Friday, October 31, 2014

Gatestone Institute

The relevant UN Resolution, as well as the Congressional sanctions bill, says the acceptable level of enrichment is none at all. The administration is, in fact, negotiating a level. This track means the total erasure of all international sanctions.
All of the steps Iran took are reversible. Iran's "expressed desires" should not be the driver of U.S. policy.
The Coach-in Chief, President Obama, appears to believe the West and Iran are on the same team looking for a negotiated tie. The Iranians, however, are looking for nuclear weapons.
In the run up to November's P5+1 talks, Iran has already won the battles that count; remember, this is the bazaar. After last year's unsatisfactory interim agreement, this author wrote:
A deal that is not a capitulation requires two conditions: the parties must equally value the process; and there has to be a compatible endgame. The West invested the process with much more value than did Iran, providing the mullahs with instant leverage, but most important, there was no agreed-upon end game.
The P5+1 wanted to negotiate the terms of Iran's nuclear surrender; Iran was negotiating the conditions under which it will operate its nuclear program.
We are familiar with the rules of buying a rug in the souk. The goals are compatible -- he wants to sell, you want to buy. If you want the rug more than he wants the deal, you will overpay; if he wants the deal more than you want the rug, you win. But either way, money and rug will change hands. Alternatively, if you want to buy a rug and he wants to sell a camel, no matter how ardently you bargain there will be no deal. Unless you change your mind and take the camel.
The White House took the camel.
A speech by Wendy Sherman, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to a P5+1 symposium in Washington, made that clear:
"The President has pledged to ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.... Specifically, Iran [took a number of steps, including having] agreed not to make further advances at the Arak heavy water reactor; and opened the door to unprecedented daily access for international inspectors to the facilities at Natanz and Fordow."
Maybe. But all of the steps Iran took are reversible, IAEA inspectors were denied access to a suspected military site at Parchin, and the issue of warhead delivery systems has not been addressed. If they cheat, it is worth noting that its friend in proliferation, North Korea, appears to have miniaturized a nuclear weapon to fit on a mobile missile. Want to risk it? In Wendy Sherman's words:
"[O]ur group has proposed to Iran a number of ideas that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with Tehran's expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program and that take into account that country's scientific knowhow and economic needs."
Iran's legitimate civilian needs could be met through legal purchases of enriched uranium. Iran's "expressed desires" should not be the driver of U.S. policy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during talks in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

According to Sherman:
"Iran's Supreme Leader has repeatedly said that his government has neither the aspiration nor the intention of building a nuclear weapon; indeed, he has said that such a project would be forbidden under Islam. So our proposals are consistent with Iran's own publicly-stated position."
"Iran's leaders would very much hope that the world would conclude that the status quo -- at least on this pivotal subject -- should be acceptable, but obviously, it is not."
Iran's goal was to establish the principle of its "right" to enrich uranium. Although the relevant UN Resolution says the acceptable level of enrichment is none at all -- as does the relevant and lopsidedly approved Congressional sanctions bill -- the administration granted Iran's principle and is, in fact, negotiating a level.
Sherman continued,
"The temptation to link the nuclear question to other topics is understandable. However ... we are concentrating on one job and one job only, and that is ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon."
This single-track negotiation has allowed Iran to proceed without American objection along the path to a variety of other important Iranian ends, including:
Additional repression at home, which is crucial to the longevity of the regime. Twenty-six-year old Reyhaneh Jabbari was the 967th person to be executed since the "moderate" Hassan Rouhani became Iran's president in August 2013. She was convicted of killing the man she accused of raping her, but with no investigation of her claim. The pace of executions has been accelerating: 381 by the end of 2013, 586 so far this year, including Miss Jabbari.

The victims are often hung from cranes in public with an audience that includes children.
There is a new campaign of throwing acid in the faces of women not considered "modest" by roving gangs, and probably instigated by the Basiji paramilitary police. (Check photos on the Internet if you dare, but be warned.) Writer and professor emerita Phyllis Chesler wrote recently that the Women's Freedom Forum of Iran told her laws have been passed to protect the acid throwers, and the regime has been "intimidating the families of the victims and hospital nurses and staff. Reporters are also prevented from going to hospitals to see the victims."

There are also reports of increasing pressure on non-Muslim communities in Iran. The attacks are much like those of ISIS -- but with no condemnation from the White House.

Support for Syrian murderer Bashar Assad: With the U.S. diverting attention to ISIS and demanding that "moderate Syrian rebels" (yes, quotation marks indicate skepticism about whether "moderates" exist and if they do, that we know who they are) shut down their attacks or postpone desired attacks against the Syrian government, which has been repressing, bombing, gassing, and starving their compatriots. Instead, says the U.S., turn on Sunni "radicals," who are at least cousins of the Sunni "moderates," and kill them first -- removing one threat from Damascus.

More support for Assad -- and Iran: The U.S. air campaign is the decision of the President, who said we are there at the "invitation of the Iraqi government." That creates two problems: the Iraqi government, even the new one, is Shiite-dominated and beholden to Iran; and it makes the U.S. Air Force an agent of those two bodies against their most serious adversaries.
If Iran and the Baghdad government are so worried about ISIS (and they are), why not let THEM do something about it? Why is the U.S. trying (not very successfully) to create a Sunni coalition to fight a Sunni organization? America's tepid air support and failure to provide American or allied "boots on the ground" have already bred resentment among Iraqi Sunnis, who are considering how to create some stability with ISIS rather than fighting what they see as a losing battle. (See U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan for similar problems with the Afghan National Security Force.)

Perhaps most important: The total erasure of all international sanctions. There have been justified complaints about European countries running to do business with Iran, even during the sanctions period; Germany may be the prime offender here. But the U.S. has jumped in bed with them—first releasing billions in frozen Iranian assets and now permitting U.S. companies to sign new contracts with the Islamic Republic. A week ago, Boeing, a major U.S. defense contractor, announced that it had signed its first new contract with Iran since 1979.

The game is not over at halftime. No matter how great the score disparity, if the team behind -- in this case the P5+1 -- makes adjustments and sticks to its goals, victory is still possible. It is not likely in this instance because the Coach-in-Chief, President Obama, appears to believe the West and Iran are on the same team looking for a negotiated tie.
The Iranians, however, are looking for nuclear weapons.

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Gatestone Institute

Until Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state and Israel is pushed back to its pre-1967 borders, it will be "halal" for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world faces.
On the press freedoms index 2014 of Reporters without Borders, Turkey ranks an embarrassing 154th, a score worse than Burundi, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Libya, Uganda and Kyrgyzstan, among others. Once again, Erdogan corrupted facts and figures in order to bash Israel.
Holy struggle against Israel is a prerequisite for Erdogan's pro-Hamas Islamism, and the cold war and Erdogan's explosive rhetoric around it have yielded a treasure-trove of votes in a country that champions anti-Semitism.
"The Jewish lobby has lost much of its mythical power. Our prime minister's rhetoric and actions have largely caused this. The way he [Erdogan] walked out of the Davos meeting [in 2009] has substantially tarnished Israel's regional charisma. Despite all that, Israel has been unable to harm Turkey." This quote was from former senior diplomat and member of parliament Volkan Bozkir, of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP], in an interview with the daily Hurriyet on March 18, 2013. In Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's mini-cabinet reshuffle last month, Bozkir became Turkey's European Union Minister and chief negotiator with the club for Turkish membership.

Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a 2009 a panel in Davos, Switzerland, tells Israel's then President Shimon Peres, "when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill."

Since Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel four years ago, the Jewish state has tried, in vain, to normalize ties. Efforts have included a 2013 move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to phone then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010. Since the Israeli raid on the Turkish flotilla that aimed to break the "illegal siege" of Gaza, Turkey has repeatedly said that normalization would never come before: a) Israel apologized for Mavi Marmara, b) Israel compensated for the families of the nine Turks killed aboard the vessel, and c) Israel altogether removed the blockade on Gaza. News of a potential breakthrough has never been absent on newspaper pages in both countries.

Most recently, Verda Ozer, a columnist with Hurriyet, quoted a "top official in Ankara" telling her: "We are ready for normalization with Israel." She wrote in her column on Oct. 25:
My question was this: Is Turkey considering normalizing its relations with Israel and Egypt, which are the only countries offering stability in the region other than Iran? The official continued: "There is only the compensation issue remaining. After this is solved, we could send back our ambassador and relations would be normalized."
Is normalization possible? Theoretically, it is. In reality, it is a near impossibility.
Since Netanyahu's apology, Turkey, both governmentally and publicly, has reached peak after peak in exhibiting anti-Semitism unseen before. A year-and-a-half after Netanyahu's initiative to apologize for the Mavi Marmara, Erdogan ordered the Turkish Ambassador to Washington, DC, Serdar Kilic, to write on his behalf to the American Jewish Congress to express his willingness to return a 2004 "Profile of Courage Award" the New York-based organization had awarded him. Shortly before that, the organization had said that Erdogan had become the world's "most virulent anti-Israeli leader" and demanded that he return the award. During Operation Protective Edge in July 2014, Erdogan commented that "Israel had surpassed Hitler in barbarism."

Erdogan (and Davutoglu, for that matter) has both pragmatic and emotional reasons to challenge Israel publicly, and to maintain Turkey's "cold war" with Israel. Emotional, because a holy struggle against Israel is a prerequisite for his pro-Hamas Islamism. And pragmatic, because the cold war and his explosive rhetoric around it have yielded a treasure-trove of votes in a country that champions anti-Semitism. The critical parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2015 will most likely be another setting for his new verbal assaults on Israel.

In a speech last week, Erdogan defended Turkey's press freedom record by claiming that 16 journalists were killed during Israel's military offensive against Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, this summer.

"Unfortunately, some politicians in Turkey and some international media outlets are harshly criticizing Turkey, saying there is no press freedom in the country," he said. "But the 16 journalists who were killed by Israel during the Gaza attacks have never been brought up." That was Erdogan's account of press freedoms in Turkey and Israel. As always, reality is different from fabrication.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ], 16 journalists have been killed in Israel since 1992, but NOT during Operation Protective Edge. And the CPJ's database puts the number of journalists killed in Turkey since 1992 at 20!

On Freedom House's press freedoms index, Turkey belongs to the "not free" group of countries, ranking 134th globally, and sharing the same score as South Sudan, Libya, Ecuador and Armenia. Israel belongs to the "free" group of countries, ranking 62nd and scoring better than EU member states Italy (64), Hungary (71), Bulgaria (78) and Greece (92).

On the 2014 press freedoms index of the Reporters Without Borders, Turkey ranks an embarrassing 154th, a score worse than Iraq, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Burundi, Jordan, Chad, Libya, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Angola, Mali, South Sudan, Uganda and Kyrgyzstan. On the same index, Israel ranks 96th.

Once again, Erdogan corrupted facts and figures in order to bash Israel -- while his diplomats are speaking of "Turkey's readiness to normalize its ties with Israel." In reality, with or without the normalization of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, the Turks have never hidden their broader goals in the Arab-Israeli dispute: that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state; and that Israel should be pushed back to its pre-1967 borders. Until then, it will be 'halal' [permitted in Islam] for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world faces.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Not Really!?!

"[Orbital] has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punchline to a joke."
"It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the '60s. I don't mean their design is from the '60s, I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the '60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere."
Elon Musk, chief executive, SpaceX

"We need to go through this investigation and be very thorough before we determine whether that's a factor [use of Soviet-era engines] in this or not."
"I do want to caution the public, this is an accident site and it's a rocket and it had a lot of hazardous materials on board that people should not be looking for or wanting to collect souvenirs over. If you find anything that washes ashore in the local area or came down in your farm or in your yard, please make sure that you call local authorities."
Frank Culbertson, vice-president, Orbital Sciences Corp.
An unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket headed for the International Space Station lifts off from the Wallops flight facility shortly before exploding.
An unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp Antares rocket headed for the International Space Station lifts off from the Wallops flight facility shortly before exploding. Photograph: Jay Diem/AP
"Due to certain specifics, it’s not possible to talk about the construction details of the rocket itself and the interaction of its systems during launch, since this is the field of American specialists. However, it's important to note that during yesterday’s launch, the AJ-26 first-stage engines, which are a modification of the NK-33, were functioning normally."
Kuznetsov company, Samara, Russia

Orbital executives with their contract to run cargo for NASA to the International Space Station were using 40-year-old Soviet-designed-and-manufactured rocket engines for which Orbital executives claim no modern alternatives to that technology exist. Now that's a wonder. Nothing equal to those particular engines exist? Then why not design and produce them? Isn't that their business after all? And if they have no other alternatives, what on Earth is SpaceX using as another NASA contractor?

In May, during tests at NASA's Stennis Space Centre in Mississippi, the very same type of AJ-26 engine, similar model to the two propelling the Antares rocket that exploded on Tuesday seconds after launch from Wallops Island Virginia, exploded. Mightn't that explosion have triggered a concern, enough so to point a stern figure of suspicion at the reliability and utility of those engines?

Thank heavens the rocket was unmanned; the resulting fireball and shredding of the rocket and its contents as a supply vessel carrying food, equipment and experiments for the astronauts on the ISS rained down potentially toxic material all over marshlands and farms in Virginia. That isn't manna from the heavens, that's possibly dangerous material to endanger whatever comes in contact with it, whether humans or wildlife, cattle or birds, let alone crops.
Police cars drive past an antique rocket at Nasa''s Wallops Flight Facility.
Police cars drive past an antique rocket at Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility. The incident sent ripples though the space industry on Wednesday. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
If private companies set up to compete as an alternative to government cutbacks requiring NASA to look for cheaper methods of contributing to the International Space Station and scientific exploration of the stratosphere cannot be relied upon to safely and efficiently fill the gap, perhaps it's time for the U.S. government to decide whether it is interested in continuing its missions to space, and to allocate sufficient funds to enable them to continue.

The contract privatization of space science may sound sensible to some degree, but not from the perspective of cost-saving, when low-end devices are used to produce high-end results. The AJ-26 engines bought and refurbished by a U.S. company, subsequently used in several rocket launches likely need to be permanently mothballed.

The $200-million Antares loss will be difficult to justify; saving funding by wasting funds doesn't appear like very good economics.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Devilish Pact In Jihad

"[Al-Qaeda is trying to convince Islamic State]: Let's just have a truce in Syria. That is what's underway now. ... What we have seen is that local commanders are entering into local truces. There are definitely areas where the two groups are not fighting."
"The Islamic State is the strongest jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, but the evidence thus far says that al-Qaeda is much stronger everywhere else."
Tom Joscelyn, Long War Journal
"Tens of fighters left Nusra over the past days. They believe that they are being attacked by what they call the infidel crusader enemy."
Rami Abdurrahman, director, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, London

"I cannot believe that at this stage (Islamic State) or Nusra are saying they are not fighting."
Rita Katz, director, co-founder SITE Intelligence Group

There are fresh reports that the Nusra Front has been courting ISIL, to try to meld their operations, with the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra anxious to make common cause and reap opportunities with the Islamic State militias whose more vigorously vicious approach appears to have appealed more obviously to fresh recruits who are choosing to bypass al-Qaeda for the more action-oriented ISIS.

A truce of some kind was reached just as the American administration placed itself behind a plan to provide more effective weapons to what they deem the 'moderate opposition' groups, claiming that those are the militants that can aid in the fight against ISIL. Even while analysts expressed their alarm over the plan, reminding the forgetful administration that what has happened in the past will once again occur, with ISIL taking possession of the new weapons.

Al-Qaeda is chafing at the prospect and the very real occurrences of some of its recruits leaving them to join the Islamic State. Abdullah Muhammad al-Muhaysini, a pro-al-Qaeda cleric from Saudi Arabia chastised militant commanders online last week, denouncing them for not undertaking measures to halt the tide of recruit losses. He has equally trounced ISIL verbally for its arrogance in declaring an Islamic empire "without consultation". And he is dedicated to unifying the groups.

As far as SITE Intelligence Group is concerned in their analyzing of the terrorists' messages, no evidence has presented itself to convince them that the infighting between al-Qaeda and Islamic State has reached an impasse. They cite fighting between the groups a short ten days earlier in Aleppo. On the other hand, Bassil Darwish, a Hama activist close to rebels in Aleppo and Idlib asserts that hundreds of militants have defected from Nusra to Islamic State.

The reason extended by al-Qaeda to make common cause with Islamic State at this juncture is clear enough; outside interests attacking one of the family attack the entire family. With U.S. and allied airstrikes in Syria, feuding should come to a halt, however temporarily, with the joining of forces to counterattack western targets. Infighting can resume when the exterior enemy is routed.

With Islamic State in firm possession of roughly a third of both Iraq and Syrian geography, terrorizing civilians in its imposition of Islamic law, they are in the ascendancy. In a short order of time they managed, with their ruthless advance, to accomplish what al-Qaeda has never dreamed possible. And, needless to say, the senior organization would like a significant piece of that particular action.

Jihadist groups across the globe have stumbled over one another rushing to proclaim their new allegiance to Islamic State. Everyone wants to be part of the A-list team, the winners. And, according to Rami Abdurrahman of the Observatory, in the region bordering Lebanon the two groups have been useful to one another for some time, predating the U.S. airstrikes.

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Jerusalem holy site closure 'declaration of war' - Abbas

BBC News online -- 30 October 2014
Israeli security forces stand behind a security perimeter outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre (29 October 2014) The shooting comes amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem
A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has described the closure of a disputed Jerusalem holy site as a "declaration of war".

The move came amid tension after the shooting of a Jewish activist. Israel's PM called for calm, saying Mr Abbas was responsible for escalating tensions.

Yehuda Glick, a campaigner for greater Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif, was wounded.

Israeli police later killed a Palestinian suspected of shooting him.
The man, named as 32-year-old Moataz Hejazi, was shot after opening fire when police surrounded his home.

Rabbi Glick is a well-known US-born campaigner for the right of Jews to pray at the site, which they are currently prohibited from doing. The compound is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

It is the holiest site in Judaism, and also contains the al-Aqsa Mosque - the third holiest site in Islam.
In other developments
  • Sweden became the first major Western European country to officially recognise Palestine as a state. Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said she hoped more countries would follow Sweden's lead - Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was quoted as saying it was a "deplorable" decision
  • The UN Human Rights Committee has called on Israel to halt settlement-building in the West Bank and investigate alleged violations committed by its forces in military operations in Gaza in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014
Palestinians in clashes with police as they try to arrest shooting suspect - 30 October Palestinians clashed with police as they tried to arrest the shooting suspect
Yehuda Glick attends a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre in Jerusalem (29 October 2014) Rabbi Glick was photographed attending a conference shortly before the shooting

Palestinians hold the Israeli government responsible for a "dangerous act", Mr Abbas was quoted as saying by Nabil Abu Rudeina, in remarks carried by AFP news agency.

"This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation," Mr Rudeina added.

"The state of Palestine will take all legal measures to hold Israel accountable and to stop these ongoing attacks."

Map of compound
Jerusalem's holiest site
  • Known as the Temple Mount to Jews and al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, it comprises the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and is next to the Western Wall
  • The Western Wall, from the time of the Jewish Biblical temples, is the holiest site where Jews can pray; the Dome of the Rock, where according to Jewish tradition the Ark of the Covenant rested in the first temple, is the holiest site in Judaism
  • The al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam; the Dome of the Rock is revered by Muslims because of its connections to the Prophet Mohammed
  • Christians also venerate the site because of its Biblical links to Jesus
  • A Muslim committee has managed the compound since the time of the Crusades, while Israel, which has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, controls access
  • Israel maintains a ban on prayer by non-Muslims at the compound as a security measure
  • Rabbi Yehuda Glick campaigns for allowing Jews to pray at the site
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for calm and suggested Mr Abbas was responsible for the increasing tension.

"We're facing a wave of incitement by radical Islamic elements as well as by the Palestinian Authority chairman... who said that Jews must absolutely be prevented from going on to the Temple Mount," he said, quoted by Haaretz newspaper.

Mr Netanyahu added that reinforcements for the security forces would be brought into Jerusalem to keep order.

The shooting of Rabbi Glick is the latest in a series of incidents which have led to an escalation of tensions in Jerusalem.

Some districts of East Jerusalem have seen nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces since the conflict in Gaza.

Last week a Jewish baby and Ecuadorian woman were killed when a Palestinian attacker drove his car into a group of pedestrians at a tram stop in Jerusalem.

Police said Rabbi Glick's suspected attacker, Moataz Hejazi, had served time in jail in Israel and was released in 2012, adding that he belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group.

The police anti-terrorist unit along with the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet had received information that Mr Glick's attacker was located in the Abu Tor neighbourhood, Israeli officials said.
Police say they were fired at after surrounding the house and shot back, hitting the suspect.

Rabbi Glick has had surgery for gunshot wounds to his chest and abdomen.
He had just attended a conference where delegates discussed Jewish claims to the compound, one of the most contentious areas of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel argues that it protects freedom of worship at the site but Palestinians claim it is unilaterally taking steps to allow larger numbers of Jewish visitors.

The site is administered by an Islamic body called the Waqf, while Israeli police are in charge of security.

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Typically Middle East

"[Any military operation to free the town must involve arming regular Syrian rebel groups, not Kurdish militias...] Equip and train the Free Syrian Army so that if [ISIS] leaves, PKK terrorists should not come."
"If they [Americans] don't want to send their ground troops, how can they expect Turkey to send Turkish ground troops with the same risks on our border?"
"[Turkey] did not want to be part of the game for a few weeks or months just to satisfy
American or European public opinion."

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkey's Foreign Minister Davutoglu
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rejected criticism of Turkey for not intervening to protect Kobani      (Reuters)

Well, there's a problem there, no doubt about it. And, as with anything in the Middle East, it's a tangled puzzle of a brain-teaser. To begin with, Turkey has enjoyed amicable relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The growing warmth between the two resulted from the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist Justice and Development Party finding much in common with the fundamentalist Shiite government in Iran.

So, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decided the most advantageous position his regime could take in responding to the peaceful demonstrations by the Sunni Syrian majority for a less oppressive slant to the regime's consideration of their equal rights as Syrians by arresting, torturing and killing those unruly critics, Turkey, a Sunni-majority country took offence. Today, Turkey as a member of NATO is enraged that the United States, a NATO colleague, refrains from bombing the regime's military.

And there is a reason for that. That reason being surreptitious accommodation to Iran, which continues to defend and militarily tutor and support Syria in its ongoing bloodbath against Syrian Sunnis, lending the regime its al-Quds Republican Guard special fighting forces, and tasking Lebanon's Hezbollah with supporting the conflict the regime is waging with chemical weapons, barrel bombs and artillery fire against the Sunni Syrians.

Iran is holding out the elusive carrot of allowing the U.S. a modicum of face-saving appearances in its diplomatic and sanctions disagreement with Iran over its nuclear program, and Iran will budge slightly as long as the U.S. promises to withhold its airstrikes from hitting Syrian targets. So while Turkey has refused to help the Kurdish fighters hit back against the Islamic State to keep them from completely overrunning Kobani, it has agreed to train the Free Syrian Army rebels.

So that the Syrian Sunni rebels can control the outcome in Kobani, not the Kurds, even while Ankara has agreed to permit the Iraqi peshmerga to cross in modest numbers into Syria to help their brother Kurds. Any military operation to free the town must involve regular Syrian rebel groups, arming them not the Kurdish militias whose defence of Kobani has thus far kept it within the Kurdish grasp, as far as Turkey is concerned..

The problem has become obvious; even while U.S. and allied air strikes have managed to slow the advance of ISIS, it has not succeeded in loosening its presence in any significant manner. So, Turkey is being urged to send its military on the ground to save Kobani from Islamic State possession. This is, after all, a neighbour, a town whose distance from the Turkish border is measured in mere dozens of kilometres.

Wouldn't it be in Turkey's self-interest not to have ISIS comfortably and militarily ensconced across the border? Even if Turkey did initially (and perhaps still does) support the Islamic State militias? Which also has some popular support within Turkey. But no, since distrust and hatred of the Turkish PKK transcends all other interests, including responsibility toward NATO, which accommodated Ankara by placing anti-missile installations temporarily on the border with Syria.

Turkish troops, Mr. Davutoglu asserted, would be sent into battle only if the West committed their own ground forces to the conflict in Syria, an offer that both Britain and the United States have no interest whatever in. Their own borders are not contiguous with that of any Middle Eastern state, after all. And who needs yet another provocation of Western troops on the ground in a Muslim country? Typically, Middle Eastern countries insist that the West be involved in their local disputes.

Typically, Middle Eastern governments however they're comprised, are reluctant to chastise their own, much preferring the West to become involved. Typically, up until now, they've responded as per expectation. Expansively generous to a fault, however, Mr. Davutoglu hinted that Turkey's Incirlik airbase be open for the use of U.S. jets with the proviso that they also target the forces of the Syrian regime, along with those of ISIS.

In the meanwhile, a 40-vehicle column of Kurdish peshmerga from Iraq with 80 men armed with machine guns and artillery was en route to cross into Turkey, with an additional 72 fighters prepared to fly into Turkey and travel on to Kobani. Even while NATO chafes at Turkey's lack of accommodation at this juncture in the fight against the Islamic State, Turkey returns the compliment, disdainful of Western countries unwilling to invade Syria to solve the crisis there.

A solution that should logically be one addressed by Syria's neighbours.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

UN Watch BriefingLatest from the United Nations  Vol. 511  |  October 29, 2014         

Nazareth Priest Tells U.N. in Arabic: "Israel is only country in Mideast where Christians live in safety"
Must-See Video: Click here
Father Gabriel Naddaf testified on behalf of UN Watch
Speaking in Arabic and on behalf of UN Watch, Father Gabriel Naddaf of Nazareth intervened during the recent 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Mr. President, I am speaking to you on behalf of UN Watch.
Standing before you is Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Christian citizen from Nazareth, the city in which Christ was raised and where he proselytized.

Dear Sirs, while I stand before you today, the earth of the Middle East is soaked with the blood of Christians being killed daily.

Do you know that at the start of the 20th century, Christians comprised 20% of the population of the Middle East?
Today they comprise only 4%.

Do you know that over the past years some 100,000 Christians have been killed annually? And why? Not for a crime they’ve committed, but only for believing in Christ.
In Iraq alone, more than 77% of the Christians have fled during the year 2000, in addition to thousands killed and expelled.

Some 2 million Christians lived in Syria, but today, they are less than 250,000.

Christians in these countries are treated as second-class citizens; facing racial, religious, economic and social discrimination.

Why is this happening? Only due to their religion, a religion that advocates love and peace between mankind.

Christians in the Middle East are marginalized, their rights denied, their property stolen, their honor violated, their men killed, and their children displaced.

Where will they go? Who will defend them? And who will guard their property?

If we look at the Middle East, Mr. President, we realize there’s only one safe place where Christians are not persecuted.

One place where they are protected, enjoying freedom of worship and expression, living in peace and not subjected to killing and genocide.

It is Israel, the country I live in. The Jewish state is the only place where the Christians of the Holy Land live in safety.
Christians and Jews live in Israel not only because Christ was originally Jewish, born in Jewish Bethlehem, but because they share a common destiny, and a true hope to coexist in peace.

Does the world acknowledge Israel for protecting its Christians? Many in the international community have chosen to criticize Israel.

This, in my mind, is a double crime: because by doing so, the international community helps those striving to annihilate the Jews, the Christians, the Druze and the Yazidis for political ends.

By doing so, the international community unfortunately contributes to exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. It causes Christians to leave the land of Christ searching for a safe haven across the world.

It is time for the world to awaken and realize the truth of those striving to destroy the Jewish state.

They are hastening the death sentence of Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land, the land which witnessed the birth and life of our Lord Jesus Christ. If they leave, who will remain in it?

I, Father Gabrial Naddaf of Nazareth, stand before you and plead: O world leaders and supporters of peace, stop those who want to destroy the only free Jewish state in the region.

It is the only refuge welcoming and protecting all of its citizens. It is the only place that does not attempt to push out Christians, forcing them to leave their land in search of security.

I implore you from the bottom of my heart to hear the cry of the Christians of the Middle East before it is too late, and you may read about them only in the history books.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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IS uses intelligence to purge opponents

Members loyal to the Islamic State (IS) wave IS flags as they drive around Raqqa, June 29, 2014.  (photo by REUTERS)
 Author Ali Mamouri Posted October 28, 2014
Ali Mamouri
Ali Mamouri is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Iraq Pulse.  He is a researcher and writer who specializes in religion. He is a former teacher in Iranian universities and seminaries in Iran and Iraq. He has published several articles related to religious affairs in the two countries and societal transformations and sectarianism in the Middle East.

IS uses intelligence to purge opponents

NAJAF, Iraq — The Islamic State (IS) differs from its predecessors and similar groups by running a powerful intelligence apparatus that is strong and has plenty of security experience acquired by intelligence officers from the previous regime. The IS intelligence apparatus carries out various types of operations, similar to other intelligence apparatuses around the world. One of its most important operations is to monitor and identify its opponents, to eliminate them immediately and to avoid the possibility of the Iraqi government, and other local and regional opposing parties, to infiltrate its intelligence apparatus, or a military opposition to emerge on its territory.

Based on IS operations, the list of people to eliminate includes tribal sheikhs who have previously cooperated with the government, members of the Awakening movement who have participated in fighting jihadist groups in the past, clerics who oppose IS' extremism and anyone suspected of delivering security information to governmental parties or other cooperating parties.

The policy of eliminating opponents as soon as they take over large areas is considered an established IS method that was adopted when it evolved in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. In addition to the security reasons, this technique is also based on IS' extremist Salafist principles, which aim to purge the land of any opposition party, to create a unified Salafist community without religious or political differences.

Ground campaigns against IS have increased since the formation of the international alliance that launched airstrikes on IS sites, leading to the group's elimination from regions it previously occupied. In addition to this, assassinations started being carried out against the IS leadership in Mosul and other Iraqi regions, which pushed the group to further tighten its security and eliminate a large number of suspects.

Several IS leaders were targeted, including Abu Anas al-Kurdi, an official in one of the military wings of Mosul, who was killed during an airstrike on Sept. 29. A source in Mosul told Al-Monitor that IS tightened its security after the attack by limiting prominent leaders’ appearances in public as well as arresting people suspected of delivering information to newspapers or any other external parties.

Al-Monitor interviewed a field activist in the city of Hit, two days after it fell into IS hands on Oct. 13, after a significant advance in Anbar province that included most of its cities. The source said that some residents were IS members without the knowledge of their neighbors. After IS took over, the militants eliminated anyone who was inciting people against IS, or working with the army and opposing tribes. People are eliminated based on the information provided by residents who are IS members.

The source said that the number of victims is high and the punishments are extremely cruel. A number of activists who criticized IS’ arbitrary and extremist measures were slaughtered in the city. Everyone who opposes the group’s extremist religious measures, such as imposing the niqab on women, is subject to punishment. IS raises its flag on top of the victims’ homes to make examples of them, so others know that someone has been punished. Group executions occur every now and then, where prisoners whom the group had kidnapped during battle are eliminated.

The terror prevailing over Mosul has led an enormous number of residents to flee and take refuge in Shiite-dominated western regions. Al-Monitor witnessed long lines of refugees at the entrance to the city of Karbala, waiting for security clearance to enter the city. These procedures can take days due to the large number of refugees and the lack of facilities to receive them.

IS reacts strongly against its opponents, out of fear of an opposition force emerging from within the Sunni entity, like in 2008 after establishing the Awakening movement, where the Islamic State of Iraq lost its lands due to damaging strikes by the movement. IS is well aware that a significant threat would be the emergence of a Sunni military opposition, fighting it inside the lands it occupies.

IS has carried out extensive religious separation in the regions it occupies, by disposing of all non-Sunni elements such as Shiites and other religious minorities, to end all social relations between the tribes and the Iraqi elements. The purpose of this is to eliminate the possibility of having a Sunni force willing to cooperate with Shiites to fight IS. On the other hand, the group’s policy of terror led its opponents to flee the IS-controlled regions or to at least stay silent and not criticize its actions.

It is unlikely that an effective Sunni force will rise against IS, due to the loss of communication between political Sunni leaders and their popular bases. There are no decisive measures against the group, and the Iraqi government is incapable of changing the military equation in the Sunni regions. Thus, IS is expected to remain for a long time in the Sunni regions.

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Arutz Sheva

Officials Reveal US is Cozying Up to Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas

US and Arab officials reveal Obama administration's about-face, including backdoor communication and intelligence cooperation.

By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 10/29/2014, 8:30 AM

Barack Obama
Barack Obama
The same Tuesday night that a senior official in US President Barack Obama's administration was quoted calling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "chickens**t," yet more officials indicated the US is warming up to cooperation with Iran - the Islamic regime seeking nuclear weapons that has repeatedly declared its desire to destroy Israel.

Senior US and Arab officials were cited by the Wall Street Journal saying that in recent months, America and Iran have grown closer through cooperation against their "common enemy", the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as over a shared interest in "stability" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American officials revealed to the paper that Obama's administration has been sending secretive messages to Iran through Iraq's new Shi'ite prime minister Haider al-Abadi, as well as through Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest ranking Shi'ite cleric in Iraq.

The statement confirms the assessment of a senior Israeli diplomatic source, who two weeks ago warned Obama may be holding secret talks with Iran - just as he was revealed last November to have been holding secret talks for over half a year prior to the recent controversial temporary nuclear agreement, and likewise reportedly had been easing sanctions on Iran for five months ahead of the deal.

It also raises greater concerns over US Secretary of State John Kerry's backtracking after rejecting military cooperation with Iran. According to reports though Iran initially rejected the notion of such cooperation against ISIS, Tehran later said it would consider it - in return for a good deal in the nuclear talks.

Obama's administration reportedly has been very cautious not to upset the Iranians, according to a senior US defense official working on Iraq who was quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

"They (the US) want to focus on ISIL (ISIS) and they are worried about antagonizing the Iranians...they are articulating in high-level interagency meetings that they don't want to do anything that's interpreted by the Iranians as threatening to the regime" of Iranian-ally Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, said the official.

As part of that pussyfooting around the Islamic regime, officials said the US military will play down the annual minesweeping exercise of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, as opposed to previous years when the drill was used to show opposition to growing Iranian naval aggression in the Persian Gulf.
Apparently Iran has been acting reciprocally, with officials saying Iranian Revolutionary Guards have ordered the terrorist groups under its proxy not to attack American sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cozying up to Hamas and Hezbollah too?
The American mollycoddling of Iran has extended to its proxy terror organizations Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well, according to officials, who said that despite there being no official cooperation with any of the parties American positions have definitely shifted.

When it comes to Hezbollah, US and Arab officials said US intelligence agencies have given tips on threats by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the country to Lebanese security agencies close to or controlled by Hezbollah, including the General Security Directorate.

The revelation confirms statements last month by Lebanese experts, who said America is indirectly giving Hezbollah military aid, with new weapons being sent to the Lebanese army that coordinates with Hezbollah, and US intel reaching Hezbollah.

Hamas has also come in for a precedent setting shift in stance according to senior US officials, who noted that Kerry and other senior American diplomats indirectly negotiated with Hamas leaders such as Khaled Mashaal through Turkish and Qatari intermediaries during ceasefire talks in July.

American communication with the Islamist terrorist organization as it waged war against Israel raises serious question marks, particularly when contrasted to Obama's harsh stance on Israel during the operation, when he cancelled a routine transfer of Hellfire missiles, and ordered greater scrutiny on future shipments.

Summing up the shift, Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and former Obama administration official told the paper: "our interests and policies are converging with Iran’s. This is a geostrategic reality at this moment, more than a conscious US policy."

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Russian Expansionism

"When it comes to Russia's diplomatic mission in 2013 the number of intelligence officers working undercover as diplomats was extremely high."
"They are complemented by intelligence officers who travel to the Czech Republic as individuals, posing as tourists, experts, academics and entrepreneurs."
"The Cold War and he Soviet Union may have passed, but same is not true for Russia's passion for trying to gain influence and taking active measures (such as the use of agents) to achieve this."
Czech Republic Security Information Service

"In Poland's neighbourhood there is a risk of conflict, of a regional or local characteristic, that may involve us directly or indirectly. [War is] unlikely but possible."
Polish security strategy

"The geopolitical situation has changed. We have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that."
Tomaz Siemoniak, Polish Defence Minister

Poland is to purchase 40 medium-range missiles from the US as the Ukraine crisis sees eastern European countries double-down on military spendingPolish President Bronislaw Komorowski, right, and US President Barack Obama in a hangar at Warsaw Chopin Airport last JunePolish President Bronislaw Komorowski, right, with US President Barack Obama in Warsaw last June Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

Even while Russian President Vladimir Putin rails hysterically about the United States' actions in the Middle East and around the world interfering in the affairs of other states and destabilizing world order, he complacently insists that Moscow has had no hand in Ukraine's affairs, has not incited Russian-speakers in Ukraine's east to defy the Lyvov authority, and engage in violent conflict with Ukraine's military, and makes no mention of Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

But Russia's near neighbours are beyond uneasy. That Russia is said to have deployed an "extremely high" number of intelligence officers at its Czech embassy last year, revealed by a secret service report, serves to further strain diplomacy in eastern and northern Europe. Moscow's ambitions and its temperamental president's goads and interferences in the affairs of his neighbours have made for some extremely uneasy conversations among adjoining nations.

On the eastern flank of the European Union and NATO are those vital pipelines with Russian energy crossing European soil and central and eastern European states gazing nervously at one another worrying about the increasing attention they have been subjected to covertly from spies reporting to the Kremlin. Poland arrested two people, one a high-ranking army officer on suspicion of working for a foreign power; Russia.

The new Polish security strategy just released stated the belief that conflict could be afflicting Poland for the first time since 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Polish security had previously felt there was a risk of regional conflicts, but none that would involve Poland. It has now altered its perceptions, planning to move thousands of troops to the east in response to the continuing conflict in Ukraine.

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Egypt's Legitimate Concerns

"The natural resources in Libya represents a very large pool of wealth and funding that will fund terrorist activity not only there but in other parts of the world. You see [ISIS] in Iraq utilizing gasoline and the black market, and in Libya this is a danger that will have a big impact for us."
"We have a struggle against similar organizations that are an offshoot of other terrorist ideologies like the [Muslim] Brotherhood and all these organizations support each other. We have seen terrorists from ISIL move from Iraq and Syria to Sinai, even Nigeria."
"The interconnected nature of all these organizations has to be recognized."
"All of us attempting the eradication of a terrorist organization in one area will need to have greater co-operation in another if we are to comprehensively deal with this threat."
Sameh Shukri, Egyptian foreign minister
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

On a visit to London Mr. Shukri revealed the fearful suspense of Egyptian authorities in their ongoing and sometimes seemingly futile attempts to push back the tide of violent Islamofascism infesting the Middle East and North Africa. The threat  to Egypt is close enough that even Cairo has seen its stability threatened. Egyptian police and members of its military are constantly targeted in the Sinai. The proliferation of Salafist Bedouin in conflict with the government is an affliction.

That they have been joined by members of Hamas, by Islamic Jihad, by al-Qaeda groups, all of them incited to further attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood, features large in Egypt's overall strategy to protect itself and its citizens. President Abdelfattah el-Sisi took power on the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, president before him, in a popular protest against the power taken by the Islamists and their inept administration of the country.

Since then hundreds of Brotherhood officials have been imprisoned, some committed to capital punishment for inciting their followers to riotous violence in cities across Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group in Egypt, membership outlawed. Now Egypt is pointing out the shared ideological roots of the Muslim Brotherhood infecting violent Islamist movements across the Middle East and North Africa.

What Egypt is not lingering on is that while the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham is financing itself through the sale of oil, just as the Libyan Islamists plan to do themselves, the template was long ago set by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two leading oil-rich states that have long used their wealth to fund fundamentalist Wahhabist madrassas all over the world. Al-Qaeda grew out of their wealth coffers funding their Islamist activities.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are paying out multiple-billions in establishing Muslim Centres and huge Mosque complexes and maddrasses all over Europe and North America and Australia. What violence cannot accomplish as speedily as it wishes, quiet and determined infiltration will accomplish over time and the fecundity of believers. Which is not necessarily to turn a blind eye to Egypt's pleading for attention.

It has welcomed the British government's decision to commission a report into the scope of the Muslim Brotherhood's activities in Britain and world-wide. And it acknowledges Canada and Britain committing themselves to deploy fighter jets to fly in action with the U.S. carrying out strikes on ISIS in Iraq as Persian Gulf States conduct air strikes with the U.S. in Iraq and Syria, both.

Egypt has itself conducted air strikes in Libya against the Islamists in hopes that the Libyan military will be enabled to defend the country against the gathering threats. But it has its own focus to deal with, on meeting the challenge of the Sinai peninsula where just last week another 33 members of its security forces were killed in attacks by Islamist jihadists determined to turn Egypt into an Islamist state. Charging Hamas with complicity, Egypt has focused once again on the Gaza tunnels.

Egypt looks both inward and outward, trying to secure its centre as well as its flanks. It worries that the Libyan Islamists who have succeeded in capturing and controlling many of the country's cities are eager now to capture the oil fields capable of massive production that will enrich them and further fund their intent to control all of Libya. And in so doing, threaten the stability of Egypt, a neighbour in North Africa.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gatestone Institute

Germany: Silencing the Critics of Munich's Mega-Mosque

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said that if the public referendum were permitted to proceed, it would give the anti-mosque campaign "a democratic veneer, which we want to avoid."
In late 2013, the proposed mosque was given a new name, the Munich Forum for Islam, apparently in an effort to dispel growing public unease about the mosque's broader ambitions.
Anti-mosque activists say that the enforcers of multiculturalism in Bavaria have determined that the mosque project will proceed, even if it requires bypassing the democratic process.
"By stopping the vote from going ahead, the City Council is preventing your opinion from being abused by the anti-democratic goals of extremists." — The Munich Forum for Islam.
A court in Bavaria, the largest state in Germany, has reaffirmed that it is lawful for the government to spy on citizens who are opposed to the construction of a controversial mega-mosque in Munich.

The ruling effectively quashes a lawsuit filed by anti-mosque activists who argue that state surveillance is an intimidation tactic aimed at silencing public opposition to the mosque.
The ruling comes just days after another court in Bavaria ordered a leading anti-mosque campaigner to pay a hefty fine for "defaming" Islam after he repeatedly warned that Islam is incompatible with democracy.

Meanwhile, Munich city officials have announced that a public referendum on the mosque—now known as the Munich Forum for Islam—will not be allowed to take place, even though anti-mosque activists have gathered twice the number of signatures needed to allow local citizens to determine if the mosque should be built.

Anti-mosque activists say the recent actions show that the enforcers of multiculturalism in Bavaria have determined that the mosque project will proceed, even if it requires bypassing the democratic process, and that public opposition to the project will be silenced, even it if entails trampling on the constitutional right to free speech.

On October 18, the Munich-based Administrative Court of Bavaria (Verwaltungsgericht) ruled that it is lawful for the Bavarian branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), to continue spying on anti-mosque activists.
The spying was first revealed in April 2013, when Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said that anti-mosque activists were engaging in potentially anti-constitutional activities.

Herrmann singled out a populist party called Freedom Bavaria (Die Freiheit Bayern), as well as the Munich branch of a highly popular free speech blog known as Politically Incorrect [PI], which focuses on topics related to immigration, multiculturalism and Islam in Germany.
Both groups have been drawing public attention to plans to build the 6,000 m² (65,000 ft²) mosque, which they argue will become a strategic platform for spreading Islam throughout Germany and the rest of Europe.

Speculation is rife that the 40-million-euro ($51 million) mosque will be financed by the oil-rich Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, which is building Wahhabi mega-mosques at a breakneck pace across Europe.

According to Herrmann, members of Freedom Bavaria and PI (roughly analogous to American Tea Party activists) are "right-wing extremists, who, under the guise of civil involvement, are increasingly establishing citizen's initiatives to attract the attention of German voters." In this way, Herrmann claims, they are "using the discussion about the construction of mosques, for example, to arouse, in an anti-constitutional way, prejudices against Muslims and Islam."

Herrmann told the court that the BfV serves as an "early warning system" by tracking potential threats to the constitutional order. He accused the leader of Freedom Bavaria, Michael Stürzenberger, of engaging in potentially anti-constitutional activities by repeatedly referring to Islam as a "fascist political religious system." By failing to make a clear distinction between Islam and Islamism, Herrmann argued, Stürzenberger was guilty of trampling on the constitutional rights of Muslims.

Michael Stürzenberger, leader of Freedom Bavaria, at an anti-mega-mosque event in Munich.

Defending himself against the accusations, Stürzenberger told the court that he has said nothing against individual Muslims and thus he cannot be guilty of acting in an anti-constitutional manner. On the other hand, he argued, Islam and Islamism are two sides of the same coin, and therefore Islam poses an inherent threat to German democracy.

In its verdict, the court ruled that the government may continue monitoring the anti-mosque activists. However, the court also ordered the BfV to redact certain paragraphs from its 2013 annual report, in which Freedom Bavaria was accused of engaging in anti-constitutional activities.

The court said the annual report presented the accusations against Freedom Bavaria as facts when in reality they are merely speculations because the group has never been found of actually violating the constitution.

In a separate but related case, the District Court of Munich (Landgericht München) on October 7 ruled that Stürzenberger was guilty of offending Islam in a blog post and ordered him to pay a fine of 2,500 euros ($3,200).

The case dates back to early 2013, when Stürzenberger wrote a post for the PI blog in which he addressed the topic of verses in the Koran that encourage violence against non-Muslims. The article documented the experiences of Christians and members of other religious groups that have been persecuted by Muslims.

Stürzenberger included a quote from an Iranian exile whose brother was publicly lynched for converting to Christianity. "Islam is going to destroy Germany just as it has destroyed Persia," the Iranian warned.

Concluding his blog post, Stürzenberger wrote: "Islam is like a cancer, which decomposes the (still) free peoples of this planet and gradually infects them with the poison of this extremely dangerous, intolerant, misogynistic, violent and power-hungry ideology."

The Munich public prosecutor, Judith Henkel, told the court that Stürzenberger was guilty of insulting and belittling Muslims and Islam, and that it would disturb the public peace.

According to Article 166 of the Penal Code, she said, Stürzenberger was guilty of a criminal offense punishable by a substantial fine or imprisonment of up to three years.

Stürzenberger defended himself by arguing that the blog post referred to the ideology behind Islam, and that his words were not directed at Muslims as individuals. He added that he has a duty to warn fellow citizens about the danger of the rise of Islam in Germany. He said that women's rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence are being threatened by the spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany.

In its verdict, the court ruled that by comparing Islam with a cancer, Stürzenberger was guilty of "insulting" and "defaming" Islam and ordered him to pay a fine of 50 daily rates of 50 euros. Stürzenberger said he would appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, the Munich City Council on October 1 announced that a public referendum on the mosque will not be allowed to proceed, even though Freedom Bavaria has collected more than 65,000 signatures, twice the 30,000 needed to force a vote.

City officials accused Stürzenberger of deceiving the public by falsely saying that the Macedonian imam behind the mosque project, Benjamin Idriz, was being monitored by German intelligence due to his links to radical Islamic elements.

In fact, Bavarian intelligence, in its annual reports from 2007 to 2010, revealed that a mosque led by Idriz, the Islamic Community Penzberg (now renamed Islamic Forum Penzberg), was being monitored due to its contacts with Islamist groups.

Moreover, a December 2007 diplomatic cable from the American consulate in Munich revealed that the former Bavarian State Secretary, Georg Schmid, had warned about an internal concept paper for the mosque that proposed a more fundamentalist goal than the one announced publicly. The paper reportedly referred to the need for children to be educated in "pure Islam," and also criticized the way European Muslims were being "to a certain extent compelled" to co-exist with a non-Muslim majority in society.

The cable also shows that then Bavarian interior minister, Günther Beckstein, confided to American diplomats that "Idriz plays two different pianos." He was referring to Idriz's practice of portraying himself as a moderate to some audiences and as a radical to others.
Munich city officials also accuse Stürzenberger of falsely claiming that the new mosque would be a center for Muslims throughout Europe.

In fact, for many years the mosque was called the Center for Islam in Europe-Munich (ZIE-M). But in late 2013, it was given a new name, the Munich Forum for Islam, apparently in an effort to dispel growing public unease about the mosque's broader ambitions.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter, from Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), said that if the public referendum were permitted to proceed, it would give Stürzenberger's anti-mosque campaign "a democratic veneer, which we want to avoid."

The Munich Forum for Islam advised those who signed the referendum petition to accept the city's decision because municipal officials know best:
"To all those Munich citizens who supported the referendum with their signatures, we would like to encourage you to familiarize yourself with the City Council resolution and its extensive legal justification. Then you will realize that the referendum is not a legitimate right conferred by a democratic institution, and that by stopping the vote from going ahead, the City Council is preventing your opinion from being abused by the anti-democratic goals of extremists."
Stürzenberger says the Munich city council's efforts to silence dissent are similar to the tactics used by the former Communist dictatorship in East Germany. He has vowed to fight the city council in court.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

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