Posts

Proposed EU Quota for Distribution of Illegal Migrants Draws Fire

The European Commission’s (EC) European Agenda for Migration has floated its proposals for dealing with the massive surge in illegal migrants being smuggled across the Mediterranean by human traffickers. That has created discord among the 28 EU members about the rescue burden placed on so-called front line countries in the Mediterranean like Malta, Italy, Greece and Spain versus the relocation burden on major members like Germany and Sweden. It has also given rise to UN criticism for a controversial plan to destroy the rickety boats of human traffickers in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, originally proposed by EU Foreign Relations Commissioner, Frederica Mogherini. A side show has been the UN and European Parliament adverse comments of  the ’horrible’ national survey in Hungary opposing EU and UN setting allotments and quotas for distribution of asylees and refugees. Hungary’s PM Orban is a prominent member of the large center right European Parliament EPP coalition. The formal release of the EU Commission’s proposal is scheduled for Wednesday, May 13th.

We wrote in our NER article on this roiling debate in the May edition, “Stemming the Surge of Deadly Illegal Migration Across the Mediterranean”:

The EC proposed a pilot project to re-distribute 5,000 refugees who meet asylum requirements stranded outside the EU, as an attempt to fairly distribute the burden of asylees. That flies in the face of objections by major northern countries to further asylum quotas. In 2014, 626,065 refugees filed asylum claims, a 44% percent increase over 2013. As one example, Germany experienced a sharp rise is asylum requests over the first quarter of 2015 to 85,394, double over the same period in 2014. By contrast the U.S. received 47,500 asylum applications.

The majority of those asylum seekers hail from Kosovo, Syria and Albania. Germany currently has a backlog of over 200,000 applications. This has given rise to complaints by municipalities in Germany about the impact on facilities and community integration. In the most controversial proposal, the EC requested EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Federica Mogherini to develop rules of engagement enabling it to capture and destroy illegal smuggling vessels. Overall EC President Donald Tusk of Poland said the illegal migrant crisis is a” complex issue” that will “take time to tackle.”

The EUObserver reported  the leaked contents of the EC proposals and reactions:

Leaked documents, seen by EUobserver, indicate that both ideas are now back on the table in an effort to help ease pressure on select member states.

“The EU needs a permanent system for sharing the responsibility for large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers among member states,” notes the draft document.

Some 80 percent of all asylum applications are processed in six EU countries, with most refugees from Syria either ending up in Germany or Sweden.

Germany’s Angela Merkel reportedly backs the commission’s proposals but the issue has already generated a backlash elsewhere.

Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban on Friday described the commission plan as “mad and unfair”.

Earlier this month, he proposed setting up new national legislation to keep out immigrants even it runs counter to EU rules.

“If [other EU members] want to receive immigrants, they can do it. But then they should not send them back here, or through us,” said the Hungarian leader.

According to the leaked commission text, the EU executive wants member states to resettle around 20,000 new refugees every year, although the final figure could change.

An initial figure of 5,000 had been floated last month at the EU emergency summit, but was then dropped.

[…]

The number of relocated migrants to be taken in by each state would depend on the member state’s population size, economic strength, unemployment level and number of refugees already there.

“The commission will table legislation by the end of 2015 to provide for a mandatory and automatically-triggered relocation system to distribute those in clear need of international protection within the EU when a mass influx emerges,” notes the commission paper.

The proposed quota system would not be binding on Ireland, the UK and Denmark.

This has brought an immediate reaction from the newly elected Conservative government of UK Prime Minister David Cameron.  The Guardian reported:

“We will oppose any EU commission proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota,” a spokesperson told the paper.

Britain is instead pushing for an UN-backed resolution to “destroy the business model of the traffickers” by sinking the boats and rubber dinghies used to ferry migrants across the sea.

The UK’s Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Bulwark and its three Merlin helicopters are already at port in Malta.

Debate at the UN Security Council session yesterday in Manhattan revealed criticism of the EU Foreign Commissioner’s proposal to attack the smuggler vessels engaged in trafficking of illegal migrants. The EU Observer reported:

Peter Sutherland, the UN special envoy on migration and a former EU commissioner, issued the warning at a meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC) warned the EU that “innocent refugees”, including children, will be “in the line of fire” of any operation to sink migrant smugglers’ boats.

He noted that in the first 130 days of this year “at least” 1,800 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to get to EU shores.

“This total represents a 20-fold increase over the same period last year. At this pace, we are on course to see between 10,000 and 20,000 migrants perish by autumn”.

He said about half the people who make it have a legitimate need for EU protection.

EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Mogherini replied:

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told the UNSC, also on Monday, that she’s been tasked “to propose actions to disrupt the business model of human trafficking networks across the Mediterranean”.

“We have in these [past] weeks prepared for a possible naval operation in the framework of the European Union Common Security and Defence Policy. The mandate of this operation is currently being elaborated with the EU member states”.

“We want to work with the United Nations, in particular with the UNSC”, she added.

She took pains to say the military plan is part of a wider approach.

She also pledged that “no refugees or migrants intercepted at sea will be sent back against their will”.

[…]

“This is not all about Libya, we know that very well. This can happen in other parts of the world. But we all know also very well that the vast majority of human trafficking and smuggling in these months is happening in Libya, or rather, through Libya”, Mogherini noted.

Given the divisions within the EU, it would appear the roiling political debate over how to handle the deadly illegal migrant surge of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean may be irresolvable. Much of the illegal migrant flight is driven by civil war and jihad conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Al Qaeda-linked terror groups in Africa. This despite the suggestions of  Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders that perhaps the only ways to deal with the surge is to adopt the Australian model of returning the stream of illegal migrants for possible relocation in North Africa and other areas in the Middle East. That is likely to be objected to by the UN High Commissioner of Refugees seeking to depopulate huge refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere across the Muslim Ummah. The Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council would clearly object to such a scheme involving the members of the GCC embroiled in a war against Iran–backed Houthi Rebels in Yemen.

The question is whether that means an increase in refugee resettlement  allotments  courtesy of the UNHCR  might be coming here in the U.S. The arrival of Syrian refugees in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is  already causing a rising debate among localities in the American heartland.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of illegal migrants picked up in the Mediterranean. Source: Migrant Offshore Aid Station

Iraq on Brink of Disintegration: ISIS Blitzkrieg threatens Baghdad – Kurds Seize Kirkuk

The ISIS Jihad  blitzkrieg seized the oil-rich Northern Iraqi City of Mosul Wednesday, while the Iraqi Army fled. This leaving  nearly half a million civilians, Assyrian Christians among them,  to flee to rural areas of the province of Biblical Nineveh. ISIS is the Salafist –Jihadist Al Qaeda terrorist army, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham,the Levant.

ISIS has looted nearly a half billion in cash and tons of gold bullion making the terrorist army perhaps the largest well funded Al Qaeda affiliate.  Add to that the significant oil fields and Iraq’s largest refinery in Mosul, the ISIS literally may have the fuel to follow through with their threat to attack Baghdad. Mosul  was festooned with the decapitated heads of  Iraqi policemen. This despite Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki putting on a brave face calling upon his parliament to declare a state of national emergency. Now he has to rely on the loyalty of the US trained Iraqi army and militia from his Shia base to defend the capital.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government  (KRG) in Irbil dispatched its peshmerga forces to take over what they couldn’t do by plebiscite, the oil rich city of Kirkuk.  A Kirkuk that the Kurds consider as “their equivalent of Jerusalem”.  Now, as one report cited, just a mound of dirt separates Kurdish peshmerga from ISIS jihadi.

At risk is the future of this artificial country created by the British from the Mesopotamian Mandate of the League of Nations following WWI.   Ironically the US surge strategy of General Petreaus nearly a decade ago used nation building and bribery to defeat the al Qaeda forces in the Anbar provinces and Mosul.  Given current developments the  refusal of the Al Maliki government to negotiate a status of forces agreement with may have contributed to this looming debacle.  That choice was up to Maliki.  Because of these missteps we have looming a possible  Sunni Caliphate stretching across neighboring Syria deep into Iraq.  Today the picture gets even murkier as Iran announced dispatch of battalions of its  Quds Force to bolster the defense of Nouri al-Maliki’s beleaguered capitol.  This episode may rival the legendary history of the  sweep of the first Grand Jihad over 14 centuries ago. The Washington Post in a report today on these rapidly deteriorating developments in Iraq quoted President Obama saying:

“I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama told reporters after a White House meeting with visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“I think it’s fair to say that . . . there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options,” he said. “But this should be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government” about the need for political accommodation between the country’s Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni minority, he added.

ISIS loots Mosul Central bank

The International Business Time(IBT)  wrote of how much booty the ISIS secured in the capture of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul Seized: Jihadis Loot $429m from City’s Central Bank to Make Isis World’s Richest Terror ForceThe IBT reported:

Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi confirmed Kurdish television reports that Isis militants had stolen millions from numerous banks across Mosul. A large quantity of gold bullion is also believed to have been stolen.

Following the siege of the country’s second city, the bounty collected by the group has left it richer than al-Qaeda itself and as wealthy as small nations such as Tonga, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Falkland Islands.

The financial assets that ISIS  now possesses are likely to worsen the Iraqi government’s struggle to defeat the insurgency, which is aimed at creating an Islamic state across the Syrian-Iraqi border.

[…]

They also seized considerable amounts of US-supplied military hardware. Photos have already emerged of Isis parading captured Humvees in neighboring Syria where they are also waging war against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

What  is really worrisome is that the vast treasury that ISIS has seized that will enable them to  pay on average $600 a month to attract  thousands of  foreign jihadis, especially those in the West.

Just yesterday, ISIS forward elements seized Tikrit the ancestral home town of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, putting it less than 95 miles from Baghdad. ISIS has also surrounded the city of Samarra less than 70 miles from the nation’s capital.

http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2012/11/kirkuk754.jpg

Kurdish peshmerga troops in Kirkuk. Source: ekurd.net.

Kurdish Peshmerga Seize Kirkuk

The autonomous KRG Peshmerga forces went into action today seizing a virtually defenseless Kirkuk. The KRG had been thwarted by the Al Maliki government from conducting a plebiscite to take back this resource rich original part of the Kurdish homeland.    The Guardian’s report conveys the sense of how rapidly Iraqi forces had abandoned the defenseless city,  Kurdish Peshmerga seize a chaotic victory in Kirkuk:

Capturing the city and its huge oil reserves, just outside the area controlled by the KRG, is a huge achievement. Yet victory looks far from glorious or orderly.

[…]

On Thursday Kurdish officials said they had stepped in to protect the city after government troops fled before advancing rebels from the Sunni jihadi group Isis.

Locals alleged that weaponry inside the K1 base had been seized by Kurdish Peshmerga forces belonging to both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the two main political forces in the KRG. But in the confusion of Iraq’s deepening crisis it is hard to be quite certain.

[…]

“There are no security concerns at this moment and the situation is calm in the city,” said Dler Samad, the Kirkuk governor’s press officer. The governor, Dr Najmadin Karim, had visited Peshmerga forces near Hawija, just 3km away from ISIS units. But a minister responsible for regional security forces survived a bomb blast as he drove into Kirkuk.

Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul, Iraq. Sourcs CNS Church in Need Service.

The ISIS threat to Christians in Nineveh

We have written extensively of the flight of the beleaguered  Assyrian Christians. A report by Nina Shea in the National Review On-line depicted the crisis that this ancient Christian community faces  in the midst of  the ISIS jihadist onslaught, The Cleansing of Iraq’s Christians Is Entering Its End Game.  Shea wrote:

Mosul’s panic-stricken Christians, along with many others, are now fleeing en masse to the rural Nineveh Plain, according to the Vatican publication Fides. The border crossings into Kurdistan, too, are jammed with the cars of the estimated 150,000 desperate escapees.

[…]

Since 2003, Iraq’s Christian community has suffered intense religious persecution on top of the effects of the conflict and, as a result, it has shrunk by well over 50 percent. Mosul, the site of ancient Nineveh of the Assyrians, who converted to Christianity in the first century, has become the home of many Christians who remained. Considered by Christians the place of last resort inside Iraq, Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain has been home to many Christian refugees driven out of Baghdad and Basra.

ISIS on the march

Sources: The Institute for the Study of War, The Long War Journal. The Washington Post. Published on June 11, 2014, 9:37 p.m. For a larger view click on the map.

Who do you pin the blame on?

Earlier we  noted the failure of the Maliki government to conclude a status of forces agreement when the remaining US forces left three years ago. This was just as the civil war in Syria arose in bloody earnest that spawned ISIS’ terrorist Jihad in the region.  The Wall Street Journal cited Sen. McCain and  House Speaker John Boehner laying blame on Obama, while the Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Service Committees, Republican Rep. Buck McKeon and  Democrat Sen.Carl Levin held differing views:

Several top Republican congressional leaders Thursday blamed President Obama for what they called policy failures leading to the collapse of Iraqi armed forces and the fall of major Iraqi cities to the control of Islamist militants.

[…]

“Now they’ve taken control of Mosul, they’re 100 miles from Baghdad. And what’s the president doing? Taking a nap,” Mr. Boehner said.

Mr. McCain said the administration’s decision to leave in 2011 was politically motivated.

“The trouble is, as the events of this week show, what the Americans left behind was an Iraqi state that was not able to stand on its own,” he said. “What we built is now coming apart.”

He said the U.S. must “take immediate action” to head off the militants’ advance, and reconsider the decision by Mr. Obama to wind down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in 2016.

[…]

Rep. Buck McKeon (R., Calif.), who heads the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters that he opposed airstrikes and any additional involvement by the U.S. in a crisis that has seen Sunni militants and Kurdish military units make incursions around the country. Iraq’s government had a chance to sign a status-of-forces agreement with the U.S. but didn’t, Mr. McKeon said.

“We lost a lot of blood, a lot of treasure there and gave them an opportunity and they wouldn’t sign the agreement,” Mr. McKeon said, adding that any assistance would add another strain to the military when officials are trying to slim down budgets. “They all take money, they all take resources, they all put people at risk.”

Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the Senate armed services panel, blamed Iraq’s government for not doing enough to unify the country and stave off sectarian violence. He also questioned whether U.S. airstrikes would be effective given that Iraqi security forces, he said, have “melted away” in some places.

“While all options should be considered, the problem in Iraq hasn’t been so much a lack of direct U.S. military involvement, but a lack of reconciliation on the part of Iraqi leaders,” Mr. Levin said.

Fred Kaplan in Slate had views close to that of McKeon and Levin in an article, “If jihadists control Iraq, blame Nouri al-Maliki, not the United States”.  Kaplan is the author of The Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. After reviewing the success of General Petreaus’ surge in the western provinces and Mosul, Kaplan concludes about the current debacle:

Maliki has his own political problems. His party won a plurality of votes in the recent election, but not enough to declare victory…. The threat from ISIS—and it’s now a dire threat—might move some factions to strengthen the nation’s leader, or it might move more to abandon all confidence in Maliki and turn to someone else.

One hope for Iraq is that ISIS might have gone one rampage too far. While stomping through Mosul, some of their militiamen stormed the Turkish consulate and kidnapped Turkish diplomats. Under international law, that amounts to an attack on Turkey, and it’s unlikely that the Turks will simply shrug. Iran, which has emerged as Maliki’s main ally, has no interest in seeing Sunnis regain power in Baghdad. A strange alliance among all three may come to life to beat back this equally strange insurgency.

With news today that Iran is sending battalions of its elite Quds Force to fight in Iraq, Kaplan’s views appear like grasping a thin reed. Supplying more US military aid and perhaps air resources by the Obama Administration may not even put a dent into the ISIS Jihadist blitzkrieg poised to possibly conduct a siege on the capital.  Iraq is for all intents and purposes a failed state. The world and we in America will pay for its possible demise with a spike in both oil and gas prices. Time for us to bolster the independence of Kurdistan and let the Shia provinces become veritable client states of Iran, while a Jihadist  Sunni Emirate arises. Saudi Arabia will doubtless consider its options with  the failure of Iraq further endangering the Gulf region and its oil fields. Could a regional war of global proportions be in the offing?

Will the US Embassy in Baghdad be evacuating before being overwhelmed? Stay tuned for developments.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Jihadist behind takeover of Mosul released from U.S. custody in 2009
Iraq Isis Crisis: Medieval Sharia Law Imposed on Millions in Nineveh Province
Obama: “The World Is Less Violent Than It Has Ever Been”
Decapitated heads of policemen and soldiers line the streets of Mosul as ISIS imposes Sharia

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Is the Malaysian Air Flight MH370 tragedy like Egyptian Air Flight 990?

I watched the confused early morning US live broadcast of press conference   held by Malaysian military and civilian aviation authorities. They were endeavoring to answer questions of an international press perplexed by the conflicting information about the final moments and whereabouts of Malaysian Air Flight MH 370 with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board departed Saturday, March 9th from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. The Boeing 777 aircraft has redundant electrical and communications systems on board and a near faultless safety record, as does the operator Malaysian Air. Only three such aircraft have had accidents in an otherwise impressive airworthiness history. At today’s press briefing a Malaysian military spokesperson said that defense radars had last placed Flight 370 200 miles northwest of Penang Island. The search area has been extended to both sides of the Malaysian Peninsula covering 47,000 square miles .An international flotilla of more than 43 ships and 39 aircraft are involved in searching for the debris of the downed aircraft.

Watch this  CBS News report on the disappearance of Malaysian Flight MH370:

The confusion that I witnessed must have further perplexed the relatives of more than 14 nationalities aboard, the majority were Chinese passengers. Both the families of Chinese passengers and Chinese government officials have badgered Malaysian  airline staff in Beijing  requesting information on the ‘disappearance’ of Flight 370. Doubtless that  also would have been the response of the families of the other international travelers including  Australians and  three Americans on board  the flight.

Regarding the matter of passengers with stolen passports, we  know that neighboring Thailand is a major center for trafficking in such stolen documents. Two Iranian nationals had obtained  these stolen passports. These Iranians were cleared by US counterterrorism  authorities  of having any nefarious terrorist connections.  They were bound ultimately for destinations in Europe  and were on not on any no fly or watch lists..   While Interpol maintains a data base of such purloined passports, it is not entirely fool proof.  Thus, local photographic and biometric screening of departing passengers’ documentation is the only way to effectively identify and screen them for possible untoward missions.

Perhaps contributing to the confusion in locating Flight 370, is whether the impact occurred on land or more likely in the relative shallow depths of the Gulf of Thailand. There is also the matter of opacities in the international civil aviation radar coverage, especially in relatively undeveloped areas. Airline safety experts, both former National Transportation Safety Board officials and International Civil Aviation Organization and independent experts said that the sudden disappearance of Flight 370 transponder communications might be due to a possible criminal act, either from terrorist actions or a rogue pilot.

We know from a  report of an Australian tourists  that the co-pilot on Flight 370  had left the cockpit door open so that curious passengers on board might come up to the flight deck to see how the flight was being handled. If the case, that is a violation of international flight safety rules requiring the cockpit to be locked down s following the 9/11 skyjackings and suicide attacks in New York, Northern Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.

One example of  a plausible criminal act is what occurred with the loss  of Egyptian Air 990 that went down 60 Miles off Nantucket in late August 1999 with 217 passengers aboard.  As Flight 990, a Boeing  767,  crashed in international waters  the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) was the responsible  for conducting the investigation.  The ECAA initially denied that the relief pilot aboard might have deliberately plunged Flight 990 into the Atlantic.  Cockpit recordings and recovery of the flight recorders, the so-called black boxes, verified the sudden deliberate violent changes in flight controls.

Note this Wikipedia report on Flight 990:

As the crash occurred in international waters, the responsibility for investigating the accident fell to the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) per International Civil Aviation Organization Annex 13. As the ECAA lacked the resources of the much larger  US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Egyptian government asked the NTSB to handle the investigation. Two weeks after the crash, the NTSB proposed handing the investigation over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as the evidence they had gathered suggested a criminal act had taken place and that the crash was intentional rather than accidental. This proposal was unacceptable to the Egyptian authorities, and as such the NTSB continued to lead the investigation. As the evidence of a deliberate crash mounted, the Egyptian government reversed their earlier decision, and the ECAA launched their own investigation. The two investigations came to very different conclusions: the NTSB found the crash was caused by deliberate action of the Relief First Officer Gameel Al-Batouti; the ECAA found the crash was caused by mechanical failure of the airplane’s elevator control system.

Could Malaysian Flight 370 have suffered the same fate as Egyptian Air 990? That is, a rogue pilot seizing the controls plunging it into a steep dive and impact  possibly at sea? If the case, then the aircraft debris including large sections of the fuselage constructed of honeycomb material and baggage would have floated free for evidentiary recovery. If the impact was on land, the aircraft could have crashed in tropical areas with impenetrable triple canopy jungle areas. Should  the cockpit voice recorder and flight recorder ‘black box’ be eventually recovered, then we might learn whether a terrorist  or criminal act occurred.

Recovery of the aircraft debris, voice and flights recorders may be problematic Nonetheless, an Egyptian Air Flight 990 scenario could be a plausible, yet disturbing scenario.  The last voice transmission from Flight 370 was: “All right, good night”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

UPDATE: Given this morning news about the shutdown of the transponders and RR Engines telemetry data, it appears that MH370 was diverted by an experienced person on board the flight, whether, the Flight officer, co-pilot or terrorist passenger on board.  The RR telemetry data indicates that the Boeing 777 flew on after transpornders were shut down manually for four to five hours.  Therefore something akin to the Egyptian Aior flight 990 might be increasingly plausible, but with a difference; i.e., diversion of the flight to a forced landing location outside of the extended search area.  those large objects in the relatively shallow South China Seas were judged to be too big for an aircraft broken up at sea on impact like Egyptian Air 990. The South China Sea is only 146 feet deep in that area. The Boeing 777 stands about 61 feet high.

Henry Jackson Society’s Attempt to Refute Jihadism is flawed

When the Henry Jackson Society (HJS)  on February 4, 2014 issued a monograph, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism:  Critiquing radical Islamist claims to theological authenticity (HJS Jihadism Guide) I shared it with a colleague, Clare Lopez. I posed a question to her whether given the HJS authors and Muslim commentators,  this effort was tantamount to Da’wa, especially given an endorsement by a bevy of Sunni Muslim scholars.   Lopez did not think that the HJS  monograph was helpful.

The HJS Jihadism Guide propounded these conclusions:

Al-Qa’ida, Hamas and Lashkar-e-Ta’iba claim that their violent actions are supported within the four traditional schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence and that traditional Islam itself mandates a jihadist view of scripture.  [The Guide] counters these theological claims by demonstrating that their arguments are not based on Islamic consensus or traditionally recognized interpretations of classical Islamic sources. Part I examines the division of the world into Dar al-Islam (‘lands of Islam’) and Dar al-Harb (‘lands of war’).  By demonstrating that the Islamist understanding of the former is much narrower than that of classical scholars, the report counters key jihadist tenets, including the requirements to re-conquer Islamic lands; to reject peaceful relations with illegitimate states; and to re-establish an expansionist ‘Islamic’ state, known as the Caliphate. Part II demonstrates that the jihadist groups’ rendering of the rules of Islamic warfare – particularly who can declare  jihad (‘religiously sanctioned warfare’) and when, as well as who can be targeted, whether suicide operations are religiously lawful and who should fight – diverges from both classical and contemporary sources of Islamic law.

Dr. Mark Durie posted on his blog yesterday the comments about the HJS Jihadism Guide by Andrew Brown on his blog at The Guardian:

It doesn’t really matter whether the fundamentalists are right about the nature of Islam – it’s loyalties and peer pressure that drive them. How much of what jihadis do is religiously motivated? At one extreme are those who claim their beliefs are entirely explained by oppression and reaction to social circumstances; at the other is the view that the Qur’an is a kind of brain parasite, compelling its victims to slaughter. This latter view is still quite popular on the fringes of the right. I’d like to think the view that religion doesn’t matter at all has been abandoned entirely but there is bound to be some groupuscule or cult that still clings to it. More sophisticated versions of the argument continue, though, and there was a fascinating outbreak … when the Henry Jackson Society published a pamphlet organized by a former jihadi giving theological reasons why jihadi violence is as unjustified as terrorism, and a counterblast saying this would persuade no one, as Muhammad himself had clearly done indiscriminately violent things and the fanatics we are dealing with use only the text of the Qur’an. Both sides in this dispute know what they are talking about. The Henry Jackson pamphlet comes with a foreword by the remarkable Usama Hasan, who himself fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s; the Christian counterblast comes from an experienced watcher of the jihadi scene.

The Christian counterblast was from Dr. Durie  published by Lapidomedia.com.  Here are Durie’s criticisms of the HJS Jihadism Guide:

This project is also helpful because it acknowledges what is often denied – that the credibility of radical jihadism relies upon religious, theological claims.  It claims Islamic legitimacy and this is how, in practice, it gains converts.  To counter this religious legitimacy it is also necessary to use theological arguments.

However there are some dangers here for Western governments.  One is that there will be a cost to adopting theological positions on Islam.  Is a secular state really in a position to make an announcement that one particular form of Islam is ‘correct’ over others? This is like saying that Catholicism is correct, but the Baptist faith is not.  And if the state does canonize a “theologically correct” view on Islam, would it really be persuasive to the minds of young radically inclined Muslims that a secular government is teaching Islam to them, or would it just incite suspicion, and detract from the credibility of voices of moderation within the Muslim community?  Also where does combating radicalism start and promoting Islam start? (The al-Azhar Sheikh in his introduction [in Arabic] to the report sees the report as an exercise in spreading Islam, not just in combating radicalism.)

The great weakness in the arguments offered is that they appear to be opportunistic, often ignoring conflicting evidence. For example on the subject of suicide bombing, a wide range of modern Muslim scholars have endorsed martyrdom operations against Israel, and to counter these means a more whole-hearted acknowledgement of the weight of the opposing voices.  It is not just al-Qaradawi or Al-Qaida ideologues who say this.

Also there is a tendency to cherry pick texts.  For example Al-Ghazali is cited to support an argument against killing women and children, but his justification of collateral damage against civilians is not cited:

[O]ne must go on jihad at least once a year… one may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them.

Another example is the discussion of ‘perfidy’ or ‘subterfuge’ in warfare.  It is argued on the basis of a hadith from  Sahih Muslim’s Hadith Collection  that Islam forbids the use of deception in warfare, a key point in the theology of martyrdom operations / suicide bombing.  However the hadith is cited from a secondary source and the translation is not accurate.  The actual Arabic in Sahih Muslim (translated more accurately here) forbids stealing booty and a Muslim is not supposed to break his ‘pledge’.  This is not about ‘cheating’ in general.  Also the authors ignore the well-known hadith which supports deceit in which Muhammad said: ‘War is deceit’.   This approach runs the risk of setting up a straw man only to knock it down. In Islam, support for deception in warfare is more resistant to re-analysis than this.

In the discussion on citizenship – which is a very important issue in Islamic law: can Muslims be loyal citizens? – the authors overlook important rulings collected by the International Fiqh Academy on this issue, which goes against their position.

Yet as soon as one raises such objections, one runs the risk of being accused of supporting the jihadis.  My overall view is that the jihadis have more support than this document would acknowledge, and the arguments used against them would not be convincing to many.

The question I ask is whether these arguments will be convincing to a well-trained Muslim scholar. I am not convinced.

I believe the strongest Islamic argument of all against jihadi theology is the ‘necessity’ argument: it will harm Islam by causing its reputation to be destroyed, as we see already in Egypt.

What about the Al-Azhar Sheikh’s support?  Well this is political.  Al-Azhar must support the anti-jihadi cause, because the Brotherhood are being killed and wiped out due to their views. The wind is blowing against the jihadi position.  Also I note that the Sheikh does not endorse specific arguments, just the general thrust of the project.

We asked  both Clare Lopez and Dr. Durie for their  concluding comments.  Lopez wrote:

In the end it doesn’t really matter whether jihadis accurately or properly understand and follow the doctrine, law and scriptures of their faith. The point for the rest of us, who are their targets for conquest, is that they believe they do.  As Stephen Coughlin has pointed out that becomes the enemy threat doctrine. It is not for us to pontificate, we must accept them at their word and try to counter them  effectively and in a timely way before it is too late.

Durie  responded:

The HJS monograph is both misleading and inaccurate of how persuasive the jihadi position is. To ignore the jihadi’s arguments will cause authorities to waste money on projects which will do no good at al.

Durie  and Lopez  have ably criticized  the HJS  document  as both misleading and  inaccurate.  As Durie states it would appear that the HJS instead of providing an exegesis of jihadist doctrinal has delivered a dangerously opaque document that will not serve their cause well.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Senate Democrats Back off New Iran Sanctions Legislation

As if on cue, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani trumpets how the Islamic Regime won big time with the announced Joint Plan of Action (JPA) implementation last Sunday in Geneva.  As The Guardian noted in a report, “Iran nuclear deal means ‘surrender’ for Western Powers, says Rouhani”:

Speaking on Tuesday in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, Rouhani said the “Geneva deal means the surrender of big powers before the great nation of Iran”.

Perhaps one of those victories is the ability of the Islamic regime to pursue what we would call the “nth” development of new, more efficient centrifuges to enrich uranium. Enrichment for only one purpose, to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.  The Obama White House  confirmed that Iran has been allowed to pursue ‘centrifuge research’.     The Washington Free Beacon noted this White House news conference call exchange in an article,” Iran permitted to continue advanced nuclear research”:

Asked by a reporter on a conference call if the deal stops “Iran from designing new types of centrifuges,” a senior administration official admitted that the deal does not prohibit this activity.

[…]

“So what’s the practical effect of this R&D [research and development] clarification that you labored over so hard? What does it preclude them from doing?” the reporter asked.

It—I mean, their commitment is to continue their current enrichment R&D practices, and those are the practices that are laid out in the November [IAEA} Director General’s report,” said one of two senior administration officials on the press briefing. “This—that’s been documented, and that’s what they were—that’s what they will continue to do.”

As we had reported  in an Iconoclast post on possible veto-proof  bipartisan Iran sanctions  legislation in the US Senate (S1881) that  the centrifuge research issue had allegedly hit a snag.

Now in the wake of Rouhani’s speech yesterday in Iran comes word that the White House is soft peddling the Iranian President’s trumpeting of this alleged “victory”.    An AFP article, “White House plays down Rouhani crowing on Nuclear Deal” notes these comments by White House spokesperson Jay Carney at yesterday’s press conference:

It is not surprising to us and nor should it be surprising to you that the Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way towards their domestic audience. It does not matter what they say, it matters what they do.

Problem is it could  thwart the Obama Administration’s campaign to stifle new bi-partisan sanctions legislation , the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (NWFIA), S1881.

However, under White House threat to veto  NWFIA, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid ,according to a report from  The Weekly Standard, has blocked bringing the measure up for a floor vote.  Note these comments from  Reid, Democrat  Senators and Minority Leader McConnell in The Hill report,  “Dems back away from Iran sanctions legislation”:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out” before moving forward with a vote on the sanctions. Reid declined to say when he might bring the bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, including 16 Democrats, to a vote.

The majority leader noted 10 of his committee chairmen are opposed to the bill.

“We believe we ought to have that vote,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the support of a very large bipartisan majority here in the Senate.”

“I think the Iran sanctions bill is meant to strengthen the president, not in any way impede the ongoing negotiations, which should and hopefully will be successful,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Menendez-Kirk co-sponsor, told reporters Tuesday. “So as long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), another co-sponsor, said both the administration and Congress wanted to reach a diplomatic solution through negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, if that was possible.

“As far as trying to work out with the administration a strategy so we have more harmony, let’s talk about it,” Cardin said. “So I think that’s what’s going on right now.”

Prior to the November 24th announcement in Geneva of the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran,  Reid had backed new sanctions legislation according to  a report in the Los Angeles Times on November 21, 2013.

Yesterday, an Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) conference call on Iran’s intentions over its nuclear program   featured former Israeli Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger and Dr. Michael Ledeen of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  Dr. Ledeen is an impassioned advocate for both sanctions and support for regime change via what he argues could be a significant Iranian opposition.  Amb. Ettinger suggested that perhaps something more is required, when he commented:

Only one option to avoid facing an Iran which could become an uncontrollable strategic apocalyptic threat. That option is surgical, devastating, disproportional military preemption against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.