December 11/2013


Bible Quotation for today/The Example of Christ's Suffering
01 Peter 02/18 -25: "You servants must submit yourselves to your masters and show them complete respect, not only to those who are kind and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.  God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will.  For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips.  When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge.  Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed.  You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 11/13

A bad U.S. deal/The Daily Star/December 11/13
The Plan to Eliminate the Free Syrian Army /By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/December 11/13

DEBKAfile DEBKA/Iran pushes for Saudi isolation in the Gulf amid military buildup in Hormuz/December 11/13

Iran's warning to Congress/By: Michael Wilner/J.Post/December 11/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 11/13
Lebanese Related News

Snowstorm Alexa Starts Lashing Lebanon amid Heightened Precautions

Hollande Contacts Suleiman, Calls for Resumption of National Dialogue

STL: Trial in Hariri Assassination Set for

Saniora Rejects Nasrallah's Claims against Saudi Arabia: We're Accustomed to such Baseless Accusations

Siniora calls for release of nuns seized in Syria
Raad Rejects Lebanese Subordination to Regional Powers: Suleiman Was Quick to Defend Saudi Arabia
Report: Lebanese Army a Possible Target in Future Israel-Hizbullah War

Berri Rejects 'Stabbing' Lebanon, Prefers Consensual President
Salam in Veiled Reference to Hizbullah: Victory Should be Used to Build the Nation
Report: Hizbullah Commander Killed in Lebanon not Syria
Britain Donates Additional $1.6 Million to Special Tribunal for Lebanon

2 Syrians Arrested for Attempting to Smuggle Drugs in Chocolate, Christmas Ornaments

Rifi to Aoun: Ask Your Allies about Joseph Sader's Abduction

Kanaan Considers Amended Wages Decree Balanced, Fair

Finance Ministry Distances Itself from EDL Warning on Rationing

Miqati Joins World Leaders for Mandela Memorial

Lebanon prison guards charged for drug trafficking

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Poll shows shift as US public opinion now disapproves of Iran deal

Iran's warning to Congress

Iran sees progress in talks on nuclear deal implementation

Ya'alon on Iran: An unconventional regime must not have unconventional abilities
Kerry to brief full U.S. Senate on Iran on Wednesday: Senate aides
South Africa and World Unite for Mandela Memorial

Cuba Says Obama-Castro Handshake a Hopeful Gesture

Iran Dismisses Peres Offer to Meet Rouhani

Kerry Raises Doubts if Iran Ready for Final Deal

No Start Date for Iran Nuclear Freeze Expected from Vienna Talks

Kuwait Emir Opens Gulf Summit with Call to End Syria War

With US ties frayed, Saudi Arabia urges GCC union
Syria Regime Closes in on Yabrud, Last Rebel-Held Town in Qalamoun

Seizes Syria-Turkey Border Crossing

European Parliament Delegation to Visit Iran This Week

Prominent Syria opposition activist kidnapped

Syria conflict passes 1,000th day

Kuwait emir opens Gulf summit with call to end Syria war

Poll shows shift as US public opinion now disapproves of Iran deal

By HERB KEINON 12/10/2013/43% of Americans disapprove of interim nuclear agreement; survey also finds accord did not reduce American public's skepticism about Iran's leaders, 62% think Iranian leaders were "not serious" about international concerns. The more the American public learns about the Iran nuclear agreement reached in Geneva last month, the less it seems to like it, according to a Pew Research/USA Today Poll conducted this week. The poll found that 43 percent of Americans disapprove of the agreement, while 32% approve and 25% don't know.These results were sharply different from a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted just days after the agreement which found that Americans backed the deal by a 2-to-1 margin.The Pew poll found large disparities between Democrats and Republicans on this issue, with 50% of Democrats approving, as opposed to only 14% of Republicans. The survey also found that the accord has not reduced skepticism among the American public about Iran's leaders. Among those who have heard about the interim agreement, 62% said that Iran's leaders are "not serious" about addressing international concerns over its nuclear program, while only 29% said they were serious. The poll was conducted between December 3-8 among 2,001 respondents, with a 2.6% margin of error. A Channel 2 poll conducted in late November found that most Israelis – 60% – said that the agreement endangered Israel, while 25% said it did not. The poll also showed that a majority of Israelis backed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent criticism of the Obama administration’s Iranian policy, with 58% saying the criticism was justified, and 28% saying it was not.


Iran Dismisses Peres Offer to Meet Rouhani
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/ Iran on Tuesday dismissed an offer from Israel's president to meet his Iranian counterpart as a propaganda ploy to ease Israeli isolation over a nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers. "This propaganda to help the regime out of isolation will prove fruitless," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters. She said President Shimon Peres' offer was aimed at helping Iran's arch-foe Israel out of its isolation after its outspoken opposition to the nuclear deal clinched last month in Geneva. Asked on Sunday about a possible meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Peres said: "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. But the foreign ministry spokeswoman said her country would never recognise the Jewish state or change its stand. "There has not been nor will there be any change on Iran's stance and views regarding the Zionist regime" in Israel, Afkham said. "Iran does not recognize Israel. Our position regarding this oppressive and occupationist regime -- which is completely illegitimate and has been created to occupy the lands of the Palestinians -- is clear," she added. Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, 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 Israel and supports its foes, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Lebanon's Hizbullah. Israel has warned of military action to prevent a nuclear Iran that it says would pose an existential threat, with Tehran threatening to retaliate.Source/Agence France Presse.


Iran's warning to Congress

By MICHAEL WILNER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 12/10/2013/WASHINGTON -- Speaking directly to US lawmakers and the American president, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a warning on Monday that the deal cut between Iran and world powers over its nuclear program— temporarily freezing enrichment for a period of six months— would be "entirely dead" if Congress passed additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic. "We do not like to negotiate under duress," the top Iranian diplomat said in an interview with TIME magazine. "And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and a lack of desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States." Congressional leadership has vowed to act, in one way or another, to hold Iran to a 6-month timetable for talks— and President Obama's feet to the fire. Zarif has a point: in one provision of the deal, the White House agreed on behalf of the entire government that "the US administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions."The problem is how one defines "sanctions." Used as a catchall term by reporters and lawmakers alike, many sanctions experts do not consider new mechanisms introduced to enforce existing sanctions legislation as brand new penalties per se, but simply new tools to make sure there are no leaks in the pipes that are already installed.
New tools are needed, argues a relatively united Congress, because Iran continues to find new subterfuges to avoid existing sanctions. Tehran may interpret the passage of new legislation that tightens the screws as a violation of the deal; but to ignore their tactics is to, by default, allow for the easing of sanctions beyond the $7 billion in relief agreed upon in the interim deal. Also imbedded in the language of the first-step deal reached last month is the possibility of an extension of that timetable to a full year, should all parties agree that more time is required. Congressional leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez and their Republican counterparts— under pressure from groups closely allied with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee— will not be keen on tolerating any extension of any length, already afraid that the Geneva deal may crystalize into a status quo. The bill under consideration by Reid includes new sanctions as well as enforcement mechanisms that will only kick into effect after the six-month timeframe, and only if Iran and the P5+1 powers— the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany— fail to reach a final-status accord.
The new sanctions would be punishing: Iran's oil exports have already been cut over 60 percent since 2011, and the legislation aims to bring that down another 50 percent, penalizing international buyers who continue to buy Iranian crude. At the Saban Forum of the Brookings Institution on Saturday, US President Barack Obama said that close allies of the United States had to see that the US was serious about diplomacy— and that countries like Japan, South Korea, India and China would not take kindly to further cuts on oil. Now, Zarif has directly threatened Reid's bill, which the top Democrat publicly vowed would see a vote by the end of the year.
Reid is a close ally of the president, and has experienced significant pressure from the White House to renege on his word. But to his colleagues in the Senate, Democratic and Republican alike, this bill is seen as a moderate compromise that accommodates the possibility of peace through diplomacy. The White House fears that the deal will give Iran an excuse to walk away, and seeks maximum flexibility as it enters one of the most difficult international negotiations in decades. If Reid does not give the bill a vote, he will have to play whac-a-mole with a litany of efforts from senators on both sides to move ahead by other means. Some senators have prepared bills of their own and will attempt to attach them as amendments to any number of completely unrelated bills. If he wants Congress to hold off, Obama will have to rely on Reid to hold back significant bipartisan pressures. And his administration will have to explain to their counterparts in Tehran that, despite their best efforts, stopgaps will not be tolerated for much longer on Capitol Hill.

Hollande Contacts Suleiman, Calls for Resumption of National Dialogue
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/French President Francois Hollande urged President Michel Suleiman to resume the all-party talks amid the lingering crises in Lebanon.
According to al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Tuesday, Hollande stressed during a telephone conversation with Suleiman on the importance of resuming the national dialogue in order to carry out the presidential elections. The last dialogue session was held on September 20. In September, Suleiman said that he would challenge the extension of his mandate if the parliament took such a move amid soaring political tensions and the failure to form a new government. He added: “The constitution is clear that a government should assume its constitutional responsibilities and prepare for the presidential elections as soon as possible.” His term ends in May 2014. Meanwhile, French diplomatic sources said in comments published in As Safir newspaper that Suleiman will head to Paris at the end of the weekend. However, Baabda Palace sources denied the matter, pointing out that “the President has no scheduled visits to any foreign country.”

Report: Lebanese Army a Possible Target in Future Israel-Hizbullah War

Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Israeli forces are carrying out drills to confront several scenarios in case of a future war with Hizbullah, including an attack on the Lebanese army, a high-ranking Israeli army official said.
Al-Akhbar newspaper on Tuesday quoted the official as saying that Lebanon's army “could become the enemy at any moment.” “The exercises take into consideration several factors in the future battlefield in Lebanon, including the presence of U.N. troops and the Lebanese army, in addition to Hizbullah's fighters,” the official said. The soldiers are taking part in drills simulating a battle with not only Hizbullah but also the Lebanese army, which “could turn from a neutral entity into an aggressor,” he added. The official warned that Israeli troops will attack with all their strength “from the moment” they are “harmed.” The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that the security establishment has drawn up a new defense doctrine to better enable Israel to deal with threats to the civilian sector. Senior military sources told the daily that the doctrine is being drawn up at a time when “the Israeli home front faces an unprecedented level of terrorist firepower.”According to estimates Hizbullah is in possession of some 5,000 long-range rockets that can hit greater Tel Aviv, carrying warheads of between 750 kilograms to a ton.
Before the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel, the party had 500 such rockets, with warheads weighing 350 kilograms, said The Jerusalem Post. The Home Front Command has been busy trying to ensure that in case of a future conflict, basic functionality will continue in the civilian sector, it said.


STL: Trial in Hariri Assassination Set for
January 16, 2014 /Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has scheduled the start of trial in the case of Ayyash et al. for Thursday, January 16, 2014, announced the STL in a statement on Tuesday. It explained: “This decision has been made after consulting the parties to the case at the Trial Chamber’s last public hearing.” The trial will commence at 9:30 CET with opening statements by the Prosecutor, the Legal Representatives of the Victims participating in the proceedings, as well as opening statements, if any, for the Defense. The Trial Chamber has also announced that there will be a Pre-Trial Conference starting at 10:30a.m. CET on January 9, 2014.  The STL was set up to tackle the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In 2011, it indicted four Hizbullah members,Mustafa Amin Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra, were indicted in the attack. A fifth Hizbullah suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in 2013. Earlier in December, STL spokesman Marten Youssef said that joining the cases of Ayyash et al. and Merhi is up to the international judges. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli product bent on destroying the party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects, who remain at large, will never be found. Source/Agence France Presse

Snowstorm Alexa Starts Lashing Lebanon amid Heightened Precautions
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/A snowstorm coming from Russia started lashing Lebanon on Tuesday evening amid heightened precautions by citizens and authorities.
The winter weather front dubbed "Alexa" is forecast to bring several days of rain and snow and a steep drop in temperature. As the falling snow cut off the Oyoun al-Siman-Hadath Baalbek road and the Tarshish-Zahle road, the Dahr al-Baidar road remained passable for vehicles equipped with snow chains. The Meteorology Department of the Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority said heavy rains are expected to fall on Wednesday, noting that snow will hit areas situated 1,000 meters above sea level during the day and will start lashing regions that are 500 meters above sea level in the evening, especially in the North, before abating at night.
Meanwhile, as part of the authorities' measures, caretaker Education Minister Hassan Diab ordered the closure of public and private schools across the country on Wednesday.
For his part, caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil asked all nurseries to close on Wednesday as a public safety precaution.
LBCI television quoted Lebanese University President Adnan Sayyed Hussein as saying that classes will not be interrupted on Wednesday at all faculties because of the storm.
Quoting the Civil Aviation Authority, MTV said flight activities at the Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport continue uninterrupted and “any change in the schedule of takeoffs and landings will be announced in a statement.”
The vehicles of the Public Works and Transport Ministry are working around the clock and all stations are on full alert, according to MTV.
On Monday, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said authorities were mobilizing to help Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps ahead of the storm. "The ministry, in cooperation with UNHCR and all our partners, has mobilized to do what's necessary to protect Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens in need during this storm," Abu Faour said. "I don't think there is a single Lebanese official who can sleep with a clear conscience while women, children and the elderly -- Syrians, Palestinians or Lebanese -- can't close their eyes because of cold and hunger," he added.
Abu Faour said Lebanese authorities, working with the army and international aid agencies, had begun distributing plastic sheeting and wood planks to refugees living in informal camps, along with heaters and food aid. At least 835,000 registered Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon, some renting apartments, others living with Lebanese families and thousands sheltering in makeshift shelters in unofficial camps. The vast majority of the camps are in the Bekaa Valley region in east Lebanon, where temperatures regularly dip below zero and winter brings snow and rain.

Saniora Rejects Nasrallah's Claims against Saudi Arabia: We're Accustomed to such Baseless Accusations
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora rejected on Tuesday Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's claims that Saudi Arabia was behind the recent bombings near the Iranian embassy in Beirut. He said: “We have grown accustomed to officials in Lebanon making baseless accusations.”“Everyone in Lebanon says whatever they want,” he remarked after holding talks at the head of a Mustaqbal delegation with Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh. “President Michel Suleiman made the best remarks over this issue” when he urged against ruining ties with the kingdom, continued Saniora. “Throughout the years, Saudi Arabia had long sought to support Lebanon,” he stressed. Nasrallah accused last week Saudi Arabia of being behind the November 19 Iranian embassy twin bombings. An al-Qaida-affiliated group, the Abduallah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was aimed at pressuring Iran ally Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
Nasrallah said that Saudi intelligence backs the Brigades. For his part, Suleiman indirectly rejected the Hizbullah chief's claim, saying: “Lebanon should not ruin its ties with Saudi Arabia through making baseless accusations against it.” Commenting on the recent developments in Syria, Saniora rejected the April kidnapping of two bishops and last week's abduction of nuns in the town of Maalula. “We reject any action that harms the sanctity of holy sites,” he added. He demanded that all efforts be exerted to pressure the criminals to release the captives. “The kidnappings do not serve the Syrian cause, they will not end the authoritarian rule, or the violence in the country,” he stated. Jihadists had abducted 13 nuns and three civilians last week from Maalula. Some of the nuns appeared in a video messages aired by al-Jazeera television on Friday, claiming that they were doing well. Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were kidnapped by armed men in Aleppo at the end of April. Later on Tuesday, the Mustaqbal bloc reiterated Saniora's statements, while demanding the formation of a new government “as soon as possible.” “We urge Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a new government immediately because the delay is causing great harm to Lebanon,” it said after its weekly meeting.
“Forming a government devoid of party officials is the first step towards improving the situation in the country,” it stressed. It also condemned the assassination of Hizbullah official Hassan al-Laqqis last week, urging the need to launch an honest investigation in the crime that will verify whether Israel was behind it. Furthermore, it praised Hizbullah's al-Manar television for apologizing to Bahrain over its coverage of the political developments in the Gulf state. It hope that the “party would offer a similar apology to the Lebanese people for all the harm it has caused them over the years.”
Al-Manar television director general Abdullah Qassir confirmed that the Hizbullah-owned TV network has apologized to Bahrain over its coverage of the Shiite-led protests in the Gulf kingdom, LBCI and al-Jadeed televisions reported on Sunday. Shiite-majority Bahrain has blacklisted Hizbullah and banned Bahraini opposition groups from having contact with the Lebanese party over allegations it was interfering in the kingdom's internal affairs.
The opposition, which is battling for democratization, insists that its political agenda is Bahraini and not linked to Iran or other Shiite sides.
Hizbullah and its media outlets had voiced strong support for the protest movement in Bahrain and criticized the heavy-handed crackdown on the Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations.

Raad Rejects Lebanese Subordination to Regional Powers: Suleiman Was Quick to Defend Saudi Arabia
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad stressed on Tuesday that Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has clear evidence that Saudi Arabia was behind the November 19 bombing near the Iranian embassy in Beirut. He said after holding talks with former President Emile Lahoud that “President Michel Suleiman was quick in responding to Nasrallah” and defending Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, he rejected any Lebanese president's “subordination to any regional power.” “The new president should respect Lebanon's national principles that prevent the country from being affiliated with regional countries,” Raad remarked. Nasrallah accused last week Saudi Arabia of being behind the Iranian embassy twin bombings. An al-Qaida-affiliated group, the Abduallah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was aimed at pressuring Iran ally Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria. Nasrallah said that Saudi intelligence backs the Brigades. For his part, Suleiman indirectly rejected the Hizbullah chief's claim, saying: “Lebanon should not ruin its ties with Saudi Arabia through making baseless accusations against it.”

Berri Rejects 'Stabbing' Lebanon, Prefers Consensual President
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri has said the election of a new president next year is more than a necessity, advising consensus on the name of the next head of state and reiterating that the resistance is a right consolidated by the Taef Accord. “Holding the elections is more than a necessity and all MPs should attend the session to elect the new president,” Berri told several local newspapers published on Tuesday.
“Those who are abroad should also (come to) attend it. We should not be satisfied with the two thirds” majority, he said. “We would be stabbing the country if we failed to elect a new president amid the government vacuum and the paralysis of the legislature,” he added. 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.  President Michel 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. The 60-day deadline that the Constitution sets for the election of a president starts on March 25. This deadline is aimed at granting the speaker the time to inquire MPs about their stances and whether there would be consensus on the name of the new president, Berri said. “A consensual president is the best choice,” he said. Asked about the resistance, the speaker said: “The resistance is not a privilege. It is a sacrifice.” “Had there not been a resistance, we should have created one because Israel is threatening and assassinating,” he said in reference to the latest murder of Hizbullah official Hajj Hassan Hollo al-Laqqis. He was assassinated last week near his residence in Hadath. Hizbullah accused Israel of carrying out the murder. The resistance is the result of Israeli occupation, Berri said. He wondered how Lebanon would protect itself and its oil and gas resources if there was no resistance. “The resistance is a right and the Taef Accord consolidated this right,” he stressed.
Berri advised Hizbullah's critics to read the agreement well “because it clearly states Lebanon's right to liberate its land from Israeli occupation with all available means.” The speaker, who is also the head of the Amal movement that is allied with Hizbullah, snapped back at the parties claiming that Lebanon liberated its land when Israeli forces withdrew from the South in 2000. He said the Jewish state continues to occupy the Shabaa Farms area and the Kfarshouba Hills and is infringing on Lebanon's territorial waters. “Let everyone know that we won't give up a single drop of our waters,” Berri told the dailies. Asked about President Michel Suleiman's repeated appeals for Lebanese fighters and mainly Hizbullah to stay away from the war in neighboring Syria, Berri said: “I've put this issue in my initiative for (national) dialogue.” “Let's sit at the dialogue table and discuss how this intervention happened and who started it,” he said. Hizbullah members are openly fighting in Syria to help the forces loyal to President Bashar Assad crush the rebels, who are Sunni. The Syrian civil war has also drawn in Sunni fighters from across the world, including Lebanon.

Salam in Veiled Reference to Hizbullah: Victory Should be Used to Build the Nation
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Premier-designate Tammam Salam has said the party that considers itself a victor should use the victory to build a nation along with its rivals rather than making dictates. In an interview with pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat published on Tuesday, Salam said: “There is a party that considers itself a victor … but we all know … the country would never rise if a certain team vanquishes another.” “Lebanon has paid the price every time a party tried to abolish the other,” he said, warning that “any disruption of such an equation would endanger Lebanon.” Any party that considers itself a victor, should use the triumph to make positive changes, he said. “But how would we be able to build a nation together if it wants to weaken the other party?” Salam asked. “We can't build a nation through dictates,” he stressed. Salam did not mention which party he was talking about. But he seemed to be referring to the March 8 alliance in general and Hizbullah in particular. Salam reiterated that his mission was “complicated and almost impossible.”He was tasked to form the new cabinet in April but has so far been unable to come up with a line-up over the differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. “Eventually, I will have to take a decision which comes in harmony with my transparency, morals, convictions and patriotism,” he told Asharq al-Awsat. Asked whether at any point during his more than eight month mission he felt that he was close to form his cabinet, Salam replied: “Amid the current circumstances I haven't felt I was close enough.” “But at some stages I was close to the attempts to agree on a cabinet,” he said. “But those attempts were toppled.”“Is there any hope to form the cabinet with the 9-9-6 formula or any other” proposal? he asked in a sign of growing pessimism on whether his cabinet would see light. The latest proposal was to give the March 8 and 14 alliances nine ministers each and centrists – President Michel Suleiman, Salam and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat – six ministers. But March 14 snubbed the plan. “The benefits that political parties, mainly those who are in power today, are seeking to clinch, are not helpful,” Salam said, in reference to Hizbullah. He said the Hizbullah-led resigned cabinet is responsible for the current situation because it chose to form a government without its March 14 rivals. Such a single-faceted cabinet paralyzes the country politically, economically, socially and at the security level, he added.

Report: Hizbullah Commander Killed in Lebanon not Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/A high-ranking Hizbullah commander has died during training in a camp in Lebanon, security sources said, refuting claims he was killed in battle in Syria on Sunday. The sources told An Nahar daily published on Tuesday that Ali Bazzi was mistakenly shot during a live fire training at one of Hizbullah's camps in Lebanon. Hizbullah has lost scores of fighters since it joined Syrian President Bashar Assad in battling the Sunni-led rebels, inflaming sectarian tensions on both sides of the border. A Lebanese security source on Sunday said that Bazzi was killed in a “combat zone," without specifying the location.
A website for Bint Jbeil, Bazzi's hometown in southern Lebanon, announced his death on Sunday and posted pictures of him in military garb and holding an automatic rifle, saying he "died a martyr as he was carrying out his sacred duty as a jihadist." A photo distributed in Sidon of Bazzi, showed a man with a white beard wearing a camouflage military uniform and a green beret.

Court Rejects Ex-MP Eid's Preliminary Pleadings, Deeming them 'Unconvincing'
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/The Criminal Court of Appeals approved on Tuesday a Military Tribunal decision to reject the preliminary pleadings of Hiyam Eid, the lawyer of former MP and Arab Democratic Party leader Ali Eid, over her client's failure to abide by a summons for health reasons. The Criminal Court of Appeals deemed the lawyer's pleadings as “unconvincing”. The Court explained that the Eid “obstructed the course of justice and wasted its time for no viable reason.” It therefore rejected Hiyam Eid's request, fining the defendant L.L. 500,000 and charging him with the legal fees linked to the plea. In November, Ali Eid evaded a summons to undergo questioning by a military tribunal judge over his alleged aid to a suspect in the mosque bombings of the northern city of Tripoli. Eid's attorney handed First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida a report claiming that the suspect cannot attend the questioning session for medical reasons. She submitted the alibi to Abu Ghida, who referred it to the military prosecutor, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr, for the appropriate response. Abu Ghida had filed a subpoena against Eid and his drives Ali, on charges of helping Ahmed Merhi escape justice by smuggling him to Syria. Merhi is the suspected driver of the explosive-laden vehicle that blew up near al-Taqwa mosque. Huyam Eid called for Ali's release and said the military tribunal should withdraw the arrest warrant issued against the Arab Democratic Party leader. The twin car bombings that targeted the Sunni al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques on August 23 have left hundreds of casualties.

Geagea Says Hizbullah Appointed Itself 'Custodian of Univsersal Declaration of Violating Human Rights'
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday announced that some parties are insisting on violating the constitution and "taking us back to obsolete eras," noting that Hizbullah has "appointed itself as a custodian of the Universal Declaration of Violating Human Rights." "Eighty-seven years after the drafting of the Lebanese constitution -- which came to consolidate human rights, democracy and the freedoms of opinion, belief and expression – some parties in Lebanon are still insisting on violating this constitution and taking us back to obsolete eras," said Geagea at a seminar on human rights in Maarab.
"The interpretation of the constitution changes according to the needs of the Resistance (of Hizbullah) and the constitutional institutions come last because the conflict with the 'great satans' and 'small satans' must come first," added Geagea. "The statelet is stealing the funds of the state in Lebanon and pushing everyone to poverty," Geagea lamented, adding that "this is turning the Lebanese citizen into a citizen with no country, rights, security, stability or economy." Hitting out at Hizbullah without naming it, Geagea said the party "did not only undermine the foundations of democratic life in Lebanon but also went to Syria to contribute to impeding a fledgling democracy.” “Sixty-five years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued, the Syrian people are still struggling to obtain their most basic rights and tyrants and dictators are still living in total denial of this declaration,” Geagea added. “What's shameful in this regard is that the aforementioned party has appointed itself as a custodian of the 'Universal Declaration of Violating Human Rights' and it went to Syria to help the regime violate these rights," said Geagea. He noted that in Syria, "citizens are cosidered to be mere tools and followers." "If they demand to have their most basic rights, they are labeled as takfiris, and if they call for freedom and a civil state, they are described as terrorists who are jeopardizing world peace," Geagea added. Turning to the Arab Spring protests, the LF leader said "the current transitional period will pave the ground for a more humanitarian, just and free Arab world, no matter how long it may take and regardless of the blood that is being shed."

Britain Donates Additional $1.6 Million to Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced Tuesday that London intends to donate $1.6 million to the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, describing the move as a “voluntary contribution." "The UK is committed to supporting security, stability and justice for the people of Lebanon," Hague said in a written statement to the British parliament on the UK's contribution to the STL.
"This contribution to the STL is a signal of our steadfast support for its work to end the climate of impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon," he added. Hague noted that British Minister of State for the Middle East Hugh Robertson is on a visit to Lebanon to “reinforce these points.”The STL on Tuesday announced that its Trial Chamber has scheduled the start of trial in the case of the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri and his companions for January 16, 2014. In 2011, the court accused four Hizbullah members -- Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – of being involved in the attack. A fifth Hizbullah suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in 2013. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli product bent on destroying the party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects, who remain at large, will never be found.

2 Syrians Arrested for Attempting to Smuggle Drugs in Chocolate, Christmas Ornaments
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Security forces arrested on Tuesday two Syrians for attempting to smuggle drugs to a country in the Arab Gulf, reported the National News Agency. It said that Anti-Drug Bureau in Zahle, in cooperation with the main office in Beirut, raided a Dekwaneh residence and arrested the two suspects. The security forces discovered that the suspects were planning on smuggling 20,000 captagon pills in Kinder Surprise chocolate, Christmas ornaments, three fake Christmas trees, and a snowman. The security forces also discovered equipment to prepare and package Kinder Surprise chocolate whereby the suspects would hide the drugs inside the chocolate before wrapping them again. The suspects were initially seeking to smuggle the drugs hidden in fridges specialized in freezing fish After preparing the fridges, they were informed by the export company that they were cooperating with that there were some errors in the manner in which the fridges were packaged. The suspects consequently returned the drug shipment to the Dekwaneh apartment where they sought alternative methods to hide and smuggle the drugs. They opted to hide the drugs in the chocolate, Christmas trees, and ornaments. The Zahle Anti-Drug Bureau had been monitoring their activity and raided their residence on Tuesday.
The suspects have since been taken to the Zahle bureau for investigation.

South Africa and World Unite for Mandela Memorial
by Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/..U.S. President Barack Obama led world tributes Tuesday to Nelson Mandela, hailing him as “a giant of history” at a rain-soaked memorial attended by tens of thousands of South Africans united in proud, noisy celebration. Obama was one of close to 100 world leaders at the event in Soweto's World Cup stadium, where songs of praise and revolution, many harking back to the apartheid era that Mandela helped condemn to history, echoed down from the dancing crowds in the stands. "It is hard to eulogize any man ... how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice," Obama said, after being introduced to wild cheers. "He was not a bust made of marble, he was a man of flesh and blood," Obama said of the prisoner-turned-president whose life story earned uncommon universal respect. The four-hour event began at midday (1000 GMT) with a stirring rendition of the national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa), led by a mass choir and picked up with enthusiasm by the rest of the stadium. Some 80,000 had been expected, but the venue was two-thirds full as the ceremony got underway under a curtain of rain that had been falling since the early morning. Despite the profound sense of national sorrow triggered by Mandela's death last Thursday, the mood was upbeat, with people determined to celebrate the memory of one of the 20th century's towering political figures. "His long walk is over, he can finally rest," African National Congress (ANC) Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an opening address. On several occasions, Ramaphosa felt forced to admonish boisterous sections of the crowd for chanting during the speeches.
In his tribute, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that Mandela had managed to unite people in death, much as he had in life. "Look around this stage ... we see leaders representing many points of view ... all here, all united," he said. Before taking to the stage, Obama shook hands with Raul Castro, leader of long-time Cold War rival Cuba. The handshake was seen by millions watching the memorial being broadcast live around the world, and comes as Obama tries to make good on his vow to reach out even to the most implacable of U.S. foes. Crowds had begun gathering at the Soweto stadium before daybreak and, as the gates opened, they swarmed inside the venue where Mandela made his last major public appearance at the 2010 World Cup final. Wrapped in the South African flag or yellow-green colored shawls printed with the slogan "Mandela Forever," they danced and sang -- oblivious to the constant drizzle. "He's God given, he's God taken. We will never stop to cherish him," said Shahim Ismail, who took a day off from the sports academy he runs in Johannesburg to attend the event. "This is once in your life. This is history," said Noma Kova, 36. "I didn't want to watch this on TV." Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, received a huge ovation as she took her seat on the main stage constructed at one end of the pitch. News of Mandela's death at his home in Johannesburg resonated around the world, triggering a wave of loving admiration from political and religious leaders, some of whom agree on little else. In a nod to Mandela's extraordinary global reach, popularity and influence, the Indian, Brazilian and Namibian presidents, as well as Castro and the vice president of China all delivered eulogies.
In his tribute, Obama took a swipe at authoritarian leaders who spoke of embracing Mandela's legacy without acting upon it. "There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people," he said, The memorial event was part of an extended state funeral that will culminate in Mandela's burial on Sunday in the rural village of Qunu where he spent his early childhood.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who was roundly booed by sections of the crowd in a reflection of growing public dissatisfaction with the current generation of ANC leaders, hailed Mandela as "fearless freedom fighter."
"In his honor, we commit ourselves to continue building a nation based on democratic values, of human dignity and democracy," Zuma said.
Although Mandela had been critically ill for months, the announcement of his death was a body blow for this recently reborn nation.
He had been out of public life for more than a decade, but South Africans looked to his unassailable moral authority as a comforting constant in a time of uncertain social and economic change.
Ahead of the burial in Qunu, Mandela's body will lie in state for three days from Wednesday in the amphitheater of the Union Buildings in Pretoria where he was sworn in as president in 1994.
Each morning, his coffin will be borne through the streets of the capital in a funeral cortege. British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were among the leaders attending the memorial ceremony. "We were told it was appropriate to wear a black tie," Cameron said after arriving at the stadium in Soweto. "But when you come and your hear this great noise and this great atmosphere of celebration, it is clear that people here in South Africa want to, yes, say goodbye to this great man, yes commemorate what he did, but also celebrate his life and celebrate his legacy," he said. Singer-activist Bono and South African actress Charlize Theron were among the celebrity mourners. Source/Agence France Presse.


Iran pushes for Saudi isolation in the Gulf amid military buildup in Hormuz

DEBKAfile DEBKA Weekly December 10, 2013/Two landmark events in the Persian Gulf this week attested to Tehran’s confidence that it has escaped the threat of a military clash with the US and Israel over its nuclear program – certainly in the Persian Gulf. By the same token, Iran is no longer threatening to block the Straits of Hormuz to Gulf oil exports in reprisal for this attack.One of those events, noted by debkafile’s military and Gulf sources, is the rapid détente between Tehran and the United Arab Emirates. Tuesday, Dec. 10, unnamed Gulf officials announced that Iran and the UAE were close to an agreement for the return to the Emirates of three Iranian-occupied islands in the Arabian Gulf. The other event was the conspicuous absence of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit taking place in Kuwait this week. The Sultan has been a live wire in the back-channel dialogue between President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani, which led up to the Geneva interim accord on Iran’s nuclear program last month. His absence told GCC members that Oman had chosen to stand aside from Saudi dictates to the regional bloc to approve anti-Iranian resolutions that would derail the deals struck between the US and Iranian presidents. GCC resolutions must be unanimous.
Muscat and Washington were undoubtedly in accord on this step. In sum, two of the most influential GCC members, the UAE and Oman, have set out on an independent path toward Tehran without regard to Saudi wishes or interests. They were talked round into isolating Saudi Arabia by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in his two-day tour of the Gulf emirates last week. The three islands at issue, Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, located in the mouth of the Strait of Hormus (see attached map) were seized by Iran in 1971, during the reign of the Shah. The UAE has consistently claimed they are sovereign territory and demanded their return.
Our military sources report that, the Islamic Republic of Iran never heeded that demand and instead, its Revolutionary Guards established on Abu Mussa large naval, air force and missile bases. Located there are 500 mostly short-range shore-to-sea missiles capable of blocking Hormuz to shipping, including oil tankers. According to our sources, Tehran is willing to discuss sharing the disputed islands’ future with the UAE, but not to dismantle is military bases on Abu Mussa or evacuate military personnel. The make this point clear, over this weekend, Iran shipped 10 SU-25 Frogfoot assault planes capable of ground and sea attack to the island air base.
These warplanes are the backbone of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force. A US military spokesman Sunday, Dec. 8, confirmed their arrival on Abu Musa, but declined to answer questions about a possible American response to the new Iranian military movements in the most sensitive part of the Persian Gulf. The UAE also refrained form protest, and carried on its negotiations with Tehran on the future of the islands. The Emirates are obviously determined to reach an understanding with Iran – not just on the three islands but also over the vast gas reserves under shared waters.
The coming DEBKA Weekly, out next Friday, Dec. 13, offers exclusive new details about the aggressive foreign policies Tehran is pursuing in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Syria – without the Obama administration venturing to demur. If you are not a DEBKA Weekly subscriber yet, sign on by clicking here.

A bad U.S. deal
December 10, 2013/The Daily Star
“He is treating our issues with a high degree of indifference,” a senior Palestinian official said Monday about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s current Middle East security proposals. The Palestinians were very right to reject the offer, as it only benefits Israel, in a a move by the U.S. to placate Tel Aviv over Iran fears.
The American promise of significant development in the peace talks by the end of the year was always an ambitious one. But that progress will never be achieved as long as the U.S. continues to prioritize a desire to soothe the Israeli lobby in Washington over securing justice and equality for the Palestinian people.
Kerry, whose frequent visits to the region originally seemed to indicate he had something new up his sleeve for the peace process, has revealed himself to be as little committed to the Palestinian cause as all his predecessors. Positing himself as an honest broker for the long-stalled talks, Kerry is neither honest nor a broker, as his security proposals announced last Thursday indicate. He is not some objective middleman, but merely a representative of an administration that is so afraid of pushing Israel away that it is prepared, once again, to neglect any genuine pursuit of freedom for the Palestinian people.
It is not without coincidence that this latest proposal, which would see Israel allowed to continue expansion in the Jordan Valley, allegedly to assuage its security concerns, comes soon after the Geneva deal with Iran that was welcomed internationally but derided by Israel as a dangerous move. Offering up Palestine to placate Israel over regional issues is not new, and this act of appeasement is the latest attempt by world powers to use the Palestinians. But that does not make it any less galling.
Even without the Iran agreement, the timing of Kerry’s announcement is frankly offensive. At such a volatile time for the Middle East, what with the ongoing war in Syria, the conflict’s knock-on tensions in Turkey, the Levant and the Gulf, and the continued Arab Spring fallout in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Arab leaders do not have time to dedicate to the Palestinian cause, and the Americans realize this.
The Palestinians are therefore completely within their rights to reject this noxious plan, which does nothing to further their cause but is only concerned with the interests of the Israelis. The Palestinian situation could not get much worse now, so why accept a “security plan” that gives the advantage to Israel? The wisest thing to do now would be to continue lobbying around the world and find partners in those states that are beginning, finally, to see Israel for the oppressive state it is. The U.S., while purporting to stand for ethics and justice, seems to have forgotten the meanings of the words.


The Plan to Eliminate the Free Syrian Army

By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
For the past 12 months, Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has been focused on the idea of defeating the armed opposition by resorting to military power. It thus strengthened its capabilities by acquiring more weapons and using the help of fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. This is why battles have stalled and the regime has succeeded in remaining in governance for the entire year.
Despite all the massive support the Syrian regime received, it failed to defeat the opposition which is still competing for control of the rest of the country’s cities, and which once again has besieged the capital and blocked the road to the airport. Practically, the regime’s plan failed and it is no longer easy for its Iranian and Russian allies to send more troops and arms as there is no hope on the horizon.
The fall of Assad is simply a matter of time. The only question is how long the war will be prolonged and how much its humanitarian and material costs will increase.
The new strategy is not to fight the Free Syrian Army—which has represented the backbone of the Syrian revolution for more than two years—but sabotage it from the inside. A competing group dubbed the “Islamic Front” suddenly emerged, distancing itself from other extremist Islamic groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front. Then three FSA leaders, along with their battalions, Ahmad Issa Al-Sheikh, Zahran Allouch and Saddam Al-Jamal, announced that they defected from the FSA. Statements that Saddam al-Gamal defected because he was dissatisfied with Gulf support were attributed to him but we could not authenticate them.
These defections, whether they are real or part of a propaganda campaign, express an attempt to nullify the only military power which represents the Syrian revolution. The FSA is also the only power which has been fighting non-stop for 30 months. Other parties, whether groups or battalions, do not represent the revolution because they are either individual parties, which represent neighborhoods or areas in revolt, or an extension of terrorist groups like ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front which are an extension of Al-Qaeda which operates in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia and which the Assad regime previously used in Iraq and Lebanon during the past decade.
This is the new scene in Syria. There are those who defected from the FSA and there’s the Islamic Front, the establishment of which was announced at a time when the regime’s weakness was clear. The question is: Can these defectors, new factions of Islamists and Al-Qaeda terrorists beat the Assad regime together? Absolutely not. But they are capable of sabotaging the FSA—the revolution’s backbone.
Actions like targeting the city of Maaloula, abducting nuns and taking over the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey after fighting with the FSA are not part of a war with the Assad regime. At a time when all the belligerent parties are preparing to negotiate over Syria’s future at the Geneva II conference, we see that the FSA has a target on its back with a weapon pointed in its direction.
The story, in brief, is that Syria is a country suffering under a fascist security regime. During a brave moment, the people revolted against this regime and millions of Syrians, whether dead, injured or displaced, paid a high price for the sake of change.