Saturday, December 6, 2014

الواقع العربي-هل تؤثر الانتخابات المبكرة بإسرائيل على تسوية الصراع؟


7 ways Saudi Arabia is silencing people online

At a Glance

Write a letter, change his life
Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia and urge him to release Raif Badawi now.
Start your letter “Your Excellency” and send it to: His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Office of His Majesty the King, Royal Court, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
There are many cases of bloggers being restricted or banned. Some of them – whom I know – are still being investigated about blogs they wrote in 2008, even though they aren’t involved in blogging anymore. Saudi bloggers can also be fired from their jobs and prevented from making a living. Many face false allegations that they are ‘atheists’or ‘demented’. Restrictions are imposed on almost every aspect of the blogger’s life.
Anonymous blogger from Saudi Arabia.
Raif Badawi is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia, mainly for setting up a website. We talk to another local blogger – who has to remain anonymous for their own safety – about different tactics the authorities use to silence people online.
1. Gagging anyone with an independent opinion
Overall, the situation in Saudi Arabia is very bad, particularly from the point of view of people with independent opinions who go against the grain. Recently, there have been investigations, arrests and short-term detentions of journalists, athletes, poets, bloggers, activists and tweeters.”
2. Blaming everything on terrorism
“The authorities are fragile. They seek to gag and stifle dissent using various means, including the shameful Terrorism Law that has become a sword waved in the faces of people with opinions. Courts issue prison sentences of 10 years or more as a result of a single tweet. Atheists and people who contact human rights organizations are attacked as ‘terrorists’.”
3. Personal attacks on bloggers
“I have been harassed in many ways. The authorities approached the internet providers hosting my personal website and asked them to block it and delete all the content. They also dispatched security officers to tell me to stop what I was doing in my own and my family’s best interests. I was later officially banned from blogging and threatened with arrest if I continued. I succumbed and stopped in order to protect my family.”
4. Bans, false accusations and being fired from your job
“There are many cases of bloggers being restricted or banned. Some of them – whom I know – are still being investigated about blogs they wrote in 2008, even though they aren’t involved in blogging anymore. Saudi bloggers can also be fired from their jobs and prevented from making a living. Many face false allegations that they are ‘atheists’or ‘demented’. Restrictions are imposed on almost every aspect of the blogger’s life.”
5. Far-reaching online surveillance and censorship
“Censorship is at its maximum, especially after passing the Terrorism Law. A poet was arrested as a result of a single tweet which indirectly criticized King Abdullah using symbolic language. With millions of web users in Saudi Arabia, this means the authorities are keeping an eye on everything that’s being written. We have also received reports through international newspapers that Saudi Arabia uses surveillance to hack and monitor activists’ accounts.”
6. Deploying an electronic army
“The authorities have powerful cyber armies which give a false impression of the situation in Saudi Arabia to deceive people overseas. They launch websites, YouTube channels and blogs to target activists and opponents, and depict them as atheists, infidels and agents who promote disobedience of the Ruler. By contrast, these websites, channels and blogs often praise the state and its efforts. I have personally been the victim of such state orchestrated campaigns that harmed my reputation.”
7. Brutal punishments
“Raif Badawi’s case further demonstrates the brutality of a state that still rules through punishments from the Middle Ages, like flogging, hefty fines and exaggerated prison terms. The Saudi government needs to know that it doesn’t own the world and that it can’t silence the world’s voice with its money.”

Blundering in Bahrain

Britain to set up new naval base in repressive kingdom
By Brian Whitaker

Britain announced yesterday that it is to build a new naval base in Bahrain, in what Sky News describes as "a landmark deal". The BBC notes that this will be Britain's first permanent military base in the Middle East since it formally withdrew from the region in 1971.
Commenting on the deal, defence secretary Michael Fallon said: "This new base is a permanent expansion of the Royal Navy's footprint and will enable Britain to send more and larger ships to reinforce stability in the Gulf ... We will now be based again in the Gulf for the long term."
Britain currently has four mine-hunter warships based at Mina Salman in Bahrain and the facilities there will be expanded to "provide a forward operating base, with a place to plan, store equipment for naval operations, and accommodate personnel".
The announcement came less than two weeks after Bahrain held controversial elections which were boycotted by the main opposition party and several others, and just a day after Zainab al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini dissident, was sentenced to three years in jail for tearing up a picture of the king.
It also came after a report last month by the British parliament's foreign affairs committee criticised the government's stance on Bahrain. It said:
"We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights, and we believe that the FCO [the British Foreign Office] should have bitten the bullet and designated Bahrain as a country of concern."
Negotiations over the military base may help to explain the British government's enthusiasm for the recent elections in Bahrain. On election day, both the Foreign Office in London and the British embassy in Bahrain, together with a British MEP invited by the Bahraini government, used social media to put a positive spin on the polls.
Opposition parties boycotted the elections on the grounds that Bahrain's parliament has too little power and electoral boundaries had been gerrymandered to the regime's advantage.
Bahrain is ruled by the Khalifa family who belong to the Sunni minority (most Bahrainis are Shia Muslims). Since independence, the kingdom has had only one prime minister – the present king's uncle – who has been in office for 43 years and is the world's longest-serving prime minister.
In 2011, when large-scale protests erupted, other Arab Gulf states – led by Saudi Arabia – sent troops to prop up Bahrain's autocratic monarchy and the main protest camp on Pearl Roundabout was cleared by force. The regime has since promised reforms but has been slow to deliver amid reports of disagreements within the ruling family about how to proceed.
Britain's relationship
Among western powers, Britain has the cosiest relationship with Bahrain – partly for historical reasons since the kingdom is a former British protectorate – and Britain has been heavily involved over the years in "helping" with its internal security. This included placing Ian Henderson, a notorious Scottish-born colonel who became known as the "Butcher of Bahrain", at the head of the kingdom's secret police. 
In 2010, Bahrain demanded the removal of Britain's ambassador, Jamie Bowden, accusing him of "interfering in the country's internal affairs" after he met members of the opposition al-Wefaq party. Britain duly shuffled Bowden off to Oman and replaced him with Iain Lindsay who is regarded as little more than a PR man for the regime. 
Although the American Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, since the 2011 uprising the US has been more critical and circumspect than Britain in its dealings with the regime. Last July, Bahrain ordered Tom Malinowski, the US assistant secretary of state for human rights, to cut short a visit on the grounds that he had violated "conventional diplomatic norms" by meeting the leader of the Wefaq opposition party. The US responded by suspending some of its arms sales and this week Malinowski was finally allowed to return.
Malinowski has since been making more conciliatory (if ambivalent) noises, saying "There has been progress but there's still a ways to go, and I think the election showed both sides of that."
Last year Bahrain also launched a campaign against the American ambassador, Thomas Krajeski, on the grounds that he had held "repeated meetings with instigators of sedition" but the US – unlike Britain – did not cave in to this pressure and Krajeski is still in his post. 
Bahrain's anger seems to have been partly motivated by a State Department report which said the most serious human rights problems in Bahrain included "citizens' inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention".
The future of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain has also been called into question by some senior American figures, including Dennis Blair, a former chief of the US Pacific Command. In an article published last year, Blair wrote:
"The Fifth Fleet headquarters should be moved back on board a flagship, as it was until 1993. This is an expensive proposition at a time when the defense budget is being reduced, but it is necessary. Permanent basing in a repressive Bahrain undermines our support for reform and is vulnerable if instability continues."
Violating freedom of speech
The sentencing of Zainab al-Khawaja this week for tearing up the king's picture is just one example of the regime's repressive behaviour – often over very trivial matters. The case is an obvious violation of Bahrain's commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Politicial Rights (ICCPR). 
As the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear in the past, the right to criticise and even insult a head of state is an essential part of the right to free expression:
"In circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high. Thus, the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties ... Moreover, all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition."
However, this is not the first time that Bahrain has run into trouble with the UN over its flouting of the Covenant in connection with Ms Khawaja.
A move in the wrong direction
Establishing a "permanent" British military presence in Bahrain is plainly a move in the wrong direction, with little regard for Britain's long-term interests. Defence secretary Fallon says it will "reinforce stability in the Gulf" – which it may well do in the short term – but it will also make things worse when the floodgates eventually burst.
It ties Britain yet more closely to the Gulf's autocratic regimes which are holding out against political change while also fomenting sectarian conflict in their efforts to cling on to power.
And it's foolish to talk of a permanent base in Bahrain – and spend money on it – when nobody can say with any certainty who will be ruling the country 10 or 20 years from now.

Why did they oust Mubarak and Ben Ali and leave Bashar Al-Assad?

Dr Faisal Al-Qasim
Dr Faisal Al-Qasim

I don't know whether to laugh or cry as I hear Syrian media outlets pay lip service to Bashar Al-Assad for his steadfastness as he battles a so-called international conspiracy against him. These sources claim that Al-Assad managed to force the conspiracy towards the route of failure. So, if the failure of this international conspiracy led to the destruction of Syria and the displacement of its people, what would its success look like, God forbid? What would Syria look like? Perhaps with another victory of this nature the country would disappear from the map in its entirety.

To those of you who are applauding Bashar Al-Assad's steadfastness and the victory of the Syrian state, I say that if you only knew the truth, you would cry tears of blood. If only he had fallen just like Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Syria would not have reached this state.
Bashar Al-Assad wanted nothing more than to see our enemies stay in Syria so that they could destroy our country for him and so that he would have a reason to stay. Those of you who insist on remaining ignorant should note that the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak within a matter of weeks saved Tunisia and Egypt from a fate similar to Syria's. If they had stayed in power, God forbid, both Egypt and Tunisia would be in the same situation as Syria. Thus, I emphasise that Bashar Al-Assad is not steadfast and that his steadfastness is not a blessing but a curse on Syria and the Syrian people.
Syria's enemies, namely Russia and Iran, have swooped in and declared their support for Bashar Al-Assad since the very beginning. The real conspiracy here is that these foreign players have refused and prevented any of the regime's attempts to step down from power because Al-Assad's survival ensures more destruction and less distance in the face of Syria's enemies.
Al-Assad is a strategic treasure for countries like the US and Israel. He is the magnet that has attracted all bad things to Syria, ensuring its destruction into rubble. What could Syria's enemies want more than that? Thanks to Al-Assad's services, the entire region now finds itself on a tipping point. If his supporters had abandoned him at the beginning of the uprisings, he would not have succeeded in his chaotic project for the region, one that would encourage the likes of the US and Israel to make statues of Al-Assad in gold.
What confirms the veracity of what I have written above is a statement that was made at a conference on Syria recently, which was attended by numerous international and western officials. One of the participants asked a high-ranking western official why they did not interfere in Syria and he responded: "The situation in Syria is very ideal for us. We would like to see Bashar Al-Assad stay in Syria for a bit more time because he is like a magnet that attracts our enemies to the country and it is there that we can see them fall."
To those of you who are raving about Al-Assad's steadfastness: Do not be proud but cry over your destroyed homeland, which has been torn apart and whose population has been forced to leave because of your beloved Bashar. This is exactly what Syria's enemies want. This is an old game that has been going on for centuries. America calls on Al-Assad to step down and Russia refuses. One day you will all regret applauding the forces that made our people food for the fish in the sea and you will race one another to fill out asylum applications in places like Germany and others. Bashar's steadfastness is nothing more than an obscure cover-up for Syria's destruction. May the steadfastness that cost us our homeland be crushed! We used to have a homeland whose name was Syria!
Translated from Al-Sharq newspaper, 30 November, 2014

New US Command Signals Escalation in Iraq, Syria

Lt. Gen. James Terry New Commander for War

by Jason Ditz, December 05, 2014
The Pentagon has announced today the creation of a new military command, dubbed Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, which will oversee the war against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
The new command, and by extension the war, will be placed under the charge of Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, who was previously in charge of a V Corps, US ground troops in Germany.
The Pentagon seemed to be trying to downplay the significance of establishing a formal command specifically for the war, saying only that it would mean press releases about the war would come from the command instead of from Centcom.
But the US doesn’t establish new conflict-centric military commands, particularly for ones spanning multiple countries, just every day, and the move reflects the continued escalation of the war in both size and length.
This is not just any old US military intervention at this point. Rather the war on ISIS now spans thousands of US troops, with more coming all the time, and a battle expected to last many, many years.
Establishing a command is far more than a move to get Centcom out of filing some press releases. It’s an indication that the war is becoming too big to be managed at the regional command level, and with escalation seemingly the only constant in the war, it was only going to get more unwieldy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

على من نطلق النار - الرسام محمد ابو عفيفة


Real News Video: Early Elections Could Result in Most Right-Wing Coalition in Israel's History

Journalist Max Blumenthal says centrist parties have no other political purpose besides promoting the image of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East -

Netanyahu’s early elections will scapegoat Palestinian citizens

By Jonathan Cook
Netanyahu’s early elections will scapegoat Palestinian citizens

Early move to election designed to strengthen right’s hand by accentuating internal threats and cast the vote as one for Israel's soul.
The collapse of Binyamin Netanyahu’s less than two-year-old government this week indicates the increasingly volatile nature of Israeli politics – and a trend towards ever greater extremism. Those who will pay the highest price are almost certainly Israel’s large minority of Palestinian citizens.

The changes are a direct result of a strengthening consensus among the Jewish public over the past five years that no resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible.

Few Israeli politicians ever took seriously the idea of reaching a meaningful peace agreement with the Palestinians, but for much of the past quarter century they did at least claim in public to be striving for one. There is
    The right needs a credible enemy, one that can be feared ... The occasional rocket from Gaza hardly qualifies.
now no public pressure on them even to pay lip service to a peace agenda.

That has forced the whole political discourse in Israel to lurch rightwards, with Israeli politicians fighting over ever narrower ideological ground for votes. It has made Israel’s fragmented, coalition governments even more susceptible to internal feuding and paralysis.

It has also encouraged politicians to consider more closely the narrow sectoral interests of their voters. The strong divisions in Israeli Jewish society have come ever more to the fore: between the religious and secular, the settlers and “moderates”, European and Middle Eastern Jews, the so-called veterans and more recent immigrants like the Russian-speakers, as well as between those who serve in the army and those like the ultra-Orthodox who don’t.

This kind of inward-looking politics, stripped of the distractions of a peace process, is intensely fractious by its nature.

Over the next three months, the centre-left and centre-right parties are most likely to concentrate on domestic issues, arguing that it is time to loosen the stultifying grip of a handful of tycoons. They will hope that there is still a large, silent constituency of disgruntled voters in overcrowded central Israel who launched the social protests of 2011.

The centre-left may gesture towards a renewal of peace talks, but chiefly as a way to buy quiet from the Palestinians, improve Israel’s international image, and free up resources for “Israel proper” rather than the settlements.

Chauvinist legislation
The right, on the other hand, has indicated that it is taking a different tack.

It needs a credible enemy, one that can be feared and that keeps the Jewish tribe from feuding too viciously. The occasional rocket from Gaza hardly qualifies.

The role is instead being assigned to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, the native population who avoided expulsion in 1948 and their descendants, who together now comprise a fifth of Israel’s population. It also encompasses a further 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem who have what Israel terms residency rights.

The process of demonisation began with Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party’s campaign slogan “No citizenship without loyalty” launched in time for the 2009 election. Now Netanyahu is openly adopting the same discourse.

According to Mohammed Zeidan, director of the Nazareth-based Human Rights Association, Israel’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens are now likely to take centre stage in the election campaign.

Netanyahu has been preparing for the government’s downfall for the past few months, waiting for the right moment to launch his re-election bid. The background noise of regular attacks by Palestinians, most of them in Jerusalem, has offered him the chance to play the right’s trump card: security.

That is why recent weeks have been marked by an almost endless parade of chauvinist legislative proposals, extreme even by his government’s standards. Measures have included revoking citizenship and residency, summarily demolishing homes, and imposing long jail terms on stone-throwers.

It has also culminated in Netanyahu’s recent decision to push aggressively the Jewish nation-state bill, legislation that simply consolidates the discrimination against non-Jews inherent in Israel’s existing legal structures.

Despite the bill’s minor legal impact, however, it does usefully create a political climate for the election campaign. In Netanyahu’s script, the struggle is now for Israel’s soul. It pits a patriotic, ultra-nationalist camp against a centre and left ready to appease an “Arab” enemy determined to subvert the Jewish state.

Challengers to crown
In a speech on Tuesday explaining his decision to fire two centrist ministers in the government, Netanyahu warned that Israel needed “a strong prime minister from the national camp”, one with “a large ruling party”.

But while Netanyahu hopes to occupy the extreme right’s ideological terrain, his two main challengers for that crown – Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, both senior ministers in his government – have also been busy updating their own versions of an anti-Arab campaign.

Interestingly, each has tried to dress it up as a “peace plan”, presumably in the hope of giving themselves a veneer of seriousness in Washington and European capitals exasperated by Netanyahu’s intransigence, while selling their schemes at home more as pacification plans.

Bennett, the leader of the settlers’ Jewish Home party, recently used the platform of the New York Times to set out his scheme to formally ditch the peace process, annex most of the West Bank while leaving small islands of territory as a demilitarised semi-autonomous area for a compliant Palestinian leadership.

Meanwhile, Lieberman has unveiled yet another iteration of his plan to create a demilitarised, weak Palestinian state that requires expelling many Palestinian citizens from Israel. This time he proposes not only redrawing the borders to remove Palestinian citizens but also using economic bribes to persuade Palestinians to leave their historic cities in Israel, such as Acre and Jaffa.

Netanyahu believes – and most polls seem to corroborate this – that the right, backed by the Jewish religious fundamentalist parties of the ultra-Orthodox, will win a convincing majority of seats.

Crisis for Arab parties
The right’s opponents are, in any case, likely to be fatally split. The centre is closer on the Palestinian issue to the right than the tiny Jewish left, and both in turn will find it hard to make common ground with the parties representing Israel’s Palestinian minority.

A further question mark hangs over the future of the small non-Zionist parties in the 120-seat parliament, or Knesset. There are currently two Palestinian parties – a largely Islamic one and a more nationalist one – as well as a joint Jewish-Arab communist faction.

The parliament raised the electoral threshold from 2 to 3.25 per cent earlier this year with the barely concealed intention of blocking these three parties’ entry to the Knesset. Their best hope for survival is to create a unified list, but strong ideological differences have been making an agreement difficult. The move towards elections has now put them under pressure to act.

Amal Jamal, a politics professor at Tel Aviv University, observed that the rapid decline in turn-out among the Palestinian minority in recent elections was an additional factor for the parties to consider. “A unified list would probably encourage some of these non-voters to turn out again.”
- See more at:

The state's Jewishness and 'two states for two peoples'

By: Azmi Bishara

Netanyahu's proposed law versus the concept of citizenship.
In his attempt to promote the proposed "Jewish-nation law" that would constitutionally define Israel as a national state for the Jewish people, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu argued that it was entirely compatible with the "two states for two peoples" solution.

The bill, according to Netanyahu, is simply about "the Jewishness of the state" and that it is the state of the Jewish people, and, as such, it should be acceptable to proponents of the two-state solution, he argued.

Gesturing towards the representatives of the National Democratic Assembly, also known as Balad, he said: "Only they are likely to oppose the law."

That gesture confirms the law was aimed at countering a project that we began in the early 1990s - a national project striving for "a state for all its citizens" and national collective rights for the Arabs in Israel. This idea turned into a political undertaking that is the very antithesis of Zionism.

Ever since, this issue has obsessed Israeli intellectual and political leaders.
    [Israeli leaders] are incapable of defending Zionism using the discourse of citizenship and the modern state.

The dilemma

It revealed a very real conundrum - the Israeli regime is incapable of defending Zionism using the discourse of citizenship and the modern state. Zionists consider themselves to be part of a democratic state, whereas the structure of that state, which exists on the ruined remains of another people, contradicts the very concept of citizenship.

It considers itself to be the state of millions around the world who are not citizens. Whatever sleight of hand Zionism may employ to describe the link between them and Israel, it remains a religious link.

This same state doesn't consider itself to be the state of more than a million people who are its citizens and the indigenous people of the land - the Arabs who remained within the 1948 boundaries of Palestine remain the original inhabitants of the country. The occupation turned them from an actual majority into a minority.

They are not immigrants who must give up their identity and integrate with another people as though they had chosen to immigrate. Hence, in addition to their individual rights as citizens, they also have collective rights as indigenous inhabitants. First and foremost of these rights is the preservation and development of their identity and their relationship with the land and with other Arabs.

Rights only for Jews
The two state solution pre-supposes that each of the two has the right to define itself.
The new law aims to negate those two ideas: the state based on citizenship and the national rights of the Palestinians.

Given that the Arabs have abandoned the choice of war during the era of political settlements and negotiations since the end of the 1970s, the "state for all its citizens" project is, in essence, the basic antagonist of the Zionist undertaking.

It is a peaceful, democratic opponent promoting the conditions of citizenship. It can apply to any democratic struggle in any state. It can bridge nationalism with multi-nationalism, and citizenship with democracy. Hence, many Arab democrats are adopting the idea of "the state of the citizens" in their struggle for democracy in their countries.

Netanyahu, about to fight for his fourth term in office, was right when he said that the solution of "two states for two peoples" was not in contradiction with the would-be law.

The two state solution pre-supposes that each of the two has the right to define itself as part of its articulation of its right to self-determination.

Accepting Zionism as an idea

In truth, the use of the phrase "two states for two peoples" to describe a political settlement between two states is not historically correct. Moreover, it does not take into consideration the right of the Palestinians to return, or their rights within Israel.

The "two states for two peoples" slogan turns an historical settlement of a conflict into an acceptance of Zionism as an idea, whereas the two-state solution comprises an acceptance of an existing situation - on condition that any agreement between Israel and Palestinian leaders includes the establishment of a Palestinian state and the refugees' right of return.

Initially, this was a political deal that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) accepted. However, the PLO did not intend to make a concession regarding its understanding of history, nor must it abandon the contradiction between itself and Zionism as a concept; otherwise, it will give up the right of return and the rights of the Palestinians within Israel.

In any case, political practices and developments over the past two decades have been undermining the necessary conditions for the two-state solution on a daily basis. Israeli settlement activity has been increasing in the areas occupied in 1967, a comprehensive "apartheid" racist system is being strengthened, the focus of Palestinian policies has shifted not only from liberation to statehood - a transformation brought about by the PLO in the 1980s - but also from its goal of establishing a state to the maintenance of a Palestinian Authority - and, recently, two authorities.

The latter focus is the outcome of the Oslo agreements, which diverted Palestinian attention away from demanding a state.

What Netanyahu forgot to say - and this is something of which he should be reminded - is that he himself opposes the two-state solution, and that his definition of Israel's Jewishness is not part of a less-than fair solution that he might accept.

Rather, it is an affirmation of the Zionist nature of Israel, as its colonialist, racist practices against the authentic Palestinian people reach their zenith.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Egypt's new shocking and potentially indicting leaks

Dr Azzam Tamimi 

General Mamdouh Shahin
The recordings begin with General Mamdouh Shahin [pictured], legal advisor to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt, speaking on the phone to General Abbas Kamil, Al-Sisi's office manager

Controversial audio recordings were leaked yesterday evening and aired on Egypt'sMekameleen satellite network. The recordings feature several senior army officers talking amongst themselves and with other top officials to resolve what seemed to be an unanticipated problem.
The recording, which experts believe to be authentic, were made sometime after the coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, but before the election that named coup leader General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi president of Egypt on May 30, 2014.
The recordings begin with General Mamdouh Shahin, legal advisor to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt, speaking on the phone to General Abbas Kamil, Al-Sisi's office manager, and telling him that he received a warning from the prosecutor general advising him that something needed to be done urgently to avert the collapse of the entire legal case against deposed President Morsi.
The problem lay with where Morsi was held prior to his transfer to prison. Shahin told Kamil that upon the prosecutor's advice they needed to change the location where Morsi was held in order that it would be acceptable to the courts as one of the Interior Ministry's detention centres rather than a military barracks.
According to Egyptian Law, it is unlawful to detain a civilian inside a military barracks for any period of time. The prosecutor warned that Morsi's lawyers were asking questions that gave the impression they were seeking to benefit from that law to have the case dismissed.
The recordings show the officers claiming they can do anything they want; they are capable of anything including altering not only the shape of both the interior and the exterior of buildings, but also the facts of history. The barracks where Morsi was being held would be commissioned to the army's engineering corps to redesign them and alter them so they look like a 100-year-old state prison with up to date records to prove that inmates were held there throughout that period.
The officers speak candidly of how falsifying evidence is an art they have mastered more than anyone else and how they would do such an excellent job of fabricating the story that no one would be able to question its authenticity.
Having decided what to do, the officers called the interior minister to tell him about the plan. It is clear that the officers tell the minister what to do and go on to tell other senior civil servants what would be expected of them.
Since the leaked audio recordings were aired on Mekameleen, they were also aired by the London-based Al-Hiwar channel and the Doha-based Al-JazeeraMubasher Misr. Social media networks have since been filled with questions after the events, including: Who recorded the conversations in the first place? Who leaked it afterwards? Why now? Who stands to benefit from such a leak?
Many believe that if Egypt had an independent judiciary and rule of law, these recordings would be sufficient to indict these officers and those working with them.
Speaking on Mekameleen after the revelations, lawyer and member of Morsi's legal defence team Muhammad Shibl said he would demand the prosecution of Mamdouh Shahin, Abbas Kamil and Osama Al-Gindi, who was the Naval Forces Commander, for falsification of evidence and for perverting the course of justice.
In the recordings, Shahin told Kamil that "everything has been forged on white water", an Egyptian colloquial term for "mission accomplished perfectly". Then, as Shahin seems to express some concern that this might eventually land them in prison, Kamil responds: "No, we shall never allow the sons of dogs [Muslim] Brotherhood to have another go at us."
Al-Sisi's brother-in-law and the current Chief of Staff, General Mahmoud Hijazi is also heard lambasting Shahin and Kamil saying: "Had we had a legal advisor to provide advice to the leadership, we would not be counting corpses now."
The following is a playlist with 4 parts of the leaked recording, with English subtitles.

Despite US Air War, ISIS Has Lost Little Ground

Territory Largely Intact After Three Months of Strikes

by Jason Ditz, December 04, 2014
Three months into the US air war, the situation on the ground in ISIS territory in both Iraq and Syria is largely unchanged, with only a small amount of territory lost in the conflict.
ISIS has lost a handful of towns along the Kurdish frontier in Iraq, particularly those near Iranian territory. At the same time, they’ve taken more territory inside Anbar Province, further securing their stranglehold on Iraq’s largest province.
Iraqi officials are presenting the lack of any major new cities falling to ISIS in awhile as proof of progress in the conflict, though the initial ISIS move into Anbar came in January, and Mosul didn’t fall until the summer, so the ISIS offensive has been intermittent in its progress for awhile now.
Rather, the issue is that even though officials were already saying the US air war was going to take years, it doesn’t seem to be making any real noticeable progress in shrinking ISIS territory, and all of the big gains have been presented as things that are going to be solved all of a sudden at some future date.

U.S. and Iran Both Attack ISIS, but Try Not to Look Like Allies

The New York Times
BAGHDAD — Iranian fighter jets struck extremist targets in Iraq recently, Iranian and American officials have confirmed, in the latest display of Tehran’s new willingness to conduct military operations openly on foreign battlefields rather than covertly and through proxies.
The shift stems in part from Iran’s deepening military role in Iraq in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. But it also reflects a profound change in Iran’s strategy, stepping from the shadows into a more overt use of hard power as it promotes Shiite influence around the region.
Iranian and Pentagon officials acknowledged that Iran had stepped up its military operations in Iraq last week, using 1970s-era fighter jets to bomb targets in a buffer zone that extends 25 miles into Iraq.
The new military approach highlights an unusual confluence of interests in both Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington find themselves fighting the same enemy in an increasingly public fashion. While there is no direct coordination between Iran and the United States, there is a de facto nonaggression pact that neither side is eager to acknowledge.
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“We are flying missions over Iraq, we coordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those,” Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It’s up to the Iraqi government to de-conflict that airspace.”
For months, Iran has flashed its military prowess around the region. It has offered weapons to the Lebanese Army and supported the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen who have taken over the capital, Sana, where a car bomb struck the Iranian ambassador’s residence on Wednesday.
In Syria, Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported Shiite militant movement, and the Iranian paramilitary Al Quds force, have kept President Bashar al-Assad in power. And in Iraq, Iran’s once-elusive spymaster, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Quds force who has spent a career in the shadows orchestrating terrorist attacks — including some that killed American soldiers in Iraq — has emerged as a public figure, with pictures of him on Iraq’s battlefields popping up on social media.
The apparent shift in Iran’s strategy has been most noticeable in Iraq, where even American officials acknowledge the decisive role of Iranian-backed militias, particularly in protecting Baghdad from an assault by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but also working with the American-led air campaign.
While Iran’s increasingly public military role has proved essential in repelling the advances of the Islamic State, American officials worry that it could ultimately destabilize Iraq by deepening sectarian divisions. Iraq’s Sunnis blame the Iranian-backed Shiite militias for sectarian abuses, and are reluctant to join in the fight against extremists because of Iran’s influence.
Admiral Kirby said: “Our message to Iran is the same today as it was when it started, and as it is to any neighbor in the region that is involved in the anti-ISIL activities. And that’s that we want nothing to be done that further inflames sectarian tensions in the country.”
The admiral, who indirectly confirmed the airstrikes by saying that he had “no reason to believe” the reports about them were untrue, said that they appeared so far to be limited.
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Areas Under ISIS Control

A visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria.
The airstrikes occurred at the end of November in Iraq’s eastern Diyala Province, where Iran’s territory is closest to Iraq’s battlefields, Hamid Reza Taraghi, an Iranian politician, confirmed. He also confirmed the existence of the buffer zone, which he said was accepted by the Iraqis.
“We do not tolerate any threats within the buffer zone, and these targets were in the vicinity of the buffer zone,” Mr. Taraghi said, adding that the strikes had killed dozens of extremist fighters.
In Iraq, a degree of coordination between the American military and Iran’s is imperative but also awkward, making it appear that the United States is working in tandem with its adversary. Often a single Iraqi officer will serve as an intermediary between the American-led air campaign and the Iranians.
Iraqi leaders say that Tehran has often been faster than Washington to offer help in a crisis. When the Islamic State stormed Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June and moved south toward Baghdad, President Obama took a measured approach, pushing for political changes before committing to military action. But Iran jumped right in. It was the first country to send weapons to the Kurds in the north, and moved quickly to protect Baghdad, working with militias it supported already.
“When Baghdad was threatened, the Iranians did not hesitate to help us, and did not hesitate to help the Kurds when Erbil was threatened,” Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said in a recent television interview here, referring to the Kurdish capital in the north.
He contrasted that approach to that of the United States, saying the Iranians were “unlike the Americans, who hesitated to help us when Baghdad was in danger, and hesitated to help our security forces.”
“And the reason Iran did not hesitate to help us,” Mr. Abadi added, “was because they consider ISIS as a threat to them, not only to us.”
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ISIS’ Dark Oil Trade

ISIS’ Dark Oil Trade

How can ISIS be stopped? Cripple the organization’s oil smuggling trade.
 Video by Emily B. Hager on Publish DateDecember 1, 2014. Photo by Karim Sahib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
Ali Khedery, a former American official in Iraq, said, “For the Iranians, really, the gloves are off.”
Of the growing regional role of General Suleimani, Mr. Khedery was blunt. “Suleimani is the leader of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” he said. “Iraq is not sovereign. It is led by Suleimani, and his boss, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei” — Iran’s supreme leader.
While the United States and Iran are traditional rivals, if they can reach a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, more normal relations could follow, including close cooperation against the Islamic State. That was the point Mr. Obama made in a letter to the ayatollah last month urging him to sign off on the nuclear deal.
But the letter, as well as an earlier one wishing the Iranian leader a speedy recovery from surgery, may have backfired, one analyst said, projecting a weakness that only encouraged Iran to display its power more openly.
“When Obama sends letters to our leader wishing him a speedy recovery, to us that is a sign of weakness,” said one Iranian journalist closely connected to the conservative Revolutionary Guards. “During meetings the letter is discussed and we conclude: ‘Obama needs a deal. He needs us.’ We would never write him such a letter.”
Shiite politicians in Iraq are hopeful that a nuclear deal would lead to greater coordination between the United States and Iran in the war here, though experts say there is no indication Iran would welcome direct coordination. In an interview this week, Hakim al-Zamili, an Iraqi politician and a Shiite militia leader, said, “If there were an honest coordination between U.S. and Iranian advisers, Iraq could have been liberated within a week.”
Sunnis fear that such a deal would give Iran legitimacy on the world stage, and embolden them to exert even more influence here and across the region. Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni lawmaker, said that an agreement between the United States and Iran would mean “the Americans are handing over Iraq to Iran.”
The Obama administration has made clear that while it welcomes Iran’s help in fighting the extremists, there is no actual coordination.
“I think it’s self-evident that if Iran is taking on ISIL in some particular place and it’s confined to taking on ISIL and it has an impact, it’s going to be — the net effect is positive,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday in Brussels, where he met with other members of the coalition against the Islamic State. “But that’s not something that we’re coordinating.”

Correction: December 4, 2014 
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the country that is not directly coordinating with the United States in its military operations against extremist fighters in Iraq. That country is Iran, not Iraq.