LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for today/Patience
James 05/07-20: "Be patient, then, my friends, until the Lord comes. See how patient farmers are as they wait for their land to produce precious crops. They wait patiently for the autumn and spring rains. You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord's coming is near. Do not complain against one another, my friends, so that God will not judge you. The Judge is near, ready to appear. My friends, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering. We call them happy because they endured. You have heard of Job's patience, and you know how the Lord provided for him in the end. For the Lord is full of mercy and compassion. Above all, my friends, do not use an oath when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Say only “Yes” when you mean yes, and “No” when you mean no, and then you will not come under God's judgment. Are any among you in trouble? They should pray. Are any among you happy? They should sing praises. Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord. This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they have committed will be forgiven. So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect. Elijah was the same kind of person as we are. He prayed earnestly that there would be no rain, and no rain fell on the land for three and a half years. Once again he prayed, and the sky poured out its rain and the earth produced its crops. My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner's soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 10/13
Tehran: No Squandering Any Bargaining Chips When It Comes to Syria and Hezbollah/By: Raghida Dergham/Asharq Alawsat/November 10/13
The National Criminal/By: Husam Itani/Asharq Alawsat/November 10/13
The Grayness Of Geneva 2 And Hezbollah's Haste/By: Walid Choucair/Asharq Alawsat/November 10/13
The Pitfalls of US Disengagement/By: Andrew Bowen/Asharq Alawsat/November 10/13
Visualizing the look and feel of an Iran nuclear deal/By David Ignatius/The Daily Star /November 10/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 10/13
Lebanese Related News
Sleiman honors novelist
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Pro-Assad Rifaat Eid warns police branch
ISF Files Complaint against Rifaat Eid for Attacking Intelligence Bureau
Lebanon denies Iranian arms smuggling
US says Suriname president's son wanted to host Hezbollah base for attacks on Americans
Miqati Warns Higher Relief Council Chief: Your Accusations Are Punishable by Law
Ghosn Condemns Israeli Espionage Stations along Border with Lebanon
Geagea Urges Revival of Institutions, Says Lebanese will be Fearless in Presidential Elections
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Miscellaneous Reports And News
Israel surprised by US course of action on Iran, officials
Iran nuke deal remains elusive as split emerges in Western camp
Diplomats continue push for deal with Iran on nuclear program
Israel surprised by US
course of action on Iran, officials say
Ya'alon: Tough diplomacy will prevent military force against Iran
Syrian Opposition wants pressure on Assad regime before talks
At least 1,200 believed killed in Philippines typhoon
Syrian army closes in on Aleppo after dawn attack
Syria rebels recapture army base near Aleppo airport
US, Israel lose voting rights at UNESCO over Palestinian row
Diplomats: Jordan likely to take UN Security Council seat rejected by Saudis
Palestinian investigators: Israel is 'the only suspect' in Arafat's death
Israel accuses US of deceit on nuclear deal with Iran. Geneva signing drags out as Iran ups its price
DEBKAfile Special Report November 9, 2013/The interim nuclear accord negotiated directly between Washington and Tehran was already secretly in the bag before the two-day talks between Iran and the Six World powers took place in Geneva Thursday and Friday. The plan was for a ceremonial signing to take place Friday, Nov. 8, after US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in from Jerusalem and the Iranian Foreign Minister confirmed “the general outline of an agreement.”Half a dozen foreign ministers from across the globe flew into Geneva to add their signatures to the interim accord. But the signing did not take place and the event dragged on into Saturday, Nov. 9. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarked: “There is an initial draft that we do not accept… I have no certainty that we can finish up.” He also referred to the concerns of Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East.
French reservations on the accord were not, however, the main obstacle. It may be recalled that a last-minute phone call from President Barack Obama on July 31 persuaded President Francois Holland to return to their hangars the French bombers standing ready at Saudi air bases to strike Syria after its chemical attack. The French government will no doubt be won round again and give the interim deal with Iran a chance.
The US president’s phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (“This is a very, very bad deal!”) early Saturday was a lot more heated. It took place after a three-day visit by John Kerry, which debkafile’s sources reported Wednesday hardly touched on the Palestinian question: Most of the time he was on the phone to the US delegation in Geneva, the White House and the Iranian Foreign Minister.
From those conversations, Netanyahu learned to his dismay that the version of the accord he had received from Kerry in the first of their three conversations differed substantially from the outline prepared for signing in Geneva – especially in the key clause of sanctions relief. This discovery precipitated the most furious row Friday ever heard by any US or Israeli official between an Israeli leader and an American official.
Netanyahu angrily confronted Kerry with the charge that the Obama administration had deceived Israel every step of the way by letting Iran continue to clandestinely develop the prohibited military elements of its nuclear program, including the underground enrichment plan in Fordo; the heavy water plant for plutonium production in construction in Arak; uranium enrichment up to 20 percent purity; and now, the last straw, sanctions.
While Obama and Kerry have admitted only to lifting “a few minor reversible sanctions” and “modest’ sanctions relief as part of the deal, Israel discovered a far more generous package of concessions was on offer. The Europeans would lead the way in easing sanctions to allow Washington to show clean hands – especially to Congress. By Friday, the Iranians understood that the Obama administration was so hell-bent on signing the first ever international accord on their nuclear program, that they could afford without much risk to up the price for their signature and extort more last-minute concessions.
So confident is Tehran that the agreement is safe that Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) in Vienna, said Saturday that he expects the agency’s director Yukiya Amano to sign a new accord during his visit to Iran on Monday, Nov. 11. "The Islamic republic of Iran has presented a new proposal that includes concrete actions, and we foresee that the text will be finalized on Monday," Najafi told state television.
debkafile: This item referring to monitoring is a key clause of the interim agreement still to be signed in Geneva and virtually guarantees that the ceremony will take place before Monday.
Israel surprised by US course of action on Iran, officials say
By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
PM criticizes prospective Iran deal after meeting with Kerry.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. Photo: JASON REED / REUTERS
Israel was surprised with the diplomatic course being taken by the US during nuclear negotiations in Geneva, including minor sanction relief, officials told Israel Radio on Saturday.
During a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of Friday's Geneva talks, the US reportedly told Israel that they would be offering minor sanctions relief to Iran.
The US also said the proposed sanction relief would not be significant. Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in Geneva Friday in attempts to close "the important gaps" that remain between the sides before a deal can be signed. The meetings were set to resume on Saturday morning.
Kerry and Netanyahu met before the US secretary of state flew to Geneva to take part in negotiations on a deal in the works that would have the international community relieve sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran freezing its nuclear activities for six months. Kerry was reportedly expected to warn the premier of a prospective offer.
Netanyahu harshly criticized the prospective deal after the meeting with Kerry.
According to Netanyahu, Iran was getting everything it wanted at this stage, and not giving anything in return, and this at a time when Iran is under intense pressure.
According to Israel Radio, the Israeli officials said the discussion between Kerry and Netanyahu on Friday was "very difficult".
Later on Friday, US President Barack Obama called Netanyahu and updated him on the nuclear negotiations, and underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Although the specifics of the deal under discussion are not known The Guardian reported that the "first-step agreement" is understood to include four key points:
*Iran would stop weapons-grade 20 percent uranium enrichment and turn its existing stockpile into oxide, a harmless material.
* Iran would be allowed to continue 3.5% enrichment needed for power stations, but limit the number of centrifuges being used. The deal would, however, not include any demand to remove or disable any other centrifuges.
* While still being allowed to work on its plutonium reactor at Arak, Iran would agree not to activate it for the durations of the six months. The plutonium reactor could provide for another route to nuclear weapon capability.
* Iran would not use its IR-2 centrifuges that are more advanced and capable of enriching uranium three-to-five times faster than the older model.
In exchange for these steps, the US would agree to ease some "reversible" economic sanctions, the Guardian reported, possibly by releasing some Iranian funds frozen in overseas accounts. In addition, the US could possibly relax restrictions on Iran's petrochemical, motor and precious metals industries.
The meeting, between Zarif, Kerry and Ashton lasted roughly five hours and ended late on Friday night without a deal.
An EU spokesman said after the talks that they were "good," and Kerry told journalists when he arrived back at his hotel: "We're working hard."
"It was productive but still we have lots of work to do," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told reporters after the meeting. A senior US State Department official said late on Friday that "Over the course of the evening, we continued to make progress as we worked to narrow the gaps."
"There is more work to do," the official said about efforts to reach a negotiated deal over Iran's nuclear ambitions. "The meetings will resume tomorrow (Saturday) morning."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were expected to join the nuclear talks in Geneva on Saturday, in further signs of headway towards an interim deal between Tehran and world powers.
*Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
Iran nuke deal remains elusive as split emerges in Western camp
November 09, 2013/By Louis Charbonneau, Yeganeh Torbati/Daily
GENEVA: France warned of serious stumbling blocks to a long-sought accord with Iran as unity among Western powers seemed to fray in talks on getting Tehran to curtail a nuclear program seen as a bomb risk in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Iranian media quoted the Islamic Republic's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, as saying "the issues are serious and there is still a gap in stances", and that the talks would probably end later in the day and be resumed at a later date. As discussions stretched on, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was doubtful whether they would soon succeed in nailing down an interim deal that would begin to defuse fears of a stealthy Iranian advance towards nuclear arms capability. "As I speak to you, I cannot say there is any certainty that we can conclude," Fabius said on France Inter radio, stressing that Paris could not accept a "sucker's deal". His pointed remarks hinted at a rift brewing within the Western camp. A Western diplomat close to the negotiations said the French were trying to upstage the other powers.
"The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively together for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations," the diplomat told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
In a further indication that the atmosphere of cordiality that reigned in the first round of talks last month and first two days of discussions this week was dissipating, Araqchi complained to Mehr news agency that his counterparts from the six powers "need constant coordination and consultation in order to determine (their) stances." The main sticking points appeared to include calls for a shutdown of an Iranian reactor that could eventually help produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel, the fate of Iran's stockpile of higher-enriched uranium and the nature and sequencing of relief from economic sanctions sought by Tehran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday there were "some very important issues on the table that are unresolved. It is important for those to be properly, thoroughly addressed".
He avoided the media on Saturday before engaging in another two hours of intensive talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The three met for five hours on Friday night. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the talks have achieved "very good progress" but much more needed to be agreed and it was unclear if this would happen by the end of the day.
"We are very conscious of the fact that real momentum has built up in these negotiations," he told reporters. "So we have to do everything we can to seize the moment."
Foreign ministers from all five permanent U.N. Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and Germany were due to take part in Saturday's talks with Zarif.
But it is only the Americans and Iranians, whose estranged countries have not had formal diplomatic ties for more than three decades, with the power to make or break an agreement on Iran's contested nuclear ambitions.
The fact that any deal might be feasible after a decade of feuding rather than genuine negotiations between Iran and the West highlights a striking shift in the tone of Tehran's foreign policy since the landslide election in June of moderate Hassan Rouhani as president. The powers remain concerned that Iran is continuing to amass enriched uranium not for future nuclear power stations, as Tehran says, but as potential fuel for nuclear warheads.
They are searching for a preliminary agreement that would restrain Iran's nuclear program and make it more transparent for U.N. anti-proliferation inspectors. In exchange, Tehran would obtain phased, initially limited, relief from punitive sanctions throttling the economy of the giant OPEC state.
The goal now is to take a big first step towards resolving a protracted dispute rife with political baggage and legal complexities and to thereby arrest a drift towards a major new war in the world's most volatile region.
"We're working hard," Kerry told reporters on Friday night. Iran spelled out one major bone of contention. A member of its negotiating team, Majid Takt-Ravanchi, told Mehr news agency on Friday that Western powers should consider easing oil and banking sanctions during the first phase of any deal. The powers have offered Iran access to Iranian funds frozen abroad for many years but ruled out any broad dilution of the overall sanctions regime in the early going of an agreement. Diplomats said that even a breakthrough this weekend would be only the start of a long confidence-building process towards a permanent resolution of concerns about Iran's nuclear quest. But they said the arrival of Kerry, Fabius, Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - and the expected appearance of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi - signalled that the six powers could be closer to an elusive pact with Iran than ever before.
Kerry arrived on Friday from Tel Aviv after what appeared to be a tense meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who rejected any budding compromise with Iran.
Netanyahu warned Kerry and his European counterparts that Iran would be getting "the deal of the century" if they carried out proposals to grant Tehran temporary respite from sanctions in exchange for a partial suspension of, and pledge not to expand, its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel.
Israel, which is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal and regards its arch-enemy Iran as a mortal threat, has repeatedly mooted possible military action against Tehran if it did not mothball its entire nuclear program. Iran dismisses such demands, citing a sovereign right to a nuclear energy industry and most diplomats concede that, with Tehran having exponentially expanded nuclear capacity since 2006, the time for demanding a total shutdown has passed. But Fabius said the security concerns of Israel and some Arab neighbours of Iran still "have to be taken into account".
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz may have had the French remarks in mind when he said on Saturday that he "draws encouragement from the fact that there are other partners to Israel's concerns about the agreement shaping up".Westerwelle said that preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons capacity was an issue not just for Israel. "This isn't just in the interest of Israel, it is in the interest of the region and the entire world," he said.
Negotiators have limited political room to manoeuvre as there is hardline resistance to any rapprochement both in Tehran - especially its elite Revolutionary Guards and conservative Shi'ite clerics - and in the U.S. Congress.
Israel's complaints could make it more difficult for President Barack Obama to sell any eventual deal to U.S. lawmakers, who have been far from compliant regarding White House proposals on Syria and numerous domestic issues. U.S. lawmakers have threatened to slap new sanctions on Iran even as the talks in Geneva have appeared to progress, despite White House appeals to hold off while negotiations continue to avoid undermining them.
Eric Cantor, majority leader in the Republican-controlled House, said the nascent Geneva deal would fall short if it did not entirely halt Iran's nuclear program - a demand diplomats say is unrealistic and none of the six powers is making. Criticism also has bubbled up from some leading pro-Israel groups in Washington. White House officials met some of the more hawkish American Jewish leaders last week but failed to win broad support for a pause in further sanctions. Iran and the powers have been discussing a partial nuclear suspension deal covering around half a year.
One concession under consideration is the disbursement to Iran in instalments of up to about $50 billion of Iranian funds blocked in foreign accounts for years. Another step could be temporarily relaxing restrictions on precious metals trade. A further step could be Washington suspending pressure on countries not to buy Iranian oil, although any U.S. sanctions relief would come only after Iranian moves to curb enrichment.
Diplomats say that such steps by Washington could be immediate and easily reversible if the Islamic Republic failed to meet its obligations under any agreement.
Visualizing the look and feel of an
Iran nuclear deal
By David Ignatius/The Daily Star
As the Obama administration moves into a decisive stage of nuclear negotiations with Iran, officials are considering a two-step process that would begin with a freeze and modest rollback of Iranian enrichment of uranium, matched by a limited easing of U.S.-led economic sanctions on Tehran. Officials hope this first phase would be followed later by a comprehensive agreement that would lift all sanctions in return for a verifiable halt in Iranian nuclear weapons capability. This second phase is many months down the road, but the shape of a possible initial phase has likely already been discussed with U.S. negotiating partners in the P5 1 group and may be shared with the Iranians Thursday in Geneva.
What’s driving this crucial next round of bargaining is the torque of mutual pressure: Iran wants quick relief from sanctions that are crippling its economy. The U.S. wants to halt an enrichment program that every month is moving Iran closer to nuclear-weapons capability. Administration officials see their goal, in the first phase, as stopping the clock – and even adding a little more time. The aim is to relieve time pressures on both sides enough, and provide sufficient additional transparency, to allow the extended bargaining.
As in any negotiation, each side wants maximum benefit at minimum cost. Economists speak of a “price search” to discover an equilibrium point where a market “clears” and a deal is struck. But sometimes the lines never cross: The demands of one side are greater than what the other is willing to pay – and an otherwise doable deal is never reached.
Though negotiators appear hopeful on both sides, achieving this balance may prove to be impossible. Hard-liners in Iran may reject a verifiable halt (let alone reversal) of their enrichment capability; hard-liners in the West may refuse any face-saving offer to Iran of limited domestic enrichment capability that Tehran could claim endorses a “right to enrich.” (The administration doesn’t recognize any such right.)
What has been notable in recent weeks, however, has been the convergence toward the elements of possible compromise. The U.S. idea is that both sides would temporarily turn down their “spigots” of pressure. The West might allow Iran access to a limited portion of its oil revenues frozen by sanctions. Iranian sources have told me Iran might respond by converting its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to fuel rods or plates, and capping its stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium. Each side could later reopen these spigots – of Western sanctions and Iranian enrichment – if interim negotiations don’t produce a final agreement.
If the administration’s “freeze and reverse” approach is adopted, the crucial issue would be Iran’s array of centrifuges and other enrichment technology. Israeli experts have insisted that Iran must show that it doesn’t have breakout capability by mothballing centrifuges (in particular the newer, more efficient models) and by refraining from bringing online a planned heavy-water reactor at Arak. Otherwise, say the Israelis, the Iranians could continue to creep closer to breakout capability under the cover of the negotiations.
Iranian and American experts have described over the past few months the same framework for a final deal – a verifiable set of procedures that reassures the West that Iran couldn’t dash to make a bomb using its existing centrifuges or any covert facilities. This would mean a level of intrusive inspection that would be hard for the Iranians to accept, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told me in September that Tehran would consider such transparency measures.
Although Israel isn’t formally a part of the negotiation, it can shape the outcome by influencing the U.S. Congress’ willingness to lift sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly insisted on an optimal deal that would essentially dismantle Iran’s enrichment capability. Amos Yadlin, the influential former head of Israeli military intelligence, has said he would support a “good deal” that falls short of Netanyahu’s maximum, but still would “widen the distance between Iran and the bomb, should Iran unilaterally abrogate the agreement.”
Yadlin listed some of the elements of this acceptable good deal, including a strict limit on the number of Iranian centrifuges in operation (now about 10,000); a 3.5 percent cap on enrichment; removal of all enriched material from Iran and its return in a form that can’t be used in nuclear bombs.
Do the rewards of making a deal outweigh its costs? That’s the calculus both sides will have to weigh over the next few months. It’s a makeable putt, as golfers like to say, but far from a sure thing.
David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
Diplomats continue push for deal with Iran on nuclear program
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick/Washington Post
GENEVA — Top-level U.S., European and Iranian officials continued their marathon negotiations on a possible international deal over Iran’s disputed nuclear program Saturday, but the few signs that emerged from the closed-door talks were inconclusive. “There is an initial draft that we do not accept. I have no certainty that we can finish up” before the departure of foreign ministers who came to Geneva to give an added boost to the talks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview with French radio. The participants will continue “to apply all our efforts to this today to try to seize this opportunity,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters. While they were all “conscious of the fact that some momentum has built up,” Hague said, “there is no time fixed for us to reach a conclusion.” Both officials cited complications over the two main issues that their governments, along with the United States, Germany, Russia and China, are negotiating with Iran. Disagreements center on the status of Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor and the separate production of highly enriched uranium — both processes that can be used to produce a nuclear weapon — and on what to do with the stockpile of uranium that Iran has already enriched to 20 percent. Iran, which says it has no interest in weapons production and is only producing electricity, wants Western economic sanctions that are strangling its economy to be lifted. U.S. officials were closemouthed following a five-hour meeting Friday night between Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “We continued to make progress as we worked to narrow the gaps. There is more work to do,” a senior State Department official said of the session, which extended nearly until midnight. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the diplomatic talks, said “the meetings would resume Saturday morning. Russian media, citing official sources, reported that it was Kerry who had rejected elements of the draft agreement being circulated. Kerry spent most of the morning shuttling between his counterparts as the so-called P5+1 negotiators with Iran consolidated their own position before starting a new round later in the day with Zarif. When he arrived here Friday, Kerry said the talks were hung up over “some very important issues that are unresolved.”The expected arrival here Saturday of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and China’s foreign minister or his deputy fueled optimism that the presence of a full complement of top diplomats from the six countries negotiating with Iran was the prelude to the announcement of a deal. “Tomorrow we expect to attain a long-standing result that the whole world hopes for,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Ria Novosti news agency Friday. A senior member of Iran’s negotiating team, Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi, told reporters Friday that “the text of the draft agreement has been prepared and initial negotiations” were to take place in the Kerry-Zarif meeting, which was also attended by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Pro-Assad Rifaat Eid warns Lebanon
Sleiman honors novelist Maalouf at palace ceremony /November 09, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman Saturday honored novelist Amin Maalouf, bestowing upon him a Cedars Medal of the highest order. During a ceremony at Baabda Palace, Sleiman also announced that a commemorative stamp for Maalouf would soon be released as a tribute to the novelist and his contributions. Maalouf thanked Lebanon and the president for honoring him and said the initiative reminded him of how of the depth of ties that binds him to his country. He said that he maintained the dream of a Lebanon where co-existence prevails. “My continuous obsession is the Lebanese dream which must be achieved,” said Maalouf. “We are still searching for a formula of coexistence and the ambition of Lebanese expatriates is to present the most successful formula which no one would have a future without,” he added. Born to a Christian family in Beirut, Maalouf worked as a journalist in the Lebanese capital but moved to Paris with his family soon after the Civil War broke out in 1975. In June 2012, Maalouf officially joined the prestigious French Academy. Maalouf is the first Lebanese inducted as an academy immortal. Maalouf is in Lebanon presenting his latest novel “Les Desorientes” (The Disoriented) as part of the Francophone Book Fair.
ISF Files Complaint against Rifaat Eid
for Attacking Intelligence Bureau
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 November 2013/The Internal Security Forces filed a report with judicial authorities on Saturday against Arab Democratic Party Secretary-General Rifaat Eid, after his criticism to the Intelligence Bureau earlier in the day. “The ISF General-Directorate filed a complained with the Public Prosecution, demanding the adoption of the necessary procedures against Eid that permitted the killing of Intelligence Bureau staff,” Future TV said on Saturday. LBCI television also confirmed the news in its evening newscast. Earlier on Saturday, Eid slammed the Bureau as a “spy working against Lebanon's interests,” stressing also that the party's head Ali Eid will not go to the ISF's office for questioning. “We will act only in accordance to the law,” he said, making a veiled threat that killing ISF members was permissible.
First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida issued on Thursday a subpoena against Ali Eid. He has been charged along with his driver Ahmed Ali with helping Ahmed Merhi, who is the suspected driver of the explosive-laden vehicle that blew up near al-Taqwa mosque in the northern city of Tripoli, to escape justice.
Salam Says Hizbullah Remarks Changed
Course in Cabinet Formation Consultations
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 November 2013/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam denied that he has reached a dead-end and revealed that the March 14 alliance had been mulling to accept a cabinet formula in which it would get veto power along with the March 8 coalition but reversed its decision after fiery statements made by Hizbullah officials. In remarks to As Safir daily published on Saturday, Salam said a proposal made by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat to give 9 ministers to March 14, another 9 to March 8 and 6 ministers to centrists in the new cabinet was feasible for March 14. But the alliance, which prefers giving 8 ministers to each of the three camps, went back to conditioning the withdrawal of Hizbullah from Syria and the implementation of the Baabda Declaration in the negotiations to form the government. The move came after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad made fiery statements against the alliance. Salam quoted al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri as saying that Nasrallah tried to abolish March 14 in his latest speech. The PM-designate has lately met Hariri in Paris. He told As Safir that the former premier “has expressed readiness to take any step that would facilitate the formation of the cabinet.” Both Hariri and al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora had “unconditional” support for him, he said. Salam also denied that Hariri has asked him to form a “fait accompli” government, saying his last option “would be based on the accumulation of months after the nomination.” This timeframe has given him enough info to resort to as a last chance, he said without giving further details. But Salam told As Safir that his cabinet formation efforts required toning down the political rhetoric and limiting the conditions that have prevented him from assembling the government since his nomination in April.
Saniora Says March 14 Standing Firm
against Hizbullah Threats
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 November 2013/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora reiterated his call for the formation of a non-political cabinet after he accused Hizbullah of launching an intimidation campaign against the March 14 alliance. In remarks published in As Safir daily on Saturday, Saniora said Hizbullah should form a cabinet in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get 9 ministers each and centrists six “if it was able to do so.”Such formulas have not succeeded in the past, Saniora said, adding “we will not follow their dictates.” He reiterated his call for a transitional government made of non-political figures that deals with the people's daily affairs and shies away from controversial issues. “We are standing firm,” he said, adding “our hands are extended to our partners at all times.”Saniora criticized recent statements made by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc leader MP Mohammad Raad. These statements “make us more steadfast in our views,” he said. Al-Mustaqbal has been insisting on Hizbullah's withdrawal from Syria and commitment to the Baabda Declaration as conditions to the formation of the cabinet. Hizbullah members have been helping Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops fight rebels seeking to topple him.
“We are not putting a ban on Hizbullah in the cabinet but we don't accept it as a partner before it returns from Syria,” Saniora told his visitors on Friday.
Lebanese aviation authority denies
Iranian arms smuggling
November 09, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The General Directorate for Civil Aviation denied recent claims that Iranian flights have used Lebanese airspace to reach Syria and smuggle arms through Beirut’s airport.
“The directorate deals with all aviation companies allowed to make both scheduled and unscheduled trips to Lebanon according to the highest safety standards and according to international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization,” the directorate said in a statement. On Thursday, the Saudi-owned, pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat published an article claiming that Iranian airlines had used Lebanese airspace and Rafik Hariri International Airport to transport arms to Syria’s embattled regime and its ally Hezbollah. The newspaper said that the Quds Force – an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – was coordinating with Iran Air and Mahan Air to secretly transport military equipment to Syria and its allies. Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Directorate said arms had never been found coming through Beirut’s airport from an Iranian flight and that the airport was strictly used for civilian purposes. “Therefore all the planes are subject to a thorough search and the highest standards of customs and security searches,” the directorate said. “There hasn’t been any registered attempt to smuggle arms through the airport.” The article in Al-Sharq al-Awsat said Lebanon faced an impending “aviation tragedy” as long as Iran’s civil flights flew over the country because Iran’s aviation fleet was in such poor shape. The planes, it said, were in bad condition and lacked necessary maintenance due to international sanctions. “An accident could happen during these flights while they are crossing Lebanese airspace,” the article said.
In response to fears that an arms-laden plane would crash over or inside Lebanon, the aviation directorate said that Iranian planes were subject to spontaneous and periodical inspections at Beirut’s airport to ensure their safety.
Only planes that have a valid certificate from the European Air Safety Association are allowed to land at Rafik Hariri airport. “As for Iran Air and Mahan Air, which operate regular flights to Beirut, the directorate has checked their planes and facilities in Iran to ensure the safety of their flights and the airworthiness of their planes,” the statement said.
Mikati says ties with Berri strong despite dispute
November 09, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri met Saturday with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in an apparent bid to resolve a dispute over convening a session of Parliament to address the remit of the resigned Cabinet. “If there is some sort of dispute brought up in the media, the dispute is for the benefit of the public interest,” he told reporters after the one-hour meeting at Ain al-Tineh in Beirut.
“The ties that join me with Speaker Berri are beyond all limits: he is a brother and a friend and everyone recognizes his wisdom and his position as a political authority,” Mikati said. Mikati has been asking for a “clarification” Parliament session in which the tasks of a caretaker Cabinet are determined, a request that has been met with criticism from the speaker. The caretaker prime minister has ruled out convening Cabinet to discuss pending oil decrees, arguing that a resigned government cannot meet on the matter. Mikati said that during the meeting Saturday he explained his position to Berri and that they wanted “to find the proper authority to determine the party with the right point of view.”In an apparent response to Mikati’s request for a Parliament session, Berri, according to a report published by An-Nahar Saturday, was quoted as telling his visitors that the legislature was not akin to a “delivery” system that could be convened “a la carte.”The speaker was also quoted as saying that he was preparing for a Parliament session and that all were welcome to attend. “But Parliament only convenes on its own terms,” Berri was quoted as saying.
Geagea Urges Revival of Institutions,
Says Lebanese will be Fearless in Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 November 2013/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea called on Saturday for reviving the nation's constitutional institutions, mainly the presidency, to hold effective elections next year. Geagea called for holding “effective” presidential elections when President Michel Suleiman's six-year mandate ends in May next year. “We should revive our constitutional institutions because without them there would be no country,” the LF chief told a delegation of Lebanese American University students from the Jbeil campus. “At the helm of these institutions is the presidency,” he said. Geagea criticized the parties that are claiming there would be no elections without consensus on the name of the next head of the state. “They are not democrats because the elections are not a Loya Jirga,” he told the students. “The days of settlements and understandings that used to take place in closed rooms are gone,” Geagea said, stressing “they have been replaced by democracy, freedom, sovereignty and independence.”Lawmakers “will not be afraid and will head to a session to elect the new president … no matter how much threats will be made” he said.“The Lebanese will not be afraid … and will elect according to their own choices,” he added. There are fears that differences and lack of consensus among rival political parties would prevent the parliament from meeting and would lead to a vacuum in the presidency.
Miqati Warns Higher Relief Council
Chief: Your Accusations Are Punishable by Law
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 November 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati warned the Higher Relief Council's chief on Saturday that the “haphazard accusations” Ibrahim Bashir voiced a day earlier are punishable by law.
“What you said violates the law that stipulates you are not allowed to give any statements before taking a permission from your immediate superior,” Miqati told Bashir in an open letter.
“Your statement lacks morality.” He added: “What you said also contradicts with the regulations that govern the work of the HRC, because, as you know, there are no relations between the Council and the position you used to hold and the premiership or the cabinet's secretary-general.”Bashir had denied on Friday that he has embezzled USD 10 million from public funds, accusing the caretaker premier and the cabinet's secretary-general of trying to “eliminate him.” He elaborated to al-Manar television: “Since I took office there hasn't been harmony with the cabinet's secretary-general, Suhail Bouji, because the Council strives now to serve all the Lebanese while they want it to cater to Sunnis only.”"After I took office, I made sure the HRC serves all the Lebanese,” Bashir told LBCI television. Miqati revealed in his open letter that the council of ministers' directorate-general and its secretary-general will take the necessary “legal and judicial measures and procedures towards (Bashir's) irresponsible defamation.” “Launching haphazard accusations is punishable by the penal code and it is a desperate attempt to change the case's path." He continued: “It is also a failed attempt to politicize and doubt the investigation committee's decision that is probing the incident.”
“Your statement also incites sectarian and regional tensions.” Miqati stressed that a copy of this “warning” will be sent to the Public Prosecution, along with Bashir's statement, for investigation.
Ghosn Condemns Israeli Espionage
Stations along Border with Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 November 2013/ Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn denounced on Saturday the recent spying stations installed by Israel along its border with Lebanon, considering that the Lebanese state should swiftly resolve the matter.“The matter requires the state to file a complaint against Israel to the U.N. Security Council and investigations to reveal the nature of the violation,” Ghost said in a statement issued by his press office. The caretaker Minister renewed calls on the Lebanese to “unite and set aside their differences to confront the Israeli plot against Lebanon.”Lebanon is expected to file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over the issue in light of the report issued by the parliamentary telecommunications committee, which will meet on Monday. Speaker Sabina Berra revealed on Wednesday that Israel had set up a number of espionage stations along its border with Lebanon, starting from al-Naqoura passing by Khayyam all the way to Sheba. The biggest espionage station is allegedly installed in al-Abbad and Jan al-Alam areas, which are located near the U.N. demarcated Blue line. The head of the parliamentary committee, MP Sassanian Allahabad, said in comments published in As Safer newspaper on Thursday that the meeting will be held in presence of Telecoms Minister Nicolas Nauseous and a specialized team in addition to the Foreign Ministry representatives. Concerning the situation in the northern city of Tripoli, Ghost hailed the security measure undertaken by the Lebanese army to control tension between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. “The army is exerting efforts to impose stability and security in Tripoli,” he pointed out, calling for the end of incitement and sectarian campaigns.
Clashes between residents of the rival neighborhoods date back to Lebanon's own civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, but tensions have spiked since the outbreak of Syria's uprising, raising fears the conflict may spill across the border.Lebanon was dominated by Damascus for 30 years until 2005, and its population is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps.The divisions were further aggravated earlier this year when Hizbullah openly admitted sending fighters to support President Bashar Assad's troops in Syria.
Opinion: The Pitfalls of US Disengagement
By: Andrew Bowen/Asharq Alawsat
A quarter of the way through his final term in office, President Obama’s foreign policy towards the Middle East lies in strategic disarray. While the Arab uprisings shook America’s conception of the region and challenged Washington’s interests, a substantive strategy to proactively respond to these changes has not been formulated. Consumed with domestic fiscal challenges and a desire to build his foreign policy legacy in Asia, Obama has concluded that disengaging the US from the Middle East is a better course than recalibration and substantive engagement to support America’s interests and allies in the region.
However, time and time again, crises in the region have confronted Obama and have necessitated an American response. Without the benefit of strategic foresight, Obama has stumbled into the pitfalls of reacting to crises in the Middle East instead of proactively exercising leadership to bring them to a resolution. Obama’s inaction has given space for other regional and international powers, notably Russia and Iran, to strengthen their respective positions in the region at the expense of US interests.
As a consequence, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Egypt, longstanding US allies, now openly question America’s commitment to their security. States that are in transition—Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and Iraq—have been neglected after initial promises of economic and political support, leaving these states vulnerable to extremism and instability. Obama has repeatedly promised to invest his time and political capital in the peace process, but he has avoided defining a strategy for how the United States will move these parties to an agreement. Diplomacy with Iran has been pursued without any substantive effort to address the security concerns of Iran’s neighbors.
Syria, more so than any other case, has illustrated the weakness of American policy and the consequences of Obama’s actions. Instead of providing substantive support to the moderate Syrian opposition in the early days of the uprisings against President Assad, the United States waited over a year to help concertedly build a representative political organization, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), and a separate military organization, the Supreme Military Council (SMC). Even with the formation of the SNC and the SMC, the Obama Administration failed to provide adequate funding, supplies and training to these moderate, representative groups. Obama underestimated the resilience and strength of the Assad regime.
By the summer of 2013, the recognized national opposition became largely marginalized by disunity, in-fighting, and became embroiled in competition with other local opposition groups. While the Obama administration has condemned the deepening sectarianism, Washington’s failure to support and strengthen moderate voices in Syria—so that these voices can marginalize extremist voices in the country—has led to the tearing apart of its national identity. Syria’s neighbors have also experienced the consequences of American inaction. Facing increasing domestic pressures, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon have received limited support from the United States to alleviate these challenges. Syria’s refugee crisis is stressing the stability of a close American ally, Jordan, deepening conflict in Iraq, and igniting sectarian conflict in northern Lebanon. At the same time, Syria and Iraq have become fertile ground for jihadist groups that threaten not only the security of these states, but also that of the region. It’s not inconceivable, then, for President Obama to encounter a scenario where Syria’s civil war engulfs its neighbors.
President Obama’s response to the Assad regime’s crossing of the “red line” on Syria has also underscored the failure of the current policy. Obama faltered by first rhetorically committing to military action and then pulling back after receiving assurances, brokered by Russia, that Assad would decommission his chemical weapons. Surprising US allies in the region even further, Obama noted that any military action he would have considered would not have been aimed at tipping the balance of power against President Assad or lessening the unimaginable suffering of the Syrian people. His handling of this incident illustrated how little substance there is to President Obama’s security assurances to Syria’s neighbors and to other regional powers.
Benefiting the most from this strategic dissonance has been President Assad and his main international patron, Russia. Assad has been able to further consolidate his position in parts of the Syrian state at the expense of the Syrian opposition. Moscow’s diplomacy has ensured that any negotiation regarding the future of Syria must give Assad a place at the table where a new Syria will be formulated. Not interested in expending resources on an alternative path, the Obama Administration has largely accepted Moscow’s demands. Moscow, more so than Washington, has been more effective in these Geneva negotiations in advancing and protecting its interests in the wider Middle East. Instead of seizing an opportunity to effectively address America’s security interests in this changing environment and to support its regional allies, Obama has hoped that pulling back could both avoid the pitfalls of his predecessor and preserve America’s wider position in the international system. But he has neglected the reality that maintaining US interests requires active engagement and cultivation. Instead of recognizing the need for proactive engagement, President Obama has haphazardly juggled disengagement with reactionary responses to crises in the region at the expense of his allies, America’s interests and the wider stability of the region.
Andrew Bowen is the Baker Institute Scholar for the Middle East at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
The Grayness Of Geneva 2 And
Walid Choucair/Asharq Alawsat
Regional and international powers concerned with the convening of a Geneva 2 peace conference for Syria have been involved in verbal sparring, as under-the-table discussions about how to interpret the provisions of Geneva 1 are also taking place. The implementation of the statement issued by the Working Group for Syria on 30 June 2012 was at the heart of the US-Russian understanding that was hammered out in September, to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons. When Moscow and Washington confronted the issue of a political solution, they hurried to begin preparations for Geneva 2, based on the Geneva 1 gathering. This was so that they would not be accused of forgetting about the essence of the Syrian crisis, which turned into a civil war that pitted the regime and its supporters against the opposition. However, the two countries encountered obstacles, which prompted them to revert to their core stances. Moscow realizes that an understanding on the chemical issue, even if it prolongs the life of the Bashar Assad regime, does not mean that his survival has been enshrined, or that his Syrian, regional and international political rivals will agree to such a thing. The political formula has settled on “no defeat” for Assad, and not on a victory for the Syrian president. In addition, Moscow realizes that the assistance Assad has received from Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias fighting alongside his forces has let him retake some positions or fend off rebel attacks against others. This will let him hold on for a while, and prevent Moscow from discussing Assad’s fate with its partner Washington, without an agreement from Iran on such a move. Thus, Moscow has come to see that the implementation of Geneva 1, in terms of setting up a transitional authority with full executive powers, does not mean that Assad will give up power. The international interpretation of this provision, in contrast, is that Assad will give up his powers, even if he remains the president of Syria as a prelude to finding a suitable exit for him. However, Moscow has covered up its inability (or lack of desire) to guarantee a political transition by focusing on the fact that the Syrian opposition rejects Geneva 2, accusing it of setting pre-conditions if it insists on implementing the provision that mentions a transitional body.
Washington, meanwhile, realizes that getting rid of Syria’s chemical weapons does not mean that it can turn its back on the essence of the crisis. It realizes that its inability to get rid of Assad and implement the Geneva 1 provision about executive powers has threatened its relations with allies in the region. Thus, Washington is being stripped of negotiating cards, whether with Moscow or Tehran, for negotiations over the latter’s nuclear program or its influence in the Middle East. This is why the United States tried to re-cement its shared concerns with Saudi Arabia, in terms of Gulf security and the Syrian crisis, by reassuring its ally that it would not abandon the Syrian opposition and its demand to attend Geneva 2 on this basis, and exert efforts with the opposition so that it accepts attending Geneva 2, in order to implement Geneva 1.
This policy proves how committed Washington is to its agreement with Moscow over convening Geneva 2, as the follow-up to the two countries' agreement over the chemical weapons issue. Russia, meanwhile, believes that it has done what it can to prompt Assad to accept attending Geneva with no conditions; it has been wary of “a transitional government exercising full executive powers.” This phrase has been avoided by Iran, which is also wary of talking about accepting Geneva 1.
The dispute over interpreting Geneva 1 and the transitional stage continues; thus, it is natural for vagueness to prevail over the period preceding Geneva 2. One aspect of this cloudy picture is being experienced in Lebanon. Hezbollah believes that since the Russia-US agreement over chemical weapons, and the beginning of American openness to Iran, it has achieved superiority over the Lebanese-regional front that is hostile to the Syrian regime. This is particularly after the regime has achieved progress on several fronts over the last two months, allowing it to protect Damascus against any attack. The party does not accept the vagueness prevailing over the current phase and believes that the relief felt by it and its allies, over what has been achieved internationally, regionally and on the ground in Syria, should be translated into something in Lebanon, such as the acceptance of its options for a way out of the current limbo in the executive branch of government, and for dealing with ways to manage the country’s affairs. Hezbollah believes that the time is ripe for its reading of the superiority of it and its allies to be reflected in political decisions locally, and in the next Cabinet. However, this “gray period” is pushing Hezbollah’s local rivals to decline accepting its reading of the transformations underway. Perhaps this explains the level of considerable tension that characterizes the rhetoric of Hezbollah leaders vis-à-vis these rivals, and vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and its policies.
This “grayness” in the run-up to the proposed Geneva 2 peace conference will prompt Iran and Hezbollah to try and remove both Syria and Lebanon from this phase, even though such a move involves high costs. And this is despite the fact that it will only see Hezbollah sink further into the Syrian quagmire and the cat-and-mouse fighting that characterizes the war underway in that country.
Tehran: No Squandering Any Bargaining
Chips When It Comes to Syria and Hezbollah
Raghida Dergham/Asharq Alawsat
There is no harm in this being a short phase of rest to catch one’s breath for each of the United States, Russia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, on the condition that these countries truly resolve to prevent the further “Afghanization” or “Somalization” of Syria, and put a stop to the arrogance of the regime in Damascus and of those supporting it militarily. It is no problem for the Geneva II conference, meant to launch the process of political transition in Syria, to be postponed until clear bases and frames of reference can be established for it, from beginning to end, on the condition that the goal not be to either abort it or force it into a premature birth. No one denies the importance of regional roles, of the balance of power and of the strategic interests of countries. But it is not acceptable to be complacent when it comes to the pressing Syrian tragedy and its repercussions on neighboring countries, under the pretext of national interests or even under the cover of parallel negotiations. Of course, there are justifications for the stances taken by all players concerned on the Syrian stage, in its local, regional and international dimensions. And certainly, considerations of oil and gas and weapons sales are of the utmost importance for the United States and Russia. To the same extent, it is quite evident that the extremist ideology of the likes of Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) makes absolutely no account of Syria’s recovery and prosperity. Rather, this ideology of destruction insists on committing crimes against humanity over the ruins of a destroyed Syria. There is no debate over the fact that the Syrian opposition is divided and scattered, and that it often harms itself as well as the Syrian people. But no one denies either, that the regime in Damascus has also committed crimes against humanity and that it cannot regain the influence and the instruments it had once held, nor return to the way things had been before the Syrian uprising. In the midst of all this, what does the United States have in store following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s tour of the region, which included Riyadh and Cairo? What comes after the failure of the tripartite meeting that brought together Joint Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League Lakhdar Brahimi, Russia’s two Deputy Foreign Ministers and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs? What is the connection between the “two Genevas” – the one concerned with nuclear talks with Iran and the one concerned with forming a fully empowered political body to achieve the transition from the current regime in Damascus to a new system of government? And has Moscow somewhat corrected its course, so as not to seem like a bulldozer that uproots and oppresses all that stand in its way, or is it moving forward on its way to cause the failure of Geneva II, wagering on the Syrian opposition and those who support it falling into the trap of failure? Those questions are interconnected and their answers are dispersed, yet the common element between them falls within the Iranian framework, because Tehran plays a central role in all of these issues.
Opinions are divided over who the new President, Hassan Rohani, really is, over whether he could really bring radical change to the regime in Iran, and over the extent to which the Supreme Leader of the Republic, Ali Khamenei, is resisting this new approach. Perhaps the most prominent questions that concern the countries of the Arab region fall under what kind of influence the new President and his followers want to wield in the Arab countries which the old approach had insisted on considering to be central to Iran’s regional ambitions – in particular Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Those who are of the opinion that President Rohani merely represents a different side of the same coin expect Iran to continue to insist on playing a regional role of hegemony, the importance of which is no lesser than that of the other two crucial issues for the leaders of the regime in Tehran. The first of these is international (and especially American) recognition of the regime’s legitimacy and pledging not to support any attempt to topple it or carry out a coup against it – a demand which US President Barack Obama granted publicly from the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly last September. The second is Iran’s insistence on obtaining nuclear capabilities and continuing to enrich uranium.
Those who hold a different opinion point to the new way in which dialogue is taking place between the new President and the Supreme Leader of the Republic. One advocate of this view in fact points to several instances of this, among them President Rohani’s response to Ayatollah Khamenei in discussing the veil (hijab), indicating that the new approach in Iran enjoys a significant female popular base.
Those who subscribe to this opinion point to Rohani’s background as a security figure and the importance of this in dealing with the Revolutionary Guard (Pasdaran), which enjoys broad power and influence within Iran as well as abroad, in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
They say that President Rohani is preparing for the Grand Bargain with methods different from those Khamenei’s followers and the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard had clung to, as he is much more focused on saving the Islamic Republic of Iran from economic deterioration due to the continued sanctions imposed on it. He has made of lifting those sanctions his primary objective, even if the cost is rolling back Iran’s regional hegemony. In other words, according to one expert, President Rohani will most likely insist on clinging to Iraq as the main arena of Iranian influence, but might be prepared to abandon a few of the ambitions of the old approach to have a foothold on the Mediterranean by holding Syria along with Lebanon.
One seasoned Arab politician and expert on Iran said that the “Grand Bargain” is not yet ready; and that when it will be, Tehran will be prepared – or forced – to abandon Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and to drive Hezbollah in Lebanon to have less sway on Lebanon’s fate than it does today.
What the new Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is close to President Rohani, said is noteworthy in this respect. Indeed, he said that Tehran could make use of its influence to encourage foreign fighters to withdraw from Syria. This was part of Zarif’s answer to a question about whether Iran was prepared to make use of its influence on Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Syria, when he appeared on French television network France 24 a few days ago. He said: “Iran is prepared to call for [the] withdrawal of all foreign forces from [Syria] (…) We are prepared for everybody with influence to push for [the] withdrawal of all non-Syrians from the Syrian soil.”
Such a stance reflects the opinion of one of the leaders of the new approach, yet it does not automatically means that the leaders of the traditional approach have given up or that Hezbollah has chosen a particular path for itself between the two approaches. Indeed, the leader of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc in Lebanon, Mohammad Raad, attacked his party’s opponents, saying: “We have defended ourselves and our Lebanon as defense requires, but beware of forcing us to behave other than defensively”. He also said: “There is no centrist position called dissociation. This kind of neutral centrism represents bias in favor of the wrong side, be it intentional or unintentional.” Such talk does not reflect the moderate approach that has come to Tehran in the form of President Rohani. Thus, either the disagreement between the two approaches is a radical one, or this is the phase for both approaches to reposition themselves, or the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies are purposely engaging in role distribution within the strategy of negotiations in Geneva – whether they be nuclear, political, or concerned with Syria.
Such language is new in appearance and in effect. Yet there is a language in Iran’s discourse that is part of its “unshakable principles” and remains standing quite strongly. The new kind of discourse is the one that openly talks of trading the willingness to achieve progress in negotiations on the nuclear issue for lifting or reducing sanctions. Iran’s traditional discourse persists in its insistence on continuing to enrich uranium at 20 percent, while hinting at the possibility of “suspending” enrichment at this percentage if such a step is preceded by effective measures to seriously reduce the sanctions that are breaking the back of the economy in Iran. Indeed, the formula of such negotiations is based on the race between an agreement over a framework for negotiations and a preliminary lifting of sanctions.
The battle to lift or reduce sanctions on Iran is as much a domestic battle in the United States as it is part of negotiations with Iran. Indeed, there is serious opposition to the Obama administration’s rush to bow down to Iran’s demands in advance and its reckless haste to win the battle of “trust.” Iran wants the United States not to be too stringent when it comes to “removing” the sanctions, and to recognize Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium as a “red line” – this as an indication of its “good intentions and in order to drive the negotiations forward,” as stated by Iran’s official news agency, quoting a source close to the team negotiating over the nuclear issue.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, said: “We are committed to rational resistance and will spare no effort to preserve our interests. We hope that the six countries will not repeat their past mistakes in the negotiations.” As for Mohammad Javad Zarif, he speaks the language of his country “address[ing] serious realistic concerns of the Western members of P5+1 (…) on the condition that they are also prepared to address our concerns,” and demands that these countries “regain the trust of the Iranian people” and remedy “the type of behavior that has been exhibited by certain Western countries, leading to a great deal of mistrust on the Iranian side.”
This is with regard to the Geneva of nuclear talks. Regarding Geneva II, which aims to hold political talks on the future of Syria, on the other hand, Iran insists on participating, supported in such insistence by its Russian ally. It is keeping all of its chips for negotiation at this table, starting from the direct and indirect role it plays on the battlefield in Syria, through the requirements of regional repositioning in Arab arenas (in particular Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon), and up to its own relationship with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in particular the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Tehran has taken note of the importance of John Kerry’s visit to Riyadh, meant to satisfy and reassure the Saudi leadership concerning the commitment of the United States to their strategic relationship, which includes both the national security and the regional security of Gulf countries within the framework of their alliance with the US. This does not mean that Iran has rushed to draw the conclusion that a new stable approach has emerged for the Obama administration or that Washington will back down on its overwhelming enthusiasm towards Tehran. Indeed, Iranian shrewdness means skillful analysis of the American political scene, but also, to the same extent, the art of patience – until the bargain has matured and until all means have been utilized to bring it to fruition or to sabotage it. Moreover, Iranian policy remains inflexible with regard to the central importance of Syria for Iran’s future in the Grand Bargain, if it is ever completed. Indeed, Iran produces surprises whenever it wishes because its behavior is difficult to analyze or to predict. And according to one “story” that is difficult to believe, the reason for President Barack Obama backing down on directing a military strike against Syria in the last few hours was the fact that he received – according to these claims which could not be verified – a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin informing him that, if the United States were to direct a military strike against Syria, Iran would be prepared to direct a strike against the Gulf countries aimed exclusively at crippling their entire electrical grid in retaliation. According to the one making this claim, Obama yielded to this warning because such a retaliatory strike would have forced him to respond militarily to Iran, and he thus decided not let himself be dragged into Syria at all. And that would be exactly what Iranian shrewdness would have, perhaps, wagered on.
Realistically and far from any guesswork, what Tehran is adopting now is a policy of not squandering its Syrian assets, as represented by its alliance with the regime in Damascus and its continued support of Bashar Al-Assad’s presidency, at least until presidential elections are held next summer. It views Geneva II as a conference that would seat it at the table of forging Syria’s future and would provide it with bargaining chips for negotiations with the United States. And Tehran today – with its new approach or with its old one – is not likely to squander the Hezbollah card, regardless of what has been said about its willingness at the end of the day to “expend” this precious asset it holds within the framework of the Grand Bargain, which remains distant.
Indeed, this phase is one of temporary rest to catch one’s breath, and everyone will return to the strategic policy drawing board in accordance with their immediate or long-term interests. Syria will remain an arena of wagering and gathering bargaining chips for all players, great and small, for a period of time that will not be short, and in which will increase the tragedy of the Syrian people, both those internally displaced and those who have migrated to neighboring countries, which are in turn not yet fully out of danger.
The National Criminal
Husam Itani/Asharq Alawsat
While policemen are issuing parking fines to people who park their cars longer than the allocated time in some streets of Beirut, the Lebanese state is unable to summon people accused of committing a real massacre before court. True, this impotence should be generalized to all the facets of public life, but the fate of the subpoenas issued against a number of individuals involved in the Taqwa and Salam mosques explosions in Tripoli calls for comparison. The evidence leaked to the media outlets regarding those who perpetrated the two crimes requires at least the hastening of their summoning to listen to what they have to say regarding the charges attributed to them. However, the summoned met these subpoenas with contempt and threatened to trigger civil war in the country. And this in itself is a crime punishable by law.
The difficulty to bring the accused for interrogation, let alone prosecute them, leads us back to political reality in Lebanon and the Arab Levant. At this level, it is useless to say that most of the assassinations, explosions and sectarian and ethnic cleansing operations that have taken place here for decades, have been carried out by individuals and sides whose names and addresses are known, who have been - and will continue to be – above accountability and are unembarrassed to announce what they have done, are still doing, and will keep carrying out in the future. Hence, the issue is not about penal responsibility but rather falls in the context of “national action.”
Indeed, those dispatching booby-trapped cars to be detonated among worshipers exiting a mosque are not doing so for personal reasons or hatred. They are doing so to serve a higher interest, which naturally justifies the killing and mutilation of civilians. This interest is linked to a cause with ambiguous facets, including resistance against Israel, the liberation of Palestine, the deterrence of arrogance and – the latest addition as a new priority – the fighting of the Takfiris. But all of these tributaries eventually pour into the sea of preserving absolute power, by bloody mobs monopolizing all the qualifications to govern domestically and all the wisdom at the level of foreign relations. Nothing more and nothing less.
Playing with those carrying an open license to kill is dangerous, and whoever is not protected by a group that is as fierce and violent as the priests of political execution in the cities’ streets, should keep their heads away from this game, considering that the state and its apparatuses are not enough to protect those against whom a death sentence is issued, as revealed by the experience of General Wissam al-Hassan.
What can be deduced from the easy resorting to mass or selective murders through bombs and booby-trapped cars is that there is something exceeding by far the wish to achieve quick goals and address painful messages to the opponent. At this level, entering the mind of a national criminal is not that difficult. Indeed, the retreat of politics in the broader meaning of the word – i.e. the management of the disputes through peaceful means - the high demand for power in the absence of mechanisms to ensure its rotation, the long history of violence in individual and public communication and the troubled and hostile relations between minorities and majorities, all render the annulment of the other through arrests, physical liquidation, or booby-trapped cars a logical method.
On the other hand, there is a legitimacy crisis and a feeling prevails over the side holding power – whether inside or outside the state – that it is constantly lacking the justification to stay in its position. All this is pushing towards the use of the authoritarian clique’s full arsenal of violent practices, covered by a disconnected and faltering ideological rhetoric that cannot stand in the face of a question or a joke.
Hence, armed groups that draw their right to rebel against the agreed-upon laws from history, fear and bigotry, disregard the horrendous violation of the state institutions’ basic work. And this seems to be the only solution left for the state’s remains which are gladly settling for issuing parking tickets in some of the streets that are stuck in the state’s limbo.