LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Warning
James 04/13-17: "Now listen to me, you that say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money.” You don't even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears. What you should say is this: “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” But now you are proud, and you boast; all such boasting is wrong. So then, if we do not do the good we know we should do, we are guilty of sin.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 19/13
DEBKAfile/US and EU in desperate bid to save sinking nuclear accord with Iran/December 19/13
Golden opportunity/The Daily Star/December 19/13
The Fractious Politics of Syria's Kurds/By: Barak Barfi/Washington Institute/ December 19/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 19/13
Lebanese Related News
Egypt: Morsi to face trial for cooperating with Hamas, Hezbollah
Hezbollah: Israel responsible for car blast
Berri: Attacks on Army Threaten to Drown Country in Chaos, Turn it Into 'Jihad Arena'
Charbel, Qortbawi Inspect Roumieh Jail: Weekly Searches Will Be Held at Facility
Multinational Effort Takes Shape to Remove Syria Chemical Arms
Gemayel Considers Local Situation 'Disastrous', Says 'Not Obsessed' with Presidency
U.S. Blacklists Usamah al-Shihabi as Global Terrorist
World Tribune: Israel Preparing for Short, Decisive War against Hizbullah
March 14 Calls for New Cabinet to Stop Spread of 'Chaos' after Army Attacks
Arrest Warrant against Lebanese for Collaborating with Israel
Legislative Session Postponed Again over Lack of Quorum
Asiri Warns of Security 'Deterioration' in Lebanon, Rules Out Threats against Embassy
March 14 Officials Discuss Security Situation, Presidential Elections
2 Syrian Children Dead in Zahle Roof Collapse
Charbel Voices Concern over Security Chaos, Expects Tough Times Ahead
Al-Mustaqbal Condemns Sidon's 'Criminal' Attack on Army, Urges Probe in the Incident
Suleiman Contacts Hollande, Urges Lebanese Diligence to Combat Terrorism
Families of Lebanese Expats in South Sudan Urge Mansour to 'Save' Their Relatives, FM Says None Harmed
Future vows to end Iran’s control in Lebanon
Attacks on Sleiman seek to undermine principles
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Iran says nuclear talks with world powers to resume Thursday
Senior Saudi diplomat slams Iran nuclear deal, says Kingdom may be forced to act alone
3 Iranian Revolutionary Guard members killed by roadside bomb
Riyadh ready to act 'with or without' West: ambassador
U.S. Blacklists Algerian Qaida Breakaway Faction
Syria Barrel Bomb Raids on Aleppo Kill 135
Report: Dozens of Gazans fighting with jihadi groups in Syria
Syrian planes pound Aleppo for fourth straight day
U.S. Ambassador Says Syria's Islamic Front Rejects Talks
EU Hands 147M Euros More to U.N. Agencies to Help Syrians
UK Doctor Who Died in Syria Held for 'Unauthorized Activities'
U.N. Says S. Sudan Violence Spreading, 19 Dead in High-Risk Town
Canada Condemns Latest Outburst About Israel From UN Representative
Egypt's Morsi to Stand Trial for 'Espionage', Ties to Hamas
Morsi sent to trial for conspiring with Hamas, Hezbollah
S. Sudan president ready to talk as clashes spread
President Amin Gemayel Considers Local
Situation 'Disastrous', Says 'Not Obsessed' with Presidency
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel described on Wednesday the situation in Lebanon as a “tragedy,” pointing out that he isn't “obsessed with the presidency.”
“Lebanon fell into a coma. There are no initiatives and no dialogue among the foes,” Gemayel said in an interview with An Nahar newspaper. He stressed that he haven't decided yet if he is going to run in the upcoming presidential elections, saying: “I haven't taken any move in this regard... If the suitable conditions were available then I'll take my decision.” Gemayel noted that he is seeking the formation of a “capable government and a president who would stay true to his constitutional oath and has enough courage to achieve it.” Recent reports have said that President Michel Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam were seeking to form a de facto government. Salam was appointed in April but has so far been unable to put together a government over the conditions and counter conditions set by the rivals parties. Asked about demands to elect a “strong” Christian President, the Phalange leader said that “Lebanon is slipping over a cliff as the political foes are undermining the national unity.” Last week, the Free Patriotic Movement demanded the election of a strong Christian president.
Gemayel considered in comments to An Nahar that “some people are dreaming about the presidency.”“Any consensus on a Presidential candidate is the result of a certain international, regional and local agreement,” the Christian leader said. Suleiman's six-year term ends in May 2014 but there are fears that differences between the rival March 8 and 14 alliances would lead to a further clash among the MPs and prevent them from heading to parliament to elect a new president. The constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate
Legislative Session Postponed Again
over Lack of Quorum
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri postponed a controversial parliamentary session for the 8th time to January 28 over lack of quorum. The session had 45 items on the agenda. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and March 14 alliance lawmakers have been boycotting the legislative sessions over claims that the parliament cannot convene under a resigned government. Miqati resigned in March and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was appointed in April. But he has so far failed to form the new cabinet. The Change and Reform bloc of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is also boycotting the sessions that Berri has called for over the speaker's failure to include in the agenda draft-laws proposed by the bloc. March 14 MP Robert Ghanem, who was among several other lawmakers who attended the session before Berri's announcement, rejected claims that there was a vacuum in state institutions. “As long as the president hasn't signed the resignation decree, the government has full executive authorities,” he said. “It should continue to manage the country's affairs and convene when necessary,” Ghanem added.
Multinational Effort Takes Shape to Remove Syria Chemical Arms
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Russian armored trucks will help take Syria's chemical weapons out of the country, tracked by U.S. satellite equipment and Chinese surveillance cameras, in an unprecedented international operation, the world's chemical watchdog said. The details are part of an ambitious plan unveiled by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at a meeting of its Executive Council published Wednesday despite delays to the overall operation which aims to be completed by mid-2014. Several nations have already announced their offers of help, including the U.S., which is to destroy "hundreds of tonnes" of Category One chemicals -- including mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve gas -- aboard a specially-equipped ship in international waters. A Danish and a Norwegian frigate are waiting in Cyprus to escort Nordic cargo ships to collect the chemicals from Syria's main port Latakia, but the hazardous materials are still at 12 sites around Syria. The Nordic vessels will take the chemicals to an Italian port, where they will be loaded onto the U.S. ship for destruction, before returning to Latakia to pick up the remaining chemicals to be destroyed at commercial facilities outside of Syria. The OPCW had set itself a December 31 deadline for the most dangerous chemicals to be taken out of Syria, via Latakia, but that date is likely to be pushed back. Syria's most dangerous chemicals must be destroyed by March 31. "Schedules have been disrupted by a combination of security concerns, clearance procedures in international transit and even inclement weather conditions," OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu said in his speech made at an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday. Fighting in the Qalamoun mountains on the road between Damascus and Homs "pose risks to the timely execution of the operation," he warned. Finland is providing chemical weapons emergency-response capabilities for the operation, Uzumcu said. Russia will also provide sailors and naval vessels to secure cargo operations at Latakia and within Syrian territorial waters. The U.S. is also supplying 3,000 containers for transporting the over 1,000 tonnes of lethal chemicals and precursors, as well as loading, transportation and decontamination equipment, Uzumcu said. Besides the surveillance cameras, required to monitor the transportation operation that is being carried out by the Syrian regime, China is also supplying 10 ambulances. Uzumcu said that a trust fund set up for Syria's ambitious disarmament programme currently has 9.8 million euros ($13.5 million), while Japan has pledged a further $15 million. The hectic pace of the UN-backed bid to rid Syria of its entire chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014 has slowed recently, but the meeting decided not to change any deadlines yet despite security and technical issues in the war-ravaged country. Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has said that OPCW officials will only brief Italian MPs on the "transloading" plan at an unnamed Italian port early in the New Year.
The OPCW has received expressions of interest from 42 companies around the world for destroying some of Syria's less-toxic chemicals, but also the effluent left over from destruction aboard the U.S. ship.
The tendering process for their destruction will begin on Thursday, the OPCW said. A U.S.-Russia deal for Syria to surrender its chemical arsenal narrowly averted U.S. airstrikes on the regime of President Bashar Assad, after Washington said 1,400 people were gassed in the rebel-held Ghouta area near Damascus in August. Source/Agence France Presse.
Charbel, Qortbawi Inspect Roumieh
Jail: Weekly Searches Will Be Held at Facility
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi toured Roumieh Prison on Wednesday in order to inspect the facility and listen to inmates' needs, announcing that efforts will be made to improve conditions at the facility. Charbel announced during a press conference after the tour: “A search of the facility will be held on a weekly basis.” “All prohibited material will be confiscated and we will eliminate the violations at the jail,” he said. “All inmates are under the law and no one is above it,” he stressed. “The prison is not a place of punishment, but a place to reform inmates,” Charbel continued.
For his part, Qortbawi stated that efforts will be made to speed up the trial of inmates, saying that judges are doing their utmost to meet the demand, “but they are only human and there is only so much they can do.”
“The overcrowding at the jail is due to the crime rates in Lebanon that are mounting,” he explained. Moreover, he stressed that any official will be held accountable for the violations and corruption at Roumieh Prison.
He also revealed that four new projects to construct prisons have been approved. Roumieh, the oldest and largest of Lebanon's overcrowded prisons, has witnessed sporadic prison breaks in recent years and escalating riots over the past months as inmates living in poor conditions demand better treatment.
Berri: Attacks on Army Threaten to
Drown Country in Chaos, Turn it Into 'Jihad Arena'
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Lawmakers on Wednesday quoted Speaker Nabih Berri as saying that recent attacks on the army “threaten to drown the country in chaos.” “Targeting the army for being the unifying institution is the pinnacle of attacks on state institutions and it is a very dangerous development that jeopardizes stability and threatens to drown the country in chaos,” Berri was quoted as saying during his weekly meeting with MPs. The speaker warned of “the menace of terrorist groups that are seeking to turn Lebanon into a jihad arena,” wondering “how can the Lebanese not close ranks and show solidarity to confront what is threatening their stability and unity.” Berri cautioned against “the continuation of this grave security situation,” noting that “when the country is in danger, we must not remain silent over what's happening and we must say things as they are.” In the afternoon, the parliament speaker met with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale and discussed with him the latest developments, in the presence of his media adviser Ali Hamdan. In earlier remarks, Berri painted a gloomy picture of the security situation in Lebanon, also saying the political deadlock had no solution looming in the horizon. In interviews with several local dailies published on Wednesday, Berri expressed fears over the security conditions after several attacks on the Lebanese army. Berri described the situation as “not encouraging and not comforting.” “Those working on spreading chaos in Lebanon are now targeting the military because it is making huge sacrifices to prevent such a chaos” from taking place, he said. They seek to destroy the military institution, which is Lebanon’s only united front, he said. There were near-simultaneous attacks on the army in the southern city of Sidon on Sunday night. The army identified on Monday the assailants of one of the attacks but said two suspects have escaped. Army Sergeant Samer Rizk was killed and three soldiers were injured in the assaults. Two soldiers were also lightly injured on Tuesday when six rockets fired from the Syrian side of the border landed in the northeastern town of Hermel, one of them inside an army barracks in al-Dawra neighborhood. The speaker also lamented in his remarks to the newspapers that the political situation has also been deadlocked. He blamed the paralysis on the rejection of the rival parties to return to the dialogue table and the failure to form a new government based on the 9-9-6 formula. Berri also criticized the March 14 alliance for rejecting the latest initiative he made to resolve the country's political crisis. His proposal lied in approving the formation of a cabinet in which the March 14 and March 8 camps would get nine ministers each and centrists six, or to return to the dialogue table at Baabda Palace.
March 14 Calls for New Cabinet to Stop
Spread of 'Chaos' after Army Attacks
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/The March 14 general-secretariat said Wednesday that the assailants attacking the Lebanese army are considering the military a target to spread chaos in the country, appealing for the formation of a new cabinet to confront saboteurs. The general-secretariat said in a statement following its weekly meeting that the most dangerous aspect of the latest assaults on the army was the criminals' attempts to “spread chaos and idleness” in Lebanon. “The Lebanese and the international community agree on the protection of the institution for considering it an entity of hope for the sovereignty of the state and the spread of stability,” it said. The conferees condemned the “malicious attempts” to create insecurity, saying they were “eager to protect the army and the state.” On Tuesday, two soldiers were lightly injured when six rockets fired from the Syrian side of the border landed in the northeastern town of Hermel, one of them inside an army barracks. There were also near-simultaneous attacks on the army in the southern city of Sidon on Sunday night, leaving Army Sergeant Samer Rizk dead and three soldiers injured. The assailants of one of the attacks were identified but two suspects have escaped. The March 14 general-secretariat urged President Michel Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam to make a “courageous and patriotic” move by forming a government capable of running the country's affairs. Such a cabinet would prevent the “supporters of chaos” from going ahead with their plans, the statement added.
World Tribune: Israel Preparing for Short, Decisive War against Hizbullah
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Israel is planning to launch a short and decisive war against Hizbullah, reported the World Tribune U.S. news service according to intelligence information. It said that the war would be aimed destroying the party's strategic capabilities. The Israeli army has made huge expenses to gain new capabilities that would enable it to launch the short war. Israel seeks to carry out wide joint land and air operations, backed by intelligence information, to launch a fatal strike against the party that would debilitate for years to come, reported the World Tribune. Israel's airforce is capable of destroying hundreds of Hizbullah targets in a single day Internal differences in Israel however could hinder Israel's plans to wage the war. A Lebanese soldier shot and killed an Israeli soldier in a cross-border shooting on Sunday. The Israeli army said in a statement on Sunday that an Israeli soldier was killed by a “Lebanese army sniper” near the Naqoura border post.
Asiri Warns of Security
'Deterioration' in Lebanon, Rules Out Threats against Embassy
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri said on Wednesday that the security situation in Lebanon is “deteriorating,” denying that the mission received lately any threats. “We haven't received any threats in particular but we are taking all the necessary security measures,” Asiri said in comments published in the Saudi al-Watan daily on the sidelines of the third general meeting of Saudi ambassadors and heads of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's missions abroad. Asiri pointed out that the Saudi embassy in Lebanon has “established security plans that would fit any unexpected development.” Asked about the conditions of Saudi nationals present in Lebanon, the diplomat said that “there aren't several compatriots in Beirut,” considering that the security situation is “deteriorating.” “We have already warned our citizens not to head to Lebanon and we are following up the status of the nationals who are already there,” Asiri said. In November, Saudi Arabia's embassy in Beirut has called on citizens to leave Lebanon because of the dangerous situation. The warning came two days after a twin suicide bombings killed 25 people near the Beirut embassy of Saudi's regional rival Iran, which is located in the stronghold of Tehran ally Hizbullah. Media reports said Lebanon had "entered into the era of suicide bombings," adding that the attackers had "resorted to the takfiri (extremist Sunni) heritage sponsored by the Saudi kingdom with millions of dollars". Saudi Arabia supports the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad. An al-Qaida-affiliated group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it is aimed at pressuring Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
Arrest Warrant against Lebanese for Collaborating with Israel
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/Military Examining Magistrate Imad al-Zain issued on Wednesday an arrest warrant against a Lebanese on charges of attempting to collaborate with Israel. The state-run National News Agency reported that al-Zain questioned a citizen identified by his initials as F. Y. He issued an arrest warrant against him for trying to contact Israel. The suspect could be sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. Lebanese authorities have arrested more than 100 people on suspicion of collaborating with the Israeli spy agency Mossad since April 2009, including high-ranking security and telecommunications officials.
U.S. Blacklists Usamah al-Shihabi as Global Terrorist
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 December 2013/The United States on Wednesday blacklisted Fatah al-Islam top member Usamah al-Shihabi as a “global terrorist.” “The Department of State has designated Fatah al-Islam (FAI) associate Usamah Amin al-Shihabi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism,” it said in a statement. “Al-Shihabi is an associate of FAI, a Lebanese-based militant group formed in 2006, whose ultimate goal is the institution of Islamist sharia law in the Palestinian refugee camps and the destruction of Israel, and at times has played a key leadership role in the organization,” the State Department added. Shihabi is wanted by Lebanese authorities on multiple arrest warrants. He has been described as the “emir of Fatah al-Islam” in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. According to media reports, the extremist militant shuttles between Ain el-Hilweh and Syria. In Its statement, the State Department said “he has also recently been appointed head of Syria-based al-Nusra Front’s Palestinian wing in Lebanon.” Al-Nusra Front was formed by al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) in late 2011 as a proxy for AQI’s activities in Syria. On December 11, 2012, the State Department blacklisted al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization. The consequences of Wednesday's designation include a prohibition against U.S. persons engaging in transactions with al-Shihabi, and “the freezing of all property and interests in property of al-Shihabi that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the possession or control of U.S. persons.” In August 2011, Shihabi was appointed as the “emir” of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, succeeding Abdul Rahman Awad, who was killed in an army ambush in the Bekaa in 2010. The Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon was almost totally destroyed during a months-long conflict between the Lebanese army and the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam in 2007. The fighting killed some 400 people, including 168 soldiers. Some Islamist leaders escaped despite the army siege of the camp.
December 18, 2013/The Daily Star
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that while the United States had not yet met with representatives of the Islamic Front, it would not rule out the possibility. In diplomatic speak, this basically means that the rendezvous is a fait accompli, and this is a development that should be welcomed, as it may signal the best chance yet for the strengthening of the opposition ahead of Geneva II talks in January.
The Islamic Front – a coalition of seven rebel groups – is not extremist and while it has distanced itself from the Free Syrian Army, it should not be confused with the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Its member groups, and their opposition to the government of President Bashar Assad, have long been established in Syria, and its members are national citizens, not foreign mercenaries.
But Washington’s haphazard and clumsy foreign policy vis-à-vis Syria until today has been largely responsible for the current divisions among the opposition. Never able to trust the Americans with their flip-flopping over whether or not to arm the rebels, many opposition groups have been ready to make a pact with the devil, siding with groups with which they may otherwise not find any commonalities, just in the hope of receiving much-needed assistance. Earlier this month, the Islamic Front seized warehouses and headquarters belonging to the FSA near the border with Turkey. The move prompted the U.S. and the U.K. to withdraw all nonlethal aid to the FSA, claiming they didn’t trust the group to secure supply lines. This apparent breakthrough, if the U.S. and the Islamic Front indeed meet, represents a significant development for both Washington-rebel relations and the strength of the opposition movement ahead of Geneva. There is a golden opportunity here for the U.S. to move past its way of hazily dealing with the opposition and to actually help solidify the nonextremist groups.
But in order to gain the trust of the Islamic Front, the U.S. is going to have to commit to more than just supplying goggles and boots to the rebels. The U.S. knows exactly what the opposition needs to defeat Assad, so it should stop pretending that anything else will help. Unless it does this, Washington will be pushing the Islamic Front to side with the extremist groups, for they are able to secure the necessary arms and supplies to win ground from the government. The recent ground successes of these fighters does not equate to their popular support, but merely their rich friends.
The opposition, were it to enter Geneva talks today, would be a sorry state, weak and all over the place. For any potential success of both the January talks and the future of Syria, the opposition needs to come together. If the U.S. is in a position to help in this process and bows out, a grave crime will have been committed.
The Fractious Politics of Syria's Kurds
Barak Barfi/Washington Institute
The dominant power in Syria's Kurdish regions, the PYD, is deeply problematic but shares some common interests with the United States.
On November 12, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish group affiliated with the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), announced the creation of an interim government in areas under its control in northeastern Syria. The plan has the potential to increase rifts within the opposition and exacerbate regional tensions. To minimize them, Washington should help forge a pan-Kurdish coalition that can devote all of its attention to fighting al-Qaeda elements seeking to exploit Syria's civil war.
Concentrated in three noncontiguous areas in the northeast, Syrian Kurds constitute some 10 percent of the country's population and have long faced persecution. Various governments instituted repressive, Arab-centric policies against them, including a special census in 1962 that stripped approximately 20 percent, or 120,000, of them of their citizenship; today, that number has swelled to around 300,000. But these actions were only a prelude to the harshest measures, introduced after the Baath Party came to power. In 1973, President Hafiz al-Assad approved the creation of an Arab Belt along the northern border to separate Syria's Kurds from those in neighboring countries, expelling thousands of them from their villages and repopulating them with Arabs. Today, Kurds are denied entry into certain professions, refused subsidies provided to Arabs, and often forbidden to celebrate Kurdish festivals.Despite their shared oppression and ethnoreligious homogeneity, Syrian Kurds have proved unable to create strong political parties with mass appeal. Currently, they have at least fourteen parties, but most are marginal one-man bands in which the leader makes most of the decisions. The strongest factions have ties to foreign Kurdish leaders such as Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani in Iraq and PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan in Turkey. Arrests and infiltration by regime security services have greatly weakened them, however, and the older generation's choice of accommodation over confrontation has further blunted their impact. Such issues have led many Kurdish activists to avoid the party framework altogether.
These frustrations led to the emergence of three new parties at the beginning of the millennium that took a vocal stance against the regime. The Kurdish Union Party (Yekiti) has sponsored a number of protests since its creation in 1999, and in 2009 it boldly declared that its goal was autonomy -- an unprecedented demand in Kurdish politics. The Kurdish Freedom Party (Azadi) played a key role in mobilizing Kurds during riots that erupted in Qamishli in 2004 and has tried to bridge the gaps between parties. The Kurdish Future Movement often took a bold stance as well, though it lost much of its direction following the 2011 assassination of founder Mishaal al-Tammo.
THE PYD'S MILITANT ROOTS
Since its creation in 2003, the PYD has chosen to remain outside mainstream Kurdish politics, in part because of its roots in the militant PKK. Despite oppressing Kurds at home, the Syrian regime has a long history of cooperation with the PKK. In 1977, Turkey announced the establishment of the Southeastern Anatolia Project to exploit the Euphrates and Tigris basins in a manner that would reduce Syria's water access. Hafiz al-Assad responded by inviting Turkish guerrilla groups to use his country as a base of operations. Ocalan fled to Damascus in 1980, and Assad later allowed the PKK to establish training camps in Lebanon's Beqa Valley under Syrian control.
Such cooperation was not only a means of pressuring Turkey, but also a tool for deflecting Syria's own Kurdish problem. The Assad regime encouraged Syrian Kurds to join the PKK, and an estimated 7,000-10,000 did so, shifting their focus to fighting Turkey rather than working for change in Syria. In the process, Ocalan became the preeminent Kurdish figure in Syria.
By the late 1990s, however, Turkish military threats spurred a process of reconciliation that led to Ocalan's expulsion and the closure of PKK offices in Damascus. In 2003, sensing the fight was over, Syrians in the PKK established a political party, the PYD.
REVOLUTION AND AUTONOMY
When the revolution erupted in 2011, most Kurds were wary of jumping on the bandwagon. With the security crackdown that followed the 2004 riots still fresh in their minds, they feared a similar backlash if they joined the uprising. They were also concerned that the revolution was merely a fig leaf for reestablishing Sunni Arab rule. The pre-revolution opposition had never addressed Kurdish concerns before, and some opposition leaders, such as Haytham al-Maleh, explicitly rejected them. In addition, many viewed Kurdish aspirations with suspicion, believing they centered on establishing an autonomous region similar to the one in Iraq.
For these reasons, the PYD has refused to join the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) or the umbrella organization known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. In turn, the coalition has barred PYD institutions from joining as unified blocs and refused to promise future constitutional recognition of the Kurdish people. Although Kurds have cooperated with FSA units, the Ahfad al-Rasul Brigades, and Ahrar Suriya on a limited basis, they have also clashed with the FSA at times.
Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad has sought to co-opt the PYD in various ways since the revolution began. On April 7, 2011, he issued a decree promising that some of the Kurds stripped of citizenship in 1962 could apply to have it restored. And in July 2012, the regime ceded Qamishli and the surrounding areas to the PYD to better focus on quelling the FSA's major advances. Although the PYD lacked grassroots support at the time, it quickly established a local parliament, an armed militia (the People's Protection Units, or YPG), and an internal security service (Asayesh). The PKK bolstered the latter two organizations by transferring some 1,000 fighters from Iraq to Syria in 2011, with approval from Damascus.
Yet these moves did not signal the beginning of self-rule for the PYD. In fact, the regime still provides most of the area's services and pays civil servants' wages. It also controls about 10 percent of Qamishli, including the airport, the security quarter housing the intelligence services, and several buildings to the south. Regime security services move unfettered around the city and the surrounding Arab villages. In many ways, the PYD is little more than a front for a regime desperate to maintain quiet in the Kurdish regions and willing to cede a modicum of authority to obtain it. Even so, the YPG has sporadically skirmished with regime units for control of checkpoints. Each side knows the modus vivendi is only temporary: Assad will likely turn his attention to subduing the Kurds if he can crush the FSA and other rebel groups, and the PYD is well aware of this looming future fight.
For now, though, the group is focused on beating back jihadists encroaching on Kurdish areas. The YPG has battled al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), in Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, and Aleppo. And last month, an ISIS suicide bomber targeted an Asayesh station in Qamishli. Fears of an al-Qaeda takeover have persuaded many apolitical Kurds to support the PYD despite their unfamiliarity with its ideology.
Meanwhile, the PYD's police powers have allowed it to sidestep the regime's control of municipal affairs, consolidate its grip on Kurdish areas, and settle accounts with political foes. Individual activists and members of other parties have been arrested; some have even been assassinated. To counter this onslaught, the opposition created the Kurdish National Council (KNC) under the stewardship of Masoud Barzani. The KNC and PYD then agreed to form the Supreme Kurdish Authority (SKA) to administer Kurdish areas. Yet the SKA ceased functioning earlier this year after the PYD made unilateral decisions and took control of a border crossing with Iraq.
Unlike the FSA, the PYD backs international efforts to convene a peace conference in Geneva. It also advocates a strong secular ideology that is lacking in other rebel groups. And as described above, it has demonstrated a willingness to take on ISIS even as FSA units cooperate with the al-Qaeda affiliate. For these reasons, the United States should reach out to the PYD. Yet Washington must condition such recognition on the PYD's willingness to work with the KNC to revive the dormant SKA rather than setting up a purely PYD-run government. In doing so, the United States can test the PYD's commitment to pluralistic democracy.
The group must also address Turkish concerns about its ambitions. Ankara has fought a twenty-nine-year battle against the PYD's patron, the PKK, and fears the emergence of a new PKK safe haven on its border with Syria. Thus far, the PKK has not conducted any cross-border raids, and the PYD has gone to great lengths to ensure a calm frontier. Nevertheless, Turkey has sought to stem the PYD's growing influence by propping up the KNC, though to no avail.
Perhaps the right mix of incentives from Washington and Ankara could nudge the PYD toward becoming a reliable ally. In a revolution that has witnessed the proliferation of jihadists, the emergence of secular moderate elements should not be shunned.
**Barak Barfi is a research fellow with the New America Foundation, where he specializes in Arab and Islamic affairs. He recently returned from Syria.
US and EU in desperate bid to save sinking nuclear accord with Iran
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 18, 2013/The European Union and Iran announced Wednesday that the talks on the technical aspects of the interim nuclear accord with the six powers - broken off in Vienna Friday Dec. 13 - would be resumed in Geneva Thursday, Dec. 19. This is a desperate attempt to enliven the dying momentum of nuclear diplomacy. Two days were assigned to this meeting, which debkafile reports it is being convened to camouflage three untoward developments:
1. Iran has repudiated the Geneva nuclear deal and now
maintains that it was never a real accord. The Iranian Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Marzieh Afgham put it this way: “There is no treaty and no pact,
only a statement of intent.”
This statement galvanized Secretary of State John Kerry to put in an urgent call to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, at the end of which both pledged their commitment to the document solemnly signed in Geneva on Nov. 24.
2. Sunday, the journal Kayan, the mouthpiece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said this in an editorial: “The six-month period of the accord is meaningless; a final agreement might even take 20 years to negotiate.”
Clearly, the Iranians are reverting to their old tactics of talks for the sake of more talks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who spent the week making the rounds of European capitals, said: “Now we have to talk about reviving the talks on modalities.”
In other words, the nuclear negotiations were still stuck at the stage of discussing how to proceed and nowhere near getting down to substantive issues.
3. Our sources note that over and above Tehran’s predisposition to foot-dragging, another major snag looms large: The Geneva accord never fixed a starting date for the six-month nuclear freeze and negotiating period on a comprehensive agreement, leaving it to the technical teams to discuss.
This left the door open for Tehran to slow the technical discussions down to a crawl, before there is any sign of progress - a lacuna spotted by Kayhan when it referred to "20 years" of negotiations. Iran can meanwhile cash in on diplomatic and economic rewards.
It was therefore not surprising to hear from Washington Wednesday that the original elation generated by President Barack Obama and John Kerry over the Geneva deal had made way for gloom and pessimism.
Senior administration officials, including Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the American team of negotiators in Geneva, were quoted by US media as saying they were “very skeptical” about the outcome of further talks with the Iranians. They were coming to realize that without unacceptable concessions on both sides, the American and the Iranian, there was no way that the ambitious US venture into nuclear diplomacy would get anywhere.
Egypt: Morsi to face trial for cooperating with Hamas, Hezbollah
Ynetnews/Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to stand trial on charges of conspiring with foreign groups, namely Hamas, Hezbollah, to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, divulging military secrets to foreign state
Egypt's public prosecutor ordered former President Mohamed Morsi and 34 other Islamists to stand trial on charges including conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt and divulging military secrets to a foreign state. The charges leveled against Morsi and other top Muslim Brotherhood members on Wednesday could result in their execution. Morsi is already standing trial for inciting violence during protests outside the presidential palace a year ago when he was still in office. He was deposed in July by the army following mass protests against his rule. In a statement, the prosecutor said the Brotherhood had committed acts of violence and terrorism in Egypt and prepared a "terrorist plan" that included an alliance with the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah . There was no immediate comment from Hamas or Hezbollah. The charge sheet called it "the biggest case of conspiracy in the history of Egypt". It accused the Brotherhood of carrying out attacks on security forces in North Sinai after he was deposed on July 3. It said the Brotherhood had hatched a plan dating back to 2005 that would send "elements" to the Gaza Strip for military training by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Upon their return to Egypt, they would join forces with extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula, it said. The group exploited the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, carrying out attacks on the security forces in North Sinai and elsewhere, the statement said. The group aimed to establish an "Islamic emirate" in North Sinai were Morsi not declared president. The statement added that Morsi's presidential aides including Essam El-Haddad, his national security adviser, had leaked secret reports to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah as a reward for their cooperation. The Egyptian authorities have launched a fierce crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since Morsi was removed from power, killing hundreds of his supporters during protests and arresting thousands more.
Canada Condemns Latest Outburst About Israel From UN
December 17, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada completely rejects and condemns the appalling remarks made by Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, in which he accused Israel of ‘genocidal’ intentions.
“Canada has previously called for Falk to be fired for his numerous outrageous and anti-Semitic statements, and these comments underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his service as a UN Special Rapporteur. “I call on the United Nations Human Rights Council—once again—to remove Falk from his position immediately. “Not only do these comments undermine the fundamental values of the United Nations, they also belittle the terrible genocides that have tragically taken place throughout history and around the world.”
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