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Muslim Persecution of Christians: June, 2013

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The degradation of Christian women living in the Islamic world continued in the month of June.

In Syria, after the al-Qaeda linked rebel group conquered Qusair, a city of the governate of Homs, 15-year-old Mariam was kidnapped, repeatedly gang raped according to a fatwa legitimizing the rape of non-Sunni women by any Muslim waging jihad against Syria’s government, and then executed.

According to Agenzia Fides, “The commander of the battalion ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ in Qusair took Mariam, married and raped her. Then he repudiated her. The next day the young woman was forced to marry another Islamic militant. He also raped her and then repudiated her. The same trend was repeated for 15 days, and Mariam was raped by 15 different men. This psychologically destabilized her and made her insane. Mariam became mentally unstable and was eventually killed.”

In Pakistan, Muslim men stormed the home of three Christian women, beat them, stripped them naked and tortured them, and then paraded them in the nude in a village in the Kasur district. Days earlier, it seems the goats of the Christian family had accidentally trespassed onto Muslim land; Muslims sought to make an example of the Christian family, who, as third-class citizens, must know their place at all times.

The rest of June’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not according to severity:

Attacks on Christian Worship: Churches and Monasteries

Iraq: During the middle of the night, armed men attacked St. Mary’s Assyrian Catholic Church in Baghdad; they wounded two Christian guards, one seriously. Later the same day, bombs were set off at two Christian-owned businesses, both near the church; they killed one Christian shop owner, a parishioner at St. Mary’s. Since the U.S. “liberation” of Iraq in 2003, 73 churches have been attacked or bombed, and more than half of the country’s Christian population has either fled or been killed.

Kenya: Motorbike assailants hurled an explosive device into the Earthquake Miracle Ministries Church in Mrima village church compound during the Sunday of June 9, injuring 15 people, including one pastor who had both his legs broken, another pastor who sustained serious injuries, and a 10-year-old child. Said another church leader, “The Christians living around the scene of the incident are still in shock and are wondering as to the mission behind the attack, while several pastors looked demoralized. But others said prayers will help them stand strong in sharing the Christian faith.” Islamic extremists from Somalia’s jihadi organization Al Shabaab are suspected of this and other attacks on Christians in the coastal areas of Kenya.

Nigeria: Four churches were burned in an attack committed by members of the jihadi group Boko Haram in Borno State in the Muslim-majority north of the country. According to Agenzia Fides, “A group of armed men with improvised explosive devices and petrol bombs attacked the Hwa’a, Kunde, Gathahure and Gjigga communities on Gwoza Hills, burning the 4 churches, raiding and looting cattle and grain reserves belonging to the population.” Discussing the ongoing terrorism Christians in the north are exposed to, one pastor lamented, “There are Christian villages that have been completely wiped out by these Muslim terrorists… Christian fellowship activities and evangelism outreaches are no longer possible…. For a number of years, the attacks on Christians in these three local government areas have caused the displacement of thousands of Christians there. There is a very lamentable problem, as we are no longer able to worship God as Christians in this part of Nigeria.”

Syria: An Islamic jihadi rebel wearing a suicide belt reportedly detonated himself outside the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in an old Christian quarter in Damascus; the attack left four people dead and several injured. Rebel sources confirmed the attack but said it was caused by a mortar bomb. Around the same time, jihadi rebels massacred the Christian village of al-Duwair near Homs, while destroying its churches. Also, according to Agenzia Fides, a Belgian Catholic priest, Fr. Daniel Maes, 74, of the religious Order of “Canons Regular Premonstratensian,” was last reported as being “in the sights of jihadi groups who intend to eliminate him and invade the monastery of San James mutilated in Qara,” which dates back to the fifth century. Earlier the priest had denounced the “ethnic cleansing” carried out on Christians in Qusair, after the town was taken by the rebels and jihadi groups: “The surrounding Christian villages were destroyed and all the faithful who were caught were killed, according to a logic of sectarian hatred… For decades, Christians and Muslims lived in peace in Syria. If criminal gangs can roam and terrorize civilians, is this not against international laws? Who will protect the innocent and ensure the future of this country? … Young people are disappointed, because foreign powers dictate their agenda. Moderate Muslims are worried, because Salafists and fundamentalists want to impose a totalitarian dictatorship of religious nature. The citizens are terrified because they are innocent victims of armed gangs.”

Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism

Indonesia: The Indonesian Ulema Council in Tegal issued a fatwa against Catholic schools, saying they are “forbidden” and “morally unsound” for young Muslim students, despite its pupils, both Muslim and Christian, routinely scoring higher than in other schools. “For the schools,” reported Asia News, “the fatwa is a great blow, coming in the wake of attacks from Muslim extremists and local governments that included threats of closure that were however eventually dropped… [M]any Muslim families have come to the defence of the two schools, claiming their right to a quality education. In fact, many schools run by nuns, priests and lay Catholics offer such excellence in education that they are sought after by non-Christians.” Earlier the influential Indonesian Ulema Council lashed out during flag-raising “because Mohammed never did it;” before that announcement, the Islamic clerics “launched anathemas against Facebook for its ‘amoral’ nature, as well as yoga, smoking and voting rights, in particular for women.”

Pakistan: A 16-year-old boy who converted to Christianity from Islam a year ago, and began attending Bible lessons in a Protestant community, was abducted in Peshawar. Local sources said he was kidnapped by Taliban-linked Islamic militants “and his fate may already be marked, as he is considered ‘guilty of apostasy,'” the penalty of which is death. As one Pakistani pastor explained: “If a young Muslim converts to Christianity in Pakistan, he is forced to live in hiding. Every Muslim might feel compelled to kill him. The change of religion is not punished by the civil law, it is punishable by Islamic law. For this reason cases of Muslim conversion to Christianity are very rare and some convert in secret.”

Somalia: Islamic terrorists from Al Shabaab (“The Youth”) publicly executed a 28-year-old man after determining that he had in fact become a Christian. Aiming at his head, he was shot “to death.” As Morning Star News explains, “Somalis are considered Muslim by birth, and apostasy, or leaving Islam, is punishable by death.” After the execution, the man’s parents, widow and son fled the region. The Al-Qaeda linked Al Shabaab has vowed to cleanse Somalia of all Christian presence, and its members have murdered dozens of Muslim converts to Christianity.

Uzbekistan: Four police officers raided the home of a 76-year-old Christian woman, ill with Parkinson’s disease. After removing her from her bed and without producing a search warrant, they “turned everything in the home upside down,” and confiscated her Bible and other Christian materials. Since then, the woman has been subjected to innumerable legal proceedings. Most recently, she was convicted of “Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials by physical persons.” The judge ordered that her Bible, 14 Christian books, six DVDs and a video be destroyed. She was told by court officials, “This is a Muslim country and all of your Christian books including the Bible are outlawed.” Because these proceedings have caused her extreme anxiety, after one hearing an ambulance was called for her.

Dhimmitude: A Climate of Hate and Contempt

Bangladesh: A mob of some “60 extremists” raided a predominantly Christian village. According to the Barnabas Aid group, “they plundered the residents’ livestock and other possessions and threatened to return to burn down homes. The attackers then moved on to nearby Bolakipur and targeted a Christian seminary. Battering down the doors, they forced their way into the building and severely beat the rector and a number of students. The previous day, two church leaders from Tumilia were beaten and robbed.”

Egypt: “Unknown persons” kidnapped a 7-year-old Christian girl in Dakhaleya Province in northern Egypt. The girl, Jessica Nadi Gabriel, was attending a wedding ceremony with her family when she was seized and torn away. Her father later revealed that the 7-year-old girl’s abductors called him demanding a ransom of 650,000 Egyptian Pounds (nearly $100,000 USD). Two weeks earlier, a 6-year-old Coptic boy who was kidnapped and held for ransom, was still killed and discarded in the sewer—even after his family paid the Muslim kidnapper the demanded ransom. Also, a Coptic Christian man named Milad, living in Tanta, said that “unknown persons” invited him and his family to renounce Christianity and submit to Islam and convert. According to widely-read Egyptian newspaper, Youm7, “They also snatched at the crucifix he was wearing around his neck, and threatened to kidnap his children and wife if he refused to convert to Islam.” As they wore the trademark white robes and long beards, the man identified them as members of the Salafi movement in Egypt. Meanwhile, U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson was urging the Coptic pope to forbid the Copts from protesting against Muslim Brotherhood rule — even though they, as Christians, would suffer under it most — while Al Azhar, the world’s oldest Islamic university, based in Cairo, called on new Catholic Pope, Francis I, to declare that “Islam is a peaceful religion.”

Iran: According to a June 19 Morning Star News report, “Six more Christians were sentenced for practicing their faith last week, while Iran’s presidential election of a moderate politician was not expected to soften the regime’s persecution of religious minorities.” The same six Christians had been arrested earlier in February 2012, when police raided their house-church meeting. Officials rejected their appeal for release on bail; they are being held in Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, which houses hardened criminals and often lacks heating or health facilities, and where officials routinely deny medical treatment to prisoners.

Pakistan: Three months after a mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, burning down two churches and 160 Christian homes, few of the perpetrators are in prison. Hundreds of those detained immediately after the incident were released; of the 83 who were arrested, 31 have been released on bail. “Most of the people who were stopped after the attack were declared innocent by the police and immediately released, for corruption or political pressure,” said a Christian lawyer. Meanwhile, the Christian whose arrest on blasphemy charges was the occasion for the rampage has gone on trial, even as he insists he never insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Palestinian Authority: Five schools in Gaza—two Catholic and three Christian—face closure if the Hamas government follows through on an order forbidding co-educational institutions. According to Fr. Faysal Hijazin: “This will be a big problem. We hope they will not go through with it, but if they do, we will be in big trouble. We don’t have the space and we don’t have the money to divide our schools.” In addition to finding additional space, he said, the schools face having to hire more teachers. Under Islamic law, men and women teachers would not be allowed to teach classes to members of the opposite sex older than the age of 10. “It is a concern that in education things are getting more conservative,” said the priest. “It reflects the whole society. This is of concern to both Christians and moderate Muslims. It is not easy to be there.”

Tanzania: Two Christian pastors were attacked by Muslims. On the night of Sunday, June 2, a Muslim mob broke into the home of Robert Ngai, the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church in northeastern Tanzania, and attacked him with machetes. The pastor received serious cuts on his hands and arms when he raised them to protect his head from the blows; when last heard of, he was in the intensive care unit. Two nights earlier, the home of Daudi Nzumbi, Pastor of the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania congregation in Geita, also came under attack. However, the attackers fled after they were confronted by Pastor Nzumbi’s large, barking dogs. When Nzumbi called police, the officer in charge told him, “I cannot protect every pastor!”

About this Series

Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.

2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

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Iran: How to Avoid a War

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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Upon closer inspection, it appears that the Islamic Republic of Iran has a relative near dearth of human rights organizations operating freely within that country.

Although Iran has apparently allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations, as all as some foreign nations to inspect from time to time its weapons facilities and nuclear power apparati, there does not seem to be a corresponding level of interest generated both externally or internally in investigating the various human rights complaints and abuses within Iran.

To be sure, this is the ultimate Achilles Heel of Iran – and a massive glaring fact that Western powers such as the United States, Israel, and other nations seize on to justify bombing the current government of Iran into oblivion.

On a more sick and hypocritical level the fact that Gulf States nations such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also constantly issue clarion calls for regime change or war with Iran, when they themselves host numerous and countless violations of human rights against women, minorities, religious organizations, and “heretics,” still this only underscores the geopolitical reasons that these aggressive nations want to change or destroy the current Iranian regime.

In order to both diffuse and defray these attacks, Iran has no other real choice other than to augment and increase their internal human rights organizations to both monitor as well as organically implement change in their country, subject to the will of their governed people.

By doing so, Iran could effectively accomplish 2 goals: (1) maintain their current government with relative stability; and (2) organically grow and develop to adequately and accurately transform their government into one that faithfully represents the interests and aspirations of its people, rather than appearing to subjugate and suppress them.

To be sure, Iran would be giving up some of its internal and external sovereignty by allowing more human rights monitoring agencies to actively police and report on its internal human rights conflicts and complaints, but it would go miles towards placating its enemies, removing their arguments for regime change/outright disastrous war, and would also allow for Iran to approach modernity with the rest of the world, rather than being trapped in a society/culture which really has nothing in common with the rest of the civilized world, any more.

In a similar vein, if the Iranian regime is truly serious about joining the league of modern nations, then they should not be afraid or closed off with regards to implementing this.

A nation must be confident in itself, its government, and its own culture, but should also evolve and reflect global change as it presents itself by and for the will of its people, not repressing them as such.

Iran has apparently had a troubling history with appointing human rights organizations in the past, as is reflected by its handling and treatment of the Human Rights Activists in Iran (also known as “HRAI” and “HRA”) which is a non-political non-governmental organization composed of advocates who defend human rights in Iran, which was founded in 2006.

This HRAI organization supposedly was set up to keep the Iranian community and the world informed by monitoring human rights violations in the country and disseminating the news about such abuses.

Additionally, HRAI was allegedly enacted to strive to improve the current state of affairs in a peaceful manner and support strict adherence to human rights principles.

However, the Islamic Republic of Iran has apparently moved to both dismantle and arrest many of the organization’s leaders and representatives, beginning in 2010.

Specifically, on March 2, 2010, the government of Iran moved to break up HRAI.

During the subsequent reconstruction of the organization, the organization apparently registered as a United States non-profit organization and was invited to attend the annual NGO Conference sponsored by the United Nations.

While the Iranian government may have a reason to distrust the impetus/motivations of the United States, Israel and the Gulf States, it really has no reason to distrust the United Nations, which has historically been its only real honest broker/ally.

Adding insult to injury, the HRAI has also been invited to join the World Movement for Democracy and to participate in the human rights events sponsored by the governments of Canada, the United States and the European Union.

The Islamic Republic of Iran can not (and should not) avoid this issue any further.

Merely parroting the mantra that “Saudi Arabia engages in more (or less) human rights abuses” is no longer adequate to stave off and prevent the war drum that is heading Iran’s way.

There are simply too many financial, oil and gas, military industrial complex, geopolitical, and human rights reasons and powers fixated on either regime change or outright war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

If Iran is truly a confident nation that values it past history and desired future, it must drastically increase and augment its human rights organizations (to get on par with the United States, Europe, and Israel) and move forward to finally embrace its place in the sun as its leaders supposedly state that they want.

If not, then it deserves exactly what it is probably going to get, more war, destabilization, destruction, disorientation, and disarray, similar to what happened to Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other nations with closed door human rights policies.

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The new strategic axis between the Russian Federation and Iran

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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On February 11 last the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, arrived in Beirut, shortly after the establishment of a new Lebanese government that, although led by an old friend of Westerners, namely Hariri, is certainly one of the recent governments closest to Hezbollah.

Minister Javad Zarif offered the Iranian support to the new government – “support in all sectors”.

Besides the Foreign Minister, the Iranian delegation was composed of a select group of 30 Iranian businessmen, who met Lebanese and Palestinian businessmen.

It is the first sign of an Iranian “grip on the Lebanon” by the Shiite Republic of Iran, which will lead to many strategic, geopolitical and economic changes.

It is obvious that, at the end of clashes in Syria, Iran wants to secure a stable centre of power in the Mediterranean region, in close contact with Israel and towards the East Mediterranean gas area which – as often noted – will be very important in the future.

Nor should we forget that Zarif’s visit was scheduled precisely on the day of the 40thanniversary of Imam Khomeini’s Shite revolution – a political symbol which should certainly not be overlooked in a country with a large Shite population.

Same religion, same political leadership – this seems to be the meaning of this careful choice and coordination of dates.

Hence both Russia and Iranthink that the new stability in the Syria led by Bashar al-Assad is based above all in the Lebanon.

Both Russia and Iran, however, have indicated – at least indirectly in the case of Russia – Hezbollah, in particular, as their primary point of reference in the Lebanon.

For the Russian Ambassador to Beirut, currently only the United States can trigger a conflict with Iran, given its regional policy.

As to the probable future conflict between Israel and the Lebanon, Ambassador Zasypkyn believes that the situation is much more unstable and even more controllable.

In other words, Russia still relies on its power of political and military deterrence in Syria to avoid a clash between Hezbollah and Israel – a war that would put a strain on both its new hegemony in the Middle East and stability in Syria.

Just one day before Zarif’s visit to the Lebanon, the Russian envoy to Jerusalem had reassured the Israeli government that Hezbollah was a “stability force” throughout the region.

Probably Russia cannot yet do without Iran, both in Syria and in the Lebanon, and accepts – like it or not – that the primary link in the Lebanon is between the “Party of God” and the new government led by Hariri.

But how long can it last?

If Hezbollah decided to exert new pressure on Israel, Russia could quickly lose its grip on Southern Syria and miss its primary goal of becoming the rotating platform of the Greater Middle East.

Inter alia, the signals coming from the Lebanese Shiite military group are very clear: on February 7 last, Hassan Nasrallah openly called for the rearming of Lebanese forces (obviously) only by Iran and later made it clear that, in a possible US future attack to support Israel, Hezbollah would immediately fight on the Iranian side.

Nasrallah also asked to make the new Iranian “advanced” missiles available to the Lebanon, as well as sensor systems and tactical and signals intelligence.

It is therefore the request for a real strategic parity between Southern Lebanon and Israel.

This means that the Lebanese Shiites’ aim is to eliminate all kind of US interference in the region and later put pressure – not just at military level – on the Jewish State that, without the US support, would be forced to accept a downward and uncertain peace.

This is the first goal of both Iran and Hezbollah, but certainly not of the Russian Federation.

Nevertheless, in his Lebanese meetings, Javad Zarif – who implicitly accepted Hezbollah’s request for help – also made it clear that Bavar 373 – a missile launching and air defence system very similar to the Russian S-300 – was ready for the forces of the “Party of God”, but also for the Lebanese regular army.

“Bavar” means “belief”, albeit in a strictly religious sense, while the number 373 reminds of the soldiers belonging to the final ranks of the Twelfth Imam.

Iran is full of political symbols that must always be taken into account.

Bavar 373 is a well-copied surface-to-air missile system – probably from the Russian S-300 system that appeared in Iran for the first time in 2015.

The system uses the Iran-made missile called Sayyad-4 having a range of 150 kilometres. It also uses advanced radars that – as the analysts who saw Bavar 373 at work maintain – can saturate at least sixty targets at the same time.

It is therefore obvious to imagine what will immediately happen: sooner or later Israel will have the opportunity of destroying the Iranian networks in the Lebanon with a surgical operation. In all likelihood, however, Hariri’s government will refuse Iran’s offer, thus allowing Russian weapons and, above all, the S-300 missiles to arrive in the Lebanon.

It should be recalled that the S-300 missiles will be carefully monitored both from the Russian bases in Syria, which will never be abandoned by Russia, and simultaneously from the Russian missile site.

Obviously Iran does not object to the transfer of Russian weapons to the Lebanon. Quite the reverse.

Furthermore, the Shite regime will soon maintain that, since the United States still arm and train the Kurds against the so-called Caliphate, it also regularly and lawfully arms their Hezbollah units against the same enemy, and with equivalent devices and systems.

Hence Iran’s and Russia’s primary goal is the total expulsion of the United States from Syria and from the Lebanese and Israeli Mediterranean coast.

Once completed this operation, Russia will ask Israel for a new deployment of its potentials against Hezbollah and the Palestinian jihad forces, which are also in Iran’s calculations.

And possibly, in the future, in Russia’s calculations.

However, as far as we currently know, the final US withdrawal from Syria should be completed by the end of April.

But, again, what is the reason underlying this new Russian interest in the “Party of God”?

It is already clear that Russia does not want to remain alone in Syria.

The Russian Federation, however, does not even want Iran to undermine its regional hegemony, since it believes that everything Iran can ask is the stability of its “corridor” from Iraq to the Lebanon, but only under Russia’s control.

Hence taking Hezbollah away from Iran’s hands is vital for the Russian Federation, which desperately needs strategic buffers to control Syria by isolating Iran’s primary instrument, namely Hezbollah.

As already seen, also on February 11 last, in its talks with Netanyahu’s government, Russia maintained that “Hezbollah was a peace force”.

This also makes us understand that President Putin has no interest in stopping the Israeli operations against the tunnels of the Shiite military organization.

Again, for Russia, the possible conflict between Israel and Lebanon can only break out because of the United States, considering that Hezbollah supported only the lawful government of Damascus, unlike what the United States did since the beginning of hostilities.

Hence Russia believes that the United States should tone down its attacks on Iran, with a view to reducing the Shiite Republic’s pressure on Hezbollah and the current Lebanese government.

Is this hypothesis reasonable? Both yes and no.

Certainly, if the United States wants a prolonged war (this is the sense that Iran attributes to the US statements), the most likely reaction will be an Iranian attack that will set fire to the whole “corridor” and destabilize the Golan region.

Nevertheless, is it not equally probable that the US Presidency’s brags were just a strategic “trial balloon” and boasts for internal use?

As is currently probable, it is precisely Russia that wants the “Party of God” shift from a clear Iranian dominance to a stable (and hegemonic) Russian protection.

If this happened, Russia would avoid paying too high a Syrian price to Iran. It would also have a military organization at its disposal that could well secure the East Mediterranean region and keep – again on Russia’s behalf – peace and stability of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, whose Armed Forces it never liked much.

Three important considerations shall be made in this respect: the S-300 operating systems that Russia has left in Syria since last October are not yet operational.

This means that Russia has not yet decided what to do with them in Syria.

Furthermore, Iran has not yet completed the factory and has not yet started the production of “advanced” missiles on the Syrian territory.

It was, in fact, mere psyops to show to Israel and the USA a greater development stage than the real one and to underline the impending  danger of an Israeli attack.

Finally, Iran has not yet accepted the pressing Russian request to quickly move the centralized command of its forces in Syria, which operates from the Damascus International Airport area.

All Iranians are still there and they will stay there for a long time.

Therefore, in essence, Russia believes that all these post-truths are the result of an American and Israeli psywar operation, designed to clearly separate the Iranian, Russian and Lebanese interests and hence rebuild a security network in Syria and in the Lebanon.

Precisely in response to said alleged psyops, Russia is currently trying to place the whole “Party of God” movement under its wing, at a time when it knows very well that the Iranian support for Hezbollah is weak and economically unpredictable.

Hence a new Hezbollah, which would act as a watchdog in Syria and ensure the security of the coasts south of Latakia and Tartus. It would also enable Russia to have access to the wide universe of Sunni and Shite “resistance” movements opposing the Israeli expansion.

Russia wants a stable Israel, but small and less powerful than it currently is.

We have already seen important signs of this operation during the Sochi meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani held on February 14 last.

On that occasion President Putin clearly reaffirmed his support for Hezbollah, i.e. his “grip on the group”, and the possible use of this new protection for both Turkey and obviously Iran.

Probably Russia knows that Iran can no longer afford to support the very expensive “Party of God”, as well as the whole jihadist network south of Israel.

According to Russian plans, however, Iran and Turkey will never be able to use the new arrangement of the “Party of God” on their own.

In addition, Rosneft has already penetrated the complex and largely autonomous Lebanese natural gas market which, as already noted, has left the sphere of the Cairo Conference.

A twenty-year agreement between the Russian natural gas giant and the Lebanese government is already in place for a storage site in Tripoli.

As soon as the USA leaves the Middle East, Russia will immediately occupy the oil and gas sites and positions.

But it will do so on its own, without parallel agreements with Syria or Iran.

Moreover, from now on, the Lebanon explicitly wants Russia to manage the relations between the Lebanon and Syria that, as is well-known, have never been particularly peaceful.

The variable of the Lebanese real independence from Syria is the central point of Russia’s current posture and, hence, of its specific focus on Hezbollah.

The one billion US dollar agreement of military transfers from Russia to the Lebanon, which has been much discussed in Western capitals, is a first sign showing that Russia does not want Iran in the Lebanon, but can accept it among the other secondary players, above all in Syria.

The Russian-Lebanese trade has risen from 423 million in 2016 to the current 800 million, with a market dominated by Russian energy transfers to the Lebanese market.

In all likelihood, in the future Russia will support Hezbollah’s request that the Israeli deep-sea Leviathan gas field illegally acquires some of the resources of the Lebanese gas fields.

The threat is clear: if Russia fully supported the Lebanese requests, there would be the possibility of a beginning of hostilities between the “Party of God” and Israel. At the end of a short, but harsh confrontation, said hostilities would be mediated exactly by the Russian Federation.

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Suicide attack in Iran frames visit to Pakistan by Saudi crown prince

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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This week’s suicide attack on Revolutionary Guards in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, the second in two months, could not have come at a more awkward moment for Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan.

The assault on a bus carrying the guards back from patrols on the province’s border with the troubled Pakistani region of Balochistan killed 27 people and wounded 13 others. It occurred days before Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was scheduled to visit Pakistan as part of a tour of Asian countries.

While Baluchistan is set to figure prominently in Prince Mohammed’s talks with Mr. Khan, the attack also coincided with a US-sponsored conference in Warsaw, widely seen as an effort by the Trump administration to further isolate Iran economically and diplomatically.

Inside the conference, dubbed The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that US policy was designed to force Iran to alter its regional and defense policies and not geared towards regime change in Tehran.

Yet, US President Donald J. Trump appeared to be sending mixed messages to the Iranians as well as sceptical European governments with his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, addressing a rally outside the conference organized by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a controversial Iranian exile group believed to enjoy Saudi backing.

Mr. Giuliani told the protesters who waved Iranian flags and giant yellow balloons emblazoned with the words, “Regime Change” that “we want to see a regime change in Iran.”

Mr. Trump appeared to fuel suspicion that Mr. Giuliani represented his true sentiment by tweeting on the eve of the Warsaw conference in a reference to the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution: “40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure. The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future.”

In a statement, the Revolutionary Guards blamed the attack on “mercenaries of intelligence agencies of world arrogance and domination,” a reference to Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel.

Jaish-al-Adl (the Army of Justice), a Pakistan-based splinter group that traces its roots to Saudi-backed anti-Shiite groups with a history of attacks on Iranian and Shiite targets, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group says it is not seeking Baloch secession from Iran. Instead, it wants to “force the regime of the guardianship of jurisconsult (Iran) to respect the demands of the Muslim Baloch and Sunni society alongside the other compatriots of our country.”

Militants targeted a Revolutionary Guards headquarters in December in a rare suicide bombing in Chabahar, home to Iran’s Indian-backed port on the Arabian Sea, a mere 70 kilometres from the Chinese supported port of Gwadar, a crown jewel in the Pakistani leg of the People’s Republic’s Belt and Road initiative.

The attacks coupled with indications that Saudi Arabia and the United States may be contemplating covert action against Iran using Pakistani Balochistan as a launching pad, and heightened Saudi economic and commercial interest in the province, frame Prince Mohammed’s upcoming talks in Islamabad.

During his visit, Prince Mohammed is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on a framework for US$10 billion in Saudi investments.

The memorandum includes a plan by Saudi national oil company Aramco to build a refinery in Gwadar as well as Saudi investment in Baluchistan’s Reko Diq copper and gold mine.

The investments would further enhance Saudi influence in Pakistan as well as the kingdom’s foothold in Balochistan.

They would come on the back of significant Saudi aid to help Pakistan evade a financial crisis that included a US$3 billion deposit in Pakistan’s central bank to support the country’s balance of payments and another US$3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports.

Taken together, the refinery, a strategic oil reserve in Gwadar and the mine would also help Saudi Arabia in potential efforts to prevent Chabahar from emerging as a powerful Arabian Sea hub.

Saudi funds have been flowing for some time into the coffers of ultra-conservative anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian Sunni Muslim madrassahs or religious seminars in Balochistan. It remains unclear whether they originate with the Saudi government or Saudi nationals of Baloch descent and members of the two million-strong Pakistani Diaspora in the kingdom.

The funds help put in place potential building blocks for possible covert action should the kingdom and/or the United States decide to act on proposals to support irredentist activity.

The flow started at about the time that the Riyadh-based  International Institute for Iranian Studies, formerly known as the Arabian Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies, an allegedly Saudi government-backed think tank, published  a study that argued that Chabahar posed “a direct threat to the Arab Gulf states” that called for “immediate counter measures.”

If executed, covert action could jeopardize Indian hopes to use Chabahar to bypass Pakistan, significantly enhance its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian nations and create an anti-dote to Gwadar.

Pakistani analysts expect an estimated US$ 5 billion in Afghan trade to flow through Chabahar after India in December started handling the port’s operations.

Iranian concerns that the attacks represent a US and/or Saudi covert effort are grounded not only in more recent US and Saudi policies, including Mr. Trump’s withdrawal last year from the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program despite confirmation of its adherence to the accord and re-imposition of harsh economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.

They are also rooted in US and Saudi backing of Iraq in the 1980s Gulf war, US overtures in the last year to Iranian Kurdish insurgents, the long-standing broad spectrum of support of former and serving US officials for the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and in recent years of Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence and ex-ambassador to the United States and Britain.

Said Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group’s Iran analyst: “The concern was never that the Trump admin would avert its eyes from Iran, but rather that is in inflicted by an unhealthy obsession with it. In hyping the threat emanating from Iran, Trump is more likely than not to mishandle it and thus further destabilize the Middle East.”

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