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                                                           The Climate Scorecard

Media Release Date: June 12, 2017 To: Members of the Climate Scorecard Global Network, Journalists, Policymakers, organizations and citizens concerned with Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, and related policies. From: Ron Israel & Lois Barber, Climate Scorecard Co-Directors Ron Israel +1 617 618-2600 roncisrael@gmail.com; Lois Barber +1 413 253-3772 lois@earthaction.org Re: Global Response to Trump’s Withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement Note: Permission granted to print this piece in full or in part as an opinion piece or article with attribution to Climate Scorecard. Please notify us of its use. Earth to America— President Trump: You Don’t Get the Paris Agreement The rest of the world is aware that US President Trump does not get the Paris Climate Agreement. His decision to withdraw the United States from the Agreement betrays a lack of knowledge, not just about climate change, but about what it means today to be a country in an interdependent and interconnected world. The Paris Climate Agreement is a voluntary agreement that 195 countries have signed because it represents a realistic way of cooperating to solve a global problem. A global problem cannot be solved by a single country acting on its own. President Trump’s stated concern is that the Agreement will force America to do things that are not in its interest. But this is not true. The Agreement does not compel America to do anything other than what it thinks is reasonable to contribute to the global goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius. This is the atmospheric tipping point beyond which scientists tell us that global warming will cause irreversible harm to the planet. Under the Paris Agreement, each country is asked to pledge what it can do in a fair and transparent way to reduce emissions. The expectation is that over time countries will continue to reduce their emissions until the Agreement’s global goal is met and the planet’s well being is preserved for future generations. The Paris Agreement is about doing what is needed to solve the human-caused problem of global warming; but it also is about the need for countries to collaborate to solve global problems. We are living in a world where the sovereign rights of nation-states are no longer absolute and unassailable. Climate change and a growing list of other problems challenge countries to work together, and challenge leaders—including Donald Trump—to care about what happens in the world and to participate in collaborative efforts with other countries to make the whole planet a better and safer place. 

President Trump unfortunately does not get this. By withdrawing the US from the Paris

Agreement he is denying the science behind climate change and saying that America can solve

this problem on its own. Trump says that the US will renegotiate the Paris Agreement so it is a

better deal for the US. But he does not get that the Agreement, as it stands, is already in

America’s favor. It will help prevent American cities from drowning, forests from burning, and

farmland from drying up. The Agreement will do this, not just because of what happens inside

the US, but also because of what other countries do outside the US.

Trump states that America will lose jobs through the Paris Agreement, but studies show that

America will in fact gain jobs through shifting to the cleaner energy sources needed to reach

the Agreement’s global goal, such as solar and wind. For example, the US natural gas industry

employs 362,000 workers, solar 374,000 and wind has 102,000 jobs, according to an Energy

Department report. Coal companies employ 160,000 workers—a number which has been in

decline for decades.

Trump says that China and India will gain subsidies through the Paris Agreement but the

Agreement contains no such subsidies. Trump says that the Agreement will force the United

States to pay billions of dollars to support its implementation, but the only financial aspect of

the Agreement is the Green Climate Fund, a voluntary effort to raise funds to support the

impact of climate change on the poorest nations. It is totally up to each country whether it

contributes to such a fund.

Trump’s decision reveals (yet again) his short-term, misguided, go-it-alone, American-centric,

irrational, point of view.

Climate Scorecard is a citizen-based effort to monitor and report on efforts to implement the

Paris Agreement by the leading greenhouse gas emitting countries in the world.

( www.climatescorecard.org ). In the eighteen months since the Agreement was signed Climate

Scorecard has found that most countries are working hard to honor their commitments. There

are some countries that are even doing better than expected, such as China, India, the

European Union and, until last week, the United States.

However, even though President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, American

efforts to implement the Agreement are increasing at a sub-national level. States like

California, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont and cities like New York, Boston, San

Francisco, and Pittsburgh are moving ahead to implement programs that will honor the Obama

administration’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US by 28% below

2005 levels by 2025. US-based corporations like Exxon/Mobil, Walmart, Apple, and General

Electric recognize that stabilizing our climate makes good business and economic sense. Seeing

that renewable energy is the future, they have reasserted their commitments to help achieve

the goals of the Paris Agreement.

These efforts demonstrate that American states, cities, and businesses see what President

Trump does not; that the Paris Agreement is a crucially important effort by the countries of the

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world to cooperate with one another to solve the human-made problem of climate change that

affects all of them. President Trump does not get the Paris Agreement or American resolve to

ensure that the Agreement succeeds.

Ron Israel and Lois Barber, Co-Directors, Climate Scorecard

June 2017

Addendum: Earth to America

Messages to America from Climate Scorecard Country Managers in 16

countries that reflect the global opposition to President Trump’s decision.

Argentina: The American President’s recent decision to withdraw the United

States from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement is both frustrating and

disheartening. The move was based on incorrect information and faulty logic

and seriously undermines the fight against climate change underway within

the United States and around the world.

Dustin Robertson, PhD Student

Canada: As our environment leaders have conveyed, ‘We are all custodians of

this world,’ and that is why Canada will continue to work with the U.S. at the

state level, and with other U.S. stakeholders, to address climate change and

promote clean growth. Canada remains committed to the Paris Agreement.

Diane Szoller

France: Emmanuel Macron, our new French President, said “Trump made a

mistake for the future of our planet” by announcing his decision to withdraw

the US from the Paris Agreement. “Make our planet great again” should be

our collective objective. Scientists, engineers, and businessmen should

positively answer the invitation of our president and come to work in France!

Charline Gaudin

Germany: When it comes to the planet, societies, and economies,

renegotiation of the Paris agreement is impossible. President Trump, I know

you were not elected to represent Paris, but you owe it to the world and to

future generations to uphold the Paris Agreement. Align your interests to the

interests of the American people so that your “America first” dream can come

true for future generations.

Mary Nthambi

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India: President Trump has just lost a great opportunity to be a global leader

in a true sense. He has rejected science, progress, and ecology; and ditched

the Earth and humanity. Remember, we are not going to give up. The world

will move faster towards green energy and renewables. We are the Earth!

Ranjan K Panda, Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

Indonesia: With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable

to climate change. Indonesia’s vision of archipelagic climate resilience

recognizes the necessity of developing livelihoods alongside the ecosystems

that support life. Donald Trump’s endorsement of a path of US independence

will not prevent countries like Indonesia from fighting climate change and

embracing a new development trajectory.

Tristan Grupp

Japan: Climate change has been discussed at the UN for over two decades,

and the Paris Agreement is the fruit of those negotiations. Mr. Trump’s

remarks and decision ignore all these efforts despite the compromise of each

nation’s interest. America’s withdrawal will not have a ripple effect. We will

continue showing our commitment to achieve the global goal.

Kenta Matsumoto, Climate Youth Japan

Mexico: Lots of countries, including Mexico, look up to the US as a model of

development, and we fear the effects that President Trump’s statement can

have on our own political representatives. However, I remain hopeful as

millions of Americans are showing their strong commitment to implement the

Paris Agreement within their own means.

Raiza Pilatowsky Gruner, Master’s student in Environment and Sustainable Development,

University College, London

Russia: Global warming and extreme climate change events are the reality

nowadays—just last week Moscow suffered from a severe hurricane that

caused 16 fatalities and left more than 170 people injured. I believe we are at

the point where separate actions are not enough. It is crucial to combine

efforts to fight climate change. The Paris Climate Agreement is a one-of-a-kind

agreement uniting nations all over the world for the common aim of safeguarding the planet.

The withdrawal decision by Trump is deeply upsetting. Nonetheless, it is also a call for action

for experts, NGOs and industries to step up and continue the path forward.

Veronika Kozlova, Sustainability consultant

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Saudi Arabia: I am disappointed with the U.S. government’s decision to

withdraw from the Paris Agreement. This is a huge blow to the future of the

Paris Agreement. This decision can potentially delay the Kingdom of Saudi

Arabia in implementing its planned climate policies and further hinder global

efforts to stabilize our global climate. I urge President Trump to consult with

experts and reconsider this decision.

Abeer Abdulkareem

South Africa: As the second largest emitter, the US has a moral obligation to

not only lead the global effort in reducing emissions, but also to support less

developed economies in meeting their targets. Mr. Trump's view that the Paris

Agreement is a legal liability is a reflection of his 'America first' foreign policy

doctrine. Instead of honoring the international partnership to combat climate

change, he has broken faith with the rest of the world.

Lee-Ann Steenkamp

South Korea: Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will accelerate

the decline of America’s global leadership. Climate change has been on the

global agenda, which is not easily reversible. America, as one of the greatest

greenhouse gas emitters in the world, should remain in the Paris Agreement

and encourage other countries’ participation. This will ultimately contribute to

America’s global leadership.

Eunjung Lim

Spain: The Trump administration's apathy for what is at its core a national

security issue is inexcusable. The outright denial of scientific fact paints a grim

picture for the international community. The United States has lost the

privilege to call itself a leader in science and technology.

Andrea Delmar Senties

Thailand: The US plays a significant role in global trade, climate change, and

generating foreign investments in countries worldwide. By backing out of the

Paris Agreement, the Trump administration is demonstrating that it is giving

less emphasis to climate change. The US has lost its position as a global leader

in tackling environmental and climate change issues. When the US became a

member of the Paris Agreement, it was expected that as a world leader it would take an active

role in fulfilling the commitments it made in the Agreement. It was also expected that the US

would assist in establishing climate change mitigation projects and provide financial support

and appropriate technologies for developing and under-developed countries. Active leadership,

joint-collaboration, and support from the US have helped other member countries to fulfill their

commitments to the Paris Agreement. The US withdrawal raises the question if other countries

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will remain accountable to their pledges and be able to successfully meet their commitments.

Now it will be the responsibility of the member countries to stand united and support each

other in meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement collectively.

Neebir Banerjee

Turkey: It is unwise that countries choose to move arbitrarily on issues whose

consequences will affect the whole world. We want world leaders to make

exemplary decisions that could be followed by everyone. As one of the leading

greenhouse gas emitting countries, the United States should stay in the Paris

Agreement and support developing countries towards sustainable growth.

Turkey, as a developing country, needs role models to help it plan, adopt, and implement

effective climate policies. We should fight together against climate change and stay united with

the rest of the world.

Ozlem Duyan

United States: By prioritizing short-term, individual, economic gain over the

long-term health of future generations, this administration is condemning the

very people it was elected to protect. It is imperative that states, cities,

corporations, and organizations maintain a strong commitment to furthering

environmental progress in order to provide any possibility of protecting the world from the

catastrophic effects of climate change.

Stephanie Gagnon

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From the Washington Post:

 Initial polling showed the Paris withdrawal is an unpopular decision among most Americans, with 6 in 10  opposed to the move, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. But another new poll, conducted by Morning Consult, indicates that one part of Trump's announcement was relatively well received  -- the related decision to stop giving money to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund. Morning Consult's Jack Fitzpatrick reports: "Respondents were also skeptical of the prospect of sending money to developing countries to help them shift toward cleaner sources of energy. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said the United States 'should not provide aid to help developing nations reduce carbon emissions in their own countries,' while 32 percent said the country should."

 

 According to Comey this is How Trump Works

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned 5 the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify. The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed. The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.” 

                                                               Israel's Pro-War Nationalists

                                                                        ( graphic images)

                                                    Palestinian- Israeli Peace Talks Discussed

                                             Hamid Dabashi's Views on the Syrian Conflict

                                Violence Escalates In Iraq As Al-Qaeda's Role Is Questioned 

 

The Plight of Iraq's Mandeans

 Written by  John Bolender

Worse Off Now Than Under Saddam

The ongoing turmoil since the invasion of Iraq has exposed non-Muslim religious minorities to persecution that is worse than what they experienced during the regime of Saddam Hussein. They merit protection from the governments with armed forces in Iraq.
The U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom produces a report recommending to the President and the Secretary of State the designation of certain countries as "Countries of Particular Concern" with regard to religious persecution. With the fall of Saddam Hussein, the United States removed Iraq from this list because of the greater freedom of the Shi'a Muslim majority (15; NB: references are ordered chronologically at the end). However, the chaos in Iraq and resentment toward what are seen as alien cultural elements have led to many attacks on religious minorities. This has been further encouraged by the hope that, with the fall of the secular Saddam, there is some chance of a Muslim state in Iraq (10). As a result, attacks on Iraqi Christians have increased since the spring of 2004 (14, 15, 16), a high point in the violence being the bombing of five churches in Mosul in August (13). However, in this article I want to focus on Iraq's Mandaean population, since they tend to receive even less attention than do the Christians.
In the newsmedia, the Mandaeans are sometimes referred to as being devoted "to the teachings of John the Baptist" (7). This is accurate but misleading, not only because Mandaeans insist that theirs is the religion of Adam, but also because they have their own scriptures containing their own account of John the Baptist which disagrees with much of the Christian Bible's depiction of the man. There are, furthermore, many elements of the Mandaean religion which Christians, as well as Muslims and Jews for that matter, would find alien (1, 2).
The Mandaean religion resembles ancient Gnosticism in some respects: God did not create the world directly, but delegated its creation to deputies who made both a superior world of light and an inferior darker world in which humans live, it being impossible to create a world of light without also creating a world of darkness. Salvation is the successful transition to the world of light after death. Many early Christians were Gnostic, but such ideas were also condemned in the early Church as well, and by the time of the Emperor Constantine, Christian Gnosticism was quite marginal. It did not survive very long in the West. It is a testimony to the traditional tolerance of Islam that a Gnostic or quasi-Gnostic religion, in the form of Mandaeanism, was able to survive throughout the medieval Middle East and into modern times, although I do not mean to imply that it was always easy for it do so.
Ironically, today some Iraqi Muslims are persecuting Mandaeans. According to reports received by the Sabian Mandaean Association in Australia (SMAA), attacks by Muslims against Mandaeans in Iraq commenced within days of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (17).
The Koran guarantees protection to Jews, Christians, and a somewhat mysterious group known as 'sabaeans" or 'sabians." The Mandaeans have survived through the centuries by identifying themselves as Sabaeans, but that identification is sometimes questioned. Prior to his assassination in August 2003, the Ayatollah al-Hakim, a prominent Shi,ite cleric in Iraq, judged that Mandaeans are not "people of the Book," meaning that they are not protected from forced conversion to Islam or even from being killed (6, 7). Their "unclean" status also makes it difficult for Mandaeans to find employment (4).
In December 2003, a Mandaean was confronted in front of a group of people in Baghdad and told to convert to Islam. When he refused, he was killed on the spot. Many similar incidents have been reported to the SMAA including an account of a seven-year-old boy burnt to death (6). The SMAA continues to receive reports of Mandaeans being raped and murdered, often with extreme violence. It has also received reports that Mandaean places of worship (mandi) have been confiscated in several Iraqi cities (5). The police are usually of little help, little effort being made to distinguish religiously motivated crimes from other crimes (7).
As of January 2004, thirty-five Mandaean families were forced to convert to Islam, this including forced circumcisions. Mandaean women and girls in these families were forced to marry Muslim men (6). It is crucial to note here that one cannot be a Mandaean unless both of one's parents are Mandaean (1, 2, 11). Hence, the forced marriages are a means of forcing the religion out of existence. There are also numerous kidnappings of Mandaeans (7, 8), and police often tell the families that there is nothing they can do (7). Public baptisms are an important part of the Mandaean religion, and Iraqi Mandaeans are often harrassed and abused during these ceremonies (4). On 30 November 2004, a Mandaean clergyman, the Rev. Tarmida Saleem Ghada, was ambushed at the Mandaean place of prayer on the Deeala River. Tarmida was leading prayers at the river when Muslims shot him seven times in the legs, severely wounding him (17). The lawlessness of Iraq has also been used as an opportunity for the repudiation of debts owed to Mandaeans, leaving them without hope of redress (8).
The SMAA continues to receive reports that, in a number of localities in Iraq, Mandaeans find placards affixed to the doors of their homes accusing them of witchcraft, demanding that they convert to Islam or leave Iraq, and threatening them with death if they fail to comply. There are copies and certified translations of court records confirming this (17). According to a report posted in November, a militant group, the Islamic Mujahideen, has demanded that all Mandaeans in Iraq either leave the country, convert to Islam, or be killed (16). Since Saddam Hussein's regime was secular, such persecutions had earlier been held in check to a much greater degree (4).
Religious minorities are fleeing Iraq in record numbers. The main refuge is Syria (13). Iran is not an attractive option; Mandaeans are an illegal sect there (4), and sometimes they even face imprisonment (15). Mandaeans living in Iran, along with other religious minorities including Sunni Muslims, experience persecution (3, 12) including not being permitted to join labor unions in the case of Mandaeans and Bahais (9). According to the U.S. Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report for 2004, there are reports of Iranian Mandaeans often being denied access to higher education and being forced to pray in an Islamic manner contrary to their own religious teachings.
The number of Mandaeans worldwide is estimated from about 60,000 (10) to 150,000 (11). Their persecution raises the very real possibility that their religion will go out of existence, especially in light of the fact that they do not seek or even allow converts and that, as noted previously, one can only be a Mandaean if both of one's parents were (1, 2, 11).
Elizabeth Kendal of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, writes that "The Sabaean Mandaean Association of Australia believes all governments with troops in Iraq should be required to rescue from Iraq all the Mandaeans and Christians who have been forcibly converted to Islam" (6), and "Refuge should then be provided in America and its allied nations" (8). She notes that under Article 5 of the Geneva Convention, the Mandaeans qualify as a Protected People and should be treated as such by the Occupying Power (5). No doubt one could argue that the U.S. and other governments with military presences in Iraq are not "occupying powers," and of course that has been argued. It is convenient to do so. Technicalities aside, protection would be the decent thing to do.
John Bolender is a U.S. citizen teaching in the philosophy department of Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. He can be reached at: bolender@india.com

REFERENCES
1. E. S. Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, Gorgias Press, Piscataway, New Jersey, 2002; first published in 1937.
2 Edmondo Lupieri, The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002, translated from the Italian by Charles Hindley; first published in 1993.
3. Human Rights Watch, "By Invitation Only": Australian Asylum Policy; www.hrw.org/reports/2002/australia/index.htm
4. Elizabeth Kendal, "Will the Mandaeans Survive Post-War Iraq?," World Evangelical Alliance, 24 July 2003; www.worldevangelical.org/
5. Elizabeth Kendal, "Iraq: Christians & Mandaeans " Cousins in Faith, United in Suffering," World Evangelical Alliance, 29 September 2003; www.worldevangelical.org/persec_iraq_29sep03.html
6. Elizabeth Kendal, "Iraq: The Persecution of Mandaeans," ASSIST News Service, 31 January 2004; www.assistnews.net/Stories/s04010098.htm
7. Willis Witter, "Iraqi Christians Fear Muslim Wrath," The Washington Times, 7 April 2004; www.washtimes.com/world/20040406-105600-9870r.htm
8. Elizabeth Kendal, "Can Sovereignty Guarantee Security?," World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis, 28 May 2004; www.mandaeanworld.com/mhr_iraq_2004_8.html
9. Amnesty International, Amnesty International's Concerns Relevant to the 92nd International Labour Conference, 1 to 17 June 2004; web.amnesty.org/library/index/engior420082004
10. Refugees International, "Refugees International Advocates with Danish Government for Asylum for Mandaeans from Iraq," 21 June 2004; www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/977
11. Valentinas Mite, "Old Sabaean-Mandean Community Is Proud of Its Ancient Faith," Radio Free Europe, 14 July 2004;
12. Anne Henderson, "Govt Bows to MPs with a Show of Compassion," Canberra Times, 14 July 2004; www.mandaeanworld.com/mhr_aus_2004_23.html?1089878979930
13. Katherine Zoepf, "Exodus: Many Christians Flee Iraq, With Syria the Haven of Choice," The New York Times, 5 August 2004.
14. Dale Gavlak, "Iraqi Christians Fleeing to Jordan, Syria," Compass Direct News, 6 October 2004; www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/1289972.html
15. John Hanford, "Testimony by John Hanford, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, U.S. Depaertment of State," 6 October 2004; wwwc.house.gov/international_relations/108/han100604.htm
16. "US Support Seen as Disaster, for Christian Minority in Iraq," Assyrian International News Agency, 23 November 2004.
17. Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia, personal communication, 13 December 2004.

  Secretary General of International Alert on Possible US Military Strike on Syria

28 August ,2013

Second, it is mad because you cannot launch missiles at a state involved in a civil war and think you are having no impact on that. It surely does not need to be said that if Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, that is as part of that same civil war. This is not some other, separate issue. To launch missile strikes without having a clear idea of how they fit into the bigger picture is indeed madness.

Read more at:http://www.international-alert.org/news/syria-pace-quickens-towards-what?utm_source=International+Alert+Signup&utm_campaign=bb67fc76e8-Newsletter+August+2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5570c6293-bb67fc76e8-87919101

                                                   Christianity in the Post Arab Spring Middle East


Peter Banham wrote: August 23rd, 2013


The Coptic Christians of Egypt are the biggest Christian community within the Middle East; numbering approximately 10 million people. Other significant Christian populations include Assyrians in Iraq, Maronites in Lebanon, Armenian Christians in Turkey and Lebanon, and Syriac Orthodox Christians in Syria and Jordan. These are a varied, ancient and influential people within the Middle East, but with the onset of the Arab Spring and the Islamisation of regional politics, they have struggled to understand their role in the current political environment.

Egypt and Syria are two nations in which the effects of the Arab Spring have been most profound, and within each country, the Christian population is under pressure to determine what their future relationship with the nation state will be.

In Syria the Christian population (estimated to be around 15% of the total at the last census in 1960) has sought to isolate itself from the current civil war. For Christians the violence currently engulfing the nation has become an inter-Islamic conflict, with Sunni Muslims forming the opposition to the Alawite and Shi’a elements within Syria. However, the Christian population has not been able to achieve the distance from conflict that they wanted. They, like other minorities within the nation, such as the Kurds, have been subject to attacks by the Sunni population, and many have been fleeing Syria for neighbouring Turkey. Observers have argued that the violence in Syria has become a sectarian conflict and for some extreme Sunni’s, Christians are one of many minorities on the wrong side of the divide. Radical Sunni’s see the Christians as a threat to the Islamic state they want to install within Syria, and therefore targeting this population is acceptable to them.

The problems facing Syria’s Christian population are not unique within the Middle East. In Iraq, the civil conflict there drove many Christians away from the nation; they were amongst those who suffered the greatest following the allied invasion of 2003. Again, extremists within the Sunni population saw the Christians as a threat to their Islamic state, and as a result life for Christians in Iraq became increasingly intolerable. However, both of these cases were in the context of war and violence. Elsewhere the divisions have long been a part of national society.

In Egypt the problems facing Christians were not the result of conflict. The Coptic Christians have been a significant minority group in Egypt for over a thousand years, and throughout most of their history, they have been on the margins of Egyptian society; despite their large and centralised population. Since the Egyptian Revolution, their role within the governance of the nation has dwindled further, and violence against the community has increased.

Read more at: http://conflictandsecurity.com/blog/christianity-in-the-middle-east-how-are-christian-groups-surviving-in-the-post-arab-spring-world/?goback=%2Egde_2330349_member_268329898#%21

                                                         Growing Violence In Iraq

AFTER a lull of nearly five years during which it seemed as if Iraq might be emerging from the legacy of its civil war, the country has been drawn back into a nightmare of spiralling attacks on a widening range of targets. The past four months have been among the bloodiest since 2008; nearly 3,000 people have been killed and over 7,000 injured. But the Islamic State of Iraq, the latest incarnation of al-Qaeda, now appears to have broadened its scope from its trademark attacks on security forces and Shia mosques and markets, to suicide-bombings of cafés and funeral gatherings.

In the north in Diyala, Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces and in Anbar province in the west, a struggle for control between a resurgent al-Qaeda, newer Sunni extremist groups and re-emerging Shia militias is fuelling a lethal mix. Iraqi security officials say they have captured or killed more than 70% of al-Qaeda’s people in Baghdad and that successful attacks on police stations and government ministries have waned.

But outside the capital, the threat is mounting. Al-Qaeda has regrouped in the surrounding tribal areas that have traditionally been used as staging posts for attacks on Baghdad. Regular strikes on police patrols and army checkpoints, as well as daily assassinations of officers and interior-ministry people, have kept security forces on the defensive.

Read more at:http://www.economist.com/blogs/pomegranate/2013/07/violence-iraq?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/thenightmarereturns

 

US Strategy in Syria: Road to disaster


The decision to support anti-government forces lacks any overarching strategic guidance. The pretext for intervention was the use of chemical weapons. Despite these dubious claims and statements from the UNwhich suggested it could even be the rebels using chemical weapons, the death toll from them remains relatively tiny compared to the 100,000 overall dead. This decision only declares the hand of the US while doing nothing to change the overall situation.

Syria already remains awash with arms. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey already supply the rebels along with supplies coming from Libya. The Gulf states have long been supplying weapons with 3,500 tonnes of weapons already having been shipped. Saudi Arabia, especially, has reportedly already begun shipping anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to the rebels; a dangerous development. Combine this with captured regime weapons the proposition that there is a scarcity of weaponry remains detached from reality.

Furthermore, the question of who the US is arming also must be raised from the outset. Edward Luttwak’s first rule of arming rebels is ‘figure out who your friends are’. It has become increasingly clear this year that the US does not know who its friends are. The old adage an enemy of an enemy is a friend died with the collapse of the twin towers. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) are the supposed ‘moderates’ supported by the Free Syria Army (FSA) who the US identifies as allies. However, they are politically divided and ineffective and the FSA is not much more than a loose affiliation of brigades spread out around the country. Their objective is little more than the removal of Assad. If the SNC was a politically unified organisation with effective control of the military wing and an identifiable plan post-Assad, supporting them would be much more logical. The reality though suggests that weapons will be distributed in a decentralised manner with no possibility of any meaningful control over them.

Read more at: http://conflictandsecurity.com/blog/us-strategy-in-syria-road-to-disaster/?goback=%2Egde_2330349_member_255890765


 Analysis of the Conflict in Iraq and its Impact on neighbouring states

                                                    Chemical Weapons Used In Syria?

Military experts and officials said a military-grade chemical agent, most likely sarin, killed 26 people in the war-torn city in northwestern Syria on March 19. Several countries, including Israel, the UK, France and the US – all vocal critics of Syrian President Bashar Assad – all claimed they had evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria.


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is the latest top official to allege with “some degree of varying confidence” that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian army, citing an intelligence assessment The White House was more cautious, saying it sought more evidence.

Damascus denied that a chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian army, blaming the rebels and Turkey for the incident: “The rocket came from a placed controlled by the terrorist and which is located close to the Turkish territory. One can assume that the weapon came from Turkey,” Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi alleged in an interview with Interfax news agency.

                                                   Liberal Media Supported the Iraq War 

                                         US TACTICS IN SYRIAN WAR

       

                                          

 Retrial Ordered For Mubarak

CAIRO: A Cairo appeals court on Sunday overturned Hosni Mubarak's life sentence and ordered a retrial of the former Egyptian president for failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising that toppled his regime.

The ruling put the spotlight back on the highly divisive issue of justice for the former leader - and his top security officers - in a country has been more focused on the political and economic turmoil that has engulfed the country for the past two years.

Read more at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57563717/hosni-mubarak-retrial-ordered-by-egypt-appeals-court/

 Syria: The Danger of Negotiated Peace

by Bilal Y. Saab and Andrew J. Tabler

In recent weeks, the argument that a decisive Syrian rebel victory would not necessarily be a good thing has gained ground in U.S. foreign policy circles. A negotiated settlement between Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the rebels, the argument goes, would be preferable. Such an ending would have a better chance of stanching the violence and preventing outright sectarian war between the mostly Sunni rebels -- hungry for revenge against the Alawites -- and the rest of the country.

Yet after almost two years of bloodletting by the Syrian government, there is little chance that splitting the difference between the factions would end the conflict. Even worse, a negotiated outcome would perpetuate Assad's favorite strategy -- honed over decades -- of using the threat of sectarian war to make his adversaries in the international community wary of getting involved. Instead, the end of the Assad regime should be decisive and complete.

Of course, there are those who disagree. For one, Glenn Robinson, an associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, has argued that the Syrian rebels, if they win, will seek revenge and embrace neither democracy nor liberalism. Arguing along the same lines, Madhav Joshi, a senior researcher at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and David Mason, a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, have suggested that a decisive military victory in a civil war is dangerous. The victorious side, they say, is likely to try to exclude the other from government (and enforce that exclusion through its military dominance) rather than to try to co-opt the former rival's supporters by including them.

But history does not necessarily bear that out. Negotiated settlements have, in fact, proved weak in terms of promoting mutual disarmament, military integration, and political power sharing. Less than a quarter of all civil wars since 1945 have ended in a negotiated settlement. Many of those power-sharing deals were broken before they could be implemented (such as Uganda in 1985 and Rwanda in 1993). Of those that made it to implementation, the governments generally collapsed into renewed conflict (Lebanon in 1958 and 1976, Chad in 1979, Angola in 1994, and Sierra Leone in 1999). Other recently negotiated settlements remain tenuous (Bosnia in 1995, Northern Ireland in 1998, Burundi in 2000, and Macedonia in 2001).

Negotiated settlements usually founder first on the issue of disarmament, as Alexander Downes, an associate professor at George Washington University, has found. Further, research by Barbara Walter, a professor at University of California, San Diego, suggests that negotiations ask combatants to do what they consider unthinkable. At a time when no legitimate government and no legal institutions exist to enforce a contract, warriors are asked to demobilize, disarm, and prepare for peace. But once they lay down their weapons, it becomes almost impossible to enforce the other side's cooperation or survive attack. Adversaries simply cannot credibly promise to abide by such dangerous terms.

More durable than negotiated solutions are rebel victories. Monica Duffy Toft, an associate professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has argued that rebels typically have to gain significant support from fellow citizens in order to win. Once in government, rebels are also more likely to allow citizens a say in politics to further bolster their legitimacy.

Each conflict is, of course, unique. In Syria, given the timid international reaction, the competing interests of Russia and the United States, and decades-old regional contests, the conflict will most likely be decided on the battlefield, and the tide is turning in favor of the rebels.

But suppose that, in the next few weeks, regional and international powers decide to stop the violence with diplomacy. Four major issues would still stand in the way.

First is the issue of perception. Simply put, the rebels have fought long and hard, have sustained massive casualties, and sense that victory is near. They believe that they have momentum and time on their side and are confident that one final push in the capital could be Assad's undoing. They are not, therefore, interested in giving him a way out through a political deal.

Second, as in all such conflicts, the issue of trust is critical. Two years of war -- complete with unspeakable atrocities on both sides -- have provided each group with ample evidence of the other's evil intentions. No amount of ink in a negotiated settlement will change that, which makes it all the more unlikely that both parties will be willing to forsake their weapons when the international community asks them to do so.

Third is the issue of enforcement. The international community would most likely put forward the United Nations as a security guarantor. Reports have indicated that a UN peacekeeping force of up to 10,000 soldiers could be sent to Syria as part of the negotiated settlement that UN Special Representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi outlined last month. Yet given the UN's less than perfect record in stability operations, there aren't many Syrians who would cheer the blue helmets' arrival. Furthermore, now that Washington has designated Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most prominent anti-Assad forces, as a terrorist organization, any political or power-sharing arrangement would exclude it. That would leave one more enemy to defeat and one more obstacle to overcome.

Fourth is the issue of regional patrons, especially Iran. To negotiate peace, outsiders who have been fueling the fighting with money, training, safe havens, and weaponry would have to start engaging in some creative and complex diplomacy. Because Syria affects the security of all Middle Eastern states, the solution would have to include all the region's major powers. That would mean bringing Iran to the table while also trying to isolate it. Tehran has already signaled to the Obama administration that it is willing to make a bargain on Syria to gain international recognition of its influence there and leverage in future nuclear talks.

Any negotiated settlement would have to produce two key collective goods for Syrians: security and political power. Simply calling on the Sunnis and Alawites to give up their guns won't work. But providing a credible security alternative and helping develop an all-inclusive governing coalition could. The larger the post-Assad governing coalition, moreover, the more Alawites and Sunnis would be interested in sustaining the peace. But a difficult question would remain: If there is no agreement on giving the UN a peacekeeping role, what kind of credible international or regional force would be required to ensure security? History suggests that third parties rarely remain involved in post-civil war peacekeeping roles for long. In addition, they can be less than effective, and the experience of Kosovo bears that out.

These possible outcomes -- a negotiated settlement and a rebel military victory in Syria -- both have flaws. So far, regional powers have worked toward the latter, choosing sides in the conflict and trying to help their side win. If regional powers change course, opting seriously for negotiations to stop the bloodshed and build peace, the diplomatic challenge will be enormous. At this late date, such an attempt would be a long shot at best -- and would likely prolong the Syria conflict instead of finishing it off.

 

Middle East: To Challenge the Patriarch

December 17th 2012

Authored by Joseph Lerner, Edited by Col. Gordon Forbes (ret.)

© Copyright 2012 Ideas That Shape (ITS)

It is essential to be prepared for a possibility that the plans for implementing the Western-style democracy in Middle Eastern countries may be unsuccessful. The Tunisian uprising ignited the Arab Spring, which had a domino effect that resulted in an uprising in Egypt and removal of Mubarak, the toppling of Gaddafi in Libya, an ongoing rebellion in Syria against the minority Alawite ruling class, led by Bashar al-Assad, and protests in Bahrain. These events have been interpreted in the West as a desire for establishing Western-style democracy by the people of the Middle East. However, those in favour of adopting Western-style democracy in the Middle East are in the minority and they were not instrumental in igniting the Arab Spring.

“This is not how the West, nor many Egyptians, thought the Arab Spring would turn out in Egypt. Their mistake was overestimating the significance of the democratic secularists, how representative the anti-Mubarak demonstrators were of Egypt as a whole, and the degree to which those demonstrators were committed to Western-style democracy rather than a democracy that represented Islamist values.” George Friedman, The Egyptian Election and the Arab Spring, Stratfor, May 29, 2012

In International Relations circles and amongst analysts the Arab Spring is perceived as a series of revolutions in the Middle East. The term, Egyptian Revolution, was already used at the first gathering of the Egyptian people in Tahrir Square, who were demanding changes. Comparing the Arab Spring to a revolution might be jumping to conclusions too soon. Why? The Arab Spring hardly consists of a series of revolutions in the Middle East. The Arab Spring has been a series of decentralized and spontaneous uprisings and rebellions against oppression without having any clear, centralized leadership or well-structured political ideology. Furthermore, one should realize that the circumstances that sparked the uprisings in most Arab countries were of an economic and social nature. However, the uprising in Syria and Bahrain are of a political and sectarian nature.

During the Arab Spring, the reaction of many in the West, especially the mainstream media, was based on the misperception that the Arab Spring is a clear sign that the Middle Eastern people are eager to establish Western-style democracy. For example, in October 2012 Doug Bandow in an article that was published by Forbes wrote: That blocking power is now at issue. While visiting Kuwait last week I increasingly heard people insist on creation of a government dependent on parliament, as in most Western nations. Some Kuwaitis even questioned the monarchy, whose ruling family goes back centuries in this region.

The cause of these uprisings was the oppression and frustration of the Arab population, especially the youths, who have no hope in planning for their future. A majority of the youths in the Arab countries have no gainful employment and no means of supporting themselves, getting a higher education or developing skills that would lead to gainful employment. Furthermore, the youths in these countries hardly have any proper social life. All these frustrations and negative energies have been redirected towards uprisings, rebellions and in many cases the religious extremism in the Middle East.

“I don’t think the Arab Spring is necessarily a democratic manifestation, I think it is a populist manifestation,” Henry Kissinger, WSJ, May 21, 2011

The Middle East has a longstanding tradition of male leadership (patriarchy) that extends from the family to the structure of tribal elders and leadership of today’s nations. For thousands of years the Middle Eastern nations have been ruled by kings and sheikhs. Such form of leadership symbolically represents a king or sheikh as a father figure according to the traditions and cultures of the Middle East. The king is the nation’s patriarch. In the Middle Eastern traditions and cultures a nation is similar to that of a family. The national unity of each Middle Eastern country, for thousands of years, has always been ensured under such a patriarchal model of governance.

Furthermore, similar cultural and traditional political structures could even be identified in Middle Eastern countries whose form of government is a Republic. Today, in the Republic of Turkey, the Prime Minister plays a similar symbolic role to that of the great patriarch of the Turkish nation. The same principle applies to the governing structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Supreme Leader of Iran is a Shiite religious leader who is a king archetype. The word, supreme, alludes to such a concept. People of the Middle East have a longstanding traditional, cultural and spiritual affinity with such concepts, symbolism and leadership archetypes that represent kingship and patriarchy.

Whether Western values and standards are compatible with the Middle Eastern traditions or cultures or not, the people of the Middle East highly respect and treasure their way of life. Therefore, the West must realize and acknowledge that the Middle Eastern uprisings and rebellions are hardly an indication that the people of the Middle East are interested in adopting the Western values, culture or Western-style democracy. Essentially the people of the Middle East want economic opportunity and a better life rather than Western-style democracy that is socially alien to them.

However, this does not mean that those who started the Arab Spring are not interested in certain elements of Western-style democracy, like Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly. The traditions and cultures of the people of the Middle East hardly pose a threat to the Western values and way of life. To develop a deeper understanding of such realities and to be able to better assist the region in economic advancement, Human Rights, stability and rule of law, it is necessary to learn about the traditions, cultures and history of the Middle East. Western countries need to be flexible and adapt to these realities in their foreign policies and trade interactions with the Middle East.

Furthermore, it is important to realize and acknowledge that the Middle East is a region with many nations that are rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, precious metals and minerals. The West needs the natural resources of the Middle East to be industrious and sustain its economic growth. The Middle Eastern countries need to export their natural resources to the West and rest of the world to grow their economy and develop their infrastructure. There is an undeniable symbiotic economic relationship between the West and Middle Eastern countries. Therefore, trade, investment and infrastructure building need to become the central focus of the development of relationships between the West and Middle Eastern countries, within the context of International Relations, International Development and International Trade.

People of the Middle East enjoy and appreciate having Western high-tech and other products such as cars, smart phones, gaming devices and many more. Furthermore, they are the consumers of Western entertainment, including movies and TV programs. East and West share common economic and cultural grounds.

One wonders that whether Western-style democracy was really a proper lens to view the Arab Spring? If it was yes, then to what extent?

The next question then is: Are there forms of government that are compatible with both the Western interest in openness and the patriarchal traditions and cultures of the Middle East? One might find some answers to this question. However, regardless of how rational and pragmatic the solutions would be, the political and sociocultural obstacles in working towards such a model of governance will be:

a) how to ensure that Human Rights violations, especially Women’s Rights, are properly addressed within the cultural and traditional context of each Middle Eastern nation; and

b) how to gradually assist the Middle Eastern nations to install the concept of probity in the hearts and minds of each one of their citizens from an early age and throughout their public education.

Joseph Lerner is an Analyst who regularly writes about the subjects of International Relations, International Trade and Geopolitics. Joseph has over two decades of experiences in strategic planning, communication strategy, project management, corporate training, geopolitical analysis, qualitative and quantitative research. He has served in executive capacity and as expert advisor on various Board of Directors. His formal education has been in Cultural Studies and Liberal Arts focusing on the areas of literature, political science, philosophy, classical composition and linguistics. Joseph has extensive experiences in culture of trade and negotiations amongst various indigenous cultures and traditions of the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. In the past, he has served as Campaign Strategist during Canada’s 2011 Federal Election running a successful War Room. In 2007 during the Ontario’s Provincial Election, Joseph held the position of Communication Analyst and Strategist. He is multilingual and has extensive experiences working in environments that benefit from diversity. Furthermore, Joseph has produced numerous radio programs and has interviewing many celebrities, academics, dignitaries and politicians.


 

                                         TWO RECENT VIEWS ON SYRIA 

 

Global powers will keep pouring oil on the fire in Syria - Hezbollah

Published: 17 December, 2012, 13:23


 

Ammar Al-Mussawi, the head of Hezbollah's International Relations.

Ammar Al-Mussawi, the head of Hezbollah's International Relations.

There is no compromise on Syria alone – the entire Middle East is at stake and all the world powers have their interests there, Hezbollah’s Ammar Al-Mussawi told RT.

Ammar Al-Mussawi, the head of Hezbollah's International Relations shared his views on the grounds for the Syrian conflict and the possible ways to settle it in an interview with RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova. Hezbollah believes the Syrian crisis is not a revolution but a case of international intervention and a way to punish Syria for its support of the Palestinians. Its leadership says the conflict has a political solution only, even while all its players want a bitter military escalation.

RT: What is your assessment of the current situation in Syria?

AM: What we are seeing is the escalation of foreign involvement and it’s hard to accept that it’s all being done to protect human rights and democracy. What they have in store for Syria could cause chaos across the Middle East. Different forces have drawn radicals and extremists into the fight, they have been supporting and exploiting them. They assure their nations that they are fighting against terrorists while here they are working hand in hand with terrorists.

RT: What do you make of Russia’s stance on this difficult issue?

AM: We believe that Russia has taken a responsible stance and is acting in line with international law. There’ve been attempts to distort Russia’s position and make it look like it is pursuing its own selfish ends in Syria. We’ve been watching the developments in Syria for two years now and what we see is that Russia has stayed true to the key principles it announced. The main one is non-interference.

If those who promote the right to interfere get the upper hand, then they would be able to destroy any country and inflict pain on any nation. Russia was initially concerned with the escalation of violence. Now we see what this violence has led to. So Russia was right.

RT: What is your forecast for the conflict in Syria?

AM: The regime is still strong, but destructive consequences of the crisis have been felt throughout the country. We fear that violence can spill over beyond Syria. The longer the crisis, the more chaos we see, the more factors there are that make these clashes look legitimate. The conflict in Syria has gone beyond a simple domestic political dispute. You have the same tension in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan. The Gulf countries will not remain safe havens in case this conflict will spill over. As we see it, the West wants to keep the situation in Lebanon stable so far to keep the spotlight on Syria. But sooner or later, violence may sweep across Lebanon.

Already today there are a total of 100,000 Syrian refugees in Lebabon and hundreds of rebels fighting for the Free Syrian Army. Some of them are armed, and the latest events in Tripoli prove my point. The Lebanese are divided over what’s happening in Syria. Some, like us, think it’s a conspiracy by the West that wants to intervene. Others believe it’s a revolution and their duty is to support it.

RT: Do you think there is a potential solution?

AM: We agree that the crisis cannot be resolved through force. A political solution is the only way forward. The communique adopted in Geneva was expected to become the platform for a transition period when such a solution could be found, no conditions are mentioned there. But the West said that Assad must go before it will be implemented. So at the moment we do not see any serious opportunities for a political solution.

It was possible to turn the tide before the conference of the so-called Friends of Syria. Now they have a chance to achieve what they want through the use of force. Those who reject talks have only one goal in mind – they want the conflict that has brought death and destruction to continue. Those who have accused the regime of killing Syrians seem to forget that they are supporting rebel fighters and are only adding fuel to fire. That’s why we believe they want to destroy the Syrian society and rip the country apart. After that they will define new goals for new proxy players.

RT: Why has Syria been chosen as a target?

For many decades, Syria has been the only country in the region has played a positive role in the Palestinian issue. That’s why the West wants to remove Syria. The oil and gas deposits found in the Eastern Mediterranean are a factor, too. The one who wins in Syria will get the right to develop them.

Also, Qatar, which is small in territory and population, is seeking to play a big role in the region. They want to supply gas to Europe, and Syria will allow them to do this if the current regime is crushed.

Any sane person understands that Russia doesn’t have imperialistic ambitions like some others. As far as relations with Russia are concerned, you don’t have to say ‘no’ to your own interests, you don’t have to sacrifice your own country. Some say that Russia will start losing its influence and popularity. But these people are Americanized Arabs, who cannot speak for the whole Arab world. If we held a referendum among Arabs right now and asked them to express their opinion of Russia, I can promise you – over 50% would give Russia their approval, US policies lead to destruction. Some Western ambassadors have been using Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya as examples of democratic changes. But what’s happening in those countries is not a good example, this is the worst scenario possible. So we don’t have a choice – we need to stay strong and resist.

RT:What do you think of the March 14 alliance in Lebanon?

AM: This organization hopes that the Syrian regime will be overthrown. In that case they will take power in Lebanon. They consider Hezbollah, General Michel Aoun and the Amal Movement to be the echo of the situation in Syria. Their problem is that they cannot fulfill their mission, but keep giving empty promises to their partners. For the sake of argument let’s say the regime in Syria falls (which is impossible), wouldn’t it be replaced by another regime? This is not realistic. If the fist that keeps everything together loosens its grip, there will be chaos in all countries and Syria will fall apart. Syria will have to deal with serious problems for many years to come. The March 14 alliance will not be able to implement its political projects in Syria. Hezbollah is not an anti-March 14 alliance force. Our allies have enough power to keep the balance of forces inside Lebanon. Hezbollah is an anti-Israel force, it is not our objective to stand against the March 14 alliance.

RT:Some experts say that Israel wants Assad to stay in power, others think that chaos in the country would benefit the Israelis. What do you think?

AM: What is happening in Syria benefits Israel, because they hope that Syria is getting weaker. Let’s have a closer look at the situation. In the past years, President Assad has proven to be a strong supporter of Lebanese and Palestinian anti-Israel forces. Israelis like to say, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” Now they are saying that what happens after this regime falls, will be more acceptable than Assad staying in power.

Israel openly admits that it wants the Syrian regime to fall, and they even give exact dates when it is going to happen. There was a scandal involving Israeli intelligence. They want a weak country with weak leadership, focused on domestic problems. And if this new power decided to fire a few rockets at the Golan Heights from Katyusha launchers – that’s a price Israel is willing to pay. Israel views the Syrian regime as the link connecting Palestinian and Lebanese anti-Israel forces and their supporters in Iran. The frontline that runs from Iran to Gaza through Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut, poses a challenge to American interests and Israeli domination in the region.

The latest events in Gaza confirm it. It was not easy to launch rockets into Tel-Aviv. Throughout the whole history of Israel, Tel-Aviv was one of the most secure cities. Now Fajr-5 rockets can reach Tel-Aviv, and these rockets are not small. Such threats define Israel’s approach to Syria. They consider Assad part of the anti-Israel strategy.

After the Camp David Accords, the Syrian and Iraqi armies were the only two forces in the region not equipped by the US. Americans didn’t control these two armies. They were equipped and trained by the Soviet Union. In 2003, the US managed to destroy Iraq’s forces. Now they intend to do the same in Syria.

RT: There are about half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria. Do you know anything about their involvement in the conflict?

AM: We don’t have much information about it. But many Syrians support the Palestinians and their cause. As for the Palestinian refugees – out of all Arab countries, including Lebanon, Syria offers them the best conditions. Syria has always supported the Palestinian cause at all political platforms and on the international arena. They have always kept their doors open for all Palestinian political movements, even when other countries, including the ones in the Arab world, closed theirs. So it wouldn’t be right for Palestinians to take Syria’s support for granted. So we hope that Palestinians will not take sides in the Syrian conflict.

But we also know of cases when external forces turned Palestinians against Syria. The recent events in the Yarmouk camp near Damascus is one of them. If you know the area, you will understand how the armed rebels were able to penetrate and bomb it. But leaders of different Palestinian movements are being wise and making sure that Palestinians do not get involved in this conflict.

RT: Can the Syrian crisis be resolved through force?

AM: This problem can only be solved through political means. But when you have armed groups and they are supplied with weapons from the outside, the regime has no other choice but to fight back. The West is distancing itself from explosions and terrorist attacks. This is dangerous. If you’ve chosen to keep them, then don’t blame anyone but yourself when these blasts start happening in your country. Those who are trying to rationalize terrorism shouldn’t be surprised if the terror strikes back at them.

Syria must take a firm stand against terrorism and all its allies should be on its side. We are not just dealing with hooligans and a few armed guys. This is a war against an international coalition. We have to seek all the means possible to make sure the current Syrian regime stays.

RT: Your party runs many hospitals and charities that take care of the handicapped. Can you tell us more about it?

AM: Hezbollah was founded in 1982, after the Israeli aggression, and we didn’t participate in the civil war. We enjoyed a broad grassroots support. We don’t barter – you give us support, and we will give you aid. We are just trying to help people where the state is not able to.

We started out by simply supporting people and families in need. And then we put our work on a regular and large-scale level. We set up infirmaries, hospitals, centers for underprivileged families, families of those who were killed, special schools and centers for war veterans.

We’re not saying that we have got it 100% covered or that all of our people’s needs are taken care of. Our facility for the handicapped was completely destroyed by Israel during the war in 2006, and we have only recently managed to re-build it. We extend help to all confessions and all social groups including our Palestinian brothers.

Today, we’re working hard to help Syrian refugees, and we are helping all of them, not only those who support President Assad. We are helping everyone regardless of their political views. You always have to put a human attitude above politics. We have accommodated some wounded Syrians from the opposition in our hospitals. They are no longer taking part in combat operations and must be treated humanely and provided with medical care.

We know that 11 Lebanese nationals are being held as POWs in Syria. They are not members of Hezbollah but we share similar views. We could easily apprehend and turn to POW status over 500 people from the so-called Free Syrian Army in order to liberate those 11 Lebanese nationals in a swap. But we choose not to use such methods. It’s a matter of principle.

RT: How do you think the situation will unfold?

AM: If you want to know my personal view, I feel that this war in Syria is going to last for quite a while.

We’ve already discussed the factors driving this crisis, but there’re much deeper causes behind it. The whole world is fighting in Syria, it seems, with all the countries having their interests in the conflict. Politics and oil are very much connected, tensions are high, and all the stakeholders are interested in further escalation.

There’s only thing that the parties to the conflict have so far succeeded in achieving: they have defined some rules of their involvement and drew the red lines which they think they are not going cross.

The world powers are not willing to get fully involved in the situation. No one wants to do that, neither Americans, nor the French, nor Turkey, nor Iran. They are all involved in the conflict but they don’t want to battle it out on the ground. Therefore, they are all going to keep pouring oil on that fire. I do not see there is a solution. But I very much hope I’m wrong about it. I don’t think that any party would agree to be the losing side. And even if we talk about a compromise, we all understand that such a compromise will have to be reached on so much more than just Syria. It will be about the entire Middle East and all the world powers. Working out a compromise is a very challenging and complicated task. Each of the parties will keep score of possible benefits they can obtain and threats they will run, so it is a very complex equation. This is a conflict with a very deep hidden agenda and so far it has not exhausted itself.

­Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT, Beirut

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sbE_dLp2TAQ

                                                        By Associated Press,

Updated: Friday, December 7, 2:35 PM

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that the United States and Russia are committed to trying again to get President Bashar Assad’s regime and the rebel opposition to talk about a political transition in Syria, setting aside a year and a half of U.S.-Russian disagreements that have paralyzed the international community.

Clinton stressed, however, that the U.S. would insist once again that Assad’s departure be a key part of that transition, a position not shared by the Russians.

In her first comments on the surprise three-way diplomatic talks held Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Clinton said Washington and Moscow agreed to support a new mediation effort Brahimi would lead. She called Thursday’s discussions “constructive,” while adding that much work remained and suggesting that neither side shifted its fundamental position.

“We reviewed the very dangerous developments inside Syria,” Clinton said in Northern Ireland. “And both Minister Lavrov and I committed to supporting a new push by Brahimi and his team to work with all the stakeholders in Syria to begin a political transition.”

“It was an important meeting, but just the beginning,” she added. “I don’t think anyone believes there was some great breakthrough. No one should have any illusions about how hard this remains, but all of us with any influence on the process, with any influence on the regime or the opposition, need to be engaged.”

Neither Assad nor any opposition group has agreed to a cease-fire and talks. Both sides believe they can resolve the conflict militarily. Even if the U.S. and Russia reach a broader agreement on a path forward, bringing most of the world with them, it is unclear if that will have any effect on the fighting in Syria.

The 40-minute meeting with Lavrov and Brahimi immediately seemed to ease some of the tensions between the U.S. and Russia over how best to address Syria’s bloody, 21-month civil war. Through much of the conflict, the former Cold War foes have argued bitterly. The U.S. has criticized Russia for shielding its closest Arab ally. Moscow has accused Washington of meddling by demanding Assad’s downfall.

Clinton said nothing that suggested either government had changed its position, and Lavrov made no public comments after the meeting. But with rebels fighting government forces on the outskirts of Syria’s capital and Western governments warning about possible chemical weapons deployment by the Assad regime, Clinton emphasized the importance of taking another shot at a peaceful transition deal.

Diplomatic efforts are needed to gauge “what is possible in face of the advancing developments on the ground which are increasingly dangerous not only to Syrians, but to their neighbors,” Clinton said, in an apparent reference to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, which has become the focus of Western nervousness about the civil war.

Brahimi said after the talks that he would put together a peace process based on a political transition strategy the U.S. and Russia agreed on in Geneva in June. At that time, the process quickly became bogged down over how the international community might enforce its conditions.

      Protests and clashes across Egypt as 'Pharaoh' Morsi seizes new powers 

      Protesters both for and against President Morsi also rallied in the streets of Cairo, Egypt. Supporters of Morsi chanted, "The people support the president's decree" in front of the presidential palace, AP reported.

                                                         Violence In Pakistan

                                                                       Syrian Opposition Speaks 

 Resolution, Not Conflict

 The guide to problem-solving. 

by Susan Heitler, Ph.D. 

Pakistan Could Use a Therapeutic Intervention

 There's individual and couple therapy; how about country therapy?  Published on January 10, 2012 by Susan Heitler, Ph.D. in Resolution, Not Conflict

Sectarian violence is tearing apart Pakistani society.

 Psychopathology occurs when differences are addressed conflictually. The result is anger and aggression, depression, anxiety and escape patterns instead of cooperation and well-being. Could this hypothesis guide a method of helping distressed countries as well as it serves to guide individual, couple and family therapy?

Therapy in this theoretical model is a process of:

a) guiding clients through more sanguine ways of addressing the problems they face, including deepening the understanding and implementing responsiveness to underlying concerns and

b) coaching collaborative conflict resolution methods so that the client(s) can use these up-graded skills to address future concerns and differences more effectively. 

I asked my friend, Mehlaqa Samdani the question of how or if this model of therapy could be helpful to a country locked in a culture of violence. Samdani studies and consults on issues of international relations with a particular focus on her native country of Pakistan. 

It turned out that Samdani had recently written a proposal to reduce sectarian violence in her home country.  Interestingly, Samdani's proposal, which follows this introduction, reads with remarkable similararity to the interventional path my conflict-resolution model of therapy advocates:

a.      Clarification of the pathology and target goals for change.

b.      Brief exploration of the history of the target symptom.

c.      Identification of strengths that can be mobilized toward healthier functioning.

d.      Identification of the core underlying concerns

e.      Creation of win-win solutions to these concerns, including making structural changes to upgrade how the overall system functions.

f.       Teach healthy conflict resolution skills so that subsequent difficulties will be addressed cooperatively.

The idea of country therapy for Pakistan has particular import for me.  Mehlaqa Samdani's family and my own have grown up together.  In the summer of 1976 my husband and I visited them in Pakistan's frontier provinces, the mountainous area from whence the Taliban launched.  We were there to study with her great uncle Durrani Sahib.  Durrani Sahib, in addition to being the dean of the engineering college in Peshawar, was a great Sufi mystic from whom we were privileged to learn.  

Thus as a daughter of both the tribal areas and urban Lahore, Mehlaqa Samdani knows well the Pakistani nation.  In addition, her distinguished Islamic lineage brings the Sufi penchant for kindness and love to her work.

Here's Mehlaqa Samdani's proposal:

Pakistan: From Chaos to Calm

A Strategy to Replace the Current Culture of Violence with a Culture of Dialogue 

Pakistan's proclivity to resolve domestic and international disputes through violence rather than collaborative dialogue has created a culture in which militant groups have flourished.  Until there is a paradigm shift in Pakistan's approach to problem-solving, militancy will continue to pose a threat to Pakistan and, given its nuclear armaments, to the world. 

Pakistan is home to a wide range of combative and aggressive, i.e., militant groups.  These include anti-India groups operating in Kashmir, sectarian organizations based in southern Punjab, as well as Taliban and non-Taliban militant groups entrenched in the tribal belt. 

When and how did Pakistan begin to develop a culture of violence?

A culture of violence began to take root in Pakistan in the late 1970s and 1980s when successive Pakistani governments deliberately radicalized religious identities in the country.  The government's goals were a) to consolidate internal political advantage, b) to sponsor militant groups that would  advance its foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan and India, and c) to cultivate a nationwide militant mindset and infrastructure that would enable it to achieve these goals.

The government's success in fostering militant religious beliefs stimulated pervasive acceptance of intolerance and violence throughout much of Pakistani society.  It then was able to justify its own violence against its citizens, political competitors and neighboring counties via religious idioms, imagery and rhetoric.

What potential strengths could be mobilized to reverse the society's increasing intolerance of differences and violent interactions between groups?

Women participate actively in many Pakistani civil society groups.

 While the Pakistani government has been unable to thwart militancy and at times been directly complicit in promoting it, Pakistan's civil society groups do show potential to advance non-violent problem-solving.  In recent years, Pakistani civil society groups such as media organizations, human rights groups, lawyers, student groups, and religious organizations have mobilized peacefully and effectively around various political and humanitarian causes. 

With a minimal amount of appropriate external support, these groups could play an enlarged role in reversing Pakistan's proclivity toward violence.

What strategies have been tried thus far?

It is important that Pakistan's relatively weak criminal justice infrastructure be strengthened to successfully apprehend and try militant leaders. Punitive measures alone however have proven ineffective at decreasing militancy. 

The cycle of violence continues because three further factors must also be addressed:

1.      The underlying concerns and grievances that lead people to joint violent organizations.

2.      The lack of an alternative to militancy.  There is a general lack of awareness in Pakistani society that win-win dialogue and problem-solving can offer an alternative method for finding solutions to their concerns. Nor do people have the skills to utilize dialogue effectively for addressing intra- or inter-group differences.

3.      Some groups, particularly the more extremist Islamic factions, are locked in fixed belief systems that will not be open to hearing others' perspectives and concerns, and that seek dominance, not side-by-side interactions.

What are the main underlying grievances?

While many militant groups have overt religious agendas, socio-economic and political factors have been key in gaining adherence to their dogmas.  For instance, in Pakistan's tribal belt, the corruption of the local ruling elite has deprived the local population of basic services. Militants challenge the status quo and fill the governance gap by providing security and justice to local communities.  

In southern Punjab, violent, anti-Shiite Deobandi groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are most active where the landed elite are Shiite and landless peasants predominantly Sunni.  The apparent complicity of the landed elite with the corrupt and inept local judicial and administrative systems pushes the local population toward those who challenge the system in support of landless peasants.  For instance, MaulanaHaq Nawaz, the founder of Sipah-e-Sahaba ,   was known to spend time at district courthouses, providing financial and moral support to destitute litigants.

What steps could address these grievances in a more collaborative manner? 

To Read More

Here’s the link to the full article:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201201/pakistan-could-use-therapeutic-intervention

 Thanks to Dr Susan Heitler and Mehlaqa Samdani for their kind permisssion to reproduce this article on regionalconflictinsights.com

 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201201/pakistan-could-use-therapeutic-intervention

 

Now see how the Taliban recruits members at: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang///id/868

 

                                 Moderate Islamic Parties: Are They Ever Really Moderate?

We’ve all heard about the December 2010 Tunisian election—considered the first sparkle of the Arab Spring. The fireworks began in Tunisia the 18th of December 2010. By peaceful and by violent lights a quick fuse burned through the Middle East, sustained by millions of satellite television watchers and cell phone communicators, each, according to their abilities, with yearning breaths, sustaining revolution.

No surprise, to the well-informed, on the Arab Street, the whopping victory of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, which took 40% of the seats in parliament, leaving to rival parties small lots of mismatched chairs. Ennahda (translated as Renaissance), has formed the new government, and it seems to block less well-organized Islamist rivals; it purports to look to Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as it develops its style of government.

Yet at the polling stations men and women were separated, ordered into gender-lines, before they could cast their votes. Is that moderate?

The extent to which Islamism dominates a given body politic is best measured by consideration of the status of women in that society (see my article Little Hope for Arab Women in Democracy). The likely evolution of what Western elites characterize as moderate Islamic parties may be best measured by political conditions in Iraq, since Iraq is the head-start country for democracy in the Arabic-speaking Middle East.

Thoughtful analysts note that the transition from despotism to democracy is fraught with complications, and that recent Middle East trends suggest that Islamist parties have much more effectively surged to dominance through elections than through revolutions.

An irony of the U. S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and of the democratization efforts engineered by the Coalition Provisional Authority, then led by Paul Bremer, is that attempts to produce a multitude of moderate political parties in Iraq has instead enabled a contentious, too-often murderous, crowd of hardliners, some of whom claim to be moderate, to dangerously drive the machinery of government. Critics of U. S. policy contend that the CPA’s de-Ba’athification efforts, which were inclusive of the Iraqi army and of the large-standing police force, have only served to over-weight the influence of Islamist parties and militias. It is obvious that greater damage has been done to the body politic of Iraq since 2005, than that achieved by Mr. Saddam Hussein in the thirty years preceding the 2003 invasion.

As with Iraq, so with Tunisia: Islamist parties have learned that if they rigorously self-portray as moderate, they will be greatly assisted by Western powers yearning for the democratic development of the Middle East. The leadership of Ennahda speaks of moderation, while in fact its ideas of renaissance are not at all moderate: uncovered women they used to publicly advertise for their moderation, will eventually be pushed back and down.

New to a democratic Tunisia, a country of pre-existing liberal tendencies, insofar as the rights of women are concerned, Ennahda must initially constrain its true socio-political ambitions. But Iraq, with its legacy tensions between Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, and Turkmen, long erupting in bloody violence was self-prepared. In Iraq, Islamist blocs have terrorized their way to parliamentary prominence.

With each new off-shoot of the Arab Spring Westerners unfamiliar with the true nature of sudden-democracy in the Middle East have trumpeted victory for liberalism, pluralism, and social freedoms, while people in the know realize that episodes of ever-increasing violence will bloom where liberalism withers. 

 

By  Miaad Hassan

 A recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a scholar who hopes to join international organizations to concentrate on Democracy and Governance; and peace building opportunities in the Middle East.

 

 

Analysis of the move towards democracy in the Arab and Islamic world begins below.

The perspective we wish to share is that in this age of globalization, events in one part of the world tend to be connected to those in other parts of the world which may be thousands of miles away.

Time Magazine's choice of The Protesters as the person of the year is a dramatic illustriation of the connection between the conflicts that made the news in 2011.  

An  analysis which connects these features of human struggle takes us closer to global solutions. On regionalconflict insights.com we present this analysis all on one website. 

 The Arab World and Syria In the News

                      Opposition Roadmap for  post-Assad Syria

       RT Investigates Clash of cultures in Europe

 US and Russian Officials Meet on Syria

MOSCOW | Fri Jun 8, 2012 12:37pm EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A U.S. special envoy met Russian officials on Friday as part of Washington's push for a political transition in Syria that would see President Bashar al-Assad leave power, but there was no sign of a thaw in Moscow's resistance to such an approach.

Senior U.S. State Department official Fred Hof held talks on Friday with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov.

Both sides again endorsed U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan after the second reported massacre of civilians in two weeks deepened doubts that it can end violence in Syria. Hof made no comment to reporters outside the ministry building.

U.S. officials have suggested Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent Hof to Moscow in an effort to secure a transition strategy that the United States says must include Assad relinquishing power.

The Russian Foreign Ministry described the talks as "an exchange of opinions on ways to foster a peaceful resolution in Syria with an accent on mobilisation of international support in the interests of fulfilment of Annan's plan by all sides".

While the United States wants Russia to raise pressure on Assad, Moscow says Western and Arab nations must use their influence to push insurgents fighting for the Syrian leader's downfall to halt violence and hold talks with the government.

Eager to maintain its firmest Middle East foothold and stop Washington and the West from pushing governments from power, Russia has used its U.N. Security Council veto and other tools to protect Assad from coordinated condemnation and sanctions.

President Vladimir Putin says he is not on Assad's side and Moscow says it would be open to his exit from power as long as it is a result of an inclusive political process among Syrians without outside interference.

Prospects for a political process appear increasingly slim, prompting Western states to redouble calls for Moscow to exert more pressure on Assad to end violence in which the United Nations says his forces have killed more than 10,000 people.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the reported killing of at least 78 villagers by Assad's forces as "unspeakable barbarity" and warned civil war was imminent.

Annan acknowledged his U.N.-Arab League peace plan, which Russia has strongly backed, was not working and said there must be "consequences" for those who do not comply.

Russia, which helped win Assad's nominal support for the peace plan, says the reported massacre in Hama province and the killings of 108 people late last month in the Houla region underscore the need to support Annan's plan.

Bogdanov said on Friday the six-point plan could be adjusted to improve implementation but its core elements must remain. The plan, which demands an end to the violence, calls for a political process but includes no direct call for Assad's exit.

Russia has resisted pressure to change its stance on Syria and has not joined other nations in blaming the killings squarely on the government, saying both sides had a hand in the Houla massacre. It has not assigned blame for the latest killings but said they were aimed at scuttling

            Jews And Arabs Take on Hate History 

                     Carnage In Syria 

              Perspective on Embassy Attacks 

The Middle East, Syria, Egypt, Syrian Opposition, Iran, Pakistan, Embassy Attacks, Gadaffi, Lybya, UN Peace Keepers, Therapeutic Intervention.