LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Slaves
01 Peter 02/13-17: " I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul. Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming. For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, 14 and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. 15 For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16 Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God's slaves. Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 09/13
DEBKAfile/Obama: Iran must shut Fordo, give up making centrifuges. Palestinians must accept framework deal/December 09/13
DEBKAfile Exclusive/Al Qaeda in Syria has sarin: Russia ready to deal with Syrian Al Qaeda plot against Sochi Olympics/09 December/13
Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 09/13
Lebanese Related News
Top Hizbullah Military Commander Ali Bazzi Killed in Syria Fighting
Genuine presidential elections are necessary: Geagea
Hezbollah media apologizes for Bahrain coverage
Saudi Arabia moves its students out of Lebanon
Lebanon Army arrests four Syrians in Arsal
Syria regime forces advance in Lebanon border region: Activists
Bassil Conditions Approval of Suleiman's Proposal, Calls for Action on Kidnapped Nuns
Rahi Urges World Action to Release Kidnapped Bishops and Nuns
1 Jordanian Dead, 3 Injured in Harissa Car Accident
Report: ISG Expected to Take 'Practical Measures' to Form Cabinet, Elect President
Christian MPs Pressured to Attend Legislative Sessions to Avoid Presidential Vacuum
Al-Manar: 4 Booby-Trapped Vehicles Bound for Lebanon Seized in Nabuk
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Israel President Says Ready to Meet Iran Counterpart
Iran nuclear talks planned for Monday in Vienna
Kerry: Peace will make Israel stronger
Iran presses ahead with uranium enrichment
UN experts inspect Iran's Arak nuclear plant
Netanyahu partner urges peace deal with Palestinians
Netanyahu: Palestinian recognition of Jewish State 'minimal requirement for peace'
Iranian parliament speaker says Palestinians can achieve victory like Mandela
In Syria, no war is righteous and no weapon is honourable
Saudi ex-Spy Chief Says GCC Must Join P5+1, Iran Talks
Dutch Premier's Israel Trip Hit by Gaza Row
Egypt Court Acquits 155 Arrested after Cairo Protests
Israel Minister Proposes Partial West Bank Annexation
Philippines, Muslim Rebels Sign 'Power Sharing' Accord
At Least 53 World Leaders to Attend Mandela Funeral
Israel is trying to use Iran to distract from the Palestinian issue
Israel President Says Ready to Meet
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/Israeli President Shimon Peres said Sunday he would be prepared to meet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, even though their two countries consider each other arch-enemies.
Asked at an economic forum over a possible meeting, Peres replied: "Why not? I don't have enemies. It's not a question of personalities but of policies. "The aim is to transform enemies into friends," said the president, whose role in Israel is symbolic and ceremonial. Peres also recalled that "there was a time that we did not meet, for example, with (Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat,” until his Palestine Liberation Organization recognized Israel.
"We must concentrate all our efforts on making sure Iran does not become a nuclear danger for the rest of the world," he told journalists. Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, a program of which Peres is considered the father, accuses Iran of working to develop a nuclear bomb, a charge denied by the Islamic republic. Tehran has a long history of belligerent statements towards the Jewish state, which it does not recognize, while Israel has warned of military action to prevent a nuclear Iran that it says would pose an existential threat. SourceAgence France Presse.
Saudi ex-Spy Chief Says GCC Must Join
P5+1, Iran Talks
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/ Gulf Cooperation Council states must be part of the negotiations between major world powers and Iran, oil-rich Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief said on Sunday.
Iran and major powers broke through a decade of gridlock on November 24 to agree an interim deal that would freeze parts of Iran's controversial nuclear program while easing some of the crippling international sanctions against it. Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran's arch-foe across the Gulf, had cautiously welcomed the deal. "I suggest that the negotiations on Iran not be limited to the P5+1" comprising the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany, Prince Turki al-Faisal said. "The Gulf Cooperation Council must be involved," added the influential Saudi royal, who also served as ambassador in both the United States and Britain.
"Iran is in the Gulf and any military effort will affect us all, let alone the environmental impact" Tehran's uranium enrichment program could have on the region, he said at the Manama Dialogue, a forum on Middle East security.
The West, Israel and Arab states in the Gulf have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, a charge Tehran denies. The temporary freeze is meant to make it more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and to build confidence while Tehran and the P5+1 hammer out a long-term accord. "Ongoing talks are incomplete and the presence of the GCC states on the (negotiating) table will benefit everyone," Faisal said. He also urged the Islamic republic to end "its interference in Arab countries' affairs." "The only way to improve relations is by Iran becoming a stability factor" in the region, he said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited four GCC states last week to reassure them over the interim nuclear agreement. Zarif did not visit Saudi Arabia, although he said he plans to do so in the future and appealed to the kingdom to work with Tehran to achieve regional stability. Relations between the six GCC nations and Tehran have deteriorated further because of Iran's support for Syria's President Bashar Assad against mostly Sunni rebels.
Some Gulf monarchies also accuse Tehran of backing dissent in their countries. The GCC, led by OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Top Hizbullah Military Commander Ali
Bazzi Killed in Syria Fighting
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/A top military commander of Hizbullah died in fighting Sunday in Syria, a Lebanese security source said.
"Ali Bazzi, a high-ranking Hizbullah military commander, was killed today in a combat zone," the source said without specifying the location.
Earlier the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that four Hizbullah fighters died Sunday during battles in Nabuk, one of the last rebel-held areas in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon.
"There is fierce fighting in Nabuk between government forces, backed by Lebanese Hizbullah fighters, and al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," said the watchdog.
A website for Bint Jbeil, Bazzi's hometown in southern Lebanon, also announced the commander's death and posted pictures of him in military garb and holding an automatic rifle.
"Ali Hussein Bazzi... died a martyr as he was carrying out his sacred duty as a jihadist," read the announcement.
Meanwhile residents of southern Lebanon said that two other Hizbullah fighters -- Ali Saleh and Qassem Ghamloosh -- were also killed in Syria on Sunday and buried.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly defended his group's involvement in Syria.
On Tuesday he said in an interview with OTV that Hizbullah is fighting in Syria to protect Lebanon from the Syrian rebels, who include jihadists linked to al-Qaida.
Hours after that interview Hizbullah announced the death of one of its top military commanders, Hassan al-Laqqis, saying he was shot dead near Beirut and blaming Israel for his murder.
And on November 28, the southern town of Rishknaniyeh held a funeral for Wissam Sharafeddine, another prominent Hizbullah field commander in Damascus' countryside.
Syrian regime forces made gains Sunday in the key town of Nabuk, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Regime forces have surrounded and pounded Nabuk for the past two weeks.
Taking the Nabuk area would cement regime control of territory linking Damascus province with Homs province in central Syria.
Also on Sunday, Hizbullah's al-Manar television broadcast a video showing four booby-trapped vehicles, saying they were seized by the Syrian army in Nabuk and they that were destined to be used in bomb attacks in Lebanon. “Most of the booby-trapped cars that were sent to Lebanon came from Yabrud and Nabuk via Arsal,” Nasrallah said on Tuesday, noting that had Hizbullah refrained from intervening militarily in Syria's Qusayr and Qalamoun areas, “dozens and hundreds of explosive-rigged cars would have entered Lebanon.”
SourceAgence France Presse.
Syria regime forces advance in Lebanon
border region: Activists
Agence France Presse/BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces made gains Sunday in the key town of Nabuk, one of the last rebel-held areas in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon, activists said. "There is fierce fighting in Nabuk between government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, and Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The monitor, which relies on activists and medics on the ground for its information, said President Bashar al-Assad's troops have taken "new sectors of the town".Regime forces have surrounded and pounded Nabuk for the past two weeks. "The Syrian army is continuing to rake orchards in Nabuk, and has discovered a terrorist lair containing medical equipment and drugs," state television said. "Terrorists" is the term used by Damascus to refer to the armed opposition battling to bring down Assad's regime for nearly three years. Taking the Nabuk area would cement regime control of territory linking Damascus province with Homs province in central Syria. In northern Syria, meanwhile, the death toll from regime air raids on the jihadist-held town of Raqa has risen to 18, the Observatory said, updating an earlier toll of 14. Five women and six people under the age of 18 were among the dead, the Britain-based group said. Since March 2011, when initially peaceful protests broke out against Assad, at least 126,000 people have been killed in the violence ravaging Syria, it says.
Rahi Urges World Action to Release
Kidnapped Bishops and Nuns
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi urged the international community on Sunday to work for the release of two bishops kidnapped in Syria and a group of nuns recently taken hostage in the war-ravaged country. During his sermon in Bkirki, al-Rahi expressed regret that the Greek Orthodox nuns had been “assaulted.” “I urge the U.N. envoys here to interfere to bring back the nuns to their convent or any other convent,” he said. The nuns, who were seized by rebels from a convent near Damascus, denied in a video broadcast Friday that they had been kidnapped and said they were being held in a safe place.
It was the first appearance by them, whose alleged Monday abduction has increased concerns about the treatment of Christians by hard-liners in the rebel ranks, particularly as the fighting has engulfed more Christian villages in recent months. In the video aired by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite channel Friday, the nuns appeared healthy. They took turns speaking, saying they were escorted out of Maaloula to keep them safe from the shelling.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and religious officials had said the nuns and three civilians were taken by rebels from the Mar Takla convent in Maaloula after rebels overran the village, and were being kept in the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud. Al-Rahi also called for the release of two bishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped by armed men in Aleppo at the end of April. Al-Rahi lamented that politicians “without any mercy were making the people poorer.” He also accused them of “playing with the fate of our youth and future generations by paralyzing constitutional institutions, preventing the formation of a new cabinet that is capable of confronting big and scary challenges and obstructing the (country's) economic life.” Al-Rahi slammed their cheep political objectives, which he said led to more corruption, squandering of public funds, arms proliferation and incitement to violence. The patriarch hailed the Lebanese army for making sacrifices to guarantee security in the northern city of Tripoli and end the fighting between the rival neighborhoods.
Genuine presidential elections are
December 08, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said over the weekend Lebanon should hold genuine presidential elections rather than what he described as “closed-door arrangements” to agree on a consensual candidate. “We are fed up of ‘cooking up’ [candidates] like it used to happen - in the shadows - and fed up of arrangements that hundreds of factors and countries interfere in,” Geagea told a gathering in Maarab. “We have experienced the consequences of these arrangements and it is high time we hold fair elections,” he added. He also criticized previous presidential elections when “arrangement and contacts [were] held behind closed doors,” followed by a legislative session for MPs to place a superficial vote for their candidate. “Since 1990, no real elections took place and the last such elections were in 1970,” he said.
President Michel Sleiman whose term ends on May 25 of 2014 has rejected an extension to his mandate as politicians hold meetings and discuss names of potential candidates. Geagea, who previously said would discuss his possible nomination for the presidency with his party, said the Constitution stipulates holding elections and not “a consensus over a president.” “The presidential elections do not mean Loya Jirga at all and consequently MPs should head to the first legislative session called by Speaker Nabih Berri to elect a new president,” he added. The LF leader also called on candidates to present their nominations soon as well as their agenda and begin the presidential race. “At the end, we will all vote for a candidate we are convinced with and we should all pledge from now that whoever wins should be congratulated by all of us,” he said.
Christian MPs Pressured to Attend
Legislative Sessions to Avoid Presidential Vacuum
by Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/Top political and religious officials are pressing for the attendance of Christian lawmakers of parliamentary sessions to elect a new president next year as incumbent Michel Suleiman is expected to exert stronger efforts to prevent a vacuum, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported on Sunday. Informed sources told al-Hayat that several politicians and the seat of the Maronite church in Bkirki are seeking to convince Christian MPs to attend the sessions that start on March 25 – the 60-day deadline that the Constitution sets for the election of a president. According to Lebanon's power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian Maronite. Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but there are fears that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum in the country's top post. Blocs from the two camps have already boycotted parliamentary sessions called for by Speaker Nabih Berri under the excuse that the legislature meets only on urgent issues amid a resigned cabinet. Premier-designate Tammam Salam was appointed in April but has so far been unable to put together a government over the conditions and counter conditions set by the rivals parties. The sources told al-Hayat there are fears that the parliamentary blocs would continue to boycott the sessions if the candidate was not a person of their choice. Under article 49 of the Constitution, the president shall be elected by secret ballot and by a two thirds majority of the 128-seat parliament. The newspaper also said that Suleiman is expected to intensify his efforts to prevent a vacuum in the executive authority.This could push him to announce along with Salam a government line-up and give it presidential authorities if a new head of state was not elected.
Suleiman has insisted that he would reject any extension of his mandate.
Lebanon Army arrests four Syrians in
December 08, 2013/The Daily Star/HERMEL/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army arrested Sunday four Syrians for possession of arms in the outskirts of the border town of Arsal, northeast of Lebanon. The four were on board a vehicle coming from Syria. In a statement, the Army said the car which lacked a license plate was stopped at a military checkpoint near Wadi Hmayyed in Arsal, adding that the four Syrians on board a Kia also lacked Identification Cards. The Army said it confiscated weapons and a number of hand grenades from the car and the detainees were transferred to the concerned judicial authorities. Speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, a security source identified three of the Syrians as Adnan al-Sheikh Abdel-Qader, Abdel-Aziz Barouk and Khaldoun Hussein. The source also said that the vehicle contained a motorcycle, a number of Kalashnikovs and 10 telecommunication devices. Meanwhile, al-Manar Television said the Syrian Army seized Lebanon-bound explosives-laden vehicles in the town of Nabak in Qalamoun, a mountainous region where Hezbollah-backed regime forces have launched a military campaign to root out rebel groups. The Hezbollah-affiliated station aired what it said was footage of an ambulance truck, two vans and a Kia which were rigged with explosives and rockets. The report said the vehicles were rigged in Syria and were ready to be transferred to Lebanon via Arsal where residents are known to be staunch supporters of the Syrian opposition. Arsal has also recently received a large influx of Syrian refugees as a result of ongoing battles in Qalamoun between Hezbollah-backed regime forces and Syrian rebel groups. Al-Manar also said that the vehicle which was detonated outside the Iranian Embassy of Beirut last month was rigged in the Syrian town of Yabroud. The Municipality of Arsal banned last week vehicles with Syrian license plates to be driven in the town for security reasons. Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said in an interview earlier this week that the resistance group's presence in Syria was a preemptive strike on radical takfiri groups who were making their way into Lebanon. He also said that the explosives-rigged vehicles which were used in two attacks in Beirut's southern suburbs were prepared in Arsal.
Hezbollah media apologizes for Bahrain coverage
December 08, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets issued over the weekend an apology for its coverage of news in Bahrain during a meeting of the Arab States Broadcasting Union, vowing to remain objective in future reporting.
The Bahrain News Agency published what it said was the original copy of the apology which was issued by the Lebanese Communication Group, the mother company of both Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar television and Al-Nour radio station. “The Lebanese Communication Group issued ... an official apology to the Information Affairs Committee of the Bahraini Kingdom over its coverage of news in the kingdom in the last period,” BNA said.
The statement was read by the ASBU Director Salaheddine Maaoui during the union’s 90th General Assembly meeting which took place on Saturday. The Lebanese Communication Group also confirmed its commitment to adopt objectivity in future coverage of news in the Arab world as well as ongoing events and respect to professional standards. It also said it would reevaluate its editorial policies to ensure its compliance with international agreements and vowed to work on maintaining good relations with Arab countries particularly Bahrain. ABSU director tasked the union's general manager to follow up on the implementation of the Lebanese group's decision and take the necessary measures in case of violations. Bahrain has requested the union cancels the Lebanese group’s membership over its coverage of the sporadic Shiite-led demonstrations seeking wider representation in the government. Some of the demonstrations which began in mid-2011 and left the country in a political deadlock have turned violent as a result of clashes between protesters and the police force. Hezbollah has been an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s policy in crushing the demonstrations while Manama has accused the resistance group of interfering in its internal affairs. Earlier this year, Bahrain sought to halt the broadcast of Al-Manar and Al-Nour from the Arabsat and Nilesat satellites but the Lebanese government successfully managed to block such demand.
Al-Manar: 4 Booby-Trapped Vehicles
Bound for Lebanon Seized in Nabuk
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/Hizbullah's al-Manar television on Sunday broadcast a video showing four booby-trapped vehicles seized by the Syrian army in the key town of Nabuk, one of the last rebel-held areas in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon. Al-Manar said the explosive-rigged vehicles were prepared to be used in bomb attacks in Lebanon. The vehicles – two vans, an ambulance and a Hyundai car -- were supposed to enter the country via the Bekaa border town of Arsal, al-Manar added. On Tuesday, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said three booby-trapped cars were found in a warehouse in Nabuk.
“Most of the booby-trapped cars that were sent to Lebanon came from Yabrud and Nabuk via Arsal,” Nasrallah added, noting that had Hizbullah refrained from intervening militarily in Syria's Qusayr and Qalamoun areas, “dozens and hundreds of explosive-rigged cars would have entered Lebanon.” On November 22, a car rigged with hundreds of kilograms of explosives was found between the towns of Maqne and Younine in the eastern Bekaa Valley. The incident came three days after suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 25 people and wounding 147 others. And on October 14, a booby-trapped car was found in Beirut's southern suburb of al-Maamoura, a Hizbullah stronghold. Earlier this year, two bombings rocked the Beirut southern suburbs of Bir al-Abed and Rweiss, killing and wounding dozens of people.
Syrian regime forces made gains Sunday in the town of Nabuk, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "There is fierce fighting in Nabuk between government forces, backed by Hizbullah fighters, and al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the Observatory said. Syrian state television said regime forces were "continuing to rake orchards in Nabuk, and have discovered a terrorist lair containing medical equipment and drugs."
Saudi Arabia moves its students out of Lebanon
December 08, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Saudi Culture Ministry transferred 45 students on scholarships from Lebanon to other countries in light of recent security developments in the Mediterranean country, Saudi Al-Anwar reported Sunday.
“The kingdom’s Ministry of Education allows students on state scholarships to move abroad or [return and] finish their studies in the kingdom in case they face any danger,” the Saud Cultural attaché in Lebanon Mosaed al-Jarrah told the newspaper. The cultural attaché coordinated with the Ministry of Education and the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon to transfer 45 students out of 120 from Lebanese universities to others in the U.S., Britain and Australia, he added. The remaining 75 students in Lebanese universities are close to graduating, al-Jarrah said, adding that the overall number of Saudi students in Lebanon has decreased as a result of the security situation.
“The cultural attaché is preparing to secure the safety and the immediate departure of students on scholarships and those studying at their own expense if necessary,” he said. He also noted that the embassy in Beirut is following up on developments in Lebanon and looking into circumstances that could prevent other students from leaving the country. Last month, Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon in light of the recent twin suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that killed at least 29 people and wounded over 150. It was the second Saudi travel advice for Saudis in Lebanon in two months. Lebanon has been rocked by several security incidents this year including two car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs and others in the northern city of Tripoli as officials warn of further security deterioration.
Bassil Conditions Approval of
Suleiman's Proposal, Calls for Action on Kidnapped Nuns
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 December 2013/Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil welcomed on Sunday a proposal for lawmakers not to boycott parliamentary sessions on the presidential elections on condition there is prior agreement on a “strong” president. President Michel Suleiman appealed on Saturday for MPs “to assume their responsibilities and not to deny the trust given to them by the people by guaranteeing a quorum for parliamentary sessions and avoiding the danger of a presidential vacuum.” “The idea for a commitment to head to parliament to elect a president is welcomed on condition that there is prior agreement on a strong president,” Bassil said.
There are fears that the rivalry between the March 8 and 14 camps, which has so far prevented the formation of a new government, would spillover to the presidential elections and lead to a vacuum.
Suleiman's six-year term ends in May 2014. But the parliament should start meeting on March 25, the deadline set by the Constitution to agree on a new head of state. “The agreement on a weak president is a huge crime,” Bassil, who is also a Free Patriotic Movement official, told the news conference. “We need Christian unity on essential issues in Lebanon,” he said. “It is our duty as Christians to agree on some axioms on the presidential elections.” “It is essential for the president to be strong but he should be strong within his sect,” he added. Bassil also dealt with another issue that concerns Christians. He said the kidnapping of Greek Orthodox nuns by rebels from Syria's Mar Takla convent in Maaloula was a “rude” act. The rebels overran the village and the nuns were being kept in the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud. “There should be a peaceful action by the people to make their voices heard” on the nuns, Bassil said. Lebanese politicians and mainly Christians should take extraordinary action to form delegations to visit the countries that are backing the rebels in Syria and stop the attack on Christians, he said. Bassil told reporters that assaulting churches in Syria and clergymen and nuns required strong diplomatic action. “Lebanon's Christians have a moral, religious and humanitarian duty to take action,” he said.
The nuns denied they were kidnapped, in a video broadcast by al-Jazeera news channel on Friday. On Wednesday, Pope Francis called for prayers for the nuns and "for all kidnap victims in the conflict.”
The abduction has increased concerns about the treatment of Christians by hard-liners in the rebel ranks. Bassil had been expected to discuss about two oil exploration decrees after news broke out that caretaker Premier Najib Miqati will not put them on the agenda of a cabinet session that he intends to hold. The decrees call for demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and setting up a revenue-sharing model. But the caretaker energy minister did not bring up the subject in his press conference.
UN experts inspect Iran's Arak nuclear
December 08, 2013/By Mohammad Davari/Agence France Presse
TEHRAN: UN nuclear experts inspected Iran's Arak heavy water plant on Sunday for the first time since summer 2011, amid international concern that the half-built site may have a military purpose.
The one-day inspection of the site 240 kilometres (150 miles) southwest of Tehran was carried out by two experts, led by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Iran task force, Massimo Aparo, but no details were immediately available. The visit forms part of a mid-November agreement in Tehran that also allows the IAEA access to another nuclear-related site, as the Vienna-based agency seeks to clarify concerns about Iran's past nuclear activities. The two IAEA inspectors arrived on Saturday and went straight into talks with Iranian nuclear officials. After the meeting, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Tehran had provided IAEA with "required information on ongoing research" about its new generation of centrifuges that enrich uranium by spinning it at supersonic speed. Iran's nuclear work has for years been at the heart of disputes between Tehran and world powers, which suspect it of masking military objectives despite repeated denials. A small heavy water research reactor at the Arak site is of concern because Tehran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from its spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility. The reactor has been plagued by a series of delays, however, and its stated completion date of 2014 is expected to slip back even further.
But a year after it eventually comes on line, it could provide Iran with an alternative to highly enriched uranium for use in a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its activities are entirely peaceful and says the Arak reactor would create isotopes for medical and agricultural use. The IAEA does not have a permanent presence in Iran, but it regularly checks work on the Arak reactor, while also pushing Tehran to disclose any new design detail on the reactor since 2006. Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said that while the IAEA inspection of the heavy water plant -- a first since August 2011 -- was a "positive step," it was not a major development. The plant "is not at the crux of Western concerns about Arak. In fact, inspections in general are not the central issue at Arak -- the issue is over whether it will be activated or not, and how soon," he told AFP.
Talks on deal implementation Sunday's inspection comes just weeks after Iran clinched a landmark deal with world powers under which it will freeze or curb some of its nuclear activities in return for limited relief from crippling international sanctions. The interim six-month accord struck in Geneva on November 24 aims to build trust and buy time for diplomacy to solve the decade-long standoff over Iran's nuclear work.
Quoted by the ISNA news agency, senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- are to start discussions on implementation of the deal in Vienna. The two-day meeting at the level of experts begins on Monday, with several such gatherings to follow in coming months "so that the Geneva deal can hopefully achieve its objectives," Araqchi added. The Arak reactor has been one of several sticking points, with UN Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to suspend work there.
Based on the agreement in Geneva, Iran is obliged to "not commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site" or instal remaining components at the unfinished facility.
It should also increase cooperation with the IAEA, under the "roadmap" agreement signed last month after years of unsuccessful negotiations. The IAEA will now also have access to the Gachin uranium mine, near the Strait of Hormuz in the southern Gulf. Kamalvandi said Sunday an IAEA visit to Gachin could be discussed next week. "Details have not been discussed, but it is highly likely that the framework and a timeline for a visit to Gachin will be discussed in the talks in Vienna on Wednesday," he told ISNA. Another site causing international concern is the Parchin military facility where the IAEA suspects Iran may have experimented with atomic weapons development.
Tehran has so far denied the agency access to Parchin, saying its military nature puts it off-limits.
Netanyahu partner urges peace deal with Palestinians
December 08, 2013/By Maayan Lubell/Reuters/Uriel Sinai
TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main coalition partner publicly prodded him on Sunday to show "historic courage" and reach a peace deal with the Palestinians even at the risk of his government's collapse. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, in a speech, reassured Netanyahu of his centrist Yesh Atid party's support and spoke of possible changes in the coalition - a nod to any future exit of far-right factions and their replacement by left-wing partners - should a land-for-peace agreement be achieved. "I'm determined to do everything within my power to ensure that this government stays the course - even if developments in the peace negotiations necessitate a coalition realignment of one kind or another," Lapid said. But he also appeared to issue a warning to Netanyahu, reiterating that Yesh Atid, which has 19 legislators in the 120-member parliament and is the second-biggest party in the coalition, would not remain in a government that did not genuinely pursue a negotiated settlement. "I am not ready to have Yesh Atid serve as a fig leaf for pointless political manoeuvring," Lapid told an economic conference. Speaking two days after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who was on a visit to the region, Lapid gave no indication that U.S.-brokered peace talks, which began in July with a nine-month timeframe for success, were making progress. But he said that accepting a narrative, voiced by opponents of a deal on both sides of the conflict, that nothing would come of the negotiations could turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy and destroy chances for an accord. "We cannot continue pretending that peace does not involve paying a price - a heavy, painful, national and political price that both signatories of the peace agreement will be forced to bear," Lapid said. "The prime minister has declared that he is aware of this price and of the notion that the only solution on the table is the implementation of the principle of two states for two peoples. I sincerely hope that he exhibits the kind of historic courage required to pay this price," he said of Netanyahu. Israeli commentators have suggested in the past few weeks that Lapid was looking to win back disappointed dovish voters who have abandoned Yesh Atid for left-wing opposition parties. In Washington on Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he believed it was possible to reach a framework agreement over the next several months that would not address every detail of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but could move things forward. On Thursday, Kerry said he has presented Israel with "some thoughts" about improving its security under any eventual accord on establishing a Palestinian state. Neither side has given details of the U.S. ideas. Israel has long said it would want to keep a military presence between the occupied West Bank and Jordan, as well as swathes of Jewish settlements - enclaves that most of the world deems illegal. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, rejected on Sunday what she said was Israel's demand to control the borders of a future state that Palestinians seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "It means that Israel does not want a peaceful solution and does not want to abide by the international law and the peace obligations and is making impossible conditions," she told Voice of Palestine radio. Netanyahu has voiced concern that without stringent security arrangements, Palestinian militants could attack Israel from the West Bank after any Israeli pullout, much as they have done from the Gaza Strip, now run by Hamas Islamists, since an Israeli withdrawal in 2005.
Iran nuclear talks planned for Monday in Vienna
December 08, 2013?Daily Star
TEHRAN: Experts from Iran and the six major powers overseeing a landmark interim nuclear agreement will meet Monday in Vienna to discuss its implementation with UN inspectors, an Iranian negotiator said.
"On Monday, we will have another expert-level meeting with the six countries and (EU foreign policy chief Catherine) Ashton's team," Iran's lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying Sunday by the ISNA news agency. Representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is supervising the implementation of the agreement, will also be present, he said.
In November, Iran and the so-called P5 1 -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- reached a historic agreement in which Tehran is to curb its controversial nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The accord was aimed at buying time for a comprehensive agreement to reassure Western nations that Iran's nuclear programme is not aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran has always insisted its programme is entirely peaceful. The IAEA does not have a permanent presence in Iran but regularly inspects several sensitive nuclear sites. Araqchi said Iranian banking and sanctions experts would also be present at the meeting, adding that several such meetings will be held over the next six months "so that the Geneva deal can hopefully achieve its objectives." Under the six-month interim deal, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to the five percent level required for civilian power plants. It also agreed to dilute or oxidise its entire supply of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is a major source of concern in the West because it is much closer to the more than 90 percent level required for a weapon. In return, the P5 1 agreed to some $7 billion of temporary and reversible sanctions relief, while leaving the bulk of sanctions -- including crippling limits on Iran's oil and banking sector -- in place.
Obama: Iran must shut Fordo, give up making centrifuges. Palestinians must accept framework deal
DEBKAfile Special Report December 7, 2013/US President
Barack Obama addressed the Iranian nuclear and Palestinian issues in terms
sympathetic to the Israeli case at the Saban annual forum in Washington
Saturday, Dec. 7.On the final accord with Iran, he spoke of constraints for
making sure Iran was prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon. He then called
on the Palestinians to accept that the current round of talks with Israel would
produce, at best, a framework accord, which could be achieved in months, without
covering in full all the details of their dispute. It would also omit the Gaza
Strip and a provide for a transition period before a final settlement. The
negotiations now in progress would therefore only cover the West Bank, for the
time being, the US president said. He expressed the hope that Gaza’s Hamas
rulers would be inspired by the success of the Palestinian-Israeli deal and want
to emulate it. This was the first time Obama had recognized that the current
round of Palestinian-Israeli talks initiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry
would not be able to reach a final settlement during his presidency – only, at
best, interim agreements on some of the issues. On the nuclear question, he said
Iran would have to exercise “extraordinary restraints.” For a peaceful nuclear
program, he said, “they don’t need an underground enrichment plant in Fordo,
certainly not a heavy water plant in Arak or centrifuges.” He did not refer
directly to the military dimensions of that program, but insisted that no ideal
option exists. “If it were possible to halt uranium enrichment and break up
Iran’s nuclear capacity by any other means we would have taken it,” he said. We
therefore decided to test Iran by diplomacy.
In contrast to the Palestinian question, Obama was clear that a final and comprehensive accord must be reached in six months time to make it impossible for Iran to attain a nuclear bomb. He promised that the international community would be party to every detail of this deal and Israel would be consulted.
In Obama’s view the final accord must contain four elements:
1. The shutdown of the underground nuclear enrichment plant at Fordo;
2. Give up the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak;
3. Stop manufacturing advanced centrifuges. This was a reference to the extra-fast IR2 machines, without which the Iranians would find it difficult to enrich uranium at high speed to weapon grade.
4. Permission for low-grade uranium enrichment up to the 3.5 percent level.
DEBKAfile’s sources comment that in his answers to the questions put to him by Haim Saban, the US President made an effort to accommodate some of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s objections and views on the two most contentious issues weighing on relations between Washington and Jerusalem: Iran and the Palestinians.
This cut the ground from under Netanyahu’s leading political opponents, such as former prime minister Ehud Olmert, ex-Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin and others, who contest his policies as needlessly antagonizing the United States. At the same time, neither Tehran nor the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is likely to accept the propositions Obama presented Saturday.
Iran, in particular, will certainly fume over his comment that diplomacy will not only test Iran on its nuclear intentions but may also be used to “ultimately defeat some of its other agendas in the Middle East” to which the US is opposed. He cited terrorism, subversion and threats against “our friends and allies.”
Tehran may even walk away from the diplomatic process for a time in protest.
Obama lowered expectations from the Palestinian-Israeli track because he had seen John Kerry’s account of Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of the new US security plan when they met in Ramallah Thursday, Dec. 5.
In this plan, Obama said that US Gen. John Allen Gen. Allen had outlined security arrangements for the two sides with which he believed “Israel should be able to feel comfortable in the transition period leading up to a final settlement.” He admitted he was not sure it would be acceptable to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu: Palestinian recognition of Jewish State 'minimal requirement for peace'
By JPOST.COM STAFF, TOVAH LAZAROFF, MICHAEL WILNER
LAST UPDATED: 12/08/2013/WASHINGTON -- Conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not the source of the Middle East's problems, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu told the Saban Forum of the Brookings Institution on Sunday. Offering a laundry list of problems facing the region, Netanyahu suggested putting the conflict in perspective-- but said that peace was vital nevertheless, primarily for Israelis and Palestinians themselves, referring to a final-status agreement as a "strategic goal" of his office.The prime minister spoke after US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry gave remarks to the forum on Saturday, both discussing the Middle East peace process and Iran's nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu said that the "minimal requirement for peace" with the Palestinians was their recognition of the state as home to a Jewish people with equal right to self-determination as themselves. "It's about one thing: the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state, in any border," Netanyahu said. "The question shouldn't be, why does Israel make this demand. The question is, why do the Palestinians consistently refuse to accept it?" "I'm ready for an historic compromise that ends the conflict between us once and for all," he added, calling peace a "two-way street."
Netanyahu thanked Obama for what he called an "indispensable alliance" that has experienced unprecedented defense, security and intelligence cooperation between the two governments under their leadership.
As expected, the prime minister discussed his dissatisfaction with a deal cut in Geneva between world powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran that effectively halts progress on its expansive nuclear program.
Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms would "literally change the course of history," Netanyahu said, but he, like the US president, supports a negotiated end to the crisis over confrontation.
"A diplomatic solution is better than a military option, but a military option is required for diplomacy to succeed, as are sanctions," Netanyahu said.
For Israel to accept a final deal, it has to ensure that Iran will never be a "threshold nuclear weapons state," maintaining the capability of building warheads without necessarily ever obtaining them.
"I don't think I can overstate, I don't think anyone can overstate the Iranian danger," he said. "Any final deal must end military nuclear capability."
Iranian parliament speaker says Palestinians can achieve victory like Mandela did
By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON/J.Post/12/08/2013
The Zionist regime represents the modern face of fascist racism, Iranian speaker Ali Larijani says, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa: “The West won’t respect the Palestinians’ rights except through resistance.”Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and said that the Palestinians would achieve victory through resistance, just as Nelson Mandela had done. Speaking to parliament on Sunday he said that through resistance the Palestinians would achieve victory against Israel, just as former South African president Nelson Mandel did against apartheid, according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.The Zionist regime represents the modern face of fascist racism, and we see again how the West and the US see themselves indebted to this regime and have pioneered in all-out support for Israel and this ridiculous comedy has repeated behind the same ridiculous face of supporting the human rights at the international level and massacring the Palestinian nation in their homes,” said Larijani according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
“The West won’t respect the Palestinians’ rights except through resistance,” he added. Mandela, South Africa's first black president who steered his nation out of apartheid and into multi-racial democracy, died on Thursday at the age of 95 after months of illness. Meanwhile, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, said on Saturday that Iran has become the center of the world and regional diplomacy.
“Iran succeeded to change Washington’s strategic policies relying on the diplomacy of resistance,” he said according to Fars. Salami is referring to what Iran sees as a victory for the “axis of resistance” - which also includes Hezbollah and Syria – as a result of the recent deals over the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The deal over Syria put off a Western led attack indefinitely, allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies to continue fighting against the Sunni dominated opposition unhindered. And the deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program eased sanctions and essentially recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium, something that the international community had long rejected, but that Iran had demanded.
Reuters contributed to this report
In Syria, no war is righteous and no weapon is honourable
Mohammed Habash /The National
December 8, 2013
The political term “state terrorism” was once popularised by former Syrian President Hafez Al Assad. The term reflected his policy of hosting resistance movements such as the Islamic Jihad Movement, Hamas and Hizbollah. His stance, no doubt, gained popular support at home. Al Assad arrogated to himself the right to speak on behalf of the armed resistance movement and highlighted its determination to fight injustice. He mastered the game of moving armed conflicts to other countries, while still playing a pivotal role in them. He once called for an international conference to define “terrorism” and draw a distinction between takfiri (hardline Islamic ideology) terrorism and nations’ legitimate resistance, including armed struggle against brutality. He was referring to Israel and its brutality against the Palestinian people. This definition would include a state’s repression in the form of unjustly arresting people and displacing them from their villages and cities; it is a state terrorism that is no different from other internationally condemned kinds of terrorism. And thus peoples have a right to take up arms to defend themselves. Violence against civilians under the pretext of countering terrorism does not make the crime different or less appalling, even when the atrocities are committed by a state’s army.
In line with his regime’s policy of rejecting Israeli terrorism, Hafez Al Assad’s declared stance was that the acts of the Palestinian people against Israelis at home and beyond – and their targeting of Israeli interests and those of their American backers – were legitimate acts to fend off the brutality of Israel. Guns at the hands of the resistance are the most honourable of weapons, even when they are carried by unorganised militias, even if they target civilian gatherings and even if they kill innocent civilians. The fighters who sacrificed their lives to bomb an Israeli military checkpoint or facility were martyrs and heroes.
The government media would never allow the use of the word “suicide bomber” for such fighters. Celebrations were held at the offices of the Baath party across Syrian cities to pay tribute to the martyrs who targeted Israeli and American interests everywhere in the world. The Syrian regime named schools, squares and streets after the heroic martyrs, to show solidarity with the blessed jihad against Israel’s state terrorism.
The glorification of “martyrdom” reached a level so high that Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallam, commenting on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, did not dare mention the term “suicide bomber”, telling media instead that Hariri was assassinated by a “martyr” operation.
Al Assad’s policy and his open positions against the Israeli occupation’s army offer in my opinion ample evidence to justify what the Syrian people have done to fight the brutality of Bashar Al Assad’s regime, a regime whose cruelty against its own people has outmatched that of all fascist, kleptocratic and oligarchic regimes across the world.
In the decade leading up to the revolution in Syria, I wrote extensively on state terrorism. At the time, I meant to criticise Israeli leaders such as Yitzak Shamir, Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon, who all have left their fingerprints on a series of massacres in Palestine and Lebanon. It never occurred to me that one day I would revisit my old articles to see in them the same behaviour as that of none other than the Syrian regime.
The regime’s conduct today embodies the very state terrorism that it spent decades opposing. The Baath party’s intellectuals have spoken about the nature of the regular army’s actions in its continuing war on so-called armed cells they classify as terrorist.
Al Qaeda in Syria has sarin: Russia ready to deal with Syrian Al Qaeda plot against Sochi Olympics
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 8, 2013/It was commonly
assumed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin
discussed the forthcoming Geneva nuclear accord with Iran when they met in
Moscow on Nov. 20. But according to debkafile’s intelligence and counter-terror
sources, they focused on two quite different topics.
One was possible Russian-Israeli military and intelligence cooperation against al Qaeda elements in Syria in which both are keenly interested. Israel is shoring up its defenses against potential cross-border terrorist attacks mounted from al Qaeda bases in Syria, while Putin has gone to great lengths to secure the high-prestige Winter Olympics taking place at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi Feb. 7-23.
The other topic of conversation was Moscow’s interest in a stake for Russian oil and gas companies in laying the pipelines for the export of Israeli offshore Mediterranean gas to European markets.
By mutual consent, the Iranian issue on which they are deeply divided was scarcely touched on.
Two weeks after their conversation, the ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced Monday, Dec. 4, the formation of a special unit to deal with “Syrian radicals”- both within the North Caucasus republic and abroad.
He added: “Members of the special unit will be ready to interfere in the Syrian conflict if such operation is authorized by the Russian president.”
debkafile’s counter-terrorism sources explain that President Putin is loath to drop a Russian intervention force into Syria and risk upsetting his sensitive understandings with the Obama administration on Syria. He is therefore planning to send out a Chechen force to deal with the Chechens and other North Caucasian jihadists who are fighting under the al Qaeda flag in Syria and now gearing up, according to Russian and Syrian intelligence, for a spectacular attack on the Sochi Olympic Games.
According to some reports, Al Qaeda in Syria has got hold of sarin nerve gas and is ready to use it. This was confirmed by the investigative journalist Seymor Hersh in an article he published in London on Dec. 8.
He quoted “a large number of American intelligence officials” who said that “the chemical attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, in which more than 150 people died, may not have been carried out by Bashar Assad’s army but by Jabhat al Nusra [Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch].”
A senior intelligence consultant told the reporter: “Already by late May… the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta.”
debkafile reports that both these organizations have enlisted many Chechen and North Caucasian members to fight in Syria.
The sources quoted by Hersh charged President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with “deliberate manipulation of intelligence.” One high-level intelligence officer called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ruse. “When the attack occurred, al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” according to Seymor Hersh.
Israel is trying to use Iran to distract from the Palestinian issue
By: Ataollah Mohajerani/Asharq
The UN has named 2014 as the ‘Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.’ The majority of member states adopted the resolution with 110 voting in favor, seven opposed and 54 abstaining.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced the UN’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, noting the importance of peace talks aimed at a two-state solution. “We cannot afford to lose the current moment of opportunity. The goal remains clear—an end to the occupation that started in 1967 and the creation of a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, living side by side in peace with a secure State of Israel. Jerusalem is to emerge from negotiations as the capital of the two states, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all. An agreed solution must be found for millions of Palestinian refugees around the region,” he stated.
In November last year, the UN General Assembly granted the Palestinians observer status at the international organization, thereby implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state. The Palestinian bid has been upheld with 138 votes in favor, 9 against and 41 abstentions. On the other hand, Israel—more than at any other time, under Prime Minister Netanyahu—has done its best to change the identity of the Palestinians’ land, to alter the name of villages, districts, and streets to Jewish names. It is an old strategy that the Israelis have accelerated.
In 1970, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s research center published a book written by Rouhi al-Khatib, The Judaization of Jerusalem. In addition, the great Palestinian novelist Emil Habibi, in his book Al-Motashael, takes as his theme the appropriation of Palestine and Palestinians, their culture and their lifestyles and their way of thought.
In the last two decades we have seen the strengthening of this strategy. As a matter of fact, it is a serious and dangerous campaign against Palestinian national identity. It is the “Israelization” of Palestine. The core of this strategy is carried out in East Jerusalem. Israel not only wants to demolish Palestinians, but also wants to destroy their culture and their identity. It is not obvious, like killing the Palestinians, demolishing their homes, arresting and torturing their children and so on, but it is an invisible war against them.
On one hand, a very big question arises. The UN named 2014 as the year of Palestine. On the other hand, we are witnessing Palestine, like a lake, evaporating day by day. It is not an accidental event. It is a serious plan, to delete the Palestinians from Palestine. In other words, Palestinians seem to be hated by Israel not only for what they do, but also for what they are.
How should one support the Palestinians in defending their identity? We should take this very important point into consideration, as time is running out.
First, it is very clear that Israel does not want peace with the Palestinians, and does not want to ever recognize the real state of Palestine. On the contrary, Israel’s prime minister and his key ministers are focused on the security of Jewish state. In other words, it means there is no room for Palestinians in their home.
Once upon a time, Qassan Kanafani, who was assassinated by Israel, wrote a book for Palestinian children. He borrowed the idea from the Gospel. “And Jesus said unto him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’.” (Matthew 8:20)
As a matter of fact, Israel is doing its best to establish the issue of Palestine as a thing of the past and forgotten issue. For instance, at a recent closed seminar in Abu Dhabi, Israeli President Shimon Peres delivered a keynote address in which he did not talk about Palestine, but focused on a common danger in the region: Iran.
Thomas Friedman narrated the story of the security conference in an article in the New York Times. “I attended a Gulf security conference here in Abu Dhabi that included officials and experts from all over the Arab/Muslim world,” he wrote. “In the opening session, Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, flanked by the white and blue Israeli flag, gave an address by satellite from his office in Jerusalem. Good for the United Arab Emirates, the conference sponsor, for making that happen. Seeing the Israeli president speak to an audience dotted with Arab headdresses reminded me of the Oslo days, when Israelis and Arabs held business conferences in Cairo and Amman. But this tacit Israeli-Sunni Arab cooperation is not based on any sort of reconciliation, but on the tribal tradition that my enemy’s enemy is my friend—and the enemy is Iran, which has been steadily laying the groundwork to build a nuclear weapon.”This is the core of the disaster in the Muslim and Arab world. This is a strange game. Israel is playing, and the playing field is Iran not Israel. Israel is exaggerating the danger of Iran’s nuclear program, to draw attention away from the Palestinian issue.2014 is the year of Palestine, not the year of Iran. If all Islamic countries focus on Palestine, they will be closer to each other, but if they focus on Iran, they will be divided and become more isolated.