LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for today/Children
01 John 03/01-10:" See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God's children—and so, in fact, we are. This is why the world does not know us: it has not known God. My dear friends, we are now God's children, but it is not yet clear what we shall become. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is. Everyone who has this hope in Christ keeps himself pure, just as Christ is pure. Whoever sins is guilty of breaking God's law, because sin is a breaking of the law. You know that Christ appeared in order to take away sins,[a] and that there is no sin in him. 6 So everyone who lives in union with Christ does not continue to sin; but whoever continues to sin has never seen him or known him. Let no one deceive you, my children! Whoever does what is right is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. Whoever continues to sin belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the very beginning. The Son of God appeared for this very reason, to destroy what the Devil had done. Those who are children of God do not continue to sin, for God's very nature is in them; and because God is their Father, they cannot continue to sin. Here is the clear difference between God's children and the Devil's children: those who do not do what is right or do not love others are not God's children.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 19/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 19/13
is an Unconstitutional and Illegitimate Armed Group
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 November 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea noted on Monday that Lebanon's constitution and National Pact make no reference to resistance movements.He declared during a press conference: “The lack of reference renders Hizbullah an unconstitutional and illegitimate armed group and we will never recognize its legitimacy.”“It is not a resistance, but an organized armed group that does not abide by the law,” he added. “I challenge anyone to prove to me where the National Pact makes a reference to a resistance movement in Lebanon,” he continued. “Anyone who claims otherwise is altering historic facts and treaties,” he stated. Moreover, Geagea said that Hizbullah's actions over the past eight years had not served Lebanon, but only itself and Iran. He refuted claims by Hizbullah members that they seek partnership with other Lebanese factions, saying that the party had disregarded and is still disregarding the country's interests by fighting in Syria alongside the Syrian regime. Commenting on Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's recent remarks that the party does not need the support of all Lebanese parties, Geagea asked: “What then is left of the Lebanese people's ties among each other? This party exists in Lebanon and anything it does will affect all of us, so why shouldn't it need our support?”“Nasrallah has not been officially tasked by anyone to administer Lebanon's strategic affairs,” he continued. In addition, the LF leader said that over the past eight years, Hizbullah has acted as an illegitimate armed group, not a resistance, giving the example of the events of May 7, 2008, among others. “Hizbullah's illegitimate actions have led to lawlessness in Lebanon where several regions are not subject to the law,” he said.
“Hizbullah has been linked to terrorist activities abroad, such as Bulgaria and Thailand. Are these acts of a resistance or an illegitimate armed group?” he wondered.
“Lebanon can no longer exist as a state and it can never enjoy any peace and prosperity as long as Hizbullah continues to conduct itself as it is,” he stressed.
Addressing Nasrallah's remarks on the Syrian crisis, Geagea said: “It is unacceptable for him to alter historic facts linked to the unrest.”
“He is trying to make the people believe that the Syrian regime, which is the example of innocence, is being attacked by the United States, other countries, and takfiris. This vision of the Syrian conflict is very far from the truth,” he added. “It is unacceptable for Nasrallah to alter historic facts to suit his interests,” he stated.
“Poisoning the people's thoughts is more dangerous than bombings that had taken place in Lebanon in recent months and he should not undermine the people's intelligence,” he declared. Turning to some Lebanese powers that are fearful over the fate of Christians in the East, Geagea said: “It is very unfortunate that some sides are exploiting this issue for the sake of the Syrian regime.”“Some sides are portraying the conflict in Syria as being that of the regime against takfiris, while completely disregarding the Syrian people,” he remarked in an indirect reference to Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun. “These sides have forgotten the fate of former Presidents Bashir Gemayel and Rene Mouawad and other figures who have been assassinated,” he added. Addressing the dispute over the formation of a new government, the LF leader suggested the formation of a cabinet that does not include the March 8 and 14 camps because they are in disagreement over all pending issues. A government that includes both of these sides will render it ineffective because their disputes will cripple it, he explained. On the March 8 demands for cabinet to convene in order to tackle the petroleum file and its accusations that the March 14 camp is hampering such efforts, Geagea noted: “One camp, some of whose members had never cared for the people's interests, is making it seem that the other is not keen on this issue.”“The oil file is not being addressed because the people do not trust the officials who are responsible for it,” he clarified.
“The current caretaker ministers are not qualified to address this issue,” he continued. “We oppose holding any cabinet session to discuss the oil file, not because we don't want to address this issue, but because we want it to be handled by honest officials,” he stressed.
Report: Saudi Arabia Suggests Two Proposals to Avoid Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 November 2013/Saudi Arabia suggested two proposals to help Lebanon avoid any vacuum in the Presidency post amid President Michel Suleiman's firm rejection to renew his term, which ends in May 2014. According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Monday, Saudi officials are convinced that the Lebanese rival parties will fail to agree on holding the presidential elections due to sharp differences. “The matter will create a presidential vacuum in which power will be in the hand of Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati's resigned cabinet that the Saudis describe as Hizbullah's government,” a source told the newspaper. The source said that Saudis suggest the extension of Suleiman's mandate for another three years, in order to maintain the current power distribution and to avoid any presidential vacuum. The source told al-Akhbar that Suleiman's mandate extension would be by reelecting him for another half term as he had continuously reiterated his rejection to extending his presidential term. Suleiman, whose mandate expires in May 2014, said previously that he would challenge the extension of his mandate if the parliament took such a move. Another solution would be holding the presidential elections and voting for either Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji or Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh to the presidential post. Suleiman returned last week from Saudi Arabia, where he held talks with King Abdullah during a meeting attended by ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Salman and the Saudi ministers of foreign affairs, interior and information.
Suleiman to Warn on Syrian Refugees Burden at Arab-African Summit
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman is expected to issue a warning this week that Lebanon will no longer be able to confront the burden of refugees as the weekend witnessed an exodus of thousands of Syrians. They have been fleeing heavy fighting in the mountainous region of Qalamoun, an area that stretches north of the Syrian capital along the Lebanese frontier. It appeared to be part of a long-anticipated government offensive aimed at cutting an important rebel supply route and cementing President Bashar Assad's hold on a key corridor from the capital to the coast. Since the heavy fighting in Qalamoun began Friday, some 10,000 Syrians have fled across the border to the Lebanese frontier town of Arsal, former Mayor Bassel Hujeiri said. He said the new arrivals have crammed into wedding halls and improvised shacks. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) put the number at 16,000. Suleiman is expected to issue the warning in his speech at the two-day Arab-African summit that kicks off in Kuwait on Tuesday. He is also preparing along with the involved ministries for the second donor conference that Kuwait is expected to host in January 2014. Arab and African foreign ministers met in Kuwait on Sunday hoping to accelerate a strategy to bolster economic cooperation, investment and trade ahead of a summit this week. Tuesday's summit will be the first meeting of its kind since 2010, when leaders met in Libya prior to the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled longstanding dictatorships there and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.Thirty-four heads of state, including Suleiman, seven vice-presidents and three heads of government have confirmed their attendance at the summit, which will bring together 71 countries and organizations, according to organizers.
Syrian aircraft kills two in Lebanon’s Arsal
November 18, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A Syrian helicopter gunship raided Monday the Bekaa Valley border town of Arsal, killing two of the mayor’s relatives, security sources said. The sources told The Daily Star that “according to information obtained by police” Youssef Hujeiri, 31, and his brother Khaled, 33, were killed in a helicopter gunship raid over Wadi Mira on Arsal’s outskirts. They said the brothers are relatives of Arsal’s mayor, Ali Hujeiri. The bodies were taken to a hospital in Arsal, the sources added. Arsal, a northeastern town on the border with Syria, has in the last couple of the days seen a significant influx of refugees fleeing villages in the Qalamoun, a mountainous region roughly north of Damascus which is expected to be the next front between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Charbel Considers Security Situation in Tripoli 'Priority', Says Security Forces to Maintain Stability
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 November 2013/Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel stressed on Monday that the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese army will enter the northern city of Tripoli and take its role in maintaining the city's security and stability. He pointed out in comments published in As Safir newspaper that the security situation in Tripoli “is a priority.”“We will not raid any areas but we will detain those who are wanted if they passed on checkpoints,” Charbel told the newspaper. Charbel reiterated calls on the residents of Tripoli to support the Lebanese army. On Saturday the caretaker Minister launched stage-two of a security plan to be implemented in the inflamed city of Tripoli that has been witnessing frequent Syria-linked battles, that pits Sunnis from Bab al-Tabbaneh against Alawites in Jabal Mohsen. However, hours after Charbel's conference clashes flared up between gunmen and a security checkpoint in the Old Saraya vicinity in Tripoli, marring stage-two of the security plan. Most Sunnis support Syria's revolt against President Bashar Assad, while Alawites, who belong to the same Shiite-offshoot sect as Assad, support his regime. The latest fighting ended when the army deployed along Syria Street, which separates the two districts and acts as the makeshift frontline. Tripoli suffered horrific car bomb explosions near two mosques in August, killing 45 people.
ISF Begin Deployment in Rival
Neighborhoods in Tripoli
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 November 2013/Internal Security Forces units began deploying in the neighborhoods of the northern city of Tripoli on Monday to implement phase two of a security plan that aims at maintaining stability in the city. Units will be deployed in various neighborhoods of the city, including the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. According to the state-run National News Agency police chief of the northern city of Tripoli Brig. Gen. Bassam al-Ayyoubi supervised the deployment of the forces, which will be accompanied by armored personnel carriers. “We will establish fixed checkpoints in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh and mobile patrols between the two neighborhoods,” Ayyoubi said. He also pointed out that all parties welcomed the security plan. On Saturday the caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel launched stage-two of a security plan to be implemented in the inflamed city of Tripoli that has been witnessing frequent Syria-linked battles, that pits Sunnis from Bab al-Tabbaneh against Alawites in Jabal Mohsen.
He called on the resident of the northern city of Tripoli to cooperate with security forces to maintain security in the city, urging officials to resolve their political disputes during a national dialogue session.
However, hours after Charbel's conference clashes flared up between gunmen and a security checkpoint in the Old Saraya vicinity in Tripoli. Most Sunnis support Syria's revolt against President Bashar Assad, while Alawites, who belong to the same Shiite-offshoot sect as Assad, support his regime. The latest fighting ended when the army deployed along Syria Street, which separates the two districts and acts as the makeshift frontline.
Tripoli suffered horrific car bomb explosions near two mosques in August, killing 45 people. As Safir newspaper reported on Monday that Army Chief General Jean Qahwaji informed officials that army checkpoints and stations in Tripoli, in particular on the entrances of Bab al-Tabbaneh, will not be moved. “The army will be ready to act, when needed, to support the Internal Security Forces,” Qahwaji said according to As Safir.
Nuclear deal may sink in Geneva between hardline pressures in Tehran and tough Franco-Israel demands
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 18, 2013/Washington
and Moscow may sound upbeat about the prospects of a
signed interim deal at the next round of nuclear
negotiations between Iran and the six powers in Geneva
Wednesday, Nov. 20. However, according to debkafile’s
intelligence and Iranian sources, the way ahead is still
bristling with mines, more so even than the first round.
Both sides have toughened their
positions. In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani and
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif face threats against
yielding to Western demands. On the other side,
Washington accuses France and Israel of obstructionism
to get its proposal removed from the table.
Our Iranian sources have obtained
exclusive access to the decision reached early Monday,
Nov. 18, at an all-night conference in the bureau of
supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This meeting
delineated Iran’s ultimate line in Geneva as being
consent to idle for six months the few thousand new
extra-fast IR2 centrifuges enriching uranium up to 20
percent, after which work would resume in full. Tehran
draws the line completely at halting construction of the
heavy water plant in Arak.
Iran’s leaders are convinced that the “modest’ sanctions offered by Washington – and which the US denies are worth $40 bn as Israel has calculated – can be substantially sweetened when it comes to the point. The ayatollah, after seeing that the country is broke from the figures shown him by Rouhani and Zarif, accepted the urgency of relaxing banking and financial restrictions, as Zarif had demanded of the Americans. This relaxation alone would put $100 bn in Iran’s coffers. This amount would keep the economy ticking over for a year and give the Islamic regime another lease of life to calm a populace ready to kick back over economic hardships.
About to mark his first 100 days in office, Rouhani badly needs to show he can make good on his pre-election pledges of economic improvements. Responding to the complaints of hard-liners at home, Foreign Minister Zarif took up a tough negotiating stance in a comment he made Sunday, Nov. 17: “Not only do we consider that Iran’s right to enrich is non-negotiable,” he said, “but we see no need for that to be recognized as a right” because this right is inalienable and all countries must respect that. Both he and Rouhani fear their own heads will roll if they are shown yielding to the West on uranium enrichment or the reduction of stocks.
Zarif therefore tried his hand at a formula that would not require Iran to renounce enrichment while at the same time obtaining sanctions relief: The two sides will announce an interim accord has been reached in Geneva that covers certain issues and leaves some disputed items unresolved. Implementation must go forward without delay on the agreed items. The Iranian foreign minister explained to the Obama administration in the quiet bargaining leading up to the formal Geneva conference that a deal must be struck and implemented without delay to head off domestic opposition to any understanding he might conclude with Washington. Administration officials were about to concede on this point to the Iranian negotiators when they ran into French resistance. Sunday, Nov. 17, the day he arrived in Israel for a three-day state visit, French President Francois went into conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after which he laid out four points, “which for us are essential to guarantee any agreement:" 1) All of Iranian nuclear installations must be placed under international supervision right now.
2) 20-percent enriched uranium enrichment must be suspended.
3) Existing stocks must be reduced.
This can only be done by exporting a part of this stock or placing it under international control.
4) Construction of the Arak (heavy water) plant to be halted.
Netanyahu, for his part, criticized the emerging deal, without citing the US role, as a permit for Iran to continue manufacturing enough fissile material for assembling a nuclear bomb at three weeks to 26 days’ notice. A good deal, in his view, would dismantle Iran’s capacity to achieve this quantity of fissile material. He repeated that Israel would not be bound by a bad deal and reserved the right to self defense, by itself.
Yakov Amidror – until recently Netanyahu’s national security adviser - said that the Israeli Air Force had for years been practicing long-range flights in preparation for covering the 2,000km distance to Iran for a potential air strike on its nuclear facilities.
In an interview run by the Financial Times Monday, he said that these drills must show up on any Middle East radar screen. Amidror went on to say: We aren’t America, which obviously has greater capabilities than we do, but we still have sufficient to stall the Iranian program for a long time.
debkafile’s military sources add: Amidror’s remarks followed the latest US intelligence report which evaluates Israel’s capacity in a lone attack on Iran to stall Iran’s nuclear program for seven to 10 years.
Lebanon poised for ‘most dangerous’ juncture in its history
November 18, 2013/By Antoine Ghattas Saab The Daily Star
The next six months could prove to be the most dangerous in Lebanon’s rather tumultuous history. The period may witness the repositioning of political forces on the extremely complex Lebanese geography with a view to reaching the stage to reconstitute the Lebanese ruling system according to new foundations that would not replace the old constitutional principles, according to a Western diplomatic report.
The report, received by government officials, said that the apparent political escalation in the attitudes of internal parties, at the forefront of which is Hezbollah and its Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, is viewed as a pre-emptive war for the much-anticipated Qalamoun battle (near Lebanon’s border). The signal for this battle came last week when the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal and the valley of Nabi Sheet were targeted by the warring factions in Syria. This development increased the worries of the Lebanese over dragging Lebanon into the Syrian crisis. The report links Nasrallah’s escalatory tone to the ongoing negotiations between America and the P5+1 group on the one hand, and Iran on the other, over Tehran’s nuclear program. The Western-Iranian discussions will not be confined to Tehran’s nuclear drive, but will also cover the war in Syria, the situation in the region, as well as the issue of Hezbollah’s arms, the report said. It added that the downhill trend in the work of state institutions, along with its administrative, economic and social issues, had reached an alarming rate that is threatening the foundation of the Lebanese entity. Arab and Western countries will work to establish an external safety net designed to prevent the collapse of the Lebanese state, the report said. It described the latest political escalation between the Future Movement and Hezbollah as a storm before the lull. The report hinted at a positive atmosphere that is emerging on the horizon of American-Iranian negotiations, whereby Tehran might soon present proposals pertaining to divisive issues with the West, a development that would impact the region and change political alliances in it. Taking into account U.S. expectations to reach an American-Iranian agreement within two weeks at the latest, the report stressed that America would not abandon the Arab Gulf states and the Gulf region which is vital for U.S. interests. American-Western attempts are underway to bring about a sort of Saudi-Iranian understanding at least to manage the divisive issues between them in the region, the report said. This matter (Saudi-Iran understanding) is not ruled out following the resumption of contacts between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over the three disputed islands. The report warned that allowing paralysis and vacuum to hit state institutions, a state of affairs that might reach the presidency, portends big dangers that could undermine the foundations of the Lebanese entity and civil peace, already affected by the Syrian crisis, especially with the influx of over 1 million refugees into Lebanon.
Nevertheless, the region and Lebanon appear to be heading toward peaceful solutions, the report said, despite the escalatory rhetoric of some parties. Political sources linked the diplomatic report to the recent stances of Speaker Nabih Berri and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. Berri had said the Lebanese ruling system had become “a creator of strife,” while Aoun launched the most blistering attack on the 1989 Taif Accord, describing it as “an accord of fraud to consolidate foreign grip over Lebanon.” What was a taboo – talking about the Muslim-Christian coexistence formula and the Lebanese system – has become a topic of criticism by a wide spectrum of the Lebanese, the sources said, recalling repeated calls by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai for “a new social contract.” The sources said that internal and external groups have information about a scenario being promoted by Hezbollah’s power center that would prevent the formation of a new Cabinet and try to keep caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet in place with the aim of using “the Mikati Cabinet” card as bargaining chip in next year’s presidential election. With this card, Hezbollah and its March 8 allies can present the March 14 coalition and the country with two choices: Either an agreement on a comprehensive political deal that includes a consensus on the name of the next president, the shape of the new Cabinet, and a new election law, or total vacuum. If the country were faced with total vacuum, Hezbollah, backed by Berri, would smoothly propose the idea of a constituent conference, the sources added.Meanwhile, developments in Lebanon, Syria and the region will be discussed by a delegation of March 8 parties during a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad this week.
American Regression and Arab Weakness
Abdullah Iskandar/Al Hayat
The Americans are regressing, deliberately and openly, in the Middle East. This comes after decades of active and hegemonic presence, reaching its pinnacle in an American monopoly on the region’s affairs following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such regression will not be compensated by cooperation agreements that seek to salvage a few economic interests, as well as a few military locations within the framework of the war on terror.
There is a visible and increasingly clear outcome to such regression, regardless of the reasons for it, whether they spring from the impact of the tremendous economic burden borne by the United States in its recent wars, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, or from a decision made by the current administration, with its new approach to America’s interests in the world.
The outcome is the vacuum left by the withdrawal of the United States – a vacuum that is seeking sources to fill it, from outside the region and from within it, and is thus giving rise to a complex struggle and a new intertwinement of interests. Positions of traditional rivalry with the United States seem to be the ones most actively seeking to inherit its waning role. This is especially true as Europe, with the relations it has traditionally had in the region, no longer has the means to restore its past role, having lost it to American expansion after World War II – especially as its economic and military situation is suffering from a series of structural crises, even if it is trying to preserve a minimum of markets and economic interests, particularly in the field of energy supply.
Russia makes no secret of its aspirations to fill some of the vacuum left by the United States, or even all of it, especially after the disappearance of the ideological factor, which had prevented the spread of Soviet influence during the Cold War. Putin’s Russia believes itself to have the ability and the right to have such aspirations, in view of its geopolitical position and economic capabilities, especially in the fields of energy and military industries.
While Turkey has begun receding as well, after a phase of expansion, Iran is renewing its diplomatic assault with its new government lineup headed by President Hassan Rohani. Even more, Tehran sees an irreplaceable opportunity for it to benefit from America’s regression. On the one hand, it considers itself to be responsible for this regression, as a result of the role it has played in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, and on the other is prepared to negotiate with Washington, in order to facilitate the process of regression, as it did with the military withdrawal from Iraq.
There is another party that also seeks to ascribe to itself forcing the United States to withdraw from the region, and that is Al-Qaeda and its various branches spread across the region from Pakistan to Morocco. And with increased American regression in the region, the group will turn increasingly towards the interior, making it less of a threat to the United States, which is in turn restructuring its policy on combating terrorism on the basis of this new factor. On the background of such a struggle, as it witnesses a heated race to fill the vacuum left by the Americans, the Arabs seem to be most prominently absent. Indeed, the Arabs have no solid core with a clear strategy for self-preservation, nor is there a regional Arab force with a serious political project that could form a polarizing element, despite the presence of elements similar to such a force at both the economic and human levels.
The fate of filling the space left by America’s regression thus remains connected to the limits of the simultaneous negotiations between the United States and Russia and between the United States and Iran – the former having resulted in preparing for Geneva II in order to reach a solution in Syria, and the latter being aimed at resolving the crisis between Iran and the West. In other words, it is a matter of attempting to reach an understanding on resolving the issues in the region that are most pressing and of the greatest interest.
Thus, if the Arabs are concerned about such negotiations, their concerns are justified, even if these negotiations are tortuous and their results unguaranteed in any one direction. But it would be more useful to wonder about the reasons why the Arabs have been excluded from them – in other words, to wonder about the weaknesses of the Arabs and how they can be addressed, instead of lamenting about friends stabbing each other in the back. And if a regional Arab force and a new Arab order, with the ability to take action and to fill some of the vacuum left by America’s regression, fail to take shape, the debate will remain restricted between Iran’s diplomatic and field assault and its counterpart from Al-Qaeda. The two may clash at times and collaborate at others, but the trend towards fundamentalism remains dominant.
Prominent Syrian rebel group says its
leader has died of shrapnel wounds sustained last week
By Diaa Hadid, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – BEIRUT - The leader of one of Syria's most prominent rebel units died early Monday of shrapnel wounds sustained during shelling by government troops last week, his group said. The death of Abdul-Qadir Saleh, founder of the Tawhid Brigade, was another blow to the rebels, reeling from a series of recent battlefield losses to President Bashar Assad's forces.
Government troops have made headway against the rebels on two key fronts, capturing a string of opposition-held suburbs south of Damascus and taking two towns and a military base outside the northern city of Aleppo.
The Tawhid Brigade is one of Syria's better-known and stronger rebel groups, with an estimated 10,000 fighters. It's one of the main rebel groups in Aleppo province. Under Saleh's command, the group last year pushed into the provincial capital, Aleppo, seizing large sections of the city for the rebels. On Thursday night, government forces targeted its command post in Aleppo province. The 34-year-old Saleh was severely wounded and later died in a hospital in Turkey, said a brigade spokesmen who goes by the name of Akram al-Halaby. Many rebels do not use their real names, fearing they or their families would be identified and targeted by security forces
The shelling also killed the brigade officer, Abu Tayeb, and wounded another spokesman, Saleh Anadan. Saleh's body was quickly returned to Syria and he was buried in his hometown of Marea in Aleppo province, al-Halaby said. The brigade's political chief, Abdul-Aziz Salameh, who was lightly wounded in Thursday's shelling, was appointed to succeed Saleh, the spokesman said.
The Tawhid Brigade was once a part of the Free Syrian Army, considered to be the military wing of Syria's exiled Western-backed opposition. But in September, the brigade broke away and later formed the Islamic Authority, a coalition of Islamic rebel groups, including one linked to al-Qaida. Saleh's death was also confirmed Monday by Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of activists on the ground. Saleh's trajectory reflected that of many rebels who joined the armed uprising against Assad's rule. He was a married merchant who took part in peaceful demonstrations that began in March 2011. After a violent crackdown by security forces, Syria's conflict became an armed uprising and Saleh turned to guns.
He founded the Tawhid — or Unity — Brigade some 10 days before rebels seized parts of Aleppo, al-Halaby said. A video uploaded to social media networks in 2012 shows Saleh flinching as a bomb drops near his headquarters in Aleppo province. His comrades call on him to rush inside a building for protection, but he insists on standing outside, saying: "Nobody dies until God gives him his life, and his date of death."
Syria's rebels are currently on the defensive in a high-stakes battle in the mountainous region of Qalamoun on the Lebanese border. There, government forces are trying to cut off a supply route for rebels, centred around the town of Qara. But the rebels are still capable of carrying out large attacks and the opposition remains firmly entrenched in other areas around Damascus. A massive explosion Sunday levelled a government office in the northeastern suburb of Harasta, killing at least 31 soldiers, according to the Observatory. Three brigadiers and one major general were among the dead, according to the Observatory's Abdurrahman. There was no confirmation from government officials or state media on the attack.
Iran unveils aircraft claimed to be biggest drone yet developed, capable of 30-hour flight
Libya: Serial deadlines
November 18, 2013/The Daily Star
A weekend of bloodshed in the Libyan capital represents merely the latest wake-up call for that country’s authorities, and officials elsewhere, that the situation is rapidly getting out of hand. There is no need to spell out what is going wrong; anyone who’s read anything about Libya over the past year will be fully aware of the problem: a lack of strong state security institutions and an effective national army. Statement after statement by Libyan and non-Libyan officials point to these serious challenges, but no one appears to have come up with a feasible solution. It isn’t that the Libyan authorities have done nothing to bring the situation under control – they have announced deadline after deadline for militiamen to return to the fold of the state, but the fact that they have had to announce deadline after deadline means the policy hasn’t worked. The only thing new in the situation in Libya is the brazen and horrific sight of militiamen gunning down dozens of people – who had come out to peacefully protest against the militias Friday – in cold blood. The rest of the weekend saw more violence, as well as the disappearance, and presumed kidnapping, of a senior state security official, at the hands of a militia. Libya’s post-Moammar Gadhafi political class is in the grip of these militias, which means that it’s easy to understand how politicians have failed to rein them in. But Friday’s explosion indicates that while politicians might prefer to stall and hope for the best, the Libyan people have reached the end of their rope.
The other “newsworthy” event in Libya these days is the country’s growing infamy for being a launching pad for desperate migrants willing to risk their lives to travel to the other side of the Mediterranean, and again, Libya’s unscrupulous militias are involved. Libyan officials aren’t in an enviable position. They face the threat of Al-Qaeda-inspired militants active in North Africa and African countries bordering the region, as well as their own, long-standing national problems of how to incorporate feuding regions, tribal groups and the Berber minority into a durable national political system. But if they are to continue in office, they must find a solution, and quickly, or else step aside for others to do the job. One point of view in the Middle East holds that there is a “plot” underway to divide countries like Libya into smaller entities; many people might dismiss the conspiracy-theory brand of analysis, but the performance of Libyan officials raises serious doubts as to whether this trend isn’t actually underway already. The international community offered either verbal or material support to the rebels who ended the Gadhafi era, and it should also do everything possible to halt and reverse the state of affairs in Libya today, because conditions there will have repercussions for a whole range of anxious neighbors.
Failure of U.S. Policy toward Damascus
by Eyal Zisser/Middle East Forum
Middle East Quarterly/Fall 2013, pp. 59-65
The failure of the Bush and
the Obama administrations to topple Syria's president Bashar al-Assad goes a
long way to explaining Washington's declining Middle Eastern position. United by
a distinct lack of vision, as opposed to hopes and wishful thinking, as well as
determination and a coherent plan of action, these otherwise very different
administrations helped erode America's stature in the region. Widely seen as a
declining superpower that has lost belief in itself and its leading role in the
world, Washington earns neither fear nor respect in the Middle East.
Bush vs. Assad
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 was a decisive moment in the history of the Middle East. True, George W. Bush acquired a demonic image in the eyes of many, both in the region and beyond, but there is no doubt that history will prove that the stand he took against the region's dictators, including some long-standing U.S. allies, was an important factor in creating significant cracks in the Middle East's dictatorial walls and in encouraging the calls for justice and freedom that began to be heard there. In this sense, the Bush administration's Middle East policy, which set as its aim the promotion of democracy, was an important preparatory factor, even an accelerator, for the developments that led to the outbreak of the 2011 Arab uprisings. The Iraq invasion made a strong impression on the region's inhabitants, strengthening Washington's standing in their eyes as a leading world power, politically, economically, and especially, militarily and technologically. At the same time, this image of the United States was accompanied by fear and awe—and unconcealed resentment, jealousy, and even hatred. Nevertheless, the routing of Saddam Hussein's army convinced even Iran's ayatollahs to pause in their mad dash to achieve nuclear power. Only later, after Iraq became a treacherous swamp for Washington because of its failed policies there, did the halo of the initial victory lose its shine. Over time, the historical significance of the Saddam regime collapse lost much of its impact.
President Obama (left) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II (right) at the White House, April 26, 2013, where they discussed the Syrian crisis. Obama's initial tough talk about Syrian use of chemical weapons being a "red line" that would evoke a strong U.S. response has become something of a joke even among the war-weary Syrian citizens. In April, the president walked back his pledge demanding instead a "chain of custody" to prove who used which weapons where.
At the same time, the war in Iraq placed the Bush administration on a collision course with Assad, who perceived the U.S. attack as being directed not only against Iraq but also against Syria. In the eyes of Damascus, the war was part of a joint U.S.-Israeli campaign directed at breaking up the Arab world and debilitating its might in order to strengthen Israel—or so the Syrians convinced themselves. It also seems that the Assad regime really believed that Washington would find it difficult to overthrow Saddam and assumed that the Vietnam war quagmire would be repeated in Iraq.
In their memoirs, both George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair testify that Washington had entertained the idea of carrying the military campaign from Baghdad to Damascus and overthrowing the Assad regime. However, the initial shock experienced in the region, including by Syria, eventually wore off, especially as the U.S. administration found itself entangled in a morass of Shiite-Sunni violence in Iraq. Damascus thus concluded that it was in its interest for the United States to suffer total defeat in Iraq. As a result, the Assad regime began to turn a blind eye and even to assist the Muslim jihadis who crossed Syria on their way to fight the Americans in Iraq. Ironically, these same fighters were destined to return to Syria a decade later when the March 2011 revolution broke out there, leading a jihadist war against Assad's "heretical" regime.
In light of this hostile course, the Bush administration came to the conclusion that the Syrian president was a clear and present danger to U.S. interests in the Middle East. However, Washington decided not to adopt a straightforward military option. Instead, U.S. leaders tried to exploit a series of opportunities that emerged in order to push Assad into a corner or even overthrow him. The steps taken were essentially political in character, but there is no evidence that they were part of an orderly or planned-out policy.
The first such prospect came in spring 2005 when Bush sought to exploit the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri to bring about Bashar's political demise. Alongside the exodus of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Washington acted together with Jacques Chirac's France to bring about the creation of an international investigating commission, and in its wake, an international court, in the hopes of implicating Assad in the Hariri murder. This would then enable a political, or perhaps even a military, campaign to be undertaken against Assad with international backing, not to mention the possibility of bringing him before the International Court of Justice in the Hague. However, in the end it appeared that Hezbollah, rather than Assad, was the main actor behind Hariri's murder.
Almost a year later, the Bush administration tried to convince Israel to open a second front against Syria during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war; Israel, for its own reasons, did not agree to this. Later, when Israel bombed the nuclear installation Syria was attempting to build with North Korean aid in September 6, 2007, the administration backed the Israeli action. Characteristically, Bush had refrained from acting himself against Syria in this matter.
Finally, Washington acted selectively against al-Qaeda training camps and logistic centers in Syria. The various actions undertaken did not interlink in a way to constitute a genuine overall campaign, and they never posed a serious threat to the Syrian regime.
Beyond these more energetic actions, the Bush administration settled for a diplomatic campaign, the main aim of which was the political isolation of the Assad regime. However, the partial isolation in which Damascus found itself brought no real results. Damascus was less impressed with the carrot it was being offered—the potential profits it might reap from drawing closer to Washington—and was more focused on the stick, or to be more precise, the absence of any real stick. Washington had simply failed to create any effective means of leverage against Syria. Thus, the era of George W. Bush ended in complete failure insofar as the administration's Syrian policy was concerned: Bush left the White House while Assad remained more solidly entrenched in power than ever.
Obama and Bashar
The Obama administration was determined, like any new U.S. administration, to distinguish itself from its predecessor. This effort to embark on a new course meant replacing any perceived sticks with carrots, that is, jettisoning threats, the sporadic use of force, or the more aggressive stance of previous years and employing dialogue, conciliation, and flattery. Indeed, Damascus hastened to welcome the change in policy. However, the Obama administration was soon to learn that, contrary to its expectations, speaking softly without carrying a big stick had no effect whatsoever on the Assad regime.
The outbreak of revolution in Syria in March 2011 was met with silence in Washington. Instead of issuing a resolute call to the Syrian ruler to step down, as in the pressure exerted on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February, the administration took several long weeks to articulate its policy toward the Syrian revolution. On March 27, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Syria was different from Libya since "there's a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe [Assad]'s a reformer. What's been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there's a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities and then police actions, which, frankly, have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see."
Only in May 2011 did U.S. spokespersons, joined in the end by President Obama himself, begin to declare that the most appropriate solution to the crisis was for Assad to step down. However, the statements issuing from Washington were not accompanied by any concrete actions. Some economic sanctions were imposed, albeit to no avail. Washington also roused itself to extend some limited aid to the opposition forces. For a good many months, it worked—without any real success—to unify the various opposition groups abroad and even those forces operating inside Syria with the aim of creating a military force with an effective and legitimate leadership and command capable of acting against the Syrian army. Simultaneously though, U.S. spokespersons repeatedly emphasized that Washington was not considering any military intervention that would tip the scales decisively. In the beginning of 2013, there were even reports that the State Department and the CIA had recommended supplying weapons to the rebels but that Obama opposed the idea. Having initially called Syrian use of chemical weapons, a "red line" that would incur a strong U.S. response, in April 2013, the president walked back his tough talk, demanding a "chain of custody" to prove who used what and where. Later, in June 2013, the White House eventually confirmed that "our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year … The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades." However, no action has been taken as a result of this confirmation.
The excuse given for Washington's inaction was a lack of an international consensus that would confer legitimacy on any muscular undertaking in Syria. In the U.N. Security Council, Russia, a chief arms supplier to the Damascus regime, repeatedly blocked the adoption of any decision connected with the situation, thereby eliciting toothless denunciations from U.S. spokespersons. However, Russian and Chinese vetoes on Security Council resolutions vis-à-vis the Syrian question also served as a convenient alibi for an administration wary of Middle Eastern entanglements. What might have happened if President Vladimir Putin had removed his opposition to an international operation against Damascus?
Despite having publicly concluded that the Assad regime must go, there were a number of distinct reasons for Washington's reluctance to act. To begin with, U.S. leaders were well aware of the weaknesses of the Syrian opposition, especially the divisiveness and fragmentation within the forces in the field. Furthermore, some of these militias consisted of radical elements, such as the Supporters of the al-Nusra Front (Ansar Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sha'm), considered the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. Thus, any intervention in Syria would likely end up with Washington being drawn into a bloody civil war, similar to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, from which the Obama administration was only just extracting itself with great effort and fanfare.
Had the U.S. administration been more determined in its approach to Syria, it could have taken a number of steps short of a land operation that would have dramatically altered the balance of forces between the regime and its opponents. Washington could have imposed an effective sea and air blockade on Syria or decreed flight-restricted or no-fly zones for the Syrian air force. The administration could also have given more significant aid to the opposition, especially military aid, if not directly, then via their allies in the region. The distance between active intervention and complete inaction is great, and in between, there was much room for maneuver had the will been there.
U.S. Business as Usual
Two U.S. administrations, though quite different in character, found themselves conducting almost identical policies vis-à-vis Syria. Both began by trying to open a dialogue with the Syrian regime, assuming that Damascus had an interest in becoming a U.S. ally. Enticements were offered in areas of special interest to Damascus: recognition of its role in Lebanon and the return of the entire Golan Heights to Syria as part of a peace agreement with Israel. Both administrations undertook actions against Assad only after despairing of any positive results to their conciliatory efforts. Even then, these efforts to act against the Syrian regime came to naught.
What can be learned from the Syrian experience of these two very different U.S. administrations? Perhaps the most important lesson is that failure is an assured result in the absence of a vision with well-defined goals and objectives. Undergirding such a policy, Washington needs to have a genuine conviction that it can achieve its goals, alongside a determination to follow through on them. Ironically, it was Assad himself who complained, according to a cable sent by the U.S. embassy in Damascus, that "the American administration has no clear vision about the region."
The policy failure in Syria underscores the limits of the U.S. ability to play a leading role in the Middle East. It is an example of how a superpower should not conduct itself in such a sensitive region. Indeed, the message Washington is sending, to allies and foes alike, is one of weakness and spinelessness. U.S. leaders currently seem to lack the sense of a superpower mission. They do not seem to be guided by a clear strategy and appear to lack a sincere commitment to the U.S. role in the region and even a belief in U.S. abilities to play one. Small wonder that the U.S. embassy in Damascus summarized the failure to contain Assad after the Hariri assassination in the following words:
Given a year of sustained U.S.-led international pressure that forced it [Syria] to withdraw its troops under nearly humiliating circumstances, we might have expected the SARG [Syrian government] to be back on its heels and in a defensive, cautious posture. The short-term success of its current confrontational stances have instead boosted regime morale and made it likely that it will continue to seek appropriate opportunities in the coming months to demonstrate its willingness to respond to external pressure with pressure of its own. Wherever possible, it will use its proxies to assert that defiance, in order to avoid being dragged into any unwanted, direct confrontation with the U.S.
What subsequent administrations have failed to understand is that what Arabs resent most is not the U.S. invasion of Iraq or even support for Israel: The Arabs are most angry at the United States because, for them, it is the most recent and convenient "other." To the Arabs, Washington's international state of success and status is, despite whatever current economic problems it faces, a constant reminder of Arab decline from its glorious past. The United States is seen as the successor to Britain and other colonial powers and, therefore, shall be an enemy forever. As long as there is no introspection among Arabs regarding the causes of their decline; as long as the only explanation offered for this decline remains a U.S.-Zionist conspiracy to break and weaken the "Arab world," this rejection of good-faith efforts by the West will remain as it is. What might alter the situation is not necessarily a change in U.S. policy toward Israel but rather a change from within. Curiously, although America remains the quintessential enemy to the Arab world, the dream of the average Arab individual is to immigrate to the States or experience the American way of life. As long as such schizophrenia persists, it is unlikely the patient will be cured.
Some changes could improve Washington's standing in the Middle East. Its efforts to send conciliatory messages to the Arabs would be a positive move only if based on a sober and realistic approach. If the world's leading superpower does not believe in its power and looks regularly for excuses not to exercise it, it is bound to be perceived as a paper tiger lacking the ability to advance any particular course in the region. In this regard, it would seem that the negative results of the Obama administration's conduct are more severe than those of its predecessor. For if George W. Bush was not liked, he was at least feared to one degree or another: Barack Obama is neither liked nor feared.
Eyal Zisser is dean of the faculty of humanities and the Yona and Dina Ettinger Chair of Contemporary Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University.
 The New York Times, Dec. 3, 2007; The Washington Post, Dec. 4, 2007.
 David W. Lesch, The New Lion of Damascus, Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), pp. 176-97.
 George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Random House, 2010), pp. 407-15; Tony Blair, A Journey (London: Arrow Books, 2010), pp. 387, 407; Max Abrahms, "When Rogues Defy Reason: Bashar's Syria," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2003, pp. 45-55; CNN News, May 4, 2003.
 "A Year After Hariri's Assassination: Asad Strikes a Tougher Pose," U.S. Embassy, Damascus, Wikileaks, Feb. 2, 2006; "Report of the International Independent Investigation Commission established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1595 [Mehlis report]," United Nations, New York, Oct. 20, 2005; The Guardian (London), June 30, 2011.
 Israel Hayom (Tel Aviv), Nov. 10, 2010; Ynet News (Tel Aviv), Aug. 13, 2012.
 Channel 10, Israel, Aug. 26, 2010; Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), Nov. 10, 2010; Elliot Abrams, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 57-9.
 See, for example, Reuters, Oct. 27, 2008; Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA, Damascus), Oct. 28, 2008.
 David W. Lesch, Syria, The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), pp. 20-37.
 Face the Nation, CBS, Mar. 27, 2013.
 "Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa," White House Press Secretary, May 19, 2011.
 Bloomberg News Service (New York), Aug. 21, 2012; The Guardian, Feb. 8, 2013; Ha'aretz, May 4, 2013; Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2013.
 CBS News, Apr. 30, 2013; The New York Times, June 13, 2013.
 See, for example, Arutz Sheva (Beit El and Petah Tikva), May 1, 2011; ABC News, Feb. 4, 2012; USA Today, July 19, 2012.
 Aron Lund, "Holy Warriors: A Field Guide to Syria's Jihadi Groups," Foreign Policy, Oct. 15, 2012; Joseph Holliday, "Syria's Maturing Insurgency," June 2012, "Syria's Armed Opposition," Mar. 2012, "The Struggle for Syria in 2011," Dec. 2011, Syria Project, Institute for the Study of War, Washington, D.C.
 YNet News, Oct. 12, 2012; Daniel Pipes, "Netanyahu Again Offers the Golan Heights to Syria," DanielPipes.org, Oct. 14, 2012.
 "Asad Warns that Striking Iraq Would Create Chaos," U.S. Embassy, Damascus, Wikileaks, Feb. 2, 2002.
 "Asad Strikes a Tougher Pose," Feb. 2, 2006.
Related Topics: Syria, US policy | Eyal Zisser | Fall 2013 MEQ
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