June 21/2013

Bible Quotation for today/ When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you
Matthew 6:1-6.16-18. (But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you

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

Hezbollah's Plans for Lebanon/By: Hilal Khashan/Middle East Quarterly/June 21/13
Will cannibals govern Syria/By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/June 21/13

Rouhani's Nuclear Views: An Open Book/By: Patrick Clawson/The Washington Institute/June 21/13
The end of the Turkish model/By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Alawsat/June 21/13
Debate: Iranian policy is radicalizing the Gulf’s Shi’ites/By: Adnan Hussein/Asharq Alawsat/June 21/13
Debate: Iranian policy is not radicalizing the Gulf’s Shi’ites/By: Kawthar Al-Arbash/Asharq Alawsat/June 21/13
Obama and the lack of deterrence/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/  June 21/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 21/13

At Least 18 Lebanese Expelled from Qatar as Report Says Move Not Political
President Sends Memo on Syria Violations to Arab League
Suleiman Says he Wants to Protect Resistance but Stresses Hizbullah Mistaken in Syria War
Shooting between Arsal-Labweh Sparks Heavy Army Deployment
Mansour: Suleiman Submitted a Message, Not Complaint, on Syrian Violations
Hundreds Rally against Parliament Term Extension, Security Forces Prevent Them from Reaching Nejmeh Square
Bekaa Roads Blocked 'in Support of Arsal', Many Hurt as Army Intervenes

Russian marine and air power head for Syria versus Western intervention “to defend Russian citizens” says Moscow
Lebanon seeks Arab help to end Syria violations
Lebanese president tells Hezbollah to end Syria campaign
Israel's Netanyahu signals annoyance with EU over Hezbollah
EU Still Deadlocked on Blacklisting Hizbullah
U.K. again fails to convince EU on blacklisting Hezbollah

Samaha trial over bomb plot postponed
Hariri congratulates Iran’s Rouhani on election
Berri to throw weight behind Cabinet efforts

Sidon politicians urge Army iron fist in response to violence
Asiri says GCC decision targets Hezbollah financiers

March 14 Plans Zahle Visit after Report of Arms Flow to Bekaa Clans
Charbel: Wadi Rafeq Victims Would have Been Alive if Border Better Controlled
Tensions High in Tripoli after Two People are Wounded in Shootout with ISF
Clashes Continue in Damascus as Rebels Demand Arms, No-Fly Zone from 'Friends of Syria'

New Palestinian prime minister offers resignation: official
Rebels demand arms, no-fly zone from 'Friends of Syria'
Russia may lose its strong Syria card
Syria troops fight rebels near major Shiite shrine

France's Fabius wants more talks with Syria rebels before arming
FBI Director Says Surveillance Drones Used in U.S.


U.K. again fails to convince EU on blacklisting Hezbollah

June 19, 2013/Daily Star/BRUSSELS: A British drive to put Hezbollah’s armed wing on the EU’s terror list again ran into resistance Wednesday from governments concerned it would fuel instability in the Middle East, diplomats said.Britain’s request was discussed for a second time by a special European Union group following an inconclusive meeting on June 4, but British diplomats failed to win over a number of skeptical governments.
Diplomats said the discussions were not over, but Britain may escalate the issue to a higher level, possibly to a July meeting of foreign ministers. “There was no agreement and the understanding was the issue will be discussed further, but not in this [group],” a diplomat said. Britain says the group should face European sanctions because of evidence that it was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last July that killed five Israelis and their driver. Hezbollah denies any involvement. Britain also has cited a four-year jail sentence handed down by a Cypriot court in March to a Hezbollah member accused of plotting to attack Israeli interests there. The British proposal has gained urgency – and some support – in Europe in recent weeks amid signs that Hezbollah is increasingly involved in the Syrian civil war. Several EU governments have questioned whether there is sufficient evidence to link Hezbollah to the attack in Bulgaria, according to EU diplomats. “There are legal considerations,” one EU diplomat said. “We haven’t seen the evidence.”

Israel's Netanyahu signals annoyance with EU over Hezbollah

June 20, 2013/Daily Star/JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced exasperation on Thursday with the European Union's reluctance to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah movement as a terrorist group. "I mean, it's hard to see how you cannot have a consensus on Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. If Hezbollah isn't a terrorist organisation, I don't know what is a terrorist organisation," he told Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, at the public start of their meeting in his office. Responding to Netanyahu, Ashton said: "I hear what you say, especially on your concerns about what's happening with Hezbollah. And we will talk about these things."
A British proposal to put Hezbollah on the EU's terrorism blacklist was resisted on Wednesday by some of the bloc's 27 members who fear such action would fuel instability in the Middle East, diplomats said.
Britain has argued that the militant Shi'ite Muslim movement should face European sanctions because of evidence it was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis and their driver in July. Hezbollah, which the United States lists as a terrorist organisation, denies any involvement in the attack.
Diplomats said some EU governments had questioned whether there was solid evidence of Hezbollah involvement. Bulgaria's new government expressed similar doubts this month, but now says it will not impede blacklisting the group. The British proposal gained more support in Europe in recent weeks after Hezbollah, an ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, became openly involved in that country's civil war.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in Lebanon in 2006.In arguing its case, Britain has also pointed to a four-year jail term a court in Cyprus imposed on a Hezbollah member accused of plotting to attack Israeli interests on the island. Diplomats say a majority of EU member states, including France and Germany, back the British proposal. But unanimity is needed and Austria, the Czech Republic and Italy have voiced reservations over what would be a major policy shift for the EU. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, and Turkey's Kurdish militant group PKK are already on the EU blacklist, and their assets in Europe have been frozen.

Suleiman Says he Wants to Protect Resistance but Stresses Hizbullah Mistaken in Syria War
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman said Thursday that Hizbullah made a mistake in getting involved in Syria's war, adding the party should bring back its fighters to Lebanon to avoid further security incidents in the country.
“I warned them amicably about this issue. I wasn't disloyal or oblivious,” Suleiman told As Safir newspaper. He said he would preserve the resistance but “I also want to protect it from itself.”
“If it participates in the battles of Aleppo and more of the party's members are killed, then there would be more tension” in Lebanon, Suleiman said. “This should stop in Qusayr and they should return to Lebanon.”
“The recent incidents (in Lebanon) will continue if the involvement in Syria doesn't stop,” Suleiman warned. Hizbullah was credited with an important role in the Syrian army's recapture of the rebel stronghold of Qusayr in central Homs province earlier this month.  The regime has said it plans to build on that victory by trying to retake large parts of the northern city of Aleppo and its surrounding province, but it is unclear whether Hizbullah has joined that operation.  “When I find Hizbullah's behavior wrong then I become honest with it,” Suleiman said. He also lashed out at Hizbullah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem for his criticism on his latest conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama. “Those who are keen on Lebanon should not be subject to the U.S. dictates under the excuse of defending constitutional institutions and do not stand in the same trench of the American-Israeli project,” said Qassem on Wednesday. But Suleiman stressed to As Safir that when Obama expressed concern over Hizbullah's involvement in Syria's war, he said he was also concerned over the meddling of all Lebanese parties in the neighboring country. “We had reached consensus on the Baabda declaration to prevent interference but unfortunately all the parties did not commit to it,” Suleiman said he told Obama.
The president stressed that he had the best of ties with Syria but that the Assad regime had initiated at filing complaints against Lebanon with the U.N. Suleiman has been criticized by several members of the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance for handing on Tuesday a memo to U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly on the Syrian violations of Lebanese sovereignty The president's unprecedented move came after caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour procrastinated in sending the memo to the U.N. In a statement he issued Thursday, Suleiman contemned Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace and the dropping of flares over the South. He accused the Jewish state of violating international resolutions, mainly 1701, and urged the international community and the U.N. Security Council to thwart the attacks on its neighboring countries.

Hundreds Rally against Parliament Term Extension, Security Forces Prevent Them from Reaching Nejmeh Square
Naharnet/Hundreds of citizens and civil society activists demonstrated Thursday afternoon in rejection of the extension of parliament's term, as security forces prevented them several times from crossing the barriers into Nejmeh Square which houses parliament's building. Protesters carried banners highlighting the living conditions that the lawmakers have failed to address, such as the new rent law, and slogans against the extension of parliament's mandate, which will go into effect at midnight. “The people want the fall of the regime” and “MPs, leave now!” were among the slogans chanted by demonstrators. Protesters also carried Lebanese flags as patriotic and revolutionary songs echoed across the Riad al-Solh square. “128 thieves have usurped power and those claiming to be against extension must resign so that we can remove their pictures from the list,” activist Imad Bazzi told al-Jadeed television. “The Constitutional Council proved that it is a copy of the politicians and we only have the street and the people,” Bazzi added, noting that “the street will challenge the extension should the Constitutional Council fail to approve the filed challenges.” Meanwhile, activist Khodor Salameh told MTV that “none of the political parties represented in parliament is taking place in the demo.”The MPs “who did not vote (in favor of extension) are partners in crime because they will be receiving their salaries for another 17 months,” Salameh added. Riot police several times tried to push protesters away from Nejmeh Square as demonstrators hurled plastic water bottles on them amid appeals from the organizers to keep the protest peaceful. Protesters later announced that they will stay around parliament throughout the night until the Constitutional Council declares its stance on the challenge filed against extension on Friday. "I support the demands of the civil movement but they must express their opinions peacefully and democratically and security forces must deal with protesters in a wise and calm manner," President Michel Suleiman, meanwhile, said on Twitter. Ninety-seven out of 128 MPs had voted in favor of extending parliament's term, which ends at midnight, as three judges of the 10-member Constitutional Council have failed to attend four sessions so far, depriving the council of the needed quorum to rule on challenges.

Bekaa Roads Blocked 'in Support of Arsal', Many Hurt as Army Intervenes

Naharnet/Six people were wounded on Thursday as protesters blocked several roads in the Bekaa region to express “solidarity” with the town of Arsal. Two people were wounded, one critically, as residents of the town of Majdal Anjar staged a sit-in near the al-Masnaa border crossing in support of Arsal's residents, state-run National News Agency reported, without mentioning the reason behind the injuries. Protesters also blocked the Saadnayel road in both directions near the town's mosque. LBCI television said “four protesters were wounded during an attempt by the army to reopen the Saadnayel-Taalabaya road.” “Gunfire and explosions were heard in the Bekaa region of Taalabaya,” OTV reported. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said “the Dahr al-Baidar-Zahle-Baalbek road has been completely blocked by protesters expressing solidarity with Arsal.”On Wednesday evening, LBCI reported that “the residents of Arsal are complaining that they are facing a near-siege due to attacks on their cars once they leave the town through the only route that links Arsal to al-Labweh and the rest of the Bekaa.” Several meetings were held at the building of Arsal Municipality on Wednesday afternoon, in the presence of the municipality members, mayors, the imams of mosques and educational, social and political figures, after which they issued a statement condemning the recent Wadi Rafeq crime. Four people were killed on Sunday, including two from the Jaafar clan, as their car came under gunfire in Wadi Rafeq, a mountainous region near Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa. Arsal's residents had condemned the incident and disavowed the perpetrators, “regardless of their identities.”

President Sends Memo on Syria Violations to Arab League
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman handed the Arab League on Thursday a memo urging warring sides in Syria to respect Lebanon's sovereignty, two days after taking an unprecedented move in sending a similar memo to the U.N. Suleiman handed the memo to Ambassador Abdul Rahman al-Solh so that he refers it to Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, the state-run National News Agency reported. It said the document hopes that the Arab League would take action in compelling the different parties to commit to the respect of Lebanon's sovereignty and the integrity of its territories. It also hoped that they would not engage in assaults on both sides of the border. On Tuesday, Suleiman handed U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly a 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 document to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to adopt it as an official U.N. document, Baabda palace said in a terse statement. Suleiman's move came amid a spat with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour who was procrastinating in referring the memos to the U.N. and 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 the president. Syrian regime troops have 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. There have also been several attacks from rebel-held areas of Syria on Hizbullah strongholds in recent months. Such attacks increased after Hizbullah, along with Syrian army forces captured from rebels the key central Syrian town of Qusayr.

Clashes Continue in Damascus as Rebels Demand Arms, No-Fly Zone from 'Friends of Syria'

Naharnet/Syrian rebels urged friendly world powers on Thursday to provide them with heavier weapons and to impose a no-fly zone over parts of the country they control to avert a humanitarian disaster. On the ground, troops and rebels battled in several districts and suburbs of Damascus, and the army shelled insurgent positions using heavy artillery and mortars, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Western and Arab powers from the so-called Friends of Syria group will meet in Doha on Saturday, and Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Meqdad said "the regime could use Scud missiles with unconventional warheads to shell liberated areas. So we need a safe haven." "It is necessary to establish secure areas and impose no-fly zones in the south or north," he told Agence France Presse in Dubai. Calling for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, he said that "if they do not provide us with arms to protect civilian areas, a humanitarian disaster will occur because regime troops are committing massacres in the areas they are recapturing".
Meqdad said "foreign militias, including Hizbullah and Abulfadhl al-Abbas brigades (made up mainly of Iraqi Shiites) do not respect any international conventions".
Foreign ministers from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are to discuss aid for the rebels, including military help, a French diplomat said on Wednesday. Western powers have so far refused to arm rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops -- backed by Shiite militias from neighboring countries -- out of fear they could fall into the hands of radical Islamists. But Meqdad said "we are committed to ensuring that these weapons do not fall into the hands of unorganized or extremist groups". FSA chief of staff General Selim Idriss is seen as a reliable partner by the West, who mainly voice fears of groups such as Al-Nusra Front, whose aim is to establish an Islamic state in Syria. Meqdad said the regime has been amassing troops in preparation for an offensive on rebel-held areas on the outskirts of Damascus and second city Aleppo. The expected campaign comes after Assad forces regained control of the strategic town of Qusayr, on the border with Lebanon, with Hizbullah help. On Thursday, President Michel Suleiman urged Hizbullah to end its participation in the war and "return to Lebanon... because this intervention leads to tensions in Lebanon". Last week, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said his fighters would stay in Syria. The opposition has said Hizbullah forces are now deploying at other key sites in the country, including in the north.
"If they (Hizbullah) participate in the battle in Aleppo and there are more deaths in the ranks of the party it will raise tensions further. Qusayr must be the end, and they must return to Lebanon," Suleiman said.
In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West was dragging its feet on agreeing to a date for a peace conference because "they are not at all sure that they will be able to sell the opposition".
Speaking of this week's G8 summit in Northern Ireland, Lavrov said Russia pushed for a concrete time frame to be spelled out but its Western partners refused to do so.
The opposition has long insisted that Assad's departure is a precondition for any settlement, and said it "reserves the right to use all means at its disposal" to bring him down, "chiefly military action".
The army, in some instances backed by Hizbullah, was seeking to retake rebel positions in suburbs south of the capital, and to cut off supply lines to others inside the capital, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Meanwhile in the war-torn country, Syrian troops and rebels battled in several southern and eastern districts of Damascus on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding the army used heavy artillery to target some insurgent positions. Clashes that began a day earlier in the north-eastern Qabun neighborhood were continuing, as army troops sought to storm the district, firing mortar shells and heavy artillery, the Observatory said. Several homes in the area caught fire as a result of the bombardment, the group said. The northern Barzeh district and eastern Jubar neighborhood, both home to pockets of rebel fighters, were also under fire.
In the south of the capital, the contested neighborhoods of Al-Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam were the scene of ongoing clashes, with shelling forcing the closure of the road leading to the Palestinian Yarmuk refugee camp.
A woman and a child were killed by an army sniper in the area, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground.
Rebel have established rear bases in parts of the southern and eastern districts of the capital, prompting the Syrian military to launch raids in a bid to uproot them. Earlier this week, a rebel attack in Qadam killed 11 Syrian soldiers. In southern and eastern suburbs of the city, rebels were also battling troops backed by members of Hizbullah, the Observatory said. Government troops are pushing in particular to retake the village of Zayabiya and Babila, south of the capital, mixed Sunni-Shiite villages near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, a Shiite pilgrimage site. At least 93,000 people have died in more than two years of violence in Syria, and the Observatory said at least 133 were killed on Wednesday. UNESCO, meanwhile, added six ancient sites in Syria to the endangered World Heritage list, warning that the violence had inflicted heavy damage on them.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Lebanon seeks Arab help to end Syria violations

June 20, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman sent Thursday a memorandum to the Arab League detailing violations to Lebanese territory by rival sides in Syria, two days after the Lebanese leader sent a similar document to the United Nations, a statement from the president's office said. The statement said that Sleiman delivered the document, detailing violations to Lebanese territories from different warring sides in Syria, to Lebanon’s Arab League ambassador, Abdel-Rahman Solh, and asked the official to deliver the memo to the League’s chief Nabil Al-Arabi. The memo, addressed to Al-Arabi, urges the League to take steps to ensure the violations to Lebanese territory come to a stop. The document calls on the League to urge all sides fighting in Syria to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and for the rivals not to take any hostile act against the northern and eastern borders of the country. Violations from the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon have been frequent leading in some instances to loss of life and material damages. The president delivered a similar memo Tuesday to the United Nations.

Obama and the lack of deterrence

By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
Observers of Middle East affairs, particularly the inter-related affairs in Syria and Iran, are busy thinking about the possible outcome of the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.
According to reports coming out of Washington, there has been a fundamental shift in Barack Obama’s approach to the Syrian crisis after his administration became “convinced” of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on more than one occasion. This is something that means, according to the report, that the Assad regime has “crossed clear red lines,” prompting a move to arm the rebels.
Before the supporters of the Syrian revolution could recover from this surprising turn of events, other, more delightful reports referred to the likelihood of Washington setting up a no-fly zone in southern Syria, a move which gives the impression that Obama and his advisors have finally realized the risks of solely issuing statements. This comes, of course, while Iran’s Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to send troops, Vladimir Putin is providing lethal weapons, and Hassan Nasrallah is deploying fighters to “guard” Shi’ite shrines across Syria.
However, as the popular saying goes: “What is right is always right.”Just hours after this early ecstasy, Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security adviser, clarified the White House’s real stance. In an eloquent speech, Rhodes went into detail, stressing the “difficulty” of enforcing a no-fly zone and the “high cost” of such a move. He even elaborated on the need for the weapons to reach the non-radical elements of the Syrian opposition. Following this, President Obama himself came out to reiterate Rhodes’s statement.
Incidentally, Rhodes is the man responsible for drafting Obama’s famous “A New Beginning” speech, which the president delivered in Cairo in 2009. He is also one of Obama’s top advisors and had a direct influence on Washington’s decision regarding Hosni Mubarak stepping down, as well as Obama’s political stances on the “Arab Spring.”So nothing has changed in Washington. Has the Russian stance changed?
Absolutely not! During a press conference between the Russian president and British prime minister, Putin responded to Cameron’s accusations that Assad is responsible for the Syrian crisis by warning against arming those “who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies [and] eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras”. He then added that Russia’s arming of the Syrian regime complies with international law because it is a legitimate power.
The Russian president finds nothing wrong with the “legitimacy” of a violent regime which has killed more than 120,000 of its own people—only 93,000 of which have been officially documented by the UN. In fact, Putin, from all the tragic footage of killings and houses being destroyed in Syria, is able to recall only one disgusting incident which was roundly condemned by the revolutionaries. Unfortunately, all civil wars are awash with such incidents.
The Russian president, who has long experience in terms of “legitimately” dealing with the Chechnyans, seems to be oblivious to the fact that the Syrian revolution remained peaceful for over a year and a half despite the regime’s troops and “Shabiha” militia firing live bullets at demonstrations. This is not to mention the detentions and killings, and even the mutilation of Syrian citizen’s bodies, such as that of Syrian boy Hamza Al-Khateeb or the singer Ibrahim Kashoush.
Frankly, Putin—a KGB officer who grew up on violence—is not to blame. The blame lies with the US administration claiming to operate within the political standards of morality. If I am not mistaken, respecting human rights, and particularly the right to live in a free and safe society, is one of the first moral standards of politics.
The statements by both Rhodes and Obama, which purposefully highlighted the “difficulties” of the situation in a bid to justify Washington’s policy of abandoning the Syrian people and turning a blind eye to the conspiracy to abort their revolution, fails to abide by one of the fundamental principles of a superpower’s foreign policy: deterrence. By this, I mean that the US should seriously threaten to use force to facilitate a peaceful settlement.
The Theodor Roosevelt administration—in office between 1901 and 1909—adopted a successful foreign policy approach which can be summed up as “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” A prominent US statesman, Henry Clay (1777–1852), who served as secretary of state, speaker of Congress, and unsuccessfully ran for the presidency three times, is known to have said, “I’d rather be right than president.” This saying continues to live on in the American memory.
In reality, President Obama, who is serving his second term in office, has been doing nothing but making statements and expressing optimism of a change happening somehow somewhere, brushing off prospects of the US being drawn into a confrontation. However, time does not stop and wait for anyone and nature abhors a political vacuum.
This can be seen in Turkey, where a hotchpotch of protesters in Taksim Square have damaged the prestige of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On the other hand, the Iranian security apparatus has “allowed” a relatively moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, to win the presidential elections, in a smart PR move that will benefit Iran in terms of polishing its image and confusing its international opponents.
Accordingly, if Obama expects his opponents to make free gestures of goodwill, he will risk much of his credibility as well as present his Republican opponents with a valuable opportunity to emerge victorious at the next elections. Obama needs to recall the outcome of the moderation of Jimmy Carter’s administration which was exploited by both his foreign and domestic opponents, and ended up being viewed as a prime example of weakness and lack of leadership. I do not mean to offer advice to the US administration, which has dozens of advisers and “agendas.” Rather, I am trying to draw attention to a dangerous regional situation which is about to be lost amid the misleading statements and fake claims of animosity and resistance.


FBI Director Says Surveillance Drones Used in U.S.
Naharnet/Unmanned drones are roaming American skies conducting surveillance on people in the United States, albeit in a "very minimal way," the head of the FBI revealed to Congress on Wednesday. Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller said his agency's use of a small number of aerial drones is relatively new, and that the bureau has only begun to draw up policy and operational guidelines for the devices.
"I will tell you that our footprint is very small," Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We have very few (drones) and of limited use, and we're exploring not only the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use."Mueller said the drones conduct surveillance, but that they were "seldom" used. Other agencies are known to be using the high-technology gadgets, including the Department of Homeland Security, which uses drones to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico. Senator Chuck Grassley said Attorney General Eric Holder indicated to him in writing that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "had purchased drones and were exploring their use in law enforcement." "I think the right of privacy is at stake. If there's a legitimate law enforcement reason for using it, they ought to say," Grassley told CNN after the hearing. He said a simmering distrust of government is fueling suspicion about domestic spying, including recently revealed surveillance programs that gather phone logs and Internet data.
"Because of that mistrust, we've got to nail these things down. The people have a right to know."
In March Republican Senator Rand Paul blocked legislative action for nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor to protest the Obama administration's refusal to unequivocally rule out drone strikes on U.S. soil. Days later Holder wrote to Paul clarifying that a U.S. president does not have the power to order a drone strike against a "non combatant" American inside the United States. Paul expressed concern about the drone surveillance, saying it should not be used without a court-issued search warrant. "My guess is they don't have warrants for these things, they're just flying around. That, I'm opposed to," he told Agence France Presse. Mueller did not say whether warrants were being obtained for the use of the drones. Paul said Americans could grow fearful of drones that are small enough to land on a house window or fly indoors.
"I think there's one that weighs less than an ounce," Paul said. Democrats have expressed concern as well. Senator Dianne Feinstein said she believed that "the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone... and the very few regulations that are on it today." Mueller agreed that there should be public discourse over the future of the unmanned vehicles, saying "it's worthy of debate and perhaps legislation down the road."
Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open up airspace to unmanned aircraft by October 2015. Source/Agence France Presse.

Hezbollah's Plans for Lebanon
by Hilal Khashan/Middle East Quarterly

Hezbollah first became known to the Lebanese public in 1985 with its now-famous open letter, whose introductory statement read: "We are the sons of the umma (Muslim community)—of the party of God (Hezbollah), the vanguard of which was made victorious by God in Iran. … We obey the orders of one leader… that of our tutor and faqih [i.e., Ayatollah Khomeini]."[1] A year later Hassan Nasrallah, then an officer associated with the party's consultative council and now its supreme leader, made the organization's overall goals and strategy unmistakably clear: "We are incapable at the present time of installing the rule of Islam, but this does not mean postponing our ideology and project … We must work hard to achieve our goal, and the most important means of doing so is to transform Lebanon into a society of war."[2]
Hezbollah's strategy for converting Lebanon into an Islamic state depends on the marginalization of the country's Sunni population. When the popularity of Western-oriented Sunni business tycoon Rafiq Hariri (left) soared nationwide, Hezbollah was forced to act. Hariri was incinerated in a car bomb in 2004 in an assassination that has been directly tied to Hezbollah operatives. He is seen here with Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, May 25, 2001.
It has been argued that Hezbollah's 2009 manifesto, which revised the open letter, underscored the organization's diminishing revolutionary zeal and growing acceptance of Lebanon's permanence.[3] Yet a careful reading of the manifesto shows it to be merely playing with words, recognizing Lebanon as "our homeland" but not as a legitimate nation state.[4] Indeed, far from being in a "continuous process of identity construction,"[5] Hezbollah has striven during the past few years to overcome its limitations and promote its ultimate goal of transforming Lebanon into an Islamic state modeled after Iran's wilayat al-faqih (the guardianship of the jurist).
Undermining the Lebanese State
Hezbollah needed physical space to spread its propagandizing mission and to carve out a constituency in the hearts of Lebanon's Shiites. Even before the party's official formation, proto-Hezbollah militants clashed with the police in the southern suburbs of Beirut. They seized on President Amin Gemayel's (1982-88) attempt to clamp down on Muslim militias and restore state authority as evidence of his hostility to Muslims in general (and Shiites in particular) and transformed themselves from an innocuous movement committed to religious guidance and education into a full-fledged politico-military party.[6]
It was not particularly difficult for Hezbollah to undermine the role of the state in Shiite areas like Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley. Shiite quarters were poverty-stricken, and in northern Bekaa, the birthplace of Hezbollah, the state was virtually nonexistent. Thanks to generous Iranian contributions, Hezbollah took it upon itself to provide its impoverished constituency with basic services, such as water and sanitation, usually provided by a state. It successfully traded services for loyalty and proceeded to its next objective of becoming the sole Shiite hegemon.
Controlling the Shiites
Efforts to organize the Lebanese Shiites into a political movement of their own began to take shape in 1974 when Imam Musa Sadr, an Iranian cleric of Lebanese origin, ushered in political Shiism and founded the Movement of the Dispossessed. The movement soon built up a militia and, a year later, acquired a new name, the Amal (Hope) movement. Sadr's success in rallying coreligionists behind him had much to do with his determination to place the impoverished Shiites on Lebanon's political map and bring an end to the condescending treatment they received from other sects, as well as the Sunni preference for keeping them powerless.[7]
From its beginnings, the Amal movement opted to play by the rules of Lebanese confessional politics—provided the Shiites were no longer overshadowed by Sunnis—and was prepared to this extent to collaborate with the Maronite establishment.[8] Yet the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon after its 1970 eviction from Jordan interfered with Sadr's plans to transform Shiites into a major actor in Lebanese politics. The imam disliked the presence of armed Palestinians in southern Lebanon but carefully avoided clashing with the PLO since it was politically incorrect for Muslim politicians to deny the organization's right to fight Israel. At the same time, Sadr forged an excellent working relationship with the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Assad.
Sadr's mysterious disappearance in Libya in 1978 and the success of Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution in Iran less than a year later had a dramatic effect on Lebanon's Shiites. Thanks to the size of the Shiite community and the country's joint border with Israel, Lebanon featured prominently in Khomeini's efforts to export his Islamic revolution.
Nabih Berri, who took charge of Amal in 1980, explicitly positioned it against the Palestinians and tried to challenge them militarily. His ideological laxity and political utilitarianism eventually eroded the movement and "plagued it with moral degradation."[9] Since Amal did not present itself as a sufficiently credible ally, it became incumbent upon Khomeini to create a new politico-military group for his purposes. Tehran at the time wanted to respond to the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) support for Baghdad in its war against Iran by creating an ideological base of support within an Arab country. As time went on, its local agency in Lebanon had grown strong enough to establish for itself a niche in the Shiite community. It soon targeted the Shiite Left and eliminated its prominent activists and ideologues, such as Hassan Bazzuni, a member of the central committee of the Political Action Organization, the communist thinker Hussein Mrouei, and academician Hassan Hamdan (aka Mahdi Amel), through assassination.[10]
After decimating the Shiite Left, Hezbollah turned its attention to fighting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its local surrogate, the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA), before taking on Amal and driving it out of Beirut's southern suburbs, a task completed by 1988. A year later, Hezbollah resumed its offensive against Amal in those parts of southern Lebanon outside the control of the IDF and the SLA. The Iranians and Syrians intervened to normalize relations between the two Shiite forces and established a new balance of power that recognized Hezbollah's preeminence.
Upon Israel's unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hezbollah shifted its main emphasis to consolidating its grip on the Lebanese political system and completing the construction of its own ideal society.[11] The outcome of this process was the creation of a distinct Hezbollah community that looked to Iran for inspiration and directives.
Monopolizing the Fight against Israel
In tandem with its effort to gain control of Lebanese Shiites, Hezbollah moved to monopolize the fight against Israel, which had begun in 1982 as the objective of the largely secular National Resistance Front (NRF). Those religious groups that had merged to create Hezbollah in 1985 did not initially participate in the low-grade anti-Israel guerrilla warfare that was at first led by Lebanese communists, members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and remnants of the Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But by 1987, Hezbollah had taken control of the access routes to the Israeli-established security belt in southern Lebanon, which effectively rendered the NRF useless and led to its disbanding. Hezbollah also introduced its own military wing, the Islamic Resistance. It banned any group from launching independent operations and stipulated that all fight under its flag and name.
Hezbollah soon introduced its own reductionist definition for patriotism; terms such as "the liberation of Shib'a Farms and Kfar Shuba Hills," "Hezbollah's deterrent military capability," and the "sanctity of the triumphant resistance" became nonnegotiable precepts of the Lebanese political parlance.[12] Questioning the legitimacy of Hezbollah's military wing and its arsenal became synonymous with "conspiracy against the resistance, collusion with Zionism and U.S. imperialism."[13]
Finding a Non-Ideological Maronite Partner
In Lebanon's confessional politics, it is a must for any political group representing a major sect to affiliate with a counterpart from another major sect in order to navigate the turbulence of the political system. Shortly after the conclusion of the 1989 Ta'if agreement, which ended the decades-long Lebanese civil war, Hezbollah came to realize it needed to "to portray itself as a principal promoter of Muslim-Christian coexistence … through multi-confessional representation."[14] Unable to identify with the Lebanese Force or the Phalange, whose ardent nationalistic ideologies clashed with its universalistic Shiite aspirations, Hezbollah eventually found a partner in the Christian former Lebanese Army commander, Michel Aoun, who was said to nurse a grudge against fellow Maronite politicians for denying him the presidency in 1988. After fifteen years of exile in France, he returned to Lebanon in 2005 and took up the reins of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) which he had led in absentia. In accordance with the logic of Lebanon's confessional politics, FPM and Hezbollah needed each other, and, in 2006, they signed a memorandum of understanding that enabled them to pursue their distinct interests under the guise of unity.
Marginalizing the Sunnis
Before turning against the Sunni political and security establishments, Hezbollah needed to eliminate independent-minded and outspoken Sunni clerics because of their ability to frame religious identity through politics. This context helps to explain the 1982 assassination of the director of the Union of Islamic Associations and Institutions in Lebanon, Sheikh Ahmad Assaf; the head of the Supreme Islamic Shari'a Council, Sheikh Subhi as-Salih, in 1986, and the grand Sunni Sheikh Hassan Khalid in 1989. Assaf possessed strong organizational capabilities and displayed a powerful sense of communal identity whereas Salih had challenged the Twelver Shiite imamate and the wilayat al-faqih concepts, both of which under-girded Hezbollah's ideology. Sheikh Khalid's crime was to attempt to convince the GCC countries to lead a new Arab deterrent force to free Lebanon from the Syrian stranglehold. This was completely unacceptable to Hezbollah whose prospects of achieving success hinged on excluding GCC influence and relying on Damascus.[15]
The 1989 Ta'if agreement ensured that pro-Syrian Shiites and Maronites would control the country's political, security, and judicial apparatus.[16] But the return to Lebanon of Sunni business tycoon Rafiq Hariri from Saudi Arabia shortly thereafter upset the political balance that Hezbollah had sought in its favor. In 1992, a majority of parliamentary deputies designated Hariri their favorite candidate for the office of prime minister. His meteoric rise to power threatened Hezbollah's efforts to dominate the Lebanese political scene, especially since he received the unconditional backing of Saudi Arabia and the West.
Hezbollah concluded that Hariri represented a threat to be eliminated, a view shared by Tehran and its Syrian henchman, Hafez's son Bashar al-Assad. Hariri's influence was unacceptable and contradicted the pattern of fading Sunni power in the region, and thus he was assassinated in 2005. In June 2011, the U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) indicted four Lebanese suspects linked to Hezbollah in connection with the assassination. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has categorically refused to turn them in because "the STL is an American-Israeli tribunal, and the four indictees are our brothers in resistance who have an honorable record."[17] The Hariri assassination brought to an end his project of reconstructing postwar Lebanon along political and economic lines that favored Saudi Arabia and the West. Thus, a formidable hurdle was removed from the path of Hezbollah's designs for Lebanon.
Saad Hariri, Rafiq's son and political heir, lacked the acumen and foresight to continue his late father's policies, let alone keep Hezbollah in check. The key to Hezbollah's getting away with the assassination required dismantling Hariri's private intelligence outfit, the information section of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF). Hariri wanted to take advantage of the tradition that enabled Sunnis to lead the ISF and to attach an intelligence component to it to counter control of the Deuxieme Bureau (military intelligence) by Shiites and their Maronite allies.
Instead, Hezbollah began a new reign of terror. In 2006, Samer Shihada, an investigator into the Hariri assassination, was the victim of an attack that killed four of his security guards and convinced him to emigrate from Lebanon. In 2008, Wisam Eid, a captain in the information section of the ISF, was murdered in an explosion linked to his investigation of the mobile communications used by the hit team that assassinated Hariri. Eid's innovative investigative techniques had alarmed Hezbollah officials, who told him "that some of the phones he was chasing were being used by Hezbollah agents conducting a counterespionage operation against Israel's Mossad spy agency and that he needed to back off."[18] In 2012, a major explosion in east Beirut killed the chief of the information section, Wisam Hassan, only a few hours after his return to Lebanon from a foreign trip. The identity of Hassan's assassins has not been established, but the fact that Hezbollah completely controls security in Beirut's international airport casts suspicion as to who might have committed the act. Hassan's elimination from the scene ended once and for all the security challenge that the information section had presented to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah also used proxies to embroil its Sunni opponents in debilitating scandals. For this, the group prefers to use pawns such as Fayez Shukr, secretary general of the Lebanese Baath Party, and Wi'am Wahhab, chief of the minuscule at-Tawhid Druze party, and especially the pages of al-Akhbar, Iran's mouthpiece newspaper in Lebanon.
During the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, al-Akhbar made its debut, coinciding with Hezbollah's charge that Saad Hariri's Future Trend (FT) party and Saudi Arabia were colluding with the U.S. and Israeli governments to destroy the group. In 2010, the newspaper fabricated charges against Tariq al-Rab'a, head of the administrative planning department for mobile phone operator Alfa, thereby playing a decisive role in his arrest by military intelligence on suspicion of communicating with the Mossad and giving the Israelis access to the Lebanese mobile network.[19] The arrest of Rab'a, a Sunni from Beirut's Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood, bastion of Hariri's political support, occurred with the help of partisans of Hezbollah's Maronite ally Aoun, who have taken charge of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Alfa Mobile and framed a case against Rab'a.[20]
More recently, al-Akhbar has sought to implicate Hariri's Future Trend in the arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighting Bashar al-Assad. It featured on its front page the transcript of an alleged conversation between a member of Hariri's parliamentary bloc and a representative of the FSA requesting arms.[21] While the FT may actually be acting as a liaison between the FSA and arms providers, the newspaper simultaneously ignored Hezbollah's role in fighting alongside the Assad regime's forces.
As a totalitarian political party, Hezbollah cannot survive without a military component and will not accept anything less than full control of the Lebanese political system. The problem of Hezbollah, which possesses the premier military force in Lebanon, is its inherent incapability to transform itself into a genuine domestic political force in fear that "its legitimacy [would] become equal to ordinary political groups that accept the rules of accommodation."[22] This in turn means that Hezbollah has not abandoned its goal of creating an Islamic state of Lebanon.
Hezbollah has indeed gone a long way to achieving its objective of controlling Lebanon since its humble 1985 beginnings. It dominates the country's domestic and foreign policy[23] and operates a military machine superior to the national army.[24] It has the final say on making governmental, administrative, and judicial appointments, and its interaction with Lebanese political groups has shown that it has no intention of truly assimilating into Lebanese political practices, not least since its Islamist Shiite orientation precludes its ability for a meaningful dialogue (as opposed to tactical alliances) with the Sunnis. Moreover, the Iranian paradigm of wilayat al-faqih, to which Hezbollah subscribes, baffles many critical-minded Shiites.[25] Not surprisingly, Ahmad al-Asaad, leader of the fledgling Shiite party, the Lebanese New Option Gathering, believes that "we must get rid of Hezbollah in order to build a viable state."[26]
The winds of change are transforming the Middle East and are bound to leave their mark on the course of events in Lebanon. Syria's uprising is unlikely to bring democracy to the war-torn country, but it will almost certainly alter the existing balance of power in Lebanon. The specter of a Sunni resurgence in Syria is already haunting Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Hilal Khashan is a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut.
[1] "An Open Letter, The Hezbollah Program," as-Safir (Beirut), Feb. 16, 1985.
[2] Ibid., Apr. 12, 1986.
[3] Joseph Alagha, Hizbullah's Identity Construction (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011), p. 33.
[4] "Hezbollah Manifesto,", Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, Nov. 30, 2009.
[5] Alagha, Hizbullah's Identity Construction, p. 22.
[6] As-Siyasa (Kuwait City), Aug. 1, 2011.
[7] Akif Haydar, al-Ashia Biasma'iha: Min Ajl Lubnan Afdal (Beirut: Sharikat al-Matbu'at li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzi, 1995), p. 51.
[8] Khalil Ahmad Khalil, Naqd at-Tadlil al-Aqli: Shi'iat Lubnan wa-l-Alam al-Arabi (Beirut: al-Mu'assasa al-Arabiyya li-l-Dirasat wa-l-Nashr, 2001), p. 59.
[9] Haydar, al-Ashia Biasma'iha, p. 66.
[10] Waddah Sharara, Dawlat Hezbollah: Lubnan Mujtama'an Islamiyyan (Beirut: Dar an-Nahar, 1997), pp. 160-220.
[11] Hilal Khashan and Ibrahim Mousawi, "Hizbullah's Jihad Concept," Journal of Religion and Society, vol. 9, 2007, pp. 25-6.
[12] Nadia Aylabuni, "Niqat Muthira fi an-Niqash hawla Hezbollah," in Ahmad Abu Matar, ed., Hezbollah: al-Wajh al-Akhar (Amman: Dar al-Karmil, 2008), p. 58.
[13] Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek, Ayatollah Khamene'i's representative in Lebanon, sermon, accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
[14] Alagha, Hizbullah's Identity Construction, p. 41.
[15] Muhammad Surur Zayn al-Abidin, Ightial al-Hariri wa Tada'iyatih ala Ahl as-Sunna fi Lubnan (London: Dar al-Jabiya, 2007), p. 22.
[16] Ibid., p. 36.
[17] Al-Manar TV (Beirut), July 2, 2011.
[18] Naharnet News Website (Beirut), Nov. 23, 2010.
[19] Al-Akhbar (Beirut), Dec. 13, 2010.
[20] Ibid., May 15, 2012.
[21] Ibid., Nov. 29, 2012.
[22] Turki al-Hamad and Maza Yurid al-Sayyid, "Hassan Nasrallah wa Hezbollah?" in Ahmad Abu Matar, ed., Hezbollah: al-Wajh al-Akhar (Amman: Dar al-Karmil, 2008), p. 52.
[23] Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson, "Disarming Hezbollah," Foreign Affairs, Jan. 11, 2010; "Hezbollah Dominates Lebanese Government," The Jewish Policy Center, Washington, D.C., June 15, 2011; "Hezbollah," The New York Times, Aug. 15, 2012.
[24] "Hezbollah," The New York Times, Aug. 15, 2012.
[25] See Adel Hashemi Najafabadi, "Imamate and Leadership: The Case of the Shi'a Fundamentalist in Modern Iran," Canadian Social Science, no. 6, 2010, pp. 192-205; Ahmad al-Katib, at-Tashayu as-Siyasi wa-t-Tashayu al-Dini (Beirut: Mu'asasat al-Intishar al-'Arabi, 2009), p. 118.
[26] As-Siyasa, May 4, 2009.

Opinion: Will cannibals govern Syria

By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
At a press conference in London, Russian president Vladimir Putin recently warned world leaders against backing Syria’s rebels with arms, saying: “One should hardly back those who kill their enemies and eat their organs,” a reference to the Syrian opposition fighter Khaled Al-Hamad, known as Abu Saqqar.
His rhetoric was intended to intimidate the West, which is already fearful of a repeat of what happened in Iran, where a the shah was replaced with a more aggressive, brutal and bloody regime. The West is also afraid of a scenario similar to that of Afghanistan, in which the Soviet Union was replaced by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Two groups threaten the future of Syria: some of the rebels inside Syria, and the political opposition outside the country. First, there are armed groups that are not under the control of the Free Syrian Army, and the Assad regime has successfully portrayed them in a way that intimidates the rest of the world.
Second, the opposition has failed to prove that it is a better alternative to Bashar Al-Assad. What worries both the West and the Arabs is not “cannibals,” but members of the civilian opposition wearing ties in Istanbul and in other countries. Perhaps the West is looking for an excuse for its failure and inactivity, but there is a serious problem of a lack of wise and united political leadership. They are wondering: “Who will rule Syria tomorrow? Brutal rebels and greedy politicians?”
The Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of the opposition—whether they are a part of the coalition or operate outside of it—are failing their country. They are also responsible for the failure of the revolution. There will be no international support without their agreement and unity, and there will be no new Syria without international support, even if the Assad regime collapses. It is for this reason that we implore them to realize the grave responsibility that falls upon them today.
The fact that the Syrian opposition is diverse and competitive should not be condemned. But the question of Syria is far too dangerous to be left in disagreement regarding the fundamentals and principles of governance. The Iraqi opposition—which had been in exile since the beginning of the 1990’s, where it remained for a decade—was a miserable model of a possible alternative to Saddam Hussein’s regime. It was a mixture of upper and middle-class people. Some held PhDs; and others wore turbans. It was a mixture of people from all sects and areas.
Such a mixture in Iraq’s opposition may have seemed positive, but conflicts within the group told of a dark future. The first shock was when Abdelmajid Al-Khawni returned from London to Najaf upon the collapse of Saddam’s regime. There, he was killed in a hideous manner—but not by Saddam’s dwindling regime, or as a result of the chaos that ensued at the time. He was killed by his competitors. Had America not been the main player at that point in time, most of the opposition figures would have killed each other off.
For this reason, we must ask whether the Syrian opposition is in a better or worse position than the Iraqi opposition was.
In many respects, they do resemble one another. But with Syria, the responsibility is greater. No superpower is prepared to feed them, protect them, create a preliminary governance board for them, write their constitution for them and hold a referendum on it, guard their airspace, protect their borders from thieves and conspirators, create governing institutions, organize parliamentary elections, defend them at the Security Council, grant them international legitimacy, or fight their rivals on their behalf.
None of this will be available for the Syrian opposition. Their responsibility is therefore far greater than was that of the Iraqi opposition. Current indications suggest that the future will be hard. The opposition is not capable of establishing a simple coalition that includes everyone, which could be good practice for the near future when they move into Damascus, where the grass will certainly not be greener. The tasks for the government and coalition are not easy, but nothing is impossible. They must accept the principles of representation, participation and democratic elections. He who does not participate in governance today will one day get a chance to do so. They must accept the principle of the peaceful devolution of power. They must also accept a constitution that protects everyone—particularly the weakest members of society, such as minorities, granting them equal rights and guaranteeing freedoms.
In this way, a new Syria can become stable for a century. But the disputes in Istanbul worry us all because they betray the Syrian people, whose sons are being sacrificed.
Without everyone’s representation in the coalition—the mini-parliament—and without everyone’s participation in the government-in-exile, none of these opposition figures will end up in the government or parliament of a new Syria. Furthermore, the Syrian people will not forgive the opposition politicians if their sons’ lives were lost in vain because of their selfishness and rivalry.
Some may say that it is too early to deliver such a sermon while Assad sits in his palace and plans his participation in next year’s elections. The goal is not a post-Assad Syria, but to help the Syria of today. The world’s governments are filled with doubts, as they are now scared of the power vacuum that toppling the regime will leave behind.

The end of the Turkish model

By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Alawsat
For the third week, anti-Erdoğan government protests continue to rage in Turkey, showing no signs of abatement. The motives and the objectives of the current crisis remain unknown, puzzling both Turks and Western analysts.
What is going on in Turkey cannot be described as the “Turkish Spring,” given the lack of leadership among the middle-class youth protesters, whose political affiliations remain unknown. The only clear thing is that one of the major reasons behind this crisis is the government’s wrongful handling of the initial protests. Even some of Erdoğan’s own supporters admit that the crisis could have been handled in a more reasonable manner.
In fact, part of the blame lies with the excessive force used by police against demonstrators at the start of the protests. Despite the mystery surrounding the events in Turkey and the difficulty of predicting their outcome, three questions remain unanswered: What are the consequences of the protests? Where are the protests heading? In what way will that influence the region?
Of course, we do not have specific answers—only more questions, particularly because the Turkish model is based on the Muslim Brotherhood model, and has always been praised by everyone. Even the current US administration considered the Turkish model to be the way out for our region’s crises. A question then arises: Does this mean the end of the Turkish model? Or rather, for fear of being accused of rashness, one should rephrase the question: Does this mean the end of Erdoğan’s model?
Many think that Erdoğan resembles Margaret Thatcher at the end of her political career. Perhaps it is true that Thatcher was destroyed by believing in her own power—but Erdoğan today is threatening to deploy the Turkish army to preserve the regime. The success of the Turkish model did not only come from its economic achievements; much of its success lies in Erdoğan’s distancing of the military from the political process. By threatening to use the military, Erdoğan invalidates his political achievements—namely returning the military to its barracks. This achievement was what led Washington to consider Ankara as a role model that the countries of the region should follow in order to establish a common ground between Islam and democracy, and to build a strong economy. This led the US to welcome the Muslim Brotherhood, who took power in the region following the Arab Spring. Moreover, some non-Islamists hoped that the Muslim Brotherhood would follow in the footsteps of the Turkish Islamists.
Today, Turkey stands at a crossroad, which might—similar to what happened with Thatcher—mark the beginning of the end of Erdoğan’s political career. However, the likelihood of the Erdoğan’s government being a role model is seriously in question, particularly after the rash handling of the crisis. The crisis—whether caused by by the Gezi Park clashes or dealing with the general behavior patterns the government wanted to confront—could have been resolved much easier had the government avoided escalating the situation.
Questions about the future of the Turkish model require much research and contemplation, because not only Ankara, but also the whole region, will be affected by the consequences of the events in Taksim Square.

Rouhani's Nuclear Views: An Open Book?
Patrick Clawson
/The Washington Institute.

June 19, 2013
The president-elect's recent writings provide a basis for judging how he will approach the nuclear issue.
Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani has written at least seven books and fifty articles. His works are not light reading -- for instance, his 2010 book National Security and Iran's Economic System weighs in at 860 pages, while his February article "Khomeini's Discourse Concerning National Security and Foreign Policy" is 60 pages long and uses terms not frequently heard from U.S. presidents, such as "Fouc[au]ldian Critical Dialogue Analysis." Perhaps the most important of his works, however, is the thousand-page 2011 study National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy, a Persian-language tome that provides ample fodder for assessing his posture on Tehran's nuclear program.
Rouhani describes being actively involved on the nuclear issue for at least twenty-four years -- in other words, for most of his professional life. This is not a minor issue for him; it has been central to his career, and he has been an important figure in Iran's nuclear program for decades.
According to him, when Tehran decided to restart its nuclear power program in the mid-1980s, it was determined from the get-go to control the full fuel cycle, which would give it the capability to produce highly enriched uranium. While his 2011 book never spells out in detail why the regime wants a robust nuclear program, he repeatedly mentions nuclear technology's importance to the nation -- in other words, he does not emphasize an economic rationale.
Rouhani describes a far-reaching effort to obtain a broad range of nuclear technology from foreign sources. In 1988/89, for instance, he visited China in a vain effort to persuade Beijing to build a 300-megawatt nuclear power plant in Iran, and to build a uranium enrichment facility as part of a full nuclear fuel cycle. He also joined then-Majlis speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a June 1989 trip to Moscow to negotiate Soviet completion of the Bushehr plant and construction of an enrichment facility. According to him, both China and the USSR told the visitors that although Iran had the right to enrich uranium, they would not sell Tehran the necessary technology. He also writes that during Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto's first term (1988-1990), Islamabad refused to provide such technology, implying that Iran asked for it.
Rouhani's account of enrichment technology is particularly interesting, in part because it does not align perfectly with what others have written. After being turned down by China, Russia, and Pakistan, he writes, Iran approached a German company to buy centrifuge equipment. Berlin referred them to a Swiss agent, and through the services of a "Mr. Taher," Iran bought some centrifuges it believed were new but which were in fact secondhand. Rouhani noted that during Rafsanjani's presidency, Iran bought "several hundred centrifuges in different parts" -- a lot more than others have described -- but lacked the technical expertise to get them to work. He adds that an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation later showed these used centrifuges to be of Pakistani origin. If this account is accurate, it is interesting that Rouhani would reveal such information.
Rouhani's 2011 book also goes into mind-numbing detail about nuclear negotiations. A constant theme is that during his tenure, Iran's position was carefully worked out through consultations with all the important power centers. His concluding remarks about the impasse that emerged after he left office in 2005 draw a clear contrast between his consensus-building approach and what followed, which he implies was slapdash and not well thought out. He also emphasizes how much effort went into identifying points of convergence between the Iranian and international positions.
This focus on consensus fits well with Rouhani's campaign rhetoric. Assuming he truly wants to construct a broad consensus on the nuclear file, he will have to address the concerns of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and key constituencies in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. If those two players are not on board, they will have many ways to sabotage any agreement Rouhani might reach. The need to secure their buy-in will certainly complicate efforts to reach an agreement acceptable to the United States, Europe, Israel, and the Gulf Arab states, though there is a (small) silver lining to this cloud: a broadly supported agreement is more likely to be durably implemented.
Yet Rouhani is not simply a passive actor waiting for consensus to emerge. For example, his book acknowledges that the November 2004 Paris Agreement -- in which Tehran pledged to temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment efforts -- crossed most of Khamenei's redlines for an unacceptable deal. Without going into details about Khamenei's objections, the book describes how the Supreme Leader was unhappy with the agreement and saw it as a mistake, but nevertheless allowed it go forward based on the endorsements Rouhani had marshaled for it. It will be very interesting to see if he can once again persuade Khamenei to proceed with a deal he dislikes.
Rouhani's book trumpeted the Paris Agreement as a success for Iran on several fronts:
Iran gained some economic benefits. After languishing for ten years, Tehran's application to join the World Trade Organization began to advance in 2005 with U.S. and European support. Rouhani also asserts that Iran was on track to reach a Trade Cooperation Agreement with the EU, which would have been a major economic coup.
Iran did not agree to end enrichment -- in the words of the agreement, Tehran "decided, on a voluntary basis, to continue and extend its suspension." In return, Britain, France, and Germany recognized that the suspension was "a voluntary confidence-building measure and not a legal obligation."
Iran kept the nuclear impasse off the UN Security Council's agenda despite insistent U.S. pressure, while also making headway in resolving its problems with the IAEA. Indeed, the November 29, 2004, IAEA Board of Governors resolution, adopted soon after the Paris Agreement, noted that "good progress" had been made since October 2003. It mentioned only two "outstanding issues," namely, "the origin of the contamination [i.e., the presence of low- and high-enriched uranium particles at various locations] and the extent of Iran's centrifuge programme." The board also reiterated the need for full implementation of the Additional Protocol as pledged by Iran. At the time, Tehran seemed well on track to resolving these concerns, in part because the agency was prepared to give it a pass on many other open issues. The situation looked bleak for the United States and its allies -- they did not want to see Iran resume enrichment, but they may not have had much international support for that position if Iran had indeed been able to satisfactorily answer the IAEA's remaining questions.
Iran was able to continue improving its nuclear facilities. Rouhani's 2011 book expanded on this theme, which he set out in a much-quoted 2004 defense of his record: "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan. In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan."
In short, Rouhani presents a good case that his approach -- cooperation with the IAEA and negotiations with the three main European powers -- was the best way for Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program. Such a policy would be more difficult to implement today given the suspicions created by Iran's stonewalling and the additional information that has emerged about the regime's activities at the time. But Tehran could probably still obtain an agreement that leaves it with robust nuclear capabilities, so long as it is prepared to be more transparent and accept some modest limitations. In other words, a more accommodating Iran might reach a deal that leaves many in the United States (and more in the Gulf and Israel) very uncomfortable. The question is whether the approach that Rouhani defends vigorously in his 2011 book will be the one Iran takes going forward.
Patrick Clawson is director of research at The Washington Institute.


Russian marine and air power head for Syria versus Western intervention – “to defend Russian citizens,” says Moscow

DEBKAfile Special Report June 19, 2013/Just one day after the G8 Summit ended in the failure of Western leaders to overcome Russian resistance to a resolution mandating President Bashar Assad’s ouster, Moscow announced Wednesday June 19, the dispatch to Syria of two warships carrying 600 Russian marines. They were coming, said the official statement, "to protect the Russian citizens there." Russian Deputy Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Gradusov added that an air force umbrella would be provided the Russian expeditionary force if needed.
DEBKAfile's military sources report that the pretext offered by Moscow for sending the force thinly disguised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intent to flex Russian military muscle in response to the delivery of Western heavy arms to Syrian rebels – which DEBKAfile first revealed Tuesday, June 18.
Putin was giving the West due warning that if they persisted in arming the rebels any further, a Russian troop landing in Syria would take place in the guise of an operation to evacuate endangered Russian nationals.
Some 20,000 Russians live in Syria. In former stages of the conflict, they were given the locations of assembly points should Moscow decide to lift them out of the war-torn country. The evacuation of Russian citizens would in itself dramatically denote the expansion of the Syrian conflict.
The Russian Interfax news agency identified the warships heading for Syrian shores as the Nikolai Filchenkov Large Landing Ship and the Vice Admiral Kulakov, a Udaloy 1 class destroyer, each carrying 300 marines. Aboard the former are also 20 tanks and 15 armored troop carriers or military trucks, while the Kulakov is designed mainly for anti-submarine warfare.
DEBKAfile's military sources also reveal that, although Moscow described the warships are preparing to depart for Syria, they have actually been cruising in the Mediterranean since mid-May. Upon receiving their orders, they could reach Syria in just a few hours.
Maj.-Gen. Gradusov was quoted as saying: "We won't abandon the Russians and will evacuate them from the conflict zone, if necessary."
Asked if the Russian aircraft were intended as air cover for the Russian warships coming to Syria, he declined to answer, saying said only "They will act on orders."
The Moscow communiqué does not say when the Russian forces are scheduled to reach port in Syria or in which part of the country they are to operate. Our military sources say their impending presence in the war zone and the possibility of Western-supplied weapons in Syrian rebel hands causing Russian casualties are enough to contribute three more perilous dimensions to the Syrian conflict:
1. The harming of Russian soldiers would give Moscow an excuse to pile on more military reinforcements in Syria;
2. Russian air power is on its way to Syrian airspace before any decision is taken in the West about imposing a US-led no-fly zone over Syria;
3. The presence of Russian military personnel in Syria would pour more fuel on the already highly incendiary diplomatic and military tensions between Washington and Moscow over this conflict.

Debate: Iranian policy is not radicalizing the Gulf’s Shi’ites

By: Kawthar Al-Arbash/Asharq Alawsat
When responding to accusations that Iran’s expansionist regional ambitions are a major source of Shi’ite radicalization in the region, any individual Shi’ite will, no doubt, say that there is no evidence of direct Iranian intervention in his everyday life, or his government’s decision-making process. The Shi’ite presence in the Gulf States is not politicized or attributed to any specific side, nor has there been any shift from a state of tranquility to one of sectarian activism. This is something that no objective researcher has been able to demonstrate.
This explains the findings of the report prepared by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni to investigate the 2011 events in Bahrain. In this report, Bassiouni stressed that he had uncovered no evidence of Iran’s intervention in the Bahrain uprising. No commission of inquiry on any future Shi’ite uprising in the region will find evidence of Iranian involvement either. This uprising was incited by means of speeches and rhetoric which established a mentality of confrontation and entrenched a sense of injustice among those who have suffered years of political, social, and economic marginalization. This is why this uprising appeared to be so natural to the ordinary Shi’ites who have nothing to do with the so-called “moderate” and “radical” camps. In fact, these ordinary Shi’ites were replaced by the “more knowledgeable” men of consequence among the Shi’ite community through a long and complicated process.
Arabic-speaking channels of incitement are among the most notable media outlets to play out the idea that God’s “chosen” people were being oppressed as a catalyst for public discontent in an attempt to clone either the Islamic revolution scenario in Iran or the Hezbollah scenario in Lebanon. Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution was successful in Iran, resulting in the establishment of a Shi’ite Islamic state, while Hezbollah has moved from being an organization with an anti-Israel agenda to a major political party with a penchant for authoritarianism.
The Ashura and Friday sermons were filled with double-standards, namely combining the sense of injustice and revenge on the one hand, and the values of tolerance and coexistence on the other. This admixture created fertile ground for an internal and social struggle to grow; this struggle bears the hallmarks of a schizophrenic episode, something that the two-dimensional, revolutionary, Shi’ite mentality cannot fail to observe.
This state of pretension—peace and coexistence—is contested by a revolutionary drive and a sense of hostility towards the other—which they often describe as an oppressor and a despot. Such feelings of hatred and hostility are authorized by textual evidence whose main objective is to appease one’s conscience. This is something which has locked Shi’ite rationality between desire for revenge and feelings of hatred on the one hand and values of peace and coexistence on the other.
Without realizing the awkwardness and the impossibility of such an admixture, the Shi’ites find themselves face to face with a reality in which they are forced to accept this unsettling duality as a natural component of seeking freedom and dignity. This contradictory state has been brought about by the hard-line movements which theorized violence and justified confrontation by means of a confusing rhetoric that nourishes the sense of injustice and is based on Karbala slogans. This rhetoric ranges from calls to denounce injustice and rise against the oppressor to stirring up public emotions. The Shi’ite rhetoric conjures up a conflict between the Shi’ite Army of Hussein and the Sunni Army of Yazid, creating an intractable situation. Such a complicated scenario regarding the rise of the radical mentality in the region explains why it has gained the upper hand over the emerging and shy moderate trend that is now being confronted by the hijacked majority. Radicalism has also paved the way for all attempts of skepticism and objection to be scorned, undermining and criminalizing attempts to promote moderate, rational, and humanitarian Shi’ite Islam due to the fundamental differences between each side’s interests. The moderate Shi’ism, embodied by brave individual attempts to renovate culture to shift heritage and counter reactionary ideologies, is being besieged by the radical oppressive trend.
The assassination of the moderate ideology due to the politicized nature of the situation, as well as the increasing number of people who actually manage to free themselves from such ideologies, indicates that the Shi’ite community today is truly divided.
With regards to status of the Shi’ite community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, moderate Shi’ites seems to be fighting for survival in the face of their radical brethren. However, this certainly does not conceal the truth that radicalism is gaining the upper hand. So, while there can be no doubt that the Gulf’s Shi’ites are being radicalized, this cannot necessarily be traced to Tehran, but rather provocative and incendiary ideology.
Our only hope is that awareness and enlightenment prevail.
The counterpoint to this article can be read here.

Debate: Iranian policy is radicalizing the Gulf’s Shi’ites
By: Adnan Hussein/Asharq Alawsat
There can be no doubt that Iran’s expansionist regional ambitions are responsible for radicalizing the region’s Shi’ites. These ambitions—which strengthened Tehran following the collapse of the Shah’s regime—have led to a preponderance of radicalism among the Gulf’s Shi’ites. In fact, this has most often served as the major catalyst for Shi’ite radicalization, which in turn has had harmful consequences for the region’s Shi’ite communities.
In the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to visit Iran twice on journalistic assignments. Each visit took a number of weeks, during which I traveled to different Iranian cities and regions. Two Iraqi colleagues who had lived in Tehran for more than ten years helped me meet some Shi’ite leaders who were opposing the Saddam Hussein regime. Against this backdrop, I was taken to the headquarters of the “[Iraq] Liberation Movement” in Tehran, or, as I prefer to call it, “The Nest.”
The primary function of this office is to support Islamist movements in the region; the majority of these movements are Shi’a, although some are Sunni (most recently the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements). The Iranian aid to these movements does not just comprise a safe havens for their leadership who are wanted in their own countries, it also includes political support, financial assistance, the facilitation of military training, and even the provision of arms and equipment. In my view, this assistance serves to radicalize such movements and push them to follow the path of extremism. This has allowed Iran to keep the embers of its regional expansionist ambitions burning despite its inability to secure victory through the Iraq–Iran War.
The first genuine Shi’a political party in modern history was the Islamic Da’wa party, which was launched from Najaf in the middle of the last century. For approximately twenty years, the party pursued a policy of peaceful activism to the point that it responded to opposition to its establishment from the top Shi’ite marja and the hawza of Najaf by emphasizing that it was seeking to follow the [Islamic] approach of preventing vice and promoting virtue. At that point, the Islamic Da’wa party sought to highlight the fact that it was focusing on a moderate religious—rather than political—approach, and was even calling for the implementation of more moderate Husseini rituals, divesting these of their extremist manifestations.
However, following the Iranian revolution the Islamic Da’wa party was transformed into a violent organization which carried out a number of “commando” operations, including an attempt on the life of Iraq’s Tariq Aziz at Al-Mustansirriya University in Baghdad in 1980, an attempt to blow up the Iraqi embassy in Beirut in 1981, and attempting to assassinate Kuwaiti Emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in Kuwait City in 1985. Following the outbreak of the Iraq–Iran War, the party stood with the Iranian cam, and fought in the armed conflict—alongside other Iraqi Shi’a groups—against the Baghdad regime’s forces. In addition to this, the Islamic Da’wa party also took the decision to adopt the theory of the velayat-e faqih (governance by a supreme Islamic jurist), recognize the authority of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and support the Iranian desire to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime. The group viewed viewed Saddam’s ouster as an important step in the plan to establish an all-encompassing, Shi’a Islamic state reaching as far as southern Lebanon. This, doubtlessly, remains an Iranian strategy that still exists today. The Iranian revolutionary leadership led by Ayatollah Khomeini did not conceal their regional expansionist objectives; “exporting” the revolution served as a major slogan. This slogan was translated on the ground to comprehensive assistance—political, material and propaganda—for political Shi’a groups, particularly via “The Nest” in Tehran and Iranian foreign affairs missions abroad. These Shi’a regional groups, for their part, viewed their support of Iran as a religious duty and sought to do everything they could in this regard.
By reviewing the dates of the establishment of Shi’ite political groups in the Gulf region in particular and the Middle East as a whole, we can see that they were all formed following the Iranian revolution, with the exception of the Islamic Da’wa party. These groups were influenced by the ideology of the Iranian revolution and by direct assistance from the revolutionary leadership in Tehran. Indeed, a large number of these groups were formed inside Iran itself, while the majority of their leadership lived and were educated in Iran.
Following in the footsteps of the Islamic Da’wa party, a large number of these groups also publicly announced their support for the velayat-e faqih and Khomeini’s rule, most prominently Iraq’s Islamic Action Organization (1979), the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain (1979), and the the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (1982). The Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain’s first official conference was held in Tehran in 1980. In 1981, the Bahraini government accused the group of seeking to carry out a coup. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq was established in Iran in late 1982 to serve as the umbrella organization for the Iraqi political Shi’a groups whose leadership had been forced to flee the country following the outbreak of war.
The Bahraini experience—in comparison with Kuwait—serves as a model for the consequences of Shi’a radicalism and the blind serving of Iran’s regional expansionist ambitions. Less than a year ago, one Bahraini opposition leader informed me that the extremism of some Shi’ite opposition figures and groups, their commitment to Tehran, and the establishment of an Islamic Republic model in these Gulf states, has only served to abort the burgeoning understanding that was growing between the popular movement and the central government. This resulted in entrenching a lack of understanding between the opposition and the government, even when the opposition’s major demands have been implemented.
In contrast, the commitment of the Shi’a groups in Kuwait to an approach of moderation has served to strengthen the position of the Shi’a community in recent years, particularly within the legislative and executive branches of power. Today, the Kuwaiti Shi’a groups are influential on the ground and in the decision-making process in Kuwait.
The counterpoint to this article can be read here.