June 18/2013

Bible Quotation for today/You cannot drink from the Lord's cup and also from the cup of demons
01 Corinthians 10/14-22: " So then, my dear friends, keep away from the worship of idols. I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  The cup we use in the Lord's Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. Consider the people of Israel; those who eat what is offered in sacrifice share in the altar's service to God.  Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything?  No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the Lord's cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord's table and also at the table of demons.  Or do we want to make the Lord jealous? Do we think that we are stronger than he?

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

Oh Sayyida Zeynab/By: Hussain Abdul Hussain/Now Lebanon/June 18/13
Mursi, Sunni scholars demand Hezbollah leave Syria/By: Abdul Sattar Hatita/ Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/13
Better late than never/Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/June 18/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 18/13

Putin will address G8 summit as head of winning Syrian war camp
Lebanese Leaders urge swift investigation into Bekaa Valley killings
Church leaders In Lebanon tell faithful to remain strong

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai slams March 8, 14 parties over prolonged rifts
Geagea Praises President's Stances, Calls on Salam to Form Cabinet or Resign
Sami Gemayel Says Hizbullah 'Gambling with Lebanon's Fate,' Urges Suleiman, Cabinet to Assume Responsibilities
Ashton Meets Miqati after Arriving in Beirut for Talks on Syrian Refugees

With dwindling council quorum hopes, extension seems certain
Jumblat: Aren't We Better Off Forming New Govt. Instead of Waiting for Magical Solution in Syria
Miqati Urges Calm in Bekaa, Army Says Won't Allow Anyone to Exploit Incident
Salam Urges Restraint and Calm over Arsal Ambush
Hamas Urges Hizbullah to Pull Fighters Out of Syria

Charbel Warns against Falling in Sunni-Shiite Strife Plot
Report: Army Detains Palestinian Plotting 'Terrorist' Act in Sidon
Islamist Shoots Dead Fatah Member in Ain el-Hilweh
Qabbani Warns Lebanese against Slipping into Sedition after Bekaa Crime
Berri to Help Salam's Mission as Soon as Extension Law Becomes Valid

Taalabaya Road Blocked after Resident Briefly Held by al-Labweh Gunmen
Miqati Urges Calm in Bekaa, Army Says Won't Allow Anyone to Exploit Incident

Syria crisis at center of G8 summit
Assad: Europe 'Would Pay Price' for Arming Rebels

Canadian PM, Harper announces new humanitarian aid for Syria at G8

Pope Urges G8 to Strive for Immediate Syria Ceasefire
Putin Meets Cameron, Warns against Arming Syria Rebels
Erdogan Tells Supporters It was His 'Duty' to 'Clean Up' Protest Park
Canada Condemns Attack on Shiite Mosque in Eastern Syria
Canada Warns of Growing Violence in Iraq
Rowhani: We're against Foreign Intervention in Syria, Govt. Must Stay till 2014

Iran President-Elect Wants to Improve Ties with Riyadh
Putin Says U.S., Russia Have Not Abandoned Hopes of Syria Conference
Syria Dominates G8 with Russia under Pressure


Pope Urges G8 to Strive for Immediate Syria Ceasefire
Naharnet /Pope Francis called Sunday on the leaders of the world's top industrialized nations meeting in Northern Ireland to push for an immediate ceasefire in Syria. On the eve of a two-day G8 summit, Francis wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron calling on the powers to act fast to end a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. "I earnestly hope that the summit will help to obtain an immediate and lasting ceasefire and to bring all parties in the conflict to the negotiating table," he said. "Peace demands a far-sighted renunciation of certain claims, in order to build together a more equitable and just peace," he said without elaborating.
The West is at odds with Russia over what action to take to end an escalating civil war that has killed at least 93,000 people since March 2011 according to U.N. figures. Washington has vowed to send military aid to rebel forces battling to topple President Bashar Assad after saying it had proof that the regime had crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons on a small scale -- but Russia is dismissive of the U.S. claims. Pope Francis also called for the G8 leaders to ensure that any measures adopted at the summit to tackle the financial crisis have a strong ethical line. While Syria is set to dominate the agenda, Cameron has been promising developments on clamping down on tax evasion and easing bank secrecy. "Urgent measures to resolve the global economic crisis must be guided by the ethics of truth," Francis said. "This includes, first and foremost, respect for the truth of man, who is not simply an additional economic factor, or a disposable good, but is equipped with a nature and a dignity that cannot be reduced to simple economic calculus," he added. The 76-year-old Argentine -- who has made giving a voice to the poor one of the keystones of his papacy -- called on the leaders to remember those less fortunate in their economic calculations. "The goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers' wombs," he said. "Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom."Source/Agence France Presse


Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai slams March 8, 14 parties over prolonged rifts
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai slammed the rival political factions Sunday, saying their prolonged rifts had prevented holding the parliamentary elections on time and were obstructing the formation of a new Cabinet. Rai also accused the March 8 and March 14 parties of involvement in the 27-month-old civil war in Syria with all the repercussions this entailed on Lebanon’s stability.
He accused them of tarnishing Lebanon’s image as a country of public freedoms and said the two sides should be committed to national reconciliation.
It was Rai’s most scathing verbal attack on the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and the March 14 coalition since he was elected head of the influential Maronite Church last year. “With their prolonged dispute, the two conflicting parties, known as the March 8 and March 14, have tarnished Lebanon’s image and the coexistence pact, and Lebanon’s image as a country of diversity and democracy, a Lebanon of public freedoms and human rights, dialogue of life, culture and destiny,” Rai told a Mass in Harissa attended by President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and a number of ministers in the caretaker government.“With their prolonged dispute, they [March 8 and March 14] have prevented [holding] the parliamentary elections on time and are obstructing the formation of a government capable of meeting the challenge of the suffocating socio-economic crisis and the challenge of the security breakdown as well as the presence of 1.2 million Syrian refugees,” Rai added. His remarks came during the reinauguration of the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, north of Beirut.
“With their dispute, they are breaking up the constitutional and judicial institutions one institution after the other,” he added. Rai accused the March 8 and March 14 parties, which are sharply split over the conflict in Syria, of dragging Lebanon into the turmoil next door. While Hezbollah and its March 8 allies support the regime of embattled President Bashar Assad, the March 14 coalition backs the uprising to topple Assad. Hezbollah has acknowledged sending fighters to Syria to buttress government forces in the war against Syrian rebels.
“With their dispute, they have undermined Lebanon’s neutrality and the Baabda Declaration and they got involved in the painful and regrettable war in Syria,” Rai said, adding: “They are implicating Lebanon and its people in the repercussions and consequences of this involvement.”
Rai expressed his full support for President Michel Sleiman and the Lebanese Army. He said he backed Sleiman in any “salvation initiative” aimed at safeguarding Lebanon’s unity, sovereignty and independence with a renewed social contract based on the 1943 National Pact.
In another Mass Saturday, Rai accused politicians of disrupting political life, abusing power, limiting the work of constitutional institutions, and dividing ministries, public departments and the judiciary along sectarian lines.
“In Lebanon, we see that the political performance has deviated openly from national goals and raison d’être,” Rai told a Mass at the end of the Synod of Maronite Bishops at Bkirki.
The patriarch also slammed political leaders for plunging the country into an economic crisis “which is impoverishing the Lebanese” and leading to an increase in immigration.
Also, the Council of Maronite Bishops has urged the Lebanese parties involved in the Syrian conflict to stop fueling the crisis in the neighboring country and voiced concern over Lebanon’s security.
“We call on all sides to stop pouring fuel over the fire that is raging in Syria and to help Syrians reconcile with each other so that the Syrian refugees can go back to their villages,” the bishops said in a statement issued Saturday at the end of their one-week annual retreat.
“We call for the end to the unrest in Syria and a return to dialogue in order for the Syrian citizens to live in freedom without discrimination,” the statement added.
The Syrian crisis, which entered its third year in March, has claimed the lives of over 90,000 people and led millions of Syrians to flee to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.
The bishops also condemned the kidnappings linked to the Syrian crisis, including the abduction of Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji. The two bishops were kidnapped late April, reportedly near the rebel-held town of Kfar Dael, near Aleppo in northern Syria.
No group has claimed responsibility for their kidnapping, but sources close to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Syrian authorities have claimed the kidnappers were “Chechen jihadists.”
The Maronite bishops also voiced their “great concern” over both the security situation in the country and the political deadlock, particularly the failure of March 8 and March 14 lawmakers to agree on a new electoral law which led to the extension of Parliament’s mandate by 17 months. “The [deteriorating situation] in Tripoli and Bekaa [Valley] have become a source of great concern and the lack of security has affected the country’s economy,” the bishops said.
“As for the political situation, the inability of officials to agree on a new electoral law has negatively affected Lebanon and its image of diversity and democracy,” they said.


With dwindling council quorum hopes, extension seems certain
By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The extension of Parliament’s mandate becomes effective this week because the Constitutional Council will not be able to meet for lack of a quorum to decide on petitions opposing the extension, political and judicial sources said Monday. “Practically, nothing has changed regarding the boycott of the Constitutional Council’s three members. There will be no quorum for the council’s meeting Tuesday, thus boosting the chances of the extension of Parliament’s term,” a political source told The Daily Star. Judicial sources also expected Tuesday’s meeting of the half-Muslim, half-Christian council to be thwarted given the continued boycott by its two Shiite members and Druze member. The council needs eight of its 10 members present at a meeting in order for any decision to be valid.
“The council will not be able to meet Tuesday for lack of a quorum but it will use up the deadline until Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to convene. However, matters are favoring the extension of Parliament’s mandate,” a judicial source told The Daily Star.
Parliament’s current term expires on June 20.
Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, who belongs to MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc that filed a challenge against the lengthening of Parliament’s four-year mandate, was skeptical that Tuesday’s meeting would work.
“We hope that a quorum will be secured for tomorrow’s session so that the Constitutional Council can decide on the challenges against the extension,” Qortbawi told The Daily Star. But he said he could not confirm there would be enough members present at the council’s session.
The council’s members were to discuss a report submitted by Judge Issam Suleiman, head of the council, on the challenges against the 17-month extension of Parliament’s mandate filed earlier this month by President Michel Sleiman and Aoun’s bloc.
The council, which failed to meet twice last week after three of its members did not show up, plans to meet Tuesday and Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to decide on the challenges.Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said if no decision was issued this week by the Constitutional Council on the challenges, the extension of Parliament’s mandate would become effective.
If eight members did attend the meeting, a decision would require seven votes. Both Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, whose representatives in the council have boycotted its meetings, are in favor of extending Parliament’s mandate and have warned against holding the elections in a volatile security situation. The council’s stalled decision on the challenges has halted Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s efforts to form a new Cabinet.
Salam, who is expected to resume his consultations on the Cabinet formation this week, received support for his efforts from both Berri and Jumblatt.
Berri said he considered Salam as the best choice to break the two-month-long Cabinet deadlock.
“I will not give up on Salam and will exert all efforts to remove obstacles impeding the Cabinet formation,” Berri said in remarks published by As-Safir newspaper. “Eventually, there must be a solution to every problem.”
Jumblatt called for the formation of a national unity Cabinet to defuse political and sectarian tensions in Lebanon as a result of internal divisions over the conflict in Syria.
“Which is better for the Lebanese, with all their different affiliations, to bet on magic solutions which will not be achieved in Syria, or to go for the formation of a national unity Cabinet that can take differences from the street and alleyways to the Cabinet table and try to defuse tensions?” Jumblatt asked in his weekly article in the PSP’s Al-Anbaa online newspaper.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea reiterated his call for Salam to form a salvation Cabinet within two weeks or step aside.
“Salam has no time left. ... We give him two weeks to form his Cabinet or he should step aside,” Geagea said in remarks published by Al-Akhbar newspaper.
Metn’s Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel urged Salam to form a new Cabinet as soon as possible, saying a power vacuum is harmful for everyone.
Speaking to reporters after the party’s weekly meeting, Gemayel slammed Hezbollah over its deep involvement in the more than two-year-old war in Syria. “Hezbollah is ruling the country, taking decisions and imposing a de facto matter on the country with the force of arms,” he said.
A delegation from the March 14 coalition will meet Sleiman Tuesday to hand him a coalition memo. It “addresses the current situation concerning Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian crisis,” Future MP Ammar Houri told the radio.
The memo calls for the Islamic party to withdraw its fighters from the neighboring country, the deployment of the Army on the Lebanese-Syrian border, and the formation of a national salvation government.
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Beirut Monday night for talks with Lebanese officials on Hezbollah’s role in Syria and the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Lebanese Leaders urge swift investigation into Bekaa Valley killings
By Rakan al-Fakih/The Daily Star/LABWEH/QASR, Lebanon: Religious and political leaders called for a swift investigation into the killing of three Lebanese Shiite men and a Turk in Wadi Rafeq Sunday, as they scrambled to contain the sectarian fallout from the attack. A cautious calm prevailed in the Bekaa Valley as clan leaders from Baalbek-Hermel, along with officials from Hezbollah and Amal, urged wisdom and self-restraint as the men were laid to rest in their villages of Qasr, Labweh and Nabi Othman. Two men from the Jaafar family, one from the Amhaz clan and a Turk whose mother is Lebanese and hails from the Seifeddine clan in Baalbek were killed Sunday in an ambush in Wadi Rafeq, an isolated area in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border and the towns of Arsal and Ras Baalbek. The Jaafar and Amhaz families are prominent Shiite clans in the region and the incident raised fears of tribal and sectarian retribution in the area with its traditions of clan loyalty. An atmosphere of grief and anger was palpable in the funeral held for Mohammad and Hussein Ali Jaafar, who were killed in the attack.
A large funeral procession was led by Hezbollah and Amal officials, and attendees prayed for the victims before carrying their caskets by hand and burying them in Qasr, a town on the border with Syria.
“Fear God, we want to live together,” said Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, the head of Hezbollah’s Shariah Council, in a gathering with members of the Jaafar clan.
Security forces and Lebanese Army intelligence launched an investigation into the attack, which risks inflaming sectarian tensions in the Bekaa Valley, and continued to patrol the roads leading from the major towns in the region to counter any armed presence. Gunmen had taken to the streets Sunday as news of the ambush spread to the surrounding towns and villages, and some were present at the funerals.
Yazbek called on the state to apprehend those who carried out the shooting, saying the “savage attack” would only mark the beginning of similar acts of violence unless it was challenged.
The clans strongly maintained that it was up to the residents of Arsal to uncover the perpetrators. The predominantly Sunni town of Arsal has been supportive of the Syrian opposition, providing a haven for refugees and fighters. Most of the Shiite community of the northern Bekaa Valley supports Hezbollah. Some clansmen Sunday held Arsal’s residents responsible for the attack.
Arsal residents had swiftly condemned the attack. Contacts have been ongoing since Sunday with the aim of uncovering the details of the crime.
Sectarian and clan tensions had reached a “climax” after the incident, said Sheikh Mohammad Zeaiter, a clan leader from Qasr. He said that “awareness and wisdom” were needed in reaction to the incident, as well as in identifying the perpetrators. Speaking on behalf of the Amhaz clan, Sheikh Nabil Amhaz urged politicians to give the required political cover for security forces to arrest the perpetrators, while warning that the situation could get out of hand quickly.“We were able to control the situation today and called on the families to exercise restraint and wait for the assailant or assailants to be identified so that they alone get punished and no one else gets punished unjustly,” he said in a news conference held in the afternoon.
“But if the Lebanese Army and security forces do not assume their role ... and enhance their presence in the region and deploy along the border then things will get worse and we will not be able to prevent strife in the region,” Amhaz added. “We will not be dragged to strife but we also cannot accept to keep silent over the killing of our sons in such a way,” he added. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam denounced the killings and called on the families of the victims and residents of the Bekaa Valley to exercise restraint. Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned the “suspicious criminal act” that targeted the four men but said tensions in the Bekaa Valley were the result of Hezbollah’s participation in the Syria conflict. President Michel Sleiman also followed up on the security situation in the Bekaa and was briefed by Lebanese Army chief Maj. Gen. Jean Kahwagi on the details of the incidents and the measures the Army was taking. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel also warned against escalating violence in Lebanon after the attack, and suggested turning the eastern Bekaa Valley into a military zone. Charbel said the security forces were working hard to identify the assailants behind the attack and arrest them. Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani also denounced the killings and urged the Lebanese to be careful in confronting plots to incite strife in Lebanon. In a statement issued from Dar al-Fatwa, Qabbani said that the “criminal killings across Lebanon are attempts provoke sectarian strife in the country.


Samir Geagea Praises President's Stances, Calls on Salam to Form Cabinet or Resign
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea hailed on Monday President Michel Suleiman over his “sovereign stances,” calling on Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form his cabinet within two weeks or to refrain from the task.“The presidency is the only position in this state that is alive as the caretaker cabinet isn't moving and the parliament is paralyzed,” Geagea told al-Akhbar newspaper in an interview. He called on the Lebanese parties to back Suleiman, lashing out at the president's critics. “Shall the president remain mum before the incidents along the border or is he a traitor because he is defending his country,” Geagea wondered. He pointed out that the “only hope for our country is the president.” Asked about the process of the cabinet formation, Geagea said that Salam has no excuse in his delay.
“Salam has no time left... We grant him two weeks to form his cabinet or he should resign from carrying out the task,” the Christian leader said. Following the resignation of Premier Najib Miqati's cabinet in March, Salam was designated to line up a cabinet, amid conflicting positions between the March 14 alliance that demands forming an impartial cabinet, the March 8 forces insisting on forming a political one, and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's objection to a cabinet that does not represent all Lebanese factions. Geagea called on officials to swiftly form the cabinet to appoint a new army chief or extend the tenure of Gen. Jean Qahwaji, who will turn 60 in September, the maximum age for the post of the army commander. The vacancies in the council would be followed by a similar vacuum in the army's management department. Maj. Gen. Abdul Rahman Shehaitli will retire around May 24. Concerning Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's accusation to the March 8 and 14 alliances of “tarnishing Lebanon’s image” and paralyzing state institutions in addition to shoving the country in Syria's crisis, Geagea urged the Patriarch “to hold the real side responsible for the crises in Lebanon.” The LF leader expressed fear over the security situation in the country, slamming the strong rhetoric by some officials who are targeting the army. Syria's civil war has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon and its security situation has deteriorated due to various groups intervention in battles in the neighboring country. Although Lebanon has officially adopted a position of neutrality in Syria's war, its people are sharply divided with Hizbullah and its allies backing President Bashar Assad's regime and the March 14 coalition supports the rebellion.

Sami Gemayel Says Hizbullah 'Gambling with Lebanon's Fate,' Urges Suleiman, Cabinet to Assume Responsibilities
Naharnet/Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel accused Hizbullah on Monday of “gambling with the Lebanese people's fate,” urging President Michel Suleiman and the cabinet to “assume their responsibilities.”
“(Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hasan) Nasrallah has transformed Lebanon into a battlefield instead of a democratic country,” Gemayel said after the political bureau's weekly meeting. “Hizbullah is bringing the war in Syria to Lebanon.” Gemayel explained: “The party is imposing a fait accompli on the state because of its possession of arms and no one can hold it accountable except in a civil war. And we do not want this option.” "How can he (Nasrallah) control the fate of all the Lebanese?”The Phalange MP said that “Hizbullah's cabinet” controls the country. “As a Lebanese, I have no authority to hold the party accountable. And we are not held responsible because we are part of the opposition.”Gemayel slammed the current situation as “unacceptable”: “The Lebanese people are no longer able to bear this.”“Daily essential matters have become secondary amid the current security fears,” he noted. Gemayel urged President Suleiman “to stop the collapse of the state,” demanding more powers to be given to the president. "We also urge the executive authority to assume its responsibilities because it is the power in charge of controlling the border, preserving the Baabda Declaration and taking control of the security situation.” Gemayel stated that the executive authority must admit “its failure and to announce Lebanon a failed state.” “During the war we did not lose hope but today Lebanon has become a hopeless state,” he expressed. He called on Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form the cabinet “as soon as possible because vacuum does not serve the country.”Gemayel remarked, however, that “some factions do not want a state,” explaining that their goal is for all the country's institutions to collapse.” Regarding Foreign Minister Adnan Mansours's stances towards Syria's conflict and Hizbullah's ivolvement in it, Gemayel lamented that he (Mansour) is acting based on "his affiliation with a party and with his sect."

Salam Urges Restraint and Calm over Arsal Ambush

Naharnet/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam slammed on Monday the murder of four Shiites in the northeastern Bekaa town of Arsal on Sunday, saying that it is aimed at creating strife in Lebanon. He urged in a statement all sides to “exercise restraint and reason” in order to thwart strife. “Those behind the crime do not seek the well-being of Lebanon or the Lebanese people and they should be dealt with firmly and according to the law,” he declared. He called on the residents of the Bekaa regions of Baalbek, al-Hermel, Arsal and all other areas to exercise calm and avoid falling victims to the attempts to create strife in the country.
Salam demanded that the security and judicial agencies be allowed to perform their duties in investigating the incident and apprehending the assailants. He hope that the residents of the region would distance themselves from the crisis in Syria and support the army that has long defended Lebanon and its people. Four people – two from the Jaafar family, one from the Amhaz clan and a Turk whose mother is Shiite - were killed on Sunday in an ambush in a barren terrain near the northeastern towns of al-Qaa and Arsal. The Jaafar and Amhaz clans are well-known Shiite families in the regions of Baalbek and Hermel.

Jumblat: Aren't We Better Off Forming New Govt. Instead of Waiting for Magical Solution in Syria

Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat slammed on Monday the political deadlock in Lebanon given the the local and regional instability. He wondered in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “Aren't we better off forming a national unity government instead of waiting for magical solutions that will not be achieved in Syria?” “With the new government, disputes will no longer be fought on the streets, but at cabinet,” which will seek to ease the tensions in the country, he remarked. On this note, he condemned Sunday's ambush that resulted in the killing of four people - two from the Jaafar family, one from the Amhaz clan and a Turk whose mother is Shiite - in a barren terrain near the northeastern towns of al-Qaa and Arsal. The Jaafar and Amhaz clans are well-known Shiite families in the regions of Baalbek and Hermel.
Jumblat continued: “Aren't we better off supporting the Lebanese army in its arduous mission in keeping calm in Lebanon instead of maintaining the debate over the Constitutional Council and the extension of parliament's term?”“Didn’t some of the lawmakers who are criticizing us for backing the extension originally support the agreement to extend the mandate in the first place?” he asked.
The parliament extended its four-year term at the end of May after the rival parties failed to agree on a new parliamentary electoral law, pushing the polls to November 2014. President Michel Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc however submitted to the Constitutional Council petitions to challenge the ruling. The council is failing to meet over the boycott of three judges – two Shiites and a Druze.
“Aren't officials better off organizing the political disputes instead of dragging Lebanon towards the Syrian crisis through calls for jihad and others to combat alleged takfiris?” wondered the lawmaker. “The Syrian people are not in need of calls for jihad that only tarnish the image of their revolution and steer it away from its goals, which will ultimately serve the Syrian regime,” he stressed. “Aren't we better off supporting Suleiman's positions that stem from his keenness on national sovereignty?” he asked. “Aren't we also better off supporting Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi who hit the nail right on the head when he expressed the Lebanese people's exasperation with the severe divide between the March 8 and 14 camps?” Jumblat continued. “Aren't we better off seeking to restore calm in Lebanon instead of issuing fiery stances? Aren't we better off approving a number of important measures that would tackle the poor economic situation instead of continuing the fall in the Syrian crisis?” he asked. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has justified his party's involvement in the fighting in Syria alongside regime forces by saying that it is combating American, Zionist, and takfiri agendas in Syria.


Report: Army Detains Palestinian Plotting 'Terrorist' Act in Sidon
Naharnet/The Lebanese army intelligence detained a Palestinian national suspected of belonging to an extremist group plotting to carry out a “terrorist act” in the southern portal city of Sidon. According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Monday, Mohammed A. H. was arrested while he was entering Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. The Palestinian is a supporter of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir and he was said to be killed in battles in the Syrian town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border. The suspect was detained over “links to an extremist plotting to carry out a terrorist act in Sidon to create a sectarian strife,” security sources told the newspaper. The sources pointed out that “the group is recruiting several men to carry out the scheme.” Asir, the imam of Sidon's Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, announced in April the creation of the “Free Resistance Brigades,” urging whoever is capable of heading to Syria to go there to aid “the oppressed” in Qusayr and Homs. Asir's announcement was to protest Hizbullah's involvement in the neighboring country Syria. Hizbullah fighters spearheaded a devastating 17-day assault on the Syrian town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border which culminated last week with its recapture from the rebels. Although Lebanon has officially adopted a position of neutrality in Syria's war, its people are sharply divided with Hizbullah and its allies backing President Bashar Assad's regime and the March 14 coalition supports the rebellion. Syria's civil war has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon and its security situation has deteriorated due to various groups intervention in battles in the neighboring country. Analysts recently warned that the foray into Syria's civil war by Hizbullah has fueled a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and export the conflict to the wider region.

Hamas Urges Hizbullah to Pull Fighters Out of Syria
Naharnet /Hamas on Monday urged Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria, saying its involvement in that war is contributing to the "sectarian polarization" of the region. Hizbullah should focus its efforts on fighting its arch-enemy Israel, said the Islamist Palestinian movement in a statement released in the Gaza Strip. "We ask Hizbullah to withdraw its forces from Syria and to keep their weapons pointed at the Zionist enemy, namely because their involvement in Syria has contributed to an increase of sectarian polarization in the region," the statement said. The Syria war has triggered sectarian tensions in Arab countries, including in Lebanon between supporters and opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hizbullah, a Muslim Shiite movement and long-time ally of Assad's government, has been increasingly involved in the Syrian conflict now its third year, with fighters battling alongside the Syrian army against the mostly Sunni Muslim rebel fighters. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Friday that his fighters, who helped Assad's army recapture the strategic town of Qusayr near Lebanon's border, a former rebel stronghold, will stay involved in the Syrian conflict. Nasrallah had previously justified the group's involvement in Syria by saying they were defending Lebanese-inhabited border villages inside Syria and Shiite holy sites in the Damascus province. But during a May 25 speech marking the 13th anniversary of Israel's military withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah said "if Syria falls in the hands of the Takfiris and the United States, the resistance will become under a siege and Israel will enter Lebanon. If Syria falls, the Palestinian cause will be lost.”Source/Agence France Presse.


Miqati Urges Calm in Bekaa, Army Says Won't Allow Anyone to Exploit Incident
Naharnet /Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati on Sunday urged calm and restraint after a deadly incident in the Bekaa region inflamed sectarian tensions, as the Army Command stressed that it will not allow anyone to take advantage of the situation. In the wake of the shooting death of three Lebanese Shiites and a Turk whose mother is Lebanese in the barren mountains of the town of Ras Baalbek, Miqati “followed up on the security situation in the Arsal region and northern Bekaa through a series of contacts with Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji and the chiefs of security agencies,” a statement issued by the premier's office said.
Miqati was “briefed by the army commander on the measures taken to arrest those behind the incidents and the acts of killing that happened and means to prevent acts that violate security, especially the blocking of roads and attacks on citizens,” the statement added.
The caretaker premier urged “the residents of Arsal and the neighboring areas to observe calm and restraint and to prevent any attempts to drag their region into a sectarian strife which some parties are trying to stir.” He also extended condolences to the families of the victims, calling on everyone to “await the outcome of investigations.”Later on Sunday, the Army Command issued a statement saying its units had staged “manned and armored patrols and erected checkpoints across the region” in the wake of the incident. Army troops “are still performing their missions to prevent all armed appearances and restore normalcy,” the statement added. “As the Army Command urges all citizens and families in the Bekaa to rise above the wounds and practice restraint and patience amid the critical situation the country is going through, it stressed that it will not allow anyone to take advantage of the painful incident to undermine national unity and the foundations of coexistence,” it said. The command urged “the officials concerned to rise to the level of national responsibility and seek the removal of armed appearances and the healing of the rift through all possible means.” “The command notes that it has started the necessary investigations to uncover the circumstances of the incident and that it will spare no effort to arrest the perpetrators and refer them to the relevant judicial authorities.” Four people were killed, including two members of the Jaafar clan, when their car came under gunfire in Arsal's barren mountains, state-run National News Agency reported. The unidentified assailants shot dead "two members of the Jaafar family, an Amhaz family member and a Turk" in an ambush while they were smuggling fuel through the Qaa area, a security source told Agence France Presse, asking not to be named. The incident occurred in an agricultural part of Qaa, home to a predominantly Sunni population. Tensions were running high in the wake of the incident, the source said, with armed members of the Jaafar family gathering around five kilometers from the town of Arsal. According to information obtained by OTV, the ambush “might be linked to the ambush that killed (Arsal resident) Ali al-Hujairi in Hermel.”“Ali Ahmed al-Hujairi was killed in an ambush by Hizbullah supporters in the barren mountains of (the town of) Beit Jaafar between Akkar and Hermel,” Arsal municipality's deputy chief told MTV on Tuesday.
The Syrian crisis has led to frequent security incidents in the areas of Arsal and Hermel near the border with the war-torn country.


Putin Meets Cameron, Warns against Arming Syria Rebels
Naharnet/Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday insisted that Moscow had abided by "rules and norms" when providing weapons to Syria and demanded other G8 countries which are contemplating arming rebels do likewise. Putin was speaking in London after holding talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron which could set the tone for the G8 summit, with the West at odds with Moscow over the conflict.
Cameron is seeking to forge an international consensus on handling the unrest as he hosts the leaders of the world's top industrialized nations in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, from Monday. Putin, who has provided military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad despite pleas from the West, has been dismissive of U.S. claims that the regime has used chemical weapons and insisted Russia had acted appropriately. "We are not breaching any rules and norms and we call on all our partners to act in the same fashion," he said. Washington has vowed to send military aid to rebel forces battling to topple Assad after saying it had proof that his regime had crossed a "red line". Putin warned that countries supplying arms to forces fighting against Assad's regime risked tarnishing their reputation after footage emerged last month of one rebel apparently eating the heart of a dead soldier.
Human Rights Watch and the Syrian opposition National Coalition condemned the video as "horrific"."It is barely worth it (supplying arms) to support people who not only kill their enemies but open up their bodies and eat their internal organs in front of the public and the cameras," Putin said. "Do you want to supply these people with arms?
"In that case this hardly has anything to do with the humanitarian values which have for centuries been preached in Europe," he added. "At least in Russia we cannot imagine this."
American officials will not reveal exactly what military support will go to the rebel Supreme Military Council, although by many estimates it will initially be assault rifles and ammunition. The international community has long been divided over how to tackle the Syria conflict, which according to U.N. figures has cost at least 93,000 lives since March 2011. The British prime minister insisted that the talks had convinced him there was still scope for agreement when the world's top leaders meet next week. "What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome these differences if we recognize that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people decide who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them," he said.
Cameron has not said whether he favors sending weapons to the rebels. Putin had to use the back entrance of Downing Street due to a large protest against the Turkish government blocking the main gates. The president's plane arrived late at a military airbase in west London and was further held up by the protest. Putin will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Northern Ireland on Monday.
The fighting in Syria has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones, pitting a Sunni-led opposition against the Alawite-dominated regime. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing for an international peace conference on Syria, warned on Saturday that the chances for a political settlement could be undermined by the regime's use of chemical weapons. The G8 summit is also likely to consider the impact of the election of moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani as Iran's new president. Putin urged him to forge closer ties with Moscow, while the United States offered the prospect of direct engagement with Iran but Israel called on world powers to keep up the pressure over the Islamic republic's nuclear drive. Iran is a key ally of Assad, staunchly backing his embattled government. The Syrian opposition accuses Iran of providing Damascus with weapons and encouraging Lebanon's Hizbullah, which relies on Tehran for support, to dispatch fighters to Syria. Besides Syria, Cameron wants the G8 summit to produce new agreements on tax, trade and financial transparency.
Source/Agence France Presse


Erdogan Tells Supporters It was His 'Duty' to 'Clean Up' Protest Park
Naharnet/Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday told a crowd of more than 100,000 supporters it was his "duty" to order a crackdown on an Istanbul protest park, as police and anti-government demonstrators faced off in fresh clashes. A day after riot police dislodged thousands of protesters occupying Gezi Park, officers in the area were still firing tear gas and jets of water at pockets of protesters determined to regroup. Some 10 kilometers (six miles) away, in a much larger park, Erdogan launched a show of strength for supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), drawing the largest crowd yet since the demos against his government erupted more than two weeks ago. Addressing the cheering sea of people, many of whom wore white AKP caps, a combative Erdogan said protesters had forced his hand by defying repeated warnings to clear out of the park. "I said we were at an end. That it was unbearable. Yesterday the operation was carried out and it was cleaned up," Erdogan said. "It was my duty as prime minister."The violence sparked by the Gezi Park evacuation marked a major escalation in mass unrest that has posed the biggest challenge yet to the Islamic-rooted government's decade-long rule.
Two of Turkey's main trade union federations, KESK and DISK, announced they would go on strike Monday in protest at the police clashes overnight. "Our demand is for police violence to end immediately," KESK spokesman Baki Cinar told Agence France Presse. The unions represent hundreds of thousand of workers and the stoppage is likely to affect schools, hospitals and public offices across the country. The police intervention in Gezi Park came after Erdogan issued a final warning to protesters during a fiery speech at an election rally in the capital Ankara on Saturday. Two hours later, officers with gas masks and riot shields stormed the patch of green. Thousands of campers scrambled to escape clouds of acrid tear gas, clearing the site within minutes and leaving a trail of empty tents in their wake.
Many sought refuge in the luxury hotels bordering the park, prompting police to douse the lobby of at least one five-star establishment with water as guests choked on tear gas fumes. Thousands of demonstrators later took to the streets of Ankara and the western city of Izmir in solidarity.
The political turmoil first began when a peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park's 600 trees from being razed prompted a brutal police response on May 31, spiraling into countrywide demonstrations against Erdogan.
The crisis has claimed four lives and injured nearly 7,500 people so far, according to the Turkish Medical Association. Opponents accuse Erdogan of authoritarian tendencies and of forcing Islamic conservative reforms on the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation of 76 million. But the 59-year-old, who has been in power since 2002, remains hugely popular. The AKP has won three elections in a row and took nearly half the vote in 2011, having presided over strong economic growth. Erdogan has repeatedly urged his supporters to answer the protesters by voting for his AKP in next year's local polls.
More election rallies are planned in cities across Turkey in coming weeks, Erdogan said. Mey Elbi, a 39-year-old yoga teacher, was in Gezi park when police entered and said they seized the protesters' goggles and gas masks.
"I won't give up," she told AFP. "We're angry, this is not over. The world has seen that together, we can stand up to Tayyip."The Taksim Solidarity group, seen as most representative of the protesters, condemned Saturday's "brutal attack", which it said had left "hundreds" injured.
Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said 44 people had been hurt, none seriously. By Sunday evening, Gezi Park and the adjoining Taksim Square, another focal point for the protests, were sealed off and guarded with a heavy police presence. Yellow tape lined the area, blocking entry to pedestrians, as bulldozers broke up protesters' makeshift barricades and municipal cleaners re-turfed grassy areas and planted fresh flowers.
"Gezi Park and Taksim Square have been evacuated and returned to the people," Erdogan told the party faithful.
Erdogan has taken a tough line on the protesters but made an unexpectedly conciliatory gesture when he held his first talks with Taksim Solidarity representatives on Friday.
He offered to suspend the Gezi project pending a court ruling on its legality, if protesters agreed to leave.
But the group rejected the olive branch, saying the government had failed to address all their demands, which include a call for arrested demonstrators to be released and for police chiefs in cities that saw clashes to be sacked.
The United States and other Western allies, along with human rights groups, have widely criticized Erdogan's handling of the crisis.
Source/Agence France Presse

Canada Condemns Attack on Shiite Mosque in Eastern Syria
June 16, 2013 - Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, today condemned the attack on a Shiite mosque in eastern Syria:
“This attack reflects a disturbing rise in sectarian violence in the region resulting from the war in Syria. The targeting of religious communities, including Shiite, Sunni and Christian civilians, by extremist elements who are exploiting the chaos of war is a deeply worrying trend that we are watching closely.
“The targeting of people and their places of worship, whatever the source, cannot be tolerated and must end. These kinds of attacks seek to pit Syria’s diverse communities against one another.
“The opposition must show that it offers a genuine democratic alternative to the despotism of the Assad regime. Canada urges the Syrian opposition to unreservedly condemn the targeting of religious communities.”

Canada Warns of Growing Violence in Iraq
June 16, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada condemns in the strongest terms the most recent attack on civilians at Camp Liberty. We call on the Government of Iraq to take urgent steps to improve security for this vulnerable population, investigate the terrorism behind this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Canada supports international efforts to strengthen the security at Camp Liberty and urges patience until residents can be relocated.
“Canada is deeply concerned by the growing intensity of sectarian attacks in recent weeks. In an increasingly fragile region, Iraq’s future is threatened by the deteriorating situation in Syria and the aggressive ambitions of Iran.
“I am confident that Iraq's leaders—and the Iraqi people—will prevail against the threat of sectarian conflict.”

Ashton Meets Miqati after Arriving in Beirut for Talks on Syrian Refugees

Naharnet/EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati upon her arrival in Beirut Monday for talks with senior Lebanese officials.
Discussions at Miqati's Beirut residence focused on “the current situations in Lebanon and the region and ties with the European Union,” the premier's office said.
The meeting was followed by a dinner banquet in honor of the visiting European official.
Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported Monday that Ashton's talks will focus on several issues, including the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon and the repercussions of the Syria crisis on the country.
Syrian refugees escaping the bloodshed to Lebanon is a pressing issue on Ashton's agenda, the daily said, amid talks on preparations made by the European Union to collect financial donations to the Lebanese state to help it cope with the burden of displaced Syrians.
Regional and international issues, notably those related to the Syrian crisis and its repercussions on Lebanon and neighboring countries, will also be discussed.
Ashton is said to announce a new figure of European aid to Lebanon and neighboring countries, taking into consideration the probability of an upsurge in refugees following the escalating confrontations in Syria that could even grow stronger in the next three months.
Ashton will hold meetings with President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Miqati and Premier-designate Tammam Salam, the daily added.
Local Lebanese issues and means of cooperation between the European Union and Lebanon at various levels are also on Ashton's agenda.
She will meet with 27 ambassadors of the EU in Lebanon and heads of missions and bodies of the Union.
The United Nations Higher Council for Refugees said Sunday that the number of Syrians who fled their war-torn country to Lebanon has exceeded 530,000 after an increase of 19,000 in a week.
In its latest report on Syrian refugees, the U.N. agency said more than 455,000 Syrian refugees have registered with U.N. offices in Lebanon while over 75,000 others are waiting for their registration process to complete.
The registered refugees are benefiting from aid provided by the U.N., the Lebanese government and various non-governmental aid agencies, according to the report.
Lebanon has called on the international community to help bear its burden of hosting the Syrian refugees, who are expected to exceed 1 million by the end of the year.

Rowhani: We're against Foreign Intervention in Syria, Govt. Must Stay till 2014

Naharnet /Hassan Rowhani Monday warned against foreign intervention in Syria, insisting that the strife-torn country's crisis should be resolved by its own people, in his first press conference since being elected Iran's new president. "The Syrian crisis must be resolved by the people of Syria. We are against terrorism, civil war, and foreign intervention. Hopefully, with the help of all countries of the region and the world, peace and calm will return to Syria," the cleric said. "The Syrian crisis must be resolved by a vote by Syrians. We are concerned by the civil war and foreign interference. The government (of President Bashar Assad) must be respected by other countries until the next (2014 presidential) elections and then it is up to the people to decide."Rowhani was on Saturday declared winner of Iran's presidential election, ending an eight year conservative grip on the Islamic republic's administration under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Oh Sayyida Zeynab!

Hussain Abdul Hussain/Now Lebanon
When Société Générale Belge d'Entreprises Electriques raised its fees for its Damascus customers in 1937, the Syrian Nationalist Bloc launched a boycott campaign and a strike that lasted 50 days. The Belgian company retreated and its director general, known to Syrians as Constable Costansishe, visited the bloc's offices and posed for a picture with its leaders (amongst them was the famous Fakhri Al-Baroudi and a certain Mahdi Mortada).
So zealous for Syria's independence Mahdi was that he helped hide anti-French activists, an exercise that took him to prison many times. In 1940, during his arrest at the Damascus Castle, he posed for another picture with his comrades: Sayfildin Maamoun, Nabih Al-Azmeh and Najib Al-Rayyess.
After Mahdi's release, his cousin Toufic Mortada – a newly minted judge in Lebanon serving in the predominantly Maronite southern village of Bint Jbeil – sent him a letter and a poem congratulating him for his freedom and urging him to stay the course in the fight for independence.
Mahdi could have been any one of the Damascene notables (who were mostly Sunni), except that Mahdi was a Shiite. And he was the custodian of Sayyida Zeynab, a shrine in a Damascus suburb that Mahdi had turned into a safe house for pro-independence activists since French troops were religiously prohibited from entering this sanctuary.
His cousin, Toufic Mourtada, was another Shiite notable from Lebanon's eastern city of Baalbek. He received his doctorate in law from Switzerland and ascended the ranks of the judiciary. He used his links within the state to help the iconic Imam Mussa Sadr found the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, which supervises Shiite personal status affairs.
So while Alawite notables, mostly in their northern Syrian hinterland, were petitioning the French for continued mandate or an Alawite state separate from Syria, the Shiite sentiment in Damascus and most of Lebanon was somewhere else.
And while the Alawites fought alongside French forces to suppress Syria's independence forces, the Shiites sided with independence and made common cause with the Sunnis and other groups. Unlike the Alawites, the Shiites of Syria were not scared of living in a predominantly Sunni Syria. After all, these were the same Sunnis they had lived with for centuries.
Indeed, the Shiites of the Levant were not born as Iranian sellouts, even if most of them act like ones today.
In the not so distant past, the Shiites might have seen, in newly-created nations like Syria and Lebanon, an opportunity to become part of the establishment, until then dominated by the Sunnis who had treated them mostly as the underdogs. In fact, up until the Iranian revolution in 1979, Sadr and Lebanon's Shiites fought tooth-and-nail not to dominate or separate, but to assimilate and be recognized as just another native Lebanese group.
Mahdi and Toufic Mortada represented that Shiite trend. The Sayyida Zeynab shrine that they, and their ancestors before them, had managed and supervised for seven centuries became a symbol of Shiite-Sunni unity during the fight for Syrian and Lebanese independence.
But 75 years later, the story of Sayyida Zeynab is being told differently. Even her name is being posted on Shiite websites on social media in its Farsi form, Zeynab Kobra, dropping the required Arabic article of al-Kobra. She is being depicted as the victim of the Sunnis in the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE, and again as the victim of ongoing Sunni grudge that will lead to the razing of her mausoleum, should the Assad regime fall.
According to the Shiite narrative, Zeynab was the sister of the third Imam Hussein. It's not clear why, in 680 CE, she left her husband in Medina and took her two sons to join her brother in his trip to Kufa, the southern Iraqi village that had served as the seat of the Caliphate of their father Imam Ali (Prophet Mohammad's cousin).
Learning of Hussein's move, the Umayyad Caliph Yazid deployed an army that intercepted his convoy near Karbala before he could reach Kufa to link up with his supporters. After a quick confrontation, Hussein was killed and so were Zeynab's sons.
Since then, Shiites have observed ten days of mourning of Hussein and his companions, during which some of them self-flagellate regretting their failure to rescue him. This procession (Ashura) is one of the holiest Shiite practices and it is being invoked today to encourage young Shiite men, from across the Middle East, to go fight in defense of Zeynab's shrine - lest she faces injustice in her death similar to the one she had to live through 14 centuries ago. This time, the Shiites think they can save Zeynab the humiliating outcome of another Karbala.
After the Battle of Karbala in 680, Zeynab and the other women were taken to Yazid in Damascus. The route usually followed the path of the Euphrates River northwest, then turned south and passed through Baalbek.
After a stop at Yezid's court, Zeynab and the women returned to Mecca, which – a few years later – saw a drought and a famine that forced Zeynab and her husband to take refuge in Damascus. There, Zeynab died and was buried in a spot known as Qaryat Rawiyah, a name that the suburb held until after Syrian independence. Alternatively, the area was also called Qaryat Al-Sitt or Qabr Al-Sitt.
Despite historic evidence, it is hard to tell fact from fiction in the Zeynab story. Her shrine was erected in the thirteenth century, more than 600 years after her death, with the earliest records suggesting that she was in fact buried in Al-Baqi in Medina.
Also by the thirteenth century, many heterodox Muslim factions (the Shiites included) seem to have been infatuated with female deities to the extent that one ruling dynasty took the name the Fatimids - after Fatima, the daughter of the prophet. Their capital they called Al-Zahera, a corruption of Fatima's nickname Al-Zahraa. In due time, Zahera became Qahera, or Cairo, the capital of Egypt.
So whether the tomb near Damascus actually belongs to Zeynab or not cannot be established with certainty. The location's original name, Rawiyah, means the woman who quenches thirst. This might suggest that the site belonged to a pre-Islamic deity assigned to guard a spring that attracted pilgrims, a practice that persisted after the deity had been transformed into Islamic Zeynab, and even after the spring had dried up.
Zeynab's or not, the tomb has been standing for centuries, and there is no record of past assaults on it, Sunni or otherwise.
But after many centuries of Shiite-Sunni harmony in and around Damascus, the shrine is suddenly making headlines as the flashpoint of the ongoing Shiite-Sunni war.
The transformation of Sayyida Zeynab from a symbol of unity to one of division did not happen overnight. Perhaps it started with the Iranians giving up their nationalist drive and replacing it with an Islamist Shiite platform. Maybe Iran's Ruhollah Khomeini was inspired by the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood – and, like the Gulf largesse that was being extended to Sunnis worldwide – the Iranians thought that creating a similar Shiite network would be in order.
The result was an ensuing "petro-dollar race" that helped sharpen the identities of both the Sunnis and the Shiites, and superimposed these revived affiliations over previous nationalist sentiments in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. Nationalism was thus displaced, and it eventually vanished. Modern states melted down and the borderless region became a theater for raw and bloody Sunni-Shiite conflict.
So instead of building on the national unity that Sayyida Zeynab represented in 1940, Syria and Lebanon are back to 680, fighting Karbala one more time – albeit this time in a much brutal way.
In 680, Hussein's entourage was less than 100, and the battle of Karbala took less than three hours. Today, it is unlikely that any such battle will be concluded in hours, days, weeks, or even decades. This is a fight between a quarter of a billion Shiites and one billion Sunnis, both well-funded thanks to petro dollars.
This time Karbala will be much bloodier, and its end does not seem to be in sight. Maybe, doing like the Shiites do, the world should pray to Sayyida Zeynab to intercede and end this war.
**Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of the Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai.

Syria crisis at center of G8 summit
AFP/Putin defends Russian weapons transfers to Syria while implying that western shipments to rebels would breach international rules
World leaders head to the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday looking to put pressure on Russia to back away from its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid growing Western efforts to arm the rebels.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, the host of the meeting of top industrialized powers, insisted he could overcome his differences with Russian President Vladimir Putin after they held pre-summit talks in London.
Amid rising tensions over Syria, Putin will meet US President Barack Obama in Northern Ireland on Monday for what could be prickly talks, as both leaders now offer military support to opposing sides in the war.
In London, Putin insisted that Moscow had abided by international law when supplying weapons to Assad's regime and demanded that Western countries contemplating arming rebels do the same.
"We are not breaching any rules and norms and we call on all our partners to act in the same fashion," Putin said.
The Russian leader referred to a video released last month purportedly showing a rebel Syrian fighter eating the heart of a dead soldier.
He asked if the West really wanted to support rebels "who not only kill their enemies but open up their bodies and eat their internal organs in front of the public and the cameras."
But Cameron said: "What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome these differences if we recognize that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people decide who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them."
Obama will emphasize to Putin that Washington wants to keep alive a mooted Geneva peace summit co-organized with Moscow, which appears to be slipping down the list of priorities.
Cameron also hopes the G8 summit, held in the luxury lake-fringed Lough Erne golf resort, will see the formal start of negotiations on a vast free trade pact between the European Union and the United States.
EU nations agreed to go ahead with the talks after late-night discussions in Luxembourg on Friday to convince France that its prized cultural industries would not be under threat from the pact.
The British hosts of the gathering also want to forge consensus on cracking down on tax evasion and making multinational companies more transparent.
Counter-terror measures will also feature with Britain pushing for a commitment that ransoms will not be paid in the event of kidnapping by militants -- something it feels is not being adhered to by all G8 nations.
Britain is keen to push the issue following a hostage crisis at a gas plant in Algeria in January in which 37 foreign hostages were killed, among them six Britons.
The summit is surrounded by the biggest security operation in Northern Ireland's troubled history, with around 8,000 officers on duty.
Heavily armed police in armored Land Rovers are stationed at frequent intervals along the country roads leading to the summit venue near the town of Enniskillen.
Police say the expected anti-globalization demonstrations have been smaller than expected so far.
They expect around 2,000 protesters to take part in an anti-G8 march in Enniskillen on Monday.
Figures were revised downwards after just 1,500 anti-capitalists turned up for a rally which passed off without incident in Belfast on Saturday -- 10,000 demonstrators had been expected to attend the two protests there.
Police fear that dissident republican extremists opposed to the peace process in Northern Ireland might seek to launch an attack in Belfast.
Cameron will host Obama, Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the summit. Other leaders invited are from the EU, Mexico, Libya and Ethiopia.


Church leaders In Lebanon tell faithful to remain strong
By Meris Lutz/The Daily Star
AIN TREZ/BALAMAND, Lebanon: Church leaders in Lebanon appealed for unity and calm amid escalating sectarian tensions and Christian anxiety over the fate of two bishops kidnapped in Syria. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches held large-scale congregations Tuesday with the issue of Christian presence in the region taking center stage. “We are not afraid; we are living through difficult, tough conditions in the region, this is the truth that no one can ignore,” Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi told reporters at the Balamand Monasteryon the occasion of the biannual synod, his first since his election last year.
“We are children of faith and courage; we cling to the land where we live, and we carry the message [of God] in our hearts, and we will continue to do so bravely and without fear.”Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi were kidnapped by rebels in late April as they made their way back to Aleppo from the Turkish border, where they were reportedly on a humanitarian mission. Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey maintain the two men are in good health and are being held in the village of Bshaqtin, some 20 kilometers northwest of Aleppo.
The patriarch emphasized that the church was in touch with “all concerned parties” both regionally and internationally, and had received “promises” from these parties but had had no direct contact with the kidnappers.Yazigi also declined to speculate about the motivation behind the kidnapping and its implications for Christians in Syria and the region at large. “We hope for the best,” he said.
A source close to the patriarch, however, saw the kidnapping as a “dual message,” intended both to pressure the Christian community to support the opposition – or at least deter Christians from supporting the regime – and to make clear that “Christians are no longer welcome in the Middle East.”The source said the church would not take a political stance on the crisis in Syria, and did not believe the abduction of the bishops would push Christians one way or another. “We were born to be martyrs,” the source said when asked about heightened fears in the Christian community. “If they are real Christians they fear nothing,” he added.
In Ain Trez in the district of Aley, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church was preparing for its own synod, presided over by Patriarch Gregory III Lahham, who also sought to assure Christians that the church was prepared to defend them.Lahham outlined the church’s plan to create a central “solidarity committee” in Syria to coordinate and carry out relief work, as well as to monitor congregations and register damaged or destroyed churches.
He proposed subcommittees be established in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait and other Arab and European countries to support the central committee in its work.
“We hope that our brother bishops will help us in this endeavor ... and in so doing, we hope to be prepared, practically, to face the challenges of the future which require our presence and guidance as Christians,” Lahham said. “Solidarity springs from the faith that we are one church, one body, one Christian family, one nation, and this faith translates into good works and especially into proactive love toward those in need, and the one in need is the child of the church.”Lahham harshly condemned the recent announcements by the U.S. and some other countries that they intended to provide direct and lethal military assistance to the Syrian rebels. “We will face more troubles due to the plan by some countries to arm here and there, especially in Syria,” he said. “It’s as if the world is no longer able to understand anything save the language of arms, war, destruction, violence and terrorism.”“[Weapons only] fuel the violence and hatred, and lead to more killing, destruction, displacement and more suffering – economically, socially, health-wise – for families, young people, students and workers,” he added.
Lahham went on to call for an immediate cessation of all arms transfers, and for major world powers to work instead toward a political solution rather than contributing to the “division” of the Arab world along political, social, religious and tribal lines. He also called for the establishment of a Melkite Greek Catholic lobby to promote the church’s positions, saying: “This is the true political action and the sacred duty which we must fulfill with daring, zeal, love, dedication, sincerity, and worthiness.”Lahham told The Daily Star later that although the church had not established a timeline for the formation of the solidarity council, small councils had already been established in Syria and Egypt and that more fundraising was needed. “We are preparing for after the crisis,” Lahham said. “Right now everyone is working on relief, everyone feels responsible.”

Better late than never

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Barack Obama’s change of attitude and his adoption of a more aggressive policy in Syria has taken us all unawares. Although the opposition says his decision came late, being late is better than not coming at all.
Following the White House’s admission that the Assad regime has overstepped the red line by using chemical weapons and that it will be punished for this, now we have become more distant from Geneva II and are moving closer to Libya II. The endeavor now will be towards toppling the regime through a blend of foreign intervention and support to the Syrian rebels on the ground. To know how Bashar ended up gaining control over the situation, we must consider the different stages of the Syrian crisis. A year ago, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was facing defeat as a result of the strikes launched by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that took control of over half of Syria’s border crossings, and so everyone held the belief that President Bashar was going to fall in a few months. Bashar convinced the Russians and the Iranians to increase their aid to him. As a result, the situation turned upside-down and the FSA’s feebleness was made clear to everyone, as it lost battles in Homs and even in Damascus in December 2012. Then, the FSA received huge support from several states, most prominently Saudi Arabia. The Jordanian front was also opened to offer important humanitarian and logistic aid as well as large cargoes of weaponry. The result came fast and the FSA notched up notable victories. Al-Assad’s allies realized that his troops were bombarding cities heavily, yet they failed to win and were losing battles one after another. Those allies found out that it would not be beneficial for Assad’s troops to have better capabilities and, nevertheless, be defeated spiritually and on the ground. Therefore, they decided to engage in the fight themselves.It was a bold decision by the Iranians, who probably felt that the Americans did not have an appetite for fighting. In the past two months, according to successive eyewitness accounts, Iranian troops, along with militias from Hezbollah and Iraq, have joined in the fighting. Qusayr was a truly decisive battle. It was not a strategic one, but rather it was a symbolic struggle for both sides. It was incontestably proved that Hezbollah troops were engaged in the fight and took control of Qusayr and its environs. Now the war is not confined to the Syrians alone—Assad’s army and the FSA—because Iran and its allies are directly engaged in the fight against the FSA, which is smaller and less well-armed. With this development, the equation has changed and a victory for Assad has became possible for the first time since the outbreak of the revolution twenty-seven months ago. Qusayr was an important battle that awakened everyone: the Gulf, Britain and France have offered support and now Washington is tolling the bell to warn of Iranian interference in Syria, something that would change the entire regional equation. The Geneva conference, which was originally an Iranian idea that was adopted by Russia over a year ago, aims to create a new reality in the already–tense Middle East whereby Tehran becomes a key player. The inevitable question to be raised here is how could the same Iran that is under stringent international sanctions be allowed to expand to become a force in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon? Despite significant indicators of change in Washington, it would be unwise to say that the battle has been decided, for it is complicated and will produce more surprises. The battle may be decided next August, and it could take two more years. Yet, what is certain is that the shift in the stances of international players is a significant political and military development that will be reflected on the ground in the next few days. It is likely that such a shift in will eventually lead to an internationally protected area, one that is protected by NATO in cooperation with the Gulf states. The FSA will be overtly provided with sophisticated arms and information that will help it finish the battle on the ground. Should the Syrian regime fail to implement any political reforms on the ground, and should Iran fail to withdraw its troops from Syria, which is unlikely, then the Libyan solution would be highly probable; as happened when NATO forces overthrew the Gadhafi regime after the rebels were unable to end the battle by themselves.

Mursi, Sunni scholars demand Hezbollah leave Syria

Abdul Sattar Hatita/Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Last Thursday, two days before he announced the decision to sever relations with the Assad regime, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi held a meeting with 19 Islamist scholars led by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. They were participating in a conference that took place in Cairo hours before the meeting. Three members of this delegation of Islamist scholars told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Mursi came under pressure from the guests, especially Qaradawi. They urged Mursi to take strong measures against Assad’s regime. Mursi responded by discussing the results of his talks with the US, Russia and Iran regarding Syria, and expressed his anger at some Gulf states. The Egyptian president told the delegation that some Gulf states were isolating him and refusing to work with him. Some, he added, were even working against him.
Sources who asked not to be identified told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting with the president lasted for 90 minutes, and that the president only listened to nine members of the delegation. The sources added that Qaradawi told Mursi it was important for Egypt to stand with the Syrian people. He called on him to sever diplomatic relations with Damascus, and to provide more assistance to the revolution.
Other members of the delegation talked to Mursi about Iran’s role in Syria and the dangers the Iranian agenda posed to the region. They also asked Mursi to ban Iranian ships from sailing through the Suez Canal because “they carried arms to the Syrian regime.” Mursi, however, said reports about arms going through the Suez to Syria were incorrect. The sources said that when Sabah Al-Mousawi, an Iranian Sunni, told Mursi that “a president who has Islamic leanings cannot ignore 20 million Sunnis living in Iran,” Mursi described Iranian policies in the region as “malicious.”The president allayed fears expressed by some members of the delegation about Iranian plans to spread Shi’ism in Egypt. He said this was unfounded, and that if the Iranian chargé d’affaires had such plans, he was under control. He added that “everything that is said on the subject is nothing more than scaremongering.”
The sources added that Mursi asked the Muslim Scholars to “speak to Arab leaders to enable him to make a decision on Syria … because I cannot work individually.”
The sources said Mursi has spoken with other world leaders about the Syrian crisis. One mentioned a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, in which Putin asked Mursi “if the Americans went into Syria, who would guarantee our interests. Would you guarantee our interests?” Putin also told Mursi that if Arabs guaranteed Russia’s interests in Syria, they would get Russia on their side.
During a conference attended by 20,000 of his supporters on Saturday, President Mursi decided to sever relations with the Syrian regime. He called on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Syria and for Hezbollah to leave the country. He said: “We have decided today to sever all relations with the current Syrian regime, close the Syrian regime’s embassy in Cairo, and recall the Egyptian chargé d’affaires from Damascus.”
Mursi added: “Hezbollah must leave Syria. This is serious…. There is no place for Hezbollah in Syria; we stand against Hezbollah and its aggression against the Syrian people.”
It was later revealed by the Egyptian presidency that Egypt was holding talks with Arab and Muslim states about holding an emergency summit in support of the Syrian people.


Putin will address G8 summit as head of winning Syrian war camp

DEBKAfile Special Report June 17, 2013/Russian President Vladimir Putin set the tone for the discussion on Syria at the G8 summit which opened in Northern Ireland Monday, June 17, when he rounded harshly on British Prime Minister David Cameron in London Sunday for supporting rebels who “kill their enemies and eat their organs.” Hitting back at this week’s decision by US President Barack Obama – whom he will meet privately at the summit - to give the rebels “military support” – Putin asked: “Are these the people you want to supply weapons?”
The lovely lakeside venue for the two-day gathering of US, Russian, Canadian, French, German, Italian, British and Japanese leaders was worlds away from the Syrian killing fields, where 93,000 people have died, according to conservative estimates. But the Russian president will make sure that the voices of his allies, Bashar Assad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah, are heard loud and clear in the conference hall, until they are acknowledged the victors of the vicious Syrian war. If world leaders hold back, the Syrian and Hizballah armies will continue their march on Aleppo, Syria’s biggest town, for their next bloodbath.
The light arms President Obama proposes to release for the Syrian rebels don’t give them the smallest fighting chance against the fighter-bomber jets, heavy tanks, and unlimited ordnance supplied Bashar Assad’s army by Russia and the missiles and troops coming in from Hizballah and Iran.
This unbeatable preponderance makes the fall of Aleppo and Assad’s victory a foregone conclusion
Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, speaking in Washington over the weekend, argued that the Syrian army’s successes did not add up to a strategic victory. The Russian leader will present the opposite case to which his fellows in the Group of Eight have no answer. They will therefore hammer at the only point on which they agree, the quest for a political solution of the Syrian crisis by means of an international conference, i.e., getting Geneva-2 off the ground.
Putin and Obama will therefore need to put their heads together on accepted ground rules for this event.
Although on the face of it, nothing could be more reasonable, debkafile’s Russian and Middle East sources report it is a tall order indeed, given the list of at least four pre-conditions Putin plans to put before the US President on the strength of his partners’ war successes:
1. Geneva-2 will not be convened by the US or Russia, as first agreed, but by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This would force Washington to stay within the bounds of UN resolutions and not act as did the US and NATO in Libya to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi outside their Security Council mandate.
2. Bashar Assad must remain in power as the legitimate ruler of Syria. Russia’s sale of arms to the Syrian government in Damascus was therefore legal.
3. Iran must be given a seat at Geneva-2.
The Russian president is determined to thwart any attempt by Obama to take advantage of Hassan Rouani’s election as president of Iran to supersede the battlefield successes of Russia, Iran and Hizballah in Syria. Ayatollah Khamenei will go along with him on this.
Sunday night, Washington was evidently exploring new diplomatic ground with Tehran when Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff commented that Hassan Rouhani’s election as president of Iran was a potentially hopeful sign. “If he is interested in, as he has said in his campaign events, mending his relations… with the rest of the world – there’s the opportunity to do that.”
But then, he said: “But doing so would require Iran to come clean on its illicit nuclear program.”
This was the Obama administration’s answer to Putin’s comment Tuesday, June 11 when he said: “I have no doubt that Iran is adhering to international commitments on nuclear non-proliferation, but regional and international concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program should not be ignored,” said the Russian leader.
4. Putin has gone back on his earlier consent to a single, united delegation representing the Syrian opposition at the projected international conference. He now maintains that the rebel front is hopelessly divided and the delegation should truly represent the real situation.
This too will be a Russian attempt to frustrate Western plans for a united opposition camp to speak with one voice opposite the Assad regime, by accentuating the rifts dividing the rival Syrian opposition factions and militias.
As matters look now, Assad’s drive to recapture all of Aleppo will continue after the G8 leaders have gone home. Putin, Khamenei, Assad and Nasrallah will continue their hideous victory march and the US, West and Israel will continue to hold back from intervention that could reverse the tide.