Saddam's Death, 67 (march 2016)
attempt to destroy political holism in the middle east

See also: Page 66: februari-march 2016 & Page 68: march-april 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)

Saddam Hussein: "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)

Vladimir Jabotinsky: Don't give them hope.
No Mercy, No Compassion, No Justice

"Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach. That is our Arab policy; not what we should be, but what it actually is, whether we admit it or not. ..."
"We all demand that there should be an iron wall. Yet we keep spoiling our own case, by talking about "agreement" which means telling the Mandatory Government that the important thing is not the iron wall, but discussions. Empty rhetoric of this kind is dangerous...."
"What is impossible is a voluntary agreement. As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter..." Vladimir Jabotinsky, in The Iron Wall (1923)

"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

Obama's Speech Against The Iraq War, 2-10-2002
"I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars"

I don't oppose all wars... What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.
What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained... I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

You want a fight, President Bush?
Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells...
Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair. (Source: NPR, 20-1-2009)

"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)

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.

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

Hariri Vows to Protect Lebanon from Region Blaze,
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 2-3-2016

Fairuz (I Love Lebanon) & Julia Boutros (Honor Hezbollah)

Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri on Wednesday pledged to protect Lebanon from the ongoing conflicts in the region, describing any Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon as a “red line.”
“Some of you might be wondering why we are seeking political settlements in the presidential elections and other issues. You are observing what is happening around us, especially in Syria, and it is my duty to prevent Lebanon from turning into another Syria,” Hariri told a delegation of Akkar municipal chiefs and mayors. “It is my duty to protect Lebanon from the blaze that is raging around us,” he underlined.
Hariri's remarks come a day after Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah reassured the Lebanese that the country is not “on the brink of civil war” despite the political and sectarian tensions.

The tensions surged in the country in the wake of a series of Saudi measures against Lebanon and Hizbullah that started on February 19 when the Saudi foreign ministry announced that the kingdom was halting around $4 billion in military aid to the Lebanese army and security forces.
The situation in Lebanon was further aggravated over the weekend when Saudi-owned MBC television aired a TV show that poked fun at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah...

Franjieh: Hizbullah is a Resistance that Makes Lebanon, Arabs Proud
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 3-3-2016

Head of the Marada Movement MP Suleiman Franjieh lamented on Thursday the labeling of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization by Arab countries.
He said via Twitter: “Hizbullah as a resistance movement makes Lebanon and the Arabs proud.” It is unfortunate that the party is however being targeted by Arabs, “which only appeases our only enemy, Israel,” he remarked.

The Gulf Cooperation Council on Wednesday blacklisted Hizbullah as a “terrorist organization,” a day after Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of pressuring Lebanon to silence his party.
The GCC cited the party's "terrorist acts and incitement in Syria, Yemen and in Iraq," which were threatening Arab security.
Several Gulf states issued travel advisories to Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has linked its move to Lebanon's refusal to join the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in condemning attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, and alleged Hizbullah "terrorist acts against Arab and Muslim nations."

Suleiman Frangieh controls the Marada (ideology: Lebanese nationalism, Christian democracy). He is a close personal friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After the 2005 legislative elections, the Marada became a member of the opposition alliance (pro-Syrian) together with Hezbollah.
In June 2006, the Marada Movement was officially launched as a political party during a ceremony attended by supporters and representatives from Hezbollah, Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, and some pro-Syrian political figures.

Blacklisting of Hizballah by Gulf harms Lebanon, says Iran
Al-Araby, 3 March, 2016

Iran has warned that its Gulf Arab rivals are jeopardising Lebanon's stability by blacklisting a leading force behind the Beirut government, Hizballah, as a terror group.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Thursday that the Shia group, which is one of Iran's closest allies, was a bulwark against terrorism in the region.
"We are proud of Lebanon's Hizballah as the vanguard of resistance against the Zionist regime and the champion of the fight against terrorism in the region," Abdollahian told Iran's official IRNA news agency.
Abdollahian said the Gulf Cooperation Council's move was a "new mistake" that would undermine peace in the region and the unity of Lebanon.
"Those who call Hizballah terrorists, have intentionally or unintentionally harmed the unity and security of Lebanon."

Saudi Arabia has also been angered by the military intervention of Hizballah in neighbouring Syria since 2013 in support of Iran-backed President Bashar al-Assad against rebels it is backing.
Hizballah fighters have been active against the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda, but they have also battled rebel groups supported by the Gulf states and the West.
In January, Riyadh led several Arab countries in cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran after demonstrators burned its embassy and a consulate in protest at its execution of Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.

Flashback: Gulf States arming terrorist groups in Syria

TEHRAN, (SANA, 23-7-2012) – Speaker of Iranian Shura Council, Ali Larijani stressed that Syria is part of the axis of resistance and the countries which seek sabotaging Syria don’t seek realistic reforms but they try to seize the opportunity to eliminate the axis of resistance.
He added that many Gulf countries which lack the minimum standards of democracy are still supplying the armed terrorist groups in Syria with money and arms.
"It is a must in any state to achieve security before making political reforms." The opposition in Syria is not stable and it consists of different parties. The instigation by some countries prevented the launch of dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia Islamic organization, has evolved over the last three decades from a guerilla movement to the most influential political and military power in Lebanon.
Given that Hezbollah is a crucial part of the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance”, it is not surprising that the mainstream media in the West uses simplistic stereotypes to demonize it.
However, whether the West likes it or not, Hezbollah is clearly fated to continue playing an important role in Lebanon’s future. (Jeffrey Rudolph, Juan Cole's website 31-7-2012)

President Assad (31-5-2013): I believe that the greatest victory achieved by the Arab resistance movements in the past years and decades is primarily an intellectual victory. This resistance wouldn’t have been able to succeed militarily if they hadn’t been able to succeed and stand fast against a campaign aimed at distorting concepts and principles in this region. ...
Today, more than ever before, we are in need of these ideas, of this mindset, of this steadfastness and of these actions carried out by the resistance fighters.
The events in the Arab world during the past years have distorted concepts to the extent that some Arabs have forgotten that the real enemy is still Israel and have instead created internal, sectarian, regional or national enemies..

If Syria falls, Palestine will fall: Hezbollah leader
Iran Daily, 10-7-2015

Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, has reaffirmed the Lebanese resistance movement’s support for the Syrian fight against terrorism, saying that if Syria falls, so will Palestine.
Nasrallah made the remark during a speech to mark the 'International Quds Day', as designated by the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini.
Elsewhere in his remarks, he referred to the Saudi military strikes against Yemen, and said Arab Muslims have abandoned the people of Yemen. “The war against Yemen today is the biggest service Saudi Arabia can do to Israel,” he said.

The Hezbollah leader said that, once Syria was plagued by conflict, the enemies focused on Iran and the resistance movement as the remaining greatest threats He said the resistance movement proudly poses a strategic threat to Israel, “but has not reached a level to pose an existential treat” to Israel.

Iran is the only country that, in the mind of the Israeli officials, poses an existential threat to Israel; thus, they seek to incite the entire world against the Islamic Republic.
He said the question must be asked why this “complete enmity” is being directed at Iran and not against Arab countries. Because, he said, Israel realized that Arab officials do nothing for the nation of Palestine and Gaza, “a part of the Islamic Umma.”
“Who is still raising the flag?” Nasrallah asked. “He, who is still raising the flag… still standing on the front-line… is the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Iranian government and people under the leadership of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei will never recognize Israel.
Despite the sanctions and threats of war against Iran and the media and psychological wars waged on Iran, the country is the only country that supports Palestine, he said.
“If you want to support Palestine, you have to support the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Hezbollah leader said, and “if you are an enemy of the Islamic Republic, you are an enemy of Palestine.”

Nasrallah: Don't be a useful idiot
"Think about responses that serve our goals not the enemy's"
Islamic Republic News Agency, 3-3-2016

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.

Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah tackled the recent developments in Lebanon and the region, particularly the halt of the so-called Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army and its repercussions.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Sayyed Nasrallah confirmed that since the Saudi Kingdom announced its step, a wide media and political campaign was launched against Hizbullah.

Sayyed Nasrallah commented on the sarcastic video broadcasted by the Saudi MBC channel, leading to protests. In this context, he labeled such videos as insulting and low.
'When some media outlets refer to such a low standard, this is an indication of their weakness...There is no doubt that the youth protests that erupted as a reaction to a TV show have contributed to increasing concerns and anxiety among the Lebanese.'
He urged the Resistance followers not to make use of streets.
'I urge you not to go to the street no matter what programs or words were used against the Resistance or against me. This approach is inappropriate and the reactions must be calculated and measured. There is no need to take to the streets no matter what happens and you must seek responses that do not serve the objectives of the enemies and rivals.'
Sayyed Nasrallah asserted that the movement shouldn't serve the enemy, which seeks to create strife.
'Israel wants to agitate strife in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is seeking to stir strife in any country that contains Sunnis and Shiites. Should we serve their goals?' he asked.

He also said: 'Saudi Arabia is angry with Hizbullah since it is daring to say what only a few others dare to say against its royal family...'
Sayyed Nasrallah highlighted that 'Even UN chief Ban Ki-moon spoke out against the massacres being committed by the Saudi regime in Yemen.'

Flashback: Saudi Arabia sentences writer Zuhair Kutbi to four years in jail
Sydney Morning Herald, December 23, 2015

A Saudi tribunal has sentenced Zuhair Kutbi, who called for political reform, to four years in prison and barred him from appearing in the media for 15 years, his family and Saudi media reported.
The Specialised Criminal Court (SCC), a tribunal established in 2008 to try terrorism cases, convicted Zuhair Kutbi on charges of sedition, inciting public opinion and reducing the government's prestige, Okaz newspaper said.

Kutbi was detained from his home in Mecca on July 15 after an hour-long appearance on the television program Fi al-Sameem (In Depth), which aired in June on a pan-Arab satellite TV station, according to Human Rights Watch.
During the interview, he called for political reform in Saudi Arabia, including transforming the kingdom into a constitutional monarchy and pushing back against religious repression, the New York-based rights group said.

Saudi Writer Zuhair Kutbi: " Most Saudi intellectuals are cowards"
Horace Jeffery Hodges, 15-7-2015

In a recent interview, the Saudi writer Zuhair Kutbi complains that "The [Saudi] Regime's Efforts at National Dialogue [for Reform] Achieved Nothing" (Memri, Clip No. 4993, June 22, 2015):

[The success of the King Abdulaziz Center's National Dialogue for reforming Saudi society from within was, f]rankly speaking, . . . about zero percent . . . . It was nothing but hot air, a waste of public funds, eating, drinking . . . I was there . . .
The National Dialogue institution has gained nothing positive for Saudi society... We all demanded to change the religious discourse. It has not changed, and it will not change either . . . . [T]hey turned off our microphones . . . mine . . . twice . . . . due to the content, not time. They cut me off. And when the session aired on TV, . . . my remarks had been omitted...
Let me be frank . . . , although I know that I am being harsh: Most Saudi intellectuals are cowards. They are cowards and do not speak the truth...
The issue of the intellectuals is a very serious one. The struggle between the authorities and the intellectuals is an eternal one [everywhere], but in Saudi Arabia, it [has been] . . . completely contained. There is no such struggle.

Jafar Shojooni: "Tehran is the center for opposition to clerical jurisprudence"
Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Tehran, March 3, 2016, IRNA

On Feb. 26, Iran held its 10th parliamentary election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and fifth election for its Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that appoints the supreme leader...
The outcome of the election will see the next parliament consisting of three political groupings: principlists, otherwise known as hard-liners, centrists/reformists and independents, with each group garnering about equal representation.
The centrist/reformist political grouping gained absolute majority in Iran's capital, Tehran.
However, the results in the provinces were more balanced -- even slightly in favor of principlists. Even so, this has not stopped principlist cleric Jafar Shojooni from stating:
'Tehran is the center for opposition to the revolution and velayat-e faqih (clerical jurisprudence) and these people winning the vote demonstrates this problem.'
On the other side, reformist Hossein Marashi has opined: 'We can now see that the level of political maturity in Tehran is 100, in provincial capitals is 50, and in smaller cities is 30.'

Iran: Theocracy or Republic?

The concept of Velayat-e-Faqih (the supreme political authority of the grand religious jurist) is a relatively recent concept in the history of Imami sect of Shi`ite Islam. Since the advent of the Islamic republic of Iran in 1979, it has become the theoretical justification for the Imami religious authorities of Iran to claim that they are entrusted with exclusive authority over the political, social and economic life of the Iranian society.

The balance between religion and republicanism shifted from the late 1990s during the reform era.
President Mohammad Khatami, who served two terms between 1997 and 2005, emphasized popular sovereignty over the clerical authority of the supreme leader.
He sought to increase the scope of personal liberties and freedom of speech. Shiite philosophers began debating ideas about Islamic democracy. By the time Khatami left office, however, this second political tendency was crushed by clerical hardliners...
The reform tendency reemerged in 2009, when Muslim liberals launched the Green Movement... Green is associated with the descendants of the Prophet and is considered the color of Islam.
The Green Movement leaders sought less stringent controls on personal liberties and speech. But they insisted their mission was to defend the ideals of Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution, even though they emphasized the sovereignty of the Shiite populace over high clerical authority.

In Iraq Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani is against the idea of Velayat-e Faqih, suggesting Shi‘a clerics should not get involved in politics.
Paradoxically this approach has afforded him very strong influence as a religious leader unsullied by politics. Ali Sistani has used his position of quietist authority to wield influence also as a peacemaker in the turbulent post-invasion Iraq.
Sistani was vocal about encouraging Iraqis to participate in the 2010 parliamentary elections. He strongly condemned the Baghdad church attack in October 2010 and also advised Iraqi security forces to take more responsibility for the protection of Iraqi citizens.

He has strongly supported the new prime minister of Iraq, Haydar al-Abadi, asking him to form an inclusive, strong and efficient government.

There are enormous mobilities at the headquarters of Turkey’s largest media group of ZAMAN over claims that a board of trustees has been appointed by Turkish government to capture Zaman Media Group. (Cihan news, 4-3-2016)

Statement from Today’s Zaman: We are going through dark days
Today's Zaman (Istanbul), March 04, 2016

We are going through the darkest and gloomiest days in terms of freedom of the press, which is a major benchmark for democracy and the rule of law. Intellectuals, businesspeople, celebrities, civil society organizations (CSOs), media organizations and journalists are being silenced via threats and blackmail.

Cumhuriyet newspaper Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and its Ankara representative Erdem Gül are the latest victims of this campaign. They were released following a ruling by the Constitutional Court after remaining in custody for three months. Yet, there are premonitions that could take the wind out of the sails of those who support democracy.
Indeed, the courts came under heavy fire soon after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that he did not respect the decision and would not obey it. “They will be arrested again,” pro-government lobbies are parroting...
However, all national laws provide comprehensive guarantees for freedom of the press and with it, the right access to information. Article 26 of the Constitution safeguards freedom of expression and thought and Articles 28 and 30 advocate freedom of the press; both are very clear.

Turkey's highest circulating newspaper, Zaman, and its sister publication Today's Zaman have come under serious pressure for more than two years...
We have now been threatened with confiscation through the appointment of trustees. We are deeply concerned about all these developments that undermine Turkey's democratic performance. We believe the only way out of this nightmarish atmosphere is to return to democracy and the rule of law.

The United States has criticized the Turkish government for deciding to take control of the mainstream opposition newspaper Zaman, calling the decision “troubling”. On Friday, the Istanbul Sixth Criminal Court of Peace ordered the management of Zaman newspaper to be replaced by the trustees board appointed by the court.
Affiliated with the Gülen movement (inspired by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen), Zaman is one of the few opposition media outlets operating in the country.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Washington urged Turkish authorities to respect freedom of the press.
"We see this as the latest in a series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government targeting media outlets and others critical of it," Kirby told a news briefing. (Press TV, 4-3-2016)

Turkey's Zaman: Editorial tone changes after takeover
Al-Jazeera, 07 Mar 2016

Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper has adopted a pro-government line in its first edition since a court ordered it to be seized in a controversial decision.
Al Jazeera's Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Istanbul, said the Turkish-language Zaman had changed its editorial tone drastically. The top story on Sunday described how President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a ceremony marking a key phase in the construction of a bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul.
"If anyone was wondering if there were going to be serious changes to the tone or editorial stance of Zaman, well they got their answer on Sunday morning," he said.
"This used to be an opposition paper but Sunday's edition carried pro-government stories across its front page."

Police stormed the offices on Friday to enforce a court decision to place it and its sister outlets under the management of trustees. The court appointed an administrator to run Zaman, Today's Zaman and the Cihan agency.
Employees returned to the newsroom on Saturday to work under the new administrator, but Abdulhamit Bilici, Zaman's editor-in-chief, and Bulent Kenes, a columnist, were fired and escorted from the premises, said Sevgi Akarcesme, top editor at Today's Zaman.
Rights groups and European officials have criticised the takeover, saying it infringed on press freedom in Turkey, an EU candidate country.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"
FARS News Agency, 4-3-2016

According to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, since December 2, the Obama administration has admitted one Syrian refugee identified as a “Christian,” one identified as a “Greek Orthodox,” and one identified as “Orthodox.”
Another 461 Syrian refugees admitted in that timeframe are “Muslim Sunni,” three “Muslim Shiite,” ten “Muslim,” and one as “other religion.”
The Obama administration claims it wants to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the US this year, which is far from the truth. After five years it hasn’t even resettled one thousand refugees... It is hard to believe the State Department can meet its international obligations in less than a year now.

According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the US ranks 14th worldwide in the number of refugees it hosted last year.
Lebanon is hosting the most refugees relative to its population, and is in fact far and away the leader. The UNHCR estimates that the 1.15 million refugees in Lebanon last year – nearly all of them fleeing the US-backed war on Syria – represent nearly 20 percent of that country’s population of 5.9 million. In second place is Jordan, where Syrian refugees represent more than 8 percent of the population.
In raw numbers, Turkey hosted more refugees than any other country last year: almost 2 million. However, refugees are not allowed to seek asylum there. Meaning, Turkey’s policy contributes to the surge of refugees into European Union countries with more liberal asylum standards.

Despite all of this, the US is supposed to be a haven for people fleeing war and persecution: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses," and all that nonsense. However, when it comes to practice, the US is not that great.

They sent the national-religious sector to the settlements
Nahum Barnea, YNet New Opinion, 3-3-2016

Jerusalem is becoming more ultra-Orthodox. “Who is responsible?” students will ask. “Who is to blame?” The teacher will answer them: “It depends on whom you ask. The ultra-Orthodox would say that is what the Almighty decided, the secularists would say that is what the Israeli governments decided.
They sent the national-religious sector to the settlements, the seculars to Mevasseret Zion, Ma’ale Adumim, Modi’in and Tel Aviv.

“The Messiah’s donkey”
Excerps from the book 'Sharon: The Life of a Leader'
by Gilad Sharon, Tablet 1-11-2011

My father [Ariel Sharon], from the moment he was appointed minister of agriculture in 1977, always did his utmost to aid the kibbutzim and farming villages, especially the ones far from the center of the country. ..
My father’s other role in Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s government was as chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements. In this role he put Likud policy and his own beliefs into practice. He founded many dozens of settlements in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, Galilee, the Golan Heights, the Negev, and in the Arava. ...

My father began to consolidate his thoughts on the matter of settlement in Judea and Samaria during his service as Yitzhak Rabin’s adviser. He believed that Israel could not under any circumstances afford to return to the June 4, 1967, lines. ...

The plan that my father drafted and brought before the government for approval offered solutions to several problems—Israel’s lack of depth along the coastal plain, its vulnerable eastern front, and the safeguarding of Jerusalem. ...
My father’s plan called for fortifying the hills to the west of the Jordan Valley with additional settlements, building a cross-Samaria road that would be protected by settlements and serve in a time of need as emergency routes for troops heading to the eastern front. ...
The third element of his plan was Jerusalem. The question was how to secure Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people... The solution my father presented was a ring of Jewish settlements around the city.

On Oct. 2, 1977, the Cabinet authorized the plan, putting it into motion. My father and his aide Uri Bar-On, a brigadier general in the reserves who was also a close friend, began surveying the terrain, mountain by mountain, hill by hill. ...
During the following four years my father spearheaded the effort to found 64 new settlements in Judea and Samaria.

But the rise of the Likud to power and the fact of his service in government were not enough to get the project off the ground. They needed people willing to settle the land, too. These were found in the form of the Gush Emunim loyalists.
These God-fearing religious nationalists felt that settling in the biblical land of Israel was a commandment of supreme importance. Years later, my father would remark with a smile that they viewed him as “the Messiah’s donkey,” the man who would help them realize their ideals and faith.

The ideological outlook of Gush Emunim has been described as messianic, fundamentalist, theocratic and right-wing.
Its beliefs were based heavily on the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who taught that secular Zionists, through their conquests of Eretz Israel, had unwittingly brought about the beginning of the Messianic Age, which would culminate in the coming of the messiah, which Gush Emunim supporters believe can be hastened through Jewish settlement on land they believe God has allotted to the Jewish people as set forth in the Hebrew Bible. (Wikipedia info)

Israeli authorities demolished 183 Palestinian buildings in February
Eyes on Europe and The Middle East, March 5, 2016

Zionist democracy: Creating a Jewish majority
in Judea-Samaria (Area C)
Useless subjects have the right to rule themselves
in a Bantustan-state (Palestine)
The Israeli occupation authorities demolished around 97 homes and 86 facilities in the occupied West Bank in February 2016 alone under the pretext of “illegal construction”, according to a statistical report released Thursday by the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).
The Palestinian Institute also said that demolition orders and orders to stop construction were issued to a further 139 Palestinian houses and facilities.
According to Aljazeera.Com throughout occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, some 90,000 Palestinians are facing potential displacement, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
An estimated 653 dunums of Palestinian land in various parts of the occupied West Bank are currently facing confiscation orders.

“The occupation has used the demolition policy as a way to put pressure on the Palestinians so to empty the region classified as Area C in the West Bank,” Ghassan Doughlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank said.
Doughlas added that the demolitions are part of a policy of “collective punishment”.

On Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians participated in a protest organised in the city of Negev, south of occupied Jerusalem, in solidarity with the people living in the villages of Atir and Umm Al-Hiran whose homes Israel decided to deport and demolish.

A Bantustan (also known as Bantu homeland, black homeland, black state or simply homeland) was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid.

Herzog: Radicals on left and right leading us to 'Israelstine'
Itamar Eichner, YNet News, 6-3-2016

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) went on the offensive against what he dubbed as "radicals" on the left and right, in an effort to promote his alternative diplomatic plan.
"The public is tired of hearing the radical left wing blaming Israel for the situation without offering solutions that maintain Israel's security, and the radical right wing that forces an unavoidable annexation of masses of Palestinians in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria," he said during a cultural event in Ramat Gan.
"That is why our separation plan is the only initiative that safeguards Israel's Jewish and democratic nature and ensures its security," Herzog asserted.
"The radical right and the radical left are babbling slogans that would lead us to Israelstine, a Jewish-Arab state from the Jordan to the sea," the opposition leader went on to say. "We're the only ones proposing a plan that could be implemented tomorrow morning, which would reduce the wave of terror attacks and change reality," he concluded.

Herzog: I want us to reach an agreement
that will leave us the blocs. Arutz Sheva, 8-2-2016

Yitzhak Herzog: "As long as (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu and Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - ed.) remain in power it is impossible to reach a two-state solution."
"The leadership of the right has no solution. (Jewish Home chairperson Naftali) Bennett has no solution. Annexing Area C will encourage more terror and more fences."
"My proposal is to conclude building the fence..." "We should keep the IDF in the territories and not repeat the mistake made in the (2005) Disengagement, but on the other hand (we should) give them, the Palestinians, more self-rule," he said.
Israel should limit down to the "blocs of settlement". "The victory of Zionism will be that the world recognizes the blocs, and foremost among them Gush Etzion, which I am personally connected to..."
"If we don't wake up now we will find ourselves faced with a binational state called 'Israestine.'
When I heard that Uri Ariel speaks about annexing Area C, I don't understand what he's saying. It's clear that will cause political damage. I myself come from religious Zionism, I want us to reach an agreement that will leave us the blocs. It can't be any other way, in the international reality we find ourselves in."

Abbas: Any who relinquish Jerusalem as Palestinian capital is a 'traitor'
By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 24-1-2016

Anyone who gives up Jerusalem is a traitor and there will be no Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said. He also reiterated his opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
Abbas was speaking during a meeting with Palestinian journalists.. He said the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders was “inevitable,” adding that the Palestinians would remain steadfast on their lands despite the challenges.
The Palestinian Authority leader said Palestinian diplomatic efforts were continuing to convene an international peace conference. He said the Arab countries supported the efforts.
He said the Palestinian leadership would go to the UN Security Council in a bid to halt construction in the settlements. Abbas noted that the move would be coordinated with Arab foreign ministers.
“We won’t agree to continue implementing the signed agreements with Israel if it continues to ignore these agreements,” he said. “Also, we won’t accept any temporary agreements that do not comply with our legitimate rights.”

Tunisians Ask Gov’t to Withdraw from Saudi Coalition over Blacklisting Hezbollah
Al-Manar News, 6-3-2016

The leader of 'En-Nahda Islamic movement' in Tunisia Rached Ghannouchi asserted on Saturday that it is impossible to label Hezbollah as a terrorist group because of the his historic achievements in liberating Lebanon and protecting it from the Zionist aggressions.
Although Hezbollah's role in Syria is controversial, we cannot generalize any label against the party, Ghannouchi added.

Meanwhile, a number of political parties in Tunisia demanded that the government withdraw from the Saudi-led coalition in the region over the decision to blacklist Hezbollah.
In Egypt, the founder of the 'Popular Current', Hamdeen Sabahi, greeted Hezbollah and his Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for confronting the Zionist occupation, noting that who has blacklisted the Resistance aims at stirring the Shiite-Sunnite sedition in the region.

Rached Ghannouchi doesn’t want an Islamic state in Tunisia. Robert Fisk, Independent 24-10-2012

“I don’t believe Tunisians want to change Islam but they want to be modern while being Muslims.
Islam is a modern religion, We don’t need any surgery on Islam to make it modern. From the beginning, Islam was a pluralistic religion.
From the beginning, Islam believed in freedom of religion and conscience, in the legitimacy of the state, in a contract between the citizens and the state.”

I was trying to convince [the Salafis] that constitutions are based not on what divides people, but what unites them.
I was trying to convince them that the revolution had provided them with freedom. Now they have freedom to operate in society and through community organisations, in the mosques and by setting up charities and associations.”

In Tunisia, the Ennahda movement, led by Rachid Ghannouchi, came second in the country's parliamentary 2014 election following the centrist Nidaa Tounes party of Beji Caid Essebsi, a former parliament spokesman under ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Hamdeen Sabahi: follower of Egypt's former socialist president Gamal Abdel Nasser
Ahram online/Aswat Masreya, 30 Sep 2012

Popular Egyptian leftist politician and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy (born 5 July 1954) said on Saturday he is confident a coalition of leftist groups [..] will be strong enough to defeat Islamists and win a parliament majority...
Sabahy is a staunch follower of Egypt's former socialist president Gamal Abdel Nasser, a popular pan-Arab-leader who had a powerful popularity base among Egyptians and Arabs in the 1950s and '60s but was hated by the West for his opposition to Israel, with which he fought two wars in 1956 and 1967.

"I am against using religion in politics and hence I will remain an opponent to Islamists but a decent opponent who would criticise their policies and run against them in elections but not ban or fight their existence," he said.

Al-Ahram, April 2012: "I have opposed both Sadat and Mubarak and criticised their policies. Under Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt abandoned its leading role in the Arab world to become a party to the US-Zionist vision for the region."

Iran and Turkey 'support Syrian ceasefire and territorial integrity'
Al-Araby, 6 March, 2016

Despite deep differences and backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, Iranian and Turkish leaders meeting in Tehran said they agree on de-escalating the war ahead of peace talks.
Both Tehran and Ankara support the current Syrian ceasefire and the preservation of Syria's unity, said Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. This comes following reports of a "Plan B" in Syria supported by some powers, which would involve some form of partition.
"There is no difference" between the two countries regarding stopping the war and "providing relief assistance to displaced people," also said the Iranian leader in remarks quoted on Sunday by government-owned 'Daily Iran'.
His remarks came during a meeting with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ahead of talks between the Syrian government and opposition later this month...
Turkey is a leading backer of the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran, along with Russia, has strongly backed Assad.

Turkey Rejects Plan to Partition Syria
Tasnim News Agency, March, 07, 2016

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus reiterated his country's rejection of the idea of partitioning war-torn Syria. In an interview with Saudi-funded Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday, Kurtulmus said that the Syrian people should have the final say on the fate of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad government, The Anadolu News Agency reported.

"What is happening [in Syria] is a new Sykes-Picot agreement," Kurtulmus said, referring to the secret agreement following World War I between Britain and France that defined their post-war spheres of influence in the Middle East. He said certain powers sought to impose a "new phase" of the agreement aimed at partitioning some countries in the region.
"The main focus of some [powers] is to divide Islamic countries along sectarian and ethnic lines in an attempt to create more problems between ethnic groups," he said.
He said certain parties were now speaking about dividing Syria into three distinct entities. "The fact is that Syria could be divided into 30 or 40 different parts," he said.
Kurtulmus called for bringing Syria’s various ethnic and religious groups together. "Our main focus is to protect Syria as a unified state," he asserted. He went on to urge different groups in Syria "to find the best way to participate in the search for a political solution" to the five-year-old conflict.

'Calmest Day' in Syria since Ceasefire
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 6-3-2016

Regions of Syria covered by a U.N.-brokered ceasefire Sunday enjoyed the "calmest day" since the truce started, a monitor said, as Moscow and Washington cautioned against any delay in resuming peace talks.
"Sunday was the calmest day since the ceasefire came into effect" on February 27, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
He said the exceptions were dozens of rockets fired by al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group excluded from the truce, and other rebel factions at Kurdish forces in the far north of the city of Aleppo.
Heavy bombardment struck territory held by al-Nusra and the Islamic State group, another jihadist faction not covered by the truce.

In Moscow, the defense ministry reported 15 ceasefire violations during the previous 24 hours, compared with nine on Saturday and 27 the day before.
U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura has said that peace talks between rebels and the Syrian regime are to resume on March 10.
Russia's foreign ministry said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a telephone call on Sunday welcomed "the sharp decline in violence" and warned against "any delay in starting the process" of negotiations.

Syria peace talks scheduled. HNC rejects federalism
Middle East Online, 8-3-2016

DAMASCUS - The Syrian government has been invited to a new round of peace talks with the opposition in Geneva from March 14. The negotiations will be the first held since an unprecedented ceasefire took hold on February 27 following an agreement between Russia and the United States.
The opposition's position on attending was unclear... HNC head Riad Hijab said his group would announce its decision later this week.
The HNC has said it represents nearly 100 rebel factions that have signed on to the truce for an initial two weeks. The truce will reach its two-week mark on March 12. Asked if the HNC would extend its commitment to the ceasefire, Hijab said the body would discuss the situation on the ground with opposition fighters "and based on this, we will make our decision."
Hijab rejected the prospect of putting in place a federal system in the war-torn country, warning that it would lead to partition.
"Syria's unity is a red line. This issue is non-negotiable and the idea of federalism is the prelude to the partitioning of Syria," Hijab told reporters. "This is completely unacceptable," he said.
"We agreed on the idea of administrative decentralisation" at the Riyadh conference in December 2015 when the HNC was formed.
Syria's Kurds, who have set up three autonomous regions since the outbreak of the war in 2011, back the idea of federalism.

Saudi Arabia’s Unholy War
Nasser Arrabyee, Carnegie Endowment, 3-3-2016

Adel al-Jubeir confirmed in a press briefing that the Saudi military, along with regional allies, has begun airstrikes against targets in Yemen. Al-Jubier said the bombing campaign was designed to protect what he described as the “legitimate government” of Yemen from rebel forces. (MintPress, 26-1-2015)

Houthi rebels

Since it began its war on the Houthis in March 2015, Saudi Arabia has justified its intervention as a broader holy duty to fight Shia and protect the government in exile.
Yet Yemenis increasingly view Saudi intervention more as a campaign—in which they are collateral—to upgrade Riyadh’s own influence and an ill-conceived effort to promote Mohammed Bin Salman as a powerful future Saudi king.
As such, Yemenis fail to see any moral or legal justification for the U.S.-backed Saudi war. What is evident to them is the deliberate destruction of people and capital... The airstrikes and blockade that form the core of Saudi Arabia’s strategy have increased anti-Saudi hatred, driving greater numbers of Yemenis to support the Houthis every day.

The war has done particular damage to infrastructure—including reservoirs, airports, electric power stations, bridges and roads, markets, factories, stadiums, and hospitals. The education sector has been hit especially hard, with 39 universities damaged, 810 primary and secondary schools damaged, and another 3,809 closed. About 85 percent of the population of 27 million is in dire need of food, water, medicine, and fuel. Over 2.5 million Yemenis are displaced, and the attacks have killed or injured more than 23,000 civilians...

Despite this devastation, Riyadh has failed to achieve its strategic goals. Its primary targets, Abdelmalek al-Houthi and Ali Abdullah Saleh, remain unharmed and able to move about the country relatively freely, and almost all well-known Houthi leaders are still alive.
On Houthi-seized military bases, ballistic missiles—including SCUD, Tochka, and Qaher-1 missiles—are still intact and in use. As Saudis fail to take out targeted Houthis, it becomes clear that they lack a cohesive strategy or even the required intelligence to carry out operations within Yemen...
In many ways the unrecognized government under Mohammed Ali al-Houthi is in a better position domestically than President Hadi and his Saudi-backed government. Hadi, currently in Riyadh, has become completely dependent on external support.
By contrast, the Houthis, though they lack international legitimacy, have seen their popularity rise with every Saudi airstrike... Many tribesmen—especially from the six provinces surrounding the capital Sanaa—signed the Houthi “tribal honor charter” in October 2015 to confront Saudi aggression.
The Houthis aimed to have more than one million Yemenis back the charter through public rallies in cities and villages across the country, particularly in Taiz and Mareb.

Tribal Honor Convention to Bolster National Principles and Interests
SABA, Yemen News Agency, 17-11-2015

The country has been experiencing extremely unusual circumstances under the Saudi atrocious aggressive which is largely identified with the American-Zionist desires and objectives aiming to destroy any society that holds a free national attitude against colonization and imperial control over the region's peoples, resources and decision.
Given that the aggression on Yemen has amounted to war crimes and genocide against the humanity, seriously damaging everything in the urban and rural areas [..] the Yemeni tribes have decided to endorse this document (Convention) of Tribal Honor... The Convention of Tribal Honor is based on the following bases:

- Social solidarity Principle: We, the free men of Yemen, pronounce that we are one single nation...
- Renouncing Declaration: The Yemen tribes belonging to Qahtan and Adnan [..] declare that they are strongly denouncing the aggression on Yemen, condemning the attackers and renouncing everyone who contribute to the aggression or support, incite or proved in favor.
- Legal Penalties: Legal articles need to be established to stipulate that collaborators shall never be allowed to represent the Yemeni people in the official and popular forums... The collaborators shall be stripped of the rights to brotherhood, neighborhood, protection, companionship and citizenship..
- General Reconciliation: Yemeni tribes agree to postpone all differences and conflicts between all the Yemeni people, excepting those referred to in this Convention earlier, as deserving sanctions.

Ali al-Houthi: “Those who hold the authoritarian ideology
spread chaos everywhere.”
Charlene Rodrigues, Independent, 9 October 2015

Ali al-Houthi: "The role of the ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arab region is to undermine all existing entities, and to strike the nation, to ready for a direct occupation by America and Israel. This is the role of ISIS and al-Qaeda. This is what it is meant to be..." Saba News, 17-2-2016

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi is the leader of the group that has plunged Yemen into civil war since it seized Sanaa as part of its takeover in January.
He saves much of his scorn not for the Saudi Arabian government, which is fighting the Houthi on many fronts in Yemen, but for America.
He says: “We believe from the start of the war, the person responsible for what is happening in Yemen is the US.
They are the ones who are instigating Saudi Arabia to fight us. America creates foreign policy for the world and gets the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] to adopt it. We are also a group of Yemeni people with values and principles of the Yemeni people, united with Yemenis against injustice.”
Mr Ali Houthi adds: “Yemenis are civilised people who believe in democracy. Those who hold the authoritarian ideology spread chaos everywhere.”
When asked about the claimed financial backing of the Houthis by Tehran, Mr Ali Houthi is unequivocal. “If I had Iran’s financial support, I would be in Riyadh now,” he says. “In this war, did you see any Iranian rockets leave from Yemen? Did you see us driving Iranian tanks? Did you see us driving armed vehicles from Iran?

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen along with the party of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, despite bombing raids from a Saudi-led Sunni Gulf coalition, have said they have informed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of their readiness to join talks.
We know that the solution should always be with talks,” Mr Ali Houthi says. “We believe any war in the world can only end with national dialogue.”

Saudi in Secret Talks with Yemen’s Houthis
Al-Manar News, 8-3-2016

Saudi Arabia has held direct secret talks with Yemen’s Houthis and agreed to more negotiations in the Jordanian capital, a London-based newspaper, Rai al-Youm, reported.
The newspaper, edited by prominent Palestinian journalist Abdul Bari Atwan, said on Tuesday that the two sides may hold their next negotiations in a week.Yemen strike
UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has informed the United Nations' under-secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman of the talks in a secret letter, the daily said, noting that it had received a copy of the letter.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reportedly supervises the talks which have excluded Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the report said...
The alleged negotiations suggest Riyadh's submission to Houthi demands. The group has maintained that any talks must be held with the Saudis as their main adversary in the war, and not with Hadi.

Iran's president praises ex-leader Khatami, defying media ban
DUBAI | By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Reuters 8-3-2016

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Monday praised a reformist predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, for helping reformists and moderates to triumph in February elections, defying a media ban on any mention of the ex-leader who championed detente with the West.
Rouhani and his allies made big gains in Feb. 26 elections to parliament and a clerical body that will elect the next Supreme Leader, though the conservative Islamic establishment retains decisive power in the country.
Like Khatami before him, Rouhani faces stiff resistance from conservative hardliners to his efforts to open up Iran to the outside world and to push for political and social reforms.
Iran's media are banned from publishing the name or images of Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005. But Khatami, still one of Iran's most popular politicians, managed to publish a five-minute video on social media before last month's elections that are credited with swinging the balance in favor of the reformists and moderates backing Rouhani.
"No one can silence those who served the nation," Rouhani told a crowd on Monday in Khatami's home city of Yazd in central Iran, referring to the former president as his "dear brother". His remarks, broadcast live on state television, drew prolonged cheers from the crowd.

Asked about the media ban on Khatami, Rouhani said: "It's a complete lie that the National Security Council has banned the publication of anyone's photo. The National Security Council has no such directive and if anyone claims otherwise, he is breaking the law."
But the spokesman for Iran's judiciary promptly reacted to Rouhani's comments and said the ban was still in place. "Khatami's media ban is a judicial order ... Whoever violates it will be prosecuted," Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

Flashback 2007: "Hard-liners in the U.S. and Iran
should no longer dictate the terms of division"

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi are among several key Iranian public figures saying that only direct, unconditional talks with the U.S. can ease spiraling tensions.

Mr. Khatami – the reformist cleric who was twice elected in landslide victories – and Ms. Ebadi – a human rights lawyer who just launched a National Peace Council – are suggesting that hard-liners in the U.S. and Iran should no longer dictate the terms of division.
"The solution is for both sides to resort to logic, refrain from provocative rhetoric, and put the emphasis on negotiations," Khatami told the Monitor. "We have no choice but to overcome misunderstandings that mostly stem from the meddling of the U.S. (in the Middle East) and its wrong policies in Iran," said Khatami. "We can find common interests in the region and the world. And we can also avoid actions that would be damaging to both sides."

"Attacking Iraq was beyond international rules, and (the U.S.) should not make the same mistake regarding Iran," said Ebadi . "Both governments (Iran and the U.S.) should change their dialogue, bring down their rhetoric and reduce tensions."

The framework for a "grand bargain" that would have addressed all outstanding issues emerged in spring 2003 with a two-page fax from Tehran to Washington. The offer was ignored by a U.S. administration emboldened by the swift fall of Saddam Hussein. (Teheran Times 2-12-2007)

"Bush administration hard-liners killed the peace effort in 2003. The Iranian proposal was promising and certainly should have been followed up. The moderate camp in Iran was discouraged and discredited when the U.S. rejected its “grand bargain” proposal..." Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times, 28-4-2007

Putin Offers Women's Day Greetings
Sputnik News, 8-3-2016

In a special address dedicated to International Women's Day, President Vladimir Putin warmly commended Russian women for the beauty, brightness and hope they bring into the world:

"Dear women, I sincerely commend you on this International Women's Day, which is marked with special warmth in Russia, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. It is filled with gifts and flowers, as well as the kindest feelings towards our mothers, wives, daughters and colleagues – women who all are close to our hearts," he said.
"Women give us life; they warm us with their love, support and care. It is a woman's dignity and mercy which reveal the true [nature of the] Russian soul," he pointed out.
He expressed special gratitude to Russia's surviving female World War II veterans who helped men prevail over the enemy... He also pointed to a whole array of positive moments that Russian women have brought to the world.

"You, our dear women, possess a unfathomable secret: you do everything on time and cope with a huge load of worries while looking tender, charming and amazing. You bring goodness, beauty, brightness and hopefulness to the world. We are proud of you and we love you," Putin concluded...

Israel: A noble experiment, but a failure.
David M. Gordis, Tikkun, 22-2-2016

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is nearing a half century in duration. Netanyahu’s “facts on the ground” steps to make a two-state solution impossible are bearing fruit, and there still appears to be no significant opposition to these policies in Israel itself.
A number of smaller organizations supporting a two-state solution have emerged, notably J-Street and Americans for Peace Now, but recent steps by the Israeli government to delegitimize these groups are proceeding. The bottom line as I see it: The right has triumphed; the left has been defeated.

The Israel of today is very far from anything I dreamed of and worked for throughout my career.
I can clearly remember the day in 1948 when the State of Israel was established. I was in the fourth grade at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn. The entire school was summoned to the schoolyard in celebration of the momentous occasion.... Israel was to be the great laboratory for the rebirth of an ancient tradition in a new land and in a country committed to being a model of democracy and freedom for the world...
What happened? We can debate the reasons but the bottom line for me is that it has gone terribly wrong.
On the positive side, Israel’s accomplishments have been remarkable. Israel has created a thriving economy... Israel has generated a rich and diverse cultural life and its scientific and educational achievements have been exemplary. In spite of these achievements, however, Israel in my view has gone astray.

"It is in the area for which Israel was created, as a Jewish state, embodying and enhancing Jewish values that I see this failure. Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary.

Throughout history, at its best, Jewish life and thought have successfully navigated between three pairs of values that are in tension with one another.
- First, the Jewish experience has balanced the rational with the affective, the assertion with the question, where often the question emerges as the more important.
Second, it has embraced both particularism with universalism, probing Jewish interiorities but looking out to the larger world, recognizing the common humanity of all people.
Third, it has shaped positions which looked to the past for sources and inspiration but at the same time it projected a vision for a world transformed in the future into something better than its current reality.

These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best.

Back to Ezra: The Father of Religious Zionism

Judah during the 9th and 8th centuries BCE was basically polytheistic, with Yahweh operating as a national god in the same way that surrounding nations each had their own national gods. The Exile allowed the worship of "Yahweh-alone" to emerge as the dominant theology.
The most important development in the post-Exilic period was the promotion and eventual dominance of the idea and practice of Jewish exclusivity, the idea that the Jews, meaning followers of the god of Israel and of the law of Moses), were, or should be, a race apart from all others.
Ezra (480–440 BC), also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem. The most serious problem Ezra faced was the age-old practice of intermarriage between Jews and their neighbors. Intermarriage inevitably meant the dissolution of the nation of Israel and therefore of the covenant people.
National existence depended on the ability of the (leading) men of Judah to build a social wall around themselves, more than on constructing a physical wall around Jerusalem. A solemn assembly was called to deal with the situation, and a radical solution was adopted..: "put away" the foreign women and the mixed-blood children. This internal wall-building preceded the erection of the defensive wall that soon occurred under Nehemiah.
After the breakup of the mixed families, the people of the land knew that the returned exiles would not assimilate, but had come among them as a nation apart, a people that viewed themselves as superior to all other men on earth, a people who would not cooperate on projects of common welfare or "be reasonable" regarding social conventions of marriage, worship and government..." (

Right wing control in Israel is stronger and more entrenched than ever. The establishment leadership in the American Jewish community is silent in the face of this dismal situation, and there are no recognizable trends that can move Israel out of this quagmire.
So, sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure.

David Gordis is President Emeritus of Hebrew College where he served as President and Professor of Rabbinics for fifteen years. He is currently Visiting Senior Scholar at the University at Albany of the State University of New York.
Tikkun is a magazine dedicated to healing and transforming the world. We seek writing that gives us insight on how to make that utopian vision a reality. We build bridges between religious and secular progressives by delivering a forceful critique of all forms of exploitation, oppression, and domination while nurturing an interfaith vision of a caring society — one whose institutions are reconstructed on the basis of love, generosity, nonviolence, social justice, caring for nature, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe..

Almost Half of Israeli Jews Back Transfer or Expulsion of Arabs
Haaretz, March 08, 2016

About half of Israel’s Jews support the transfer of Arabs to other countries, according to a survey by the American Pew Research Center published Tuesday. The poll was conducted among Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis from the end of 2014 until the middle of 2015, before the latest wave of terror.
The result, among the Jewish respondents: Twenty-one percent “strongly agree” and 27 percent “mostly agree.” If those two groups are combined, about half of Israeli Jews questioned – 48 percent – support transfer of Arab citizens.

Among religious Jewish citizens, the percentage who agree to expulsion, according to the poll, is higher than among Jewish Israelis as a whole: Seventy-one percent among the religious community, 69 percent among the ultra-Orthodox and 54 percent of traditional Jews support transfer.
In the secular community the trend is the opposite: A majority, 58 percent, oppose expulsion, while more than one-third (37 percent) are in favor.

Only correct slogan: save the country and the people
TASS News Agency, March 09, 2016

Over 100 villages reconcile in Syria: government
By Leith Fadel - Al-Masdar 09/03/2016

The countrywide ceasefire has surprisingly been successful as Syrian government officials report over 100 villages have now agreed to reconcile after several years of war and instability. According to a source from the Syrian government, the majority of the reconciliation agreements have taken place in the Hama Governorate, where several groups recently settled their differences in exchange for peace.
In the Damascus countryside, a Russian peace delegation is working to reconcile the rebel groups and the Syrian government forces in the Qudsiyah suborb after several failed attempts in the past between the two parties.
Representatives of Syrian opposition movements, clergy and armed groups have established an action group to draft the country’s new constitution, according to their joint statement adopted on Tuesday at a meeting in Khmeimim where Russia’s Center for the reconciliation of the Syrian warring sides is located.
The meeting was attended, in particular, by representatives of the National Congress for a Secular Syria party, the movement for Democratic Syria and prominent public figures:
"We believe that the main task on the way towards Syria’s political settlement is the joint work on drafting the country’s new constitution, which will ensure the existence and prosperity of a strong, democratic, independent and secular Syria with respect for the rights of every citizen, regardless of his ethno-confessional or religious affiliation", the statement says.
"We call on all patriotic movements, parties and organizations to join this work and start the restoration of confidence."
"All Syrian patriots should drop their ambitions, selfish interests and unite under the only correct slogan of saving the country and the people of Syria," the participants of the meeting said.
Representatives of the Syrian opposition said they intended to take part in the extensive inter-Syrian dialogue under the UN auspices in Geneva, Switzerland, adding that "only the involvement of all the national patriotic forces in the Syrian peace process will create the necessary conditions for the national unification and reconciliation."

The ceasefire in Syria came into effect on February 27. The truce does not apply to the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra extremist groups (outlawed in Russia) and other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council...
On February 23, Russia announced the establishment of the Reconciliation Center at the Khmeimin airbase in the Latakia Province. The US established a similar center in Amman (the capital city of Jordan).

Saudi Arabia Could Turn Page if Iran Changes Policies
Adel al-Jubeir: Khomeini was NOT a moderate
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 9-3-2016

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies could turn a page and build strong relations with Iran if it respects them and stops "meddling" in their affairs, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Wednesday.
"If Iran changes its way and its policies, nothing would prevent turning a page and building the best relationship based on good neighborliness, with no meddling in the affairs of others," he told reporters in Riyadh.
"Iran is a neighboring Muslim country that has a great civilization and a friendly people, but the policies that followed the revolution of (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini have been aggressive," he said.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf nations accuse Iran of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen, as well as attempting to destabilize their own regimes. They also support rebels in Syria's five-year-old war while Tehran openly backs the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Islamic Awakening and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Political Thought
Hamzeh Nejati Arani - Islamic Document Center

Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (born: 24 september 1902 ) was the pioneer of Islamic Awakening.
In a condition that complete despair had dominated Islamic societies, Khomeini declared that establishment of Islamic government is not only possible but wajib (obligatory).
While the fundamentalists chanted slogans on return to pure Islam and its forgotten principles and values as well as the models of early Islam, Khomeini was after revival of religious thinking, fundamental changes in the current interactions and relations, revolutionary change in status quo, and taking an independent Islamic way towards modernization and development in order to achieve the utopia.
Taking the requirements of the time into consideration, Khomeini had in his mind establishment of an Islamic government in a Muslim country through revolution - in which a group of Muslim elites led by Valie Faqih engage in enlightening and then inciting the masses - and then export it to other Islamic territories via supporting Islamic movements...
Khomeini said, “We want what happened in Iran, the awakening that happened in Iran, to be repeated in all nations and governments..."

Islamic Revolution Values:
Nurture faithful and resistant people who are willing to undertake Jihad for the sake of God. Invalidate the myth of “separation of religion and government” or “separation of religion and politics”. Revive the thought of Islamic unity. Reintroduce Sharia as Divine rules. Reintroduce Holy Jihad against all idols and stimulate the willingness for martyrdom for the sake of God.

His revolutionary vision of theocratic government was in stark contrast to quietist Shiism that called for withdrawal from political life, or at least government, until the return of the Mahdi. And needless to say it was also in conflict with the hopes and plans of Iran's democratic secularists and Islamic leftists. (Wikipedia)

Scholars commemorate Iraj Afshar, promotor of Iranology
Tehran Times Culture Desk, 10-3-2016

TEHRAN – Iranian scholars gathered at the National Library and Archives of Iran (NLAI) on Tuesday to commemorate the name and memoirs of the historian scholar and manuscript expert Iraj Afshar (1925 – 2011) on his 90th birth anniversary.
Iraj Afshar was the chief bibliographer of Persian books at Harvard University. Afshar was associated with UNESCO and taught at the University of Bern and Tehran University.
The ceremony opened with the message of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, in which she said that the role of Afshar in the promotion of Iranology in the world was regarded as inimitable.
Bokova noted her awareness that the master inherited his spirit of sacrifice for Persian culture and literature from his father’s love for Iran and the Persian language.
In his short speech at the ceremony, NLAI Director Seyyed Reza Salehi-Amiri said: “It is our duty to respect the great figures of this country..." “The youth must know that the culture of today is indebted to the great roots of the past...”

Iranian studies
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Be relentless in striving for the cause of good
Bring the spring, you must. Banish the winter, you should.”

Iranian studies, also referred to as Iranology and Iranistics, is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of history, literature, art and culture of Iranian peoples.
The discipline of Iranian Studies focuses on broad trends in culture, history, language and other aspects of not only Persians, but also a variety of other contemporary and historical Iranian peoples, such as Azeris, Kurds, Lurs, Gilakis, Talysh, Pashtuns, Ossetians, Baluchis, Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Parthians, Sogdians, Bactrians, Mazandaranis, etc.

The medieval Iranian poet Ferdowsi, author of the Iranian national epic the Shahnameh, can be considered the "founder" of Iranian studies in the sense that in his work he made a deliberate effort to highlight Persian culture prior to the Arab conquests.
In this sense Ferdowsi's nationalistic approach can be contrasted with that of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, whose History of the Prophets and Kings reflects a more specifically Islamic perspective.

Distinction and Creativity Agency: investing in intellect
Syrian Arab News Agency, 10-3-2016

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad issued on Thursday Law no. 11 for 2016 establishing a scientific agency for supporting creative individuals named the 'Distinction and Creativity Agency'.
The Agency will scout for distinguished creative talents and provide them with support, as well as providing education for students who excel in basic education using special curricula and programs.
It seeks to direct and unite the sides that find, sponsor, encourage, and care for talented, gifted, and creative individuals.
The Agency will be based in Damascus, and will be affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education while still enjoying financial and administrative independence.

Asma Assad, meeting students

Anti-Intellectualism: a trademark of totalitarianism

Anti-intellectualism is a trademark of totalitarian regimes -- like the military junta in 1960s Argentina or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, where people could be killed for wearing glasses, a sign, apparently, of intellect... (Wikipedia info)

Anti-Intellectualist: definition
1. a person opposed to or hostile toward intellectuals and the modern academic, artistic, social, religious, and other theories associated with them.
2. a person who believes that intellect and reason are less important than actions and emotions in solving practical problems and understanding reality.

Where common sense failes, ordinary people are the victims

Fars-NA, 10-3-2016: Pictures above show residents beginning to return to the suburbs of Damascus following the implementation of the ceasefire. Residents who have returned to the region have been provided with humanitarian aid from the Syrian Red Crescent, Red Cross and the Russian Armed Forces.

Saleh’s party welcomes ‘any efforts’ aimed at ending Yemen war .
Middle East Monitor, 10 March 2016

The General People's Congress (GPC), led by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, welcomed on Wednesday any efforts aimed at ending the ongoing war in Yemen, Anadolu reported.
This news came following reports of a “truce” being reached along the border of Saudi Arabia and Yemen led by tribal and community leaders.
The official news website for Saleh reported an unnamed official as saying: “The GPC supports comprehensive peace and welcomes any efforts leading to the end of the war and all forms of internal hostilities in Yemen, including the halt of military acts on the Saudi-Yemeni borders.”

Saleh’s party, which has heavily criticised Saudi Arabia, described the Saudis as “brothers”. It also said that Saleh has “personally” called for direct dialogue between Yemen and Saudi based on his recognition that there must be a dialogue between the two.
A Saudi-led coalition started an extensive air campaign targeting Houthi militias, a group the GPC is accused of allying with.
The GPC said that it is “calling for peace” and is “against all wars”. It noted that “accepting peace does not mean submission and giving up the right to self-defence

The General People's Congress is a political party in Yemen. It was founded on 24 August 1982 in Sana'a, Yemen, by Ali Abdullah Saleh. The party is dominated by a nationalist line, and its official ideology is Arab nationalism, seeking Arab unity.

Yemen's Ousted President Is Still a Stumbling Block for Saudis
by Nafeesa Syeed, Bloomberg News, February 28, 2016

Saudi leaders still insist that regime change in Syria is their goal. In Yemen, a regime they’ve already changed remains a thorn in the kingdom’s side.
The Saudis helped broker a deal that ousted Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh four years ago. Now, the Saudi military is bogged down in a war in its neighbor, and Saleh is playing a key role in the resistance... He’s a former Saudi and U.S. ally. Yet in alliance with the rebels he’s proved tough to defeat, raising questions about whether the world’s top oil exporter is capable of imposing its will in the region.
The Saudis are focused very sharply on: how do we remove him from being an element in any future equation in Yemen?” said Stephen Seche, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen. “That’s a very difficult chore. I don’t know that Ali Abdullah Saleh will ever leave Yemen.”
The ex-president never disappeared from Yemen’s TV screens, even after his ouster. In 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital, they had support from army units still loyal to their former boss.
Saleh is “the main player in the conflict,” and the Houthis wouldn’t have been able to expand outside their northern base without his help, Abdulmalik al-Mikhlafi, deputy premier and foreign minister in Hadi’s government, said in an interview. “
He continues to provide them with the arms depots which he amassed during decades of rule,” as well as cash, and the backing of tribal and political allies, al-Mikhlafi said.
On Feb. 17 Saleh appeared on Yemeni television saying he had enough weapons to carry on the fight for 11 years.

Mubarak's foreign minister elected Arab League chief
Al-Araby|The New Arab, 11 March, 2016

The Arab League on Thursday elected Mubarak-era foreign minister and veteran diplomat Ahmed Abul Gheit as its new secretary general.
Aboul Gheit served as Egypt’s foreign minister during the final seven years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, leaving his post in 2011, following the mass protests that toppled the ageing ruler. Qatar welcomed Mubarak’s fall and supported Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, who was elected in 2012 and overthrown a year later by the army after protests against his rule.
Abul Gheit who was the only candidate for the position was opposed by Qatar due to his "hostile positions" towards Doha, Arab diplomats said, in a sign of divisions within the pan-Arab body.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani expressed Doha's "reservations" over Abul Gheit but voiced hope the next secretary general "will maintain contact between all Arab countries in the interest of joint Arab action."

A U.S. judge ruled Iran and al-Qaida collaborated
to carry out the Sep. 11, 2001, terror attacks
Telesur News, 11-3-2016

A New York judge has ordered the state of Iran to pay more than US$10 billion in damages to the families of people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, despite a lack of evidence that Tehran had any hand in attacks that were perpetrated by members of al-Qaida.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels said Iran has failed to provide evidence that it did not aid those who carried out the attacks. But Iran has not participated in any of the court proceedings and hearings.

Calling the ruling “absurd” and “an evil joke”, Hossein Sheikholeslam, a senior aide to Iran’s parliamentary speaker, told the Russian outlet Sputnik that “Iran never took part in any court hearings related to the events of Sep. 11, 2001.”
It is important to note that none of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Iranian citizens. Fifteen were citizens of Saudi Arabia, while two were from the United Arab Emirates, and one each were from Egypt and Lebanon.
Even more controversially, the same judge ruled last year that Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s key allies in the Middle East, did not provide any material support to the attackers and was cleared from paying billions of dollars to the victims’ families.
Judge Daniels also said that Saudi Arabia has sovereign immunity, which does not seem to be the case when it comes to Iran.

The ruling shows the judge has limited knowledge of the relationship between Iran and al-Qaida.
The extremist group – along with its late Saudi leader, Osama bin Laden – adheres to the radical Salafi Sunni sect of Islam, which is in fundamental disagreement with Shiite Islam, the form of Islam the Iranian state adheres to.
In fact, al-Qaida's Islamic vision is closer to the Saudi kingdom’s religious identity as both see Shiites as apostates and non-Muslims; facts put forward by Emad Abshenas, the editor-in-chief of Iran Press, duing an interview with Sputnik Persian.
“The people who committed those terrorist attacks were neither friends nor allies of Iran. They were our sworn enemies, members of al-Qaida, which considers Iran as their enemy.”
He added that most of the attackers were either Saudi citizens or residents “who lived in Saudi Arabia and enjoyed Saudi support.

Islamic State Threatens Hizbullah, Lebanese Officials,
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 12-3-2016

The Islamic State extremist group released a video in which two of its Lebanese members threaten various Lebanese officials, as well as Hizbullah. The video showed the two members urging Lebanon's Sunnis to “revolt,” while saying that Hizbullah is “the source of crime and oppression in the country.” <

“The Syrian regime invaded Lebanon primarily through Arab consent and secondarily through the crusaders' blessing,” they said of western officials.
The video also showed images of Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Salman, accusing him of purchasing millions of dollars worth of weapons for the army and security forces that “have no purpose but to kill Sunnis.”
The IS accused these sides of “corruption and terror” and paving the way for Hizbullah to strengthen its grasp over Lebanon.
The IS video was released by the “media office of the Raqqa emirate” in Syria.

Hizbullah - Lebanon

Arab League Labels Hizbullah 'Terrorist' amid Lebanon, Iraq Reservations
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 11-3-2016

Arab League foreign ministers on Friday declared Hizbullah a "terrorist" group, days after Arab interior ministers and the Gulf Cooperation Council issued similar resolutions.
Nearly all members of the pan-Arab body supported the decision, but not Lebanon and Iraq which expressed "reservations", the bloc said in a statement read out at a news conference by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar.

Earlier in the day, the Saudi delegation briefly withdrew from discussions to protest against Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's refusal to label Hizbullah as terrorist.
“Hizbullah enjoys wide representation in Lebanon and it is a main component in the country,” Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil announced after the meeting in Cairo. “We voiced reservations because the resolution was not in line with the Arab anti-terror treaty,” he added.
The Arab League's move follows a similar one by the Saudi-led GCC, which has designated Hizbullah as terrorist over alleged "terrorist acts and incitement in Syria, Yemen and in Iraq."
Hezbollah criticized the GCC resolution as "irresponsible and hostile."

Arab League & NATO: Extremist (i.e. armed) Sunni brigades are the real Syrian government

Does Hezbollah Threaten Arab National Security?
Alwaght News (Iran), Thursday 10 March 2016

Does Hezbollah pose a threat to Arab national security...? Before answering this question we must determine the threats that have shaken the ground beneath the Arab world.

The first threat that some Arabs tend to forget or intentionally disregard is the Israeli regime, which marks the biggest danger facing Arab national security. The Israeli regime has been Arabs’ greatest enemy since its inception...
The second threat, which also fights for the same principles as that of the Israeli regime, only under another banner, is the outbreak of what has been labelled as terrorism. Terrorist groups, namely ISIS, Al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front have wreaked havoc across Arab states including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, killing in the name of the religion that most Arabs believe in: Islam.
Now that the sides that pose a threat to Arab national security have been named, it is imperative to compare the role of the PGCC, but most importantly that of the Saudi regime, and that of Hezbollah in order to reach a conclusion as to who is threatening this security.

Hezbollah has been fighting against the Israeli regime, a constant and imminent threat to Arab security.
Since its formation in the 80’s Hezbollah has engaged in several wars against Israeli occupation, each time succeeding in bringing the enemy to its knees and restoring what remains of Arab pride.
In the year 2000, Hezbollah fighters liberated South Lebanon from Israeli occupation that lasted for over two decades. In 2006, the resistance group defeated the Israelis in a 33-day war. Since then, several attacks have targeted Israeli tanks along the border with occupied Palestine. On the other side of the balance, the weight of Saudi accomplishments against the Israeli occupation amount to zero.

Hezbollah has also taken up arms against the other face of terrorism.
In Syria, the group has been helping the Syrian army in its battle against extremism. Hezbollah fighters have been heading to neighboring Syria and sacrificing their lives so that other Arabs can live, so that terrorism does not take the upper hand there and further spread in the region.
Meanwhile, Persian Gulf states generally, but chiefly Riyadh, have been funding and providing sustenance for armed Islamist brigades who have been fighting against the [pan-Arab] government of Syrian President Bashar Assad since 2011—as part of a regional project to weaken Syria and Iraq and ultimately the axis of resistance.

Lebanon: Hezbollah overwhelms ISIS in east Lebanon
Al-Masdar News, 12-3-2016

Hezbollah continued where the Lebanese Army left off on Friday, striking the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) defensive positions in the Ba’albak Highlands.
The powerful assault began with heavy artillery fired by the Lebanese Resistance towards ISIS’ defenses at Azwaytina and the Mosul Heights in the Ba’albak Highlands; this resulted in the destruction of several mechanisms belonging to the aforementioned terrorist group in east Lebanon.
Following the artillery strike, Hezbollah carried out a ground assault at Khirbat Beit Al-Agha and the Mosul Heights, killing several ISIS fighters en route to their advance in this mountainous area of Ras Ba’albak.
Hezbollah would also target ISIS’ positions in the Jaroud Qa’a area, where ISIS has been trying to build a strong presence at near the Al-Qusayr border-crossing.

In addition to Hezbollah’s ground assault, the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) reportedly assisted the Lebanese Resistance with several airstrikes on the Syrian-Lebanese border, hitting ISIS targets at Jaroud Jarajeer, Jaroud Qarah, and Jaroud Rankous.

Obama & the Free Riders
By Daniel Larison, American Conservative, March 10, 2016

Obama’s Atlantic interviews on foreign policy contain some interesting remarks. The New York Times summarizes some of his views this way:

President Obama believes that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, needs to learn how to “share” the region with its archenemy, Iran, and that both countries are guilty of fueling proxy wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
In a series of interviews with The Atlantic magazine Mr. Obama said a number of American allies in the Persian Gulf — as well as in Europe — were “free riders,” eager to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts that sometimes had little to do with American interests..

That’s all very well, but it doesn’t explain why his administration has been backing the Saudis in their Yemen campaign for almost a year or why he has repeatedly allowed the “free riders” to get away with this behavior over the last seven years.
One looks in vain for any mention in Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic article that the U.S. has been supporting the Saudi-led campaign and otherwise indulging the Gulf states in their fear and loathing of Iran.
Obama claims to be “frustrated” by the Saudis, but seems more than willing to cater to most of their demands...
To listen to what he says, one would never guess that his administration has been providing arms, fuel, and intelligence to assist a bombing campaign that has killed thousands and wounded tens of thousands of civilians.
Obama criticizes the “free riders” in the Gulf while encouraging them in their worst instincts and habits...
The U.S. isn’t “coming in and using our military power to settle scores” exactly, but the US is lending aid to the Saudis and their allies as they pursue their unrealistic objectives in Yemen.

U.S. support for the war on Yemen is one of the blackest marks on Obama’s foreign policy record...

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem: Assad Ouster 'Red Line'
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 12-3-2016

Syria's warring sides clashed over the fate of President Bashar Assad on Saturday, with the government vowing his ouster remains a "red line" for looming peace talks while the opposition vowed to see him go -- dead or alive.

Assad = The Army - The Constitution - The Baath Party

The UN-brokered, indirect negotiations due to begin in Geneva on Monday.. Government negotiators are expected in Geneva on Sunday, where delegates from the main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) are already preparing.
But questions have been raised over whether the fresh talks will be more successful than the last round, which collapsed in February, as the two sides wrangled over the president's future.
"We will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency... Bashar al-Assad is a red line," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told a Damascus news conference. "If they continue with this approach, there's no reason for them to come to Geneva," he said.

Assad = The Grand Mufti - International Law - Syrian Technocrats

The HNC has repeatedly called for Assad's departure as a prerequisite for any deal, and chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush said the president must go for peace talks to stand a chance.
"We believe that the transitional period should start with the fall, or death, of Bashar Assad," he told Agence France Presse in a joint interview in Geneva. "It cannot start with the presence of the regime, or the head of this regime still in power."
The HNC has called for the creation of a transitional body with full executive powers.

Libya & The Four Governments
Press TV, 13-3-2016

Benghazi 2016

Libyan Blues - by Daniel Pipes, 22-8-2011

The NATO intervention in March 2011 was done without due diligence as to who it is in Benghazi that it was helping.
To this day, their identity is a mystery. Chances are good that Islamist forces are hiding behind more benign elements, waiting for the right moment to pounce... Should that be the case in Libya today, then .. Qaddafi will prove to be better than his successors...
I hope I am wrong and the rebels are modern and liberal. But I fear that Western forces will have brought civilization's worst enemies to power...

Libya’s UN-backed Presidential Council has called on all institutions in the crisis-hit country to help facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the interim unity government it proposed last month.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Tunis-based council (government 1), which is tasked with guiding the nation through a transition to end the political chaos in Libya, further urged the global community to stop dealing with those Libyan parties that seek to hinder the formation of a unity government.
The council urged “all Libyan sovereign and public institutions and the heads of financial bodies to start communicating immediately with the Government of National Accord so as to hand over power in a peaceful and orderly manner.”

Last month, the council nominated the Government of National Accord, also known as the unity government, as part of the Libyan Political Agreement, which was signed in Morocco on 17 December 2015.
However, the recognition of the proposed cabinet has been held up as the eastern House of Representatives (HOR), has so far failed to approve it.

Since August 2014, when militias seized the capital Tripoli, Libya has had two parliaments and two governments with one, the General National Congress (GNC), run by rebels (government 2) in the capital, and the internationally-recognized administration in Tobruk (government 3).
Taking advantage of the political chaos, the Daesh terrorist group took control of Libya’s northern port city of Sirte in June 2015 (government 4), almost four months after it announced its presence in the city, and made it the first city to be ruled by the militant group outside of Iraq and Syria.

Putin Orders Start of Russian Forces Withdrawal from Syria
By Reuters - Information Clearing House, 14-3-2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he was instructing his armed forces to start pulling out of Syria, over five months after he ordered the launch of a military operation that shored up his ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad...
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had telephoned Assad to inform him of the Russian decision. The move was announced on the day United Nations-brokered talks between the warring sides in Syria resumed in Geneva.
"The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process," Putin said. "I believe that the task put before the defense ministry and Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled. With the participation of the Russian military ... the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects," Putin said.
"I am therefore ordering the defense minister, from tomorrow, to start the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingent from the Syrian Arab Republic."

Russia will leave an air flight control center in the Syrian territory that will monitor the observation of the Syrian ceasefire, the Kremlin said. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered starting the Russian troops’ withdrawal as of March 15.

Syrian army commanders praise role of Russian forces
TASS News Agency, March 15, 2016

Russian Aerospace Defense Forces "have played and continue to play a noble role in the fight against terrorism," the Syrian Armed Forces’ commanders said in a statement distributed by SANA news agency on Tuesday.
The statement noted that the agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad on withdrawing Russian forces from Syria "is in line with latest developments on the front where the Syrian army, in coordination with Russian aviation, achieved great successes in the war against terrorist groups."
"As a result, Syrian Armed Forces regained military initiative which led to expansion of the process of local ceasefires, end of military operation on several fronts and flight of many terrorists from the country."
The Syrian Armed Forces confirmed that military actions against Islamic State (IS) and Jebhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations will continue...
The military operations against terrorists "will continue in partnership and coordination with friends and allies until terrorists are defeated and stability and security is restored in all corners of the homeland," the statement added.

First group of Russian warplanes leaves Syria for Russia
TASS, March 15, 2016

The first group of Russian planes has left the Hmeimim air base in Syria for their permanent locations, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.
"Each group consists of the leader - a military transport jet (a Tupolev-154 or Ilyushin-76) carrying engineering personnel and material assets and equipment, followed by Russian combat planes of different types," the defense ministry explained.
Russia’s Aerospace Force started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015...
Russia’s aircraft have made thousands of sorties since the start of the operation in Syria, with over a hundred of them performed by long-range aircraft.

Vitaly Churkin: "We are in the political mode now"
Press TV, 15-3-2016

Russia’s envoy to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin announced that the decision would aid the peace talks.
"Our diplomacy has received marching orders to intensify our efforts to achieve a political settlement in Syria," he said adding, "We are in the political mode now, in the cessation of hostilities mode."
The envoy noted that a Russian military presence will remain in Syria but “will be directed mostly at making sure that the ceasefire, the cessation of hostilities, is maintained."
A ceasefire agreement, brokered by Russia and the US, entered into force in Syria late last month. The truce has been largely holding, resulting in a dramatic drop in civilian casualties.
In response to Russia’s announcement, the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said that the withdrawal would be positive for the peace talks.
"If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the talks a positive push," said Salim al-Muslat, the spokesman for the Saudi-backed group.
A fresh round of Syrian peace talks began in Geneva on Monday..

Chief Rabbi Israel: Keep children away from secular family
Kobi Nachshoni, YNet News, 13-3-2016

Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef has called for religious Jews to distance their children from secular or merely traditionally Jewish family members, and even to prevent their children from meeting them.
The chief rabbi's pronouncement is based on the fear that the nonreligious relatives will adversely affect the children spiritually. According to Yosef, observant Jewish children must not be exposed at all to a lifestyle that includes "profanity and television", lest they become "corrupted"...
In one of the chief rabbi's weekly Saturday night lessons held in Jerusalem, he said, "There are ba'alei tshuva (once-secular Jews who have become observant) with nonreligious families who take their small, 7-year-old, 8-year-old children to visit, and this influences the children.
"Particularly if the second family has non-religious or just observant children, they can talk about all kinds of obscene language or television or all kinds of forbidden things, and they can corrupt them...."

Rabbi Yosef is the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, and bases his rulings on Jewish law on his father's methods of ruling

Yosef further recounted a story: "When my father was elected chief rabbi, a man in military uniform—an Air Force pilot—knocked on his door. He had brought us flowers. I thought that he was the delivery man from the store. I wondered, 'What's this, a ranking delivery man?' I was about to close the door so that he would leave, as I had taken the flowers.
He looked at me: 'Don't you recognize me?' I said, 'no.' (He said,) 'Cousin.' (I said,) 'Cousin? Okay, please, come in and see the rabbi.' We didn't recognize him."

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is recognized by law as the head of religious law and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Israel.
The rabbinate has jurisdiction over many aspects of life of Jews in Israel, including marriage and divorce, burials, conversion, kosher certification and supervision of holy sites. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel consists of two Chief Rabbis, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardic. They are elected for a ten year period and they alternate the presidency every six months. The new chief rabbis were elected in 2013 and are David Lau as the Ashkenazi rabbi and Yitzak Yosef as the Sephardic rabbi.

Israel & Jewish Religious Law
In 2009, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman stated that "step by step, Torah law will become the binding law in the State of Israel"... According to Nahum Rakover,Neeman's opinion was nothing new. He said that the idea is supported in the Foundations of Law Act, passed in 1980, which encourages judges to use Jewish law in their decisions.
In 2014, Israel's cabinet advanced a bill ('a new basic law') that would define Israel as "the nation-state of the Jewish people" and also said that Jewish law would be a "source of inspiration" for the Knesset. This was seen by non-Orthodox Jews as a step toward enforcing Orthodox halakha as the law of the land. (Wikipedia info)

An opinion poll released in March 2016 by the Pew Research Center found high support for a Halachic state (a state governed by Jewish religious law) among religious Israeli Jews. The poll found that 86% of Israeli Haredi Jews and 69% of non-Haredi religious Jews support making Halacha Israel's legal code, while 57% of traditional Jews and 90% of secular Jews oppose such a move.

Haredi party warns Netanyahu: 'It's either us or the reform'
By Chaim Lev, Shoshana Miskin, Arutz Sheva, 14-3-2016

A day after the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the "Mikvah bill" for legislation, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the haredi United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party said that the faction made it clear to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he must choose between them and the Reform Movement.
"We struggled to bring the bill up for a discussion and a vote in the government and we refused any attempt to delay or compromise submitted to us," said Litzman, adding: "We have clarified to the prime minister that United Torah Judaism will not be able to cooperate with a government that is in the pocket of the Reform Movement and allows them to trample on the Torah and Jewish law."
"The Prime Minister must decide whether he prefers the reformers outside of Israel or the haredim inside of Israel," he continued, referring to the fact that the Reform Movement in Israel accounts for only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews.
The bill approved on Sunday states that public Mikvaot, baths used for the purpose of ritual immersion, will only follow the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

The Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) is the umbrella organization of all the Reform communities and institutions in Israel. We seek to integrate Jewish tradition with the realities of modern life, and we believe in the right of each individual to shape their own Jewish way of life through a process of study and reflection. The Reform movement emphasizes the commandments concerning relations between humans, religious tolerance, and full equality between women and men in the synagogue and in all walks of life.

Hassan Firouzabadi: Saudi positions 'obsolete’, ‘reactionary’
Mehr News Iran, Tue 15 March 2016

Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi in response to positions adopted by Saudi Arabia and Saudi-backed Syrian opposition groups in the current talks on the future of Syria said, “the selection of a nation’s leader will be decided by the country’s own people and a political insistence on dismissing or appointing a leader for another country is a blatant enmity with democracy.”
“Saudis still assume they are living 15 years ago and are pushing world powers to take measures the way Al Saud took power and rule over Islamic countries,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Firouzabadi deemed such beliefs and positions ‘obsolete’, ‘reactionary’, and a dream that will never come true.
He stressed that the insistence of Saudi government and its backed Syrian groups for removing Assad would mean the spread of ISIL terrorists and the rise of a Takfiri government in Syria.
The UN is fully aware of the fact that Saudis’ demands on this issue are absurd and baseless...,” said Firouzabadi, adding “independent countries such as Iran, Russia and a number of Arab states will, however, support the Syrian people and their demands.”

Iranian Messianism:
Moslims & Christians will form a progressive movement.

Iranian Shiites believe that at the end of times, the 12th Imam, Mahdi, a 9th century prophet, will reappear with Jesus Christ at his side..
In the picture below, the Chief of Staff ofIslam Republic of Iran, Major General Sayyid Hassan Firouzabadi is seen while kissing the book called "The Prophet Jesus and Hazrat Mahdi Will Come This Century" as an expression of his appreciation.
The Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, Major General Sayyid Hassan Firouzabadi, who is known with his closeness to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khmenei, noted "Today’s world is enthusiastic for a justice-dispersing Saviour [Hazrat Mahdi (pbuh)] and the emergence of the rule of justice..." (, july 2011)

In a message to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iranian Armed Forces' Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said the 1979 Islamic Revolution's progressive movement is continuing “strongly and successfully” (Press TV, 5-4-2015) “All the plots have failed … to undermine our progressive and stable leadership..” (23-12-2015)

Jesus was a lefty
By Mehdi Hasan, NewStatesman, 15-12-2010

Conservatives claim Christ as one of their own. But he was the unemployed son of two asylum-seekers with all the personal traits of a modern revolutionary.
The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once declared: "Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind." The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, went further, describing Christ as "the greatest socialist in history". But it's not just Russian ex-communists and Bolivarian socialists who consider Jesus to be a fellow-traveller. Even the Daily Mail sketch-writer Quentin Letts once confessed: "Jesus preached fairness - you could almost call him a lefty."

That conservatives have succeeded in claiming Christ as one of their own in recent years - especially in the US, where the Christian right is in the ascendancy - is a tragedy for the modern left.
Throughout history, Jesus's teachings have inspired radical social and political movements: Christian pacifism (think the Quakers, Martin Luther King or Bruce Kent in CND), Christian socialism (Keir Hardie or Tony Benn), liberation theology (in South America) and even "Christian communism". In the words of the 19th-century French utopian philosopher Étienne Cabet, "Communism is Christianity . . . it is pure Christianity, before it was corrupted by Catholicism."

These days, however, the so-called God-botherers tend to be on the right. In his book God's Politics, the US Evangelical pastor Jim Wallis, spiritual adviser to President Obama and Gordon Brown before him, laments the manner in which Jesus's message has been misinterpreted by the warring political tribes, writing of how the right gets Christ wrong, while the left doesn't get him at all.
He reminds his readers that being a Christian is not necessarily the same as being a "right-wing Christian fundamentalist", and that the Bible's focus on social justice and the poor shows that economic life should be organised around the needs of society's weakest and most vulnerable members.

Hasan is the co-author of a biography of Ed Miliband and the political editor of the UK version of The Huffington Post. From a British Indian background, he is the presenter of Al Jazeera English shows The Café and Head to Head and UpFront. In 2015, Hasan moved to Washington DC to work full time for Al Jazeera on UpFront.

Israeli Regime Cracks Down on Palestinian Media
AlWaght News, Tuesday 15 March 2016

The media is a powerful tool and for the Palestinian cause, it is a weapon that continues to be used in the war that began with the Israeli occupation in 1948.
Aware of the ability of media outlets to sway international opinion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli regime continues to crack down on Palestinian news outlets that are disseminating news from the other side’s point of view amid a Zionist control over western media.
Recently, Israeli occupation forces stormed and shut the West Bank headquarters of Falasteen Al-yawm or Palestine Today, a TV station affiliated with the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad. The Israelis claimed that the offices of Palestine Today were shuttered over its “inciting broadcasts.”
Shin Bet members entered the headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday night and confiscated transmitters as well as other technical equipment. They also detained the owner of the station, Farouk Omar Kassem Aliat, without charges according to reports.

Attempting to silence the voice of the resistance is no novelty...
Not long ago, both Al-Manar and Al-Mayadeen have been blocked by Arabsat, a Saudi-owned satellite company, over the two news channels’ coverage of the Saudi-led war on Yemen...
The media war, in the modern world, cannot be seen as a separate conflict. Instead, it is part of, if not complementary to the ongoing international confrontation.
It is the medium, the tool, through which the good is demonized, the evil is victimized, minds are shaped, and opinions are swayed, all under the manchette of the so-called truth and the headline of so-called objectivity. That’s why when it comes to issues as important as the Palestinian cause, one must always be vigilant.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the head of the Falestine al-Youm — or "Palestine Today" — was detained in the raid in Ramallah early Friday morning. She said Farouq Elayan, 34, had been incarcerated in the past for activities in the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad group. The outlet, which also publishes material on social media sites, encouraged Palestinians to attack Israelis, she said.
Israel has long pointed to the glorification of attackers in Palestinian media and social networking sites as a major factor in the recent bloodshed.
Palestinians say it stems from anger at nearly five decades of Israeli rule in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and frustrations at not achieving statehood. (US News, 16-3-2016)

Putin warns Russia military can intervene within hours
Middle East Online, 17-3-2016

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned that Russia could ramp up its military presence in Syria within "several hours" if needed, as he urged all sides of the conflict to respect a ceasefire.
"If there's a need, Russia literally within several hours can ramp up its presence in the region to the size required for the unfolding situation and use the whole arsenal of possibilities we have at our disposal," Putin said in the Kremlin. "We would not want to do that, a military escalation is not our choice," he added as he decorated officers who served in the war-torn country.
"And that's why we put our hopes in the common sense of all parties, in the commitment to the peace process of both the Syrian authorities and the opposition."
Speaking to the top military brass, he said Moscow was not abandoning its ally Bashar al-Assad, pledging Russia's continuing military and other support to his regime and praising the Syrian leader. "We see his restraint, his sincere desire to achieve peace, his readiness for compromise and dialogue," Putin said.
He also extolled the Russian armed forces for their service in the Middle Eastern country: "We have created conditions for the start of the peace process," he said. "It is you -- the Russian soldiers -- who opened the path to peace."

Syria Peace Talks Muddied as Kurds Declare Federal Region
by Naharnet Newsdesk, 17-3-2016

Syria's Kurds declared a federal region in the country's north Thursday, in a move that risks complicating already fragile talks underway in Geneva to end the country's brutal five-year conflict.
More than 150 delegates from Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and other parties meeting in the Syrian town of Rmeilan agreed to create a "federal system" unifying territory run by Kurds across several Syrian provinces.
Both the Syrian government and the main opposition immediately rejected the move, which was expected to create more obstacles at already thorny peace talks underway in Switzerland, from which the Kurdish parties have so far been excluded...
Speaking ahead of the Kurdish declaration, the U.N.'s mediator in the talks Staffan de Mistura branded the federalism push as possibly "dangerous".

Washington-based analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said the Kurdish announcement was a political message "to the United Nations, the U.S., Russia, and especially to Geneva, that if you ignore us, we are going to determine our future by ourselves."
A member of the Syrian government delegation told AFP the Kurds would be "invited to the talks in the next stage".

US warns it would not recognize autonomous Kurdish region in Syria
Middle East Online, 17-3-2016

WASHINGTON - The United States warned Wednesday that it would not recognize an attempt by Kurdish groups in war-torn Syria to form an autonomous federal region.
Washington has supported and encouraged the Kurdish parties of the area in their fight against a common foe, the Islamic State jihadist group. But the State Department said Wednesday it would not support the breakup of the country and that any new federal model would have to emerge from peace talks.
"We've been very clear that we won't recognize any self-rule autonomous zones within Syria," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
"This is something that needs to be discussed and agreed upon by the relevant parties in Geneva and then by the Syrian people themselves."

Assad puts base stone of housing project in Damascus
PressTv, 17-3-2016

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has laid the foundation stone of a housing project in the capital, Damascus, in a move symbolizing the war-ravaged country's reconstruction and development efforts.
On Thursday, Assad attended a ceremony in Damascus’ Mezzeh district, where he placed the base stone of Project 66 to regulate al-Razi housing area.
"We talk about construction in a country where huge destruction took place… That's why this is an important strategic project...", Assad said.
The project, which covers some 2.149 million square meters, includes 12,000 residency units and can accommodate approximately 60,000 people. It provides 110,000 employment opportunities and 27.000 permanent jobs.

Freedom vs. security issue continues to divide Syrians
Saudi Gazette, Mar 18, 2016

AS the Syrian crisis marks its fifth anniversary, the divide between Syrians prioritizing their security over those valuing their freedom continues.
A survey conducted by ORB International in late 2015 found that 47 percent of Syrians believe Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has a positive influence in Syria in comparison to 35 percent for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the (Western backed) opposition.
In early February, Assad’s Russian-backed forces and their allied militias made some advances on the ground, which was good news for his supporters, but irritated rebels and those who wanted to see the demise of the leader’s regime in Damascus.

For a Syrian engineer now living in Dubai, this was a comforting omen that “old Syria” is returning back once again under Assad’s control. “I was never with the revolution, because there was never a real revolution!” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It (the uprising) was all started by other superior countries, who funded mercenaries with money and weapons,” he said, emphasizing that these parties had wished “just to destroy everything.”
“I’m not saying I am with the president. But I am with a system that keeps things under control,” he explained. “No matter how bad it is, security comes first.”

In Syria, Sunnis Muslims make up 74 percent of the country’s 22 million-strong population, Alawites make up 12 percent, Christians make up 10 percent and Druze make up 3 percent. Ismailis, Yezidis and Jews make up the rest of the population.

Western poll (flashback): Assad supported by most Syrians
The Guardian, 19-12-2015

In the view of Syrians, the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, and his ally, Iran, have more support than do the forces arrayed against him, according to a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. The poll’s findings challenge the idea that Assad has lost legitimacy and that the opposition has broad support.
The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
At the same time, more see Assad’s ally, Iran, as having a favorable influence (43%) than view the Arab Gulf States — which back the external opposition, including Al Nusra and ISIS—as affecting Syria favorably (37%).

The two Arab Gulf State-backed Al-Qaeda linked organizations command some degree of support in Syria, according to the poll. One-third believe Al-Nusra is having a positive influence, compared to one-fifth for ISIS, lower than the proportion of Syrians who see Assad’s influence in a positive light.
According to the poll, Assad has majority support in seven of 14 Syrian regions. ISIS has majority support in only one region, Al Raqua, the capital of its caliphate. Al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, has majority support in Idlip and Al Quneitra as well as in Al Raqua. Support for the FSA is strong in Idlip, Al Quneitra and Daraa.

Yemen: Talks have been put on a more official track
Ahmed Eleiba, Ahram online, 19 Mar 2016

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived Saturday in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa after holding a round of talks in Riyadh with Saudi and Yemeni officials. The Mauritanian diplomat also met with Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Hadi, who met with Ould Cheikh Friday evening in Riyadh, said that "all doors are open to help reach a comprehensive and lasting peace based on the outcomes of the Gulf Initiative, the National Dialogue Conference and the resolutions of the UN Security Council, especially Resolution 2216."
Ould Cheikh's visit is considered the first of its kind following Saudi-Houthi talks that took place in the Saudi city of Abha last week. After primarily being behind the scenes, talks have been put on a more official track.

The current calm on the ground, despite minor violations, reflects the parties' willingness to reach a settlement, a source close to the Yemeni president told Ahram Online from Riyadh. The source said that de-escalation on the part of Houthi rebels and the disarming of mines on the Saudi-Yemeni border are evidence that all sides are mulling a compromise. "The Houthis began to describe Saudi Arabia as the big sister and Ali Abdullah Saleh, on the other hand, beckons that the war is coming to an end."
Negotiations are expected to halt the political conflict between the former regime and the post-February revolution regime.
Sources close to Hadi say that he does not fear Saleh and Houthi inclusion in the political process on Yemen's future while underlining the importance of govenmental legitimacy. Saleh's bloc, meanwhile, is expected to push to expand its role in Yemen's future through the negotiations.

Meeting with Murtadha Abedin, Iran’s Chargés d'Affaires to Yemen
"Sorry for Saudi losing its resources through attrition warfare"
Yemen Times, 16 March 2016

- Question: Many people accuse Iran of hindering the political process in Yemen, saying that Iran does not want the war to end, because it can exhaust the Saudis’ resources, financially and militarily, which will lead to its collapse. What is your reaction?
- Abedin: Everyone knows how this war started, who formed a coalition of countries to launch attacks on Yemen, and who opened a battlefront in the Yemeni-Saudi border... The truth is that Saudi Arabia started this unjust war against the Yemenis. What is happening in reality is the opposite of what the Saudis wanted to do.
They started the battlefront in Yemen in order to defeat Bashar Al-Assad in Syria and weaken us politically and economically to stop supporting Al-Assad in Syria. But that didn’t happen...
We are sorry if Saudis are exhausting their financial resources and power because of the war on Yemen and other countries, but they brought this upon themselves. What they should have done is that their resources should have been utilized against the true enemy of Islam and the Muslims, which is the Zionist entity, not for fighting their brothers in neighboring countries.

- Q: The internationally-recognized government of Yemen and the KSA are still claiming that Iran is smuggling weapons to Ansar Allah and sending military advisors to Yemen to help the Houthis as well as the forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Is that true?
- Abedin: We did not intervene in Yemen militarily and everyone knows that. Despite those claims, there are no Iranian advisors or soldiers in Yemen.If there is any Iranian military here in Yemen they have to prove it with evidence.

- Q: Many people claim that the KSA is supporting ISIL (ISIS). On the other hand, people in the gulf countries claim that the real supporter of ISIL is Iran, because the extremist group doesn’t call for attacking Iran, while it invites people to topple the Saudi regime. How would you respond?
- Abedin: The world knows who is supporting and funding ISIS, ideologically, financially and sectarian-wise. They made it; Saudi Wahhabis created ISIL. As for the group’s threats against the KSA, I have to say these are just lies for public consumption.
There is no real ISIS threat against the Saudi government, because the group is killing the people in Iraq and Syria...

Rouhani's Norouz message
Tehran, March 20, 2016, IRNA

President Hassan Rouhani felicitated Iranian expatriates on Norouz and the other nations celebrating Norouz (spring equinox). Norouz means renewal and the end of the what has passed. So 'We should wash our hearts from vengeance. Norouz tells us to blossom out. We pray to God to make all days of our country happy days just like Norouz.'
The president called for national solidarity and disavowal of divide and conflict and violence. 'I pray to God to make our minds and tongue friendly just like the culture of Norouz and help us develop reconciliation, to refrain from expressing wrath in our eyes and intransigency in words and violent behavior.'...

The president gave assurances that the government will bring five percent economic growth by public contribution and said that God willing Iranian economic growth will be more than all the neighboring states. He hoped for bringing back the workers to the factories and the farms and bring the young graduates to the market...

Norouz & Zoroaster

Noruz/Nowruz, or new day, is the celebration of spring equinox. It is the most cherished of all the Iranian festivals and is celebrated by all. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. What we have today as Noruz with its' uniquely Iranian characteristics has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian belief system in the Sassanid period...

In order to understand Noruz we have to understand Zoroastrians' cosmology.
In their ancient text, Bundahishn (foundation of creation), we read that Ahura Mazda (Ahura Mazda) residing in eternal light was not God. He created all that was good and became God.
Everything that produced, protected and enriched life was regarded as good. This included all forces of nature beneficial to humans.
The Hostile Spirit, Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), residing in eternal darkness created all that was evil and became the Hostile Spirit (The word anger in English comes from the same origin).
Earth, waters, sky, animals, plants, justice, honesty, peace, health, beauty, joy and happiness belonged to the good forces. All that threatened life and created disorder belonged to the hostile spirits...

Iranians consider the Norouz as their greatest celebration of the year. Even after Islam, the festival of Norouz continued to be by far the greatest celebration of the year in Iran.
Iranians start preparing for the Norouz by a major springcleaning of their houses, buying new clothes to wear on the day of Norouz, buying lots of flowers for the Norouz (in particular the Hyacinth (loveliness-lieflijkheid) and the Tulip (love-liefde) are popular and conspicuous in the Norouz) during the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar. (Bron)

Nusra Front Criticizes Syria Ceasefire
Al-Manar (Lebanon), 21-3-2016

Nusra Front (Qaeda branch in the Levant) terrorist group lashed out at the ongoing talks between the Syrian government and the opposing groups in Geneva and criticized the ceasefire across the Syrian provinces which put a relative end to the 5-year crisis.
In a footage, Nusra revealed a number of its leaders' faces, including Jamal Zeneya (Abu Malek al-Talle) who led the group's attack against the Lebanese army in the southeastern town of Arsal.
Nusra Front also considered that ISIL is a group of Kharijites that "slowed the progress of the Jihadi project."

nusra front syria

Who are the Kharijites?
Ali Mamouri, Al-Monitor, 8-1-2015

The word Kharijite means “those who defected from the group,” referring to the Islamic groups that rebelled against the third and fourth caliphs, Uthman and Ali, and the rulers of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, beginning in 644. These "Kharijites" organized rebellions against Uthman, Ali, Muawiya and other caliphs. Those in opposition to the rebellions called the rebelling groups the Kharijites and accused them of turning their backs on Islam, since the caliphate and its leaders represented true Islam.

The similarities between IS and the Kharijites have prompted some to compare the two. Such similarities include: condemning other Muslims, killing children and women, and clashing with other Salafist jihadist groups to secure an exclusive grip on power.
However, in some ways, IS is completely different from the Kharijites. The latter never expressed hostility toward non-Muslims and they never oppressed minorities, as IS has done consistently.
The Kharijites did not have Salafist tendencies. They did not consider the first Muslims to be holy, and they never prioritized their views in understanding and applying religion. They called for equality and expressed a desire to not distinguish between the first Muslims and later converts.

Yet, the similarities between IS and the various branches of Salafism — including the Saudi version — are far greater than the similarities between IS and the ancient Kharijites.
The truth is, IS is nothing but the complete realization of Salafist jihad, which was born and raised under the auspices of Saudi Arabia decades ago, notably during Afghanistan’s wars against the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989.
IS also embodies the Islamic world's two major extremist movements: the Salafist Saudi movement and the International Brotherhood movement.
Salafist Wahhabi extremism merged with the Brotherhood’s political Islam and created the phenomenon of al-Qaeda, IS and other similar groups.

US foreign policy: imprisoned in a cage
By Richard Falk, Palestine Chronicle, 19-3-2016

For six years (2008-2014) I acted as UN Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, and found myself routinely and personally attacked by the top UN diplomats representing the U.S. Government.
Of course, I knew that America was in Israel’s corner no matter what the issue happened to be, whether complying with a near unanimous set findings by the World Court in the Hague or a report detailing Israeli crimes committed in the course of its periodic unlawful attacks on Gaza.
Actually, the vitriol was greater from such prominent Democratic liberals as Susan Rice or Samantha Power than from the Republican neocon stalwart John Bolton who was the lamentable U.S. ambassador at the UN when I was appointed. I mention this personal background only because it seems so disappointingly emblematic of the failure of the Democratic Party to walk the walk of its rule of law and human rights talk.

From the moment Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office he never tired of telling the country, indeed the world that we as a nation were different because we adhered to the rule of law and acted in accord with our values in foreign policy.
But when it came down to concrete cases, ranging from drone warfare to the increasingly damaging special relationships with Israel and Saudi Arabia, the policies pursued seemed almost as congenial to a Kissinger realist as to an Obama visionary liberal...
How are we to explain this inability of Democrats to follow through on a foreign policy that is linked to law and ethics, as well as to show respect for the authority of the UN, World Court, Human Rights Council, and above all, the UN Charter?
Such a question can be partly answered by noticing the gap between Obama the national campaigner and Obama the elected president...
In effect, it is the government bureaucracy and the special interest groups especially those linked to Wall Street, the Pentagon, guns, and Israel that call the shots in Washington, and it is expected that a politician once elected will forget the wellbeing of the American people as a whole on most issues, and especially with respect to controversial foreign policy positions, if he or she hopes to remain a credible public figure.
The boundaries of credibility are monitored and disciplined by the mainstream media, as interpreted to reflect the interests of the militarized and intelligence sectors of the government and the economy....
True, the Democrats do push slightly harder to find diplomatic alternatives to war than Republicans, although Obama appointed hard liners to the key foreign policy positions.
Looking ahead there is little reason to expect much departure if a Democrat is elected the next American president in 2016. Clinton has already tipped her hand in a recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, the self-anointed voice of the East Coast American establishment... She has announced her readiness to continue with the same failed policy, but even worse, to increase its intensity.

We must ask ourselves why do liberal minded Democratic politicians, especially once in office follow blindly militarist policies that have failed in the past...
We have to ask ourselves ‘What would have to happen to enable a presidential candidate of the Democratic Party to depart from the foreign policy failures of the past? That is, to escape from the cage within which foreign policy is now imprisoned...

Richard Falk is a UN Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council for Occupied Palestine (2008-2014), and a Professor of International Law.

Hillary Clinton goes full Neocon at AIPAC
Demonizing Iran, Palestinians - defending Israeli criminals
By Juan Cole | Mar. 22, 2016

The Good God and the Evil God met on the mountain top.
The Good God said, "Good day to you, brother."
The Evil God made no answer.
And the Good God said, "You are in a bad humour today."
"Yes," said the Evil God, "for of late I have been often mistaken for you, called by your name, and treated as if I were you, and it ill-pleases me."
And the Good God said:
"But I too have been mistaken for you and called by your name."
The Evil God walked away cursing the stupidity of man.

Kahlil Gibran - The Madman

Hillarty Clinton used her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting, the gathering of some of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, to lambaste Donald Trump for saying he’d try to be neutral in heading up negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Donald Trump is wrong on everything most of every day... But this a point on which he is correct. The US cannot be an honest broker in the Mideast conflict if it is more Israeli than the Israelis, which it typically is...
For Clinton to imply that Trump, by saying he wanted to be neutral in negotiations, was indicating that he would compromise on Israeli security is just dishonest.
I’m not sure what conventional security threats Israel has. Lebanon is weak and a mess. Syria is in complete disarray. Jordan and Egypt have peace treaties with Israel. Those are the immediate neighbors. Libya has fallen apart. Tunisia doesn’t care and anyway is also small and weak. Turkey and Israel have their tensions, but do a great deal of business, including military business, with each other. Iraq is in disarray. Iran is so distant as to pose no conventional threat, and does not have nuclear weapons, which Israel does. So what is the threat to Israeli security Clinton is talking about?
Clinton perpetuates the Israeli propaganda talking point that they are the ones who are being oppressed, and that even-handed moves toward peace threaten their security, which is alleged to be precarious. This propaganda is so successful that most Americans probably do not know that Israel, a country of 8 million, is occupying 4.5 million stateless Palestinians...

Another plank of her platform was combating people’s right to decline to buy Israeli-made goods, to decline to have their stocks in companies that enable the Occupation, and to seek sanctions on Israel for breaking the Geneva Conventions by illegally flooding its own citizens onto Palestinian lands.
She went on to say: “As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever.”

Among the most deadly extremists are the Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the Palestinian West Bank.
They are armed and dangerous, routinely shoot at innocent Palestinians in a low-intensity civil war, and routinely invade and usurp Palestinian property. They are building vast colonies from which Palestinian residents are excluded, in a mindless replication of the policies of White South Africa in the 1980s.
If the Israeli squatters were admirable people doing something admirable, then it would be worthwhile standing up for them even if it increased anti-US terrorism. But they are just criminals, openly breaking every tenet of international law.
So standing up for them is morally wrong as well as, policy-wise, completely wrong-headed. In the US, the Israel lobbies do what they can to have anyone who is critical of the squatters blackballed, smeared and marginalized, using techniques redolent of those of cults.

Donald Trump's 'Neutrality'
Al-Masdar News, 22-3-2016

Donald Trump has vowed that if he is to become President he will continue a pro-Israeli foreign policy whilst blasting Iran.
When I become President, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one,” Trump told the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He continued by describing the Palestinians as unwilling partners who continually attack Israel.
Trump also pledged to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to “the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
The Presidential candidate then went on to pledge that he would dismantle the “disastrous” nuclear deal with Iran. “Let me tell you this deal is catastrophic,” Trump said.

"The problem here is fundamental. We’ve rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion, and we received absolutely nothing in return."
"When I’m president, [..] we will stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region." "Iran is a problem in Iraq, a problem in Syria, a problem in Lebanon, a problem in Yemen and will be a very, very major problem for Saudi Arabia.." "In Gaza, Iran is supporting Hamas and Islamic jihad. And in the West Bank, they’re openly offering Palestinians $7,000 per terror attack and $30,000 for every Palestinian terrorist’s home that’s been destroyed..."
"We will totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network which is big and powerful, but not powerful like us...." "Iran has seeded terror groups all over the world. During the last five years, Iran has perpetuated terror attacks in 25 different countries on five continents. They’ve got terror cells everywhere, including in the Western Hemisphere, very close to home. Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world. And we will work to dismantle that reach, believe me, believe me..."

On the political front, Trump denounced Obama by saying that “Obama may be the worst thing that ever happened to Israel...
The United Nations? Even worse...: "The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it’s not a friend to freedom... And it surely is not a friend to Israel. [AIPAC APPLAUSE]"

The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable.

Trump no longer 'neutral' on Israel
Barbara Slavin, Al-Monitor, March 22, 2016

WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls competed March 21 to prove who is more pro-Israel at the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in a show of political correctness that extended even to real estate magnate Donald Trump.
Clinton devoted much of her speech to skewering Trump without using his name. Over and over, she said that no responsible American politician could be “neutral” when it comes to Israel’s security. “We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable,” Clinton said. “Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”

Trump, the Republican front-runner who has raised eyebrows in debates and interviews by asserting that he would be “neutral” in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians and questioning US aid to the Jewish state, executed a 180-degree turn...
After asserting, “I didn’t come to pander,” he ran through a series of positions that closely follow the policies of the current Israeli government on Iran, the Palestinians and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Let us now praise those who helped make the world a better place
Chris Floyd, 20 March 2016

March 20: 13 years to the day since the invasion of Iraq. Sure, people had their disagreements about it back then, but isn't the world a better, safer place these days?
Look at how freedom and democracy are flourishing all over the Middle East! I think we should all take a moment and silently thank George Bush and Hillary Clinton and all the supporters of that glorious endeavor for ignoring the millions upon millions of us who said it was a criminal, immoral act of monstrous folly that would lead to years of ruin, chaos, death and destruction...

A tale of two cities in Aleppo: Rubble on one side, packed restaurants on the other
By Loveday Morris, Washington Post, March 19, 2016

ALEPPO, Syria — Five years of conflict have torn Syria apart. And nowhere is that more stark than in its most populous city, Aleppo, where front lines carve through neighborhoods and slice it in two. It is a city of sharply contrasting halves, and one side clearly appears to have the upper hand.

In a park on the government-held side, families picnic while children line up to buy balloons and popcorn. A few miles away, on a sprawling university campus, thousands of students attend class.
Downtown, the city’s cinema plays the latest Hollywood films. In the evenings, the restaurants fill. War brings death and discomfort, but life continues here with a surprising degree of normality.
It’s a far cry from the images of Aleppo the world has seen during Syria’s war: the rubble-filled streets, the carcasses of buildings, lifeless bodies being dragged out of piles of detritus after airstrikes. But that is the rebel-held side.
There, the mishmash of armed groups in control are almost entirely encircled... Pro-government forces are advancing around the city, which had a prewar population approaching 3 million....

Brig. Gen. Sami Shiha, a retired army general from Aleppo, thinks that negotiations rather than a military offensive will be the end for the battered rebels in the city.
“In the past few weeks, we’ve sent strong messages to all these terrorist groups to lay down their guns and enter reconciliation,” he said. “We also send the invitation to these groups to turn to fight [the Islamic State].”
Sheik Sharif Martini, a tribal leader from Aleppo who has been involved in negotiations, said that although Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State should be fought, other groups have started opening up to talks. All this can be solved with money,” he said.

President al-Assad meets injured army personnel and their mothers
Syrian Arab News Agency, 21-3-2016

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad and Mrs. Asma al-Assad received on Monday a number of injured Syrian Arab Army personnel and the mothers of a group of them on the occasion of Mother’s Day.

The meeting coincides with the first anniversary of launching the “Homeland’s Wounded” program for supporting injured people, preserving their rights, and reintegrating them into society.
During the meeting, President al-Assad said “We are very glad that you came and that we can greet you one by one, whether as heroes, mothers, wives, fiancés, or sisters. Everyone gave us a lot of strength which we obtain from heroes and from your morale and steadfastness.”
“At the same time, we appreciate and know how difficult it was for you to come from distant places, whether on the level of personal suffering, or on the level of the security situation,” he added.
President al-Assad said that Mother’s Day is a family holiday in which small families honor mothers, but after the events in Syria and the terrorist war waged on it during the past five years, many concepts have changed and holidays are celebrated differently, in the sense that they became holidays for heroism, bravery, redemption, and sacrifice.

President al-Assad noted that helping the injured isn’t an act of returning a favor, because when someone loses their lives you can’t compensate their family for that in a material ay, and the same goes for when someone loses a limb or when their health is affected, “because what they gave is priceless, and no matter what we give to them it remains less than modest compared to what they gave.”
“The one and only thing that compares to the sacrifices you made, be it by sacrificing your life, health, or body, is the safety of the homeland, and when the homeland is safe once again, I believe that every one of the injured would say ‘I feel my hand is back, my leg is back, my eye, my health, and that applies to the family of every martyrs who will feel when the security is restored to the homeland that their son’s blood is what restored security to the homeland, and that their son is back again,” the President said.
The President concluded by saying “As long as there are mothers like you who raise heroes, Syria will be fine.”