Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Central African Republic (CAR): Violence linked to Sudan and Iran


-- revelations bode ill for Christians in CAR
By Elizabeth Kendal

'The seeds are present for a genocide,' warns UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow upon her return from a week-long visit to CAR (14 Nov 2013).

Her words echo those of Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. As Martin Plaut reports in an article entitled, Why the threat of genocide hangs over the Central African Republic (New Statesman, 4 Nov 2013):

"The word genocide does not easily trip off the tongue of senior United Nations staff. But now it's been used by Adama Dieng, the UN special official with special responsibility to advise the UN on the prevention of genocide.  He warned that the Central African Republic (CAR) – a byword for human rights abuses for decades – is slipping towards a bloodbath. 

"'We are seeing armed groups killing people under the guise of their religion,' Dieng told reporters briefing the UN Security Council on Friday [1 Nov]. 'My feeling is that this will end with Christian communities, Muslim communities killing each other which means that if we don't act now and decisively I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide occurring.'"

Fuse Lit Under Sectarian Tinderbox

Central African Republic has been spiralling into total anarchy ever since 24 March 2013, when Seleka -- an alliance of well-armed local and foreign Islamic militias -- seized control of the capital Bangui. 

For background see:

Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM), label: Central African Republic (CAR).
(RLM always gives special attention to religious dimension and impact)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) 18 September 2013
“I Can Still Smell the Dead”
The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic

Amnesty International (AI) 29 October 2013
Central African Republic: Violence of security forces now out of control
The Seleka coalition of [Islamic] armed groups has committed human rights violations on an unprecedented scale

Excerpt from the AI report can be found here: AllAfrica.com (29 Oct)
photo: Jovachi Mongonou, 9, had both legs amputated after he suffered severe shrapnel wounds when Seleka soldiers shelled a church in Bangui in April 2013.

Contrary to reports, Seleka does not rape, loot and kill indiscriminately. Rather, Seleka attacks Christians and spares Muslims. Consequently, Seleka terror has caused traditional community trust to evaporate, creating a sectarian tinderbox.

After months of terror, with no relief in sight, an organised armed response is emerging out of the mostly Christian communities of northern CAR. Most villages have long had defence militias to protect residents from bandits. Known as anti-balaka (literally anti-machete) these groups, now large and angry, are out to avenge Seleka crimes. Armed with home-made weapons and adorned with colourful fetishes / juju (occult charms), these anti-balaka militias have begun attacking not just Seleka bases, but local Muslim communities. Muslims (includes Seleka) in turn enact reprisals on Christian communities.

Seleka might be responsible for turning CAR into a sectarian tinderbox, but by attacking local Muslims -- just because they are Muslims -- the anti-balaka militias have lit a fuse. Unless the flame is quickly stamped out, then a wildfire -- i.e. genocide -- is all but guaranteed. 

The violence that engulfed Ouham prefecture in September, where some 170,000 people have been displaced, is but a foretaste of what could engulf the nation if action is not taken.

Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, spent early November travelling the region with photographer Marcus Bleasdale. Bouckaert writes: 'In the early morning of Sept. 6, anti-balaka forces working with military elements loyal to [ousted president] Bozizé carried out a series of brutal surprise and near-simultaneous attacks on Seleka bases and Muslim communities in several villages around Bossangoa, killing dozens. Muslim males, regardless of age, faced death.'

The BBC reports that on 9 September, Moustapha Mohamed's father, a village chief in nearby Bouce, was killed by a 'Christian' militia that was attacking local Muslims. Mohamed praises his Christian neighbours who alerted many Muslims that armed groups were coming after them. Subsequently, however, on the same day, Muslims organised reprisal attacks against Christians. By the time the violence had finished, at least 14 were dead (three Muslims) and some 485 homes had been burned.  Aukin Nountabaye, a priest in the Bouca diocese, narrowly escaped when Muslims stormed his church. He fled Bouca, walking for four days to reach Bangui. 

Bouckaert writes that around Bossangoa, Ouham's capital, it is possible to drive for hours without seeing a single person, on roads that are littered with bundles of belongings dropped by those fleeing for their lives. At one point Bouckaert and Bleasdale stop to tend to a crying toddler who has been separated from his parents in the chaos of flight. Fortunately his terrified and distraught parents emerge from the bush to find him.

Even in the bush it is not safe -- grave are everywhere for the displaced are stalked by infection and malaria, enemies just as merciless as Seleka.

'Those who have made it to Bossangoa,' writes Bouckaert, 'live in desperate conditions: Every structure and inch of space around the town's Catholic church -- its seminary, guest house, school, library, storage rooms, soccer pitch, and the surrounding fields -- have been taken over by displaced people, all Christians.'

On 25 October, the UNHCR put the number sheltering in the Catholic Mission at 37,000. A further 2,700 are sheltering in the hospital and 728 Muslims are holed-up in a local school. Around 1000 ethnic Fula (Muslims) have been occupying the airstrip without access to shelter, clean water, food and sanitation.

Recommended reading/viewing:

'We Live and Die Here Like Animals'
The Central African Republic has suffered a horrific collapse. But is the worst violence between the country's Muslims and Christians yet to come?
BY PETER BOUCKAERT | NOVEMBER 13, 2013

Running from Rebels (Photo essay)
A look inside the war-ravaged Central African Republic.
PHOTOS BY MARCUS BLEASDALE | NOVEMBER 13, 2013

Central African Republic: Religious tinderbox
BBC, 4 Nov 2013
includes video: The BBC's Laeila Adjovi reports from Bossangoa, where Christians have fled their homes.

'Risk of Genocide' in Central African Republic
CBN: video interview with correspondent George Thomas, 8 Nov 2013  

NEW: Unspeakable horrors in a country on the verge of genocide
Militias in the Central African Republic are slitting children's throats, razing villages and throwing young men to the crocodiles. What needs to happen before the world intervenes?
By David Smith in Bossangoa
The Guardian, Saturday 23 November 2013

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VIOLENCE LINKED TO SUDAN AND IRAN
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In July 2013, Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (7, 2013) published a report by terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky entitled: Iran and Sudan Begin Moves to Dominate Central and Western Africa.

The full report can be found here (World Tribune) and here (ISPSW Strategy Series - pdf).

For your convenience, I have republished (below) the portion that relates specifically to CAR. 

Bodansky reveals that the situation in CAR is not merely the result of a local power grab. Rather, it is a regional issue central to Sudan and Iran's plot to dominate the region and exploit its riches. The link between CAR's self-appointed president Michel Djotodia and Khartoum is strong, and Seleka includes a large contingent of Sudanese janjaweed from Darfur, Sudan, where Djotodia was radicalised. According to Bodansky, weapons for this surge into Central and Western African come from Iran, via Sudan.

Clearly there will be no quick fixes, no easy solutions. 

Furthermore, the conflict has begun to spill into Cameroon, which opens out to the gas and oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.

Tensions grow between CAR and Cameroon
By Konye Obaji Ori, The Africa Report, 19 Nov 2013
Cameroon tightens borders after CAR rebels kill two
Business Ghana, 18 Nov 2013
Cameroon says army repulses attack from Central African Republic
Defenceweb - Reuters, 18 Nov 2013

France's decision not to support the French-speaking Christian majority in CAR, but to literally stand aside as local and foreign Arabic-speaking Islamic rebels seized power in a violent coup, will prove to have been extremely short-sighted and misguided indeed -- a strategic mega-blunder for which CAR's Christians will pay a terrible price.

-----------------------------------------------------
Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy

Analysis by Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, July 2013

Iran and Sudan Plan and Begin to Execute Moves to Dominate Central and Western Africa


The Central African Republic has become a key player, working under Sudanese and Iranian direction, in jihadist action, geared to take advantage of the West's declining influence in Western and Central Africa, even if it challenges the interests of their traditional ally, the People's Republic of China.

Extract (to END):

The governments of Iran and Sudan are preparing for a major strategic surge into western Africa, into both the Sahel and the shores of the Gulf of Guinea.

The moves have already gained momentum and challenge Iran’s and Sudan’s major sponsor, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), as well as the declining West.

The ultimate objective of this surge is to consolidate control and/or influence over this extensive region and its considerable oil, gas, uranium, and other minerals (rare metals and rare earth) reserves.
[. . .]
Meanwhile, hectic preparations were, by late June 2013, taking place in Khartoum for the escalation of the surge into western Africa. Both Iran and Sudan consider the Central African Republic (CAR) a crucial venue because the CAR permits movement westward around the chaos in Darfur and the French presence in N’Djamena. Moreover, Bangui provides quick access to the Gulf of Guinea, as well as to the sub-Sahelian east-west roadway which passes through the region’s main capitals — those which Khartoum has been recently courting — all the way to Dakar.

On June 17, President Omar Bashir of Sudan and President Michel Djotodia of the Central African Republic oversaw in Khartoum a series of secret multi-national discussions which would now facilitate a dramatic break-out westward for Sudan, Iran, the CAR and their allies.

Djotodia is the first Muslim to lead the CAR, significant since only 15 percent of the population is Muslim and most of them practice tribally-influenced offshoots of Islam. Djotodia, in contrast, was a councilor in the CAR Embassy in Sudan but based in Darfur where he was converted to Islamism-jihadism by his Sudanese hosts. He is convinced in the Sudanese tenet that a strong jihadist kernel is indispensable to ensuring the loyalty and cohesion of any revolutionary movement irrespective of its openly declared ideology or policy.

Indeed, the key internal security and intelligence positions in Djotodia’s Seleka coalition are held by fellow jihadists and their own stalwart tribal-jihadist militias. Hence, Djotodia is convinced he is beholden to Bashir’s Sudan for his own ascent to power. Little wonder that the CAR’s Christian majority fear that Djotodia and his Muslim allies from the north intend to impose an Islamist regime on the nation.

Back in early 2013, Khartoum convinced Djotodia to renege on his understandings with Paris and Bangui: the January 2013 Libreville Agreement. The Seleka coalition launched a new offensive which culminated in their occupation of Bangui on March 24, 2013, and the overthrow of then-President François Bozizé. During the offensive, the Seleka forces also attacked the AU forces, killing several South African and Ugandan troops.

Djotodia did not forget Khartoum, and soon after assuming power in Bangui started sending quantities of CAR diamonds to his friends in the Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militias in Darfur to help fund their genocidal struggle.

Subsequently, Djotodia moved quickly to transform the CAR into a “grey zone” at the heart of Africa.

The CAR is being transformed from a de facto haven for various armed groups, due to lack of governance in the remote areas, into a willing and active sponsor and facilitator of revolutionary groups and criminal networks in order to further undermine regional stability. Thus, while Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) groups of varying size were tolerated in parts of the CAR since 2008, the growing cooperation between Bashir and Djotodia changed the importance and rôle of the LRA. In late April 2013, Joseph Kony was invited to Sudan and promised supplies and shelter in return for military cooperation in both the CAR and Uganda.

The CAR is thus becoming a hub of subversion in the heart of the Africa with geopolitical ramifications extending far beyond the borders and capabilities of the CAR itself.

Thus, the June 17-18, 2013, visit to Khartoum by Djotodia and his delegation constituted a major upgrade of the CAR’s role in, and contribution to, the Iran-Sudan alliance. In their first private meeting, Bashir assured Djotodia of Sudan’s commitment to supporting and economically sustaining the CAR in return for the CAR’s playing a greater role in the continental designs of Iran and Sudan. Djotodia agreed wholeheartedly, setting the tone for the subsequent discussions between numerous senior officials.

Sudanese and Central African senior intelligence officials discussed how to better utilize the LRA in order to force the Ugandan forces out of the CAR.

Sudan’s ultimate objective is to use LRA forces based in the CAR in order to destabilize the Republic of South Sudan, and then use its territory to have LRA forces reach and destabilize Uganda. Kony has already committed to pursuing Sudan’s strategy. Sudan and the CAR agreed in Khartoum that the first step in this endeavor would be flying LRA forces currently being sheltered, trained and equipped in Sudan to Tambura (in the eastern CAR, off Tumbura, South Sudan).

The Sudanese and Central African Republic senior intelligence officials also met in Khartoum with counterparts from Chad in order to upgrade and refine the tripartite security cooperation deal between their countries. Back in 2012, the three countries agreed to form a joint force in order to monitor their common borders and ostensibly “prevent rebel attacks”. As amended and refined in Khartoum, the tripartite security cooperation deal between Sudan, Chad, and the CAR now regiments and facilitates the flow of convoys with military aid and supplies westward shielded and secured from Western forces and their local allies.

Most important is the groundbreaking regional security agreement discussed and committed to on June 17 by a large group of senior officials co-chaired by Bashir and Djotodia. The Sudanese delegation was led by Defense Minister Abdelraheem Muhammad Hussein, Presidential assistant and veteran intelligence senior official Nafie Ali Nafie, and National Intelligence and Security Services chief Mohamed Atta al-Mawla Abbas. Also around the table were delegations of senior intelligence and security forces officials from the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Mali, and Mauritania.

The delegations discussed and agreed on close strategic cooperation to restore Arab-Muslim preeminence to the entire region of West Africa. The representatives committed to the consolidation of mutually loyal and supportive regimes, as well as to assisting other regional countries to establish Muslim-dominated governments and to have them join their alliance. The senior officials discussed practical modalities for jointly breaking away from stifling Western influence and demands for reforms. They agreed on cooperation in resolving security and economic crises and suppressing democratic opposition forces.

Significantly, all countries present also committed to helping Egypt and Sudan in their “sacred struggle” to sustain the Arab rights to and dominance over the Nile waters.

Thus, the June 17 agreement constituted a major and strategically profound shift in the regional posture and assertiveness. If implemented, West Africa will not be the same.

Thus, as the West — led by the U.S. and France — is contemplating the surge into the Sahel in order to contain AQIM and other jihadist and tribal insurrections, the real challenge will be the Iranian-Sudanese surge aimed to transform the entire West Africa and deny it to the West. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the other insurgencies will be but instruments of a grand strategic design and surge.

END
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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

India, election 2014: The Modi Operandi of Narendra Modi

 By Elizabeth Kendal

In mid September, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) anointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. A sectarian figure and hardline Hindu nationalist, Modi gained notoriety in 2002, when, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he failed to intervene in Hindu pogroms that left as many as 2000 Muslims dead. On top of this, the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, enacted by Modi in 2003, is one of India's most draconian anti-conversion laws. 

To shift attention away from his image as a sectarian figure and rabid Hindu nationalist, Modi is exploiting Gujarat's massive development and marketing himself as India's most successful pro-business administrator -- an economic 'saviour' who will raise the living standards of all Indians. As he is well aware, Indians are tired of hardship and poverty.

Aware too that the BJP must win the confidence of minorities if it is to win with a majority in the next general election, Modi is holding out the "Gujarat model" of economic development as the means by which he and the BJP will raise the living standards of minorities across the nation -- something Congress has consistently failed to achieve. Indeed Modi is blaming Congress for the hardship and backwardness suffered by minorities, when in reality the blame belongs squarely with the systematic racism and crippling discrimination perpetuated by the Hindu caste system. 

See: BJP eyes minorities to become majority party
Party to argue Congress rule is to blame for backwardness among minorities, dispel 'anti-minority' image
2 Oct 2013

Analysts have long regarded Modi as too sectarian, too controversial and too stained by events such as the 2002 pogroms to ever be accepted by the electorate -- especially by minorities (who are fearful of him) and by the educated middle classes (who should know better). It seems, however, that most Muslims would rather see economic development than the return of the Babri Masjid; more jobs and opportunities than more reservation (affirmative action).  By standing on the pedestal of Gujarat's record -- economic development -- and offering the people exactly what they want -- a better life -- it appears Modi may have found the winning formula.

At a BJP rally in Gujarat on Tuesday 17 Sept, Modi managed to persuade some 40,000 Muslims to join the party.

At a rally in New Delhi on Sunday 29 Sept, the charismatic Modi spoke to a crowd of more than 200,000 who responded to his lofty promises with 'frenzied' excitement. It was, writes political analyst Sanjay Singh, 'a public rally, the likes of which it had not seen in many decades.'

Another political analyst, Anil Padmanabhan, observes (29 Sept) that Modi is connecting with youths and 'rapidly becoming a national phenomenon. . . Modi has transcended his party and become a personality.'

". . . the BJP should sail into power".

In a piece published in The Australian (18 Sept), Amanda Hodge gives voice to the prevailing view:
"Under Mr Modi, Gujarat has earned an international reputation for its business-friendly administration, and an ability to keep the lights on in a country plagued by power shortages. . .

"After the Congress Party-led government's disastrous second term - five years marred by corruption on a grand scale, parliamentary paralysis and sharp economic decline - the BJP should sail into power.

"Seven months from a general election, the Congress Party is rudderless. The once-respected octogenarian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is widely derided as an ineffective puppet leader.

"Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent for whom Singh is said to be warming the chair, has shown scant enthusiasm for a job that has already claimed the lives of his grandmother Indira and father Rajiv.

"With the rupee at historic lows and GDP growth estimates for the year down to 5.3 per cent, India needs a leader who can re-set its growth path."

GENERAL ELECTION: April-May 2014

India, the world's largest democracy, will hold a general election for the 16th Lok Sabha -- the House of the People / the lower house of federal parliament -- by the end of May 2014. It will be intensely competitive and many parties will compete to put representatives in the 552-seat legislative assembly.   Each Member of Parliament will be directly elected by their constituents in a "first-past-the-post" system. Voting will be conducted in four phases.

STRATEGIC UTTAR PRADESH

Narendra Modi will spend all of October and up to mid November campaigning in Utter Pradesh -- India's strategic heartland and the home of Hinduism. Nine mega-rallies are being planned.

The northern state is 80.6 percent Hindu, 18.5 percent Muslim and around 0.1 percent Christian. It is India's most populous state, accounting a massive 80 parliamentary seats.

Analysts are expecting the BJP to do well in Uttar Pradesh (UP), regaining seats lost in 2009, and even picking up new seats. Most believe the recent Muslim-Hindu clashes in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of UP -- clashes that left 44 dead and thousands of Muslims and Hindu Jats displaced -- will work in the BJP's favour.

[Jats are a non-elite, peasant people. Most Jat tribes are classified as OBCs (Other Backward Castes). Traditionally in Uttar Pradesh, Muslims and Hindu Jats have together voted for the democratic socialist Samajwadi Party (SP). In Western UP, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) (English: National People's Party) is supported mostly by Jats. There has long existed a Muslim-Jat alliance aimed at keeping the sectarian and elitist, Hindu-nationalist BJP out of power. ]

Rikhi Chakrabarty writes: "While SP, the ruling party in UP, is being blamed by Muslims for failing to protect them and, in some cases, for a collusive role in fomenting riots, the jats seem to be going with other Hindus and are looking up to BJP's Narendra Modi as their saviour from the state government's 'misrule'.

"Needless to say, these fresh pulls could have a deep impact in the coming Lok Sabha election. It is clear that the riots have benefited the BJP the most. It is also clear that the losers are Samajwadi Party and RLD."

According to political analyst Sanjay Singh, "The emerging social equations are such that BJP is back in the reckoning in UP, the state that sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, one-seventh of its total strength."  

Government rattled

The government is clearly rattled, as the Indian Express reports: "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday [1 Oct] called for all secular forces to 'combine' and take on the 'onslaught' of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, indicating that he emerged as a threat to the country's secular fabric. . ."

PM Singh told reporters that during the time that was left before the elections, the Congress-led UPA government would seek to "better manage" the economy in the hope that it might be able to deliver improved growth.

"On whether he felt that his government had performed well enough for the voters to decide in favour of the Congress, Singh struck an optimistic note, saying he hoped the voters will be 'generous' and 'tolerant', while conceding that there may have been areas where UPA could have fallen short."

The BJP immediately struck back, decrying the government's move to give "a blatant communal angle to everything".

"It is they who have created the real communal divide," BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said. 

STRATEGY VS REALITY
The modi operandi of Narendra Modi


It appears that BJP's election strategy will be to talk solely about economic development, holding out the prospect of raised living standards across the board. Then, when the government or anyone else warns of sectarianism / communalism, the BJP will feign offense and accuse them of sectarianism. Brilliant!

Narenrda Modi is a very clever wolf in sheep's clothing, inviting hungry lambs to come feed in his grassy field. So tempting! Feed they might; but not for long -- for Modi is a sheep-eating wolf through and through.

India's April-May 2014 general election may well prove pivotal.

Campaigning is already well underway and gathering momentum -- as must the prayers of Christians who should be praying that the Lord will intervene in grace and mercy to save India from such a fate.

--------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Peshawar, and the battle for Pakistan

 context of Peshawar Church Massacre

The Sunday 22 Sept 2013 terrorist attack at All Saint's Church, Peshawar, came as the government was reportedly preparing to broker peace with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP: the Pakistani Taliban).

Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won Pakistan's May 2013 parliamentary elections on a platform that included brokering peace with the TTP.

At an All Parties Conference (APC) in Karachi on 9 September -- in which the US-led "War on Terror" and US drone attacks were blamed Pakistan's domestic terrorism -- PM Sharif won approval from the leaders of Pakistan's political parties to proceed with talks.

Emboldened by the scent of weakness, the TTP upped the ante.

On 14 September, TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud issued two conditions for talks: the release of 50 jailed militant commanders, and the complete withdrawal and all 150,000 Pakistani military troops from the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North West Frontier Province).

The very next day (15 Sept) the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, headed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Imran Khan -- who has long advocated for peace with the Taliban -- announced that the withdrawal of troops from Malakand Division would commence in October and that the civil administration would take over control of Swat and other districts accordingly.

ASSASSINATION IN UPPER DIR: 15 Sept 2013

Within hours, the TTP responded by assassinating Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Swat and Malakand Division. Killed along with him by a roadside bomb in the Upper Dir district near the Afghan border, were his right hand man, Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef, and Lance Naik Irfan Sattar.

PESHAWAR CHURCH MASSACRE: 22 Sept 2013

On Sunday 22 September, as up to 600 worshippers were mingling at the close of the service, two Islamic militants armed with automatic rifles and grenades entered the grounds of All Saint's Church, Peshawar. After slaughtering many, they detonated their explosive vests, triggering two huge explosions that blasted shrapnel through the believers. The death toll, presently 89, continues to rise; more than 150 were wounded, many critically. The internet images are shocking and deeply moving.

Two different wings of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed responsibility. A spokesman from TTP Jundullah claimed: 'They [Christians] are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.' Later a spokesman from Junood ul-Hifsa claimed the attack was in response to US drone strikes. This was the most deadly terrorist attack on Pakistan's Christian community in modern history.

See: Taliban suicide attack on Pakistani church leaves dozens dead
Attack on congregation leaving service in Peshawar is most deadly in history of Pakistan's Christian community
By Jon Boone in Islamabad, The Guardian, Mon 23 Sept 2013

Excerpt:
"Explosions ripped through the congregation of 500 people, including many women and children, as the service at All Saints church was coming to an end and worshippers were about to receive a free meal of rice in the courtyard outside.

"Witnesses said the interior of the 130-year-old building was turned into a bloodbath, with severed limbs scattered around and the walls pockmarked with ball bearings used as shrapnel by the bombers.

"'I saw myself in the air and then on the ground inside a huge fire of ball,' said Sabir John, a worshipper who lost one of his arms in the blast. . ."

In a short BBC news video a BBC reporter talks with a father as he grieves over the coffin of his 11-year-old daughter. The reporter, listening intently, marvels that, 'somehow he manages to talk of forgiveness'.

PEACE TALKS OFF

On Monday 23 September, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called off plans for peace talks with the TTP. “We had proposed peace talks with the Taliban in good faith but . . . because of this attack, the government is unable to move forward with what it planned and envisaged,” he said.

It has been mooted, however, that PM Nawaz Sharif's appeal for peace talks was a farce designed purely to demonstrate the futility of peace talks. If this is true, then Sharif may have been gambling that talk of peace would actually trigger terrorism, giving him the grounds and political support for a full scale military assault on the tribal regions (primarily for the purpose of self-preservation) and/or appeals for military aid.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has no interest in peace with the Pakistani government, for not only would peace with the government actually be against TTP principles, but the TTP has no reason to broker for peace, for they believe they must and can win the battle. Indeed, as Sameera Rashid demonstrates so clearly, "Taliban militants are not an easy foe to talk to because of their strategic superiority over the law and order apparatus of Pakistan."

Likewise, senior military figures have no interest in peace with the Taliban -- especially if peace involves a military withdrawal and the release of militant prisoners. The Pakistani military has fought long and hard, losing many soldiers in the process, to bring a measure of security to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They are not about to surrender this territory back to the militants.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that Peshawar's Christians were sacrificed -- i.e. the attack may have been permitted (if not set up) by officials in either the military or the government or both -- to legitimise military action and/or requests for military aid.

While appalling, this is not even remotely far-fetched, as those who watch Pakistan and remember the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti will well know. [Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in broad daylight by militants on a motorbike who rode into Islamabad's most secure diplomatic precinct armed with automatic weapons, assassinated the minister in his car, and then escaped without a trace.]

Writing for Gatestone Institute on 25 Sept 2013, Raheel Raza comments: "In Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), considered to be one of the world's largest intelligence agencies, has not contained the violence unleashed upon Pakistan's minorities. According to some recent reports, there is a special squad, financed by petrodollars and sanctioned by the authorities, created exactly for the purpose of killing minorities -- and this is seemingly why nobody to date has been brought to justice. Recently there have also been massive jailbreaks, freeing hundreds of terrorists."

See: The Danger In Our Midst
by Raheel Raza, September 25, 2013

Writing in Asia Times online, Sameera Rashid blames Islamisation. "The Tehrik-i-Taliban (the TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban) and other militants didn't simply sprout out from nowhere. The process of Islamization, introduced ham-fistedly in the Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq era, impacted on the country's education system, legislation and the general moorings of society and gave rise to notion of an exclusivist Sunni Muslim identity."

Rashid notes that sectarian outfits and militant paramilitary organisations, supported by the security establishment to fight proxy wars have joined hands with the Taliban to fulfill their strategic designs. She also notes that Taliban sympathisers exist within the law enforcement agencies and are believed to be responsible for providing militants with maps and other forms of support. She insists the government must stop excusing the militants and blaming the West, and instead, make a serious effort to tackle the domestic causes of terrorism.

See: Delusional reality of Pakistani peace
By Sameera Rashid, 26 Sept 2013

A moving account of the Peshawar attack can be found of Sameera Rashid's blog
Dear Imran Khan, where were you when my church was attacked?
By Sameera Rashid, 24 September 2013

THE BATTLE FOR PAKISTAN: LAND FOR PEACE

In 2005, the then Prime Minister General Pervez Musharraf brokered peace with an alliance of al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban forces by ceding South Waziristan (Feb 2005) and then North Waziristan (Sept 2006). Once free and settled in their sanctuary, the jihadist promptly hoisted the black flag and declared the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.

See Talibanistan: The Establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan
Pakistan's "truce with the Taliban is an abject surrender, and al Qaeda has an untouchable base of operations in Western Pakistan which will only expand if not checked
By Bill Roggio, September 5, 2006

PEACE TERMINATED

Then mid 2007 saw the stand-off at the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the heart of the capital, Islamabad. On 10 July 2007, Pakistani forces stormed the mosque. Official government sources put the death toll at around 100, while Islamist sources claimed more than 2000 were "martyred". On 16 July 2007 the al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban alliance based in Waziristan announced the termination of the peace deal with the Pakistani government -- and The Battle for Pakistan resumed.

Full details see: The Battle for Pakistan
By Elizabeth Kendal, 30 Oct 2007

By April 2009, the al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban alliance had advance to within around 100 km (60 miles) of Islamabad (the capital of nuclear-armed Pakistan) and Rawalpindi (military headquarters).

See: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 002
PAKISTAN: ISLAMABAD CHURCH ON THE THRESHOLD OF WAR
-- 'land-for-peace' brings Islamabad into al-Qaeda-Taliban's sights.
-- a special prayer bulletin for extraordinary times.

By Elizabeth Kendal, Wed 29 Apr 2009

In May 2009, the government launched a military offensive into Swat, liberating Mingora from Taliban control. Mullah Fazlullah, the commander of the Swat chapter of the Pakistani Taliban, fled into Afghanistan.

Since fleeing Swat, Mullah Fazlullah has organised terrorist activities from his base in Kunar and Nurustan areas of Afghanistan, where he reportedly enjoys the hospitality of the Governor of Kunar province. He reportedly controls between 1,000 and 1,500 diehard terrorists, most of who are linked to the Swat chapter of TTP.

THE BATTLE CONTINUES

Concerning the15 Sept 2013 assassination of Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi in Upper Dir, analyst Bill Roggio notes that Gen. Sanaullah served as the senior military commander in Swat when it was ruled by the Taliban between 2007 and 2009, after the government negotiated multiple peace deals with Taliban commander Mullah Fuzlullah.  Roggio believes the 15 Sept 2013 assassination was "likely carried out by forces loyal to Fazlullah, who also commands Taliban fighters in Dir and in the greater Malakand Division, a region comprising the northern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Fazlullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for his radical sermons that are broadcast throughout the northwest, is a senior Taliban commander who has opposed polio vaccinations. He has vowed to continue the fight to regain control of Swat and the surrounding districts. Last year, he ordered the assassination of Malala Yousufzai, the young schoolgirl who passionately spoke out against the Taliban in Swat, and accused her of violating sharia, or Islamic law."

Indeed, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid has credited the assassination to TTP's Swat chapter, under the command of Mullah Fazlullah. "Our men did it," he said.

According to Awami National Party (ANP) spokesman, Senator Zahid Khan, militants have been returning to Swat and other parts of Malakand division and reinforcing their positions, emboldened by the provincial government's eagerness for "peace", talking advantage of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's "soft corner" towards militants.

TALIBAN SEES OPPORTUNITY

As a senior Western diplomat based in Islamabad notes: "The killing of General Niazi and the Peshawar suicide attack clearly send out a powerful message. The Taliban are saying they don't want peace talks."

In recent weeks, IHS Jane's has been told by both Pakistan's security officials and Western diplomats that the Taliban believe they have an opportunity to enlarge their influence in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan once international coalition troops leave at the end of 2014.

"They [Taliban] are seeing themselves gain victory after victory. Their military strategy right now seems to suggest they see an opportunity to continue their fight and increase their influence," said one Pakistani security official.

CRACKDOWN ANTIPICATED; BACKLASH EXPECTED

During the government's 2009 military offensive against the Pakistani Taliban, persecution of Christians soared, particularly in Punjab, as madrassas-educated, thoroughly radicalised Muslims reacted violently against what they perceived as a US-backed war against Islam.

If the government is serious about protecting minorities (as it claims) -- security must be bolstered at all churches and throughout all Christian districts. Any state that regards its Christians as expendable is destined to be impoverished.

---------------------------------
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

PHILIPPINES: Moros take the battle to Zamboanga

Clashes broke out on Mindanao in the early hours of Monday 9 Sept, between rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) intent on marching into Zamboanga city to raise their flag over the city hall and declare independence, and Philippine Army troops blocking their path.
Rebel elements occupied Lustre, Santa Catalina and neighbouring barangays (villages), seizing an estimated 170 residents to use as human shields. 

That evening, Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco said in a statement, that the MNLF rebels were holding at least 87 people hostage in Kasanyangan, 20 at the Santa Catalina mosque, 20 at the Talon-talon mosque, 10 in Camacop Santa  Barbara, and an undetermined number of people at the SDK building and the Fernandez store in Lustre.

Abdul Sahrin, secretary-general of the Moro National Liberation Front, blamed the faction of former MNLF leader Nur Misuari, a Moro nationalist, for carrying out the attack which led to over 2000 people being immediately displaced.

But Monday 9 Sept was just the beginning.

By 13 September, the crisis had displaced 5,600 families or 24,880 people. By 14 Sept, the death toll had reached 52 (43 MNLF rebels) and the number of displaced / "evacuees" had risen to 39,260.

By 15 Sept, the total number of "evacuees" had reach 61,838; by 16 Sept it was 72,159; and by 17 Sept it was 82,106. By 18 Sept the number of evacuees had risen to 110,000, and by this time 1,114 homes had been burned, several car bombs had been detonated and the number the hostages had risen to 149.

By 20 Sept, the tide was turning with only around 50 fighters remaining in Zamboanga city.

By 22 Sept, a sense of "normalcy" was starting to return, however numerous infectious diseases had broken out amongst the children holed up in Zamboanga's evacuation centres, including measles, upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, and various skin diseases.

That evening Philippine media reported that 99 MNLF fighters had been killed and 117 had either been captured or had surrendered. By 6pm on Thursday 25 Sept, that figure had risen to 125 MNLF fighters dead. "There were also 136 who have surrendered excluding the 36 who have surrendered earlier."

See TIMELINE: Crisis in Zamboanga City
By Andrei Medina, GMA News (updated regularly)

GMA news reported on Monday 23 Sept, 15 days into the crisis, that government troops had found drug paraphernalia in buildings occupied by the rebels. Philippine Army 7th Civil Relations Group commander Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said a captured rebel had tested positive methamphetamine hydrochloride. "They are using Shabu to make them more ferocious and pitiless," he said.

On Wed 25 Sept, it was believed that around 20 hostages were still being held captive by MNLF fighters.  By this time some 10,160 homes had been burned.

On the evening of Thursday 26 Sept, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesman for the military, said 162 MNLF forces had been captured and 138 had been killed since the start of the crisis on 9 Sept.  It was also reported that a total of 188 hostages had been rescued, including six rescued that day. 

Today, Friday 27 Sept, 19 days into the crisis, the fighting has not yet finished; however the rebels are splintered, hungry and running out of ammunition. When the fighting does end, "Phase 2" of the operation will commence. That will involve clearing the area of bodies, booby traps and bombs.

Julie S. Alipala reports for Inquirer Mindanao (Friday 27 Sept 2013): "Death is in the air in the villages of Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara and Rio Hondo here, with the bodies of slain Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels rotting on the battlefield.

"Col. Ignacio Obligacion, commander of Task Force Igsoon, said on Thursday he had been requesting the Crisis Management Committee, through the village officials, to send something to cover the stench.

"'The stench has been there for days. I’m worried about an outbreak of disease,' Obligacion said.

"One task force officer, who asked not to be named, said his unit had to end the fighting as quickly as possible because the stench had become unbearable."

Journalist Carolyn O. Arguillas describes the situation, saying Zamboanga City is "down on its knees with a humanitarian crisis of a scale never before experienced."

For background and an explanation of why MNLF has renewed its war with the Government of the Republic of Philippines, see:

PHILIPPINES: Religious Liberty in Bangsamoro
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 180
By Elizabeth Kendal, 10 Oct 2012

For more on the MNLF claim, see:
Moros take the battle to Sabah.
Having already lost their liberty, Sabah's Christians now face losing their peace.
By Elizabeth Kendal, 15 March 2013

See also: Philippines struggles with Muslim rebels
By Richard Heydarian, Asia Times online, 24 Sept 2013

In 2008, the Government of the Republic of Philippines, led then by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, brokered a peace deal with the MILF that essentially created an Islamic sub-state within the state in violation of the constitution. The Supreme Court had to intervene on the eve of the signing to issue a restraining order. The MILF responded by unleashing terror across North Cotabato.
See Philippines: Update on Gov-MILF peace deal.
By Elizabeth Kendal, 14 Aug 2008

And now history repeats itself. For by brokering a peace deal with the MILF that violates its peace deal with the MNLF, short-sighted politicians more interested in securing a legacy for themselves than doing the right thing have, yet again, unleashed disaster upon the long-suffering peoples of the southern Philippines.

-----------------------------
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

EGYPT: Grassroots radicalisation introduces new dimension into cycle of violence

plus: Egypt's Sad Reality
By Elizabeth Kendal


When the Egyptian military, under the leadership of General Abdel Fatta el-Sisi, ousted the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government of President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, it triggered an explosion of violence against Copts (the Christian, indigenous people of Egypt) as Muslim Brotherhood (MB) elites and supporters blamed Copts / Christians for the coup.
See: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 218 (10 July 2013).

Once the Copts had been sufficiently terrorised and subjugated (i.e. put in their place), the MB got down to business, strategising on how to challenge the military head on.

In an article entitled, "Why the Ikhwan has not lost in Egypt, and why the challenge is just beginning" published in the July edition of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky writes: "The Ikhwan's [MB's] spiritual guides are now calling for a violent intifada against the military: a confrontation where the military's superior firepower would create numerous martyrs, thus reinforcing and affirming the Ikhwan's own claim of victimhood.

"The distance to an Algerian-style civil war is very short."

This is something I noted in June 2012.
See EGYPT: echos of Algeria as SCAF trumps Islamists

Bodansky elaborates (July 2013):

"Ikhwan leaders are actively preparing at the highest level for a rather imminent escalation of the fighting. On 14 July 2013, the Ikhwan's supreme leadership issued a formal guideline for the struggle against the military towards the restoration of Islamist governance.

"The document urges 'shedding blood and dividing the army'. The document states that 'emerging victorious over the enemy requires patience, faith and determination'. The main undertaking to attain the Ikhwan's ultimate goal are 'disbanding the Egyptian army, dividing it and distorting its image'. The document stresses the importance of 'sparking bloodshed' in the upcoming phases of the confrontation, with emphasis on encouraging 'martyrs' and 'sacrifices' from among the Islamist masses.

"The document then provides guidelines on how to restore 'the collective consciousness' and original goals of Egypt's Islamic revolution."

Bodansky writes that the document decries the army as a puppet of America, and its supporters as westernised. "The Ikhwan's objective," explains Bodansky, "is to portray the military coup as a US conspiracy against Muslim Egypt."

Bodansky notes that the document concludes with what is essentially a threat: "The Egyptian army in its current situation will not be able to provide stability." (emphasis mine)

Bodansky continues: "The imminence of the threat was clarified in a decree issued the same day by the Ikhwan's spiritual leader, Muhammad Badie which permitted all Islamist protestors to break the fast of Ramadan since they are in a 'state of jihad' and are 'waging a battle for the control of Egypt'.

"Badie compares the struggle against the Egyptian army to the Battle of Badr (the decisive battle waged between the forces of the Prophet Mohammed and the Jewish tribe of Quraish in 624). Badie compares Cairo's Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque -- the Ikhwan's centre -- to prophet Mohammed's camp in Medina. 'The ruling against those who leave Rabia al-Adawiya Square is akin to the ruling against those who flee the battle and jihad against the infidels,' Badie wrote. On the basis of the decree, Badie ordered Ikhwan leaders to prepare for 'the second Battle of Badr' on the battle's anniversary on Ramadan 17 (July 26, 2013)."

This provides the context for the two "sit-ins" in Cairo which drew thousands of MB supporters to camp in the streets for six weeks.

MB challenges military.

As noted by Amnesty International, these protest sites were dangerous, violent places, where those who voiced objections were beaten, raped, tortured and killed. The "sit-ins" comprised bands of violent, armed MB supporters who provoked the military from behind a screen of human shields: i.e. thousands of women and children.

Military moves against MB

What occurred on Wednesday 14 Aug, when the military went in as promised to disperse the "sit-ins" and clear the streets, was a massacre, a bloodbath. While it was doubtless much worse than the MB leadership imagined it would be -- with the army massacring over 900 Egyptians in four days -- a massacre was exactly they had sought. This would be great for propaganda; great for recruitment. 

MB supporters react against Copts

The 14 August crackdown triggered another explosion of violence against Copts / Christians -- the worst anti-Christian violence Egypt has seen in contemporary times.

Over the next few days, churches, monasteries and other Christian properties, including schools and businesses, were torched and looted by rampaging MB supporters in Sohag, Minya, Beni Suef, Fayium, Asyut, Alexandria, Suez and Cairo. Bible Society bookshops in Assiut and Minia were destroyed. Three nuns taken out of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef were paraded 'like prisoners of war' through mob-filled streets on until a courageous Muslim woman rescued them and took them into her home. Two other Christian women who fled from the school were observed being hit, groped and spat on as they fought their way through the mob.
See: RLPB 224 (21 Aug 2013) 

For more details see, Egypt: Mass Attacks on Churches
Christians Say Pleas for Protection Fell Largely on Deaf Ears
Human Rights Watch, 22 Aug 2013

While violence was recorded all across Egypt, Minya province in Upper Egypt was worst hit and Delga, the town nearest the Giza-Luxor highway, bore the brunt.

Samir Lamei Sakr, a prominent Christian lawyer, told The Guardian: "As soon as the crackdown in Cairo started [14 Aug], all the loudspeakers at the main mosques in Delga issued calls for jihad." Christian properties were marked. Sakr's home was attacked and he was hit with 13 shotgun pellets. His cousin, however, was killed by Islamists who then tied his body to a tractor and dragged it around the town. Bishop Macarius told The Guardian that though they called for help, "no one answered. Not the police, not the army, not the fire service." Even churches within sight of the provincial police headquarters were burned. More than 100 forcibly displaced Christian families fled Delga with nothing and have nothing to return to.

Emergency Law was established for one month, military officers were installed as governors and 14 governorates were placed under 7pm-6am curfews.

Suicide bombing challenges regime

On 5 Sept, Egypt's Interior Minister narrowly escaped a serious assassination attempt when a suicide bomber blew up his car as the minister's convoy drove through Nasr City. Ten police and eleven civilians were wounded in the massive explosion which ripped off the front of one building.

On 12 Sept, the state of emergency was extended for a further two months.

Security forces storm Delga

On Monday 16 September, heavily armed Egyptian troops stormed into Delga, arresting 56 and liberating the town from two months of Islamist control.  

According to Stratfor Intelligence (16 Sept), the military could have liberated Delga from as early as 22 Aug, but instead spread "exaggerated rumors about the persecution of Copts to justify operations". Rather than spread "exaggerated rumors" of persecution, I would suggest that the military chose to "exploit" very real and very severe persecution "rather than prevent it, to legitimise military violence, military rule and requests for military aid" -- just as was anticipated in RLPB 224, 21 Aug 2013.

While Christians are understandably relieved, Ahmed Salah, a local human rights lawyer, believes the crackdown was less about protecting Christians and more about exploiting the state of emergency to take revenge on those who have attacked police and stolen their weapons. Officials from the Interior Ministry all but confirmed that the military action had nothing to do with protecting Christians. The New York Times reports (16 Sept): 'Interior ministry officials said the [military] expedition was an attempt to capture a single fugitive Islamist, and it may depart soon. The overwhelming force, they said, was merely for self-protection [as] the surrounding province of Minya is still considered a bastion of Islamist support for Mr. Morsi.'

See (recommended): In Islamist Bastions of Egypt, the Army Treads Carefully, and Christians Do, Too
By David Kirkpatrick for the New York Times, 16 Sept 2013

Copts / Christians fearful of backlash

The NYT article (above) both reports the experiences of Christians and gives voice to their fears. "Christian residents [in Delga] said opportunists in the town had tried to demand money to protect local Christians from further attack, recalling a tax [jizya] levied on Christians centuries ago. [see Qur'an 9:29]

"'The thugs are asking for money for protection,' said the Rev. Yoanas Shawki, 33. The security forces met no resistance when they arrived early Monday, interior ministry officials and local witnesses said, although a resident said the police later used tear gas to disperse an afternoon rally. Ministry officials said the expedition was hunting Assem Abdel Maged, a veteran leader of the Gamaa al-Islamiya, so far unsuccessfully.

"Magid Nessim, a Christian, said he feared the security forces might soon leave again. 'There could be retaliation attempts against Copts,' he said, 'from Islamists or other people who are angry now at the army's presence.'"

The violence in Egypt is settling into a pattern / a deadly cycle
(1) The MB challenges the military (resisting the coup),
(2) the military responds with force,
(3) MB supporters react with violence against Copts / Christians (who they blame for the coup).

Then the cycle starts again.

Recruiting for the "Free Egypt Army"

-- thousands of Algerians have already volunteered

Meanwhile, Bodnasky reports, "The Ikhwan  [has] dispatched several leaders – both religious and former military – to Arab countries with strong jihadist traditions in order to recruit jihadist volunteers for the Ikhwan's 'Free Egyptian Army' to fight the Egyptian military, reverse Morsi's ouster, and unleash a jihad against Israel and for the liberation of al-Aqsa.'

"Algerian security officials warned that the Egyptian recruiters had already signed up a few thousand Algerian volunteers. Among then recruited Algerians are dozens of street leaders and commanders from the Algerian civil war."

With the MB recruiting jihadis in Algeria and beyond, we can only anticipate that terrorism against the state will escalate.

At first glance it might appear that Egypt is heading back to the 1990s, when terrorism was routine, the state was under emergency rule, and the jails were full of Islamic militants and MB provocateurs. But it is not so!

In the 16 years since al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya killed 58 foreign tourist at Luxor, a massive amount of grassroots radicalisation has occurred courtesy of Saudi Arabia's clerical establishment. Today, Egypt's Copts / Christians are at risk not only from militants and military, but from mobs -- mobs made up of their own neighbours -- radicalised grassroots Muslims -- MB supporters who blame Copts / Christians their victimisation. And of the three -- militants, military and mobs -- the mobs may well prove to be the most deadly.

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

------------------------------------
EGYPT'S SAD REALITY
------------------------------------


The present crisis results from the convergence of several strategic trends: in particular, the arrival of 'democracy' after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamic radicalisation in a state that is hurtling towards collapse.

Egypt's population has exploded, doubling in one generation to more than 92 million; consequently the state is straining under weight of a massive youth-bulge. On top of this, Egypt has high unemployment (over 40 percent), high illiteracy (45 percent), high level of familial marriages (35 percent), as well as critical food and fuel shortages and looming bankruptcy.

As a desert nation with little arable land, Egypt must import most of its food. While bread is a staple of the Egyptian diet, 70 percent of wheat must be imported, as must fuel. And while the government has long subsidised the cost of bread and fuel, it can no longer afford to do so, for Egypt is running out of money. 

Saudi money keeps Egypt afloat and the Saudis have long wanted their nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood -- which advocates republicanism and rapprochement with Iran -- not just out of power, but crushed. In this, the interests of the Saudis, the Egyptian military and the Salafis converged. [Te profoundly anti-Shi'ite Salafis prefer the Saudi model, where Muslim bureaucrats / administrators run the state and bear the burden of governance while funding Muslims to get on with business of advancing Islam.]

Furthermore, despite Egypt being the most populous Sunni Arab state and a major centre of Sunni Islamic learning, Egypt is not as strategically significant as most Egyptians would like to think. In reality, Egypt's strategic significance begins and ends with its ability to secure the Suez Canal and the Sinai-Israeli border. The military know this; it gives them confidence to act as a law unto themselves. Had Morsi appreciated this he would not have antagonised the military.

Though the military deposed Morsi, it does not want to govern Egypt. The military doesn't want the burden of governance; it doesn't want to take the blame when Egypt's systemic economic and demographic problems can't be solved quickly and painlessly to the peoples' satisfaction. A puppet will do nicely for that! What the military wants is to control power in pursuit of its own interests. And because the military is the most strategically important institution in Egypt, it can act as a law unto itself.

While Christians are understandably delighted to see the Muslim Brotherhood out of power and repressed, they need to understand that the military is acting with Christians or secularism or religious freedom in mind. The military's interim constitution appeases the Salafis by retaining all the Islamist elements that have caused Copts and other Egyptian Christians so much grief.

The truth is, the military cares nothing for Christians and with money coming from Saudi Arabia it need have no interest in protecting Christians, only in protecting itself and crushing the MB. What's more, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have promised to compensate Egypt for any losses they suffer on account of US and EU sanctions; so the miliary can crackdown as hard as it likes on whoever it likes.

Remember, this is the same military that drove tanks into Copts at Maspero in October 2011, killing 28, when the Copts led protests against the escalation in sectarian violence under the SCAF in the wake of the fall of Mubarak. This is the same military that fired live ammunition at Coptic monks and bulldozed the security walls of Coptic monasteries, removing their security so Arab raiders and jihadis could attack and plunder them. Remember, General al-Sisi is a Morsi-appointed, pro-Salafi Islamist, the same al-Sisi who gave approval to the practise of soldiers performing "virginity tests" on young women arrested in Tahrir Square.

The military will kill Christians in a flash if it believes it is in its interest to do so. It will also ignore or exploit the serious persecution of Christians, rather than prevent it, if it believes it is in its interests to do so. The situation in Egypt is incredibly serious.

---------------------------------------
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Church's R2P

-- churches have a responsibility to prepare believers to respond to and endure persecution
By Elizabeth Kendal

R2P -- Responsibility to Protect -- is a United Nations (UN) initiative that encourages independent states to see sovereignty not as a right that allows them to act however they please within their own borders, but as a responsibility.  It comes in response to increasing levels of violence within, as distinct from between, states.

Much of this violence is either sectarian (as in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan) or is greed based but fueled by ethnic-religious hatred (as in Kachin State, Burma; the Nuba Mountains, Sudan; Papua, Indonesia). In each of the above case, Christians are facing extreme persecution, even genocide.

It is no accident that religious violence has escalated markedly over recent decades. Trends such as the emergence of religious nationalism, the revival of fundamentalist Islam, the advance of cultural Marxism and the loss of Western influence have converged with the trends of massive population growth, rapid urbanisation and mass migration to create what analyst Gregory Copley describes as "a perfect strategic storm". 

The US International Religious Freedom Act of Nov 1998 was a direct response to escalating religious persecution. But the economic crisis of late 2008 ripped the teeth out of the Act and now persecution with impunity is the order of the day.   To use Isaiah's imagery, the Church is facing a mighty "flood" of persecution.

Christians across the Western world are largely oblivious to all this; partly because their churches (in general) are addicted to entertainment and/or they are living in denial and/or they are cruising along with an erroneous view of persecution which they regard as something one might learn about in a Church History course. 

I am absolutely convinced that most Western Christians, including many church leaders, view the subject of persecution as irrelevant to Western Christians.

This is not inconsequential!

Firstly: the believer who regards another Christian's suffering as "not my concern" or "not something I want to be burdened with" has rejected (albeit subconsciously) the theology of our union with Christ along with the teaching that the Church is the family and body of Christ. Such an attitude not only grieves the Lord, it can lead to judgment (Ezekiel 34, Matt 25:41-45).

Secondly: persecution is stirring in the West on account of Culture Change which is driven by cultural Marxism's promotion of moral and cultural relativism. A godless, essentially Marxist state ideology is being imposed at the cost of religious freedom. Is the church prepared?

Jesus warned us that persecution would come (John 15:18 to16:4) so that in being prepared, we would endure. Yet I would suggest that the church, in general, is not prepared and that many believers and churches will struggle to endure. There will be "shipwrecks", with many believers battered and many passengers lost at sea at a time when the world needs Christians to be firm in faith, exalting the Lord.

We need to stop watching believers and churches sailing into the future unprepared. Our cruising days are over! Much needs to be done to awaken the church and prepare her to face the storms ahead. Christian pastors, teachers and leaders must see this as part of their R2P!

------------------------------------------

This article was first published in Ambassador magazine, the magazine of Melbourne School of Theology and the Centre fore the Study of Islam and Other Faiths (Melbourne, Australia).

--------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Humanitarian/Moral Intervention: an exercise in duplicity

-- and jihad comes to Maaloula village (Syria)

In Aug 2012, US President Barak Obama went on the public record saying: "We have been very clear to the Assad regime -- but also to other players on the ground -- that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation. . ."

"We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that's a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons."

President Obama's "red line" speech was little more than a piece of political theatre aimed at establishing a platform of moral high ground from where the US-NATO could safely (politically if not practically) launch a military strike on Syria. It also signaled to the rebels exactly what the US would require if it was to justify and legitimise a military intervention on their behalf.

If a US military strike on Syria eventuates, it will be nothing other than an act of naked aggression in pursuit of economic and geo-strategic ends. To call such an intervention "humanitarian" or "moral" is duplicitous in the extreme. 

If the US-NATO was genuinely motivated by humanitarian and moral issues, then:

Why is there no red line in North Korea, the world's most serious and vile human rights abuser; a prison-state where citizens are being tortured, worked and starved to death on a daily basis by the world's most criminal regime?

Answer) North Korea has the world's most effective deterrent: nuclear weapons. [The effectiveness of this deterrent has been noted by other rogue regimes that are now racing to adopt it.]

Why is there no red line in Sudan, where genocidal jihad is eliminating the non-Muslim and non-Arab citizens from the resource-rich regions of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile? Having used aerial bombardment, ethnic cleansing and aid blockades to create famine conditions, the Arab supremacist, Islamist regime in Khartoum is now using starvation as a weapon of mass destruction. So why is there no red line in Sudan?

Answer) Because the US doesn't want to risk upsetting Sudan's president -- the lying, cheating, racist, Islamist General Omar el-Bashir -- whom they consider to be an ally in the war on terror. [Actually Bashir is nothing of the sort. He is allied to Iran and together they are actively sponsoring Islamic terrorism throughout the Sahel.]

Why is there no red line in Burma, where the Christian Kachin suffer systematic persecution, torture, war, ethnic cleansing, aid blockades and violent racial and religious hatred at the hands of the Burmese military as it seeks to exert total control over Kachin land so the duplicitous regime in Naypyidaw can exploit it?

Answer) Because Burma has moved out of China's sphere of influence into the West's orbit, bringing with it massive economic and geo-strategic opportunities: such as cheap labour (cheaper than China), new markets for Western goods, and a new ally in the South China Sea. For such gains the Kachin can be sacrificed!

Why
is there no red line in Indonesia, where occupation, colonisation, Islamisation, militarisation and brutalisation are facilitating the slow genocide of the predominantly Christian indigenous Melanesians of Papua?

Answer) Because the US and UK don't want to offend Indonesia and risk it drifting out of the West's sphere of influence into China's orbit. Indonesia is allied to the US in the war on terror and in the South China Sea. Indonesia purchases massive amounts of military aid from the USA – an arrangement which would be compromised if the Indonesian military was ever found to be abusing human rights (which is why it never will be, despite the fact that it systematically does). [In August, Indonesia signed a deal to purchase eight Apache attack helicopters from the USA at a cost of over $500 million. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is smiling, but human rights monitors are feeling ill.] Alliances, trade, mining concessions and military aid – for such gains the Papuans can be sacrificed.

Why
is there no red line in the Central African Republic (CAR), where foreign armed, backed and funded Arabic-speaking Islamic rebels (locals and foreigners) have seized control of the French-speaking predominantly Christian state? Seleka rebels are out of control -- killing, raping and looting with impunity. A massive humanitarian crisis is unfolding. Why is there no red line in CAR?

Answer) Because in CAR, French and Western interests are being served by regime change. In Ivory Coast, France intervened with helicopter gun-ships to empower Islamists because Alassane Ouattara promised to serve France's neo-colonial interests. In Mali, France intervened with tanks to expel Islamists because they were threatening France's neo-colonial interests. In CAR France stood back and watched as Islamists seized power, presumably because the Islamist regime would serve France's neo-colonial interests. For mining contracts and a guarantee that economic exploitation will continue, the Christians of CAR can be sacrificed.

For details on all these situations, including the situation in Syria, see Religious Liberty Monitoring.

------------------------

Humanitarian/moral interventions are a post Cold War phenomenon arising out of NATO's need for a reason to exist. While the UK's David Cameron referred to the prospective US strike on Syria as a humanitarian intervention, Obama and Kerry are making no such claims. Obama and Kerry want to bomb Syria to make a moral statement and to demonstrate strength supposedly from the moral high ground. A critical purpose of the strike will be to prove to the world that when the US makes a threat it follows through, no matter what! 

A limited air-strike in Syria will deliver no strategic gains and advance no US interests. What it will do is trigger retaliation -- maybe retaliatory strikes on Israel and/or other US allies in the region along with the mobilisation of Hezballah and Iranian militant proxies around the world for terrorist attacks on US and allied assets, including tourists.

One consequence of a US strike will doubtless be civilian deaths, including those that will result from rebel invasions of government-held areas. Indeed, even as the Syrian regime prepares for US strikes, this is already happening:

Jihad comes to Maaloula village

On Wednesday 4 September, al-Qaeda-linked jihadists seized control of a mountaintop hotel and nearby caves in Maaloula, a regime-held Christian mountain village in the densely populated west of Syria.

"The siege of Maaloula, a village of about 2,000 where people still speak a version of Aramaic [the language of Jesus], began early Wednesday [4 Sept] in classic Islamic terrorist fashion when a Jabhat al-Nusra rebel blew himself up at a regime checkpoint near the entrance to town.

"That sparked a vicious gun battle with Syrian soldiers, and when it was over eight of them lay dead. . .

"The rebels took over the Safir Hotel and some caves overlooking the town and began shelling residents below.

"As the fighting raged . . . more than 80 frightened villagers took shelter in a convent that's already home to 13 nuns and 27 orphans.

"'It's a war,' a frightened nun who asked not to be identified told the Associated Press. 'It has been going from 6 a.m. in the morning.'

At the time of publication, Syrian government reinforcements were racing to Maaloula from Damascus some 40 miles away.

See: Christian village in Syria besieged by rebels with Al Qaeda ties
By Corky Siemaszko / New York Daily News,
Wednesday, 4 September 2013 (includes photos)

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Christians who have long been accustomed to just asuming that Western governments hold the moral high ground and are making reasonable decisions based on ethical considerations, need to wake up.

We are living in days of ugly and amoral realpolitik. As such, Christians need to stand together in solidarity, looking out for the Body of Christ, not expecting Western governments to do it; for they won't (at least not unless it is in their economic, geo-strategic and political interests to do so!).

Having been complicit in Church decimation from Kosovo to Baghdad and Aleppo; and complicit through strategic silence in Church decimation from Kadugli to Laiza and Bangui, Western governments are fast becoming an enemy of the Church of Jesus Christ. 

So now we must turn to another question: where is the red line for the Church? When will churches start getting serious about this situation? How many Christians have to die before the church falls to its knees and looks to their covenant God that the battle might be turned back at the gate?

The Church should have no illusions: there is only one worthy of our faith; only one worthy of our trust. We must stop trusting in economic leverage, military might, alliances with power and earthly "strongmen" – for they will only fail us. We have an ally and his name is Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of hosts). Strength to turn back the battle lies with him. (Isaiah 28:5-6)

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Friday, August 30, 2013

SYRIA: journalists in Middle East say Saudis supplied rebels with chemical weapons

The following article corroberates all that was said in the previous post:
SYRIA: Who is deploying chemical weapons?
-- and the tactics of asymmetric warfare.

Religious Liberty Monitoring 28 Aug 2013.

It also joins up some pieces of the puzzle.

EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses Of Gas Attack Say Saudis Supplied Rebels With Chemical Weapons
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.
By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh | August 29, 2013

Excerpt:
The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack. . .

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and the Associated Press. Gavlak, an expert in Middle Eastern Affairs ,has been stationed in Amman, Jordan for the Associated Press for over two decades. He covers the Levant region of the Middle East for AP, National Public Radio and Mint Press News.

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master's degree in journalism. He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

Gavlak and Ababneh have much to say about Saudi involvement, including Saudi threats to bring terror to Russia's Winter Olympics in Sochi unless Russia drops its support for Assad. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia reportedly told the Russians: "I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us."

If this is all verified, will it mean that the Saudis have crossed a "red line"?

Or more broadly: will the rebels ever cross a "red-line"?

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See also

Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?
Yossef Bodanky, 28 Aug 2013

Syrian Chemical Attack: More Evidence Only Leads to More Questions
Yossef Bodanky, 10 Sept 2013


Whose sarin?
Vol. 35 No. 24 • 19 December 2013
pages 9-12 | 5515 words
Seymour M. Hersh

---------------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SYRIA: Who is deploying chemical weapons?

-- and the tactics of asymmetric warfare.

ASYMMETRIC WARFARE

In asymmetric conflict, the party that is militarily weaker has no option but to rely on PSYOPS (psychological operations), particularly acts of terrorism, which are desperate acts designed to extract concessions.

If the weaker party is seeking military aid or intervention from a militarily strong democratic state (such as the US) their PSYOPS must target the emotions/wills of the constituents of that democracy. To this end, the weaker party will provoke the enemy from behind a line of human shields (to ensure there are maximum civilian casualties) and then report the "massacre" to eager, sensationalist, non-discerning Western media who routinely accept it with glee and without question. The weaker party will also conduct "false flag" operations: that is, they will stage attacks that will be blamed on their enemy. By these means the weaker party provides the government of the strong, democratic state with all the propaganda that government will require if they are to sell the concept of a "humanitarian intervention" to their constituents. 

These tactics are routinely used in asymmetric conflicts between weak Islamists and the militaries of strong states. Such tactics were used successfully in Bosnia, Kosovo, Ivory Coast and Libya to get the US, France and NATO to intervene and launch "humanitarian interventions" (i.e. bombing campaigns) on behalf of Sunni fundamentalist Islamic jihadis.

In truth, however, these interventions are not "humanitarian;" for there is nothing humane about bombing cities and towns full of civilians. The decision to attack is always made on economic and geo-strategic grounds, for the advancement of economic and geo-strategic interests. When a militarily strong democratic state is seeking reason to intervene, it will send out a signal regarding what is required: i.e. a massacre of civilians, a chemical attack etc. This gives the throat-cutting, suicide bombing, terrorist rebels something to aim for.

The fact that the West is so keen to assist and ally with Islamists whose stated aim is the destruction of Jews, Christians, Israel and the West is short-sighted, irresponsible and irrational in the extreme. It is not only wicked, it is a "covenant with death" (Isaiah 28:15, 18). May the Lord give grace to those whose trust is in HIM (Isaiah 8:11-18). (See my book, Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today. Deror Books, Dec 2012)

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Who is deploying chemical weapons in Syria?
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A year ago President Obama warned the Syrian regime that using chemical weapons would be crossing a "red line" and inviting US intervention. On Wednesday 21 August, reports emerged of a chemical attack in the Ghouta area outside Damascus. It was not the first reported chemical attack, but it was by far the largest.

That chemicals were deployed and civilians are dead is not in dispute. The question no blood test can answer is, "Who deployed those chemicals?"

As terrorism analyst and senior editor of GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs, Yossef Bodansky, notes, "The context of the attack is of great significance."

The following is an excerpt from his article:
Sarajevo, 1995 and Damascus, 2013: The use of mass attack deception to decide wars.
By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs
Published in World Tribune, 22 Aug 2013.

"Starting Aug. 17 and 18, nominally Free Syrian Army (FSA) units — in reality a separate Syrian and Arab army trained and equipped by the CIA as well as Jordanian and other intelligence services — attempted to penetrate southern Syria from northern Jordan and start a march on Damascus. The U.S.-sponsored war plan was based on the Autumn 2011 march on Tripoli, Libya, by CIA-sponsored army from Tunisia which decided the Libyan war and empowered the Islamists.

"Two units, one 250-strong and one 300-strong, crossed into Syria and began advancing parallel to the Golan Heights border. Their aim was to break east and reach Daraa quickly in order to prepare the ground for the declaration of Daraa as the capital of a 'Free Syria'. However, the CIA’s FSA forces met fierce resistance by the unlikely coalition of the Syrian Army, local jihadist forces (mainly the locally-raised Yarmuk Brigades), and even tribal units who fear the encroachment by outside forces on their domain. By Aug. 19 and 20, the FSA units were surrounded in three villages not far from the Israeli border.

"An attempt to use an Indian UNDOF patrol as human shield failed. The FSA commanders were now (i.e. as of late Aug. 21) pleading for massive reinforcements and an air campaign to prevent their decimation.

"Meanwhile, on Aug. 19, in Ghouta, more than 50 local opposition fighters and their commanders laid down their arms and switched sides. A few prominent local leaders widely associated with the opposition went on Syrian TV. They denounced the jihadists and their crimes against the local population, and stressed that the Assad administration was the real guardian of the people and their interests. More than a dozen ex-rebels joined the Syrian Government forces.

"Hence, the last thing the Assad administration would do is commit atrocities against the Ghouta area and the local population which had just changed sides so dramatically. For the opposition, fiercely avenging such a betrayal and petrifying other would-be traitors is a must. Furthermore, in view of the failure of the march on Daraa and Damascus by the CIA’s FSA forces, there was an urgent imperative for the opposition to provoke a Western military intervention before the rebellion collapsed completely, and Assad consolidated victory. . ."

A piece by Mohammad Ballout, published in Al-Monitor on 27 Aug 2013, makes the same point, with some interesting additional details.

"At dawn last Wednesday, Aug. 21, the [Syrian Arab Army's] Shield of the Capital operation resulted in a retreat at the strategic Jobar entrance of opposition fighters belonging to the Liberating the Capital Front, which is led by [al-Qaeda's] Jabhat al-Nusra. The Jobar entrance leads to the heart of Damascus and is the last card that the opposition was still threatening the regime with. Jobar’s entrance is the route for reinforcements coming from the heart of the Ghouta and from the southern front, which is accessible via Jordan, where armed groups are being trained by the CIA and funded by Saudi Prince Salman bin Sultan, in coordination with Col. Ahmed al-Neimeh, the commander of the Military Council of the Southern Region and Horan.

"Today, Aug. 26, there is an international military meeting in Amman. The meeting is part of a pressure campaign on the Syrian regime because it brings together the commanders of several Arab armies to an area close to the sensitive southern Syria front. In the Amman meeting, the attendees are expected to raise the subject of a safe zone and of a no-fly zone, both of which will change nothing in the course of the battle. Despite a year and a half of fighting, Neimeh’s units have achieved no breakthroughs in an area where five Syrian armored divisions are deployed.

"The Saudis have in the Ghouta the Liwa’ al-Islam armed group, which has 25,000 fighters led by Zahran Alloush. He almost certainly receives his orders directly from the Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Alloush once helped the Saudis weaken the Qataris’ groups in the region. He even went so far as to allow the opposition’s First Brigade and Liwa’ Jaish al-Muslimeen to be defeated by the Syrian army a month ago without extending them any help, all just to get rid of their influence.

"In the last hours, the Syrian army had been able to storm Jabhat al-Nusra’s most important sites in the high-rises overlooking the Abbasid area. Yesterday morning, Aug. 25, the fighters had to use suicide bombers to stop the army’s advance, and they resorted to firing mortar shells and rockets on dense residential neighborhoods, such as al-Qassa’a, Bab Touma and Burj al-Rous.

"The Shield of the Capital attack was halted [by means of the chemical attack in Ghouta] to 'facilitate the movement of experts and ensure their safety.' [NOTE: the UN inspectors were working in Damascus at the time of the attack in Ghouta.] The Saudis and the Americans feared that, if the attack continued, it could lead to the expulsion of the Syrian opposition from the Damascus basin, especially as the next phase of the Syrian army’s plan included Zabadani, the Lebanese borders, Qalamun and the last remaining western weapons supply routes to the Damascus countryside toward the Yabrood crossings, Qara and Arsal. These areas represent the confluence of all the elements of the regional conflict in Syria. . .

"Last June, the Americans sabotaged the Geneva II conference because Qusair’s fall tilted the power balance in the regime’s favor. So, before reviving the Geneva II conference, the Americans and the Saudis want to redress that imbalance in the opposition’s favor by granting it weapons and a few more months."

IN SUMMARY: With rebels besieged, under fire, losing ground and facing imminent defeat south of Damascus on account of the SAA's "Operation Shield of the City"; and local Syrian rebels laying down their arms and even defecting to the SAA in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta -- where the Saudis have a force of some 25,000 jihadis fighting the Syrian regime -- a chemical attack is perpetrated in Ghouta that has the effect of halting the SAA's "Operation Shield of the City" and possibly triggering a US military intervention as well. It is very clear who loses and who gains from this chemical attack.

BOTH writers note gross inconsistencies in information being reported.

Ballout notes the contradictory information coming from the White House, which first declared the inability of "US intelligence to find evidence on the use of chemical weapons", before claiming that "the [US] government is almost certain that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against civilians".

Bodansky notes the contradictory information coming from the rebels who initially announced that the regime had perpetrated a massive chemical attack in Ghouta by means of "a barrage of rockets. Subsequently," however, "in the context of renewed outcries for a No Fly Zone, the opposition claimed that the chemical attack was a part of a massive bombing by the Syrian Air Force. Yet, the opposition's pictures show no casualties suffering shrapnel wounds associated with aerial bombing."

Walid Shoebat also has released evidence that Syrian rebels are deploying chemical weapons and importing chemicals from Saudi Arabia. As Shoebat notes, it is the rebels that are desperate, not Assad, for he is winning. Shoebat also reminds us that the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria determined in May 2013 that there were "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof," that rebels seeking to oust al-Assad had used Sarin nerve gas. Meanwhile the panel had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons. 

See: Evidence: Syrian Rebels used Chemical Weapons (not Assad)
By Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack, Shoebat Foundations, 27 Aug 2013

UPDATE -- SEE ALSO:
 
EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses Of Gas Attack Say Saudis Supplied Rebels With Chemical Weapons
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.
By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh | August 29, 2013

Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?
Yossef Bodanky, 28 Aug 2013

Syrian Chemical Attack: More Evidence Only Leads to More Questions
Yossef Bodanky, 10 Sept 2013

Whose sarin?
Vol. 35 No. 24 • 19 December 2013
pages 9-12 | 5515 words
Seymour M. Hersh

Regardless:

As Stratfor Global Intelligence reports (27 Aug 2013): "The United States administration has made it clear through a series of media leaks and posturing that Washington will intervene militarily in Syria. Such an intervention has the potential to not only affect Syria, but inflict consequences on Syria's neighbors depending on the type of military campaign launched. Even a targeted air strike will have some regional effects, while a full scale intervention in Syria will have the most potentially destabilizing implications, especially for Lebanon.

"There are three general possibilities for U.S. military action in Syria. The first and most likely is a limited punitive air strike of command and control facilities and symbolic regime targets. The second is a campaign to destroy the regime's ability launch and employ chemical weapons. And the third, which assumes the most risk and is therefore the least likely to occur, is a campaign to secure all chemical weapons in Syria. . ."

As Stratfor notes, the second option would be exceeding difficult and high risk, requiring the help of neighbours who would then be exposed to retaliation. The third option would essentially be a regime change operation requiring a ground invasion which would set the region aflame and see the US dragged into an indefinite conflict.

The US claims to have "one crucial piece" of intelligence -- provided (I would note) by parties that are not neutral -- that has allegedly removed all doubts that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people. "In an email on Sunday [25 Aug], White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice told U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and other top officials that the U.N. mission was pointless because the chemical weapons evidence already was conclusive, officials said."

So déjà vu and so incredibly wicked

It appears we are on the brink of yet another inhumane "humanitarian intervention"/ attack; another bombing on the grounds that "War is Peace". And yet again, the beneficiaries will be Islamic jihadis who will, yet again, express their gratitude by driving out and killing off millions of local Christians before turning their attentions to the West.

A Protestant pastor from Aleppo, whose son recently asked him, "When will the rebels come in and we will be killed because we are Christians?" reports that hope is fading fast.

He says Christians in Aleppo are preparing for a massacre, preparing to die. He is dreading the US getting involved for he believes it will have major repercussions for his people. "All the countries in the region will become even more involved," he says. "I am begging them not to get involved." 

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Elizabeth Kendal is author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)