Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Isis: Having spent billions, the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia and Qatar find they have created a monster

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Thanks to the immediacy of television, innocent civilians in Syria were writhing from gas attacks before our eyes, with the blame laid on their own government.
Yet despite a red line having been crossed by this use of chemical weapons, the international community decided against air strikes on the Assad regime.
Instead we encouraged two oil-rich Arab states, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to continue arming rebel groups to oust the ruthless dictator in Damascus. Now, thanks to those weapons, one of the groups has grown into the Frankenstein's monster of the so-called Islamic State whose brutal fighters have swept through Syria and Iraq, crucifying and beheading like a deadly inhuman tide.
Saudi Arabia has been a major source of financing to rebel and terrorist organisations since the 1970s, thanks to the amount it has spent on spreading its puritan version of Islam, developed by Mohammed Abdul Wahhab in the 18th century.
The US State Department has estimated that over the past four decades Riyadh has invested more than $10bn (£6bn) into charitable foundations in an attempt to replace mainstream Sunni Islam with the harsh intolerance of its Wahhabism. EU intelligence experts estimate that 15 to 20 per cent of this has been diverted to al-Qa'ida and other violent jihadists.
The only other official Wahhabi country is Saudi's Gulf neighbour Qatar, which is, per capita, the richest country in the world. It likes to paint itself as a more liberal and open version of the Muslim sect. Its newest and biggest mosque is named after Wahhab, but this is the fun, football-loving version.
The Qataris are Barcelona's shirt sponsors, the owners of Paris St-Germain and, albeit amid allegations of dodgy financial footwork, will host the 2022 World Cup – to which, to the horror of their Saudi neighbours, women will be admitted. In Qatar, unlike Saudi, women are allowed to drive and travel alone. Westerners can eat pork and drink alcohol.
There is no religious police force or powerful class of clerics to enforce morality. Qatar's Al Jazeera television network stands in contrast with the region's state-controlled media, and the Qataris are investing in the West, including the Shard, Harrods and big chunks of Sainsbury's and the London Stock Exchange.
But that is not the crucial difference. Where the Saudis tend to support restrictive strong-man regimes like their own across the Arab world, the Qataris, throughout the Arab Spring, have backed grassroots Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The tiny country has given $200m to Hamas, which is constantly firing low-grade rockets from Gaza into Israel. It is more open-minded towards the Shia Muslims of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, whom the Saudis see as enemies. It even has good relations with the Taliban.
And it has been the biggest funder of the Syrian rebels, with sources in Doha estimating it has spent as much as $3bn in Syria alone – 70 military cargo flights were sent in the past two years – in an attempt to develop networks of loyalty among rebels and set the stage for Qatari influence in a post-Assad era. Riyadh sees its tiny neighbour – "300 people and a TV channel", as one Saudi prince dismissively said – as a troublesome and dangerous gadfly.
The result of all this is that Qatar and Saudi have channelled funds, arms and salaries to different groups in Syria. Until last year they were creating rival military alliances and structures. But their efforts at discrimination have been in vain. On the ground the rebel groups have been porous, with personnel switching to whichever was the best supplied. Fighters grew their beards or shaved them off to fit the ideology of the latest supplier.
Many moved to whichever group was having most success on the battlefield. Key Qataris and Saudis felt it didn't matter as long as the result was the fall of Assad. But eventually two of the most extreme groups began to dominate, and eventually one of them, Jabhat al-Nusra, lost dominance to the other, Isis – the ruthless and potent force which has declared itself the Islamic State.
Only towards the end have the funders realised the error of their strategy. The Qatar government has stemmed the flow of funds. At first it believed it could change the ideology of those it funded once the war against Assad was over. But now it realises it was creating a sleeping monster, as the Saudis had done when they financed the Taliban to fight the Soviets in the 1980s.
In April, the Saudis sacked the head of their intelligence services, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had been responsible for the details of arming the Syrian rebels. His blunders led to the massive empowerment of the kind of grassroots Islamism which is the greatest threat to the Saudi claim to be the leader of global Islam because of its vast wealth and its custodianship of the holy city of Mecca.
They have left it too late. The genie is out of the bottle. Some funds continue to flow from wealthy Qatari individuals and from conservative Saudi preachers collecting funds through their television shows. But the terrorists of the Islamic State, who were earning $8m a month from a Syrian gas field where they have established robust logistical lines, have added a further $1m a day from the half dozen Iraqi oilfields they have seized. Worse still, the conflict in Iraq has solidified into religiously defined ethnic identity lines.
As Washington has now realised, the Islamic State will have to be stopped militarily. But real progress to re-civilise the cradle of civilisation which was Mesopotamia will require countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – as well as the West, Iran, Israel and Syria – to make some hard decisions about the hierarchy of evil and where their greatest enemy lies.

Saudi Arabia continues its outrageous repression of human rights activists

“BEING IN a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad,” George Orwell wrote in “1984.” “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” For months now, the Saudi human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair has been clinging to the truth against the odds. Last month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison (with five years suspended), fined a large sum and barred from leaving the country for another 15 years — all because of social media comments and remarks to the news media about the kingdom’s miserable human rights record.
Mr. Abulkhair, a lawyer, is a founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a group that the Saudi authorities have refused to register. For some time, he has been in the cross hairs of Saudi rulers, who brook no dissent nor challenge to their legitimacy. Mr. Abulkhair was put on trial last October on a series of absurd and trumped-up charges, and then, in April, after the fifth session of the trial, he was arrested and thrown into prison under a counterterrorism law. Since then, according to Mr. Abulkhair, he has been tortured and mistreated, put in solitary confinement, deprived of medicine to treat his diabetes and imprisoned on the ground without a blanket. He has been moved five times, most recently to a prison 600 miles from his family. Orwell would certainly recognize him as a man clinging to truth.
The verdict found him guilty of: seeking to remove the legitimacy of the state, harming the public order, inciting public opinion and insulting the judiciary, defaming the judiciary and discrediting Saudi Arabia by alienating international organizations, being head of an unauthorized association and speaking out for it and violating the Saudi cybercrime law. We list these at length so you get the flavor of how the kingdom throws the book at a dissident. Human Rights Watch said the charge sheet against him consisted “of little more than excerpts from statements he had made to various media outlets and tweets that criticize Saudi Arabia’s treatment of peaceful dissidents, especially harsh sentences against them by Saudi courts.”
This case is only the latest in a long and sorrowful series of persecutions of those who stand for human rights and dignity in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia remains determined to shut the windows, close the doors and throw dissidents into solitary confinement. This is barbaric treatment of a man who spoke out for truth.

Kuwait activists decry social media curbs

By Dahlia Kholaif
Human rights activists allege that a law restricting social media networks will limit free speech in Kuwait.
Kuwait is forging ahead with a law that will regulate the country's telecommunications and information technology, including social media, despite claims by human rights activists that the bill will restrict freedom of expression.
"The law allows authorities to block websites, terminate mobile lines for security reasons without a legal order, and issue warrants to search houses without a prior legal order," Kuwaiti humans rights activist Nawaf al-Hendal told Al Jazeera.
Hendal alleged that the legislation violates Kuwait's obligations under international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1996. "This article allows the punishment of all those deemed violators or abusers of public morals, which is an elastic expression that raises concerns. The law must outline the conditions and guidelines under which websites are to be blocked," he said.
On May 18, parliament passed the Unified Media Law by an overwhelming majority. Comprising 93 articles, the law establishes establishes a Commission for Mass Communications and Information Technology (CMCIT) to oversee all technical matters pertaining to mobile phone services and internet providers, a role now carried out by the ministry of communications.
While members of the CMCIT have yet to be chosen, it will also be tasked with monitoring social media content.
Speaking to reporters in May, Hameed al-Qattan, undersecretary of the ministry of communications, said that the authority's purpose was "regulatory" and would include tasks like granting licenses and monitoring prices, "not [suppressing] freedoms". He added that blocking websites or eavesdropping on phone calls would not happen without a legal order or the word of the public prosecutor.
But Human Rights Watch found that among other problematic provisions, Article 70 of the law allows Kuwait to imprison people using "any means of communication to threaten, insult... or harm the reputation of others" for up to two years, and fine people over $17,700.
Article 53 also gives Kuwaiti authorities the right to suspend service for "national security" reasons.
"This new law comes at a time when Kuwait is prosecuting many activists, politicians, journalists, and other government critics on expansive interpretations of morality and national security," said Eric Goldstein, HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director.
"It appears designed to give prosecuting authorities even wider legal authorization for violating Kuwaitis' right to free speech."
Kuwait is unique among the kingdoms of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council for being the only semi-constitutional monarchy. It has an elected parliament that enjoys legislative powers and the authority to question cabinet members and file no-confidence votes.
Social media platforms, which are a favoured tool of the country's opposition groups, are widely prevalent in the state, making Kuwait one of the most connected countries in the Middle East.
Kuwait's Twitter community ranks fourth in the region, with a penetration rate of 11 percent, equalling 334,000 active users, according to the 2014 Arab Social Media Report produced by the Dubai School of Government. In March 2014, Kuwaiti users generated 10 percent of all Twitter posts from the Arab world. With nearly 56 million tweets posted, the country came third for Twitter usage, behind only Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two much larger countries.
"The high economic status of Kuwaitis makes internet subscription, digital devices, and smart phones very affordable," Fatima al-Salem, assistant professor at Kuwait University's journalism and media technologies department, told Al Jazeera.
Al-Salem attributed the active and largely politically driven usage of Twitter to the country's open media atmosphere.
"Twitter became an essential source of alternative news and a generator of public opinion in Kuwait, especially since most political groups and government officials use Twitter to disseminate their messages and gain public support," al-Salem said. She added that, according to a study she conducted in 2010, 75 percent of the then-parliament was using Twitter.
Instagram is another social platform with a wide user base in Kuwait. Due to its visual nature, it is used as to promote and draw traffic to new businesses. Allowing its users to upload pictures and videos for free, young entrepreneurs use it as a virtual storefront, an advertising service, or a showroom to display merchandise and prices.
One of the more well-known Instagram accounts in Kuwait was used for none of these purposes, however. Under the user handle @Mn7asha, the account broadcast pictures of domestic workers who had fled the houses of their employers, accusing them of mistreatment. The account provoked a slew of criticism on social media, with many labelling it discriminatory, until the account went offline. It is not known whether it was taken down by Instagram or by the users themselves.
While Kuwait has avoided many of the shockwaves of the Arab Spring, the country has been caught in back-to-back deadlocks between the state's monarch, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, and an opposition that has united to curtail his powers.
Over the past few years, dozens of Twitter users have been referred to courts for Twitter posts that were were deemed illegal, such as insulting the country's ruler or religious icons. The number of people who have faced charges related to social media posts sits at around 30, of which more than 20 have been convicted, humans rights activist Hendal told Al Jazeera.
The most recent indictment was issued on July 21, when Kuwait's highest court endorsed a 10-year jail sentence for a Twitter user - belonging to the country's 30 percent Shia Muslim minority - who was found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, his wife, and his companions in a Twitter post.
Twenty-four year old Hamad al-Naqi was also convicted of insulting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as spreading false information that was deemed to have tarnished Kuwait's image abroad. The court's verdict can only be overturned by Kuwait's ruler. Human Rights Watch said authorities should "quash the verdict and release al-Naqi immediately" adding that the decision is "another example of a violation of the right of free speech in Kuwait".
"The number of such cases will surely rise as the new law allows all contents to be monitored and rules out all previously issued laws," Hendal said.

Outside intervention explodes in Libya

Steve Fox
If it is confirmed that Egypt and the UAE were behind air strikes against Islamist militias in Libya, the casualties will include Nato’s credibility
Nato presents itself as an “honest broker” in Libya’s brutal civil war, but there was nothing honest about it refusing to go public on what it knew about the two sets of air strikes reportedly launched from Egyptian bases against Islamist militias in Libya last week.
Nato monitors Libyan airspace as part of its ongoing duties devolved from the UN security council, following resolutions passed in 2011 to enforce an arms embargo.
American AWACs planes keep watch on Libya’s air space and would have seen not just the strikes, but the arrival of UAE jets, a refuelling tanker and support planes in Egyptian bases prior to the strike. Point being, it would have seen what was going on.
The New York Times is a paper of record, its reporters insist they obtained the information about Emirati and Egyptian involvement from separate military sources, and the bombing claims fit the facts on the ground.
Those facts began late on Sunday night, 17 August with the sound of jets high in the sky over Tripoli, a city that was into its fifth week of punishing rocket and artillery bombardments between militias from the towns of Misrata and Zintan that has reduced some districts to rubble.
Without warning, bright flashes lit the sky, images on one brave Libyan’s cellphone showing the eruption of red flame as bombs scored a direct hit on a Misratan ammunition depot.
More than 20 sites were struck that night, both in Tripoli and far south of Misrata where Libya Dawn forces keep rockets in hardened shelters near Waddan. Then the jets vanished.
Six days later they were back; again, at night, and this time circling for an hour before ordinance again rained down on 22 August, a Friday night. As with the raids over the night of 17 August, the strikes were precise, hitting more Misratan ammunition depots, barracks and the interior ministry, hours after Misratan units had stormed the building. Among the 17 dead were two sons of a Misratan commander.
Air strikes in Libya are nothing new: since May former general Khalifa Haftar has had the use of two Russian-made air force jets and an attack helicopter to pound Islamist bases in Benghazi.
But Benghazi is 400 miles to the east, and Libya has no night-bombing capabilities, nor any means of refuelling the jets, leading to speculation the bombing was foreign.
The Islamist Libya Dawn movement, an alliance of Misrata and Islamist militias, seem to have been proved right, claiming on Saturday that the UAE and Egypt were behind the attacks, and vowing revenge. A US-made Mark 82 bomb was recovered from the wreckage, with Libya’s government, having fled Islamist forces in Tripoli for the east of the country, voicing suspicions foreign jets were responsible. Libya’s authorities may themselves want to know why, if it was true, US officials told the New York Times before they told a supposed ally.
That threat of revenge has further ramped up tensions in the region, with neighbouring states fearing that militants will use airliners at Tripoli and Misrata airports under Dawn control for suicide attacks. Egypt and Tunisia have warned Libyan craft to stay away, while Algeria has deployed missile batteries on its border. The United States has jets deployed in Italy and ships in the Mediterranean which can shoot down any straying aircraft.
But the salient feature of the air strikes is that they failed: Hours after the second round of bombing, Misratan units surged into Tripoli International Airport, which they had been bombarding for the past month, as pro-government defenders, a militia from Zintan, withdrew. For good measure, the Misratans then set the airport ablaze before pulling back to consolidate their hold of Tripoli.
Foreign intervention
History is littered with examples of secret and poorly conceived foreign intervention: think Vietnam, or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or for that matter US operations in Afghanistan and its invasion of Iraq. The problem with all such interventions, large and small, is that they change the game in unpredictable ways.
In the case of Libya’s bombing, it reinforces the suspicion that the country’s worsening civil war is now the plaything of a struggle between two Gulf states, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar backed Libya’s Islamists from the first days of its 2011 revolution, creating the Islamist 17 February brigade which is now battling UAE-backed government forces in Benghazi and shipping anti-tank missiles that allowed Misrata to win its battle against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi. Doha provided jets for Nato’s 2011 bombing intervention that gave victory to Libya’s rebels who are now fighting each other.
Qatar’s links with Islamist militias remain strong: Ismail Salabi, commander of an Islamist militia in Benghazi, is the younger brother of Ali Salabi, a key Libyan politician and religious guide based in Qatar. In the aftermath of the revolution, Al Jazeera gave a platform to Salabi, until Washington asked Qatar to tone down his Islamist rhetoric, fearing exactly the Islamist-nationalist split that is now tearing the county apart.
Abdul Hakim Belhaj, a former revolutionary fighter, is another friend of Qatar, with wags in Tripoli noting that the posters for his candidacy in 2012 elections were produced in the emirate’s maroon and white colours.
The UAE’s role in Libya has been equally key. Mahmoud Jibril, leader of Libya’s nationalist National Forces Alliance, a former economic advisor to Gaddafi and the revolution’s first prime minister, lives in self-imposed exile in the Emirates.
But attempts by both Gulf states to influence Libya’s chaotic politics have often run into the buffers. The UAE provided red and white police jeeps to favoured militias in the revolution’s aftermath, but left the phone number of the Dubai complaints office stamped on their sides.
And when Tripoli’s leading Islamist formation, the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room, stormed the city centre Corinthia Hotel to kidnap prime minister Ali Zaidan last October, its fighters found time to assault Qatari diplomats. The Qataris lived on several floors in the hotel, and some were pistol whipped, despite protesting that they were essentially on the same side.
Western attempts to meddle or mediate have been similarly ineffective: Britain, Italy, France and the United States all competed to sell Libya defence equipment over the past three years, despite their duties to enforce a UN arms embargo. The US secured the biggest order, for more than 200 Humvee personnel carriers, but recent fighting has seen many end up in the hands of Islamist militias, an echo of the situation in Iraq. Libyans themselves, having spent most of their history dominated by Turkish, Italian and British occupiers, are resistant to foreign meddling, from whatever source. After the 2011 revolution, Qatari flags were for sale on the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi. Now they are being burned by nationalists, along with effigies of the emir.
But the bombing may change everything, not least because it will invite Qatar to find a means of responding. The success of the Islamist Libya Dawn movement in seizing Tripoli and Misrata and declaring its own government has left the country split between Islamists and nationalists. The temptation of the Gulf states, and anyone else eyeing Libya’s rich oil bounty, to meddle is sharper than ever.
In the latest of a series of joint statements, the United States, Italy, France and Great Britain have urged both sides to stop fighting and start talking, offering themselves as impartial mediators. They would give their credibility a big push by now coming clean about what they know about the air strikes, and whether more are on the way.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/intervention-libya-just-got-nasty-1960081832#sthash.hHYQ5VsU.dpuf

Embargoed EU Goods Actively Re-Imported to Russia via Belarus – Putin

Goods embargoed by Moscow in response to Western economic sanctions are being actively shipped to Moscow via Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.
"Even within the Customs Union framework, embargoed goods are being actively re-imported to the Russian Federation from the European Union countries, namely via Belarus," Putin said.
"I know that the leadership of Belarus and its president are trying to prevent this negative practice."
The Russian leader added that exporters often replace an EU label with a new one and send the goods to Russia. Putin proved his words by displaying photographs of a man removing a label, under which the initial producer country - Poland is revealed.
"The same will happen in Ukraine, [Russia] will be buried [in such goods]," Putin added.
Russia has banned food imports from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway in response to sanctions imposed on Russia over its alleged role in escalating the Ukrainian crisis. The list of banned products includes meat, fish, poultry and milk products, nuts, fruits and vegetables, but not infant foods or goods.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia, alongside Ukraine, Belarus and EU member states, was participating in a multilateral meeting in Minsk that was dedicated to the discussion of acute issues, such as the crisis in Ukraine, the humanitarian situation in the east of the country, the possibility of talks between the Ukrainian government and the country’s eastern regions, as well as Ukraine’s association agreement with the European Union.

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Obama Warns Defeating ISIS Won't Be Quick

President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that destroying “a cancer” like the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham will not be easy, but U.S. military might will know no bounds when pursuing those who threaten America.
“Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won’t be easy and it won't be quick,” Obama told the American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together.”
The president also declared that “justice will be done” for slain journalist James Foley.
The comments came during the unveiling of new executive actions the president is taking to help improve veterans’ mental health and provide increased economic opportunities for those who served. It is the latest step to address the scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in May.
Obama said all Americans must work to help end the “tragedy of suicide” that has plagued many military men and women once they return from combat.

For Yazidis Betrayed by Arab Neighbors, ‘It Will Never Be the Same’

The afternoon before his family fled the onslaught of Sunni militants, Dakhil Habash was visited by three of his Arab neighbors. Over tea, his trusted friend Matlul Mare told him not to worry about the advancing fighters and that no harm would come to him or his Yazidi people.
The men had helped one another over the years: Mr. Mare brought supplies to Mr. Habash’s community in the years after the American invasion, when travel outside their northern enclave was too dangerous for Yazidis. Mr. Mare bought tomatoes and watermelon from Mr. Habash’s farm and sometimes borrowed money.
But his friend’s assurances did not sit right with Mr. Habash. That night, he gathered his family and fled. Soon afterward, he said, he found out that Mr. Mare had joined the militants and was helping them hunt down Yazidi families.
“Our Arab neighbors turned on all of us,” said Mr. Habash, who recounted his story from a makeshift refugee camp on the banks of a fetid stream near the city of Zakho, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We feel betrayed. They were our friends.”
It would be the last time the men saw each other, as they were swept into different spheres of Iraq’s fracturing sectarian landscape, where militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are filling their ranks with the country’s disenfranchised Sunni Arabs.
Some Iraqis fear that the plight of the Yazidis, thousands of whom are missing or have been massacred by ISIS fighters, could be a harbinger of a return to the sectarian nightmare of 2006 and 2007, when neighbors turned against neighbors.
Many Sunni tribes have not supported ISIS’s advance. But the group has benefited from widespread bitterness among Sunni Arabs over perceived mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. When ISIS arrived, officials say, some Sunnis saw an opportunity to reclaim some of the supremacy they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein’s rule.
As ISIS has advanced, more than 400,000 Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with roots in Muslim and Zoroastrian traditions, have been forced to flee their enclaves. The humanitarian crisis helped prompt President Obama to authorize American airstrikes to halt the slaughter, a decisive step in checking the militants’ advance across northern Iraq.
“I called my closest friend after we fled, an Arab man who owned a shop in our village,” said a Yazidi man who identified himself only as Haso, declining to give his first name out of fear of reprisal. “When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was looking for Yazidis to kill.”
The friend denied Haso’s account. But he grew angry when a journalist referred to the militant group as ISIS, because the militants now prefer to be called the Islamic State.
Another Yazidi refugee, Qasim Omar, said that just before ISIS reached his village, Arab neighbors began flying the group’s black flag from their homes.
“Before ISIS came, the Arab villagers had already helped them,” said Mr. Omar, 63. “I couldn’t believe it. They were our brothers.”
The extent of the collusion is hard to map. Many Yazidi families interviewed did not have firsthand information of Arab neighbors aiding ISIS. And in some cases, Arabs risked their lives to save persecuted friends.
But amid the chaos, an emotional truth has emerged: ISIS has destroyed the peaceful coexistence that many northern towns once cherished.
“We would like to go back to our village, but we will never have a relationship with the Arabs anymore,” Mr. Habash said. “It will never be the same.”
His realization began on Aug. 4, when Mr. Mare and some other neighbors who lived near his family’s farm came to his door, seemingly making the rounds of all of their Yazidi neighbors.
Over tea, the men told the family to remove their flag supporting the Kurdish Democratic Party and replace it with a white one.
“You will be safe,” Mr. Mare repeated, according to Mr. Habash and other family members who were present.
The men left at sunset and the family waited, Mr. Habash said.
A few hours later, calls began to pour in from friends as nearby villages fell to ISIS. The Kurdish pesh merga security forces were retreating. Men were being executed. Women and children were vanishing. At 2 a.m., the family fled.
But Mr. Habash’s niece stayed behind with her husband’s family.
“Her new family trusted the Arabs more than they trusted us,” said her father, Mohsin Habash, who stayed behind for his daughter.
The rest of the family raced toward the Yazidi enclaves at Mount Sinjar, but discovered that the road to the Syrian border was still open, and headed there instead. That evening, they arrived at a border checkpoint, among a caravan of trucks swollen with passengers collected along the way.
Later, they headed into Iraqi Kurdistan, where they received a call from a fellow Yazidi who had been stopped at a snap checkpoint set up by the militants. Manning the roadblock was an armed crew of ISIS fighters and local Arabs, among them Mr. Mare.
“He asked me why I was leaving, and I told him I needed to see my family members,” said Nasr Qasim Kachal, the friend.
“Then go to hell,” Mr. Kachal, reached by phone, recalled Mr. Mare saying before he was waved through.
Mr. Habash’s niece, Ahlan Mohsin Kalo, was not as lucky. She and her family stayed for two days before deciding to flee. But on their way out of town, Mr. Mare spotted them, according to villagers and Mr. Kachal.
Her father has not heard from her since. "They didn’t have time to run,” Mohsin Habash said.
Though Mohsin Habash’s family suffered because of one Arab neighbor, he pointed out that they were saved with the help of another: a longtime friend who led a convoy of Yazidi refugees to safety at great risk.
The convoy drove through the night, passing ISIS-controlled territories undetected. Mohsin Habash believes it was because his friend knew the Arab areas better than any of the Yazidis.
Hours later, they reached Syria. From there, Mohsin Habash’s friend introduced them to another Arab man who took the group the rest of the way to the border with Kurdistan.
“He saved us,” Mr. Habash said.


Secret Jordan base was site of covert aid to insurgents targeting Assad
Syrian rebels who would later join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.
The officials said dozens of future ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq.
The Jordanian officials said all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like al-Qaida.
In February 2012, WND was first to report the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.
That report has since been corroborated by numerous other media accounts.
Last March, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Americans were training Syrian rebels in Jordan.
Quoting what it said were training participants and organizers, Der Spiegel reported it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were with the U.S. Army, but the magazine said some organizers wore uniforms. The training in Jordan reportedly focused on use of anti-tank weaponry.
The German magazine reported some 200 men received the training over the previous three months amid U.S. plans to train a total of 1,200 members of the Free Syrian Army in two camps in the south and the east of Jordan.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper also reported last March that U.S. trainers were aiding Syrian rebels in Jordan along with British and French instructors.
Reuters reported a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department declined immediate comment on the German magazine’s report. The French foreign ministry and Britain’s foreign and defense ministries also would not comment to Reuters.
The Jordanian officials spoke to WND amid concern the sectarian violence in Iraq will spill over into their own country as well as into Syria.
ISIS previously posted a video on YouTube threatening to move on Jordan and “slaughter” King Abdullah, whom they view as an enemy of Islam.
WND reported last week that, according to Jordanian and Syrian regime sources, Saudi Arabia has been arming the ISIS and that the Saudis are a driving force in supporting the al-Qaida-linked group.
WND further reported that, according to a Shiite source in contact with a high official in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Obama administration has been aware for two months that the al-Qaida-inspired group that has taken over two Iraqi cities and now is threatening Baghdad also was training fighters in Turkey.
The source told WND that at least one of the training camps of the group Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, the ISIS, is in the vicinity of Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey, where American personnel and equipment are located.
He called Obama “an accomplice” in the attacks that are threatening the Maliki government the U.S. helped establish through the Iraq war.
The source said that after training in Turkey, thousands of ISIS fighters went to Iraq by way of Syria to join the effort to establish an Islamic caliphate subject to strict Islamic law, or Shariah.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/06/officials-u-s-trained-isis-at-secret-base-in-jordan/#1eBB1au0sTK4sGMe.99


By Monish Gulati
On Aug 19, 2014, the Islamic State (IS, earlier known as ISIS) released a video showing the beheading of American photojournalist James Wright Foley. The incident has shocked the world and the US in particular, despite the savagery and brutality exhibited by the IS over past couple of months in Iraq.
The incident may also a be a turning point in terms of how the IS and its “caliphate” engages with the rest of the world, specifically the US and other countries such as Britain, Germany, France, Canada, Italy and Finland who are partnering the US in its intervention in Northern Iraq.
The beheading of the US photojournalist has been preceded by three significant events in Iraq: the first sustained US airstrikes against the IS; the first joint action by the Kurdish and Iraqi military and the first reverses for the IS in Iraq during the battle for Mosul Dam. The last two events shattered the apparent invincibility of the IS against local opposition, especially when they present a united front.
Mosul Dam
Earlier this month, the IS in a characteristically sweeping strike had taken over Mosul Dam, the city of Sinjar, and a series of towns and villages north and east of Mosul after the armed fighters of the Kurdish state or the Peshmerga retreated, at times without a fight. The capture of Mosul Dam , like the capture of Mosul city earlier, was a high point in the IS’ efforts to establish a caliphate across the Middle East, as the militants now controlled one of Iraq’s most vital facilities.
The Peshmerga and the Iraqi army recently retook Mosul Dam and those same villages, but only after US intervention and a series of intense airstrikes that targeted IS convoys, armoured vehicles, gun and mortar pits, and other military targets. Iraqi Special Forces and Peshmerga had made swift gains during the attack with US air support. The retaking of Mosul Dam was the first time Iraqi, Kurdish and US forces had come together to launch a major ground assault, and is the only place where the IS and its allies have lost ground. A week ago, US airstrikes had also helped Kurdish fighters to halt the IS advance towards the Kurdish capital, Irbil and retake two small towns in the vicinity. The US airstrikes have scripted a small yet significant turnaround of the situation in Iraq.
US Airstrikes
The IS’ capture of Mosul Dam on Aug 7 came just hours before US President Barack Obama announced his decision to send the US air force back into action in Iraq. Besides the 16 airstrikes on the day of attack on Mosul Dam, nine strikes had been carried out the previous day. During the US air campaign around Mosul Dam a total of 40 reported strikes were conducted: nine on Aug 16, 16 on Aug 17, and 15 on Aug 18. For the first time bomber aircraft were involved in the Iraqi air campaign. It was the biggest offensive since the latest US intervention in Iraq was announced and signalled the expansion of what was originally defined as a narrowly focused mission to protect US personnel in Iraq. Since Aug 8, the US military has struck more than 70 IS targets.
The Beheading
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website, American photojournalist James Foley was kidnapped on Nov 22, 2012, by an organized gang after departing from an internet café in Binesh, Syria. The beheading video was first released by Al-Hayat Media on the social networkjoindispora.com and starts with a clip from a press conference where US President Obama had announced his decision to use airstrikes against the IS in Iraq. This is followed by the footage of an airstrike, supposedly by the US against an IS target.
Next, the video shows Foley, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and kneeling down, with a masked man dressed in black and wielding a knife standing by his side. Foley appeals to his family and friends to pressure the US government to end its attacks against the IS and also addresses his brother John, a US air force personnel, and asks him to reconsider his, and his comrades’ actions against the IS. Later in the video the masked man says that “any aggression towards the IS is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who’ve accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership.”
The video also featured Steven Joel Sotloff, a second American hostage in IS custody, who is threatened with a similar fate if the US does not stop its attacks against the IS. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine. The point here is that the two US citizens were taken hostage by the IS sometime back with the intent to use them as bargaining chips. IS was reportedly demanding a multi-million dollar ransom for Foley. The US airstrikes and the loss at the hands of the Iraqi army and Peshmerga appears to have antagonised the IS to the point of killing one of the hostages to drive home their message on air strikes.
The US military’s recent success in inflicting losses on the IS and retaking Mosul Dam in Iraq appears to be generating wider support for using US air power for further action against the IS’ heartland northwest of Baghdad. Military planners are considering new airstrikes to prevent IS from taking control of another strategic site, the Haditha Dam, which lies in Iraq’s Sunni stronghold of Anbar Province. At the same time US planners are mindful of the fact that armed groups opposing the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria have already acquired an estimated several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that are highly mobile, difficult to track and accurate but with limited effectiveness against high flying fighter aircraft.
This is not the first time US has used its air power in its War on Terror to turn the tide of events to its advantage and that of its allies. Neither is it the first time that inability to counter US air strikes has intensely frustrated the militants and terror groups. The IS, like the Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban before it, is going react in an unconventional manner. The characteristic response would be to attack soft targets outside the zone of conflict. Bombings, hostage taking and suicide attacks are likely to be their “weapons” of choice. In case of the IS it is likely to fall back on its growing army of foreign jihadists to literally take the battle “home”.
The IS had released another video on Aug 19 that gave the strongest indication of its intent to strike US targets. The video with the theme “Breaking of the American cross” boasts IS will emerge victorious over “crusader” America. The latest footage speaks of a holy war against the US. The video showed footage of US President Barack Obama as well as strategic ally King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and attacks on US soldiers.
The significance of carrying out a terror attack in the US would be immense for the IS, but countries like US, UK are better prepared than most in dealing with such threats on their own soil. This might deflect the IS, in at least the near term, to seek targets in less-prepared countries where their comparatively loosely organised (yet virtually anonymous) cadres would stand a better chance of success. A course of action that would see IS transit from being a regional menace to a global threat.

'ISIS kids are jihadist time bombs, in US interest to prevent caliphate'

President Obama authorizes surveillance flights over Syria to monitor ISIS

The United States is taking serious steps this morning to prepare for airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forces inside Syria. President Obama is ordering U.S. reconnaissance flights over that country, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.
The president is not approving any airstrikes yet, and the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad has said it needs to know about any attack ahead of time.
During a meeting with reporters on Tuesday morning, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the Obama administration does not recognize the legitimacy of the Assad regime, and therefore will not be coordinating any potential action with them. Earnest also said the president has not made any final decisions about what the U.S. military will do inside Syria.
A Pentagon source tells Martin it is not yet clear whether the surveillance flights have begun, but if they have not, they will certainly begin sometime today.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL,) is based in a remote part of northeastern Syria where U.S. officials say there would be little threat of American warplanes being shot down by Syrian air defenses. The plans being drafted by the Pentagon would use strikes by both manned and unmanned aircraft in an attempt to disrupt ISIS operations and kill its senior leaders.
The planning began in earnest following last week's execution of journalist James Foley. Defense Secretary Hagel calling ISIS "an imminent threat to every interest we have," and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, saying the group "has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision . . . which will eventually have to be defeated."
President Obama has not yet made a decision but his spokesman suggested ISIS could not count on Syria remaining a sanctuary.
"The president has already demonstrated a willingness, where necessary, to use military force to protect the American people, regardless of borders," Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
Until now U.S. airstrikes have been aimed at ISIS forces in Iraq. Those strikes have stalled the ISIS advance across northern Iraq but left its center of power in Syria untouched.
Airstrikes on the Syrian side of the border could disrupt but not defeat ISIS. That would require sending in troops on the ground, a move President Obama has ruled out for both Iraq and Syria.
In Iraq, the U.S. is arming Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops and will perhaps send in more advisers to help take back territory seized by ISIS.
In Syria, the administration has requested $500 million from Congress to train and equip local fighters to go after ISIS, but officials admit those are long range plans at best.
The U.S. is in a tricky geopolitical situation in Syria, where it does not recognize the legitimacy of the sitting government. Pentagon officials tell CBS News that despite the request of the Assad regime to pre-approve activity within its borders, that is unlikely to happen.

Pashto Music: Nazia Iqbal - De Kochiano Meere (Attan)

Pentagon Plans For Quick Afghan Exit If Election Dispute Continues

The U.S. military's top officer says the Pentagon has plans that would allow U.S. forces to stay in Afghanistan for a short time beyond 2014 if Afghanistan’s contested presidential election stalemate continues and prevents the signing of a security agreement.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who arrived in Afghanistan on August 25, says the United States needs about four months under optimum circumstances to pull all troops and equipment out of the country.
But Dempsey says U.S. forces can pull out quickly if needed and has made plans to do so if there is no agreement allowing them to stay into 2015.
Both presidential candidates have said they will sign a new security agreement with Washington.
But an audit of all 8 million ballots in the June election is dragging on longer than expected -- delaying confirmation of Afghanistan's next president.

Karzai again hosts presidential candidates for talks on election issues

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to once again host presidential candidates Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for talks on election issues.
The Ministers Council following a statement said President Karzai will hold talks on audit process and urge the two contenders for quick conclusion of electoral process.
The statement further added that President Hamid Karzai has instructed the relevant government institutions to prepare for the presidential inauguration as scheduled before.
This comes as the electoral bodies started the invalidation process of bogus ballot papers on Monday, while the audit process of around 30% of votes has not been completed so far.
IEC spokesman, Noor Mohammad Noor, said over 6000 ballot boxes have not been audited so far which will be completed soon.
Noor further added that the commission will also release the check lists on Wednesday which will reveal the number of votes invalidated by election commissioners.
In the meantime, President Hamid Karzai is expected to hold talks with the presidential candidates on the remaining ballot boxes which have not been audited so far.

Afghan Presidential Contender Threatens Boycott

One of the two men vying to become Afghanistan's next president is threatening to boycott a ballot audit from the country's disputed presidential runoff, his adviser said Tuesday, a development that could further disrupt the already troubled process.
The complicated, U.N.-supervised audit of the 8 million votes from the June presidential runoff has been underway in Kabul for weeks.
The process followed allegations of vote fraud on both sides and is meant to decide whether Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, or former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace President Hamid Karzai.
Abdullah is apparently concerned that the audit has allegedly failed to invalidate a sufficient number of ballots so far that would correspond to the level of vote fraud his team claims has taken place.
A top adviser for Abdullah told reporters on Tuesday that if Abdullah's concerns are not addressed by Wednesday morning, he will pull out of the audit.
"If our demands are not accepted, we will announce the end of this process," said Fazel Ahmad Manawi. "This process will not be acceptable to us and the result will not have any value."
Manawi said the election commission ignored their complaints about fraudulent ballots.
A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, Noor Ahmad Noor, said the recount would proceed Wednesday regardless of whether Abdullah's team decided to take part.
The United Nations in a lengthy press release pointed out the high level of input each team has had in the audit process, said the audit would continue even if one side pulls out.
If Abdullah's team goes through with their boycott threat, it raises concerns that his supporters would not consider the result to be valid and increases the likelihood of violence in what has already been a tense and lengthy election.
Karzai has said the new president should be sworn in on Sept. 2, just two days ahead of a NATO summit to be held in Wales. The president, who's been trying to encourage both sides to overcome the impasse, met with both candidates Sunday. He's scheduled to meet again Tuesday evening with Abdullah and Ahmadzai, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said.
The lack of a new president has held up the signing of a security agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan. Both candidates have promised to sign the agreement, which Karzai rejected.
The audit has proceeded, with fits and starts, in warehouses on the edge of Kabul, where hundreds of workers of the Independent Election Commission have been pouring through roughly 23,000 ballot boxes from across the country. Their work has been monitored by U.N. as well as international observers and representatives of the opposing teams.
Observers from both Abdullah's and Ahmadzai campaign teams have monitored the process, sometimes arguing intensely over issues such as whether unfolded ballot papers should be thrown out or whether check marks on ballots are too similar, a possible indication of fraud. At times the process has become so heated that fist fights have broken out.
On Monday, the election commission announced the first invalidations in the audit, saying results from 72 of the 3,645 polling stations it initially assessed have been completely invalidated. Nearly 700 more polling stations were partially invalidated.
There was no immediate information on how the invalidations would affect the end result of the election.
But Mujib Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for Abdullah, said Tuesday the low number of invalidations shows the audit "is not working."

Pakistani Movie Song - Nirma

Model Town violence: LHC upholds decision to file FIR against PM, 20 others

Upholding a sessions court’s ruling, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday ordered police to register an FIR against the PML-N’s top leadership – including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – over violence that took place in Lahore's Model Town in June.
At least 11 workers of Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were killed and over 100 people injured in clashes with police on June 17 in the Model Town locality.
PAT workers had submitted an application with police to file a First Information Report (FIR) against a total of 21 people, which included the prime minister, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, and others.
An additional district and sessions judge had ordered police to register the FIR on the request of the PAT, although the order was challenged in the LHC by four PML-N federal ministers — Khawaja Asif, Pervaiz Rasheed, Saad Rafique and Abid Sher Ali.
The case was heard by Justice Mehmood Maqbool Bajwa of the LHC, who also directed the joint investigation team (JIT) to submit its report in court before the verdict was released.
Reading out a short order, the high court upheld the lower court’s ruling and dismissed the federal ministers’ request not to file the FIR.
Earlier today, the court dismissed a request by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to become a party in the appeal challenging the sessions court ruling.
The request was filed by Zubair Khan Niazi on behalf of his party. However, the court dismissed it saying the PTI was not an aggrieved group and hence had no cause to become party in the case.

Pakistan: Pro-Taliban Takfiris Hail ISIS: Zikri-Balochs, Hindus Threatened To Death

Pro-Taliban takfiris of Baluchistan prince in Pakistan have welcomed so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and also have threatened Baloch Zikris and Hindus to death over their faith, The Shia Post reported.
The pro-Taliban and pro-ISIS takfiri terrorists have threatend both Baloch Zikris and Hindus to convert to takfiri Islam or face death in few days.
The Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jammat have already welcomed takfiri terrorist group of ISIS and have also open links with international terrorists organization.
Minority members of the National Assembly have already alleged that Hindus and other minorities were being intimidated to force them to leave Pakistan.
All of Pakistan’s minorities — Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis – feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them. Many complain the problem has become worse since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power last year.
Hundreds of members of the Hindu community have left Pakistan for India, citing mistreatment, discrimination and persecution. Despite efforts by the Pakistani government, the wave of migration seems to be continuing.
Now, Hindus and Zikriz of Balochistan have been threatened to death and due to fear of pro-ISIS terrorists thousands of them may leave Pakistan for ever or may leave their birthplace with tears.
Many of them be slaughtered Pakistani government, army and judiciary should take immediate steps to prevent the massacre of innocent citizens, which may occur in near feature after the treats given by pro-ISIS terrorists in Natural-Resrouces-Rich Balochistan province.
Pro-Taliban terrorists have killed thousands of innocent Pakistani citizens across the country, but government, judiciary and law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the citizens and have taken no step to stop ongoing genocide of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan.
The terrorist groups have launched a violent campaign against Shia-Sunni Muslims and minorities, appear to have widened their terror campaign in major Pakistani cities.
The killing of Shias and Minorities in Pakistan has also caused international outrage, with rights groups and regional countries expressing concern over the ongoing deadly violence against the Shia community, which reportedly makes up about a third of Pakistan’s population of over 180 million.

Pakistan: Equal citizens?

Imtiaz Gul
In recent months Pakistan has witnessed an unusual surge in violence against religious minorities who have faced violence across the country. Not only have Pakistani Christians, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and Hindus suffered at the hands of unknown extremist groups but the Shia community, too, has borne the brunt of extremism and intolerance.
Recent cases include the killing of two Hindu brothers in Umerkot, Sindh on August 6, 2014. On the same day a young Sikh trader, who had fled fighting in Fata, was gunned down in Peshawar. Earlier on July 26, 2014, an Ahmadi man was poisoned and shot dead in Gojra in Toba Tek Singh near Lahore, while a few days before that, another Ahmadi was murdered in Nawabshah. In yet another brazen attack on a minority community, two Ahmadi girls, one woman and an unborn baby were burned on July 27 in Gujranwala, Punjab – and the list keeps getting longer.
Strangely, the July 27 incident in Gujranwala targeting Ahmadis drew no reaction from Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab chief minister.
The exponential rise in the persecution of religious minorities calls into question Article 25 of the federal constitution which holds all citizens equal before the law and entitles them the right to equal citizenry.
The surge in violence against and the increasing discrimination of minorities also reminds us of a speech that the Quaid-e-Azam gave at the Strachey Hall of the Aligarh University on February 5, 1938.
“What the Muslim League has done is to set you free from the reactionary elements of Muslims and to create the opinion that those who play their selfish games are traitors. It has certainly freed you from that undesirable element of maulvis and maulanas (as well as (the clutches of the British government, the Congress, the reactionaries and so-called Muslims).”
Although Pakistan has been observing August 11 as a national ‘Minorities Day’ since 2011, these celebrations do not reflect what happens to most religious minorities, away from the glittering political power houses in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
Ironically, the current alarming incidence of violence against religious minorities also reminds one of the famous speech by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the nation, in which he promised the freedom of worship and equality without discrimination to religious minorities residing in Pakistan. His words were: “You are free; free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” All minorities feel that the state has not only failed to protect them but continues to tolerate and condone faith-based violence in the country – mostly hiding behind political expedience. The reluctance of CM Shahbaz Sharif in condemning the recent killings or the silence of most politicians over the murder of former governor of the Punjab province in January 2011, also testifies the usual mainstream political disinclination to condemn attacks on minorities.
Ashok Chand, vice chairman of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (APHRM), says that in addition to the afore-mentioned threats, religious minorities also continue to be restricted from performing their religious duties. Hindu minorities’ representatives claim that their women are easy targets for rape, conversions and forced marriages. Moreover, any accusation of blasphemy, which is punishable by death, is easy to drive a Hindu or a member of any other religious minority away from home.
The alarming increase in the number of horrific attacks against minorities in Pakistan raises concerns abroad too; Pakistan being a party to various UN treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) it ratified in 2010, is obliged under the Article 27 of ICCPR to ensure the freedom to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities living in Pakistan to profess and practice their religion, use their language and enjoy their culture.
More importantly, Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Pakistani constitution also guarantee every citizen the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion and to manage religious institutions. Despite these constitutional guarantees, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) notes that the religious freedom environment for Christians, Shias, Sikhs, Ahmadis and Hindus has severely deteriorated over the last 18 months. The Minority Rights Group International has, for example, ranked Pakistan as the world’s top country in terms of religious persecution.

Balochistan-wide strike on anniversary of Akbar Bugti

A Balochistan-wide shutter down strike is being observed on the 8th death anniversary of Nawab Akbar Bugti, today. Nawab Akbar Bugti was assassinated on 26th August 2006 on orders of former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf.
According to reports, a complete shutter down strike is being observed in entire Baloch belt and Baloch areas of Quetta. The call for the strike was given by Jameel Akbar Bugti, son of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Jamhoori Watan Party, Baloch Republican party and Baloch republican students organization. National party and PML-N also announced to support the call for shutter down strike. Nawab Akbar Bugti had served as State minister for Defense of Pakistan, Governor and Chief Minister of Balochistan during his illustrious political career which spanned over 5 decades.
Nawab Akbar Bugti was assassinated in Bhambore Hills region of Kohlu district on orders of Dictator Pervez Musharraf.
Akbar Bugti assassination case is being heard in Anti Terrorism court in Quetta. Pervez Musharraf, former prime minister Shoukat Aziz, former interior minister Aftab Sherpao, former governor Balochistan Awais Ghani, Former chief minister late Jam Yousaf, former home minister of Balochistan Shoaib Nosherwani and former DCO Dera Bugti Abdul Samad Lasi are nominated as accused murderers in Akbar Bugti Assassination case.
Pervez Musharraf has never appeared before the anti terrorism court Quetta by making one excuse after another. He has again been ordered to appear before court in first week of September.

Pakistan: Punjab govt responsible for Model Town 'bloodbath'

Senior journalist Kamran Shahid on Tuesday revealed details of judicial commission’s report pertaining to Model Town tragedy.
The report compiled by Justice Baqir Ali Najfi of the Lahore High Court (LHC) directly holds Punjab government responsible for ‘bloodbath’ in Model Town area.
It was mentioned in the report that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had not ordered the police to ‘disengage’ from the clashes with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters, resulting in the deaths of at least 14 people and injuries to over 80 others.
The report says neither former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah nor former principal secretary to the chief minister, Dr Tauqeer Shah, had mentioned in their affidavits to the commission that they had been directed by the chief minister to ‘disengage’ the police.
Shahbaz Sharif had used the word “disengagement” in his affidavit on an afterthought, the report added. It was further revealed that Minhajul Quran International (MQI) workers hurled stones at police and in return they were fired upon. Police followed Punjab government s orders.
According to report, barriers outside Minhajul Quran International Secretariat were legal.
It may be mentioned here that the judicial commission was constituted in order to investigate the Model Town Incident that took place on June 17, 2014. Punjab Police went to remove the barriers placed outside Dr Tahirul Qadri s residence and Minhajul Quran International (MQI) Secretariat in Model Town. The workers of MQI resisted the move which led to a deadly clash leaving 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers dead and dozens injured.

Pakistan: The inglorious fight

The inglorious fight with the PML-N’s government on one side and the PTI and PAT on the other is going to end soon with no contender getting the laurels. The tactics used to attack the government as well as those employed by the administration to defend itself have been equally unscrupulous and bring no credit to the contenders. The way the struggle has been conducted on both sides has in fact brought out the worst in the belligerents. The tussle has already caused a loss of at least 15 lives that could have been avoided. It has, in the process, provided an opportunity to the army to remain in the driving seat vis-à-vis decision making in crucial affairs of the state. The hope of the civilian government calling the shots in policy making has been dashed to the ground.
The PML-N’s tendency of dealing with political opponents through heavy handed methods like resort to state’s oppressive machinery and by letting loose violent party workers has been glaringly revealed. The use of blue eyed boys in police for political purposes was the hall mark of the PML-N governance in the 90’s. Those claiming that the party had outgrown its undemocratic past have been proved wrong once again. The firing by police on PAT workers outside Minhajul Quran complex in Model Town, which resulted in killings, was a testimony to the authoritarian mindset of the PML-N leadership.
The use of party workers to indulge in violence against political opponents began during the 1977 movement against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Muslim League’s students wing, which joined hands with the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba to turn educational campuses into battlefields, is duly represented in the PML-N rank and file. They were trained by Ziaul Haq’s minions not to argue or debate but to use physical force to silence those seeking democracy and social justice. While those in the upper echelons of the PML-N have learnt to use democratic vocabulary, their body language still reveals that their commitment to democratic values is no more than skin deep.
The use of party workers to indulge in violence against political opponents began during the 1977 movement against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Muslim League’s students wing, which joined hands with the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba to turn educational campuses into battlefields, is duly represented in the PML-N rank and file.
Gullu Butts are still galore in the lower ranks of the PML-N. Way back in late ‘80s, Nawaz Sharif said his blood boiled whenever he heard Benazir Bhutto’s name. He might have undergone a change but there are still violent workers in the PML-N who cannot control themselves while dealing with their opponents. Instead of discouraging the tendency the PML-N considers this type of workers as assets. This explains the vandalisation of the cars of the PAT activists in Model Town, the brick batting on Imran Khan’s marchers in Gujranwala and the attack on Shah Mahmud Qureshi’s residence in Multan.
The PTI and PAT share many things with the PML-N. The slogans raised and methods used during the fight have exposed PTI’s credentials as a democratic party.
Imran Khan demanded verification of voters’ thumbprints in four constituencies during his May 11 rally in Islamabad. There was not a word about change of government throughout his address. An eternally unfocused Nawaz Sharif failed to respond in time. As the audience started increasing in subsequent PTI public gatherings, it suited Imran Khan to question the legitimacy of the entire elections. This was an opportunistic shift in the stance. Then in July Khan expressed confidence in the new Chief Justice and agreed to call off his march if a three-member judicial commission under Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk agreed to investigate the alleged electoral fraud. When Nawaz Sharif agreed to the demand weeks later, Khan went back on his word, maintaining there could be no independent inquiry as long as Sharif was in power. In other words, to prove that someone deserves hanging, he should be hanged first.
Was there none among the PTI leaders to warn their leader of the disastrous consequences of his call for refusing to pay taxes and utility bills? Nobody to tell him that while ‘No taxation without representation’ might be an apt slogan in a colony where an alien parliament made laws, it was simply unthinkable in a working democracy? The Boston Tea Party can take place when the people are struggling against a colonial power but not in an independent country. The announcement has caused a haemorrhage to the national economy.
The core committee of the PTI, claiming to comprise individuals devoted to rule of law and committed to democracy, simply follows whatever stand Khan takes in his extempore exhortations without applying their minds as if they were a herd of sheep. Hitler’s Nazi party was also a middle class party. It contested elections only to enforce the vision of a man gone haywire. The way PTI leaders stand by Khan while he rants and the unthinking audience waves and dances makes one fear the arrival of the a Third Reich.
The PTI and PAT share many things with the PML-N. The slogans raised and methods used during the fight have exposed PTI’s credentials as a democratic party.
The PTI was the third largest party in national assembly. Its presence in the House guaranteed a strong opposition bloc acting as a check on government’s excesses. The PTI had a fair chance of reaching the corridors of power in the next elections. In case the party’s agitation leads to the wrapping up of democracy, history will hold it responsible for the tragedy.
The self styled Sheikh-ul-Islam Tahirul Qadri is a murky figure in Pakistan’s politics whose attempt to sabotage the 2013 elections was foiled by the PPP through a better strategy. He is once again trying to complete the task assigned to him. Qadri looks like a cog in the wheelwork set in motion to overthrow the government. Early this month he predicted that the PML-N government will not remain in power beyond August, creating the perception of a well prepared plan.
While Qadri maintains the posture of a man of peace he is essentially a violent cleric. He told his followers to take revenge from Sharif family if he was assassinated by the government. He can give a call in Urdu and its opposite in English in the same speech, keeping in view the composition of his audience. As Qadri is not to contest the elections, whatever happens to the system does not affect him.
It is ironic that each one of the three contenders is looking towards the army for help hoping that the institution would intercede in his favour. This indicates that all three have lost hope in the strength of their parties or the support of the masses.

Pakistan: Campaign boycotted: Polio drive postponed in five districts of K-P

The Express Tribune
Lady health workers (LHW) boycotted the polio eradication campaign that kicked off in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, thus postponing the exercise in five districts. To make matters worse, around 300,000 children in North Waziristan, South Waziristan and parts of Khyber Agency will miss out on the vaccine due to the security situation.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Assistant Director Dr Kalimullah Khan said the current campaign targeted some 2.8 million children across K-P. He confirmed the boycott forced authorities to postpone vaccinations in Lakki Marwat, Charsadda, Bannu and Malakand till August 31. He confirmed preparations in Peshawar were not complete and the campaign will take place another day.
The LHWs decided to boycott the campaign as their salaries have not been released for the last three months. Peshawar district supervisor Ayesha Hassan said they would not start vaccinating children till their salaries were paid.
She said most of the 16,300 workers belong to very poor families and their livelihoods depend on this salary. “How can we take care of other people’s children when our own are dying of poverty?” she asked.
Meanwhile, Kalimullah said the programme would not be disrupted in DI Khan, Lower Dir, Hangu, Tank, Karak, Kohat and Mardan, adding 1.4 million children have already been vaccinated.
It was initially planned to send out 9,108 teams, but the lady health workers’ boycott reduced that number to 3,000, he said.
Polio in FATA
Around 2,656 teams have been organised to administer drops to 712,604 children all over Fata and the frontier regions. These include 2,340 mobile, 241 fixed and 75 transit teams that would travel with proper security arrangements. However, a little under 300,000 children in North Waziristan, South Waziristan and areas of Khyber Agency will miss out on the drops due to the security situation.
FATA Additional Chief Secretary Arbab Mohammad Arif asked vaccinators to ensure all children under the age of five were given drops so the country can rid itself of the crippling virus.
Arif also appealed to community members to extend their full support so no child misses out on the preventative vaccine.
At least 117 cases of polio have been reported in Pakistan this year, 85 of which were children in Fata. Militants in tribal areas have frequently attacked vaccination teams and asked families to stay away from polio campaigns. Over 50 people, including health workers and law enforcers providing security, have been killed in these attacks since December 2012. WHO declared a global “public health emergency” in May after new polio cases began surfacing and spreading across borders from countries, including Pakistan.

Pakistan: PTI seeks support for ‘in-house change’

As the stalemate between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf continued, the latter held discussions with the heads of opposition parties in the National Assembly on Monday to get their support for its ‘in-house change formula’.
The PTI camp believes that it has offered the best possible way out, allowing the PML-N to stay in power while the proposed Supreme Court judicial commission carries out the investigation into allegations about election rigging.
Therefore, the PTI leadership, according to a party insider, has decided to share its new plan of action with opposition parties in a bid to secure their support.
Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq held a detailed discussion with PTI negotiators involved in talks with the government at the residence of the party’s general secretary, Jahangir Tareen.
Later in the evening, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had a telephonic conversation with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
Talking to newsmen after meeting the JI emir, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi reiterated his party’s stance and said it had shown enough flexibility by climbing down from its original demands and now it was the government’s turn to respond. “We are not in a position to offer more than this,” he added.
Before talks with the government, the PTI’s main demand was the resignation of the prime minister, followed by dissolution of assemblies and setting up a national government to investigate the alleged election rigging and holding mid-term elections.
However, after three rounds of talks ending on Saturday night, the PTI proposed resignation by the prime minister only for 30 days.
According to the PTI formula, in the absence of the prime minister the ruling PML-N may bring in anybody from within as prime minister without any change in the federal cabinet.
On the possibility of resuming talks with the government, Mr Qureshi said the PTI was waiting for the government’s response.
However, the counter rallies which the PML-N had staged showed that they were out on a confrontational path.
The JI chief, who had been shuttling between the PTI and government camps for a peaceful resolution of the standoff, said he had not lost hope and would urge other parties also to come forward and play their role. “I am happy that Imran Khan has shown flexibility and the government has accepted all demands of the PTI except the resignation of the prime minister. We can still try and find a middle ground,” said Mr Haq. The JI leader even claimed to have a recipe which can still resolve the crisis, but refused to share it with the media. “I will meet the government delegation soon. Let me convince them first and then I will share it with the media.”
Mr Haq once again promised to give good news in the form of an agreement between the protesting parties and the government.
In his telephonic talk with Mr Zardari, according to a PTI source, Imran Khan explained the reason why his party was pressing for the resignation of the prime minister, even for a month.
PTI Information Secretary Dr Shireen Mazari was not available to explain what had transpired between the two leaders, but a PTI core committee member said Imran Khan told the PPP leader categorically that the Azadi march would continue till its objective was achieved.
He said if the PPP agreed to the PTI’s proposal for an in-house change it would put a huge pressure on the government. A similar message had been delivered to the MQM leadership, he said.
A PML-N source close to the prime minister’s office told Dawn that the government was ready to hold talks with the PTI on all its demands, except the resignation of the prime minister.
“Having unconditional support of all political parties represented in the two houses of parliament the prime minister is not going anywhere,” he said.
He said doors would remain open for talks, but as far as the resignation of the prime minister was concerned, only Mr Nawaz Sharif himself could decide because no-one in the party could even dare to ask him to consider it.

How Pakistan's Sharif stumbled into protests crisis

As thousands of protesters blockaded Pakistan's parliament last week, the spirits of the lawmakers inside were briefly lifted by a rare appearance from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
But Sharif only listened in silence as legislator after legislator denounced the protesters seeking his government's resignation. He then stood up, and left through a back door.
Toppled in a 1999 coup, jailed and then exiled, Sharif made a triumphant comeback as prime minister for a third time in last year's general election.
Voters had hoped he would prove better than a long line of feckless prime ministers, shoring up the sagging economy by tackling the chronic power cuts and crumbling infrastructure that bedevil the country of 180 million.
But critics say that his slow pace of reforms, apparent detachment and poor relations with the military emboldened his challengers and encouraged the anti-government protests.
"This is a symptom of arrogance and bad governance," said independent senator Mohsin Leghari. "When issues are not discussed in parliament they spill out into the streets."
That is what happened this month when opposition leader Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahir ul-Qadri led tens of thousands of supporters to the capital, Islamabad, to demand that he step down.
If the army referees a resolution of the stand-off, as many expect, it will emerge strengthened at the expense of the prime minister. That would deal a blow to civilian rule, a year after an election that marked the first democratic transfer of power in Pakistan's coup-blighted history.
Many believe that Sharif, a wealthy steel magnate from Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province, has only himself to blame for his current crisis.
Ordinary Pakistanis have not seen many improvements since he took office. Apart from the annual budget, not a single law was passed in his first year, a legislative watchdog said. Draft legislation to tackle corruption and electoral reform – central demands of the protesters – has languished.
Fourteen months after Sharif's election, key posts remain unfilled, and government regulators lack heads. There is still no foreign minister. Defence and the water and power ministries share a single minister, as do the information and law ministries.
A spokesman for Sharif, responding to questions for this report, said these posts were being filled gradually as the government sought capable candidates.
The government can point to some macroeconomic wins: stabilising the currency, rebuilding foreign reserves and cutting inflation by a couple of points to around eight percent.
But these have not won Sharif much applause at a time when populist opponents are promising subsidised food, free housing and a crackdown on corruption.
"The ... government's failure to gauge the growing resentment at the common-man level enabled Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri to mobilise the alienated populace," national daily the Express Tribune said in a commentary on Monday.
Sharif’s habit of surrounding himself with a small coterie of advisers, many of whom are also relatives, led protest leader Khan to jeer that the prime minister was a "monarch".
The jibe resonates with protesters like 20-year-old Atique ur-Rehman, a student who says his degree cannot get him a job without family connections.
"It's only one family holding all the power in Pakistan," he complained. "They think it is only their country and they want to stop the poor people from standing up."
Sharif's brother is chief minister of Punjab. The son of his old friend, the finance minister, is married to Sharif's daughter. His nephews and wife's relations are also powerful political figures.
Sharif's office said that being related did not make his family members unfit for public office.
"The Sharif family is involved in politics since last four decades. It is an extended family," the spokesman said. "They are talented and qualify for the places that they have occupied."
Some complain, however, that the family network means Sharif bypasses formal institutions. He has attended less than a dozen parliamentary sessions since he took office, said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob of PILDAT, a think-tank that tracks legislative issues. That means Sharif was in parliament for about 10 percent of sittings, while his predecessor attended more than 80 percent. Sharif's office says he is too busy overseeing security and energy policy to attend parliament all the time, and is represented by his cabinet ministers.
All Sharif's problems – from accusations of nepotism to grumbling lawmakers and protesters – would go away if he just delivered reforms faster, said Senator Leghari.
"First you have to deliver progress," he said. "Then, when you are popular, you can even rein in the military."
But Sharif may now be too weak to fend off the military, which may not rule directly anymore but still consumes nearly half of the government budget and considers foreign and security policy its domain.
Western allies worry that elements of Pakistan's military are destabilising the region by supporting Islamist militants who are active in Afghanistan and target arch-foe India.
Sharif angered the military after returning to power by attempting to mend fences with India and insisting on months of - ultimately fruitless - peace talks before agreeing to launch an offensive against Pakistan's Taliban.
He also sided with a media house that enraged the army by publicly accusing it of shooting a prominent journalist.
The treason trial of Pervez Musharraf, the army chief who overthrew Sharif in 1999 and later became president, was the final straw. A court granted Musharraf permission to leave the country during the lengthy trial, but the government refused. A political analyst said Sharif wanted to humiliate Musharraf in revenge for Sharif's own imprisonment.
Now, however, he may depend on the army to fend off the protesters and stay in office.
Sharif's office said the military, as part of the government, is always consulted in the decision-making process and reports of differences between Sharif and the generals are "more fiction than reality".
But, recalling that the military played a key role in removing Sharif's government in 1999, the Express Tribune said history seemed to be repeating itself 15 years later.
"The military can use its political clout to facilitate, if not impose, a solution," it said.
Indeed, Sharif’s tone has already changed. As protesters marched on Islamabad on Aug. 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day, he gave a speech notable only for its fulsome praise of the army.

Populist’s Brash Tactics Stir Fears of Crisis in Pakistan

Only last year, Imran Khan was casting himself as the savior of Pakistani politics: a playboy cricketer turned opposition leader who enjoyed respect and sex appeal, filling stadiums with adoring young Pakistanis drawn to his strident attacks on corruption, American drone strikes and old-school politics. When Mr. Khan promised that he would become prime minister, many believed him.
Now, though, Mr. Khan’s populist touch appears to have deserted him.
He led thousands of supporters into the center of the capital, Islamabad, a week ago in a boisterous bid to force the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom he accuses of election fraud. But the crowds he attracted were much smaller than his party had hoped, and the protest movement has been messy, inchoate and inconclusive.
Mr. Khan, 61, delivers speeches every day from atop a shipping container opposite the Parliament building, while his supporters sleep on the streets of a paralyzed city. But because he lacks the clout to break the political deadlock, he has turned to inflammatory tactics.
In recent days, he has called for a tax boycott, threatened to have his supporters storm the prime minister’s house, and pulled his party’s lawmakers from Parliament. In interviews, he has compared himself to Gandhi and to Tariq ibn Ziyad, an eighth-century Islamic general. In speeches, he has threatened his enemies and taunted Mr. Sharif, at one point challenging him to a fistfight.
The rest of the political opposition and much of the news media in Pakistan have turned against Mr. Khan, who is seen as having disastrously overreached. “Go Home Imran,” said a politically conservative newspaper, The Nation. Another writer called him “the Sarah Palin of Pakistan.”
But many worry that Mr. Khan’s brash tactics could endanger the country’s fragile democracy. Breaking its sphinxlike stance, the military intervened in the turmoil on Tuesday, urging politicians to resolve their differences with “patience, wisdom and sagacity.” Though benignly worded, the statement caused anxious flutters among the political class, who note Pakistan’s long history of military coups.
The protests in Islamabad “threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the back door,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group warned on Thursday. Hours later, the American Embassy in Islamabad said pointedly in a statement that its diplomats “strongly oppose any efforts to impose extraconstitutional change.”
On the streets, Mr. Khan’s movement has the boisterous feel of a midsummer music festival. Pop stars introduce his speeches, which are punctuated by songs during which his supporters, many of them women, burst into dance. A disc jockey known as DJ Butt is part of his entourage.
But Mr. Khan’s stewardship of that exuberant crowd has seemed erratic. When the marchers arrived in Islamabad on Aug. 15 after a punishing 36-hour journey from Lahore, the capital was being pounded by rain. While his supporters slept on the wet streets, Mr. Khan retreated to his villa outside the city to rest, drawing sharp criticism.
In speeches, he has used extensive cricket analogies, referring to himself as “captain,” and his heated, often intemperate style has alienated some supporters. At one point, he threatened to send his political enemies to the Taliban so the insurgents could “deal with them.”
Mr. Khan’s call for supporters to stop paying taxes and utility bills met with widespread derision because few Pakistanis pay income taxes, and the country is already crippled with power shortages. His attack on the United States ambassador, Richard G. Olson, was seen as pandering to anti-American sentiment. “Are we, Pakistanis, children of a lesser god?” he said in that speech.
The protests stem from accusations of vote-rigging in the May 2013 general election. Mr. Khan accuses Mr. Sharif’s party of fixing the vote in a number of constituencies in Punjab Province. Critics of Mr. Khan call his accusations sour grapes: Although international observers noted some irregularities, the election was accepted as broadly free and fair.
Suspicions that the military, whose relations with Mr. Sharif’s government have been tense, might have something to do with Mr. Khan’s protest movement were heightened by the appearance of Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, a mercurial cleric whose parallel movement has, in recent days, outshone Mr. Khan’s. Mr. Qadri, who wants to replace Mr. Sharif’s government with one of technocrats, appears to have attracted a larger and more disciplined crowd, and to be benefiting from a simpler message. Normally based in Canada, he controls no seats in Parliament, and his populist manifesto is filled with laudable but vague notions like an end to terrorism.
Mr. Sharif’s government, which initially reacted to the protests in a clumsy and sometimes brutal manner, has taken a more sophisticated approach in recent days. The police have allowed Mr. Khan’s and Mr. Qadri’s supporters to reach the area outside Parliament, although the building itself is surrounded by hundreds of soldiers.
On one level, the dispute is about control of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province and Mr. Sharif’s political heartland. Mr. Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, knows it must challenge Mr. Sharif in Punjab to stand a chance of beating him nationally.
Negotiations started Wednesday, but Mr. Khan called them off a day later, demanding that Mr. Sharif resign first. Addressing a crowd, he railed against the prime minister in language considered coarse even by the rowdy standards of Pakistani politics.
Pressure to resolve the crisis is rising, both from hard-liners in Mr. Sharif’s party and from residents of Islamabad, who complain about the strain the protests have put on the capital. Protesters dry their laundry on the lawn of the Supreme Court and slip behind bushes to defecate.
The former president, Asif Ali Zardari, has offered to help mediate between the parties and met with Mr. Sharif on Saturday. But the situation on the streets remains fluid. An outbreak of violence or an overreaction by the police could shift the advantage to Mr. Khan and endanger the government, analysts say.
Few Pakistanis believe that a military coup is imminent. But the crisis has weakened Mr. Sharif, who has squabbled with the generals over policy toward India, peace talks with the Taliban and the fate of the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who faces treason charges.
“The military doesn’t need to impose martial law now,” said Amir Mateen, a political analyst based in Islamabad. “Imran has weakened the entire political class, and the government is on its knees. The military can have its agenda fulfilled without doing anything.”
The next move, though, is up to Mr. Khan, who, having played an ambitious game, now needs to find a way to end it peacefully.