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“Orient Tendencies”

STL against the media and sovereignty

| Beirut (Lebanon)
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Karma Mohamed Tahsin al Khayat, Al-Jadeed TV (New TV), as well as the parent chain, NEW TV SAL, Ibrahim Mohamed Al Amin, Al Akhbar, and the parent company of the newspaper, Al Akhbar Beirut SAL were summoned for revealing the name of STL’s "confidential witnesses" .

STL against the media and sovereignty

By Ghaleb Kandil

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), created to look into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, ordered Lebanese journalists Ibrahim al-Amine (al-Akhbar newspaper) and Karma Khayat (al-Jadeed TV channel) to appear on May 13 for contempt and obstruction of justice. The actions of this court, which lacks legitimacy and credibility, confirmed the suspicions surrounding it [1]. It is actually a tool of American hegemony and a pretext for Washington to intervene in Lebanese affairs.
Despite all the complaints against media leaks in the Western press about the work of the court, no serious investigation has been conducted by STL to determine the source of the leaks. CBS TV channel and the German weekly Der Spiegel had published detailed indictment, months before it was made public by the court. Resignations that have succeeded in the STL were linked to the leaks, but no explanation has been made. According to reliable information, circles related to U.S., Israeli and French intelligence are responsible for these leaks to serve political objectives.
Despite the severity of these leaks, the court did nothing. No Western journalists who published details of investigations and the contents of the indictment, was questioned or summoned. But the court did not hesitate to summon two Lebanese journalists to appear outside of Lebanon, ignoring the Lebanese justice, which is no more than an intermediary, responsible for transmitting the warrants and other requirements of international judges.
The court speaks of "transparency", "integrity " and "justice" when it talks about its work. That means it should be willing to share with the media information about its actions and decisions. If the STL had done nothing wrong, it should not fear that the headlamps are fixed on its work and provide clear answers to the public opinion that has many questions about its creation, its financing and operation. This necessarily requires the strengthening of freedom of expression in Lebanon and the role of the press. But by targeting the Lebanese press and freedom of expression, the tribunal proves its real goals are hidden and have nothing to do with the search for truth.
Lebanese media are subject to national laws. Any attempt to ignore this reality constitutes an affront to the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and an attempt to impose a precedent for converting the STL in a tutelary power over the Lebanese and their laws.
Before and during the creation process of the court, all institutions and archives of Lebanon were available to international investigators who scoured the country under the pretext of wanting to unmask the killers of Rafik Hariri and the authors of other crimes Lebanon since 2005 (the 1500 Lebanese civilians victims of the July-August war in 2006, massacred by the Israeli army, did not deserve, in the eyes of the international community, an inquiry!).
These investigators violated hundreds of times Lebanese sovereignty to prepare an indictment responding to political considerations and not justice. It quickly became clear that the work of these investigators sought to prepare the Israeli aggression of 2006. But Israeli defeat caused the collapse of the entire project. However, the court was kept as a reserve tool which can be salvaged and reused. Today, its main mission seems to be chasing all those who dare criticize its action.
The most serious is that the Lebanese political authorities do not respond to abuses against freedom of expression. The March-14 movement, who landed all those years as a defender of freedom, swallowed his tongue, or outright supported the STL. However, large parts of Lebanese society refuse these actions and are ready to defend the country’s sovereignty to the end.

Statements

SAMIR GEAGEA, Lebanese Forces leader
«I will continue to run for the presidency until the end. My candidacy has nothing to do with Aoun. I will carry on whether Aoun is a candidate or not. Our ambition is to reach the presidency and implement our political program. To Mr. Jumblatt, I say: ’I have never doubted for a moment that you played a pivotal role in Lebanon’s history. You did not play that role for Lebanon to be as it is today, but to reach a serious nation or state’. It is very strange indeed that a number of years ago supposedly Lebanese courts ruled in favor of the execution of a person whose very name was repeated 48 times in parliament yesterday. The feeling that washed over me during the scene, when the victims’ names were put forward, was disgust and aversion; [to think] that a party that irresponsible and immoral would turn the occasion in that direction!»

BOUTROS HARB, Lebanese Telecoms Minister
«It would be dangerous to continue the policy of blocking the presidential elections. That stance could have negative consequences for the Lebanese state and political order in Lebanon. We must all appeal to the consciences of officials, and encourage them to work in the interests of Lebanon before working for their own interests.»

ALI FAYYAD, Hezbollah MP
«The next president must be friends with the resistance and must reflect the Lebanese people’s aspiration for consensus and abide by the content of the ministerial statement. He who objected the ministerial statement has no place on the president’s seat. We reject the provocative candidacy. We are destined to deal realistically and responsibly…and [abstain from] opting for nominations that are provocative to the feelings of a big part of the Lebanese people.»

GHAZI YOUSSEF, Future bloc MP
«There is no agreement between Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri and Aoun concerning the presidency. We will always be unified in our support for one candidate to represent us, and we will try to make him become president.»

KHALED ZAHRAMANE, Future bloc MP
«It seems that things have not changed which means that we are headed next Wednesday toward a session without quorum. There is an external factor regarding the presidential election, whose the effect is significantly bigger than that of the internal factor in [the light of] the situation we are currently going through. Lebanese heads of state have always been consensual presidents. Lebanon is not a democratic country like Western ones; it is a consensus country.»

Events

• Seven Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers and two civilians were wounded in Tripoli by a hand grenade that targeted an army patrol on Saturday. Omar al-Hakim threw the grenade at the patrol as the army was carrying out raids in Tripoli’s Bab al-Tebbaneh to arrest wanted men, the army said in a statement. The assault resulted in the slight injuring of two officers, five soldiers and two citizens. The LAF later managed to apprehend the perpetrator in the Al-Zahiriyyeh neighborhood and seized a weapon that was in his possession. On April 1, Lebanese army and security forces began implementing a security plan to end violent clashes between Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhoods, as well as other areas of the country, after the cabinet approved security measures drawn up by the country’s Higher Defense Council.

• Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghadanfar Roken Abadi voiced his country’s support for a consensual president to be elected as Lebanon’s new head of state. “The most suitable option [for the presidential election] is that the president be chosen by all the Lebanese,” Abadi said on Thursday following his meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani at Dar al-Fatwa. “Iran… insists on further rapprochement between all [parties],” the Iranian envoy added.

•  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced on Thursday his country’s support for the Lebanese army and security forces. Following a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, Lavrov said that Russia would offer its contribution to the international community in order to strengthen the army and the state institutions. Lavrov also tackled the Lebanese presidential elections and said that it was a purely Lebanese affair. “Russia does not have any preferences concerning the presidential elections,” he said. In turn, Bassil said that Russia had a major role in contributing to stability in Lebanon and the Middle East region. He also said that Lebanese and Russia should cooperate regarding the oil field in Lebanon and the Syrian refugees issue.

Press Review

AS SAFIR (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO MARCH-8 COALITION)
(APRIL 26, 2014)
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt called on Future Movement leader Saad Hariri to end his self-imposed exile and return to Lebanon to lead a new cabinet after the presidential elections are over. “[Hariri should] return to Lebanon today [not] tomorrow because there is no longer any justification for [his] absence,” Jumblatt told As-Safir. “I am for [Hariri] returning and heading an all-inclusive government [after a new president is elected.] That way we would relieve ourselves and the country of a great deal of deadlock and unrest.”
Jumblatt told As-Safir that he would continue his sponsorship of parliamentarian Henri Helou for the presidency, saying that the best thing for the country and all parties is to avoid a power vacuum by electing a new president before current president Michel Suleiman’s term ends on April 25.
Helou took just 16 out of 128 votes in the electoral session, while Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea took 48 and Kataeb Party Leader Amine Gemayel took 1. The remaining 52 blank votes were cast as well.

AS SAFIR (APRIL 25, 2014)
Speaker Nabih Berri said that all those who wish to run for the presidential election should announce their candidacy. “I am eager for more announced candidates to push the presidential election forward,” Berri told As-Safir. The speaker also denied that he discussed the election with any foreign ambassador or delegation. He also said that he would keep calling the parliament to convene until it elects a president.

AS SAFIR (APRIL 25, 2014)
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri said that his country did not intervene in the presidential election in Lebanon. “We do not intervene in the presidential election or in any other Lebanese affair,” Assiri told As-Safir. “Never have we nominated nor will we [ever] nominate any candidate for the presidential election. This is a clear stance that will never be changed,” he added.

AL JOUMHOURIA (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO MARCH-14 COALITION)
(APRIL 26, 2014)
Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Walid Succariyeh said in remarks published Thursday that if Lebanese parties did not agree on one consensual candidate for the presidency, then the upcoming sessions might be boycotted. “In case no consensual candidate was suggested for presidency, then all possibilities will be open, and the scenario of [boycotting the second round of elections] might be repeated,” Succariyeh told Al-Joumhouria.
Succariyeh also said that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea imposed himself as a candidate for the presidential election. “The March 14 supported Geagea to prevent the collapse of their coalition, but the others do not want him, this is why he only got 48 votes,” he said.

AL AKHBAR (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO THE LEBANESE RESISTANCE)
IBRAHIM AL-AMINE (APRIL 25, 2014)
What happened was expected, but it is not because of our ability to predict the actions of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) or because we have undercover agents that have penetrated it. What was warned about nine years ago continues to occur, and with growing intensity.
It is only logical for the STL’s arbitrary measures to grow into direct repression of those who inquire about its activities. Years of constant stalling were not enough. Millions of dollars were spent, half of which came from the pockets of Lebanese citizens who suffer from poverty and destitution. Today, the STL decided it wants to expand its power and force us to remain silent about the atrocities committed.
The court president’s announcement of the indictment of Al-Akhbar and New TV yesterday was not coincidental. Those who support the court say the aim was to uncover the truth behind the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and punish its perpetrators. But the decision was published 24 hours after the same political team, in Lebanon and abroad, tried to exonerate Samir Geagea, the killer of former Prime Minister Rachid Karami, by choosing him as president of Lebanon.
The STL’s accusations and summons are also not coincidental. They come as we face accusations by the same Lebanese authorities who support the tribunal, from the president, to the justice minister, to the assassin of the prime minister of Lebanon, to the son of the prime minister for whom the court was set up. They have been going after Al-Akhbar for many years, attempting to drown it in litigation and intimidation campaigns in the advertising market, with the collusion of polling agencies. All their intentions were aimed at stopping Al-Akhbar from growing, and it is exactly what their puppet masters the Saudis have done by blocking Al-Akhbar’s website.
It is not by chance that this occurred simultaneously with the representative of the Israeli enemy to the tripartite committee (the Lebanese army, UNIFIL, and Israel) announcing that his government filed a complaint at the UN Security Council against Lebanon for violating Resolution 1701. It was based on "Hezbollah’s man and journalist Ibrahim al-Amin," publishing articles confirming the violation. This was preceded by Israel’s delegate to the UN presenting documents to the Security Council accusing Lebanon of violating the resolution, based on Al-Akhbar, which she accuses of being a Hezbollah "organ."
It is not by accident the decision was announced as the president and the justice minister are trying to sidestep the Court of Publications and refer Al-Akhbar to a criminal court, with the intention of handing down jail sentences.
Now the STL says it wants to replace the flailing Lebanese judiciary with the highest international standards. It then calls for jailing journalists for a crime that Lebanon no longer recognizes, as is the case with most respectable countries.
Even more, this court is not merely intimidating journalists. Today it wants to intimidate the whole commercial sector behind the media industry. Taking legal action against juridical persons – a precedent in international courts – is another indication of an attempt by decision-makers and those who support them politically and legally to undermine commercial establishments like New TV S.A.L. and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L.. The STL is trying to intimidate establishments, and their current and future owners and shareholders. This arbitrariness might even lead the STL to criminalize all commercial and legal relations with the two companies.
The direct functional aim of the decision is to allow the STL to practice the worst kind of clamp down against the media in preparation for issuing arbitrary rulings. By taking this step, the political and legal team behind the tribunal’s establishment and financing is driven by the extreme weakness of the court’s work on the original case. Various facts were revealed; some were made public, some leaked, and others are still unpublished. They point to the general inadequacy of the indictment. The evidence they speak of is still based on technicalities and could be overturned, as was shown by telecommunications experts. It is also based on witnesses who remain hidden under the pretext of their protection. However, in the previous stages of the investigation, they had shown that they were pushed, for various reasons, to give testimonies closer to tales, hearsay, and exegesis.
It is clear, as it is to all legal experts, that the accusations levelled against us are an integral part of the political and legal prosecution team’s plan to hang a dark shroud over the whole issue. Lebanese citizens and the families of the victims, whether plaintiffs, defendants, or the audience, will not be informed of the details of STL’s work. It will all be concealed in the name of secrecy and the suppression happens in the name of violating the rules of confidentiality.
We have three problems with the court.
- First, it is rejected in principle and in its selectivity. The STL looks similar to the regime we suffer under, the system of prestige, where justice is a privilege for the powerful, while thousands are left to suffer from injustice. With all due respect to all the victims, it is not acceptable to hold a court for the powerful, providing it with all that is needed, while justice in Lebanon remains neglected and while victims remain deprived of any justice. The world needs to remind Lebanon of the seriousness of crimes against humanity and war crimes, not just the crimes committed against some influential figures.
- Second, it is rejected in its structure and the way it functions. The STL appropriated Lebanese citizens’ personal data, without any proportionality between the demands of the investigation and the desired outcome. It now wants to appropriate press freedoms, initiating its indictment by attacking a newspaper and a television station, who probably care the most about the affairs of citizens and other people in Lebanon. In this sense, it appears the court wants to expand and extend its tentacles into the lives of the Lebanese.
- Third, it is rejected for attempting to stifle any voice criticizing or reporting on its work. We know that some voices in Lebanon played down the politicization factors, claiming the Tribunal will be transparent. However, it began its work by attacking the press, sending a message that would undoubtedly create media taboos and self-censorship on anything related to the STL. It is enough to point out to citizens that this is the first time a juridical person is accused in an international court. Is there anything in the Tribunal or in the actions of Al-Akhbar and al-Jadeed, which warrants a precedent in international law going against all acts of jurisprudence and judicial systems?
Based on the aforementioned, our defense in the STL will be founded on challenging its legitimacy, in order to safeguard our understanding of justice and liberty.
Last but not least, we, in Al-Akhbar, are working on the legal aspect of the case and are in contact with those concerned with the issue. We will take a position related to the whole farce and hope for a practical stance from our colleagues, in Lebanon and abroad, and the mobilization of the Lebanese authorities to protect our individual rights and freedoms.
However, it is important to clarify one simple issue to avoid any confusion in the minds of those who participated in this crime and stood by it. Al-Akhbar published its first issue the day Lebanon and its resistance announced their victory in the devastating war launched by Israel in 2006. We had announced that we have been and will continue to be part and parcel of the resistance movement against all occupiers and every colonialism. We will keep standing by the rights of individuals to protect their humanity and prevent repression and tyranny. We always knew that we would pay a price for our positions.
Thus, we repeat that we are part of a resistance, which gives all the blood and lives needed for our unrestricted freedom. Being part of the resistance means we are fighting for justice. We will not be terrorized by indictments or subpoenas, whether in Lebanon or elsewhere. We will remain at the forefront of a confrontation with all types of arbitrary decisions, tyranny, and murder, be it by an occupier, biased authority, corrupt rule, or partial courts. These attempts will not scare us and all we can say to those fools at this moment is that our voices will haunt you, wherever you are. You will not silence us, neither with your courts nor through your crimes.

AL AKHBAR (APRIL 24, 2014)
SUHAIB ANJARANI
The village of Deir Foul is the last remaining gathering of Syrians of Dagestani descent. Prior to the crisis, the small village had a population of less than 2000. Most of them left, but the number remained the same. They were replaced by refugees from nearby villages and Homs. Today, the village has fallen under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and their brutal policies.
For decades, they have been living around the villages of Malta, Khafiya, Jissin, and Aidoun, east of Homs, and al-Naem, Douaier, and Khirkhir, west of the city, in addition to Deir Shmayel in al-Ghab plains and Deir Foul in Talbiseh. The eight villages had been cleared of their Dagestani residents years ago. Most of them fled to the big cities and some moved to Deir Foul, which they called Syria’s Dagestan. Since 1886, it had been populated by Dagestanis, a people from the northern Caucasus, and according to their descendants, they settled there on their way to Mecca with the permission of the Ottoman sultan. Others call it Syria’s Caucasus, due to intermarriage between its families and families from nearby Circassian villages.
The village’s strategic location seems have turned into a curse for its residents. It is 10 kilometers away from al-Rastan and close to Talbiseh, al-Zaafarana, and al-Saan in the Homs countryside and Silmieh in the Hama countryside. After losing most of its influence in Homs, ISIS used this as an excuse to take over the village. Its strategic location is also the reason behind al-Nusra Front and the Islamic Front’s diehard attempts to regain the territory from ISIS.
Getting to the village is not easy, but not impossible. Coordinating with the residents is indispensable, but it has to be with one of the refugees and not an original inhabitant. This makes it easier to claim kinship to a host with a good revolutionary reputation who regularly attends congregational prayers, which makes it more difficult to accuse him of lying.
As a precaution, it is also good to have a solid story for staying in the village such as "fleeing the infidel Alawite regime," or "yearning for a life under an Islamic state." Try to remember Quranic verses and the Prophet’s traditions as much as you can. Make sure you smell of mastic and not tobacco. To be more careful, look up information about the new jihadists. Listen to the latest declarations of [ISIS official spokesperson] Abu Mohammed al-Adnani and head to the village "under God’s protection." However, none of the aforementioned precautions will mean anything if one breaks one of ISIS’ rules, such as remaining in the street after the call for prayer. To avoid committing such a crime, do exactly as your host says.
The detailed information provided by Ahmed (a pseudonym) on the situation of the village ensured that I was not shocked by the scenes reminiscent of historical TV series. When it is prayer time, the (few) shops close and everyone rushes to the mosque behind ISIS fighters who bring their weapons inside. It is easy to notice the explosive belts some are wearing, which are not hidden and sometimes even flaunted. I feel we are being carefully watched. But Ahmed’s earlier warnings prevent me from turning around to verify this feeling. "Keep looking in front of you. It’s better to look down when walking. They are strict about the rule of averting one’s gaze." This piece of golden advice echoed in my mind all the way to the mosque, and even though the distance was short it felt endless.
We leave the mosque directly after prayers. It is time to go to Ahmed’s home to talk over a cup of tea, away from the gaze of ISIS. Ahmed reminisces about arriving to this forgotten village after being displaced from Homs. He speaks about the demonstrations where they said whatever they wanted and which "were not safe from the bullets coming from the checkpoint set up by the shabbiha at the village entrance at the time, in addition to some security raids."
By the end of 2012, the village saw a turning point. Gunmen from al-Farouq Brigade attacked the nearby headquarters of the air defense battalion and took over the village. "Since then, warplanes began launching repeated air raids," Ahmed explains. The village suffered repeated power and communications outages and scarcity of food items like in many Syrian regions.
However, the most dangerous turning point was four months ago, when ISIS fighters took control of the village. "They treated us well at first," he says. "Then, bit by bit, they started to subdue us, under the pretext of Islamic law."
"The time to err is over. By God, we will enforce the rule of Sharia even if by the sword." This sentence, from a fiery speech by an ISIS commander in the village, stuck in the minds of the residents. ISIS had declared their right to be imams and only their sheikhs were allowed to give sermons. The edicts came one by one: "flogging for anyone who missed prayers," "flogging any girl over 12 if she does not wear the niqab, shows any adornment, or is seen walking without a mahram."
Ahmed recalls that the second decree was later amended after a particular incident. "They were about to flog a female school teacher, claiming she smelled of perfume," he says. "But the men of the villages gathered in the square and declared that this will only happen over their dead bodies." The ruling was cancelled and an ISIS sheikh later changed the fatwa to say, "flogging the father of any unmarried woman not wearing a niqab, shows any adornment, or is seen walking without a mahram." In case she is married, this will apply to her husband.
Most of the residents abided by the ISIS fatwas and there was only one case of a sentence being carried out. An 11-year-old boy was given 20 lashes after he was heard "swearing during a football game."
The battle between rival jihadist militias ultimately reached Deir Foul. Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic Front sent a strong warning to the ISIS fighters, giving them a choice between "retreating peacefully" from the village or "leaving as lifeless bodies." Naturally, the ISIS fighters refused to leave. This was followed by several attempts by the two groups to seize the village and several battles between the jihadis.
We hear the sound of intermittent bullets. Ahmed says "there is nothing to worry about." It is a daily occurrence and a mere reminder of the gunmen’s presence. "The past two days were relatively calm. But there were fierce battles before that. Two mortar shells fell in the village square and one civilian was martyred," he adds.
I expressed my surprise about the inconsistency of information given by search engines about attacks on the village and the limited damage I saw. Had the news been true, the small village should have been completely destroyed. My host refused to go for a walk around Deir Foul, as this might raise suspicion. But he took us to visit someone he knows who is originally from the village.
Mohammed (also a pseudonym) greets us with the accustomed rural generosity and repeats some of the stories heard from Ahmed. "Yes. My roots go back to Dagestan. But I am Syrian," he explains. "Those strangers ruined our lives." He talks about what they did in the nearby villages of Ezzeddine and Abu Humama, mostly composed of Circassian Syrians. "They blew up the shrine of the Prophet’s companion Sheikh Abu Umama al-Bahili, whom the village is named after. They also blew up the shrine of Sheikh Ezzeddine Abu Jarra in the village carrying his name. The excuse was the same: Shrines are a novelty. They should be destroyed because people worship them," he continues. "What kind of Islam is this?"
There is no need to answer the question. We spend the remaining time talking about the old days and making painful comparisons between Syria of yesterday and today’s Syria, while I wait for the green light to leave Syria’s Dagestan in the same covert manner I got in.

AL AKHBAR (APRIL 23, 2014)
RADWAN MORTADA
The global jihad movement has split in two. Members of al-Qaeda will now have to choose between two different emirs. The so-called "Khorasan pledge" was the final nail in the coffin of the reconciliation between al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The rift no longer pertains to Syria only, but has spread to the other arenas of global jihad.
Nine al-Qaeda emirs from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran declared their allegiance to the new emir of the faithful, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - the head of ISIS - in what is being termed as the "Khorasan pledge." A few days later, ISIS spokesperson Mohammed al-Adnani declared that "al-Qaeda deviated from the rightful course," indicating that "it is not a dispute about who to kill or who to give your allegiance. It is a question of religious practices being distorted and an approach veering off the right path."
This is a turning point in the clash – currently limited to the Syrian arena – between Baghdadi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, threatening to create an open conflict throughout jihadist movement. The anticipated split had been declared by ISIS advisor Abu Ali al-Anbari. "Either we eliminate them or they will eliminate us," he said in one of the reconciliation sessions, repeating the sentence three times.
The nine defected emirs’ declaration have put Baghdadi in a direct confrontation with current al-Qaeda leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. They want to attack al-Qaeda’s leader, saying his rule was "a thing of the past and today’s triumphs are made by the soldiers of ISIS."
Mullah Omar had been the emir of emirs of al-Qaeda, enjoying both Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri’s allegiance. During his reign, Afghanistan was destroyed after he refused to deliver Bin Laden and others to the United States.
Baghdadi’s challenge to Mullah Omar is a major confrontation on the jihadi scene. He identified his adversary, bypassing al-Joulani and Zawahiri and going for their senior sheikh. Although it was thought that Mullah Omar was killed, after news of him stopped in the wake of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, some facts and indicators point to the opposite.
On the eve of the September 11 attacks in 2012 in Libya, Zawahiri came out with a eulogy of Abu Yehia al-Libi, considered to be the number two man in al-Qaeda. "I announce to the Islamic nation, the mujahideen, Emir of the Faithful Mullah Mohammed Omar, and the mujahideen in Libya, the news of the martyrdom of Sheikh Hassan Mohammed Qaed [al-Libi]."
The Khorasan pledge, circulating on jihadi online sites such as the Shumukh al-Islam forum, was all that was needed by the war raging in Syria between al-Nusra Front and ISIS. It will be adding more fuel to the fire between the two sides. However, a jihadi officer in al-Qaeda gave little weight to the news.
"Only a few people pledged allegiance, but it was blown out of proportion in the media," he told Al-Akhbar. "The people mentioned are not in a leadership position and do not carry any notable responsibilities." The nine emirs are Sheikh Abu Ubaidah al-Lubnani, Abu al-Muhannad al-Urduni, Abu Jurair al-Shamali, Abu al-Huda al-Soudani, Abdulaziz al-Maqdisi (brother of Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi), Abdullah al-Punjabi, Abu Yunus al-Kurdi, Abu Aisha al-Qurtubi, and Abu Musab al-Tadamuni.
Those who follow jihadi affairs say it was a "referendum on the leadership of global jihad." They base this on "the first seeds sowed in Iraq at the time of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," when the group was known as the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Mesopotamia. Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Bin Laden, who was responsible for the events of September 11. According to them, Zarqawi was a key component of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) at the beginning. The emirs of the Khorasan pledge see him as the man who created the first al-Qaeda cell in Iraq and consider him the father of ISI.
In the Khorasan pledge message, the nine emirs elaborated on the stages of jihad against the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. They talk about the experience of the Tawhid and Jihad group under Zarqawi, who pledged allegiance to Bin Laden from Iraq to Khorasan. Then they spoke about Zarqawi’s death in 2006, which was followed by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir taking the reign of al-Qaeda’s emirate in Iraq. This coincided with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi announcing the establishment of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Muhajir gave him his support and merged his emirate with ISI.
When Baghdadi and his war minister, Muhajir, were killed, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took over ISI with the blessings of Bin Laden and Zawahiri. They believed it to be an "extension of jihad." It was also highly praised by Sheikh Atiyyah Allah and Sheikh Abu Yehia al-Libi. The nine emirs continue with assessing the events up to the war in Syria, "where it was the duty of ISIS to reach out and provide support for its people, to defeat the conspiracy of the two armies, the Syrian Army and the Free [Syrian] Army (FSA)."
According to the nine sheikhs, after the expansion of ISI, "the forces of infidelity and apostasy quickly sowed the seeds of hypocrisy, using new groups under Islamic sounding names to be a rival and an obstacle to the Islamic state." They criticized Zawahiri and al-Nusra Front without naming them, saying "the group did not have any courage to enforce judgements over those who disobey sharia, under the pretext of avoiding a clash with the people or due to their inability and incapacity, although they enforced in secret more than they did out in the open."
The emirs denounced the "former Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who was proven to be an apostate, even for those who had a semblance of comprehension. Or was it an indication of a new kind of jihad?" They believed Mursi’s discourse to "be a political call, without mentioning the question of arms. They replaced many sharia terms with new concepts, which carry different interpretations." The emirs criticized Mursi for "congratulating the Arab peoples for the Arab Spring and claiming that [deceased Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi and [TV preacher Sheikh Yusuf] al-Qaradawi were Islamic scholars." They also criticized Mursi for "repudiating ISI, which enforced religion, called for teaching monotheism and innocence from polytheism and its people, and was a symbol of justice and equality."
They concluded by saying, "we ask God for forgiveness for being late to reveal the truth and fix what we corrupted, disobeyed, and did not accept. Thus, we wrote this message to the Muslim nation and to ask forgiveness from our Lord. We showed that ISIS was right. It raised the banner without hesitation, weakness, or account to anyone by God. We count them as such and, as long as they persevere, they have [our support and allegiance] for its Emir of the Faithful Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Qurashi and our obedience in fortune and adversity and in hardship and prosperity, without challenging his command. But if it alters or deviates, it will only get from us what others had gotten before before."
The war between ISIS and al-Qaeda is no longer confined to Syria. It is an open conflict with each side vying for legitimacy. ISIS emirs, in turn, recalled past events. They argued about the origin of the disagreement between Zarqawi and Zawahiri in 2005. "Zawahiri had always been lax," they replied. "It is not enough that he does not declare Shia as infidels. He objects to Zarqawi’s methods, accusing him of being a takfiri."

AL AKHBAR (APRIL 23, 2014)
CHLOE BENOIST
Lebanese parliamentarians voted on Wednesday in the highly anticipated first round of presidential elections, with the majority of votes split between Samir Geagea and blank ballots in protest of his candidacy. The first count of the ballots gave 52 blank votes, 48 votes for Geagea and 16 for Henri Helou. Seven votes nominating people who were allegedly killed by Geagea were declared void. The names included Dany and Tareq Chamoun and Jihane Frangieh.
No candidate managed to obtain 86 votes, a quorum necessary to be elected in this session. A second vote is expected to take place on April 30. In the next session, a candidate will only need to secure 50 percent of votes, meaning 65, to win the presidency.
The elections have heightened the rivalry between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions, as March 8 strongly opposed the candidacy of March 14-backed Geagea, who spent 11 years in prison for crimes committed during the civil war.
Three people had declared their candidacy prior to the vote: Geagea of the Lebanese Forces, Helou of the Progressive Socialist Party and independent candidate Nadine Moussa, who is the first woman to officially present herself in presidential elections in Lebanon. She did not receive any votes.
In a press conference after the vote, Geagea pushed aside questions about his controversial status as a candidate, accusing his opponents of trying to get foreign powers involved in the electoral process.
Referring to the votes nominating deceased opponents and their family members, Geagea said he "was hoping that the other camp would have resorted to honorable means to express its disdain for the elections.” Geagea’s wife, MP Strida Geagea, vowed the March 14 candidate would "remain in this battle till the end.”
Helou called the vote "perfect and democratic without any foreign interference." "The only solution is through moderation and agreement over one candidate that brings all parties together," he said.
However, Moussa slammed Wednesday’s elections, calling it a "tragic farce."
"I feel sorry for Lebanese democracy. This vote was a tragic farce," she toldAl-Akhbar, saying that her program had not been distributed to the MPs despite her official request, and that the request by an MP for candidates to present their programs ahead of the vote had been swept aside. She added that she had submitted a formal request to speak in front of Parliament ahead of the next round.
Moussa said "total reform" was necessary in Lebanese politics, calling the system a "masked monarchy" and a "dictatorship of sectarian leaders."
With no strong contender for the post, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun has been considered as a potential consensus candidate for the second round. Kataeb party leader Amin Gemayel, who received one vote on Wednesday, officially declared his candidacy for the second round.
"People have vivid memories and have demonstrated a great deal of aggravation regarding Geagea’s candidacy for the Presidential post," the Lebanese National News Agency quotes Aoun as saying. Presidents in Lebanon are chosen through a parliamentary and cabinet vote as opposed to a general election.
The parliamentary session began at 12:10 pm with 124 MPs present out of 128. The absent MPs were independent Elie Aoun, March 14’s Oqab Saqr, Khaled Daher, and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri. The vote started at 12:15 pm, with an ballot box passed on from MP to MP, and ended at 12:23 pm. The votes were then read one by one.

AL ANBAA (KUWAITI DAILY, APRIL 27, 2014)
Development and Liberation bloc MP Abdel Majid Saleh said that next parliamentary session will probably not come out with a new president to replace Michel Suleiman, whose term ends on May 25. “Discussions among [Lebanese] parties have not matured yet, and no agreement was reached on a consensual candidate,” said Saleh. Saleh also voiced the importance of having a consensual president “who does not belong to any of the rival coalitions.” “We have to wait and see what the March 14 coalition will do, if they will continue supporting [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea for presidency or if they will open the way for another candidate.” “There are other [possible] candidates in the March 14 coalition, such as Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel, MPs Boutros Harb and Robert Ghanem. Let us see what will happen in the coming few days,” he added.

ASHARQ ALAWSAT (SAUDI DAILY, APRIL 26, 2014)
Kataeb Party MP Eli Marouni said that while his party would vote for Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in the second round of presidential elections scheduled for Wednesday April 30, Kataeb parliamentarians might vote for their party’s leader Amine Gemayel in the third round. “[Kataeab] will vote for Geagea … to maintain closed ranks in the March 14 [alliance] and to work towards the success of a March 14 candidate,” Marouni told Asharq Alawsat .
“After that it will be necessary to evaluate the results of the two sessions and an electoral strategy presenting party leader Amine Gemayel as a candidate in the third round may be necessary.” He stressed that: “The nature of the battle and Gemayel’s personality and history are elements that make him an automatic candidate for March 14 after Geagea.”
Meanwhile, Gemayel himself told Asharq Alawsat that he would not make any decisions on running for the presidency without first discussing the matter with his March 14 allies. “I have received many signals concerning my candidacy for the presidency,” The Kataeb leader said. “But we will only dwell on that subject in light of developments and the results of [internal] March 14 debates.”

AS-SEYASSAH (KUWAITI DAILY, APRIL 26, 2014)
Presidential Candidate and MP Henri Helou denied that he represents the interests of Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, and called the first round of Lebanon’s ongoing presidential elections on Wednesday “democratic” and “Lebanese.” “I am not Walid Jumblatt’s candidate, or a Trojan horse, as certain writers in the press have circulated,” Helou told As-Seyassah.
The parliamentarian went on to praise the results of Wednesday’s electoral session, and called the casting of a large number of blank votes “democratic.” “The first round of presidential elections was not just democratic; it was also one hundred percent Lebanese. [It still happened, despite] the many rumors that certain parties were aiming to sabotage the session and destroy the presidential elections completely.”
“The March 8 team chose voting with blank cards over not [providing] a quorum [for the session,] and that was a democratic expression and democratic behavior, even if it is not agreeable.”

Source
New Orient News

[1] “The STL, A “Special” Court”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 27 January 2014.

Wassim Raad

New Orient Center for Strategic Policies

 
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