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Kurds inflict first Major Defeat on Daesh/ ISIL, Rescue Yezidis of Sinjar

December 21st, 2014 No comments

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) —

The pan-Arab London daily, Al-Hayat [Life] reports that the Iraqi Kurdistan paramilitary, the Peshmerga, have taken Mt. Sinjar from Daesh (what Arabs call ISIL or ISIS). They have therefore saved several thousand members of the Yezidi (Izadi) Kurdish religious minority, who have been besieged and sometimes enslaved or massacred in the thousands by Daesh fighters, in an Iraqi humanitarian catastrophe (see this recent posting at Informed Comment). Its author, Patrick Bell, wrote, “Most Yezidis are native Kurdish speakers, while others speak Arabic, and many speak both languages. They practice an ancient religion known as Yazidism, which is neither Christian nor Muslim. They have struggled for centuries against pressure from their neighbors to convert to Islam.”

The Sinjar campaign began last Wednesday, and has benefited from extensive bombing and close air support for the Peshmerga (literally ‘one who stands before death’). Yezidi Kurds chanted in favor of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani. Peshmerga sources said that having taken the area of Mt. Sinjar, they expect momentarily to clear completely the Daesh from the town of Sinjar.

Alarabiya is reporting that Peshmerga convoys are already in downtown Sinjar (the city).

The flag of Kurdistan now waves over Mt.Sinjar. It remains to be seen if this means Kurdistan has annexed the far north of Iraq’s Ninewah Province, which abuts the Kurdish area of Syria. Keeping Sinjar may also be a logistical challenge, since it is three hours drive from the Kurdistan capital of Erbil, but much closer and more accessible to Mosul, which allied with Daesh on June 9 to expel the Shiite Iraqi government. Iraq’s parts– Kurdistan and “Sunni Arabistan” are now at war with one another, and territory is changing hands. The contested province of Kirkuk, claimed both by Kurds and Arabs, has fallen to the Kurds since the Iraqi army ran away from it, and it appears unlikely that the Kurds will relinquish it.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 3.23.04 AM

Thirty-two trucks full of food and other aid arrived at Mt. Sinjar on Saturday from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Yezidi fighter Hasso Mishko Hasso explained that the people of Sinjar have been under siege for three months, and lived on raw flour and barley.

The radical fundamentalist Daesh defenders in the town of Sinjar are said by Yezidi Kurds to lack heavy weaponry, having only sniping and suicide bombing for tactics.

The Peshmerga now plan to liberate Talafar from Daesh.

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Related video:

AJE: “Kurds battle ISIL to secure Iraq’s Sinjar”

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Heroic Teachers in Peshawer

December 21st, 2014 No comments

[This story of incredible bravery needs to be widely distributed. As we try to make sense of such a senseless cowardly act, it is well to remember such bravery by these incredible women]

Pakistanis for Gender Equality, December 18, 2014

As the nation mourns the Peshawar school attack, let us also commend the exemplary bravery shown by these women (amongst others) who gave their lives in the hopes of protecting Pakistan’s tomorrow. Who says women are weak? Can our leaders show this kind of resolve to save this country from the TTP barbarians? Let us not let their sacrifices be in vain.

1) Tahira Qazi. Her personal assistant says she had the opportunity to escape the school but instead chose to stay with the students. As the militants fired shots, she rushed from classroom to classroom, shouting at those inside to lock themselves in. She consoled, protected, and ushered many students to safety. She even phoned parents to come and collect their children. One source says, “the honourable principal was asked by the terrorists ‘where are the students and why are you hiding them?’ She replied: ‘Talk to me, I am their mother.’ The terrorists replied ‘Ok, you die first, in a miserable way.’ She was burnt and bullets were fired in her head directly.”

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GOP Denialism to Sink Capital: 150 Tidal Floods a Year for Washington DC by 2045

December 21st, 2014 No comments

Link TV | —

“The eastern coast of the United States– from the Gulf of Mexico to New England — has one of the highest rates of sea level rise in the world. As a result of climate change, 5 to 11 inches of sea level rise is expected by 2045 leaving communities like Norfolk, Virginia, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Annapolis, Maryland essentially inundated. Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists speaks to Earth Focus about what’s at stake for major U.S. coastal cities and local communities and the choices they need to make to adapt to this imminent threat.”

Link TV: “Encroaching Tides: What’s at Stake for the US”

For more see Union of Concerned Scientists, “Encroaching Tide”:

“Using a mid-range scenario for future sea level rise, we find that, by 2030, more than half of the 52 communities we analyzed on the East and Gulf Coasts can expect to average more than two dozen tidal floods per year. Importantly, the rise in the frequency of tidal flooding represents an extremely steep increase for many of these communities. In the next 15 years alone, two-thirds of these communities could see a tripling or more in the number of high-tide floods each year. The mid-Atlantic coast is expected to see some of the greatest increases in flood frequency. Because many communities are already coping with tidal floods, a tripling in their frequency means that, by 2030, such floods could occur more than once a week…

Because communities are already coping with tidal floods, a tripling in their frequency means that, by 2030, such floods could occur more than once a week. Places such as Annapolis, MD, and Washington, DC, for example, can expect more than 150 tidal floods a year, on average, and several locations in New Jersey could see 80 tidal floods or more. By 2045—within the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage— many coastal communities are expected to see roughly one foot of sea level rise.”

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Leftist Jordanians protest expected gas deal with Israel

December 21st, 2014 No comments

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Dozens of protesters marched in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Friday to denounce a gas deal with Israel that is expected to be passed by the end of the year.

Protesters held signs against the Israeli diplomatic mission in Jordan and against normalization with Israel during the rally, bearing messages such as: “The gas of the enemy is occupation,” “The people of Jordan are not collaborators,” and various other messages calling for a revocation of the 1994 deal that normalized relations between Israel and Jordan after decades of hostility.

308930_345x230 Courtesy Ma’an Images

The head of the youth office of the Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party, Fakher Da’as, said the march aimed to send a message to the parliament and the government in order to pressure them to take real steps against the agreement.

The march was called for by the youth offices of the six leftist and nationalistic parties in Jordan as well as the Ahrar al-Asima group.

Although the 1994 Wadi Araba agreement officially ended decades of conflict between Israel and Jordan, many Jordanians opposed and continued to oppose the agreement, which ended Jordanian claims of sovereignty to the West Bank.

Opposition has persisted particularly in light of Israel’s failure to follow through on the various peace accords it has signed with Palestinians, as well as the repeated and ongoing assaults and invasions it has carried out in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Ma’an News Agency

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Iran Honors Its Fallen Jewish Soldiers

December 21st, 2014 No comments

By Frud Bezhan | (RFE/RL) | —

Iran is well-known for its stinging anti-Israeli rhetoric and refusal to recognize what it calls the “Zionist regime.”

So, it might have come as a surprise when officials in Tehran unveiled a monument honoring Iranian-Jewish soldiers who died in action during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Iranian officials marked the opening of the memorial on December 15 with a public ceremony, part of which was held at the gravesites of the fallen soldiers.

Photos of the ceremony published by Iran’s IRNA news agency showed Iranian officials and members of the Jewish community praying together and placing wreaths on the graves of the soldiers, who were hailed as “martyrs.”

Iran has the Middle East’s second-largest population of Jews, with around 25,000 living there today, mostly in Tehran, Isfahan, and the southern city of Shiraz. Before a mass exodus following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Jews numbered over 100,000 in the country.

There are dozens of active synagogues across Iran that attract large gatherings and Jews, like some other minorities, are guaranteed a fixed number of seats in parliament. But Iranian Jews must also swear allegiance to the supreme leader and accept the state religion.

Scott Lucas, an Iran specialist at Birmingham University in Britain and editor of the EA World View website, says the monument allows the Iranian government to uphold its claims that it accepts the country’s religious and ethnic minorities, despite being a strictly Shi’ite Islam country.

“The Iranian regime has always upheld the idea that it has this Jewish community unlike Arab states,” he says. “They want to show that Iran is multireligious.”

Iranian officials have made a clear separation between Iranian Jews and Israel, however.

Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard, the vice speaker of the Iranian parliament, made that distinction during a speech at the opening ceremony of the memorial.

“The explicit stances of the Jewish community in supporting the Islamic republic’s establishment and their obedience to the supreme leader of the [Islamic] Revolution demonstrate the bonds that originate from the teachings of divine religions,” he was quoted as saying by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

But then he went on to condemn the “violent and inhumane” policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Hassan Rohani has exercised a more open policy toward Israel that is in contrast to his predecessor, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who gained a reputation as an enemy of Israel after questioning the Holocaust and predicting that what he commonly called the “Zionist” state would not survive. He and others within Iran’s leadership also frequently denied the right of Israel to exist.

Rohani has steered clear of such rhetoric, although other officials in his administration have shown less restraint in their criticism of Israel.

“Rohani wants to sell a much more engaged approach not only with Iran’s friends, but also its enemies,” says Lucas. “So, he has used much more moderate language.”

Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to bezhanf at rferl dot. org.

Mirrored from

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit: “Once Maligned, Iran’s Jews Find Greater Acceptance”

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Palestinians Under Threat In Jerusalem

December 21st, 2014 No comments

AJ+ | —

“With tensions rising in Jerusalem, hate crimes against Palestinians have increased in recent months. Mohammed lost his cousin to one such incident a while ago, and now he is one of the newest victims. Like others, he fears for his life. This is the story of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and negotiating their security each day.”

AJ+ “Palestinians Under Threat In Jerusalem”

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“Palestinian State Essential to a Democratic Israel” – Frmr Israeli President Shimon Peres

December 20th, 2014 No comments

TeleSur | —

“In France, former Israeli President Shimon Peres said that a Palestinian State is necessary in order to have a democratic Jewish state. This statement came the same day that the United States and Israel dismissed the Palestine peace plan that was submitted by Jordan to the UN. teleSUR

TeleSur English: “Peres: Palestinian state necessary in order for a democratic Israel”

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Slavery in the Ottoman Era

December 20th, 2014 No comments

Check out the new podcast by Nur Sobers-Khan on the Ottoman History Podcast Site. Here is a description of the podcast:

The legal and social environments surrounding slavery and manumission during the early modern period varied from place to place and profession to profession. In this episode, Nur Sobers-Khan presents her exciting research on the lives of a particular population of slaves in Ottoman Galata during the late eighteenth century, how they were classified and documented under Ottoman law, and the terms by which they were able to achieve their freedom.

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Israeli Squatter Fires on Palestinian Demonstrators near Bethlehem

December 20th, 2014 No comments

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Dozens of Palestinians on Friday held a march against the Israeli occupation and settlement policies in the West Bank in the village of al-Masara near Bethlehem.

Organizers from the local Popular Committees Against the Wall and Settlements said that during the rally a Jewish settler opened fire on the marchers, but no injuries were reported as a result of the attack.

The weekly rally took place near a major road also used by Jewish settlers, as the village of al-Masara is ringed by Israeli settlements and large amounts of village lands have been confiscated by Israeli authorities.

Israeli forces later arrived on the scene and dispersed demonstrators by firing tear gas canisters.

Since 2006, the residents of al-Masara have protested on a weekly basis, demanding Israeli authorities return village lands confiscated in order to build the separation wall as it crosses through their town.

Mirrored from Ma’an News Agency

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Somewhat related video added by Juan Cole:

Ruptly TV: “State of Palestine: Clashes break out in West Bank at new Ziad Abu Ein memorial”

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Daesh/ ISIL close to Taking al-Anbar Province as Tribal Levies lack Ammunition, Funding, Unity

December 20th, 2014 No comments

By Mustafa Habib | Baghdad | (Niqash.org) | —

Last week, fighters from tribes in Anbar were forced to give up their hold on the town of Wafaa to extremists from the Islamic State because they ran out of ammunition. And they ran out because apparently the Iraqi government won’t supply them. The steady defeat of anti-extremist tribes in Anbar and a new political dispute among them seems to be bringing the whole province closer and closer to total control by the Islamic State group.

Events over the past few weeks in Anbar have made it seem as though the province is coming closer and closer to falling completely into the hands of the extremist group known as the Islamic State, or IS. The extremists are closing in on government-controlled areas and internal power struggles between local tribes are also causing trouble.

The biggest problem in Anbar appears to be the Iraqi government’s reluctance to arm the tribal groups in the province who want to fight the IS group, but who the Iraqi government clearly does not trust.

There are a number of local Sunni Muslim tribal groups who have announced that, although they don’t like the Iraqi government, which is Shiite Muslim-led, they dislike the Sunni Muslim extremists in the IS group even more. That’s why, they say, they will fight the IS group. The most prominent are the Abu Risheh, al-Bu Fahd, al-Bu Thiyab, al-Bu Ulwan, al-Abed, al-Bu Issa, al-Bubali and the al-Bu Nimr tribes. Some were members of the US-sponsored forces that fought Al Qaeda – of which the IS group is an offshoot – here previously.

Many of the leaders of these groups are becoming angrier at the Iraqi government, saying that despite the fact that their men have fought, and died, alongside the Iraqi army in battles against the IS group, the Iraqi government doesn’t care about them. And some are even suggesting that it is the Iranian influence on the Iraqi government that is to blame – neighbouring Iran is a Shiite-Muslim-led theocracy and Iraq’s government is currently headed by Shiite Muslim-led political parties.

“The Iraqi government only wants to give the people of Anbar two options,” one of the leaders in Anbar, Mahmoud al-Fahdawi, told NIQASH. “Either the IS group enters Anbar. Or the Shiite Muslim fighters come in. The government doesn’t want the Sunni Muslim tribes to play a larger role in the liberation of Anbar, it wants the Shiite Muslim militias that it sponsors to do this,” he complained.

The Shiite Muslim militias, which consist of many volunteers who were moved to defend their own sect after the Sunni Muslim extremist IS group attacked, are well known to be sponsored, and in some cases even controlled, by Iranian operatives.

Al-Fahdawi speculates further that the US government has said that it will arm the Sunni Muslim tribes in Anbar soon because the Iraqi government won’t. This is causing tension in the relationship between the US and Iran, he suspects.

Last Friday the US Senate approved the country’s defence budget, which topped US$500 billion. This includes US$3.4 billion for the direct deployment of US forces against the IS group and a further US$1.6 billion for the training of Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi forces for two years, in their own fight against the IS group. The Iraqi government was also expected to foot a significant proportion of the bill for the latter.

The other big problem in Anbar at the moment is infighting between the various tribal groups about who the governor of Anbar is. Last year Sunni Muslim demonstrators, who had protesting their treatment by the former Iraqi government for months, made local man Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi, the governor of Anbar.

Al-Dulaimi supported the protests and he was also able to gain the support of one of the country’s most prominent Sunni Muslim politicians, Osama al-Nujaifi. Al-Nujaifi and his party supported al-Dulaimi’s governorship in any voting.

However at a meeting that al-Dulaimi held with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in late 2013, the governor of Anbar admitted to the Prime Minister that there might well be some terrorists among the protestors, which was something the Prime Minister had always accused the demonstrations of. After the meeting, al-Maliki released portions of the filmed conversations during which al-Dulaimi had said all this – and when they saw it, many in Anbar began to consider their governor a traitor.

The chaos that ensued in Anbar after al-Maliki and the Iraqi army cleared the demonstrators away forcefully meant that al-Dulaimi ended up staying in the governor’s seat. And when the governor was badly injured during battles between the Iraqi army and the IS group in the Haditha district, Anbar locals once again began to respect him. But after this, al-Dulaimi was flown to Germany where his serious injuries were treated and he has now been away from the job for over three months. If officials are absent from their posts for more than three months the Iraqi Constitution says they may be dismissed. Last week members of Anbar’s provincial council did just that, voting to dismiss al-Dulaimi.

However the tribes that supported al-Dulaimi’s election have not been pleased about this and say that they reject the council’s decision. This has led to political conflict between Anbar’s tribes with some tribal leaders even threatening to stop fighting the IS group, at what is obviously a crucial time for unity.

Currently the IS group or their allies control seven major cities in the Anbar province – these are Fallujah, Karamah, Anah, Rawa, Heet, Al Qaem and Al Rutba. The cities still controlled by the Iraqi government or their allies include Ramadi, Haditha and Khalidiya. But these three cities are facing daily attacks from the IS group and in fact, fighters from the group have made advances in parts of Ramadi and Khalidiya over the past few days.

“All of Anbar could fall into the hands of the IS group any day now,” military and security expert Saad al-Alusi, also the former spokesperson for Iraqi military intelligence, told NIQASH. “Surely the government must know that preventing the rest of Anbar from falling into the IS group’s hands is going to be much easier than liberating those parts of the province after they’ve fallen.”

Mirrored from Niqash.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

BBC: “Iraq vs Islamic State: Fight for Anbar”

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