June 29/2013

Bible Quotation for today/Death and Faith
04/16-18/ and 05 from 01-10: "For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. 17 And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. 18 For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever/5 For we know that when this tent we live in—our body here on earth—is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home he himself has made, which will last forever. 2 And now we sigh, so great is our desire that our home which comes from heaven should be put on over us; 3 by being clothed with it we shall not be without a body. 4 While we live in this earthly tent, we groan with a feeling of oppression; it is not that we want to get rid of our earthly body, but that we want to have the heavenly one put on over us, so that what is mortal will be transformed by life. 5 God is the one who has prepared us for this change, and he gave us his Spirit as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 6 So we are always full of courage. We know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord's home. 7 For our life is a matter of faith, not of sight. 8 We are full of courage and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and be at home with the Lord. 9 More than anything else, however, we want to please him, whether in our home here or there. 10 For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done, good or bad, in our bodily life.

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

Al-Assir and the Nusra Front/By: Walid Choucair/Al Hayat/June 29/13
On Morsi's Stick/By: Zuheir Kseibati/Al Hayat/June 29/13
A Common Denominator between Edward Snowden and Ahmed al-Assir/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/Al Hayat/June 29/13
The Responsibility of Islam/By: Husam Itani/Al Hayat/June 29/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 29/13

Israeli leaders rebut criticism of under-reacting to threats from Syria by hinting at covert operations
U.S. pledges support for Lebanese Army after Sidon clashes
'EU decision on blacklisting Hezbollah in late 2013'
Gulf States to Agree Action against Hizbullah Members

Human Rights Watch Urges Probe into Alleged Death of Detainee under Torture
Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan Rejects Calls for Deserting Army, All Weapons on Domestic Scene amid Pro-Asir Abra Demo

Sidon’s deadly clashes deal blow to businesses
Protesters enter Assir complex, Army fires in air
Lebanon: Roads Blocked, Gunmen Appear on Streets in Pro-Asir 'Day of Rage'

Lebanon: Political-Security Talks at Grand Serail, Saniora Says Army Promised Violations against Civilians in Sidon Will Stop
Asir's Second Wife Says 'Army Caught us by Surprise', Describes Sidon Battles as Conspiracy
Sidon MPs Hand Suleiman Memo Urging Referral of Clashes Case to Judicial Council
Sidon: Jamaa Islamiya Urges End to 'Arbitrary Arrests' in Sidon, Detention of Troops 'Who Tortured Civilians'

Aoun Condemns 'Extending Bloody Conflict' on Streets, Says Illegal to Extend Qahwaji Term
Lebanon's General Prosecutor Judge Hammoud Demands Lifting Qanso's Immunity over Suleiman Row
Lebanon: Raise Your Voice Hacks Parliament's Website Again ahead of Demonstration
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly: Tripoli Residents Must Be Reminded to Keep City Secure despite Syrian Conflict
Bombs explode on east Lebanon highway, no casualties
Tripoli Salafists stand by Assir, but quietly
Syria, Snowden highlight limits of U.S. influence
U.N. Council Backs Machine Guns for Golan Peacekeepers
16 Men Killed Under Torture near Damascus

U.S. Official Expresses Concern over Conditions of Syrian Refugees
Syria Rebels Seize Strategic Position in Daraa City

Crisis in Syria: This is one war we don’t need to get involved in
Fears of More Unrest as Rival Protesters Mass in Egypt
Accused Boston Bomber to Face 30 Charges

Kerry Presses Mideast Peace Bid
Central Nigeria Ethnic Violence Kills at Least 48
American killed as clashes erupt in Egypt's Alexandria

Fears of more unrest as rival protesters mass in Egypt

'EU decision on blacklisting Hezbollah in late 2013'
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 06/27/2013/BERLIN – Italian Deputy Foreign Minister for Development and Cooperation Lapo Pistelli said on Wednesday in Beirut that the EU is slated to make a decision in late 2013 on whether to include Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. The Italian official told Lebanese paper The Daily Star that a European decision on blacklisting Hezbollah will not take place for “at least five [or] six months.”Pistelli’s timeline about a possible ban against Hezbollah confirms a statement made by a source who is well-versed in the EU debate on outlawing Hezbollah’s military wing. The source told The Jerusalem Post that an EU decision is likely to take place in November or December. Media articles in early June reported that Italy spearheaded an effort to block the United Kingdom’s push to label Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist entity. Italy along with Austria, Finland and the Czech Republic are considered the EU members that are the most opposed to designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
The Star reported that Pistelli said the debate among EU countries centered around evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in a July 2012 terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, that resulted in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. According to the Lebanese paper, the debate over the Burgas attack is a primary reason for Pistelli’s view that “Hezbollah, or part of it, would not be added to the bloc’s terror list in the immediate future.”“At the preliminary discussion in Brussels [earlier this month] there were some arguments raised by the Bulgarian government and the Cypriots about the proofs and evidences [pertaining to] blacklisting the it seems to me this decision will require time,” he told the Star. Pistelli termed the EU move to ban Hezbollah “very sensitive,” stressing that the organization is a very “relevant player” in Lebanon “If you want to make a national unity government, [Hezbollah] cannot be left out. You see the Europeans discussing about [blacklisting] Hezbollah, but here the Shi’ites voting for Hezbollah are such a relevant part of the country.... You can’t take out from the game a relevant part of Lebanese society,” he stated.


Israeli leaders rebut criticism of under-reacting to threats from Syria by hinting at covert operations
DEBKAfile Special Report June 28, 2013/Senior Israel military officers, especially in the Northern Command, estimate that the IDF’s performance is just 40 percent of what it should be for defending Israel’s border, in the face of the threats building up from the Golan. For too long, Israeli intelligence has been in thrall to the misconception that Bashar Assad’s days are numbered and underestimated Hizballah’s combat effectiveness in the Syrian war. Friday, an Iron Dome anti-missile battery was finally deployed to the northern town of Haifa, after a different kind of rhetoric ws heard from Israeli leaders in the last 48 hours.
Addressing a surprise Golani Brigade drill on the Golan Wednesday, June 26, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said firmly: “This is not a theoretical exercise: The situation around us is volatile and inflammable but Israel stands ready for changing situations. “We must break the enemy, make them scared to death in order to win.”
The next day, Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, speaking at the graduation of new Air Force pilots at the Hatzerim Air Base, said: “The region is shaking from south to north. Syria is bleeding and in Lebanon, the fire has begun to catch the hem of [Hizballah leader] Nasrallah’s robe in Syria and Sidon. You, the graduates, from now on are inseparable from the effort to ascertain that we remain at peak readiness to meet those challenges.”
Air Force chief, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel was both enigmatic and revealing when he said that most air force activity was “covert and unseen, bordering on fantasy.”
Assuming that the prime minister and the generals were referring to actual activities, debkafile’s military sources ask what they have achieved.
Why was Bashar Assad allowed to array forces in southern Syria opposite the Golan ready for a terrorist offensive against Israel? Our sources report that the Syrian deployment includes suicide commando troops for crossing into the Israeli Golan to conduct multiple casualty strikes against Israeli villages and military bases. Among them are Hizballah fighters, who have taken up position in southern Syria opposite the Israeli border, even while the hem of their leader’s robe is on fire.
Thousands more Hizballah fighters are ranged at the southern Syrian town of Deraa, as well as in Damascus, at Al Qusayr - to control the Lebanese border, and outside Aleppo, ahead of the major Syrian army offensive to capture Syria’s second city and the rest of the North.
In the face of these advances by the allied forces of Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite militias, the Israeli prime minister and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are still broadcasting the view that Assad is faring badly in the war and that Hizballah is taking heavy casualties and its combat performance is below par.
The blind eye they turn to the real situation in Syria results in the IDF being held back from performing more than around 40 percent of what is required in the current circumstances, say debkafile’s military sources. Most of the army’s activities are covert and can’t be revealed. However, debkafile feels bound to refer to another factor contributing to Israel’s inhibited, laggard and often unwieldy performance in Syria: Excessive coordination with the pace of American military operations in the Syrian context. Responsibility for this deliberately deficient performance must be laid squarely at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s door.
According to our sources, the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan are forming up to move in on a section of southern Syria to compensate for their inability to prevent Aleppo falling to Assad’s army. The idea is to let the Syrian ruler seize control of the North, while the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel push the Syrian army and Hizballah out of the South – a kind of volatile partition which it is hard to imagine Tehran accepting lying down.
This concept has two more major flaws:
1. The US and Israel are too slow and hesitant to achieve their goal before Assad steps in to put a stop to their plan.
2. For it to succeed, the Druze population of southeastern Syria must be won over and cooperate. Through the nearly two and-a-half years of the Syrian civil conflict, Druze leaders have chosen to sit on the fence,using their neutrality to stay safe. They will continue to hold back until they are sure which side is the winner.
For now, there is no sign that “the enemy is scared to death.” Therefore, in the absence of effective preemptive operations, Israel and its armed forces had better stand ready for Syria and Hizballah to launch their second front from the Golan.

The Responsibility of Islam
By: Husam Itani/Al Hayat
The existing relationship between Islam and violence is complicated and dubious. This is revealed nowadays by the events in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, where clerics are leading the scenes of killing, instigation and destruction, raising thus once again the question surrounding the responsibility of Islam as a religion firstly.
The justifications and the rejection of these actions quickly emerge, through announcements that “Islam is distant from these practices” and is a religion of mercy and peace. This is true, but reality is much more complex, and facts require positions extending beyond the rejection and dissociation from the calls of the sheikhs of hatred. Indeed, it is necessary to see that the condemnation of the killing of four Shiite preachers in Egypt, the destruction of historical monuments because they are linked to Sufism in Mali, and the slaughtering of the soldiers of the Syrian regime who were taken as prisoners, are all – among others - practices committed under the pretext of preserving the purity of true religion.
Let us first agree that Islam bears numerous interpretations and explanations, that its history is filled with judgments that are contradictory in some cases, and that the right to issue these interpretations, explanations and judgments constituted a conflict arena that has featured and still features violence. At this level, the biographies of the leaders of the sects reveal the ordeals to which they were subjected at the hands of the sultan’s men throughout the ages and across the religious Sunni or Shiite spectrum, and inside each sect and religious movement from extreme Sufism to the Salafi movements. History also featured the persecution of the jurisprudents, the theologians and the scholars in all the Islamic countries. And the examples for that are too numerous to count.
But there is a renewed phenomenon of religious persecution and a spreading of individuals claiming to be muftis and theologians in a way threatening with a dangerous anarchy that could undermine the stability of Arab and Islamic communities. Hence, it has become imperative to open a public debate over the role of religion in politics and the relationship between politics and religion. At this point, one should recall a two-faceted (positive and negative) predicament in Islamic history saying that Islam refused to establish a clerical corps as it was done by the other religions. In short, this rejection freed Muslims from affiliation with whichever side, but allowed the emergence of a number of parasites and impersonators. And the troubled relationship between religion and politics since the first days of Islam rendered the establishment of an institution representing true religion a political necessity more than a jurisprudent one.
Today nonetheless, the situation seems to have been completely turned upside down, and despite all the sensitivities surrounding religion’s role in politics, this issue must be approached in a critical and rational way, without being caught between the utter prohibition of its tackling in public and the opposite calls for the banning of any religious role in politics, considering that we live in societies in which religion is playing a deep role to shape their conscience, behavior, and reactions. “Parasitical” secularism is not a sufficient response to the signs of extremism, while at the end of the day the matter is not cognitive and is not limited to the purification of religion from extraneous and weak texts adopted by quasi-illiterate sheikhs. It is a social matter necessitating the ending of the terrible setback affecting the projects to build the state, after this setback struck our communities and left them completely void and open to pillaging by the callers of extremism based on an identity crisis and fear from change. In other words, the problem does not reside in a system of thought facing others on a purely jurisprudent arena, or in the critique of Ahadith al-Ahad, cross-referencing, and the qualities of the conveyors of Ahadith for example. It is about repositioning the Arab and Islamic societies along the course of reconciliation with themselves and their position in the world, far away from the myth surrounding their heritage and history.
The religious institutions are invited to play an active and conscious role at this level, and Al-Azhar’s condemnation of the Abu al-Namras crime might be a good start. Still, one cannot imagine the progress of any effort in the aforementioned direction without an alert and responsible civil society. What Snowden did was both right and wrong. As for Assir, what he did was wrong and wrong. The difference is vast, despite the similarities.


Al-Assir and the Nusra Front
Walid Choucair/Al Hayat
Just as with the Nusra Front in Syria, there has been an exaggeration of the clout of Sheikh Ahmad Assir in Lebanon. Assir has received wide-scale media attention because his extremism is attractive for televisions and satellite stations, which have raced to talk to him. This is because of his strange appearance and long, flowing beard, which attract attention irrespective of the content involved.
The Syrian regime allowed the earliest members of the Nusra Front to flee from prison less than a year after the Syrian uprising broke out; they gathered in a village in rural Idlib when there were only around 80 of them in total. The group’s close relationship with the Islamic State of Iraq, which also enjoyed support from Syrian intelligence, allowed it to gradually grow in number. It benefited from military expertise gained in Iraq, along with money and equipments, until it was able to take part in the fighting in Syria. In parallel, there was a media campaign by regime supporters about the growth of al-Qaeda and other extremists in the ranks of the Syrian rebels. This was an attempt to convince western countries that the regime was fighting terror and not opponents who wanted to topple the regime, and achieve reform and change. These Islamist extremists received heavy coverage by the media, at the expense of the rebel Free Syrian Army and secular members of the opposition.
At the beginning of 2013, Syrian President Bashar Assad told his Lebanese allies quite clearly: “We have succeeded in putting al-Qaeda at the forefront of the ongoing war, and western countries are reluctant about supporting the rebels.”In Lebanon, Assir’s appearance in 2011 coincided with Hezbollah’s need to see the emergency of Sunni sectarian phenomena, which would prove that leadership of the community did not lie with Saad Hariri after he was forced out of the prime minister’s post through pressures – in which Hezbollah used the threat of force – at the beginning of the year.
All of the print and visual media outlets in the orbit of Syria’s allies and Hezbollah in Lebanon rushed to run exclusive interviews with Assir, despite his harsh criticism of Hezbollah and the party's weapons. The goal was to hint that the Assir phenomenon was pulling the rug out from under the Hariri family and its political leadership, as the leader of the Future Movement was outside the country. Hariri’s leadership, in this argument, was weakening and disappearing. This was to justify the political exclusion of Hariri’s political current, as the Future Movement was mocked and ignored, even by the leaders of Hezbollah.
Even some state security bodies in which Hezbollah wields influence showed openness to Assir, and perhaps benefited from the phenomenon.
There were those who were enchanted by this phenomenon, which had similar manifestations in other parts of Lebanon; their voices were rising in tone, as a result of the growing sectarian sensitivity and tension caused by Hezbollah’s control over political life. These individuals were unconcerned by seeing a handful of extremists ruin the image of the moderate majority.
On the contrary, they armed themselves with the fact that part of Hariri’s base turned away from peaceful politics and some moved in the direction of Assir, because of his strange appearance, considering him a spokesperson for the feelings of anger at Hezbollah. Some supporters of Hezbollah and its allied media began to claim that the moderate Sunni majority was actually doing what the extremist minority was engaged in. They began to accuse this majority of being the “incubating environment” for Assir and others like him, to justify to themselves that the moderates were being swept along by the rage of the extremists. The same thing was done by the regime in Syria, as it justifies its violence and crimes against the Syrian people, the moderate opposition and the Free Syrian Army, and its destruction of cities and villages and committing of massacres and using chemical weapons – all in the name of fighting the terror of the Nusra Front.
Assir, finally, went out of control and his extremism could no longer be used soundly. He engaged in the unaccustomed-to cursing of leading political figures, such as Speaker Nabih Berri and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah. Assir became an armed political figure, just like any extremist current animated by fanaticism. Around him gathered an angry rabble and it became necessary to do away with him, after he became blinded by his delusions, committing the crime of attacking the Lebanese army.
Even when it became necessary to get rid of him, he remained a means and an excuse to attack Hezbollah’s political rivals for their moderation. This was even though Assir, toward the end, began to engage in incitement against Hariri and accuse him of treason and running away from the confrontation in Lebanon, to outside the country, and to political deal-making, etc. Hezbollah took part in the fighting against Assir although the army handled the task of ending his insurrection, and is pursuing his other followers and terrorizing them. It will continue to do so, even after the Assir phenomenon is over, for reasons that have nothing to do with the radical sheikh.

U.S. Official Expresses Concern over Conditions of Syrian Refugees
Naharnet/U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees Anne Richard expressed concern of Friday over the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, saying that her country is aiding the Lebanese state with all the possible means to lessen the burdens of the refugees. “Funds for Lebanon are provided to aid Syrian refugees as well as Lebanese host communities with shelter improvements for families hosting refugees,” Richard said in comments published in An Nahr newspaper. She pointed out that establishing safe zones in Syria seems “to be difficult amid the current circumstances.” The U.S. official, who arrived in Beirut on Wednesday night from Jordan, pointed out that Lebanon has so far received $160 million as the U.S. administration knows the heavy burdens that the country has to deal with due to the refugees crisis. “We don't want to let the Lebanese people feel that the were abandoned... We are trying to support the country as much as we can as we realize that what we're already doing isn't enough,” Richard said. The diplomat denied reports saying that her country plans to welcome only Syrian Christians on its territories, saying: “We don't discriminate between a Christian or a Muslim.”“The Christians in Syria are not oppressed,” Richard told An Nahr. Over 1.6 million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey since the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, the U.N. says. Germany had agreed to host more than 5,000 Syrian refugees who escaped the bloodshed to Lebanon.
Germany, which is one of the largest refugee-receiving nations in the developed world, made the offer in March as numbers fleeing war-torn Syria continued to spiral reaching more than 500,000 in Lebanon alone, a UNHCR report said.


UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly: Tripoli Residents Must Be Reminded to Keep City Secure despite Syrian Conflict
Naharnet/United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly stated that his recent visit to Tripoli was a demonstration of the international community's support for the northern city, reported As Safir newspaper Friday. He told the daily that the residents need to be reminded of their loyalties to the city and the need to keep it secure despite the conflict in Syria. He stressed the need to tackle the spread of arms in Tripoli and overcome the tensions linked to the crisis in Syria. The residents should resort to dialogue instead of force at the eruption of disputes, he remarked from Tripoli. It may be difficult to avoid the tensions, but Tripoli can rise above them, noted the U.N. official. Tripoli is not isolated from the rest of Lebanon and the unrest there are felt throughout the country, whose security, stability, and development is a priority for the U.N., said Plumbly.
He stated that his visit is aimed at discussing with officials how to reach viable solutions to the instability in Tripoli, adding that he hopes the United Nations' message that the Lebanese army and security forces need to be supported would be respected by all powers on the ground. On this note, he lauded the Tripoli leadership's unanimous support to back the Lebanese army in its efforts to preserve stability and their assertion to disarm all gunmen and hold them accountable for their actions. Tripoli used to be a symbol of coexistence among different religions and such an image needs to be remembered, he declared. Plumbly voiced his concern over the repeated eruption of violence in the city, noting that given the current phase Lebanon is passing through, all sides should steer away from tensions and unrest. They should adhere to sound policies, starting with the policy of disassociation and Baabda Declaration, which helped preserve calm and stability in Lebanon over two difficult years, he remarked. Tripoli and Lebanon will be able to overcome the current difficulties, but it is unacceptable that more innocent victims fall while reaching this goal, he stressed. Tripoli had witnessed numerous rounds of clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen in connection to Syria. The latest round was linked to the Syrian crisis, with Bab al-Tabbaneh supporting the rebels and Jabal Mohsen backing the country's regime.


Human Rights Watch Urges Probe into Alleged Death of Detainee under Torture
Naharnet/A rights watchdog on Friday demanded a probe into alleged abuse of detainees after the deadly battle in the Sidon suburb of Abra between the army and supporters of Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir. Human Rights Watch said there must be an independent investigation into claims the army is committing abuses against people suspected of links to the weekend clashes in which 18 soldiers died. The fighting in Abra was among the worst in Lebanon since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria 27 months ago deepened sectarian tensions. It highlighted widespread Sunni resentment against the army, accused of siding with Hizbullah and being selective in its crackdown on armed groups. Thousands of worshipers on Friday heard Sidon's top Sunni cleric accuse the army of making arrests "without due process." "People are being taken to prison because they are religious or because they wear a beard or a full-face veil," Sheikh Salim Sousan said during Friday prayers in the southern city. "They are being beaten badly, and maybe even dying," he charged. A security source said dozens of people have been arrested since the army seized Asir's Abra headquarters on Monday. Sidon residents claim the bodies of those killed have not been given to their families. "It is Sidon's right to know how many people were killed, and to know their names. It is Sidon's right to know how many wounded there are, and their whereabouts," said Sousan. He called for an "independent, objective, transparent... investigation" into abuse claims. Human Rights Watch called for an independent judicial investigation into alleged abuses. On Thursday, the army handed over to the military police soldiers suspected of humiliating and beating a man suspected of ties to Asir. "It's not enough to have the military investigating itself," HRW Beirut office director Nadim Houry told Agence France Presse. The army was not immediately reachable, but on Thursday a military source told AFP: "We do not accept this kind of behavior." Sunni clerics, meanwhile, distributed images via Facebook of a body bearing marks of a severe beating. The body was identified as Nader al-Bayoumy, whom the Association of Muslim Scholars said had "handed himself in" after the Abra clash. Houry said his family insisted Bayoumy was alive after the fighting, but they later received a call to say his body was at the military hospital in Beirut.

Sidon MPs Hand Suleiman Memo Urging Referral of Clashes Case to Judicial Council
Naharnet/Sidon's MPs Fouad Saniora and Bahia Hariri on Friday handed President Michel Suleiman a memo demanding the referral of the case of the Sidon clashes to the Judicial Council and the prevention of all armed activities in the city. The memo also urged the removal of all political flags from the city and the closure of all offices belonging to “armed groups.” "The case of the Sidon-Abra clashes must be referred to the Judicial Council, as the incidents that happened in Sidon might jeopardize civil peace and the country's domestic security," says the memo. It also urges that the state commissioner to the military court personally handle the investigation until it is referred to the Judicial Council. Human Rights Watch said Friday there must be an independent investigation into claims the army is committing abuses against people suspected of links to the weekend clashes in which 18 soldiers were killed and more than 20 others wounded. The fighting in Abra outside Sidon was among the worst in Lebanon since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria 27 months ago deepened sectarian tensions.
It highlighted widespread Sunni resentment against the army, accused of siding with Hizbullah and being selective in its crackdown on armed groups. A security source said dozens of people have been arrested since the army seized Asir's Abra headquarters on Monday. Sidon residents claim the bodies of those killed have not been given to their families. On Thursday, the army handed over to the military police soldiers suspected of humiliating and beating a man suspected of ties to Asir. A military source told Agence France Presse: "We do not accept this kind of behavior."Sunni clerics, meanwhile, distributed images via Facebook of a body bearing marks of a severe beating. The body was identified as Nader al-Bayoumy, whom the Association of Muslim Scholars said had "turned himself in" after the Abra clash. Tension was also palpable in Tripoli in the north, with some Friday worshipers calling for jihad (holy war).  Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi echoed calls for an investigation into alleged army abuses. "The Lebanese army must be neutral, and we will not be silent now," Rafehi said. Armed men fired into the air after prayers as worshipers thronged to Tripoli's main square and blocked roads in the city that has seen frequent Syria-related clashes. In Beirut, dozens staged a sit-in in the Tariq al-Jedideh district.

Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan Rejects Calls for Deserting Army, All Weapons on Domestic Scene amid Pro-Asir Abra Demo
Naharnet /Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan condemned on Friday the recent clashes in the southern city, demanding that the state assume its responsibilities in following through with the investigation in the unrest.
He said: “We reject the use of arms on the internal scene in Lebanon regardless of which side they belong to.”
“We also oppose call for soldiers to defect from the army,” he declared during the sermon of the Friday Muslim prayers that was held at the Zaatari mosque in Sidon. “We condemn the assault on the army and the resulting deaths in the clashes that followed,” he told worshipers that included a number of officials, such as the head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora.
In an indirect reference to Hizbullah and its alleged participation in the city's recent clashes, Sousan said: “We condemn the raids and arrests carried out by some armed groups and hold the state responsible for this development.” “Sidon is the capital of the South and it has offered martyrs, confronted the Israeli enemy, opened its pockets and home to the residents of the South” during the July 2006 war, he added.
“Sidon is a city of diversity. It is not one of sectarian and violence,” he said. “Sidon abides by the law and its role as the symbol of the country's salvation should be restored,” demanded Sousan. “I call on its residents to preserve the city and its national principles,” he stated.
The city has the right to know the whereabouts of the wounded and those arrested, and the numbers of those killed, he declared.
“In the name of the Sidon residents and Ulemas, we reject oppression and humiliation against the city by any side and we hold the state responsible for ensuring our rights otherwise protesters will take to the streets,” Sousan warned. He also demand a transparent investigation in the video that showed soldiers abusing a man suspected of supporting Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir.
Soon after the prayers, supporters of al-Asir staged a demonstration in Sidon and Beirut's Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood.
Some of the Sidon demonstrators attempted to enter the Bilal bin Rabah mosque where al-Asir was based, but they were prevented by the army that fired gunshots into the air in order to disperse the angry protesters.
Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in clashes between the army and armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon on Sunday and Monday.
More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official. Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric. The Ulemas accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the battles alongside the army, despite assertions by various officials that the army acted alone in combating the gunmen. The army on Thursday handed over a group of soldiers accused of abusing a detainee to the military police for questioning, a military source and the state-run National News Agency said. The move came after amateur video emerged showing a group of soldiers humiliating, beating and kicking a man suspected of supporting al-Asir.

Jamaa Islamiya Urges End to 'Arbitrary Arrests' in Sidon, Detention of Troops 'Who Tortured Civilians'
Naharnet/The Jamaa Islamiya on Friday called for an end to “arbitrary arrests” in the southern city of Sidon and its suburbs, in the wake of the deadly battle that ended after the army stormed Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir's headquarters in Abra.“Sidon was violated ... but we know that you have never been outlaws,” Jamaa Islamiya official Bassam Hammoud said at a press conference, addressing Sidon's residents.“We know that efforts are being exerted to demonize the political forces in the city one after another ahead of targeting them and we know that some media outlets are provoking you everyday and we know that some parties don't want Sidon's welfare,” he added. Commenting on the demos Sidon witnessed earlier on Friday, Hammoud said: “Your sit-in in Abra was a courageous stance and your sit-in outside al-Zaatari Mosque was also courageous, but the resolve of men and the sentiments of women must not go in the wrong direction, as the army is not your enemy, but rather a national institution that commits wrongful and rightful deeds, that's why the army must be immunized against any flaw.”“We are demanding the correction of an abnormal situation and we are gathering to pacify a volcano that might explode anytime in the face of everyone. In order not to waste the rightful demands voiced by Sidon today, we will announce a number of demands,” he said. Hammoud stressed that “all arbitrary arrests must stop, especially those conducted over religious symbols,” demanding a speedy handing over of the bodies of slain supporters of al-Asir to the families. “The names of the wounded and detainees must be announced as well as the places of detention. The officers and soldiers responsible for the torture of civilians must be arrested and referred to the relevant judicial authorities and a probe must be launched into the death of Nader al-Bayoumy,” he added. “A judge must be in charge of the investigations, not the army intelligence directorate, and the work of human rights organizations must not be obstructed,” the Jamaa official said, calling on the Higher Relief Commission to pay compensations to those affected by the clashes.
He underlined that “acts of thuggery by the (Hizbullah-affiliated) Resistance Brigades must come to an end and all gunmen who belong to political parties must be arrested for firing on Sidon,” adding that “Hizbullah's apartments, which were the reason behind the sedition, must be closed.”“These are the demands of dozens of families who have been asking about the fate of their sons and searching for them in hospitals and refrigerators and these demands are aimed at preventing strife,” Hammoud noted. The fighting in Abra outside Sidon was among the worst in Lebanon since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria 27 months ago deepened sectarian tensions.
It highlighted widespread Sunni resentment against the army, accused of siding with Hizbullah and being selective in its crackdown on armed groups. On Thursday, the army handed over to the military police soldiers suspected of humiliating and beating a man suspected of ties to al-Asir. A military source told Agence France Presse: "We do not accept this kind of behavior."

Lebanon: Roads Blocked, Gunmen Appear on Streets in Pro-Asir 'Day of Rage'
Naharnet/Gunmen took to the streets in Tripoli and blocked roads as demos were held in Beirut's Tariq al-Jedideh in support of fugitive cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, in what protesters dubbed the Sunni sect's “day of rage.”
State-run National News Agency said armed men blocked the old seaside road that links Tripoli to Beirut at the al-Behsas area and “forced shops to close.” The sounds of machinegun fire were reverberating across the restive northern city, NNA said. Meanwhile, protesters blocked the Tripoli-Beirut international highway in the Palma resort area and fired gunshots in the air, as other demonstrators blocked the highway at the al-Salam roundabout at Tripoli's entrance. LBCI television said the army went on alert in the al-Rifaiyeh area, adding that “gunfire erupted in a number of Tripoli areas as protesters replaced a large picture of (ex-PM Saad) Hariri in al-Nour Square with another for al-Asir.” In Beirut, a sit-in organized by the Salafist Hizb ut-Tahrir party was held in the Tariq al-Jedideh neighborhood to protest the deadly clashes in the southern city of Sidon. Scores of citizens took part in the rally. “The current events are the result of an American-Iranian conspiracy aimed at preventing the establishment of an Islamic caliphate state in the Levant,” said Hizb ut-Tahrir official Saleh Salam. Salam blasted Hizbullah, saying “enough with taking people's minds lightly.” Protesters vowed that they “will not remain silent over what happened in Sidon,” voicing solidarity with al-Asir. The protests coincided with a prayer that was held in Sidon and attended by a large number of al-Asir's supporters and the area's residents. Clashes between the army and gunmen loyal to al-Asir on Sunday and Monday left 18 troops dead and 20 others wounded. More than 20 supporters of al-Asir were also killed in the fighting.

Lebanon's PM, Miqati Hosts Former Premiers to Follow up on Sidon Clashes
Naharnet /Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati hosted on Thursday former premiers to follow up on their last meeting that addressed the situation in the southern city of Sidon, reported al-Jounhouria newspaper Friday.
It said that Thursday's meeting was held away from the media spotlight and was aimed at tackling the security in Sidon and Lebanon as a whole. Miqati, Premier-designate Tammam Salam and the former premiers had met on Monday to condemn "any attack on the army, whichever side it may come from," while demanding the closure of "all security zones." They stressed the importance of “arresting those who attacked the army and holding them accountable” after conducting an “instant probe.” They also warned against being dragged into “the trap of sedition and divisions,” underlining the importance of “committing to coexistence and preserving civil peace.”
Al-Joumhouria also reported that the Muslim Ulemas of Sidon had agreed to hold Friday prayers exclusively at the Zaatari mosque in the city as a sign of unity among the residents. All other mosques will be shut down during the time of the prayer and the sermon will be performed by Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan, Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in clashes between the army and armed supporters of the Imam of the Bilal bin Rabah mosque Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir on Sunday and Monday. More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official.
Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric. The Ulemas accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the battles alongside the army, despite assertions by various officials that the army acted alone in combating the gunmen.

Political-Security Talks at Grand Serail, Saniora Says Army Promised Violations against Civilians in Sidon Will Stop
Naharnet /Head of al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora on Friday said Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji promised to probe “abuses” against some civilians in Sidon, stressing that the southern city will not be a “scene for violations.”Saniora voiced his remarks during a meeting at the Grand Serail that was attended by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Sidon MP Bahia Hariri, cabinet secretary-general Suheil Bouji, Army chief Qahwaji, Sidon's mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan, acting prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud, army intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel, Higher Defense Council chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Kheir, Sidon Municipality chief Mohammed al-Saudi and Abra Municipality chief Walid Mshantaf. “We stressed our keenness on strengthening security institutions and their important role in preserving civil peace,” said Saniora at a press conference after the meeting.
“We underlined that we totally reject any attack on the Lebanese army, whatever its source may be, and any army martyr is the martyr of Lebanon and Sidon,” he added.
Saniora said the talks were an occasion to “remind of Sidon's role in preserving civil peace and coexistence.”
“We expressed our remarks to the army commander in a very clear manner, especially after it turned out that elements other than army troops intervened in the operations and took part in shelling the city, which created resentment among the Lebanese and Tripoli's residents, and this thing must be avoided,” he added. “We sensed great keenness from the army commander and the intelligence chief on discussing all the violations. They promised to launch a comprehensive probe and measures to address the aftermath of the military operation and pursue those who took part in the crime,” Saniora revealed.
“What happened -- and there are many evidences -- is that violations and abuses were committed against people, which led to the death of some of them, and we warn against any similar acts in the future,” he went on to say.
“Let it be clear, Sidon will not accept to be a scene for violations,” Saniora stressed. A rights watchdog on Friday demanded a probe into alleged abuse of detainees after the deadly battle in the Sidon suburb of Abra between the army and supporters of Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir. Human Rights Watch said there must be an independent investigation into claims the army is committing abuses against people suspected of links to the weekend clashes in which 18 soldiers were killed. The fighting highlighted widespread Sunni resentment against the army, accused of siding with Hizbullah and being selective in its crackdown on armed groups.
Referring to the crackdown launched by the army in the wake of the battle, Saniora said: “We have received a list containing the names of detainees and a list of the names of the dead.”
Sidon residents claim the bodies of those killed while fighting alongside Asir have not been given to their families.
“There is extreme anger in the city of Sidon and major resentment and this is a very dangerous issue that goes beyond Sidon and serious measures must be taken,” Saniora warned.
“We stressed that human rights must be fully respected as we are not in Guantanamo and this is an unacceptable thing and must come to an end, and the army commander promised us that this will all stop,” he added.
“We are very keen on the army and every drop of blood that falls from any soldier is a drop of blood that falls from all the Lebanese. We extend our hand to the state and to our brothers in this country and tell them, 'let us turn this anger among the people of Sidon into support for the state and its prestige and role,'” Saniora suggested. He emphasized that the state must have the exclusive authority in the country.
“I hope Sidon will be free of arms,” Saniora said.
For her part, MP Hariri said: “I tell our people in Sidon and Lebanon that we will turn the anger into real will to achieve stability and restore peace in the city.”
“The will of all the Lebanese and Sidon's residents is needed to launch civil initiatives,” she said. “We have a strong will to turn Sidon into an example for stability in Lebanon,” she went on to say.
Hariri described the aftermath of the clashes as "another February 14," referring to the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri.
As the meeting got underway earlier on Friday, Miqati called for holding accountable the gunmen who attacked the army in Sidon during clashes with supporters of al-Asir, but he rejected “the harassment of innocent civilians.”
"Attacks on the Lebanese army are categorically rejected, whichever side they may come from, because the military institution is the security valve of the Lebanese state and its legitimate institutions," said Miqati.
He called on the Army Command, "whom we appreciate its wisdom and ethical conduct, to address the complaints in Sidon objectively and to deal with citizens with extreme wisdom and care, as they must not all be treated as if they are guilty and involved in the clashes.” "Those responsible for the attack on the army must be held accoubtable by the judiciary, but there are innocents who have nothing to do with what happened and it is unacceptable to harass them or violate the law in dealing with them," Miqati added. He urged an "instant end to any violations to prevent that they be exploited," calling on all citizens to "trust the military institution and deal with its members as if they are brothers and friends and not to attack the military institution's role and sacrifices." The fighting in Abra outside Sidon was among the worst in Lebanon since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria 27 months ago deepened sectarian tensions. On Thursday, the army handed over to the military police soldiers suspected of humiliating and beating a man suspected of ties to al-Asir. A military source told Agence France Presse: "We do not accept this kind of behavior." Sunni clerics, meanwhile, distributed images via Facebook of a body bearing marks of a severe beating. The body was identified as Nader al-Bayoumy, whom the Association of Muslim Scholars said had "handed himself in" after the Abra clash.


Lebanon's General Prosecutor Judge Hammoud Demands Lifting Qanso's Immunity over Suleiman Row
Naharnet/Acting General Prosecutor Judge Hammoud referred on Friday to the caretaker Justice Minister, Shakib Qortbawi, a request demanding lifting immunity off MP Ali Qanso. Qanso had accused President Michel Suleiman of high treason in light of the latter's filing of memorandums to the Arab League and United Nations on Syria's violations of Lebanese territory.
On June 21, the president demanded that measure be taken against the Baath Party MP, Qanso, over his statements. Suleiman had defended his decision to send the memos, saying that his move was constitutional.
The president said that he is only interested in “safeguarding Lebanon and its citizens,” denying accusations that he is defending the Syrian opposition.
Syrian regime troops have carried out attacks on Lebanese 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.

Aoun Condemns 'Extending Bloody Conflict' on Streets, Says Illegal to Extend Qahwaji Term
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Friday rejected what he called “selectivity” in putting draft laws on parliament's agenda, stressing that extending the term of Army chief General Jean Qahwaji would be illegal and not an appropriate way to “reward” the army after the Abra battle.
“Urgent draft laws were disregarded and not put on the agenda of parliament's session, although they have the priority,” Aoun said after an extraordinary meeting for the Change and Reform bloc.
“There is the law on those who fled to Israel and Speaker (Nabih) Berri said that he referred it to the committees, although he has no right to send it to the committees and the parliament's general assembly must decide,” Aoun stressed. He noted that the controversial Orthodox Gathering draft electoral law was among the bills that were not put on parliament's agenda, “although it is an urgent bill.” “The gas pipeline law was not also addressed despite the fact that it would generate revenues for the treasury,” Aoun lamented.
He underlined that lawmakers “represent the nation” and that “no one has the right to prevent them from raising their proposals in parliament.”Turning to the issue of the possible extension of Qahwaji's term, Aoun said: “Why should the parliament usurp the cabinet's powers in appointing the army commander?”
“What's more noteworthy is that non-Christian leaders are trying to decide on the matter without the knowledge of the Christian leaders or their approval. We want to know who submitted the draft law,” he added.
“The equal (Christian-Muslim) power-sharing passed through a bitter experience when they refused to grant Christians their rights,” Aoun pointed out.
“Since 1990, they have been appointing the army commander and whispering in his ear that he would become a president,” he added.
Aoun said some parties want to extend the terms of the army commander and the chief of staff, wondering if they also want to "extend Lebanon's term so that it can stay alive."Commenting on the deadly Abra gunbattle and its repercussions on some Lebanese regions, Aoun said: “We witnessed what happened yesterday in Abra and today in Tripoli, who is responsible for that? Where is the (army) intelligence directorate? We warned a lot about the illegal Syrian presence that violates the National Pact and stressed the need to control the refugees, but some of them fought alongside al-Asir.”
“A certain responsibility might fall on the interior minister (Marwan Charbel) but we won't accept that he be turned into a scapegoat while the real culprits are being protected, because preventing him from doing his job by higher authorities is the reason,” he added. “When the Salafists only numbered 100, we asked the premier (Najib Miqati) not to dissociate himself from Tripoli and today they are closing the serail and causing troubles and security forces withdrew because they are prohibited from taking decisive action,” Aoun said.
Turning to Sidon, he noted that a strife between the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp and the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Haret Saida “could have erupted.” “All people would intervene when they feel threatened, that's why I tell those who will convene in parliament or cabinet that they better stay in their houses if they will only be spectators in the face of crises,” Aoun added. “Is it possible that they have failed to agree on putting an end to the bloody conflict that is taking place although they managed to agree on extension?” Aoun wondered. “Where is the army? Where are the plans to arm it? Can it only be rewarded through extension (of Qahwaji's term)? We said that the entire army must be rewarded, not only one or two members,” he went on to say. He revealed that there is a possibility that the parliament might not convene on Monday. “There are a lot of competent generals and the cabinet must appoint the army commander and what's happening is an abnormal game,” added Aoun. “Let no one try to take us lightly and we are not anyone's followers. Our participation will be complete and no one can take decisions on our behalf,” he stressed. On Sunday and Monday, clashes in Sidon between the army and gunmen loyal to al-Asir left 18 troops dead and 20 others wounded. More than 20 supporters of al-Asir were also killed in the fighting. Source/Naharnet.


Asir's Second Wife Says 'Army Caught us by Surprise', Describes Sidon Battles as Conspiracy
Naharnet /The second wife of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir lashed out at Hizbullah on Friday, accusing it of being intransigent about the apartments in the southern town of Abra and increasing provocative acts and infringements. “What happened on Sunday caught us by surprise... It might be a conspiracy that prompted the army to engage in a battle with us,” Amal al-Asir told An Nahar newspaper. She pointed out that her husband always said that the main point of contention wasn't with the army, but with Hizullah's apartments in the area. “We had held a month-long sit-in demanding the state and army to control all weapons so we can live in peace with all the sects, without having one dominate another. We were also besieged for more than seven-months inside the Bilal bin Rabah mosque by the army, and we never attacked the army,” Amal said. She said that she had never experienced a similar “heavy bombardment of a small area overcrowded with buildings and apartments even during the civil war.” She criticized the army, saying that “Hizbullah dominates it, and decision-making is out of its hands.”Amal said that Hizbullah gunmen participated in the Sidon battles alongside the troops, accusing the army of ignoring the party's continuous violations and assaults.
Soldiers battled supporters of Sheikh al-Asir in Abra on Sunday and Monday in a major gunbattle lasting 24 hours. Asir is now on the run after 18 soldiers were killed in the clash. On Thursday, Hizbullah vacated several apartments in the area of Abra, handing them over to the Lebanese army. The Abra clash was the worst in Lebanon since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria 27 months ago that has deepened sectarian tensions. Although Asir's extremist discourse was unpopular with members of his Sunni sect, the army's campaign against him raised questions over why the military failed to use the same force against Hizbullah. Sunni clerics have accused the army of covering for Hizbullah, whose troops are fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria. Relatively unknown just two years ago, Asir gained prominence in Lebanon because of his virulently anti-Hizbullah, sectarian discourse. Last year, he set up a protest tent city that closed a main road in Sidon for a month in a sit-in meant to pressure Hizbullah to disarm. Earlier this month, he accused the army of “defending” the apartments owned by the Shiite party. He warned he would resort to a “military option” if his demand to vacate them was not met. Amal said that Asir told her the last time he saw her before the battles intensified that “I will see you in heaven Insha'allah.”She told An Nahar that “we will be martyred with our heads held up high, we will not yield to anyone.”


Zebari Says Iraq Shiites Fighting in Syria 'Not Govt. Policy'
Naharnet/Iraqi Shiite Muslims are fighting in Syria alongside troops of President Bashar Assad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Friday, while insisting this was not the policy of the Shiite-led Baghdad government. "I do not deny that Iraqi Shiite fighters are participating in combat in Syria, just as Sunnis from the Gulf are doing in that country," he said in remarks published by pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. "But that does not come under government policy," added Zebari, himself a Kurd and a Sunni Muslim. At a Friday news conference in Stockholm, he said he had "no first hand figures" on the number of Iraqi Shiite fighters in Syria, but that there were "not several thousand... maybe several hundred." Fighters from Lebanon's Hizbullah have also intervened in Syria alongside troops loyal to Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Their presence has been roundly denounced by rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, most of whom come from Syria's Sunni majority, and by influential Egyptian-born cleric Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi. While "Hizbullah militia are engaged in combat in Syria, there are also Sunni fatwas, such as the one by Qaradawi calling for jihad in Syria," Zebari said. At the beginning of June, the Qatar-based cleric called on Sunni volunteers from around the Muslim world to fight alongside the rebels. "The Syrian conflict has become more dangerous, because the sectarian confrontation has been brought to the fore. This is very dangerous and I think all countries should be aware not to push things in this direction," Zebari said in Stockholm. The uprising that broke out more than two years ago is increasingly becoming a sectarian battle between Sunnis, supported by rich Gulf monarchies, and Shiites, supported by Iran. Source/Agence France Presse.

Crisis in Syria: This is one war we don’t need to get involved in
By David T Jones
Syria is Spain.
Not the Spain of 2013, but the Spain of 1936-39 when wracked by civil war, it was viewed much in the manner in which we regard Syria regarded today: a struggle between good and evil. Spain served as a combination of proxy battle between fascists (Nationalists) and nonfascists (Republicans) and de facto prelude to World War II. But in 1930s Spain, the “good guys” were the government (the Republic) and the bad guys were the rebels (military units headed by Francisco Franco seeking to overthrow the Republic). The era’s liberal, politically-correct leftists supported the Republic, which was also backed by the Soviets and Mexico. The conservative Christian Falange (allied with Germany, Italy, and Portugal) fought for its overthrow.
There were atrocities on both sides; tens of thousands of civilians, both Republicans and Nationalists were killed for religious or political views. Various casualty counts range between 500,000 and a million.
As is often the case, the liberals had the better public relations both at the time and subsequently. Ernest Hemingway’s magna opus, For Whom the Bell Tolls, recounts the travails/defeat of Republican guerrillas, and Picasso’s Guernica depicts the horrors of aerial bombardment. Although countries such as the United States, Canada, the UK, and France maintained neutrality, individual citizens participated extensively, reportedly totaling 40,000 from 53 countries. Republican International Brigades, including the U.S. “Abraham Lincoln brigade” and even a Canadian contingent, the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, fought for the Republic, countered by the Condor Legion of Germans (16,000) and Italians (50,000). But the Republicans were defeated, and Franco’s Spain persisted until 1975.
[ David Kilgour's opposing view: It's time for the West to step in on Syria crisis ]
We have no “dog” in this fight. Syria’s neighbors are capable of protecting their own interests. At the time, the chattering class judgment was that the “good guys” had lost, but retrospectively one might ask whether democracy would have benefited from a communist Spain rather than a conservative right wing dictatorship dominating the Iberian Peninsula.
Although history is hardly destiny, the Spanish Civil War provides perspective for prospective U.S./Canadian involvement in Syria. This time the government is the “bad guys” and the rebels are the “good guys.” We have an unpopular dictatorship in Damascus assailed by a wide assortment of disparate rebels, lacking coherent unity. After a surge of success, the rebels appeared to have the government on the run, controlling a substantial part of the country. The Damascus government, however, did not collapse; fighting desperately (perhaps in fear of the consequences of defeat) its army has remained loyal. Recently, the government, reinforced by Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, as well as continued armament resupply from Tehran and Moscow, has regained the initiative.
The rebels are squealing like pigs caught in a fence. All is lost — without immediate major deliveries of high tech weapons to counter government aircraft and armor.
And Washington — although the messages are muddled — appears on the verge of delivering such equipment.
[ Previous D vs. D: Party loyalty results in gridlock in the U.S. ]
If we do, it will be a poorly considered step more deeply into a tar pit.
.We have no “dog” in this fight. All Syria’s neighbors are well capable of protecting their own interests. Indeed, the Turkish armed forces (despite current political distractions) could easily implement a “no fly” zone and/or defeat the tattered Syrian army. That they have taken no action should tell us something.
To the extent that we have a vulnerable ally (Jordan), we have moved to support it.
The rebels' plea for high tech (and low tech) weapons could easily be supplied by friendly neighbors. The region is awash in military hardware, but many are concerned that providing portable anti-aircraft missiles could result in them shooting down passenger aircraft at Orly, Heathrow, or Tel Aviv airports.
The Chemical Weapons use “red line” is a red herring. Anyone willing to accept “intelligence” judgments regarding Syrian government chemical weapons use is a candidate to purchase the Brooklyn Bridge. We bought the intelligence-driven judgment on that piece of infrastructure with Iraqi WMD, in case you have forgotten. And do you notice that nobody is mentioning the UN investigator’s judgment in May that the rebels used chemical weapons?
The lamentations over the number of deaths are disproportionate (see Spanish Civil War casualty statistics above). Every such death is a tragedy, but reportedly ongoing fighting in the Congo has killed upwards of six million, and cynics suggest they are ignored because they are not white.
.In short, Syria is one war we don’t need. We have a praiseworthy societal tendency to cheer for the underdog — without appreciating the underdog can be as mean and vicious as the top dog, just momentarily underneath.
**David T. Jones is a retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Career Officer and a frequent contributor to American Diplomacy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving for the Army Chief of Staff. He is co-author of Uneasy Neighbor(u)rs, a study of American-Canadian bilateral concerns and has published several hundred articles, columns, and reviews on U.S. - Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy.

Fears of More Unrest as Rival Protesters Mass in Egypt

Naharnet /Supporters and opponents of Egyptian Islamist President Mohamed Morsi took to the streets on Friday for rival protests a year after his election, as clashes in Alexandria raised fears of widespread unrest.
Fervent displays of emotion on both sides underline the bitter divisions in Egypt, with Morsi's opponents accusing him of hijacking the revolution and his supporters vowing to defend his legitimacy to the end.
Violence between Morsi supporters and opponents in Egypt's second city of Alexandria injured at least 10 people, a security official told Agence France Presse.
Television footage showed protesters running in several directions in Alexandria's Sidi Gaber area as gunshots were heard. The offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, were also set on fire during the confrontations, the FJP said, and television channels broadcast footage showing plumes of smoke rising from the building.
At least four people have died since Wednesday in clashes in the Nile Delta -- three in the city of Mansura and one in Zagazig, medics said.
Overnight violence erupted in the eastern part of the Nile Delta, north of the capital, Morsi's own home province of Sharqiya. The unrest is seen by many as a prelude to mass anti-Morsi protests planned for Sunday.
In Cairo, tens of thousands of Islamists gathered under the slogan "legitimacy is a red line", in reference to Morsi's insistence that he has a popular mandate.
"People must go with everything they've got to defend legitimacy and Egypt," one speaker told the cheering crowd, but also urging them to keep their protests peaceful. Meanwhile, anti-Morsi protesters joined hundreds camped overnight in Tahrir Square, epicenter of the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak and catapulted Morsi to the presidency. Thousands more anti-Morsi protesters demonstrated across Cairo including in the Shubra, Sayeda Zeinab and Mohandesseen districts.
Outside the capital, his opponents gathered in Alexandria, Mansura and the canal city of Port Said. The June 30 protest was called by Tamarod (Arabic for Rebellion), a grassroots movement which says it has more than 15 million signatures for a petition demanding Morsi's resignation and a snap election.
The broad-based opposition alleges that Morsi reneged on his promise to be a president for all Egyptians and has failed to deliver on the uprising's aspirations for freedom and social justice. Germany warned that Egypt's fledgling democracy faces a "moment of truth", and urged Morsi to implement reforms. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said demonstrators had a right to peaceful assembly, but urged both sides to avoid bloodshed.
Westerwelle "is deeply concerned about the current escalation in political tensions in Egypt," his spokesman told reporters. "This is in his view a key moment of truth for political change in Egypt."
Morsi himself warned in a televised speech on Wednesday that the growing polarization threatens to "paralyze" the country. He pledged to consider constitutional reforms and appealed to the opposition to join talks. It was his latest attempt to strike up a dialogue between political factions in a country deeply split between his Islamist allies and an opposition of leftists, liberals, Christians and some Muslim groups.
Late on Thursday, however, the opposition National Salvation Front coalition rejected his offer of talks and renewed its call for a snap presidential election.
Since taking office last June 30, Morsi has squared off against the judiciary, media, police and even artists.
But he has also admitted to failings and vowed to correct them. "I have made many mistakes, there is no question. Mistakes can happen, but they need to be corrected," he said. He also warned the media against abusing freedoms won in the uprising. Judges on Thursday slapped a travel ban on Mohammed al-Amin, the owner of private television channel CBC that hosts a popular satire show. He faces charges of tax evasion. In Wednesday's speech, Morsi named him and several other private television channel owners. The army, which oversaw the transition from Mubarak's autocratic rule but has been on the sidelines since Morsi's election, warned it would intervene if violence erupts. It has brought in reinforcements to key cities, security officials said. In Cairo, residents were withdrawing cash and stocking up on food, and many companies plan to close on Sunday, the first day of the working week. Fuel shortages have seen drivers queuing outside petrol stations through the night, bringing parts of Cairo to a standstill.
SourceظAgence France Presse.PoliticsMiddle East.


On Morsi's Stick
Zuheir Kseibati/Al Hayat
An electricity crisis and fuel shortage? Not at all. Rather a lack of immunity against escapades, recklessness and lust for power after a long period of waiting, and against the wish to jump over people's heads after having earned a certificate in riding the revolutionary wave.
An Egyptian citizen who lived through the January 25 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and is getting ready for the Day of Wrath on June 30 wondered: What has changed between 2011 and 2013? On Sunday, one year will have gone by since the Muslim Brotherhood group reached power under President Morsi's cloak and once again the slogan "leave, leave" is being chanted. So, is it a second revolution?
Many in the Rebel campaign and the opposition parties hope to ensure the liberation of January 25 which was hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), knowing that the question definitely surrounds the price they will have to pay for that. Indeed, today the Mother of the World (Egypt) is not what it used to be in 2011 and the opposition's rush to ride the Rebel campaign wave is not an example to be followed, as it is repeating what the MB did with the January 25 youth.
Today’s Egypt is suffering from higher unemployment and poverty rates and going through an economic crisis, and has little hope of seeing investments settle in the country, at a time when the authority is investing in the reproduction of rivalries with all the sides. At this level, wide factions of Egyptians believe that "this authority will not learn, or would not benefit from learning, unless it takes the MB hat off" and excludes all partisan figures from the management of the state before its ship sinks.
But is there any time left to give Morsi a choice? And will yesterday's speech appease the great wrath before the June 30 events? Is it enough to replace Hisham Kandil's government to convince the street to relinquish the slogans demanding Morsi's toppling? Or is the authority fooling itself into believing that a mere apology for the mistakes committed in the process of managing the consecutive crises will generate some popularity, after it has quickly eroded since the beginning of its term?
What is certain is that even if he wants to, Morsi cannot disobey the MB Guide. And he has repeatedly proven that the palace could not contain the supporters of the group who are trading with the slogan of defending the president's legitimacy, in order to legalize the pursuit of his rivals and oppositionists on the street and inside the institutions. In addition, this mobile Inquisition which did not exclude the media platforms fostered an environment of deep fear, which is spreading panic among the majority of the Egyptians. On the other hand, the popular checkpoints to retaliate against those suspected of belonging to the MB, which were seen in Abdul Monem Riad buses station at the heart of Cairo and on the Nile cornice on Tuesday night, confirm the extent to which Egypt has entered the dark tunnel.
On January 25, the street was standing against the ruler and decades of oppression and blackmail using the bread loaf as a weapon. On June 30, and thanks to the wisdom of the victors in the ballot boxes, the confrontation has turned into war between the MB street and that of all the opponents who witnessed – throughout the past year – the fast collapse of the remaining legitimacy of the state institutions and the judiciary.
At this level, Morsi's bragging about the unleashing of freedom of expression, which turned into slander parties and accusations of treason and infidelity live on the air, probably fueled the fire of the terrifying infighting, in light of the conviction surrounding the MB's opportunism since the first day it rode the revolutionary wave.
It would be useless at this point in time to count the mistakes committed during the MB's term and the catastrophes caused by the group's rush to strengthen its presence instead of enhancing the social and economic stability of around ninety million citizens. On the other hand, it is certain that Morsi's policy towards Syria (i.e. the severance of the relations with the regime in Damascus) was a repetition of what he did during the Gaza war, thinking that pleasing the Americans will spare him from the street's wrath, or at least neutralize them in the confrontation with the oppositionists.
Now that it appears to be quasi-impossible to see Morsi stepping down to hold anticipated presidential elections – knowing that the MB has only tasted power for one year – a number of Egyptians are repeating some of the January 25 events. And while it is unexpected that Morsi will contain his supporters to prevent killing and retaliation waves, it is also unlikely that the regime and the opposition will be able to understand the meaning of the last warning issued by Minister of Defense Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sissi to "prevent Egypt's slide towards a dark tunnel of conflict or infighting." On June 30, the Salvation Front will deny its involvement in any violence because the Rebel campaign will be standing in the forefront, and the Muslim Brotherhood will do the same while its opponents burn down its offices. Indeed, what the group does best is play the role of the victim.
As for Egypt, it will remain alone and distant in a dark tunnel.


A Common Denominator between Edward Snowden and Ahmed al-Assir
Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/Al Hayat
There is somewhat of a common denominator between former consultant for the National Security Agency (NSA) Edward Snowden, who “blew the whistle” on violations committed by the United States in spying on the American people and on countries like China or Russia, and Sunni cleric Ahmed Al-Assir, who “blew the whistle” on Hezbollah’s hegemony over Lebanon through weapons and fear-mongering, making of himself a phenomenon he put an end to by himself.
Both men, Snowden and Assir, found themselves this week wanted men, to be brought to justice for deeds deemed unlawful by the US administration and the Lebanese government respectively. The fate and the location of both men are unknown.
They both considered themselves to have been defending what is right. Perhaps they even considered themselves to be heroes. This is perhaps where the resemblance ends, and any common denominators between the two.
Indeed, Snowden has brought about a state of tension in American-Russian as well as American-Chinese relations. He has provided ammunition to the countries that hate the United States to mock American “hypocrisy” when it comes to respecting personal freedoms and the rights of individuals. In fact, one of the most harmful effects of Snowden’s deeds – aside from exposing the NSA and its methods – is that they have made President Barack Obama the object of mockery and derision by leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, strengthening their ability to make light of the United States and of its President.
Assir, for his part, almost dragged Lebanon into a civil war when he chose to point his weapons at the Lebanese army and called on the latter’s Sunni members to defect. His failed strategy against Hezbollah has made him the object of mockery and gloating by Hezbollah, which has received the “gift” of Assir with the utmost gratitude.
Both Snowden and Assir betrayed their country when they did not take into account the consequences of their deeds. Now the phase has begun of cleaning up what the Assir phenomenon left behind. It was a wretched phenomenon to begin with, one that had adopted responding to the overbearing strength of a powerful organized party by finding strength in weapons and gathering a group of armed fighters behind what they had through to be competent leadership.
Such a phase requires a great deal of wisdom and patience from all those who are trying to protect Lebanon from falling into the trap of the war in Syria. As for what Snowden set off, when he flew to Hong Kong and to Moscow asking for political asylum most likely in Ecuador, it takes the form not just of innocent idealism – if that truly is what was caused him to blow the whistle – but also of foolishness, in view of how such innocence has been used for international blackmail, something which had most probably never even occurred to Snowden. Then again, the waning of American influence under President Barack Obama is not due to the harm caused by Snowden’s leaks, but rather to the policies of the US President himself, who found himself this week being made light of by the Taliban as well, not just Russia, China and Iran.
In Snowden’s case, the facts are known. After blowing the whistle on NSA’s massive surveillance operation, he left to Hong Kong. When Washington asked China to arrest him, the Chinese government replied that the request “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law”. Beijing ignored the American request and allowed Snowden to leave, amid rumors that he was being kept under protection at a house provided by the Chinese government.
When Washington heard that Snowden was in Moscow, it asked Russian authorities to stop him from traveling on to Ecuador, and also asked for his arrest after issuing an indictment against him on charges of espionage. The Russian response was a sarcastic one, with the spokesperson for the presidency stating that “I am not in charge of tickets; I don’t approve or disapprove plane tickets”. Later on, following the denial by his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Snowden’s presence on Russian soil, the Russian President revealed that he was in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. He then in turn mocked the US administration, while Lavrov asserted that there was no extradition treaty between Russia and the United States.
As for the details of what happened between the Taliban leadership and the leaderships of the United States and Afghanistan, they contain enough embarrassment, disdain, and disparagement to be denounced. The Obama administration agreed to the presence of Mullah Omar – and some say the Haqqani network as well – at the negotiations table, despite Mullah Omar’s conditions and his refusal to accept the Afghan constitution and a ceasefire with coalition forces, in addition to his refusal to formally pledge not to allow Afghanistan’s soil to once again be used as a safe haven for international terrorism.
The Taliban have thus obtained legitimacy from the United States, by having Washington agree to them joining the negotiations table under their own conditions, as has the Haqqani network, which Washington had previously designated as a terrorist organization. Washington offered this without anything in return, neither for itself nor for the Afghan government, angering the latter and leading it to refuse to participate in the meeting that would have been held in Doha last week.
America is “keeping the bar low” these days in the view of many international players, especially those who harbor hatred for the United States and lie in wait for the opportunity to humiliate it. But more importantly, a significant country like Iran finds in the Obama administration its best ally, with its “low bar” which it can easily jump over in order to achieve both its regional and nuclear ambitions equally. To be sure, the Obama administration has become the “enabler”, reassuring such countries and parties that they would not be held to account or punished by the United States no matter what they do, because the US President would not dare do so.
The age of American powerlessness, as it is now being dubbed, has become part of the strategies of Russia, China, Iran, the Taliban, Hezbollah… and even the likes of Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front. Syria in particular represents a shining example of President Barack Obama’s insistence on not getting involved, no matter how clear and patent is the fact that it is on the verge of falling prey to the influence, control and hegemony of Iran and Russia, with China’s support and Hezbollah’s participation.
Syria today provides a clear illustration of the fact that the US administration’s failure to anticipate the danger of growing terrorism there contributes to prolonging the war and to the growth of armed extremist movements, and in fact to reinventing Al-Qaeda and similar groups inside and outside of Syria with capabilities that could later reach the heart of American soil.
The age of American powerlessness has given both Russia and China the ability to completely control the UN Security Council. Their dual veto has paralyzed the latter’s ability to issue resolutions, and has made this major body in charge of preserving world peace and security hostage to their veto. Had the Obama administration truly wished to take it upon itself to deal with the Syrian issue, and had the United States not been stuck in the age of American powerlessness, it would have been able to gather the majority of Security Council members on its side and embarrass Moscow and Beijing on a daily basis by summoning them to their twentieth veto if necessary.
This would perhaps not be necessary if the leaderships of Russia and China were to reach the conclusion that the leadership of the United States actually and truly was serious. Both leaderships have made of the powerlessness of the United States under the Obama administration a cornerstone of their veto and others strategies.
It is Washington’s submission that has led to the arrogance of others. And the more the US administration submits, the more it encourages those keen on making light of it and on implementing strategies at its expense. Members of the Obama administration are contributing to encouraging those of Putin’s government and the mullahs of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as members of the Taliban and similar groups. The personalities of President Obama, his Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his Secretary of State John Kerry suggest that those three men are convinced that America is in the wrong and must compensate for its misdeeds. Those men do not want battles. They are peaceful, indulgent and tolerant of offenses and contempt, and even of insults if this allows them to avoid a battle. They are men who don’t fear the triumph of Russia, Iran or China, as long as such triumph does not cost them a war or a battle.
Others outside the US administration are advising members of the Obama administration to withdraw and concern themselves with the American interior instead of expanding their foreign policy. Thus, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Richard Haass, is promoting in his latest book the idea of “restoring the balance” in foreign interests, far from the Middle East and towards the “East”, in the spheres of China and its strategic ally Russia. There, in his opinion, the major powers would intersect and interact with one another, not in the Middle East, regardless of all the intersecting and confrontation taking place between these major powers in Syria. Indeed, Haass writes something to the effect of that the Middle East can cause major problems, but they are problems it is causing for itself, not for the world. In his view, the Middle East is at the start of a long and violent conflict, which is why the United States must choose wisely and lower the level of its interest in the Middle East and raise it in Asia.
The “pivot” to Asia emerged some time ago, after the United States discovered that it would become energy independent with its newly discovered reserves. President Obama has decided to focus on resolving the issues of the American economy and the problems of the United States, and he has distanced himself from getting dragged into the Middle East, with all of its problems and its hurdles, from Iran to Israel through the Arab region, whether they concern allies or places in which Russia is finding a strategic foothold for itself, such as Syria.
Perhaps the US President will be the one to have the last laugh after Russia and Iran truly sink into the quagmire of Syria and of confessional and doctrinal wars. Perhaps he will, in his opinion, be the one to laugh longest in the end, not the mocking Russian leadership or the gloating leaderships of Ecuador or Venezuela. Perhaps he will remain above sarcasm, or perhaps he will angrily rebel at being made light of and derided.
Whatever he does, the decision to reduce American influence worldwide is a decision that was taken by Barack Obama, and it has led to diminished standing and declining respect for the United States. Moreover, President Obama’s stances on Syria have revealed waning interest in fundamental American values, such as rejecting massacres and refusing to stand idly by and watch while hundreds of thousands of civilians fall victim to brute military force. This is the historical narrative that will be associated with Barack Obama, if he perseveres in his stances: the narrative of the fall of America’s humanitarian side.
Indeed, hiding behind unmanned drones, cyber warfare and illegal surveillance operations will not bring the man the narrative he promised the world when it followed his entrance into history through the White House. It is therefore inevitable for the likes of Edward Snowden to emerge, “blowing the whistle” on those who broke their promises and thought that they would, like others, move on without being held to account.


Question: "Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God?" The Bible never records Jesus saying the precise words, “I am God.” That does not mean, however, that He did not proclaim that He is God. Take for example Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” We need only to look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement to know He was claiming to be God. They tried to stone Him for this very reason: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming—deity. When Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one nature and essence. John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!” Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded (Leviticus 24:16).
John reiterates the concept of Jesus’ deity: “The Word [Jesus] was God” and “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). These verses clearly indicate that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. And this same verse declares that God purchased His church with His own blood. Therefore, Jesus is God!
Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. Titus 2:13 encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (see also 2 Peter 1:1). In Hebrews 1:8, the Father declares of Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” The Father refers to Jesus as “O God,” indicating that Jesus is indeed God.
In Revelation, an angel instructed the apostle John to only worship God (Revelation 19:10). Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have told people to not worship Him, just as the angel in Revelation did. There are many other passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus’ deity.
The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that, if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). A created being, which Jesus would be if He were not God, could not pay the infinite penalty required for sin against an infinite God. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21), die, and be resurrected, proving His victory over sin and death.