ISIS Joins with ‘Moderate’ Hamas for Terror in Sinai

Screen-Shot-2014-03-25-at-1.14.12-PM.sized-770x415xcPJ Media, by Patrick Poole, June 19, 2016:

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on growing incidents of terrorism by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I noted the arrest of an IED terror cell composed of Muslim Brotherhood members in Alexandria who had been attacking government and military targets since January.

Now, Egypt is facing escalating threats in the Sinai from the Brotherhood’s affiliate in Gaza — Hamas. Multiple reports in recent weeks place Islamic State (ISIS) figures with Hamas officials in Gaza, and claim Hamas is training ISIS troops with heavy anti-tank weaponry.

The Washington, D.C. foreign policy “smart set” continues to describe Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate” jihadists who serve as a firewall between “violent extremist” groups like ISIS.

News reports placed ISIS-Sinai leaders in Gaza meeting with Hamas officials on June 2nd:

The Times of Israel reports:

Top Islamic State commander in Sinai Shadi al-Menii met with Hamas officials in Gaza Thursday in order to discuss cooperation between the two terrorist groups, according to a Channel 2 report.Al-Menii, who belongs to one of the Bedouin tribes in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, fled to the Gaza Strip in May of 2015 after his organization attacked a military base and killed an Egyptian soldier,Haaretz reported. A bounty worth one million Egyptian pounds was placed on his head.

According to Channel 2, al-Menii’s branch of IS in Sinai were to help Hamas operatives smuggle arms into the strip via tunnels in return for sophisticated weapons.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that heavy weapons training and the free flow of weapons between the groups was documented back to 2015:

Egypt shared intelligence with Israel last year about cooperation between Sinai Province and members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to a Western official. Israel was surprised to learn of the ties given previous clashes in Gaza between Hamas and Islamic State sympathizers, the official said.Israeli officials said they learned in April of 2015 that Hamas was allowing Sinai Province fighters to be treated in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital. The hospital declined to comment.

Later last year, Hamas operatives spent a month in the Sinai region teaching the militants how to fire antitank missiles, Israeli officials said. The officials declined to provide more details. Hamas subsequently received Russian-made antitank missiles via the smuggling network Sinai Province controls, an Israeli defense official said.

Some analysts were noting the cooperation between the two groups last year:

Israel military officials are taking the ISIS threat from Sinai seriously:

With the borders of Gaza locked down by both Israel and Hamas, the only way for ISIS fighters and officials to enter the area is through the Hamas-controlled smuggling tunnels:

Islamic State fighters have recently arrived in the Gaza Strip to train with their Hamas counterparts, a senior IDF official said in an Arabic interview published Friday.The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Saudi news website Elaph that IS members entered the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula through smuggling tunnels maintained and controlled by Hamas.

The fighters entered the Hamas-controlled territory in coordination with Sa’id Abed al-A’al, a resident of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah connected to Hamas, he said.

Mordechai, the head of the Defense Ministry body responsible for the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip and Civil Administration in the West Bank, said the military cooperation between the Islamic State and Hamas is unfolding with the full knowledge and consent of Hamas’s leaders.

Reports of Hamas fighters jointing up with ISIS have circulated all year.

Remarkably, a letter from one ISIS fighter in Sinai to ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi published on social media earlier this year — helpfully translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — details the cooperation between the two groups:

“Allow me, Caliph of Muslims, to inform you of some aspects of the suspect ties between Sinai province and Hamas:”1. Sinai province is smuggling weapons for Hamas in Gaza, because of the province’s fighters’ expert knowledge of the [smuggling] routes from Libya, Sudan, and Egypt.

“2. Sinai province depends very much on Hamas and Al-Qassam for weapons and for explosives and ammunition. There are direct and continuous supply routes from Hamas to Sinai province. The Al-Qassam factories operate assembly lines for manufacturing explosive devices and bombs for the Sinai province, but do not stamp the Al-Qassam logo on them, as they usually do.

“3. Sinai province leaders are regularly visiting the Gaza Strip, and holding cordial meetings with Hamas and Al-Qassam leaders, even [Hamas] government [representatives]. Animals are slaughtered for them, feasts are held, and they are embraced in Gaza.

“4. Hamas and Al-Qassam are accepting all wounded Sinai province [fighters], and they are treated in Gaza Strip hospitals under Al-Qassam’s direct protection.

“5. Hamas is providing wireless communication hubs for Sinai province, because of the difficulty of operating them in Sinai and because they are vulnerable to swift destruction by the Egyptian army.

The ties between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and militants in the Sinai now operating as the official ISIS affiliate go back to the beginnings of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nabil Naeem — one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who I interviewed exclusively at his office in Cairo for PJ Media — reported that jihadists in Sinai were funded by a deal with Khairat al-Shater (deputy supreme guide for the Muslim Brotherhood), Hamas, and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the previous incarnation of the ISIS Sinai affiliate.

Immediately prior to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi’s election as president, reports surfaced that Hamas ordered rocket attacks from Sinai by militants there targeting Israel at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood to bolster his election prospects.

Once elected, attacks in Sinai under the one-year Morsi administration subsided somewhat, particularly the targeting of the gas pipeline from Sinai to Israel and Jordan that came to a halt:

While the low level attacks continued in Sinai under Morsi, they spiked drastically after he was ousted from the presidency in July 2013, following mass protests demanding his resignation on the anniversary of his first year in power.The gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, has been attacked often since 2011. There were more than 17 attacks on the pipeline between February 2011 and June 2012 and between July 2013 and February 2014. Morsi’s time in office was the only period in which the gas pipe attacks halted.

As soon as Morsi was deposed by the military after massive protests against his administration, Egyptian authorities were killing and arresting large numbers of Hamas fighters operating in Sinai.

The mounting evidence about the direct cooperation between ISIS in Sinai and Hamas comes as Republican congressional leaders continue to obstruct companion bills — S. 2230 and H.R. 3892 — calling for the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as many U.S. allies in the region, most notably Israel last November, already have.

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Supporting Deep Democracy

1896925188An otherwise worthy criticism of Obama’s Muslim-World foreign policy misses a crucial point.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | April 20, 2016

Alex Rowell, a British-born journalist with substantial experience in the Middle East, has penned what is overall an excellent criticism of US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the Muslim world.  His basic thesis, which is correct, is that Obama’s tenure has empowered autocrats instead of democrats across the Middle East.  In violation of what he claimed were his basic principles, Obama has stood by while more than a million have been killed in Syria.  He stood by while Iran’s hardliners suppressed their democratic opponents, within two weeks of Obama’s famous Cairo address promising support to democrats in the Muslim world.  His Iraq policy and his State Department actively empowered then Prime Minister Maliki to act as a “Shi’a strongman,” which they decided Iraq needed.  This, along with his inaction in Syria, enabled the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the loss of the hard-fought peace in Iraq he inherited from the American military’s sacrifices in the Surge.

Where Rowell goes wrong is in assuming that failing to support a democratically-popular policy or leader of the moment is the same as failing to support democracy.  To be durable, a democracy has to balance a permanent constitutional system against the passing desires of the majority.  Such a constitutional system can be called “deep democracy.”  The danger facing it in the Islamic world is often the danger expressed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who compared democracy to a train.  You get off, he said, once you have reached your destination.

Erdogan may at the moment be able to withstand a democratic election, but supporting him is not being a friend to democracy.  His government has suppressed academics and free inquiry, committed war crimes against his own population, and is devoutly Islamist.  That he won an election does not make him a democrat.  To support democracy in Turkey, one has to support the deep democracy:  the defense of basic rights and values that make a lasting democracy possible.

By the same token, Rowell criticizes the Obama administration for failing to continue to back the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt once it had suspended the Egyptian constitution.  In fact, the error was ever to support a movement that is founded on the principle of overthrowing democratic states and instituting a form of government that bans democratically-enacted laws as blasphemous.  A deep devotion to democracy is incompatible with such a view.  That they might win an election does not make them democrats.

There is much to criticize in the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy in the Muslim world.  Much of what Rowell says is fair and accurate, and his piece is well worth reading.  However, readers should take this caveat:  to defend democracy, more is necessary than to defend whoever happened to win the last election.  Democracy is only sustainable within a constitutional system that protects the beliefs and basic rights that make democracy possible.  The enemies of such systems are the permanent enemies of democracy, even if they win today at the ballot box.

Will Egyptian schools strip religion from curriculum?

Students pray at Nile Garden School before the upcoming Eid al-Adha festival in Cairo, Nov. 11, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Students pray at Nile Garden School before the upcoming Eid al-Adha festival in Cairo, Nov. 11, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Al-Monitor, by 

A call made by Nadia Henry, deputy head of the Free Egyptians Party’s parliamentary bloc, to replace the religion course — which is mandatory for students in public schools — with an alternate course on “values” has raised considerable debate within the parliament, accompanied by an attack launched by the Salafist Nour Party and Al-Azhar.

Egyptian schools teach religion from elementary school through high school, and Christian students are separated from their fellow Muslims during religion courses. However, despite the importance of this course in Egyptian education, the students’ grades in religion are not included in their final grades because religion exams taken by Christians differ from those taken by Muslims, and this way everyone can be graded equally. Meanwhile, the Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar contribute to developing the curricula for the religion courses for both Christian and Muslim students.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Henry emphasized that she did not call for eliminating the religion course, but rather wanted to replace it with a course on values that would combine verses from both the Quran and the Bible that underline values and ideals. “The values course should be taught by educators who have knowledge in the science of counseling and psychology, in order to plant the idea of citizenship in students’ hearts and teach them how to love one another,” she said.

Henry refused the idea of teaching the values course along with religion, stressing that the religion course and its results over the past years must be evaluated.

Henry pointed out that the religion course did not produce clear results in changing the concepts of ethics and values in society. She also criticized the way religion is taught in schools by separating young Muslim students from Christians, which increases sectarianism. “The values course would teach students the principles of citizenship, without discrimination and without separating between minority and majority. All institutions must work hand-in-hand; the religious institution establishes doctrine, and the educational institution applies it through educational and behavioral rules.”

She called on all those opposing her proposal to join her at the dialogue table to develop the proposal, stressing that she does not aim at eliminating religion from schools but to establish a more advanced way to teach it.

Henry responded to attacks on her proposal by saying that changes to long-standing methods are always accompanied by societal shock, but it is necessary to reconsider the method of teaching religion in schools. According to her, the results of the religion course are negative because students are separated based on their religion and have teachers who are not specialized in teaching religion. She also argued that it would not lead to a decline in religion, claiming, “The values course would hamper any inclinations toward atheism among students, because they would [be taught] to understand and tolerate one another.”

“I will continue to defend the proposal after the Free Egyptians Party’s educational committee finishes preparing it in order to submit it to the parliament,” she asserted.

The veteran member of parliament revealed that she is preparing to hold a workshop for educators, clerics, experts in humanities, as well as media and cultural figures in order to establish regulations and standards for a new educational course under the name of “values.” Henry noted that she will not be affected by the attacks against her. She welcomes all opinions, and she will continue to implement her proposal. Henry expressed her hope that some religious leaders would be welcoming, noting, “The new religious leadership within the Evangelical Church shows how committed it is to teaching religion to the new generation.”

Henry explained that the values course would “emphasize the concepts ofmoderate Islam for Muslim and Christian students alike. Christian students will learn Quranic verses about tolerance and love, while Muslim students will learn Bible verses about being loving and giving. Thus, citizenship is truly achieved without any [sectarian] slogans.”

Al-Azhar’s committee of senior scholars issued a statement March 10 describing calls to remove religion from state curricula as “harmful to Al-Azhar’s status and the Islamic identity of our country.”

Al-Azhar’s statement was welcomed by Salafist Nour Party’s members of parliament, with parliamentarian Ahmed Sharif applauding Al-Azhar’s stance and stressing that the proposal to remove the religion course was not appropriate.

Meanwhile, Abdel Moneim El-Shahat, a spokesman for the Salafist Call — the Nour Party’s political wing — warned about responding to those calling for eliminating religious education from schools. In press statements published March 15 he said, “All societal classes are in desperate need of an increase in religion in schools, universities and the media.”

For his part, Mohamed El Shahat al-Gundi, a member of the Islamic Research Academy, told Egyptian daily Al-Youm Al-Sabeh in early March that replacing religion for values in school curricula would open the gate to the breakdown of key provisions in the Muslim and Christian religions, and that it was an attempt to resemble the West, which is not the right thing to do.

Henry’s proposal was met with various reactions within parliament. For one, member of parliament Amina Naseer supported the proposal, saying, “Islam and Christianity emphasize the need for ethics and an upright behavior in dealing with others. The values material should include the values contained in Christian and Muslim texts agreed upon by everyone.”

However, independent member of parliament Mohammed Ismail announced that he would make an urgent statement to the Minister of Education to demand including the grades students get in religious course in their final grades, in response to calls to replace the religion course with values. Ismail expressed the need to do away with the current pass/fail grading system for religion, which in his view would eliminate religious illiteracy and prevent the infiltration of extremist ideas into society.

Israel says it gave written consent to Saudi island transfer

island transferDefense minister reveals coordination between Jerusalem, Cairo and Riyadh, hints at burgeoning strategic interaction

 April 12, 2016,

Israel gave written approval to the Egyptian transfer of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran to Saudi Arabia, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon revealed Tuesday.

His acknowledgement, given in a briefing with reporters Tuesday, hints at growing, though quiet, Israeli-Saudi cooperation in recent years.

According to Ya’alon, Israel was told in writing about the island transfer between Cairo and Riyadh, which came as part of a series of cooperation agreements signed last week between Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. The Cairo-Riyadh agreements cement the alliance of the two Sunni Arab states in a region undergoing chaotic change and facing the growing sway of Shiite Iran to the east.

“An appeal was made to us – and it needed our agreement, the Americans who were involved in the peace agreement and of the MFO,” Yaalon said, referring to the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping forces at the Israeli-Egyptian border. “We reached an agreement between the four parties – the Saudis, the Egyptians, Israel and the United States – to transfer the responsibility for the islands, on condition that the Saudis fill in the Egyptians’ shoes in the military appendix of the (Egypt-Israel) peace agreement.”

The raft of agreements also includes some $16 billion in Saudi investments in the ailing Egyptian economy.

The two Red Sea islands figure prominently in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement signed in 1979, which promises safe passage to Israeli civilian and military ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran. The Egyptian blockade of the waterway to Israeli shipping in 1967 was a key casus belli for Israel that led to the onset of the Six Day War.

Under the Egyptian-Saudi agreement, the islands are to be transferred to Saudi control in 25 years, giving Riyadh a direct hand in ensuring the fulfillment of the peace treaty with Israel.

Saudi officials in recent days said they were committed to “all Egyptian commitments” related to the islands. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview that his country would honor the Israel-Egypt peace treaty’s terms as regards the islands. Saudi Arabia won’t negotiate with Israel about the islands, he said, since “the commitments that Egypt approved [in the peace treaty] we are also committed to, including the stationing of an international force on the islands. We looked into the matter and we know our legal position. We are committed to what Egypt committed to before the international community.”

But according to Ya’alon, the coordination with Israel went further. Saudi Arabia agreed to ensure free shipping for all parties through the straits. Israel was notified in writing about the new arrangement weeks before it was made public, and gave its approval in writing to Egypt and, indirectly, to Saudi Arabia.

Israel also agreed to the construction of a bridge between the islands and the Egyptian and Saudi mainlands.

Israel’s agreement to the transfer necessitated a reopening of the military appendix to the peace treaty, Ya’alon said. The discussions between all three parties were facilitated by the US, the defense minister noted, according to the Ynet news site.

The Straits of Tiran are Israel’s only water passage from Eilat to the open sea, allowing for shipping to and from Africa and Asia without requiring passage through the Suez Canal, as well as passage to and from the Suez Canal. Israel Navy ships use the waterway to reach open seas, where they carry out naval exercises that are not possible in the narrow confines of the Gulf of Aqaba.

map Tiran island

In the briefing Tuesday, Ya’alon also addressed the security situation in Gaza.

Hamas, the terror group that rules the coastal territory, is “deterred” by Israel, “and therefore doesn’t act against us. But it is building its strength,” he said.

Ya’alon said there was “no siege on Gaza, but there is a security closure in which we forbid the import of dual-use materials that could be used to create rockets. Gaza merchants important goods from abroad through the ports of Ashdod [in Israel], Port Said and Alexandria [in Egypt].”

While Hamas was choosing not to attack Israel, the group “is growing stronger,” the defense minister said. “Its main challenge is to smuggle weaponry, since the smuggling route through Sudan no longer exists, but the route from Libya to Sinai is still open. Hamas is also growing stronger when it comes to development and construction of unmanned aircraft, with funding and expertise from Iran, and in the improvement of its naval forces that can penetrate [into Israel] from the beach.”

***

Also see:

Sitting Ducks? ISIS threatens American troops in Egypt’s Sinai

unnamed (34)Fox News, by Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin, April 7, 2016:

Concerned that hundreds of American forces based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula are vulnerable to attack by a nearby Islamic State affiliate, top administration officials are worried about their safety and what to do next.

The State Department said Wednesday the U.S. troops will not be withdrawn from Sinai.

“We remain fully committed to our multinational force and observers mission,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “So no change in policy, no change in our force structure.”

But troop safety has U.S. military leaders weighing what to do next.

More than 1,600 international forces occupy outposts in the Sinai, including 700 mostly U.S. Army National Guard troops. But these forces are unable to carry out offensive operations against ISIS-affiliated groups such as Wilayat Sinai since they are bound by an agreement made months after the 1978 Camp David accord, which made peace between Egypt and Israel.

At the Pentagon Wednesday, a senior U.S. military leader said discussions at the “highest levels” were taking place among the U.S., Israeli and Egyptian governments about the future size of the U.S. commitment to Sinai.

“My focus is making sure that they have the force protection measures in place and we have increased the force protection measures,” said Rear Adm. Andy Lewis, Joint Staff vice director for operations, in a briefing with reporters.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s top officer, visited the force in December, accompanied by Fox News, shortly after four U.S. soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

In early September, the Pentagon added 75 more troops, as well as additional armored vehicles including four Bradley Fighting Vehicles, after another ISIS attack injured two peacekeepers from Fiji. Their base is typically hit by incoming fire once a day.

As part of the routine harassment attacks, mostly from small arms fire, ISIS-aligned forces sometimes launch mortars without warheads to land inside the camp in order to send a message, one official told Fox News.

“The threat is increasing,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The warning signs have been mounting.

In November, a group claiming allegiance to ISIS said it downed the Russian airliner that crashed over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.

In December, the Middle East Institute’s Geoffrey Aronson got the Pentagon’s attention when he wrote in an article: “Sinai is ground zero in the ongoing insurgency against the Egyptian government led by ISIS.”

Another foreign policy expert said it is unlikely the United States will be able to change its treaty agreements regarding the international force.

“The Israelis and Egyptians do not want them to [pull out], they don’t want to appear to be giving into ISIS,” said Paul Salem, of the Washington-based Middle East Institute, in an interview with Fox News. “They’re pushing the Americans hard not to … redeploy.”

Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced pushback when he tried to pull the U.S. troops out over a decade ago. Israel and Egypt have resisted calls for American troops to withdraw, leaving the Pentagon and the White House with a dilemma considering 700 U.S. troops are now positioned in the middle of an increasingly dangerous region.

“Almost everything has changed in the last few years,” Salem said. “Now there’s a full-on battle between ISIS and the Egyptian army.”

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.

 

Blasphemy Convictions Intensify in Sisi’s Egypt

Gatestone Institute, by Raymond Ibrahim, April 6, 2016:

  • “There have been more blasphemy cases and convictions during the Sisi era than during the Morsi era.” — Ibrahim Eissa, Muslim television host in Egypt.
  • Their crime was to have made a 20-second video on a mobile phone mocking the Islamic State — an act interpreted as mocking Islam. In the video, the boys appear laughing and joking, as they pretend to be ISIS members praying and slitting throats. “The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment [five years].”
  • Egypt is becoming more like Pakistan. Although that nation also prohibits the defamation of all religions, only Christians and moderate Muslims are targeted and imprisoned; some, such as Asia Bibi, a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of five, are on death row. Conversely, Muslims who openly defame Christianity — and they are many — are regularly let off.

Despite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s many pluralistic words and gestures, which have won him much praise from the nation’s Christians and moderates, he appeases the Islamist agenda in one very clear way: by allowing the controversial defamation of religions law, colloquially known as the “blasphemy law,” to target Christians and moderates in ways arguably worse than under the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.

Last month three Christian teenagers were jailed for five years for breaking the defamation of religions law. A fourth defendant, 15, was given juvenile detention for an indefinite period. [1]Earlier, they were detained for 45 days and subjected to “ill-treatment,” according to a human rights group.

Their crime was to have made a 20-second video on a mobile phone mocking the Islamic State — an act interpreted as mocking Islam. In the video, the boys appear laughing and joking, as they pretend to be ISIS members praying and slitting throats. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent rights group, confirmed that the four teenagers were performing scenes “imitating slaughter carried out by terrorist groups.” Even so, according to their defense lawyer, Maher Naguib, the Christian youths “have been sentenced for contempt of Islam and inciting sectarian strife…. The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment.”

Considering that even Egypt’s Al Azhar — the Islamic world’s most prestigious university —refuses to denounce the Islamic State as being un-Islamic, it is not surprising that mockery of ISIS is being conflated with mockery of Islam.

The Christian youths made the brief video in January 2015, when three of them were aged 17 and one 15. It is believed that the court kept delaying their case until the three 17-year-olds turned 18, so they could receive the full penalty as adults. Their teacher, who also appeared in the video, had earlier been sentenced to three years in jail.

Despite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s many pluralistic words and gestures, he appeases the Islamist agenda by allowing the “blasphemy law” to target Christians and moderates. Pictured above: Sisi became the first Egyptian president ever to visit the St. Mark Cathedral during Coptic Christmas Eve Mass, on January 6, 2015. (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)

Several other Christians have been prosecuted under Sisi’s tenure for insulting Islam and Muslims. One young Christian man was sentenced to six years for “liking” an Arabic-language Facebook page administered by Muslim converts to Christianity. A female Christian teacher was imprisoned for six months after Muslim parents accused her of insulting Islam and evangelizing.Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Muslim convert to Christianity, remains behind bars on trumped up charges of blasphemy, according to his lawyer.

While Christian minorities are the most prone to being targeted by the blasphemy law, secular Muslim thinkers and writers are also on the hit list. In January, Muslim writer Fatima Naoot was sentenced to three years in prison after she criticized the sadistic slaughter of animals that takes place during the Islamic festival, Eid al-Adha. The month before that, television host Islam al-Behairy was sentenced to one year in prison for questioning the validity of some of the sayings (hadiths) attributed to Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Although Egypt’s constitution outlaws the “defamation of religions,” the plural indicates that, along with Islam, Judaism and Christianity are protected. In reality, however, the law is almost exclusively used to prosecute Christian minorities and secular Muslims. Despite the fact that there are many more Muslims than Christians in Egypt, rarely are Islamists arrested and prosecuted for defaming Christianity.

In this, Egypt is becoming more like Pakistan. Although that nation also prohibits the defamation of religions — which technically includes Christianity — only Christians and moderate Muslims are targeted and imprisoned; some, such as Asia Bibi, a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of five, are on death row. Conversely, Muslims who openly defame Christianity — and they are many — are regularly let off one way or the other. A few weeks ago, a Muslim broke into a church and proceeded to burn its Bibles. Although several Christians caught him and handed him over to police, the perpetrator claimed he was mentally unstable and could not stand trial. In another case, a Muslim shopkeeper started selling shoes that depict the Christian cross on their soles. Christians demonstrated but police did nothing.

On January 26, soon after the sentencing of the writer Fatima Naoot, another moderate Muslim and television host in Egypt, Ibrahim Eissa, scathingly criticized the Sisi government, including by saying that “there have been more blasphemy cases and convictions during the Sisi era than during the Morsi era.” He continued:

There is no greater contradiction between what the state says and claims about itself and the reality on the ground… The Egyptian state is schizophrenic because it says what it does not do…. It’s amazing and baffling to see a state who’s president regularly preaches about the need for religious discourse and renewal — and yet, during Sisi’s 18-19 month tenure, the nation has witnessed more reports, cases and convictions, and the imprisonment of writers, in the name of defamation religions than during the one year tenure of the Muslim Brotherhood president…. The [Sisi] revolution dropped the Brotherhood but kept the ideology unchanged.

Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (a Gatestone Institute and Regnery publication, April 2013).


[1] Although only now making English language media, this story was translated here in April 2015, soon after riots and attacks on Christians broke out when Muslims learned of the video.

The Bipartisan Enemy of the Good

secretary_kerry_with_president_al-sisi_july_2014Frontpage, by Caroline Glick, April 5, 2016:

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

On March 25, The New York Times published an editorial effectively calling for US President Barack Obama to abandon the US alliance with Egypt.

The Obama White House’s house paper urged the president to “reassess whether an alliance that has long been considered a cornerstone of American national security policy is doing more harm than good.” The editorial concluded that Obama must “start planning for the possibility of a break in the alliance with Egypt.”

The Times’ call was based on an open letter to Obama authored by a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts that call themselves the “Working Group on Egypt.” Citing human rights violations on the part of the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Working Group urged Obama to tie US financial and military assistance to Egypt to the protection of NGOs operating in Egypt.

The self-proclaimed bipartisan band of experts is co-chaired by Robert Kagan from the Brookings Institution and Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Among its prominent members are Elliott Abrams, Ellen Bork, Reuel Gerecht, Brian Katulis, Neil Hicks and Sarah Margon.

The Working Group has a history.

In January 2011, it called for Obama to force then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to resign from office. In so doing, it provided bipartisan cover for Obama’s decision to abandon the US’s most critical and dependable ally in the Arab world. Then, as now, the group’s esteemed experts argued that due to the regime’s infringement of human rights, the US could not in good conscience support it. Back in 2011, Israelis found a rare wall-to-wall unanimity of purpose in vocally and forcefully defending Mubarak from his American detractors. From the far Left to the far Right, from the IDF General Staff to the street, Israelis warned anyone who would listen that if Mubarak were forced out of power, the Muslim Brotherhood would take over and transform Egypt into a jihadist state.

Due in large part to the presence of senior Republican foreign policy hands on the Working Group, by and large Israel’s warnings were ignored in Washington. Facing the unusual Israeli consensus backing Mubarak was an American consensus insisting that “democracy” would ensure that a new liberal democratic Egypt would emerge out the ashes of the Mubarak regime.

The Americans chided us for repeating over and over again that the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of al-Qaida, Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad and every other major Sunni jihadist terrorist group around at the time, was a terrorist group.

We were attacked as “anti-democratic,” for insisting that the Facebook posters and twitterers on Twitter were in no position to replace Mubarak.

Who were we, the Americans scoffed, to point out that the “Facebook revolutionaries” were but a flimsy veneer which barely hid the Islamists from willfully blind Western officials and reporters who refused to admit that liberal values are not universal values – to put it mildly.

In the ensuing five years, every single warning that Israel expressed was borne out in spades.

Just as we said, right after Mubarak was forced from power, the Islamists unceremoniously dispatched with the Facebook crowd. The two million Islamists who converged on Tahrir Square to hear Sheikh Yussuf Qaradawi call for jihad and the Islamic conquest of Israel weren’t interested in democracy.

The women and Christians of Egypt soon realized, Mubarak’s overthrow, which paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood electoral victories in 2012, did not expand their rights, it endangered their lives. As for the hapless Americans, immediately after Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi was inaugurated to serve as president of Egypt, the government began demanding that the US release from prison Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. The US embassy in Cairo was the target of jihadist riots on September 11, 2012.

Then, since Morsi was elected democratically, none of this was any sweat off the back of Washington’s Egypt experts. They supported sending F-16s to his air force even after he hosted then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Cairo, let Iranian warships traverse the Suez Canal and became a strategic ally of Hamas. They also supported his government, even though he enabled Libyan arms to flow through Egypt to Syria, transforming the war in Syria from a local dispute into the incubator for Islamic State – the precursor of which Morsi also gave a free hand to operate in the Sinai, in conjunction with Hamas.

The Americans didn’t reconsider their belief that Morsi was the guy for them, even after he allowed his Muslim Brothers to torch Coptic churches and massacre Christians. They didn’t revisit their support for the Muslim Brotherhood government even after Morsi arrogated to himself dictatorial powers that even Mubarak never dreamed of.

Perhaps if Morsi had been a responsible economic leader, and maintained the liberalization policies Mubarak enacted during his last five years in power, then defense minister Abdel Fatah Sisi wouldn’t have felt the need to remove him from power. After all, Morsi appointed Sisi to his position.

But in addition to ending even lip service to human rights, Morsi gutted the economy. By the time the military overthrew Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the summer of 2013, Egypt had a mere $5 billion in reserves, and according to the World Health Organization, a quarter of Egyptians were starving.

So had the Muslim Brotherhood remained in power, Egypt would not have remained a democracy.

It would have become a jihadist state as dangerous as Iran, with the economic prospects of North Korea.

In other words, five years ago, there was no chance that a post-Mubarak Egypt would become a liberal democracy. There were only two options – a US-allied tyranny that fought jihad and maintained the peace with Israel, or a jihad state, aligned with Iran, that posed an existential threat to Israel, Jordan, the US and the international economy.

Those are still the choices today, but the stakes are even higher. Due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s year in power, the jihadist elements that gathered force in the Sinai over the past 20 years were able to organize as a more or less unified force, under the rule of Islamic State (ISIS), and in strategic alliance with Hamas. Like ISIS in Syria, ISIS in Egypt is an aggressive, dangerous group that stops at nothing to achieve its aims of expanding the ISIS empire.

The war it now fights against the Egyptian state is a total war.

To his credit, Sisi recognizes the nature of the threat and has taken steps to counter jihad that Mubarak never contemplated. The Egyptian leader recognizes that to defeat ISIS nothing less than a reformation of Islam is required. And so, in addition to fighting ISIS with everything he has, he is risking everything by taking on the jihadist belief system.

Sisi has mobilized the clerics at Al-Azhar seminary to develop an Islamic narrative that rejects jihad.

Sisi risks everything because everything is already at risk. If ISIS wins, Egypt is finished.

To win this war, he has publicly embraced Israel as an ally. He has openly sided with Israel against Hamas. Unlike Mubarak, Sisi has been fully willing to acknowledge that just because Hamas’s primary victims are Jews doesn’t mean that it isn’t a terrorist group that has to be destroyed.

Without putting too fine a point on in, for his fearless fight to the death with the forces of jihad – both in the mosque and on the battlefield – Sisi has already entered the pantheon, alongside Winston Churchill, of word historical figures. And yet, rather than embrace him and support him in his fight for Egypt and humanity, the same “experts” who called for Mubarak to be overthrown now urge Obama to abandon Sisi.

It is depressing that there is no magic bullet – like democracy – for the pathologies that afflict the Islamic world. But there is no magic bullet. And there are no easy choices for people who refuse to recognize that the natural state of man is neither liberal nor democratic.

But it is hard to accept the credibility of those who refuse to learn from their mistakes. It is harder still as well to listen to the “moral calls” of those who refuse to accept that because their past advice was heeded, thousands have died, and if their current calls are heeded, millions of lives will be imperiled.

Also see:

Muslim Brotherhood Defenders: ‘We’re Calling For Jihad Because Of Oppression’ [VIDEO]

Screen-Shot-2016-03-18-at-3.33.09-PM-e1458333877804Daily Caller, by Kerry Picket, March 18, 2016: (go to the link for video)

WASHINGTON — An Islamist organization sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood defended the Brotherhood’s mission of “uncompromising jihad.”

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy hosted a press conference Thursday afternoon at the National Press Club, in an effort to stifle legislation sponsored by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Panelists specifically criticized Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who took the country’s presidency following a 2013 coup of Egypt’s then-Muslim Brotherhood government.

Radwan Masmoudi, a panelist at the conference, insisted to The Daily Caller the necessity of “uncompromising jihad” saying that not all jihad is violent.

“I think we need uncompromising jihad against all terrorist regimes in the Arab world. Jihad is not just violence.  This is another miscommunication or misunderstanding. Jihad is struggle. That’s the correct interpretation for jihad in the Arab world language,” Masmoudi said. “Look it up in the dictionary. Jihad is struggle. It could be violent. It could be peaceful. It could be many forms of jihad. And, yes, we’re calling for jihad, because of oppression — not just in Egypt but everywhere. Jihad is non-violent. Jihad is peaceful resistance…”

Fellow panelist Nader Hashemi took offense to TheDC’s question. He responded, “You seem to be only interested in one form of terrorism — one group’s education of terrorism. You mention 2015 — the website from the Muslim Brotherhood. Do you know what’s been happening in Egypt since the coup up to 2015? I just quoted from the Human Rights Watch report. It described General al-Sisi’s coming to power in an orgy of violence as a ‘likely crime against humanity.’ That’s far worse than terrorism. Are you willing to condemn that? I don’t think so, because I don’t think you’re really interested in questioning terrorism.”

Angrily, he added, “You’re interested in defending an ideological position. You have every right to do so. You have the First Amendment, but I just don’t take your question seriously if you’re going to frame it in such a narrow way. And trying to condemn the Muslim Brotherhood in 2015 for what they put up on their website, while not talking about or acknowledging what happened and what is happening over the last 2 ½ years in Egypt, which human rights watch wrote is a likely crime against humanity and possibly the biggest killing of civilians in human history. That’s Human Rights Watch’s characterization of General Al Si Si’s rise to power. Unless you acknowledge that I cannot take your question seriously.”

Counter-terrorism expert Patrick Poole calls Hashemi’s and Masmoudi’s defense of the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission of jihad laughable.

“When the MB called for ‘uncompromising jihad in the way of martyrdom’ they weren’t talking about yoga classes and self-improvement. For them to claim that the Jan 2015 call is anything but a call to violence is fundamentally dishonest. The statement published last May by the Muslim Brotherhood clerics un-mistakenly authorized retribution against politicians, judges, security officials and supportive media personnel in Egypt. To interpret that as anything but a call for violence is equally dishonest,” Poole told TheDC in a statement.

Poole notes that Hashemi’s comments regarding jihad against the Egyptian state “is nothing short of a restatement of the violent takfiri doctrine established by Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb in his book, ‘Milestones,’ that the MB apologists are now trying to say they reject.”

Qutb, a late Egyptian fundamentalist scholar, is known as the man who helped inspire 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to ideas on jihad.

“This is precisely the doctrine that the 9/11 Commission report identified as inspiring Al-Qaeda’s worldview authorizing violence against Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” said Poole. “We see here that it doesn’t take much for them to drop their mask of moderation and return to their roots of the tactical use of terror, which is exactly why Cruz is right that they should be designated.”

Masmoudi also argued earlier that despite Muslim Brotherhood affiliate organizations from various countries being determined as engaging in or supporting terrorism by the U.S. government, the Brotherhood at large does not condone violence.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is an international movement and maybe school of thought.  These groups are not organized or linked in any direct way.  They’re mostly — they started fifty years ago as members of the Muslim Brotherhood whether in Kuwait or Palestine or Morocco or in Tunisia. Since then, they’re independent Islamic movements,” Masmoudi said.

He added, “Now some of them like Hamas or others may have joined or committed terrorist activities or acts but to come and say that all Muslim Brotherhood — all groups that are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, that this school of thought, from Morocco to Jordan to Egypt to everywhere, this is not very untrue, because the people that are involved are very small in number compared to the majority.”

“In Egypt—the Muslim Brotherhood has an official position of denouncing violence. It’s clear. You can read all of their statements. Their official position is they’ve never advocated violence. They’ve never encouraged their [supporters] to violence. In fact, they always condemn violence. Now its possible that some of their members, especially younger members and younger generations after the coup were involved in activities or terrorist activities or violence or whatever,” he said.

Poole called Masmoudi’s claim that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has never engaged in violence as false.

“During the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, the MB in Egypt operated a terror cell called the ‘secret apparatus’ that killed foreigners, judges, and eventually the Prime Minister. That’s what prompted Nasser to crack down on them in 1954. Even the New York Times back then reported on their terrorist activity. The MB there has essentially returned to those days,” Poole said.

Gates: Obama Went Against ‘Entire National Security Team’ on Egypt Coup

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Washington Free Beacon, by Aaron Kleigman, March 17, 2016:

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Fox News that President Barack Obama ignored the advice of his “entire national security team” during the Egyptian coup in 2011 that ousted Hosni Mubarak, the country’s former president.

Gates made his comments to Fox News’ Bret Baier during an interview for the network’s upcoming special, “Rising Threats – Shrinking Military,” and the preview clip can be seen on The Blaze’s website.

Gates, who headed the Pentagon during the Egyptian coup, lamented that, while he and the rest of the president’s national security experts advised Obama to handle the situation in Egypt cautiously, the president chose to listen to three junior officials instead and called for Mubarak’s immediate ouster.

“Literally the entire national security team recommended unanimously handling Mubarak differently than we did,” Gates said. “And the president took the advice of three junior backbenchers in terms of how to treat Mubarak.”

The former Pentagon chief also described how the analysis of the three “backbenchers” was based on lofty idealism rather than facts on the ground.

“One of them [said], ‘Mr. President, you got to be on the right side of history,’” Gates explained before adding with a smile, “And I would be sitting there at the table and I would be saying, ‘Yeah, if we could just figure that out, we’d be a long way ahead.’”

Baier noted that when it became clear Mubarak could not stay in power and the Egyptian military “urged caution,” Obama “pushed for his immediate removal.”

Egypt became swept up by the popular protests of the Arab Spring in 2011, with massive crowds pouring into Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest the rule of long-time president Mubarak, who many thought to be an authoritarian ruler. Some Egypt observers, however, argued Mubarak’s rule was not as oppressive as those of other leaders in the region.

Mubarak was an important strategic ally for the United States, according to analysts, who point out that he granted U.S. warships priority access to the important Suez Canal, granted unrestricted flights to American military aircraft, and maintained peace with Israel.

Gates and most of the National Security Council thought Obama should not abandon such an ally right away and look into other resolutions to avoid any destabilization, but Obama, along with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting, thought his ouster could make room for a more democratic government.

The president supported the protestors and forced Mubarak out of power, causing the Muslim Brotherhood to soon take control of the country with Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian people and military in 2013, one year after he was democratically elected to office, for trying to centralize power completely under him and the Brotherhood.

One consequence of Obama’s push for Mubarak to step down is that it alienated Washington’s other primary Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, which had a good relationship with the Egyptian leader and saw the speed with which America was willing to dispose of him as a betrayal of sorts.

This is not the first time Gates has criticized his former boss for failing to listen to his advisers.

Earlier this year on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Gates said that Obama always believes he is the smartest guy in the room and has trouble developing and implementing strategy.

“You know, the president is quoted as having said at one point to his staff, ‘I can do every one of your jobs better than you can,’” Gates told the Morning Joe panel. He then added, “One of the greatest weaknesses of the [Obama] White House is implementation of strategy, is difficulty in developing strategy and then implementing that strategy.”

Gates has served eight U.S. presidents in a variety of senior national security roles, including as secretary of defense for both Obama and George W. Bush, as well as the director of central intelligence in the early 1990s.

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Assassinated Prosecutor

unnamed (3)Counter Jihad, March 9, 2016:

Amid an American Congressional debate about whether or not to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, Egyptian security has declared that Brotherhood agents carried out the assassination-by-car-bomb of Egypt’s public prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.  The Brotherhood certainly had the motive:  as prosecutor, Barakat froze much of their public financing and pursued charges against Brotherhood members aggressively for their role in attempting to throw out Egypt’s constitution and replace it with sharia law following their ascension to power in the wake of the Arab Spring.  Eight others were injured in the fatal bombing that claimed his life.

Egypt has made six arrests in the case, and has televised the confessions of the Brotherhood members, who are thought to have sought aid from the terrorist organization Hamas in carrying out the attack.  Hamas itself was formerly a Palestinian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Al-Arabiya news reports:

A video of their confessions was shown at the conference. According to Egyptian newspaper Youm7, the terrorist cell consisted of 48 members.  Fourteen members, most of whom graduated from Al-Azhar, participated in the assassination….   The organization is no stranger to this kind of terrorism, starting from the assassination of Judge Ahmad al-Khazindar during the reign of King Faruq.

Hamas is also an expert in special operations of that kind, specifically in Egypt, where it worked with Lebanese movement Hezbollah to exploit the country’s uprising and security the day President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, when prisons were stormed and prisoners escaped.

The involvement of Palestinian Islamist extremists has proved to be a constant element in the most infamous terrorist operations in Egypt, starting from the days of Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna.

Hamas denied involvement in a statement to the New York Times.  Western academics played down the likelihood of the Brotherhood being involved.   “Many analysts speculate the most likely culprits behind the assassination were rogue pro-MB [Muslim Brotherhood] elements—but that doesn’t mean the Egyptian Ministry of Interior’s latest release will be taken particularly seriously,” says H.A. Hellyer.  Hamas itself was also long described as a rogue, breakaway faction of the Brotherhood.  Academic analysts aside, it may be time to question whether the violent terrorism that “rogue, pro-Brotherhood” factions bring to bear is really “rogue” at all.

Even the most pro-Brotherhood academics are forced to admit that the Brotherhood’s claim to be a “firewall” against violence is badly damaged by the events since the Arab Spring.  Marc Lynch, a political scientist attempting such a defense, admits that the Brotherhood took up arms in an attempt to seize power in Egypt but, he says, so did “virtually everyone else.”  He also admits that “[a]ll three of the key mechanisms by which the firewall operated have now dramatically eroded.”

Like many American academics, Lynch favors rebuilding and reinforcing the Brotherhood so that it can play a renewed “firewall” role against violence in the Islamic World.  The Egyptian government begs to differ on the wisdom of that move.  These trials may shed some light on which claim is correct.

Also see:

Totalitarian Roots of Global Jihad

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The Gorka Briefing, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, March 7, 2016:

The totalitarian roots of the global jihad movement reach back to the Muslim Brotherhood and an ideology that expresses itself in different ways, most currently ISIS. While at CPAC, I did an interview with Secure Freedom Radio on the many facets of jihad, the subversive activity of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Explanatory Memorandum, and Egypt’s case study in Islamic leadership.

Also see:

U.S. Conditions IS Libya Fight on Unity Government

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) hold a bilateral meeting before a summit regarding Islamic State with the foreign ministers of 23 countries from Europe, the West and the region, as well as by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on February 2, 2016 in Rome. Reuters/Nicholas Kamm/Pool

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) hold a bilateral meeting before a summit regarding Islamic State with the foreign ministers of 23 countries from Europe, the West and the region, as well as by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on February 2, 2016 in Rome. Reuters/Nicholas Kamm/Pool

CSP, by Kevin Samolsky, Feb. 2, 2016:

February 2, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry met with officials from 23 nations in Rome to discuss combating IS. Secretary Kerry addressed his growing concerns of the Islamic State’s (IS) presence in Libya especially. The growing fear is that the terrorist organization will take advantage of the lack of stability to control oil fields to further finance its operations.

Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed ousting of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. The Libyan government is currently split between an internationally recognized government in Tobruk, the General National Congress (GNC), and an unofficial government in Tripoli led by the Islamist Libya Dawn faction. Libya Dawn was able to force the GNC out of the Tripoli in 2014, and the international community has been working ever since to unite the two governments.

Libya Dawn and the GNC signed a UN-brokered agreement to unify the government last December. However, it is unclear what Libya Dawn hopes to get out of the agreement, as it was their decision to attempt to seize power following election losses that led to the current fissure.

While the Libya Dawn government may claim they want to end hostilities and unite the government, it’s likely just a play to regain power.

Libya Dawn is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the enemy of the El-Sisi government in Egypt. This had led to the decision by Cairo to fully back the GNC and openly opposed any agreement that would return the Islamists to legitimate political power. Egypt has been the driving force behind Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s anti-Islamist “Operation Dignity” campaign which has seen battlefield gains against the Islamist factions.

IS has become a growing concern to North African nations. The Free Fire Blog recently discussed the growing connections between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and IS’s growing trade network with Hamas in Gaza. In Libya, IS has taken control of Sirte, a city that links east and west of Libya, and has launched numerous attacks around the country.

International Business Times reported last year of IS threatening to wage war on Libya Dawn, but those hostilities may subside while both sides are being targeted by Egyptian and UAE airstrikes.

Breitbart News reports on troubling news of possible cooperation  between IS, Al Qaeda (AQ), and the Muslim Brotherhood within Libya. This merger would threaten any chance Libya has at stability, and if the Brotherhood were to take over, it would further threaten the neighboring government of Egypt.

Libya’s hopes for stability are quickly fading, and the Obama Administration may be apart of the blame. The Obama Administration allowed for weapon shipments to be sent to armed rebel groups during the uprising against Qaddafi. Some of these weapons fell in the hands of jihadist groups which allowed them to fight for control of Libya once Qaddafi was killed.

While the U.S. initially armed rebel groups, it has taken a step back from Libya. Instead, the Obama Administration has harshly criticized those who take part in Libya’s issues through violence, especially the UAE and Egypt. It seems ironic for the Administration to criticize others for trying to stop terrorism when they were the ones who facilitated it.

Libya’s stability is crucial against the fight against terrorism. Terrorists have beensmuggling fighters through Libya to Europe and Syria. Libya is also an important connector between Islamic State’s home base in Syria and it’s efforts in West Africa. Without a stable government to prevent this, it will continue to threaten the stability of the region.

While Secretary Kerry may be worried about IS in Libya, there must be a greater focus on the wider Islamist threat to the country. The Muslim Brotherhood poses just as large a threat to Libyan stability as IS, and if they are given any political legitimacy it will only serve to expand jihadist activity in the country. Despite the Obama Administration’s insistence to the contrary, a GNC victory over Libyan Dawn would have a better impact on security than enforcing upon Libya a unity government that neither side really wants.

Keane: Saudis Don’t Believe Obama Admin Would Defend Them in Conflict with Iran

Washington Free Beacon, by Aaron Kliegman, Jan. 5, 2015:

Gen. Jack Keane said on Tuesday that Saudi officials have told him they believe the United States under the Obama administration would not defend Saudi Arabia if it came into conflict with Iran and are waiting for a new American president to take office.

Keane, who is a former Vice Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army, told Fox News host Bill Hemmer that the Iran nuclear deal and American disengagement from the Middle East, among other factors, have all contributed to the perception in Riyadh that Washington is trying to create a new strategic partnership with Iran at the expense of Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the region.

“I can tell you for a fact because I’ve spoken to Saudi officials, they believe that the United States during this [Obama] administration … would not defend them if they got into a conflict,” Keane said. “And that’s a fact. They are waiting for this administration to go.”

Keane made this statement while analyzing the ongoing Saudi-Iranian feud that has reached new heights after Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, which was extended the next day to include all flights and trade.

These moves were triggered when Iranian protestors attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday, which was in response to the Saudi government executing a prominent Shiite cleric who had been calling for a new regime in Riyadh. Events of the past few days escalated the ongoing competition between the two Middle Eastern powers for geopolitical influence, a rivalry fueled in part by strong ethnic and religious differences.

sunni-shiaIran is a mostly Persian, Shiite country while Saudi Arabia is Arab and sees itself as the vanguard of Sunni Islam.

But the dispute goes beyond these factors, according to Keane. He argued on Fox News that seeing the Saudi-Iranian spat as simply a Sunni versus Shia conflict is a “superficial understanding of what’s taking place.”

“This is Iran seeking regional domination,” Keane continued. “They have control and influence over four countries already – that’s Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. And they are seeking to undermine the Sunni Arab countries in the region.”

Keane believes the “accelerant” for this increasingly tense strategic environment has been the nuclear deal struck this summer between the United States, along with five other world powers, and Iran.

“That has been done at the expense of our Arab allies in the region.”

Keane added that the Obama administration’s “overall policy of disengagement from the region” has led to the Saudis’ alienation with the United States, “which began politically with Iraq in 2009, militarily in 2011, and one thing after another. Not dealing with the Syrian issue early on in 2012, when his national security team had recommended arming and training the Syrian rebels, not responding to the chemical [red] line that was crossed over by [Syrian president] Assad’s regime.”

Analysts have also cited the lack of U.S. action in supporting former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak when he was ousted from power in 2011 as an important turning point in the downturn in relations between Riyadh and Washington. Mubarak was close to the Saudi government, and Saudi leaders were furious with the Obama administration over its handling of the Arab Spring in Egypt. Mubarak was also a strategic ally of the United States.

Beyond American policy, Keane told Hemmer that the other important cause of growing Saudi aggression to counter Iranian expansion is the new leadership in Riyadh.

The general described how Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who came to power in January of 2015, and his son and deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, who is also Minister of Defense and rose to prominence after his father took the throne, have both taken a more aggressive posture toward Iran.

“That is why military action has taken place in Yemen against the Iranians. They were willing to push back very aggressively to do that.”

Keane added that Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to form a 34-nation coalition to fight terrorism is also the result of the Saudi leaders’ outlook on the region.

Nonie Darwish: Egypt At A Crossroads

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Atlas Shrugs, by Nonie Darwish, Jan. 4, 2016:

The cards are stacked against Islamic reformers in 2016. Even the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is encouraging a reformation in Islamic education and preaching, is currently facing a strong movement of discontent from Al Azhar’s Islamic leadership.

It is against the grain of Islam for Muslims to self-criticize, and those who do must constantly apologize and emphasize that they are not speaking about Islam the religion, but are speaking about the interpretation. This is because those who call for any reformation are automatically accused of apostasy by Muslim leadership. Islam resists and refuses to focus on self-criticism or internal analysis in its preaching to its followers. Only one form of criticism is allowed in Islam, and that is the one directed against the non-Muslim outside world. That has always been the common form of preaching in Islam.

Not only Muslim preachers, but also Muslim political leaders, are expected to give fiery speeches against the outside world, but never against internal causes of trouble, especially if they’re related to Islam or Sharia.

Al-Sisi is the first Muslim leader in recent history who openly speaks of the need for a reformation in Islamic education. That makes him a new kind of Muslim leader, and unquestionably an exceptional and courageous one.

A year ago, Al-Sisi spoke before the leadership of the highest Islamic Sunni institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, and challenged the clerics to take the lead in an effort to examine their own teachings and source materials for interpreting Islam. He emphasized he was not critiquing the religion (of Islam) but the need for a “religious revolution” in the thinking that is “antagonizing the entire world.” Again, just a couple of weeks ago on December 22, al-Sisi reiterated his appeal to Islamic leaders to modernize and promote “changes in approach” for the sake of peaceful coexistence with all races and religions.

Even though Al-Sisi is widely popular among the majority of Egyptians who are fed up with the impact of political Islam on Egyptian society, there are forces of insurgency coming from Al-Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is far from being a dead movement in Egypt.

Egypt is at a crossroads, and the efforts to keep Egypt moderate are being constantly challenged from all directions: radical Muslim groups from inside Egypt, the impact of ISIS in the Sinai, the instability and terror on the border with Hamas in Gaza and the terror challenge on Egypt’s Western border with Libya. Even the Southern border of Egypt is not free of turmoil coming from the Islamic State of The Sudan.

Even though the West and the so-called “moderate” Muslims are hopeful for an Islamic reformation movement coming out of the Middle East, the prospects are grim. Reformists are being strangled from all directions, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which was condemned as an illegal terrorist organization by the Egyptian government, is getting stronger globally with global headquarters, not in Saudi Arabia, but in London and Istanbul.

Worst of all is the Obama administration’s refusal to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, have given it acceptance and even respectability at the international level and also inside the Middle East.

The weak state of Egypt’s economy and its shrinking income from tourism after several terror attacks on tourists in the Sinai are additional factors making it difficult for Al-Sisi’s reformation plans to succeed.

The stunning and rapid success of ISIS, its successful terrorism on the West, the sleeper cells in Europe and the US, Obama’s withdrawal from the Middle East, and his reluctance to fight ISIS, all are additional factors in favor of ISIS winning the Middle East. The same factors are working against the political stability of Egypt, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia, which just recently beheaded a Shiite cleric, together with a total of 47 Shiite protesters.

The year 2016 is the last year for the Obama administration, and Islam jihadists know that their golden opportunity to run wild and form a lasting Islamic State in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East will probably end with Obama’s term in office. We are looking at a very rocky 2016.

AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish is the author “The Devil We Don’t Know” and president of “Former Muslims United,” a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Al Azhar and ISIS: Cause and Effect

al-azharBy Raymond Ibrahim, Nov. 18, 2015:

After being asked why Al Azhar, which is in the habit of denouncing secular thinkers as un-Islamic, refuses to denounce the Islamic State as un-Islamic, Sheikh Nasr said:

It can’t [condemn the Islamic State as un-Islamic].  The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar’s programs.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?  Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world [to establish it].  Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate.  Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc.  Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extracting tribute from religious minorities].  Al Azhar teaches stoning people.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?

Nasr joins a growing chorus of critics of Al Azhar.  Last September, while discussing how the Islamic State burns some of its victims alive—most notoriously, a Jordanian pilot—Egyptian journalist Yusuf al-Husayni remarked on his satellite program that “The Islamic State is only doing what Al Azhar teaches… and the simplest example is Ibn Kathir’s Beginning and End.”

Ibn Kathir is one of Sunni Islam’s most renowned scholars; his Beginning and End is a magisterial history of Islam and a staple at Al Azhar.  It is also full of Muslims, beginning with Muhammad, committing the sorts of atrocities that the Islamic State and other Islamic organizations and persons commit.

In February, Egyptian political writer Dr. Khalid al-Montaser revealed that Al Azhar wasencouraging enmity for non-Muslims, specifically Coptic Christians, and even inciting for their murder.  Marveled Montaser:

Is it possible at this sensitive time — when murderous terrorists rest on texts and understandings of takfir [accusing Muslims of apostasy], murder, slaughter, and beheading — that Al Azhar magazine is offering free of charge a book whose latter half and every page — indeed every few lines — ends with “whoever disbelieves [non-Muslims] strike off his head”?

The prestigious Islamic university—which co-hosted U.S. President Obama’s 2009 “A New Beginning” speech—has even issued a free booklet dedicated to proving that Christianity is a “failed religion.”

In short, the phenomenon known as “ISIS” is not a temporal aberration within Islam but rather a byproduct of what is considered normative thinking for Al Azhar—the Islamic world’s most authoritative university.

Also see: