Iran’s provocations may prove costly

by Claude Salhani –

Iran has threatened to resume its nuclear programme and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has continued to provoke the US Navy in the Arabian Gulf, putting into question an international ac­cord formulated under the Obama administration,

US President Donald Trump has accused the Iranians of violating the spirit of the Joint Comprehen­sive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement between Tehran and world powers regarding Iran’s nu­clear programme.

Following pointed Twitter ex­changes between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who threatened the well-being of the US territory of Guam and possibly Hawaii after Trump warned of “fire and fury,” there is potential for a new nuclear-oriented conflict.

This time the fight is with Iran. This crisis has the potential of developing into a far more serious dispute than the one with North Korea. The reason is quite simple.

Apart from the heavily policed demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, there is no possibility of US forces coming into contact with the North Koreans. In the Gulf, however, the Iranians seem intent on provoking the Americans into an international conflict.

As in all aspects of foreign policy, there are two schools of thought on Iran and its nuclear capabilities. Actually, better make that three diverse schools of thought.

First, there are the optimists who believe they can talk the Iranians out of any given situation if they are given enough time. Then there are the pessimists who believe that the only way Iran will give up its weapons is if the West flexes some muscle.

The third group — the realists — understands why the West fears a nuclear-armed Iran and why the Iranians are so intent on obtaining nuclear weapons.

To understand the reasons that propel Iran to pursue its nuclear dreams, examine two major events that will shape Iran’s foreign policy for years to come.

The first is the eight-year war be­tween Iran and its neighbour Iraq, during which about 1 million peo­ple were killed. Iran came close to capitulation at one point during the war and suffered severe punish­ment from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the form of chemical weapons deployed on the front lines.

It was at that point that the ayatollahs vowed never to allow the country to fall into such a vulner­able position again. The key to that problem, the Iranian leadership decided, was to be found in nuclear weapons.

The second event was the US invasion of Iraq. Tehran concluded that it may well be vulnerable to an American invasion and determined that the only sure deterrence was in acquiring nuclear weapons.

The US Navy has accused the Ira­nians of flying drones dangerously close to one of its aircraft carriers in the Gulf, while the IRGC defended its right to carry out air patrol mis­sions in the area.

The US Naval Forces Central Command said that an Iranian drone had come within 300 metres of a US Navy aircraft carrier while it was in international waters in the Gulf conducting flight operations. A spokesman for the US 5th Fleet said the Iranian drone “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional approach” as it passed by the USS Nimitz without navigation lights late August 13.

The IRGC said in a statement published on Tasnim News Agency that “it carries out air patrol mis­sions in Iran’s air defence identi­fication zone every day and in ac­cordance with current regulations.”

“The Revolutionary Guards drones are equipped with standard navigation systems and are con­trolled professionally,” it added.

The IRGC accused the United States, which claims Iran has insti­gated about a dozen such incidents, of not having “capable identifica­tion and reconnaissance systems.”

With Trump’s John Wayne-like outlook on some foreign policy issues, continued provocations by the Iranians may prove to be a costly way to conduct business.

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Promoting democracy in Middle East, a thing of the past in Washington


by Claude Salhani

It appears the United States is getting out of the democ­racy-spreading business — at least while the current president remains in the White House. The Washing­ton Post reported that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered the US State Department to redefine its mission and issue a new statement of purpose.

The Post report stated that draft statements under review were similar to the old mission statement, except for one thing: Any mention of promoting democracy was being elimi­nated.

This reversal of recent policy could herald bad news in the Middle East, where democracy is either unavailable or attainable only in limited quantities. On the other hand, not many will regret Washington’s abandonment of democracy promotion in the region.

Democracy promotion under President George W. Bush involved an agenda that did not exclude the use of military force and did not care whether people in the region were ready for it. The Bush administration’s policy was to export democracy as if Jeffersonian democracy was a one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf item.

It was an agenda that favoured the indiscriminate ascent of civil society and the atrophy of the state, even at the expense of disorder and strife. It was an agenda premised on the partici­pation of Islamists even when they were not ready to govern or play a leading role in the demo­cratic process.

The results were often increased chaos and violence.

Washington believed it could treat the Middle East as a homogenous zone and failed to understand that, despite Arab societies’ many uniting similari­ties — such as language, religion, culture and history — there are also vast differences between them.

The administration of US President Donald Trump is following a very different foreign policy than previous US adminis­trations, particularly regarding the promotion of democracy in the Middle East.

Trump does not seem to place the same importance on promot­ing democracy as Bush did when he ordered the invasion of Iraq, overthrew the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and acted as though the United States could export Western democracy to Middle Eastern countries.

A newcomer to politics, Trump apparently thought he could apply his business experience to the cut-throat world of interna­tional politics. Nothing could be further from reality. The presi­dent’s behaviour is unorthodox when it comes to diplomacy, to say the least.

While campaigning, Trump lashed out at his predecessor, accusing Barack Obama of failing to act on several foreign policy issues, including the Middle East. Now Trump is starting to realise that diplomacy, geopoli­tics and business are very different animals.

Although the United States’ desire to bring democratic reforms to the region remains on its agenda, it does so today at a much less urgent pace. Indeed, some may regret Washington’s loss of immediate interest in seeing much-needed democratic reforms take place in the greater Middle East. Nevertheless, the Arab region’s abandonment by official Washington will not be regretted by others.

Without the United States’ activist posture, the Middle East might be able to realise on its own that it needs democracy and build one from within regardless of what Trump might think.

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Sudan: The Arab world’s and Africa’s forgotten conflict

by Claude Salhani

Unlike conflicts in the Middle East and parts of Africa that grab the spotlight and make front-page news in the world’s leading media outlets, the armed conflicts that have plagued Sudan since its inde­pendence have a hard time getting the world’s attention.

Sudan, a predominately Arab country in northern Africa, is one of the poorest places in the world. Its infrastructure and public services leave much to be desired and the country ranks among the world’s lowest in key domains such as human rights, economy and education.

While the conflict in Sudan is very real and murderous, it at times appears to belong more in an Evelyn Waugh novel.

After gaining its independence from Great Britain and Egypt in 1956, Sudan had decades of civil conflict, with the people voting to allow the south to secede in 2011. This split Sudan, then Africa’s largest country, into two sovereign states: Sudan and South Sudan. Three times the size of France, Sudan claims to have a road network of some 17,000km but only 200km are paved.

The referendum in January 2011 indicated overwhelming support for the south’s independ­ence. South Sudan officially gained independence on July 9, 2011. Sudan and South Sudan have yet to fully implement security and economic agree­ments signed in September 2012 to normalise relations. The final disposition of the contested Abyei region has also yet to be decided.

The underlying causes of Sudan’s multiple wars are many. There is the religious war between the Christian south and the Muslim north. The north is mostly Arab and Muslim, whereas the south is Christian and Animist. Despite having some of Africa’s largest oil reserves, South Sudan is poorer than Sudan. Second, there are wars between various tribes and militias, such as the Janjaweed, which operates in western Sudan and eastern Chad.

Following South Sudan’s independence, fighting broke out between the government forces and the Sudan People’s Libera­tion Movement-North, which is active in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile (together known as the Two Areas). The clashes resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people and created a refugee crisis, displacing nearly 1.1 million people.

In 2003, Janjaweed went on a killing spree in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, displacing nearly 2 million people and claiming thousands of more lives. While fighting between government and opposition forces has largely subsided in both regions, civilians are threatened by low-level violence, including inter-tribal conflicts and crime, which is largely a result of the weak rule of law.

For all intents and purposes, Sudan is a failed state incapable of providing security for its citizens. Efforts to quell the violence by the United Nations and the African Union have not succeeded. Peacekeeping forces from the United Nations and the African Union have been dis­patched to Darfur.

Already weighed down by massive social and economic problems, including the provi­sion of housing for millions of refugees from its own country, Sudan is further troubled by an influx of refugees from neigh­bouring countries, primarily Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan. Armed conflict, poor transportation and the inability of the central government to offer any tangible solutions to the country’s problems have contrib­uted to Sudan’s dire condition.

In the past, Khartoum was accused of aiding and abetting terrorism. Former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden sought refuge in Sudan until, under international pressure, he fled to Afghanistan.

While bin Laden may have been forced out of the country, a state of anarchy persists in Sudan, making it an ideal haven for terrorists.

The US Department of State has warned US citizens not to travel to Sudan:

“US citizens should avoid all travel to the Darfur region, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states and consider carefully before planning travel to other areas of Sudan due to the risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime,” reads the agency’s travel warning.

“The US embassy’s ability to provide services outside of Khartoum is extremely limited. Terrorist groups are active in Sudan and have stated their intent to harm Westerners and Western interests through suicide operations, bombings, shootings and kidnappings. Violent crime targeting Westerners, including kidnappings, armed robberies, home invasions and carjackings occur everywhere in Sudan but are particularly prevalent in the Darfur region.”

“Despite numerous ceasefires declared by the government of Sudan and opposition forces, tensions in the Darfur region… remain high and violence contin­ues. In addition to risking injury or death, US citizens who go to these areas without the permis­sion of the Sudanese government may be detained by security forces,” the travel warning stated.

These embassy warnings may well be the only media coverage that the tragic story in Sudan receives. There is no end in sight for the country, its conflicts and its many problems.

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Is a new Palestinian intifada on the way?

by Claude Salhani

The UN Security Council convened in an emergency session to address the violence that flared up once again in the Holy Land as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged bullets, tear gas and knife stabbings and hurled rocks and accusations at each other.

At least seven people were killed and dozens injured. The Palestinian Authority said Israeli security forces arrested more than 900 protesters. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian Authority suspended all communication and cooperation with Israel. The violence spread to neighbouring Jordan when an attacker struck at the Israeli Embassy in Amman.

Sadly, it’s a safe bet that any resolution adopted by the United Nations regarding ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will amount to the equivalent of applying Band-Aids to a patient requiring major surgery.

The reality is that there is no alternative to reaching a lasting solution to the problem — the creation of a Palestinian state that can coexist peacefully alongside the state of Israel. Given the political realities in the region, that would require nothing short of a miracle.

If those attempting to bring peace to the troubled Middle East bothered to consult history books, they would quickly learn that, short of settling the 7-decade-old dispute in Palestine once and for all, periodic violence will inevitably continue to haunt the region.

Applying interim and temporary ceasefires and short-term peace accords only serves to fuel the animosity and general frustration that each actor in this never-ending drama collects and ultimately harbours for the other side. When that pent-up energy is released, it does so with renewed vigour, climbing to worsening levels of violence.

As for UN resolutions, suffice to look at previous ones passed by the Security Council, such as Resolution 242, adopted unanimously on November 22, 1967, after the June 1967 Six- Day War. Long considered a cornerstone for future negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian problem, it has yet to be implemented.

The recent violence erupted after Israeli security installed metal detectors at the entrance to the Dome of the Rock, considered Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven on his winged horse, Buraq, from the site where al-Aqsa Mosque sits today. Palestinians see this latest Israeli move as an attempt to control access to the holy site.

There is a very good reason why the United Nations did not waste time in calling for the Security Council meeting, hoping to suppress the violence before it expanded. Similarly, Washington was quick to dispatch an envoy to the region hoping to quell the unrest.

Indeed, the United States and Russia saw the clear danger from an escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. With large areas of the Middle East in turmoil as the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate is pushed out of Iraq and Syria, the last thing the region or the major powers want is a new active front.

But, if miracles are no longer common occurrence in the Holy Land, changes in attitude and political stances do happen. Indeed, after saying that the metal detectors at the Dome of the Rock would remain in place, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed, even if reluctantly, to remove them. As pressure mounted, the Israel security cabinet agreed to replace them with other systems.

Netanyahu’s decision to remove the metal detectors and back down in the face of Palestinian demands is itself a major change in Israel’s policy, but is unlikely to be the last word regarding this issue.


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What’s next after Mosul and Raqqa?

By Claude Salhani

Units of the Iraqi Army’s special forces, trained and supported by the United States, celebrated their victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

In the war against ISIS, Iraq has the political backing of several Eu­ropean and Arab countries, includ­ing most of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members.

Shortly after their defeat in Mosul, ISIS jihadists will almost cer­tainly be removed from the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the short-lived caliphate. Here, a much-weakened ISIS will likely face its last stand, this time against the the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their allies.

While the war to defeat ISIS in Iraq is quite clear — at least as clear as the fog of war permits in the complex and often murky world of Middle Eastern politics — the fact is that ISIS is fighting one coalition in Iraq and another in Syria. This does not automatically make the two anti-ISIS coalitions allies or even friends.

The civil war in Syria complicates matters even further.

The war against ISIS in Syria, supported by Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, does not bring these factions any closer. Despite Russia and the United States both fighting to eradi­cate ISIS, this does not make the two superpowers any friendlier to one another, either. Instead, it risks putting their political differences on the front lines of the Syrian conflict, as recently took place when the United States shot down a Syrian war plane.

The alliances created out of military necessity have brought together the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the GCC countries and a scattering of European and Arab countries.

ISIS’s imminent defeat on the battlefield does not mean the end of the Islamist threat, however.

Indeed, routing ISIS on the bat­tlefield creates new problems that must be addressed immediately. Ignoring those issues would create further chaos in the region and beyond.

What comes next is not going to be easy or simple to resolve.

Authorities will have to expe­dite rebuilding population centres destroyed in the fighting. Winter is only a few months away and the number of refugees is staggering. They will want to ensure there are adequate living conditions to house refugees before cold weather sets in.

Tonnes of rubble will need to be cleared and financial investors will need to be invited to rebuild the cities and gradually fix the ugly scars of war. The military will need to start removing the thousands of landmines and unexploded ordnance.

An urgent refugee crisis requires immediate attention, as many of the millions of people displaced by the fighting will head back to the area.

The refugee crisis has not only affected the countries involved in the conflict but spilled into neigh­bouring countries in the Levant and into Europe.

Syria, with the civil war continu­ing, faces a greater problem, as ISIS was only one of the factions fight­ing the regime.

Additionally, military sources have estimated that approximately 60,000 ISIS fighters were thrown into the fight in Mosul, not all of whom were killed or captured in Iraq.

As the jihadists were being pushed out of their last stronghold in Iraq, many made their way to Raqqa. Respite for the jihadists, if any, will likely be brief before the same scenario that took place in Iraq unfolds in Syria. Thousands, if not more, of experienced, combat-hardened and angry young men will scatter across the Levant and Europe. Both Iraq and Syria face nearly insurmountable problems.

Syria, Iraq and the international community will have little time to celebrate before the reality of the situation makes itself known.

Both cities will have to be rebuilt. Both cities are faced with a refugee problem of gigantic proportions. Of the 60,000 or so Islamist fighters, not all were killed or captured. Many will filter back to their native countries in Europe and the Arab world.

Are the countries concerned pre­pared from a security and humani­tarian point of view? Will Europe step up to the plate, given how the United States, with President Donald Trump, is preoccupied with domestic issues? The US president’s tweeting addiction may leave him watching from the sidelines. Or will Russia, with its ambitious presi­dent, try to fill the void?

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Why are Arabs and Israelis unable to reach a peaceful settlement?

By Claude Salhani

I remember in junior high school learning about the Hundred Years’ War between England and France and laughing, thinking how impossible it would be. Looking at the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, however, we come to realise that we are not far from reaching the landmark century point. Only 30 years to go and, at the rate relations are going, this conflict might surpass the 100-year mark.

The setback in such instances is that the longer a conflict remains unresolved, the more difficult it be­comes to resolve it. Time changes everything, including conflicts. The principal actors change, their position on the world stage changes, their supporters change. Alliances and friends can change, as can one’s enemies. This conflict has changed faces more than once. What began as a conflict over real estate has metamorphosed into a clash of ideologies, politics and religions.

US President Donald Trump had high hopes of making rapid head­way in narrowing the wide divide keeping the Palestinians and Israe­lis apart and ironing out a quick fix in the early days of his presidency. However, as anyone with a grain of knowledge of the Middle East will attest, his failure to secure a lasting peace initiative could have been predicted. There is no quick fix for this 70-year-old problem. Indeed, the only fix seems to be the one set by Israel and peace does not seem to be in the cards or on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netan­yahu’s agenda.

History has shown that any real move towards a peace deal be­tween Arabs and Israelis requires the full attention of the office of the president of the United States and all the prestige that goes with it. That was the case when US Presi­dent Jimmy Carter convened Egyp­tian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the Camp David presiden­tial retreat in 1978. The Camp David peace accords were eventually signed, paving the way for the first peace deal between Israel and an Arab country.

Given the political upheaval sur­rounding Trump and the contro­versies surrounding several major issues he is trying to address on the domestic front — health reform, tax reform, etc. — the US president will find it extremely difficult to devote time exclusively to resolving the complex and delicate Middle East conflict.

If one is to read the political tea leaves correctly, Trump’s problems are likely to increase, despite the US Supreme Court ruling par­tially in favour of his travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries.

Why, despite all the early op­timism that the president could quickly wrap up a Middle East peace deal, do we seem caught up in the same quicksand environ­ment that the previous 17 major attempts at resolving the dispute fell into?

Despite optimism that came with the new American president and the winds of change that are blowing through the region, why is there still lethargy in the Middle East to negotiating peace?

There are two basic reasons for this. First, there is absolutely no trust between the two principal antagonists. Netanyahu is firmly opposed to granting the Pales­tinians the state they desire and deserve. So long as he remains in power, the likelihood of the Pales­tinians creating an independent state is next to nil.

On the Palestinian side, Presi­dent Mahmoud Abbas is politically incapable of making meaningful concessions, especially given the fact that he only speaks for the Pal­estinians living in the West Bank. The Palestine Liberation Organisa­tion has no control over the Gaza Strip, where 1.86 million people live under the rule of the pro-Is­lamists of the Hamas movement.

Hamas, under the influence of the Sunni Gulf countries, has begun to distance itself from the Iranians and the Muslim Brother­hood, a first step in a long process that will hopefully lead to a peace­ful settlement eventually.

In the meantime, there is plenty of blame to go around. Each side’s demands can be justified, up to a point. You cannot blame the Israe­lis for their intransigence when it comes to the question of security. As much as Netanyahu likes to remind anyone who will listen that the United States is Israel’s best friend and that the United States will never let Israel down, there is a point beyond which Israel will not outsource its security, even to the United States.

As for the Palestinians, who have spent seven decades under condi­tions of occupation with no state to call their own, can we really blame them?

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Geopolitical pot could quickly reach a boiling point

by Claude Salhani

Syrian President Bashar Assad may well be accused of being a brutal, ruthless dictator who has caused more harm to Syria than any other national leader or foreign enemy. Assad has been accused of surpassing his father Hafez’s taste for violence and blood.

In his quest to remain on the throne, so to speak, he has lied to his people and to the international community. However, amid all the manipulation, juxtaposing for dominance and lies, there was one particular statement from Assad early in the civil war on which he has kept his word: Assad promised the international community that interference in the Syrian conflict would drag them into hell.

The civil war, for which Assad carries a good load of responsibil­ity, has claimed more lives and caused greater damage to Syria than all the wars with Israel com­bined. It has created an unprec­edented refugee crisis, affecting not only the immediate region but spreading around the Levant and into Europe. Now it is pitting the old Cold War enemies — Russia and the United States — against each other in what could amount to a dangerous confrontation between the two nuclear-armed countries.

Wars have been started for much less than what is at stake here. An added danger in today’s explosive situation is the mega­lomaniacal leaders of the two countries concerned: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

In Putin, Russia has a powerful president who has refurbished his military and has been testing its newly acquired armaments in a real combat setting in Syria. From 1950s-vintage AK-47 assault rifle to the antiquated T-54/T-55 and T-62 battle tanks, Moscow has replaced them with the more modern AK-12 assault rifles and the T-90 battle tank.

While the United States remains a formidable power to contend with, the country is in no way ready for a major conflict in the Middle East, especially a war that would not be limited to a single geographic theatre of operations and could spread worldwide.

A highly volatile geopolitical pot is simmering and the ingredients needed to reach the boiling point are being added day by day. It is insanity to have the Russians sup­port one side and the US support another side in the Syrian civil war and not expect the two forces to clash. The major difference in the danger level of a US-Russian confrontation today and in the days of the Cold War is due to both countries having troops on the ground and forces in the air, whereas in the past the United States and the Soviet Union of­fered support and armament to their Middle East clients.

The shooting down of a Syrian war plane by the United States contributed to wedging the two sides further apart and closer to a direct confrontation. While Washington and Moscow may be wise enough to realise that there would be no victor in a new world war, one that would make Russia’s Great Patriotic War appear tame by comparison, it would not be all that impossible for Assad, in his continued scorched earth policy, to push the Russians and the Americans into a disastrous and insane military misadventure.

This is not crying wolf. The dangers of a direct conflagration between nuclear-armed Rus­sia and nuclear-armed United States are all too possible. The precariousness of the situation is comparable to the one that prevailed in Europe on the eve of the first world war, when “the war to end all wars” was ignited with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by an anarchist in Sarajevo.

Today, the stakes are far higher. Syria, in its present state of gen­eral anarchy and sectarian divi­sions, is comparable to a Sarajevo with nuclear weapons attached to the archduke’s

undercarriage. If this conflict reaches this critical level it will not be the war to end all wars but more likely the war to end the world as we know it.

No one imagined in 1914 the disastrous effects and the con­sequences of that shot fired in Sarajevo. Let us hope that history does not repeat itself. Let us hope that saner minds prevail. It is time to put an end to this murderous conflict in Syria.



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Both sides in Syrian civil war are breaking the rules

By Claude Salhani

Human rights groups have accused Syrian opposition groups supported by the United States in Syria of having used white phosphorus-loaded munitions in what is appearing to be the final push on the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa.

Videos posted online appear to show and human rights groups have claimed that white phos­phorous munitions were deployed at least twice in densely populated areas of Mosul and Raqqa.

Use of white phosphorus munitions is common in Western militaries, according to military sources, though controversial. White phosphorous shells were used extensively by the Israeli military during the Lebanon inva­sion in 1982. Continue reading

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A sickening perversion of the faith

By Claude Salhani

The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have brought to light many points in the war to defeat a sick and cowardly ideology led by maniacal men who feel no remorse in attacking defenceless girls. Where is the honour or valour in committing such barbarous acts?

Truth will always prevail over falsehoods and good will always triumph over evil. Look at history as a guideline. Every nefarious philosophy that adopted evil as its road map, be it from the far right, the far left or from a ruthless dic­tatorship, has ultimately been de­feated. At times, it may have taken a few more years but, in the end, good, truth and justice emerge vic­torious over oppressive regimes, be they religious or secular.

Communism, fascism, jihadism — to name but a few — were predi­cated on lies, hatred and evil. Just how two-faced these groups are is apparent in their interpretation of Islam and the way they cherry-pick what suits them, passing over the rest. They supposedly reject modernity and its tools, yet turn to the most modern of Western advances — the internet to commu­nicate, recruit and communicate between themselves and their agents in the West.

Their propaganda is pure fiction. It preys on the vulnerability of marginalised youth with a shallow understanding of the faith and instils dangerously distorted and bellicose versions of Islam. The programme put forward by the Is­lamic State (ISIS) is based on a plat­form of hate, lies and unadulter­ated evil. It convinces brainwashed youth of Muslim backgrounds that their neighbours and fellow citizens are their enemies.

Those who ordered or sanc­tioned the June 3 attacks in Lon­don committed a horrible, horrible sin, not only against innocent bystanders whom they considered to be their enemy but also against their own coreligionists.

The ISIS narrative promises jihadist operatives that their heav­enly reward for their ultimate “martyrdom” would be multiplied tenfold because they are perform­ing those acts during the holy month of Ramadan.

God — no matter what you call him — does not condone the killing of innocents and there is nothing in the teachings of the Prophet Mo­hammad — not in the Quran, nor in the Hadith — to suggest that the faithful need to go on a rampage during the very month they are meant to cleanse themselves and rise to a higher level of spirituality.

In their sick minds the terror­ists may consider this latest attack a victory. Indeed, they may have scored points with their followers but ultimately this is a war they cannot win.

This is the last stop in a treach­erous road of ideological perver­sion spanning various gradations. Misguided followers can graduate from the supposedly traditional­ist Islamist doctrine to the most extreme forms of aggressive Salafism. Sometimes there is no evolution. New recruits just get dragged into the bloodiest forms of radicalism overnight.

The latest London incident raised many security and intel­ligence questions. There is clearly a long and difficult road ahead for Britain’s security forces as made evident by their apparent inability to identify the dangerous elements among Islamists or to heed warn­ings about them. British security had received several warnings about the individuals involved in the London Bridge attack but had not considered those individuals dangerous.

This is likely to be a mixture of faulty intelligence and a propen­sity to underestimate the danger as such individuals are examined through the distorting prism of communitarianism: They are pre­sumed to just be different.

Still, the challenge can be daunt­ing.

British Prime Minister Theresa May revealed that no fewer than five terror attempts had been thwarted in recent days. Security services are refining their strate­gies. The response time between the moment the alarm was first raised and security forces arrived on the scene was eight minutes. Eight minutes in a city as large and as congested as London is simply outstanding.

As security forces continue to penetrate and pre-empt terror attacks on the home front while confronting the groups on their own home turf, defeating them militarily, there remain two areas security services need to address aggressively: The internet and social media.

In the meantime, we may find that some of our civil liberties may be constrained as the war to oust the jihadists from Britain intensi­fies.

“Enough is enough,” said the British prime minister. That is a phrase the resident of No 10 Down­ing Street should have uttered well before June 5, 2017.

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What will it take to stop the current destruction?

by Claude Salhani –

What will it take to awaken the leaders in the Arab world who continue to believe that their will can be imposed on their people regardless of the cost in material damages and human lives?

How many more cities in the Arab world need to be destroyed and how many more innocent people must die before these lead­ers realise the absolute madness of such violence?

And how many more millions of Arabs must become refugees before those responsible for the carnage accept the fact that changes in a modern society must come through the ballot and not by the bullet?

How many more years of death and destruction will it take for Bashar Assad and others like him to figure out that they have over­stayed their welcome?

These leaders, blinded by their beliefs in the need to impose a political and sectarian diktat, have caused untold misery and bear the responsibility for millions of deaths and injuries and the physical and psychological scarring of future generations. They stood by as thou­sands of children were orphaned and thousands of parents rendered childless.

They have sanctioned the killing and torture of countless numbers of people simply because they disagree with them. They have starved and gassed their opponents. They continue to lie about the use of banned weapons of mass destruc­tion, such as chemical bombs.

Yet the rest of the world stands by. What is happening in Syria and Iraq today is a blemish on all of humanity.

Yesterday it was Hama, then Homs and then Aleppo. Today it is Mosul and Raqqa.

What of tomorrow?

Will the lunatics who believe that their god is greater than the god of their neighbours feel the need to destroy more Arab cities?

Will they not be content before bringing ruin to the entire Middle East?

How many more cities in the region need to suffer before the instigators of death and destruction realise that there are alternatives to dictatorship?

Will they bring their carnage to other great cities of the region? Will they be satisfied to see the apocalyptic shape in which they left Mosul is repeated in other great cities of the region?

New images for CNN by Gabriel Chaim, a Brazilian photojournalist using a camera mounted on a small drone, gives us insight into the scope of destruction and devas­tation that befell what was once Iraq’s second largest city as govern­ment forces backed by the United States fought for control of what remains of this martyred city.

Mosul now takes its place alongside Homs, Hama and many other Arab cities that have suf­fered incalculable losses. From a prewar population of more than 1.6 million, Mosul’s population has been cut to about one-third of that. Those who remain in the belea­guered city struggle to find food and water to survive.

Islamic State (ISIS) militants are regrouping around Raqqa, the expected site of the next ma­jor offensive. There, US-backed military units are preparing for a final showdown with ISIS. That battle for control of the Islamists’ stronghold in Syria is expected to be even more violent with Russian Air Force planes participating in the fight against ISIS.

In Syria, President Bashar Assad hardly merits the title of president, given that he hardly controls about one-third of his country and is entirely dependent on the military assistance of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Russian Air Force. Without their help, Assad would probably have been history long ago.

Some of these Arab leaders are ignorant of the past. History is the best indication of what the future might bring and history has shown us that even the mightiest of dicta­tors are eventually tak

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