LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for today/Warning
to the Rich
James 05/01-06: "And now, you rich people, listen to me! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches have rotted away, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. Your gold and silver are covered with rust, and this rust will be a witness against you and will eat up your flesh like fire. You have piled up riches in these last days. 4 You have not paid any wages to those who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty. Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. You have made yourselves fat for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent people, and they do not resist you."
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 08/13
Partisan Berri/By: The Daily Star/November 08/13
DEBKAfile/Major Israel-US rift over
Washington planl to let Tehran continue enriching uranium with sanctions relief
Between Minorities and Extremists/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/November 08/13
US strength of will may be questioned if Syria is hiding chemical arms By: Ariel Ben Solomon/J.Post/November 08/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 08/13
Lebanese Related News
Suleiman Calls for Putting Nation's Capabilities in Single Defense Strategy
Report: Suleiman to Kick Off Long-Awaited Visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday
Lebanese Army following up on Israel spying devices
Hezbollah slams Kerry over remarks on Lebanon
No Accord Reached after Mustaqbal, FPM Talks
Eid Subpoenaed for Interrogation on Tuesday over Tripoli Twin Bombings
Telecommunications Committee to Hold Urgent Meeting Monday to Discuss Israeli Spying Stations
Charbel, Shaar Set Security Plan Guidelines, Say Army to Deploy in 'All Tripoli Regions'
Hizbullah Calls for Comprehensive Plan to Fight Israeli Spying
FPM: We Understand Hizbullah's Delay in Tackling Local Issues due to its Forced Intervention in Syria
38 Years after Lebanon's Civil War, An Apology Remains A Rare Light
Mansour Will Represent Lebanon in Geneva 2, Rejects Receiving Orders from March
Miqati Snaps Back at Berri over Suspicion on Call for Parliamentary Session
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Sources: Saudi could have Pakistani-made atom bombs
Netanyahu says nuclear deal with Iran would be a 'mistake of historic proportions'
US willing to offer Iran 'reversible sanctions relief' in exchange for 'first steps' on nuclear program
Iran says making headway in 'tough' nuclear talks
Cairo head of Iran's Al-Alam TV arrested: Egypt security
Proposed Iran deal would be 'historic' error: Israel
Israel closes alleged Hamas offices in Jerusalem
Kerry warns of third intifada, Israel's isolation, if peace talks break down
Canada's Foreign Minister Baird: We must judge the
Iranian government by its deeds
Hardline Cleric Chosen as New Pakistan Taliban Leader
Syria Army Backed by Hizbullah Retakes Key Rebel Town near Damascus
US willing to offer Iran 'reversible
sanctions relief' in exchange for 'first steps' on nuclear program
By REUTERS/J.Post/GENEVA - The United States wants Iran to agree in negotiations this week a "first step" that stops its nuclear program advancing further and starts reversing parts of it, a senior administration official said on Wednesday. In return for such a move, Washington would be willing to offer Iran "very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief," the official said, giving no detail on what those measures might be.
The US official was speaking on the eve of the two-day talks between Iran and six world powers in Geneva that seek to build on a diplomatic opening created by the election of relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iran's new president in June. "What we're looking for is a first phase, a first step, an initial understanding that stops Iran's nuclear program from moving forward and rolls it back for first time in decades," the official told reporters.
This phase must involve levels of Iran's uranium enrichment, its stockpiles of the material as well as international monitoring, the official said. "We're looking for ways to put additional time on the clock," the administration official added. Such a first step by Tehran, which denies seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons, would create space for further negotiations on a comprehensive settlement, the official said.
Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful energy and medical purposes only. But its refusal to curb sensitive nuclear activity that can also have military applications has drawn sanctions, damaging its oil-dependent economy.
Sources: Saudi could have Pakistani-made atom bombs upon request
By JPOST.COM STAFF/Saudi Arabia has reportedly financed
Pakistani-developed nuclear weapons, and the kingdom devises Islamabad will
provide it atomic bombs upon request, the BBC reported Wednesday night.
The Gulf states have been concerned about Iran and its mission to extend its influence throughout the region. The worry has increased alongside the continued debate on the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities. If what sources told the BBC is true, the kingdom may engage in a nuclear arms race to counter its main regional adversary, Iran, by acquiring such capabilities before the Islamic Republic.
The BBC report cited a senior NATO official as saying he had seen intelligence reports that Saudi-backed atomic weapons made in Pakistan had been developed and were allegedly ready for delivery to Riyadh. In 2011, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal said his country might produce nuclear weapons if Iran got them. The report also cited comments made by former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin pointing toward Saudi Arabia's quest to counter Iranian nuclear weapons. If Tehran produces an atomic bomb, "the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring," the BBC quote Yadlin as saying at a conference in Sweden last month. The Guardian reported in 2010 that Western intelligence officials believed Pakistan promised to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons in the case of a crisis.
Meanwhile, Iran was due to meet with so-called P5+1 powers on Thursday and Friday in the second round of negotiations on its disputed nuclear program.
Iran's foreign minister said on Thursday, an agreement that would open the door to a resolution of the decade-long nuclear standoff between Iran and six world powers is possible this week if negotiators exert the maximum efforts. "If everyone tries their best we may have one," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters after a breakfast meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"We expect serious negotiations. It's possible," he said when asked if an agreement was conceivable at Thursday-Friday talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.
Ariel Ben Solomon and Reuters contributed to this report.
Netanyahu says nuclear deal with Iran
would be a 'mistake of historic proportions'
By HERB KEINON, REUTERS
LAST UPDATED: 11/07/2013
Iranian FM calls nuclear program talks with Western powers "difficult" but believes progress is being made; PM tells world powers that any deal made with Iran will only allow them to retain capabilities to make nuclear weapons. Binyamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, November 3, 2013. Binyamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, November 3, 2013. Photo: Reuters Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Thursday against an agreement with Iran that stops short of getting it to halt its uranium enrichment, amid reports that just such a deal was in the works.
"Israel understands that there are proposals on the table in Geneva today that would ease the pressure on Iran for concessions that are not concessions at all. This proposal would allow Iran to retain the capabilities to make nuclear weapons," he said during a speech to the Jewish Agency. Iran FM: Nuclear talks 'very difficult,' but may yield deal this week
"This proposal will allow Iran to preserve its ability to build a nuclear weapon. Israel is completely opposed to these proposals. I believe that adopting them would be a mistake of historic proportions and they should be completely rejected," he said. Netanyahu's comments came as Iran and the P5+1, made up of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, resumed negotiations in Geneva.
"The sanctions regime brought the Iranian economy to the brink of the abyss, and the policies of the P5+1 can force Iran to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and that means stopping all enrichment,, and all work on the heavy water reactor and on plutonium," he said. Netanyahu added that "anything less" would decrease the chances of reaching an agreement through peaceful means. "Israel always reserves the right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat," he asserted. The powers hope to reach a "first step" deal to ease concern over Tehran's nuclear program - which the West fears may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability - though both sides say a breakthrough is far from certain. Iran, which says its nuclear program is a peaceful energy project, wants them to start lifting tightening sanctions that are severely damaging the OPEC producer's economy.
Both sides have limited space for compromise, with hardliners in Iran and hawks in Washington likely to denounce any concession they see as going too far. "The talks went well," Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Zarif told Reuters after the morning session between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. "I'm hopeful that we can move forward. We are making progress, but it's tough," he said. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said he hoped a deal could be struck but that the sides remained far apart. "The differences are widespread and deep. This is undeniable. And continuing the negotiations will not be an easy task, but this does not cause us to lose hope," he said, adding he was still hopeful a "final understanding" could be reached. A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating talks with Iran on behalf of the powers, described the morning session as "good" but declined to give details. Michael Mann also said discussions would continue in smaller groups in the afternoon before Ashton and Zarif, who also had a breakfast meeting, were due to meet again. "The talks are extremely complex and they are now getting into a serious phase. We very much hope there will be concrete progress here in the next couple of days," he told reporters.
Mansour Will Represent Lebanon in
Geneva 2, Rejects Receiving Orders from March 14
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour stressed Thursday that it was not up to the March 14 alliance to decide who would represent Lebanon at a proposed peace conference on Syria in Geneva. In remarks to As Safir daily, Mansour said: “I will represent Lebanon at the head of the Lebanese delegation at the Geneva 2” conference. “It is not up to March 14 to decide this issue although it can reject or comment as much as it wants,” he said. “Eventually, institutions and officials in power decide how things will take place. We don't receive orders from them (March 14),” Mansour added. The alliance has on several occasions criticized the minister for being close to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russian and U.S. officials on Tuesday failed to agree a date for the peace conference in Geneva that has been delayed multiple times. World powers strongly disagreed over what diplomatic steps to take to resolve the fighting in Syria and what any future Syrian leadership beyond Assad's government should look like. Syria's information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, has said the Assad government is not ready to negotiate handing over power. Syrian opposition leaders have insisted that Assad be excluded from Syria's future leadership for any talks to take place. Mansour told As Safir that if the Geneva 2 talks were held, he would stress that a solution to Syria's crisis “should come only through dialogue because the ongoing rounds of violence are dragging everyone towards destruction.” “Lebanon will not stand with one team against the other” and has repeatedly said that the war should be resolved peacefully. Mansour said he would warn that the war has given rise to extremist thoughts and terrorist operations through the fighters who have entered the country from abroad. Such developments have become a direct threat on the whole region, he said. “Counter-terrorism is not only a Lebanese interest but an international duty to ward off the danger from everyone,” Mansour added.
Telecommunications Committee to Hold
Urgent Meeting Monday to Discuss Israeli Spying Stations
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/The parliamentary telecommunications committee will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to tackle the recent spying stations installed by Israel along its border with Lebanon as caretaker Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui considered the matter “violation of the country's sovereignty.” The head of the Committee, MP Hassan Fadlallah, said in comments published in As Safir newspaper on Thursday that the meeting will be held in presence of Sehnaoui and a specialized team in addition to the Foreign Ministry representative. “No respectable country would accept these spying stations along its border, which is a clear, blatant violation and requires action on all levels to confront it,” Fadlallah told the newspaper. Speaker Nabih Berri revealed on Wednesday that Israel had set up a number of spying stations along its border with Lebanon, starting from al-Naqoura passing by Khiyam all the way to Shebaa.” The biggest espionage station is allegedly installed in al-Abbad and Jal al-Alam areas, which are located near the U.N. demarcated Blue line. Sehnaoui told As Safir newspaper that the spying stations allows Israelis to detect everything from vibrations and waves and could breach the phone cables. “The stations are blatant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and are not acceptable at all according to international laws,” the caretaker Minister added. He pointed out that a committee, tasked by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati to survey the border with Israel for spying stations in August, is preparing a report over the nature of every station. The committee is comprised of representatives of the telecom ministry, the Army and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
Hizbullah Calls for Comprehensive Plan
to Fight Israeli Spying
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/Hizbullah lawmakers urged the authorities on Thursday to adopt a comprehensive plan to prevent Israel from violating Lebanon's sovereignty after news broke of the Jewish State's installation of spying stations along its border with southern Lebanon. The Israeli move “constitutes a national challenge and a disgrace,” members of the Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc said after their weekly meeting. The stations pose a great danger on Lebanon's security and the privacy of the Lebanese, the bloc said in a statement read by MP Hassan Fadlallah. The statement added that “there should be an official mobilization … to come up with a comprehensive plan to prevent the enemy through all means from violating the sovereignty of Lebanon and the security of the Lebanese.” The Hizbullah MPs reiterated their accusation that their rivals from al-Mustaqbal movement were imposing conditions on Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, causing the failure to form the new government. They said al-Mustaqbal's attempts will not be successful. “The formation of an all-embracing political government has become more than just a necessity in these circumstances,” said the statement. The Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance and the March 14 coalition are exchanging accusations on causing the vacuum in the executive authority. Hizbullah wants a cabinet made up of the rival factions, but al-Mustaqbal is calling for the withdrawal of the party's fighters from Syria as a condition for such a government.
Fadlallah called for an end to the attempts to paralyze the role of the army, accusing al-Mustaqbal of being behind the deteriorating security situation in the northern city of Tripoli.
“The security chaos in Tripoli is the direct result of the instigation approach adopted by al-Mustaqbal movement and the March 14” alliance, he said. The statement of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc also slammed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over recent remarks he made on Hizbullah during his visit to Saudi Arabia. "The party should not be allowed to determine the future of Lebanon,” Kerry said Monday after meeting with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal. Fadlallah “condemned” his remarks, describing them as “an arrogant interference” in local affairs.
Report: Suleiman to Kick Off
Long-Awaited Visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday
by Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman is expected to head to Saudi Arabia on Monday to hold talks with King Abdullah and senior officials According to As Safir newspaper published on Thursday, the President will tackle with Saudi officials the latest developments locally, in Syria and the region, in addition to the bilateral ties between the two countries. The long awaited visit comes a month after it was postponed for unclear reasons. The daily reported that Suleiman will visit Kuwait on November 18 at the head of an official delegation to attend the Arab-African Union. Suleiman was scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia at the end of September.The president received a telephone call from Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri and later Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who informed him that Suleiman is always welcome in the kingdom and who apologized for the cancellation of the previous trip.
Suleiman Calls for Putting Nation's
Capabilities in Single Defense Strategy
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman on Thursday called for an end to the paralysis of constitutional institutions and said the country's capabilities should be put in a single strategy to defend Lebanon. During a ceremony at Baabda Palace to launch a plan to eradicate child labor, Suleiman said: “We want responsible constitutional institutions and leaders who consider the nation's interest as their priority.”
He appealed for “putting the national capabilities in a single strategy to defend Lebanon.” Suleiman also rejected Lebanon's involvement in the region's crises in reference to Hizbullah's participation in the war in Syria.
Hizbullah fighters are helping Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops crush the rebellion against him. Many fighters from Lebanon have also crossed the border to Syria to help the armed rebels.
“Our political choices should restore our international relations, not provide excuses for the establishment of environments that embrace terrorists, prevent the spying carried out by Israel and lead to the policy of neutrality,” he said. “Such options are adopted through the implementation of the Baabda Declaration that has been backed by most countries,” he said about a decision reached by the country's rival leaders last year to distance Lebanon from the region's crises. Suleiman urged the parliament and involved ministries to take decisions on pending issues such as the wage scale and pension. He also called for a comprehensive national development plan. Suleiman called for an end to the paralysis of administrative and constitutional institutions. “Our children want to live in a normal environment that protects them, a family that embraces them and a school that gives them shelter,” he said in his speech. He also said Lebanon's children dream of a country where there is unity and where people don't blindly follow politicians
No Accord Reached after Mustaqbal, FPM
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/A meeting between Change and Reform and al-Mustaqbal blocs' lawmakers on Thursday did not result in an accord between both parties, although it was an opportunity to “share ideas and reach common grounds,” the MPs said after the talks. “Both parties were honest and we shared some ideas,” al-Mustaqbal MP Atef Majdalani told reporters after the meeting.
He added: “We agreed on continuing the talks to discuss pending national issues. This dialogue is important to transfer Lebanon from the current division to stability and stop the deterioration of the economy.”Majdalani detailed on the issues that were tackled with the Free Patriotic Movement's MPs. "We stressed during the meeting on our stance that calls for becoming part of the Lebanese state and for respecting the institutions' authority, especially that of the army and the security forces,” he said. He elaborated: “We talked about the importance of reviving the role of the state's institutions, starting from forming a cabinet that assures stability and security in the country, away from all political disputes.” “The current caretaker cabinet does not have the power to issue degrees that introduce more financial burdens on the Lebanese,” he remarked.
The al-Mustaqbal bloc reiterated that Hizbullah must withdraw its fighters from Syria “because of the issue's dangerous implications on civil security, on dragging Lebanon into Syrian turmoil, additionally to this its negative effects on economy and Lebanon's relations with its neighbors.” "We stressed on neutralizing Lebanon from regional conflicts, especially from the war in Syria.”
Majdalani also pointed out to respecting constitutional deadlines through holding the upcoming presidential election on time. Meanwhile, Change and Reform MP Ibrahim Kanaan explained that the dialogue initiative that his party come forward with aims at “reaching out to all parliamentary blocs.”"Our initiative is drawn from the conclusions we reached at our bloc's dialogue retreat and from FPM chief MP (Michel) Aoun's recommendations,” he remarked.Thursday's meeting is one of a series of talks the FPM is seeking to hold with political forces in order to end Lebanon's political deadlock.
Kanaan continued: “We shared the conclusions of our retreat with our fellow MPs and we discussed several points. We tackled rejecting vacuum, financial reform, and the Christian-Islamic dialogue in the East, and rejecting all forms of intolerance.” “We stressed that our efforts are based on national interests and on dissociating the country from what is happening in Syria.”
The FPM MP supported his colleague Majdalani's statement regarding the presidential election. “Lebanon needs new blood and to reject the extension of the presidential mandate,” he expressed.
Kanaan stated that reaching common grounds is a “duty” to protect the state and its institutions. However, he revealed that no accord was reached after the talks. “But we are looking into finding common grounds between both parties.”The meeting kicked off at 3:30 pm on Thursday at the parliament in Beirut's downtown. It aimed at tackling the al-Mustaqbal and FPM's disputes and revitalize legislative work. Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said ahead of the session: “The talks are aimed at organizing our differences and searching for ways to revitalize legislative work away from political disputes.” He said that parliament's work should not be linked to international affairs or Hizbullah's arms.“No preconditions have been placed ahead of holding the meeting,” continued Aoun. The Mustaqbal bloc was represented by MPs Majdalani, Jean Oghassabian, Jamal al-Jarrah, and Ghazi Youssef.
And in addition to Kanaan and Aoun, the FPM representatives included MPs Ziad Aswad and Simon Abi Ramia.
Eid Subpoenaed for Interrogation on
Tuesday over Tripoli Twin Bombings
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida issued on Thursday a subpoena against Ali Eid days after he was charged with helping a suspect in the Tripoli mosque bombings escape justice. Abu Ghida ordered the questioning of Arab Democratic Party Chief and former MP Eid on Tuesday over his link to the the bombings against al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques in Tripoli on August 23. Saqr charged on Tuesday Eid and his driver Ahmed Mohammed Ali with helping Ahmed Merhi and smuggling him to Syria. Ali is being held by the Intelligence Bureau. Abou Ghida also issued two arrest warrants against Ahmed Mohammed Ali and Chehade Shdoud. Shdoud, who was arrested on Tuesday at the Abboudieh border-crossing, is charged with smuggling Sukeina Ismail to Syria. Ismail is charged with terrorism over her links to the Tripoli blasts. She is charged with transporting the two cars that were used in the bombings from Syria to Lebanon, it added. Jabal Mohsen, whose residents are from the Alawite sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been for years at odds with the majority Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh. The rival districts have been involved in several rounds of deadly gunbattles, which intensified after the rebellion against Assad in March 2011.
No Accord Reached after Mustaqbal, FPM Talks
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 November 2013/A meeting between Change and Reform and al-Mustaqbal blocs' lawmakers on Thursday did not result in an accord between both parties, although it was an opportunity to “share ideas and reach common grounds,” the MPs said after the talks. “Both parties were honest and we shared some ideas,” al-Mustaqbal MP Atef Majdalani told reporters after the meeting. He added: “We agreed on continuing the talks to discuss pending national issues. This dialogue is important to transfer Lebanon from the current division to stability and stop the deterioration of the economy.”
Majdalani detailed on the issues that were tackled with the Free Patriotic Movement's MPs. "We stressed during the meeting on our stance that calls for becoming part of the Lebanese state and for respecting the institutions' authority, especially that of the army and the security forces,” he said. He elaborated: “We talked about the importance of reviving the role of the state's institutions, starting from forming a cabinet that assures stability and security in the country, away from all political disputes.” “The current caretaker cabinet does not have the power to issue degrees that introduce more financial burdens on the Lebanese,” he remarked. The al-Mustaqbal bloc reiterated that Hizbullah must withdraw its fighters from Syria “because of the issue's dangerous implications on civil security, on dragging Lebanon into Syrian turmoil, additionally to this its negative effects on economy and Lebanon's relations with its neighbors.” "We stressed on neutralizing Lebanon from regional conflicts, especially from the war in Syria.”Majdalani also pointed out to respecting constitutional deadlines through holding the upcoming presidential election on time. Meanwhile, Change and Reform MP Ibrahim Kanaan explained that the dialogue initiative that his party come forward with aims at “reaching out to all parliamentary blocs.”
"Our initiative is drawn from the conclusions we reached at our bloc's dialogue retreat and from FPM chief MP (Michel) Aoun's recommendations,” he remarked. Thursday's meeting is one of a series of talks the FPM is seeking to hold with political forces in order to end Lebanon's political deadlock. Kanaan continued: “We shared the conclusions of our retreat with our fellow MPs and we discussed several points. We tackled rejecting vacuum, financial reform, and the Christian-Islamic dialogue in the East, and rejecting all forms of intolerance.” “We stressed that our efforts are based on national interests and on dissociating the country from what is happening in Syria.”
The FPM MP supported his colleague Majdalani's statement regarding the presidential election. “Lebanon needs new blood and to reject the extension of the presidential mandate,” he expressed. Kanaan stated that reaching common grounds is a “duty” to protect the state and its institutions. However, he revealed that no accord was reached after the talks. “But we are looking into finding common grounds between both parties.” The meeting kicked off at 3:30 pm on Thursday at the parliament in Beirut's downtown. It aimed at tackling the al-Mustaqbal and FPM's disputes and revitalize legislative work. Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said ahead of the session: “The talks are aimed at organizing our differences and searching for ways to revitalize legislative work away from political disputes.” He said that parliament's work should not be linked to international affairs or Hizbullah's arms. “No preconditions have been placed ahead of holding the meeting,” continued Aoun. The Mustaqbal bloc was represented by MPs Majdalani, Jean Oghassabian, Jamal al-Jarrah, and Ghazi Youssef. And in addition to Kanaan and Aoun, the FPM representatives included MPs Ziad Aswad and Simon Abi Ramia. The Change and Reform lawmakers had met on Wednesday with a Hizbullah delegation.
November 07, 2013 /The Daily Star
It’s no secret that Lebanon has been mired in political stalemate for months, if not years. And if anyone can answer the question of how to exit the crisis, it would presumably be someone with the political experience of Speaker Nabih Berri. Berri’s role in the unending political soap opera that is Lebanese politics should be one of arbiter and facilitator, due to his status as the head of the legislative branch and a key political party, the Amal Movement, and his central role in the March 8 coalition. There are times when Berri puts forward the kind of initiatives that can benefit Lebanon, despite the political crises that regularly buffet the country. When such proposals are made with good intentions, they are certainly conducive to arriving at long-awaited solutions to pressing national problems. A few months ago, Berri said five days of talks should take place at Baabda Palace, to discuss the outlines of a new government, and tackle other vital issues, such as a national defense strategy and a new parliamentary election law. In such instances, Berri obviously understands that he must work to bring the rival camps together, to serve Lebanon’s higher national interests. But the problem is the speaker often derails such initiatives and policy stances by showing himself to be as narrowly partisan as his colleagues in March 8. Berri must recognize – in deeds and not words – that the country is roughly split between the two camps, and the question of Lebanon’s involvement in Syria is a serious one. While some enthusiastic Lebanese have gone next door to fight against the Syrian regime, one critically important party, Hezbollah, has openly declared that its armed men are fighting and being killed in the Syrian war. The March 14 camp is, understandably, anxious to discuss how to cobble together a functioning executive branch of government when groups such as Hezbollah are brazenly intervening in Lebanon’s neighbor. In response, Berri is dismissive of the notion that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is worthy of discussion, which ends up squandering the good intentions and useful ideas he might have on other fronts. Moreover, the speaker has apparently already made up Lebanon’s mind on attending a Geneva II peace conference on Syria and is adamant that his minister, Adnan Mansour, head the Lebanese delegation. Berri appears to have forgotten that Mansour has repeatedly questioned state policy, particularly on Syria, and particularly when President Michel Sleiman is involved – and is thus one of the most polarizing figures in the Cabinet. The simple truth is that the Baabda Declaration is in tatters, the war in Syria is threatening Lebanon’s polity, economy and society, and “obstructing” the work of Lebanon’s Parliament and Cabinet is mostly the work of one camp, as any trip into recent history will show. Pretending anything else to be the case is simply postponing the solutions to Lebanon’s problems even further into the future.
Lebanese Army following up on Israel spying devices
November 07, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn said Thursday the Lebanese Army is following up on the recently installed Israeli spying devices along the border with Lebanon, urging the international community to act immediately against the violation. “Information about the Israeli enemy setting up spying devices on the southern border is another proof of the enemy’s ongoing plan to transform Lebanon into an easy morsel while we are busy with our internal disputes,” Ghosn said in a statement. He also said Lebanon would not stand idle in the presence of such infringement. “The Army leadership is intensifying its consultations with the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon regarding this violation,” he added. Lebanon’s Telecommunications Ministry confirmed to The Daily Star Wednesday that Israel had recently set up spying stations along the Blue Line before and after the 2006 war. Israel also erected devices that were directed toward major mobile phone stations in Lebanon to wiretap phone conversations, the sources said. “I call on the international community to quickly take action to stop the persistent Israeli piracy and [the Jewish state's] violation of Lebanon’s land, sea and air borders,” Ghosn said. The minister also said that Israel was the only beneficiary of Lebanon’s domestic disputes as it never “hesitates to violate Lebanon's sovereignty.” Ghosn also spoke about the volatile security situation in the country particularly in the northern city of Tripoli, urging political leaders to rise above their differences and tone down the sectarian rhetoric. "Given the critical tasks of the Army in various areas especially in the north, the sense of safety the Army is providing requires appreciation,” he said. Ghosn also asked residents to cooperate with the military procedures and refrain from targeting the Army.
Hezbollah slams Kerry over remarks on Lebanon
November 07, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s bloc criticized Thursday U.S. Secretary John Kerry’s recent remarks on the party, describing it as a blatant interference in Lebanon’s affairs as it urged the government to act on the recently installed Israeli spy devices along the border. "Remarks by U.S. Secretary [John Kerry] in his recent visit to Riyadh about Hezbollah and its role in Lebanon's future are a blatant interference which is rejected and condemned,” Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said, reading the bloc’s statement after its weekly meeting. The bloc also urged the March 14 coalition to take a stance on Kerry's remarks, slamming what his bloc described as the coalition’s “call for sovereignty.”During a news conference in Saudi Arabia earlier this week, Kerry voiced support for the formation of a government in Lebanon in the absence of intimidation by Hezbollah.
Kerry also said that it was important to prevent Hezbollah from defining the country's future. The bloc further commented on claims that Israel had set up spying stations along the border with Lebanon, saying such actions violated Lebanon’s privacy. “Available information about the suspicious activities of the Zionist enemy along the Blue Line indicate that there are modern electronic transmissions and spying devices installed atop towers placed at various points from the coast of Naqoura to the Kfar Shuba Hills,” the bloc said. Describing the devices as a national challenge and an insult, the Hezbollah MPs also said that the information gathered by the group indicate that the devices are “very sensitive and pose a danger to Lebanon's security and the privacy of Lebanese using their phones, internet or any means of communications.” The Telecommunications Ministry confirmed to The Daily Star Wednesday that Israel had recently set up spying stations along the Blue Line before and after the 2006 war. Israel also erected devices that were directed toward major mobile phone stations in Lebanon to wiretap phone conversations, the sources said. The bloc asked for action on the governmental level and stressed the need to outline a plan in order to stop such a violation. Hezbollah also reiterated that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is a political one, stating that any resolution in that direction should preserve Syria’s sovereignty and the right of the Syrian people to make their own decision over their future. The bloc added that peace talks with Israel are futile and that the only viable choice is the resistance against it to achieve the ambitions of the Palestinians in liberating their land and ending the occupation.
Cairo head of Iran's Al-Alam TV
arrested: Egypt security
November 07, 2013/Agence France Presse/CAIRO: Egyptian police on Thursday arrested the Cairo bureau chief of an Iranian news station and a former Islamist lawmaker, security officials said. Ahmed Fahim Abdel Azim al-Suifi, the Egyptian head of the Cairo office of Iran's Arab-language station Al-Alam, was arrested in an apartment with ex-senate member Essam Ismail Farrag, the officials said. They were arrested at the orders of prosecutors, the officials said without elaborating on the charges. They were transferred for interrogation by the secretive National Security apparatus, which handles serious crimes against the state, one official said. Thousands of Islamists have been arrested in a broad crackdown after the military overthrew president Mohamed Morsi in July, sparking a backlash from his supporters. Media organisations seen as sympathetic to the Islamists have also been targeted, including the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera broadcaster's Egypt affiliate.
Iran says making headway in 'tough' nuclear talks
November 07, 2013/By Louis Charbonneau, Yeganeh Torbati/Reuters
GENEVA: Iran and six world powers are making progress in talks aimed at ending a decade-long nuclear stand-off between Tehran and the West, but the discussions are "tough", Iran's foreign minister said on Thursday.
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comment to Reuters after a first session in the two-day negotiations in Geneva, which are seeking to build on a diplomatic opening after the June election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as Iran's new president. The powers hope to reach a "first step" deal to ease concern over Tehran's nuclear programme - which the West fears may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability - though both sides say a breakthrough is far from certain. Iran, which says its nuclear programme is a peaceful energy project, wants them to start lifting tightening sanctions that are severely damaging the OPEC producer's economy.
Both sides have limited space for compromise, with hardliners in Iran and hawks in Washington likely to denounce any concession they see as going too far.
"The talks went well," Zarif told Reuters after the morning session between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. "I'm hopeful that we can move forward. We are making progress, but it's tough," he said. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said he hoped a deal could be struck but that the sides remained far apart.
"The differences are widespread and deep. This is undeniable. And continuing the negotiations will not be an easy task, but this does not cause us to lose hope," he said, adding he was still hopeful a "final understanding" could be reached. A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating talks with Iran on behalf of the powers, described the morning session as "good" but declined to give details.
Michael Mann also said discussions would continue in smaller groups in the afternoon before Ashton and Zarif, who also had a breakfast meeting, were due to meet again.
"The talks are extremely complex and they are now getting into a serious phase. We very much hope there will be concrete progress here in the next couple of days," he told reporters.
The United States and its allies say they are encouraged by Tehran's shift to friendlier rhetoric since the election of Rouhani. Following years of hostility, Rouhani has promised to try to repair ties with the West and win relief from sanctions. But the Western allies say Iran must back its words with action and take concrete steps to scale back its atomic work.
"What we're looking for is a first phase, a first step, an initial understanding that stops Iran's nuclear programme from moving forward and rolls it back for the first time in decades," a senior U.S. official said on the eve of the talks. That would help buy time needed for Iran and the powers to reach a broader diplomatic settlement in a dispute that could otherwise plunge the Middle East into a new war.
The six nations want Iran to suspend its most sensitive uranium enrichment efforts, reduce its stockpile of such material and diminish its capacity to produce it in the future.
In return for any concessions, Iran wants the powers to lift the sanctions that have slashed its oil revenues by 60 percent in the past two years and devalued its rial currency by more than half.
The exact nature of a possible first step remain unclear, but the six nations are unlikely to agree on anything less than a suspension of enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, a level that constitutes a major milepost on the way to making weapons. The U.S. official said Iran at this stage must address important aspects of its nuclear programme, including sufficient international monitoring. Iran's construction of a research reactor near the town of Arak is also a growing concern for the West because it could yield plutonium for bombs. A senior aide to a U.S. senator briefed by the White House and State Department said Washington would offer to work with Iran in a six-month confidence-building period. During that time, Washington would offer Tehran relaxed restrictions on Iran's funds held in overseas accounts. It could also ease sanctions on trade in gold and petrochemicals.
In exchange, Iran would stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and convert its existing stockpile of 20 percent uranium to an oxide form suitable for processing into reactor fuel and take other measures to slow the programme.
The aide said the concessions being sought would "neither freeze nor set back" Iran's nuclear programme and that the Senate would have to act immediately to impose further sanctions on Iran.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a new sanctions bill in July that aims to reduce Iran's oil exports to a trickle in a year. The Senate's banking panel had been expected to introduce its version of the bill in September, but the Obama administration has pushed it to delay the new legislation in order to give the Geneva talks a chance.
Western diplomats are hesitant to divulge specifics about the talks due to sensitivities involved. An Israeli official said on Wednesday the six powers and Iran were expected to discuss an agreement that would fall far short of Israeli expectations, describing it as a "bad deal". Widely assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, Israel views Iran as a threat to its existence and has warned it could launch pre-emptive strikes against Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy fails to stop the programme.
Proposed Iran deal would be 'historic'
November 07, 2013 /Agence France Presse
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel warned Thursday against a proposal to ease sanctions on Iran in return for the freezing of its nuclear programme, saying it would be "a mistake of historic proportions."
"Israel understands that there are proposals on the table in Geneva today" which would "allow Iran to retain the capabilities to make nuclear weapons," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Jerusalem conference.
"Israel totally opposes these proposals. I believe that adopting them would be a mistake of historic proportions," he said. Netanyahu's warning came as the so-called P5 1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany was meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva for the latest round of talks over its disputed nuclear programme. Officials have said a long-awaited deal on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions may be finally within reach, after years of fruitless talks were given fresh momentum by the election of Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani, seen as a relative moderate. Western powers suspect Iran's uranium enrichment may be aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a claim Tehran denies. Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, has staunchly opposed easing sanctions. The six powers have been pushing Iran to freeze its enrichment efforts, reduce stockpiles and lower its capacity to produce nuclear material. Netanyahu stressed that the crippling economic sanctions must not be eased before Iran's nuclear military abilities were abolished, and reiterated that a unilateral Israeli action remained on the table. "The sanctions regime has brought the Iranian economy to the edge of the abyss, and the P5 1 can compel Iran to fully dismantle its nuclear weapons programme. This means ending all enrichment, stopping all work on the heavy water plutonium reactor," he said in remarks relayed by his office. "Anything else will make a peaceful solution less likely. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat," Netanyahu said.
Israel closes alleged Hamas offices in Jerusalem
November 07, 2013/Agence France Presse/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli security forces on Thursday shut down two east Jerusalem offices they said were a cover for activities of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. A statement from Israel's Shin Bet internal security service said its agents and police closed "two Jerusalem offices, from which the Hamas terror organisation had been conducting actions." The Shin Bet named the offices as those of charity organisation "Jerusalem for Development" and "Amarat al-Aqsa" (Al-Aqsa Properties) -- which they said were ostensibly owned by the Islamic Movement in Israel, based in in the Arab Israeli cities of Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm. According to the statement, the Jerusalem for Development offices were first closed in 2010 "after it emerged that they served as an executive arm" for Hamas in Jerusalem, and reopened in 2012. Thursday's closure came "following up-to-date information that Hamas... continues to act there." Amarat al-Aqsa was closed due to "information on activities aiding and supporting Hamas in Jerusalem," the Shin Bet said, which also "led to violence against visitors and security forces on the Temple Mount," the term Israel uses for the compound which is home to the Al-Aqsa mosque. On Wednesday, dozens of Palestinian women and men affiliated with Amarat al-Aqsa tried to prevent Israeli police from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque after a small Islamist demonstration was held at the flashpoint religious site near the Western Wall revered by Jews. The Shin Bet noted that they also conducted a search in the Amarat al-Aqsa Nazareth offices. Representatives of the institutions were not immediately available for comment.
Major Israel-US rift over Washington planl to let Tehran continue enriching uranium with sanctions relief
DEBKAfile Special Report November 7, 2013Israel announced early Thursday, Nov. 7, that it is utterly opposed to the new proposal for Iran’s nuclear programwhich the United States plans to put before the two-day Geneva conference beginning later today . Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, when he met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem Wednesday night, bitterly accused the Obama administration of yielding to the Russian-backed Iranian position. Should Tehran renege on the deal, the US proposal leaves it with the capacity for enriching enough weapons-grade uranium in 10 days to build several nuclear weapons.
This US proposal calls for Iran to halt enrichment of uranium up to 20-percent grade (a short jump to weapons-grade) and slow construction on the Arak heavy water plant for plutonium production. In return, the US offers a start on selective sanctions relief. This proposal is likely to be approved by the six powers at the Geneva conference. Kerry was reminded of his pledge that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” This deal is bad, Israel says because it leaves Iran wth all the stocks it has already built up of 20-percent enriched uranium and the ability to continue the production of low 5-percent grade unrestricted.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Palestinian issue did not come up in either of the two conversations Kerry held with Netanyahu Wednesday. Both were dominated by the Iranian row and ended with differences as wide as ever. Israel accused Washington of capitulating to the plan Moscow and Tehran handed in to President Barack Obama last week. That plan, according to our sources, entails suspending the work of 10,000 centrifuges on all grades of enrichment (3, 5 and 20 percent). However, Iran has a total of 19,000 machines of which only 9,000 are active anyway. Therefore, the offer to freeze 10,000 already idle centrifuges was a subterfuge. It is nonetheless being presented by the Russians – and now by the Americans, too – as a major Iranian concession. The truth is that Iran is being allowed to keep its full stock of centrifuges intact, operational and available for use at any time.
This means that if Tehran decides tomorrow to renege on its deal with Washington and the world powers - after its approval in Geneva – it will retain the capacity to restart centrifuge operations in full and within 10 days accumulate enough weapons-grade material to build several nuclear bombs or warheads. By the time Washington or the nuclear watchdog catch on, it will be too late: Iran will have The Bomb.
Last week, Moscow claimed that Iran had agreed to “restrain the weaponization processes.” This admission alone belied Tehran’s insistence that its entire nuclear program was peaceful and exposed as false Moscow’s denials of proofs that Iran was engaged in developing nuclear arms. According to our sources, the “restraint” on offer refers only to the process of miniaturizing a nuclear bomb for use in a missile warhead or dropped from an airplane.
In sum, therefore, the US president has agreed in essence to “photograph” Iran’s nuclear program and freeze it as it stands now. Tehran would place nuclear development in suspension without, however, relinquishing a single component of its program. The new American proposal broke surface Wednesday, as the seven delegations gathered in Geneva for the morrow’s session.A nameless US spokesman told reporters that America was now proposing that Iran, as a first step, stop its nuclear program advancing any further and start rolling parts of it back. In return, Washington offered "very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief.”
The spokesman said: “This phase must involve levels of Iran's uranium enrichment, its stockpiles of the material as well as international monitoring.”Israel is not buying this plan./
Opinion: Between Minorities and Extremists
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
The Lebanese capital, Beirut, recently hosted a Conference for the Christians of the Levant, which concluded two days of deliberation with the announcement of the establishment of the Christian Gathering of the Levant.
The parties that supported the conference are clear in their stance. Focusing on the Lebanese delegation at the conference, I noticed that it was used as an opportunity for the Christians of the “March 8 Alliance”—which has direct ties to the Iranian–Syrian axis—to present themselves as the sole legitimate representatives of Lebanese Christians.
I don’t claim to know much about the political backgrounds of the Iraqi and Egyptian Christians who participated in the conference, but the Syrian Christian representatives who attended were supporters of the regime. Indeed, some were members of the current Syrian People’s Assembly (Parliament), which was “elected” during the Damascus regime’s war on its own people against the backdrop of the bombardment of Syria’s cities and villages.
The minorities’ crisis is nothing new in the Levant; it is not even limited to this region. Europe has its own minorities’ crises, with has ethnic, religious and sectarian dimensions. These crises exist from Russia and the former Yugoslavia in the east to Northern Ireland in the West. Asia and Africa also have their share of ethnic, religious and sectarian crises. Even the so-called new world—the Americas and Oceania—are not exempt from this, as we can see in their treatment of the Jews, the racial discrimination against black, native Americans indigenous peoples of Australia, more recently, one notices the issue of immigration.
Christian emigration from the Levant is also nothing new. The fears of the Christian and non-Christian minorities in these countries have not appeared overnight, and Christians have been emigrating from the Levant for centuries. For example, there were many difficulties–both for Christians and for other groups–during the Crusades.
However, two facts must be mentioned here in order to counteract those peddling the idea of an “alliance of minorities” in an attempt to hijack our feelings and instincts.
The first is that episodes of intolerance by the majority (or majorities) against minorities were fleeting and caused mainly by outside influences and environments. There was no systematic or enduring oppression. Instead, there were fleeting examples of intolerance and religious narrow-mindedness that erupted whenever a region was invaded by foreign parties, shaking its people’s trust in one another and forcing them to isolate themselves in their own communities and alienate others.
The best example of this can be seen in the great level of sectarian openness during the rise of the Islamic state in the early days of the Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates. However, intolerance always escalated during the decline and collapse of these Islamic empires, as was the case during the Mongol invasion, the Crusades, the final days of the Ottoman Empire, the growth of the Zionist movement and, finally, the Iranian expansionist project.
The second fact is that some of the oppression the minorities have been subject to—whether ethnic, religious, or sectarian—has been caused by other minorities, not the majority or majorities. The Copts in Egypt, for instance, welcomed Islam because of their religious conflict with their fellow Christians. Islamic minority sects have committed countless massacres against each other throughout history, and the bilateral relations between the Shi’a Ja’afaris, Ismailis, Alawites, and Druze have never been ideal. There have also been conflicts in northern Iraq between Kurds and the Turkmen (both Sunnis), Kurds and Assyrians and Chaldeans (non-Arab minorities), and between the Arab Sunni rule in Baghdad and the Sunni Kurds.
The purpose of mentioning all this is to say that resolving the minorities’ crises in the region should not be left to extremist and radical figures and movements who practice elimination and exclusion within their own environments.
The Aounist Current [of Lebanese politician Michel Aoun] is allied to the Iranian-supported and-manipulated Shi’ite fundamentalism, and is openly hostile to the Sunni majority. This is a political model that does need too much explanation, as it effectively draws Lebanese Christians into open hostility with Sunni community across the world. Under the Aounist Current’s wing, and following a similar approach, we also find the Armenian Dashnak Party [the Armenian Revolution Federation], which is demonstrating its willingness to ally itself to political Shi’ism in Lebanon and the region because it has old scores to settle with Turkey. Dashnak views Ankara as a Sunni authority that can only be confronted with Iranian support.
Outside of the Christian context, the identity of the security and political establishment led by Bashar Al-Assad in Syria has become sectarian despite his regime’s empty slogans. Otherwise, how else can we explain the level of sectarian intolerance exposed by the Syrian revolution after four decades of rule by a regime that pretended to be Arab nationalist, secular and socialist?
Also, how can we explain how this “non-sectarian” regime is being defended by sectarian Shi’ite militias affiliated to Tehran? Why else would this regime hand over its three-decade rule of Lebanon—the haven of minorities—to a religious/military/political organization such as Hezbollah?
Indeed, what did this regime–which yesterday welcomed the Christian Conference in Beirut–do to Christian, Shi’ite and Druze leaders when it controlled Lebanon for three decades? What did it do specifically to Michel Aoun, who while exiled in France, went to Washington to agitate against the same Damascus regime, and claim for himself the title of the “Godfather” of the Congress “Syria Accountability Act”?
However, the most important point that deserves our attention concerns the exact the relationship between the Damascus regime and the “takfirist fundamentalism” —as described in the Conference’s statement. What was the true relationship between the regime and the likes of Abu Al-Qaaqaa and Fatah Al-Islam Group, as well as other organizations and groups that Damascus has exploited over the years
It is worth exploring the “secret” behind the defeat of the Assad regime’s forces by “Takfirist” groups in Christian areas such as Maaloula and Saddad, particularly since the regime’s forces were able to easily regain these areas following media campaigns highlighting the destruction of churches and crosses.
We must also think seriously about why the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have been fighting the “Free Syrian Army”, rather than Assad’s forces, as well as how kidnapped Shi’ites from the town of ‘Azaz were only secured after the area was taken over by “takfirists”. These, of course, are the same “takfirsits” that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah preferred to fight, rather than confronting Israel.
We must also question why a “takfirist” group—or, at least, that’s what Assad and Hezbollah call them—kidnapped Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who had been exposing the crimes of the regime in Homs and other areas in Syria.
Last but not least, we must ask: What exactly is the nature of the relationship between Tehran and Al-Qaeda, and other similar organizations?
Kerry warns of third intifada, Israel's isolation, if peace talks break down
By HERB KEINON/J.Post/11/07/2013
Israelis, Palestinians committed to talks, Kerry says. John Kerry at Amman press conference
John Kerry at Amman press conference Photo: Reuters
US Secretary of State John Kerry painted a very bleak picture of what would be the result of a break-down in the current Israeli-Palestinian talks, warning on Thursday of a third intifada and international isolation of Israel
Kerry's warnings came in an unusual joint interview with Channel 2's Udi Segal and Maher Shalabi of Palestine TV.
"The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos," Kerry said. "Does Israel want a third intifada?"
The Secretary of State's warnings of a third intifada came two days after a poll conducted by the Arab World For Research & Development showed that only 29% of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians said they would support a third intifada, though 60% believe one is possible.
Kerry's dire warnings echoed comments he made in Jordan after meeting King Abdullah II, and before a second meeting in two days with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In a signal that the three-month old talks were indeed in a troubled spot, Kerry extended his visit another day and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday morning, for the third time since Wednesday. A meeting the two held Wednesday evening, following Kerry's first meeting with Abbas, went on past midnight, Israeli officials said.
"I believe that if we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, three will be an increasing campaign of the de-legitimization of Israel that has been taking place on an international basis," he said in the interview..
"If we do not resolve the question of settlements, and who lives where and what rights they have; if we don't end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually in the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if you cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, we may wind up with a leadership that is committed to violence," he added.
In a press conference alongside Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman on Thursday, Kerry reiterated this theme. "What is the alternative to peace?" he asked. " Prolonged continued conflict. The absence of peace really means you have a sort of low-grade conflict, war." He said that "as long as the aspirations of people are held down one way or another" and as long as the conflict continued without a solution, the "possibilities of violence" increase. He did say, however, that both Netanyahu and Abbas "reaffirmed their commitment to these negotiations despite the fact that at moments there are obviously tensions."
Following his scheduled meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday, Kerry is to continue his regional visit with trips to the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco. He has already visited this week – in addition to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan – Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
US strength of will may be questioned
if Syria is hiding chemical arms By: Ariel Ben Solomon/J.Post
A US official and the American representative to the United Nations suggested on Tuesday that Syria may be trying to hide some of its chemical weapons, raising more fears among US allies in the region that America is not standing up strongly enough for them. US allies – such as Israel and the Gulf states – that oppose the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis are further worried what kind of precedent this situation will set for a possible deal with Iran.
The Russian-brokered deal to which the US and Syria agreed called for the complete dismantlement of the latter regime’s chemical weapons. If it turns out that some weapons were secretly retained, it would be a blow to US credibility in the region and likely affect its handling of the Iran nuclear file. Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Wednesday evening that for Syrian President Bashar Assad, the deal was a good one because not only did it enable him to stay in power, it granted him a kind of immunity from being attacked by the West.
For the US administration, it was a good deal politically, because America did not want to get involved militarily in Syria but did want to show some sign that it cared about the humanitarian catastrophe occurring there, he said.
Asked if there was a connection between the Syrian agreement and a possible deal with Iran, Zisser maintained that “Iran is one thing and Syria is another. But clearly what connects them is a lack of will in America to get involved in the region.”Zisser believes it is unlikely that the Syrian leader is hiding chemical weapons, because it would be “too risky for Assad,” and the US could ultimately find weapons that he tried to hide. Furthermore, Zisser added, Assad does not even need them; he has conventional military means to continue fighting the opposition. Meanwhile, it seems that any deal that Iran would be willing to sign would not be good enough for Israel or the Gulf states, which are demanding a complete stop to the country’s nuclear program. Many analysts see a partial deal allowing Iran to retain some enrichment capability as more likely. Elias Harfoush, writing Tuesday in the popular London-based daily Al-Hayat, expressed many Sunni Arab states’ frustrations with the US administration when he said that “Tehran is aware of [US President] Barack Obama’s weakness” and that he “must not surrender to his adversaries” – a reference to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
He concluded by quoting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Every population or state that trusted America ended up receiving a blow from it.
The news that Assad is cheating is, of course, predictable, noted Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
However, the way the US administration has prematurely credited him and praised the deal, deriding skeptics, naturally raises questions and concerns about whether it will repeat this performance with the Iranians, passing off a bad deal as a diplomatic victory. Badran told the Post that US allies were already frustrated at the administration’s decision to make a deal with Syria over chemical weapons instead of attacking Assad and enforcing Obama’s redline. US allies in the region see these recent developments as a “battleground against Iranian regional designs, where the US is refusing to back them and the rebels against Tehran,” Badran said. “This is already causing these allies to question the reliability of the US. The chemical weapons farce will weaken US credibility that much more.”
In addition, he went on, the failure to convene the Syrian peace talks in Geneva demonstrates “that the US doesn’t have a strategy in Syria.”
Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former deputy national security adviser in Israel, told the Post that he saw the process of destroying Syria’s chemical arms as continuing successfully despite some reports that the country may be hiding some weapons. Even if those reports turn out to be true, he went on, it was a possibility that many had already considered.
In any event, “the overall outcome would be far better than could have been achieved by a military attack, which was to be limited in nature to begin with and not even focused on the chemical weapons, but simply a form of punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons,” he said. Regarding the precedent for Iran, he added, “no one approaches this with any sense of trust toward the Iranians.”
A deal with Iran – considering that it calls for conditions such as limiting the levels of enrichment, transferring its uranium stockpiles out of the country, closing some facilities, and intrusive inspections – would be more a case of “verify” rather than “trust,” he said. He further pointed out that the deal with Syria “is far from hollow, and given the fact that we have no better alternatives in terms of Iran – a completely successful military strike will not achieve more than a twoto- three-year postponement of the nuclear program and will have significant consequences, both in terms of the American response and Iran- Hezbollah’s military responses against Israel – we should fully support the American effort to reach a reasonable deal with Iran.” He added that anyone who thought Iran would have to close down its nuclear program in its entirety was being unrealistic.
“We have to ensure – and I believe that there is basic agreement with the US on this – that a compromise agreement leaves Iran a few years away from a nuclear capability, thereby hopefully providing both the international community and Israel with sufficient time to deal with the threat if it reemerges,” he said.
Canada's Foreign Minister Baird: We must judge the Iranian government by its deeds
The original version of this op-ed was published in the National Post on November 7, 2013.
Earlier this year, Iran elected a new president, Hassan Rouhani, whose manner, style and language stand in stark contrast to the posturing and belligerent behaviour of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The conciliatory tone and approach of the new president is welcome, especially with regard to Iran’s nuclear diplomacy, and we were relieved to hear of Iran’s release of a small number of political prisoners. All of us who long have felt despair over the Iranian regime’s baneful influence abroad and its ruthless oppression of its own people want to believe that the country is genuinely committed to positive change at home and in its foreign relations.
But we do not have the luxury of being naïve. Nor do the Iranian people, who have suffered for far too long. Standing in front of cameras and tweeting about change are all too easy. The hard part is following through, making difficult decisions and undertaking meaningful change. We must judge the Iranian government by its deeds, not its words. President Rouhani marks his first 100 days in office on Tuesday and, by any measure, these deeds have fallen short. Through human-rights monitoring and reporting efforts by the UN Secretary-General and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, we know that Iran’s human rights record is deeply troubling and that these abuses are continuing. Women continue to face serious discrimination. Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities continue to face disproportionate discrimination, as well as harassment by authorities. More than 100 members of the Bahá‘í faith alone remain imprisoned on charges related to practising and organizing for their religion and advocating for their rights.
These are not deeds that give us confidence in a genuine desire for change on the part of Iran’s leaders. In order to demonstrate its seriousness about meaningful change on human rights, Iran would need to go beyond half measures and take a number of concrete steps to address the legitimate concerns of the international community about how the country’s people are treated.
First, allow the UN Special Rapporteur to visit Iran and to investigate conditions there without hindrance or restrictions on where he travels or to whom he speaks.
Second, ratify and implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. That would involve legal prohibition of these forms of treatment or punishment, which include prolonged solitary confinement, extraction of confessions under torture, flogging and stoning, and denial of medical treatment to prisoners.
Third, investigate allegations of abuse of prisoners in Iran’s detention facilities, and ensure the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. Fourth, guarantee freedom of expression—in law and in practice—including full, unfettered access to the Internet. Finally, the Iranian leadership should prohibit by law all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity and gender—and enforce such a law.
That includes ratifying and incorporating in domestic legislation the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women; adopting policies and laws that promote the participation of women in public life, including candidacies for the office of president; and amending Iran’s civil code so that a husband may no longer prevent his wife from working or pursuing a professional career.
Our skepticism regarding Iran is drawn from seeing decades of inaction on issues such as these. The concrete steps outlined above would signal to the people of Iran, and to the world, that the Iranian government finally is serious about respecting and upholding the human rights of its people. This isn’t just in Canada’s interest: It is in the interest of Iran and the Iranian people. A free society that respects the human dignity of the Iranian people will loosen the shackles of sanctions and promote the ingenuity and prosperity of all Iranians. Their future is at stake. We stand ready to support real change if actions such as those noted above are genuinely undertaken. Until we see these concrete actions, we owe it to the Iranian people to forcefully encourage Iran’s rulers to comply with its international human rights obligations. This is why Canada has, this year, once again tabled a resolution on Iran’s human rights record at the United Nations. We seek to put pressure on Iran to stop the discrimination, persecution, unfair imprisonment and torture of so many of its people.
Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Iran, in the hope that one day soon they will enjoy the fundamental rights, dignity and respect to which we believe all human beings are entitled.
John Baird is Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister.