Tears, Joy & Devastation Fill Raqqa’s Post-ISIS Air

SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed

Raqqa- Four months ago, Syria’s Raqqa found itself drenched in bloodshed as fierce and violent battles ripped through the former ISIS stronghold. When casually strolling down liberated areas, it becomes all the more evident how destructive the battles were.

Homes wrecked to the ground, debris, and a demolished infrastructure all spell out a devastating new reality left behind by ISIS.

For the few lucky neighborhoods which survived bombardment and stray bullets, the war still left its mark through shattered windows and broken doors taken down by blast waves.

Despite the destruction, joy prevailed as citizens and Syrian Democratic Forces celebrated smashing victory against ISIS on the liberated streets of Raqqa.

SDF fighters gathered at Raqqa’s center with a celebratory spirit, forming traditional dance rings, raising SDF flags and chanting slogans about victory and freedom.

Triumphant convoys and demonstrators paraded around Raqqa, as the former ISIS bastion is now under full control of the US-backed Syrian rebels.

Raqqa’s infamous “Al-Naim” square, dubbed ISIS’ square of hell, now is home to fluttering SDF flags waving in the near completion of military operations.

“Today we stand at Al-Naim square, which was once dubbed the circle of hell as it served as an arena for brutal executions carried out against anyone who opposed ISIS and the rule of its self-proclaimed caliphate,” Leader and Spokeswoman for the SDF “Euphrates Wrath” (Ghadab Al-Furrat) military campaign Rogada Flatt told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The capture of Al-Naim followed fighting since Sunday near the square, the Arab-Kurdish alliance said in a statement.

“We are left with only a few points, and combing operations are underway to eliminate the sleeper cells and cleanse the city of mines,” asserted Flatt on the continued liberation of Raqqa, the caliphate’s former ‘capital’.

“At least 22 ISIS members surrendered to our forces and were sent to detention centers for investigation, after which they will be referred to the adequate courts,” said SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.

Reviewing battles fought, Ahmed said that “a few foreign militiamen kept fighting until the last minute.”

“Our forces have started mop-up and sweeping operations considering the probability of ISIS cells hiding in some locations,” said Ahmed. “Mines planted by the cells need to be defused to make sure that the entire city has been cleared,” she added.

Since June, Raqqa residents have been held hostage by ISIS terrorists.

As the terror group lost more and more territory, it resorted to using these civilians as human shields.

Surviving civilians were trapped in hellfire as SDF troops carried out operations, US-led coalition staged airstrikes, and ISIS snipers infested the streets and prevented people from escaping.

Haitham al-Zaher, 48, was the last civilian to escape ISIS captivity.

Zaher managed to escape with his wife and three daughters.

“We could not escape until clashes were close to us— until then, my wife and I decided alongside 7 other families, to take shelter in an abandoned cellar, where we stayed 3 days in hiding, food and water were scarce and almost ran out,” said Zaher.

“We lived through very difficult moments, where we heard the thuds of heavy shelling and cracking of clashes,” he added.

Malika al-Zaher, aged 38, said that during September her family was moved 14 times to different locations.

“As the fighting progressed, ISIS ordered us to change the place, taking us as human shields,” said Zaher’s wife.

Today, Syrians in Raqqa sent out a cry for help to conduct extensive investigations in order to reveal the fate ISIS-held detainees and to restore the city once again to its people.

Long Thorny Road to Building a United Libyan Army

Libya

Tripoli – In 2014, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar reunited the Libyan military forces after they became fragmented in wake of their country’s NATO-backed armed uprising against leader Moammar al-Gadhadfi.

Under Gadhafi’s regime, the army included a little more than 140,000 officers and soldiers, said former officer Ahmed Gadhaf al-Damm. The number now lies at only 35,000, who are under Haftar’s command. So where has the rest of the military, with its weapons and equipment, gone?

Despite the difficulties the Libyan army has been enduring since Gadhafi’s death in 2011, Haftar has succeeded in first, expelling extremist groups from the eastern and southern regions, and second, introducing reforms to the military structure left over from the former regime.

This has led to the emergence of what Libyan military spokesman Ahmed al-Masmari calls the “security brigades.” These brigades, with their rocket-propelled grenades and Russian heavy tanks, have earned their negative reputation from their suppression of the armed uprising.

They did not have a united leadership, but Gadhaf al-Damm does not paint such a dark picture. The military man, who began his career under Gadhafi, explained that these fighters used to be subject to the armed forces and they used to defend the nation in 2011.

At any rate, the road to reaching a united army seems long.

Libyan military officials, like their counterparts all over the world, do not like to discuss divisions in the army and differences over its objective. This stance is shared by officers, who still back the former regime, and others, who took part in the uprising and now back Haftar.

Given this bleak reality, one despairingly has to ask: What is one to do if his questions do not receive definitive answers from the various military units spread throughout the country?

For example, how can we explain the position of General Mustafa al-Sharkasi, the former military commander of the Benghazi region, who has found himself at odds with Haftar. He is now the leader of the “Defense Brigades” that is accused of terrorism and collaborating with Qatar.

After a long discussion with Sharkasi, one realizes that some issues can be resolved through a mixture of dialogue, good intentions and some force.

In this regard, a military intelligence official demanded that “ties between high-ranking officers with any sectarian or local militias must be immediately severed.”

For instance, what is the stance of Ali Kanna, who used to be one of the strongmen of the deposed regime? Immediately in the aftermath of Gadhafi’s murder, he was eager to introduce reform to the military institution. Now, however, his role has been diminished to merely a defender of his Tuareg tribe. The Tuareg, a tribe of non-Arab roots, are mainly present in the southern province of Fezzan.

One of Kanna’s aides, who has Tuareg roots, said: “We are Libyans. Our role is to preserve Libya’s unity and this can only be achieved through the unity of the military institution. The problem is that communication between the commanders in the country has weakened from what it was in the past. At least this is what we are noticing in the South.”

There are other military commanders and their soldiers, who used to be the backbone of the army under the old regime. Nearly seven years after Gadhafi’s death, they have found themselves surrounded by political chaos given the absence of a central authority. They now operate as isolated islands in their regions or they are waiting in regional countries like so many thousands of others.

What about military commands that have joined the militias and which do not adhere to Haftar? Could this lead to Libya’s division?

Gadhaf al-Damm replied: “No, the majority of the military officials are now in their cities and villages. They are trying to join the army regardless of who is leading it, because the truth is, no one is really leading in Libya. Everything is made up of illusory structures.”

Despite the difficulties, the military forces that Haftar managed to bring together in challenging conditions have managed to impose themselves. They have shelled extremist groups in various regions in the east and south and they now have their sights set on the west.

One of the members of the political dialogue committee, which is affiliated with the United Nations delegation in Libya, said that “at least we can now say that the country now has a general that we can talk to.”

“This will help persuade the international community in lifting the 2011 ban against equipping the army with weapons,” he added.

On some Libyan calls for Haftar to run for president, one of his close aides said: “The real purpose of uniting the army is not political.”

“The truth is that Haftar is not seeking a political position. We are not defending politicians, but a country, which is on the verge of being lost,” he stressed.

The idea of uniting the army used to be only a dream, but Haftar’s determination, as some said, has taken it to the regional and international dialogue table. It has reached Egypt, which is leading Libyans in that direction.

The challenge now lies in how to merge the other commanders, with their officers and soldiers, in a single entity and around a single ideology.

Masmari remarked: “The Libyan army ideology is defensive and it seeks to defend Libya and the gains of its people.”

There remain attempts to steer officers away from Haftar, which some observers said would only push the country towards division, said Dr. Mohammed al-Warfali, former commander in the Libyan tribes conference.

Despite this gloomy outlook, opportunities remain and international pressure and Arab and Egyptian efforts are being exerted to save Libya. Only days ago, Haftar met with UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh at his office at the al-Rajma military base, some 40 kms away from the city of Benghazi. Haftar, who enjoys strong and significant ties with the leaderships in Cairo and Abu Dhabi, has also paid visits to Moscow, Paris and Rome.

At the end of September, Libyan military officials in Cairo agreed to form technical committees to study mechanisms to unite the Libyan military institution.

American political analyst Sharif al-Hilweh, who had toured several cities in western Libya, said the existence of several military commands outside of Haftar’s control will really affect the army.

“This is natural and such commands in the South and West could lead to the division of Libya into three countries or regions,” he warned.

He noted however that some of these military commanders enjoy good ties with the US Department of Defense, which means that they could yet play a role in the North African country’s future. Some leaders are also choosing not to get involved in the developments in the country at the moment to avoid being viewed as affiliated with the rival parties, Hilweh revealed.

“Regardless of what happens, I believe that the army will no longer remain divided. I know that communication exists between its commanders, because, ultimately, they are the products of a single institution and this will not change with political shifts,” he continued.

Sharkasi meanwhile, summed up his position by saying: “Our main problem is Haftar. We will not seek vengeance if he leaves the Libyan scene.”

“We want the rise of the state,” he declared, while completely rejecting any form of cooperation with the field marshal.

Trump’s New Strategy on Iran Takes the Bull by the Horns

London- After months of speculation and counter-speculation, US President Donald Trump has unveiled his long promised “new strategy on Iran.” The 1370-word text released by the White House on Friday morning is likely to surprise many, at times for opposite reasons.

The first to be surprised are those, especially in Europe, who feared Trump to behave like a bull in a china shop, bent on nothing but wanton destruction for the sake of making some noise. That hasn’t happened. Carefully crafted, the text avoids using diplomatic jargon for obfuscation and, instead, opts for clarity.

Next to be surprised are those who goaded Trump to beat the drums of war and send the Marines to Tehran. However, Trump’s new strategy aims at a sophisticated and measured use of American economic, diplomatic and, yes, military power in pursuit of carefully defined objectives rather than mere saber-rattling of the kind former President Barack Obama, remember his “all options are on the table”, specialized in.

Finally, there will also be surprise on the part of those, especially the “New York Boys” in Tehran who hoped and prayed that his efforts by their American apologists, led by Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, would prevent Trump from trying to tackle the totality of relations with the Tehran, an issue that has dogged seven US presidents since 1979.

The first feature of the Trump text is its avoidance of the syrupy jargon of diplomatic deception. Unlike Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush who spoke of “goodwill breeding goodwill” or President Bill Clinton who talked of “welcoming the aspirations of the Iranian people”, Trump states his objectives in stark terms: “The United States’ new Iran strategy focuses on neutralizing the Government of Iran’s de-stabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants.”

This simple sentence throws out many shibboleths of US policy on Iran. It does not say it hopes to “moderate” Iran’s behavior, as Carter, George W Bush, Clinton and Obama did. It says the aim is to “neutralize” it. It also abandons the childish claim that Iran’s aggressive behavior is the work of “certain groups within the Iranian regime”, and not the totality of it, as President Hassan Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif claim.

More importantly, it abandons the distinction that Obama and Kerry tried to portray between Tehran’s backing for outright terrorist groups and the so-called “militant” ones such as the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah and the Palestinian branch of Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas). Without openly saying so, Obama implied that some of the “militant” groups financed and armed by Iran may not be as bad as terrorist outfits that Tehran supported. Trump rejects that illusion.

Also surprised would be those who expected Trump to behave like the lone-ranger by acting alone. The text, however, makes it clear that in implementing the new strategy, Trump is seeking broad coalitions both inside the United States, Congress, and in the international arena. The text reads: “We will revitalize our traditional and regional partnerships as bulwark against Iranian subversion and restore a more stable balance of power in the region.”

By highlighting the topic of “subversion” and the need to restore “a more stable balance of power” the new strategy offers a broader vision of relations with Iran, beyond the narrow and heavily fudge disuse of the nuclear deal which, put in context, is presented as no more than a part of a larger jigsaw.

The jigsaw also includes “gross violations of human rights” and “the unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners on spurious charges.” In other words, Tehran must understand that taking foreign hostages is no longer risk-free.

Beyond regional and European allies, the text envisages putting American diplomacy in higher gear to garner support from “the international community”.

The new strategy also does something that previous US Presidents tried to ignore: the fact that a regime’s foreign policy is the continuation of its domestic policies. If a regime violates its own laws and oppresses its own people it is also likely to ignore international law and try to harm other nations.

A section dealing with the nature of the Khomeinist regime establishes a direct link between “exporting violence and terrorism” to “undermine the international system” and “oppressing the Iranian people and abusing their rights.”

All along the target in this new strategy is the “revolutionary” persona of the regime and not Iran as a nation-state. This is why the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is directly named and singled out for punitive measures while Iran’s national army, part of Iran as a nation-state, is not. Again, targeting Iran as “revolution” and not Iran as “state” the text names the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei as responsible for “exporting violence, and oppressing the Iranian people.” There is no mention of Rouhani and his Cabinet or even the Islamic Majlis , the parliament, which are supposed to represent Iran as a “state”.

All in all the Trump text cites nine major grievances against Iran that the US intends to address. These include Tehran’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus “against the Syrian people”, “unrelenting hostility towards Israel” and “threatening freedom of navigation” in the Strait of Hormuz.

This last point is of special importance because previous US administrations have tried to temporize with it as best as they could.

Even when Iran captured a number of US Marines in international waters in the Gulf, President Obama took no punitive action; instead he released $1.7 billion of Iran’s frozen assets as a sort of unacknowledged ransom.

The list of Tehran’s misdeeds also includes Iranian intervention in Yemen, the attempt to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington and Iranian attempts at subversion against the United Arab Emirates.

The text asserts: “The previous Administration’s myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear program to the exclusion of the regime’s many other activities allowed Iran’s influence in the region to reach a high water mark.”

This “holistic” approach to the “problem of Iran” could be seen as a challenge to both sides. But it could also be seen as an opportunity for both sides to abandon the incremental method and seek an all-encompassing dialogue covering all their mutual grievances.

If an opportunity could be cited it is because the new strategy does not call for a change of regime in Tehran, something the Khomeinist establishment has always feared. The text says the aim of the new strategy is “to bring about a change in the behavior of the Iranian regime.”

Advocates of a tough line on Iran might see that as a repetition of the pious hope expressed by all US administrations since 1979. However, if we go beyond the surface of that statement we would see that the detail measures required for Iran to change its behavior would, in time, transform the present regime into something quite different. In other words, the concept of “regime change” is not cited directly. But what is presented as “change within the regime” could be a huge step in that direction.

Apologists of the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA), or the nuclear deal, may find it difficult to pursue their policy of trying to isolate Trump if only because the US leader is not setting himself directly against the controversial agreement as such. Instead, he points to Iran’s repeated violation of its pledges, as most recently testified by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director Yukio Amano with regard to inspection of certain military sites in Iran. Nor could the Europeans ignore the fact that Iran’s testing and deploying of medium and long-range missiles violates the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which is often cited to give some legal aura to the JCPOA.

Because JCPOA is not a treaty and has not been signed by anyone and not ratified by any legislature, there is no mechanism for leaving it in any formal way. Thus Trump didn’t need to say that he has denounced JCPOA. Yet, he has indicated that JCPOA must be amended so as to fill its loopholes. Iran is also required to fulfill its pledges, including the ratification of the Additional protocols to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Trump does not “leave” the CJPOA in a formal manner because there is no mechanism for doing so in a bizarre text that has no legal validity. It leaves it suspended in a fog of uncertainty, where it was born in the first place.

Trump’s text makes it hard for the leadership in Tehran to devise a strategy to counter it. Had he renounced the CJPOA in a formal way, Tehran leaders could have cast themselves as victims of “Imperialist bullying”, and deployed the Europeans, led by EU’s foreign policy tsarina Federica Mogherini to fight their corner. Now they cannot do that because all that Trump is demanding is a more strict application of the measures that the EU and others say they mean to defend.

That leaves Tehran with the choice of either unilaterally denouncing the CJPOA, for example by claiming that it cannot allow unrestricted inspection “suspect sites” in its territory, or trying to open a dialogue with the US through the EU or even regional mediation. However, first indications are that Tehran will not formally denounce the CJPOA, preferring to keep the fig-leaf behind which it can hide its true nuclear intentions.

Tehran would also find it hard to vilify the US because of the new strategy the bulk of which is devoted to highlighting the sufferings of the Iranian people. The reference to IRGC’s business activities and alleged networks of corruption and extortion will also be popular among Iranians who, rightly or wrongly, believe that the military has used its position for personal enrichment, something President Rouhani has even publicly mentioned.

The new US strategy is certain to dampen foreign, especially European enthusiasm, for investing in Iran because Trump could refuse to suspend sanctions or even ask the Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran. Iran will find itself in a limbo, never a comfortable place to be in, with all the hype that Rouhani made about the nuclear deal proving to be hollow.

The October 15 deadline for Trump to recertify or de-certify the JCPOA will end soon after the publication of the new strategy. But what matters in the longer run is the new strategy itself.

The worst case scenario after the publication of the new strategy is that Iran and the US will be put on a direct collision course with the risk of at least limited military clashes.

The best case scenario is that both sides admit that they cannot resolve the problems that have dogged them for four decades through incremental and, ultimately, superficial measures and that the only way ahead is the quest for a grand bargain which would require a redefinition of Iran’s place in international politics.

Both options, best and worst, have powerful advocates in Tehran and Washington, advocates who could sabotage either or both.

The Red October: 100 Years Later

London- This month marks the centenary of the 1917 Revolution in Russia which led to the foundation of the Soviet Union. Many in the Russian Federation will mark the occasion with special festivities. A majority of Russians have moved away from the Communist heritage. The remnant of the Communist Party receives no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the votes in elections. All over the world almost all Communist Parties have either disappeared or morphed into different identities. Nostalgics of Communism will also be in festive mood. However, it would also provide an occasion to remember the victims of the Bolshevik revolution and its child Stalinism. Here, we cast a glance at the origins of the Red October in its early phase.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin called it “the greatest tragedy in the history of Russian people.” To the French poet Louis Aragon it was “the event that redefined the modern world”. An American journalist labeled it “Ten days that Shook the World.”

The “it” in question was the October Revolution which led to the seizure of power in Russia by the Bolshevik Party 100 years ago. Well, seizure of power may not be the right phrase if only because when the Bolsheviks pushed themselves to the front of the stage there was no power in Russia to seize. The Tsarist edifice had collapsed and the provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky was acting like a headless chicken. On occasions, Prime Minister Kerensky had to find a horse-driven droshky to take him to the office because the driver of his limousine hadn’t turned up. Exhausted by three years of war and carnage the vast empire was on the edge of famine, its administration in taters and its agriculture almost wiped out.

When a group of armed sailors appeared at an open session of the Duma, the Russian parliament that had emerged from the country’s first and last free elections, the deputies had only one thought: how to flee into safety. Suddenly, Russia, the largest country in the world, was left without anyone in charge. The Bolsheviks pretended they could fill the vacuum but soon found out they couldn’t. They were a small party of middle class urban intellectuals, most of them just back from exile, with little contact with the Russian heartland. In the election for Duma the party had won around five per cent of the votes. But its leader Vladimir Illych Ulianov, better known by his nom de guerre of Lenin, believed that in war-torn Russia power was like a jewel box that had fallen in the street for anyone to pick up. He was determined to be the one who does it. What he didn’t realize was that in doing so he would not inherit a power that had ceased to exist but a responsibility that his party was in no position to assume.

Initially, Lenin, who was a master of tweets long before twitter was invented only hoped to win a propaganda battle thanks to his daily missives. Days after he was told that he was now in charge he “tweeted” that his aim was that the Bolsheviks, acting through what he called Soviets of Workers, Peasants, Soldiers and Sailors, would be able to hang on for at least 100 days so as to last longer than the Paris Commune, the model for the Communist Utopia, had lasted in 1871.

When the 100 days came and went, Lenin began to realize that triggering a revolution is far easier than building a new society. He saw Russia plunged into a civil war that lasted almost four years, claiming millions of victims. In 1921 he wrote: “The civil war has decimated our proletariat exactly when we want it to build the new Russia.”

Half regretting his own propaganda, Lenin shared his doubts with the 11th Congress of his party. “Because of my position, every day I hear a lot of sentimental Communist lies; and sometimes I get sick of them.”

Having mobilized his party‘s energy to destroy the cursed “bourgeoisie,” he realized that Russia needed that very same bourgeoisie to rebuild.

“The idea that Communists alone could build the Communist society is naïve, absolutely childish. We Communists are but a drop in the ocean of the people. We’ll be able to build Communism only if we make the vanquished bourgeoisie work for us”.

Marx had taught that every state belongs to one dominant class in different stages of history, starting with the primitive commune to capitalism and passing by feudalism. While casting himself as an arch-Marxist, however, Lenin rejected that linear analysis. He insisted that there could be a shortcut for direct passage from capitalism to Communism. During that shortcut the state would be controlled by “the vanguard of the proletariat”, that is to say the Communist Party.

Experience quickly showed that Lenin’s romantic optimism had been misplaced. The mass of Russians lived in starvation as Politburo members fought over whether or not to use the Tsarist gold reserves for importing canned food from France. Lenin decided to sue terror to fore peasants to share part of their meagre crops to feed the starving cities.

In a letter, his kind of “tweet”, to Lev Kamenev, who was in charge of the economy, Lenin said: “There is no evolution without terror: political terror and economic terror!”

To use terror systematically, Lenin created CHEKA, the secret police and precursor of the KGB headed by Polish Felix Dzezhinski.

However, the Bolsheviks were not numerous enough to provide the leadership, management and administration required by a huge country at a time of exceptional crisis. In 1924, as he was approaching his early death, Lenin estimated the number of Bolshevik cadres at around 4,700, many of them having jumped on the bandwagon after the victory of the Revolution.

That led Lenin and his party towards a new policy which he dubbed “one step backwards for two steps forward”. The label was the New Economic Policy or NEP which envisaged the creation of mixed public-private enterprises and the creation of state capitalism. When Preobrazhenski, a member of the party’s central committee, publicly took Lenin to task for pursuing a new version of capitalism, the father of the revolution opted for sophistry in response.

“In capitalist society the proletariat works for the bourgeoisie, “he said. “In Communist society, the bourgeoisie works for the proletariat.”

“Peasants ask us: The capitalist is able to supply things that we want, charging exorbitant prices and humiliated and robbed us. But he was, after all, able to supply things,“ Lenin said. “But what about you, Communists? Can you supply the things we need? You Communists may be saints destined for heavens. But can you get things done? Can you supply what we need?”

It took history almost 80 years to provide the answer, which was “no.”

Initially, Lenin wanted a talk-fest in which all Russians, used to silence for centuries, would air their grievances in public and make their views heard. Soon, however, he realized that freedom of speech and of press could be dangerous for the kind of centralized state he was trying to build.

Three years after “Red October”, the heavy Russian silence which Tolstoy had claimed was due to drunkenness, was back in force. Lenin told the party congress: “We can have free debates on weekends but absolute obedience to the Soviet leader, the dictator, the rest of the week. One wonders what would have happened today when every chat-room in cyberspace is a Soviet!

Having called for the abolition of censorship, Lenin soon returned to measures that the Tsarist regime would not have thought of. He described press freedom as deadly and dangerous. Freedom for whom, and for what?

He insisted that “all over the world wherever there are capitalists, press freedom means freedom to buy newspapers, to buy writers, to bribe, buy and fabricate public opinion for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.”

His argument was that once “history” had chosen the path of Revolution, there could be no free choice that might harm or hamper the course of Revolution. Thus, freedom of choice belongs to pre-Revolutionary societies, a bourgeois value.

When faced with the inevitable failure of his Revolution to produce “positive improvement” in the material of the workers and peasants, Lenin blamed Russia’s “deep-rooted backwardness.”

“Facts and figures reveal the vast and urgent task we face to reach the level of an ordinary West European civilized country, bearing in mind the semi-Asiatic ignorance from which we have not been able to extricate ourselves,” he wrote in a message to the Central Committee.

“As long as our countryside lacks the material basis for Communism in the countryside, under no circumstances should we immediately advance purely and exclusively Communist ideas. (Doing that) would be harmful, I might say even fatal.”

At one point, Lenin suggested to send students to Britain, Germany, Canada and the United Sates to learn how to organize and manage modern industries and offices. The Central Committee took no action because the Soviet state had no money for that and there was no guarantee the Western “enemies” would issue the necessary visas.

Sometimes, Lenin’s proposed solutions for major problems were derisory. In one memo to the Central Committee he said the country’s educational system was on the verge of collapse. But the solution he suggested was increase bread ration for teachers!

In another memo he presented his parable of the mountain in which a group of climbers have gone far up a range but feel lost and unable to reach the summit. The way out of the situation is to climb down and cast a fresh look at what lies ahead on the way to the summit. The trouble is that human societies cannot be treated as blank pages on which one could doodle as one wishes in the hope of finding the right shape. You make a mistake on the path, people die. You correct the mistake, people die.

Isolated within its ideological cocoon, the Bolshevik leaders also spent much time on in-fighting and clan rivalries. Lenin wanted to promote Bukharin as the rising star, describing him as “the most valuable theoretician of our party.” That made Stalin jealous. In the end, Stalin could put Bukharin to death, after Lenin had died.

Lenin disliked Larin and did all he could to marginalize him. Zinoviev and Kamenev couldn’t stand each other. Lenin’s concubine, Nadezhda Krupskaya, had a quarrel with Stalin who had been rude to her on telephone. That led to Lenin writing to the Central Committee asking it to replace Stalin, which didn’t happen because Lenin died a few months later.

Lenin’s great genius was to realize that there is no standard model, no recipe fr revolutions.

“Every revolution,” he wrote, “is a leap into the unknown, and each time a different unknown.”

Confronting ‘Lone Wolves’

terrorism

Cairo – The recent shooting in the US city of Las Vegas demonstrated that the terrorism of “lone wolf” attackers is a major and terrifying danger. The massacre, the worst in the US’ modern history, left an unprecedented number of people dead and injured and officials are still confounded as to what prompted Stephen Paddock to go on his horrific rampage.

Europe was not spared the danger of lone wolves with Marseille witnessing one that left two people dead. What we need to ask now is: What is the best way to confront this inhumane and very complicated phenomenon, especially since no one has so far been able to find out what pushes someone to commit such atrocities?

We should at first distinguish between the American and European lone wolves. The former have easy access to weapons, while the latter obtain weapons only for the intention of committing such terrorist crimes.

With the Las Vegas shooting, the US Congress will once again be faced with the debate over the freedom to purchase and own weapons. Any change to this reality would require an amendment of the country’s constitution, which no one at Congress has yet dared to demand.

In confronting lone wolves in the United States, we must distinguish between those who commit their crime out of national extremist and racist beliefs and radicalized others, who use the excuse of Islamic extremism.

Even though lone wolf attacks in the US are less common than those in Europe, they often claim the lives of more victims because the shooter has access to a more lethal arsenal. This therefore demands that the confrontation be waged against the legal regulations that permit the possession of arms. It also demands logistic, security and intelligence operations to counter these crimes. This second form of confrontation is similar to the one being wage against the phenomenon in Europe.

In previous articles, we had stated that lone wolf attacks were originally adopted by al-Qaeda and later ISIS. It was first born from the womb of the Islamic resistance of the Soviet occupation of Muslim territories in Afghanistan and later, with the emergence of ISIS, it was born out of the US military invasion of Iraq.

At this point, we can assert that major unjust policies around the globe and in the Islamic world are a factor that can produce more lone wolves, who believe that a life without dignity or independence is meaningless and not worth living. American and European policies in the Middle East, in recent years in particular, have had disastrous results in this regard.

These powers did not foresee the unexpected repercussions of and reaction to their destruction of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and their random dismantling of systems that have been around for decades. This opened the door wide for lone wolves to run rampant and commit their crimes.

We are now faced with the equation: As long as injustices remain, lone wolves will continue to threaten the world and its security.

Tackling open humanitarian wounds and achieving international justice could be the main solution confronting this phenomenon.

Over the years, it became obvious that many of the lone wolves in Europe often are second generation Europeans, who were born there or who arrived there at a young age. They grew up and were educated in Europe. They all however have one thing in common, which was their major failure to integrate into the new societies that had adopted them. The massive degree of their failure was reflected in the extent of their criminality in their attacks.

Why did this failure to integrate take place and who is responsible for it? Are the migrant youths to blame or did Europe fail in providing the necessary cultural, social, political and economic environments to achieve this integration?

The emergence of lone wolves in Europe is enough indication that there is a flaw in the integration mechanism. There is no doubt that the host country should be blamed. The first step to addressing this flaw lies in bridging the mental divide that separates the lone wolves from their host societies. In return, respect and appreciation should be shown for Islamic and Muslim beliefs. This respect should be reciprocated by the new migrants and refugees.

Furthermore, European countries should exert greater positive efforts to support integration through free courses that are linked to obtaining residency permits and local nationalities. This means that the migrants should be helped to learn the local language. Authorities should also prepare camps where the new arrivals could mingle with the locals. The locals in turn should be encouraged to interact on a human level with the migrants and stand with them against extremists, who are seeking division between the two sides.

It goes without saying that this type of individual terrorism has nothing to do with the right form of Islam. The severity of the situation however demands a united stand and approach. There are several major Muslim authorities that can all take such a stand and unite against forces that are deliberately trying to distort the correct image of the religion.

These authorities should project the image of the tolerant Islam that believes in coexistence and the respect of human rights regardless of their faith, race or gender.

In this regard, European governments should open the door wide for these enlightenment efforts through providing all possible means for Islamic centers to achieve this purpose and allow the voice of moderation to be heard throughout the continent. This will help achieve coexistence and rapprochement against those seeking division.

One of the most important mechanisms to confront the lone wolves phenomenon is deepening dialogue. There should be a dialogue between different generations, between locals and naturalized citizens, and between different religions. This is undoubtedly one of the most important forms of dialogue that will help eliminate the misconceptions clouding people’s hearts and minds.

Arab Muslim and Christian authorities have a role in this regard. As roots of the Arab world, they have played a part in forming this civilization. Their voice is therefore invaluable on the European scene where they will likely be welcomed by moderate Christians, who honestly seek the integration of the migrants in their new societies.

In order to close the door against the preachers of hate, we recommend that these dialogues be based on the common characteristics shared between the followers of the monotheistic religions. Going into the theological details of the religions will not help anyone because the whole purpose of the dialogue is to find common factors, not differences.

Have we forgotten or overlooked something in our search for the best means to confront lone wolves?

The lone wolf himself remains at the heart of the problem. It is a stretch to say that this phenomenon can be eliminated permanently because no one can really know what lurks in the human psyche and what their real intentions towards others are. This is a complicated case for the sociologists and psychologists.

There are however several mechanisms that can isolate the lone wolf, meaning his chances of getting together with terrorist elements can be narrowed down. The less likely the chances of the would-be lone wolf meeting these elements, the weaker his threat becomes.

How can such an isolation take place in the world of social media, the internet and modern technology?

This places a major responsibility on the shoulders of those in charge of those sites. The first step lies in shutting down websites and social media accounts that are suspected to be terrorist, especially those that seek to recruit members and others that promote murder.

Another factor to look into when addressing lone wolves is the time they spent in prison. Jails have become a hatching plant for would-be attackers due to their negative interaction with radicals, who preach their hate speech. Prisons have become beacons for terrorist thought. Very dangerous inmates should be isolated and prevented from contacting others in order to halt the spread of their terrorist propaganda.

Joy and Concern as Pupils Return to School in Mosul

Mosul- After three years of forced truancy due to ISIS’ seizure of the Iraqi city of Mosul, teenager Ali Salem waited nervously outside school to sit an English exam.

Before heading out bright and early from a camp for the displaced in Hajj Ali, 60 kilometers away, he had had a last look over lessons that were interrupted in 2014.

“On the evening of June 10, 2014, we heard that ISIS had taken over the city. I had a maths exam the next day but school stopped,” Salem told Agence France Presse in front of the gate of the school in west Mosul’s Mansour district.

“I’m 18 now and I’ve lost three years because of ISIS. I’m so glad we’re back at school to be able to pass exams because all this will determine the course of my life,” he said, with disheveled hair and a schoolbag strapped across his shoulder.

Because of the disruption for the 300,000 pupils in Niniveh province of which Mosul is the capital, the education ministry has decided to set IQ tests for primary schools and general knowledge exams in secondary.

A block of houses away, also in the Mansour district, next to a building toppled by an air strike, another pupil was waiting anxiously to take the same English exam.

“I’ve forgotten everything, and I’ve only managed to get a photocopy of one chapter whereas they can question me on the whole book,” fretted Mahmud Abdel Nafaa, also 18, as workmen laboured to fix drains and pavements smashed by shelling.

“I’m really happy to be back at school but also worried because if I fail the exams I will be transferred to evening classes,” said the young man in a red T-shirt and with black slicked-back hair.

Abdel Nafaa said evening classes were held only twice a week, and they have become mandatory for pupils deemed too old to follow the syllabus.

The new academic year started in early October in the eastern part of the city, from where Iraqi security forces expelled ISIS militants in January.

But classes and exams will not resume in earnest until the start of November in west Mosul, where the battle dragged on until July.

Mosul’s education system, with its pre-war tally of 600 schools, has paid a high price for the months-long fight.

Only 210 schools are left standing on the east bank of the Tigris river that runs through the city, and 100 on its west bank.

In his office building with its completely burnt-out ground floor, the director general of the education ministry for Niniveh province faces a mammoth task.

“We’re the second line after the armed forces. They liberate, and we have to rehabilitate right after,” Wahid Abdel Qader said.

“Already back in January, when the east had barely been liberated, we noted that families were eager for school to restart,” he said.

But with bombardments rocking the west, schools in the east waited until May and June to gradually restore classes.

Mohammed Ismail, headmaster of the Zubayda school in east Mosul, said he languished at home for three years.

“In our district, only one school stayed open,” under ISIS supervision, he said. 

“Some of my colleagues worked with them,” he said, adding most of the pupils under ISIS were French, Russian and Chechen children of foreign militants.

In the playground of the Zeitoun school overlooking the east bank of the Tigris, six-year-old Yussef Razwan showed off his first reading book. 

“Playing at home is boring. I prefer being here,” the little boy in white uniform beamed.

Saudi Expresses Strong Reservations over Misleading UN Report on Yemen

Saudi

New York, Jeddah — Saudi Arabia rejected on Friday information and numbers listed in a UN report that blames the Saudi-led coalition for killing or injuring 683 children in Yemen, describing the report as “inaccurate and misleading.”

Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said in a statement that his country exercises the maximum degree of care and precaution to avoid civilian harm.

Also on Friday, sources close to the situation in Yemen said there is evidence provided by the Yemeni National Committee for Investigation proving that Houthi militias falsified the death certificates of children who were claimed dead in the Coalition air strikes.

“There are more than 100 falsified death certificates, which prove that the numbers listed in the UN Secretary General’s annual Children and armed conflict report (CAAC) were inaccurate,” the sources said.

In a press conference held on Friday in New York, the Saudi ambassador said: “the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the coalition reaffirm that it is taking important measures to protect civilians during all military operations to end the suffering of the Yemeni people and minimize the humanitarian cost.”

In a report submitted to the UN Security Council on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres blacklisted the Saudi-led coalition for its 2016 actions.

The Saudi diplomat said his country had reservations on listing the Arab Coalition in the second section of the UN report concerning the situation of civilians and children in Yemen.

“We reject the inaccurate and misleading information and figures contained in the report that were gathered from biased sources and we express our strong reservation with respect to this information.”

Al Mouallimi blamed the Iran-allied Al Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh for putting civilians at risk, including using children as human shields.

Saudi-Russian Summit Opens Door for Partnership… Agreements Worth Several Billion Dollars

Moscow- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stressed Thursday the importance of bilateral cooperation between his country and Russia during a historic summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

In a speech delivered during official talks held with Putin in the Russian capital, King Salman said: “We are confident that there are vast opportunities for expanding and diversifying economic cooperation between our countries and establishing an economic, commercial and investment base in order to increase exploitation and consolidate the relative advantages in the interest of the two countries.”

For his part, Putin highlighted the importance of the King’s visit to Russia and the talks made between the two sides, describing them as rich and trustworthy.

“I am confident that the visit will give a fresh impetus to the development of bilateral relations between the two countries,” Putin said.

In Russia, King Salman also called on Iran to “stop interference in the region’s affairs and destabilizing the region,” stressing that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East are an absolute necessity for achieving international security and stability.

The King concluded his speech by officially inviting the Russian president to visit the Kingdom and to continue consultations towards the issues of common interest and enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries in all fields.

The Saudi-Russian Summit saw the signing of a number of memorandums of understanding and joint investment deals worth several billion dollars for the establishment of Saudi-Russian platforms in the fields of military, energy, space, commerce, communication, technology, culture and investment.

Meanwhile, during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia and Russia agree on the need to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and state institutions.

The Saudi foreign minister also uncovered that his country is working closely with Russia on uniting Syria’s opposition.

“We are certain that the further strengthening of Russian-Saudi relations will have a positive impact on strengthening stability and security in the region and the world,” Al-Jubeir said.

Iran Offers Nuclear Deal Compromise with US via Oman

Zarif

London – Iran has asked Oman to transmit to Washington a set of new proposals designed to prevent a showdown with the Trump administration over the controversial nuclear deal reached with six major powers, sources in Tehran confirmed yesterday.

Known as the Comprehensive Plan for Joint Action (CJPOA), the deal envisages the temporary lifting of some sanctions against Iran in exchange a freezing of aspects of the Iranian nuclear program.

The Iranian demand was put to the Omanis by Islamic Republic Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, during a “working visit” to Oman for talks with his Omani counterpart Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah.

President Donald Trump claims that Iran has violated the spirit of the deal and is reportedly planning to refer the whole issue back to the US Congress, effectively ending the periodic suspension of sanctions against Iran. Trump has three objections to the deal, all of which are expected to be addressed in the compromise formula Zarif has taken to Muscat.

The first of these is that the CJPOA includes “sunset clauses” that envisage the ending of all sanctions on Iran in periods of between 10 to 30 years. In the new Iranian formula, a mechanism will be agreed to end the “sunset” concept and link the full lifting of sanctions to certified performance by Iran.

Trump’s second objections is that Tehran has refused to ratify the Additional Protocols to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), thus keeping all options open for a full resumption of the military aspects of its nuclear project. What Zarif is offering now is to fast-track the arousal of the additional protocols through the Islamic Majlis, the Iranian parliament, before March 2018 when Iran and the 5+1 foreign ministers are due to hold a “revision conference” to assess mutual performance.

The third American objection is that Iran has tried to exclude its missile development project from the deal, thus ignoring resolutions passed by the United Nations’ Security Council. The compromise formula now suggested by Iran would provide for arbitration on the issue, allowing Iran to continue its project but offering guarantees that missiles thus developed would not be designed to carry nuclear warheads.

Before flying to Muscat, Zarif said that if the US wants “stringent inspection” of Iranian nuclear sites to continue, it must continue to abide by the terms of the CJPOA. The Islamic foreign minister also said the US “could be sure Iran would ratify the Additional Protocols.”

As an additional “sweetener,” Zarif renewed Iran’s offer of cooperation in the fight against ISIS and suggested that Iran’s regional policies be separated from the nuclear issue.

In a separate interview, Zarif said that despite Iran’s flexibility, chances of the US remaining committed to the CJPOA was “50-50”, adding that Tehran already had contingency plans to deal with any outcome.

Trump must notify the US Congress by October 15, leaving a narrow window of opportunity for any mediation by the Omanis.

Zarif, who will also visit Qatar after Oman, is using his mini-tour to put other “possibilities”, related to relations with neighboring countries, on the table.

Iran and Oman have already signed a security accord and demarcated their continental shelf in the Gulf of Oman. Oman has also offered “mooring rights” to the Iranian Navy, enabling it to expand its active presence right down to the Gulf of Hauf and the Gulf of Aden. Tehran now wants the accord “deepened” to include joint operations against terrorist threats, piracy and human-trafficking in the region. The establishment of a daily direct shipping line between the Iranian port of Chahbahar and the Omani capital Muscat is expected to facilitate security and trade cooperation.

According to sources in Tehran, in Qatar Zarif is expected to propose the creation of “joint organs” in a number of domains including environmental protection, and combating drug trafficking and smuggling in general. Iran and Qatar already have a security cooperation accord that could be expanded to cover other areas of mutual interest and, later, also joined by Oman. One area of concern is the rapid depletion of fishing resources in the Gulf where many foreign nations, notably China, are “plundering” fish resources with no regard for regeneration of stocks. Iranian fishermen have been engaged in a series of protests and strikes, calling on Tehran to curb unrestricted Chinese fishing activities. Tehran claims that effective action would not be possible without the cooperation of other littoral states; Oman and Qatar are expected to be the first to agree to joint action with Iran.

Both Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani have gone out of their way in recent weeks to describe an easing of tension with Gulf neighbors as a “top priority”. As always with the Islamic Republic, however, it is not clear whether their stance is endorsed by the “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on all issues or, whether as often in the past, they are asked just to buy time.

One calculation in Tehran may be based on the assumption that if they manage to keep the US committed to the CJPOA until next March, the Trump administration would then find itself too involved in the mid-term US elections to open a new front in foreign policy. Tehran also hopes that the Democrats, still committed to President Barack Obama’s legacy, would regain control of the US Senate, making it harder for Trump to pick up a fight with Tehran.

‘Lone Wolf’ Phenomenon Started in West, Adopted by Qaeda, ISIS

terrorism

Cairo – One of the most dangerous predicaments facing those confronting terrorism in the world, especially in Europe and the United States, is how to face the so-called “lone wolf” phenomenon. The phenomenon is in fact part of the greater map of what is known as “sleeper cells” that extremist groups use to carry out their operations in areas that are far from the main base of the terror organizations.

This raises several questions, most importantly: “Do the terrorist groups that have filled the world with terror recognize the lone wolves? If yes, how and why?”

As he sought answers to these questions, the researcher came across a document released by the terrorist ISIS organization in which it hailed the lone wolves. It described them as “heroes” for striking down the “infidels and those who supported them in combating Muslims.” The document resorted to the Quran to justify the acts of the terrorists, which they interpret as an “act of great worship that will bring them closer to God.” It blamed the West’s oppression of Muslims for the emergence of lone wolves.

Lone wolves: A western concept

Research has revealed that the “lone wolf” phenomenon originated in the West, not the Arab or Muslim world. Researcher Dr. Mahmoud al-Bazzi wrote about this in his work, “Lone Wolves … ISIS’ Last Resort.”

In it, he said that the term “lone wolf” became common in 1990 when two racist Americans Alex Curtis and Tom Metzger called on individual and small cells to spread terrorism through operating underground and in secrect, instead of working in the open and for large organizations.

Since 1990, racist attacks carried out by such groups emerged in the US. The cells were not part of any organization and they called for attacks against non-whites through all possible means. If arrested, the assailants were told to inform authorities that they “had nothing to say.”

Bazzi listed a number of attacks carried out in Europe and the US that bear the clear hallmarks of “lone wolf” Anglosaxon protestants, not Muslims.

A sample of this is the February 1992 attack by Constable James Allen Moore, who shot dead three Catholics at the Belfast office Sinn Fein, a republican party that calls for uniting Ireland.

In the same vein, terrorist Jewish physician Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 people and wounded 150 others in a machinegun attack at the Ibrahimi compound in al-Khalil in the Palestinian territories on February 25, 1994.

Perhaps the worst lone wolf attack in history was the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City in the US. The assailant, Timothy McVeigh, drove an explosives-laden truck into the building in an attack directed against the government. A total of 168 people were killed and 680 wounded in the bombing.

In 2011, Anders Breivik went on a rampage at a youth camp on Utoya island in Norway, killing 60 youths. He identified himself as a “secular Christian, who was seized by religious and racial intolerance and delusions of crusader wars.”

Qaeda before ISIS

A lot has been said over the past two decades about the United States’ ties with political Islamic movements and later al-Qaeda. The ISIS group later emerged from the Qaeda fold.

The question that should then be asked is: Had al-Qaeda adopted the lone wolf strategy before ISIS did?

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that al-Qaeda was the first to follow this strategy and it was later adopted by ISIS, which had spread the guidelines on lone wolf attacks on its followers.

The guidelines urged the followers to stay away from their places of residence after carrying out their attack. They are advised to avoid using their telephone and be wary of leaving behind any incriminating fingerprints. They should cover their face when they execute the attack and place a withdrawal plan before even thinking of putting a plot into action.

They were urged to cause as many casualties as possible. In addition, ISIS called on would-be lone wolf attackers to blend in society by shaving their beards, dressing up in western clothes and putting on perfume, even ones that contain alcohol. The attacker should blend in the local society to avoid appearing as a Muslim. They should also refrain from regularly heading to mosque for prayers.

Given the detailed guidelines, one has to ask: Are those behind it amateurs or do they have experience in international intelligence and can disguise themselves in their surroundings?

Road to recruitment: How and who?

Regardless of the minds behind the lone wolves, the vital question that should be asked is: How are they able to recruit new members despite the distance between the terrorists and what are the characteristics of the candidates?

The long distance between the plotters is no longer a major issue or obstacle as modern technology has made it easy to overcome geographic restrictions. The terrorists have access to satellite telephones that allow them to evade government and intelligence surveillance.

It is likely however that would-be lone wolf attackers are lured over the internet. Some studies revealed that ISIS has over 90,000 Facebook and Twitter Arabic accounts, as well as 40,000 accounts in other languages.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “lone wolves” or “lone cells” are much harder to monitor. They pose an intelligence challenge more than terror networks operating on the ground. They can garner information on the latter through surveillance, but lone extremists emerge from spontaneous ideas that are difficult to control with traditional weapons.

The characteristics of the lone wolf has been the center of debates. The best candidate for ISIS are individuals who have mental and social problems and a criminal record. Figures that do not fall under this umbrella have, disconcertingly, started to appear.

They all however share the main purpose of attacking the “enemy and fragmenting it through individual acts that do not need great organization.” Organized armies face difficulties in confronting individual extremist elements because they are unpredictable.

Some observers believe that even though the lone wolves act alone, they ultimately cannot be separated from ISIS.

Professor Jytte Klausen, a scholar of politics who teaches at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said in an article in the US “Foreign Affairs” magazine that after years of worrying about the terrorist lone wolf, it appears that the dangerous terrorists indeed cannot be separated. Understanding why suicide-bombers are ready to attack and kill at random in a small neighborhood can be understood through looking at the terrorist threat as a social virus that spreads through a complicated infection process.

“Dangerous terrorists cannot be separated.”

Is this really true?

It is certain that lone wolves receive direct instructions and this was revealed by a 2015 ISIS pamphlet called, “The Lone Wolf Strategy.” In it, the author, “Abou Anas al-Andalusi,” hails ISIS member Mohammed Merah, who committed the 2012 Toulouse attack. He said that Merah was not really a lone wolf, but a member of an extremist group called “Jund al-Khalifa.”

Given this reality, we should now ask how can we deal with the lone wolf phenomenon and avoid it in the future?