June 19/2013

Bible Quotation for today/The Grain Of Wheat
John12/24-26: "Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 12:25 He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. 12:26 If anyone serves me, let him follow me. Where I am, there will my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him
01 Corinthians 15:55/"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

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

Iranian actions speak louder than election results/By Michael Singh/The Washington Institute for Near East Policy/June 19/13

Erdoğan and the culture of democracy/By: Hashim Saleh /Asharq Alawsat/June 19/13

The Iranian Mood/By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat/June 19/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 19/13

Netanyahu warns against 'drawn out' talks with Iran
Lavrov: Iran agrees to halt 20-percent uranium enrichment. West must lift sanctions
Lebanese Army deploys after two killed in Sidon clashes
One Dead, 4 Hurt as Asir Supporters, Resistance Brigades Clash in Abra
President Michel Suleiman Hands Plumbly Memo on Syrian Violations

Mustaqbal Bloc Urges Lebanese to 'Stand by' Suleiman
Report: Army Intelligence Arrests Jordanian Extremist Funding Syrian Rebels
Lebanese Parliament Extension Almost Certain over Lack of Constitutional Council Quorum

Bassil Says Hizbullah Harmed FPM by 'Stabbing Democracy'
March 14 Urges Suleiman to Call for Hizbullah Withdrawal from Syria
U.N., EU Sound Alarm on Syria Refugee Crisis in Lebanon
Aoun Says Hizbullah Intervened in Syria after Gunmen Infiltrated Lebanon
Arslan Says Accusing Hizbullah of Inciting Sedition Is 'Unjust'
Officials deny presence of Nusra Front branch in Sidon
Lebanese minister, Wael Abu Faour accuses Syria of 'ethnic cleansing'

G8 Calls for Syria Peace Conference 'As Soon As Possible'
Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure
Obama Skeptical on Major Military Action in Syria
Karzai Announces Afghan Security Handover

Hollande: New Iran President Welcome at Syria Peace Talks
Putin: Russia Won't Rule Out New Arms Supplies to Syria's Assad
Saudi Arabia ‘supplying missiles’ to Syria rebels


Netanyahu warns against 'drawn out' talks with Iran
June 18, 2013/Daily Star/JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned world powers on Tuesday against holding "drawn out" negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme following the election of a more moderate president in Tehran."Iran should not be allowed to gain time by holding drawn out talks" with the international community, Netanyahu said during a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, the prime minister's office said in a statement. "Today, it is indispensable to keep the pressure (on Iran). We should not surrender to illusions. "Iran's newly elected president Hassan Rowhani has vowed to mend his country's strained ties with the international community over its nuclear programme which the West fears is aimed at developing a weapons capability, despite Tehran's denials. Netanyahu dismissed Rowhani's pledge as "illusions" and insisted again on the need to maintain pressure on Iran. The United States and other world powers have voiced hope for a more constructive engagement with Iran after Rowhani's election. Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, has refused to rule out military action to prevent Iran acquiring a rival arsenal.


Iranian actions speak louder than election results
By Michael Singh,
The writer is the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s next president has prompted two sorts of reactions among U.S. officials and Iranian analysts. Some see in Rouhani’s victory a reformist resurgence and are urging the Obama administration to reach out in an effort to “strengthen” him, much as the Clinton administration sought to do after the election of Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Others see a wily trick by Iran’s supreme leader, seeking to slough off the pressure of sanctions by presenting a smiling face to the world and buy more time with diplomacy while expanding Iran’s nuclear activities in the background.
The challenge for the Obama administration is that it cannot yet know which interpretation is correct. It cannot dismiss the possibility that international pressure on Iran has finally produced the sort of change it has been waiting for, but it also cannot risk alleviating that painstakingly-accumulated pressure based on mere hope or speculation.
.Unlike outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was a relative unknown in the West when he was first elected to the presidency, Rouhani is someone with whom the United States and its allies are well acquainted. From his past statements and positions, we know that Rouhani, far from being a reformist, is a regime insider who has played a key role in advancing Iran’s nuclear program, regional activities and even domestic repression. To the extent he has demonstrated pragmatism or a preference for diplomacy, it has been in service of the regime’s ends, not in an effort to change them. He has described, for example, how he was able to use diplomacy to buy time and space for Iran to perfect its centrifuge program during his stint as nuclear negotiator.
That said, it cannot be ruled out that Rouhani has taken stock of Iran’s dire economic straits and concluded that change is now necessary. If he has, then the question will be whether he will be given the authority to make that change; in other words, whether Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who by all accounts makes the key decisions on Iran’s nuclear program and other matters of vital interest to the United States, has also concluded that change is necessary and has deputized Rouhani to achieve it.
If this is the case, there may be early signs. If, for example, Rouhani is permitted to replace Iran’s nuclear negotiating team (headed by his erstwhile presidential rival, Saeed Jalili), release opposition leaders from house arrest and make decisions on Iranian policy toward strategic issues like Syria, it may be a signal that he is vested with greater authority than his predecessors. If not, then Rouhani may either be mired in power struggles with Tehran’s multiple and overlapping elites, or, more troubling, his elevation may simply be meant to distract the regime’s domestic and foreign detractors.
In determining its response, the Obama administration is unlikely to have the luxury of waiting to see how these dynamics inside the Iranian regime play out. It must decide on a policy today — one which is neither prematurely dismissive, nor preemptively accommodating.
In this vein, the administration should focus on Iranian actions, not Iranian personalities. Unless and until Iran is willing to meet international demands regarding its nuclear program, its support for terrorism and other activities, fundamental U.S. policy should not change, even as the administration reaches out to Rouhani and probes for new diplomatic openings. Indeed, until Iran relents, U.S. policy should continue to become firmer, especially in response to Iran’s deepening involvement in Syria, which Washington has done little to challenge.
If indeed President-elect Rouhani believes that Iranian policies must change, his best argument will be that those policies have and will continue to impose intolerable costs on Iran, threatening its prosperity and stability. The best way to strengthen those in Iran who hope to see a shift in the regime’s strategy is to make clear the price of that strategy. Easing the pressure on the regime in response to an election would do the opposite, by sending the Khamenei the message that relief can be had on the cheap, without a true strategic shift.
In electing Rouhani, Iranian voters made clear that they want to see change in their country. In a sense, this puts them on the same page as the United States and our allies. We also wish to see change in Iran in the form of less hostile, less confrontational Iranian policies. The difference is that after election day, Iranians cannot hold their regime accountable — participatory democracy in Iran is limited to casting a vote once every four years, and even then is highly circumscribed. Washington, on the other hand, can hold the Iranian regime accountable — by demanding of Rouhani and Khamenei changes not just to Iranian rhetoric, but also to Iranian actions.


Lavrov: Iran agrees to halt 20-percent uranium enrichment. West must lift sanctions

DEBKAfile Special Report June 18, 2013/Iran has confirmed it is prepared to halt its enrichment of 20-percent uranium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported on the ministry website Tuesday, June 18. He urged Western nations to reciprocate by lifting sanctions. debkafile: It was not clear whether this was a temporary suspension, an absolute halt – or a dodge for getting sanctions eased to enable the incoming Iranian president Hassan Rouhaini get to grips with his top priority, his country’s dire economic straits..Lavrov explained persuasively in his message: “For the first time in many years, there are encouraging signs in the process of settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity.”He called Tehran’s concession “a breakthrough agreement, significantly alleviating existing problems, including concerns about the possibility of advanced uranium enrichment to a weapons-grade level.”Lavrov urged the international community “to adequately respond to the constructive progress made by Iran, including gradual suspension and lifting of sanctions, both unilateral and those introduced by the UN Security Council.”The Russian foreign minister’s move ties in with two other developments – one at the two-day G8 summit ending Tuesday in Northern Ireland and the other in Tehran:
1. The Group of Eight was about to wind up its summit Tuesday evening by issuing a joint communiqué – over President Vladimir Putin’s objections – calling for a transition government in Damascus and Bashar Assad’s removal from power. Lavrov’s message from Tehran sought to persuade the Western powers, chiefly President Barack Obama, that they would be missing the chance of a nuclear settlement with Iran, because Tehran would never countenance Assad’s ouster.
debkafile: The Syrian conflict and the nuclear controversy with Iran have long been closely intertwined.
2. Moscow tried to put a positive slant on President-Elect Rouhani’s negative statement at his first news conference Monday, when he said Tehran “would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely.”
What he meant, Lavrov hinted, was that Iran would not abandon low-level 5.3 percent enrichment - only the 20 percent grade which brought its nuclear program close to a weapons-grade capacity.
The Russian minister’s comment about it being “a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity” was addressed to Jerusalem.
debkafile’s military sources report that, two years ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, came to a secret agreement with the Obama administration that if Tehran stopped the 20-percent enrichment of uranium and shut down its underground enrichment plant at Fordo, Israel would have no objections to Iran carrying on producing uranium refined to the 5.3 percent level.
Israel revoked this deal at the end of 2012 when Iran began massively accelerating its enrichment activities and accumulated enough 5.3 percent material for a rapid switch to 20-percent enriched uranium.

Lebanese Army deploys after two killed in Sidon clashes
June 18, 2013 03/By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star
SIDON, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army deployed Tuesday in the suburb of Abra, south Lebanon, after clashes between supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir and the Resistance Brigades, a pro-Hezbollah group, claimed the lives of at least two people, security sources told The Daily Star.
Backed by 20 armored personnel carriers, some 400 soldiers made their way into Abra, an eastern suburb of the southern coastal city of the Sidon, the sources said. Their evening deployment came after a tentative cease-fire was reached following negotiations between Assir, a fierce opponent of Hezbollah, and Sidon Mufti Salim Sousan. The clashes, which also wounded at least three people, erupted in the afternoon hours in Qiyaa and soon spread to the vicinity of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque in Abra, where Assir holds sermons, the sources said. A volley of rocket-propelled grenades was also fired at Abra but it was not clear who fired the grenades, the sources added. Assir’s supporters claimed that rocket-propelled grenades and sometimes mortar bombs were fired at the mosque from Mar Elias and Haret Saida, both strongholds of Hezbollah and Amal. The Army, which had been stationed around the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, withdrew from the area and blocked the road leading to the neighborhood soon after the violence erupted, the sources said. Tension in the suburb soured as a result of the fighting.
Crying children were evacuated from one local kindergarten. Other kindergartens considered similar measures.
The fighting, which went on for over three hours, also brought much of the city to a standstill. In a statement in the afternoon, the Army said the catalyst of the fighting had been a morning road incident and the closure of two highways.
“At 3 p.m. and upon a road incident in Abra, gunmen deployed in Abra and began firing [with the aim] of intimidation which led to wounded among citizens. This coincided with other individuals blocking the coastal highway as well as the eastern highway,” the Army said. “Army units deployed in the area intervened [as a result] and were reinforced and are working on removing the armed presence, reopening roads and restoring calm,” it added.
Security sources said a man, who was identified as Mahmoud Al-Sous, vandalized a van owned by Assir’s brother, Amjad, breaking its windows. Najib Al-Yaman, a supporter of Assir, had been in the vehicle at the time of the incident.
The incident in Qiyaa developed into armed clash between Assir’s supporters and members from the Resistance Brigades. Residents who spoke to The Daily Star said that during the fighting Assir had threatened to break into apartments which he claims are owned by armed members of Hezbollah in the area.
Speaking to LBCI, Assir said residents of the apartments had till Monday to vacate the premises. The radical preacher has previously warned he would personally deal with Hezbollah members he alleges have taken up residence in at least two apartments surrounding the Abra mosque. He claims the occupants of the apartments are monitoring his movements.
Local and state officials were keen for the situation to be brought under control promptly.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati had followed up on the security situation in Sidon in contacts with caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and heads of security apparatuses, his office said.
Mikati renewed his call that “everyone exercise wisdom and calm at this tense period that we are going through and to stay away from reactions that negatively affect everyone.”
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri contacted President Michel Sleiman and urged him to call for the deployment of the Army and security forces in Sidon in order “to restore stability and security for the city and its residents,” the National News Agency reported. The NNA report said the president informed Hariri that the Army would take all the needed measures to bring the situation in Abra and Sidon under control. Hariri also contacted Charbel and Army chief Maj. Gen. Jean Kahwagi over the situation in the southern city, the state-run agency said. The Army’s deployment in the afternoon did meet some resistance by Assir’s fighters on the ground.
Two of the APCs were fired upon as they entered the neighborhood, which prompted the military to respond to the sources of fire. The gunmen then tried blocking the road with a car, which the military rapidly rammed through.
The remaining APCs entered the area minutes later and some 400 soldiers deployed after Sousan urged the gunmen to withdraw to allow the military to fulfill its task of restoring order. The gunmen had earlier ignored the mufti’s request, claiming they had not received orders from Assir to do so, but then later complied after a further plea by the Sidon mufti.
In its statement, the Army vowed it would not tolerate the security situation deteriorating in the area. “The Army command warns all gunmen to immediately withdraw from the streets and it will not allow the spread of chaos and will open fire on any armed [person] and respond to sources of fire in kind,” it said.


President Michel Suleiman Hands Plumbly Memo on Syrian Violations
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman handed U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly on Tuesday a memo on the Syrian violations of Lebanese sovereignty. A terse presidential statement said Suleiman delivered to the diplomat the memo that deals with “the violations and attacks carried out by all the warring parties in Syria.” The president hoped Plumbly would refer a copy of the memo to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to adopt it as an official U.N. document, it said. Suleiman's move came amid a spat with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour who was procrastinating in referring the memo to the U.N. and filing a complaint with the Arab League.
Mansour, who is close to the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance, has been criticized by the March 14 coalition on several occasions for ignoring similar requests from Suleiman. There have been several attacks from rebel-held areas of Syria on Hizbullah strongholds in northeastern Lebanon in recent months. Such attacks increased after Hizbullah, along with Syrian army forces captured from rebels the key central Syrian town of Qusayr. Syrian regime troops have also carried out attacks on border areas, mainly air raids on the northeastern town of Arsal, which has become an escape route for rebels and people running away from the fighting in Syria.

One Dead, 4 Hurt as Asir Supporters, Resistance Brigades Clash in Abra

Naharnet/Clashes erupted on Tuesday afternoon between supporters of Islamist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir and members of the Hizbullah-affiliated Resistance Brigades in the Sidon neighborhood of Abra, leaving at least one person dead and four others wounded. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said the fighting broke out between Asir supporters and “Mahmoud al-Sous' group, which belongs to the Resistance Brigades.”
"Several people were killed and wounded in the clash that erupted in the town of Abra, east of Sidon. One of the dead was identified as Mohammed Hashisho and four other people were wounded," state-run National News agency reported. Media reports said rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) were used in the clashes as Voice of Lebanon (93.3) said a mortar shell was fired. Meanwhile, al-Jadeed television said “masked gunmen deployed across Abra as residents fled the area,” adding that “gunmen loyal to Sheikh al-Asir are trying to storm apartments belonging to Hizbullah in Sidon's Abra.”MTV also said masked gunmen and snipers deployed heavily on the rooftops of buildings in Abra and that the army was shooting back at the sources of gunfire. "Things have returned to normal and traffic resumed in Sidon as the army deployed in the streets," al-Manar television reported in the evening. The Army Command had issued an ultimatum to "all gunmen in Sidon to immediately withdraw from the streets," warning that troops "will open fire on any gunman and will shoot back at the sources of gunfire."
Sources told Future TV that "an agreement on a ceasefire in Abra has been reached and the army started deploying in the region." "Reports said an agreement sponsored by Sidon's mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan was reached with Sheikh al-Asir to withdraw gunmen from Abra," al-Jadeed said. Later, Asir told LBCI: "We give a deadline until Monday to evacuate Hizbullah's apartments in Abra." OTV had reported earlier that "Hizbullah has committed itself not to advance towards the rival positions in Sidon until the moment and any other claims are untrue." "Hizbullah is keen on pacification but will not allow any change on the ground in Sidon and the neighboring villages," sources told OTV. Earlier on Tuesday, LBCI television said unknown individuals intercepted a van belonging to a water supply company owned by Asir's brother in al-Qayaa in northern Sidon. “As the driver and his assistant were distributing water in the al-Qayaa area, a group assaulted them, forcing them to escape from the car which collided into a wall,” LBCI added. Asir's supporters said the attackers belong to the Resistance Brigades. Voice of Lebanon said Asir had vowed not to stay silent over the "criminal act" against his brother.

March 14 Urges Suleiman to Call for Hizbullah Withdrawal from Syria

Naharnet/A delegation from the March 14 alliance on Tuesday handed President Michel Suleiman a memo that calls for Hizbullah's “immediate” pullout from Syria and the deployment of the Lebanese army along the border with the war-torn country. The delegation to Baabda Palace was headed by al-Mustaqbal bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora, who later held a press conference at the parliament along with several March 14 MPs to reveal the details of the memo, its second to Suleiman in nine months. Around 50 signatories called for “Hizbullah's full and immediate withdrawal from Syria pending a solution to the problem of its arms.”Hizbullah fighters are playing a prominent role in supporting regime troops against the rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. Earlier this month, Syrian soldiers and Hizbullah members recaptured Qusayr following a more than two-week assault on the strategic town on the border with Lebanon. The signatories claimed that the party's role in the fighting is a clear violation of the Constitution, the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and international resolutions.
They asked Suleiman to deploy the Lebanese army on the northern and eastern border with Syria with the assistance of U.N. peacekeepers and to control the crossings with the neighboring country. The memo hinted that the March 14 alliance will not accept the participation of Hizbullah in the new cabinet that Premier-designate Tammam Salam is seeking to form. The coalition wants a neutral government that adopts the Baabda Declaration as its policy statement, said Saniora. The head of al-Mustaqbal bloc accused Hizbullah of using its “illegitimate arms” under the orders of its main backer Iran to “create a power stronger than the state and to impose its hegemony” on Lebanon's “sovereign decisions.” He reiterated that Hizbullah “contributed to the proliferation of arms and gunmen in different Lebanese regions” and contravened the decisions reached at the National Dialogue since 2006 and the Baabda Declaration in 2012. Saniora warned of a “disastrous situation,” saying Lebanese territories have become training grounds for gunmen being sent abroad under Iranian orders to fight alongside Syrian regime troops. “Hizbullah is serving the Syrian and Iranian regimes at the expense of the Lebanese … This pushes the country to a war among the Lebanese,” said the memo. It also accused the Assad regime of expanding its battle to Lebanon and committing crimes mainly in the northern city of Tripoli and the northeastern town of Arsal where occasionally it carries out air raids.

Al-Rahi Calls for Neutral Cabinet to Achieve Reconciliation among Foes
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi demanded on Tuesday the formation of a neutral cabinet to bridge the gap between the March 8 and 14 alliances and achieve reconciliation. “The March 8 and 14 coalitions sit on one table to save the country,” al-Rahi told reporters at Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport before heading to the Vatican. He pointed out that a national unity government should be formed after the two sides reach reconciliation and amend the ties. The Patriarch called on the Lebanese to act responsibly, stressing that there's no need to hold a spiritual summit currently as there are no disputes between Muslim and Christian spiritual leaders. “The most important matter is to achieve reconciliation between the March 8 and 14 camps in order to maintain Lebanon's highest interest,” al-Rahi said. He urged both sides to swiftly reach common ground over disputed matter to rectify the situation in the country. On Sunday, al-Rahi slammed both the March 8 and 14 alliances, in a sermon at Our Lady of Lebanon basilica in Harissa, for “tarnishing Lebanon’s image” and paralyzing state institutions in addition to shoving the country in Syria's crisis. Al-Rahi praised the role undertaken by President Michel Suleiman, describing him as the “living martyr.” He pointed out that the Lebanese Army is fully carrying out its duties to maintain security in the country in cooperation with all the “legal” security agencies. Al-Rahi denounced the killing of four people in eastern Lebanon on Sunday, considering that the “compromises done after each crime as the main reason that nothing is resolve,” calling on “striking with an iron fist” to control the situation across the country. His remarks came after 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 in the Bekaa valley. The Jaafar and Amhaz clans are well-known Shiite families in the region of Baalbek and Hermel. Al-Rahi also criticized the Lebanese judiciary system, saying that the loyalty that some judges have to politicians paralyzed the work of the constitutional council. Last week, the three council members boycotted for two days in a row the meetings of the 10-member body that should discuss a report drafted by Judge Issam Suleiman on the petitions filed by Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc challenging the 17-month extension of the parliament. The lack of quorum would make the 17-month extension law, which was approved by parliament end of May, valid after the end of parliament's mandate this Thursday.

Aoun Says Hizbullah Intervened in Syria after Gunmen Infiltrated Lebanon
Naharnet /Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday said Hizbullah intervened militarily in Syria after “gunmen” were brought into Lebanon, putting the blame on the March 14 camp and accusing it of creating a “vacuum” in Lebanon. "We discussed the 'carnival of speeches' that is taking place today about Syria and Hizbullah, as if we have no other problems and as if we forgot the epoch that led us here," Aoun said, referring to the memo submitted by March 14 to President Michel Suleiman. “Certain parties should have defended Lebanon, but they rather created a vacuum and brought in gunmen, which required another force to stand in their face,” Aoun told reporters after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform bloc. Addressing the March 14 forces in an indirect manner, the FPM leader added: "Sovereignty is indivisible and vacuum at state institutions brought in the gunmen and the gunmen brought Hizbullah.""They are not mentioning their own duties and memos cannot achieve anything because they are not seeking Lebanon's interest," he said. "They comment on a small detail and forget their own deeds, as the former opposition is to blame for everything happening on the border and we didn't hear any of them requesting the deployment of the army," Aoun went on to say. "What do they want after Hizbullah withdraws from Syria? They don't want an electoral law, they don't want legitimate institutions and they don't want a government and they have been postponing developmental projects amid administrative paralysis," he charged. Aoun said "a lot of people are taking impotence as an excuse and waiting for others and today the clash escalated in Abra due to these things." "Who sent the gunmen to Nahr al-Bared? Why did they remain silent over Fatah al-Islam in the judiciary? Who helped the detainees escape (from Roumieh)? Who neglected their responsibilities for years? This manipulation by Internal Security Forces officials led us to this situation," Aoun added.
He called on "those who don't have foreign connections" to "agree with us on rescuing the country through the solidarity of its people, not through the U.S., Russia or the Arab League."Asked about the extension of parliament's term, Aoun said: "Everyone stabbed us in the issue of extending parliament's term and even had we convinced Hizbullah to vote on our side, extension would not have been avoided, as the extension was approved by both March 14 and March 8." "Certain parties provided cover for what happened at parliament and others covered what happened in the Constitutional Council," he added.

Bassil Says Hizbullah Harmed FPM by 'Stabbing Democracy'

Naharnet/Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil expressed regret on Tuesday that Hizbullah's “anti-democratic” move in supporting the extension of parliament's mandate had harmed the Free Patriotic Movement. In an interview published in pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, Bassil, who is an FPM official, said Hizbullah “stabbed democracy” and “harmed us with its knife along with harming democracy.” The Hizbullah leadership along with several officials is preventing a quorum in the Constitutional Council, which is failing to meet to study petitions filed by President Michel Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc of FPM chief Michel Aoun against the 17-month extension of parliament's term. Three judges – two Shiites and a Druze – are boycotting the meetings of the 10-member body, a clear sign of political interference to prevent the elections from taking place this year. The lack of quorum caused by their absence would make the extension law valid on Thursday, the date the parliament's four-year mandate expires. Hizbullah is pushing further with its “stabbing by paralyzing a constitutional institution,” Bassil said. He told the newspaper that the differences between Hizbullah and the FPM on the extension crisis were “not small.”“It turned out that our ally is part of the political framework” in the country and “has fallen under the influence of bigger strategic choices,” the caretaker minister said. Despite his criticism of Hizbullah, Bassil said that the alliance between the FPM and the Shiite party remained strong. “We should preserve our good relations with Hizbullah as part of our responsibility in consolidating stability,” he said. Bassil stressed that the FPM's understanding with Hizbullah is based on the defense of Lebanon within certain limits.
“The limits lie in not allowing Lebanon to get involved further” in the war in Syria “and to be truly protecting Lebanon,” he said about Hizbullah's role in Syria's crisis and the prominent role it played in the capture of the town of al-Qusayr by regime troops. Bassil said he “understood the excuse” of Hizbullah without necessarily backing it. “I personally prefer that the Lebanese fight it out outside Lebanon instead of in it,” he added.

Lebanese Parliament Extension Almost Certain over Lack of Constitutional Council Quorum

Naharnet/The extension of parliament's four-year mandate is heading to validation this week amid another lack of quorum for the Constitutional Council which should discuss petitions against the extension. A new meeting for the council was set for next Friday. The head of the council, Judge Issam Suleiman, has reportedly met with the three judges who have been abstaining from the meetings. But the talks with the judges – two Shiites and a Druze – were fruitless, the reports said. Last week, the three council members boycotted for two days in a row the meetings of the 10-member body that should discuss a report drafted by Judge Suleiman on the petitions filed by President Michel Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc challenging the 17-month extension. The judges have come under the political pressure of several officials, mainly Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shiite, and Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat, who is a Druze leader. Both Berri and Jumblat reject holding the parliamentary elections this year under the excuse of lack of security in the country. The approval or the rejection of the challenges made by the president and the Change and Reform bloc requires the go-ahead of seven out of the council's 10 half-Christian and half-Muslim members. Also, the body cannot vote without a quorum of eight members. The lack of quorum would make the 17-month extension law, which was approved by parliament end of May, valid after the end of parliament's mandate this Thursday.

Arslan Says Accusing Hizbullah of Inciting Sedition Is 'Unjust'
Naharnet/Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan considered on Tuesday that accusing Hizbullah of of inciting sedition in Lebanon “is unjust and an infringement on the martyrs' blood.” "Accusing Hizbullah's resistance of inciting strife in the country is unfair and an infringement on every honorable countryman and on the blood shed by the martyrs,” Arslan said in a statement. He stressed: “Stop the distortion, the lies and the offenses.”"We understand that not everyone agrees with some or most of the resistance's ideas in Lebanon. But we do not understand how a group can resort to manipulating facts and distorting the truth in such an unacceptable manner that does not serve Lebanon's interests.” Arslan expressed: “We are at a stage when there are no morals in political relations. The political speech has deteriorated.” "This indicates that some factions want to link the situation in Lebanon to regional and foreign interests, no matter what was the price,” he noted. A delegation from the March 14 alliance on Tuesday handed President Michel Suleiman a memo that calls for Hizbullah's “immediate” pullout from Syria and the deployment of the Lebanese army along the border with the war-torn country. The signatories claimed that the party's role in the fighting is a clear violation of the Constitution, the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and international resolutions.

Ashton Cancels Meetings with Salam, Mansour to Visit UNIFIL Headquarters

Naharnet /European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met kicked off her second day official visit to Beirut by meeting with President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace. Ashton reportedly canceled her scheduled meetings with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to visit UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura instead. The EU chief, accompanied by EU Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst, also held talks with Speaker Nabih Berri at Ain el-Tineh. On Monday, the EU official discussed with Caretaker PM Najib Miqati the “current situation in Lebanon and the region and ties with the European Union.” The meeting was followed by a dinner banquet in honor of the visiting European official, Miqati's office said. Ashton's meetings are expected to focus on the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon and the repercussions of the Syria crisis on the country. The official 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. 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.

Mansour, Fatfat Exchange Conspiracy Accusations in Verbal Spat

Naharnet /Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour and al-Mustaqbal MP Ahmed Fatfat engaged on Tuesday in a war of words a day after the lawmaker said in a statement that the “Lebanese state doesn't have a Foreign Minister but a conspirator.” Mansour said in a statement issued by his press office that Fatfat's statement is part of a campaign that is “personally targeting” him, which will only “make him hold stronger onto the national and principles to confront hypocrites.” “His statement show the crumbling morals... And reveal all the conspiracy and treason characteristics,” the caretaker FM said. Fatfat later replied to Mansour's statement, saying: “I refuse to comment on the so-called Foreign Minister's statement as it includes a lot of hypocrite and false rumors.”“The history of MP Fatfat honors those who are small and who support them,” the statement said. On Monday, Fatfat told LBCI that Mansour is a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and its spokesman in Lebanon, who only justifies Hizbullah's actions in the neighboring country. He considered him a “conspirator for the Assad regime.” 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.

Lebanese minister, Wael Abu Faour accuses Syria of 'ethnic cleansing'

June 18, 2013 /By Erika Solomon/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have begun ethnically cleansing Sunni Muslims and deliberately pushing refugees across the border into Lebanon, the Lebanese caretaker minister for social affairs said on Tuesday. Assad is battling a Sunni-led revolt in Syria, which he and his father before him have ruled for four decades. He belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Wael Abu Faour told Reuters that during the 27-month-old conflict Syrian forces had committed what was "tantamount to ethnic cleansing next to the Syrian-Lebanese border".
"(Assad) is trying to displace all the Sunnis to Lebanon and this is why I expect to have more displaced people," he said.
The Syrian revolt turned into a civil war after a crackdown on anti-Assad protesters. It has taken on a sectarian hue, with Shiite Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah backing Assad, while Sunni powers such as Saudi Arabia support the rebels. The conflict has sharpened sectarian rifts in Lebanon. The United Nations says 93,000 people have been killed in Syria and 1.6 million Syrians have fled abroad. Lebanon, the smallest of Syria's neighbours with 4 million people, has taken in more than half a million Syrian refugees. "What began was a wave of people fleeing from violence to Lebanon, but what is happening now is a completely different matter. What is happening now is organised displacement of the Syrian people - organised based on sectarian and political motives," said Abu Faour, a frequent critic of Assad.
He made his comments after meeting U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who said that refugees in Lebanon and their local hosts needed direct support from world powers.
"My very strong appeal is for massive support not only to refugees, not only to local communities, but to Lebanon itself in order to be able to respond to this challenge," Guterres said, adding that the Lebanese education, health, and social affairs ministries needed financial aid. The United Nations has asked for some $5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syrians and for Syria's neighbours before the end of the year, its biggest emergency appeal to date. Of that, $1.7 billion will be required for aid work in Lebanon, including $450 million for the Beirut government, the U.N. says. Diplomats say that foreign donors are unwilling to give money to Lebanon's sectarian-based government which they see as deeply divided over Syria's war and dysfunctional on domestic issues. Some ministers, such as Abu Faour, have been fiercely critical of Assad, while others strongly support him. "Lebanon needs to formulate a mechanism to create confidence and trust in the government so that donors can increase their funding," said the Swedish ambassador to Beirut, Niklas Kebbon. Canadian ambassador Hilary Childs-Adams said her country was seeking reassurances that there was "a mechanism to send aid to Lebanon". She said it was easier to send aid to Jordan, which hosts 470,000 Syrian refugees. On Sunday Canada pledged 100 million Canadian dollars to help Jordan cope with the burden. During a visit to a UNHCR registration centre in the southern city of Tyre -- where employees say Syrians start queuing at 3:30 a.m. every morning due to the huge influx -- municipality workers told Guterres about issues they had dealing with the new refugees and a lack of support from Beirut. Guterres said he would try to implement some of their suggestions into UNHCR's work in Lebanon. He drew laughter from attendees when he added, with a chuckle: "As for the Lebanese state, there is not much we can do to fix that." Highlighting the difficulty of tackling the refugee crisis in Lebanon, Guterres's trip was cut short by clashes in the coastal city of Sidon which he had been due to visit later on Tuesday.

G8 Calls for Syria Peace Conference 'As Soon As Possible'

Naharnet /G8 leaders on Tuesday strongly endorsed calls for a peace conference to be held in Geneva on the Syria conflict "as soon as possible". At the end of a summit in Northern Ireland, the leaders also called for an agreement on a Syrian transitional government "formed by mutual consent", and said the military and security services "must be preserved and restored" in a future set-up. The G8, including President Bashar Assad's key ally Russia, said it was deeply concerned by the "growing threat" from terrorism and extremism in Syria. The world powers called on the Syrian regime and the opposition to "commit to destroying and expelling from Syria all organizations and individuals affiliated to al-Qaida, and any other non-state actors linked to terrorism". British Prime Minister David Cameron, the host of the meeting, said it was "unthinkable" that Assad could play a role in a transitional administration in Syria, but the G8 communique made no reference to him. Deep divisions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the other Group of Eight leaders on Syria have been laid bare at the meeting in Northern Ireland, but they appear to have reached a limited agreement, sources from two Western countries told Agence France Presse.
Cameron's spokesman said agreement was possible but that there would be further discussions before the summit wrapped up. "We believe that the G8 can reach agreement on the approach to take us forward to Geneva 2," the spokesman said. Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama made no attempt to conceal their differences after icy face-to-face talks at the Lough Erne golf resort on Monday.
"Of course our opinions do not converge, but all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria," said Putin, while Obama admitted the two men had "different perspectives" on the brutal conflict. Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said the world powers meeting in Northern Ireland had made progress towards agreeing a common line on Syria and the chances of holding a peace conference soon "have increased".
Ryabkov however reiterated Russia's stance that the Syrian people alone could decide the fate of President Bashar Assad. "The last word... on how this will be proceeding rests with the Syrians," he told reporters.
British officials had suggested late Monday that the rest of the G8 could leave Putin out in the cold and press ahead with issuing a statement on Syria without Russia, but a night of haggling by officials appeared to have reached a form of agreement. But issues such as arms -- Washington said last week it would start sending weapons to the rebels, while Moscow is a strong supporter of President Assad -- were largely left off the table, the officials said.
Chemical weapons were also likely to be a sticking point. The United States, Britain and France all say they have evidence that Assad's forces have used nerve gas against the Syrian rebels but Russia says there is no proof.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also insisted on Tuesday that the proposed peace conference in Geneva should not imply any "capitulation" by the Syrian regime or a handover of power to the opposition.
The U.S. president also unveiled a new $300 million (220 million euro) aid package for refugees inside and outside Syria. Germany followed that with a pledge of 200 million euros. The conflict has claimed the lives of at least 93,000 people since it began in March 2011, according to the United Nations. The G8 leaders have however reached agreement to curb the payment of ransoms for hostages kidnapped by "terrorists", Cameron's office said.
The leaders would also call on companies to follow their lead in refusing to pay for the release of abductees, in a bid to remove one of the motivations of hostage-takers, it said.
Britain was determined to tackle the issue after Islamic extremists took workers hostage at a gas plant in Algeria earlier this year in an attack which saw 37 people.
Cameron was also driving forward an initiative to fight tax evasion, banking secrecy and to increase the transparency of multinational companies. The draft communique said the G8 nations had agreed to publish national action plans "to make information on who really owns and profits from companies and trusts available to tax collection and law enforcement agencies."
The leaders also look likely to commit to work with the OECD on the issue. The Paris-based body provided ammunition for a G8 offensive in a report Tuesday outlining how to bring about automatic sharing of financial information, considered the key weapon in the fight against banking secrecy. The report -- commissioned at the G8's request -- suggests that countries adopt broad, standardized legislation so that bilateral information-sharing agreements can be quickly and easily negotiated. Cameron is hosting Obama, Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.Source/Agence France Presse.

Karzai Announces Afghan Security Handover

Naharnet /President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday announced the transfer of nationwide security from NATO to Afghan control, a major milestone as the U.S.-led war effort winds down after 12 years. Shortly before Karzai's speech at a handover ceremony, the location of which had been kept a secret, a prominent lawmaker escaped a bomb attack in Kabul that killed three civilians, underlining the country's continuing instability. "From tomorrow, our security and defense forces will now be in the lead," Karzai said. "From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces."NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Afghan forces were taking the lead on security from Tuesday. "They are doing so with remarkable resolve, and they deserve the full support of the Afghan people," he said at the ceremony. The handover of the last 95 districts from NATO to Afghan control includes areas in the south and east where the Taliban have concentrated their bloody insurgency against the U.S.-backed government since 2001. After the handover, 100,000 NATO forces will play a supporting and training role as Afghan soldiers and police take the lead in the fight against the militants who were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks.Doubts remain, however, over the ability of the 350,000-strong Afghan forces to thwart the Taliban, and the NATO military coalition will retain an important role in logistics and air support as well as in combat when required. Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a leader of the ethnic Hazara minority who is likely to play a key role in presidential elections due next April, survived a bomb attack unhurt but his clothes were burnt. "I'm fine. Four of my guards are wounded and are in hospital," he told Agence France Presse. "I was going to the parliament and it was near the office of the Independent Human Rights Commission. "I heard a big explosion on the side of the car and I didn't realise what happened. It was big. Only my cloak is a little burned, other than that I'm fine."The lawmaker told AFP that he had been threatened. "I was under threat. The intelligence agency was sending letters that I should be careful. There was a threat against me. I was rarely going to the parliament." Mohammad Zahir, the CID chief of Kabul, told reporters at the scene that three civilians were killed and 24 others, including some guards, were wounded.
He said the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device. Recent attacks have demonstrated the Taliban's ability to strike at Kabul as the country prepares for next year's presidential elections and the NATO withdrawal by the end of 2014. A suicide car bomb last Tuesday killed 15 civilians outside the Supreme Court in Kabul. The previous day, gunmen fired grenades at the city airport and an international aid group's compound was targeted in a seven-hour battle late last month. Despite the attacks penetrating the capital's defenses, the effective response of elite Afghan security forces has been widely hailed as a sign of increasing professionalism.
Source/Agence France Presse.

U.N., EU Sound Alarm on Syria Refugee Crisis in Lebanon

Naharnet/The EU's top foreign policy chief and the U.N.'s high commissioner for refugees warned on Tuesday about the needs created by the influx of more than 530,000 Syrian refugees into Lebanon. Arriving in Beirut, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres "sounded the alarm about the massive support needed for refugees and for the countries and communities hosting them", a statement said. Guterres also said the number of Syrians fleeing their country's 27-month conflict to Lebanon is projected to swell to "over one million by the end of 2013". He reiterated concerns that the threat of spillover of Syria's war into the region "is now becoming a harsh reality". "Lebanon and other neighboring countries need massive support so that they can continue to receive and help so many refugees and preserve stability," Guterres said. Last week Lebanon, the United Nations and humanitarian groups launched a $1.7 billion appeal to help fund the cost of receiving refugees. The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also discussed the plight of Syrian refugees on a trip to Beirut, while urging "a political solution to the conflict in Syria". She also warned that "de-escalating tensions" in Lebanon is a "priority", a statement said. The conflict in neighboring Syria has raised tensions in Lebanon, with Hizbullah backing the Syrian regime while Lebanon's opposition backs the uprising. "Any country would have struggled with an increase of 25 percent of its population and commended all efforts to provide protection and assistance," Ashton said. She "reiterated (the EU's) commitment to Lebanon's security and prosperity", and support for "Lebanon's official policy of disassociation from the fighting in Syria". Though Lebanon is officially neutral in Syria's raging war, the country has been increasingly embroiled in the conflict. According to U.N. figures, the small Mediterranean country has also received the region's biggest influx of refugees fleeing Syria's war.Source/Agence France Presse.

Obama Skeptical on Major Military Action in Syria

Naharnet/President Barack Obama expressed skepticism Monday that setting up a no-fly zone in Syria or other major U.S. military action could save lives or tip the balance against President Bashar Assad's regime. Speaking to PBS television, Obama said critics urging bold intervention failed to understand there was no simple solution and "if you set up a no-fly zone, that you may not be actually solving the problem."Obama's deputies last week announced plans to arm the Syrian opposition after the administration concluded the Assad regime had resorted to using chemical weapons. The U.S. president has been accused by some lawmakers of dithering over Syria, but Obama warned of a litany of dangers associated with direct military action -- repeating his determination not to be drawn into another ground war in the Middle East. Responding to calls to shut down Syria's combat aircraft with American air power, Obama said "the fact of the matter is for example, 90 percent of the deaths that have taken place haven't been because of air strikes by the Syrian air force." "Syrian Air Force isn't particularly good. They can't aim very well," he said, adding that most of the action was taking place "on the ground."
On a possible "humanitarian corridor" to safeguard civilians in areas controlled by the opposition, Obama said such a step would require bombing raids that could carry unintended consequences, including triggering more civilian deaths. "Or if you set up a humanitarian corridor, are you in fact committed not only to stopping aircraft from going that corridor, but also missiles? "And if so, does that mean that you then have to take out the armaments in Damascus and are you prepared then to bomb Damascus? And what happens if there's civilian casualties?" he said in an interview recorded before he departed for a G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
In an unusual public comments by a president weighing military options, Obama said bombing also would carry the risk of inadvertently hitting a chemical weapons site, potentially unleashing lethal agents into the air.
"And have we mapped all of the chemical weapons facilities inside of Syria to make sure that we don't drop a bomb on a chemical weapons facility that ends up then dispersing chemical weapons and killing civilians, which is exactly what we're trying to prevent?"Obama implied he was wary of supplying more advanced weapons to the rebels and rejected arguments from some lawmakers and commentators that such a move would turn the tide of the war. He said "any notion that somehow we're just a few, you know, anti-helicopter or tank weapons away from tipping in that direction I think is not being realistic analyzing the situation."He said some critics had proposed "we go in hot and heavy, no fly zones, setting up humanitarian corridors, and so forth" and that this supposedly offered "a simpler solution."
Referring to meetings in the White House "Situation Room" with military officers, Obama said: "Unless you've been involved in those conversations, then it's kind of hard for you to understand that the complexity of the situation and how we have to not rush into one more war in the Middle East." However, Obama said he also rejected any suggestion that the United States had no role to play.
Washington has "serious interests there and not only humanitarian interests," he said. "We can't have the situation of ongoing chaos in a major country that borders a country like Jordan which in turn borders Israel."
Obama made clear he opposed siding with the Sunnis in the Syrian conflict as some voices in the region have demanded, saying that would not serve American interests.
The U.S. administration wanted to see a tolerant government in Syria that was "not sectarian," he added.
Source/Agence France Presse

Erdoğan and the culture of democracy
By: Hashim Saleh //Asharq Alawsat
It should be acknowledged that democracy does not constitute a part of our culture. This is the least that can be said. Democracy is absent on all levels, from the head of the family to the president, from primary schools to universities. We are all immersed from head to foot in a non-democratic, patriarchal culture. Since we have been immersed in this culture from an early age, it is difficult to free ourselves from it: as the saying goes, “Old habits die hard.”
I would like to tell a personal anecdote, if readers allow me, although it is extremely hard for me to tell it given that I am still deeply wounded by the experience.
When our mother died in a tragic incident, did our “old man” consult us about his decision to remarry? Absolutely not! One morning, or perhaps one night, we were awakened by the commotion caused by the new woman who, we were told, was [our father’s] bride. That incident marked my first face-to-face experience with evil; an experience which I never had before, I swear. I suddenly lost the innocence of childhood. The foreign woman who replaced the mother/angel proved to be nothing but an evil snake. She was as evil as could be. Up until now, after 50 years, I have not overcome this incident.
This is something which attests to the dangers of the oppressive mentality that dictates rules regardless of what the others think. Hence, I decided to focus on decentering ancient theological conceptions. Had not I been a specialist in the thought of the Middle Ages, I would not have spent my life transferring Enlightenment thought to the Arab world.
After I witnessed the sort of upbringing people receive in developed countries, my conventional education suddenly and completely collapsed—which led me to wage full-scale war against the patriarchal mentality.
Reccep Tayyip Erdğoan, the Turkish prime minister, committed a small mistake that turned to be a fatal one, when he decided to rip up the trees in Gezi Park in Istanbul to build a mall without consulting anyone. Business always comes at the expense of nature, beauty and memories.
I say this despite all of the services that Erdoğan provided Turkey, almost turning the country into a world superpower. Why didn’t Erdoğan consult with the residents of this wonderful city before making this decision? Why were the Turkish people surprised by Erdoğan’s decision in the same way I was surprised by my father’s marriage? What is this superiority and patriarchy in dealing with the Turkish people for?It is because Erdoğan is like us, a product of a non-democratic and oppressive patriarchal culture. Almost the entire Islamic world is a product of this culture. Did Erdoğan not conceal his passion for football from his father, whom he deeply feared and held in awe? Perhaps Erdoğan thinks that democracy means no more than casting one’s ballot in elections. Perhaps he believes that since 50% of people voted for him in the last elections, he can do whatever he wants with them. But he should at least consult with them. Gezi Park is a part of these people’s lives, and their childrens’ lives. They love it to the extent they cannot imagine Istanbul without it. What would Paris mean without the Luxembourg Gardens? Wiping these gardens out would be a direct attack on the people of Paris.
Democracy is more than casting your ballot: it is a thorough philosophy of the administration of society and existence. Discussing decisions before they come to be implemented is the first principle in any democratic culture. I mean consulting with the people who are directly affected by the decision. Tyranny is the Arab and Islamic world’s curse, while democracy and transparency are the merits and the reasons behind the superiority of the West.
This is what the most famous theory of the last century—German philosopher Jurgen Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action—revolves around. Before we kill each other, let’s talk. Truth emerges from interaction among the conflicting and contradictory points of view. Truth is not given in advance or in a ready form, contrary to what we delude ourselves into thinking. Only civilized people can solve their problems by means of free and democratic dialogue. However, we Arabs and Muslims solve our problems by fighting and carrying out suicide car bombings.
Europeans prior to the Enlightenment were backward like we are now, and their rulers represented the shadow of God on Earth. Louis XIV used to say, “I am the state; I am France.” He had the ability to kill people in an arbitrary and tyrannical way without anyone daring to utter a single word. He even used to make decisions of war and peace without consulting his people—exactly like what Saddam Hussein did when he invaded Kuwait. It never even occurred to Louis XIV to consult with the people. How could he consult with something that does not even exist? In his mind, it would be nonsensical for him to consult with children and slaves. Did my father consult with me when he decided to get married? We were thunderstruck by the news. Such matters used to be considered natural in those bygone days. However, now things have changed—at least among developed nations which are immersed in their democratic cultures. This is something which I am certain it will be decades before we Arabs and Muslims can achieve.
What is the problem of Turkey? The problem is that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk exaggerated in his attempts to Westernize and uproot the Turkish people; Erdogan is almost going in the opposite direction, as the saying goes: “the middle way is best one.” Both authenticity and modernity are required without any one dominating the other.
Despite what happened in Turkey, Bachir ben Yahmed, the Tunisian writer and editor-in-chief of the Parisian Jeune Afrique Magazine, thinks that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is indispensable for the time being. He also thinks that Erdogan will emerge victorious from the crisis, according to the saying “what does not kill you makes you stronger.” To achieve this, Erdogan needs to correct his mistakes particularly when it comes to his high self-esteem and his tyrannical penchant in both opinion and decision. Do you know that the number of journalists and intellectuals detained in Turkey exceeds that in China? In general, in order for Turkey to overcome the crisis, it should consolidate the role of President Abdullah Gul, who represents the democratic wing in the ruling party.

The Iranian Mood

By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat
The election of Hassan Rouhani—a moderate, pragmatic conservative around whom the forces of reform were united in the recent Iranian presidential elections—was a surprise according to many Western reports trying to analyze whether there will be change in Iran. However, the fact is there were indications pointing to this result. The scenes of jubilation and great joy witnessed in many Iranian cities, including Tehran–especially among the middle class–after the announcement of the result, as well as the high election turnout, may demonstrate a number of things. The most important of these is that there is a changing mood in Iran, which is different to that in the 2009 elections, which were followed by a huge wave of protests that were dealt with violently. Some of the icons of the 2009 elections, such as Mousawi and Kharroubi, are still under house arrest.
Rouhani, who comes from the heart of the Iranian ruling establishment, is not a reformist per se, but his political stances and his statements prior to and after the elections reflect pragmatism and a desire to extend bridges to the outside world, and to reduce authority’s grip on society. Iranian voters, who want progress and lack other options, decided in large numbers to elect the most open candidate from within the establishment, one who can deal with the main players and decision makers. Rouhani has strong relations with the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on most matters. He has also been the president of the National Security Council and a former nuclear negotiator. Reports from Iran indicate that the Iranian electorate’s main concern was the economy, which has deteriorated due to economic sanctions imposed as a result of the lack of progress in international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, in addition to the growing desire to break Iran’s international isolation. Externally, two issues concern the world internationally and regionally: the first is the uranium enrichment program, and suspicions that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons, or at least acquire the capability to do so; and the second are Iran’s regional policies in Syria and other countries, which cause unrest and instability in the region.
Rouhani’s problem is that time is short and the world wants quick answers. While he will assume office in August, there must be immediate signs of the possibility of forward movement on these issues. Many statements were made about this year being decisive, whatever that term may mean. The Syrian issue has also reached a dangerous point, and if Iran continues to be involved further it will be locked into confrontation, not conciliation and bridge building. The other problem is that the final decision regarding sensitive issues–such as the nuclear issue and regional involvements–is not in the hands of the president, but the supreme leader. Even President Ahmadinejad said a few days ago that the nuclear issue was not under his authority—so we must ask ourselves if Rouhani’s election will actually make any difference. The two presidential terms of Rafsanjani and Khatami have proved that the president can leave his own stamp on foreign and internal policy. Ahmadinejad’s term has also proved that conservatives and reformists have both failed to totally impose their agenda, not to mention the intense conflict between Ahmadinejad and the parliament. The next few weeks—not months—will show if there was real change in the mood among Iran’s ruling elite, in a way which reflects the street’s desire for openness and the lifting of economic sanctions. More information will also come to light as to whether there is any evidence of pressure from the ruling establishment to unite the conservatives behind one candidate, or if all that was just a mirage.