December 03/2013


Bible Quotation for today/A Living Hope
01 Peter 01/03-12: " Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away.  They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God's power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time. Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer.  Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.  You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express,  because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him.
It was concerning this salvation that the prophets made careful search and investigation, and they prophesied about this gift which God would give you.  They tried to find out when the time would be and how it would come. This was the time to which Christ's Spirit in them was pointing, in predicting the sufferings that Christ would have to endure and the glory that would follow.  God revealed to these prophets that their work was not for their own benefit, but for yours, as they spoke about those things which you have now heard from the messengers who announced the Good News by the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. These are things which even the angels would like to understand.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 03/13
DEBKAfile/Former CIA, AMAN chiefs: Iran is a nuclear threshold state and can no longer be stopped/December 03/13

The Middle East needs the private sector to spur growth/By: Min Zhu/Asharq Alawsat/December 03/13
A milestone is passed, but trouble lies ahead/By: Abdullah Al-Otaibi/Asharq Alawsat/December 03/13
A Skewed Look at Arab Hearts and Minds/By: David Pollock/Washington Institute/December 03/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 03/13
Lebanese Related News
Lebanon puts Tripoli under Army control: Mikati

Tripoli hostilities escalate
Clashes Renew in the Evening in Tripoli as Army Stages Raids to Arrest Gunmen
Police force deployed in Lebanon's Tripoli
Families flee warring Tripoli neighborhoods
Saqr Orders Arrest of 8 People in Connection to Tripoli Clashes
Lebanon-Tripoli: Lax enforcement
Siniora, Rai agree on need to implement Baabda Declaration

Qatar reverses decision to expel five Lebanese

Lebanon striving to adhere to U.S. regulations
Lebanon/IIF: Net capital inflow to drop to $2.9B in 2013

Lebanese file temporarily delegated to Iran
Archdiocese bars monastery leader from duties
STL to decide whether to stick to January trial
French envoy honors Hezbollah lawmakers in dinner reception

Phalange Warns of 'Point of No Return' in Tripoli, Urges U.N. Resolution on Refugees
Syrian Refugee Tents Torched in Bekaa over Alleged Rape
Army Closes Passages on Border with Syria to Prevent Four-Wheel Drives' Passage
Amin Gemayel Calls for Swift Formation of Cabinet, Holding Presidential Elections on Time

Miscellaneous Reports And News
Iran FM on Gulf tour urges Saudi cooperation for 'stability'

Netanyahu in Rome: Western sanctions regime against Iranians already unraveling
Sources close to Netanyahu launch counter attack against criticism on Iran
Netanyahu holds first meeting with Pope Francis
Islamists take Syrian Christian town, monastery: SANA
Syria war crimes evidence implicates Assad: UN
Syrian gunmen, IDF forces exchange fire over Golan border
Most dangerous’ chemical arms out of Syria by year’s end
Israel invited into Western club at UN rights council
Iraq gunmen kill Sunni fighter, 5 relatives

Turkey police probe 'kidney for sale' ads


Tripoli hostilities escalate, wider conflict feared

December 02, 2013/By Antoine Amrieh The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Fighting intensified between rival gunmen in the northern city of Tripoli shortly after nightfall Sunday following a short lull in two days of fierce clashes that killed 12 people, including a soldier, and wounded over 50 in a renewal of hostilities directly linked to the war in Syria. The weekend fighting was the 18th round in the long-running battle between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the uprising began in Syria in March 2011. Meanwhile, tensions ran high in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in south Lebanon after a Fatah member was killed by a gunman. Also, rival Palestinian gunmen clashed in the refugee camp of Sabra, south of Beirut. No casualties were reported and Lebanese security forces intervened to restore calm to the area. The Tripoli clashes, the fiercest in months, caused panic among the city’s jittery residents, prompting scores of families in the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen to leave their homes to safer areas.
As night fell, gunmen in the mainly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, whose residents support the anti-Assad uprising, traded mortar fire, rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire with their rivals in the mostly Alawite Jabal Mohsen district, whose residents back the Assad regime, security sources said. The Lebanese Army, deployed in areas separating the combatants in Tripoli in line with a security plan, tried to halt the fighting by responding to the sources of fire. Army units conducted raids in Tripoli overnight Sunday, arrested eight militants and confiscated their light weapons and ammunitions, the military said in a statement. The detainees were turned over to the relevant authorities. Six people were killed, including a soldier, and 26 wounded in Sunday’s clashes, bringing the death toll in two days of violence to 12 and over 50 wounded. Among the wounded were 10 soldiers and a policeman. A soldier identified as Abdullah Ajaj died from his wounds after being hit by sniper fire while passing near the fighting area.
Among the victims were Mahmoud al-Mohammad, a Syrian national who died from his wounds after being hit by sniper gunfire at the Malloulah roundabout. Mahmoud Hussein died of a heart attack while fleeing sniper gunfire in the Zahiriyah area. Heavy shelling engulfed the city starting Saturday night and continued for hours reaching areas that are usually not affected by the fighting, such as Azmi Street and the Maarad road. Fighting eased early Sunday morning but was resumed at around 9 a.m. in light of continued threats between the rival fighters. Sniper fire blocked the international highway that links Tripoli to the northern region of Akkar.
An old deserted five-story building in Jabal Mohsen was targeted in the fighting, which led to the collapse of the upper three floors. No casualties were reported. Gunmen in Jabal Mohsen accused their rivals in Bab al-Tabbaneh of infiltrating into their neighborhood to rig the building with explosives.
A hitherto unknown group, Abu Bakr Hammoud Brigade, claimed responsibility for rigging the building with explosives, saying in a statement that it has joined the fighting in Tripoli. Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr issued a judicial order for security agencies to arrest violators in the city as well as fighters engaged in the battles. The military commanders in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood issued a statement threatening to target Jabal Mohsen’s residents until the head of the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party, Ali Eid, was handed over to authorities. Eid was charged with aiding the smuggling of a suspect involved in the Aug. 23 Tripoli bombings across the border into Syria last month. He has failed to appear in court for questioning over his alleged role. The twin bombings that targeted two mosques in Tripoli killed 47 people and wounded over 500.
Seven suspects were charged with involvement in the attacks. Two of the suspects are members of the ADP, which is based in Jabal Mohsen. “All Jabal Mohsen residents are a target until the criminals from the Eid family involved in Tripoli bombings are handed in to authorities,” the statement said. For their part, gunmen in Jabal Mohsen vowed to wage what they called “a crushing battle” against “takfiri Salafists” in Bab al-Tabbaneh after midnight Sunday if attacks on their neighborhood were not halted.“Tonight will be the night of victory,” the gunmen said in a statement issued by followers of the Alawite community in Lebanon. They threatened to impose a blockade over Tripoli all the way to the Mina area. Despite the escalation, political analysts ruled out a decisive military victory by any side in the Tripoli fighting, saying that Jabal Mohsen was a red line.
“This is not a routine wave of violence. But I don’t think a make-or-break military campaign will take place in Tripoli because Jabal Mohsen is a red line,” Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, told The Daily Star.
“The Syrian regime will not allow Jabal Mohsen to fall into the hands of its rivals. Western countries made it very clear in private talks with Lebanese politicians that escalating the Lebanese situation to an unprecedented level in Tripoli is unacceptable to the West,” he said. “An attempt to take over Jabal Mohsen is a major escalation that will rekindle the civil war in Lebanon,” Khashan said. “Any attack to take over Jabal Mohsen will trigger a direct Syrian intervention,” he added. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said it had been decided to place all security forces under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would take “all appropriate and firm measures to control security” in Tripoli. “The judiciary has issued arrest warrants against all violators of security in the city,” Mikati said after chairing an enlarged meeting of security officials in Tripoli. Former premier Fouad Siniora called on the Lebanese state to disarm fighting parties in Tripoli and demanded the implementation of firm security measures in the city. “The situation in Tripoli can no longer be addressed through circumstantial measures. This situation is unacceptable and therefore there is a need to take firm decisions that must be implemented [to end the fighting].” Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, former chief of the Internal Security forces, called Mikati to stop exercising his duties in protest against the fighting in Tripoli. He blamed the Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies for the proliferation of arms in Tripoli. “In the last round of attacks on Tripoli, we have called on [caretaker] Prime Minister Mikati and Tripoli’s ministers to stay in the city and cease exercising their duties, but he continued the policy of burying his head in the sand of this conspiracy,” Rifi said in a statement.

Lebanon puts Tripoli under Army control: Mikati

December 02, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon decided Monday to put the northern city of Tripoli under the command of the military for a period of six months in a bid to end repeated clashes there linked to the war raging in Syria. The measure, last employed during Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War period, came as security forces deployed in the restive city where 12 people have been killed and more than 100 people wounded in three days of clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad. "We decided to commission the Lebanese Army to take all necessary measures to maintain security in Tripoli for six months and place the military forces as well as police under its command," caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati told reporters after a high-level security meeting at Baabda Palace, adding that the decision was in line with Article 4 of the Defense Law.
A decree will soon be issued tasking the Army’s Military Council with determining the mechanism needed to implement the decision. The decree requires the signatures of Mikati, President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn. The decision infuriated Tripoli-based Dai al-Islam al-Shahal, the founder of the Salafist Movement in north Lebanon, who vowed to thwart the security measures.
“Mikati is selling Tripoli out ... we can only see this decision as an attack on the Sunni community and its stronghold Tripoli,” Shahal told local media.
“We will work on foiling this decision politically for the sake of Lebanon, its security and stability,” he added. In a Twitter post an hour after the announcement from Baabda Palace, Mikati denied being quoted as stating his home city would be turned into a “military zone.” Mikati's office said the caretaker PM was misquoted earlier as saying Tripoli would become a "military zone." Turning a Lebanese area into a military zone requires a Cabinet decision which would also entail announcing a state of emergency. Meanwhile, a 600-strong police force deployed to the northern city to end the intermittent fighting which picked up in the afternoon following a lull in the early hours of the day. Police officers will be under the command of the Army as part of a security plan to restore calm to the city, Lebanon's second largest.
Twelve people were killed and 100 wounded from the weekend clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen, which supports Assad, and nearby Bab al-Tabbaneh, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood which backs Syrian rebels. Among the casualties was a 12-year-old boy wounded by sniper fire and two soldiers. In a statement, the Army said it dispatched patrol units in several parts of the city and upped its security measures in Jabal Mohsen, Bab al-Tabbaneh, Hay al-Amircan, Al-Baqqar, and Syria Street. It also said that the military raided several locations where gunmen were believed to be stationed, confiscating light weapons, ammunitions, various military equipment and a number of wireless communications devices. Similar to the previous 17 rounds of clashes over the past two years, the fighting focused on the frontlines of Riva, Baqqar, Hay al-Amircan, Mankoubeen and Abu Ali river trail.Mortar bombs and RPGs fell on areas outside the traditional battle zone, including Hay al-Ghorabaa and around al-Qasr bakery in Zaharieh, which is located between al-Tal and Bab al-Tabbaneh.

Families flee warring Tripoli neighborhoods

December 02, 2013/By Antoine Amrieh The Daily Star /TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Several families fled the warring Tripoli neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh Sunday, as civil society groups held anti-violence rallies.Frightened families from the Jabal Mohsen streets of Talaat al-Omari and Talaat al-Shmel left their homes and made their way to the nearby area of Zghorta to escape the endemic fighting in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, families from the Bab al-Tabbaneh streets of Manqoubin, Baal Darwish, Souk al-Kameh and the neighborhood of Starco also fled the violence in the area to stay with relatives in Zahareih, Mina and Damm wal Farez. A number of residents of Zaharieh also fled their homes due to sniper fire. Fighters from mostly-Alawite Jabal Mohsen and Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh have engaged in 18 rounds of clashes since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in 2011. The Army deployed units Saturday to evacuate students trapped in the Al-Luqman School due to heavy sniper fire. A number of students had fled the school earlier, fearing the violence.
In spite of the heavy fighting, residents and activists in Tripoli were unwavering in their attempts to instill peace in the northern city. A campaign organized by the Utopia Association, titled “Tripoli in Colors,” went on as scheduled Sunday outside the city’s Serail to protest the ongoing violence. The campaign painted a wall facing the Serail white and spelled out its slogan “What are you still waiting for” in rainbow colors. Painted hands were stamped in red and black all around the sign. Head of the Utopia Association Chadi Nachabe told The Daily Star that the campaign was launched in order to pressure the government to refer the case of the mosque bombings from the Military Tribunal to the Judicial Council. The campaign also aimed at urging the government to shoulder its responsibilities and maintain security in the city. “We want the government to play its part in Tripoli because it isn’t doing that,” Nachabe said. “There is a lack of security here.” According to Nachabe, almost 200 people including volunteers and spectators had gathered outside the Serail by the end of the campaign day, which began at 11 a.m.
Also Sunday, a bicycle race was organized in Tripoli’s Mina, in an effort to promote unity and harmony in the troubled city. Over 100 children, men and women from Tripoli and other areas across Lebanon participated in the race, which was organized by the Bike Shop. The race began at Mina’s Municipality, passed the Karantina area and ended at the Olympic stadium. Organizer Mohammad al-Ali told The Daily Star that he had received a number of calls from security forces and municipality representatives warning of the risks involved in organizing the race, especially as Mina has been the target of sniper fire. But Ali said his group decided to go ahead with the race in order “to portray a beautiful image of the city” against the prevalent besieged one. “We will keep fighting peacefully away from the language of arms with all our might,” he said.

Lebanon-Tripoli: Lax enforcement
December 02, 2013/The Daily Star /The latest round of fighting in Tripoli serves to remind us, if a reminder was needed, just how weak the authorities are and how incompetent the government is in the face of such senseless violence. In the 18th episode of a depressing and repetitive series, at least a dozen people had died by Sunday evening. And how will this round end? Presumably, just like all the previous ones, with negotiations between the sides brokered by authorities. But in a situation so volatile, in a city now so full of arms and with the key issues behind the fighting not being addressed, this will not change anything on the ground. And sooner or later, the 19th round of fighting will have arrived on Tripoli’s doorstep. Just as Assad promised, the northern Lebanese city is now embroiled in the Syrian civil war, and until that conflict is over, there is no reason fighting should calm down on this side of the border. A microcosm for the conflict next door, Tripoli is now deeply wounded, with external players manipulating sectarian tension for their own ends, and pro- and anti-regime elements being plied with arms and money to keep fighting. With bombs targeting Sunni mosques, and retaliatory attacks against Alawites, violence is no longer limited to street fighting. And while various security apparatuses had promised to crack down with an iron fist, we’ve seen neither iron nor fist. Instead of limiting the fighting, they are actually themselves getting caught up in it and playing sitting ducks, with their own members being wounded, and often killed, in the violence. Attempts to pacify fighters through negotiations are not going to result in lasting peace, as they do not address the causes of the problem. Similarly, issuing security “measures,” which are then not implemented, will not remedy the situation. In fact, this is actually dangerous, as it renders the words of the authorities meaningless, giving militants the sense that they can resume fighting whenever they choose and leaving the civilian population living in fear.
If, at the first outbreak of fighting – over two years ago – authorities had clamped down in a real and genuine way, the violence might not have reached the horrific levels we see today. Facing strong institutions, fighters may not have been so encouraged to keep buying arms and fighting. Instead, growing numbers have been inspired to take part in the fighting exactly because they saw no threat from officials.
The government’s reputation has been damaged irreparably and not just in Tripoli. It is clear to everyone that the politicians are weak, the government is paralyzed and orders are coming from outside the country. If the officials have any respect for the citizens of Tripoli, they should admit they are incapable of preventing this violence.

Qatar reverses decision to expel five Lebanese

December 02, 2013/December 02, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Qatar reversed a decision to expel five Lebanese expatriates, the National News Agency reported Monday, hours after Lebanese authorities were informed of the planned expulsions from the Gulf state. Lebanese Ambassador in Doha Hasan Najem informed caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour that Qatari authorities had reconsidered their decision to expel five Lebanese working there. Mansour confirmed Qatar’s recent decision without elaborating further about reasons behind the reversal. “We were informed that a number of Lebanese were asked to leave the country within a week,” Mansour told local media. “But I was informed today that Qatar reconsidered its decision,” he added. Mansour also said Lebanese living in Qatar have no political affiliations, denying reports that the Lebanese in question had ties to Hezbollah. Al-Akhbar newspaper said in a report published Monday that a number of Lebanese in Qatar were asked to leave the country and were given a period of a week or month to do so. The report added that 30 Lebanese Shiite and five Syrians were on a list of foreign workers who would be asked to leave. Most of the Lebanese on the list had moved to Qatar in 2006 for work. Masnour told Al-Akhbar that the government had been informed of Qatar's decision to expel them. One of the Lebanese allegedly issued bounced checks.The Gulf Cooperation Council discussed last month a means to implement the organization’s measures against Hezbollah members in Gulf states.The GCC has said it would take measures against Hezbollah supporters residing in the region as well as their financial transactions.


French envoy honors Hezbollah lawmakers in dinner reception

Dinner could be considered violation of EU sanctions outlawing contact with Hezbollah's military wing.
Hezbollah members rally in Beirut Photo: Reuters
BERLIN - Patrick Paoli, France's Ambassador to Lebanon, hosted a dinner reception in early November for Hezbollah MPs and the political militia's international affairs representative in which he honored the three Hezbollah members. The Lebanese Daily Star reported the dinner gathering on Thursday. Hezbollah MPs Ali Fayyad and Nawwar Saheli along with international affairs member Ammar Moussawi were honored by Paoli.
It is unclear if the ambassador violated EU sanctions outlawing contact with the military wing of Hezbollah. The EU designated Hezbollah's military wing a terrorist organization in July.  Emmanuel Navon, a French Israeli political scientist, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday he assumes the meeting was with the "non-military wing" because it would "not be a breach of EU policy." The Daily Star reported that sources said "that the meeting was Europe laying the groundwork to reverse the boycott of a political party that has national and regional influence, at a time when Takfiri and fundamentalist movements have grown." The sources said "Hezbollah's position would improve on the internal, Arab and regional stage after the signing of a Western-Iranian agreement." The EU permits contact to the so-called political wing of Hezbollah. The US, Israel, the Netherlands and Canada reject the separation of Hezbollah into political and military wings and have classified the entire Lebanese organization as a terrorist entity. Navon, the director of the Department of Political Science and Communications at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, said "France was the former colonial power in Lebanon" and it considers itself "the guardian of a delicate balance that no longer exists." This is "not the first time France is trying to play a pivotal role in the complicated Lebanese politics." Hezbollah plays the role of kingmaker in Lebanese coalition politics and political parties depend on its power to enter the government. The Lebanese Shi'ite group's alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops on the battlefield, working to oust rebels, has pushed Hezbollah's military apparatus into isolation. Navon said that the event was hosted by the French ambassador, and this means he was "acting on behalf of the French ministry, which always had a pro-Arab policy," though "it is pretty common in France that the foreign office and president have different policies." He said President Francois Hollande "might have blocked the event." A spokeswoman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv referred the Post to the country's embassy in Beirut.
Jean-Christophe Auge, a spokesman for the French embassy in Beirut, did not immediately return a Post press query. The Daily Star wrote, "Despite poor relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran undermining political solutions in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, some European states have reformulated their foreign policy to welcome the Western-Iranian rapprochement and used it to rebuild relations with elements of Hezbollah."

Siniora, Rai agree on need to implement Baabda Declaration
December 02, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Head of the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora held talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai Monday, with both agreeing on the need to commit to the Baabda Declaration.  “Our views ... were identical to those of Patriarch Rai especially in terms of commitment to the principles of the Baabda Declaration, particularly pertaining to distancing [Lebanon] from regional and international conflicts, especially the crisis in Syria,” Siniora told reporters after the meeting in Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarchate.The Baabda Declaration is an agreement signed by rival politicians last year to neutralize Lebanon from regional turmoil, particularly the raging war in Syria. The Future Movement along with the March 14 coalition have criticized Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, describing it as a violation of the agreement. Hezbollah has said that the declaration was merely "ink on paper." During his chat with reporters in Bkirki, Siniora also said that talks with the patriarch emphasized the principle of coexistence and the need for the rotation of power. “We also stressed on [the need] to commit to democracy as a system and a mechanism for governance and a method for the rotation of power,” Siniora said. "We also emphasized the [need for] Lebanese to unite in their commitment to the National Covenant of 1943 which was developed by the will of the Lebanese and their consensus over the Taif Accord,” he added. Siniora said the upcoming phase in Lebanon requires the full implementation of the Taif Accord. While Lebanon copes with a caretaker Cabinet, in light of the PM-designate's failure to form a new government, politicians have begun discussing possible candidates for the upcoming presidential elections.

Monastery head barred from duties after Archdiocese verdict

December 02, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A Lebanese abbot who leads a monastery was barred from exercising ecclesiastical duties and sentenced to a life of solitary penitence, according to a statement released by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Byblos and Batroun over the weekend. Archimandrite Panteleimoun Farah was sentenced to a life of isolation at the Hamatoura Monastery, which he leads in the Koura town of Kousba, based on a decision reached by Orthodox Bishop of Mount Lebanon George Khodr. The Archdiocese reached the verdict on Nov. 25, building on a decision taken on July 17 of last year.“Archimandrite Panteleimoun Farah was referred to the Clerical Disciplinary Council at the Archdiocese which summoned him, following a complaint about violations of Christian life and the call for priesthood committed by him,” The Archdiocese’s statement said. Farah also “deliberately ignored” the disciplinary council, violating seminary and monastic values, the statement added, saying the archimandrite committed “blatant violations of church rules and monastic heritage.” Farah was stripped of his ecclesiastical duties, which entailed heading monastery matters, and pastoral and social relations, based on article 102 of the rules of the Holy See of Antioch. According to the statement, Farah is not allowed to practice his monastic duties, including presiding over confession. He is also disallowed from travelling and is forced to reside in the Hamatoura Monastery, with the exception of a medical emergency and with the Archdiocese’s approval. Priests and students at the monastery have also been forbidden to leave, with the exception of medical emergencies. Visitors are also barred from entering. Several people protested the verdict outside the monastery Saturday, saying Farah was innocent. Some carried his picture and held banners that read: “Hamatoura is sorrowful.”The verdict comes a month after news that Lebanese priest Mansour Labaki was sentenced to a life of penitence and isolation in an unknown monastery in Lebanon following being convicted of sexually abusing more than three children, as well as soliciting sex.


Netanyahu in Rome: Western sanctions regime against Iranians already unraveling

“There appears to be general relaxation of sanctions, and a rush to accommodate Iran, and to make it legitimate as if Iran has changed anything of its actual policies,” PM warns. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the world powers’ interim agreement with Iran went from warning the accord would lead to an unraveling of the sanctions regime, to stating in Rome on Monday that this is already happening. “There appears to be general relaxation of sanctions, and a rush to accommodate Iran, and to make it legitimate as if Iran has changed anything of its actual policies,” Netanyahu said after meeting Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.Netanyahu continued speaking out against the agreement even as he faced criticism of this tactic from home and as US Secretary of State John Kerry, a champion of the deal, was set to arrive on Wednesday for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If the sanctions regime against Iran collapses, Netanyahu said, that would signal the end of chances to peacefully stop Iran’s nuclear program. And the program, he stressed, will be stopped.
Netanyahu flew home Monday evening after two days in Rome, which included a meeting with Pope Francis and an annual government- to-government meeting, along with five other Israeli ministers, with their Italian counterparts. While Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert ripped into Netanyahu Sunday for his vocal criticism of the Iran deal, and Netanyahu responded by saying he will not remain quiet in the face of significant security dangers, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Monday on the CNBC US cable news network that Israel has “earned the right” to be listened to on the Iranian issue.
“When people wonder why we have been so loud against this agreement with Iran it is because for us it is not academic or theoretical, it is existential,” he said. “Here is a regime that has been loud, not about a dispute with Israel, but rather about its wish and commitment to the destruction of Israel.” Lapid added that in his view the most important strategic asset Israel has is its intimate relationship with the US throughout the years.
“This is an asset that we don’t want to lose,” he said. “We are going to be out loud, maybe blunt about out concerns, but we understand that the US means well and is doing its best under very complicated circumstances, and we think we have earned the right to be listened to.” Asked how much damage has been caused to US-Israel relations as a result of the very public difference over Iran, Lapid said it was “OK to have disputes within the family, as long as we keep it in the family. I think we are still within the frame of the family.” Iran was one of the topics discussed when Netanyahu met for some 25 minutes in the Vatican earlier Monday with Pope Francis, whom he formally invited to Israel. It was the first time the two leaders met face to face, and in addition to Iran they discussed the Syrian civil war, the welfare of Christians in Israel as well as the pope’s expected visit to Israel. If Francis does make such a trip, he will be the third pope to visit the country since the Vatican established diplomatic ties 20 years ago, following a visit from John Paul II in 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2009. Pope Paul VI briefly visited Jerusalem in 1964. Several news sources reported the visit would take place May 25-26, but Vatican officials said the trip has not been officially confirmed.
According to political experts in Italy, Netanyahu’s trip was important for all sides: for Netanyahu as he tries to rally support for his position against Iran, for Italy as it seeks to play its traditional role as a bridge builder in the Middle East, and the Vatican as it looks to reassert its role as a global player after several years in which that role was reduced.
“During John Paul II’s declining years, and throughout Benedict XVI’s papacy, the Vatican was more quiet,” said James Walston, a political scientist with the American University of Rome. “Francis is starting to show he’s willing to be a lot feistier.” Retired church historian Fr. Alistair Sear said “the Vatican has traditionally played an important behind-the-scenes role in international politics, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years.”
This was Netanyahu’s first meeting with Francis and he brought him two gifts: a hanukkia and a Spanish translation of his father Benzion Netanyahu’s seminal work on the Spanish Inquisition, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth- Century Spain. Netanyahu wrote a short inscription inside the book: “To his Holiness Pope Franciscus, a great shepherd of our common heritage

Former CIA, AMAN chiefs: Iran is a nuclear threshold state and can no longer be stopped

DEBKAfile Special Report December 2, 2013/The former heads of two of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, speaking Sunday, Dec. 1, in different parts of the world, were of the same opinion: Iran has reached the point of a nuclear threshold state and can build several nuclear bombs in a matter of weeks. By this diagnosis, Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, and ex-general Amos Yadlin, ex-chief of AMAN, Israeli military intelligence indicted their respective governments of the US and Israeli for their failure to stop this happening. Asked in a FoxNews interview in New York about the interim accord the six powers reached with Iran in Geneva, Gen. Hayden was terse: “Iran is a nuclear threshold nation and we can’t stop this,” he said. America has moved its red lines and “all but conceded Iran has the right to enrich uranium.” He went on to voice the hope that “We have hit the pause button. Now we’ve got to negotiate hitting the delete button.”
Yadlin, who heads a national security think tank, had this to say: "Iran is approaching breakout point to a nuclear bomb.” On the Geneva accord, he commented: “… this is only a first step, not a final agreement, although it contains elements which predetermine the final accord.”Speaking in Tel Aviv, Yadlin said: “The fact that Iran is a nuclear threshold state is not the fault of this agreement. Iran spent many years developing this capability and no one managed to stop it. Iran is a step before breakout to a bomb. This is unfortunate but true.”
It was the first time that a former high-ranking Israeli intelligence officer had admitted the responsibility of successive Israeli governments, defense ministers and heads of its various intelligence agencies for the failure to pre-empt Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapon. MK Tzahi Hanegbi , a senior lawmaker who has the ear of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, expressed concern that the interim deal with Iran would be left standing as the final accord, and so leave the Islamic Republic in place as a nuclear threshold state with the capability to assemble a bomb within six to seven weeks.
In Rome, Netanyahu was heard to say for the umpteenth time that Israel would not allow Iran to attain a nuclear bomb. He seemed to have forgotten the diagram he exhibited to the UN General Assembly in September 2012 accompanied by a resounding pledge not to let Iran accumulate enough enriched uranium for a weapon.
Hanegbi, in his comments Sunday, put the record straight: Iran has built a uranium stockpile of 7.2 tons, enough for several bombs.”
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after criticizing his successor for daring to argue with US President Obama, was of the opinion that Israel would not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. He was saying that Israel has decided to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

The Middle East needs the private sector to spur growth

By: Min Zhu/Asharq Alawsat
Growth is not fast enough across the Middle East to deliver the jobs and rising incomes desired by the population. Unemployment is chronically high and rising. The number of people without jobs has increased by more than 1 million since 2010, with one in four young people now out of work.
Much of the focus has been on what governments can do to improve the outlook for growth and jobs. This is understandable, as governments have played a central role in the economies of the region through public sector employment and investment and the role of state-owned enterprises in key sectors of the economy.
However, while governments will remain critical to the growth process going forward, their role and focus needs to change. With budget positions stretched close to breaking point in many countries, the room for additional government spending is limited. While there remains scope to support growth through well-planned public investment programs if financing is available, government policies need to increasingly focus on creating an environment in which the private sector can thrive. Private businesses need to be empowered to take over the mantle of growth and drive the economies of the region forward.
The Middle East has many positive attributes that should support a strong private sector—a young workforce, increasing access to technology, a unique geographic location linking several continents, large natural resource endowments, and rich tourist destinations. Yet, the private sector in the region has lacked the dynamism to propel growth to the levels seen in other regions of the world. It has been stifled by government interventions, a lack of competition in domestic markets, inadequate infrastructure, an inability to integrate fully into rapidly growing overseas markets, and of course by the security concerns and political uncertainties that are unfortunately present in so many countries.
The agenda to improve the business environment includes ensuring simple, transparent, and even-handed treatment for companies, greater transparency and accountability of public institutions, ensuring equal access for all to government services, adequate skill-building and incentives for employment, access to finance to help spur entrepreneurship and private investment, and greater trade integration, both within the region and in the world economy. Better infrastructure and a stable economic environment are also critical. Fiscal and monetary policies need to focus on delivering low inflation and avoiding the large swings in economic growth that create uncertainty and make firms reluctant to invest and create jobs. The over-riding objective is to make the economies more dynamic, competitive, and fair.
Businesses will need to work hand-in-hand with governments to ensure constraints are identified and reforms effectively enacted. Reforms will mean that the ways of doing business will change, with new areas of opportunity needing to be sought both within and outside the region. Vested interests will need to be overcome so as to harness the ingenuity of the private sector and open opportunity for all, and business leaders should be seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be co-hosting a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 3 with the Council of Saudi Chambers and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on how the private sector in the Middle East can contribute more to economic growth. The conference will bring together the IMF, the IFC, and business people from across the region to talk about the opportunities for private sector development, how the business environment can be improved, and how businesses can help the region meet the challenges it faces.
The IMF was established to promote international financial stability and monetary cooperation, and thereby facilitate international trade and promote high employment and sustainable economic growth. These goals have never been more important than now. As the IMF continues to develop and adapt its policy advice to member governments and look for ways to contribute to a reduction in the unacceptably high rates of unemployment, this conference will provide a unique opportunity to hear first-hand from the business people who will be crucial to the future success of the region.
If the aspirations of the people in the Middle East are to be met, a more dynamic private sector is needed. The reforms to achieve this are often complex, politically difficult, and take time to pay off. Nevertheless, beginning the process is vital for restoring confidence, propelling private sector activity forward, and creating much-needed jobs.
**Min Zhu is the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

A milestone is passed, but trouble lies ahead

By: Abdullah Al-Otaibi/Asharq Alawsat
The ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from the government in Egypt was not easy, but it was successful, and Egypt drew a road map for the future starting with drafting the constitution, and ending with parliamentary and presidential elections.
The task of drafting the constitution is truly a massive one, because the process marks an exceptional time in the history of a country and its people. Constitutions are not changed every day, they are a representation of the identities of nations which strive for stability, so that the wheels of the state keep turning, and the people progress through the recognition of their aims, their rights and obligations, as communities and individuals unified by laws that are derived from the constitution. In addition, the constitutions of modern states vary according to their histories, cultures and the nature of their societies.
The constitution committee in Egypt has nearly concluded its work and has managed—despite the difficulties and challenges—to come close to achieving an amended and new Egyptian constitution which can help the country avoid any obstacles which may stop its progress as a state and people, and will be put to a referendum at the start of next year.
Egypt and the Egyptian people have succeeded in overcoming the Brotherhood crisis, and removed them from power. However, they have not apparently been decisive towards what the group represented in terms of groups rooted in political Islam, which until recently were banned in Egypt, and exploded like an epidemic after January 2011.
The Salafist Nour Party is still present on the political scene and has participated in the constitution committee. Despite the political flexibility and realism with which the party deals with the new reality, the crux of the issue has not yet been resolved at the constitutional level, as regards the acceptance or abolition of religious parties participating in political life. This argument has not been resolved yet, and there will be repercussions in the future.
Let us consider the recent judicial ruling which dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for example. It is not a decisive ruling yet, and the Brotherhood was previously dissolved under the monarchy, just as it was during the Nasser era, making this the third time it has been officially abolished. However, the judicial rulings that are not supported by the constitution become liable to reversal as soon the political winds change.
The other issue is that the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the troubles it faced from the state and the public since June 30, still insists on persisting in its failed, confrontational policies. This is due to the lack of decisiveness before, which made people hate it more, and the state institutions more determined to confront it. It is terrorism which will last for a while, especially with external help the group enjoys regionally, from Turkey, Qatar and Iran.
With the state’s persistence on implementing the future road map, which is a very important issue to deliver Egypt to safety, it will continue to face challenges that are not less dangerous than the continuation of the terrorism of the Brotherhood, including the challenges to build a productive economy, internal development strategies, and drawing up rational regional and international policies.
The biggest challenge which will face the Egyptian state and people will be chaos in all its manifestations, which has grown for three years and hit hard at Egypt and the states of the Arab uprisings, and to which movements, parties and leaders from various parties are affiliated, and which remain skilled at creating chaos.
Observers of the Egyptian scene will not fail to see the start of chaos regaining its strength, after a truce since June 30, when the state and the people united in their rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some in Egypt have started to work on regaining their roles, and the current argument about the “Protest Law” and the conflicting struggles and stances are nothing but one of the indicators.
The spread of uncertainty is an important factor in feeding chaos. The individual has a constant anti-authority and anti-state feeling. They constantly think major institutions are robbing them, oppressing them, or are planning to do something similar. This goes for the main social institutions, such as the family, and the less powerful political parties, who enjoy raising uncertainty at times of chaos to raise their public profile.
Therefore, the youth movements who like to call themselves revolutionary—due to the old Arab and Egyptian infatuation with the term revolution—have begun to enter the political scene, but are still wet behind the ears politically, and are shaken by any passing event or minor issue, or a decision, the repercussions of which they may not understand.
These youth movements are semi-organized and fundamentally weaker than the movements which will likely be formed in the future but have not taken an organized form yet. As for the latter, their chances are slimmer, their leaning towards chaos much deeper, and if the former were more realistic, the second are more idealistic, and at times of chaos, the idealistic voice is louder than the logical voice.
Chaos, for those who benefit from it, is a form of addiction. This addiction is similar to that which affects fighters in wars and conflicts, who find that they cannot settle down when the fighting stops, because they feel worthless, and feel they are of a lower standard than others, and according to the value they see for themselves, despise others.
The destructive voices which are now quiet, but which will be louder in the next phase, will become a noise which may deafen the ears and the minds at critical times, and must be overcome by the Egyptian state. Decisiveness in the face of chaos will not be easy, because it branches out and infiltrates society. However, succumbing to it will be a painful setback, and may be long lasting.

Islamists take Syrian Christian town, monastery: State media

December 02, 2013/Daily Star
BEIRUT: Islamist fighters in Syria have taken over the ancient quarter of the Christian town of Maaloula and are holding several nuns in a monastery there, state news agency SANA said on Monday. Fighting for the town, about five km (three miles) from the main road linking Damascus to Homs, is part of a wider struggle between rebel fighters and President Bashar al-Assad's forces for control of the strategic central Syrian highway. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front had captured the old quarter of Maaloula after several days of fighting. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said he could not confirm the SANA report that Nusra fighters had stormed the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Thecla and were holding several nuns captive. But the monastery is in the old part of Maaloula, which is now under the control of the Nusra Front and other rebels, he said. Four rebel fighters were killed in fierce fighting on Monday as the army and pro-Assad militia fought to retake the district, Abdulrahman said.Restrictions by Syrian authorities make it difficult to verify accounts from inside the country. The town was the scene of heavy fighting in September, when it changed hands four times in a series of attacks and counter-assaults by rebels and government forces. At the time, the Mother Superior at Mar Thecla denied reports circulated by pro-government groups that rebels had pillaged Christian sites. The latest fighting coincides with a government offensive to secure other towns on the road from Damascus to the city of Homs and Assad's Alawite heartland overlooking the Mediterranean. Control of the road would help secure Assad's grip over central Syria, and would also enable safe passage for hundreds of tonnes of chemical agents which are due to be shipped out of the country by the end of the year for destruction. The fighting prevented the head of the international mission overseeing the elimination of those weapons from going by road from Damascus to the port of Latakia during a visit last week. Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said she had to travel by helicopter instead. "Security remains a key challenge for all. The destruction of a chemical weapons programme has never taken place under such challenging and dangerous conditions," Kaag told delegates of the OPCW in The Hague. In the last fortnight Assad's forces have extended their control in Qara and Deir Attiyah, two towns near the road, and have been fighting to take a third, Nabak.
State television said on Monday the army had "completely eliminated armed terrorist groups" around Deir Attiyah and Nabak. The Observatory's Abdulrahman said rebels were still in part of Nabak but the western sector of the town, which is closest to the Damascus-Homs road, was under army control. Before Syria's 2-1/2-year-old conflict erupted, Maaloula attracted both Christian and Muslim pilgrims. Some of its residents still speak Aramaic, the language of Christ, and the monastery of Mar Thecla had a reputation for miraculous cures. Syria's Christian community, about 10 percent of the population, is wary of the rising power of Islamist groups within the rebel movement. A small percentage of Christians so far have taken up arms in the civil war that broadly pits minorities, in particular Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, against the Sunni Muslim majority.


A Skewed Look at Arab Hearts and Minds
David Pollock/Washington Institute/Middle East Quarterly/Winter 2014
David Pollock reviews Shibley Telhami's book "The World through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East."
Telhami offers in The World through Arab Eyes a valuable if unavoidably imperfect attempt at illuminating the hearts and minds of the Arab world as revealed through public opinion polling. His book contains useful broad generalizations, revealing new data and intriguing ambiguities. But it also suffers from occasional problems: methodological flaws, unsupported or questionable single-sourced assertions, and strained interpretations that go beyond the available evidence. Arab public opinion polling as well as the analysis and policy debate surrounding it needs to be taken with a proverbial shaker of salt, a seasoning the author does not always apply.
On the positive side, the book provides interesting and well-organized survey data on certain broad major topics. Moreover, the author acknowledges the evidence that Arab public opinion has turned inward, toward domestic issues such as political freedoms and social justice. He also makes due allowances for the significant differences among and within diverse Arab publics.
In addition, the book offers numerous specific nuggets of information. It is interesting and important, for instance, to see that on average the Arab citizens of Israel are four times more likely to empathize with Jewish Holocaust victims than are Arabs in the six other countries polled: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Or that those Arabs' popular dislike of the United States derives mostly from a rejection of its policies rather than its values -- and, more surprisingly, that this dislike actually has very little effect on Arab consumer preferences or behavior. Another important data point: On a weighted average, two-thirds of those in the six Arab countries polled would accept a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; only one-quarter say the Arabs should keep fighting Israel forever.
Equally surprising nuggets, but also plausible and useful, come from individual countries. In Saudi Arabia, the "most admired" foreign leader in 2011 was Saddam Hussein. In 2012 Egypt, two-thirds of those polled wanted Shari'a as the country's legal basis, but most (83 percent) preferred applying "the spirit of shari'ah but with adaptation to modern times"; just 17 percent opted to apply it literally, "including the penal code (hudud)."
One problem, however, is that other recent polls show dramatically different results for very similar questions. The latest Pew poll from Egypt, to cite but one case, shows that 88 percent of Muslims there favored the death penalty for apostasy (see Neha Sahgal and Brian J. Grim, "Egypt's Restrictions on Religion Coincide with Lack of Religious Tolerance," July 2, 2013). This kind of discrepancy points to the problems in most contemporary Arab survey research -- whether by Pew or Telhami.
The book suffers from scattered methodological omissions as well. The first is simply the failure to spell out several important procedural approaches. Were all these surveys true probability samples, or were some based on quota or even merely "convenience" samples? If the former, what precisely were the methods adopted in each case -- multi-stage, stratified, geographic probability? Random walk? Household interview selection? Statistical/demographic weighting? If these were not all standard probability samples, how truly scientific or reliable are the resulting numbers? Regardless of sampling method, how much host government supervision, permission, or intimidation took place, which might have distorted the findings?
Some potentially revealing numbers are also missing from the narrative. For example, one poll cited produced the unlikely result, not replicated in others conducted by this reviewer, that Hugo Chavez was once the "most admired" foreign leader among Arabs. But did he get a rating of 60 percent, 20 percent, or some other percentage? It makes a big difference -- and in this and other instances, there is no telling from the text.
A different deficiency is in the choice of the countries surveyed and in the decision to stick with purely urban samples, which thereby excludes half or more of a country's total population. Thus, the book's samples hardly encompass all the Arab eyes of its title, and they completely omit crucial current developments in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia. Even in Egypt and other countries that are included, many of the most salient internal political issues are absent. As a result, the book has little to tell us about the great contest between the Islamist and the civil-military segments of society now underway in Egypt or about the prospects for stability or instability in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, or Jordan.
Too often the book treats all six Arab countries polled as a unit, which obscures rather than illuminates the vital differences among them. The averaged responses are weighted by population. Since Egypt has many more people than the other five countries combined, the findings are really a distorted reflection of Egyptian public opinion rather than a meaningful average of anything.
Another methodological problem is the occasional use of loaded questions on key issues. Some examples: "What aspect of al-Qaeda do you admire the most, if any?" "How important is the Palestinian issue to you?" -- instead of an open-ended question like "What issues are important to you?" Given the author's repeated and correct references to Arab aversion to international pressure, why ask: "There is international pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program. What is your opinion?" This preamble prejudices the findings by cuing the respondents in a particular direction.
Finally, the author largely neglects other readily available Arab polls that variously corroborate, qualify, or contradict the findings from his own fieldwork. Among the obvious candidates for inclusion would have been the Pew, Gallup, Charney, PIPA, Pechter, and many Palestinian and Israeli surveys on the topics in question. Given the particular constraints and vagaries of Arab polling, no single source can be credible. In certain important cases -- as on Arab attitudes toward Iran or toward selected American values -- the discrepancies among different pollsters are so significant that they demand detailed accounting and explanation.
In particular, other surveys taken in the two-and-a-half years since the beginning of the 2011 Arab uprisings strongly suggest that most Arabs are now very heavily focused on their own internal issues -- and not on Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, or other Arabs. This is contrary to the book's overall leitmotif. Telhami interlaces the book with observations about Arab "dignity" and "the ever-present prism of pain," and he attempts to reassert the primacy of the Palestinian issue and resentment of U.S. policy therein. If there were actual empirical survey support for this, as opposed to mere anecdotes, fine. But the evidence is just not there -- not in the polls, not in the public squares, and not in the actual policies of Arab governments, revolutionary or otherwise. In 2011, as Telhami notes in passing, the Palestinian conflict ranked eighth out of eleven possible named priorities in an Egyptian poll -- and dead last in Tunisia. Yet the author is at pains to add that "there were other indications of [its] importance," without indicating what those are.
Even if he at times concedes that today's Arab politics and public opinion are "primarily" about domestic matters rather than foreign economic, social, and political affairs, Telhami spends little time considering the ramifications of this trend.
Telhami is among the most decent, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and balanced experts in this all-too-polarized intellectual arena. There is much to be learned from this book, despite its imperfections. Yet had the author considered the substantial and directly relevant work of others like him -- including mounds of complementary but occasionally quite contrary polling data -- the result would have been considerably more compelling. This narrow focus is a common and even an understandable academic failing but one that is relatively easily remedied. One keeps hoping that it will be -- another time.
**David Pollock is the Kaufman Fellow at The Washington Institute and director of Fikra Forum. His publications include the 2008 Institute study Slippery Polls: Uses and Abuses of Opinion Surveys from Arab States.