May 12/2013


Bible Quotation for today/Divisions in the Church
01 Corinthians 01/10-17: By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.  For some people from Chloe's family have told me quite plainly, my friends, that there are quarrels among you. Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another, “I follow Christ.” Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul's disciples? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.  No one can say, then, that you were baptized as my disciples. Oh yes, I also baptized Stephanas and his family; but I can't remember whether I baptized anyone else. Christ did not send me to baptize. He sent me to tell the Good News, and to tell it without using the language of human wisdom, in order to make sure that Christ's death on the cross is not robbed of its power.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 
Hope for Syria/By: Clovis Maksoud/Al-Monitor Lebanon Pulse/May 12/13
Nasrallah Increases the Stakes In Syria War/By: Scarlett Haddad/Al-Monitor Lebanon Pulse/May 12/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 12/13  

Reports: Salam to Announce 14-Member Cabinet Next Week
Chances in Lebanon for fait accompli Cabinet dwindle as PSP renews objection
Hizbullah MP Mohammed Raad Says Veto Power is Moral and Constitutional Right
Four more rockets strike Hermel, no casualties
President Michel Sleiman: Hezbollah arms under Army only defense

Berri to Allow for Consultations in Bid to Agree on New Law Ahead of Voting on Orthodox Proposal
Berri frustrated with Salam, Sleiman over Cabinet
Berri supports neutrality, save regarding Arab world and Israel
Hezbollah’s actions could drag Lebanon to war: Geagea

Hezbollah interrogates LF journalist for five hours
Aid for Syrian refugees failing to materialize: Mikati
Nasrallah expects exceptional weapons from Syria
Arslan Urges Politicians to Help Berri Garner Deal on Vote Law
Miqati Says World Must Act to Help Lebanon Confront Syria Refugee Influx
Netanyahu to visit Putin in a bid to stop his S-300 missile sale to Syria

40 People Dead in Turkey Bombings Near Syrian Border, Deputy PM Suspects Syria Involvement
Syria’s former deputy prime minister, Abdullah Dardari: Lebanon risks recession over Syria war

Syria peace conference already hitting snags: Russia
Rival Iranian candidates emerge but big hitters wait
18 killed in blasts near Turkish-Syrian border
Egypt says thwarts suicide attack on foreign embassy
Mubarak appears in fresh trial over protester deaths
Egypt 'Foils Qaida-Linked Plot against Western Embassy'
Syrian Observatory: Army Fights to Retake Key Road to North
Experts Doubt U.S.-Russia Common Ground on Syria
Russian Source: Syria Peace Conference Unlikely in May
Haaretz: Netanyahu to Meet Putin over Syria Missiles

Righteous Mothers: Remain The Foundation Of your Families
By: Elias Bejjani
May 12/2012
In Christianity Virgin Merry is envisaged by many believers and numerous cultures as the number one role model for the righteous, devote, loving , caring, giving, and humble mothers. Today while in Canada we are happily and joyfully celebrating the Mothers' Day, let us all pray that Almighty God will keep granting all mothers all over the world the needed graces of wisdom, meekness and faith to highly remain under all circumstances honoring this holy role model and to stay as Virgin Merry fully devoted to their families.
In all religions and cultures all over the world, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is not a favor that people either chose to practice or not. No not at all,  honoring, respecting and obeying parents is a holy obligation that each and every faithful individual who believes in God MUST fulfill, no matter what.
Almighty God in His10 Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 ) made the honoring of both parents (commandment number five) a holy obligation, and not a choice or a favor.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you".  (Exodus 20:12)
Reading the Bible, both the Old and New Testament shows with no doubt that honoring parents is a cornerstone and a pillar in faith and righteousness for all believers. All other religions and cultures share with Christians this holy concept and obligation.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
"You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:3).
Back home in Lebanon we have a popular proverb that says: "If you do not have an elderly figure in your family to bless you, go and search for one"
How true is this proverb, because there will be no value, or meaning for our lives if not blessed and flavored by the wisdom, love and blessings of our parents and of other elder members. He who does not honor the elderly, sympathize and empathize with them, especially his own parents is a person with a hardened heart, and a numbed conscience, who does not know the meaning of gratitude.
History teaches us that the easiest route for destroying a nation is to destroy, its cornerstone, the family. Once the family code of respect is belittled and not honored, the family is divided and loses all its Godly blessings. "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls" (Luke 11-17"
One very important concept and an extremely wise approach MUST apply and prevail when reading the Holy Bible in a bid to understand its contents and observe the Godly instructions and life guidelines that are enlisted. The concept needs to be a faith one with an open frame of mind free from doubts, questions and challenges.
Meanwhile the approach and interpretation MUST both be kept within the abstract manner, thinking and mentality frame, and not in the concrete way of  interpretation.
We read in (Matthew 15/04: "For God said, Respect your father and your mother, and If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death).
Do we have to read this verse concretely and take it merely in its verbatim content?
I posted this verse in both English and Arabic on my Face Book page last year and the kind of comments that it generated shocked me. Below are three of these comments:
1-"I pray that this does not apply to teenagers?"
2-"Who else would it apply to? From teenagers to adults to parents...Until their own parents die; then they weep and wail"
3- "Thank goodness because I think we would all be dead if it applied to teenagers at some point, just learning about the "teenage years" with my oldest"
This verse simply dwells on The Fifth Biblical Commandment: "Honor your Father and Mother". To grasp its meaning rightfully and put it in its right faith content one should understand that death in the Bible is not the death of the body as we experience and see on earth. DEATH in the Bible means the SIN that leads to eternal anguish in Hell.
The Bible teaches us that through His crucifixion, death and resurrection Jesus defeated death in its ancient human, earthly concept. He broke the death thorn and since than, the actual death became the sin. Those who commit the sin die and on the judgment day are outcast to the eternal fire. Death for the believers is a temporary sleep on the hope of resurrection.
Accordingly the verse "If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death", means that those who do not honor their parents, help, support and respect them commit a deadly sin and God on the Judgment Day will make them accountable if they do not repent and honor their parents.
God is a Father, a loving, passionate and caring One, and in this context He made the honoring of parents one of the Ten Commandments.
In conclusion: The abstract and faith interpretation of Matthew 15/04 verse must not be related to children or teenagers who because of an age and maturity factors might temporarily repel against their parents and disobey them.
Hopefully, each and every one of us, no matter what religion or denomination he/she is affiliated to will never ever ignore his parents and commit the deadly SIN of not honoring them through every way and mean especially when they are old and unable to take care of themselves.
For all those of us whose mothers have passed away, let us mention them in our daily prayers and ask Almighty God to endow their souls the eternal rest in His heavenly dwellings. 
Happy Mothers' Day to all mothers

Reports: Salam to Announce 14-Member Cabinet Next Week
Naharnet /Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam is planning to form a 14-member cabinet to avoid the demands of the March 8 alliance to get a veto power in a government made up of 24 ministers, local dailies reported on Saturday.  An Nahar daily quoted sources following up Salam's consultations with the country's major parties as saying that the talks left him with limited choices, including the 14-member cabinet that should be dubbed as a “public opinion” government. This choice comes at the expense of a 24-member cabinet that Salam was earlier planning to form. But its birth was struck by the demands of the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition for veto power.
Salam has rejected granting any party veto power over fears that it would paralyze the government.  An Nahar expected the PM-designate to announce his line-up next Tuesday. It would include: Three Sunnis, three Shiites, one Druze, three Maronites, two Orthodox, a Catholic and an Armenian minister. But sources close to Salam refused to confirm the report and stressed that consultations with the different parties are not frozen. “All options are on the table,” they said. As Safir daily also quoted sources as saying that a plan to announce a cabinet of 14 to 16 members would be supported by the centrists – President Michel Suleiman and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat. The reports did not give details on the shares of the centrists and the two rival camps of March 8 and March 14 and whether he would announce a fait accompli cabinet.
Jumblat has repeatedly warned against this option, saying he would only participate in a national unity cabinet.

Hizbullah MP Mohammed Raad Says Veto Power is Moral and Constitutional Right
Naharnet /Hizbullah MP Mohammed Raad has denied that the March 8 coalition's demand for veto power was aimed at paralyzing the new government, saying it was a constitutional right. During a ceremony held in the southern town of Bint Jbeil, Raad said: “Our demands in the government are not crippling. They are requests for true partnership in the government to which we nominated a premier-designate.” “It is our right to be represented in it according to our parliamentary weight,” he said. “This is a moral, practical and constitutional right.” Raad said the cabinet would not see light if the demands of the alliance were not met. “We don't advise a fait accompli government out of our keenness on the country and its stability,” said Raad, who is the head of Hizbullah’s 12-member Loyalty to the Resistance bloc. His comments came amid reports that one of PM-designate Tammam Salam's options was to form a de facto government to avoid giving March 8 veto power. Reports said Saturday that another option was the formation of a 14-member government. On the dispute over the electoral law, Raad said Hizbullah will vote in favor of the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal during a parliamentary session next week. But if the plan was not approved then “we will think about the law that would govern the elections with the least damage and cost.”

Chances in Lebanon for fait accompli Cabinet dwindle as PSP renews objection
May 11, 2013/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The chances of forming a fait accompli Cabinet by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam appeared to have receded Friday after a caretaker minister in MP Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc warned against this option. “From the very beginning, we have said we are against a fait accompli government,” caretaker Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi told The Daily Star. “We support the formation of a government in which everyone is represented, be this government a national unity, national interest or national understanding government,” he said.
Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and a staunch supporter of Salam, had said his bloc would not join a new Cabinet if Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement and Hezbollah were not represented in it.
Nabatieh MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s 12-member bloc in Parliament, said his party would reject being presented with a list of ministers as a fait accompli.
“We want to be represented [in the new Cabinet] according to our parliamentary weight,” Raad told a rally in the southern town of Bint Jbeil. “If some people wanted to whisper in the ears of others to form a fait accompli Cabinet or a one-color Cabinet without veto power, I advise them not to try this.”Earlier Friday, a source close to Salam said the formation of a fait accompli Cabinet was among the “open options” left for the prime minister-designate if his attempts to assemble a homogeneous government representing all the parties reached a dead end. “All options are open for the prime minister-designate,” the source told The Daily Star. He stressed that Salam will not bow out of the premiership bid. The source refused to comment on media reports saying that Salam plans to present a 24-member Cabinet lineup to President Michel Sleiman Tuesday excluding March 8 representatives.
“Salam is continuing his contacts with all the parties with the aim of reaching consensus on the makeup of the new Cabinet,” the source said. “He will continue his efforts until the last minute in a bid to reach consensus on the formation of a homogeneous Cabinet,” he added. However, the source said Salam would not let his efforts to form a new Cabinet drag on for long as happened with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other former prime ministers who took more than five months to form a government. The source acknowledged that the March 8 coalition’s demand for veto power was holding up the formation of a new Cabinet. “The March 8 team is adamant on its demand for the blocking third [veto power]. Salam has rejected this demand because he considers that this experience has proven its failure with previous governments,” the source said. According to the source, Salam has proposed the formation of a 24-member Cabinet to be divided equally among the March 8 and March 14 parties and the centrist bloc, but this proposal has been rejected by the March 8 bloc. He said the centrist bloc, which includes Sleiman, Salam and Jumblatt, would act as “a buffer zone” between the March 8 and March 14 parties. Commenting on Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s speech Thursday in which he called for the formation of a new government representing all the political parties according to their size of their parliamentary blocs, the source said: “The talk about representation in the government according to their representation in Parliament is a new term for the blocking third demand.” Berri and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun have made similar demands. In addition to the March 8 demand for veto power, the distribution of key ministerial portfolios is also a major bone of contention delaying the Cabinet’s formation.The March 8 parties were reported to have rejected Salam’s demand for rotating key ministerial portfolios among all the sects and parties, which was apparently aimed at countering Aoun, who insists on seeing his party retain the Energy and Telecommunications ministries.

Four more rockets strike Hermel, no casualties

May 10, 2013/ The Daily Star/HERMEL, Lebanon: Four rockets fired from Syria landed near the city of Hermel Thursday, with no casualties reported. Panic-stricken schoolchildren were rushed home by their parents amid reports that multiple rockets had randomly targeted several neighborhoods in the area. Speaking on condition of anonymity, security sources told The Daily Star that the rockets landed to the east of Hermel, prompting heavy deployment of Army units to ensure the safety of local residents. The sources said that the rockets originated from the war-torn Syrian town of Qusair where Hezbollah fighters have joined forces with the Syrian regime to root out opposition forces fighting for control in the region. The rockets were fired by a group of Syrian rebels from Qusair, the sources said, causing mayhem in the area and fear among the families because the attacks took place at a time when most students came home from school. According to the sources, the first rocket landed in the town of Shawagheer, east of Hermel, at around 1:30 p.m.
A few minutes later, another rocket fell on the outskirts of the same town near a building that housed a local teachers’ union. Two other rockets fell near the Orontes River bridge near an entrance to Hermel, the sources added.
The National News Agency reported that the Army cordoned off the area after the attacks. In recent months, the Bekaa Valley has become a regular target for both the Syrian rebels and the Syrian army.
Meanwhile, media reports said at least two Lebanese fighters from the northern city of Tripoli were killed in Qusair and the whereabouts of 20 other fighters were unknown as communications with them were cut off.
According to LBCI television, the two Lebanese fighters who were reported killed hailed from Tripoli and Dinnieh.


Berri to Allow for Consultations in Bid to Agree on New Law Ahead of Voting on Orthodox Proposal
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri has said that he would allow lawmakers to hold discussions during Wednesday's parliamentary session before calling for a vote on the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal.
In remarks to al-Joumhouria daily published on Saturday, Berri hoped that the talks would lead to an agreement on a new vote law. He said the assembly's meeting will last till May 18 and would even hold another session on Sunday May 19 if required. When asked what step he would take if certain parliamentary blocs withdraw from the session when he calls for a vote on the Orthodox proposal, he said: “I will then take the appropriate decision.” The plan, which considers Lebanon a single district and allows each sect to vote for its own MPs under a proportional representation system, has been approved by the joint parliamentary committees despite the rejection of al-Mustaqbal bloc, the National Struggle Front of MP Walid Jumblat and the March 14 alliance's independent Christian lawmakers. Berri rejected a technical extension of the parliament's mandate to September, saying he would exert all efforts during the session next week to garner a consensus on a new electoral law. But if the rival MPs failed to reach an agreement on an alternative to the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls by September then there would be a deadlock, he said. Meanwhile, al-Akhbar daily quoted informed sources as saying that Berri had expressed frustration at President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's performance. Berri, who is also the head of the Amal movement, has allegedly admonished them for overstepping him by seeking to form a cabinet without consulting him.
“Does PM-designate Salam want to name myy ministers without consulting me?” he wondered. Berri reiterated his rejection of a fait accompli cabinet after reports emerged that Salam would announce a de facto government over the March 8 alliance's insistence to get veto power.The Premier-designate has rejected granting veto power to any party.

Berri frustrated with Salam, Sleiman over Cabinet
May 11,2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri has expressed frustration on the way President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam are dealing with the Cabinet formation process, a local newspaper reported Saturday. Meanwhile, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc warned that a failure to ensure the party was represented in the government on the basis of its size in Parliament threatened the country’s stability. Addressing a Progressive Socialist Party delegation that visited him Friday at his Ain al-Tineh residence, Berri complained that Salam and Sleiman were not consulting him as they worked on the formation of the government, Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted sources familiar with the meeting as saying. “Do they want to go back to dualism? Do they pretend to forget that I am the speaker [of Parliament]?,” Berri asked, referring to the pre-Taif Accord era when the president and the prime minister-designate formed the government alone without consulting other state officials.
“Despite his [political] weight locally and outside, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri never overlooked me. He used to consult me. Does Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam want to nominate my ministers without referring to me?” Berri asked, according to the report. Berri said that “the logic of a fait accompli government is unacceptable because it undermines the balances on which the Lebanese system is based,” al-Akhbar said.
Media reports said Saturday that Salam might form a fait accompli government next week, given the insistence of the March 8 coalition on being represented in the government according to its size in Parliament, a proposal that Salam strongly opposes. Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan, who met Berri Saturday, voiced similar disappointment with Salam over the Cabinet formation process.
Arslan said Salam had made a “big political mistake” by not sitting down with Berri to try to reach an agreement over the shape of the new government.“I do not understand why Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam did not meet with Berri in more than one session to agree on forming the government. This is a big political mistake,” he told reporters at Ain al-Tineh after talks with the speaker. Meanwhile, Nabatieh MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said that his party’s demand regarding its representation in the Cabinet was reasonable.
“Our demand for the government is not impossible but a demand for true partnership in a government whose head we nominated along with others. It is our right to be represented in it according to our size in Parliament,” Raad said during a ceremony in the southern town of Bint Jbeil.
“If some people are whispering in the ears of others to form a one-color or fait accompli government, we advise them not to try having this type of government out of eagerness to preserve the country and stability,” Raad added.
But Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said the government was not a miniature version of Parliament, urging Salam and Sleiman to form a homogeneous government and let Parliament put it to a vote of confidence.
“The government is an executive branch rather than a small Parliament. This is a false concept they are trying to put in our heads,” Geagea said Friday during an LF dinner.
He called on Sleiman and Salam to form “an effective and homogeneous government in line with their conscience and send the lineup to Parliament. Then, each parliamentary bloc will assume its responsibility, either giving or withholding confidence in it,” Geagea said. Geagea said that the country’s Constitution, laws and conventions gave the president and the prime-minister designate the right to form the government in the way the two deemed suitable. Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, a political aide to Berri, said the Amal Movement wanted to facilitate the formation of the government.
“We want to facilitate the formation of the government, but this requires dealing with facts and representative size of political groups with more openness,” Khalil posted on his Twitter account.
He said he supported a government that enhanced communication between all groups and paved the way for a new phase.

Berri supports neutrality, save regarding Arab world and Israel
May 11, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon should adopt a policy of neutrality, but one that excludes Israel and Arab states, Speaker Nabih Berri said Friday.
His remarks came after meeting with a delegation from the Kataeb Party, which is seeking to incorporate the policy of disassociation from the regional turmoil into the Constitution.
“The neutrality we want cannot be taken from the principles of Austrian neutrality or one that reflects a foreign country’s will,” Berri said in a statement released after the meeting.
“In any case, the policy should include two exceptions: the first related to Israel and the second to the Arab countries, because it is not acceptable to be neutral with Arab states that we are part of,” he said. The Kataeb delegation included lawmakers Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, Elie Marouni, Fadi Habr, and Samer Saade. The MPs are pushing for a full disassociation policy from conflicts in the region. Lebanon’s rival leaders agreed during a National Dialogue session last year to adopt a policy of disassociation with regard to regional conflict, particularly regarding the civil war in Syria.
According to Berri’s office, “Neutrality was proposed during National Dialogue [sessions] and Speaker Nabih [Berri] then took the same position as that of Patriarch [Boulos] Maoushi in 1958 when he said that we in Lebanon are all seekers of neutrality, but a neutrality that Lebanon approves should be by our free will, in agreement and harmony with all Arab countries.”“But internationalization and neutrality decided abroad cannot be accepted at all, because that would mean putting us all under a [foreign] mandate,” Berri’s statement added. Berri will study the proposal and make a decision on the issue, his office said. The Kataeb delegation also met with the head of the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. “No doubt, the Future bloc welcomes such a proposal although there were some remarks that were taken into account for the final draft,” Nadim Gemayel told reporters after his meeting with Siniora. He said the final version would be circulated among the various political blocs for their approval and signatures.

Nasrallah expects “exceptional” weapons from Syria
Nadine Makarem /London/Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said on Thursday evening that his party will be receiving “exceptional” weapons from Syria. Days after Israeli air raids flew near Damascus, allegedly targeting weapons destined to Hezbollah, Nasrallah again confirmed his intention to aid Syria in reclaiming the Israeli-occupied Golan region. “Just as Syria supported the resistance in defending and liberating the south of Lebanon,” he stated. Reiterating that the only solution to the crisis in Syria is a compromise involving all parties, Nasrallah criticized Arab countries for not acting to their full capacity to end the conflict. “It is a shame that the US is considering Syria’s interests while the Arabs appear to be adding to the destruction of Syria. This aids the interests of the enemy,” he declared. Broadcasting via a large screen at a press conference, Nasrallah addressed Israel saying: “You say the objective of Israeli aggression is to thwart the growing capacity of the resistance. Take note that Syria will provide arms to the resistance and this is a strategic decision at large.”“The second strategy,” he added, “is the opening of the Golan front, turning a threat into an opportunity. The door has been opened for popular resistance in Golan.” In a related development, the Philippines is planning to withdraw its soldiers on peacekeeping duties in the Golan Heights due to the abduction of four Filipino soldiers on Tuesday, the second incident of abduction in the past two months. The Associated Press reported that Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, Albert del Rosario, deemed the risk of peacekeepers in the region “beyond tolerable limits.”On the other hand, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern over reports confirming that Russia was selling advanced weapons, including “S-300” rockets, to Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Israel added to this by indicating that the deal between the two nations will be completed in three months. Kerry avoided commenting on the S-300 missiles specifically. He did say, however, that the US would prefer if Russia did not sell weapons to Assad and mentioned a previous rejection of transfer of weapons to Syria. Israeli information also indicated that the Assad regime will pay more than USD 900 million for the four batteries required by the army. Tel Aviv confirmed financial transfers from the Syrian government via the Russian Foreign Development Bank. Though it is believed the White House has verified information on Russian missiles heading to Syria, spokesman Jay Carney refused to disclose details on the issue. He told the press: “We aware of the validity of these reports but we don’t know exactly how much weaponry is being transferred between the two countries. We have repeatedly asked Russia to stop providing weapons, including air defence systems that could destabilize the entire region.”Syria’s Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, Qadri Jameel, expressed hope that the international conference to be held at the end of this month will result in a government of national unity with the participation of all Syrian parties. Hiba Al-Qudsi contributed reporting from Washington and Nathir Majali contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.

Hezbollah interrogates LF journalist for five hours

May 11, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Hezbollah detained a journalist Friday and interrogated him for five hours before releasing him. Rabiea Damaj, who works as a reporter for the Lebanese Forces website, was about to file a story he wrote at an Internet cafe in a southern suburb of Beirut when he was arrested by Hezbollah security members and interrogated for five hours. Media Against Violence, a watchdog organization, denounced Damaj’s arrest and described it as a return to intimidation tactics used during Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. It urged the Interior and Justice ministries as well as the media and relevant security authorities to pursue those involved and hold them accountable. The Lebanese Forces issued a statement describing the detention as illegal: “[It] contradicts the simplest aspects of the state’s authority and civil freedoms, not to mention the freedom of journalists.”

Aid for Syrian refugees failing to materialize: Mikati
May 11, 2013 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The international community should give Lebanon the needed assistance to provide aid for Syrian refugees, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Saturday, adding that only limited aid had materialized. “This issue [of refugees] is a main priority for the Lebanese government, given its political, social, health and security repercussions on Lebanon,” said Mikati, who met and telephoned a number of diplomats, according to a statement from his office. “Despite many promises made to Lebanon in the past, particularly in the [January] Kuwait donors conference whereby Arab and international assistance in providing relief for refugees [was promised], the Lebanese government has received little support so far,” Mikati said. “This is happening at a time when the number of refugees is increasing and the Lebanese government finds itself unable to cope with the increasing cost of relief efforts,” the caretaker premier added. Mikati said that the issue of Syrian refugees should be a priority for the international community and on the agenda of a conference proposed by Russia and the U.S. to help in resolving the conflict in Syria. He said that the “radical solution” to the Syrian refugee crisis lay in a peaceful solution to the unrest in Lebanon’s neighbor. The caretaker prime minister received at the Grand Serail UNHCR resident representative Ninette Kelley and caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.

President Michel Sleiman: Hezbollah arms under Army only defense
May 11, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Friday that adhering to the Baabda Declaration and placing Hezbollah’s weapons under the Army’s control was the only way to defend Lebanon against Israeli aggression. The president’s remarks came one day after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Syria would supply his party with advanced arms that would upset the balance of power with Israel, in response to last week’s Israeli airstrikes on Damascus. The attack reportedly targeted shipments of sophisticated arms destined for Hezbollah. Nasrallah also said Hezbollah would assist other resistance groups seeking to liberate the Syrian Golan Heights. After the Israeli airstrikes, Syria gave Palestinian factions permission to launch military operations against Israeli troops occupying the Golan Heights.
“What protects Lebanon and its economy is the democratic system and enhancing the authority of the law. What also protects it is the Baabda Declaration, which called for neutrality and nonintervention in the affairs of other countries,” Sleiman told visitors at Baabda Palace, according to a statement from the president’s office. “What will also protect [Lebanon] is a strategic vision putting the resistance’s weapons at the disposal of the Army to defend Lebanon against Israeli aggression,” Sleiman said. The president said that providing the Army with advanced weaponry would contribute to protecting the country as well. During a National Dialogue session last year, Sleiman proposed a defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its arms on the condition they be placed under the Army’s command.
March 14 MPs strongly criticized Nasrallah’s remarks. Future bloc MP Ahmad Fatfat told The Daily Star that Nasrallah’s speech violated the “sanctity” of the state, saying the resistance was no longer defending Lebanon. “It’s clear that Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has violated the sanctity of the state as he overrides institutions ... and acts on behalf of the state without any credibility,” Fatfat said.
“Not only did he plunge Lebanon into the flames of a huge fire, against the interest of the Lebanese people, but he also officially made Lebanon an affiliate of the Iranian regime,” he added.
“Their claim that the resistance aims to defend Lebanon is no longer valid,” he said. “It is in the defense of Syria and Iran.” Fatfat also warned that Nasrallah’s remarks, and Hezbollah’s actions, could give Israel “many opportunities” to target Lebanon. Batroun MP Antoine Zahra, from the Lebanese Forces, criticized Nasrallah for involvement in what he called an Iranian-backed plot that could bring war to the region.
“War is coming to the Lebanese border [with Israel],” Zahra said in a radio interview, adding that any hopes of a tranquil summer had “evaporated.”Nasrallah’s pledge to stand by Damascus had ended the possibility of dialogue, he said. “We aren’t ready to sit down with those who fight in defense of the Syrian regime to serve their regional policies,” Zahra said.
Aley MP Fadi Habr, from the Kataeb Party, said Nasrallah’s speech put Lebanon further under the influence of Iran. “His comments serve Iran, which has interests in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq,” he told The Daily Star. “Rather than having Lebanon take a neutral side, Nasrallah has tied Lebanon to the Golan front and is already involved in fighting in Qusair [in Syria].” Zafer Nasser, the secretary-general of the Progressive Socialist Party, questioned the value of trumpeting a well-known fact. “It is not a secret that Syria provides Hezbollah with arms. I wonder how useful it is to confirm the pretext Israel uses to attack Syria,” Nasser said. Commenting on Hezbollah’s pledge of assistance to the Golan Heights, Nasser said, “let there be a resistance in Golan first and it will not be a problem if any group supports it.”

Hezbollah’s actions could drag Lebanon to war: Geagea
May 11, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea slammed late Friday Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s speech earlier this week, saying his pledge to assist resistance groups in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights could drag Lebanon into war.Geagea also urged the government to take a clear stance with regard to Hezbollah’s “very dangerous” actions before it is too late. “What Hezbollah is doing is very dangerous and could bring a new war to Lebanon. Sayyed Hasan, who gave you the right to get Lebanon involved in this furnace that is blazing in the Middle East?,” he asked.
“Hezbollah is trying to do anything to keep the regime of [President Bashar] Assad standing away from any logic,” Geagea added. He spoke during a dinner organized by the LF. “If it is true that Hezbollah has begun sending fighters to the Golan front to train men in resistance groups there, I ask whether there is a state in Lebanon or not? Hezbollah is behaving as if there is no state in Lebanon, and what is more important is that the state is behaving as if it does not exist,” he said. “The caretaker government should take a frank stance before it is too late because [preserving] the security situation is among its missions,” he added.
In a speech late Thursday, Nasrallah said Syria would provide his group with arms that would upset the balance of power with Israel in response to airstrikes the Jewish state carried out last week on Damascus, reportedly targeting sophisticated weaponry bound for Hezbollah. He also voiced Hezbollah’s readiness to assist any resistance movement to liberate Syria’s Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. Syria has reportedly given Palestinian groups permission to launch resistance operations against Israeli troops in the Golan in retaliation for the airstrikes. Geagea, a harsh critic of Assad, expressed puzzlement over Damascus’ decision to provide Hezbollah with “game-changing” weapons rather that to hold on to these arms for itself.  “Sayyed Hasan, if the [Syrian] regime has arms that can upset the balance [of power], why hasn’t it upset the balance [of power] by itself? Is it waiting for you to upset this balance?” Geagea asked. “Don’t tell me that the regime’s army is weak in the same way you describe the Lebanese Army. It is destroying Syrian cities and killing its people, with the number of martyrs exceeding 100,000,” he said. Geagea added that Hezbollah was justifying its involvement in Syria by arguing that all the conflict in Lebanon’s neighbor aimed at neutralizing Syria from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“I have simple question here: When was this Syrian regime in conflict with the enemy? The last time Syria was really in conflict with the enemy was in 1973,” Geagea said, referring to the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Syria’s former deputy prime minister, Abdullah Dardari: Lebanon risks recession over Syria war
May 10, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The economic devastation of Syria’s war could drive the economies of neighboring Lebanon and Jordan into reverse, Syria’s former deputy prime minister said Thursday. Pointing to the sharp slowdown in Lebanon’s economic growth since the start of Syria’s conflict in 2011, from 7 percent to barely 2 percent, Abdullah Dardari said there was a direct link to the ever-deepening economic collapse in Syria. Jordan’s economic growth has remained steadier, between 2 and 3 percent, but was still affected by the Syrian turmoil and was below the level needed to provide enough jobs for its fast-growing population, he said. The Syrian conflict “has a very destabilizing effect,” said Dardari, now chief economist for ESCWA. “It is in the interest of the whole region for Syria to regain peace and quiet, and start rebuilding.”Dardari said Syria’s economy had already shrunk between 35 to 40 percent and would fall 60 percent from its level at the start of the uprising if the fighting continued. Every one percentage point of economic slowdown in Syria produced a 0.2 percentage point slowdown in Lebanon, he said.With Syria’s economy still collapsing “we can speak about negative growth in Lebanon and Jordan if the situation in Syria continues as it is today for the next two years,” he told Reuters in an interview at the U.N.’s central Beirut offices. Dardari joined a range of speakers speaking Thursday about the economic effect of regional revolutions at the 21st Arab Economic Forum in Beirut organized by Al-Iktissad WalAamal.
Speakers at the forum stressed the need for the transitional governments that have risen in the wake of the Arab Spring to focus on economic issues in order to prevent further unrest.
The Egyptian government, according to former Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, should completely focus on saving Egypt from the economic difficulties, and the presidential and parliamentary elections should be postponed until the economy escapes imminent dangers. “The Egyptian economy is in its most difficult condition. Not only is there a heavy inheritance from the previous regime but throughout the transitional period the economic file was mismanaged,” Moussa told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the forum. “The excuses valid 10 months ago are no longer acceptable after a year of failure to reach the deal with the International Monetary Fund, to provide an alternative [to the IMF loan], or to shore up the situation of the most impoverished,” he said. Slim Besbes, adviser to the prime minister of Tunisia, defended the transitional government in his country, saying their reform effort should be judged on the medium and long terms. He also said transitions in the Arab world were happening against a backdrop of immense international economic crises and rising fuel prices. Much higher fuel prices, he said, pushed fuel subsidies from 500 billion Tunisian dinars ($302 billion) to more than 3 trillion dinars after the revolution.
But Mohammad al-Hage, director of the Technical Assistance Center at the IMF, criticized the fact that fuel still constituted the overwhelming majority of subsidies in MENA countries.
“Fuel subsidies in the Middle East are at 22 percent of state expenditures. Food subsidies, on the other hand, make 0.7 percent,” he said, adding that upper classes were by far the ones benefiting from fuel subsidies.
Jihad Azour, a former Lebanese finance minister, blamed the new regime’s failure to address socioeconomic issues as the foremost reason behind unrest in the region.
“The new regimes are steering the economy using the ways of the old regimes. They are politically legitimate from elections but they do not involve stakeholders in economic decision-making,” he said.

Syria peace conference already hitting snags: Russia
May 11, 2013/By Steve Gutterman , Erika Solomon
Daily Star/MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Russia said on Saturday there was disagreement over who should represent the opposition in a Syrian peace process, only days after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference. The dispute bodes ill for a civil war in which more than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died, and that has left foreign powers looking increasingly helpless.
A senior Kremlin official who attended talks on Friday between President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be impossible to meet a target of holding the conference by the end of May.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to free a two-year diplomatic logjam on Tuesday by saying they would seek to organise a conference, ideally this month.
The Russian official said there was broad agreement that the situation in Syria was dire. "Beyond that there are very many differences: who can take part in this format, who is legitimate and who is not legitimate," the state-run Itar-Tass agency quoted him as saying, on condition of anonymity. Russia has been President Bashar al-Assad's main protector and weapons supplier and says that, although it is not wedded to him, it will not allow his departure, demanded by Western and many Gulf powers, to be a precondition of talks. Kerry appears to have shifted the U.S. position by saying Assad's exit should be the outcome of negotiations on a transitional government, rather than the starting point. But the opposition remains divided, not least between those who will and will not consider talking to Assad. Samir Nashar, a representative of the umbrella Syrian National Coalition, which says Assad's departure must be guaranteed in any talks, said Russia wanted "groups other than the National Coalition to be present, such as the National Coordinating Body".
Most leaders of the rebellion dismiss the NCB because it opposes the armed uprising and also talks to the government. Nashar said the National Coalition, whose leaders operate outside Syria, had decided it could not accept an invitation to the conference unless Assad's removal was guaranteed.  "We feel that we cannot discuss a political solution with a man who is responsible for killing thousands of people and destroying thousands of homes," he said. "The United States is trying to convince us that the result of these talks would be Assad's removal, but we remain unconvinced."
Russia has long argued that rebel intransigence - encouraged by Western and Gulf Arab insistence that Assad must go - is the main obstacle to a peace process.
"It is impossible to do this without the opposition," the Russian official said. "But what opposition? That's the question. We believe there is no clear centre with which it is possible to conduct negotiations so that the commitments would then be fulfilled." Nashar said the United States was considering trying to circumvent the official leadership of the National Coalition by enlisting figures such as Moaz Alkhatib for the conference.
The Sunni Muslim cleric resigned as head of the Coalition after other leaders, particularly those linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, opposed his proposal of talks with Damascus in exchange for the release of political prisoners.
But his resignation has not yet been accepted, and he remains one of the few leaders of the uprising to enjoys real popularity on the ground and, perhaps more importantly, the respect of pro-Assad Syrians, who regard him as a potential negotiating partner. Separately, the state-run Russian news agency RIA cited a diplomatic source as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already invited to Russia by President Vladimir Putin, wanted to visit him in Sochi next week. RIA also cited a source in Jerusalem as saying the possible delivery of Russian S-300 air defence systems to Syria would be the main topic on the agenda. An Israeli official said only that Netanyahu and Putin were likely to meet sometime soon. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. officials, that Israel had told Washington that Syria had begun payments for a $900 million upgrade of its Russian-made air defences to the S-300 system, and an initial delivery was due within three months. The system is designed to shoot down planes and missiles at up to 125 miles (200 km), and its use would complicate any outside military intervention in Syria's civil war.Russia has expressed concern about Israeli air strikes in Syria this year, which Israeli sources say were aimed solely at preventing advanced weaponry getting to the Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, a major Assad ally, in Lebanon. The Kremlin official declined to specify to reporters whether Russia would be supplying the more advanced system.
"We are fulfilling contracts signed earlier," he said. "All weapons delivered under old contracts are purely defensive."

Egypt says thwarts suicide attack on foreign embassy
By REUTERS05/11/2013/CAIRO - Egyptian security forces have uncovered and caught an al-Qaida-linked militant group that was on the verge of carrying out a suicide attack against a foreign embassy in the country, the interior minister said on Saturday. Mohamed Ibrahim, speaking in a televised news conference, declined to say which embassy had been targeted. He named three suspected members of the cell now under arrest, adding that it was not part of al-Qaida, but linked to it.

40 People Dead in Turkey Bombings Near Syrian Border, Deputy PM Suspects Syria Involvement
Naharnet/Two explosive-laden cars blew up in a small Turkish town near the border with Syria on Saturday, killing at least 40 people and wounding 100 in one of the deadliest recent attacks in the volatile area.Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the Syrian regime was among the suspects of the bombing. "With their secret services and armed groups, they are certainly one of the usual suspects to instigate and carry out such an outrageous plot," Arinc told NTV television. The bombings in the town of Reyhanli, just a few kilometers from the main border crossing into Syria, come amid increasingly bellicose criticism by Ankara of the regime in Damascus.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the explosions were caused by car bombs that blew up near the town hall and the post office in Reyhanli, according to the Anatolia news agency.
Guler told NTV television that the death toll had climbed to 40 and that 100 people were wounded, updating an earlier toll given by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Twenty-nine survivors were in a serious condition, Guler said. Rescuers were hunting for possible survivors buried underneath the rubble of buildings destroyed by the blasts. Over a dozen ambulances and several air ambulances rushed to the scene to tend to the victims, Turkish NTV television said, adding that the town hall had suffered major damage. A number of cars were also completely wrecked in the attacks whose force caused a power cut in the area around Reyhanli, local media reported.
Guler said the regional governor had been sent to Reyhanli "to put the necessary security measures in place" following the attack.
The attack sowed panic among residents in Reyhanli, a town of about 60,000 people, leading to tensions between local youths and Syrian refugees living locally and forcing police to fire into the air to disperse the crowd. Thousands of refugees who fled the Syrian crisis are living in Reyhanli and a refugee camp adjacent to the town. Reyhanli lies in southern Turkey near the Cilvegozu crossing opposite Syria's rebel-controlled Bab al-Hawa border post, the busiest crossing between the two countries.
The border area has witnessed a number of deadly attacks as the conflict in Syria spills over into Turkey, whose government was once an ally of President Bashar Assad but has become one of its harshest critics.
In February, a car bomb attack at Cilvegozu which Turkey blamed on Syrian intelligence agents killed 17 people and wounded another 30. Earlier this month, one police officer was killed and six other people wounded when Syrians trying to cross into Turkey opened fire in a border buffer zone. In a statement Syria's opposition condemned Saturday's attacks, saying they were destined to pit Turks and Syrians against each other. "The Coalition sees these heinous terrorist acts an an attempt to take revenge on the Turkish people and punish them for their honorable support of the Syrian people (...)"
The bombings were "a desperate and failed attempt to sow discord", the statement added. Saturday's attacks come just two days after Erdogan said he believed Syria has used chemical weapons, crossing a "red line" set by U.S. President Barack Obama. "It is clear the regime has used chemical weapons and missiles," Erdogan told NBC News on Thursday, without elaborating but calling for the United States to take more action against Syria.
Erdogan, who earlier this month branded Assad a "butcher" who must be held to account for the deaths of thousands of his people, is due to meet Obama in Washington on Thursday.
Western nations have raised concerns about the use of chemical weapons in the escalating conflict that the United Nations estimates has killed 70,000 people since March 2011.
Turkey, a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, has sided with rebels fighting to topple Assad's regime led by Shia Alawites. Turkey has taken in around 400,000 refugees as well as Syrian opposition exiles and a number of army defectors. Violence has frequently flared on the tense border, and NATO has deployed Patriot missile batteries on the Turkish side to try to prevent a further spillover of the conflict.
The deployment followed a request from NATO member Turkey after a series of cross-border shellings, including an attack in October last year that killed five people.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Netanyahu to visit Putin in a bid to stop his S-300 missile sale to Syria

DEBKAfile Special Report May 11, 2013/ Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sets off for the Black Sea town of Sochi early next week for a personal call on President Vladimir Putin. This was confirmed Saturday, May 11 by the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who declined to explain the urgency of the unplanned meeting. debkafile’s Moscow sources report that Netanyahu asked to meet Putin without delay for a last-ditch attempt to persuade him to call off the sale to Syria of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. Moscow’s decision to sell those weapons to Syria was first revealed by debkafile on May 7. Our sources now add that the prime minister’s chances of averting the sale are extremely slim. A series of prominent figures have already tried talking the Russian president out of the sale and failed, starting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 7, followed Friday May 10 by British premier David Cameron who saw Putin in Sochi and German Foreign Minister Guido Westernwelle who met his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov in Warsaw. They all warned the Russian leader that the delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria would touch off an arms race in Syria and the Middle East with disastrous consequences. Lavrov told reporters: “Russia is not planning to sell S-300 to Syria. Russia has already sold them a long time ago. It has signed the contracts and is completing deliveries in line with them of equipment which is anti-aircraft technology.” Rejecting all their arguments, Putin said his government would stand by all its commitments to the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad and defend his regime. After Israel’s air strike against Damascus on May 5, nothing would now stop the S-300 deliveries. The Russian president, in a phone call he put in to the Israeli premier on May 7 when the latter was visiting Shanghai, warned Israel against any further attacks on Syria. He later spurned the approaches by Western leaders by stating that Moscow would never permit another US-led NATO air campaign against Assad like the one that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi in Libya in 2011. He added that Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran were Moscow’s response to the large arms packages US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel brought to Israel and US Gulf allies in the last week of April. The S-300 is designed to shoot down planes and missiles at 200-km ranges. Israel is concerned that Moscow may decided to send the six S-300 batteries carrying 144 missiles due for Syria along with Russian missile and air defense specialists. They will officially be described as instructors for training Syrian crews in the use of the sophisticated anti-air weapons. But they will also be available for operating the missiles effectively for downing Israeli Air Force planes striking targets in Syria and Lebanon. Israel will be forced to think twice before attacking the S-300 batteries for fear of hitting the Russian officers. Putin is therefore placing a severe constraint on Israel’s operational freedom by spreading an anti-air missile cover over the Syrian, Hizballah and the Iranian Basij forces fighting for Bashar Assad. Since the chances of dissuading Putin to abandon this strategy are just about nil, the best Netanyahu can hope for by his face-to-face with the Russian president is a limited accord on ground rules for averting an Israeli-Russian military clash in Syria.

Nasrallah Increases the Stakes In Syria War

By: Scarlett Haddad/Al-Monitor Lebanon Pulse
The May 9 speech made by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was certainly one of his most striking. For the first time, Nasrallah, who is very good when it comes to nuance, spoke quite clearly about Hezbollah’s commitment to the Syrian army. Going far beyond his previous declared support or the Syrian people — where he had called for dialogue between the regime and the opposition and indicated he was limiting Hezbollah’s aid to the Lebanese population living in Syrian border villages — he clearly explained this time that the battle in Syria is a strategic issue.
The "Friends of Syria," he said, without listing them — but one can easily guess that he was mainly talking about Iran, Russia and Hezbollah — will not let Syria fall into the American-Israeli camp or in the hands of the takfiris.
For him, the conflict is no longer between a regime and its opposition, but between two axes, with one of them being the US-Israel axis. Consequently, sending men to fight in Syria alongside the regime forces has become fully justified and even desirable. Moreover, Nasrallah gave his speech with unusual frankness after his recent trip to Tehran, where he was seen standing on an equal footing with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This shows that he has now taken up on a regional role, strengthening ties between Hezbollah and Russia. In this regard, sources close to Hezbollah said that Nasrallah had met with Mikhail Bogdanov, the special envoy of the Russian president, in Tehran before heading back to Lebanon. This information is intended to show that the relations between Russia, Iran, the Assad regime, and Hezbollah have now taken on a different scale and dimension that go beyond traditional boundaries. In the same vein, it was the first time that Hezbollah's secretary-general has cited the takfiris by name and has even placed them on the same level as the United States and Israel. Until now, Nasrallah, as well as Iran, has always supported Islamist groups and advocated for the unification of the various Muslim movements.
Indeed, Iran and Hezbollah have always been keen not to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist groups operating within its orbit, so as to avoid exacerbating divisions between Muslims, especially between Shiites and Sunnis. They have been quite apprehensive about any discord among Muslims, and have accused Israel and the United States of fomenting it. Iran and Hezbollah have avoided officially censuring Islamist groups, including the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia.
However, in his recent speech, Nasrallah for the first time did not hesitate to openly denounce takfiris, urging other Muslim movements to distance themselves from them.
His message is no longer addressed to the Lebanese, but to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, and especially to Hamas in Palestine. This suggests that the speech has marked a turning point both in the rhetoric and attitude of the Hezbollah leader. He has assumed a new regional role and clearly does not hesitate to proclaim it.
In light of this, one can only wonder what will happen now in Lebanon under the auspices of Hezbollah’s secretary-General. By adopting with such clarity these new regional positions, Nasrallah has obviously banished the Baabda Declaration, especially vis-à-vis the Syrian issue.
The Future movement and its Sunni allies have more or less intervened in helping the Syrian opposition, but have never openly acknowledged it. Nasrallah, on the other hand, obviously did not care about the domestic reaction his speech might cause. This brings us back to the circumstances surrounding the resignation of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati. It is said that the latter called Nasrallah, via his political affairs adviser Hussein Khalil, before he publicly announced his resignation. Nasrallah's answer was: "Do as you wish." The pertinent question is: Would Nasrallah be able to clearly declare his new position, if the Mikati government, of which he is a part, was still in office?
**Scarlett Haddad is an analyst for the French-language Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le Jour. She specializes in Lebanese domestic political issues, in addition to Syrian, Palestinian and Iranian matters from Lebanon's perspective, including topics concerning Hezbollah and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hope for Syria?

By: Clovis Maksoud for Al-Monitor Lebanon Pulse
The international community’s Syria involvement has taken a new turn after Lakhdar Brahimi’s decision to stay on as UN envoy, revealing a paradox between the diplomatic and on the ground situations amid the background of an increasingly desperate humanitarian crisis. Brahimi was persuaded not to resign by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, signaling that hope in Syria is attainable. The fact that he acquiesced to the secretary-general’s appeal shows that he has concluded that while complex, a diplomatic and political solution outweighs the possibility of further escalation of the bloodletting, despite the evidence to the contrary over the past few days. The ease with which Brahimi was persuaded reflects the glimpse of hope that the understanding between Russia and the United States — through their respective foreign ministers, John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov — might this time bring forth reconciliation in Syria that has eluded the international community for more than two years. From the beginning, Brahimi has relied on an authentic understanding between the United States and Russia for the success of his mission. The paradox is that while the diplomatic side seems to be inching toward a solution, the situation on the ground is escalating and appears to become more intractable by the day. These events around the country have dimmed but not extinguished the hope of reconciliation. A growing awareness has developed on the global scene that this conflict is no longer confined to Syria. It is increasingly leaving the whole region more vulnerable to conflict. Therefore, the international community has to take the opportunity to staunch the bleeding, especially given the growing humanitarian crisis and the potential destabilization in surrounding countries. The growing anxiety about this conflict is that — if it is not resolved soon — it might draw in more regional players. The humanitarian element, both inside Syria and in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan, has brought into focus the urgent necessity of more humanitarian aid. And the hope of political reconciliation should be accompanied by serious investment in rebuilding the infrastructure of Syria as a united state to promote the healing process. The coming days and weeks must reinvigorate our hopes. At this moment, we should recommit ourselves to the primacy of hope and what it entails.
*Clovis Maksoud is a former ambassador and permanent observer of the League of Arab States at the United Nations and its chief representative in the United States for more than 10 years.