May 11/2013


Bible Quotation for today/The departed (the dead) from this mortal world are happy where they are, pray for them
Elias Bejjani/As long as we remain here on earth in these fleshly mortal bodies, we feel lonely and alienated. We long with utmost eagerness to return to our father's mansions, in heaven. Mansions that He has built for each and every one of us us and in which no man's hand had to do any thing in their construction. Our nostalgic and homesickness for our actual dwellings in heaven makes us always in a state of waiting with hope and happiness to return their and abandon the earthy tents, the bodies in which our souls are mere temporary guests. Those righteous of us who depart their souls are in heaven, in their great father's dwelling with the angels and righteous. Where their souls are now there is no pain, no sadness, no fear, no hatred, no grudges, no hostilities, no fights, no sickness, no anger, no jealousness , no anguish or problems, but peace, love, comfort and happiness all the time. God who grants the souls life on earth, is the one who calls on it back when the time is due. The departed (the dead) are happy where they are, pray for them. Day by day, our physical mortal bodies are dying. From the moment we are conceived, our flesh is in a slow process of aging until the day we reach our final breath. During times of affliction and trouble, we feel this "wasting away" more acutely. Are we disheartened today? No Christians are immune to discouragement. We all lose heart now and then. But, like Paul, we can look to the unseen for encouragement. During hard days, let our spiritual eyes come alive, and through this farsighted lens look past what is seen. With eyes of faith we see what cannot be seen and get a glorious glimpse of eternity. "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed", (Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 15 / 51-52


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 
Israel's strategic clarity in Syria/By: Tony Badran/Now Lebanon/ May 11/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 11/13
Pope Francis prays for "full unity" with Copts
US envoy Ford’s secret crossing into Syria. Turkey’s “chemical dossier” for Obama
Suleiman: Baabda Declaration, Defense Strategy Protect Lebanon against Aggression
U.S. Envoy Meets Miqati, Calls for Avoiding Actions that Worsen Syria Crisis
Phalange Delegation Continues Tour on Party Leaders to Discuss Neutrality Draft-Law

National Struggle Front Meets Berri: Forming New Govt. Necessary or We Will All Pay the Price
Report: Salam to Form De Facto Cabinet without March 8 Alliance
Makari: Nasrallah Has Shut the Door on Govt. Negotiations
President Gemayel: Christians are Facing Dangerous Situation in Syria, Region

Nine Charged with Seeking to Carry out Terrorist Attacks in Lebanon
Ibrahim Says Pilgrims Case on 'Right Track', to Visit Syria Soon
Ozyildiz Says Families of Abducted Pilgrims 'Crossed Limits'
Report: Vacancies Emerge in Military Council as Qahwaji May Request to Assume its Duties
Report: Two Tripoli Fighters Killed in Qusayr, Contact Lost with 20 Others
Activists: Syria Troops, Hizbullah Advancing on Qusayr
Lebanon offshore gas reserves at least 30 trn cubic feet, minister says

Israeli raising funds to help Syrians
Analysis: Arab states at crossroads
US envoy holds border talks with rebels, Syria rebels say
Syria army warns civiliansto leave Al-Qusayr

Al-Nusra Front to Be Added to U.N. Sanctions List
Kerry 'Strong Evidence' Syria Used Chem Weapons
Lavrov: Russia 'Completing Supplies' of Missiles to Syria
New Video Shows U.N. Peacekeepers Abducted in Syria

Iran Unveils New Attack Drone
Putin, Cameron Discuss 'Possible Options' to End Syria Crisis

Merkel in Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

US envoy Ford’s secret crossing into Syria. Turkey’s “chemical dossier” for Obama
DEBKAfile Special Report May 10, 2013,
The Obama administration’s slowcoach policy on Syria has given Iran and Hizballah unfettered access for military intervention in the Syrian civil war, magnifying its lethality and heightening the prospects of its spilling over into Israel, Turkey and Jordan, say debkafile’s Middle East analysts. Ahead now is the influx of highly advanced weapons into the already excessively violent conflict. Thursday, May 9, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the transfer of advanced missile defense systems from Russia to Syria would be a “destabilizing factor for Israel’s security.” Speaking to reporters in Rome, he was referring to Moscow’s imminent sale of S-300 air defense missiles to the Assad regime, which debkafile revealed Tuesday, May 7, President Vladimir Putin had disclosed in his tough conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about Israel’s air strikes on Damascus. In his comments, Kerry said nothing about how the US intended to stop the sale or respond to the deployment in Syria of weapons that would not only affect Israel’s security but lock the sky against US air action against Syria and the imposition of a no-fly zone.debkafile’s sources estimate that the Syrian conflict and its repercussions, already horrendous, will go from bad to worse when it transpires – inevitably - that the Obama administration has no partner for its loudly hailed accord with Moscow, obtained by Kerry on May 7, for an international peace conference on the conflict.
Moscow has not joined the celebration. In fact, the prospects of this event started fading the moment Secretary Kerry declared in Rome, two days after his talks in Moscow, that “Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of a transitional government that would try to lead the country out of its civil war.”This brought the rift to the fore, because Moscow will on no account countenance the exclusion of Assad’s representatives from any international forum or transitional government, whereas Washington keeps on insisting that Assad must go as the precondition for any deal to settle the conflict.
Washington, the West and Israel have been progressively losing bargaining chips in the weeks since a coalition of Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian Bassij troops began turning the tide of war against the rebels, pushing them out of one area after another which they had captured, including parts of the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo. This pro-Assad military alliance and its gains have been largely ignored by Western media.
Another complication is the emergence of the pro-Al Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra as the most dedicated and best trained and armed of all the Syrian rebel militias fighting Assad. Although the US and Russia share an interest in liquidating this Islamist front and rooting al Qaeda’s followers out of Syria, no assent on this appears to be in the offing. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was mobilized meanwhile to fend off the pressure for US military intervention in Syria coming from Israel, Turkey and the Gulf emirates. Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Thursday, Hagel stressed the “unprecedented levels in recent years” of US defense cooperation with Israel and US reliance on “strong partnerships with other regional countries from Jordan and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
He did not however disclose if and when the US might take action to stop the bloodshed in Syria or curb Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.
The defense secretary likewise avoided spelling out how the US would be able to act militarily in a Middle East emergency while at the same time cutting deeply into its military resources. He assured his listeners that “US strategy sees the Middle East as critical to its security interests, and a robust presence would remain,” adding, “We have made a determined effort to position high-end air, missile defense, and naval assets to deter Iranian aggression and respond to other contingencies.”His audience was well-informed enough to question this assertion at a time that US Air Force squadrons in Europe were being dismantled and returning home to be grounded.
While Hagel was speaking, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford quietly crossed into northern Syria from Turkey for secret meetings with leaders of rebel groups fighting in Aleppo and Idlib - a mission assigned him by Secretary Kerry. He was only there for a few hours before crossing back to Turkey.
Ambassador Ford left Damascus in February 2012 when the embassy suspended operations in a capital beset by full-blown civil war.
debkafile’s sources report his mission in meeting Syrian rebel leaders was threefold:
1. A demonstration that the Obama administration had no qualms about sending emissaries into embattled Syria and conveying direct US assistance to rebel forces.
2. A message to Moscow that if it persisted in sending Syria S-300 interceptor missile systems, that would jeopardize Israeli air force flights over Syria, Lebanon and even northern Israel, the United States would send the rebels weapons for knocking out Syrian air force operations and so eliminate the Assad’s military edge against the rebels.
3. Turkey was used for the crossing to hold off Ankara’s push for American military intervention in Syria - even on a limited scale.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to meet the US President at the White House on May 16, told an NBC TV interviewer Thursday: President Barack Obama’s red line had been crossed a long time ago as it was clear that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.”
The dossier Erdogan is preparing for Obama is based on the evidence of Turkish physicians who treated rebel casualties and diagnosed them as suffering from the effects of poison chemicals. Nonetheless, he has as little chance of being heeded by the US president as was Israel when it presented its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria last month.
In view of the US administration’s head in the sand and the spreading of a strong Russian umbrella for Bashar Assad over to his Lebanese Hizballah ally as well, Hassan Nasrallah was not surprisingly cockier than ever when he declared in a speech Thursday night that Syrian territory rather than Lebanon would henceforth be the stage for the combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah “resistance” front against Israel.
Secretary Kerry had a point when he noted that the Syrian war was on the point of spilling over into Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Pope Francis prays for "full unity" with Copts
AFP/Pope Francis on Friday prayed for "full unity" with the Coptic Orthodox Church as he received Patriarch of Alexandria Tawadros II for an historic visit in the latest sign of closer ties between the Catholic and Orthodox worlds. "Our persevering prayer, our dialogue and the will to build communion day by day in mutual love will allow us to take important further steps towards full unity," Francis told Coptic Orthodox leader Tawadros at their meeting in the Vatican. "We long for the day when, in fulfillment of the Lord's desire, we will be able to communicate from the one chalice," he said, acknowledging that there had been "centuries of mutual distrust" between their two Christian churches. This was the first such meeting in 40 years. Tawadros' predecessor Shenouda III visited the Vatican in 1973 to meet pope Paul VI and the two had launched a process of dialogue between Catholics and Copts, and pope John Paul II also visited Shenouda in Egypt in 2000.
Francis spoke of "an ecumenism of suffering."
"Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity," he said. "And this also applies, in a certain sense, to the broader context of society and relations between Christians and non-Christians: from shared suffering can blossom forth forgiveness and reconciliation, with God's help," he added. The four-day visit was the high-point of a tour of Europe by Tawadros, who was elected in November as leader of a Christian church faced with the rise of radical Islam and growing emigration. Copts account for up to 10 percent of the population in Egypt, where tensions and clashes with the majority Muslim population have increased since the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime in 2011. Copts have been critical of President Mohamed Morsi's leadership and a new constitution seen as favorable to Islamists. Clashes between Copts and Muslims have left dozens dead in Egypt. The spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I, attended the pope's inauguration in March in an important gesture of rapprochement. Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054. Another sign of closer ties is the fact that Tawadros last month attended the inauguration of the new Coptic Catholic patriarch, Ibrahim Sidrak, an unprecedented gesture. Tawadros will stay until Sunday and visit various Vatican departments. He will also visit the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul and meet with members of the Coptic community in Rome. Comments by Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI in support of Copts after an outbreak of violence in Egypt were criticized by Muslim leaders in Cairo, who suspended dialogue with the Vatican in retaliation. Tawadros last month accused Morsi of "negligence" over the worst inter-religious clashes since Morsi came to power in June.Tawadros said tensions had reached a "level of chaos", prompting Morsi to call on him to condemn the violence.

Suleiman: Baabda Declaration, Defense Strategy Protect Lebanon against Aggression

Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman stated on Friday that Lebanon's economy and democratic system will protect it against challenges. He added: “The Baabda Declaration and a defense strategy that places the resistance's arms at the will of the army will protect Lebanon against any Israeli assault.” He also stressed the need to equip the army with modern weapons. The president had held separate talks earlier on Friday with Lebanese Ambassador to Lebanon Michel Khoury and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced on Thursday: “We declare that we are ready to receive any game-changing weapons and we're competent to possess and protect such type of weapons and we will use them to defend our people.”Nasrallah said the shipments of new types of weapons would serve as the Syrian reaction to Israel's airstrikes in the neighboring country last week. Syria has long been a conduit for Iranian weapons bound for Hizbullah.Israeli officials say the Lebanese group has tens of thousands of rockets, but that most of them are unguided. Israeli officials said the shipments targeted in Syria twice last week included precision-guided missiles. The Baabda Declaration, approved during a national dialogue session in June 2012, calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional conflicts.

Report: Vacancies Emerge in Military Council as Qahwaji May Request to Assume its Duties

Naharnet/Vacancies emerged in the six-member Military Council with the retirement of three of its members, reported al-Akhbar newspaper Friday.It reported that the development “may prompt Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji to request assuming its duties and responsibilities.”The retirement of Michel Mnayyar, Nicolas Mezher, and Abdul Rahman al-Shehaitli will lead to the loss of the legal quorum at the Military Council, reported al-Akhbar.Qahwaji, Chief of Staff Wali Salman, and General Secretary of the Higher Defense Council Mohammed Kheir are its remaining three members, it added. The council needs five members for it be held and it will lose its decision-making authorities starting May 2. “The army will be completely paralyzed without the legal quorum,” said the daily. This paralysis will affect its mobilization and efforts to supply it with arms and equipment, it added. Qahwaji had sent a memorandum, on behalf of the Higher Defense Council, to caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn explaining the situation at the Military Council. The minister has since referred the letter to cabinet.
Discussions have since emerged over Qahwaji's “implicit” demand to assume the duties of the Military Council and request to appoint new members to the vacant positions, reported al-Akhbar.
This will mark a precedent since the formation of the Military Council in 1978, which was established in the first place to ensure a balance in the representation of sects and prevent the army commander from taking unilateral military decisions, noted the daily. The one exception took place in 1982 during the Civil War when then Army Commander Ibrahim Tannous assumed the role of the Military Council for a few months, revealed the newspaper.
Qahwaji did not openly demand to be granted the responsibilities of the Council, but he noted that the government's caretaking role prevents it from convening to fill the three vacancies.
He requested that the concerned authorities reach the appropriate solution to allow the Council to hold its meetings. Media reports said in April that the fate of the military institution was the subject of serious discussions by caretaker Premier Najib Miqati's cabinet before its resignation late March.Miqati's decision to resign froze the appointments in military posts.

U.S. Envoy Meets Miqati, Calls for Avoiding Actions that Worsen Syria Crisis

Naharnet /U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Lebanon Richard M. Mills Jr. met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati on Friday, urging “all parties in the region” to avoid any actions that would “exacerbate the crisis in Syria.”Miqati and Mills discussed bilateral relations as well as the security situation in Lebanon and regional events, according to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy.
Mills expressed the United States’ “grave concern” and condemned “the continued shelling of Lebanese territory from Syria.” He reiterated Washington's support for “the principles of the Baabda Declaration and Lebanon’s dissociation policy,” calling on all parties in the region to “avoid any actions that would exacerbate the crisis in Syria, increase the propensity for spillover violence, and negatively impact civilian populations.”Mills also expressed the United States’ “strong concern over Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria, fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, which risks drawing Lebanon into the conflict and is counter to the Lebanese government’s policies.”He also renewed “the commitment of the United States to a stable, sovereign, and independent Lebanon.”Lebanese authorities have officially followed a policy to distance the country from the Syrian conflict. But they have also been reluctant to publicly blame either regime forces or rebel fighters for fire hitting villages and towns near the border with Syria. Hizbullah denies taking part in the Syrian civil war, but top Hizbullah official Nabil Qaouq has said that his group is "performing a national duty" toward Lebanese citizens living in Syrian border towns and villages by supporting the regime-backed "popular committees." Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has also declared that members of the party are taking part in defending Shiite holy sites in Syria, in particular the notorious Sayyeda Zainab shrine. On Thursday, Nasrallah said Syria will supply Hizbullah with "game-changing weapons," vowing to back “the Syrian popular resistance” in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Lebanese Islamist clerics Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi and Ahmed al-Asir have accused Hizbullah of sending fighters to attack Syrian Sunnis, and have in turn sent fighters to Syria to aid the rebels and declared “jihad.”Much of the heaviest fighting has raged near the Lebanese border around Qusayr, and Syrian troops backed by Hizbullah fighters have advanced throughout the area and are now on the outskirts of the city of Qusayr. The regime has made recapturing the city a key objective. President Bashar Assad reportedly said last month that fighting in the area was the "main battle" his troops were waging. Since it began in March 2011, Syria's conflict has fueled local tensions between the communities in Lebanon, with bouts of street fighting and kidnappings.

Ozyildiz Says Families of Abducted Pilgrims 'Crossed Limits'

Naharnet /Turkish Ambassador Inan Ozyildiz slammed on Friday the sit-ins held by the relatives of the nine abducted pilgrims in Syria's Aazaz since May last year. The diplomat considered in comments published in An Nahar newspaper that the families of the abducted men “crossed the limits.”Ozyildiz held talks on Thursday with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour at the Bustros Palace. Mansour told reporters after the meeting that he called on the Turkish authorities to exert efforts to wrap up the case. The families of the pilgrims threatened on Thursday to obstruct the interests of the Lebanese state for preventing them from protesting and block Turkish interest in the country. However, they decided to suspend their sit-ins after General Security Cheif Abbas Ibrahim informed them of positive developments in the case. The protesters argue that Turkey, which is a staunch supporter of the rebels seeking to topple the Syrian regime, should pressure the kidnappers to release the men. Eleven men were kidnapped in May 2012 in northern Syria's Aleppo province as they returned by land from a pilgrimage in Iran. Two of them were released in August and September. They were later taken to the Aleppo town of Aazaz. The kidnapping was claimed by a man who identified himself as Abu Ibrahim and says he is a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army, but the opposition group denies any involvement in the abductions. The families have been holding sit-ins near the Turkish airlines and the Turkish cultural center near al-Azarieh building in downtown Beirut for the past two months.

Ibrahim Says Pilgrims Case on 'Right Track', to Visit Syria Soon

Naharnet /General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim on Friday confirmed that “positive steps have been made over the past hours” in the case of the abducted Lebanese pilgrims, noting that the issue is on “the right track.” Meanwhile, LBCI television quoted Ibrahim as saying that he would visit Syria soon for talks over the abductees. On Monday, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel received from the kidnappers the names of 371 Syrian women detainees held in regime prisons as part of negotiations over a swap deal, revealing that Gen. Ibrahim will start his contacts with the Syrian side over the exchange."I have received from Ibrahim the list of the 371 Syrian women detainees and I have examined the names in it,” Charbel said in a statement. He noted: "Ibrahim will start his contacts with the Syrian side over swapping the women detainees for the Lebanese hostages in Aazaz.”“We expect to receive the list of names of the Syrian women imprisoned by the regime within 48 hours,” Charbel said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. The men, who have been held hostage in Syria since May last year, appeared in a videotape over the weekend as their families warned that they "do not want to see any Turk" in Lebanon after May 22 should Turkey fail to secure the release of their loved ones.They said the video dated to April 30.Earlier this week, the pan-Arab television al-Mayadeen reported that the abductors have demanded the release of 282 women detainees from Syrian prisons.
Eleven Lebanese pilgrims were kidnapped by armed rebels in Syria's Aleppo region as they were making their way back home by land from a pilgrimage to Iran on May 22.
Two of them have since been released, while the rest are still reportedly being held in the town of Aazaz. The families of the pilgrims have held Turkey and Qatar responsible for their ordeal, while accusing the Lebanese government of not exerting enough efforts to secure their release. They have held daily sit-ins to press for their demands to set the nine men free.

Report: Salam to Form De Facto Cabinet without March 8 Alliance

Naharnet/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam is seeking to form a cabinet that doesn't include the March 8 alliance, media reports said on Friday. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, consultations with the March 8 coalition failed to reach any fruitful results as both sides are holding on to their stances. The matter prompted Salam to deliver a message to the leadership of the March 8 camp that he will form his cabinet with or without their participation. The daily said that Salam will announce the formation of his cabinet on Tuesday. According to the newspaper, Salam is pressed to form a de facto government within 48 hours, however, AMAL movement leader Speak Nabih Berri's comments concerning centrists and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's condition over the formation of a national unity cabinet collapsed all the recent efforts.
Sources close to Salam told An Nahar newspaper said that the PM-designate aims at forming his cabinet from centrists to deprive the March 8 and 14 alliances from any chance to topple his government. On Wednesday, Berri criticized those who began classifying themselves as centrists while they are “clearly affiliated in the March 14 alliance.”He wondered how several senior officials take firm stances against a certain team then categorize themselves as centrists. On Thursday, Nassrallah stressed in a speech that Hizbullah wants the new cabinet to be formed. He demanded that the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp be represented in cabinet according to its “parliamentary weight.”Salam is seeking to form what he called a “cabinet of national interest” that comprises no MP hopefuls. Meanwhile, the March 14 alliance have been calling for a neutral cabinet, while the March 8 camp has demanded a “political government” and centrist Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat has stressed that his bloc will not grant its vote of confidence to a “one-sided cabinet.”

Nine Charged with Seeking to Carry out Terrorist Attacks in Lebanon

Naharnet /Nine people were charged on Friday with enlisting in an armed group to carry out terrorist attacks, said the National News Agency. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged two Lebanese people and seven Syrian and Palestinian nationals with enlisting in the armed group and committing crimes against people. The suspects prepared explosives in the Miyeh Miyeh, Khaldeh, and al-Rihab Palestinian refugee camps. They also transported the explosives from the camps in order to attack certain targets that were not revealed. The case was referred to the first military investigating judge.
The army announced on Thursday that it has broken up a cell, detained its members and confiscated a quantity of detonators and explosives. It said that it is pursuing the rest of the cell's members.
Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported Thursday that the army busted an al-Qaida cell recently plotting to carry out terrorist acts to destabilize Lebanon and its security.

Makari: Nasrallah Has Shut the Door on Govt. Negotiations

Naharnet/Deputy Speaker MP Farid Makari noted that Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's recent speech reflects the party's ongoing efforts to obstruct the formation of a government, reported the daily An Nahar Friday. He told the daily: “He shut the door on the negotiations to form a new cabinet through refusing to relinquish his camp's conditions.” “He implied that any government besides one of national unity would be one of defiance,” he remarked. “Nasrallah's claim that he opposes vacuum, while remaining committed to his conditions, will lead to a government vacuum or maintaining the current caretaker cabinet or the establishment of a government devoid of any effective power due to the blocking minority,” said the deputy speaker. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's efforts to form a new government have been met with the March 8 camp's insistence to obtain veto power. He had said that such a power would render the cabinet as inefficient. Nasrallah had demanded in a speech on Thursday that the March 8 camp take part in the cabinet according to its parliamentary, not political, weight. “Amid these circumstances, a cabinet of national interest and true partnership must be formed and we must not waste time in this issue,” he said. Commenting on these demands, Salam's circles told An Nahar Friday that the request for the camp to be represented according to its parliamentary weight is a veiled demand for veto power. “Salam is adamant in rejecting the blocking minority and he had informed the March 8 camp of this position,” they stressed. They hoped that Nasrallah's remarks that he seeks the formation of a cabinet “as soon as possible” would be reflected in his actions by facilitating Salam's mission, they continued.

President Gemayel: Christians are Facing Dangerous Situation in Syria, Region

Naharnet/Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel warned on Friday against what he described as “a dangerous reality” facing the Christians in Syria and the region, and called on the international community to stop the bloodshed and stop oppression against the Christians, the state-run National News Agency quoted him as saying from Rome. “I call on the international community to stop the bloodshed, protect emerging democracies, and halt the aggression against the Christians,” said Gemayel. On the fate of the Syrian regime, Gemayel stated: “Dictatorships will eventually fall, but we hope the suffering in Syria ends as it is causing a humanitarian disaster.”
Commenting on the future of the Lebanese-Syrian relations, the former president assured: “Relations will automatically go back to normal, like any one between two Arab sovereign states. There is no turning back now after the exchange of diplomatic missions and Lebanon's refusal to accept any kind of tutelage.”“But relations can't settle down unless a democratic regime that respects international relations is established in Syria,” he added.
Gemayel is in Rome to holds talks with Italian officials on the situation in Lebanon in light of the turmoil in Syria and the thorny issue of the Syrian refugees burdening Lebanon's security, economic and social capabilities.
Since the Syrian uprising erupted in March 2011, there have been numerous deadly clashes along the northern and eastern borders of Lebanon, usually between the Syrian army and armed Syrian or Lebanese groups backing the uprising. There have also been clashes between armed groups and the Lebanese army seeking to prevent the infiltration of fighters into Lebanon.
Moreover, more than 453,000 Syrian refugees fled the crackdown in their country to Lebanon, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in its weekly report on Thursday.

Phalange Delegation Continues Tour on Party Leaders to Discuss Neutrality Draft-Law

Naharnet /A Phalange Party delegation continued on Friday a tour on Lebanese rival groups to discuss the initiative proposed by the party to introduce a constitutional amendment, which calls for neutrality and dissociate the country from the conflicts surrounding it. “We are trying to attain the largest support for our proposal,” Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel said after talks with the head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc, Fouad Saniora.
He described the meeting as “positive,” saying: “We will take into consideration the comments before introducing the final draft.”Gemayel considered the initiative as an “important stage in the mission of the March 14 alliance to guarantee Lebanon's sovereignty and independence.”The delegation later headed to Ain el-Tineh to discuss the initiative with Speaker Nabih Berri, who is also the head of the AMAL movement. The delegation is comprised of lawmakers Nadim Gemayel, Elie Marouni, Fadi el-Haber and Youssef Saadeh. MP Nadim Gemayel said after the delegation met with Berri that it “will visit all the parliamentary blocs including Hizbullah and (Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's) National Struggle Front bloc.” He pointed out that the speaker supports the initiative and to dissociate the country from the regional and international developments.The Free Patriotic Movement welcomed on Thursday the initiative, saying that it was “worth discussing.”The Phalange Party announced on Tuesday a proposal to amend the preamble of the constitution to stipulate Lebanon's neutrality towards regional conflicts. “The Baabda Declaration must be adopted in the constitution,” he said. The Baabda Declaration was unanimously adopted during a national dialogue session in June 2012. It calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional crises, most notably the one in Syria.

National Struggle Front Meets Berri: Forming New Govt. Necessary or We Will All Pay the Price

Naharnet/A delegation from MP Walid Jumblat's National Struggle Front held talks on Friday with Speaker Nabih Berri on the efforts to reach an agreement over a new government and parliamentary electoral law. Caretaker Transportation and Public Works Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said after the meeting: “We must reach an agreement over a new government formula and electoral law otherwise all sides will pay the price of their actions.”
He warned that the region is passing through a very critical phase that will leave its impact on Lebanon, therefore urging all sides to “act in a manner that would protect the country because no one will emerge victorious from the crisis.”“If intentions are sincere, then we must inevitably reach an agreement over these two issues,” noted the minister.
“This requires calm, courage, and concessions. The current arrogance cannot help reach the desired agreement,” stressed Aridi.Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's mission to form a new government has been hindered by the March 8 camp's demand that it be granted a veto power. Salam has been adamant in his rejection of allowing any bloc to receive such a power, saying that such a cabinet cannot be productive. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had demanded in a speech on Thursday that the March 8 camp take part in the cabinet according to its parliamentary, not political, weight. “Amid these circumstances, a cabinet of national interest and true partnership must be formed and we must not waste time in this issue,” he said. Commenting on these demands, Salam's circles told An Nahar Friday that the request for the camp to be represented according to its parliamentary weight is a veiled demand for veto power. Addressing the Orthodox Gathering electoral draft law, Aridi remarked: “Contrary to claims that the proposal is fair, we will not support it at parliament.”
Asked if National Struggle Front MPs will vote on the proposal at parliament, he responded: “We will base our actions based on Berri's decisions on this issue.”
“Contacts between us and Berri have always been ongoing,” he declared. Moreover, he said that neither of the rival March 8 and 14 camps had presented the National Struggle Front with their electoral law proposals. “We urge all sides to cooperate and exercise openness during this phase,” Aridi demanded. Berri called on Wednesday lawmakers for a parliamentary session on May 15 to discuss the adoption of a new electoral law.
He had previously set a May 15 parliamentary session that would have the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal on its agenda for being the only plan that was approved by the joint parliamentary committees unless an agreement is reached on an alternative plan before that date. Several blocs and independent MPs are likely to challenge it even if it was adopted by parliament, which will bring the country back to the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls.That law considers the qada an electoral district and is based on the winner-takes-all system. But most parties have rejected it despite their failure to reach consensus on a new plan.

Lebanon offshore gas reserves at least 30 trn cubic feet, minister says

AFP/Preliminary surveys of Lebanese offshore fields show reserves of 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 660 million barrels of oil, Lebanon's energy minister said on Thursday, adding that production could begin within four years. Speaking at the Arab Economic Forum, Gebrane Bassil said scanning was now complete on 70 percent of the country's territorial waters -- an area of some 15,000 square kilometers.
"In just 10 percent of that area... we have 30 trillion cubic feet [850 million cubic meters] of gas and 660 million barrels of oil," he said. Speaking to AFP, Bassil said the amounts were "very large and promising as initial estimates."Production from the reserves was linked to the speed of the exploration phases and installation of wells, but "theoretically ranges from three to seven years."
"If we meet all the deadlines, we hope to have completed the first exploration phase in the period between 2016 and 2017 and to begin thereafter development and production," he added.Last month, Bassil announced the name of 46 firms that had qualified to bid on a first round of licenses to explore Lebanon's offshore fields, with 12 qualified to bid as operators.
The bidding round opened on May 2 and is scheduled to be completed by November 4. The process has been complicated by Lebanon's fragile political climate, with a caretaker government currently in charge, as Tammam Salam tries to form a consensus cabinet. In January, Bassil said Lebanon hoped to have exploration contracts with international oil companies signed and sealed by the end of the year. He has played down the risk of conflict with Israel over the potential reserves, despite a longstanding dispute over the maritime boundary between the two neighbors, which remain technically in a state of war. In August, parliament passed a law setting Lebanon's maritime boundary and Exclusive Economic Zone. But Lebanon has submitted to the United Nations a maritime map that conflicts significantly with one proposed by Israel, arguing that its map is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement not contested by Israel. The disputed zone consists of about 854 square kilometers, and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars. Lebanon has been slow to exploit its maritime resources compared with other eastern Mediterranean countries, with Israel, Cyprus and Turkey much further along in the process of drilling for oil and gas.

US envoy holds border talks with rebels, Syria rebels say

AFP/US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met with a Syrian rebel chief at a border crossing with Turkey this week, a rebel commander told AFP on Friday."There was a visit by Robert Ford to the border crossing at Bab al-Salameh," said Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, who heads the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army's fighters in Aleppo, northern Syria. "US food and medical assistance was being delivered. He was accompanying the aid shipment," he added. Ford was recalled from Damascus in October 2011, over concerns for his safety after he visited protesters in the central city of Hama early on during the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.Okaidi, who along with other rebel leaders has criticized Washington's reluctance to arm the rebels, said the supply of weapons was discussed during the 40-minute meeting.
"There were promises that in future there will be better assistance than this, and that there might be military assistance," he said.
"The issue is being studied. [The visit] may bring positive results." The United States has repeatedly expressed its support for the anti-Assad uprising but it has been unwilling to provide arms, in part for fear that they may end up in the hands of extremists. Okaidi said Ford's visit could be a sign that "the United States has started to move in the direction of arming the Syrian rebels.
Ford appeared in a new video posted online on Friday, offering his condolences in Arabic to the Syrian people for "the massacres that the Syrian regime has carried out.""We understand that humanitarian assistance is insufficient. At the same time, substantive assistance is being given to the Free Syrian Army in its fight against the regime," he said. In the same video, he echoed US Secretary of State John Kerry's announcements that a transitional government in Syria should be set up, and that Assad should step down. "Let me be very clear. The US position has not changed. Approximately two years ago, we announced that Bashar al-Assad had lost his legitimacy, and that he had to resign," he said. "We still say that Bashar al-Assad must resign, he must resign. And the Syrians must create a new transitional government that excludes him and his inner circle," he added.

Syria army warns civiliansto leave Al-Qusayr

Now Lebanon/Agencies
Syria's army has dropped leaflets over Al-Qusayr in central Homs province, warning civilians to leave ahead of an attack that will be launched if rebels holding the town do not surrender, a military source said on Friday.
"Leaflets were dropped over Al-Qusayr asking civilians to leave the city, with a map of a safe route by which to evacuate, because the attack against the city is coming soon if the rebels do not surrender," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Troops backed by fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah have advanced throughout the area around Al-Qusayr, which fell to the rebels more than a year ago.
Activists said Al-Qusayr is surrounded by government forces on three sides, and that approximately 25,000 residents are believed to still be in the city. The area has been a strategic boon to the rebels, who used it as a base from which to block the main road from Damascus to the coast, impeding military movement and supply chains. It is also important because of its proximity to Lebanon. The regime has made recapturing it a key objective. President Bashar al-Assad reportedly said last month that fighting in the area was the "main battle" his troops were waging. Activists say regime forces there are backed by fighters from Hezbollah, as well as members of the National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said at least 72 people were killed throughout the country in violence on Thursday, including 33 rebels, 21 civilians and 18 soldiers.

Putin, Cameron Discuss 'Possible Options' to End Syria Crisis

Naharnet /British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday discussed joint options for ending the crisis in Syria amid a new diplomatic push to resolve the two-year conflict. Cameron's rare call on Putin at his summer vacation residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi came three days after top U.S. and Russian diplomats agreed to make a joint effort in search of a solution. The West and Russia have been repeatedly at odds over the Syria conflict, with the United States and Europe accusing Moscow of seeking to prop up President Bashar Assad and supplying it with military hardware.
Amid signs of growing international cooperation on ending the conflict, Putin said the two leaders discussed possible options and joint measures for finding peace. However there was no sign of an immediate breakthrough.
"At the initiative of the prime minister, we spoke about the possible options for a positive development of the situation and about practical steps in this regards," Putin said after the talks in comments carried by Russian news agencies. "We have a joint interest in a swift halt to the violence and the creation of the process for a peaceful solution that keeps Syria's territorial integrity and sovereignty," said Putin.
Cameron for his part said Russia, Britain and the United States should facilitate the creation of a transitional government and expressed support for a new push by Moscow and Washington to try to end the bloodshed in Syria. He said it was "no secret" that Russia and Britain had different positions on the Syria conflict but said they shared an ultimate aim of halting the conflict, allowing the Syrian people to elect a government and preventing a growth in extremism. Cameron flew to Putin's palm-dotted residence before the British premier's planned meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.
The meeting also allowed Russia and Britain to coordinate positions ahead of the next Group of Eight summit which Cameron is hosting at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland on June 17-18.
The war in Syria has cost an estimated 70,000 lives and displaced millions of people, including hundreds of thousands who have fled to neighboring countries.
The talks with Putin came amid concerns that Russia may be preparing to sell Syria sophisticated surface-to-air missiles which will significantly strengthen its defenses and complicate any foreign intervention. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that any such sale would be "potentially destabilizing" for the region.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on a visit to Warsaw on Friday, refused to rule out supplies of weapons to Syria according to existing contracts.
"Russia is not planning to sell -- Russia has sold and signed contracts a long time ago, and is completing supplies of the equipment -- which is anti-aircraft systems -- according to the already signed contracts," he told reporters in Warsaw. But German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, speaking at the same news conference, insisted that "international arms deliveries to Syria must end." Earlier this week, Lavrov and Kerry in a rare joint initiative over the conflict offered to hold an international conference in search of peace in Syria. U.N.-Arab League envoy on the Syria crisis Lakhdar Brahimi hailed the initiative which he said had convinced him to stay on in his job which many see as a hopeless mission. The peace conference proposed by Lavrov and Kerry will aim to build on the unimplemented Geneva accord agreed by world powers last June. The deal set out a path toward a transitional government without spelling out what Assad's fate should be. Cameron's trip to Putin's Sochi residence, which is usually reserved for meetings with close allies and friends, is highly unusual, in particular for a British leader. It comes despite years of tensions following the polonium poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. Cameron visited Moscow for talks with Putin's younger predecessor Dmitry Medvedev in 2011 in an effort to put his country's rocky relations with Russia on a more pragmatic footing but ties remain strained.Source/Agence France Presse.

Iran Unveils New Attack Drone

Naharnet /Iran unveiled on Thursday a new drone, dubbed the Epic, capable of carrying out both surveillance and attack missions, the Mehr news agency reported. Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying the Epic, which can fly at high altitudes, is a "stealth aircraft that cannot be detected by enemies." On April 18, Iran made public three other models, The Throne, also a stealth model, has a long range and is equipped with air-to-air missiles, said General Amir-Farzad Esmaili, commander of anti-aircraft operations. Esmaili said Iran had already produced and used dozens of them. The Hazem-3 (Solid) and Mohajer-B (Migrator) are "tactical and combat" models and also capable of reconnaissance, the general said. Source/Agence France Presse.

New Video Shows U.N. Peacekeepers Abducted in Syria

Naharnet/Rebels in Syria's Golan have posted a new video online showing four Filipino U.N. peacekeepers they abducted earlier this week, with the men apparently unharmed, restating that their action aimed to protect the soldiers. "The Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade's leadership announces it is responsible for saving four members of the U.N. force from an area of battles pitting (rebel) brigade members against criminals from gangs loyal to (President Bashar) Assad," an unnamed spokesman said in the video. The rebel stood as he read his statement, while the four Filipinos sat on chairs in front of him. They appeared unharmed. Deployed to observe the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights, the four U.N. troops were patrolling in the Jamlah locality when they were abducted on Tuesday.
The goal behind the abduction "was first of all aimed at ensuring the soldiers' safety", said the rebel spokesman. "Secondly, so that members of criminal (pro-Assad) gangs do not seek refuge with them." It was the second time the rebels release a video showing the four men. The Philippines said Friday it may quickly withdraw its more than 300 troops from the peacekeeping force in the Golan because of security concerns, following the second such incident since March. "The people that abducted our peacekeepers were actually under siege and they are using our people to get themselves out of the situation they find themselves in," said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. For three days in March, 21 other Filipino peacekeepers were held by Syrian rebels from the same insurgent group. The ceasefire line has seen increased hostilities from the two-year-old Syrian war that has cost more than 70,000 lives, with shells from the Syrian side hitting Israeli-held territory and the Israeli military firing back. Source/Agence France Presse.

Merkel in Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

Naharnet /Chancellor Angela Merkel made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday to shore up morale among Germany's 4,200 troops as foreign forces withdraw after more than a decade of fighting. The war is increasingly unpopular in Germany, but Merkel told troops in Kunduz province that political and economic progress was being made and that their contribution was making a difference."Progress is sometimes difficult, sometimes it is slower than we would like but it is essential that our military involvement is not seen in isolation and that it is a success," she said.
Germany, which has the third-biggest troop deployment in Afghanistan after the United States and Britain, has cut numbers from 5,000 as the NATO pull-out gathers pace ahead of the end of the mission next year. Merkel arrived in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and made a short trip to nearby Kunduz. "She is here to support the troops, to attend briefings and to address concerns after our recent loss," a military spokesman told Agence France Presse, referring to the death last Saturday of the first German soldier to be killed in Afghanistan in two years.
Germany is the NATO coalition's "lead nation" across nine provinces in northern Afghanistan, a relatively peaceful area compared to the insurgency hotbeds in the south and east.
However the German special forces soldier was shot dead when insurgents opened fire on a joint Afghan-German operation in Baghlan province. Merkel earlier condemned it as a "terrorist attack". Contributors to the NATO force such as Germany are weighing up how to schedule their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 while leaving behind a competent Afghan army and police force. Last month Germany offered to keep 600-800 troops in Afghanistan for two years from 2015 to help further train and advise the security forces in their battle against the Taliban.
Washington said Thursday that U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 "only at the invitation" of the Afghan government, after President Hamid Karzai revealed that the U.S. could keep nine bases open across the country."The United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "Any U.S. presence after 2014 would only be at the invitation of the Afghan government and aimed at training Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaida." The size of the "residual" U.S. force has not been agreed, with numbers ranging from 2,500 to 12,000, according to U.S. officials, as Washington scales down the long war that began after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The NATO force currently consists of about 100,000 troops, of which 66,000 are from the US.
Merkel traveled to Afghanistan with Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a German government spokesman said without giving further details of her itinerary.Source/Agence France Presse.

Syrian Islamists to be added to UN sanctions list, diplomats say

AFP/The UN Security Council will add the Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian militants Al-Nusra Front to its sanctions blacklist next week, diplomats said Friday. Following a move by France and Britain, the Islamist group, which has become one of the most feared fighting forces in Syria's two-year-old conflict, will be subject to a global asset freeze from Tuesday, the diplomats told AFP. A pledge of allegiance by Al-Nusra's chief Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has caused divisions among the rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad. The Assad government asked last month for the UN Security Council to blacklist Al-Nusra, but this was blocked by Britain and France, which do not recognize the Damascus government.
Britain and France made a separate application to the council's Al-Qaeda sanctions committee, which should become valid on Tuesday. While Syria had asked for Al-Nusra to be listed as an entity in its own right, Britain and France sought its listing as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, UN diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
The United States has already designated Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization. Western nations are keen to see the sanctions blacklist send a signal that they are supporting Syria's moderate opposition.
Al-Nusra, which wants a hardline Islamic state in Syria, has gained notoriety for suicide bombings alongside its reputation leading attacks on battlefronts across the country.
Tensions between Al-Nusra and Islamist rebels boiled over after the capture of Raqa, the first provincial capital to fall to opposition fighters.In Tal al-Abyad in Raqa province, members of the Islamist Farouq brigade and other opposition fighters clashed with Al-Nusra for control after the withdrawal of regime troops.
Activists and observers have long warned that if the Assad regime falls, a battle between Al-Nusra and other rebel groups could follow.

Israel's strategic clarity in Syria

Tony Badran/Now Lebanon/
It was perhaps fitting that the multiple Israeli strikes in Damascus last week followed Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s address from Tehran. Nasrallah had warned last Tuesday that the “resistance” was ready to face any Israeli assault and would emerge victorious in any confrontation. Instead, Nasrallah returned from Tehran just in time to witness Israel destroy multiple consignments of Iranian ballistic missiles intended for his group. The Israeli raids provide much needed strategic clarity to the conflict in Syria, throwing into sharp relief two basic points: Israel is not about to let the balance of power with Iran change. In addition, Iran’s ability to strike back has been shown to be decidedly limited.
There’s been some confusion in some of the media commentary as to the purpose and meaning of Israel’s aerial attack in Syria. However, the targets – long-range rockets and ballistic missiles storage sites – are enough of a clue to understand Israel’s objective. The Israeli government’s calculus is rather clear: It will not allow the transfer of Iranian strategic weapons to Hezbollah. In other words, in contrast with the Obama administration, Israel is thinking about the regional balance of power – which is being fought out in Syria – in strategic terms.
Former Mossad operations officer Michael Ross further pressed this point to me in an email. The Israeli Air Force attack, he wrote, “underscores how differently the dynamics of the Syrian conflict are perceived by the Israelis and the rest of the world.” The Obama administration, for instance, has found it politically expedient to emphasize that its primary preoccupation is with the rise of Sunni extremists and the possibility of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons “falling into the wrong hands,” namely those same Sunni extremist groups.
However, these are not Israel’s strategic priorities regarding Syria, Ross explained. “While the issues of ascendant jihadism and chemical weapons are important,” he wrote, “the absolute top priority of the Israeli government – and by extension the intelligence community and the military – is the prevention of a first strike weapons capability that threatens Israel’s population centers from reaching the hands of Hezbollah.”
As I wrote in February, following the first Israeli strike in Syria against an arms convoy headed for Hezbollah, these hits are part of a broader campaign dating back to the immediate aftermath of the 2006 war. That’s when the Iranians made a decision to focus on ballistic missile and long-range rocket capabilities, and on deploying them in Lebanon and Gaza. Syria was a critical node in this regional chain.
Israel made a decision of its own, to target this Iranian network and go after its key figures. Since 2008, we’ve seen the assassination of Hezbollah’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh, the two Hamas commanders in charge of missile procurement, Muhammad Mabhouh and Ahmad Jabari, the Syrian liaison, General Muhammad Suleiman, and the head of Iran’s ballistic missile program, General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.
These assassinations are in addition to the various air strikes on factories and distribution centers in the Sudan, arms convoys, and the mysterious explosions at various storage depots in Lebanon, as well as in Iran, such as the one that killed Gen. Moghaddam in 2011. In fact, one is tempted to add to the list the explosions reportedly heard this past Tuesday in western Tehran, in an area where Iran carries out missile research and storage.
According to a very well-informed source in Washington, “Israel can see anything that moves in Syria with all-weather satellites.” In March 2010, when Assad transferred Scud-D rockets to Hezbollah, the source told me following the January strike, “it was a particularly cloudy night and even though the Israelis saw the transfer it was in an area of high probable collateral damage, so they held fire. They regretted it ever since and this time they were not going to.” Maybe it really was weather, or maybe the Obama administration, then at the height of its engagement effort with the Syrians, advised Israel against it, preferring to express US “concerns directly to the Syrian government.”Curiously, comments attributed to Hassan Nasrallah published in the Kuwaiti al-Rai yesterday seem to confirm my source’s information. The Hezbollah chief reportedly told visitors that the Israeli raid was “expected to be carried out in Spring 2010, but was postponed.”
Although Hezbollah has managed to acquire a limited number of these missiles, Israel would be able to absorb it, and its missile defense systems would likely be able to handle the threat. “Israel has a good handle on what’s in the current arsenal,” Ross told me. “But any increase – especially of a more advanced or longer range system – will not be allowed to be put in range of Israel’s cities.”
With the Iranians clearly accelerating the transfer of as many assets as possible from Syria to Lebanon, the likelihood of future strikes in Syria is high. According to the al-Rai report, Nasrallah said that had this strike occurred in Lebanon, “the response would have been immediate.” Perhaps. Nasrallah may be full of it, or he may have conceded that, whether his group can afford it or not, such a major strike in Lebanon would force his hand. However, what he also effectively admitted is that, all the bravado notwithstanding, Israel can degrade the strategic assets of the “axis of resistance” in Syria with the reasonable expectation that Iran and Hezbollah would have to take it quietly. As Ross put it, Israel recognizes that Syria is now 'Iran’s Achilles Heel' – something the Iranians are fully aware of.
In fact, in addition to hitting ballistic missiles storage depots in the heart of Damascus, the Sunday strikes have reportedly hit facilities manned by Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel. When the Iranian foreign minister complained in Damascus on Tuesday that it was “high time to deter the Israeli occupation,” he underscored precisely Tehran’s inability to do so. Instead, it has seen Israel take out some of its key assets from Sudan, to Gaza and Lebanon, all the way to Tehran itself. And now, it watches as its strategic systems and personnel in Syria become targets for Israeli operations – not to mention exceptional intelligence penetration – which had no problems bypassing the Russian defense systems which Iran financed (and acquired for itself to protect its nuclear sites). When read in this context, these tactical strikes are shown to be part of a broader, clearly articulated strategic vision – something that’s been sorely missing in Washington. As the US plays for more time pursuing another “process” with Russia, and contorts itself as it walks back the red line it never intended to enforce, Israel, as Lee Smith put it, “sees Iran’s regional project strategically, and Syria as part of greater whole.” In contrast, Smith adds, the US "resembles less a superpower than a mid-level manager." By focusing on the right priorities in Syria – the regional balance of power and breaking the Iranian network – Israel is providing strategic clarity while all the US is offering is confusion.
**Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.

Question: "What does it mean to honor my father and mother?"
Answer: Honoring your father and mother is being respectful in word and action and having an inward attitude of esteem for their position. The Greek word for honor means “to revere, prize, and value.” Honor is giving respect not only for merit but also for rank. For example, some Americans may disagree with the President’s decisions, but they should still respect his position as leader of their country. Similarly, children of all ages should honor their parents, regardless of whether or not their parents “deserve” honor. God exhorts us to honor father and mother. He values honoring parents enough to include it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) and again in the New Testament: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Honoring parents is the only command in Scripture that promises long life as a reward. Those who honor their parents are blessed (Jeremiah 35:18-19). In contrast, those with a “depraved mind” and those who exhibit ungodliness in the last days are characterized by disobedience to parents (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2).Solomon, the wisest man, urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17). Although we may no longer be directly under their authority, we cannot outgrow God’s command to honor our parents. Even Jesus, God the Son, submitted Himself to both His earthly parents (Luke 2:51) and His heavenly Father (Matthew 26:39). Following Christ’s example, we should treat our parents the way we would reverentially approach our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9; Malachi 1:6).
Obviously, we are commanded to honor our parents, but how? Honor them with both actions and attitudes (Mark 7:6). Honor their unspoken as well as spoken wishes. “A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1). In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the command of God to honor their father and mother. They were obeying the letter of the law, but they had added their own traditions that essentially overruled it. While they honored their parents in word, their actions proved their real motive. Honor is more than lip service. The word “honor” in this passage is a verb and, as such, demands a right action. We should seek to honor our parents in much the same way that we strive to bring glory to God—in our thoughts, words, and actions. For a young child, obeying parents goes hand in hand with honoring them. That includes listening, heeding, and submitting to their authority. After children mature, the obedience that they learned as children will serve them well in honoring other authorities such as government, police, and employers.
While we are required to honor parents, that doesn’t include imitating ungodly ones (Ezekiel 20:18-19). If a parent ever instructs a child to do something that clearly contradicts God’s commands, that child must obey God rather than his/her parents (Acts 5:29). Honor begets honor. God will not honor those who will not obey His command to honor their parents. If we desire to please God and be blessed, we should honor our parents. Honoring is not easy, is not always fun, and certainly is not possible in our own strength. But honor is a certain path to our purpose in life—glorifying God. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).