Excerpts: Mideast balance tipping towards Sunnis.EU condemns 'hateful' Iran
remarks on Israel.Russian Caucasus suicide bombing. Rock attacks by
Palestinian youths August 19, 2012
+++SOURCE: Egypt Daily News 19 Aug.'12:Syria war tipping Mideast balance
toward Sunnis",By HAMZA HENDAWI | Associated Press
SUBJECT: Mideast balance tipping toward Sunnis
QUOTE:"a shift in the Middle East's sectarian power balance "
FULL TEXT:BEIRUT (AP) — Not long ago, Arabs everywhere listened when the
leader of Hezbollah spoke. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's prominence, bolstered by
his Lebanese guerrilla force's battles against Israel, was a sign of the
rising regional influence of Shiite Muslims and overwhelmingly Shiite Iran.
Now, his speeches don't necessarily make front pages even in Lebanon.
The change is emblematic of how the bloody conflict in Syria, now in its
18th month, has brought a shift in the Middle East's sectarian power
balance. For much of the past few years, Shiites were surging in power
across the region, based on the central alliance between Iran, Syria and
Hezbollah, with close relations to Shiites who took power in post-Saddam
But now the region's Sunni-led powers are appearing more confident,
encouraged by the prospect that the Sunni-led rebellion could bring down
Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, dominated by members of the Shiite
offshoot sect of Alawites. Assad's fall would cost Iran a priceless foothold
in the heart of the Arab world. Hezbollah would lose a bastion of support
and a conduit via Syria for vital Iranian weapon supplies.
Already, Iran and Hezbollah have seen their reputations damaged by their
support for Assad in the face of the uprising.
"Iran's influence in the Arab world has taken a big hit recently," said
Alireza Nader, a Middle East expert from the Rand Corporation. Iran's and
Hezbollah's support of the Assad regime, he said, contradicts their support
for Arab Spring revolts elsewhere. "This policy makes Iran, and Hezbollah,
appear cynical if not hypocritical."
Further boosting the Sunnis, the wave of uprisings around the Middle East
since early 2011 brought greater political influence to Sunni Islamists,
particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt and Tunisia.
The announcement Saturday that Egypt's new, Muslim Brotherhood-rooted
president, Mohammed Morsi, will visit Iran on Aug. 30 — the first such visit
by an Egyptian leader since the mid-1970s — likely reflects the growing
confidence that Iran's status is damaged and that Sunni Arab nations can
steer the agenda.
Egypt has long shunned Iran and in recent years, former President Hosni
Mubarak had joined with Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia in touting Tehran's
growing influence as the main threat to the Middle East. Morsi, who was
elected this year in the wake of Mubarak's ouster, has called for Assad's
removal and last month pledged Egypt's "protection" of what he called Saudi
Arabia's "guardianship" of Sunni Islam against outside threats, a thinly
veiled reference to Iran.
But at the same time, Morsi's Brotherhood has suggested it is aiming for a
new policy of engaging with Iran and influencing it. During a recent visit
to Saudi Arabia, Morsi proposed the formation of a contact group of Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to mediate a solution in Syria. The proposal
may have been largely symbolic, but Brotherhood officials touted it as a
return of Egypt's regional impact "that it had lost under Mubarak."
"Sunni Arab countries are pushing back to make up for the losses they
suffered after 2003," said prominent Iraqi analyst Hadi Jalo. "With the
civil war in Syria and the isolation of the government in Iraq, the Shiite
tide is retreating."
The "Shiite bloc" has suffered a number of reversals amid the Syria
The Palestinian militant group Hamas moved its political leadership out of
the Syrian capital Damascus, costing Assad the leverage he had long enjoyed
by hosting the group. Now Hamas, which had long received Iranian largesse,
has shifted allegiances to energy-rich Qatar, which is also a backer of
Iraq, where the Shiite majority rose to power following Saddam's 2003
ouster, is firmly in Iran's sphere of influence, but the Shiite-led
government there is isolated, facing serious challenges to its authority
from the Sunnis and Kurds, who between them combine for some 40 percent of
Attacks blamed on Sunni militants there have further eroded the government's
authority. Sunni-led Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
continue to shun the Baghdad government because of its ties with Iran and
its perceived marginalization of Iraq's Sunnis.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies last year also banded together to help
crush an uprising by Bahrain's Shiite majority demanding greater rights
under the tiny Gulf island nation's Sunni leadership. The uprising — which
threatened to turn into an Arab Spring-style revolt — raised Saudi fears of
greater Iranian influence on the doorstep of eastern Saudi Arabia, site of
much of its oil resources and the center for its Shiite minority.
Iran is also facing increased pressure over its nuclear program, which the
United States and its allies believe is intended to produce nuclear weapons.
Tehran denies the charge. The U.S. has hiked up sanctions, hitting Iran's
vital oil revenues and straining its economy. Israel has talked of military
strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The Shiite militant group Hezbollah, meanwhile, still holds a dominant
position in Lebanon. But even that is being challenged.
Only a few years ago, Hezbollah's leader Nasrallah had emerged as a hero
even among many Sunnis across the Middle East after his fighters battled
Israel to a near stalemate in a destructive 2006 war in southern Lebanon.
But his backing for Assad has tainted him among many across the region, and
among opponents at home. Regional news channels like Al-Jazeera no longer
carry his speeches live and in full as they once did.
Nasrallah, perhaps in search of relevance, warned on Friday in an 80-minute
speech of a harsh and punishing response by Iran if it were attacked by
Israel. He warned that if Israel should attack Lebanon, his guerrilla group
with its rocket arsenal could turn the lives of millions of Israel to "real
Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and
International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, says Hezbollah
is no doubt making preparations for survival without Assad to support it.
"Hezbollah has to face a really huge challenge if the Syrian regime falls,
but I cannot imagine a group like Hezbollah waiting for this to happen and
not actively preparing itself for that eventuality," he said. "But it is
clear that both Hezbollah and Nasrallah have lost some stature as a result
of the Syrian conflict."
+++SOURCE: Egyptian Gazette 19 Aug.'12:"EU's Ashton condemns "hateful" Iran
remarks on Israel",Reuters
SUBJECT: EU's Ashton condemns "hateful" Iran remarks on Israel
QUOTE:" Ahmadinejad. . .called Israel a 'cancerous tumour' with no place in
a future Middle East"
FULL TEXT:BRUSSELS - The EU foreign policy chief said on Saturday[18 Aug.]
that comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called Israel a
"cancerous tumour" with no place in a future Middle East, were "outrageous
Catherine Ashton's language was unusually forthright for the West's chief
negotiator over Iran's nuclear program.
Ashton "strongly condemns the outrageous and hateful remarks threatening
Israel's existence by the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic
Republic of Iran," said a statement by her spokesman.
"Israel's right to exist must not be called into question."
On Friday, Ahmadinejad told demonstrators in state-organized protests that
"in the new Middle East ... there will be no trace of the American presence
and the Zionists". As thousands of Iranians shouted "Death to America, death
to Israel", Ahmadinejad called Israel a "cancerous tumour" for its
occupation of Palestinian land.
Earlier this week Iranian media reported that Iran's Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said Israel would one day be returned to the
Palestinian nation and would cease to exist.
Ashton is acting as chief negotiator for six powers - the United States,
Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain - that are trying to persuade
Iran to scale back its nuclear program through economic sanctions and
diplomacy. They fear Iran's nuclear program aims at producing weapons,
though Tehran says it serves peaceful purposes only.
Ashton and Iran's chief negotiator agreed at the start of August to hold
more talks about Iran's nuclear work, but there has been no sign of imminent
progress in the decade-long dispute.
Ashton "calls upon Iran to play a constructive role in the region and
expects its leaders to contribute to de-escalate tension and not to fuel
it", Saturday's[18 Aug.] statement said.
+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon} 19 Aug.'12:"Suicide Bombing in Russian
Caucasus Kills 6 Policemen after Mosque Attack", Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Russian Caucasus suicide bombing
QUOTE:"Russia is fighting a simmering Islamist insurgency. . .militants
seeking to establish an Islamist state accross the Caucasus"
EXCERPTS:Six policemen died in the volatile Russian Caucasus region of
Ingushetia early Sunday[19 Aug.] in a suicide bombing at the funeral of
their colleague, Russia's Investigative Committee said.
. . .
Russia is fighting a simmering Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus, mostly
in Dagestan and Ingushetia, which see regular attacks that officials blame
on militants seeking to establish an Islamic state across the Russian
+++SOURCE:Jordan Times 19 Aug.'12:"Jail for rock throwing: a West Bank rite
of passage", Agence France Press
SUBJECT: Rock attacks by Palestinian youths
QUOTES: 700 West Bank children are arrested every year, most accused of
stoning Israeli soldiers and vehicles.", "Israel Defence Force does not take
lightly such serious incidents"
FULL TEXT:DHEISHEH REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank[Bethlehem] — Umm Abdullah sits
beneath a cross-stitched portrait of a kuffiyeh-clad Palestinian youth
holding a stone high in the air.
Her sunny, crumbling apartment in Dheisheh refugee camp in the southern West
Bank town of Bethlehem is filled with the laughter of children and
grandchildren — but two of her sons are missing.
“The Israeli soldiers come in the night,” she says, staring at a faded
photograph of a teenage boy. “They take our children.”
Three of her seven children spent time in Israeli prisons on stone-throwing
charges when they were minors. Two of them, now adults, are still behind
Her youngest, 20-year-old Abdullah, has been arrested three times — the
first when he was 16.
In Dheisheh, Umm Abdullah’s story is often the norm.
According to Defence for Children International (DCI), around 700 West Bank
children are arrested every year, most accused of stoning Israeli soldiers
and military vehicles.
Other charges include making petrol bombs and involvement in “terrorist
At the end of June, DCI figures showed that 221 Palestinian children were in
detention. Of that number, 35 were aged between 12 and 15.
Stone throwing, a symbol of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli
occupation, began among the youth of Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern
Gaza Strip during the first Palestinian uprising (1987-1993).
And 25 years on, with those children now adults, their own children continue
do the same.
Under Israeli military order 1651, throwing stones is an offence, which can
see a child as young as 14 sentenced to 10 years behind bars if it is
directed at a person with the intent to harm, or up to 20 years if thrown at
DCI says children as young as 12 can be tried in Israeli military courts and
imprisoned without charge for up to 188 days, although most are detained for
between two weeks and 10 months.
In a 2011 report on stone throwing, Israeli rights group B’Tselem found that
between 2005 and 2010, the military prosecuted 835 minors on stone-throwing
“The IDF (Israel Defence Force) does not take lightly such serious incidents
which endanger the safety of residents,” the army said in a written response
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA