December 30/2013

Bible Quotation for today/A Lamp under a Bowl
Luke 08/16-18: "No one lights a lamp and covers it with a bowl or puts it under a bed. Instead, it is put on the lampstand, so that people will see the light as they come in. “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be found and brought to light. “Be careful, then, how you listen; because those who have something will be given more, but whoever has nothing will have taken away from them even the little they think they have."

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 30/13

Mohamad Chatah's Letter to the Iranian President, Rouhani/Arabic & English/December 30/13

The meaning of the Shatah assassination/By Rami G. Khouri /The Daily Star/December 30/13

The Region: Time to wake up/By: Barry Rubin/J.Post/December 30/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 30/13

Lebanese Related News

Suleiman Says Saudi to Give $3 Billion to Buy French Weapons for Lebanese Army

ISF Commandos Evacuate Qabbani from al-Khasheqji Mosque as Uproar Erupts over His Arrival

Netanyahu says Lebanese government bears blame for Katyushas on north

Israel fires barrage of shells into Lebanon

Shatah, his Bodyguard Laid to Rest in Downtown Beirut

Shaar Says Moderation Will Succeed against Terrorism as al-Rahi Deems Shatah Loss as 'Major Blow'
March 14 vows to confront Hezbollah: Siniora

Saniora Says March 14 to Resume Peaceful Protests, Will Liberate Lebanon from Illegitimate Arms

Lebanon bids farewell to slain former minister

Teen wounded in Beirut car bombing dies

Two Omanis kidnapped in Lebanon free: ministry

Report: Berri's Daughter May Be Appointed Lebanon's Ambassador to Syria

Report: Shatah Assassination to Speed up Government Formation Efforts

Army Clashes with Gunmen in Baalbek's Sharawneh Neighborhood

Hollande Urges Lebanese to Stick to Election Calendar

Analysts: Lebanon 'Microcosm of Regional Conflicts'

UNIFIL vows to find perpetrators of rocket attack on Israel
Mourners chant anti-Hezbollah slogans at funeral of assassinated Lebanese ex-minister
Miscellaneous Reports And News

In technical talks with Iran, the devil is in the details
Israel names Palestinian prisoners to be released

Israel warns against new Iranian centrifuges ahead of new Geneva talks

Iran negotiating with Russia over construction of new nuclear plants

 Iranian nuclear chief: Islamic Republic designing new centrifuges

Palestinians attack symbolic ministerial vote to annex Jordan Valley

Israel’s population reaches more than 8 million at year’s end
More than 4,000 European jihadists fighting against Assad’

US and Iran’s First Joint Military Venture: Fighting al Qaeda in Iraq 

Air raids kill over 500 in Syria's Aleppo since mid-Dec.

Suleiman Says Saudi to Give $3 Billion to Buy French Weapons for Lebanese Army
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/President Michel Suleiman on Sunday announced that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible. After canceling a much-anticipated press conference previously scheduled for Sunday evening, Suleiman appeared in a televised address to declare that he managed through his talks with Saudi King Abdullah to secure “extraordinary support” for the army. “Enhancing the army's capabilities is a unifying national and popular demand and a source of pride and it is a dream that I always had during my 41 years of military service, and it is the dream of every Lebanese since independence to confront the Israeli threat, protect democracy, face terrorism and put an end to the proliferation of arms,” said the president. “This support will contribute to confronting terrorism and helping UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) implement (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1701,” Suleiman noted. “After decades of futile efforts, I managed through my talks with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (King Abdullah) to provide extraordinary support,” he said. He revealed that the monarch has decided to donate three billion dollars to the Lebanese army, “which will allow it to obtain modern weapons.” Suleiman hoped the French government “will back this initiative and support the army.” “The king noted that the weapons will be purchased from France as soon as possible,” Suleiman said. He described the move as “the biggest support in Lebanon's history,” pointing out that it is “sufficient to enable the army to perform its missions.” Suleiman revealed that another 1.6 billion dollars might be offered during an international meeting in Italy in 2014.  “The initiative is an honest reflection of the kingdom's efforts to preserve Lebanon,” Suleiman said. “The International Support Group issued recommendations that were endorsed by the U.N. Security Council and they aim to support Lebanon's stability and the ongoing efforts to resolve the refugee crisis, and these recommendations will be followed up and implemented,” he noted. But the Lebanese state “cannot implement any of these policies without a real political will and without follow-up, which means without active constitutional institutions, specifically without a brave judicial authority and a capable and strong army,” Suleiman explained. Separately, the president stressed that he never discussed with Saudi Arabia the issue of the stalled cabinet formation process or the extension of his term as president. “I have always sought to serve Lebanon and I never discussed during my foreign visits the issue of the cabinet formation process or the extension of my presidential term and no one has raised this issue with me at all,” Suleiman underlined. Addressing the Lebanese, the president called on them to “close ranks and show solidarity with the legitimate institutions and with the army which is the guarantor of unity and stability,” saluting the “martyrs, officers and soldiers” of the military institution.


ISF Commandos Evacuate Qabbani from al-Khasheqji Mosque as Uproar Erupts over His Arrival
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/..Members of the ISF Intelligence Bureau's Strike Force on Sunday managed to evacuate Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani from the al-Khasheqji Mosque after a number of young men erupted in anger over his arrival to take part in the funeral of Mohammed al-Chaar, a 16-year-old teenager who was killed in the bomb attack that targeted ex-minister Mohammed Shatah. A major commotion broke out inside and outside the mosque as protesters shouted angry slogans in scenes broadcast live by local TV stations. Security forces carried out several fake evacuations in a bid to divert the attention of the protesters before they managed to secure the safe exit of the mufti in a military armored personnel carrier, amid strict security measures in the area. Media reports said a Mustaqbal newspaper photographer was injured in the stampede outside the mosque and security forces transferred him to hospital.  “Calm has returned to the vicinity of the al-Khasheqji Mosque and some security forces have started to leave,” MTV reported later. “A number of young men protested the presence of the mufti ... and Sheikh Ahmed al-Omar led the prayer for the dead,” state-run National News Agency reported earlier on Sunday. LBCI television said a number of Mustaqbal Movement MPs entered the mosque to persuade the mufti not to lead the prayer and he accepted. “Young men have gathered outside to express their anger over his presence,” trapping the mufti inside for several hours, LBCI said. In an earlier interview with LBCI, Jamaa Islamiya official in Beirut Rabih Dandashi said: “We contacted the commander of Beirut Police and we're trying to reach a solution to secure the safe exit of the mufti.” “It is unacceptable to assault the mufti and Mustaqbal MPs are inside trying to calm down the young men,” said Dandashi. “We are in charge of the logistics of the funeral and had the mufti sensed the delicacy of the situation, we would've advised him not to come,” he noted. Meanwhile, Dar al-Fatwa sources told al-Jadeed television that they hold the defense ministry responsible for the safety of the mufti. The funeral was attended by several Beirut figures, officials, popular delegations and the slain teenager's family and friends. Chaar was then laid to rest at the nearby Martyrs Cemetery. The 16-year-old died Saturday of wounds incurred in the Starco bomb attack. A picture of him and three friends taken moments before the explosion has gone viral on social networking websites.  The booby-trapped, golden Honda CRV used in the attack appears behind the teenagers in the picture. The bomb attack took place on Friday morning in downtown Beirut, leaving Shatah, his bodyguard and six other people dead.

March 14 vows to confront Hezbollah: Siniora

December 29, 2013/ The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Head of the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora vowed Sunday to confront the presence of illegitimate arms in Lebanon, in a clear reference to Hezbollah, during the funeral procession of slain former Minister Mohammad Shatah who was laid to rest at the mausoleum of former PM Rafik Hariri.
Shatah, 62, was killed in a car bomb Friday along with six others including a 16-year-old in the commercial district of Downtown Beirut. The explosion also wounded 70 people.
“The March 14 coalition has decided to free the nation from the occupation of illegitimate arms so we could protect our independence and guarantee our sovereignty and civil peace,” Siniora, a former PM, said at the mausoleum in Downtown Beirut where hundreds, including government officials and politicians, flocked to the Beirut mosque to bid farwell to the veteran diplomat.
“We say to the Lebanese and the family of Mohammad Shatah: We will not surrender, back down or fear criminals, terrorists and murderers; they are the ones who should be in fear,” he added.
“They kill so they could tighten their grip and we reiterate our commitment for a Lebanon of coexistence, freedom, equality, human rights, peaceful alternation of power and respect to the Constitution,” Siniora said.
The veteran diplomat who was also former PM Saad Hariri’s senior adviser was on his way to a meeting of the March 14 coalition at Hariri’s residence in Beirut.
Seen as a moderate figure in the March 14 coalition and the Sunni community, Shatah was a former finance minister and a former ambassador to the U.S.
Hariri, who has been out of the country for over two years for security reasons, has implicitly blamed Hezbollah for Shatah’s assassination while the March 14 coalition has accused Syria and its allies in Lebanon for the killing.
In his speech at the funeral procession following prayers at the mosque, Siniora said Shatah was killed with “cold blood without shame or hesitation,” saying the perpetrators repeat their crimes thinking they will get away with it.
“They indulge in killing, destroy the economy and living conditions, and ruin Lebanon’s ties with its Arab surrounding and the world but we will not turn into killers and destroy Lebanon like you are doing,” Siniora said.
The coalition, Siniora said, rejects bullying, terrorism, extremism, and violence.
“Despite the level of arrogance you have reached and how much lies and fabrications you have disseminated, you will fade,” he added.
Shatah’s assassination was the latest among a serious of bomb attacks that have targeted several areas across the country throughout the year, killing and wounding hundreds.
Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Malek Shaar said voices of moderation will prevail in Lebanon and that a new government would be formed soon for the sake of the country’s interest.
“We will not retreat from the path of state-building and we will reject all forms of violence,” Shaar said at the mosque surrounded by PM-designate Tammam Salam and Future bloc head MP Fouad Siniora.
“Righteousness will be victorious and moderation will always prevail,” he added.
Shaar said a new Cabinet will be formed soon “to address people’s issues without any [imprudent] reactions but with wisdom.”
“The Cabinet will be formed soon without spite but consensus for the sake of the country’s interest and the security of the citizens so that Lebanon remains sovereign, free and independent and for loyalty to be exclusive to the nation,” he added. Meanwhile, Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi responded to accusations against the party over Shatah’s assassination, saying hasty allegations only harm stability.
“Wise people have always said that hasty accusations harm the ongoing investigation and the unified stance against the criminals,” Musawi said in a statement.
“The core problem some people have with us is that we believe there is a need to fight the Zionist germ to save our future,” he said. “We hope that those would leave us be as we face the enemy and its agent."


North Sheikh Malek al-Shaar Says Moderation Will Succeed against Terrorism as al-Rahi Deems Shatah Loss as 'Major Blow'
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Malek al-Shaar lamented on Sunday the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah, saying that Lebanon lost a symbol of moderation and intellect. He said during Shatah's funeral in downtown Beirut: “Justice and moderation will be victorious against those who practice terrorism and seek destruction.”
“The other camp has sought destruction, murder, and the martyrdom of our men,” he said. “We will not steer off the path of those seeking to build a civilized state,” he stressed from the al-Amin Mosque.
“We will not adopt terrorist ideologies and we will stand against all forms of killing and destruction,” he declared. “The Lebanese will find out that moderation will reign over all and the country will never veer off this course,” he said, while urging the need to form a new government “away from spite.” “The new cabinet will achieve Lebanon's interests, freedom, sovereignty, and independence,” said Shaar.
Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi condemned Shatah's assassination, saying: “Lebanon's Christmas celebrations were tarnished by the assassination of a peaceful figure.”
“His death is a major blow to the whole of Lebanon,” he said via Twitter. He described Shatah as a personal friend, who had a viable vision on how to end Lebanon's political crisis.
Shatah was assassinated in a car bombing in downtown Beirut on Friday. Six other people, including his bodyguard Tareq Bader, were also killed in the blast. Shatah and Bader were laid to rest on Sunday at slain former Premier Rafik Hariri's mausoleum in Beirut.

Lebanon bids farewell to slain former minister

December 29, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hundreds including government officials and politicians flocked to Martyrs’ Square in Downtown Beirut to bid farewell to slain former Minister Mohammad Shatah who will be laid to rest at the mausoleum of former PM Rafik Hariri. Shatah, 62, was killed in a car bomb Friday along with six others including a 16-year-old in the commercial district of Downtown Beirut. The explosion also wounded 70 people. The veteran diplomat who was also former PM Saad Hariri’s senior adviser was on his way to a meeting of the March 14 coalition at Hariri’s residence in Beirut. Seen as a moderate figure in the March 14 coalition and the Sunni community, Shatah was a former finance minister and a former ambassador to the U.S. The March 14 group has called on Lebanese, particularly its supporters, for a high turnout at the funeral which will take place at Mohammad al-Amin Mosque at Martyrs’ Square. The Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces carried out tight security measures blocking all roads leading to Martyrs’ Square and surrounding neighborhoods allowing only pedestrians to cross over.
Officials and politicians arrived at the Beirut mosque for a third consecutive day to offer condolences to Shatah’s family as well as the family of his slain bodyguard Tareq Badr.
Hariri, who has been out of the country for over two years for security reasons, has implicitly blamed Hezbollah for Shatah’s assassination while the March 14 coalition has accused Syria and its allies in Lebanon for the killing.
The explosion was the latest among a serious of bomb attacks that have targeted several areas across the country throughout the year, killing and wounding hundreds.
Following prayers at the mosque, Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Shaar said voices of moderation will prevail in Lebanon and that a new government would be formed soon for the sake of the country’s interest.
“We will not retreat from the path of state-building and we will reject all forms of violence,” Shaar said at the mosque surrounded by PM-designate Tammam Salam and Future bloc head MP Fouad Siniora.
“Righteousness will be victorious and moderation will always prevail,” he added. Shaar said a new Cabinet will be formed soon “to address people’s issues without any [imprudent] reactions but with wisdom.”
“The Cabinet will be formed soon without spite but consensus for the sake of the country’s interest and the security of the citizens so that Lebanon remains sovereign, free and independent and for loyalty to be exclusive to the nation,” he added.  Meanwhile, Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi responded to accusations against the party over Shatah’s assassination, saying hasty allegations only harm stability. “Wise people have always said that hasty accusations harm the ongoing investigation and the unified stance against the criminals,” Musawi said in a statement. “The core problem some people have with us is that we believe there is a need to fight the Zionist germ to save our future,” he said. “We hope that those would leave us be as we face the enemy and its agent.”

Israel fires barrage of shells into Lebanon
December 29, 2013/By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star /MARJAYOUN: Israeli military fired a barrage of shells into Lebanon Sunday in retaliation to two rocket attacks fired from across the border earlier in the day, a security source told The Daily Star.In a statement, the Lebanese Army said two rockets were launched into Israel from Khreybet in Hasbaya at 7:02 a.m. and that Israel responded with 32 shells to the source of fire between 7:41 and 8:04 a.m. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army arrived to the site of the shell attack where a number of Syrian refugees and Lebanese farmers reside, a security source told The Daily Star.
The Israeli military said Lebanese rockets landed near the town of Kiryat Shmona and that it responded with artillery fire, Reuters reported. The attack did not cause material damage or loss of life.
U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon confirmed the two attacks, saying the peacekeeping force’s Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra was immediately in contact with both sides and urged the parties to exercise maximum restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation. “This is a very serious incident in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area,” Serra was quoted as saying in a statement. “UNIFIL’s first imperative is to ensure that there is no further escalation of the situation and I have been assured by the parties of their full cooperation with UNIFIL in this effort and of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities,” he added. Serra also said the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL personnel were trying to locate the rocket launching site and that the peacekeepers have intensified patrols across the area of operations to prevent any further incidents. “It is of paramount importance to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack and we will spare no efforts to this end working in cooperation with the Lebanese [Army],” he said.
In August, a similar rocket attack from Lebanese territory into Israel was also met with swift retaliation from the Israeli air force. The Lebanese Army arrested two suspects who confessed they had transferred the rockets from the West Bekaa village of Gaza and delivered them to a man in the southern town of Tyre. Tensions also ran high on the Lebanese-Israeli border when a Lebanese soldier shot and killed an Israeli soldier on Dec. 15. The Army said the incident was an individual act. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned the Lebanese government of even tougher reprisals in response to similar rocket attacks. "We will not tolerate fire from Lebanon on our territory... We consider the Lebanese government and army responsible for this morning's fire," Yaalon said in a statement, according to Agence France Presse. "The Israeli army responded by firing a large number of shells at the area from where the rockets were fired. If necessary, it will be even tougher,” he added. "I would never advise anyone to test our patience and our determination to defend the security of the Israeli people," the minister said. -With AFP, Reuters


The meaning of the Shatah assassination
December 28, 2013/By Rami G. Khouri /The Daily Star
Lebanon was jolted into a fresh political crisis on Friday after a car bomb in central Beirut assassinated Mohammad Shatah, a prominent political ally and adviser to former Prime Ministers Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora. Such attacks have been a sad part of Lebanese political culture since the 1970s. The target, timing and location of the attack perhaps shed light on the perpetrators and purpose of the criminal deed, which killed at least four others and wounded over 70 people. The attack should probably be analyzed at three levels simultaneously: the domestic confrontation between the March 14 and March 8 coalitions; the armed conflict to bring down or save the Syrian regime; and the wider ideological conflict across the Middle East that is driven to a large extent by Iran and Saudi Arabia. Killing Shatah at this time and in the heart of March 14’s political terrain in West Beirut echoes elements of all three conflicts.
Lebanon has been gripped by political stagnation in its formal governance institutions for much of the past year, as the Parliament, Cabinet and National Dialogue have all been moribund due to a deep ideological divide between the Hariri-led March 14 forces that are close to Saudi Arabia and the Hezbollah-led March 8 camp that is close to Syria and Iran. Both rhetoric and violent actions have escalated between these two groups and their allies in Lebanon in the past year. They are also engaged in combat inside Syria, where Hezbollah and Iran support Bashar Assad’s regime and Lebanese Sunni Salafists are fighting to bring down the Damascus regime.
In recent months this confrontation has spread from its previously geographically contained context of Tripoli in north Lebanon, the border region of northeast Lebanon, and areas around Sidon in the south. Several rocket and car bomb attacks in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut in recent months, followed by the assassination of a leading military commander, took this battle directly into the party’s home district. The car bombing of the Iranian Embassy last month escalated this trend, which shattered the previous apparently unwritten understanding that the two main camps in Lebanon would fight their battles in Syria or outside Beirut.
It would seem logical to see yesterday’s attack as the natural corollary to those recent attacks against Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Whoever carried it out may have intended to send twin messages: Those who attack March 8’s heartland should expect revenge attacks, and March 14 coalition is now fair game for such attacks.
The area of the attack is a jewel in the crown of the Hariri-led revitalization of central Beirut, and includes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in luxury apartments, upscale hotels, waterfront marinas and commercial complexes. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s home and the central meeting place of the March 14 group is also located nearby. The area symbolizes everything that March 14 promises for Lebanon’s future in terms of investments, jobs, prosperity and modernity. But once again it is the site of a major assassination that reminds all Lebanese that they still lack a consensus over the kind of future they seek for their country.
Shatah was the target because of his stature within March 14 as a leading thinker and international interlocutor, a close adviser and confidant of Saad Hariri and Siniora, and a critic of Syria, Hezbollah and March 8. In his last tweet hours before his death, he noted, “ Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security & foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 yrs.”
This was a reference to the slow-motion discussions with President Michel Sleiman and others to form a new Lebanese government, which has been held up by disagreement between the two camps on how to allocate Cabinet seats, so that all parties are represented but neither of the two camps can dominate decision-making.
Accusations quickly materialized about who would have wanted to do this, from Syria and Hezbollah allies, to Saudi Arabia, to Salafist-takfiris, along with some voices wondering whether some other party did this to stoke sectarian tensions by making this appear like Syrian-Iranian- Hezbollah retaliation. Local reports also quoted March 14 sources as saying that Shatah's assassination could have been due to the approaching Jan. 16 start date of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trial of five persons associated with Hezbollah who are accused of being involved in the 2005 assassination of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. They added that Shatah was preparing for a televised interview about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The tragedy of Lebanon remains that most of these theories could be plausible, but we will have to wait for the evidence and the investigation to provide more clarity on the possible perpetrators. The attack immediately sent shivers throughout Lebanon, which again lives in fear of serial retaliations. The symbolism of the bombing location means that the gloves are off, and any part of the country is now a fair target for the many killers out there. Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on Twitter @RamiKhouri.


Army Clashes with Gunmen in Baalbek's Sharawneh Neighborhood
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/Clashes erupted on Sunday in al-Sharawneh neighborhood in the Bekaa city of Baalbek as the army sought to arrest a wanted suspect, reported the National News Agency.
It said that the clashes ensued as the army cordoned off overnight the Sun Palace restaurant where a dangerous suspect was staying. The clashes broke out between the army and gunmen from the Jaafar family. Heavy weapons were used in the fighting. Clashes frequently erupt between the army and wanted gunmen in various regions in Lebanon, especially in al-Sharawneh neighborhood. In October, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr launched an investigation into a shooting at the army in Baalbek that took place earlier that month. Three soldiers were lightly injured during the incident when a military checkpoint came under fire at the entrance of al-Sharawneh neighborhood.

Report: Berri's Daughter May Be Appointed Lebanon's Ambassador to Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/Lebanon's Ambassador to Syria Michel Khoury will be referred to retirement at the end of December, which will prompt a vacancy in the post, reported the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday. It said that Speaker Nabih Berri's daughter, Farah, may be appointed as his replacement. Diplomatic and legal complications however stand in the way of her appointment. The daily explained that certain promotions by caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour in Farah Berri's favor need to be made. Moreover, Khoury's replacement needs to approved by the entire government, it added. The current state of affairs in Lebanon however are thwarting such measures. Mansour is expected however to soon announce the promotion of 55 diplomats from category three to category two employees. Farah Berri is currently a category three administrative employee.

Report: Shatah Assassination to Speed up Government Formation Efforts

Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/The assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah is likely to speed up efforts to form a new government, reported the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's sources told the daily that Salam recent meeting with President Michel Suleiman stressed the need to form a new cabinet soon. The new government will likely focus on tackling security affairs, said the daily. It is no longer acceptable to keep Lebanon without a government for so long given the deteriorating security situation, remarked Salam's sources. The lack of cabinet will be exploited by forces seeking to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon, they warned. Efforts to form a new government are nearing their end and all attempts to find common ground between the rival political parties have failed, said the sources without disclosing the details of a possible new cabinet lineup. It has become pressing to form a government that addresses the people's concerns, they continued. Suleiman's sources meanwhile told Asharq al-Awsat that it is time to form a new cabinet. Shatah was killed in a major car bombing in downtown Beirut on Friday morning. Since his appointment in April, Salam has failed to form a new government due to the conditions and counter-conditions being placed by the rival March 8 and 14 camps. Suleiman has been pushing the formation of a new cabinet that would be capable of staging the presidential elections. His term ends in May 2014 amid fears that the disputes between the rival parties will lead to the failure to hold the elections to elect his successor. The March 14 camp has rejected including Hizbullah in a new government, while the March 8 camp has warned against the establishment of a “de facto” cabinet, instead calling for one that includes all sides.


Analysts: Lebanon 'Microcosm of Regional Conflicts'
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 December 2013/A Beirut car bomb that killed an anti-Syria politician underscores how Lebanon has become a "microcosm of regional conflicts", with violence escalating as Damascus and its ally Tehran become more emboldened, analysts say. Friday's bombing that killed seven people including Mohammed Shatah, a voice of moderation and a Sunni member of Lebanon's anti-Syria March 14 coalition, will also further fuel Saudi-Iranian animosity, the experts say. "This latest political assassination reflects much more than a simple spillover of the Syrian war. I think we're past that stage, and we have now entered a full-fledged Saudi-Iranian proxy war," said Paris-based expert Karim Bitar. "The intense polarization in Lebanon makes it easy for Iran and Saudi Arabia" to settle scores here, "and the country has zero immunity," said Bitar, of the French Institute for International and Strategic Studies (IRIS). Lebanon is sharply divided over the war in neighboring Syria. Tehran-backed Hizbullah backs President Bashar Assad's regime, while the March 14 coalition supports the revolt that broke out in 2011.Damascus ended its 30-year domination of Lebanon in 2005, but continues to exert significant influence over the country through its ally Hizbullah. Hizbullah has thrown its weight behind Assad's regime in Syria's war, sending political and sectarian tensions in Lebanon soaring. Lina Khatib, who heads the Carnegie Middle East Center, described Lebanon as "a microcosm of regional conflicts, and it would be fanciful to assume that it would manage to escape the security repercussions of the Syrian conflict." And with the West all but silent on Syria, Assad and his allies in Iran and Lebanon are feeling "more empowered following the international negotiations about nuclear and chemical weapons," said Khatib. Shatah's killing comes in the context of "a series of attacks and counter-attacks targeting opposing political camps in the country," she added.
Last month, twin suicide blasts hit the Iranian embassy in Hizbullah's southern Beirut stronghold, killing at least 25 people. That attack came after two car bombs in south Beirut in summer. One of them, on August 15, killed 27 people. "The attacks (against both sides of Lebanon's political divide) are aimed at destabilizing Lebanon and pulling it closer to the Syrian conflict," said Khatib. Heading for escalation IRIS' Bitar said attacks against both March 14 and Hizbullah targets are both "pure, unadulterated terrorism," but emphasized that "the modus operandi and rationale are very different." Starting in 2005, nine anti-Assad politicians and intellectuals have been assassinated in attacks widely blamed on Syria. Two other security officials and a general were also killed. This string of killings started years before the Syrian revolt, and with the latest assassination, "Syria might be sending the message that it is still able to destabilize Lebanon if its influence and interests are not preserved," said Bitar. As for the attacks against Hizbullah targets, "they are part of a wider regional power struggle between rival intelligence services (and) the consequence of rising Sunni-Shiite animosity." Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia backs Hariri's camp in Lebanon and has supported, along with Qatar, Syrian rebels against Assad's regime. With Saudi-Iranian rivalry at an all-time high, it is likely the attacks Lebanon is suffering will only escalate. "Only an Iranian-Saudi rapprochement can put an end to such crimes, and it seems far off," said Bitar. Meanwhile, the elimination of moderates like Shatah benefits extremists on both sides of the Shiite-Sunni divide. "Lebanese moderates no longer have a word to say and two mutually reinforcing Sunni and Shiite extremism are now left alone," said Bitar. Imad Salamey, who teaches politics at the Lebanese American University, agreed, warning that Iran will be the main beneficiary of heightened Sunni extremism. "If this continues, what we will be left with is... Sunni extremists leading the Sunni communities," Salamey warned. "These extremists are presented as hostile to the West, as hostile to moderate solutions... and therefore this will give the upper hand to... the Iranian proxy groups... and will make them look like the moderates." The attack comes in the midst of a Lebanese domestic political crisis. For eight months, Lebanon has had no government, and March 14 and Hizbullah appear further than ever from reaching a deal.
Salamey said: "I think it is very possible that a new series of assassinations and car bombs will begin taking place... as both parties... are stuck, and are unable to come up with an acceptable solution to either side."
Friday's bombing is also seen in some quarters as a warning shot ahead of the start on January 16 of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, tasked with investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Five Hizbullah members have been accused of involvement in Hariri's killing and are due to be tried in absentia by the court.Source/Agence France Presse.


Mohamad Chatah's Letter to the Iranian President, Rouhani

Martyr Mohmad Chatah sent this below letter to the Iranian President few days before his assassination

Your Excellency,

We are taking this exceptional step to address you and other regional and global leaders because these are exceptionally dangerous times for our country. Not only is Lebanon's internal and external security being seriously threatened, but the very unity of our state is in real jeopardy. It is our obligation to do all we can to protect our nation from these l threats. And today, more than ever before, the choices made by the Islamic Republic of Iran will play an important role in determining our success or failure. That's why we are writing to you, as the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But these are exceptional times for Iran as well. After many years of confrontation between Iran and a major part of the international community, your election as president last summer has signaled to many in the region and the world that the Iranian people want to set their country on a new path; a path of reform and openness and peaceful relations with the rest of the world. The recent interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1, and the statements you have made since your election, have raised expectations that Iran may indeed be taking the first concrete steps along that positive path. We sincerely hope that this is the case.

But for us, as representatives of the Lebanese people, the real test is not so much whether Iran reaches a final agreement with Western powers on its nuclear program, nor whether domestic economic and social reforms are successfully put in place—important as these objectives are to the world and to the Iranian people. For us in Lebanon, the real test is whether Iran is genuinely prepared to chart a new course in its policies toward the rest of region, and most specifically toward Lebanon.

Your Excellency,

It is an undisputed fact that Iran's Revolutionary Guard continues to maintain a strategic military relationship with Hezbollah, a military organization that Iran's Revolutionary guard was instrumental in establishing 30 years ago. At that time Lebanon was still in the midst of a terrible civil war and southern Lebanon was under Israeli occupation. Today, 23 years after the end of the civil war and the disbanding of all other Lebanese militias, and 13 years after the liberation of the south from Israeli occupation (in which the Lebanese resistance played a crucial role), Hezbollah continues to maintain an independent and heavily armed military force outside the authority of the state. This is happening with the direct support and sponsorship of your country.

As we are sure you would agree, the presence of any armed militia in parallel to the legitimate armed forces of the state and operating outside the state's control and political authority is not only in conflict with the Lebanese constitution, but also with the very definition of a sovereign state—any state. This is the case irrespective of the religious affiliations of such non-state militias or the causes they claim to champion.

Hezbollah's insistence on maintaining an independent military organization, under the banner of "Islamic Resistance," has been a major obstacle in the face of much-needed national efforts to strengthen state institutions and to put an end to the legacy of the civil war and the spread weapons throughout the country. This has, inevitably, also weakened Lebanon's national unity and exposed the country to the widening sectarian fault lines in the region, and has contributed to the rise of religious extremism and militancy.

Moreover, the use of—or implied threat of using—Hezbollah's weapons advantage to tilt the domestic political playing field has made the delicate task of managing the Lebanese political system almost impossible, and has led to a gradual systemic paralysis. Hezbollah's blatant protection of five of its members who had been indicted by the Special international Tribunal for Lebanon in the case of the late Rafiq Hariri assassination has compounded the suspicions and mistrust.

Your Excellency,

Over the past year, Hezbollah's direct participation in the conflict in Syria has greatly aggravated Lebanon's already precarious situation. It is well recognized that the Lebanese public is divided regarding the war in Syria. We, as members of the broad March 14 political alliance, stand fully, both politically and morally, in support of the Syrian people. We believe the Assad regime has lost both its moral legitimacy and its ability to restore peace and unity in Syria. However as representatives of the Lebanese people, our focus and main responsibility is to protect Lebanon from the grave danger of the fire raging next door spreading into our country. In fact, the conflict in Syria has already touched many of our border towns and villages and sparked sporadic violence and despicable acts of terrorism. As you know, the Iranian embassy in Beirut has been the target of a deplorable terrorist bombing, so were mosques and civilian neighborhoods.

Combating this scourge and protecting Lebanon from worse spillovers cannot succeed while a major Lebanese party is participating directly in the Syrian conflict. It is, in effect, an invitation to those on the receiving end of Hezbollah's bombs and bullets in Syria to bring the war back to Hezbollah's homeland—our common homeland. Regrettably, this is happening with the support of, and in coordination with, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Your Excellency,

Lebanon today is in crisis on all levels. Clearly, palliatives are not enough anymore. We need to protect Lebanon from falling further down a very slippery slope. We believe that this can be done only if regional and international powers, including Iran, are ready to take the necessary steps. The guideposts are already there. They were spelt out in the national declaration issued jointly by all political parties last year and dubbed the Baabda Declaration. The declaration had affirmed the objective of safeguarding Lebanon's security by: 1.) protecting it against spillovers from Syria and more generally neutralizing it away from regional and international conflicts and alliances; and 2.) completing the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701.

In our view, this would require the following concrete steps, to be agreed and launched through a special Security Council meeting or a special, wider support-group conference:

1A declared commitment by all other countries, including Iran, to the neutralization of Lebanon as agreed in the Baabda Declaration. Clearly, it is not enough for Lebanon to declare a desire to be neutralized. More importantly, other countries need to commit themselves to respect Lebanon's national desire;

2. Ending all armed participation by Lebanese groups and parties, including Hezbollah, in the Syrian conflict;

3. Establishing effective control by the Lebanese army and security forces over the border with Syria, supported by the United Nations if needed as permitted under UNSCR 1701;

4. Requesting the Security Council to begin the steps needed to complete the implementation of UNSCR 1701. This aims at moving Lebanon from the current interim cessation-of-hostilities status with Israel to a permanent cease-fire with U.N. security arrangements, which will end border infringements by Israel and establish complete and exclusive security authority by the Lebanese armed forces throughout the country.

This vision and roadmap may seem radical, considering that Lebanon has not seen full and exclusive control by the state over its territory and over all weapons in four decades. But these are also the basic natural rights of any country that seeks to be free and independent. It is our obligation as representatives of the people of Lebanon to do all we can to regain those rights. For years, we have supported—and will continue to support—the right of Palestine to be free and independent. Similarly, we support Iran's national right as a free and sovereign nation in control of its destiny and its security within its borders. As a small but proud nation we cannot aspire for less.

Your Excellency,

This is Lebanon's cause. We will do all we can to mobilize all the support it needs and deserves. Ultimately, whether we succeed or not will depend on decisions taken, not only by the Lebanese people but also by others, including your good self. Admittedly—but also understandably—there are many Iran-skeptics in Lebanon and in the region. We hope that Iran's choices in Lebanon can prove them wrong.


Mohamad Chatah


NGO: 517 Dead in Fortnight of Regime Strikes in Syria's Aleppo
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 December 2013/Regime air strikes on the northern Syrian province of Aleppo have killed at least 517 people since December 15, including 151 children, a monitor said on Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a string of regime aerial attacks on the province, including second city Aleppo, with raids using explosives-packed barrels, had also killed 46 women.
At least 46 opposition fighters, including 34 rebels and 12 jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the majority of the dead were civilians, the Observatory said.
Recent weeks have seen a relentless aerial campaign targeting towns and villages across Aleppo province.
On Saturday, helicopters dropped TNT-packed barrels on a vegetable market and next to a hospital in Aleppo city, killing at least 25 civilians, including children.
The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground, strongly condemned the raids, and urged the international community to intervene.
"The Observatory considers all those who remain silent in the international community as complicit in the massacres that have been committed and continue to be committed by the Syrian regime," it said.
Source/Agence France Presse.Middle EastPoliticsSyria.


US and Iran’s First Joint Military Venture: Fighting al Qaeda in Iraq
DEBKAfile Video December 29, 2013/With the Geneva Nuclear Accord still far from implementation a month after it was signed in Geneva, the United States and Iran are moving into stage two of their rapprochement: They are now fighting together to crush Al Qaeda terror in Iraq, debkafile’s exclusive military sources report.
Iraq is two weeks into a major offensive for cutting al Qaeda down - the first major military challenge the jihadists have faced in the past six years. Three armies are fighting alongside Iraq: the United States, Iran’s Al Qods Brigades officers and Syria.
Their mission is to foil Al Qaeda’s drive to spread its first independent state in the Middle East across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. Its Iraqi and Syrian branches - ISIS and the Nusra Front - have declared a holy war to this end under their commanders Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Abu Mohammed al-Golani.
The Anbar province of Western Iraq is the scene of he fiercest combat close to Iraq’s borders with Syria and Jordan.
To counter Al Qaeda’s superiority in speed and surprise, the US has sent the Iraqi army Hellfire surface-to-air missiles. They are already in use against al Qaeda camps on the Syrian border. Next, Washington is sending out small, long-endurance unmanned aerial ScanEagles. These drones are best suited to combat in Anbar’s deep wadis and the halophyte thickets lining the Euphrates River.
In this topsy-turvy scenario, Washington and Tehran share another surprising motive: to save the Assad regime in Damascus from Al Qaeda’s long arms.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted approvingly on Dec. 26: “Attitudes are changing in Western countries; they are becoming more realistic in their approach towards the Syrian crisis. The threat of terrorism in Syria, of jihadists coming to power, of creating a caliphate with extremist laws, these are the main problems.”
Since the Syrian chemical issue was addressed in September, Russian-Iranian-American collaboration is going strong. The joint US-Iranian war on al Qaeda is strengthening Tehran’s grip on Iraq as well Syria. It gives Russian President Vladimir Putin hope for keeping al Qaeda away from the Winter Olympics at Sochi – an ever-present menace as a female suicide bomber, a Dagestan national, demonstrated Sunday, Dec. 29, by blowing up the railway station at the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing up to a score of people.
The other incentive for US President Barack Obama is the hope of transposing his collaboration with Tehran and Moscow to improve US chances of a reasonable accommodation in the Afghanistan arena.

The Region: Time to wake up

By BARRY RUBIN 12/29/2013/J.Post
Are Jews going to realize that the two-state solution is only desirable if it really brings full peace?
In the spring of 2000, I was friendly with a nice man, the father of my son’s friend. He was apolitical really, but his father had been a very high official of the Israeli Zionist-Marxist party (MAPAM). He had regularly voted for MAPAM or the Communist Party. By coincidence, we once ended up sitting next to each other on a flight.
I thought it would be interesting to discuss politics with him. After all, the Camp David meeting had failed (Yasser Arafat had refused the two-state solution and Israeli intelligence had recordings demonstrating that he would never accept), and the violent second intifada was launched by Arafat with a Fatah-Hamas alliance of terrorism.
To my surprise this soft-spoken real estate agent started screaming: “Only [Ariel] Sharon! Only Sharon can save the country!” That year I heard that a lot. Sometimes, as the British philosopher Samuel Johnson said, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” That’s the difference with direct engagement with an issue.
A great number of Middle Eastern Arabs and Muslims (perhaps 85 percent) who think about this issue at all want to destroy Israel – far fewer Germans wanted to kill the Jews even in 1932, and that is an undeniable fact.
The second fact is that American public opinion, serious Christians, and absolutely shocked congressional Democrats (and Republicans) who don’t feel comfortable with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s policy are the main supporters of Israel. It will be interesting to see if and when the Democrats have to choose between Israel and real dangers to Israel.
The third factor was that such a large number of pro- Obama and radical or even some anti-Israel activists are Jews – an incredible proportion in some cases, to be honest.
It is surprising but also not really so surprising. It must be confronted; and it need not be answered by more words but by political movements and by pressure.
Why are Jews so far to the Left in general? Historically, it is no mystery. Many Jews in the 19th century were modernists, especially in the West, supporters of change and development, because, after all, traditional society did not really have a place for them. Second of all, the Democratic Party made a serious effort to get immigrant and other urban ethnic votes.
Third, the New Deal was very good for Jews and was strongly supported by them; many government agencies were first staffed by Jews at that time. Also many academics, journalists and other service professions and trade unions were working government-created jobs.
Fourth, of course, was the fight against fascism led by the Democratic Party in that era. You would think that the Democratic view is out of date, but of course it is not, for example, because of cultural trends. It is just unfashionable to be Republican, whereas Liberal Democratic politics are associated with all that is smart, good and stylish.
It is equally important to keep in mind that Jews are very sensitive to racial and religious discrimination. So why is anti-Semitism that is connected to popular liberal politics so easily overlooked, exploited by the modern Left into the notion that a minority can do no wrong? Let’s look at Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Despite the fact that Reverend Wright was obviously involved in potent anti-Semitism, saying in a 2011 speech in Baltimore, “The state of Israel is an illegal, genocidal... place,” then continuing to state that “to equate Judaism with the state of Israel is to equate Christianity with [rapper] Flavor Flav.”These comments, however, were forgiven because of his connection to Obama’s campaign. Crime, never punishment.
Today, there is a very bizarre division among Jews in the United States. There is a serious lack of Jewish causes among leftist Zionists. Namely, activists are either pro-Israel and traditional liberals or moderates, or they are leftists that belong more to the extreme left wing – which is unfortunately disproportionately common. I should think the historical far-left communist experience should be sufficient to scare Jews (remember the oppression of Soviet Jewry).
The fact is that the academics, journalists and public advocates who are involved are more often than not Jewish.
I actually fear reading the bylines and quotes in publications, because I know that they are so often attached to “progressivism.” Yet why is this? Some causes may be obvious. Both fascists and extreme nationalists have of course been hostile to Jews, even for example as far back as the Dreyfus affair. Yet you would think that these Jews were knowledgeable about history. Naturally, Jews are historically sympathetic toward minorities and more sensitive toward racism. And yet why do some Jews automatically think that the state is their friend? The state has often been helpful but has also often been the enemy.
Still, many Jews tended to be directed to professions and high-level academic achievement, which tends to focus on statist-finance involvement.
Actually there is no question that there is still anti-Semitic bias in the US, most often seen among the Left, with its lack of sympathy for Jewish causes and its dishonesty in dealing with Israel policy, often with anti-Israel bias. Israel is by far the country that others are the most unfairly biased toward – higher than any bias against Muslims. Yet this is not recognized by Jews, because it makes radicals look better. And, of course, if this is a real bias, then the fact that some Muslims want genocide is not taken seriously, especially in university classes.
Let’s look at the facts. FBI statistics report that in 2012, 62.4% of hate crimes in the United States were against Jews, who make up about 2%-3% percent of the US population.
Close to two-thirds of the 1,340 religious hate crimes were thus anti-Jewish. In other words, a Jew is 40 times more likely to be persecuted for his religion than any other group in the US.
Muslims were the second most targeted group victimized on a religious basis, with 11.6% of hate crimes being anti-Islamic. Although the statistics available on Islam are not detailed, Muslims make up roughly 1% of the population (the 2010 Pew Report estimated the Muslim population in the United States at 2.9 million, and the numbers have since grown).
In other words, Jews–who are not easily identified except for the 10 percent of which are Orthodox– are about 40 times more likely to be victims. Of course only claims that are reported to the FBI are published. Incidentally, the intermarriage rate of Jews is also now over 70%.
The question then is: Is anybody going to wake up to this or not? Are Jews going to realize that the two-state solution is only desirable if it really brings full peace? If so, the Jewish Democratic vote would change drastically.
And if peace were achieved, would Middle Eastern Arabs no longer want to try to wipe out Jews and Israel? But have no doubt that many public officials, journalists and especially academics will as a priority or out of ignorance place Jews and Israelis in jeopardy.
**The author is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya and is editor of The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave- Macmillan).