December 13/2013


Bible Quotation for today/When Someone Sins
Matthew 18/21-35: " “If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons with you, so that ‘every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or more witnesses,’ as the scripture says.  And if he will not listen to them, then tell the whole thing to the church. Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 131/13

Lebanon is no country for young men/By Michael Young/The Daily Star/December 13/13

Special Tribunal For Lebanon: Respecting justice/The Daily Star/December 13/13

Untrustworthy American president/By: Shoula Romano Horing/Ynetnews/December 13/13

An Unregulated Security Threat/By: Andrew J. Tabler/Washington Institute/December 13/13


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

Death toll from Lebanon storm rises

Audeh on Tueni Assassination Anniversary: Lebanese Haven't Learned that Division Will Lead to Destruction

Fire opened at Israeli force on Lebanon border
Hariri Discusses Latest Developments with Saniora in Paris

LF MP Fadi Karam: LF confrontation with Hezbollah vital for Christians

Accusations against Hasan nonsense: Hariri

Financial prosecutor summons Lebanese minister

Abou Faour Voices Concern over Conditions of Syrian Refugees during Winter

Syria Opposition in Fuel Appeal as Two Children 'Die of Cold'

Qassem Deems as 'Unconstitutional' Proposal to Form Govt. that Lacks Confidence Just to Stage Polls

Owaidat Questions Ibrahim Bashir's Wife over Embezzlement

Rivals Meet in Bkirki to 'Adjust Christian Beat' Ahead of Presidential Elections

Report: Gemayel to Head to Tehran after Concluding Visit to Washington

Snowstorm Brings New Misery for Syria Refugees

Miqati Rules Out Dispute with Suleiman over Attempt to Revive Caretaker Cabinet

Miqati Voices Disappointment with Int'l Community's Failure to Address Syrian Refugee Needs

MP Qabbani Says Central Inspection Board Probe Underway into Aridi-Safadi Case

Airport Customs Thwart Attempt to Smuggle over 500,000 Captagon Pills to Saudi Arabia

Lebanon is no country for young men

 Residents Flee as Shelling from Syria Hits Akkar Towns

Israeli Troops Retaliate after Hunting Gunshots from Lebanon Target Patrol


Miscellaneous Reports And News

US switches military aid from rebels in the north to new pro-US security zone against Al Qaeda

Kerry Marks 70th Birthday with Return to Israel

Kerry meeting with Netanyahu, Peres postponed due to snow

U.S. Cites Companies, Individuals for Violating Iran Sanctions
US lawmakers to introduce bill on new Iran sanctions soon
Israel Drops Controversial Bedouin Relocation Plan

Iran, Saudi Arabia among 30 Countries Invited to Syria Talks

US sanctions firms, individuals for backing Iran nuke program

Syrian Rebel Spokesman Decries U.S., UK Aid Decision

Syrian Rebel Leader Idriss in Turkey, Denies Fleeing

Arab Foreign Ministers to Discuss Israel-Palestinian Talks

Right-wingers Seeking to Derail Peace, Says Israel Negotiator

Yemen Attack Fears Close U.N. Offices but Embassies Open

Saudi Top Cleric Calls Suicide Bombers 'Criminals'

Egypt police fire tear gas, water cannon on protesters

1 Dead, 35 Hurt in Car Bombing near Egypt Police Building


Untrustworthy American president
Op-ed: In his secret talks with Iran, Obama treated Israel like Chamberlain treated Czechoslovakia
By: Shoula Romano Horing Published: 12.12.13/Ynetnews,7340,L-4463506,00.html

The latest CNN poll released on November 23 showed that 53% of American voters said President Obama was not honest and trustworthy. Similarly, US allies like Israel and the Persian Gulf states are questioning Obama’s integrity after discovering that for the last three years he has been lying and deceiving them by keeping them in the dark about his secret efforts to realign the US with the Iranian-led axis of evil.
When he visited Israel for the first time in March as president, he reassured the Israelis that there was "no daylight between the US and Israel" and that he had "Israel’s back," but in reality his administration has held secret negotiations for the last three years in Oman with Iran without Israel’s knowledge.
The Iranian and American contacts have included a series of US-Iran prisoner releases beginning as early as September 2010. Prime Minister Netanyahu was first informed about these negotiations when he visited the White House on September 30, 2013. But it seems he was misled in that visit as to how close a deal was to fruition, and how bad the deal would be for Israel and beneficial to Iran.
Obama treated Israel like Chamberlain treated Czechoslovakia during his meeting with Hitler in 1938. He discussed an issue with Iran which strongly impacts Israel’s survival without informing, consulting with, or taking into consideration its concerns.
In September, Barack Obama said in his speech to the UN General Assembly that the US was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But in reality, the US has already conceded in the Geneva agreement that Iran is going to end up with the right to enrich and after the permanent agreement expires in few years Iran will be able to run as many centrifuges as it chooses without international monitoring.
The text of the interim agreement states that a permanent final deal will "involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters" and "will have a specified long term duration to be agreed upon" for nuclear monitoring.
Moreover, in his UN speech the American president stated that the US insisted that "the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions," but in reality all the UN resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agency directives called for the complete halt of the uranium enrichment and unconditional compliance with nuclear inspections, not for freezing it or slowing it down.
Strategic realignment in Middle East
In September, Obama announced in his UN speech that he had directed John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic solution with the Iranian government because of the results of the Iranian election in May of this year that elected "moderate" President Rohani. But in reality, Obama started the negotiations while Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust and was committed to "wiping Israel off the map," was still the president. Absurdly, Khamenei, who has called Israel a "cancerous tumor which must be uprooted from the region," has been the ultimate and only authority in Iran controlling both presidents.
Obama further told us that Israel and the US agree on the same goal concerning Iran, but in reality the US decided on a different strategic goal than Israel and its Persian Gulf allies. The Geneva deal makes it clear what policy Obama has long been pursuing in the Middle East since his 2008 election. Obama is seeking not the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program but a strategic realignment in the Middle East with the goal of upgrading Iran as a US ally while downgrading Israel and Saudi Arabia. It seems every move Obama has made in the last few months has been calculated to keep the Iranians at the negotiating table. He made the decision not to attack Assad for murdering his own people with chemical weapons, not because of the anti-war sentiments of Congress and the American public, as he claimed, but because he feared that targeting an Iranian proxy might anger his negotiating partner.
Furthermore, he never intended to attack Assad but needed to play the game to save face internationally after setting his own red line. For the last two years, he has exaggerated the power of al-Qaeda elements in Syria rebel units in order to renege on his promise to his traditional Sunni allies like Saudi Arabia to assist the rebels with weapons in an effort to placate Iran by not helping to topple Assad. But much worse, after every military strike on convoys carrying strategic weapons from Syria to Hezbollah, Obama has leaked to the press that Israel was responsible for it. Again, Obama decided to leak the information to show Iran that he can betray Israel’s confidences with total disregard to the fact that such information might have compelled Assad and Hezbollah to retaliate.Despite the fact that the day before the negotiations resumed in Geneva Khamenei called Israel a "rabid dog" that must be "annihilated," the Obama administration refused to condemn Khamenei and rushed on to conclude the deal. Now, at last, we can understand why Obama, as the newly elected leader of the free world, ignored the crying pleas for American support from millions of Iranian protesters during the 2009 mass demonstrations following the country’s stolen presidential election. It seems that normalizing relations with radical Muslim Iran has long been a top foreign policy goal for Obama, even if Israel and its other Sunni allies will have to be sacrificed in the process.
*Shoula Romano Horing is an attorney. Her blog:

US switches military aid from rebels in the north to new pro-US security zone against Al Qaeda

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 11, 2013/The US and UK announced Wednesday the suspension of non-lethal military aid to the Syrian opposition in the northern part of the country after Free Syrian Army bases near the Turkish border were seized by a new Islamist front. debkafile reports that that was only part of the rationale for pulling the last rug from under the feet of the moderate Syrian rebel wing holding the border with Turkey. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report exclusively that Washington decided to switch its military support, such as it is, from the North to a pro-American security sector which is being carved out in the South by the US and Britain. The aid will be transferred to the Syrian rebels they trained in Jordan to man the sector, under the supervision of two US war rooms established in the northern Jordanian town of Irbid. The two war rooms fall under the head of the US Special Operations Command, Adm. William Harry “Bill” McRaven, who is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. An American general, whose identity is kept secret, is posted on the spot. His job, supported by a team of US officers, is to operate the two war rooms and assign their tasks to the 11,000 American special forces and air force troops personnel posted in the Hashemite Kingdom. Their primary mission, as laid down by the White House in Washington in a directive to the Pentagon, is to run the rebel units charged with taking control of the security zone, which runs south of Damascus, west to the Syrian border with Lebanon, southwest to its border with Israel including the Syrian Golan, south to its border with Jordan and east to its border with Iraq. This wedge of land covers about one-tenth of Syrian territory. Washington has designed this zone to distance Al Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham) from Syria’s borderlands with Jordan, Israel and Lebanon – and prevent them coming close to Damascus. By this security enclave, the US also contributes to shoring up Syrian central government in the capital, including that of Bashar Assad, against Al Qaeda encroachments from the east.

Audeh on Tueni Assassination Anniversary: Lebanese Haven't Learned that Division Will Lead to Destruction
Naharnet/Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh lamented on Thursday the divisions among the Lebanese people, saying that politics has corrupted them and Lebanese society.
He said: “The Lebanese people have not learned that their divisions will only lead to the destruction of all sides.”He made his remarks during a mass commemorating the eighth anniversary of the assassination of MP Gebran Tueni held at St. Georges Church in downtown Beirut. “We miss your honest stances that had Lebanon at heart,” he said. “You resisted oppression and spite and rebelled so that you became a role model for youths who dream of justice and freedom away from sectarianism,” he stated. “You dreamed of a great Lebanon whose sons would not be divided by petty politics,” he continued. Divisions have however taken hold of the people and “we are witnessing a decline in society,” added Audeh. “The political disputes have even been transferred to universities, which should remain places of earning an eduction and not a place for political divisions,” he stressed.
“The people's right to freedom of expression and a dignified living has been transformed into empty statements in a country whose sons are languishing under threats of takfiris and death,” he continued.
Tueni, the former editor and publisher of An Nahar newspaper, was assassinated in a car bomb blast in Mkalles on December 12, 2005. He was among a series of anti-Syrian officials who were assassinated or escaped murder in the aftermath of the February 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.


Snowstorm Brings New Misery for Syria Refugees
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/
Syrian refugee Faisal looks down at the muddy floor of his tent in a field in eastern Lebanon as it is battered by a snowstorm. "I'd rather die a million times than live through this humiliation," the 48-year-old says bitterly.
"Nobody else has had to go through what's happening to us. Every country is plotting against us, they're all traitors," Faisal rages, his head wrapped in a scarf. In the Saadnayel area, as elsewhere in Lebanon where informal tented camps have sprouted to house families fleeing the carnage in neighboring Syria, Syrians who have survived the war are now battling the forces of nature. The father of four from Idlib in northwestern Syria felt he was speaking for most of his compatriots who feel they have been abandoned by the international community. More than 835,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, although the real number is thought to total more than one million. Thousands get by in makeshift camps, in shelters made of little more than plastic sheeting nailed to wooden frames -- a flimsy barrier against fierce winter weather. Others live in unfinished buildings with only slightly more protection from the elements in cities including the capital Beirut. More than 500 refugees live in Faisal's camp, and few have more than rudimentary heating to fend off the chill of the storm dubbed "Alexa" that is battering Lebanon. "I hate the cold," says Sakr, 13, swathed in a hooded coat. "When it snows, the meltwater becomes mud inside the tents, which collapse on our heads because of the weight of snow." Other children, some with no hats at all, sneeze and rub frozen hands together, their shoes caked in mud. "Give us something to keep us warm," they ask a group of journalists. Farther along, a man hammers in a nail so he can hang a picture at the entrance to his tent. Inside, men and women cradle babies in their arms, trying to transfer some of their own body heat. A man on crutches, his feet bare, stares silently at the mud on the ground. Some refugees have resorted to drastic measures in an attempt to counter the effects of the biting wind. "We have to burn shoes to keep the heater going because there's no other fuel," says 40-year-old Najla. This releases an acrid stink that fills the tents that are now "home" to at least six people each. At Arsal, also in eastern Lebanon and some eight kilometers from the border with Syria, the tents were draped in snow Wednesday as the temperature hovered just above freezing.
At night, however, in the area known for supporting the armed opposition battling President Bashar Assad's forces, the temperature drops to four below. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Lebanese army have been handing out thermal blankets and money for heating fuel. But despite such efforts, there are major concerns about the fate of refugees living in more than 200 makeshift camps in northern and eastern Lebanon.
"We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard," said UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled.
The UNHCR has prepared stockpiles of items including plastic sheeting, floor mats, blankets and mattresses to help refugees whose shelters might be flooded or destroyed by the storm.
"The Syrian refugees here are shivering with cold, especially the ones in tents," Wafiq Khalaf, a member of Arsal's municipal council, told Agence France Presse by phone.
"Water has come into the tents from the roofs, and from the ground where there is flooding," he said. But despite the misery wrought by the winter storm, Khalaf said the refugees keep on coming, among them 10 families fleeing the Syrian town of Yabrud in the Qalamoun region north of Damascus. Yabrud is the last rebel-held stronghold in the strategic area near the border, and is being pounded by government forces.
In the past few months, more than 20,000 new refugees have arrived in the Arsal region alone, overwhelming the small town. Source/Agence France Presse.


Miqati Rules Out Dispute with Suleiman over Attempt to Revive Caretaker Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati stressed on Thursday that there is no dispute with President Michel Suleiman over the possibility of reviving the caretaker cabinet. Sources close to the caretaker premier called on the foes not to depend on reports saying that there is a dispute between the two officials. The sources said that Miqati's attempt to revive the work of his cabinet comes in light of the pressing files that require the government's approval in order to facilitate people's interest. Asked about Suleiman's disinterest in reviving the work of the caretaker cabinet, the sources said that the president argues that the matter will have a negative impact on the endeavors exerted by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a new government. Salam has so far failed to form a new cabinet due to conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival parties. Ministerial sources told al-Liwaa newspaper that the caretaker cabinet won't be able to hold a meeting as long as there is no consensus among foes over the matter. The sources said that Miqati and Suleiman will discuss the matter after the caretaker PM returns to Lebanon from South Africa, where he attended the memorial service of Nelson Mandela. As Safir newspaper reported on Wednesday that Miqati discussed reviving the work of the caretaker cabinet with head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's representative Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour and Speaker Nabih Berri's adviser, MP Ali Hasan Khalil. Hizbullah and AMAL movement support the move, however, the Free Patriotic Movement says that a cabinet session should be held only to discuss “urgent matters.”For his part, Suleiman is calling for the formation of a new cabinet to oversee the election of next President. His tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate.


Rivals Meet in Bkirki to 'Adjust Christian Beat' Ahead of Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/The representatives of rival Christians parties have met at the seat of the Maronite church in Bkirki to coordinate on several local issues, mainly the presidential polls. The meeting that was held on Wednesday brought together Free Patriotic Movement Minister Salim Jreissati, Phalange party MP Sejaan Azzi, Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc MP Elie Kayrouz, ex-Minister Youssef Saadeh from the Marada movement, and al-Rahi's representative Bishop Samir Mazloum and ex-Minister Roger Deeb.  The rivals discussed important political issues, in addition to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's efforts to “adjust the Christian beat,” As Safir daily quoted one of the participants as saying. Al-Joumhouria also quoted sources as saying that the meeting was “positive.” The conferees agreed on several issues, they said. They added that the discussions focused on the representation of Christians in state institutions, the electoral draft-law, the sale of lands owned by Christians in several regions and the presidential polls. Reports have lately emerged that al-Rahi, along with other top Christian officials, have been pressuring Christian lawmakers to attend parliamentary sessions for the election of a new president next year to avoid a vacuum. The reports also said that the Vatican has tasked the patriarch with discussing with the rival parties the new initiative that lies in convincing the 64 Christian MPs in the 128-member parliament to guarantee the necessary quorum to elect a new president. President Michel Suleiman's term ends in May next year.


Hariri Discusses Latest Developments with Saniora in Paris
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/A meeting was held between al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri and head of the movement's parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora in the French capital Paris, An Nahar newspaper reported on Thursday. According to the report, Saniora briefed Hariri during the meeting that was held on Wednesday night on the latest consultations with the Lebanese foes in light of the announcement of the start of the trial in the case of Ayyash et al. on Januray 16, 2014. The STL was set up to tackle the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The newspaper said that the meeting also came ahead of a national conference for the March 14 alliance on Sunday in the northern city of Tripoli. The attendees are expected to issue a final statement that rejects to consider Tripoli as a city for a certain sect that excludes all other.
Tripoli is regularly the scene of violence between its Sunni majority and a minority of Alawites -- the religious community from which Syria's President Bashar Assad hails. Violence has usually pitted the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which backs the Syrian uprising, against the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, which is populated by Alawites. Hariri also discussed with MPs Marwan Hamadeh and Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Tuesday the latest developments. The Syrian uprising, which pits a Sunni-dominated rebellion against the Assad government, has inflamed existing sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Qassem Deems as 'Unconstitutional' Proposal to Form Govt. that Lacks Confidence Just to Stage Polls
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/Hizbullah deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem voiced on Thursday his surprise with President Michel Suleiman's suggestion to form a government to stage the presidential elections even if it does not enjoy confidence. He deemed such a proposal as unconstitutional. “Such a government cannot take over duties from a caretaker cabinet and it therefore cannot even stage the presidential election because it does not even exist legally,” he explained. “Such a proposal could lead Lebanon towards division and chaos,” warned Qassem. “Officials are better off forming a national government that enjoys the confidence of parliament and that performs its duties, including holding the presidential elections,” he added. “We hope that this cabinet would be formed as soon as possible,” he stressed. Suleiman had made his suggestion on Monday, while confirming that the presidential elections will be held as scheduled in spring 2014. His 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.


Beirut Examining Magistrate Ghassan Owaidat Questions Ibrahim Bashir's Wife over Embezzlement
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/Beirut Examining Magistrate Ghassan Owaidat on Thursday questioned for the first time the wife of Higher Relief Council chief Ibrahim Bashir in his office at the Justice Palace.
Last month, the judge issued arrest warrants against Bashir and his wife after they were charged with embezzlement of state funds, smuggling and money laundering. But Owaidat was not able to interrogate her for being hospitalized. Two other suspects have also been charged. Local media reports have said they have embezzled around $10 million in public funds by transferring them to accounts abroad. The defendants face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The HRC helps Lebanese citizens and communities hit by natural and man-made disasters. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati told a delegation from the council earlier this month that the HRC will maintain its work despite the embezzlement scandal. Later, The state-run National News Agency reported tht the Financial General Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim ordered the arrest of three former employees at Rafik Hariri University Hospital on embezzlement charges.

Report: Gemayel to Head to Tehran after Concluding Visit to Washington
by Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel, who is currently on a trip to the U.S. capital Washington, is expected to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran, al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Thursday. According to the report, the invitation was delivered to Gemayel by Iran's ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi. The newspaper gave no date for the trip. Gemayel participated in Washington in a workshop organized by German Marshall Fund and Future House, which concluded its work on Wednesday. The workshop was held under the slogan “After The Storm: Democracy And Growth in The New Middle East.”

Abou Faour Voices Concern over Conditions of Syrian Refugees during Winter
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour expressed fear on Wednesday over the “disastrous” conditions of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon amid the winter storm hitting the country. “We are incapable, the ministry is working through international associations to aid the refugees,” Abou Faour said in comments published in al-Akhbar newspaper. He pointed out that the reasons behind the state's paralysis is due to the “absence of any unified political decision to establish formal camps for the refugees.” Abou Faour warned that the “frosting will take the lives of people and the state can do nothing about it.”“All we can do is lessen the catastrophe and not confront it,” the caretaker Minister added. He said that the ministry kicked off a campaign in coordination with NGOs to provide the refugees with cloths, winter supplies and heaters,” Abou Faour said. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled said there were concerns for thousands of people living in more than 200 informal camps in central and north Lebanon.
"We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard," she said. Despite the conditions, refugees were continuing to arrive, including a group of 10 families fleeing the Syrian town of Yabrud in the Qalamoun region north of Damascus.More than 835,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, although the real number is thought to total more than one million. Thousands live in makeshift camps, in shelters made of little more than plastic sheeting nailed to wooden frames. Others are living in unfinished buildings with only slightly more protection from the elements in cities including Beirut.

MP Qabbani Says Central Inspection Board Probe Underway into Aridi-Safadi Case
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 December 2013/ The head of the parliamentary public works committee said that the Central Inspection Board has launched an investigation into the engineering aspect of alleged construction violations that emerged after a spat between two cabinet ministers. MP Mohammed Qabbani told An Nahar daily in remarks published on Thursday that the head of the Board, George Awad, confirmed to him during a telephone conversations about the probe into the accusations and counter accusations made by caretaker Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi and caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi. The investigation would be in parallel with another probe launched by Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim into the financial irregularities. An Nahar said Wednesday that Ibrahim is expected to summon Aridi and Safadi to question them over the allegations of corruption. Ibrahim has already asked the authorities to provide him with the text of a news conference made by Aridi and several TV interviews of Safadi. The investigation launched by the financial prosecutor could lead to the questioning of several officials in both ministries, An Nahar said. The finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it was coordinating with the financial prosecutor. It did not confirm the report that Safadi would be summoned by Ibrahim. Aridi accused Safadi during a press conference on Monday of withholding funds from his ministry for road maintenance in an effort to pressure him into approving a construction violation by the finance minister. But Safadi swiftly denied the allegations in remarks to several local TV stations. He accused Aridi of launching a political campaign against him. Qabbani said in his remarks to An Nahar that he hoped Awad would speed up his investigation to brief the committee about its results.

LF MP Fadi Karam: LF confrontation with Hezbollah vital for Christians

December 12, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces' confrontation with Hezbollah is essential to restore the role of Christians in the Levant and to correct the mistake of MP Michel Aoun through his alliance with Hezbollah, LF MP Fadi Karam said Thursday. “A confrontation of the Lebanese Forces with Hezbollah is needed to correct the mistake committed by the Free Patriotic Movement and its head in covering up for Hezbollah and its scheme,” said Karam during a press conference held at the Beirut headquarters of the LF. “[Such confrontation] is the only hope [left] in restoring the real historic role of the Christians in bringing back the [power of the] state and its institutions,” he added. Aoun has signed a memo of understanding with Hezbollah in 2006 and the two groups have been allied under the March 8 coalition ever since.
The LF has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of undermining the state, most recently through their recent intervention in the Syrian war despite the Baabda Declaration which stipulates Lebanese neutrality towards the crisis.
Karam also slammed the Christian Gathering of the Levant launched by Aoun last month and said it is a “mere show for the Free Patriotic Movement and some March 8 figures who show hostility toward the Lebanese Forces.”
In November, Aoun launched the Christian Gathering of the Levant in the presence of various religious figures from Jordan, Iraq and Syria and gave the Arab governments the responsibility of protecting Christians in the region against the threat of Salafist movements. Karam said that Christianity stands against tyrants, in reference to Aoun’s defense of Syria’s Assad regime. “Any tyrant in the world is an enemy to Jesus Christ, and those who hold suspicious conferences in the presence of the envoy of the tyrant cannot claim to be defending Christians,” he said in reference to the presence of Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, during the Christian Gathering. Karam also described as “diabolic” Aoun’s defense of the Christians in the Levant, accusing the FPM leader of spreading lies and delusions. He nevertheless stressed that the Muslim-Christian alliance does not weaken the Christian influence in the region. “The Christian presence in Lebanon has always been as strong as it has been in its partnership with the Muslim presence,” he said.


Lebanon is no country for young men

December 12, 2013/By Michael Young The Daily Star
Saturday evening, while walking in Sassine Square, I came upon a nauseating scene. Two young men had gotten out of their car and were furiously punching the Syrian driver of a delivery vehicle, over what appeared to be a traffic dispute.
The Syrian protested that he had said nothing, which only brought on more blows. Eventually some bystanders broke up the altercation, and the two thugs got into their car and left. But what was most disturbing was the ease with which the men assaulted someone in the middle of Beirut, with no apparent fear that they would be arrested for their actions.
Similarly, I recently met a young foreigner whose ankle was broken after he was hit by a car. The driver sped off, leaving his victim lying in the street. At such moments, and many more in Lebanese daily life, you cannot help but ask: What has gotten into the Lebanese?
Traffic casts the brightest and most disquieting light on our national pathologies. The latent violence and aggression of many drivers, their rudeness, selfishness and utter indifference to the consequences of their foolish risk-taking, are but three of the familiar characteristics of what is a daily descent into Lebanon’s heart of darkness.
Unfortunately, there is much more. Everywhere, it seems, the Lebanese are swindled, and feel it. Restaurants charge European-standard prices, but the vast majority serve mediocre food. Many contractors will demand the highest fees for their work, but take no pride in it. They will bring in cheap laborers to save money, so that one must pay nearly double to repair the myriad errors.
Every day, it seems, Lebanon has become a vast con game, an unprincipled country where violence is given free rein, where charlatanism is rewarded, where incompetence is generalized and where legalized theft is widespread – a country which it is easy to leave and from which the young understandably seek escape.
Such a broad accusation may invite protests. Lebanon also has its advantages – its beautiful mountains, its joie de vivre, a people that can often behave insufferably, yes, but have talent and initiative. Perhaps, but talent and initiative are cruelly lacking these days, as the country finds itself mired in crisis after crisis, without hope, without much of a functioning state and with a deteriorating economy.
But blaming the state, as many do, is also a way the Lebanese have of denying their own responsibility for the decline in the country. The Lebanese never tire of complaining of the “political class,” but will faithfully elect the same leaders time and again. They will lament the absence of law and principles in their society, but then routinely behave outside the law, without principles. The worst thing is that there is some truth in their defense that Lebanon is not a place where one gets much done by scrupulously applying the law.
Paradoxically, in this explanation lies a clue to a long-term Lebanese advantage: the flexibility of its society. In Lebanon, as in much of the Mediterranean, the law isn’t absolute. Mediterranean societies are old and the states frequently weak (though not everywhere), so that traditional instruments of mediation outside the scope of the state have more importance than they do in countries formed around the core of a strong legal system, buttressed by a respected constitution.
That is one reason why Lebanese society is more resilient to crises, and more resistant in times of conflict, than those in which the breakdown of the state means a breakdown of everything emanating from the state. That’s why the ultimate dystopia in many Western cultures is one in which state authority has collapsed and where people are living in anarchy, relying on their wits to survive.
In Lebanon, with some exaggeration but not too much, aspects of this image seem to exist today. Institutions and services substituting for those the state has failed to provide are so prevalent that emergencies are better absorbed, even as society functions in parallel to the state.
Wide spaces outside the state do not always lead to desirable outcomes. In a place such as Sicily, surprisingly similar to Lebanon in many regards, it led to the strengthening of the Mafia, which infiltrated and came to dominate the state. But in the early 1990s, after the assassination of two prominent magistrates investigating the Mafia, Sicilian society rose up and forced the government in Rome to take stronger action against organized crime. The Mafia wasn’t eliminated, but it was weakened, with many of its leaders arrested.
Though prisoners of their past, with its unbending strictures, the Lebanese also have no difficulty destroying their past. Rare are the cities more hideous than Beirut, with its systematic obliteration of all that is beautiful. Since we mentioned Sicily, to this day Sicilians lament the so-called “Sack of Palermo” in the decades following World War II. During that period, the city’s historic center was allowed to deteriorate and was demolished, to be replaced by lucrative modern apartment blocks. The Mafia benefited from the construction contracts, which it won thanks to a corrupt Palermo city government.
The “Sack of Beirut” is well advanced, as entire neighborhoods have been razed to make room for monstrous buildings in which very few people can afford to live. Beirut’s history and architecture are being annihilated without any legal restriction, even as its most basic and essential laws – those governing everyday relations between citizens – are ignored. What kind of country so willingly erases its past in favor of a present that is both lawless and repugnant?
The solution will require conditions that are so difficult to achieve that any revival may be doomed from the start. Certainly, it will also require a revolution in the mindset of the Lebanese themselves. That means working to improve the next generation, in that short interregnum before the young race to an airplane and depart from the country.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Special Tribunal For Lebanon: Respecting justice
December 12, 2013/The Daily Star
So, the date has finally been set for the trial of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s alleged assassins, but until Jan. 16, it seems, those opposed to the court will do all they can to try and undermine it.
The latest effort was a report from Al-Jadeed television Tuesday evening, which featured an interview with a former investigator in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon who alleged that Wissam al-Hasan was conspicuously absent from Hariri’s convoy that Feb. 14 eight years ago and that he had chosen the specific route of the cars that day. That same Wissam al-Hasan was himself assassinated last year, for evidence that he had helped unearth, related to the original crime. Since the court’s first days of existence, Hezbollah has tried everything within its power to criticize the STL, its staff, its workings and its motives. Not only has this stance not worked, as witnessed by the fact the trial date inches closer and closer, but it does a disservice to Lebanon and gives an image that this country is unable to respect or work with international law and justice.
Previous international courts of justice, in Rwanda or Yugoslavia, were similarly complex and exhaustive procedures, but unlike the STL, they were allowed to operate without bombastic and ludicrous accusations of injustice from their opponents. The accusations by Hezbollah against the tribunal might stand were it a local Lebanese court. Corruption would undoubtedly exist at some level, as would nepotism and backhand deals. But this is an international court, into which hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested. It is not only a method by which the culprits of the assassination will be found, but as with all international courts of justice, it is a standard by which all justice can be measured. It serves as a warning to terrorists and criminals around the world and a reassurance to those who have been victims of such acts of violence and injustice.
If Hezbollah genuinely thinks that such a court is susceptible to being bribed and swayed then it is fooling itself. Ever since four of its members were indicted in the assassination, it has vowed that they will never be handed over. But being indicted is not a guilty verdict. Why can’t they come forward to be tried? No one has said they are guilty. The STL has trained an entire defense team, which is prepared should the four come forward. The court does not wish to come across as biased before the trial has begun, it wishes to see justice served. Ultimately, all of Hezbollah’s criticism of the trial and the court is completely counterproductive. It does nothing but tarnish its own image and, indirectly, that of Lebanon, internationally. It also does nothing to further its own story that it is innocent in the crime. Jan. 16 is coming, and there is nothing Hezbollah or anyone else can do to stop it.

Fire opened at Israeli force on Lebanon border
Yoav Zitun Published: 12.12.13/ Ynetnews/Shots fired at troops patrolling border near Metulah. No injuries or damage were reported. IDF estimates teen-hunters from other side of border misfired weapons . An IDF force patrolling the Lebanese border came under fire on Thursday. No injuries or damage were reported. It is estimated fire was opened by teen-hunters on the other side of the border. The troops fired back two bullets to the source of the fire. The IDF has been on heightened alert since a side bomb detonated near an Israeli patrol on the Syrian border last Friday. No injuries were reported, but damage was caused to a military vehicle. Friday's incident occurred between Majdal Shams and IDF Outpost 105, where the army operates a field hospital for wounded Syrians. In the area between the town and the hospital, the army has recently been conducting massive fortification work on a new, revamped border fence between Israel and war torn Syria. As a result of the conflict, the IDF has been conducting weekly mind sweeps with the help of massive D9 bulldozers. Several hours after Monday's mortar, an additional escalation was registered after shots were fired towards an IDF patrol force in the vicinity of Quneitra, close to the Syrian border. No injuries or damage were reported in this event either, but the force responded with fire towards the source.

An Unregulated Security Threat
Andrew J. Tabler /Washington Institute
The Syrian refugee crisis may force Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Iran to reevaluate their approach to Bashar al-Assad's war.
As more and more Syrians flee to neighboring Lebanon, the situation there is a growing national security concern not only for Lebanon, but the entire region. While Hezbollah and Iran are supporting the Assad regime in Syria, their increased vulnerability in Lebanon should give them pause, as the recent bombing of the Iranian embassy and the assassination of Hezbollah operative Hassan al-Laqis show. Instead of continuing their carte blanche support for Assad, the Party of God and Iran have increased reason to constrain him, not only through the international effort to destroy Syria's chemical weapons, but also via a future political settlement in which the Assad family cabal "steps aside" in favor of a viable transitional government that can truly end the conflict.
According to official figures, Lebanon has absorbed around 800,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict. The Lebanese government estimates that the true number is closer to 1.2 million, as many Syrians entering Lebanon stay with family and in informal housing. That accounts for roughly a quarter of Lebanon's 4.4 million population.
In a confessional system like Lebanon, the arrival of refugees with little prospect of returning home anytime soon creates significant political problems. The UNHCR estimates that 96% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are Sunni Muslim, much like their Palestinian counterparts from 1948 and 1967. Around half are in poorer areas of the country such as north Lebanon and the Beqaa Valley, where Sunni-Shia tensions remain high; the rest are scattered throughout Mount Lebanon and the south, the demographic base of the country's Shia population.
Given the role of Palestinian refugees in setting off the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and the continued status of Palestinian camps in Lebanon as legal and military twilight zones where the Lebanese authorities are not permitted to enter, it's not surprising that requests to establish formal Syrian refugee camps are being resisted by Lebanese and their leaders. Instead, Syrians are living with a variety of hosts, renting apartments, or squatting in the country's plethora of half-constructed buildings, shelters, or the informal tent camps growing throughout the country. And because an estimated one third of Syrian housing has been destroyed, which by some estimates would take up to a decade to rebuild, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are a long-term problem that all Lebanese actors will need to manage.
And just to make matters worse, a recent report by the World Bank on the economic impact of the Syria crisis on Lebanon shows that overall economic growth in Lebanon has been so constrained as a result of dealing with the crisis that providing jobs for Lebanese, let alone Syrians, will make keeping up with the crisis that much more difficult.
With no end in sight to the Syria conflict and diplomacy just getting started, the security threats arising from these camps are growing by the day. There is a mounting danger of disease spreading into Lebanon and beyond, as the emergence of polio in eastern Syria reveals. And while this can be contained through a concerted humanitarian response, refugee camps are also breeding ground for terrorist recruitment, and can serve as a planning base for terrorists to launch internal attacks against Lebanese civilians.
Lebanese politicians are increasingly upfront with the threat. On the sidelines of the recent UN General Assembly meeting, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said that Lebanon is facing a "crisis of survival" due to the influx of Syrian refugees, saying that "social tension will increase with the fierce competition for jobs and services." Lebanon's Interior Minister Marwan Charbel recently asserted that many refugees are in fact rebel fighters and therefore are a threat to Lebanon's security. Hezbollah MP Walid Sukariya also remarked that refugees are carrying out "killing operations" targeting factions in Lebanon that support the Assad regime, while some are in the country to carry out "acts of sabotage." Lebanese MP Sleiman Frangieh, another figure historically close to Syria, said that up to 50,000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon carrying arms.
The Lebanese authorities reportedly are reacting to terrorist recruitment as well. Recently a Lebanese magistrate issued an arrest warrant for a defected Syrian Army colonel who entered Lebanon as a refugee, Ahmed Amer, accusing him of forming an armed gang to carry out terrorist activities in Lebanon. Earlier, another Lebanese judge charged 12 individuals, including a Lebanese and two Syrians in state custody, for plotting terrorist acts and assassinations in Lebanon. Even in Europe, where money is collected to help Syrian refugees, monitoring agencies are increasingly worried about contributions making it into the hands of extremists and their recruiters.
Both Hezbollah and their brethren in the IRGC Quds Force are active on the ground in Syria, making those forces vulnerable to the regime's continued attempt to shoot the opposition into submission, and even possible chemical or Scud missile use in the future. It is also clear from Assad's recent posturing on the upcoming presidential "election" in late spring that the Syrian president has no intention of stepping aside or implementing anything other than a fake attempt at a settlement. Assad has only been able to reassert his control through the intervention of Hezbollah and Iranian proxies, combined with his use of chemical weapons, other strategic weapons such as Scuds, and continued use of artillery and aircraft. Unlike the last Syrian uprising in 1979-1982, there has been a considerable demographic shift in favor of the majority Sunni population in Syria, meaning while Assad is "holding on," his ability to shoot his way out of the current crisis without a viable political solution is unlikely to work.
The best way forward for Hezbollah and Iran in the long run is to support a genuine political solution that leads to a transitional government in Syria that reflects the wishes and aspirations of Syrians throughout the country. Immediate progress seems unlikely, as both the opposition and the regime see the battle as a zero-sum game where they believe they can achieve absolute military victory. This view is already running into the rocks of reality: the Syrian opposition is not going to return to the pre-uprising status quo where they accept Assad's rule, and their sponsors in the Gulf and beyond are not about to stop supporting them anytime soon -- before or after any "deal" on Tehran's nuclear program. In fact, proxy conflicts often increase after adversaries reach either nuclear capability or deals to contain them, as a return to conventional wars is a safer way to pursue their interests. At the same time, the regime's forces, even with Hezbollah, cannot retake all Syrian territory and hold it without substantial forces they do not have. Facing these grim realities now can help avert more bloodshed in Syria and in Lebanon in the long term.
**Andrew J. Tabler is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute and author of In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria.