Posted: 14 Oct 2014 12:09 AM PDT
By Ibrahim Kalin
While the world’s attention has been focused on Kobani over the last two weeks, the Assad regime continues its bloody war. Most recently, the regime killed scores of people in Damascus and dropped barrel bombs in several cities. More people are fleeing Syria, adding to the number of millions of refugees and internally displaced people. With the rise of ISIS, the Assad regime has not become a lesser security threat for the Syrian people and neighboring countries. To the contrary, the carnage and chaos it causes continues to be one of the most fertile and disastrous breeding grounds of extremism in the Middle East.
In the meantime, ISIS continues to advance to new territories in Iraq and Syria. After ISIS was stopped at the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan, it began to move toward Baghdad again. It made significant advances toward the Iraqi capital over the last few weeks. It remains in control of Mosul and other swaths of territory. It will not be a big surprise if ISIS makes a surprise attack on Baghdad when the world’s attention is turned to Kobani.
While all this happens and ISIS kills Sunni opposition groups, Shiites, Western journalists, Yazidis, Christians and so on, it is yet to carry out any attacks on the Syrian regime. Is this not strange? ISIS is using the weapons it captured in Iraq and Syria in its current barbarism. In Syria, it uses the Russian-made weapons it seized from the Syrian army. In Iraq, it uses the American-made heavy weaponry it seized from the Iraqi army. With other opposition groups weakened or destroyed, it has no shortage of fighters joining from around the world.
It is no secret that ISIS received substantial support from the Assad regime since the spring of 2014 when the Free Syrian Army (FSA) took major hits in the battle. This was also when the international community failed to provide help. ISIS moved into territories cleared by the Assad regime’s aerial strikes whose main targets were the FSA and other opposition groups. As ISIS took control of much of the north of Syria, Assad felt secure because ISIS territories created some sort of a buffer-zone between Damascus and the opposition-held areas in the north.
The PYD was already doing that for Assad in the Kurdish-populated areas: instead of joining the Syrian opposition, the PYD and its military wing, the HPG, formed multiple alliances with the Assad regime on the one hand and the PKK on the other. Turkey sought to engage the PYD and its leader Salih Muslim but on the condition that it severe its relations with the regime in Damascus. Instead of taking a clear position, the PYD continued to play double games, jeopardizing its own position in a tricky and brutal war. It was not just Turkey but also the leaders of the Iraqi Kurdistan as well the Americans that warned the PYD leadership of avoiding shady deals with the regime.
Let’s ask again: why has ISIS not carried out a single serious attack on the Assad regime? If, as some claim rather preposterously, Turkey supports ISIS because it opposes the Assad regime, why have we not seen any serious battles between ISIS and Assad forces? Why is ISIS moving away from Damascus and other regime-held major cities and instead moving to the north, i.e., Turkish-Syrian border and east, i.e., north-western Iraq?
The Assad regime and its allies find ISIS a helpful tool; it is their useful idiot that they can use against the moderate Syrian opposition to divide and weaken it. ISIS is also an effective instrument in the propaganda war where ISIS’s scenes of beheadings, barbaric and horrible as they are, are fully used to shadow the killing of more than 200,000 people by the Assad regime. It also provides a cover, though a temporary one, for the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Assad and his commanders.
In Iraq, ISIS is a coalition of impossible allies. Moderate Arab Sunni tribes, ex-Baathists and Saddam commanders, Islamic opposition groups and even some Naqshbandi groups have all joined ranks with ISIS against what they see as an oppressive, dysfunctional and sectarian Baghdad. What binds them is not an ideology of Wahhabism, though this is what appears on the surface, but rather a politics of solidarity against a common enemy. What will convince these groups to part ways with ISIS is a new security and political architecture in Iraq where all will feel equal and empowered.
It looks like the only party not afraid of ISIS is the Assad regime. ISIS is yet to make any advances against the regime. It is as though the territories of the so-called Islamic State do not include the territories held by the Baath regime in Damascus. It even looks like the Assad regime is happy with the ISIS threat as it provides a comfort zone for it. ISIS must be fought against and defeated. But this should be done with a proper strategy that addresses the root causes of the problem.
Posted: 14 Oct 2014 12:08 AM PDT
The government has yet again rejected the application of Malaysiakini for a publication permit for a daily newspaper, despite the courts twice ruling that the independent news portal has the right to publish.
In a letter received by Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran last week, the Home Ministry said the rejection was because the news portal "often causes controversy" by publishing news that could "distress" the people.
Home Ministry's Publications Control and Al-Quran Text Division head Hashimah Nik Jaafar also stressed that the reports "could cause hatred towards national leaders".
"The ministry has decided not to approve the application for a publication permit on the basis that the news published by the Malaysiakini online portal often causes controversy and is not neutral…
"Such news, if published in the print format, will cause shock and distress among the people. Sensitive issues are also published in the form of news, commentary, opinions and readers' comments which could cause hatred towards national leaders," Hashimah said.
She also pointed out that the application states that the editor for the print version will be the same person as the online version, indicating that the type of news "will definitely" be the same.
Five ‘contentious’ articles
According to the Home Ministry, among the contentious reports published by Malaysiakini are compilations of readers' comments on the Terengganu menteri besar crisis five months ago.
The item, 'How much will Najib spend to keep Terengganu?' published on May 14, 2014, has also prompted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in an unprecedented action, to sue the portal for defamation.
The Home Ministry also found issue with a commentary by think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) that condemned Najib's lawsuit against Malaysiakini.
Another "controversial" report cited by the ministry is an article on the government's private jet, in which Najib and his wife were believed to be on board, being spotted in various European cities in August this year.
The ministry also frowned on an article quoting the Malaysian Indian Progressives Association (Mipas) slamming police chief Khalid Abu Bakar for saying he was taking the "middle path" in an inter-religious custody battle.
The final article cited is on the arrest of Penang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh over the Penang Voluntary Patrol Squad (PPS) issue. Journalist Susan Loone was arrested for sedition over the article.
All the five articles cited, other than the Yoursay item, were published in the website's Bahasa Malaysia section.
Back to square one
On Oct 1, 2012, the High Court quashed the Home Ministry's decision not to award Malaysiakini publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd a publication permit for a daily newspaper.
Judge Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim ruled that the ministry's decision was "irrational and improper" and breached the constitutional right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to a publishing permit.
He ordered Malaysiakini to make a fresh application to the Home Ministry. Following the decision, the ministry filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
On Oct 30, 2013, a three-member Court of Appeal panel unanimously rejected the government's appeal and upheld the High Court's decision.
When the government did not appeal to the Federal Court – the country's highest court - Malaysiakini submitted a new application to the Home Ministry early this year.
Editor-in-chief Steven Gan, who is not surprised by the latest setback, said Malaysiakini will take the matter back to court.
"We are back to square one. Malaysiakini will again be challenging this asinine decision by the home minister, and we hope that this time the courts will order the government to issue us a publication permit."
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