Thursday, September 11, 2014
AN INDEPENDENT Scotland would be a “big success”, the head of the country’s largest asset manager, has claimed as he dismissed suggestions a Yes vote would harm the economy. Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, said he thought Scotland would prosper whatever the outcome of the referendum next week. The company has stated that it is officially neutral in the independence debate and has no plans to move its headquarters from Aberdeen, despite suggestions from other major firms that they would pull out after a Yes vote. Mr Gilbert, the company’s founder, said he had already voted by post but declined to say which way. “I think an independent Scotland would be a big success, but it is a secret ballot and I will abide by that,” he said. Mr Gilbert also dismissed suggestions from the Bank of England governor Mark Carney that a currency union was incompatible with national sovereignty. He said: “I think an independent Scotland would be a big success. Most sensible people now accept that Scotland would be prosperous with either outcome in the current constitutional debate. “A sterling union would be both desirable and highly likely whatever is said in London now.” Mr Gilbert also said sterlingisation – in which an independent Scotland kept the pound without a formal deal – would be a “pretty good option”. The SNP government has indicated it would refuse to take on its share of UK debt if the main unionist parties at Westminster carried out a threat to keep an independent Scotland out of a currency union. Mr Gilbert said: “Low or no debt would be the position if an independent Scotland were denied access to Bank of England financial assets, and that would leave the newly independent country in both budget and balance of payments surplus. Not a bad start.” Scotland’s finance secretary John Swinney, welcomed Mr Gilbert’s remarks, which he said boosted the economic case for independence. He said: “This is a significant intervention from a well-respected figure in the financial services sector.”
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond remains optimistic about next week’s referendum, saying Scots will make history by voting ‘Yes’ to break more than 300 years of union with England. "Scotland will vote 'Yes' next Thursday because last-minute...promises from the 'No' campaign will not fool anyone," said Salmond during a speech in Edinburgh on Thursday. “As a country we are rediscovering self-confidence, as a nation we are finding our voice.... On September 18, we, the people, hold our destiny in our own hands,” he added. Meanwhile, two of Britain’s largest banks have warned that they would move their headquarters to England if the Scottish people vote for independence next week. RBS, which owns NatWest and Ulster Bank, warned that staying in an independent Scotland would create uncertainties that could hurt its business and customers. Edinburgh-based Lloyds Bank also expressed concern over the independence cause, after a recent poll showed a surge in support of the Yes campaign. Scottish people are set to participate in a historic referendum next Thursday. Scottish authorities say independence from the UK would free Scotland from London’s austerity policies and unnecessary military spending. A YouGov poll presented on September 7 showed support for Scotland's independence at 51 percent, compared with 49 percent in favor of remaining in the union. Meanwhile, Britain has already expressed concern over Scotland's possible independence. Scotland will hold a national referendum on September 18 to determine the country’s future. The independence referendum could result in Scotland’s breakaway from the United Kingdom after more than 300 years of political union.
If the West bombs Islamic State militants in Syria without consulting Damascus, the anti-ISIS alliance may use the occasion to launch airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “There are reasons to suspect that air strikes on Syrian territory may target not only areas controlled by Islamic State militants, but the government troops may also be attacked on the quiet to weaken the positions of Bashar Assad’s army,” Lavrov said Tuesday. Such a development would lead to a huge escalation of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow after a meeting with the foreign minister of Mali. Moscow is urging the West to respect international law and undertake such acts only with the approval of the legitimate government of a state, Lavrov said. “Not a single country should have its own plans on such issues. There can be only combined, collective, univocal actions. Only this way can a result be achieved,” he said. His comments came shortly after Washington announced plans to go on the offensive against the Islamic State jihadist group. The US military has already launched over 100 airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq, including a new series that the military said killed an unusually large number of Islamic State fighters, AP reported.
On September 11, 2014, President Obama and the First Lady attended the September 11th Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon, to mark the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Former vice president Dick Cheney shared criticism of President Obama's foreign policy during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday, ahead of the president's speech on America's role in the fight against the Islamic State.
It was just like the good old days.
Scooter Libby was in the front row. Paul Wolfowitz was in the second. And on the stage was Dick Cheney, beating the drums of war. “The situation is dire, and defeating these terrorists will require immediate, sustained, simultaneous action across multiple fronts,” the former vice president proclaimed in a pre-buttal to President Obama’s prime-time speech on fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.“We should immediately hit them in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers and lines of communication wherever we find them,” Cheney told the audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.“We are at war,” he said, and “we must do what it takes, for as long as it takes, to win.” This means “we should halt the drawdown of our troops in Afghanistan,” that we should “take military action if necessary” in Iran, and give “full backing and support” of those fighting the Muslim Brotherhood. In summary: War, war and more war. Cheney, five years out of office and two years after a heart transplant, looked and acted like his old self: Back to his former chunkiness, he flashed his crooked grin — and dismissed any information contrary to his martial thesis. AEI’s Marc Thiessen, the moderator, pointed out a report by The Post’s Robert Costa about “young and dovish” House Republicans who disagreed with Cheney’s position when he spoke to the caucus Tuesday. “Don’t we have to convince a lot of people in our party first?” Thiessen asked. Cheney at first accepted the premise, but then reconsidered. “I’m sure there were probably a few in the audience who disagreed,” the former vice president said. “I think The Washington Post found two of them.” There is agreement across the political spectrum on some of what Cheney said: that Obama has been disengaged and too hesitant to use military power. Even as he announced an expanded campaign against the Islamic State on Wednesday night, Obama reminded Americans that combat in Afghanistan will end this year, that 140,000 troops are home from Iraq and that “we will not get dragged into another ground war” there. But Cheney is a singularly flawed critic, because the alternative he offers is war everywhere and always — and though there is support for taking on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, there is no appetite in the country, or even in the GOP, for Cheney’s alternative extreme. As if to underscore that point, Jim Wallis, an evangelical with a pacifist bent who called the Iraq war a “war based on lies,” was speaking in an adjoining conference room at the conservative think tank while Cheney gave his address — and the applause could be heard in the room where Cheney was speaking. This was Cheney’s second head-to-head speech with the sitting president, following a May 2009 duel in which Cheney furiously opposed Obama’s counterterrorism policies, accusing him of “recklessness cloaked in righteousness” and using the word “attack” 19 times. Cheney One-Note delivered much the same Be Very Afraid speech: “Al-Qaeda is not diminished, nor is the tide of war receding . . . a doubling of jihadist fighters and a tripling of attacks by al-Qaeda affiliates . . . a defense secretary in a serious state of alarm. ‘The world,’ as Secretary Hagel said a few weeks ago, ‘is exploding all over.’ ” Actually, the “world is exploding” line was part of a question Chuck Hagel said he’s often asked — but accuracy has never been a priority for Cheney. His priority Wednesday was to tell Americans that Obama has put their safety in jeopardy. Cheney said the Obama administration “failed utterly” to keep American security strong. “He has demonstrated his own distrust for American power as a force for good in the world,” Cheney growled, drawing a connection “between a disengaged president and some very volatile situations abroad.” Cheney, saying the Obama administration “failed utterly” to keep American security strong at home, is making “opportunity for our adversaries” with his “stern declarations of inaction.” Cheney’s 20-minute speech, carefully read from his prepared text, had an I-told-you-so tone. He mockingly said it was “nice to hear” Obama’s recent remark that the post-9/11 security apparatus keeps us safe, “especially from someone who used to speak so disparagingly about the steps we took.” Of course, it could be argued that the spread of jihadist movements has less to do with Obama than with destabilization caused by the Bush-Cheney wars. But Cheney, so expert on Obama’s failings, remains blind to his own. “A policy of nonintervention can be just as dogmatic as its opposite,” he said, “and this president has seemed at times only more sure of himself as he is disproved by events.” A sense of self-awareness would have led Cheney to drop that line.
BY SEBASTIEN MALO
Russia has warned that US air strikes against militants in Syria would be a "gross violation" of international law.A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said any such action, without the backing of the UN, would be "an act of aggression". It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry meets Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia to try to build a coalition against Islamic State (IS) militants. President Obama has threatened action against IS in Syria as well as Iraq. IS controls large parts of Syria and Iraq after a rapid military advance. In a speech outlining his strategy, Mr Obama said any group that threatened America would "find no safe haven". He also announced that 475 US military personnel would be sent to Iraq but said they would not have a combat role. But the statement brought a strong reaction from Russia, which has been an ally of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "The US president has spoken directly about the possibility of strikes by the US armed forces against Isil (IS) positions in Syria without the consent of the legitimate government," ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying. "This step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law." Syria also repeated its warning that the US had to co-ordinate with the Syrian government before launching air strikes on its territory. "Any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria," National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said on Thursday. Last month Syria offered to help the US fight Islamic State, however the US ruled that out. The US has launched more than 150 air strikes against the group in Iraq and has provided arms to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting against IS. The jihadist group has become notorious for its brutality, recording their beheadings of enemy soldiers and Western journalists. Rebel training Mr Kerry, who arrived in the Red Sea port of Jeddah on Thursday, will hold talks with representatives of Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf states as well as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Nato member Turkey. Reports say that among the issues to be discussed are training for Syrian rebels on Saudi soil and broader permission from regional states to use their airspace in order to increase the capacity of US aircraft.
Syrian and Iranian officials criticized the Obama administration on Thursday for excluding them from an international coalition coming together in the battle against the Islamic State group while a state-run Syrian daily warned that unauthorized U.S. airstrikes on Syrian territory may trigger the "first sparks of fire" in the region. Syria's main Western-backed opposition group, meanwhile, welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's authorization of U.S. airstrikes targeting -- for the first time -- the extremists inside Syria, saying it stands "ready and willing" to partner with the international community to defeat the militants. But the Syrian National Coalition said that airstrikes need to be coupled with a strategy for ultimately toppling Assad. Kurdish politicians in Iraq similarly praised Obama's announcement of wider airstrikes and assistance to Iraqi forces. "We welcome this new strategy," said Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish politician and one of Iraq's newly-appointed deputy prime ministers. "We think it will work with the co-operation of the indigenous local forces like Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish peshmerga and other forces." "There is an urgent need for action. People cannot sit on the fence. This is a mortal threat to everybody," he told The Associated Press. The U.S. began launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq earlier this summer at the request of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri el-Maliki, in a significant boost to the Iraqi forces fighting on the ground to win back land lost to the militant group. The Sunni extremists have seized roughly a third of Iraq and Syria in their rampage this summer, declaring a self-styled caliphate in areas under their control where they apply their strict interpretation of Islamic law, Shariah. In a prime-time address to the nation from the White House late Wednesday, Obama announced he was authorizing U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, along with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of "a steady, relentless effort" to root out Islamic State extremists and their spreading reign of terror. He also again urged Congress to authorize a program to train and arm Syrian rebels who are fighting both the Islamic State militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Obama did not say when U.S. forces would begin striking at targets inside Syria. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem had last month warned the U.S. against carrying out airstrikes on its territory without Damascus' consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression. Obama, in his speech, ruled out any partnership with Assad in the fight against the Islamic State militants, saying he will "never regain the legitimacy" he has lost. "I wonder how an international coalition can be formed and Syria, which is targeted by terrorism in depth, is shunned aside?" Sharif Shehadeh, a Syrian lawmaker, told the AP in Damascus. He said violating Syrian sovereignty will have "negative repercussions on regional and international security." He did not elaborate. The state-run al-Thawra newspaper warned in a front-page editorial that Obama's authorization of airstrikes in Syria might be "the first sparks of fire in the region." Syrian officials have always insisted that the uprising in Syria which erupted in March 2011 and evolved into civil war was carried out by armed "terrorists" -- using the term as shorthand for all rebels and anti-Assad forces. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, whose country is a staunch ally of Assad, also said Thursday that regional and international co-operation will be vital -- even though Tehran has not been invited to join an international coalition against the Islamic State group. Rouhani spoke on an official visit to Tajikistan. In Tehran, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the coalition against the Islamic State group has "serious ambiguities," the official IRNA news agency reported Thursday. She added Iran has doubts about the seriousness of the coalition, because some members of the coalition have been supporters of terrorists in Iraq and Syria. A year ago, Obama gave a speech to the nation in which he was widely expected to announce the U.S. would be launching punishing airstrikes against Assad's forces, after blaming them for a deadly chemical weapons attack near Damascus. Obama backed down at the last minute. Ironically, the U.S. president is now authorizing airstrikes not against Assad, but against a group committed to his removal from power. In doing that, the U.S. runs the risk of unintentionally strengthening Assad's hand, potentially opening the way for the Syrian army to fill the vacuum left by the extremists. Hadi Bahra, chief of the Syrian National Coalition opposition group, said mainstream Syrian rebels desperately need the kind of support that would enable it to form a reliable and well-equipped force to fight the extremists. "Today, we are one step closer to achieving that goal," he said. He said the Syrian Coalition "stands ready and willing to partner with the international community" not only to defeat the extremists but also "to rid the Syrian people of the tyranny of the Assad regime." Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/syria-iran-governments-slam-obama-s-new-islamic-state-strategy-1.2001952#ixzz3D0ndUHbA
This week is the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, when al-Qaeda killed 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of the planes used in the strikes were Saudis. So was al-Qaeda's leader, Usama bin Ladin. Since then, the United States has applied considerable pressure on the kingdom to combat support for terrorism.Saudi Arabia's record has been mixed. A chain of dramatic al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom itself a decade ago killed scores of people. That experience drove Saudi Arabia to work vigorously to prevent attacks inside the country and pursue terrorists committed to them. The kingdom has also blocked funds intended for terrorists, discouraged religious sermons supportive of terrorism, and detained and rehabilitated militants. Yet over the years, the United States has complained -- for good reason -- that these undertakings have been constrained by Saudi capabilities as well as Saudi politics. The country's political leadership (the al-Saud royal family) and religious leadership (adherents of the austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam) have coexisted in a symbiotic relationship for more than two centuries. They have depended on each other for support and legitimacy among the population. Too much pressure from one on the other puts the power and influence of both groups at risk. Today, one thing is clear: the Saudi political leadership views ISIS as a direct threat to the kingdom. Nothing drove this home more than the discovery earlier this year of scores of Saudi citizens inside the kingdom, colluding with Saudi members of ISIS in Syria, to assassinate top security and religious officials in the country. The discovery was followed by the first attack in five years on Saudi soil by al-Qaeda's Yemen branch (AQAP) - one of Saudi Arabia's most menacing threats. In July, half-a-dozen Saudi AQAP members stormed a border post from the Yemeni side. A couple of them made their way to a nearby border town and blew themselves up inside a government building. Three weeks ago, AQAP declared its support for ISIS. There are signs of ISIS-AQAP collaboration. For Saudi Arabia, the ISIS terrorist threat is metastasizing. To add insult to injury, some of the Saudi colluders with ISIS arrested earlier this year, and most of the Saudi border assailants in July, graduated from the kingdom's well-regarded terrorist rehabilitation program. According to Saudi officials, one in ten of those who attend the program return to extremism, and two in ten of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who attend the program revert to militancy. Non-Saudi figures may be much higher. But even these numbers would be significant, as thousands have passed through the correctional center. Ideological support for ISIS among Saudi citizens is thought not to be insignificant. In face of this evolving threat, the Saudi political leadership has shown interest in dampening ideological, financial and jihadi support for ISIS, AQAP and other al-Qaeda-style groups at home; pursuing criminal procedures against these militants and their supporters; and using some soft power to discourage ISIS support by other Muslims outside the kingdom. Saudi Arabia may be supplementing these overt measures with covert operations in the same vein, including in Iraq. As Washington seeks to partner with Saudi Arabia in the fight against ISIS, it should neither dismiss an important role for the kingdom, nor harbor unrealistic expectations about the kingdom's participation in overt military, psychological and other operations. The best approach to partnering with the Saudis is working with them to augment their recent activities that complement Washington's own interests. We must take our cue from what the Saudis are showing they are willing and politically able to do. This approach recognizes the benefits and limits of our strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia and the small Persian Gulf states: their political interests sometimes converge and at other times diverge from our own. In this regard, it is important to be mindful of two important caveats. The first is that, beyond the ISIS fight, it would be foolish to consider Saudi Arabia as a partner to help work toward a just political solution including a democratic character in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia is blatantly antipathetic to democratic agendas as well as Shia political power in the region. The kingdom's effort to undermine more representative government in neighboring Bahrain is a case in point. The Saudi leadership views democracy on its doorstep as a threat to its own absolute power at home. The second regards the kingdom's understanding of terrorism. When it comes to defining a terrorist, Saudi Arabia does not distinguish between deadly militants and nonviolent political activists. The kingdom recently imprisoned a widely celebrated Saudi human rights advocate as a terrorist. This issue comes into play as the United States considers helping to expand Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism capabilities. Washington must continue to work toward ensuring that enhanced technological and other capabilities are not employed against the wrong people. This includes the very kind of people whose calls for basic political reform Washington favors.
It is a typical summer flick, but it holds a great lesson for the global power politics. Hercules, released earlier in the summer, shows how the son of Zeus fights against tyrants only to realise later that he has been tricked into fighting against the good guys.President Barak Obama must also feel very Herculean. He and other Western leaders supported the Syrian rebels against President Bashar Al-Assad. The same rebels either amalgamated with, or were overpowered by, al Qaeda militants resulting in the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a consortium of fanatic mercenaries whose control extend from Syria to the Sunni-majority parts of Iraq. Compared to these extremists, who are massacring Shias in Iraq and beheading American journalists, Bashar Al-Assad may look like a saint. The West and the wealthy Arab states jumped into bed with the Syrian rebels to counter the rising influence of Iran in the region. It took al Qaeda fewer than two years to take over the rebels in Syria and march towards Baghdad while it also threatened the Western countries. From Osama Bin Laden to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (the self-proclaimed caliph and head of the ISIL), the long list of western supported turncoats suggests that the West has yet to learn from its past mistakes of sponsoring militants who turn against their interests. It became obvious as early as in 2012 that the Western-backed, Arab-sponsored rebellion served as a rallying cry for al Qaeda militants to reconvene in Syria. The West supported the Free Syrian Army to fight against the Bashar government. Slowly but surely, the al Qaeda proxies in Syria, primarily the al-Nusra Front, wrestled control from the Syrian rebels. Later, the Syrian al-Nusra Front entered into a formal alliance with al Qaeda and extended its reach from Syria into Iraq, and ultimately emerging as a global threat. The Western interest in dismantling the Syrian regime was motivated by two factors. First, the Syrian regime had proven to be a sustained source of discomfort for Israel. Syria supported anti-Israeli elements while Israel maintained its control over the Golan Heights, the territory it ceased from Syria in the six-day war and annexed it 1981. Syria has backed successive Palestinian regimes in their struggle. Even the Hamas leadership has been based out of Damascus. Second, the recent push against Syria had more to do with the Arab regimes who felt threatened by the rising influence of Iran in the region. From Iran to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon emerged a Shia-crescent in the heart of the Arab world, which through the centuries has been dominated by Sunni Islam. This alarmed the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Qataris, and Jordanians, who desperately searched for excuses to break the chain of Shia influence in the Arab heartland. Syria proved an easy target for the reason that the Bashar regime in Syria belongs to the minority Alawite sect that has been ruling over the majority Sunnis. The Petro dollars, which once helped bring the mighty Soviets down, started to pour into the coffers of Syrian rebels who mounted a formidable challenge to the Bashar regime. The Western governments either failed to appreciate or were oblivious to the sectarian schisms in Islam that underlined the resistance against the Bashar regime. Already in Iraq, the al Qaeda affiliated groups were active in the Sunni majority region against the Shia-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Almaliki. At the same time, the al Qaeda leadership was in flux. The younger and more ruthless commanders were jostling for control and pushing the veterans out. In Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had effectively took over from Ayman al-Zawahiri and placed Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi in charge of al Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi and Abu Omar died and the al Qaeda leadership landed with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who has proclaimed himself to be the righteous caliph and set up his control in the Sunni-majority areas in Iraq and Syria. The Syrian conflict has caused the death of tens of thousands of Syrians. The conflict even saw the use of chemical weapons against civilians. Millions of Syrians are displaced internally and externally. This, however, did not concern the Western countries. Apart from lukewarm concerns expressed against the rise of al Qaeda's influence in the conflict, the plight of Syrians in the prolonged conflict did not force the Western countries or the Arab sponsors to reconsider their stance. Even when the ISIL marched into Iraq, captured several towns and dams, and slaughtered hundreds of captured Shia soldiers, the West did nothing to reconsider their support for the Syrian rebels who had, albeit unwillingly, helped empower al Qaeda in the region. This, however, changed when the ISIL beheaded two Western journalists. The gruesome videos of their beheadings by ISIL militants suddenly rung alarm bells in Washington, DC, Ottawa and other European capitals. It was not the death of thousands of Syrians or the plight of millions of displaced Syrians, but the unfortunate murder of two Westerners that made the West reconsider its support for the Syrian rebels. That the mighty Hercules could be tricked into fighting for the wrong side should serve as a reminder to the Western leaders to know their history and geography before they engineer coups. It is not the first time, and is unlikely to be the last, that the monsters created by the Western powers returned to haunt them.
The U.S.A. created ISIS to destabilize the Middle East.This conspiracy theory is gaining traction not only among some Muslims, but also among their liberal, white supporters. ISIS militants are not Muslims, they say, just mercenaries carrying out the agenda of their paymasters. No doubt a bumbling U.S. foreign policy has sent armchair experts scrambling for rationalizations: ISIS is a deliberate attempt to create an Islamic monster, only to crush it later; atrocities by ISIS in Iraq and Syria are focused on to create an imaginary bogeyman. Although he doesn’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf writes in the Huffington Post that, “While these terrorists insist they are governing under Islamic law and are carrying out their atrocities in the name of Allah, they are nothing but thugs and assassins ... desecrating a religion and blaspheming ... Allah.” Rauf is committing what is colloquially known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. He is arguing “no true Muslim” would ever conceive of, let alone perpetrate, such heinous acts of inhumanity. Thus, by definition, ISIS must be out to slur the immaculate essence of Islam and to discredit its true adherents. But whether we consider ISIS irreligious mercenaries or devout Muslims out to establish a global caliphate, the fact is they are using the framework of ancient Islamic beliefs. And ISIS is advancing an Islamic agenda and living an Islamic dream held by many Muslims. It draws on orthodox Sunni precepts about jihad, the status of women, and Islam’s apocalyptic, imperialist designs. I know for a fact the dream of a global caliphate is a palpable goal among many Muslims who are devoutly religious and ostensibly moderate. Many also believe in a jihad, at times benign and at times militant, to achieve that goal. This, coupled with disenchantment with Western values and political resentment towards all things “un-Islamic”, can make some Muslims impressionable and volatile. Such a mindset can blur the distinction between moderate and extreme Islamic brief. When Muslims embrace conspiracy theories, they appear to deny well-established jihadi ideology aspiring to world domination, the subjugation of women, and the marginalization and even murder of non-Muslim minorities. These outrages have featured in Islamic history. Why are they not Islamic now? Islamic apologists cannot claim that only the impure and mercenaries among Muslims hold such an insular world view. Why, for example, is it so hard to believe some Muslims truly believe in a global jihad, when the concept is central to Islam? Many in the mainstream Muslim community seem to have lost track of what their own beliefs entail. Sura 5:33 of the Qur’an offers the following guidance: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” In reality, conspiracy theories about modern paymasters deny Islam’s ideological essence. This ideology exists and endures. It was formulated and honed by Muslims. Latter-day believers who wish to revive and realize it are in fact, true Muslims. That’s all there is to it, and the sooner Muslims realize the origin of the ideology, its moral bankruptcy and its potential for devastation, the better it will be for them and the rest of the world.
The Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, sounding secure in the prospect of victory, began outlining his plans for a new government Wednesday in a speech to supporters. At the same time, Mr. Ghani insisted that he was ready to continue negotiations aimed at forming a national unity government with his presidential rival, Abdullah Abdullah, even though Mr. Abdullah declared on Monday that talks were deadlocked and that he would never accept a Ghani presidency because of widespread electoral fraud. But Mr. Ghani was adamant that he was unwilling to compromise on what he said were constitutional issues in the talks over forming a government. “We will not compromise on the constitutional issue, but we will still continue the discussions, today, tomorrow, and we remain optimistic,” Mr. Ghani said. “Inshallah, we will have a new government in a week,” he said, using an Arabic expression that means “God willing.” However, there were no face-to-face talks between the two candidates on Tuesday or Wednesday, Mr. Ghani said. Mr. Abdullah left town Tuesday for celebrations in his home area of the Panjshir Valley commemorating the 13th anniversary of the assassination of the famed resistance fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud. The constitutional issue Mr. Ghani referred to is a serious sticking point between the two candidates. Both have committed to forming a unity government and accepting the results of an audit of their June runoff election. That government would include a newly created post of chief executive, with the losing candidate nominating the person to fill that role. Mr. Abdullah’s side wanted the chief executive to have executive powers over members of the cabinet, giving it real authority, while Mr. Ghani’s side has objected, saying that would be an unconstitutional abridgment of the president’s powers. Although the audit was declared complete several days ago, the Independent Election Commission, which conducted it under the supervision of the United Nations, has not declared a winner and instead has been dribbling out adjudications — tabulations of polling places where votes are considered valid or not based on the audit — in a process that now appears will take at least another week until a winner can be formally named. Such an announcement had been expected by Tuesday, Western diplomats said last week. Nearly all observers expect Mr. Ghani to be declared the winner, but the Abdullah campaign insists that the election was not only flawed, but that the audit was unfair and failed to detect what Mr. Abdullah has called “industrial-scale fraud.” Constitutionally, there is nothing to stop Mr. Ghani from taking office as president once the results of the election are certified, even if a national unity government has not been agreed on by then. But there are widespread fears of unrest among Mr. Abdullah’s supporters, some of whom have staged rowdy protests in Kabul or have called on him to declare a breakaway government. “Accepting the announcement of the final results is the only way to break this political deadlock,” Mr. Ghani said. “I will stick to the national unity government, but there won’t be any compromise. It will be on a constitutional basis. We will not go past the Constitution to make a deal.” Mr. Ghani also told the crowd of top supporters and campaign workers some of the plans he has for a new government, including setting up a system where local officials have to compete on a merit basis for their positions, and increasing popular participation in the choice of presidential appointees. At one point, Mr. Ghani proudly related how a pregnant woman in northern Baghlan Province had managed to get to the polls in the runoff election just in time to vote for him, then delivered a son. “In my honor she named her baby Ashraf, and I am proud of that,” he said.