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Middle East Press (31 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Hajj Pilgrimage: A Sight To Behold By Mahmoud Ahmad: New Age Islam's Selection, 31 August 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

31 August 2017

The Hajj Pilgrimage: A Sight To Behold

By Mahmoud Ahmad

Politicization Of Hajj Over The Years

By Saad Alsubaie

The Dream Deal Between Hezbollah And ISIS

By Mashari Althaydi

What Defeat Means To The Lebanese Army

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Iran’s Increasing Violations Of International Law

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Does Astana Format Still Have The Same Importance For Russia?

By Alexey Khlebnikov

Victory And Questions On The ISIS Hurricane

By Ghassan Charbel

Syrians Stuck In Lebanon Now Face Hostile Hosts

By Ellen Francis

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


The Hajj Pilgrimage: A Sight To Behold

By Mahmoud Ahmad

30 August 2017

God said in the Holy Qur’an, “And proclaim to the people the Hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass”.

The Hajj pilgrimage has started and there is no more beautiful sight than the sight of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims coming from all entry points, dressed in white and with one mission, to perform their once in a lifetime duty in peace and security. We as, the government of Saudi Arabia and its people, take full pride in welcoming the guests of Allah and embrace them with open arms.

Saudi Arabia has mobilized all its resources, like it does every year, to ensure that pilgrims will perform their pilgrimage in peace and comfort. All sectors — government departments, passport, security, Hajj, health and many other ancillary divisions — are on full alert.

And they are ready to work in concerted unison to implement the Hajj plan that usually is in the making as soon as the last Hajj ends. The seamless cooperation is evident in the growing numbers of Muslims lauding the plan and thanking the Kingdom for the great effort in making their once in a lifetime journey comfortable.

Hand Of Hospitality

The government, at the same time, while extending the hand of hospitality, too displays its iron fist. The government has also made it clear to all that an iron fist is strong and ready to crush anything that targets the safety of pilgrims and to ensure a smooth and comfortable Hajj for the guests of Allah.

The sight of pilgrims eagerly arriving to the two holy cities is really touching and endearing. It really warms the cockles of the heart to see many pictures of pilgrims in tears of joy and happiness on their faces on landing in the holy land. Some of them have been waiting for many years in queue in their countries to be able to perform Hajj. Some have labored and saved all their money over the years and some have sold all their valuables to be able to cover the expenses to perform Hajj.

It is said in the Holy Qur’an, “And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Kabaa) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence)”. Although it is not obligatory for Muslims, who are not able financially, to perform Hajj but in order to do so, many people will go to extreme measures to ensure that they are able to do it, even if they were financially unable.

Hajj For The Poor

This brings me back to my main point I hope to highlight — poor people performing Hajj. I wish that businessmen in all Muslim countries come up with a way to fulfill the wishes of making the impossible dream of poor pilgrims performing Hajj come true by covering the costs of pilgrims. To be fair and from what I know, there are businessmen in Saudi Arabia who donate money secretly and without revealing their identity to cover the costs of many poor pilgrims.

I am sure that some similar good Samaritans exist in other Muslim countries, but this form of giving should be intensified to cover as many number as possible of the financially underprivileged.

The biggest reward they get is in this lifetime itself when they see the bloom of pure happiness on the faces of those who get to do the once in lifetime journey to the two Holy Mosques and the Holy Sites.

In a previous article, I had written, “I call on the authorities to come up with a way to make Hajj affordable for middle- and low-income people. It is a fact that Hajj campaigns are overpriced for many, especially people with large number of family members. Given how life is expensive in some countries in Europe and even in America, or how low salaries are in some Muslim and poor countries, many of them find it almost impossible to fulfill the lifetime duty of Hajj because of financial reasons”.

A Humane Nation

“What if the authorities and some philanthropists came together to sponsor those who are facing difficulties in saving up for Hajj? This could go a long way in embellishing the Kingdom’s image as a humane nation. Hajj package providers should know that it is an honor to serve pilgrims and they should have a package that charges for the basic cost and not such that it earns an enormous profit for them.”

It is also good to see that the level of awareness of the domestic pilgrims is increasing and that the number of pilgrims without permits is on the decline. In the past, pilgrims without permits squatted around the Holy Sites and in main roads creating all sorts of problems. The level of organization by the security authorities and other government departments working in Hajj is improving and tackling these issues.

With the sustained and planned expansion program at the Two Holy Mosques, the Kingdom is already alleviating the pressures of the numbers. This year it has increased the number of pilgrims for all countries and with future expansion Saudi Arabia will be ready to welcome more pilgrims. With all the systems and people in place, I am confident of a successful Haj this year and pray to God for a safe and peaceful Hajj for all pilgrims.

Source: alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/30/The-Hajj-pilgrimage-A-sight-to-behold.html


Politicization Of Hajj Over The Years

By Saad Alsubaie

30 August 2017

For more than 14 centuries, Hajj has been a sacred religious ritual that unites more than two million Muslims, in spite of their sectarian and political differences. However, some governments have attempted to exploit this symbolic gathering to score political points.

Ironically, the same governments that have attempted to politicize Hajj have accused the Saudi government of using Hajj as a political leverage. A brief examination of the basic principles on which the Hajj policy of Saudi Arabia is based reveals that politicizing Hajj is a direct threat to both the Kingdom’s religious values and national security.

King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, annexing Mecca and Medina became a turning point in Islamic history and the history of modern state in the region. In 1924, the formation of the Saudi state, that governs Islam’s holiest sites, coincided with the end of the Islamic caliphate in Turkey.

Despite his powerful position at the time, King Abdulaziz managed this momentous development very pragmatically. In contrast to a number of Muslim leaders, who were claiming the caliphate, King Abdulaziz declared: “I do not claim or seek the Islamic caliphate. The duty of an Islamic Caliph is to implement the Islamic law on every Muslim, everywhere…It was possible during the era of the first four Righteous Caliphs when every individual Muslim was under their direct authority, but today it is not possible. I wish, however, that Muslims would unite their stance, make peace, and stop harming each other.”

In addition, King Abdulaziz banned political rallies that would use religion for political purposes. One of his most notable decisions was to reject the request from Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, to establish a branch of the Brotherhood in the Kingdom during the Hajj of 1936.

Universality of Islam

King Abdulaziz’s policies aim to strike a balance between the sovereign rights of the Kingdom over its holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the universality of Islam, according to which every Muslim has the right and is obligated to visit the holy sites at least once in their lifetime.

During the Hajj of 1967, King Faisal bin Abdulaziz clarified the principle by emphasizing that “Islam is not exclusive to individual, group, population, or country. Islam is the religion of God that he sent through His Messenger to all nations and countries…the people of this country are honored to be custodians of these holy sites and serve their visitors.”

Although the Saudi policy toward Hajj is based on this fundamental principle, the Kingdom has faced both allegations and attempts to politicize Hajj, some of which have resulted in violence and threatened the safety of the holy sites and their visitors.

Most importantly, religious scholars or Muslim populations, who consider Hajj as an opportunity for spiritual purification, have not demanded for its politicization; rather, the demand to politicize Hajj stems from regimes who consider the gathering as an opportunity for political mobilization. During the Iranian revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini attempted to exploit Hajj by directing his first message to the pilgrims in Mecca on September 25, 1979.

Violent Riots

Khomeini declared that “Islam is a religion in which worship is related to politics, and political activity is a form of worship.” The demands made by him and his successors in the Iranian revolutionary movement have instigated a series of violent riots during the Hajj seasons in 1987 and 1989 that have not only left hundreds of innocent pilgrims dead but also severed the Saudi-Iran relations.

This year (2017), Syria and Qatar are experiencing chaotic political crises; they are in desperate need of a political opportunity to relieve their isolation. Therefore, it is not surprising that they have seized the moment and called for the internationalization of Hajj. Both governments have accused Saudi Arabia of placing restrictions on their pilgrims despite the fact that the Saudi government is hosting their pilgrims on its own expenses.

Although Iran, Syria, and Qatar have employed the same rhetoric to politicize Hajj, their motivations are different. While Iran is driven by an extreme ideology to mobilize Muslims for its own political ends, the rhetoric from Syria and Qatar stems from the deterioration in their political situations.

Nevertheless, regardless of the political direction, Saudi Arabia will not waiver on the principle of maintaining the balance between its sovereignty and the rights of pilgrims to a safe apolitical Hajj.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/30/Politics-of-Hajj-over-the-years.html


The Dream Deal Between Hezbollah And ISIS

By Mashari Althaydi

30 August 2017

Following battles, media and political maneuvers, a bunch of speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, the end result was disappointing or rather shocking.

This was more so as we saw ISIS fighters board huge “air-conditioned” buses from the Lebanese-Syrian border toward the far East in Syria, near Iraq, under the protection of Syrian forces and facilitations from the Lebanese Khomeini party accompanied with Red Crescent convoys. The deal angered the families of the Lebanese soldiers who have been abducted for years.

After ISIS guaranteed that its demands to safely exit under the regime’s protection to Abu Kamal and Deir az-Zour in East Syria will be met, it told Hezbollah where the dead Lebanese soldiers are buried. The Khomeini party then told the army command and the general security where the tombs are. All this is happening amid the families’ shock!

According to Hezbollah’s media, the ceasefire agreement stipulates that ISIS fighters and their families will be allowed to board buses to go to Syria. The convoys arrived to an exchange point in East Syria and from there, they will go to ISIS-controlled areas.

Welcomed as heroes

Details about these strange negotiations continue to reveal more and more. For example, we learnt that Hezbollah imposed its decision on the state to hand over three convicts from the Roumieh Prison in exchange of releasing a number of its fighters who were welcomed as heroes.

Iraqi troops are currently fighting ISIS on the borders with Syria where ISIS fighters have been warmly allowed to head as they exit the Lebanese Qalamoun area. This of course angers the Iraqis. Prime Minister Abadi rejected the deal and many Iraq writers and activists are furious and feel that Iraq’s interests are being disregarded.

All this shows a truth that some have always overlooked, and it’s that “all” armed Islamized groups that operate outside the state’s authorities, whether Sunni or Shiite, act the same and share the same culture that violates the state’s sanctity, sovereignty of law and prestige of the entity that governs everyone according to the constitution which is the only authority to abide by towards all of the society’s components.

This deal also signifies the Lebanese state’s weak control and sovereignty under the presidential term of Michel Aoun in particular – as it was claimed he will restore the republic’s power.

What’s more provoking is that following the Lebanese army’s honourable presence in the Jroud battles, the army was deprived of this glorious moment and Hezbollah, the armed religious group, appeared as the stronger party as it was the one who negotiated with the Syrian regime and arranged the deal’s details.

This scene truly exposes quite a lot.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/30/The-dream-deal-between-Hezbollah-and-ISIS.html


What Defeat Means To The Lebanese Army

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

30 August 2017

Why did the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and Syrian regime forces allow 250 Daesh terrorists besieged along the Lebanese-Syrian border to move to the other side of Syria? The deal, based on a cease-fire between the Lebanese Army and Daesh, sounds suspicious. It involved Daesh handing over the bodies of Hezbollah fighters and locating those of soldiers kidnapped in 2014, with only six found so far.

In this case, why was the role of the hero not left to Hezbollah, as it usually is? Because the agreement is a defeat and a scandal, under the pretext of the army’s legitimacy. It does not make sense to allow a large number of Daesh fighters to leave safely in exchange for corpses. Families of the deceased Lebanese soldiers consider this a betrayal.

The blatant truth is that despite Hezbollah’s claims, it was not able to control the area that the Daesh fighters left. Hezbollah justifies the agreement by saying it is not a strategic region, but this is not true. The area, just a few kilometers from Syria, was a Daesh safe haven from which it could threaten all of northeast Lebanon.

If Daesh succeeded in saving its besieged fighters, this means that contrary to what we hear, the group is still strong. It also means that any deal between Russia and Iran that is imposed on Syrian forces will only be an illusion of peace.

Terrorist groups’ losses have mainly been due to US-led coalition airstrikes, while the Russia-Iran alliance targets Syrian organizations fighting the Assad regime. The difference between the defeat of armed Syrian groups and terrorist ones such as Daesh and Al-Nusra Front is that the latter can operate underground after their defeat and exist in secret.

Hezbollah, which typically likes to tag its name to victories, did not do so this time so the overpowered Lebanese Army would be left to face people’s anger and resentment.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1153281


Iran’s Increasing Violations Of International Law

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

30 August 2017

Under international law, commercial airliners should not be used for military purposes or to transfer weapons and illegal materials. Yet Iran routinely does so, in violation of the nuclear deal. It sends militants to Syria aboard commercial aircraft from four major Iranian cities: Abadan, Esfahan, Yazd and Tehran.

This is occurring while Iran is striking deals with some of the world’s largest aircraft companies in order to buy a new, modern fleet for “commercial” purposes. The deals come with modernization packages, including technology and education, that allow Iran to participate in producing aircraft parts and equipment, as Maghsoud Asadi Samani, secretary of Iran’s Aviation Companies Association, has told state-owned media.

Tehran’s advocates say there is no evidence that it is violating international law and its commitments to the nuclear deal. But Iran has a history of using its commercial airlines for military purposes. Most recently, it was caught red-handed transporting military personnel to Syria. These soldiers join Syrian regime forces in committing atrocities and crimes against humanity, and promoting a sectarian agenda.

Iran’s commercial airlines, specifically Iran Air and Mahan, are the primary tools used for the illicit transport of weapons and military staff, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its elite Quds Force and the Basij militia. These airlines do not fly to Syria on pre-announced scheduled days, as other commercial airlines do. They choose random days and destinations in Syria.

This week, several US congressional leaders wrote in a letter: “Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes violates international agreements as well as Iranian commitments under the JCPOA (nuclear deal).

“We believe these photos mandate a thorough investigation of these practices and a comprehensive review of Iran’s illicit use of commercial aircraft… During this investigation, the United States should suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to Iran.”

The lawmakers added: “These photos seem to display militiamen sitting on seats clearly labelled with the Iran Air logo. These individuals… are believed to be members of an Iranian-backed militia, trained and funded by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), actively fighting for the Assad regime in Syria.”

Before the nuclear deal, Mahan was under international sanctions for shipping weapons to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. The sanctions were lifted after the agreement. It is deceitful for Iran to buy Western aircraft, only to use them against Western interests and foreign policy objectives in the region.

Western airlines should not facilitate Iran’s enhancement of its military capabilities. Iran is the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, according to several governmental and intelligence reports, and is top of the 2016 Basel Anti-Money Laundering Index Report.

Since 1979, Tehran has acquired the skills to easily convert modern commercial aircraft into military ones. The US cannot by itself prevent Tehran from doing so; more countries should join the cause. It is incumbent on the international community to hold Iranian leaders accountable for violating international law and the terms of the nuclear deal.

Corporations that sell modern aircraft and technology to Iran should realize that they are facilitating Tehran’s support for terrorist groups, crimes against humanity and the Assad regime’s atrocities against innocent civilians.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1153276


Does Astana Format Still Have The Same Importance For Russia?

By Alexey Khlebnikov

30 August 2017

Sixth round of Astana Syria talks initially planned for the last week of August is now postponed for the mid-September. The recent negotiations in Kazakhstan’s capital which took place on July 4-5 did not produce any result as parties still had some technical differences with regard to the practical implementation of the de-escalation zones plan.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, which are the three sponsors of the format, did not sign a single agreement defining the practical parameters of the four de-escalation zones that were proposed in May. However, reports about Russia, Turkey and Iran constantly discussing de-escalation zones could be found easily.

Surprisingly, right after the fifth round of negotiations in Astana the United States and Russia brokered the new ceasefire deal on July 7, establishing a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria which included areas of Quneitra, Suweida and Deraa.

The deal was signed in the framework of Amman format by Jordan, Russia and the United States and came as a result of months-long preliminary talks between the parties. It was announced July 9 after presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Germany on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. This naturally puts necessity and effectiveness of Astana format into question.

Interestingly, that agreements on functioning the other two de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and northern Homs were also struck outside of the Astana format – in Cairo by the end of July. During the recent visit of Egyptian foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri to Moscow, Lavrov praised Cairo’s constructive role in establishing de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and Homs in Syria.

Egypt hosted several rounds of talks between representatives of Russia’s defence ministry and different Syrian opposition groups which resulted in establishing two more de-escalation zones.

Moreover, Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq ar-Rahman, two major Islamist opposition groups operating in eastern Ghouta, also signed agreements with Russia’s defence ministry joining the ceasefire and de-escalation regime outside Astana format. It happened on July 22 and August 18 in Cairo and Geneva respectively. Thus, Astana format was sidelined again.

One of the key questions about all these above-mentioned agreements signed outside of the Astana format is whether they are holding effectively. So far, they all are holding pretty well.

Lines Of Contact

The south-western de-escalation zone agreed by Russia, the United States and Jordan, is holding effectively. On July 21-22 Russia deployed its military policy units along the approved lines of contact (Jordan, US, Israel were informed in advance) near the south-western de-escalation zone.

Moreover, on Aug. 23 Russia announced the launch of joint Russia-US-Jordan monitoring center in Jordan’s capital Amman. The center’s main objectives are to monitor the ceasefire regime in the southeastern de-escalation zone, secure humanitarian access and provide medical and other assistance to the population.

The other two de-escalation zones also seem functioning successfully. On July 24, Russia deployed its military police units to east Ghouta zone and on August 4 to northern Homs zone to monitor the ceasefire regime and ensure access of humanitarian and medical aid to the devastated areas.

That were also negotiated during talks in Cairo. According to the Russian defence ministry 14 humanitarian convoys of the UN and International Committee of Red Cross have entered de-escalation zones including 10 convoys in August.

As a result, Russia comes out as the sole force so far that monitors three existing de-escalation zones in Syria (not counting joint monitoring center in Amman). Iran with its significant number of forces on the ground and rising influence in the country seems to be effectively sidelined by Russia in order to appease the US, Jordan and Israel.

Growing Iranian Influence

The southwest de-escalation zone deal with the US and Jordan took into account Jordanian and Israeli concerns about growing Iranian influence in Syria, especially in its south as both countries share border with it.

Most likely Moscow made Iran to pull out its forces deployed close to the southwest de-escalation zone and Russian military police posts along the zone’s border keep Iranian forces in check, thus, making Jordanians and Israelis satisfied. It is logical to assume that Moscow made some trade off with Iran.

But it seems that Moscow decided to go further with its own approach of excluding Iran and Turkey from the talks on functioning of de-escalation zones which holds certain risks for Russia.

If Moscow had offered Iran a stake in other two central de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and Homs after it ignored its interests in southwest Syria, that would have been a fair trade. But eventually, Russia did not do that, instead getting control over the central de-escalation zones (east Ghouta and Homs) where Iranian forces intended to gain momentum.

As a result, the last de-escalation zone in Idlib province has left. But that area is already under Turkey’s interest. Thus, such situation ultimately makes it way more difficult for Moscow, Ankara and Tehran to compromise; especially given that Syria’s north has other forces – Syrian Kurds and the US. In addition, it can also push Iran closer to Turkey threatening Russia’s interests in Syria.

On Aug. 16, Iran’s armed forces chief visited Turkey for the first time since 1979 to discuss with Erdogan and his defence minister ways of boosting bilateral defence ties, and reconciling the two countries’ policy differences in Syria and Iraq.

They also discussed Russia-sponsored de-escalation zones mechanism. Ankara and Tehran have no agreement on the checkpoints to be established inside Syria to ease the access of humanitarian aid and the return of Syrians to their lands. It sends Russia a signal – Turkey and Iran might unite to oppose Russia if it is needed.

Legitimized Status

As a result, it complicates functioning of the Astana format and makes its guarantors to postpone the next round. This format remains to be important for all three actors as it legitimized their status of the most important actors in Syria, allowed them to create conceptual framework for the ceasefire and de-escalation zones, and demonstrated their effective approach internationally.

The only drawback appeared when subsequent talks on de-escalation zones details were conducted outside of the format. This is why if Russia, Turkey and Iran fail to compromise on the fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib and demonstrate workability of Astana format it might soon cease to exist, paving the road for alternatives in Amman and Cairo.

All recent reports coming from the Russia’s foreign ministry and its partners say that Russia, Turkey and Iran are currently working on setting up the final de-escalation zone in Syrian Idlib province. But regardless of every good thing Astana format has already produced, postponing the next round of talks is just another confirmation that the parties still did not reach a consensus and have nothing to come with. In the end, it adds nothing to the Astana format effectiveness.

Therefore, the main challenge which Russia, Turkey and Iran need to address over the next three weeks is whether they are ready to compromise and prove Astana format to be successful.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/30/Does-Astana-format-still-have-the-same-importance-for-Russia-.html


Victory and Questions on the ISIS Hurricane

By Ghassan Charbel

30 August 2017

Anyone who defeats ISIS has the right to celebrate. This dangerous organization is an existential threat that can’t be tamed or lived with. The choice is clear: you either eradicate it or it eradicates you.

ISIS surfaced with a hurricane of blood, mud, and darkness. It tore maps and destroyed cities near or far. Swiftly, ISIS topped the list of threatening dangers. Destroying it became a national, regional, international and humanitarian need. Defeating ISIS became inevitable, especially as it inhabited a well-known location.

Those who underestimate ISIS or defeating it are mistaken. Also, wrong are those who believe that the terrorist organization is the only problem and its military defeat will make it easy to return to life before its existence.

Also read: ISIS fighters start to quit Lebanon border zone

This is not a storm that blew into a city and it suffices to fix the windows after it subsided. This is an unprecedented hurricane. It blew into our region, killing, destroying and enslaving until erasing the Iraqi-Syrian border. It then began expanding in every direction.

It is a mistake as well to blame ISIS for all the piling dead bodies. Surely, it was the worst murderer whether it killed or gave others the reasons to take it too far. There is no need for numbers and statistics. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees and displaced citizens of several wars that mixed with ISIS’ wars.

Loss and Reconstruction

Losses are estimated to be in hundreds of millions and a similar amount will be needed for reconstruction. We stand before a large number of orphans, widows, and handicapped.

ISIS killed who it claimed it was avenging and it granted an even larger legitimacy for those who claimed they were fighting it.

ISIS’ defeaters have the right to celebrate. But at the same time, it is their duty to remember that fighters couldn’t have exploited a country unless its nationalism was deeply fractured.

This obscurant organization couldn’t have found refuge if there weren’t marginalized groups so desperate, that they would work with the devil. Roaming fighters can’t violate a natural state that welcomes all its components with a just constitution and legitimate normal institutions.

Terrorism can seep into a strong state and disturb its security, but it can’t create safe havens and training camps to recruit new generations of suicide bombers and killers. Takfirist ideology can’t reside in any country unless it is going through a crisis and its components are exchanging hatred waiting for a chance to attack one another.

To make things clearer, we can pose the question of whether ISIS would have been able to control Mosul in Iraq if the Shiite-Sunni relations had been normal and the partnership had been secured on basis of nationalism.

Could the army have surrendered to ISIS this quickly had it felt that residents of the city were also against the attackers? There is a great difference between winning a battle against a terrorist organization and defeating terrorism.

Great victory means setting the foundations for stability and that is achieved through a modern state; that is, a country of national partnership, institutions and equality. Luckily for Iraq, the army that was affected by Mosul’s falling under ISIS’ control, managed due to the enormous sacrifices, to eradicate ISIS from Mosul and is now heading towards defeating it in Tal Afar.

Iraq must have a strong army even if other forces helped in combating ISIS. The terrorist organization couldn’t have been able to do what it did on Iraqi territories had the Iraqi politicians took the battle of building a state after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

A Decade Lost

This is a decade lost in Iraq’s history that ended in falling into ISIS’ trap. Despite its numerous lessons, we should leave the past behind. Iraq received international and regional support in its war on ISIS. I once asked a source involved in the war, he informed me that it would have lasted for years hadn’t it been for the US raids.

Today, we are required to invest this international and regional support and Arab sympathy and convert the victory into a chance for stability. The only solution is to return to the state and leave behind old methods of revenge and settling the scores.

Iraq won’t be able to cross over into the desired stability unless the majority considered the national partnership that dictates full respect of Sunnis rights, aside from the politics of assigning Sunni representatives who are neither respected in their towns nor their areas. The Sunni component should be realistic enough to turn the page and let go of the past.

To be able to move from victory to stability, one must face the questions that surfaced when the now-receding hurricane blew our way. Iraq is to face another milestone in September: the independence referendum of Kurdistan region. I for one believe that Kurds will choose to remain within the Iraqi map if they received their rights, freedom and enough reassurances.

If Haidar al-Abadi played the exceptional role of creating the circumstances that enabled defeating ISIS, avoiding separation with Kurdistan is worth another shot. Success is only guaranteed if Abadi is fully authorized to offer Kurds anything that convinces them their future is better guaranteed as they remain part of Iraq rather than separating from it.

Military victory is not enough. There must be a project to ensure stability and stability won’t have a chance without a battle for a modern, fair state. Any other thing being said will waste people’s sacrifices and might open the door for a hurricane to blow. A stable Iraq is an Iraqi, Arab, and international need. It pains Arabs to see Baghdad wounded or broken.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/30/Victory-and-questions-on-the-ISIS-hurricane-.html


Syrians Stuck In Lebanon Now Face Hostile Hosts

By Ellen Francis

August 30, 2017

Lebanese fear asylum seekers threaten country's security and are a burden on the already sluggish economy hard-hit by war next door

Abu Yazan has rarely stepped out of his apartment in northern Lebanon since he was beaten up on the street in June. The 32-year-old father from Syria was leaving a pharmacy around midnight, when two strangers came up to him asking for a light. Then they asked if he was Syrian.

"They both got off the motorcycle and beat me," said Abu Yazan, who lives near the port city of Tripoli. "The second guy took off his belt and hit me with it on my back, my head. I couldn't do anything." His wife cried for help but onlookers did nothing.

For six years, tensions have simmered as 1.5 million Syrians poured into Lebanon, equal to around a quarter of its population. Refugees have faced waves of hostility since the conflict in neighbouring Syria took hold.

But the debate over their presence has taken a harder edge in recent months, fuelled by political leaders who say Lebanon has lost patience with the social and financial burden of the refugee crisis.

As they press demands for refugees to return to Syria, Lebanese politicians have warned of rising public anger.

Like Abu Yazan, other refugees say they have hidden in their homes or camps for fear of assault, arrest, or humiliation. In recent months, most of Lebanon's main parties have united in pushing for repatriation, a difficult demand as war has ravaged much of Syria. Rights groups have warned against forced return, and refugees often say they fear conscription into the Syrian army.

Calls for refugees to return come as the Syrian government shores up its rule over the main urban centres and ceasefire deals have eased fighting with rebels in parts of western Syria.

The United Nations refugee agency has not seen a growing trend of reported attacks against Syrians, but has voiced concern about mounting tensions. Reports of attacks remain isolated incidents, spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled said, but refugees do "feel more anxious" and afraid.

Tensions escalated in June after Lebanon's army arrested hundreds of Syrians in a raid on refugee camps near the border, during which suicide bombers attacked soldiers.

When four detainees later died in custody, the military said it was from chronic illness. Activists and refugees challenged this account, some blaming the deaths on torture.

In this climate, a video circulated widely on social media of three Lebanese men beating up a refugee on the street. Authorities detained the attackers.

Syrians in Lebanon say they have faced widespread harassment. Some of those interviewed said they felt it deteriorate in recent weeks, but others described it as just part of their daily existence as refugees.

"I don't dare walk down the street," said one refugee living amid makeshift tents in the Akkar region, who declined to be named because of security fears. "I get swear words."

Abu Yazan, who came to Lebanon five years ago, said many people had since extended sympathy to his family, but hostility from strangers and the recent assault scarred him. The attackers threatened to shoot him if they saw him again.

"We hear a lot of talk. 'You Syrians have robbed us. Go back to your country,'" he said. "When we came to Lebanon, it wasn't by choice. We were fleeing a war. We considered them our people, our brothers."

Many Lebanese worry refugees threaten the country's security and burden its sluggish economy, which has been hard-hit by Syria's war. Others say refugees take jobs or strain Lebanon's already dysfunctional public services.

The Lebanese government has long avoided setting up official refugee camps. So, many Syrians live in tented settlements, languishing in poverty and facing restrictions on legal residence or work.

Nasser Yassin, a researcher of refugee policy at the American University of Beirut, said Lebanese communities were growing weary of hosting large numbers of refugees.

While resentment existed before, "things have changed drastically in the last couple of weeks ... mostly fuelled by politicians and other leaders", he said.

Yassin warned against politicians fanning the flames by inflating the actual burden of the refugee crisis.

"Imagine that things go out of control, that's a recipe for civil war," he said. It is an ominous warning in a country whose own 15-year war involved Palestinian refugees.

Politicians fret that any long-term presence of Syrian refugees could destabilise Lebanon by shifting its delicate sectarian balance.

Syria's conflict has inflamed political rivalries and sectarian divisions that have far from healed since Lebanon's 1975-1990 war.

The United Nations, security forces, and local officials have all mobilised to ease tensions, said Ziad El Sayegh, senior national policy adviser for Lebanon's ministry of displaced.

Rights groups and activists have criticised Lebanon for ignoring the crisis in its early years with no national policy to handle the influx of people. The ministry was now developing a policy to coordinate the work of state agencies, he said.

"The socio-economic strains have crossed the limit," Sayegh added. "All of Lebanon wants returns. There is no dispute over that."

Syrians should go back with the help of the United Nations under the right safety guarantees, he said - an issue that has deeply divided Lebanon's political blocs.

Shia Hezbollah and its allies, who side with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, have pressed the Lebanese state to work with Damascus, which their critics strongly oppose. Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri and others insist the United Nations must oversee any repatriation.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah has played a major role in driving Sunni militants from the border, and has sent thousands of its fighters into Syria to support Assad's government.

Under evacuation deals that Hezbollah has brokered, thousands of refugees have left Lebanon's northeast border region for Syria since July. Rights groups fear refugees went back because they felt under pressure in Lebanon.

The United Nations says it is still early for safe returns. It took no part in those local deals and raised concerns they did not meet "legal standards and humanitarian principles".

Still, the thousands who have gone back represent a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of Lebanon's refugee crisis.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/syrians-stuck-in-lebanon-now-face-hostile-hosts


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/the-hajj-pilgrimage--a-sight-to-behold-by-mahmoud-ahmad--new-age-islam-s-selection,-31-august-2017/d/112388


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