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MIDEAST MIRROR 28.05.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1- The ‘demons of partition’

2-Cairo-Riyadh rivalry

 

1- The ‘demons of partition’

 

Was it not natural for French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to express his concern that the situations in Iraq and Syria were drawing close to partition, since ISIS on the one hand and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes on the other, are stirring confessional sentiments and historical vendettas which, if their demons continue to be invoked, will show no mercy for anyone? Fabius is sounding the alarm bells: The international coalition must reconsider its strategy because of ISIS's expansion and the 'Abadi government's failure to honor its commitments. The alternative is partition and 'further massacres.' Baghdad’s commitments are in essence to rebuild a national Iraqi army and a government policy that does not discriminate between Sunnis and Shiites. So, is [Iraqi PM] 'Abadi unaware that the leaders of the factions of the supposedly Shiite militias have announced their campaign to liberate al-Ramadi under the banner of ‘At your service, Imam Hussein’ with the army fighting behind them?-- Zuhair Qussaibati in pan-Arab al-Hayat

 

Disbanding the present [Iraqi] army means flinging the doors of Baghdad, (and subsequently other cities in the center and south of the country) open to ISIS. At the very least, it will lead to Iraq’s ‘Somalization’, leaving the country at the mercy of militias whose numbers will rise and that will fight over everything. As a result, the country will break down into mini-states controlled by sub-sects of sects. Good, sound, and rational action was what all former governments should have taken, as well as the entire political class, both before and after ISIS invaded us. Such action consists of restructuring of the army and the entire security establishment on the proper sound bases. But success in this task requires the political regime and everything about the political process to be restructured as well--'Adnan Hussein on Iraqi www.sotaliraq.com

 

Just imagine: The U.S., which destroyed the Iraqi army and decided to disband it in a clear and blatant decision that could have only been taken by a Zionist such as Paul Bremer (who was put in charge of Iraq in an act of unprecedented defiance of every Arab) is now reproaching that same army for the weakness it may have revealed in combating the terrorism whose true nature and global capabilities no one knows better than the U.S.! In Iraq, the Americans are shedding hypocritical tears; and in Syria, they are expressing glee over our misfortunes, totally ignoring the military, political, and economic siege they have been imposing on this country and its army. But they have nothing but contempt for all Arab armies – including the Saudi army that has been driven by them into the Yemeni quagmire. It is not enough for the U.S. that the Arab armies have sworn that they will fight no one but Iran and anyone linked to it, going so far as to ally themselves with Israel against Iran and its allies--Ass'ad 'Abboud in Syrian ath-Thawra

 

Just as Washington expressed its confidence in the ability to liberate [Ramadi], but failed to explain why it did not prevent it from falling, the PMU militia did the same, though in a different manner. Thousands of its fighters marched to the city's outskirts in preparation for the battle for liberation, without knowing why they did not defend the city before it fell. What is certain is that each side will try to make use of what has happened to promote its own interests. For its part, Iran will find in al-Ramadi's fall an opportunity to consolidate its presence in Iraq, rendering it acceptable, perhaps even necessary by Washington, which will view the Iranian-backed militias as the sole force capable of confronting ISIS in light of the Iraqi army's collapse. In turn, the PMU militia will emerge as a winner because it would have been recognized as an indispensable national force--'Assem 'Abdelkhaliq in Emirates’ al-Khaleej

 

When the Iraqi army is being led into battle by the Shiite Popular Mobilization Units’ (PMU) militias, and when the strongest man in Iraq is Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, it is no wonder that that army's morale is weakened, insists a Lebanese commentator. This is especially true in light of the militias’ confessional anti-Sunni practices. The proposal to disband the Iraqi army after its repeated failures against ISIS would have even worse consequences than the U.S. decision to disband Saddam's army after the 2003 invasion, maintains an Iraqi commentator. The fault does not lie with the soldiers and junior officers, but with the senior Iraqi commanders and, more importantly, the dominant political elite that has misruled the country over the past eight years. It is truly ironic for U.S. officials to criticize the Iraqi army for 'lacking the will to fight' ISIS after they first destroyed it and then failed to rebuild it on sound patriotic bases, says a Syrian commentator. But this only shows that the U.S. does not want to see any strong Arab armies, and only wants them to fight Iran and its allies. Three parties have failed to stop ISIS's advances in al-Ramadi – the U.S., the Iraqi government forces, and the Iranian-backed militias, notes an Arab commentator. But all three are accused of having facilitated these advances in order to achieve other aims.

 

SOLEIMANI RE-EMERGES: "After an absence that lasted weeks, the Commander of the Qods Brigade, General Qasem Soleimani – who for a while, and as ISIS expanded in Iraq seemed to be the 'legendary' figure who commands the Iraqi army’s brigades and militias and directs them on the battlefield – has re-emerged," writes Zuhair Qussaibati in today’s Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

When Soleimani disappeared after the Tikrit battle, the result was ISIS's major push in al-Ramadi. He may have left the mission to U.S. air raids. But here he is today, blaming President Barack Obama, and daring to publicly accuse him of 'taking part in the conspiracy.' And – who knows? – Soleimani may once again suddenly emerge with the PMU, whose slogan ‘In your service, Imam Hussein’ in the campaign to recapture the heart of [Sunni] Anbar Province from Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been criticized by the U.S. Congress. 

The Iraqi forces simply 'evaporated' when ISIS attacked al-Ramadi. Last year’s Mosul catastrophe was repeated, even though these forces were 'much more numerous than their enemy, but still chose to withdraw.' This was the Pentagon’s assessment of what happened and which insisted on its position, thereby erasing U.S. President Joe Biden’s attempt to assuage Haidar al-‘Abadi's government's anger.

Between ‘Abadi and his anger, and Soleimani's denunciation of the Americans' role in the 'conspiracy,' the PMU adopted a slogan for the liberation of al-Ramadi which once again does not take into consideration the inevitable need to avoid everything confessional or anything that could provoke Anbar's Sunnis' irritation, fear, or anger. After all, the manner in which [former PM] Nuri al-Maliki rewarded the 'Awakening Forces' is still live in their memories.

On the other hand, was it not natural for French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to express his concern that the situations in Iraq and Syria were drawing close to partition, since ISIS on the one hand and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes on the other, are stirring confessional sentiments and historical vendettas which, if their demons continue to be invoked, will show no mercy for anyone?

Fabius is sounding the alarm bells: The international coalition must reconsider its strategy because of ISIS's expansion and the 'Abadi government's failure to honor its commitments. The alternative is partition and 'further massacres.'

Baghdad’s commitments are in essence to rebuild a national Iraqi army and a government policy that does not discriminate between Sunnis and Shiites. So, is 'Abadi unaware that the leaders of the factions of the supposedly Shiite militias have announced their campaign to liberate al-Ramadi under the banner of ‘At your service, Imam Hussein’ with the army fighting behind them?

This seems like yet another scheme to weaken the army's morale. And, in light of this, it is only natural to expect Soleimani to lead the PMU since he is the 'legendary cross-border figure.' In this manner, the Iraqi military establishment finds itself in the background, while the Qods Brigade and its 'experts' will be in the vanguard. In such a situation, is there any need for the U.S. warplanes that are deployed in Assad Base [in Iraq]?

ISIS is weak before Syria's Kurds, but gets stronger in Iraq. Al-Ramadi fell. Only a few people seem to remember that Mosul has been in [ISIS ‘Caliph’] al-Baghdadi's clutch for almost a year now. It is now a forgotten city.

As an instance of the 'outer space aliens' in the Iraqi army – a reference to the thousands of imaginary names on its rosters – the commander of al-Anbar's police admits that the number in his force alone now stands at 21-thousand officers wearing the cape of the 'invisible man.'

Despite this, al-'Abadi is optimistic that the liberation of the Anbar Province is imminent. The province's clans are taking part in the fight to defeat ISIS. Everyone hopes that the PM's optimism is justified and that what happened to the Sunni Iraqis' possessions in Tikrit would not be repeated. But no one can accuse al-Ramadi's refugees of being responsible for the tragedy of forcing them to return to areas where fighting was still raging. That message is clear and certainly has confessional fingerprints all over it despite al-'Abadi's undertakings.

Between Iraq’s 'invisible men' and the 'legendary' Iranian commander, the mystery of why American missiles and warplanes have been unable to prevent ISIS surprises and strikes is certainly legitimate. It is also certainly legitimate to ask 'Abadi why he has reneged on his commitments and why he repeatedly defends the PMU despite the latter’s violations, abuse, and liquidations, which only helps to create a confessional Iraq, or at best take the country down the highway towards partition and fragmentation.

Does it make sense, for example, that militias are leading an army on whose training and armament billions of dollars were spent? It is clear that Fabius was not exaggerating when he warned against the possibility of massacres. For even taking the Americans' mistakes and confused strategy into consideration, how can it be right for Soleimani to blame U.S. impotence when Tehran does nothing but encourage everything that weakens the Iraqi army and strengthens the militias' hold and violence?

Al-Ramadi's refugees fled ISIS's terror and violence but were sent back by agencies and militias managed by Soleimani and his experts via an Iranian 'remote control' device. 

"Despite this, voices are being raised in Tehran in the belief that there are those in the region who believe – or should do so– that it is actually concerned about its neighbours’ 'security, stability, and prosperity'," concludes Qussaibati.

End…

 

THE RIGHT TO THINK: "The right to think for oneself is unshakable and absolute, and no authority that has any right over a thinking mind other than the conscience of its owner," writes 'Adnan Hussein on the Iraqi website www.sotaliraq.com.

But because not all ideas are good and fine, what is bad should be publicly rejected, opposed, and refuted by confronting arguments with counter arguments and evidence with counter-evidence, and not by force or coercion, naturally.

The idea of disbanding the existing Iraqi army is not only worse than the decision to disband the former Iraqi army in its entirety after the fall of Saddam Hussein and his regime. It is also a very foolish notion, especially in the current dangerous conditions.

In 2003, there was no ISIS occupying a third of the country's area and threatening even more. Moreover, there were over 50-thousand elite American, British, and other troops deployed in Iraq. Yet, despite this, it subsequently became apparent that the decision to disband the entire former army was neither good, nor sound, nor wise. It was a bad decision, in fact, and its cost was enormous – hundreds of thousands of people killed or wounded, and tens-of-billions of dollars in material losses.

The new army is not up to the task it has been assigned; nor is it able to bear the national responsibility it has been delegated with. This has been proven again and again. But the fault cannot be pinned on the army's soldiers and lower ranking officers, but on its commanders; more specifically, its senior commanders who have transformed it into an institution for spreading corruption not for fighting in times of trouble and calamity.

The army was not built on the required solid foundations of capability, professionalism, and patriotism. The two former governments and the two former supreme commands (which are one and the same) are responsible for this. Throughout the past eight years, the appointments and the assignment of missions and responsibilities were made on the basis of whims, wishes, and narrow personal and party-political interests. This explains why the constitution was repeatedly violated throughout those years, even though it called for military and security appointments to be brought before parliament for endorsement.

But disbanding the present army means flinging the doors of Baghdad, (and subsequently other cities in the center and south of the country) open to ISIS. At the very least, it will lead to Iraq’s ‘Somalization’, leaving the country at the mercy of militias whose numbers will rise and that will fight over everything. As a result, the country will break down into mini-states controlled by sub-sects of sects.

Good, sound, and rational action was what all former governments should have taken, as well as the entire political class, both before and after ISIS invaded us. Such action consists of restructuring the army and the entire security establishment on the proper sound bases. But success in this task requires the political regime and everything about the political process to be restructured as well. For after all, the failure of the military and security establishments is the product of the failure of the existing political order; and the corruption of commanders in the army and the security establishment is a consequence of the political class's corruption.

The idea of disbanding the army casts doubt on the patriotism of all Iraqis, when doubt or at least suspicion should be cast on the patriotism of the dominant political class.

"For every day that passes provides new evidence that this class is not fit to manage even the smallest corner of the country," concludes Hussein.

End…

 

CARTER’S OPINION: "In U.S. Defense Minister Ashton Carter's opinion, the Iraqi army lacked the will to fight in defense of the city of al-Ramadi that ISIS has recently occupied," writes As'ad 'Abboud in the official Syrian daily ath-Thawra.

After he made this statement, many American officials sought to restore some honor to the Iraqi army, especially after Iraq’s reactions to what the U.S. defense secretary had said. In fact, some U.S. officials went so far as to encourage the Iraqi army and build up its confidence.

If we consider what the various senior American figures up to and including U.S. President Barack Obama himself and his Vice-President Biden had said alleging that they were disturbed by ISIS's advances and the Iraqi army's retreat, and which led to promises of backing the army and employing the 'coalition's aerial war machine’ to regain al-Ramadi from ISIS – Mr. Carter's opinion seems to be more than a passing remark. It seems to rise to the level of blame and perhaps even accusation!

But the more correct thing would be to classify all this as an example of political farce. Just imagine: The U.S., which destroyed the Iraqi army and decided to disband it in a clear and blatant decision that could have only been taken by a Zionist such as Paul Bremer (who was put in charge of Iraq in an act of unprecedented defiance of every Arab) is now reproaching that same army for the weakness it may have revealed in combating the terrorism whose true nature and global capabilities no one knows better than the U.S.!

In Iraq, the Americans are shedding hypocritical tears; and in Syria, they are expressing glee over our misfortunes, totally ignoring the military, political, and economic siege they have been imposing on this country and its army. But they have nothing but contempt for all Arab armies – including the Saudi army that has been driven by them into the Yemeni quagmire.

It is not enough for the U.S. that the Arab armies have sworn that they will fight no one but Iran and anyone linked to it going so far as to ally themselves with Israel against Iran and its allies. For Israel, and the U.S. and the West behind it, can never trust the Arabs no matter how far the latter may go with their treason. Just note what the Arab leaders have suffered as a result of the U.S.'s approval in the so-called 'Arab Spring' and ask yourselves: Were these leaders so opposed to the Americans and Israelis’ will?

Israel, and therefore the colonial West and the U.S., cannot accept any strong Arab army – from Algeria via all the Arab Maghreb, to the Nile Valley, the Gulf, and the Levant. And no attempt is made to hide this; for Israel objects to any arms’ deal with any Arab state, even if it is with dear but dwarf-sized Qatar, and even if it involves buying a 22-carat artillery piece whose price is equivalent to an entire oil well, unless it can ensure that it will be operated far from it, and that is incapable of being deployed in any fighting in any direction in fact. And the war on terrorism is evidence of this.

Does the U.S. really want Arab armies to be able to fight terrorism?

In light of all that is happening and all that one can see, I leave it to the reader to answer this question. I leave it to the commanders of Arab armies to find a way in which to build a truly patriotic army that can fight and confront.

"But this will only be achieved by relying on ourselves and our own abilities," concludes 'Abboud.

End…

 

TRIPLE FAILURE: "What the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi in the hands of ISIS highlights is the failure of the U.S.’s air raids, the fact that the Iraqi forces fled, and the failure of Iran’s aid to the Iraqi government in the form of weapons and military advisors," writes 'Assem 'Abdelkhaliq in the UAE daily al-Khaleej.

This triple failure necessarily leads us to question its causes. Were these three parties really unable to halt ISIS's march? Or did one or more of them have undeclared political calculations that led them to be lax about defending the city, leaving it as easy prey to the terrorist ISIS?

The latter supposition does not arise from a vacuum. It is made all the more credible by a wave of accusations against all three parties, holding them responsible for the city’s fall.

- The first party to stand accused is the U.S. No one understands how it allowed ISIS forces to advance towards the city over a period of days and perhaps weeks, or why it did not confront these forces, attack them, and eliminate them.

It is not clear what the U.S. warplanes did, or why they failed to destroy the attacking forces, or to obstruct their advance and prevent them from infiltrating into the city at least. For what use are air raids if ISIS is still able to expand and gain new ground?

Those who pose questions and cast doubt on America’s intentions speak of Washington’s undeclared calculations that aim to prolong the war. They recall Obama's assessment that it would be necessary to allow his forces at least three years to contain ISIS.

But the logical question here is this: Does a superpower require all this time to destroy a terrorist organization? If so, how come it succeeded in defeating Saddam and occupying the whole of Iraq in three weeks, not three years?

Another cause for puzzlement is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement after the city's fall, in which he expressed his confidence in the Iraqi government’s ability to liberate it in a few weeks or even days’ time backed by U.S. warplanes. But if he was so confident of liberating the city, how does he explain why it fell so easily? Would it not have been better to use the capabilities that will now be used to liberate it in order to defend it and prevent it from falling to begin with?

- As for Iran, it stands accused of making political calculations to benefit, perhaps even be the primary beneficiary, from the fall of al-Ramadi. There is good reason to support this conclusion. For this city in particular represents the [Sunni] clans’ popular base and where training the clans or Awakening forces took place. It includes, Baghdadi Base where American military experts and advisors are stationed. Purging the city from these Americans and clan forces will serve Iran's interests directly.

For it knew that the Americans would withdraw from this base as soon as the city falls, which is what they did, and that the remnants of the clan forces would be slaughtered by ISIS, and this happened as well. The fall of the city also ensures that [largely Shiite] Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) would be deployed in order to liberate it, which is also what happened.

All of which amounts to a knockout blow to PM Haidar al-'Abadi, aborting his American-backed project to form non-sectarian national force. Such forces – of which al-Ramadi's clans formed the nucleus – are not welcomed by Iran; and now they will not exist.

- The third accused party is the Iraqi side. Here, we do not have the 'Abadi government in mind. The Iraqi equation encompasses many militias, and former Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki wields great influence over them. And it is clear that 'Abadi's political defeat will serve Maliki and his domestic allies’ interest.

To this should be added the fact that al-Ramadi's fall represents another blow to ‘Abadi’s non-sectarian reconciliation project, one that totally contradicts the sectarian policy that was pursued by Maliki throughout the time he was in power.

Just as Washington expressed its confidence in the ability to liberate the city, but failed to explain why it did not prevent it from falling, the PMU militia did the same, though in a different manner. Thousands of its fighters marched to the city's outskirts in preparation for the battle for liberation, without knowing why they did not defend the city before it fell.

What is certain is that each side will try to make use of what has happened to promote its own interests. For its part, Iran will find in al-Ramadi's fall an opportunity to consolidate its presence in Iraq, rendering it acceptable, perhaps even necessary by Washington, which will view the Iranian-backed militias as the sole force capable of confronting ISIS in light of the Iraqi army's collapse.

In turn, the PMU militia will emerge as a winner because it would have been recognized as an indispensable national force. This is evident from the fact that the first to ask for its help was PM ‘Abadi himself, who could find no other force after the government forces’ defeat, even though he was initially opposed to seeking the PMU's help.

Finally, we should not fail to mention the fact that the city’s fall coincided with the U.S. announcement that it has killed an ISIS leader, Abu Sayyaf, in Syria. This has important implications even it turns out to be unintended. For only hours after the announcement of this assassination that Washington deemed to be a major achievement in its war on ISIS, the latter responded by capturing al-Ramadi.

The difference is great and significant: The Americans celebrate a limited tactical gain, while ISIS responds with a major strategic victory.

"This is not reassuring," concludes 'Abdelkhaliq.

Ends…

 

 

2-Cairo-Riyadh rivalry

 

Relations between Cairo and Riyadh seem to have taken a sharp turn towards rivalry and competition, especially over Syria, notes today’s pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

 

With Saudi Arabia effectively joining the Turkish/Qatari alliance which embraces the Muslim Brotherhood, relations between Riyadh and Cairo have taken a turn for the worse, notes the editorial in an online pan-Arab daily. These two capitals are now rivals, and this manifests itself most clearly in their respective attitude towards the various Syrian opposition groups.

 

DIFFERING POSITIONS: "Before last January, Saudi/Egyptian accord was at its peak as far as the various burning Arab files, particularly the Syrian file, were concerned," writes Thursday's editorial on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

But since Saudi monarch Salman bin 'Abdulaziz came to power, the two countries' respective visions have differed and their positions have conflicted with each other. Saudi Arabia joined the Turkish/Qatari trench that is hostile to Egypt, and talk of Saudi financial backing for Egypt has begun to subside, and with it, the billion-dollars figures of Saudi aid have begun to drop, and relations between the two states have shrunk at record speed.

Saudi/Egyptian relations have entered a phase of 'unfriendly rivalry,' at least over the Syrian file. This has emerged most clearly from the two capitals' competition over hosting Syrian opposition conferences that are consistent with their respective political leanings and views of a resolution of the Syrian crisis and the region's crises in general.

This June we will witness two Syrian opposition conferences: The first will be held in Cairo early in the month and will bring the 'patriotic' Syrian forces together under the sponsorship of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, with the aim of 'ending the Syrian crisis via a political solution, terminating the loss of Syrian blood, honoring the Syrian people's aspiration for change, and preserving the unity of Syrian territories and state institutions,' as the Egyptian Foreign Ministry's statement put it.

As for the second conference, it will be held around the middle of June in Riyadh, which appears to have replaced Istanbul in that capacity. According to statements by Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-'Atiyyah, the opposition's political and military factions will attend the conference with the aim of preparing for the post-Assad period.

The most important difference between the two conferences has to do the identity of the attending factions and forces, and the differences between their ultimate political and military aims. The first conference, sponsored by Cairo, will totally exclude the Muslim Brotherhood, which is sponsored by Turkey and Qatar; Saudi Arabia joined the latter two in this sponsorship early this year. As for the second conference, and according to one of the most prominent liberal opposition figures’ statements to raialyoum.com, the aim is to rehabilitate the Muslim Brotherhood and the other salafi forces, ensuring that the Islamists would have the upper hand in any new opposition coalition.

The Saudi authorities want to contain the Syrian opposition just as they have 'contained' the Yemeni state. They want to make Riyadh the headquarters of that opposition, while taking charge of financing and armament operations directly, and not via mediators. It is unlikely that either Turkey or Qatar would dare compete with it in this field. For when Saudi Arabia sits at the driving wheel, the rest must sit in the backseat, as one former Arab foreign minister told this daily.

The equation is very clear and it can be gleaned from reading between the lines of the two conferences and the preparations underway to hold them. Egypt, which is one of the parties to this equation, is working with the axis that includes Moscow, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, with the aim of reforming the Syrian regime by including some opposition leaders in the state institutions and decision-making circles, but under President Bashar al-Assad's umbrella, even if only temporarily.

 By contrast, the Saudi/Turkish/Qatari triangle – the other side to the equation – aims to pull the Syrian regime and its institutions out by the roots, and to reconstruct the Syrian state based on its declared visions. It also aims to ensure that the moderate Islamist currents, and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, will constitute the dominant forces, which however will cohabit with the liberal factions and parties in an attempt to avoid a repetition of what happened in Egypt.

It is difficult to say which of the two sides to this equation will win. But it seems like the Saudi/Turkish/Qatari alliance has begun to gain some traction on the ground, imposing a new reality. That may take the shape of a no-fly zone or the establishment of a new mini-state in northwestern Syria, with Aleppo as its capital and enjoying direct Turkish protection. This may then constitute the launching-pad for creating other such Syrian pockets.

What lead us to go this far in our expectations are Tuesday’s statements by the Turkish foreign minister, in which he said that his country had reached an agreement with the U.S. on the need to provide aerial cover for the armed Syrian opposition in order to protect it against the regime's warplanes. For, as he put it, it would be futile to train and armed opposition forces without providing them with protection against air raids and explosive barrels dropped by the regime's forces.

The question of course concerns the nature of the Iranian/Russian/Syrian response to any step of this kind of seriousness and effectiveness, which could change the balance of forces on the ground, and in the air as well.

The Syrian opposition's summer will certainly be scorching hot in political and military terms. Saudi Arabia's departure from the Egyptian/Emirati alliance, and its decision to join the Turkish/Qatari axis, aims to achieve decisive victory for the opposition in Syria, speed up the toppling of the regime, and rehabilitate the Muslim Brotherhood. That would represent a lethal blow to the axis headed by Egypt, and especially those aspects having to do with the embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood and the (non-jihadi) salafis.

For this reason, it is not unlikely that the Egyptian/Saudi 'rivalry' will rise to the surface and may extend to other issues in addition to the Syrian file.

"The coming days will answer many of the questions raised in this regard," concludes the daily.

Ends…

 

 

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