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Secretary General of Tunisia’s Ennahda: Terrorism is a Real Challenge

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Tunis – Former Tunisian Prime Minister and Secretary General of Ennahda Movement Ali al-Arid admitted that the challenges facing Tunisia and Libya are very serious and dangerous.

Al-Arid, who was elected on Friday president of the tenth convention of Ennahda Movement, mentioned that Habib Essid’s government should form a strategy to fight terrorism.

When asked by Ashrq Al-Awsat about the challenges that the movement and the country are facing today, al-Arid said that the main concern is the political violence and terrorism.

He added that threats of terrorism increased in Tunisia ever since the situation got complicated in Libya and several Arab counties.

Al-Arid said that terrorism is a global phenomenon and threatens any country going through a transitional phase. According to al-Arid, what makes things more critical is that Tunisia faces economic and social challenges as well.

Al-Arid praised the military operations in Ben Gardane that prevented the formation of ISIS branch in Tunisia.

When asked about the security threats, al-Arid admitted that these threats are real and serious. He said that Tunisia supports a political settlement in Libya.

Al-Arid said he supports Habib Essid’s government in its policies to fight terrorism, ensure security, and create job opportunities for thousands of citizens.

When asked about the outcomes of the tenth convention of the party especially after the recent developments, al-Arid said that the Ennahda is not a religious party but a civil one.

He said that the priorities of Ennahda are the same as that of the people and they respect the decision of the people.

Al-Arid spoke about the tenth convention, saying that the main concern is to continue building the country and ensuring the stability and security of Tunisia.

Al-Arid also stressed on the idea that Ennahda is a national patriotic party for all Tunisians and not an ideological one.

(Source / 22.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Revolution Tunisia

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Iraq begins offensive against Islamic State militants to retake Fallujah

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First stage includes pounding city with artillery, airstrikes to drain resources of IS militants

Iraqi security forces gather on outskirts of Fallujah as they prepare operation aimed at retaking city from Islamic State group

Iraqi security forces backed by paramilitary units and an international US-led military coalition began an offensive early on Sunday to retake the Islamic State (IS) group-held city of Fallujah, Iraqi military sources and security officials told Middle East Eye.

Fallujah, a Sunni-dominated city on the banks of the Euphrates River 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, was seized by the militants two years ago. Iraqi forces have surrounded the city for several months while the campaign to liberate it has been delayed repeatedly by disagreements between the Iraqi side and the US-led coalition over participating groups and timing of the offensive.

More than 30,000 Iraqi troops headed by counter-terrorism units are poised to invade the city.

Iraq’s government has dubbed the operation the “Break-Up of Terrorism”. Iraqi regular troops and anti-IS Sunni paramilitary factions will make their way into the city, while other units, including Shia paramilitary factions, will provide back-up and secure the region around Fallujah, military officers told MEE.

The first stage of the offensive began about 2am local time and included pounding the city with artillery and airstrikes to drain the resources of IS militants.

“Preparatory operations have begun. Our forces are ready and waiting for zero hour to raid the city,” Sabah Nuaman, a spokesman for Iraq’s counter-terrorism units, told MEE.

“Fallujah is on the flank of Baghdad and was the base from which many terrorism operations were launched. It must be liberated to secure Baghdad and ensure the stability of the surrounding areas,” Nuaman said.

Liberating cities, towns

In recent months, Iraqi security forces have been steadily liberating the cities and towns of Anbar province, most of which had been under the control of IS since the summer of 2014. The border Iraqi city of Rutba, which occupies a strategic location on the Amman-Baghdad road, was retaken on Wednesday.

Fallujah is the last big city held by IS in Anbar, and to dislodge the militants would mean the end of the group in western Iraq. By liberating Fallujah and several small towns, Iraqi troops will be free to advance to Mosul, officers said.

“We are looking to move on and retake Mosul, and we can’t do that while daesh (a local term for IS) still controls a sector near Baghdad like Fallujah,” Nuaman said. “We’ve regained control over the rest of Anbar province. Fallujah is the last.”

On Sunday morning, Iraqi planes dropped leaflets over Fallujah asking people to be ready to leave and instructing them to avoid IS gatherings or command posts. The leaflets also advised residents who remained in the city to raise white flags over their shelters and to isolate themselves from the militants.

“The liberation of Falluja is an Iraqi military operation, participated in by all Iraqi troops … these troops have no option but victory and the liberation of Falluja,” one leaflet read.

Fallujah has at various times harboured most Iraqi Sunni militant groups, and has been used by the militants as a symbol to recruit fighters from around the world and to raise funds, security officials and analysts said. It is seen by most Iraqis as the main hotbed of IS in western Iraq.

“Falluja is the head of snake, and when the head is removed, the snake will die,” Wahab al-Taie, an independent Iraqi security analyst, told MEE. “Finishing daesh in Falluja will break it in Iraq. It will be just a matter of time.”

Many international and local humanitarian organizations, including the UN mission in Iraq, as well as local officials, have been warning of a “serious shortage of food and health care” inside Fallujah. Little verified information about the situation inside the city has been available, but tens of thousands people are trapped there, under siege, and there is sure to be a shortage of food and medical care, federal and local officials agreed.

Internal conflict

The Fallujah operation was scheduled to begin several days ago, but riots broke out in Baghdad as protesters stormed the green zone on Friday, delaying the operation. Some military units en route to Fallujah were ordered back to Baghdad as further rioting by followers of powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was anticipated, Shia paramilitary faction commanders and security sources in Baghdad told MEE.

Iraqi men on Sunday carry coffin of protester killed in clash with security forces guarding Baghdad's green zone, during his funeral in Iraq's holy city of Najaf. (AFP)Iraqi men on Sunday carry coffin of protester killed in clash with security forces guarding Baghdad’s green zone, during his funeral in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf. (AFP)

The green zone has been the most secure section of Baghdad since 2003, when it was fortified after the US-led invasion. Still, hundreds of demonstrators, mostly Sadr’s followers, stormed into the zone for a second time, entering the offices of cabinet members.

Iraqi security forces opened fire and used rubber bullets, tear gas and water canon to force the demonstrators to withdraw. At least four people died outright or from their wounds and dozens were hurt. Police officers were among those killed, medics and security sources said.

Hours later, fighters from Sadr’s armed wing, Saraya al-Salam (Peace Battalions), mobilized and showed up in Baghdad. Riots broke out in the southern oil hub of Basra and the nearby city of Nassiriya when protesters tried to storm the buildings of the local governments. No casualties were reported.

“Some people are seeking to drag us into a Shia-on-Shia side battle. This is forbidden and all brothers have to be careful to avoid another confrontation,” Hadi al-Amiri, a prominent Shia leader and commander of the Badr Shia militia, said in a statement on Saturday.

“Our real fight is with the terrorists, so be prepared for the Fallujah battle and do not be distracted by anything else,” Amiri said.

(Source / 22.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 22, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Revolution Iraq

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US ‘leverage in Syria’ thanks to collusion with terrorists

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There is a simple explanation why Washington refuses to proscribe the militant groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist. Because Washington relies on them for regime change in Syria.

Therefore, Washington and its Western and Middle East allies cannot possibly designate Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist; otherwise it would be a self-indicting admission that the war in Syria is a foreign state-sponsored terrorist assault on a sovereign country. This criminal conspiracy is understood by many observers as an accurate description of the five-year Syrian conflict and how it originated. Syria fits into the mold of US-led regime change wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, Washington and its allies, assisted by the Western corporate news media, have maintained a fictitious alternative narrative on Syria, claiming the war is an insurgency by a pro-democracy rebel movement. That narrative has strained credulity over the years as the putative “secular rebels” have either vanished or turned out to be indistinguishable from extremist groups like al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh). Washington asserts that it only supports “moderate, secular rebels” of the Free Syrian Army. British Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that there are 70,000 such “moderate rebels” fighting in Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But no-one can locate these supposed pro-democracy warriors. All that can be seen is that the fight against the Syrian government is being waged by self-professed extremist jihadists who have no intention of establishing “democracy”. Instead, they explicitly want to carve out an Islamic state dominated by draconian Sharia law. In addition to Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh, the two other major militant groups, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, are vehemently committed to forming a Caliphate based on Salafi or Wahhabi ideology. That ideology views all other religious faiths, including moderate Sunni Muslims, as well as Shia and Alawites, as “infidels” fit to be persecuted until death. Leaders of both Jaysh and Ahrar have publicly declared their repudiation of democracy. Yet these two groups are nominated as the Syrian “opposition” in the Geneva talks, as part of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC). The HNC was cobbled together at a summit held in the Saudi capital Riyadh in December ahead of the anticipated negotiations to find a Syrian political settlement. The HNC is endorsed by Washington as official representatives of the Syrian opposition. It is supported by Saudi Arabia, or indeed more accurately, orchestrated by the Saudi rulers since the main components of the HNC are Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham. Other major sponsors of the militant groups are Qatar and Turkey. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, also plays an important part in the charade of furnishing an opposition composed of extremists who demand the Syrian government must stand down as a precondition for talks. This maximalist position is one of the main reasons why the negotiations have come unstuck, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Another basic reason is that the HNC members have been involved in breaching the cessation of violence the US and Russia brokered on February 27, as a confidence-building measure to assist the talks process in Geneva. That Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham have not observed the shaky ceasefire is a corollary of the fact that both groups are integrated with al-Qaeda-affiliated terror organizations, al Nusra and Daesh, which are internationally designated terrorist organizations. The UN excluded al-Qaeda franchises from the ceasefire when it passed Security Council Resolution 2254 in December to mandate the purported Syrian peace talks. In that way, Syria and its foreign allies, Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been legally entitled to continue offensive operations against the extremists in parallel to the Geneva process. The offensive on the terror groups should include HNC members Jaysh and Ahrar. Both groups have publicly admitted to fighting alongside both Nusra and Daesh in their campaign against the Syrian army. All of these organizations have been involved at various times in bloody feuds and turf wars. Nevertheless, they are at other times self-declared collaborators. Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are also well-documented to having engaged in massacres and barbarities as vile as the other higher profile terror outfits. Only last week, Ahrar al-Sham was responsible for the massacre of women and children in the village of Al-Zahraa, near Aleppo, according to survivors. The group has carried out countless no-warning car bombings in civilians neighborhoods. It claimed responsibility for a bombing outside the Russian base at Idlib earlier this year, which killed dozens. Jaysh al-Islam has publicly admitted using chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in recent weeks, also near Aleppo, Syria’s second city after the capital Damascus, and currently the key battleground in the whole conflict. The same jihadist militia is allegedly linked to the chemical weapon atrocity in August 2013 in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, when hundreds of civilians, including children, were apparently killed from exposure to Sarin gas. That attack was initially blamed on Syrian government forces and it nearly prompted the Obama administration to order direct military intervention on the pretext that a “red line” was crossed. Until that is, Moscow steered a ground-breaking deal to decommission chemical weapons held by the Syrian state. It later transpired that the more likely culprit for the East Ghouta atrocity was the Jaysh al-Islam militants. A former commander of the group, Zahran Alloush, once declaredthat he would “cleanse” all Shia, Alawites and other infidels from the Levant. Many Syrian civilians later rejoiced when the “terrorist boss” – their words – was killed in a Syrian air force strike on December 25. Notably, Saudi Arabia and Turkey vehemently protested over Alloush’s death. It is irrefutable from both their actions and self-declarations that Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are by any definition terrorist groups. Certainly, Russia and Iran have officially listed both as such. But not so Washington and its allies. Earlier this month, a Russian proposal at the UN Security Council to proscribe Jaysh and Ahrar was blocked by the US, Britain and France. An American spokesperson told the AFP news agency that it rejected the Russian motion because it feared the tentative Syrian ceasefire would collapse entirely. This is an unwitting US admission about who the main fighting forces in the Syrian “rebellion” are. This week US Secretary of State John Kerry made an extraordinary claim which, as usual, went unnoticed in the Western media. Kerry said the US “still has leverage in Syria” because if the Syrian government does not accept Washington’s demands for political transition then the country would face years of more war. Kerry’s confidence in threatening a war of attrition on Syria is based on the fact that the main terror groups are directly or indirectly controlled by Washington and its regional allies in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are essential to the terror front that gives Washington’s its leverage in Syria. But the charade must be kept covered with the preposterous denial that these groups are not terrorists.

(Source / 22.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Revolution Syria

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International coalition calls for Syrians to leave Raqqa

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People inspect the damage after a Syrian regime warplane targeted the Kamuna refugee camp near the Syrian In the Idlib province after Syrian regime warplane targeted the camp on May 05, 2016. 8 people were killed and another 30 injured. Image by Anadolu

People inspect the damage after a Syrian regime warplane targeted the Kamuna refugee camp near the Syrian In the Idlib province after Syrian regime warplane targeted the camp on May 05, 2016. 8 people were killed and another 30 injured

The international coalition led by Washington dropped notices in Raqqa on Thursday, the stronghold of Daesh in Syria, calling for its residents to leave their homes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and activists said on Friday.

According to Al-Khaleejonline.com, this is the first time that the coalition has dropped notices asking residents to leave their homes.

Speaking to AFP, Abu Mohamed, a founder of the social media group “Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered”, said: “It is not the first time that the coalition planes drop statements, but it is the first time they drop notices asking residents to leave.”

Abu Mohamed said that previous statements included warnings to Daesh members.

Director of the SOHR Rami Abdul Rahman said: “It is the first time that the residents were asked to leave the city”, noting this is likely “part of the propaganda war against Daesh”.

The SOHR has documented the death of around 408 civilians as a result of the international coalition airstrikes since the start of the attacks in September 2014.

(Source / 21.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 21, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Posted in Revolution Syria

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Alzoabi: Russia Is Offering the Syrian People a Choice between Assad or Continued Killings

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Head of the opposition’s negotiations delegation to Geneva Asaad Alzoabi said that the Syrian opposition insists Assad cannot have a role in a political solution as and this would be the only way to put an end to violence and the tragedy in Syria. He added that the Assad regime insists on pursuing a military solution to the conflict, encouraged by Russia which is trying to maintain its interests and consolidate its hegemony over Syria.

“Russia is putting Syrians in front of two choices: Accept Assad or killings will continue,” Alzoabi said. He asked “how could Russia claim it acts as a sponsor of negotiations, whether in Geneva or Paris, when it disrupts the political process and pursues a military solution?”

Alzoabi criticized the role of the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura in the negotiations, saying de Mistura listens to decisions by Russia and the US and serves the interests of major powers.

“We want a political solution without Assad, and here begins the role of de Mistura. If he wants a real political solution, he has to work on enforcing UN Security Council resolution 2118, which clearly calls for the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers,” Alzoabi said.

“But de Mistura has not yet recalled this UN resolution. He reiterates that the Assad regime seeks to form a government. This proposal reflects a huge gap between the Assad regime and the Syrian revolution; so I think prospects for the resumption of negotiations are currently quite dim.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition + Alnahar Newspaper / 21.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 21, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Revolution Syria

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Last year’s disaster offers Saudis excuse to clamp down on hajj

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Muslim pilgrims pray on Mount Mercy during the annual hajj pilgrimage outside the holy city of Mecca, Sept. 23, 2015

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is preparing to assure this year’s hajj season of pilgrimage to Mecca is safe and not marred by a repeat of last year’s bloody stampede. As Iran is a major source of Saudi concerns about hajj security, Riyadh is shutting out Iranians in a move that also suits its efforts to delegitimize Tehran.

The crown prince is also the Saudi interior minister and responsible for security during the hajj. Last September’s stampede, in which over 2,200 people died, severely embarrassed the kingdom in general and the prince in particular. The Saudis insist the number of fatalities was much lower. The Wahhabi clerical establishment specifically exonerated the crown prince of any responsibility, arguing the stampede was an accident beyond human control. Some rumors about what really happened point fingers at royal family members seeking special favors, but nothing has been proven.

Nayef announced this month that the Interior Ministry has established the most sophisticated operations control room in the Middle East to monitor developments in Mecca. Some 18,000 closed-circuit TV cameras will be monitored around the clock by 1,600 security personnel. The technology will be state of the art, as the crown prince is known for using sophisticated technology to enhance security.

The security center will allow the ministry to avert crises and respond rapidly if they develop. There will be highly trained personnel who speak many languages — most will speak English — to help manage crowd control. Special attention will be paid to handicapped pilgrims. While the prince made no public reference to last year’s tragedy, it is clear the new National Center for Joint Security Operations is designed in part to prevent a recurrence.

The Saudis still remember the Iranian protests and demonstrations in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq War that led to another bloody pilgrimage season. Keeping Iran out of Mecca reduces the risk of protests over last year’s tragedy. The Saudis blame Iranians pilgrims for last year’s disaster.

The Saudis broke relations with Iran on Jan. 3 after Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, protests that came in response to the Saudi execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The break in ties now has the useful benefit of disrupting Iranian access to Mecca.

Saudi Arabia is escalating its campaign to delegitimize Iran and limit its influence in the Islamic world. Denying Iran access to the hajj is a handy way to do so. But the kingdom does not want to appear to be using the hajj to punish Iranian believers for political reasons. Riyadh wants Iran to be blamed for not following proper procedures to get hajj visas. With formal diplomatic relations severed, visa issues are inherently more complicated.

Iran complained more than any other country about Saudi security lapses last year. Tehran said the kingdom had failed to be a proper custodian of the holy mosques and should be removed from the hajj’s administration. A quarrel over visa procedures this year means Iranians may not be able to participate in the hajj, after 61,000 Iranians made the pilgrimage last year. That undoubtedly suits Riyadh just fine.

Since Riyadh cut ties with Iran, it has pressed other Muslim states to follow suit. Bahrain and Sudan did so immediately, while the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors. Jordan withdrew its ambassador in April just after a visit by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This week, the Maldives, which relies heavily on Saudi assistance, joined the boycott and broke as well.

Riyadh knows most Islamic states will not sever ties to Tehran, but if a number do follow the Saudis’ lead, Iran will lose face. Rather than ending its status as a pariah state following the nuclear deal with Western powers, Iran will still be out of the Muslim mainstream.

The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is intensifying, contributing to sectarian tensions in the region getting more violent and bitter. The sectarian strife has already reached unprecedented levels for modern times. It is almost certainly going to get worse.

(Source / 20.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 20, 2016 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Revolution Saudi

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Abu Hatab Sets Direction of Travel for New Interim Government

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New head of the Syrian interim government Jawad Abu Hatab said that the interim government will work to provide services to the civilian population in the liberated areas, adding that he is keen to form a non-partisan technocratic government whose work will not be affected by political affiliations.

In a news conference in Idlib on Thursday following a meeting with representatives of local councils of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama, Abu Hatab said that the meeting discussed the formation of the new government, criteria for the selection of ministers, as well as the role of FSA groups in facilitating the work of the government.

Rather than ruling the Syrian people, the new interim government will work on serving the needs of the Syrian people and re-activating state institutions, Abu Hatab said. He pointed out that the new government will give special focus on education and help graduate students complete their higher education in order to create qualified cadres who will be essential to rebuild Syria.

Abu Hatab went on to say that the new government will prioritize rebuilding the health service and education institutions as well as supporting local councils.

“We will seek to secure funding for the new government. Our capabilities and our work will be key in securing the funds. Funding might be small to start with, but when the new government sets about working to implement clearly defined plans and programs, funding will be secured much more easily. We will seek to achieve financial independence. Regardless of the amount of financial support we manage to get in the beginning, we will continue to work hard as the Syrian people are able to find sources of funding,” Abu Hatab stressed.

Abu Hatab also said that “the FSA and rebel fighters will be our partners on the ground as they are giving their lives for the sake of the homeland. They also work hard to serve the needs of the people, and I am sure they will support the government and its work.”

The Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly elected Jawad Abu Hatab head of the Syrian interim government in a special meeting held on Monday. Abu Hatab will be forming a new government to be based in Syria to better serve the needs of the civilian population.

(Source: Syrian Coalition + Alahd Newspaper / 20.05.2016)

Written by altahrir

May 20, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Revolution Syria

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