Focal Points Blog

Burning Alive of Jordanian Fighter Pilot More Evidence Islamic State Refuses to Grow Up

Islamic state de facto capital Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Islamic state de facto capital Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

It’s well known that revolutionary movements and/or terrorist organizations generally moderate the extreme violence that may have brought them to power. The Islamic State, however, which fancies itself even more than a state — a caliphate spanning existing states — seems intent on overturning the conventional wisdom.

In fact, is the Islamic State’s leadership channeling Satan? By burning Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in the most torturous manner possible, its members are apparently making another payment in the deal they seem to have signed with the devil (known as Shaytan in Islam).
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Ukraine Government: “No Russian Troops Are Fighting Against Us”

Thee sanctions against Russia are based on the likely fiction that Ukraine is fighting against regular units of the Russian army. Pictured: Ukraine army helicopters flying over Kiev. (Photo Oleg V. Belyakov / Wikimedia Commons)

Thee sanctions against Russia are based on the likely fiction that Ukraine is fighting against regular units of the Russian army. Pictured: Ukraine army helicopters flying over Kiev. (Photo Oleg V. Belyakov / Wikimedia Commons)

Cross-posted from Global Research.

Ukraine’s top general is contradicting allegations by the Obama Administration and by his own Ukrainian Government, by saying that no Russian troops are fighting against the Ukrainian Government’s forces in the formerly Ukrainian, but now separatist, area, where the Ukrainian civil war is being waged. (View and hear that statement here.)

The Chief of Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Viktor Muzhenko, is saying, in that news-report, which is dated on Thursday January 29th, that the only Russian citizens who are fighting in the contested region, are residents in that region, or of Ukraine, and also some Russian citizens (and this does not deny that perhaps some of other countries’ citizens are fighting there, inasmuch as American mercenaries have already been noted to have been participating on the Ukrainian Government’s side), who “are members of illegal armed groups,” meaning fighters who are not paid by any government, but instead are just “individual citizens” (as opposed to foreign-government-paid ones). General Muzhenko also says, emphatically, that the “Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian army.”
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It’s Official: Netanyahu Has Given up on Obama and the Democrats

Netanyahu may come to rue the day he abandoned pursuit of bi-partisan support in the United States. (Photo: IsraelinUSA / Flickr Commons)

Netanyahu may come to rue the day he abandoned pursuit of bi-partisan support in the United States. (Photo: IsraelinUSA / Flickr Commons)

During the administration of President George W. Bush, when it came to Israel, all you ever heard was how much influence Israel had on U.S. foreign policy, especially toward Iran. Even if it were disinclined not to act in lockstep with Israel (not that the Bush administration was) the power that AIPAC exerted over the Senate and House, the narrative went, was too great for the president to override.

But, in the years since, the heavy hand that Israel has wielded in dealing with Palestinians has created cover under which the next U.S. president, Barack Obama, could peel off the tentacles of Israel and AIPAC. On Jan. 30, in the New York Times, Peter Baker and Jodi Rudoren write of the rift between he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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How Good Is the Islamic State at Governing?

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

I’m sure many of us have had the thought: Why not just let the Islamic State keep the land it conquered? (Who knew conquering was still a thing? Or a caliphate, for that matter?) After all, thus far, unlike Al Qaeda, it’s shown it’s ready and willing to govern on a local as well as pan-national level.

The answer, of course, is that besides beheading captives, the Islamic State metes out a form of justice to those it rules that harkens back to a time when disorder and threats to the state ran rampant. I didn’t want to say it because it’s become a cliché, but, yeah, the 1300s. Of course, that can’t be allowed to stand.
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Catching up With the State of Human Rights in Poland

Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights describes the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”

Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights describes the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

It can be a nightmare to become entangled in the Polish legal system. You could be charged with a crime, for instance, and thrown into pre-trial detention. This detention could even last two or three years. One person was even held for nearly eight years.

Abuses in the court system, lawyer Adam Bodnar with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights told me, constitute the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”
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Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State’s Legal Codes Too Close for Comfort

Both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State fall within the spectrum of Wahhabism. Pictured: General Court in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State fall within the spectrum of Wahhabism. Pictured: General Court in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Yesterday we posted about how an ideological affinity makes it difficult for Saudi Arabia to distance itself from the Islamic State, just as it did with Al Qaeda before that. Perhaps, though, where they’re most symmetrical is in the forms and degrees of punishment, as Mary Atkinson and Rori Donaghy demonstrate at the Middle East Eye. “The Islamic State (IS) and Saudi Arabia prescribe near-identical punishments for a host of crimes, according to documents circulated by the militant group,” they begin.

For example, comparing them side by side in an infographic, they show that both IS and SA intend to punish blasphemy and homosexuality as severely as treason and murder: by death. The punishments for adultery, separately for married and unmarried partners, are also parallel: Death by stoning and 100 lashes, respectively. (I’ve never actually understood how someone can survive that many lashes.)
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Like Al Qaeda, Islamic State a Threat to Saudi Arabia Despite Similar Worldview

New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz inherits the Islamic State threat. (Photo:  EPA/Jose Huesca)

New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz inherits the Islamic State threat. (Photo: EPA/Jose Huesca)

“The Saudi authorities have condemned Islamic State, but they fear the destabilising effects of any detailed examination of their shared principles,” writes Brian Whitaker in an article as insightful as it is and valuable that was published and posted January 6 by the Guardian. He begins by describing a raid likely conducted by the Islamic State on a Saudi post on its border with Iraq that killed, along with two other soldiers, the commander of Saudi Arabia’s northern border forces. Whitaker writes:

This might be viewed simply as a reprisal for Saudi participation in the US-led bombing campaign against Isis, but Isis has also been seeking to extend the current conflict in Syria and Iraq into Saudi territory.

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Between Nuke Talks and Opposition to Islamic State, U.S. and Iran Becoming Not-so-Strange Bedfellows

Iran, like the United States, resists sending boots on the ground against the Islamic State. (Photo: Press TV)

Iran, like the United States, resists sending boots on the ground against the Islamic State. (Photo: Press TV)

In an article for the January issue of International Affairs titled Iran’s ISIS policy, Dina Esfandiary and Ariane Tabatabai explain what Iran is and isn’t doing to counter the progress of the Islamic State. With Iraq bordering Iran, much of the Iranian public views the Islamic State as an immediate threat.

In June 2014, as ISIS was making substantial advances in Syria and Iraq, the Iranian state media downplayed the threat … The Iranian population, however, inferred that the group had advanced into Iranian territory. … The public apprehensions illustrate the deep insecurity of Iranians and the persistence of a vivid memory of the devastating Iran–Iraq War; they also highlight the lack of trust in their government to effectively assess and respond to such threats.

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Ukraine Stiffs China for Billions Owed

Ukraine claims it doesn’t have the grain because many of is agricultural workers have been conscripted into the army. Pictured: Kiev. (Photo: Trey Ratcliff / Flickr Commons)

Ukraine claims it doesn’t have the grain because many of is agricultural workers have been conscripted into the army. Pictured: Kiev. (Photo: Trey Ratcliff / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from the People’s Voice.

Russia’s RIA Novosti News Agency reported, on January 17th, that China is demanding a refund of $1.5 billion in cash and of an additional $1.5 billion in Chinese goods that were paid in advance by China (in 2013), for a 2012 Chinese order of grain from Ukraine, which goods still have not been supplied to China.

According to RIAN, “State Food and Grain Corporation of Ukraine (STATE FOOD) supplied grain in 2013, elsewhere, but not to China. The new Kiev authorities had an opportunity to fix the short-sighted actions ‘of the [previous] Yanukovych regime,’ and to present a positive economic image to the Chinese.” But it didn’t happen.
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Easy Targets: U.S.-Palestinian Charitable Organizations Charged With Terrorist Acts

The Holy Land Foundation raised money for food, clothes and education to be distributed in Gaza (pictured) and the West Bank. (Photo: Samer / Flickr Commons)

The Holy Land Foundation raised money for food, clothes and education to be distributed in Gaza (pictured) and the West Bank. (Photo: Samer / Flickr Commons)

At the London Review of Books, in an article titled Low-Hanging Fruit, Francis FitzGibbon looks at the case of the Holy Land Foundation.Operated in the United States by Palestinian-Americans, the HLF raised money for food, clothes and education to be distributed in Gaza and the West Bank by what’s called zakat charitable committees. Less than three months after 9/11, the Treasury Department closed it down and charged it with funneling the money to Hamas. End result: in 2008, the HLF’s two leaders were convicted and are serving 65-year sentences. 
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