Volume 17 Issue 445- Shawaal 27, 1438 AH July 21, 2017

:: Articles & News
::Transition of B.C. government won’t interfere with wildfire-fighting efforts

It’s a historic transition in more ways than one. After 16 years under one party, British Columbia will have a change in government while dealing with one of the biggest emergencies the province has ever seen: tens of thousands of people out of their homes in communities across the Interior because of wildfires. “It’s an unprecedented time. It’ll be part of the textbooks for years to come,” said Mike Morris, solicitor general and minister for public safety. Morris, along with Forests Minister John Rustad and Minister Responsible for Emergency Management BC Todd Stone, have been the key B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers with jurisdiction over the wildfires. But at 2 p.m. PT on Tuesday, NDP Leader John Horgan will be sworn in as premier. New Democrat MLA Carole James, spokesperson for the party’s transition team, said a major priority for Horgan is to ensure a smooth transfer of power in dealing with the wildfire crisis. “That was a commitment that John made when the fires first began, to make sure that it was a seamless transition,” she said. “He’s been briefed every day, sometimes a few times a day. He’s been getting updates on how things are going, he’s been talking to the ministers as well, so that’ll be a seamless transition.” Morris agreed there was no reason for issues in the changeover. “My role ... has been to sign whatever letters of authorization or ministerial orders that are necessary under the various statutes. Other than that, the deputy ministers and the directors of my ministry have been looking after everything,” he said. Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said while firefighting efforts on the ground are unlikely to be affected by the high-level transfer of power, Horgan must be careful about optics. “Tomorrow is not really a moment for triumphalism, celebration or anything like that,” Telford said Monday. “They’re obviously going to be ecstatic about forming a government after 16 years in opposition, but they’re going to have to contain that enthusiasm and show up ... ready to get down to work, given the situation that’s happening in much of the province.” Outgoing Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the people of B.C. are counting on politicians to work together regardless of their partisan loyalties. “Together is how we’re going to get through this crisis,” Stone said. The absence of NDP politicians in fire-affected areas means the onus will be on the new government make sure information reaches the people affected by the emergency, he added. “Just as we have been very straightforward and forthcoming with John Horgan and his transition team with all of that information for the last couple weeks, we would hope that he would be as forthcoming in return,” Stone said, adding he sees no reason why that collaboration would not continue. James said an NDP government is committed to keeping all politicians in fire-affected areas, including Liberals, as up to date as possible. “No question,” she said. “This isn’t a time for politics. This is a time for community to pull together.” Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he does not think the transfer of power will impact the wildfire response. Weaver, whose background is in climate science, said people need to begin taking climate change more seriously and recognize humanity’s role in the increase in both the number and intensity of these types of natural disasters. “It’s like a bunch of frogs in a boiling pot,” he said. “We’re sitting there pretending that the world isn’t warming. “We just move on as business as usual. We cannot continue to do so and I’m just hoping that people will wake up.”

::Hateful package sent to Quebec City mosque outside
of Canadian values: Trudeau

A package containing a defaced Qur’an and a note expressing hate toward a Muslim cemetery project has stoked renewed fears at a Quebec mosque where six men were killed in January, the mosque’s secretary general said Wednesday. Mahedine Djamai said when the parcel arrived Friday he expected it to contain more of the sympathy cards that have poured in from across Canada since the shooting. Instead, he said, it contained a Qur’an that had been slashed and a note suggesting the Quebec City mosque should use a pig farm as a cemetery. “I was shocked,” Djamai said in a phone interview. “I thought, once again we’re getting this kind of message we didn’t expect at all. It reminds us that there’s always a fear that a terrible event like what happened on Jan. 29 could happen again.” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard condemned the incident, describing it as “unacceptable and repulsive.” “It’s hard to prevent the darker sides of human nature,” Couillard said in Edmonton as he attended a meeting of the country’s premiers. “It’s a repulsive act done by a coward, essentially, and it should be condemned and rejected. And it is rejected by the majority of Quebecers.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the incident has nothing to do with Quebec or Canadian values. “In any society, there will be people who are intolerant or racist and I think the challenge of a strong society is to spend our time focusing on where we are similar and not where we are different,” Trudeau said in Quebec City. “We consider it to be an attack that is outside of our values and our way of living.” The package arrived two days before a referendum on a proposed Muslim cemetery was held Sunday in Saint-Apollinaire, about 35 kilometres from Quebec City. Djamai said the mosque informed police about the package but decided not to go public until after the referendum to avoid influencing the vote. A zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground project to move forward was rejected by 19 votes to 16. Trudeau expressed disappointment with the referendum outcome. “Certainly, I’m pleased to see that various authorities are looking to move forward and ensure discrimination doesn’t happen, that people who are proud Quebecers, proud Canadians, who also happen to be Muslim, will have the capacity to bury their loved ones here in their country,” he said. “And that kids and grandkids who have lost their grandparents will be able to visit them regularly here at home.” Quebec City police spokesman David Poitras said security has been increased around the Centre culturel islamique de Quebec mosque and that authorities were taking the matter of the package seriously. He added it was too soon to know whether charges will be laid. This is not the first time a hateful gesture has been directed toward the mosque. In June 2016, a pig’s head was left at its entrance during Ramadan. The pig’s head was wrapped in paper and was accompanied by a note that read “Bonne (sic) appetit.” The mosque has said it has also received hateful letters since the attack
Source: CTV News

::BB.C. NDP Cabinet 2017: Metro Vancouver MLAs handed key cabinet roles
By: Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun
VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan handed key responsibilities in his new cabinet to Metro Vancouver MLAs Tuesday, giving the region, and the NDP’s political power base, a massive voice in shaping his new administration.
Almost two-thirds of Horgan’s new 22-person cabinet comes from the Lower Mainland, where the NDP made key gains in the May 9 election that ultimately allowed it to topple the B.C. Liberals and officially assume power on Tuesday.
The NDP’s strong showing in Vancouver during the election — it holds eight of 11 city ridings — appears to have been recognized with the largest representation at the cabinet table, including some of the most important portfolios in government.
That includes David Eby (attorney general, and also minister responsible for liquor, gambling and the Insurance Corp. of B.C.), Adrian Dix (health), Shane Simpson (social development and poverty reduction), George Heyman (environment and climate change strategy), Melanie Mark (advanced education) and George Chow (minister of state for trade).
Horgan’s recent appointment of former Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs as his chief of staff also bolstered the relationship with Vancouver.
Overall, the 22-person cabinet unveiled Tuesday was gender-balanced, with a mix of new and old MLAs that marked only a modest reorganization from the structure of the previous Liberal government. They were all sworn in at a ceremony at Government House in which Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon made Horgan as B.C.’s 36th premier.
Horgan pledged quick action this summer on several key issues: Assisting those displaced by wildfires, reducing the fentanyl overdose crisis, solving the softwood lumber dispute, raising welfare and disability rates, putting more teachers in classrooms and eliminating tolls at the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.
“We have the team, we have the plan, we are committed to getting it done,” Horgan told a cheering audience of supporters packed in to the Government House ballroom. “You can count on that, each and every day we are going to work as hard as we can …. We are ready to get started, lets go.”
The list of priority puts early pressure on several new cabinet ministers, such as Education Minister Rob Fleming, who will have to act quickly to solve funding issues that teachers say are preventing the proper hiring of staff before schools return in September.

::Sectarianism: Iran’s proxies target Sunnis

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
A core pillar of Iran’s foreign policy, which aims to achieve regional hegemony, is anchored in sectarianism. Since Iran knows it cannot wage direct warfare with other regional or global powers, it engages in asymmetrical warfare. Having become masterful in the latter, it tries to infiltrate and dominate the political and security establishments of other nations in the region.
In the first phase, Tehran finances, arms, advises and trains militias, primarily focusing on Shiite groups to pit against Sunnis. Then it tries to integrate them into the political process of that nation and make “legitimate” political realities out of them. In the next phase, the groups act as proxies, impacting the politics of the nation to better serve Tehran’s interests. Its agenda is to widen the gap between Sunnis and Shiites in an attempt to divide and conquer.
For example, one of the latest militias that Tehran is significantly relying on is the People’s Mobilization Units (PMU). The PMU has close connections to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), specifically Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, Iran’s elite foreign paramilitary group whose official mission is to export Tehran’s revolutionary ideals. Iran’s intelligence service also has significant control over the PMU.
With the IRGC’s financial, political, advisory and military help, more than 40 Iraqi militias created the PMU. This conglomerate, which is controlled by IRGC commanders, includes groups that are on the US terrorist list. The PMU’s deputy commander is also on that list.
To gain legitimacy and make it a political reality, the PMU became an integral part of Iraq’s armed forces due to influence and pressure from Tehran and some Iraqi politicians. Soleimani recently referred to the PMU’s evolution as being similar to that of the IRGC and Iran’s paramilitary group the Basij. “The Iraqi army is moving as a national, powerful Islamic army. This is due to popular forces. Something similar happened in our country,” he boasted.
According to Amnesty International, several Shiite militias have committed crimes against humanity. In Iraq, this occurs while the government remains silent.
Without Iran’s support, Shiite militias, such as the PMU, cannot continue operating. Several militia leaders have acknowledged that. Once militias are set up, they help form others. For instance, Hezbollah played a critical role in establishing the PMU, which along with other terror groups became integral to Iran’s fight in Syria in support of dictator Bashar Assad, and to help set up and organize new militias in Syria.
According to Amnesty International, several Shiite militias have committed crimes against humanity, particularly against Sunnis. In Iraq, this occurs while the government remains silent. According to a UN report, the PMU continues to recruit children and force displaced people to join it. Reuters reported that Shiite militias in Iraq have “detained, tortured and abused” Sunni civilians.
“According to interviews with more than 20 survivors, tribal leaders, Iraqi politicians and Western diplomats… men were shot, beaten with rubber hoses and in several cases beheaded. Their accounts were supported by a Reuters review of an investigation by local Iraqi authorities and video testimony and photographs of survivors taken immediately after their release.”
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.


::Daesh after Mosul

By:Daoud Kuttab
Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared that Daesh had been driven out of Mosul, the city where the group first announced its self-styled caliphate three years ago. Before long, Daesh is expected also to lose Raqqa, its last stronghold, on which its grip is already slipping. But it would be a mistake to assume that these defeats will spell the demise of Daesh or similar violent extremist groups.
A group like Daesh relies on its ability to attract young people to join its ranks by offering frustrated individuals an ideologically charged sense of purpose. Daesh has proven adept at that, drawing fighters from all over the world who are willing to die for its cause — to create a caliphate spanning the Arab world — and inspiring many more to carry out attacks in their home countries.
Recapturing territory from Daesh — particularly the cities that have served as “capitals” of its self-proclaimed caliphate — goes a long way toward weakening it by sending the message that it cannot translate its religious ideology into a real geopolitical force.
US intelligence estimates indicate that by last September, the flow of foreign recruits crossing from Turkey into Syria to join groups such as Daesh had dropped from a high of 2,000 per month to as few as 50.
But the experience of other terrorist groups — most notably Al-Qaeda — shows that even without anything resembling a state, radical ideologies can survive. Their sponsors must change their tactics, building their ranks and plotting attacks underground. But they can still wreak havoc, destabilizing countries and carrying out deadly assaults on civilians near and far.
Moreover, there are plenty of like-minded groups operating in the same areas. Consider Al-Nusra Front, a former branch of Al-Qaeda and one of the most powerful militant groups in Syria. Like Daesh, Al-Nusra nurtures state-building aspirations. That effort is supported on the religious side by leaders who are largely non-Syrian Arabs, and whose religious edicts are not questioned by the largely Syrian fighters.
Al-Nusra also benefits from its links with groups that share its desire to rid Syria of Bashar Assad’s regime. Al-Nusra dominates a coalition called Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which comprises 64 factions, some more moderate than others. Against this background, the notion that reclaiming territory from Daesh will amount to freeing the region of extremist groups is clearly naive.
Preventing such groups from acquiring the power they seek will require not just military defeats, but also a concerted effort to bring order to the political arena, strengthen the rule of law and ensure broad representation.
Preventing such groups from acquiring the power they seek will require not just military defeats, but also a concerted effort to bring order to the political arena, strengthen the rule of law and ensure broad representation. In Syria and Iraq, this may require a closer look at the Muslim Brotherhood, an international political movement that many believe has infiltrated various Sunni radical groups, despite its public insistence that it is a nonviolent movement.
More crucial for Iraq, the central government in Baghdad, led by Al-Abadi, must overcome the sectarianism that has divided the country for decades, and that intensified in the aftermath of the US-led invasion to oust President Saddam Hussein. Sectarianism is an even bigger issue in Iraq than it is in Syria, a Sunni-majority country where the ruling Assad family belongs to the minority Shiite-affiliated Alawite sect.
Rooting out extremism in Iraq and Syria will also require a more nuanced reckoning with the role of external powers. Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has denied that his country funds the group, but also publicly called on its leaders to distance themselves from Al-Qaeda, reinforcing the view that Doha retains influence over Al-Nusra.
As complex and fluid as the situation is, the key to resolving it may be rather straightforward. First, national and regional governments and non-governmental players need to find ways to cut militant groups’ financial lifelines. Second, the hateful and violent ideology fueling these radical movements needs to be confronted head-on, regardless of who might be offended.
As Daesh’s dreams of a caliphate slip away, its hold over the hearts and minds of frustrated young potential fighters may be weakening. But unless a concerted and comprehensive effort is made to discredit radicals and strengthen political systems, the cycle of violence in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East will remain unbroken.
• Daoud Kuttab, a former professor at Princeton University and the founder and former director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah, is a leading activist for media freedom in the Middle East.



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