Iran is demanding that Bashar al-Assad be allowed to run in any future presidential election in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said on Sunday, “We emphasized unequivocally that only Assad himself can decide on his participation or non-participation in the elections and it is only the people of Syria who can say whether they will vote for him or not.” On Saturday, international powers including the United States, Russia, and Iran agreed to a framework under which a transition government in Syria would draft a new constitution and hold elections in 18 months. Assad’s specific fate was left unclear. Under Assad’s leadership, the Syrian regime, with the help of Iran and Hezbollah, has murdered tens of thousands and displaced millions through the use of barrel bombs, indiscriminate air raids, massacres, intentional starvation, and chemical weapons attacks.
The Obama administration has insisted that Assad must be removed from power. On October 2, President Barack Obama stated, “What started off as peaceful protests against Assad… evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality…[T]he only way to accomplish [an inclusive political transition] is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.” Furthermore, the administration has argued that Assad’s removal is a prerequisite to successfully eradicating ISIS, which in turn is a prerequisite for stabilizing Syria. Last Thursday, speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “neither peace nor the defeat of Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS] is possible with Assad in power.” Just two days later, Kerry expounded upon the relationship between Assad and ISIS: “Assad has cut his own deal with Daesh. They sell oil. He buys oil. They are symbiotic, not real enemies in this. And he has not, when he had a chance over four years, mounted his attacks against Daesh." In June of last year, the Secretary emphasized that “Assad is one of the principal reasons – the principal reason – that ISIS exists. President Assad is a magnet for jihadists and foreign fighters from around the world.”
The decision was approved by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
Last month, an Israeli court upheld Salah’s conviction on charges of incitement to violence and sentenced him to eleven months in prison.
The government’s statement explained that the decision to outlaw Salah’s group was “a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life.”
For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading ‘Al Aqsa is in danger’ that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status-quo. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun / Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations on the Temple Mount. This activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.
Various Israeli security experts and Palestinian activists have attributed the recent wave of Palestinian violence to incitement, particularly over false charges that Israel is threatening the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The new ban on the northern branch of the Islamic Movement means that those who remain active in the organization are subject to arrest, with all of the group’s property subject to seizure.
The Times of Israel reported:
After the security cabinet declared the movement illegal in a meeting late Monday night, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed an edict banning any activity connected to the group.
Israeli security forces then carried out a series of overnight raids on the organization’s offices, seizing computers, documents and cash in regional branches across the country, the Israel Police and Shin Bet security agency said. Police also froze bank accounts linked to the organization and a number of NGOs working alongside it.
In total, 17 regional branches were ordered closed, including offices in Umm al-Fahm, Jaffa, Nazareth, Kfar Kana, Turan, Beersheba and Rahat.
The group was founded in the 1970’s as both a political and religious outreach group. In 1996, it split into northern and southern branches. The southern branch has typically been more moderate, with some of its members serving in the Knesset.
“The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement is endangering the security of the State of Israel and collaborating, according to intelligence we have collected, with Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas, in order to inflame the current situation and encourage violence,” said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who signed the order banning the Islamist group.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan emphasized that the move to outlaw the organization was part of a global effort to fight Islamic extremism. “The State of Israel must set an example and spearhead the fight against radical Islam, whose emissaries we saw slaughtering innocents in Paris, New York, Madrid and Israel,” he said. “The Islamic Movement, Hamas, the Islamic State and other [Islamist] organizations have a common ideological platform that is the cause for terrorist attacks around the world and the wave of terror in this country.”
French President Francois Hollande declared yesterday that France would seek to amend its constitution to give the state broader powers to fight terrorism.
In an article tracing the history of both the northern and southern branches of the Islamic Movement, to be published in the December 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Raffa Abu Tareef, a Druze researcher with 25 years of experience in the Israeli Defense Forces,wrote:
Perhaps the most problematic issue in regard to the relationship between the Movement and the Israeli state is its continuing relationship with Hamas. More than once, Movement activists have expressed pride in Hamas’ accomplishments, maintained connections with Hamas on the ground, and even intervened politically in Hamas’ relationship with the Palestinian authority.
At a time when the pragmatic faction chose to work as a mediator between Hamas and the PA, members of the radical faction took the side of Hamas against then-PA President Yasser Arafat’s policies. The radical wing, like Hamas, criticized the agreements the PA signed with Israel and accused the PA of appeasement. It published prominent Hamas figures in its journal, and held meetings with Hamas leaders outside of Israel. In the days of the first intifada, the Islamic Movement began a large-scale effort to send clothing, food, and money to the territories in general and Hamas in particular. The Movement aided orphans, wounded families, the needy, the hospitalized, and the handicapped. And as later become clear, many of those aided were Hamas members and their families. In July 1995, the Israeli police closed the offices of the Movement’s aid committee and confiscated documents and equipment. This was another expression of the process by which the religious revival in the Israeli Muslim community led to political radicalization.
In 2011, British Home Secretary Theresa May sought to deport Salah, who had entered Britain illegally, on grounds that his presence there was “not conducive to the public good.”
This past August, a congressional delegation that visited the Temple Mount, site of the al-Aqsa Mosque, witnessed members of the northern branch harassing a group of Jewish visitors. (via TheTower.org)