Mid-Week Round-up of the Middle East

What Others Are Saying

Incredible! Beirut bombings killing 25 people were self-inflicted by Iran and Hizballah as a diversionary tactic

Debka File, Israel reports: A highly sensitive Saudi tip-off reaching Western intelligence agencies, including Israel, on Nov. 14, gave advance warning that Iran and Hezballah were plotting a major terrorist operation in Beirut as a diversionary stunt, DEBKAfile’s exclusive intelligences sources report. The warning was received three days before twin suicide bombings struck the Iranian embassy in Beirut and the Hezballah stronghold suburb of Dahya Tuesday, Nov. 19, killing 25 people and injuring nearly 150. It was on DEBKAfile’s desk Sunday, Nov. 17. Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar al Sultan explained that Tehran and Hezballah needed a powerful diversionary stunt to draw attention away from the consignment against their will of more than 3,000 Hezballah troops who were forced to return to the Syrian battlefield in the last ten days. There is no such organization as Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which took responsibility for the twin attacks in Beirut “on behalf of al Qaeda,” DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism experts report.

Iran says Beirut suicide bombings ‘alarm for all of us’

The Daily Star, Lebanon reports: Iran’s foreign minister voiced concern over the two deadly suicide bombings that targeted Tehran’s embassy in Beirut Tuesday, saying the attack should be an “alarm for all of us.” “The tragedy today … should be an alarm for all of us that we need to deal with and unless we deal with it seriously, it will engulf all of us,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Rome after talks with his Italian counterpart, Emma Bonino. Earlier Tuesday, the spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Affairs Ministry accused Israel of being behind the attack outside Tehran’s embassy in Lebanon. “[The bombings are] an inhumane crime and spiteful act done by Zionists [Israelis] and their mercenaries,” Marzieh Afkham told IRNA news agency.

Scholars renew call to ‘shun extremism’

Arab News, Saudi Arabia reports: The 21st conference for the Council of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) reiterated here on Monday the need to renounce extremism and promote moderation based on the recommendations of the 3rd Islamic Summit in Makkah in 2005. This message was delivered at the opening of this year’s event being held at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University (IMIU). The five-day event brought together renowned scholars from the Islamic world, including Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh. Organized under the aegis of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, the conference was inaugurated by IMIU’s rector, Suleiman bin Abdullah Abalkhail. The five-day event, jointly organized by the OIC and IMIU, will conclude on Nov. 23. The conference reiterated its call issued earlier at the Makkah Summit, urging participants to intensify their effort to achieve progress in the field of Islamic jurisprudence.

Islamist leaders call for rejecting violence, sectarianism

The Jordan Times reports: Islamist leaders, researchers, academics and politicians on Tuesday voiced their rejection of resorting to violence, takfirism, terrorism and sectarianism as means to achieve desired change in the Arab world. Participants in a two-day conference on “Political Islam Movements”, which concluded late Monday in Amman, emphasized that creating a democratic atmosphere, dialogue and political action represent the optimal methods to realise political reforms, justice, development and independence in the Arab world. They called on political powers in the Arab world, especially pan-Arab and Islamist movements, to unify their vision and work together to build stable and democratic societies, according to a copy of the recommendations e-mailed to The Jordan Times. In addition, participants urged political Islamist movements to maintain their strategic positions towards the Arab-Israeli conflict even when in power. They said Islamist movements in the Arab world should give assurances and set an exemplary model in settling differences with the various political powers, whether they are supporters of their rule or among the opposition. Participants also called on all political powers in the Arab world to cooperate with political Islamist movements when they assume positions in parliaments or governments.

Al-Quds Brigades threatens ‘battle of ghosts’ with Israel

Ma’an News Service, Gaza City, reports: A spokesman for a Palestinian militant group Wednesday warned Israel of an upcoming “battle of ghosts.” Following a military parade in Gaza conducted by al-Quds Brigades – the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement – a spokesman for the group condemned peace negotiations as an impossible method for liberating Palestine and its people. The only appropriate place to meet with Israel is on the battlefield, the spokesman said. “Nightmares will become a reality in Gaza and inside (Israel’s) cities,” he said. “The next battle will be a ghost battle.” “The balance of power leans towards the enemy because of Western support and Arab collusion,” he said. “That will not hold us back – our goal will remain to free Palestine, all of Palestine.” Additionally, the spokesman demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop targeting Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank.

How long before Lebanon breaks?

Gulf News, UAE reports: Lebanon was reeling Wednesday a day after two powerful bombs ripped through Beirut’s Southern suburb of Jnah, killing at least 25 and injuring more than 150 in front of the Iranian Embassy. “We have entered a new stage that we consider dangerous,” a senior Hezbollah official said in comment published in the Al Jumhuriyyah newspaper on Wednesday. The official reported that Hezbollah has taken new exceptional security measures amid rising tensions that reached the heart of the party’s stronghold. “We received the message and it’s clear and we know those who are behind it,” the official apparently claimed, emphasizing that they would not change the party’s positions on supporting the Syrian President but would further strengthen their resolve. . . Hezbollah had braced for a further attack, imposing tight security during the Shiite festival of Ashura last week, where the group’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, made a rare appearance – and pledged to continue backing Al Assad in Syria. Lebanese politicians condemned Tuesday’s bombings. “There is division in the country and tension, which is not helping in reducing the impact of the Syrian war on us,” lawmaker Alan Aoun told the MTV television station at the scene. “It’s causing problems, both socially and politically.”

New violence as Iraq executes 12 ‘terrorists’

Gulf Times, Qatar reports: Attacks across Iraq killed eight people yesterday as authorities announced they have executed a dozen men convicted of “terrorism” in the face of the country’s worst bloodshed in five years. The violence struck across Iraq, from the northern city of Mosul to the town of Hilla, south of Baghdad, as well as in and around the capital. But the deadliest attacks came near Baquba, which lies north of Baghdad and is one of Iraq’s most violent cities, with shootings in the city and nearby towns killing four people, including a Sunni anti-Al Qaeda militiaman. Violence in Hilla, Baghdad, and the towns of Madain and Abu Ghraib near the capital left four others dead. A series of co-ordinated bombings, apparently targeting a top police chief in Mosul, wounded 13 people, although the officer himself was unharmed, and another bombing in Tikrit wounded a city council chief.  Security officials, meanwhile, claimed to have killed seven militants near the town of Qaim along Iraq’s border with Syria. Yesterday’s violence comes a day after nationwide unrest, including a spate of bombings in Baghdad against markets and cafes, killed 26 people.

France Slams Iranian Leader’s ‘Unacceptable’ Israel Comments

Israel National News reports: Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s latest controversial comments on Israel are”unacceptable” and “complicate” ongoing negotiations on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, a French government spokeswoman said Wednesday. “Khamenei’s comments are unacceptable and complicate negotiations,” Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters. She was referring to Khamenei’s references to the Jewish state earlier Wednesday as being “doomed to collapse”, “the rabid dog” of the Middle East, and with leaders “not worthy” of being called “human”. Speaking after President Francois Hollande held his weekly cabinet meeting, Vallaud-Belkacem said that France would continue to be “firm but not closed” at the talks, which kick off Wednesday in Geneva.

Canadian city opens Tel Aviv development office

Israel21c reports: A planned medical center in Vaughan, Ontario, may install a futuristic Israeli parking system. And the Toronto suburb’s 8,000 kilometers of roads may be illuminated more inexpensively by innovative lighting from an Israeli company. These and dozens of other possible cooperative ventures are the fruit of a 23-person business and academic delegation to Israel this October. “There’s really a three word answer why we’re here: to do business,” said Vaughan Councillor Alan Shefman. “Our city is fast-growing – for seven of the last 10 years we’ve done over a billion dollars of construction – so we’re coming to Israel as part of our economic development plan, which identified China, Italy and Israel as strategic partners,” he added. “As a looking-forward city, we need to connect with the most forward-looking country, and that’s Israel.” Led by Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, the mission followed up on a previous trip laying the groundwork for industrial and academic R&D cooperation as well as joint ventures between Israeli firms and Vaughan’s 9,900 businesses. Participants set up 175 meetings and signed a flurry of memorandums of understanding (MOUs), including several with Israeli colleges such as the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), where ISRAEL21c attended a presentation by the Canadians to 100 members of the Jerusalem Business.

Bombing in Egypt’s Sinai kills 11 soldiers

FP Foreign Policy, USA reports: A blast hit a convoy of buses carrying off-duty soldiers Wednesday in the city of Arish in Egypt’s northern Sinai peninsula, killing 11 people and injuring an estimated 35 others. Reports on the source of the explosion vary, with some citing a suicide car bombing and others a remote-detonated roadside explosive. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, however assaults targeting security forces in the region have increased since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said the government was evaluating “all the alternatives to deal with the ongoing terrorist incidents” and Egypt’s military spokesman stated the army would continue to fight “black terrorism.”

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