The Islamic State: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

By Claude Salhani –

If you think the oil industry is already too powerful, imagine that power under the control of already powerful terrorists whose aim is political supremacy over multiple territories.

For the group of Islamist militants that has captured large swaths of land stretching across Syria and Iraq — the one formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that now call itself “the Islamic State” — the war that began in Syria and has since spilled over in neighboring Iraq has the potential of turning into an extremely lucrative, and highly dangerous, endeavor with a very high margin of return, given the initial investment.

If they succeed in their goals, the result would be high-octane terrorism, the sort that would make everything we have seen until now seem tame by comparison. The slim possibility of this becoming a reality has some of the most powerful minds in law enforcement terrified and on alert, because they know that it is only a matter of time before the battle waged by the Islamic State moves into Phase Two.

In June, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed that the Islamic State has been selling Syrian oil back to Syria. The sale was evidence of the “confusing” nature of the escalating conflict in the Middle East in which Syrian President Bashar Assad and the jihadists are, in theory, on opposing sides.

“We have proof that when [ISIS] has taken over oil, it has sold oil to the (Assad) regime,” Fabius said, without offering more details. Referring to how the rebels in Syria and the Assad regime use each other to derive legitimacy, Fabius said, “Officially they are combating each other but in fact they are very often helping each other.”

The situation in Iraq is “very, very, very worrying,” he added. “Why? Because it is probably the first time that a terrorist group — and a ferocious terrorist group — is in a position, if there is no reaction, to take over the whole country, and a rich country, with enormous consequences for the region and the world,” he said.

Days ago, reports surfaced that the Islamic State is also selling oil from Iraq.

The very idea of this group with millions, if not billions, of dollars (stolen from banks in cities they conquered) is frightful enough. And with billions of dollars more on the way from the oil they are about to sell, will give them a continuous source of serious income that will make them the most potent — and the most dangerous — group of armed fighters anywhere on this planet.

Speaking from London on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was very worried by what was happening in Syria. The typically understated Holder said intelligence that terrorists are working to build undetectable explosives is “something that gives [Washington] really extreme, extreme concern.”

Terrorists are constantly trying to invent more ingenious ways in which to smuggle explosives on board airliners for two reasons. First, given the ever-increasing security at airports, it’s almost a point of pride for terrorist groups to circumvent all the safety measures and still manage to smuggle weapons or explosives onto airliners. Second, it sends a message to the world that ‘no matter what you do, you will never be safe from us.’

Bombing an aircraft in flight is a psychologically more powerful terrorist act than blowing up a bus or a train because of the total sense of helplessness experienced by its passengers. There is little one can do at 32,000 feet other than pray.

Groups like the Islamic State realize that sooner or later they are bound to clash with the United States and Western powers, and with that in mind are very likely preparing to attack or counterattack the U.S.

“In some ways, it’s more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general,” said Holder.

Holder’s comments follow a major change in U.S. air safety rules. Passengers taking international flights into the United States must now submit their cell phones and other electronic devices to additional inspections before they will be allowed to bring them onboard. The suspicion is that a bomb could be hidden inside an empty cell phone or laptop.
The Transportation Security Administration said personnel at certain foreign airports – trained by U.S. officials – would be required to conduct the new inspections. Devices that fail to turn on will be further tested with a charger, and if they still don’t work, be confiscated. Owners of non-starting devices might have to undergo extra screening.

The tighter security is almost certainly a response to recent intelligence reports suggesting that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Syria are working with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a commercial aircraft headed to the U.S. or Europe, as first reported by ABC News.

Terrorism experts believe thousands of people living in the West – including Americans — have traveled to Syria in the past year to join the Islamists’ fight against the Syrian government. The influx has given rise to fears that fighters with a U.S. or European passport – passengers who are typically screened less stringently — could carry a bomb onto a U.S.-bound plane.

Ariel Cohen, a leading U.S. energy and geopolitics expert and the principal of International Market Analysis, said the Islamic State has an “ambitious agenda” to try and conquer large territories, setting up violent clashes with multiple armies, governments and civilian fighters.  “We may be, for all intents and purposes, looking at a multi-century conflict,” he said.

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Obama Fiddles While Iraq Burns

By Claude Salhani

To compare U.S. President Barack Obama to a modern-day Nero may be somewhat harsh, but as the Middle East continues to disintegrate, falling into chaos and unprecedented violence, its oilfields and gas fields within grasping reach of well-organized terrorist groups, it’s hard not to when no clear U.S. foreign policy is in sight.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush (the elder) went to war against the most powerful Arab army to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, the tiny emirate he had invaded a few months earlier, claiming it as Iraq’s 19th province.

The only reason Bush Sr. went to war and succeeded in putting together a formidable coalition that included Arab countries was the need to safeguard Kuwait’s oil.

Today, two of the Middle East’s most key countries – Syria and Iraq — are quite literally on the verge of disintegration, threatened by terror groups the likes of which the world have rarely seen, with the potential to jeopardize the security of Western Europe and United States, and yet there is no visible U.S. involvement or articulated policy to manage the crisis.

What is even more alarming is that this latest crisis did not suddenly appear out nowhere, as the loudest media narrative has insisted. Alarm bells and red flags were consistently ignored by the Obama administration.

Members of the U.S. administration were warned, repeatedly, that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, posed a real threat to the security of Iraq, and ultimately to the region, but chose to ignore the warnings.

As reported by the Daily Beast, “On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request.”

Maliki — who reportedly celebrated when the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011 — made a very discreet request of the White House to return some U.S. military units to Iraq so they could assist the country’s air force in planning target acquisition of ISIS positions.

Senior administration officials told the president that ISIS was producing upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month.

ISIS took advantage of the Iraqi government’s weakness and the Iraqi army’s unpreparedness. That, compiled with Sunni disenchantment with the government’s policies, provided fertile grounds for the Islamists to strike.

Yet the warnings were there, clear for anyone to see, if anybody really wanted to see. The problem was that nobody close to the American president seemed to give it much thought. All the intelligence services were telling anyone who was willing to listen that the news from Iraq was worrisome. No one at the White House seems to have been listening.?

Additionally, too much trust was placed in the restructured Iraqi Army. Despite major U.S. training and reforms, Iraq’s military suffered from poor operational tactics while legitimate and popular grievances were unheeded.?

Obama could have used political leverage to force al-Maliki to avoid sidelining the country’s Sunni population. The sale of advanced weapon systems for nearly $11 billion should have been the carrot.

And major notice should have been taken when Fallujah — a town made infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq when Sunni gunmen killed American contract workers, and where resistance to the U.S. presence became notorious — was the first major and strategically important city to fall to the Islamists.

When Fallujah fell, red flags should have gone up. But the only flag that went up was the black banner of the jihadists.

It was only after Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS that the world began to take notice. But by then, ISIS had gained control of oil fields in Syria and some in Iraq, and had looted millions from banks in the cities they occupied.

Obama may be thinking that the fallout of this crisis will be mitigated if the U.S. continues to pursue improved relations with Iran. But again, he seems to ignore the fact that countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey will never accept Iran playing the role of the regional policeman.

Like it or not, as the only remaining superpower, the job falls to the United States. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

 

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Washington ignored red flags in Iraq

By Claude Salhani -
Members of the Obama Administration were warned – repeatedly – that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – posed a real threat to the security of Iraq, and ultimately to the region but did nothing to preempt the very foreseeable outcome.

“On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request,” states a report from The Daily Beast.

Maliki, who apparently celebrated when the last of the U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011, made a very discreet request to the White House for a return of some U.S. military units to assist the Iraqi Air Force in planning target acquisition of ISIS positions.

Senior Obama Administration officials reported to the president that ISIS was launching upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month.

“ISIS was encouraged in part by the weakness of Maliki’s military and the aggressively anti-Sunni policies of the Shi’ite prime minister,” goes on to say The Daily Beast.

The mainstream media has been saying since the emergence of ISIS as a major force to be reckoned with that their recent successes and sudden meteoric rise to power was unforeseeable, yet all the intelligence services were telling anyone who was willing to listen that the news from Iraq was worrisome. Perhaps the alarm bells and red flags should have attracted some attention at this point.

The problem is that no one at the White House was listening.
How did the meteoric rise of ISIS fall between the gaps?

Despite being restructured by the U.S. military, Iraq’s military suffered from poor operational tactics while legitimate and popular grievances were unheeded.
‘The problem for Obama was that he had no good policy option in Iraq,” wrote Eli Lake in the Daily Beast.

Having promised Iraq to sell it advanced weapon systems for nearly $11 billion, the Obama administration should have used the sale to place some leverage on the Maliki government forcing it to ease up on the Sunni populations of Iraq, except it did not.

Fallujah – a town made infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq when Sunni gunmen killed American contract workers, and where resistance to the U.S. presence became notorious, was the first major and strategically important city to fall to the Islamists. When Fallujah fell red flags should have gone up. They did not.

And just five month after that, Iraq’s second-largest city -Mosul, fell like ripe fruit to the fighters of ISIS.

In his expose in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake states: “At the time, senior Obama administration officials went out of their way to proclaim just how impossible-to-predict the collapse of Mosul was.”

But Mr. Lake adds, interviews with a dozen U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials, diplomats, and policy makers reveal a very different story. A catastrophe like the fall of Mosul wasn’t just predictable. They repeatedly warned the Obama administration that something like this was going to happen.

The White House decided not do anything with the information they were given.
Now, perhaps with a bit of reality finally starting to sink in, the Obama Administration is starting to realize that it must do something. As a first step Obama has dispatched some 300 military advisors to Iraq. The unmanned drone flights – crucial for intelligence gathering have been increased from one flight per month to 50 flights.

Despite its ongoing problems, high unemployment, sporadic clashes and occasional car bombs, Iraq, until recently was on the road to recovery. Many however, disagreed. Their cries that should have been headed and action taken to avoid reaching the point were we are today.

Perhaps now the Obama administration will wake up to the fact that some inaction is a dangerous game to play.

Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan. You can follow him on Twitter@claudesalhani

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Scourge of ‘Islam Experts’

Please note this is a repeat. This story was first published in 2010.

By Claude Salhani

One of the negative by-products of the 9/11 attacks is the emergence of hordes of self-proclaimed experts on intricately complex issues such as the Middle East, Islam and terrorism.

In fact being an ‘expert’ in one of the above-mentioned topics has become something of a lucrative industry for some. The problem arising from this new – or perhaps not so new – phenomenon is that some people, even some intelligent people (and at times some intelligence people) start to believe the rot that is disseminated by these ‘experts.’ A method used is to take an element of truth and mix it with fabrications and the two become intertwined and difficult to separate. Repeat a falsehood often enough and it becomes the truth – or at least it appears to be, especially to those who don’t know better. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, perfected this fine art.

What pushed me to write this column is an article titled ‘Is a Nice Muslim a Good Muslim?’, written by a Bill Warner, someone who was described to me as a ‘serious scholar of Islam.’

I was aghast at what I read and told the friend who relayed the article that people like that scare me as much as the Islamist fascists. What the article does is take extracts of the Koran and uses them to justify that there can be no such thing as a nice Muslim. According to the article, one is either a Muslim or is not. One either follows the principles of Islam, or does not, and therefore is not a Muslim. Says the ‘expert:’ ‘However, the truth is that a Muslim’ is not always a Muslim. When they do not follow Islamic doctrine, they are no longer a Muslim, but are kafir (non-Muslim).’ In fact a kafir is a non-believer. Very rarely would a Muslim be considered a kafir, except if he cursed the prophet or insulted the Koran. Rather, he would be considered a ‘murtad.’ (Heretic)

One can argue that similar rules apply to the Catholic Church; you either believe in the teachings of the Church, including the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the virgin birth, or you don’t. There is no pick and choose when it comes to religion. Any religion. Of course one can comb through the Koran and find pages upon pages that incite Muslims to violence and look upon the rest of the world as non-believers. But can the same not be said of the Bible? The Old Testament is packed with chapters of a God who urging his people to war, to kill and to show no mercy towards their enemies.

One can make a similar argument about Catholicism when the Church went about killing non-believers (kafirs?) by the thousands during the Spanish Inquisition. And what about the Christians who slaughtered Africans and Native Americans and native South Americans because they were considered to be heathens?’ There seems to be an inverse relationship between how vociferous believers are in claiming that their religion is peaceful and how peaceful their religion actually is,’ writes Austin Cline regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, a former Publicity Coordinator for the Campus Free thought Alliance, and a lecturer on religion and religious violence. ‘Christians can be especially critical of how Muslims keep insisting that Islam is a “religion of peace” despite the extensive world-wide violence being committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. Such Christians seem to want to insist that theirs is the real “religion of peace,” said Mr. Cline.

I do not claim to be a scholar although I have lectured at several universities in North America. I was published in scores of international newspapers and respected journals and appear on more than 40 radio and television channels as a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs; as a journalist I have covered the Middle East and its associated problems for the good part of 30 years, more than half that time based in the region, and with the exception of two countries, I have visited every country in the Middle East multiple times.Yet history shows us that Christians can be as ruthless as others. The Cathar War in 1209 when the pope based in Avignon waged a crusade against the Cathars in southern France is but one example. When asked how they could recognise Catholics from Cathars as the crusaders were about to assault the city of Beziers, Arnaud Amalric, the papal legate and inquisitor sent by Pope Innocent III is reported to have said, ‘ Kill them all, God will sort his own.’ (‘Kill them all, Let God sort them out,’ emerged during the Vietnam War.) Amalric was also responsible for the mass burning alive of “many heretics and many fair women” at Casseneuil;” and for the slaughter at Beziers of some 20,000 men, women and children, in what was termed an “exercise of Christian charity.”

As such I can claim to know Muslims fairly well – good and bad ones. I grew up with Muslims. I went to school with Muslims. I socialised with Muslims. During my late teen years when I stopped going to church my best friend at the time, a Sunni Muslim (and my Jewish girlfriend) would each grab me by an arm and force me into church to please my mother. During my junior high school days when economic times were tough and the Christian grocer down the road refused my mother credit, it was the Muslim and the Druze restaurant owner and the green grocer next door who gave us credit.

This is not an apology for the bad things happening in the world being committed by bad Muslims. There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims. Lumping all Muslims in the same basket with the rotten few is short-sighted, plain wrong and does a disservice to mankind.

Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times and author of two books on the Middle East.

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Jihadists ‘selling oil to Assad’, says France

By Claude Salhani  –

The Islamist movement that took the Middle East by storm two weeks ago, capturing large swaths of Syria and Iraq, is reportedly selling oil to the Syrian government, the very people they are fighting to overthrow, according to the French foreign minister.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday that the sale was evidence of the “confusing” nature of the escalating conflict in the Middle East in which Syrian President Bashar Assad and the jihadists are in theory on opposing sides.

The main rebel group was known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL – or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -ISIS- but on Monday the group declared a “caliphate”, shortening its name to the “Islamic State.”

It named the group’s leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the new caliph.

“We have proofs that when ISIL has taken over oil it has sold oil to the (Assad) regime,” Fabius told a news conference in New Delhi. He did not offer any more details.

Referring to how the rebels in Syria and the Assad regime use each other to derive legitimacy, Fabius said: “Officially they are combating each other but in fact they are very often helping each other.”

The situation in Iraq is “very, very, very worrying,” he added.

“Why? Because it is probably the first time that a terrorist group — and a ferocious terrorist group — is in a position, if there is no reaction, to take over the whole country, and a rich country, with enormous consequences for the region and the world,” he said.

The solution is for Iraq to unite behind the government and the army to drive out the jihadists, he said.

An estimated amount of $3.2 billion is reported to have been taken from banks in Mosul, along with vast amounts of weapons and munitions abandoned by the Iraqi army in their hasty retreat from Mosul and other cities in the north.

While this group represents a very real and present danger for the security of the entire region and beyond, there is particular fear for the oil and gas producing regions of Syria and Iraq, areas now under the control of ISIL.

The continual flow of oil and gas will give the group a steady income of hard cash.

However, some experts believe that ISIL may have in fact over extended itself and now in fact face the same problem that the U.S. forces faced when they tried to pacify Iraq: capturing and holding the cities, towns and regions captured.

ISIL has managed to capture certain cities, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, but holding them requires large numbers One estimate places the number of fighters currently available to ISIL to be around 10,000. That is hardly enough to capture and hold cities. Additionally, the fighters that stormed Mosul are not all with ISIL. There are a number of rival groups, including former Baath Party cadres who are in no fashion at all Islamist, but rather see here a marriage of convenience in fighting the government of Nuri al-Malaki.

There are very good chances that the various rivalries between the different Islamists (and the secularists like the Baathists) will eventually clash as ISIL will try to impose itself as the sole authority.

Al-Baghdadi has already potent enemies such as Osama bin-Laden’s successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new al-Qaida chief, who’s orders al-Baghdadi ignored and proceeded with plans to create a caliphate.

Despite the usage of Islamic names and religious terms implied by the ISIL, there is in fact little, if any, real legitimate religious authority found in this group.

A caliphate is an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader – a caliph, or successor to the Prophet Mohammad. By decreeing himself caliph and demanding that all Muslims swear allegiance to him, al- Baghdadi is directly challenging the authority of the kings of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco who respectively carry the titles of “Sherif of Mecca,” “Custodian of the two holy mosques,” and “Commander of the faithful.”

Following ISIL’s Monday declaration dictating that the areas under their control are to be henceforth called the “Islamic State” and that all Muslims pledge allegiance to the new caliph and to the ‘Islamic State,’ strangely enough we have not heard any substantial language dealing with any theological differences that exists between the warring parties.

Yet “Caliph Ibrahim,” as he now wants to be called, has no theological training. This would be the equivalent of naming an altar boy as Bishop of Rome.

An indication that there is more to this conflict than is generally explained in over-simplified terms as a conflict of opposing Sunni and Shiites, is the position adopted by Iraq’s Kurds. The Kurds, who have practically established their own state in the northern part of the country, are overwhelmingly Sunni. Yet they are siding with the Shiites against fellow Sunnis. Why?

Could it be because the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant hides behind a badge of religion?

Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan. You can follow him on Twitter@claudesalhani

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ISIS: Is It All About The Oil?

By Claude Salhani | Mon, 23 June 2014 21:35 |

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – the radical Islamist group in control of large swaths of the two countries from which it takes its name — has released a map on its web site projecting where it wants to be just five years from now.

If it manages to achieve just a fraction of what its intentions are, there is much to worry about.

Is it a coincidence that almost all the countries this radical Islamist group aspires to rule are oil-producers?

I reported last week why I believe ISIS, or as it is also called in English, ISIL — the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — would not stop at controlling part or even all of Syria and Iraq. Indeed, if one understands the historic context of the group’s very name, it is easy to comprehend their actions and their intent, as well as why they must be taken seriously.

The map made public by ISIS shows a large swath of black-shaded countries stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, and includes all of North Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon in West Africa, and Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia on the continent’s eastern coast.

The desired territory then crosses over the Mediterranean and Red seas to engulf the entire Arab world.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine – and Israel – as well as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen would all be part of one big, unhappy family.

Big. But not big enough for ISIS. To that parade of nations, they add Turkey, Iran, and parts of the Caspian region, such as Turkmenistan. Then they swing southwards, swallowing India, Pakistan, Singapore, Myanmar and Indonesia.

Now draw a straight line across the globe; the countries ISIS wants to rule extend from Nigeria to Indonesia. Such a realm would give this new “caliphate” unprecedented oil riches. With that kind of money and infrastructure, acquiring nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, should not be a great difficulty.

If Pakistan, for example, were to fall under the umbrella of the extremists, they already would be in possession of WMDs. It is worth recalling that the Pakistani military, including the ISI, the intelligence services, have been known to have close ties to Al-Qaeda and Islamist groups like ISIS, which, after all, is an offshoot of Al-Qaeda.

Quite possibly, the leadership of ISIS may be confident that this could be achieved, given their recent and seemingly continuing victories in Iraq.

The reality may be much different. It is highly unlikely that ISIS would ever be able to unite such wide-ranging groups of cultures and subcultures, sects, tribes, clans and nationalities as diverse and divided as sub-Saharan Africans and Indians and Arabs.

But assuming for the sake of argument that this is a possibility, it would give ISIS a combined manpower and the ability to recruit among a general population of some 3.9 billion people.

While trying to bring the entire Muslim world under a single political banner sounds like a practical impossibility, the fighters of ISIS may face somewhat less resistance and find they have perhaps a few more allies in the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman — than they would as they tried to unite countries such as Turkey or Iran, for example. They may find it particularly difficult in Iran, given that it is a majority Shiite country.

The reasons are two-fold: First, the autochthonous populations of the GCC are overwhelmingly Sunni. (Ironically, fundamental Islamist groups such as ISIS owe much of their success, at least in the initial stages of the Syrian war, to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which provided funds and weapons to anti-government forces.)

Second, there is a lot of public disenchantment with the ruling families – such as the House of Saud – who act as though their nations were their private domain.

If there was ever an opportune moment for the sheiks who govern the Arab lands along the Gulf to give serious consideration to reforms, now is the time, before it’s too late.

This dream of dominating much of the world in the name of one’s god is not a new one. In today’s day and age it may sound absurd, even insane, to believe such a scheme could work. It would be equally absurd and insane to ignore the threat.

You can follow Claude on Twitter @claudesalhani

 

 

 

 

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The Gaza Quandary

NOTE: This is a repeat posting. The original was first published in The Washington Times on 11/26/08)

 

By Claude Salhani

The Gaza Strip has always been a difficult place to govern. According to the Bible, when Moses came out of Egypt to go to the Promised Land, he took the long way home. Meaning he avoided Gaza.

Fast-forward a few thousand years and Gaza remains problematic. Now throw in 1.5 million Palestinian refugees, chronic unemployment, severe overcrowding, religious zealots, weapons of all caliber, compounded by an Israeli blockade, lack of food, clean water and electricity – with all it encompasses – and if you believe this will solve the problem, there is a bridge in Brooklyn you should consider buying.

Israel would have benefited from history had it done the same and bypassed Gaza when it went into Egypt in June 1967. Since the Strip was first occupied during the Six-Day War, Gaza, far more so than the West Bank, turned out to be a thorn in Israel´s side. Largely due to the tough economic conditions under which Gazans live, the Strip harbored more hard-liners than the West Bank and represented more of a headache to Israel´s security than the Palestinians living in say Hebron, Nablus or Ramallah.

Prior to the Israeli occupation, Gaza was already a problem for Egypt. In fact, when Israel suggested the Strip be returned to Egypt, the Egyptians politely declined the offer. “Gaza is more of a problem than a gift,” said the legendary Moshe Dayan, Israel´s defense minister during the ´67 war.

Gaza´s geography counts for one of the reasons Israel failed to pacify the long, coastal plain, where poverty, frustration and radicalism play a major role. Gaza has little to no agriculture and no resources, other than thousands of unemployed angry young people.

Today the Gaza Strip remains an area of trouble for the Palestinians who live in it, for the Israelis who until recently occupied it and also for the Egyptians who border it.

For the Egyptians, Gaza represents a turbulent neighbor right on its doorstep with a potential pool of recruitable elements that can easily be turned into troublemakers and infiltrated into Egypt. Not to mention the fact that Gazans demonstrated to the Egyptians their capability to cross the border into Egypt at any time of their choosing, regardless of how high, wide or electrified a fence might be.

For the Israelis, Gaza remains a source from where terrorist attacks against Israel are launched, as are Qassam rockets on Israeli towns and villages neighboring the Strip.

For the Palestinians, the situation in Gaza is reaching “catastrophic” proportions, said Karen AbuZayd, commissioner- general for the United Nations´ Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians refugees.

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