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Bible Quotation for today/The Wisdom
James 03/13-18: "Are there any of you who are wise and understanding? You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom. But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don't sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic. Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace."
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 0/13
The U.S.-Saudi Royal Rumble/By: Simon Henderson /Washington Institute/November 05/13
Failed policies/The Daily Star/ November 05/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 05/13
Lebanese Related News
Kerry Urges Preventing Hizbullah from Determining Lebanon's Future
Report: Indirect Talks between Hizbullah, U.S. over Government Formation
Hizbullah Taking Extraordinary Security Measures during Ashura and Nasrallah Urges Supporters' Cooperation
Report: Positive Outcomes Expected from Suleiman's Upcoming Trip to Saudi Arabia
Berri: Tripoli Van Attack Aimed at Creating Strife in Lebanon
Search warrant for Tripoli Alawite leader Eid
Saqr Issues Search and Investigation Warrant against Ali Eid and Syrian Tanks Deploy near His House
Jumblatt denies sending letter to Syria’s Assad
Arslan Denies Delivering Letter to Assad on Behalf of Jumblat
Jumblat on Letter to Assad Report: I haven't Reached This Level of Political Stupidity
Jumblatt sends conciliatory letter to Assad
March 14 has no right to set conditions: Hezbollah
Geagea denounces attack on Alawites in n. Lebanon
Phalange Party Demands Providing 'Full Support' to Army, Security Forces in Tripoli
Palestinian Businessman Kidnapped for Ransom in Akkar
FPM to Hold Talks with al-Mustaqbal over Parliamentary Deadlock
Charbel Praises Tripoli Officials for Restraint over Bus Attack
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Iran Revolutionary Guards commander killed in Syria
Rouhani not 'optimistic' about Iran nuclear talks: IRNA
Ahead of the P5+1 nuclear talks: The US debate on sanctioning Iran
Jewish groups lobby for new sanctions on Iran, deal or not
Iran: Protesters swarm former US Embassy
Iran hardliners jab at Rouhani on embassy siege anniversary
Biden, Kerry push US Senate to delay new sanctions on Iran
Rohani not 'optimistic' about nuclear talks
Saudi minister plays down policy differences with U.S.
Kerry calls U.S.-Saudi ties strategic and
As Kerry met Egyptian and Saudi leaders, planning advanced for a Russian naval base in Egypt
Arab League urges Assad, opposition to meet in Geneva for
Syrian government says aid, vaccinations will reach all
Morsi to judge: I am your legitimate president
Meretz chief: Obama wants major Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough in 2014
Poll: Most Israelis think US is spying on them
Iran Revolutionary Guards commander
killed in Syria
November 04, 2013/Daily Star /DUBAI: A commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards has been killed in Syria after volunteering to defend a Shiite shrine in Damascus, the Iranian Mehr news agency said on Monday.
Commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the southeastern province of Kerman was killed in the last few days by "Wahhabi terrorists", the agency said, giving no more details.
The report could not be independently confirmed. Jamalizadeh was a veteran of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and then served in anti-smuggling units. He did not travel to Syria for the IRGC, but volunteered to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in the southern suburbs of Damascus, Mehr said. The area around the mosque revered by Shiites as the burial site of a grand-daughter of the prophet Mohammad has been the scene of heavy fighting.
Jamalizadeh's funeral is to take place on Tuesday in Kerman, capital of the province of the same name. Western diplomats say Iran, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, provides billions of dollars of aid and an undisclosed number of military advisers to Syria. Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group openly acknowledges its guerrillas are fighting for Assad, but Tehran denies its troops have been engaged directly in combat in Syria.
"As we have said many times before, Iran has no battalions in Syria and only advisers are present to transfer their defensive experience to the defenders of that country," Sepah news agency quoted General Ramazan Sharif, head of public relations for IRGC, as saying on Monday. Video footage seized and posted online by Syrian rebels in September showed armed Iranians in military uniform working on the front lines alongside Syrian government soldiers. Iranian media later reported that both the cameraman and the Iranian commander in the footage had been killed.
Hizbullah Taking Extraordinary
Security Measures during Ashura and Nasrallah Urges Supporters' Cooperation
Naharnet November 2013/Hizbullah will begin on Monday holding daily mourning councils on the occasion of Ashura, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper. It said that the party has taken extraordinary security measures at the councils given information it obtained that they could be the target of attacks. The Army Command also announced that its units have started taking similar measures at various mourning councils throughout Lebanon. The security measures also encompass places of worship, tourist sites, and shopping malls and they include the setting up of mobile and stationary checkpoints. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on his supporters on Monday evening to cooperate with the measures adopted by the army. "I urge you to cooperate and bear with these measures as their implementation insures marking these days without any mistakes, losses or obstacles," he said in a televised speech he gave on the first day of Ashura. At least 22 people were killed and 325 wounded in a car bombing in Hizbullah's stronghold of Dahieh in Beirut's southern suburbs on August 15.
In September, Nasrallah blamed Sunni takfiris linked to the Syrian opposition for the August 15 attack.On July 9, a booby-trapped car exploded at a parking lot in Bir al-Abed, leaving 53 people wounded and causing extensive material damage. In May, two rockets slammed into the Beirut southern suburb of Shiyyah, wounding four people.
Report: Indirect Talks between
Hizbullah, U.S. over Government Formation
Naharnet /04 November 2013/Indirect and secret contacts are ongoing between Hizbullah and the U.S. embassy in Lebanon, the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper reported on Monday.
The daily quoted a March 14 MP as saying that the “relations between the Hizbullah and the U.S. are developing positively.” The lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper pointed out that Hizbullah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah failed to criticize the U.S. role in Lebanon and the region in his latest speech, unlike his previous speeches. The MP also noted that U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale informed various Lebanese leaders that “a cabinet can not be formed without Hizbullah participation.” The lawmaker said that the hopes for a breakthrough in the 30-year estrangement between the U.S. and Iran had an impact on its ties with Hizbullah.
Jumblatt denies sending letter to Syria’s Assad
November 04, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt denied Monday a report he had recently sent Syrian President Bashar Assad a letter. “As far as I am aware, I have not reached this level of senility or political stupidity,” Al-Anbaa quoted Jumblatt as saying on its website. On Monday, The Daily Star, quoting a senior political source close to the March 8 coalition, reported that Assad ally MP Talal Arslan had delivered a letter to the Syrian leader on behalf of Jumblatt. Jumblatt’s message to Assad, according to the source, was twofold: one of reconciliation between the PSP chief and the Syrian leader and an appeal to Assad to re-enroll in the Syrian Army two Druze officers who had defected earlier. Assad’s response to Jumblatt’s letter was mixed, the source said. Arslan, the head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, denied earlier Monday he had delivered a letter from Jumblatt to Assad and vice versa and said his last meeting with the Syrian leader was 15 days ago. Arslan’s comments were carried by Lebanon’s LBCI, which will air an interview with Jumblatt Tuesday.When contacted by The Daily Star Sunday, PSP officials refused to comment on news about Jumblatt’s message to Assad.
March 14 has no right to set
November 04, 2013 03/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad Monday accused the March 14 coalition of undermining state institutions and said his rivals were in no position to set conditions over the Cabinet formation. “[The March 14] raised the slogan of the ‘transit to the state’ while they left nothing from the state’s institutions,” Raad said during a commemoration ceremony in the Nabatieh town of Harouf in the south of the country. “They even attacked the military institution,” he added. “You have brought down [state] administrations with your [crankiness] and sectarian approach,” Raad said, urging his rivals “to be rational and calm and to renounce hatred, act rationally and adopt the slogans they have raised.” Raad, who heads the Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc, reiterated the call for a national unity Cabinet that takes into consideration the representation of parties at the parliamentary level. “We are calling on you to meet us in a Cabinet in which each side gets its fair representation or you go on in your stance of rejecting the resistance and its achievements,” he said. The MP added that Lebanon was only managing to survive as a result of the “wisdom, patience and realism of the resistance.”“This resistance has put the nation and the homeland and the people on the path of continuous victory and no one can obstruct this path,” Raad said. He said the March 14 alliance had no right to impose conditions on the Cabinet formation process. “The resistance will go on in implementing its missions. This should be clear so that those we are calling on us to take part in the Cabinet do not impose preconditions on us especially at a time where they are not in a position to impose such conditions.”Lebanon’s Cabinet formation has been stalled for almost seven months as a result of conditions and counter-conditions put forward by the rival political camps in the country.
Geagea denounces attack on Alawites in
November 04, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea denounced Monday the recent assault on a number of Alawite residents from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. “Geagea denounced in the strongest terms the blatant assault on the workers from Jabal Mohsen and requested that the judicial and security authorities take immediate measures and level the harshest punishment against the perpetrators,” according to an LF statement. On Saturday, six residents from Jabal Mohsen, a predominantly Alawite neighborhood, were assaulted after being pulled out from a bus in a Sunni neighborhood of the northern city. A group of gunmen had apparently blocked the bus’ path, pulled the victims on to the street before beating and shooting at them. The Army has arrested one Syrian national for his alleged involvement in the attack and is in pursuit of three Lebanese suspects. Geagea, according to the statement, also urged authorities to take steps to prevent a deterioration of security in Tripoli. He urged authorities to take the bold step of disarming the city “so that no one in the city, regardless of the party they follow, be exposed to [pointless] killing.” Meanwhile, Hasan Khayyal, an Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya politburo official in north Lebanon, blamed the Assad regime for the attack on the resident of Jabal Mohsen. “The attack against the young men from Jabal Mohsen is part of a plot by the Assad regime and its supporters to [destroy] the co-existence in the city,” he said. Khayal rejected Tripoli being labeled a sectarian city. “Accusing Tripoli of being a sectarian city is rejected, especially when [the allegation] comes from those who are now involved in the Syrian battles pretending to protect religious sites while in fact are supporting a tyrant regime,” he said, referring to Hezbollah. In Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, admitted that he had dispatched fighters to support the President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple the Syrian leader. The party has defended its actions in Syrian, saying it is seeking to defend Lebanon from jihadists, whom it also accuses of targeting Shiite religious sites in Syria.
Phalange Party Demands Providing 'Full
Support' to Army, Security Forces in Tripoli
Naharnet/04 November 2013/The Phalange Party on Monday urged providing “all necessary support” to the armed and security forces to execute a large-scale security plan in the northern city of Tripoli, following the recent deadly clashes in the region. "We stress on the importance of breaking the cycle that is controlling Tripoli and drawing the line to all deviant cases present in the city,” the party said in a released statement after the political bureau's weekly meeting. The statement continued: “We call for providing all the needed support to the army and to the security forces and give them a 48-hour time limit before executing a large-scale security operation.”
"The security plan should seek the elimination of all personal guns and detain those that have arrest warrants issued against them for their involvement in the clashes and the mosques' bombings.”
The political bureau also condemned the “sectarian strife” attempts that was manifested in attacking a group of workers who hail from the Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.
"This incident is strange to the residents of Tripoli and it harms their history. This is a dangerous transformation of the relations between the Lebanese.”
At least six residents from Jabal Mohsen were wounded on Saturday when a van carrying eight passengers came under attack by masked gunmen in the Tripoli neighborhood of al-Tabbaneh near Dar al-Salam school.
The assailants took the passengers at gunpoint to local streets in the area and shot six of them in their feet. The Phalange party lamented that the Geneva II summit is about to take place while Lebanon is still awaiting the formation of a new cabinet. "The process of the cabinet's formation has been subjected to political calculations and numbers and the only way to get out of the current deadlock is by respecting constitutional texts and forming a council of ministers that saves Lebanon from all dangers,” the statement said. The politburo also urged President Michel Suleiman to form a “high-level delegation” to attend the international talks.
"The delegation must adopt a united stand regarding Lebanon's sufferings that is caused by the Syrian crisis,” it stressed. "At the forefront of the issues to be tackled must be the refugees' crisis, the Syrian violations of the northern and the eastern borders with Lebanon, and the neighboring country's involvement in bombings that took place and that were planned to happen.”The statement urged the Lebanese delegation to propose a redistribution of refugees on nations that are capable of hosting them and saving Lebanon from a security, social and human crisis. The conferees reiterated calls for shortening the extended term of the parliament's mandate, praising the Administration and Justice Committee's reconvening to discuss a new electoral law.They also expressed their solidarity with the military institution, lamenting targeting its soldiers in Tripoli and the Bekaa's city of Baalbek. "We call for drawing an end to assaulting the army and its prestige and for immediately trying the attackers after lifting any political cover they might enjoy,” the Phalange Party's statement said.
Palestinian Businessman Kidnapped for
Ransom in Akkar
Naharnet/ 04 November 2013/Gunmen abducted for ransom a Palestinian businessman in the northern Akkar plains, the state-run National News Agency reported on Monday. "Armed men kidnapped trader Youssef Loubani in the Akkar plains,” the NNA said, noting that the abductee is 50 years old. The same source later provided more details on the incident: “Loubani was kidnapped at 10:00 am while he was waiting for a customer to sell him olives on the international road near the northern entrance of the Nahr al-Bared camp.”The NNA noted that Loubani's family filed a complaint with concerned authorities, explaining that they have a received a phone call from a number with the Bekaa area code, 08, demanding ransom to released the kidnapped man. "But they haven't heard from anyone after that call," the NNA remarked."Palestinian factions and local committees are following up on this case, although they haven't reached any conclusion yet." Loubani, a former sewer, is father to 22 children from two different wives, one of whom is deceased. Several of his kids live in the United States.
Ahead of the P5+1 nuclear talks: The US debate on sanctioning Iran
By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/11/04/2013
WASHINGTON — On October 29, with just a day’s notice, members of the National Security Council summoned four of America’s most influential pro-Israel lobbyists to the White House for an urgent meeting.
Administration officials had been informed that the Senate Banking Committee was preparing to mark up a long-threatened, unforgiving bill that would further restrict Iran’s oil sector as early as this week — right before US diplomats meet with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva, where they hope to forge an interim agreement over Iran’s controversial and expansive nuclear program. The bill is the fifth piece of sanctions legislation against Iran written by the US Congress in four years. Among the five, this is the harshest yet. “Democrats were making clear to the White House that this train is moving,” one Senate aide said. “The administration didn't want anything scheduled, and they didn't want anything announced, at least until they get through the next round.” Fearing the train may have left the station, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, her deputies Ben Rhodes and Tony Blinken and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman came to the meeting with an ask: hold off on pressuring Congress to move forward through the next two rounds of negotiations.
“The timing was everything,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. The meeting was on such short notice that Harris had to send a deputy in his place.
“At this point, I am willing to give the administration the benefit of their judgment,” said Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who says the administration hopes for kernels of a deal to emerge by the end of November. "I think at the end of that month they will know if it's real or not,” Foxman said, at which point, “this debate may be moot.”
And yet the lobbying has continued, both because and in spite of the delicacy of the moment: all parties see a short window to act. All share the same goal of ridding Iran of its enrichment program, now in its eighth year in earnest and well on its way to providing the Islamic Republic with several nuclear warheads. But the White House and Congress — operating in sync with Israel's government and its American advocates — have paradoxical strategies on how best to proceed towards that goal. Regardless, Foxman is correct: this week in Geneva, Iran’s actions will determine which path America takes, several officials and legislators explained in interviews with The Jerusalem Post. "In some ways, it's not a bad thing having this out there. But it has to be dropped at an appropriate time," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, speaking by phone from Salt Lake City. "It just depends when you use the stick."
Those in support of the measure argue that sanctions are a proven coercive force; that existing penalties have brought Iran to the negotiating table, but that more are required for Iran to actually close a deal. They seek a complete freeze of all enrichment across Iran. On Capitol Hill, they represent the greatest bipartisan coalition on any issue today, foreign or domestic. The new bill would immediately sever Iran's access to its remaining foreign exchange reserves, estimated at roughly $100 billion with $20 billion in unrestricted funds. It would clamp down on Iran's shipping industry. But harshest of all, Congress would now impose a mandatory cap on the number of barrels of crude oil per day that Iran could export — less than 50 percent than its current BPD count, met within twelve months from passage — or else its buyers would face significant financial penalties.
Currently, the president has the authority to grant sanctions waivers to companies based in allied nations buying Iranian oil. Those exemptions would no longer be renewed, forcing Obama to inform Beijing, Seoul and Istanbul that their oil would have to come from elsewhere, quickly, or else risk economic ties with the United States. For this reason, the Obama administration is pushing back. Sanctions have worked, the White House charges, only because the president has used political capital to shore up an international coalition willing to enforce them. Only the executive branch can implement them, and indeed, the president has done so effectively: Iran's exports of crude have already halved, and the value of Iran's currency has plummeted over 60 percent since 2010. The White House fears this new bill will fracture its global coalition against Iran — and that a conservative political alignment to the right of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will punish him, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, for attempting a futile reconciliation effort with the US. Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, one senior administration official used sharp language to describe the possible consequences of further legislative action.
“Moving forward now will severely undermine prospects for a diplomatic solution,” the official said. “It will create cracks in the international coalition we have built to enforce the sanctions. It will provide an excuse for those in Iran who want to resist any deal.”The official also called the bill “unnecessary,” because the president has the prerogative to sign executive orders implementing most of the bill’s provisions.
"They have reason to believe Rouhani and [Foreign Minister Mohammed] Zarif are both empowered to make a deal, and highly incentivized to make a deal," says Colin Kahl, a former senior Pentagon official now a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. "The great achievement of the Obama administration is that they changed the narrative from the Bush years — now, the reason diplomacy has failed so far isn't America's fault, but Iran's." Two days after the White House meeting, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made their plea to Congress in a classified meeting on Capitol Hill. Enthusiasm over the prospects of a deal was underwhelming, multiple senators said.
"Senior administration officials made the same claims and asked us to withdraw the amendment" before the last several rounds of sanctions, Senator Mark Kirk, a leading Republican on the issue, commented over e-mail. "They were wrong, and today the Menendez-Kirk amendment is credited with bringing Iran back to the negotiating table." The time to act is now, Kirk said, not after giving Iran several more chances to forge a hallow interim agreement. Senator Robert Menendez is also unconvinced. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he is the highest-ranking Democrat in Congress on issues of foreign policy. And yet it is he — not his Republican colleagues — who is leading an effort to push this bill through committee by the end of the year. In a phone interview, Menendez said he had not heard “sufficient, substantive reasons to delay” the new bill beyond Friday’s talks in Geneva. “At the end of the day, you've got to know what is your bottom line — at least we have to know, even if that knowledge is in a secured fashion,” Menendez said. “What's our position on a final set of negotiation? What's our end game?” Menendez said that, barring any dramatic developments in Geneva this week, he will move forward with the bill in committee in short order. “I would really want to see something significant by the end of [this] week,” he said.
In a letter to Obama, Menendez, Kirk, John McCain and a bipartisan group of their peers told the president that they would only halt progress on the bill if Iran agreed to a complete freeze of uranium enrichment.
“I would be really be surprised if they had a meaningful interim agreement by the end of the week,” Albright said, sympathizing with the difficult job ahead for her successor. “We are at a moment where it is possible to have some kind of an agreement, but it will take a while, because its a complicated diplomatic story.” Patrick Clawson, a sanctions expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that the US should be teasing Iran with the prospect of sanctions relief should they deliver on a deal. “If the P5+1 negotiators were to get the Iranians to freeze all uranium enrichment, they should all get lavish raises, because that would be a remarkable achievement,” Clawson says. “But it's silly for the White House to say this bill undercuts Rouhani. It reinforces Rouhani, because he can go to Khamenei and say that the West has always said things will get worse until there's an agreement.”
Complicating negotiations is the mere science of nuclear enrichment: at this point, advances in Iran’s program make an interim deal much harder to forge than it would have been even six months ago. Iran has developed and installed new IR2M centrifuges that enrich uranium at three to five times the efficiency of their older models, allowing them to spin low-enriched stockpiles into weapons-grade material at a quicker pace than UN inspectors can detect the shift. That means uranium enriched at just 3.5 percent could be speedily converted, making a higher percentage cutoff no longer acceptable to Western negotiators.
“I'd be willing to listen to the totality of any package,” Menendez said, when asked whether he would entertain an interim deal in which Iran agreed to enrich uranium at no higher than 3.5 percent.
The House of Representatives already passed its own version of the bill over the summer. The effort was also led by Democrats, passing by a vote of 400 to 20.
"There's always a pull and tug between the executive branch and the legislative branch when it comes to foreign policy," Congressman Eliot Engel said, praising the negotiations process. "You could say, ‘hold off and let the president's people do all this.’ Or you could go into a classic good cop, bad cop routine.”
Engel, who pioneered the House bill, said that the US has waited until the “eleventh hour” to seriously address the Iranian crisis. But asked whether he would support a resolution giving the president authorization for the use of force, Engel said, “we shouldn’t jump the gun.”“If Iran stops enriching, we should stop adding additional sanctions,” the congressman said. “If Iran starts dismantling its program, we can start dismantling sanctions.” Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, called the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal a non-starter, and said he does not expect a breakthrough within Congress’ set time-frame.
“This is not good cop, bad cop. This is good cop, insane cop,” Parsi said in a phone interview. “Khamenei has given Rouhani a lot of rope. And if he fails, he has a lot of rope to hang himself on.”
Since his September speech to the United Nations in New York, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel supports the negotiations process and seeks a peaceful resolution to the nuclear dispute.
But in what represents yet another public disagreement with Obama in a series of many, Netanyahu is encouraging lawmakers to pass this bill through intermediaries, convinced that further pressure is the only way to force Iran to capitulate. "I don't want to comment on any specific legislation in the Senate, but I can say this," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview in Washington. "Netanyahu emphasized the formula of the equation: the greater the pressure, the greater the chances... for diplomacy to succeed.” Administration officials recognize the role Israel’s government has played in the lobbying effort. “The point of contention is not the diplomatic process per se. It's whether, at this moment in time, that process would be strengthened or weakened by additional congressional action,” Harris said. “Those that support congressional action are not saying, let's scuttle the diplomatic process. What they are saying is, the diplomatic process is far more likely to achieve results if we strengthen our posture.” Asked whether he thought Iran would ever fully cease nuclear enrichment, as Netanyahu demands, Harris conceded it is unlikely. “It may never happen,” he said, “but if I'm selling my house, I don't open with my price.” Michael Zolandz, a sanctions lawyer representing firms in Europe and Asia trying to abide by the current regime, said he worries that more penalties will compound pressure on his clients. “The concrete impact of new legislation is both political and strategic — even if the bill has a phase-in period, it will immediately change the calculus in negotiations,” Zolandz said. “New legislation could have a dynamic impact on the US’ ability to negotiate with the Iranians, as well as our allies.”Zolandz expects the current sanctions regime will continue to damage Iran’s economy, so long as Obama maintains strict enforcement and closes loopholes in the laws with executive orders. But “there is a limit to how effective the status quo can be,” Zolandz said. “The question of whether you can continue to effectuate change through the status quo is really difficult to answer, because good data on the Iranian economy is hard to come by.”
Multiple clocks are now ticking: one in Congress, one in the White House, one in Jerusalem and two in Tehran. Calculated or not, the Iranians have allowed their program to advance so far ahead of any developed negotiations process that they will struggle to cut a deal without appearing to capitulate to Western demands. That’s a real political problem for the Rouhani government, if it truly wants a deal.
The second clock is entirely their own: should they choose nuclear breakout, Iran reserves the ability to do so at any time, so long as their program’s infrastructure remains in place.
The White House insists that US intelligence agencies are capable of detecting breakout in Iran, which they determine would occur not in publicly acknowledged facilities but in covert plants, likely slowing down the process.
Contacted for this article, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the administration does not seek an open-ended delay of the new legislation.
"There may come a point where additional sanctions are necessary," Meehan said. "The window for negotiation is limited, and if progress isn’t made, there may be a time when more sanctions are, in fact, necessary.”
The final clock running its course is in Geneva. This week, the consequences of Iran’s decisions are real and immediate. Whether or not Zarif comes to the table with an actual, meaningful proposal will determine how Israel prepares going forward; how Congress legislates its punishments; and the wearing patience of a president, desperate for a deal that he knows may never come to pass.
“They're trying to use the time that Rouhani has, because there's no question that Rouhani also has a difficult internal situation,” Albright said. “And this is what diplomacy's about — figuring out what you can do with the person at the other side of the table.”
Jewish groups lobby for new sanctions on Iran, deal or not
By MICHAEL WILNER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 11/04/2013
WASHINGTON – Major American Jewish organizations have continued lobbying Congress to pass new sanctions targeting Iran without pause, despite reports of a deal struck between their leaders and the Obama administration to delay such efforts until the end of the year.
A series of articles in Haaretz claimed that a deal had been reached to hold a 60-day moratorium on lobbying for the bill. But the inaccuracy of the reporting is self-evident: Senate aides say that lobbying continued unabated throughout the week, and major groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee, have both publicly and privately denied such a deal was agreed upon, or even discussed.
Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, says his organization would not press for new action for one or two months’ time. But AIPAC made clear in a statement on Sunday that Foxman’s decision was not their own. “Until Iran suspends its enrichment program, additional sanctions are vital for diplomacy to succeed,” the statement read. “AIPAC continues to support congressional action to adopt legislation to further strengthen sanctions, and there will absolutely be no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts.” Speaking to The Jerusalem Post last week, David Harris, executive director of the AJC, also denied the reports. “I can tell you, within AJC, no decision has been made to support the Senate measure,” Harris said. “There’s no process in place to reconsider our decision.”
Biden, Kerry push US Senate to delay new sanctions on Iran
By MICHAEL WILNER, REUTERS 11/01/2013/WASHINGTON – US Vice President Joe Biden led a high-powered delegation to Capitol Hill on Thursday to try to persuade US lawmakers to hold off on any more sanctions against Iran and let delicate diplomatic talks over Tehran's nuclear program unfold. Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew held a closed-door session with Senate Democratic leaders and Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Banking Committee to update them on major power talks with Iran. A new round of negotiations is set for next week in Geneva.
The Obama administration is seeking maximum flexibility going into the second round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear drive. The talks are scheduled to open on November 7 in Geneva.
“We asked for a pause, to provide flexibility, of new sanctions,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.
“We believe that congressional action needs to be aligned with our negotiating strategy.” An official in Biden's office said existing sanctions have "gotten us to where we are today, to have the opportunity to test Iranian intentions to seek an enduring diplomatic solution.""No one is suggesting an open-ended delay for new sanctions, and there may come a point where additional sanctions are necessary," the official said, but Congress should reserve its ability to legislate when it is most effective. "The window for negotiation is limited, and if progress isn't made, there may be a time when more sanctions are in fact necessary. We have always said that there would be no agreement overnight and we've been clear that this process is going to take some time," the official said. The package under consideration in the Senate would aim to halve Iran’s oil exports, imposing a maximum number of barrels per day before prompting mandatory restrictive measures on buyers. The White House finds itself negotiating not with members of the Republican Party, but with fellow Democrats.
A similar resolution for anti-Iran sanctions passed the House of Representatives in August with overwhelming bipartisan support. Sen. Robert Menendez (D–New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a leading proponent of the current bill. "I'm not ready to commit" to further delay, Menendez told reporters Thursday. Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who strongly opposes any move to hold off on sanctions, said that if the banking committee delays its vote, he would seek to add more Iran sanctions to a defense authorization bill that could come to the Senate floor in November.
Others said they were more open to the appeal for a delay. "I am mindful of the fact that maybe these discussions will bear fruit, and so we'll see," Republican Senator Mike Johanns said, although he added that any delay would not be long. Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, chairman of the Banking Committee, said he had not yet decided whether to put off the committee's vote on new sanctions again. The banking panel, which has jurisdiction over sanctions bills, has delayed the measure from September at the administration's request. Administration officials question the timing of the legislation and insist that the existing sanctions regime will be vigorously enforced until Iran follows through on its promises with meaningful, verifiable concessions. Before the first round of talks in Geneva last month, a bipartisan group of senators told the White House that the only way to stop new sanction legislation was to convince the Iranians to freeze all uranium enrichment.Tehran has called enrichment an inalienable national right.
As Kerry met Egyptian and Saudi leaders, planning advanced for a Russian naval base in Egypt
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 4, 2013/Moscow’s request for a naval base in Egypt submitted last week by a visiting Russian general prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to hurry up and visit Cairo and Riyadh for an attempt to smooth their prickly relations over Washington’s policies for Syria and Iran. However, Sunday, Nov. 3, the day he stopped over in Cairo en route for Riyadh, saw a mighty buildup of Russian naval stgrength in the Mediterranean.
Russia’s Pacific Fleet flagship, the Varyag,and the powerful nuclear-fueled battleship Pyotr Veliky arrived to carry out “a number of tasks” with other Russian Navy ships in the region, according to the official statement form Moscow. debkafile’s military sources report that the two new arrivals expand Russia’s Mediterranean naval presence to 16 vessels. Among them are the missile cruiser Moskva and three of Russian navy’s largest amphibian craft, the Aleksandr Shabalin, the Novocherkassk and the Minsk, all carrying large detachments of marines, and a fourth landing craft, the Azov, there since last month.
The Russian fleet has moved into the vacuum left by the withdrawal of US warships which followed President Barack Obama’s decision not to attack Syria’s chemical weapons. It has established the largest Russian presence ever in the Mediterranean with the strongest firepower of any other force in the eastern and central stretches of this water. Russian warships are now present opposite Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, the Suez Canal and Libya. Moscow’s request for a naval base to serve this fleet hovered in the background of John Kerry’s conversation with Saudi King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal Monday, Nov 4. His departure from Cairo was dogged by rumors of an impending visit to Egypt by President Vladimir Putin. As debkafile reported earlier, Saudi Arabia engineered the Russian-Egyptian rapprochement with a view to bringing Russian military advisers back to Egypt for the first time since they were thrown out in 1972. Moscow was designated as major arms supplier to the Egyptian army in lieu of Washington.
debkafile’s wouds reveal the four locations Moscow has chosen for port facilities to accommodate its war fleet:
--- Alexandria. A dock or berth in the big port of Alexandria and the use of a group of port warehouses to be developed into naval facilities of the sort Russia built in the Syrian port of Tartus. Moscow did not indicate plans to quit Tartus, but the urgency of its request to Cairo suggested its desire for an alternative Mediterranean base in case it had to leave Syria in haste. In any case, Tartus has only been partly operational in recent months.
--- Damietta. This port is located on the western tributary of the Nile, 15 km from the Mediterranean Sea and 70 km from Port Said.
--- Port Said at the northern terminus of the Suez Canal.
--- Rosetta (Rasid) in the Nile Delta, 65 km east of Alexandria.
Our military sources say that a naval base at any of these ports will give Russia a foothold on a central Mediterranean shore and make it the only superpower with a naval and military presence in control of the vastly important Suez Canal to world shipping and trade and the principle marine link connecting US naval and military forces in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf.
That no joint communiqués were issued before Kerry departed Cairo and Riyadh illustrated the intractability of their feud with Washington.
The US Secretary spoke on his own behalf to US embassy staff in the Saudi capital.
Washington’s relationship with the Saudis was crucial, as the region faced changes and challenges from the transition in Egypt to the civil war in Syria, he said and went on to stress: “The Saudis are very, very important to all of us. The Saudis are really the senior player in the Arab world together with Egypt.” Observers noted that Kerry did not touch on any understandings reached with the Egyptian and Saudi governments in his two days of talks with their leaders. His visit to Egypt was the first by a senior US official since Mohamed Morsi was deposed as president in July, and the first to Saudi Arabia since intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan warned last month of a "shift away" from Washington and announced Saudi abdication of its seat on the UN Security Council.
After Riyadh, the Secretary of State continues his Middle East tour, arriving Tuesday night in Jerusalem and meeting Palestinian leaders in Bethlehem Wednesday. He will also make stops in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco.
Syrian government says aid, vaccinations will reach all
Reuters – BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian government promised on Monday to ensure delivery of vaccinations and humanitarian aid across the country, after an outbreak of polio in the northeast and warnings of malnutrition in areas under military siege. Twenty-two children in Deir al-Zor province bordering Iraq were left paralyzed last month. The polio virus has been confirmed so far in 10 of them, and experts say it could spread quickly across the region. The outbreak was confirmed as a previously planned immunization campaign was being launched to vaccinate 1.6 million children against polio, measles, mumps and rubella, in both government-controlled and contested areas of Syria. "We want vaccinations to reach every Syrian child wherever they are - either in a conflict zone or an area where the Syrian army is present," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told a televised news conference in Damascus. "This must reach every Syrian child and we pledge this (will happen), and we will grant every opportunity to humanitarian organizations to reach every Syrian child."
He did not say how the government, fighting a 2-1/2-year-old war with rebels battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad, could guarantee delivery of supplies. But his comments appeared aimed at pinning the blame for any failure on the rebel camp. Mekdad also said the government was committed to delivering humanitarian aid to all parts of Syria, mentioning the cities of Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Idlib and Deraa where he said civilians were besieged by rebels. He said 60,000 residents of the two Shi'ite towns of Nubl and Zahra, surrounded by rebel forces in Aleppo province, had been cut off from aid supplies.
Opposition activists, however, say government forces are using siege and starvation as a military tactic in rebel-held areas around Damascus such as Mouadamiya and Ghouta, leading to cases of malnutrition and widespread hunger. Mekdad accused rebels of using civilians in those areas as human shields and said rebels had shot at an aid convoy sent to Mouadamiya. He said a total of 4,500 people had been allowed to leave Mouadamiya, much of which is in ruins after months of bombardment. Activists said on Thursday at least 230 men who were part of the most recent evacuation were arrested as they left Mouadamiya last week and taken to an Air Force Intelligence compound. (Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
The U.S.-Saudi Royal Rumble
Simon Henderson /Washington Institute
In the wake of recent tensions, the House of Saud could make things very unpleasant for Washington in these seven ways.
What is happening to the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia? Even after loud complaints from top Saudi officials that the longtime alliance was on the rocks, the response of official Washington, outside the punditocracy, was an almost audible yawn.
President Barack Obama's administration should not be so quick to dismiss the trouble the Saudis could cause for the United States in the Middle East -- or the Saudi royals' determination to cause a shift in U.S. policy. Two articles this month quoted unidentified "European diplomats" who had been briefed by Saudi intelligence maestro Prince Bandar bin Sultan that Riyadh was so upset with Washington that it was undertaking a "major shift" in relations.
Saudi Arabia has a litany of complaints about U.S. policy in the Middle East. It faults Washington for pursuing a rapprochement with Iran, for not pushing Israel harder in peace talks with the Palestinians, and for not more forcefully backing efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi royals are also angry that the United States did not stand behind Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government uprising in 2011, and that Washington has criticized the new Egyptian government, another Saudi ally, for its crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters.
Saudi royals have evidently decided that public comments and policy shifts are the only way to convince Washington to alter what they see as its errant path. Bandar's declaration came a few days after the kingdom abruptly decided to reject its election to the UN Security Council, claiming it could not tolerate that body's "double standards." As Bandar helpfully pointed out, the incident was "a message for the U.S., not the UN."
According to an official in Washington, Bandar's "briefing" was actually a several hour conversation with French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bertrand Besancenot, who then shared his notes with his European colleagues. Whether Bandar intended to leak his remarks to the media is unclear but the Saudis haven't done anything to wind back his message. Last week, former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal made many of the same points in an address to the annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in Washington.
It is hard to judge the significance of Prince Turki's remarks, because he was essentially fired as ambassador to Washington in 2007 after falling out with King Abdullah. With a nod toward candor, he made it clear he doesn't have a role in the Saudi government and claimed not to be privy to its official deliberations. However, given his apparent place on the kingdom's limited bench of officials who can explain its stances to the world, Prince Turki's remarks can't be ignored. As he put it, Saudi Arabia "is a peninsula, not an island."
This is far from the first crisis the U.S.-Saudi alliance has experienced. In early 1939, a Saudi delegation went to Nazi Germany to negotiate an arms agreement, part of which would have been diverted to Palestinian Arabs fighting Jewish immigrants in the British mandate of Palestine. At least some of the Saudi group met Adolf Hitler at his mountain top hideaway at Berchtesgaden.
German arms never reached the kingdom -- or Palestine - as the Saudis could not afford to consummate the deal (that was in the days before the oil revenues started flowing in). However, King Abdullah still treasures a dagger given as a gift from the Fuhrer himself, and occasionally shows it off to guests. Visiting U.S. officials are briefed in advance so they can display appropriate diplomatic sangfroid if Abdullah points out the memento.
But despite the multitude of crises -- from the 9/11 hijackers to Saudi pay-offs to Osama bin Laden -- past difficulties have been quietly repaired. The operative word here is "quietly" -- usually, the general public has not even known of the crisis. The difference now is that, through Saudi Arabia's move at the United Nations and Bandar's briefing, the kingdom is all but trumpeting its displeasure.
Assuming that the Saudi-U.S. relationship is really heading off course, what could go wrong this time? Here are seven nightmare scenarios that should keep officials in the State Department and Pentagon up at night.
1. Saudi Arabia uses the oil weapon. The kingdom could cut back its production, which has been boosted to over 10 million barrels/day at Washington's request, to make up for the fall in Iranian exports caused by sanctions. Riyadh enjoys the revenues generated by higher production, but price hikes caused by tightening supply could more than compensate the kingdom. Meanwhile, a drop in supply will cause the price at the gas pump to spike in the United States -- endangering the economic recovery and having an almost immediate impact on domestic public opinion.
2. Saudi Arabia reaches out to Pakistan for nuclear-tipped missiles. Riyadh has long had an interest in Islamabad's nuclear program: The kingdom allegedly partially funded Pakistan's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In 1999, then Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan was welcomed by Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif to the Kahuta plant, where Pakistan produces highly enriched uranium. After being overthrown by the military later the same year, Sharif is now back again as prime minister -- after spending years in exile in Saudi Arabia.
While Islamabad would not want to get in between Riyadh and Tehran, the arrangement could be financially lucrative. It would also help Pakistan out-flank India: If part of Islamabad's nuclear arsenal was in the kingdom, it would effectively make it immune from Indian attack.
Alternatively, the kingdom could declare the intention of building a uranium enrichment plant to match Iranian nuclear ambitions -- to which, in Riyadh's view, Washington appears to be acquiescing. As King Abdullah told senior U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross in April 2009, "If they get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons."
3. Riyadh helps kick the United States out of Bahrain. When Bahrain was rocked by protests in 2011, Saudi Arabia led an intervention by Gulf states to reinforce the royal family's grip on the throne. The Saudis have the leverage, therefore, to encourage Bahrain to force the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet to leave its headquarters in Manama, from which the United States projects power across the Persian Gulf.
It wouldn't be a hard sell: Hardline Bahraini royals are already fed up with American criticism of their domestic crackdown on Shiites protesting for more rights. But it would be a hard landing for U.S. power projection in the Middle East: The current arrangements for the Fifth Fleet would be hard to reproduce in any other Gulf sheikhdom. And it's not without some precedent. Riyadh forced the United States out of its own Prince Sultan air base 10 years ago.
4. The kingdom supplies new and dangerous weaponry to the Syrian rebels. The Saudis are already expanding their intervention against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, funneling money and arms to hardline Salafist groups across Syria. But they have so far heeded U.S. warnings not to supply the rebels with certain weapons -- most notably portable surface-to-air missile systems, which could not only bring down Assad's warplanes but also civilian airliners.
Saudi Arabia could potentially end its ban on sending rebel groups these weapons systems -- and obscure the origins of the missiles, to avoid direct blame for any of the havoc they cause.
5. The Saudis support a new intifada in the Palestinian territories. Riyadh has long been vocal about its frustrations with the lack of progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Palestine was the top reason given in the official Saudi statement rejecting the UN Security Council seat. The issue is also close to Abdullah's heart -- in 2001, he declined an invitation to Washington due to lack of U.S. pressure on Israel. What's more, Riyadh knows that playing the "Arab" card would be popular at home and across the region.
If Saudi Arabia truly feels that the prospect for a negotiated settlement is irreparably stalled, it could quietly empower violent forces in the West Bank that could launch attacks against Israeli forces and settlers -- fatally wounding the current mediation efforts led by Secretary of State John Kerry.
6. Riyadh boosts the military-led regime in Egypt. The House of Saud has already turned into one of Egypt's primary patrons, pledging $5 billion in assistance immediately after the military toppled former President Mohamed Morsy. Such support has allowed Egypt's new rulers to ignore Washington's threats that it would cut off aid due to the government's violent crackdown on protesters.
By deepening its support, Saudi Arabia could further undermine Washington's attempt to steer Cairo back toward democratic rule. As Cairo moves toward a referendum over a new constitution, as well as parliamentary and presidential elections, Gulf support could convince the generals to rig the votes against the Muslim Brotherhood, and violently crush any opposition to their rule.
7. Saudi Arabia presses for an "Islamic seat" on the UN Security Council. The kingdom has long voiced its discontent for the way power is doled out in the world's most important security body. The leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 member states designed to represent Muslim issues in global affairs, has called for such an "Islamic seat."
The United States and other veto-wielding countries, of course, can be counted on to oppose any effort that would diminish their power in the Security Council. But even if the Saudi plan fails, the kingdom could depict U.S. opposition as anti-Islamic. Such an effort would wreck America's image in the Middle East, and provide dangerous fodder for Sunni extremists already hostile to the United States.
Washington insiders will no doubt see any of these potential Saudi policies as self-defeating. However, it would be a mistake to ignore Riyadh's frustration: While Washington thinks it can call the Saudis' bluff, top officials in the kingdom also appear to believe that the United States is bluffing about its commitment to a range of decisions antagonistic to Saudi interests. The big difference is that the tension in the relationship is the No. 1 priority in Saudi Arabia -- but is way down near the bottom of the Obama administration's list of concerns.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.
November 04, 2013/The Daily Star
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s current Middle Eastern tour is a patently obvious attempt to salvage relations between America and its key partners in the region, badly burnt over differences on Syria and Iran, but his trip reeks of both desperation and hypocrisy, and sadly for the U.S., appears to have come too late.
Arriving in Cairo Sunday, Kerry tried to insist that the U.S. and Egypt were still great friends and reiterated Washington’s support for the interim rulers, who ousted the country’s first elected leader in July, in what the U.S. has stopped short of calling a “coup.” But actions speak louder than words and it cannot be forgotten that America has withdrawn $1.5 billion in annual aid to the country.
Kerry insisted that this recalibration in aid was but a “very small issue between us.” And while the size of the now absent aid package falls far short of assistance recently granted by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, what it represents symbolically may be a far greater issue to Cairo than Kerry cares to admit.
The U.S.’ position in the Middle East is changing, and faster, and perhaps more irrevocably, than it is prepared to accept.
Nowhere has this descent been more evident than vis-à-vis the American relationship with Saudi Arabia over recent weeks. The kingdom’s unprecedented decision to refuse a rotating position at the U.N. Security Council last month signaled just how angry the country was with the U.S. over its about face on the threat of striking the Syrian regime militarily, and its tiny steps toward a thawing of relations with Iran.
Ahead of Kerry’s touchdown in Saudi Arabia Sunday evening, the headline of the editorial in the Al-Riyadh daily, which mirrors government policy, read “Yes, we are not on good terms with America,” leaving the state of the marriage in no uncertain terms. This is perhaps the worst that relations have been between the two allies in memory. But while the U.S. relies on Saudi Arabia as its primary ally in the Arab world, the kingdom has many other friends to turn to, as it revealed Sunday with the news that it is in talks with Germany on a new military deal.
But recognizing that its interests in the region are in jeopardy, the U.S. has quickly abandoned any principles it once claimed to have, whether right or wrong. Kerry flirts with the Egyptian rulers on the eve of the trial of deposed President Mohammad Morsi, and then insists any differences with other regional partners on Syria are not existential but “tactical.”
However it appears that Kerry’s Middle Eastern charm offensive may be too little, too late. The many countries of the region have grown tired of the U.S.’ broken promises and self-serving interests. Obama in particular continues to be a growing disappointment, having fallen so far from his inspirational and hopeful Cairo University speech of 2009, when a different future in American-Middle Eastern relations genuinely seemed tangible.
On both the Middle East peace process, and now on talks to hold Geneva II, the U.S. has again revealed itself to be a weak partner. On the former issue, the crucial settlement issue has worsened over the last couple of years, and on the latter, the possibility of a Geneva follow up feels further away than ever. Obama should realize sooner than later that he has lost the trust of the Middle East.