November 02/2013


Bible Quotation for today/

Question: "What does it mean that we are not to cause others to stumble?"
/Answer: The concept of not causing others to stumble is found in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. In these chapters, Paul talks about personal convictions and our responsibility to our fellow believers in Christ. He highlights several topics over which believers have disagreements—food, drink, and sacred days. In Paul’s time, the disagreements were mostly concerning Jewish law versus the new freedom found in Christ. We experience much the same type of disagreements today, even over the same topics, to which we could add things like body piercings, tattoos, clothing style, movies, video games, books, and alcohol/tobacco. These are all areas for which the Bible does not provide specific instruction and yet are areas in which many feel conviction. Some of these things can lead to worldliness, sin, impurity or even just become an obsession/idol. But, on the flip side, legalism and avoidance of anything the world has to offer can also become an idol. Paul tells the Romans, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way . . . So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:12-13, 22-23). Paul is telling us to enjoy our freedom in Christ, but along with that freedom comes the responsibility to protect those around us who have doubts about that freedom. The example of alcohol is relevant here. Alcohol is not inherently evil, and the biblical prohibitions are not against drinking but against drunkenness. But someone who tends toward alcoholism very often knows he must not drink at all and believes others shouldn’t drink, either, even in moderation. If a Christian has a friend who is convinced drinking is wrong, then drinking around that person may cause him/her to “stumble” or trip up. The Greek word for “stumble” gives the sense of stubbing one’s toe. As Christians, we are forbidden to do anything that may cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stub their toe, spiritually speaking. Stubbing the toe can cause a person to fall in the spiritual sense, or to damage or weaken his faith. In all things, the important lesson is to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). In this way, God is glorified, believers are edified, and the world sees in us “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 02/13
Brahimi’s Superficial Pragmatism/By: Husam Itani/Al Hayat/November 02/13
Separation And Linkage Between Geneva 2 And Iran's Nuclear Program/By: Walid Choucair/Al Hayat/November 02/13
The United Nations’ Responsibility In Making Geneva 2 A Success/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/November 02/13
Political Trends/By: Jihad al-Khazen/Al Hayat/November 02/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 02/13

Lebanese Related News
U.S. Official: Israeli Warplanes Strike Missiles Allegedly Destined for Hizbullah near Syria's Latakia
Official: Jerusalem doesn't expect Syrian response following reports of Israeli strike

Saudi Arabia Reschedules Suleiman's Visit after Month of Delay
Brahimi Says Lebanon's Leaders 'in Favor of Being Invited' to Syria Peace Talks
Miqati Meets Tripoli MPs: Army Will Continue its Mission to Restore Calm in City
Rival Christian Parties Hold 2nd Meeting in Less than a Month
Saniora Meets with Top Officials after Paris Visit
Jumblat Meets Miqati Away from Spotlight
Committee should probe n. Lebanon blasts: Rifaat Eid
Eid’s defiance puts Tripoli on edge
Committee should probe n. Lebanon blasts: Rifaat Eid
Eid’s defiance puts Tripoli on edge
Impoverished Lebanese bearing brunt of Syria war
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Brahimi Says No Peace Talks without Opposition
Russia: Most Syria Chemical Arms to Be Destroyed Abroad

UN envoy: No preconditions for Syria peace talks
Russian PM: Assad isn't crazy, won't give up power without guarantees
Regime Troops Batter South Damascus Rebels
Pakistani Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsud Killed in Drone Attack

Shots Fired at Cairo Hotel in Apparent Labor Dispute
Kerry: In Some Cases, U.S. Spying 'has Reached too Far'
Kerry to Meet Abbas in West Bank Tuesday 
Israeli defense minister with top generals could have been hit by the bomb trap which injured five soldiers

Israel Kills Four Hamas Fighters in Raid on Gaza Tunnel
Biden, Kerry Urge Senate to Go Slow on Iran Sanctions
Jewish organizations deny 60-day delay on Iran sanctions push

The Region: How the Syrian civil war really affects Israel
'White House official confirms Israeli attack on Syrian missile site'
Panetta: US may have to use military force against Iran
Turkey, Iran signal thaw in ties amid mutual concern on Syria
Hagel: US to expedite delivery of V-22 Osprey aircraft to Israel
Egypt Islamists Launch Protests ahead of Morsi Trial

Obama Meets Maliki as War still Tears Iraq


Israeli Official: Jerusalem doesn't expect Syrian response following reports of Israeli strike
By REUTERS 11/01/2013/Anonymous official: Assad is disarming chemical arsenal out of his own interests; Erdan says Israel sticking to policy on weapons transfers to Hezbollah; refuses to deny, confirm reports of air strike on Syrian missile base. Syria's President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Fox News, September 19, 2013. Israel did not expect Syria to respond following reports in the US media of an alleged Israeli strike on a Syrian base near the port of Latakia, an unidentified senior official told Reuters, while declining to confirm any Israeli attack. "[Syrian President Bashar] Assad is disarming (his chemical weapons) out of his own interests. He knows how to make the necessary distinctions," said the official, who declined to be named. 'An anonymous US administration official on Thursday told CNN that Israel had conducted air raids against a Syrian missile base near Latakia earlier in the day, targeting missiles and related equipment out of concern that they would be transferred to Hezbollah. Israel has declined to comment on the leaks. Israel has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons, particularly from Iran, reaching Hezbollah through Syria. According to foreign reports, Israel reportedly carried out several air strikes on Syria earlier this year. "We have said many times that we will not allow the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah," said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the inner security cabinet which met hours before the alleged Israeli attack. "We are sticking to this policy and I say so without denying or confirming this report," he told Israel Radio. Israel has grown increasingly frustrated by US policy in the Middle East, worried that President Barack Obama had been too soft on Assad and anxious over his rapprochement with Iran. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Israel had to make many calculations before approving attacks on Syria.
"Israel is sending a message to Assad, saying 'don't play games with us'. But Israel must also realise that the situation is becoming much more delicate than ever before because this is going against the US diplomatic agenda," he said. Rabi said the "working assumption" in Israel was that Assad was so focused on battling rebels that he could not afford to retaliate. However, he expected that Syria would seek international support to prevent Israeli air strikes.** Staff and Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.

U.S. Official: Israeli Warplanes Strike Missiles Allegedly Destined for Hizbullah near Syria's Latakia
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 October 2013/Israeli warplanes have struck a military base near the Syrian city of Latakia, targeting missiles that might have been destined for Hizbullah, CNN quoted an Obama administration official as saying on Thursday. An explosion at a missile storage site in the area was widely reported in the Israeli press, but an attack has not been confirmed by the Israeli government. The target, according to the Obama administration official, was “missiles and related equipment the Israelis felt might be transferred to Hizbullah.” The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. Meanwhile, The Associated Press also quoted U.S. officials as saying that Israeli warplanes attacked a military target inside Syria. An Obama administration official confirmed the attack happened overnight Thursday but provided no details. Another security official said that the attack occurred in the port city of Latakia and that the target was Russian-made SA-125 missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the attack. Another U.S. official confirmed to Agence France Presse that "there was an Israeli strike" but gave no detail on the location or the target. "Historically targets have been missiles transferred to Hizbullah," the official said. Israeli government officials contacted by AFP refused to comment on the reports. Lebanon's MTV quoted unnamed sources in Jerusalem as saying that Turkey was behind the Latakia attack, in revenge for the recent shooting down of a Turkish plane in the same area. Earlier on Thursday, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television quoted unnamed sources as saying that two Israeli airstrikes had targeted Damascus and Latakia on Wednesday evening. The raids totally destroyed shipments of SA-8 surface-to-air missiles destined for Hizbullah, the sources said. Al-Arabiya also quoted sources from both the Syrian opposition and regime as saying that a Latakia air defense base was targeted Wednesday night by a rocket fired from the Mediterranean Sea. Israel's Channel 2 said a missile fired from a warship targeted a Russian S-125 missile system that has recently arrived at the Latakia military base. Also on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a series of explosions struck an air base in Latakia, a regime stronghold. "Several explosions were heard in an air defense base in the Snubar Jableh area" on Wednesday, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. He said the cause of the explosions is "unclear" and that no casualties have been reported. A Syrian security source meanwhile told Agence France Presse that "a rocket fell near the base, causing a fire to break out." In July, ammunition warehouses in the area were hit by rockets. In May, Israel carried out two airstrikes inside Syria, and a senior Israeli official told AFP both targets were Iranian weapons destined for Hizbullah. Source/Agence France Presse/Associated Press


Saudi Arabia Reschedules Suleiman's Visit after Month of Delay
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/The Saudi Royal Diwan and the Baabda Palace are discussing the timing of an upcoming visit for President Michel Suleiman to Riyadh a month after it was postponed for unclear reasons. According to As Safir newspaper published on Friday, Suleiman is considering if he will be able to head to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of November.  Media reports said that the hopes for a breakthrough in the 30-year estrangement between the U.S. and Iran had an impact on Suleiman's Gulf tour Suleiman was scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia at the end of September. His visit to the United Arab Emirates was also postponed, however, the Baabda Palace said that reports about his visit to UAE were mere media speculations, pointing out that the two countries are setting a date that would be announced later.

Brahimi Says Lebanon's Leaders 'in Favor of Being Invited' to Syria Peace Talks

Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday that Lebanese top officials were “in favor of being invited” to a peace conference on Syria in Geneva later this month. Following separate talks with President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Brahimi said: “The three leaders are in favor of being invited to it.” Brahimi said he briefed them about the preparations for the so-called Geneva 2 conference hours after arriving in Beirut from Damascus where he called on Syrian authorities and the opposition to attend the peace talks. Syria's crisis is endangering the region, he told reporters at the Grand Serail. Brahimi first met with Suleiman at Baabda Palace. He later headed to Ain el-Tineh for talks with Berri. He told reporters there that Lebanon has suffered from the burden caused by the crisis in Syria. Brahimi then met with Miqati before his scheduled talks with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, who stressed after meeting the envoy that there can only be a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
The envoy ended his days-long visit to Damascus on Friday, calling on both the government and the opposition to attend the peace conference in Geneva but acknowledging the gathering cannot take place if the opposition refuses to take part. Brahimi, who had traveled to Damascus at the end of a Mideast tour to muster regional support for the conference, appeared uncertain about prospects for the meeting. The envoy, who met this week with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Damascus-based opposition groups, said the Syrian government has confirmed it would attend. Deeply fractured Syrian opposition groups are split on whether to attend the Geneva talks. They also disagree over conditions for taking part — from demands that Assad step down right away to guarantees that he would not be part of a negotiated solution for the country's future. This time, Brahimi appeared to put the onus on the opposition, saying talks in Geneva cannot "go forward without the opposition." "The participation of the opposition is essential, necessary and important," he said. Source/Associated PressNaharnet.

Rival Christian Parties Hold 2nd Meeting in Less than a Month
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/The representatives of rival Christians parties held talks on Thursday night, their second meeting in less than a month under the auspices of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. Al-Joumhouria newspaper said Friday that Bishop Samir Mazloum presided the meeting that was attended by Phalange MP Sejaan Azzi, Lebanese Forces lawmaker Elie Kayrouz, a Free Patriotic Movement representative in the resigned cabinet, Minister Salim Jreissati, Marada movement official Salim Saadeh, who is a former minister, in addition to ex-Minister Roger Deeb, and former ambassador Abdullah Bou Habib. Father Antoine Khalife and the dean of the political science faculty at Saint Joseph University Dr. Fadia Kiwan also attended the talks that were held at the headquarters of the Research and Christian Studies Institute in Zouk Mosbeh, North of Beirut. Al-Joumhouria described the talks as positive, saying discussions focused on the status of Christians and the general situation. The representatives of the rival parties from the March 8 and 14 alliances held a similar meeting on Oct. 17.

Saniora Meets with Top Officials after Paris Visit

Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/Al-Mustaqbal bloc leader Fouad Saniora visited caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati on Thursday night, culminating a round of talks he held with the country's top officials following his return from Paris. Saniora's meetings started on Thursday with President Michel Suleiman as part of a delegation from the southern city of Sidon. He then held talks at his residence with Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel. The MP also held a telephone conversation with Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and several officials from the March 14 alliance, An Nahar newspaper said Friday. Officials close to Saniora told the daily that he was still committed to his promise to remain in contact with Speaker Nabih Berri. Ties between them have recently deteriorated after Saniora accused Berri of seeking to impose the power of the parliament on the rest of the institutions amid an insistence by the speaker to call for parliamentary sessions. The March 14 coalition and mainly al-Mustaqbal have been boycotting the sessions over claims that the parliament should only convene for emergency issues amid a resigned cabinet. Saniora recently met with al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri in Paris. An al-Mustaqbal official told An Nahar that “things will not get straight nationally if Hizbullah did not announce its withdrawal from Syria and its commitment to the Baabda Declaration.” The official, who was not identified, accused Hizbullah of endangering Lebanon by contradicting the policy of dissociation approved in Baabda by the country's political parties. The official said the differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances did not only lie on the formation of the cabinet and the division of shares. “Al-Mustaqbal won't be part of a government in which Hizbullah (and its allies) are a majority,” he said. Premier-designate Tammam Salam has so far failed to form his cabinet amid conditions and counter conditions set by the rival parties

Jumblat Meets Miqati Away from Spotlight

Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati held a meeting two days ago away from the media spotlight, An Nahar newspaper reported on Friday. Sources described the meeting as normal as the two officials consistently hold meetings to discuss the latest local and regional developments, in addition to the cabinet formation process. Endeavors are ongoing to end the cabinet deadlock amid reports that President Michel Suleiman insists on forming it ahead of the Independence Day on November 22 based on any distribution of portfolios as long as the rival parties agree. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam continuously said that conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival sides have brought his efforts to form a cabinet to a stalemate. Since his appointment to form a cabinet in April, Salam has been seeking the formation of a 24-member cabinet in which the March 8, March 14 and centrists camps would each get eight ministers. However, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah expressed support to Jumblat's proposal to form a new cabinet in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get nine ministers each and six ministers would be given to the centrists – Suleiman, Salam and Jumblat. This formula prevents a certain party from controlling the government by giving veto power to Hizbullah and its team and another veto power to March 14, he said.

Miqati Meets Tripoli MPs: Army Will Continue its Mission to Restore Calm in City
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013, 12:21
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati stressed on Friday that officials are determined to tackle the situation in the northern city of Tripoli “wisely and calmly.”He said after meeting a delegation of Tripoli MPs: “The army and security forces will continue their mission to halt the unrest, restore calm, and protect its residents.”“We are responsible for all our sons and brothers, but this should not take place at the expense of the authority of the state,” he declared. “No one can consider themselves more powerful than that state,” he added. “Regardless of what happens, the state will remain more powerful than all sides and everyone should abide by the law,” Miqati said.
The Tripoli delegation included MPs Robert Fadel, Samer Saadeh, Mohammed Kabbara, Ahmed Karami, and Samir al-Jisr. On the investigations in the twin blasts that targeted mosques in Tripoli in August, Miqati remarked: “We will not be lenient in tackling this file.” “No one is above the law … and we urge the authorities to arrest all who planned, participated in, and executed this cowardly act,” he stated. Islamic Alawite Council head Sheikh Assad Assi on Thursday stressed that the council will not tolerate the summoning of top Alawite leader Ali Eid for interrogation in the case of the deadly twin blasts. Arab Democratic Party top official Rifaat Eid, Ali's son, warned that “the ISF Intelligence Bureau crossed red lines when it summoned my father and he will definitely not comply with the request.” He declared that the accusations against his father are not based on any facts and that they are part of a Saudi Arabian agenda to settle scores with Syria. Forty-five people were killed and over 800 wounded in the twin bombings that targeted al-Salam and al-Taqwa mosques in Tripoli.
The Arab Democratic Party has denied any involvement in the attacks and stressed that the suspects are not members of the party while slamming media leaks attributed to the ISF Intelligence Bureau.

"Pakistani Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsud Killed in Drone Attack

Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was one of three people killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike on Friday, The Associated Press quoted intelligence officials as saying.
The officials said agents sent to the site of the attack in the North Waziristan tribal area Friday confirmed the death of the militant leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Earlier on Friday, the AP said the missile strike hit the village of Dande Derpa Khel in North Waziristan, citing two intelligence officials. The officials said the strike, near the town of Miran Shah, hit a house. They said the village is the stronghold of the Haqqani network, which routinely targets NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The missiles strike is the second after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to the U.S. last month where he pressed for stopping of the drone strikes. Most Pakistanis consider the drone strikes to be a violation of the country's sovereignty. A hard-line religious group protested the strikes Friday in Islamabad and Lahore. U.S. officials have suggested in the past that the Pakistan government does privately support some of the strikes, which hit militants in tribal regions its army has trouble controlling. The Pakistani government also said this week that 3 percent of 2,227 people killed in U.S. drone strikes since 2008 were civilians, a surprisingly low figure that sparked criticism from groups that have investigated deaths from the attacks.
The strikes also come as Pakistan says its started talks with the country's domestic arm of the Taliban. The leader of one of the country's main opposition parties threatened Thursday to cut off NATO supplies moving through Pakistan if the U.S. launches any drone strikes during the talks.


Shots Fired at Cairo Hotel in Apparent Labor Dispute
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/Gunmen opened fire on a five-star hotel in Cairo near the famed Giza pyramids on Friday, an Egyptian police general said, in what appeared to be a labor dispute. Interior ministry spokesman General Hany Abdel Latif said the attack was carried out by laid off hotel workers, and that there were no casualties. The attackers fired birdshot or pistol rounds at the Amarante Pyramids Hotel, he told Agence France Presse. A hotel employee who requested anonymity said the attack happened early in the morning, and that police were investigating. The official MENA news agency reported police were searching for the laid off workers suspected of being behind the shooting. The attackers were angered after they were refused entry to the hotel, the agency reported.Source/Agence France Presse.


Kerry: In Some Cases, U.S. Spying 'has Reached too Far'
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 November 2013/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that U.S. spying has gone too far in some cases, an unprecedented admission by Washington in the row with Europe over widespread surveillance. The top diplomat also sought to assure that such steps, which have roiled close allies like Germany, would not be repeated. "I assure you, innocent people are not being abused in this process, but there's an effort to try to gather information," Kerry told a London conference via video link. "And yes, in some cases, it has reached too far inappropriately." "And the president, our president, is determined to try to clarify and make clear for people, and is now doing a thorough review in order that nobody will have the sense of abuse," he said. Kerry added that what Washington was trying to do was, in a "random way," find ways of determining if there were threats that needed responding to. "And in some cases, I acknowledge to you, as has the president, that some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to make sure that does not happen in the future," he said. Recent allegations and reports of widespread spying by the US National Security Agency have sparked a major rift in trans-Atlantic ties. Just days ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel angrily confronted President Barack Obama with allegations that the NSA was snooping on her phone, saying it would amount to a "breach of trust."A German intelligence delegation and a separate group of EU lawmakers were in the US capital Wednesday to confront their American allies about the alleged bugging. Kerry's remarks -- released in a State Department transcript -- came in response to a question addressed to both him and British Foreign Secretary William Hague about government surveillance. Kerry spent a good portion of his answer justifying the collection of data as necessary due to the threat of terrorism and suggested Washington was not alone in doing so.
"Many, many, many parts of the world have been subject to these terrorist attacks," he said. "And in response to them, the United States and others came together -- others, I emphasize to you -- and realized that we're dealing in a new world where people are willing to blow themselves up." He added: "We have actually prevented airplanes from going down, buildings from being blown up, and people from being assassinated because we've been able to learn ahead of time of the plans." Kerry also lashed out at some of the reporting about alleged spying, sparked by leaks from fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, wanted by Washington on espionage charges. "Just the other day... there was news in the papers of 70 million people being listened to. No, they weren't. It didn't happen," Kerry said. "There's an enormous amount of exaggeration in this reporting from some reporters out there." U.S. intelligence chiefs have said these reports are based on a misinterpretation of an NSA slide leaked to the media by Snowden. Rather than siphoning off the records of tens of millions of calls in Europe, as the slide seems to suggest, they argue that the data was in many cases gathered and shared by European agencies. Still, fresh U.S. spy allegations keep cropping around the world on a near daily basis.
Indonesia summoned the Australian ambassador in Jakarta Friday over a "totally unacceptable" report that his embassy was among diplomatic posts in Asia being used in a vast American surveillance operation.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, amplifying an earlier report by the German magazine Der Spiegel, said earlier this week that a top-secret map leaked by Snowden showed 90 U.S. surveillance facilities at diplomatic missions worldwide. The paper also reported that Australian embassies in Asia were being used as part of the U.S.-led spying network. On Wednesday, meanwhile, a report in the Washington Post alleged that NSA technicians had tapped into Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, winning access to vast amounts of private data. The report said a program dubbed MUSCULAR, operated with the NSA's British counterpart GCHQ, can intercept data directly from the fiber-optic cables used by the U.S. Internet giants.Source/Agence France Presse.

Political Trends
Jihad al-Khazen/Al Hayat
Politics sometimes competes with fashion and moves from one trend to another. Just like fashion moves from miniskirts to maxi skirts (I remember one phase that saw the fad of mid length skirts), politics also follows a similar trend. Today, I will be discussing the American politics that we are now enduring despite the presence of a moderate president, Barack Obama. The trend of American “exceptionalism” prevailed for years during which America appointed itself as the world’s policeman and interfered in faraway countries like Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Latin America.
The USA and the world paid the price for American interference in our countries through hundreds of thousands of dead victims and a fiscal crisis. In addition, the American public opinion retreated while the evil war gang including the Israeli lobby and the pro-Likud Americans planned a war against the Iranian nuclear program and the destruction of whatever is still standing in Syria. The representatives of the Israeli gang have now started to warn against the threat of the new American “isolationism”. They are referring to the history of World War I and II in order to learn some lessons. I believe that these are purely Israeli lessons. Thus, the current political trend leans towards isolationism. However, there are moderate writers, and writers who are not affected by the Israeli control, who wrote against the accusation of isolationism, including the following:
- “American Isolationism: Nothing More Than a Myth” by Andrew Bacevich
- “Syria: It Wasn't Isolationism” by John Mueller
- “Isolationism Revisited, the Tea Party and American Leadership in the World,” in the Huffington Post
- “America's new isolationism (+video)” in the Christian Science Monitor.
On the other hand, Jackson Diehl, the Deputy Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post wrote a piece titled, “Foreign Policy Based on Fantasy.” In this piece, Diehl mixed things up and kept on mentioning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia concomitantly with Israel. He concluded by demanding a military intervention against Syria and Iran. Diehl had previously written a column about Egypt where he mentioned Ayman Nour and Mohammad al-Baradei. I have known these two ever since Ayman was the director of Al-Hayat bureau in Cairo and Dr. Al-Baradei was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
I will hereby be referring to pro-Israeli writers. Bill Keller of the New York Times wrote a piece titled “Our New Isolationism” which went back to 1940 and Hitler and concluded by asking the Congress to pressure the president into issuing a statement about “our vital interests in Syria,” meaning the Israeli interest in destroying Syria on the heads of its people.
As for Miss Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, she attacked the isolationists in an article titled, “Where isolationism leads” where she argued that the isolationists are allowing America’s allies to turn into sitting ducks. By allies, she meant Israel, the country that ruined America’s reputation in our region and the entire world.
Roger Cohen of the New York Times tried to hide his pro-Israel tendencies in his latest piece titled “An Anchorless World” where he mourned the absence of an American role although he did quote an opinion poll indicating that one third of the Americans do not want their country to play any part in foreign conflicts.
The most despicable of them all is Norman Podhoretz, an anti Arab and Muslims warmonger. In his latest piece on Obama’s failed foreign politics, Podhoretz quoted none other than Conrad Black, the former publisher of the Telegraph group who robbed his company, got convicted and jailed. Podhoretz was among the first persons who called for halting aid to Egypt under the pretext that the Egyptian army is killing the supporters of Mohamed Morsi. He however failed to see that the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are practicing terrorism in Cairo, Alexandria, Upper Egypt and Sinai. Israel is all he cares about.
A day will come where the Egyptian government will abandon its peace treaty with Israel. Let Israel’s supporters reap the fruits of their labor where neither exceptionalism nor isolationism will do them any good.

The United Nations’ Responsibility In Making Geneva 2 A Success

Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat
Russia is adamant about holding the Geneva 2 conference on the Syrian crisis in November, whether Saudi Arabia agrees to attend or not. Moscow believes that Iran would most definitely be present at the conference whether the Arabs attend it or not, irrespective of the fact that Syria is an Arab nation. To be sure, Russia insists on holding Geneva 2 on time, that is to say, the time it set, before the end of this month, because Moscow is confident that the Syrian opposition would not be able to gather its ranks and send a unified delegation to the conference in this short space of time. Moreover, Russia insists on this timing because it feels reassured by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reassurance, in turn, vis-à-vis his current situation in the wake of the international agreement on a UN Security Council resolution to dismantle his chemical weapons arsenal, and the fact that Assad is now a necessary partner in the implementation of the resolution. Moscow does not want to lose the “momentum” of current Syrian events, embodied in the weakness of the U.S. administration and its willingness to comply with any opportunity that exempts it from responsibility, whether militarily or politically. Russia is adamant about holding Geneva 2, because it is certain it would fail. For this reason, it insists on its timing to justify a new stage of the Syrian crisis, where there would be no other serious actors influencing Syria’s future except the ruling regime in Damascus, because the alternative would be either al-Nusra Front and its ilk, or for the Syrian opposition to refrain from engaging in the search for a political solution for Syria’s future.
For these reasons, the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday must make a decision that would head off the Russian wager on the failure of Geneva 2. They must draw a conscious strategy away from arbitrariness and one that does not fall into the trap of reactions or provocations. The current stage is one that requires drinking from the poisoned chalice, instead of outbidding oneself and implementing others’ strategies. The Arab ministers who will meet to discuss their position on Geneva 2 in Cairo must come out with an initiative that would astonish all those who wagered on the longstanding record of incapacity and shortsightedness that they link to Arab decisions. The Syrian opposition, which has demanded an Arab cover for participating in Geneva 2, must go first to Cairo, with a conscious strategy away from parasitism and the false belief that by merely going to Geneva 2, it would be overcoming its childishness that has so far dwarfed it. Go to Geneva, Syrian opposition, and demand reference points without falling prey to any noes. Indeed, the theme of Geneva 2 is “transition” from the ruing regime to a new regime. This in and of itself is a principle that must be seized and built upon, so go to Geneva to forestall the wager by Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus on blaming you for the failure of the conference. Take advantage of the protests of Arab foreign ministers so that it may become a working plan that sets the standards and features for participation in Geneva 2, and draws a strategy that renders the UN a serious partner responsible for defining the reference point of the conference and the conditions for participation in it. For one thing, this is not the time for digging another hole for the Syrian opposition to fall in. It is not the time to grumble and blame others. It is the time of consolidating ranks, biting one’s tongue, and overturn the wager on the fragmentation of the Syrian opposition.
Logically speaking, in light of what happened during his tour of the region, the joint envoy of the UN and the Arab League in Syria, veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhar Brahimi, may be preparing to tender his resignation – this time seriously. All those concerned with Brahimi’s tour have thwarted his mission, and even he has thwarted his own mission as a result of his contempt for the opposition and those behind it, in conjunction with his insistence on a role for Iran that he knew well many Arab Gulf nations oppose, at the negotiating table in the Geneva 2 conference being prepared to discuss Syria’s future. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates refused to receive Brahimi. In Turkey, his reception was almost even worse, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet him and President Abdullah Gul met him for a very short time in what resembled a mere formality. In Iran, officials received Brahimi and his statements warmly, after he made Iran’s participation in Geneva 2 a crucial, indispensable matter, but they did not attach to his farewell any commitment to Geneva 2, which should be the reference point for Geneva 2. As is their habit pursuant to their mastery of the art of negotiations and the principle of “take and ask for more,” the Iranian officials smiled as they evaded the commitment, after they got what they wanted from the UN-Arab League envoy and put him in their pockets. This is how Brahimi fell, or set himself up, into the existing polarization. While he may deserve a lot of criticism and censure, he does not deserve and will not accept to be humiliated. For this reason, he is most probably on the verge of resigning. If so, let him do it quickly so that his resignation may not, in turn, become a commodity in this polarization. But whatever the fate and role of Brahimi may ultimately be, it is still imperative for the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo to focus exclusively on Syria and Geneva 2, and to double check what they want after Brahimi’s departure – that is, if Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov allows the resignation of his friend, or if the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accepts it. Indeed, both men want Brahimi at the driver’s seat in their accord over Geneva 2, and would strongly object to his departure. John Kerry does not take the Gulf’s fury with Brahimi seriously, and he is in complete denial of the extent of Saudi wrath against the UN and the U.S. He is basing his calculations about who will attend and who will miss Geneva 2 on old facts regarding U.S.-Saudi relations. For this reason, he has been reassuring the UN that Riyadh would eventually come to the conference. Most probably, he is not interpreting well the Saudi positions seen recently on the U.S. and the UN, because of their eager preoccupation with Iran and their willingness to “legitimize” Tehran’s role in Syria through the negotiating table.
Mending relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is of paramount importance, and ultimately, this is a bilateral matter no matter how strongly the Iranian element figures in them, or no matter how radical the differences regarding Syria may be. Washington and Riyadh realize that the historical relationship between the two countries would not collapse, but Saudi dissatisfaction with the U.S. policy on Syria and Iran is no charade. To be sure, it goes beyond being mere discontent with U.S. policy, because what Saudi diplomacy needs falls into the category of the balance of power in the Middle East, and U.S. preparation for legitimizing the Iranian regional role in the Arab world, especially in two crucial Arab nations, namely, Iraq and Syria. For this reason, Kerry would be mistaken if he assumes that this is a passing cloud.
Kerry would be mistaken, and would be even implicating the UN, if he suggests to the latter that Saudi Arabia would eventually agree to go to Geneva 2. This is a bad bet not only because of what is presupposes, but also because of what it implies. For one thing, it would be more prudent for the UN to earnestly seek to repair relations with Saudi Arabia, as this is in the interest of both parties. But it is also important for Riyadh to seek engagement, rather than a boycott, as part of a strategy aimed at mending and developing ties with the international organization.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his deputy Jan Eliasson – who is head of the contact group following up developments in Syria – must go to the policy-drawing board to reassess their options now in the wake of the failure of Brahimi’s tour. If he wants to continue working towards holding Geneva 2 then they must first personally work on repairing relations with Saudi Arabia, given the latter’s influence on the Syrian opposition, without whose participation Geneva 2 would not be possible to convene.
Second, Ban Ki-moon, Eliasson, and the team supporting the Special Representative at the UN Secretariat’s headquarters in New York – including Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman – must stop their prevarication when it comes to specifying the reference point for Geneva 2 and the eligibility of those who would participate in the conference. Indeed, it is not sufficient to say that the invitation letter for attending the meeting will stipulate that Geneva 1 would be the reference point for Geneva 2, that is to say, launching a transitional political in Syria through a body agreed upon by the government and the opposition with full executive powers. Prior assurances must be obtained that the nations that will participate in Geneva 2 would recognize the authority of Geneva 1. This should be a precondition for the countries that will be invited to Geneva 2. The battle over the interpretation of Geneva 1 consumed nearly a year and a half, and the issue is yet to be resolved among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, despite the American willingness to “paper over” it now. To be sure, the “Assad knot” remains as existant as ever, and there is nothing to suggest that Russia – or Iran for that matter – is willing to let go of its insistence on Assad’s survival as a actual and influential actor in the transitional process, and even in power in Syria. For this reason, Moscow and Tehran are equivocating over Geneva 1. It is understood that Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, should be present at Geneva 2, regardless of its clarity or ambiguity over Geneva 1. But there is no need for just anyone to be invited to Geneva 2, when such a party is carrying ambiguity and evasiveness when asked about its position on establishing a body governing the political transition with full powers to run the country, because the fact of the matter is that Tehran does not approve of this.
Ban Ki-moon and Eliasson must recall – nay remind the world – that the number of Syrian casualties at the time Geneva 1 was held in June 2012 was about 10,000. Today, this number has exceeded 110,000, while political battles continue over the interpretation of something that was agreed upon unanimously in the Geneva 1 communiqué. They must start to think about their direct role in making Geneva 2 happen in the event Brahimi resigns. This is an occasion for their necessary involvement in the Syrian tragedy, so as not to appear as though they are in a permanent state of celebration over having the Syrian issue return to the UN through the gateway of chemical weapons, on board the bandwagon of U.S.-Russian accord that restored consensus to the UN Security Council regarding the resolution calling for dismantling the Syrian chemical weapon arsenal. Indeed, it is time to wake up from excessive celebration – sometimes for illusory reasons – when reality on the ground is recording non-stop bloodshed, ushering in a dangerous outbreak of the Syrian conflict on Lebanese territory.
The UN must not be a partner in the Russian strategy that insists on holding Geneva 2 on time in order to thwart it, and this is the direct responsibility of Ban Ki-moon and Eliasson. The Secretariat must adjust its course because it is on the tip of the volcano. More importantly, and because it is supposed to be the epitome of moral leadership, the Secretariat must stop hiding behind the UN Security Council’s failure at times, or its consensus at others. When it comes to the issue of Geneva 2, it is the Secretariat that holds the key to its convening. So let Ban Ki-moon and Jan Eliasson roll up their sleeves and engage strongly in the effort to make Geneva 2 a success, instead of hiding in the shadows of what the U.S. and Russia decide.

Separation And Linkage Between Geneva 2 And Iran's Nuclear Program
Walid Choucair/Al Hayat
Preparations for the Geneva 2 peace conference are facing several problems, which have naturally generated leaks and predictions that the conference will be postponed, whether to January or even beyond.
The first essential conundrum involves the question of how to create a working framework for the conference, specifically with regard to establishing a transitional government with full executive powers and the role of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his top allies in such an authority. The chief sides concerned with this task continue to disagree over the precise formula for a role – or lack of role – for Assad in terms of the actions and prerogatives of the transitional government. Russia does not have a conception of how to translate its position that the beginning of this phase does not mean that it will end with Assad’s staying on. Meanwhile, the United States does not have a clear plan for the formula that it accepted, namely that the beginning of the transitional phase is not conditioned on Assad’s departure. Between the beginning and end of this transitional phase lie a number of obstacles and fears, which are not restricted to the issue of how to represent the opposition in Geneva, or the regional powers that should take part in a settlement in, and over, Syria. In the event that there is no surprise in the meeting between Russian and American officials on Monday over the working framework for Geneva 2, Assad will have made himself the prime impediment to convening the conference, by setting the condition that Gulf states must halt their support for terrorists. The media of Assad and his allies have promoted the idea that the US-Russian agreement on getting rid of Syria’s chemical weapons was a victory for the Syrian president, because it requires his remaining in power in return for this concession. But the head of the regime remains unconvinced that Moscow will share this victory with him if it retains its stance that the end of the transitional process requires Assad’s departure, if the beginning of the process requires that he remain in power. Assad is concerned with the Russian position because he has given up hope in a change in the American position, which says he must go, and that it is no longer possible to rebuild Syria politically and economically with him around. This is despite the political-media campaign fabricated by his supporters that hints Washington has altered its stance.
There are worries about the Russian position because Assad is aware that his remaining in power has become a negotiating card in the hands of Moscow, and is not a card for Washington to hold in the first place. The US does not have many cards in Syria or is not concerned with the Middle East and the region, except from the standpoint of the security of its Israeli ally. If Assad becomes such a card, this means that it is possible to dispose of him in the process of concluding deals and political settlements.
There is another aspect of this fundamental obstacle to the possibility of Geneva 2 being a success: the degree to which Iran is ready to accept a transitional authority with full executive power in Syria, as a presumed partner in supporting the establishment of such an authority, since leading powers insist on Tehran’s attendance at a Geneva conference. If Assad’s presence and continuity in power are a Russian card, its prime partner in possessing this card, Tehran, is not ready to bargain over it.
In assuming that Iran is ready to bargain, it is difficult to imagine that it will do so with the same ease as Russia. Iran has made sacrifices to prevent Assad’s fall for power, whether through sending money or fighters, or involving Hezbollah in the Syrian quagmire. Tehran has given satisfactory signals to Washington about giving up its nuclear weapons and its readiness to prove that its nuclear program is about the peaceful production of energy. But holding on to Syria represents a “bomb” that is an alternative to nuclear weapons, and it serves as a key link to extending its regional influence. Even though there is currently a separation between the American (and western) negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and the US-Russian understanding over Syria via the agreement on ridding the country of chemical weapons and striving for a political settlement at Geneva, it is impossible to ignore the fine thread that holds both issues together. If Moscow must take Iran into consideration in dealing with the bargaining chip of Assad’s remaining in power as it negotiates with Washington, then Washington must in turn take Israel’s calculations into consideration as it and Moscow negotiate with Iran over the nuclear issue. The Jewish state is not reassured by the progress in Iran’s relations with the White House of Barack Obama unless this includes guarantees for Israel’s security, and this includes the role of Hezbollah in Lebanon and in Syria. Obama cannot ignore Israel’s interests the way he ignores the interests of his Gulf allies. Thus, the repercussions of the possible agreement with Iran over its nuclear program must include negotiations between Iran and Israel over guarantees for its security. This represents the link between the nuclear issue and the formulas that will govern Geneva 2. And this raises the question of whether progress on one track requires waiting for progress on the other, and vice versa. In the end, it is difficult to separate negotiations over a political solution in Syria from the Iranian nuclear issue, which involves regional influence, without entering into a grand deal over how to distribute this influence. In the interim, the Great Powers have no problem in expressing sorrow over the humanitarian situation in Syria, and looking on as the cat-and-mouse war goes on.

Brahimi’s Superficial Pragmatism

Husam Itani/Al Hayat
Friday 01 November 2013
Arab-UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi provokes recurring anger among the sides involved in civil war in Syria. The media outlets keep attributing to the man conflicting statements that require clarifications from him and his aides. At times, he criticizes Bashar al-Assad and his apparatuses’ violence to the point where it is said that Brahimi is persona non grata in Damascus. But the next day, he provokes the wrath of the Syrian opposition, which believes that he has become the regime’s spokesman and is promoting Al-Assad’s stay in his post for an unlimited period of time. The one-year (and a few months) period spent by Brahimi in his position after his predecessor Kofi Annan stepped down, was a living example of the diplomatic school to which the former Algerian foreign minister belongs. And accusing Brahimi of being biased in favor of this or that side practically disregards the cultural and professional background from which he comes. Indeed, one should go back to the man’s experience in conflict-resolution diplomacy. Despite the long list of conflicts he was dispatched to seek solutions for, one can say he adopted a single approach in dealing with all of them. His approach relies on a middle ground solution among the various components that lean in most cases on their sectarian or tribal identity, in a way reflecting the balance of powers at the moment of the agreement, under an international and regional sponsorship that proceeds without any guarantees.
This, in short, is what he accomplished in Lebanon through his work in the context of the Arab committee that drew up the 1989 Taif Accord. At the time, the accord reflected the solid Syrian-Muslim alliance in the face of the dismantlement of the Christian camp that was abandoned by the West, thus implicitly transferring the largest part of the Christian president of the republic’s prerogatives to the Cabinet and his Muslim Sunni prime minister. The Taif Accord earned a wide Arab and international cover, which imposed its implementation on its detractors following the toppling of the military government’s Prime Minister Michel Aoun by force.
Also, Brahimi’s efforts in Iraq in the middle of last decade – in light of the attempts to draw up a new constitution – and in Afghanistan did not shift away from this approach, and the results in Iraq and Lebanon are there for all to see. The Arab-UN envoy is neither seeking new agreements nor trying to change the representation map of the social forces or endorse their sensitivities, interests, and aspirations. His experience reveals he wants to secure a settlement that would end the bloodshed and destruction during the current stage, without any concern for the foundations on which this settlement is based. Hence, the resumption of the conflicts – as it is happening in Lebanon and Iraq for example – is outside his scope of work, which is limited to the current moment. This would explain the changing of his announced positions based on the changes affecting the balances of power politically and on the field, inside and outside of Syria. Therefore, finding a formula for the sustainment of the regime is not due to Brahimi’s bias in favor of Al-Assad as claimed by the opposition’s spokespersons, just like his harsh criticisms towards the rule in Damascus during previous stages. The envoy merely conveyed the transformations he detected in the past weeks along the course of events, in light of the opposition’s inability to achieve any strategic, military or political progress and its loss in the mazes of conflicts and contradicting loyalties, at a time when the regime’s image witnessed great improvement after it surrendered its chemical weapons and in light of the international community’s willingness to seal a deal with it. Yes, this vision does not feature any position in support of the Syrians’ right to choose a different regime that is more evolved on the representational and democratic levels than Al-Assad’s. However, it definitely reflects a pragmatic understanding – a rather simple and superficial perception of pragmatism – wishing to secure a quick end to the fighting at whichever cost, even if through a truce agreement paving the way for future calamities.

Israeli defense minister with top generals could have been hit by the bomb trap which injured five soldiers
DEBKAfile Special Report November 1, 2013/The unanswered questions about the IDF’s actions against Gaza terrorist tunnels Thursday night, Oct. 31 point to operational flaws. Not surprisingly, the IDF announced Friday that the operation will be subjected to a special inquiry. Most reports agree that a bomb trap was planted in the tunnel discovered last month running from Khan Younes in the Gaza Strip to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosaha and was triggered when the combat engineering unit approached the tunnel with equipment for destroying it. Five men were injured, one seriously, including a Lt. Colonel and a major.
It is hard to escape this major lapse in surveillance on the part of the Southern Command chiefs and the field officers who planned the operation. It poses the next question: How did Hamas manage to plant a bomb trap in the 1.5 km tunnel unnoticed three weeks after it was uncovered by the IDF? At the time, the army spokesman said the tunnel had branches and niches for concealing explosives. Maybe they were there all the time. And why was the tunnel not examined and made safe before the engineering unit went into action? Four days ago, Monday, Oct. 29, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and a group of generals were photographed visiting the exposed tunnel. What if they had run into the same booby-trap as the engineering unit Thursday? Were they lucky or had it not yet been put in position? None of the answers to these questions turned up by the IDF investigation are likely to be good.
1. If Hamas planted the explosives in the tunnel before the minister’s visit, it would have hoped to bring off a major coup by assassinating Israel’s defense minister and several high generals at the lowest moment in its fortunes.
2. It the bombs were inserted later, Hamas may have got the idea when its spotters watching to see what the army was doing with the tunnel saw the minister and retinue visiting.
The commanders of Hamas’s military arm the Ezz a-din Al Al-Qassam, Mohamed Deif and Marwan Issa, would have seen their chance of an ambush and planted it there ready for the IDF operation. How come that no Israeli commander took this eventuality into account? A senior IDF officer issued this version of the event: The engineering unit was not inside the tunnel when the bomb trap went off, but outside, after dropping a drill through a hole in the ceiling to be used for widening one of the openings. The drill struck the bombs and five members of the unit were injured outside the tunnel by the very powerful blast.
This doesn’t explain why an inspection of the tunnel was not ordered before the operation, taking a possible trap into account. The same question applies to the prime minister and defense minister. They failed to take into account that the Obama administration would feel obliged to prove its non-involvement in the Israeli air strikes in Syria, conducte  Thursday night to destroy anti-air missiles destined for Hizballah. This was proven by betrayal of the air strikes through leaks to US media.Israeli government and army leaders were beside themselves with fury. But their mistake was to believe they could continue to trust Amnerica after long years of military and strategic collaboration in the Middle East arena, even though President Obama amply demonstrated he had opted for a separate agenda often divorced from Israel’s interests.
One of the conclusions from the events of the last 24 hours is that certain home improvements are called for in the Israeli armed forces, before they are ready to go for the big game, Iran’s nuclear program. Flaws keep on turning up in minor operations. The measure of a strong army and a serious military option is to be found less in its advanced weaponry and generous budget and more in performance on the ground. The tunnel operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip exposed vulnerabilities typical of an army which has not been called to fight in more than two years. They are minor but require serious attention.