July 19/2013

Bible Quotation for today/
Peter's First Letter 1:1-12/Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen ones who are living as foreigners in the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy became our father again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1:4 to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn’t fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, 1:5 who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1:6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials, 1:7 that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ— 1:8 whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don’t see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory— 1:9 receiving the result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 1:11 searching for who or what kind of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, pointed to, when he predicted the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that would follow them. 1:12 To them it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to you, they ministered these things, which now have been announced to you through those who preached the Good News to you by the Holy Spirit sent out from heaven; which things angels desire to look into.

The Thought
Just as a hammer and high heat are used to forge instruments of iron, God uses trials to develop genuine faith and strength of character in us.
"Times of great calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt comes from the darkest storm." --Charles Caleb Colton

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources

What does Obama know about Takfirists/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/July 19/13
Is Iran altering Syria’s sectarian map/By Michael Young/The Daily Star/July 19/13
Lebanon’s Impossible Politics/By: Barak Gatenyo and Daniel Nisman/Asharq Alawsat/July 19/13
Will Egypt’s crisis continue/By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/July 19/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources/July 19/13

Sinai Salafis in all-out war on Egyptian forces, blocking roads to MFO base and Israeli
New Syrian Air Raid on Arsal
Lebanon to Ask EU Not to Label Hizbullah 'Terrorist', Bulgaria Urges Consensus on Blacklisting Military Wing
Report: Hizbullah Boosts Security after Several Attacks
Lebanese Interior Ministry withdraws MPs security personnel

Hizbullah, PSP Agree on Unity Cabinet, 'Organizing Differences' on Syria
Salam: Precondition Toppling Cabinet Formation Efforts
Security Forces Tasked with Protection of Several Phalange, LF MPs Withdrawn
Army Says Jammo Murder Not Political, Wife to be Reportedly Questioned Soon

Suleiman Condemns Jammo Assassination, Warns of Spread of Internal Syrian Disputes to Lebanon
Report: Suleiman to Go On with Dialogue Initiative Despite Obstacles
Hollande Contacts Suleiman: Hopes New Govt. Will Not Exclude Any Lebanese Party
New Iran President Hopes for Better Ties with Lebanon
Jumblat Slams Jammo's Assassination: Security Agencies Must Unite to Face Impact of Syrian Crisis
Aoun Reveals Syrian Plan regarding Refugees' Return to Their Country
Humanities (LH) Official Baccalaureate Results Released

Abu Ghida Issues Arrest Warrants against 5 Detainees over Abra Clashes
FIBA Suspends Lebanon's Basketball Membership

FSA Official Dubs as Crime Jammo's Punishment without Fair Trial
Canada Helps Women in Middle East Get Elected
Amal, Hezbollah to negotiate Marada share in Cabinet: Franjieh

10 Militants Killed in Egypt Army Sinai Sweep
Egypt Faces Huge Challenges after Political Turmoil
Egypt Islamists Say Broached EU Mediation to Reinstate Morsi
Israel open to '67 border formula for talks'

Kerry to announce resumption of peace talks'
Bahrain Rattled by Bombings Near Royal Palaces, Sunni Mosque

Taliban Kill Eight Afghan Workers en Route to U.S. Base
Iran, Iraq Have 'Exceptional' Security Role, Says Ahmadinejad
Syria Refugees Urge More U.S. Aid as Kerry Visits Camp


What does Obama know about Takfirists?

 Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
With everybody preoccupied with attempts to understand the dimensions of the Syrian conflict, it might be useful for those monitoring the situation there to view it from the Lebanese perspective.
It is true that the Lebanese political arena is like a dark labyrinth teeming with intrigue, innuendo, and a surfeit of hypocrisy, because there is no joint national program that transcends sectarian considerations. This is not to mention the fact that due to the regional and international situation, the political scene in Lebanon finds itself turned on its head every now and then, with the country being transformed into an arena for regional conflicts, reflecting the contradictions of the clashing factions.
Following the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, the Syrian regime succeeded—where others failed—in “managing” the Lebanese contradictions, and persuading a large segment of the Lebanese public that they did not deserve to live in an independent country, and that they were incapable of development a culture of “citizenship.”
Damascus—under the Assad family— took advantage of the Lebanese lack of interest in the importance of citizenship as a necessary step for independence and sovereignty, not to mention small belief in independence as a guarantor for the survival of citizenship. Under Hafez Al-Assad, Damascus cunningly managed to pursue a dual-purpose policy, shifting its aims and attitudes whenever and wherever there was a need for such shifts.
In a shrewd and discerning manner, Assad Sr. was able to contain Iran’s rushed efforts to implement its regional project. Thus, by synchronizing his efforts with the mullahs of Iran, Hafez Al-Assad was able to avoid arousing the anxiety of the Lebanese and Syrian people, whom he was keen to reassure, or should we say anesthetize.
The situation changed, however, with the arrival of Bashar Al-Assad to power.
When the “Lebanese file” was taken out of the hands of the calm and experienced senior advisors of Hafez Al-Assad and placed in the hands of Bashar and his new team, the situation changed completely, at least on the Lebanese front. Following this development, former taboos began to be broken, as did the Syrian regime’s “special ties” with a wide spectrum of Lebanese leaders. In fact, leaders in Lebanon had to adapt to Damascus’s new strategy which was based on a sense of superiority, in addition to a policy of a“stick but no carrot” policy.
There is no need to over-analyze what happened to Lebanon and the Lebanese during Bashar Al-Assad’s early years in power. It is enough to recall February 14, 2005: the fateful day when Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, along with several guards and civilians, was killed in a car bombing. On that day, fingers were immediately pointed at Syrian and Iranian security apparatus. In a preemptive step, Damascus and its allies constructed the “Takfirist scenario” by promoting the fiction of radical Islamist “Abu Adas.”
At this point, it is worth recalling the rumors that were promoted by Damascus and its security apparatus against the background of their claims that Hariri had supposed links to radical Sunni groups, and that he supported Takfirist organizations. In this case, why would a Takfirist like Abu Adas assassinate one of his sponsors?
In addition to this preposterous plot, only months before the Syrian uprising erupted, senior government figures in Iraq accused the Damascus regime of facilitating the arrival of Takfirist groups into Iraq across Syrian territory.
Furthermore, a certain Syrian radical Takfirist preacher—who settled in northern Lebanon following a considerably long residence in the UK—was arrested in autumn 2010 after being convicted in absentia of belonging to an armed organization, inciting murder, and insulting the government. In late November 2010, this controversial preacher was released from prison thanks to the efforts of his lawyer Nawwar Al-Sahili, a Hezbollah MP who defended him after receiving explicit permission to do so from Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
In 2007, Nasrallah himself was among the first to come out to say that attacking the Takfirist Fatah Al-Islam group in the Nahr Al-Bared camp—in northern Lebanon—represented a “red line”. However, when the Syrian uprising erupted, Nasrallah justified sending Hezbollah militants to fight alongside the Assad army against Takfirists!
The presence of so-called Takfirists in Syria has provided the Western powers with a pretext to justify granting Assad tacit permission to crush the Syrian uprising. But even the West, particularly the US, are well aware precisely how and when these Takfirists came to Syria. Most likely, security services in the West monitored and continue to monitor this contradictory/complementary relationship between the Takfirist groups and their breeding grounds, which at first glance seem to be completely at odds with them.
Still, today we hear political analysts and academics trying to pin down the reasons behind Washington’s unwillingness to confront the Assad regime and its backers.
Some are of the opinion that Washington is concerned that “lethal” weapons and military aid could reach Takfirist groups on the ground. Others think that the problem lies with US President Barack Obama himself, whom they describe as being “hesitant” and overly-cautious. A third faction refer to the fact that the US is “exhausted from wars abroad” and that Obama and his administration are keen to respect the desire of the US public not to get embroiled in another foreign military adventure, as shown in opinion polls. While another group claims that the Middle East is no longer a major concern for the US.
A fifth viewpoint, which is both naïve and deliberately misinformed, dismisses claims of US “collusion” in the crushing of the Syrian uprising, attributing the current US stance to a lack of vision on the part of the Obama administration.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that Tel-Aviv is concerned about US leaks regarding Israeli strikes on military targets inside Syria. This prompts one to believe that Tel Aviv and Washington are taking different views of the situation in Syria, dismissing claims of US “collusion”.
However, it is difficult to believe that the US and Israel could take such different views on this issue, particularly to those who are aware of the central place that Israel occupies in US policy in the Middle East. This is particularly the case when we are talking about a regime that has ruled one of Israel’s closest neighbors for over four decades.

Is Iran altering Syria’s sectarian map?
July 18, 2013 /By Michael Young/The Daily Star
Rumors have circulated recently that Iran is sponsoring a plan to redraw Syria’s demographic map, including the granting of Syrian nationality to 750,000 Shiites from throughout the Middle East. Allegedly, the Iranians have paid $2 billion into the Real Estate Bank of Syria to buy up land in southern Homs province.
The Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has declared that the land registry office in Homs has been burned down to remove evidence of property ownership and facilitate the dispossession of Sunnis in the province, in that way changing its sectarian makeup. “In addition to shelling and systemic killing in Homs, the Syrian regime is also destroying property records ... in a plan to transform the minority into a majority through several steps, including the killing and the displacement of the population,” Jumblatt recently wrote in his party’s Al-Anbaa newspaper.
This came as Syrian opposition sources indicated that Iran was also seeking to extend its influence in the Jabal al-Druze, through local agents. This included settling Lebanese Shiites and Syrian Shiites displaced by the fighting in the area of Swaida.
All this information is suspiciously sourced, so should be treated with caution. That said, Jumblatt does not make such claims lightly, and has long believed that Homs province is the key to the battle in Syria, as it provides geographical continuity between predominantly Alawite areas along the Syrian coast and Shiite-controlled areas in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. For Iran to protect its investment in Lebanon’s Shiites, it needs to ensure that they are not isolated and that they can secure an outlet to the sea in the event of a conflict with Israel.
Even if the reports from Syria cannot be confirmed, it would be common sense for the regime and Iran to prepare for Syria’s likely future if President Bashar Assad’s forces prevail. Even according to the most optimistic assessments, Syria will be in for a prolonged period of instability as the regime claws back power. The priority will be to ensure that there are no further uprisings to threaten Assad rule, and in this volatile context demographic politics will be essential. Assad will see to it that he is not vulnerable again along the strategic axis between Damascus and the coast as he was until recently.
That does not necessarily mean that Iran seeks to create Shiite enclaves, although that would not be so difficult to imagine after Hezbollah used the defense of Shiites in Syria as its initial justification to deploy combatants in Qusair. And Tehran has bought up land in Lebanon to help guarantee a geographical connection between areas of Shiite concentration, most notably around Jezzine, which links southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.
That hundreds of thousands of Syrians are refugees in neighboring Arab countries facilitates schemes to alter Syria’s demographics. That is why the international community must do more to determine whether the Syrian regime and its backers are indeed intending to prevent refugees from returning to their homes, and whether property ownership is being manipulated to facilitate such an outcome.
During the war in Kosovo in 1999, one of the news items that had a great impact on international public opinion was that Serbs were engaging in identity cleansing. They were confiscating personal documents, land titles, automobile license plates, and other official papers to make sure the Albanian population did not come back, or would have no proof of identity or ownership if they did.
Other than Jumblatt’s warning, there have been no such reports from Syria, while the demographic game has been a complicated one. Both sides appear to have engaged in sectarian cleansing in certain districts, but there are also Sunnis who continue to side with the Alawite-led regime. The majority of refugees are Sunnis from rural areas, injecting a class dimension into the overall picture.
The debate will not be resolved through unverified statements, nor will the refugees benefit if their fate is publicized merely to score political points. A systematic, widespread project to “cleanse” the Sunni population, if confirmed, would be a very serious matter, therefore confirming or denying accusations to that effect must be made a priority, especially at the United Nations.
The Lebanese have a particular interest in knowing the truth. If refugees from Homs can no longer return to their villages, they will remain in Lebanon. The Lebanese reaction to the refugee crisis has been inept. To avoid a situation similar to the Palestinians, the government refused to build refugee camps for the Syrians. As a result, the refugee population is fragmented, difficult to control, and open to influence from private groups with agendas of their own. Moreover, without camps, the Lebanese are at a disadvantage when lobbying for foreign assistance. Donors rightly worry that a disjointed distribution network of aid, where there is little accountability and many middlemen, would facilitate corruption. As usual, the Lebanese have addressed the matter in a slipshod way, while the potential political and social consequences of this neglect are extremely grave.
There was a time during the last century when population transfers were acceptable. Bringing people of the same ethnicity or religion together in one place, the argument went, allowed for more homogeneous and stable entities. And so there were repeated massive population exchanges, for instance between Greece and Turkey after World War I and between Pakistan and India in 1947.
Today the consensus has changed and involuntary population transfers are viewed as reprehensible, even if in the Middle East the notion of religiously uniform entities appeals to many people. That is why the U.N. and its member states must examine what is going on in Syria, and if there is evidence of sectarian cleansing, prevent it and make certain that all refugees will one day be able to go home.
*Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Sinai Salafis in all-out war on Egyptian forces, blocking roads to MFO base and Israeli border

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 18, 2013/ The security situation in Sinai and along the Egypt-Israel frontier is rapidly going from bad to worse. The Islamist coalition’s war on Egyptian police and military positions has gone far beyond the isolated strikes here and there reported by official spokesmen, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
Hundreds of Salafist Bedouin, Muslim Brotherhood adherents and Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters from the Gaza Strip have joined forces to block northern Sinai’s key road arteries. They have stopped traffic to the Egyptian-Israeli border terminal at Nitzana, to the US-led multinational national observer base at Al Gora near El Arish, and to the big cement factory built by the Egyptian military in El Arish which is the region’s main source of employment. By blocking those roads, the Islamist fighters have choked off the movement of goods between Egypt and Israel and placed 1,000 MFO troops, including some American officers, under siege. Any vehicle driving in or out of Al Gora comes under anti-tank rocket fire. Flyers have been distributed forbidding locals to take jobs with Egyptian security forces or MFO.
The Islamists are now attacking Egyptian military and security targets at the rate of 30 strikes a day, traveling at speed between targets in minivans on which rocket launchers and heavy machine guns are mounted, or using motorbikes for raiders brandishing rocket-propelled grenades. Early Thursday July 18, one of these squads shot up a police station near El Arish with anti-tank rockets, killing an Egyptian officer and injuring five soldiers.
The Egyptian army is sending a steady flow of reinforcements to the area, with Israel's consent. An armored force of 13 tanks reached northern Sinai Wednesday July 17, to bolster the Egyptian Second Army force, headed by Gen. Ahmed Wafasi. However, not only has the Egyptian army abstained so far from directly engaging its Islamist adversaries, it has been pulling back from one isolated observation post and position after another, retreating into clusters of fortified buildings and leaving the militants in full control. Egyptian officials, asked when their counter-terror offensive in Sinai would start, answer that it will go ahead only after intelligence-gathering and preparations are complete. Meanwhile, all the Egyptian army appears to be doing is sending Apache gun ships out on surveillance missions from El Arish airport which has been converted into an air base.
The images the Egyptian military has released showing bulldozers destroying the smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to the Gaza Strip are also misleading. They are not destroyed, only blocked. Egyptian officers are showing up in the private homes where the tunnels exit and warning their owners they would come to harm if the tunnels were reactivated. Those threats have had the desired effect and the surreptitious tunnel traffic has come to a halt.
Because the Egyptians have so far kept to a war of passive defense against the Islamists rampant in Sinai, DEBKAfile’s military sources expect those terrorist groups to soon start moving out toward the Suez Canal and the main cities of Egypt. They also predict attempts to infiltrate Israel for launching a major attack on a civilian or military target.

New Syrian Air Raid on Arsal
Naharnet/A Syrian warplane violated Lebanese airspace at dawn Thursday and fired two rockets at an area in the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said that the air raid took place around 1:30 am. It did not cause any casualties. Syrian fighter jets and helicopter gunships have in recent months carried out several raids on Arsal, a town populated mostly by Sunnis who support the uprising against President Bashar Assad. Arsal, which lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria, has been used as a conduit for weapons and rebels to enter Syria, while also serving as a refuge for people fleeing the conflict.
The Syria conflict erupted in March 2011 following a bloody regime crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired democracy protests. Since then, there have been several spillover attacks in Lebanon involving both sides in Syria.

Lebanon to Ask EU Not to Label Hizbullah 'Terrorist', Bulgaria Urges Consensus on Blacklisting Military Wing
Naharnet/The Presidency on Thursday announced that caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour has been tasked to ask the EU to refrain from putting Hizbullah on its list of terrorist organizations.
“Following consultations with the premier, it has been decided to task FM Adnan Mansour to ask Lebanon's envoy to the EU and to inform the European Commission and the union's member states that Lebanon's government wants them to refrain from putting Hizbullah, an essential component of the Lebanese society, on the list of terror groups, especially should the decision be taken in a hasty manner and without objective and decisive evidence,” the Presidency said. Al-Arabiya television reported Wednesday that the EU is inclined to “unanimously” approve placing the party on the blacklist. European Union foreign ministers are set to decide Monday whether or not to add the military wing of Hizbullah to its list of terrorist groups, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
A meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday broke up with no agreement on adding the powerful group to the list as "a small number of member states" remained opposed, said an EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. "Ministers will discuss the issue on Monday," said the source, referring to scheduled talks in Brussels between the bloc's 28 foreign ministers.
Unanimity is required to add the Lebanese group to the dozen people and score of groups currently subject to an EU asset freeze -- including Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Colombia's FARC guerrillas. Another diplomatic source told Agence France Presse that Ireland and Malta were holding out but that Austria appeared to have dropped objections to the push led by Britain, France and the Netherlands. The positions of the Czech Republic, which has changed government, and Slovakia were unclear. "We are near a consensus," the source said.
Several countries have objected that it is difficult to separate Hizbullah's military and political wing. They also fear destabilizing politically fragile Lebanon as the Syrian crisis across its border deteriorates.
Concerns over Hizbullah have mounted in Europe since an attack last year on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria which Sofia blamed on the party.
On Wednesday, Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev said new evidence has bolstered its case implicating Hizbullah in the deadly July 2012 bus bombing, but investigators still do not know the specific identities of the suspects. The attack in the Black Sea resort of Burgas killed five Israeli tourists, the bus driver and the alleged perpetrator. Bulgaria Thursday commemorated the one-year anniversary of the attack and called for sanctions against Hizbullah. At a ceremony in Burgas, Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said the EU should "work towards a consensus decision that would allow... the military wing of Hizbullah to be added to its list of terror organizations." "There are clear links to Hizbullah behind this attack," Bulgaria's interior minister said Thursday, citing new information from foreign intelligence services. He pointed to "the very professional preparation and execution of this terrorist act."Despite recovering fingerprints and DNA from the bomber -- who also died in the attack -- Bulgaria has been struggling to identify the culprits. A re-enactment of the attack showed the bomber either died by mistake or his device was detonated at a distance. "We do not have enough evidence to accuse a specific person of a specific crime," Burgas regional prosecutor Kalina Chapkanov told BNT public television Thursday. The June deadline for the investigation has been extended by five months by prosecutors who said that written testimony by Israeli survivors was only received earlier this month.
In February, an official Bulgarian report said investigators had "well-grounded reasons" to suggest that two men suspected in the attack belonged to the militant wing of Hizbullah. In March, a Cyprus court sentenced a self-confessed Hizbullah member to four years behind bars for planning attacks there. Hizbullah has been on a U.S. terror black list since 1995. Britain and the Netherlands are the only EU nations to have placed Hizbullah on their own lists of terrorist groups.

Army Says Jammo Murder Not Political, Wife to be Reportedly Questioned Soon

Naharnet/Preliminary investigations into the shooting assassination on Wednesday of pro-regime Syrian figure Mohammed Darrar Jammo in south Lebanon have revealed that the crime was not politically motivated, the Lebanese Army Command announced on Thursday. “Following the murder of Syrian activist Mohammed Darrar Jammo in the Sarafand region on July 17, 2013, the Intelligence Directorate started its investigations and managed to identify and arrest the perpetrators and seize the weapons used to commit the crime,” the Army Command's Orientation Directorate said in a statement. “Preliminary investigations revealed that there are no political motives behind the incident and the (intelligence) directorate's probe is still underway to unveil all the circumstances of the crime,” it added. In an interview on al-Jadeed television earlier on Thursday, al-Akhbar newspaper journalist Hasan Ollaik said: “The probe has revealed that the murder has nothing to do with politics or with the martyr's political stances and that familial and social reasons were behind it.” “The Lebanese security agencies have started their investigations and four people have been arrested, with two of them confessing to plotting and executing the crime and revealing all of its details,” Ollaik added. He said the arrested suspects are a brother and a nephew of Jammo's wife, noting that they told interrogators about problems between the Syrian figure and his spouse that pushed him to refrain from visiting Lebanon for six months.
“Syrian authorities have been informed of the details and the wife, which is now in Syria for the funeral, will be interrogated,” Ollaik added. He said the detainees confessed to deactivating the surveillance cameras installed around Jammo's residence two days before the crime, although some reports have said that they were switched off six months ago. Ollaik revealed that “the conflicting testimonies started from the very first moment and security authorities were not convinced of what they heard, so they resorted to additional elements in order to arrest the suspects.” Gunmen burst into the first floor apartment of Jammo at dawn Wednesday, killing him in a hail of nearly 30 bullets in the town of Sarafand, which is a Hizbullah stronghold. Jammo, a 44-year-old journalist and political commentator, was one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's and Hizbullah's most vociferous defenders. In frequent appearances on television talk shows, he would staunchly support the Syrian regime's strong-armed response to the uprising and in at least one case shouted down opposition figures, calling them "traitors." Jammo's hard-line stance had earned him enemies among Syria's opposition, and some in the anti-Assad camp referred to him as "shabih," a term used for pro-government gunmen who have been blamed for some of the worst mass killings of the civil war.

Amal, Hezbollah to negotiate Marada share in Cabinet: Franjieh
July 18, 2013 /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Amal Movement and Hezbollah will negotiate the share of the Marada Movement in the next government, Suleiman Franjieh, the head of the Christian political party, said Thursday.
“Hezbollah and Amal are negotiating on behalf of me in consultation with the prime minister-designate because they have discussed the issue with me,” Franjieh told Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Nour radio.
Franjieh’s remarks come after Speaker Nabih Berri recently announced the end of the March 8 alliance and said he would only negotiate for the share of the two Shiite groups, Amal and Hezbollah, in the next government.
Berri also said the Free Patriotic Movement and Marada could negotiate over the their ministerial seats. Franjieh said Thursday that he could not delegate Aoun to negotiate on behalf of his party as Aoun had not volunteered to do so and given that the FPM considers the Marada “followers and not allies.”“If Gen. Michel Aoun asks us to negotiate on our behalf then let him do so but how can we delegate him for such a mission if he does not ask for it?” said Franjieh, adding that his party would not give up on its share in the next Cabinet to any other group.“The Free Patriotic Movement considers some as allies, like Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, and considers some others as followers and we might be ranked in the second group,” Franjieh said. The Marada Movement leader also said he supported Aoun in his call for appointing a new Army chief, a controversial issue that has caused disputes between the FMP chief and Berri. “If Gen. Aoun can secure a majority to name a new Army chief then we are with him,” Franjieh said. Franjieh pointed out that if there was no breakthrough over naming a new military commander, he opt for extending the term of Gen. Jean Kahwagi in order to avoid a vacuum at the military establishment. FPM MPs have boycotted Parliament over the extension of Kahwagi’s term.

Suleiman Condemns Jammo Assassination, Warns of Spread of Internal Syrian Disputes to Lebanon
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman condemned on Thursday the assassination of pro-government Syrian journalist Mohammed Darrar Jammo, hoping that his criminals will be brought to justice.
He warned in a statement of the spread of internal disputes among Syrian parties to Lebanon, rejecting that the country be used to settle scores for Syrian conflicts. The president demanded that the concerned security agencies intensify their efforts in order to prevent similar crimes from taking place in the future “to preserve Lebanon's stability and the people's safety.” Jammo was killed at dawn on Wednesday when gunmen attacked him in his apartment in the town of Sarafand, which is a Hizbullah stronghold in southern Lebanon. The gunmen killed him in a hail of nearly 30 bullets. Jammo, a 44-year-old journalist and political commentator, was one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's and Hizbullah's staunchest defenders.

Hizbullah, PSP Agree on Unity Cabinet, 'Organizing Differences' on Syria

Naharnet/Hizbullah and Progressive Socialist Party officials have agreed on the need to speed up the formation of a national unity cabinet and pushed for a deal to keep the differences on the Syrian crisis away from the streets, sources said Thursday. The sources told As Safir daily that a meeting was held on Wednesday night at the residence of Hizbullah Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan between PSP officials and the party's representatives.
The PSP delegation included Ministers Ghazi Aridi, Wael Abou Faour and Alaeddine Terro, MP Akram Shhayyeb and the party's Secretary-General Zafer Nasser. The Hizbullah officials who attended the meeting at al-Hajj Hassan's home were Minister Mohammed Fneish, MP Hassan Fadlallah and Wafiq Safa. Sources told As Safir that the officials tackled the need to speed up the formation of an all-embracing government, to keep security and protect the army as an institution that guarantees stability. The conferees reiterated the need for “an agreement on reorganizing the differences on the Syrian crisis,” the sources told As Safir. Such a deal would keep Lebanon away from the internal dispute on how to approach the Syrian war and would prevent officials from taking their differences to the streets, they said. In recent months, violence linked to the Syrian crisis has become more recurrent and geographically widespread, extending to predominantly Shiite neighborhoods where Hizbullah has a strong presence. Clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups in Lebanon have left scores of people dead in recent months, and the violence has escalated as Hizbullah's role fighting alongside the Syrian regime has become public. The group was instrumental in helping secure a regime victory in the strategic town of al-Qusayr near the border with Lebanon last month.

Report: Hizbullah Boosts Security after Several Attacks

Naharnet /Hizbullah raised its security to the maximum, a move that came in light of a series of attacks that targeted its strongholds and its fighters, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Thursday. According to the report, the move helped the party to uncover a number of “dormant cells” and several plots that aim at breaching its ranks. Sources told the newspaper the upcoming stage is expected to witness an increase in security attacks, stressing that Hizbullah will not remain mum over the issue. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb blast targeted a Syria-bound Hizbullah convoy in eastern Lebanon near the Masnaa border crossing. It was the fourth time that a vehicle has been targeted by an explosive device in the Bekaa region, which is a Hizbullah stronghold. At least 53 people were wounded in an explosion that was caused by a booby-trapped vehicle in Bir al-Abed in Beirut's southern suburbs.
Hizbullah has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad. The conflict, pitting a Sunni-dominated rebel movement against Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has raised sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Interior Ministry withdraws MPs security personnel

July 18, 2013 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Interior Ministry has withdrawn “extra” security personnel assigned to protect a number of politicians, it was announced Thursday. The office of caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel issued a statement about the issue after several MPs complained about the decision to reassign the personnel. Beirut MPs Nadim Gemayel and Ammar Houri were among those who said they had been informed that they would be losing the services of the extra Internal Security Forces personnel. Charbel’s statement said the decision was taken during the most recent meeting of the Central Security Council.
The statement said the council re-assigned the extra ISF personnel who had been accompanying MPs and politicians because the extra ISF personnel detachments were a violation of a government decree, number 2512, which regulates the personal protection of politicians and other public figures. Each MP is entitled to four State Security personnel as bodyguards. The council tasked the director general of the Interior Ministry with preparing a list of politicians who require the extra protection, with the matter to be discussed at the council’s next meeting. The extra personnel, the statement said, would undergo re-training and would be assigned to the country’s police stations while the security needs of politicians would be handled by State Security and not the ISF, as required by law.

Salam: Precondition Toppling Cabinet Formation Efforts
Naharnet /Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam stressed on Thursday that he is seeking not to let down the Lebanese people and swiftly form his cabinet, despite the mounting conditions set by the rival parties. “The formation of the government requires more attention and continuous efforts,” Salam told reporters after talks with President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace. He expressed fear over the ongoing vacuum in the executive power, which has a negative impact on the situation in the country. “All options are open,” Salam said. The official noted that the preconditions are delaying the formation of his government. “I won't change my stances that are based on my convictions, I am keen to deal with the rival parties according to them,” he added. Salam is seeking to form a cabinet divided equally between the Lebanese foes and the centrists and rejects to grant the veto power to any party.

New Iran President Hopes for Better Ties with Lebanon
Naharnet/ President Michel Suleiman received a message on Thursday from Iran's president-elect Hassan Rowhani thanking the Lebanese head of state for congratulating him on his election, and hoping for better bilateral relations. The note that was delivered by Iran's Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi was in response to Suleiman's congratulatory message on Rowhani's June election. The Baabda Palace quoted the president-elect as saying that he hoped for the consolidation of bilateral ties at all levels and in all fields. Rowhani has also sent messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizbullah, reaffirming support for the two allies. The official IRNA news agency on Tuesday cited him as saying close Iranian-Syrian ties will be able to confront "enemies in the region, especially the Zionist regime," or Israel. Rowhani also told Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his message that Iran backs the "steadfast nation" of Lebanon and the Palestinians, a reference to Hamas. He highlighted the group's "endeavors" for the anti-Israeli resistant front -- comprised of Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
The notes reflect Rowhani's intentions to emphasize links to Iran's key regional allies even as he urges for greater outreach to the West.

Jumblat Slams Jammo's Assassination: Security Agencies Must Unite to Face Impact of Syrian Crisis
Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat condemned on Thursday the assassination of pro-government Syrian journalist Mohammed Darrar Jammo, calling on the concerned agencies to uncover the criminals and bring them to justice. He said in a statement: “Given the increase in crimes and security incidents, such as murders and abductions, it is time for complete coordination between all Lebanese security agencies in order to confront the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.” “The increased direct or indirect involvement of Lebanese parties in the Syrian crisis is exposing Lebanon to security incidents in various regions,” he noted.
On Jammo's assassination, the MP stated: “One cannot be selective in applying justice.” “As we had demanded that justice be achieved in the several assassinations that have taken place in Lebanon since 2005, we demand that justice be achieved in Jammo's murder,” Jumblat remarked. “Condemning political crimes should not be linked to the stances of the victim,” he added. Jammo was killed at dawn on Wednesday when gunmen attacked him in his apartment in the town of Sarafand, which is a Hizbullah stronghold in southern Lebanon. The gunmen killed him in a hail of nearly 30 bullets. Jammo, a 44-year-old journalist and political commentator, was one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's and Hizbullah's most vociferous defenders.

Report: Suleiman to Go On with Dialogue Initiative Despite Obstacles
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman is seeking to resume the national dialogue between the rival parties despite the obstacles that will confront him, media reports said on Thursday. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, Suleiman's dialogue invitation came in light of an international desire to halt any attempt to destabilize the situation in the country. On Tuesday, Suleiman said that he hopes he will be able to call for a national dialogue session “soon” to discuss the defense strategy and find solutions to the current political crises. He reiterated at an Iftar banquet in Baabda Palace calls for abiding by the Baabda Declaration, urging factions to commit to it “in words and in deeds.” The president, according to al-Joumhouria, also considers that the March 14 and 8 coalitions are in desperate need to bridge the gap between them. An informed source told the newspaper that Suleiman realizes that he will be confronted by many obstacles, however he will not back down on his attempt to end the standstill situation. Sources close to the president told An Nahar newspaper that Suleiman is seeking to resume the national dialogue after the formation of the new cabinet-led by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam. The Baabda Declaration was unanimously adopted during a national dialogue session in June 2012. It calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional crises, most notably the one in Syria.

Hollande Contacts Suleiman: Hopes New Govt. Will Not Exclude Any Lebanese Party

Naharnet /French President Francois Hollande hoped on Thursday that the Lebanese political powers will succeed in forming a new government. He hoped in a telephone call with President Michel Suleiman that a new government will not exclude any Lebanese party. The new cabinet should include all powers and not exclude any component of Lebanon, he stressed. Hollande also thanked Suleiman for Lebanon's efforts in harboring Syrian refugees and confronting the repercussions the Syrian crisis is having on the country. The French official stressed that his country will not spare any effort in supporting Lebanon's endeavors to host the refugees. He also voiced France's readiness to keep supporting Lebanon and its army. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was appointed by political powers on April 6 to form a new government in light of the resignation of Premier Najib Miqati on March 22. Salam is seeking to form a cabinet divided equally between the Lebanese foes and the centrists. His efforts however have stumbled with March 8 camp demands that it be granted veto power in the new government. He has repeatedly refused to present any party with such an authority, saying that such power will render the cabinet ineffective.

Security Forces Tasked with Protection of Several Phalange, LF MPs Withdrawn
Naharnet /The security forces tasked with protecting Phalange Party MP Nadim Gemayel were withdrawn, the state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday. "The Central Security Council informed Gemayel the removal of the security entourage tasked with protecting him,” the NNA said. Gemayel released a statement later, holding the caretaker minister of interior responsible “for his personal safety.”"A notice like this implies that (caretaker Interior Minister) Marwan Charbel is the person in charge of the lawmakers' security and protection,” he said, pointing out to the current “chaotic security situation in the country when assassinations and explosions have resumed.” Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) confirmed on Thursday that Phalange bloc MP Sami Gemayel was also informed by the council the withdrawal of all security forces tasked with his protection.
“The Lebanese Forces bloc received word that the security forces tasked with protecting its MPs have been withdrawn,” it added. MTV later noted that Phalange lawmaker Elie Marouni and Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra's bodyguards were also withdrawn. “The decision to withdraw the security forces encompasses all MPs and we question the timing of this call at the time of political assassinations,” Zahra said. Earlier on Thursday, al-Mustaqbal MP Ahmed Fatfat expressed that he holds “all concerned authorities responsible for any assault against him,” after he had received the same notice.
But after contacting Charbel, Fatfat announced that the forces will resume their work, explaining that this is due to the sensitive "position he represents and the security dangers he may be exposed to for being a former interior minister." The interior ministry elaborated Thursday afternoon, saying that the Central Security Council “only withdrew the extra security forces tasked with protecting the lawmakers.”
"The Central Security Council in its last meeting decided to withdraw the additional bodyguards tasked with the protection of several political figures and that violate decree number 2512,” a statement released by Charbel's office said. It explained saying that these internal security forces will “undergo training and will serve in police stations all over Lebanon.” "The protection of figures is the responsibility of the general-directorate of the Internal Security Forces' officers.” Charbel remarked: “Acting ISF chief Ibrahim Basbous was asked to prepare a list of figures in need of keeping this kind of protection in coordination with General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, and a decision in this regard will be announced in the council's upcoming meeting.” Later on Thursday, the March 14 camp condemned the Central Security Council's decision, saying that it “completely contradicts with the dangerous situation the country is passing through.” It noted in a statement that the decision also contradicts the decision Charbel had taken himself to ensure the safety of the lawmakers.
It therefore demanded that the council retract its decision and restore the withdrawn security forces to their positions “otherwise it and the interior minister will be held responsible for any harm that may befall any March 14 MP or official.”“Has the government taken the decision to encourage the killers and those behind the political assassinations through the Central Security Council's decision?” it wondered.
“What alternative measures has the Interior Ministry taken in order to protect the forces of democracy that do not believe in weapons as a replacement of the Lebanese state?” asked the March 14 camp.

Humanities (LH) Official Baccalaureate Results Released
Naharnet/The Humanities (LH) secondary school official exam results were released on Thursday.They can be checked on the following page:
The results of Sociology and Economics (SE) will be out later on Thursday. Brevet results are expected to be announced in three stages starting next Monday. The results of the General Science (SG) and Life Science (SV) exams were released on Wednesday. Source/Naharnet.

Abu Ghida Issues Arrest Warrants against 5 Detainees over Abra Clashes

Naharnet /First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida on Thursday continued his interrogations over the clashes against the military institution in the southern town of Abra, issuing arrest warrants against five detainees. "Abu Ghida questioned six detainees over their involvement in Abra's clashes and issued arrest warrants against five of them,” the state-run National News Agency reported. The same source noted, however, that the sixth person was acquitted. The NNA added: "Investigation in this case will resume on Monday.” On Monday, Abu Ghida issued arrest warrants against five detainees involved in the southern city of Sidon's clashes.
And last week, the military judge issued eight arrest warrants against several fugitives, including Salafist cleric Ahmed al-Asir and former singer Fadel Shaker over the clashes in Sidon.
Meanwhile, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged 27 suspects last week, 10 of them in absentia, over the clashes against the Lebanese army in the southern port city.
If convicted, the suspects face the death penalty. The fighting near Sidon was sparked late last month when Asir's supporters opened fire on an army checkpoint, leaving around 18 soldiers and more than 20 gunmen dead.
The gunbattles concentrated in the area of Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque and nearby buildings in Abra. Asir, a 45-year-old cleric who supports the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, is no where to be found along with Shaker. Asir teamed up with Shaker, a onetime prominent singer, when around two years ago he began agitating for Hizbullah to disarm.

Aoun Reveals Syrian Plan regarding Refugees' Return to Their Country

Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun revealed on Thursday a plan regarding the return of Syrian refugees to their country. "There is a plan concerning the return of refugees to Syria that includes providing them with what they were used to receive before,” Aoun told OTV after meeting with Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar at his residence in al-Metn's Rabieh neighborhood. "Syrian authorities are calling on the refugees to return and are ready to provide them with residence and schooling. There are many regions in the neighboring country where they can reside.” Aoun stated: “Lebanon is not a country where you can take refuge without any price. When we provide them with the option of returning to their country with guarantees, they cannot say no.” The FPM leader hoped concerned authorities “will not reject Haidar's proposal.” “Lebanon needs to be relieved even if to a certain extent only,” he said, warning that the situation is heading towards “an explosion, especially with the presence of gunmen incited by foreign forces.” Meanwhile, Haidar assured the Syrian authorities' readiness to receive the returning refugees. "Doors are open in front of them taking into consideration the guarantees they demand, whether legal or international and the conditions they request,” he stressed. Lebanon's ambassador to the United Nations Nawaf Salam warned on Tuesday that the number of Syrian refugees fleeing the war-torn country and coming to Lebanon could surpass one million by the end of 2013, asking the members of the international community to “bear the costs with Lebanese authorities.” Salam said that “pressures are mounting and that the needs of the Syrian refugees surpass the Lebanon's capabilities.” He assured, however, that the country “will not close its border in front of refugees fleeing violence and destruction and we will not stop delivering aid.”

FIBA Suspends Lebanon's Basketball Membership
Naharnet/The basketball world governing body, FIBA, announced on Thursday the suspension of Lebanon's membership.The suspension means that the country's national basketball team will be barred from taking part in international tournaments. This includes the upcoming 27th Asian Championship set to take place in the Philippines from August 1-11. Contrary to reports, LBCI television said that the duration of the suspension was not revealed. Media reports had stated on Thursday that the suspension will last four years. The national team is expected to make a press conference on Saturday in order to address the decision. FIBA was seeking to suspend Lebanon's membership over disputes within the Lebanese Basketball Union that saw the judiciary meddle in the sports affairs. The basketball crisis in Lebanon began with disputes over elections within the union.
The dispute took place between the Free Patriotic Movement, which backs the Champville basketball team, and an alliance of President Michel Suleiman, who backs the Amchit team, the Mustaqbal Movement, and caretaker Minister Mohammed al-Safadi. A dispute emerged during a league game between Champville and Amchit, which prompted judicial interference, which sided with the latter team, said LBCI. The union, which was dominated by FPM officials after the elections, considered the judicial interference as being politicized, which resulted in the suspension of the league. The union then requested that FIBA intervene to resolve the crisis. It demanded that the disputed sides end their problems by signing an understanding, which they failed to do.

Bahrain Rattled by Bombings Near Royal Palaces, Sunni Mosque
Naharnet/A bombing outside a mosque near the royal palaces has rattled Bahrain, prompting authorities and main opposition groups in the violence-wracked Gulf kingdom to denounce the attack. No one was injured in the blast, which struck late Wednesday in the mosque parking lot during evening prayers. But it was a rare explosion near the site of the royal residences, pointing to widening attacks by militant factions as part of the 29-month unrest. Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded outside a Sunni mosque in a Bahrain neighborhood where the royal court is situated but caused no casualties, the interior ministry said.
The bomb, made from a gas cylinder, exploded late Wednesday in the parking area of the Isa bin Salman mosque in the Rifaa neighborhood, south of the capital Manama, the ministry said.
"The terrorist act took place while prayers were held in the mosque," it said.
Government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said Thursday the explosion was "an attempt to create chaos" in Bahrain. "This is a despicable terrorist act intended to undermine national unity and sow sectarian sedition," said Rajab. The interior ministry announced it has banned a rally which was planned by the opposition for Friday in the Shiite villages of Khamis and Sar.
Legal action will be taken against violators, a ministry statement warned. Witnesses said the blast site was close to the royal court of the Sunni dynasty that rules Shiite-majority Bahrain.
Militants from the disgruntled Shiite majority are usually blamed for unrest in the Gulf kingdom, where confrontations between police and Shiite protesters are frequent.
King Hamad issued a statement late Wednesday condemning the attack and ordering security forces to hunt the culprits and the "instigators".
"The people of Bahrain have had enough and have run out of patience over such acts that are strange to the people of Bahrain and their morals," he said.
The Shiite opposition, led by the influential Al-Wefaq bloc, condemned the blast, rejecting "any act intended to terrorize the innocent" and insisting on finding a "peaceful solution" to the kingdom's political impasse.
The latest bombing comes amid an escalation in attacks on police in Shiite villages, using homemade explosive devices and petrol bombs, according to authorities.
Last week, four policemen were wounded in a bombing outside the Shiite village of Janabiyah, just weeks after an explosion killed a policeman and wounded two others in the area of Sitra.
Protests remain frequent in Shiite villages despite a heavy-handed crackdown in March 2011 that quelled a month-long protest inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.
At least 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests erupted, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
SourceAgence France Presse.

Taliban Kill Eight Afghan Workers en Route to U.S. Base

Naharnet /Taliban gunmen on Thursday shot dead eight Afghan civilians on their way to jobs at a U.S. military base south of Kabul, officials said. "Eight Afghan workers who were working in Camp Shank were killed this morning by Taliban," said the deputy police chief in Logar province, Rais Khan Sadeq. It was the deadliest attack since Afghanistan started observing the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of prayer and charity. "They were forced out of their car and taken about 200 meters off road to a nearby village, and shot in the head one by one," he told Agence France Presse. Their bodies were found with their eyes blindfolded, the police official said, describing them as "ordinary civilian workers" on the base. U.S. and NATO military bases across Afghanistan hire local staff to work on construction projects and as cleaners. Din Mohammad Darvish, the Logar administration spokesman, confirmed the incident and said the bodies of the victims were recovered in the village. "They were poor and ordinary workers, all civilians," he said. Afghan officials blamed the attack on the Taliban. Logar is a stronghold for the militants waging a 12-year insurgency against the Western-backed government after being toppled in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Taliban have vowed to increase their attacks during Ramadan. The insurgents have stepped up attacks on Afghan forces since they took responsibility for national security last month.
In the north, police said Taliban attacked a police post near the city of Kunduz, killing two officers and wounding two others -- the only four on duty at the time. Around 100,000 U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan are preparing to withdraw from the country by the end of next year, after key presidential polls scheduled for April.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Lebanon’s Impossible Politics

By: Barak Gatenyo and Daniel Nisman/Asharq Alawsat
Lebanon’s politics are becoming about as predictable as molecules in an atom smasher. After three months of fruitless negotiations, the efforts of Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a cabinet remain at square one. The parliament remains unable to fill a quorum due to a cyclical boycott by more than half of its members at any given time. Meanwhile, the March 8 alliance between Hezbollah, Amal, and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has dissolved, with all parties trying to pull the latter’s influential leader Michel Aoun in their direction.
Impasses at Lebanon’s highest levels of government threaten to institutionalize a leadership vacuum at a time when the country is barely able keep the floodgates of violence from the Syrian war closed. Amidst this political tumult, Lebanon’s most potent political player, Hezbollah, is finding itself increasingly isolated.
On July 10, the March 8 alliance dissolved after the FPM withdrew, citing differences on domestic issues with Shi’ite alliance members Amal and Hezbollah. Tensions between the FPM and Hezbollah have increased in recent months over numerous issues, including the extension of the parliament’s term in June 2013, the extension of military chief Jean Qawaji’s term in September 2013, and to an extent, Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian conflict. March 8 was previously criticized for blocking Salam’s cabinet formation over its insistence to maintain veto rights, a demand which has now been shelved.
With the veto issue out of the way, Hezbollah’s inclusion in the next cabinet has now become a major point of contention. Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea (part of the March 14 alliance) recently stated that a cabinet which includes the group would endanger Lebanon’s position in the international community and the region. Leaders from the Shi’ite Amal, the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, and FPM have since insisted that excluding Hezbollah would be detrimental for Lebanon’s stability. This debate over Hezbollah’s participation comes ahead of a key European Union meeting on July 18 which could result in an unprecedented branding of the Shi’ite group as a terrorist organization.
Since the collapse of March 8, efforts by the March 14 alliance to isolate Hezbollah and exclude it from the next cabinet have intensified, focusing on incentivizing Michel Aoun and the FPM join. In the coming week, Aoun will travel to Saudi Arabia, a major backer of the March 14 alliance for consultations, while also holding meetings with Hezbollah. March 14’s efforts have drawn negative reactions from the Hezbollah allies such as the Amal party (13 seats), along with other factions who believe that Hezbollah’s exclusion from government will lead to a major destabilization in Lebanon.
International pressure plays an ever-crucial role in Lebanon’s cabinet formation efforts, particularly with regard to Hezbollah’s exclusion. Any future European Union decision to blacklist Hezbollah will embolden March 14 alliance members to maintain their position against Hezbollah’s inclusion by bolstering their warnings of international isolation.
Hezbollah has limited options available to maintain the loyalty of its non-Shi’ite allies and prevent its exclusion from the next government. These options include siding with Michel Aoun on its refusal to extend the term of Lebanese military chief Jean Qawaji, announcing a withdrawal of its forces from the Syrian conflict, or threatening to destabilize Lebanon. The first option is the most convenient; as Hezbollah understands that the continued support of a large non-Shi’ite party like the FPM will entice centrist parties to insist on an inclusive government. A withdrawal from the Syrian conflict would only come about with Iranian approval, with such an approval granted on grounds that the Assad regime can accomplish its goals on its own or with increased Iranian support. The last option is always on the table, but given that much of Hezbollah’s military and political capital has been spent in Syria, taking responsibility for igniting sectarian conflict in Lebanon is hardly worth it unless absolutely necessary.
In the event that all sides refuse to compromise on their positions regarding the cabinet composition, Salam may resort to political maneuvering to establish a de-facto cabinet. Reports indicate that Salam is weighing putting a March 14-only cabinet to a vote in parliament, with the understanding that the motion will fail by at least five votes. Despite failing to win a vote of confidence in parliament, Salam could theoretically declare his cabinet as one with caretaker status, similar to the current caretaker government of Najib Mikati. Such a move has been criticized as unconstitutional, although an approval by President Suleiman could validate such a move. Suleiman is reportedly becoming increasingly favorable to this option, citing his increasing willingness to bring an end to the current impasse.
Under current conditions, any move by Salam to form a de-facto government which excludes major centrist and former March 8 alliance members will increase sectarian tensions in the country. Hezbollah, Amal, and possibly the FPM would likely boycott parliamentary proceedings, whilst the Shi’ite community may engage in labor strikes, protests, or possible violence. That said, a compromise that affords Hezbollah a spot in the cabinet would spawn protests in Sunni communities nationwide, especially if Hezbollah’s militiamen have not withdrawn from Syria by that time.
At this stage, it is difficult to decipher what’s more dangerous for Lebanon, forming a cabinet or letting the current political deadlock continue as the new status quo until the storm of the Syrian conflict blows over one way or the other. One thing seems to be certain, in that a continued leadership vacuum at such a tense period will ultimately lead to a decrease in confidence toward Lebanon’s governing system and the authority of state security forces. Cohesion within state security forces is crucial to preventing an outbreak of violence among sectarian lines at a time when some Sunni communities are openly celebrating bombing attacks in Shi’ite areas, such as that which occurred in Beirut’s Dahiye area on July 9. In this context, the failure to resolve the dispute over the extension of military chief Qawaji’s term threatens an additional leadership vacuum in the state security apparatus following numerous other resignations. Currently, it seems as though the only thing holding Lebanon’s political system and the military together are fears of a full-blown civil war in their absence. However, with each passing day that Lebanon’s major factions fail to compromise, this system erodes even more, bringing the country closer and closer to catastrophe.

Will Egypt’s crisis continue?

By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
How long will it take for Egyptians to agree to leave Cairo’s Tahrir and Rabia al-Adawiya Squares, and move towards a stable political structure? It could be any time, from three months to three years. Everything is possible, as the divisions grow wider with time. The new Egyptian rule—which consists of the goverment, the political parties that support it, and the army—will probably find itself making the same mistake that the Brotherhood made during its one year of governance. Becoming preoccupied with disputes and differences—rather than engaging with the Egyptian citizens in crisis and amending the poor situation—is what drove the people to revolt in the first place. Had former president Mohamed Mursi made valuable and influential achievements during his tenure, his opponents would probably not have found enough people to fill up a single street in protests against the government.
Now that they are the opposition, Brotherhood supporters will aim to obstruct public interests; distract the interim government from carrying out its duties; and incite people against the cabinet until people begin to revolt—again. We also have to keep in mind that the current living conditions of many Egyptians are worse than they were two years ago, when the first revolution erupted.
Capitalists went abroad, foreign investments halted, and all the foreign aid that has been offered takes a long time to be delivered. When it does arrive, it takes even longer—sometimes a year or two—to manifest itself into food and jobs. The urgent aid being sent to Egypt in the wake of the second revolution is in fact less than the aid that Mursi’s cabinet received. The difference is that a big part of the former aid will arrive in the shape of material goods, such as oil derivatives. Around USD 12 billion has been pledged—much less than the USD 20 billion provided last year, of which Qatar alone provided USD 8 billion. Qatar had originally promised double this amount for investments in Suez, but the money is yet to be received. There were also foreign aid packages from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Europe, which amounted to USD 6 billion. This aid, however, did not succeed in saving Mursi’s cabinet. In addition to a shortage of diesel and gasoline, the value of the Egyptian pound decreased, and the price of food products increased.
At a time when people are still busy rallying in the country’s squares, the best option is to accelerate the election process and form a technocratic cabinet whose only concern is to save Egypt from the crisis it’s heading towards. The mission of the Brotherhood, who have now become the opposition, is now easy. All they have to do is protest every day and accuse the government of negligence, pushing the Egyptian people to take to the streets again and topple a third president in as many years.
Only when the constitutional amendments are completed, elections have been held, and a new president and parliament have been chosen, can we say that Egypt is on the right track. Only then that we can say Egypt is striving towards a system of governance that is recognized by the international community, and by those who support the Brotherhood, such as Turkey.
No matter how suspicious they are about the process of electing a cabinet, the Brotherhood cannot accuse an elected cabinet of deception—especially if the electoral committees adopt complete transparency and allow international observers to monitor the process. It doesn’t matter what the Brotherhood or other defeated parties say because the world will recognize the choice of the entire people—not the protests in Cairo’s squares and streets.