Iranian voters chose "the right and proper path for the country", moderate President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday after final election results showed his allies had made significant gains.
In the parliamentary election, hardliners who vocally opposed Rouhani's diplomacy with the West and his moves to open Iran up to foreign investment were soundly beaten by reformists. Conservatives also lost seats.
"The owners of this country are the people... they determine the path and direction of this country," the president said. "I thank our intelligent and brave people who have taken a step forward," he said at an auto industry conference in Tehran.
"If there are still some who think that the country must be in confrontation with others, they still haven't got the message of 2013," he said, alluding to his landslide presidential election victory on a pledge to end years of standoff over Iran's nuclear programme and crippling sanctions. "Cooperation should be everyone's concern. Today the era of confrontation is over," Rouhani added.

No single group won a decisive share of parliament's 290 seats, but tallies suggested the pragmatic Rouhani would be able to forge a working majority.
The main conservative list secured 103 MPs, reformists and moderates 95, and independents 14, while five seats went to minorities and four to candidates with no single affiliation. While conservatives were wiped out by reformists in Tehran, they retained some seats in other cities and enjoyed strong support in rural areas. Some 69 constituencies had no clear winner, meaning a second round runoff in April.
Friday's second election for the Assembly of Experts also produced high-profile gains for Rouhani and his closest allies.
15 of the 16 candidates running in Tehran on the list headed by Rouhani and his veteran political backer, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were resoundingly voted in.

Palestine becomes full member of ICC
Paul Raymond, AL-Araby 1-3-2016

The Palestinian Authority has formally joined the International Criminal Court, the latest step in a strategy by its leadership to seek legitimacy through international recognition.
"As Palestine formally becomes a state party to the Rome Statute today, the world is also a step closer to ending a long era of impunity and injustice. Indeed, today brings us closer to our shared goals of justice and peace," said Palestine's minister of foreign affairs, Riad al-Malki.
Palestine is now able to ask the court to investigate individuals for alleged war crimes on Palestinian territory dating to June 13, 2014. That is immediately before Israel's summer war in Gaza that left over 2,000 Palestinians dead, the majority civilians.

Joining the ICC is the latest move in a Palestinian strategy of gaining recognition at international bodies, thus gaining greater leverage in any future return to peace talks.
In 2012 the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state, a move strongly opposed by the US and Israel.
"The Israeli position is that these moves get in the way of making a peace deal, and encourages the Palestinians not to negotiate," said Chris Doyle, a director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.
"The Palestinian argument is that negotiations have yielded nothing, and that they have no option than to go down the legal path."
Nevetheless, the Palestinians face obstacles each step of the way towards full recognition of their state by international bodies.
After they lodged their application to join the ICC in January, the Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman told Israel Radio that Israel was lobbying member states to cut funding to the court. Israel then froze $400m in tax revenues that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, affecting the pay of thousands of Palestinian public servants.

"Governments seeking to penalise Palestine for joining the ICC should immediately end their pressure, and countries that support universal acceptance of the court's treaty should speak out to welcome its membership," said Balkees Jarrah, an international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch.

In Israel, lying has become the norm
Karl Sabbagh, Al-Araby, date of publication: 3 April, 2015

It is not surprising that nations use propaganda to cover up their sins. What is surprising is that so-called intelligent, informed journalists report Israel's fabricated stories time and again, and rarely dig deeper.
Even worse, when the truth becomes known weeks, months or years later, it is buried in NGO reports or academic papers and rarely gets reported at all....
Every justification Israel has given for its successive wars on Gaza, widely repeated in the Western media, has later turned out to be fabricated to appear as if Hamas triggered them.
By taking at face value anything said by Israeli politicians or spokespeople without independent corroboration, the press is presenting Israel in the best possible light, a stated aim of Israel and Zionism.
Yitzhak Shamir, the seventh prime minister of Israel famously said: "It is permissible to lie for the sake of the Land of Israel."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Irrespective of whether you're right or not, you must always present your side as right."
Akiva Eldar, an Israeli journalist, wrote: "In Israel, lying has become the norm among the army, the legal establishment and the diplomatic corps. Lying has become a way of life for commanders and soldiers, lawyers and clerks, most of whose views are far from being right-wing, and who loathe the occupation."

British journalists are among the best and most sceptical in the world. Why then, with a few honourable exceptions, do they fail to be sceptical when it comes to Israel?

Neoconservatives Declare War On Neutrality
Zaid Jilani, The Intercept, Feb. 29, 2016

Donald Trump’s runaway success in the GOP primaries so far is setting off alarm bells among neoconservatives who are worried he will not pursue the same bellicose foreign policy that has dominated Republican thinking for decades.
Neoconservative historian Robert Kagan — one of the prime intellectual backers of the Iraq War and an advocate for Syrian intervention — announced in the Washington Post last week that if Trump secures the nomination, “the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Max Boot, an unrepentant supporter of the Iraq War, wrote in the Weekly Standard that a “Trump presidency would represent the death knell of America as a great power...”

Donald Trump & Michael 'peter pan' Jackson". Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Native Americans, fairies, pirates, and occasionally ordinary children from the world outside Neverland...

Trump has done much to trigger the scorn of neocon pundits.
He denounced the Iraq War as a mistake based on Bush administration lies, just prior to scoring a sizable victory in the South Carolina GOP primary.
In last week’s contentious GOP presidential debate, he defended the concept of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is utterly taboo on the neocon right.
“It serves no purpose to say you have a good guy and a bad guy,” he said, pledging to take a neutral position in negotiating peace. This set off his rival Marco Rubio, who replied, “The position you’ve taken is an anti-Israel position. … Because you cannot be an honest broker in a dispute between two sides in which one of the sides is constantly acting in bad faith.”

In his quest to take up George W. Bush’s mantle, Rubio has arrayed a fleet of neoconservative funders, ranging from pro-Israel billionaire Paul Singer to Norman Braman, a billionaire auto dealer who funds Israeli settlements in the West Bank. His list of advisers is like a rolodex of Iraq War backers, ranging from Bush administration alumni Elliot Abrams and Stephen Hadley, to Kagan and Bill Kristol.
Kristol sits on the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel — a group that assails candidates it perceives as insufficiently pro-Israel. The group started airing an ad this weekend against Trump portraying him as an ally to despots like Bashar Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Qaddafi — mostly because he argued that military invasions of Libya and Iraq left those countries worse off...