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Bible Quotation for today/Love
01 John 03/11-18:"The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. We must not be like Cain; he belonged to the Evil One and murdered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, and the things his brother did were right. So do not be surprised, my friends, if the people of the world hate you. We know that we have left death and come over into life; we know it because we love others. Those who do not love are still under the power of death. Those who hate others are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life in them. This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for others! If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.
The Saints were not superhuman. They were people who loved God in their hearts, and who shared this joy with others."
editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
For November 20/13
Dangerous catalyst/November 19, 2013/The Daily Star
Spring is not just for Arabs/By: Tamim Khallaf /Asharq Alawsat/November 20/13
Latest News Reports From
Miscellaneous Sources For November 20/13
Lebanese Related News
Suicide bombers kill 25 near Iran embassy in Beirut
U.S. slams ‘despicable’ bombings near Iran embassy
Iran says Beirut suicide bombings alarm for all of us
Suleiman Contacts Rouhani, Abadi: Terrorists behind Bir Hassan Blasts Must Be Brought to Justice
Ban Condemns Bir Hassan Blasts: Such Acts of Violence Target All Sides in Lebanon
Iran says Beirut bombings 'alarm for all of us'
Hariri slams ‘terrorist’ bombings near Iran embassy
Abadi Accuses Israel of Being behind Beirut Blast: Iran Cultural Adviser Killed in Attack
Aoun Slams Government Inaction over Bir Hassan Blasts
Syria Slams Beirut Blasts: Odor of Petrodollars Comes from All Terrorist Acts against Syria, Lebanon
UK, France Strongly Condemn Beirut Blasts: Criminals Must Be Brought to Justice
Plumbly Condemns 'Terrorist' Bir Hassan Blasts, Urges Restraint
Qahwaji Warns of Attempt to Sabotage Co-Existence, Destruct National Pact
Baabda Palace Violates Protocol on Country's 70th Independence Day
Syrian Warplane Fires Rocket on Arsal
Judge Issues Arrest Warrant Against Ibrahim Bashir
Pope Francis to Address Situation in Lebanon, Middle East during Catholic Patriarchs Summit
Abou Faour Sounds Alarm Bell on Refugee Crisis, Says Humanitarian Aid Not Enough
Israel on alert over suspected Hezbollah tunnels
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Cameron makes first UK call to Iranian president in over a decade
Iran asks China, Russia for support in nuclear talks against 'excessive demands'
Obama breaks new sanctions push as Iran talks restart
Senator implies sanction legislation on hold for time being
Iran state media rejects reports of Khamenei's multi-billion dollar organization as 'disinformation'
Syria Troops Seize Strategic Qara Village
16 Killed in Somali Police Attack by Shebab Suicide Commandos
Russia's Lavrov Meets Syrian FM Muqdad, Urges Cooperation
Geneva 2 should focus on fighting 'terrorists': Russia
Syrian Patriarch Urges Christians to Stay in Syria
Lavrov: Syria Rebels 'More Realistic' amid Push for Talks
Iran says path open for solution to nuclear dispute
Suicide bombers kill 25 near Iran embassy in Beirut
November 19, 2013/By Rima S. Aboulmona/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Two suicide bombers – one driving a rigged car and the other on a motorcycle with an explosives belt – attacked Iran’s Embassy in Beirut Tuesday, killing at least 25 people including an Iranian diplomat and wounding more than 150, security sources said. The attack, confirmed by Lebanon’s military prosecutor as the work of suicide bombers, was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group and is the latest in a spate of deadly bombings linked to the war in Syria. "The Abdullah Azzam brigades – the Hussein bin Ali cells – … are behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut," Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group's religious guide, said on his Twitter feed.
“It is a twin suicide operation by two heroes from the Sunni community in Lebanon,” he said, warning that that the group – a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda affiliate – would carry out further attacks until Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria and Islamist detainees in Lebanon are released. A high-level security source said CCTV footage showed the first suicide bomber detonating his explosives belt at the embassy’s entrance just before 10 a.m. after approaching the compound on a motorcycle. An embassy guard had shot at the man as he rushed toward the embassy, the source said, adding that the bomber’s belt contained 5 kilograms of explosives material.
Minutes later, a second explosion shook the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Bir Hasan when another bomber detonated an explosives-laden Sports Utility Vehicle less than 50 meters from the embassy compound, the source said. The vehicle – a Chevrolet Trailblazer - was rigged with 60 kilograms of explosives, the source added.
In a statement, the Army said military experts determined the first explosion was the result of a suicide bomber on a motorcycle. The second suicide bomber was driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle, it added.
Among the 25 victims was Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari, the embassy’s cultural attaché, and an Iranian civilian, the security sources said. Radwan Fares, 45, a Lebanese national who headed the embassy’s security, was also killed, they said. Fares was with Ansari at the time of the incident, the sources said, adding that the two were headed to a meeting with caretaker Cultural Minister Gaby Layyoun.
Five Iranians, including embassy guards and a nurse were also wounded in the bombings, according to the sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity. Speaking hours after the explosions, Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi said his embassy was the target of a “terrorist attack” and blamed Israel, Iran’s long-time foe. Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the attack, also pointing the finger of blame at Israel. “[The bombings are] an inhumane crime and spiteful act done by Zionists [Israelis] and their mercenaries," Afkham told IRNA news agency.
The area around the embassy was littered with debris as firefighters fought to contain the flames from burning vehicles parked on the road adjacent to the embassy compound. At least six bodies lay on the street leading to the compound as thick plumes of black smoke filled the sky over the Beirut neighborhood. “I was waiting at the traffic sign on the street parallel to the Iranian embassy when I heard a loud explosion,” said a motorist, who refused to be identified. “I was terrified. I saw black smoke, but I decided to continue my trip to Shweifat [southeast of Beirut],” she added. Lebanon, polarized over the war in Syria, has seen a string of deadly car bombings in recent months, all widely linked to crisis in its war-torn neighbor. On two separate occasions, car bombs have targeted the southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold of Iranian-backed Hezbollah which in May acknowledged it was fighting in Syria alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebel groups. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has accused jihadists of being behind the bombings in the southern suburbs and vowed to continue the military campaign in Syria as long as necessary.
25 Dead in Suicide Blasts Near Iran
Embassy, Qaida-Linked Group Claims Responsibility
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Two suicide bombers struck near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs on Tuesday, leaving at least 25 people dead, including a child and the mission's cultural adviser, the Health Ministry and the army said. At least 145 people were injured in the explosions, the ministry said. A security official said the first suicide attacker was on a motorcycle that carried two kilograms of explosives. He blew himself up at the large black main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-story facility. Less than two minutes later, a second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives struck about 10 meters away, the official said. The army said in a communique that the vehicle was a four-wheeler. The al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombings, according to the Twitter page of a cleric linked to the group. "The Abdullah Azzam brigades - the Hussein bin Ali cells - are behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut," Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group's religious guide, posted on Twitter.
A unit from the military police and several forensic experts inspected the wreckage and tried to determine what caused the blasts, the army command said earlier in a communique. It urged the people to avert overcrowding the targeted area to avoid becoming the victims of any other blast, and to facilitate the task of the army and the specialized agencies to rescue the injured. The military prosecutor, Judge Saqr Saqr, also inspected the area. He confirmed that two suicide bombers were behind the blasts. Ambassador Gazanfar Rokn Abadi confirmed that he was safe but said al-Ansari died from wounds sustained in the blasts.
The force of the explosions shattered windows and set fire to several cars in the area as people ran away from the chaotic scene. TV footage showed bodies in pools of blood and five of them badly charred.
Many civilians picked injured men lying on the streets and rushed them to hospitals before ambulances reached the area. Later, fire trucks and ambulances with their sirens wailing packed the streets, as men from the neighborhood, tried to clear the way for them. Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil was among the first officials to arrive to the area of the blasts to inspect the damage. He ordered the hospitals to treat the injured at the expense of the ministry. Tuesday's explosions were the third that rocked Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold, in five months. Last month, a booby-trapped car was discovered by the army in al-Maamoura area of Beirut's southern suburbs.
‘despicable’ bombings near Iran embassy
November 19, 2013 /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The United States condemned the twin blasts that targeted Iran’s embassy in Beirut Tuesday, describing the attack as “senseless and despicable terrorist bombings.”“The United States strongly condemns today’s senseless and despicable terrorist bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut,” Secretary of State John Kerry said, according to a press statement. Kerry called for restraint from all parties “to avoid inflaming the situation further.”“The United States knows too well the cost of terrorism directed at our own diplomats around the world, and our hearts go out to the Iranian people after this violent and unjustifiable attack claimed the life of at least one of their diplomats,” the U.S. official said. Two suicide bombers attacked Iran’s Embassy in Beirut Tuesday morning, killing at least 25 people including an Iranian diplomat and wounding more than 150, security sources said. The attack, confirmed by Lebanon’s military prosecutor as the work of suicide bombers, was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group and is the latest in a spate of deadly bombings linked to the war in Syria. Kerry called on all parties to cooperate with the government’s investigation into the attack and urged “that those responsible are brought to justice.” “Acts of terror only reinforce our determination to support the institutions of the Lebanese state, including the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces, to ensure a stable, sovereign, and secure Lebanon,” Kerry said.
Iran says Beirut suicide bombings “alarm for all of us”
November 19, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Iran’s foreign minister voiced concern over the two deadly suicide bombings that targeted Tehran’s embassy in Beirut Tuesday, saying the attack should be an “alarm for all of us.”
"The tragedy today ... should be an alarm for all of us that we need to deal with and unless we deal with it seriously, it will engulf all of us," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Rome after talks with his Italian counterpart, Emma Bonino. Earlier Tuesday, the spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Affairs Ministry accused Israel of being behind the attack outside Tehran’s embassy in Lebanon. “[The bombings are] an inhumane crime and spiteful act done by Zionists [Israelis] and their mercenaries," Marzieh Afkham told IRNA news agency. The morning attack, carried out by two suicide bombers in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Bir Hasan, killed at least 25 people including an Iranian diplomat, security sources told The Daily Star. The Syrian government, one of Iran’s main allies in the region, also deplored the attack. "The Syrian government firmly condemns the terrorist attacks carried out near the Iranian embassy in Beirut," according to Syria’s state television. “The odor of petrodollars is rising from the attacks in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq,” the agency added. Syria accuses Gulf states including oil-rich Saudi Arabia of funding and arming rebels seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Speaking to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television, Syria's Information Minister Omran Zoubi also accused Saudi and Israeli intelligence of being behind the attack.
Contacts Rouhani, Abadi: Terrorists behind Bir Hassan Blasts Must Be Brought to
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman contacted on Tuesday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Ambassador Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi to condemn the blasts that targeted the Bir Hassan neighborhood in Beirut on Tuesday. He said: “The terrorists must be uncovered, arrested, and brought to justice.”“These criminal messages will not alter our principles and convictions,” he declared.
“Terrorists will not turn back time and restore a dark chapter in Lebanon's history,” added Suleiman. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in the blasts in the Hizbullah stronghold of Bir Hassan. The powerful explosions just opposite the multi-storey embassy caused chaos, ripping the facades off nearby buildings and setting cars ablaze. They come after two other bomb attacks this year in the southern suburbs of Beirut that are the bastion of Hizbullah. The group, which is sponsored by Iran, has drawn controversy for sending thousands of fighters to support the regime of Syria's President Bashar Assad as he battles a 32-month-old uprising.
Warns of Attempt to Sabotage Co-Existence, Destruct National Pact
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/ Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji warned on Tuesday of attempt to destruct the national pact and sabotage co-existence in Lebanon, stressing that the military will safeguard the nation. In his Order of the Day on Lebanon's 70th Independence anniversary, Qahwaji said: “Our destiny as Lebanese is to celebrate our independence amid danger and security violations that our country and the Middle East is passing through.”Qahwaji vowed that “the army will safeguard this country and confront Israel and it spying networks... And fight terrorism in all its forms and pursue violators and those who are meddling with the country's unity.” The parliamentary telecommunications committee denounced last week Israeli espionage stations along the border as violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, pointing out that it is happening despite United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and the presence of U.N. peacekeepers south of the Litani river. 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. Qahwaji pointed out that as the region is establishing new pacts amid the recent developments “there are attempts in Lebanon to destruct its national pact and sabotage co-existence.”
Qahwaji urged officials to “safeguard Lebanon and exert efforts to resolve the crises without having heading to the unknown.” The sharp rift among Lebanese foes over several issues reached a deadlock as disputes are ongoing over the line-up of the new cabinet, which Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been trying to form since his appointment in April and over calls by Speaker Nabih Berri's for the parliament to convene amid a resigned cabinet, in addition to several other disputes including the tasks that should be carried out by a caretaker cabinet, which is led by caretaker PM Najib Miqati.
Officials Condemn Iranian Embassy Attack, Call for Self-Restraint
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/
Lebanese officials denounced on Tuesday the twin blast that took place in the neighborhood of Bir Hassan in Beirut's southern suburbs, which killed at least 23 people and injured more than 145.
Speaker Nabih Berri denounced the attack, pointing out that "the terrorist attack is a clear attempt to create a rift among the Lebanese.
"It's a conspiracy against the Lebanese," he added.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati condemned the “terrorist and coward” attack, considering that it aims at creating further tension in Lebanon and “use the country as a mailbox.”
He called on all sides to exercise self-restraint amid the current stage that the country is passing through.
Miqati also called on security forces to swiftly to unveil those who are behind the explosions and detain them.
The PM contacted security agencies leaders, who briefed him on the situation, and also contacted the Iran's ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi.
Miqati delegated caretaker Information Minister Walid Daouq to the blasts site, who in his turn denounced the attack, offering “condolences to the relatives of the victims.”
He later headed a meeting for the National Disaster Operation Center at the Grand Serail to weigh the repercussions of the twin blasts.
Miqati tasked the Higher Relief Council to provide substitute homes for those whose homes were damaged due to the blasts swiftly and to pay them compensations soon after the Social Affairs Ministry issues its report on the damage caused by the explosions.
PM-designate Tammam Salam condemned the attack, saying that "the best response to the evil scheme is to be patient and fortify our unity."
Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri said that “the blasts should become a new impetus to steer Lebanon clear of the fires in the region.”
For his part, Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil called on all hospitals in Beirut to open their doors to receive people injured in the explosions.
Later on, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel said that “assaulting any Lebanese area targets on the whole nation with all its components.”
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea offered his condolences to the families of the victims, saying that the “criminal incident and those that preceded it in other regions, compel us more than ever to call for distancing Lebanon from the developments in the region.”
For his part, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said that "this level of cruelty indicates what the future will hold for us if they reached power."
Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar told reporters that the “the targeted in this explosion is the resistance axis that supports the Palestinian cause.”
Head of al-Mustaqbal Parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora denounced the attack, saying that "those who are behind the terrorist attack should be unveiled and penalized."
The March 14 General Secretariat later condemned with the strongest terms the Bir Hassan blasts, voicing its humanitarian and moral solidarity with the families of the victims.
Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyah official Rabih Dandashli also denounced the explosions and targeting of civilians.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani denounced the attack, describing it as a “terrorist act.”He considered that criminals insist on “destabilizing security in Lebanon,” expressing fear that the terrorist acts aim at inciting sedition between Sunnis and Shiites.
Qabbani also contacted the Iranian ambassador.
Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmed
Qabalan condemned the twin blasts, calling on officials to put an for the
political rift and to swiftly form a new cabinet. For his part, Progressive
Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat stressed that the "highest levels of
national solidarity and rationality are required today more than ever," and
urged the Lebanese to "immediately go back to dialogue at least in seeking to
regulate disputes." Hizbullah, which is fighting alongside the regime of
President Bashar Assad in war-hit Syria, has seen its strongholds in southern
Beirut targeted twice by car bombs this year. The blasts, on July 9 and August
15, killed 27 people. Tensions in Lebanon over the 32-month-old conflict in
Syria have been rising, with Hizbullah's involvement criticized by many Sunni
Lebanese who back the Sunni-dominated uprising against Assad.
Condemns Bir Hassan Blasts: Such Acts of Violence Target All Sides in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned on Tuesday the terrorist bombing near the Iranian embassy in Beirut's Bir Hassan neighborhood. He called on “all in Lebanon to recognize that such appalling and indiscriminate acts of violence target all in Lebanon.”He extended his condolences to the families of those killed, as well as to the government of Lebanon and to the government of Iran. He extended his sympathies to those injured. In addition, he urged all Lebanese parties to act with restraint and to support the institutions of the state, and particularly the security forces, as they seek to prevent further acts of terrorism. He hoped that those responsible for this attack will be brought to justice expeditiously, reiterating the determination of the international community to support Lebanon’s security and stability. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in the blasts in the Hizbullah stronghold of Bir Hassan in Beirut's southern suburbs.
Slams Government Inaction over Bir Hassan Blasts
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun condemned on Tuesday the blasts that targeted the Bir Hassan blasts earlier on Tuesday, questioning the government's failure to convene to tackle this issue. He said after the Change and Reform bloc's weekly meeting: “President Michel Suleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati must call cabinet to session in order to address the latest developments.” He added however that the two officials are not in control of their actions “because they are pawns in the hands of other authorities.” The president is responsible for safeguarding the constitution, as stipulated in article 56, but Suleiman is not performing this duty, lamented Aoun. Moreover, he asked: “Is the government's caretaker role thwarting it from convening?” “Officials are standing idly by as Lebanon burns,” he stated. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in the blasts in the Hizbullah stronghold of Bir Hassan. The powerful explosions just opposite the multi-storey embassy caused chaos, ripping the facades off nearby buildings and setting cars ablaze. They come after two other bomb attacks this year in the southern suburbs of Beirut that are the bastion of Hizbullah. The group, which is sponsored by Iran, has drawn controversy for sending thousands of fighters to support the regime of Syria's President Bashar Assad as he battles a 32-month-old uprising.
Accuses Israel of Being behind Beirut Blast: Iran Cultural Adviser Killed in
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi confirmed the death of Iranian cultural adviser Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ansari in the twin blasts near the Iranian embassy in Beirut on Tuesday. He told al-Manar television that al-Ansari died from wounds he sustained in the attack. Earlier, he had told Iran's Mehr news agency that all staff who were "inside" the embassy escaped unharmed when the explosions went off outside the building on Tuesday. "All colleagues inside the embassy are in full health," he said. “The agents of the Zionist entity Israel are behind the blasts,” he later told al-Mayadeen television. “This terrorist attack will not affect us, but it will make us stronger and more convinced of our stances,” he added. The explosions occurred in southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold of Iran-ally Hizbullah, killing at least 20 people. SourceAgence France Presse
Condemns 'Terrorist' Bir Hassan Blasts, Urges Restraint
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly condemned on Tuesday the twin blasts that rocked Beirut's southern suburb of Bir Hassan. He emphasized “the need for restraint as the authorities try to find those who are responsible for this criminal act and to bring them and those behind it to justice.” He made his remarks after holding talks with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati at the Grand Serail. “This appalling attack underlines yet again the importance of all parties in Lebanon and of the international community, the friends of Lebanon, coming together in support of security and stability here,” he stressed. Plumbly continued: “I would like to underline here our condemnation, the condemnation of the United Nations, of this terrorist attack, to extend our sympathies and condolences to all those who have been affected by it.” “We underline our support to the authorities as they seek to deal with the situation,” he added. At least 20 people were killed in twin explosions that occurred in Hizbullah's stronghold of Bir Hassan on Tuesday. Miqati and Plumbly also addressed the situation in the Bekaa town of Arsal and the needs of the thousands of Syrian refugees who have arrived there in the past few days. “Cooperation between the authorities, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the United Nations in addressing this challenge has been particularly close,” Plumbly noted. “Contingency plans have been put into effect, and the Humanitarian Coordinator and the head of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon are in Arsal today to see how things are going,” he remarked. “The Lebanese authorities deserve great credit, and I said this to Miqati, for their response to date, and we will work closely with them to ensure that the necessary assistance is available for the refugees and for the people hosting them,” he said. The town is seeing a massive influx of refugees since last Friday as a result of the heavy fighting in the mountainous region of Qalamoun across the border in Syria. Qara is the focal point of the Syrian regime's offensive against rebels along with the nearby towns of Rima and Nabak. Arsal, which lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria, has been used as a conduit for weapons and rebels to enter Syria, while also serving as a refuge for people fleeing the conflict.
France Strongly Condemn Beirut Blasts: Criminals Must Be Brought to Justice
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/ UK Foreign Minister William Hague condemned the twin bombings that erupted near the Iranian embassy in Beirut on Tuesday, offering his condolences to the families of the victims. He said in a statement: “I strongly condemn the shocking terrorist attack on the Iranian embassy in southern Beirut that has led to such tragic loss of life.”“The UK is strongly committed to supporting stability in Lebanon and seeing those responsible for this attack brought to justice,” he stressed. “Our Embassy in Beirut remains at a high state of vigilance. A consular team stands ready to assist British nationals,” he remarked. France also condemned the attack, with its presidency voicing its support for the Lebanese government “in order to protect national unity.” The presidential statement added that Paris condemns terrorism in all of its forms and regardless of its motivations. It offered its condolences to the families of the victims, expressing its solidarity with the Lebanese and Iranian authorities. At least 20 people were killed in twin explosions that occurred in Hizbullah's stronghold of Bir Hassan on Tuesday. Source/Agence France Presse
Slams Beirut Blasts: Odor of Petrodollars Comes from All Terrorist Acts against
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Syria has strongly condemned a double bomb blast outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut on Tuesday that killed at least 23 people, official media reported. "The Syrian government firmly condemns the terrorist attack carried out near the Iranian embassy in Beirut," state television said. It said an "odor of petrodollars comes from all the terrorist acts against Syria, Lebanon and Iraq," an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which back the Syrian uprising. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in the blasts in the Hizbullah stronghold of Bir Hassan. The powerful explosions just opposite the multi-storey embassy caused chaos, ripping the facades off nearby buildings and setting cars ablaze. They come after two other bomb attacks this year in the southern suburbs of Beirut that are the bastion of Hizbullah. The group, which is sponsored by Iran, has drawn controversy for sending thousands of fighters to support the regime of Syria's President Bashar Assad as he battles a 32-month-old uprising. SourceAgence France
Palace Violates Protocol on Country's 70th Independence Day
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Baabda Palace press office violated the protocol after failing to include the name of Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam on the list of attendees of the reception of well-wishers at the Baabda Palace on the occasion of the country's 70th Independence Day. According to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Tuesday, the press office included the names of Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Miqati but failed to place the name of Salam on the list. Salam is also expected to be present at the military parade at Martyrs square. The newspaper reported that Baabda Palace is seeking to rectify the protocol violation. Since his appointment to form a cabinet in April, Salam has been seeking the formation of a 24-member cabinet in which the March 8, March 14 and centrists camps would each get eight ministers, which is being confronted by the bickering sides.
Syrian Warplane Fires Rocket on Arsal
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/ A Syrian warplane fired a rocket on Tuesday on the border town of Arsal in the eastern mountain belt without causing any injuries. "Syrian warplanes shelled the uninhabited Aqabat al- Mobayyideh region in Arsal,” MTV said. The same source noted that Arsal residents and rescue teams could not reach the mentioned area as Syrian warplanes continued to fly over the region. Two men were killed on Monday in a mine blast in Syria, where they had planned to join the fight against the regime, security sources told Agence France Presse. The men from Arsal were headed to Qara, a rebel-held Syrian town near the frontier where loyalist troops have launched a major offensive in recent days. Arsal has a long shared border with Syria, stretching along much of Damascus province and part of Homs province. Smugglers have long taken their goods across the porous border, and since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, weapons and fighters have moved across the border too. The caretaker Ministry of Social Affairs said 1,700 Syrian families, most of them from Qara, had fled across the border to Arsal since Friday, and declared a state of emergency.
Faour Sounds Alarm Bell on Refugee Crisis, Says Humanitarian Aid Not Enough
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour has warned that the massive influx of Syrian refugees in the past days could no longer be resolved through humanitarian aid, saying the Lebanese authorities should ask the international community for political or security measures to end the crisis. In remarks to local dailies published on Tuesday, Abou Faour said: “The situation is very worrying. The continued influx of the displaced is putting an additional burden on Lebanon that it can't handle.” “The issue has gone beyond requests for development assistance,” he said. “The Lebanese state should ask for a political solution from major powers that are working to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.” “Pending the Geneva 2 (peace) conference, there should be political or security measures that limit the pressure of the displaced,” Abou Faour added.
The U.N. says at least 6,000 Syrians have poured into Lebanon over the past three days. The refugees are escaping a government offensive that began Friday and aims to dislodge rebels from the mountainous Qalamoun region, which runs north from Damascus along the frontier. Qalamoun holds strategic value for both sides in Syria's civil war. It serves as a key supply route from Lebanon to opposition forces around Damascus, and it is home to the main north-south highway that links the capital to government strongholds along the Mediterranean coast. The town of Qara, some 100 kilometers north of Damascus along the highway in Qalamoun, has borne the brunt of the government offensive so far. Most of its residents have fled to Lebanon's northeastern border town of Arsal which has a long shared border with Syria, stretching along much of Damascus province and part of Homs province.
Abou Faour said that if the Geneva 2 peace conference will not be held soon, then the international community should either call for a ceasefire in Syria, or establish camps for the displaced inside Syrian territories or open humanitarian corridors. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he hoped to convene the conference in mid-December. He said U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will try to set the date in a meeting with Russian and U.S. representatives on November 25. The U.N. has been trying for months to convene talks between the regime and the opposition to try to end the 32-month war which has reportedly killed more than 120,000 people and displaced millions. Ministerial sources said that Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati has held urgent talks with representatives of regional and western powers on ways to confront the influx.
Issues Arrest Warrant Against Ibrahim Bashir
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/ Beirut Examining Magistrate Ghassan Owaidat issued on Tuesday an arrest warrant against Higher Relief Council chief Ibrahim Bashir over embezzlement charges. Bashir has been charged along with his wife with embezzlement, smuggling and money laundering. Bashir is the secretary-general of the HRC, which helps Lebanese citizens and communities hit by natural and man-made disasters. Owaidat issued the warrant against him after questioning him for two hours, the state-run National News Agency reported. But he did not interrogate his wife for being hospitalized. Two others have also been charged. Local media reports have said they have embezzled around $10 million. The defendants face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Syria Troops Seize Strategic Qara Village
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 November 2013/Syrian troops on Tuesday captured the village of Qara in the mountainous Qalamoun region along a key supply route between Damascus and Homs, a military source told Agence France Presse. The reported capture came after days of air strikes on the region near the Lebanese border, which is also a key smuggling route for rebels battling to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"After three days of fighting, the Syrian army has taken full control of Qara," some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital, the Syrian military source said, adding that a "large number of terrorists" had been killed, referring to the rebels. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group that relies on activists and other individuals inside Syria, said Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist rebel group, has announced its withdrawal from Qara and "promised to be back soon." The fighting in Qara sent at least 1,700 families streaming across the border into Lebanon, which is already hosting more than 800,000 Syrian refugees and has suffered from rising unrest linked to the Syrian conflict next door. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR estimates at least 6,000 people have fled to the town of Arsal, near the border, since last Friday.
On Tuesday a double suicide bombing targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut and was claimed by Sunni Muslim jihadists. Iran is a key ally of Damascus, and Hizbullah has sent fighters to battle alongside Assad's troops, including in Qalamoun. The Syrian civil war has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and generated the biggest refugee crisis in two decades, raising fears that the conflict could spill over into volatile neighboring states like Lebanon and Iraq.The uprising against Assad began in March 2011 as peaceful pro-democracy protests but escalated into a full-blown insurgency after a brutal government crackdown. The fighting has taken on an increasingly sectarian character, with fighters from Lebanon and Iraq fighting alongside regime troops and al-Qaida-inspired jihadists flooding into the country to join the Sunni-led rebels. Source/Agence France Presse.
Iran says path open for solution to nuclear dispute
November 19, 2013/Daily Star
DUBAI: The path to a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program is open, Iranian chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said in remarks released on Tuesday, and world powers should seize an "historic opportunity" to clinch a deal. Iran is to meet the six powers on Wednesday for the third round of negotiations in a month, two weeks after the sides came close to an initial accord that would curb Iran's nuclear activity in exchange for limited relief from sanctions. In a five-minute Foreign Ministry video released on the eve of the talks, Zarif said there was a chance to end the stand-off as long as Western powers dealt with Iran on an "equal footing" and did not seek to impose their will on others.The election of relative moderate Hassan Rouhani as president earlier this year opened a diplomatic window to try to untangle the decade-long deadlock that has at times edged towards conflict in the Middle East. "This past summer, our people chose constructive engagement through the ballot box, and through this, they gave the world a historic opportunity to change course," Zarif said in the video posted online with subtitles in several languages. "To seize this unique opportunity, we need to accept an equal footing and choose a path based on mutual respect."
The talks seek to reach an interim deal to allow time to negotiate a comprehensive, permanent agreement that would provide assurances to the so-called P5+1 powers that Iran's atomic programme will not eventually produce bombs. Iran denies that it wants to develop a nuclear weapons capability and insists its programme is limited to the peaceful generation of electricity and medical research.
Talks on Nov. 7-9 stumbled over Iran's insistence that its right to enrich uranium be explicitly recognised in the draft text, and demands from the French delegation that the Arak heavy-water reactor be shut down.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian parliamentarians gathered signatures to demand the government continue enriching uranium to levels of 20 percent and finish building the Arak reactor, which is a feared potential producer of bomb-grade plutonium. Rouhani has repeatedly said Iran will never give up its right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, a message the Islamic Republic's parliament, dominated by conservatives, appears to want to hold him to. "On the eve of the Geneva talks, we plan to approve such a proposal in parliament. Based on that, the government is obliged to protect the nuclear rights of Iran in the forthcoming negotiations," Mehr news agency quoted member of parliament Fatemeh Alia as saying. Another MP, Mehdi Mousavinejad, said the measure would require the government to maintain enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, complete the nuclear fuel cycle and finish construction of the Arak reactor. While it has limited powers in Iran's complex political system, parliament would likely vote on any nuclear deal. However, it would be very unlikely to go against the wishes of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rouhani's approach to the talks, which he says is the best way to get sanctions hobbling Iran's oil-based economy lifted, has Khamenei's public backing. Rouhani succeeded hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August. Iranian political figures have lined up to accuse France of jeopardising chances to reach a deal after Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned against accepting "a fool's game" - that is, what he considered lopsided concessions to Tehran. On Monday, French President Francois Hollande set out a tough stance during a visit to Israel, saying he would not give way on nuclear proliferation with respect to Iran.
His remarks came in for criticism on Tuesday from an Iranian parliamentary official. "We advise the president of France to comment on the basis of facts, not assumptions, and beyond that, not to be the executor of the Zionist regime's (Israel's) plan," Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the assembly's national security and foreign affairs committee, told Iran's official news agency.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iran on Monday to finalize an agreement proving to the world its nuclear work is peaceful but said he had "no specific expectations" for this week's Geneva talks.
November 19, 2013/The Daily Star
The long-anticipated battle for Qalamoun is now on, with the Syrian regime and rebels fighting for this strategically located mountainous area along the border with Lebanon. At least 10,000 refugees have already crossed the border into Arsal, escaping the aerial bombardment of the town of Qarrah, where the battle has begun. But while the effects of the conflict will obviously be greatest on the Syrians themselves, the outcome of the fight looks set to impact on Lebanon acutely.
Situated on the highway between Homs and Damascus, the area represents a crucial position for the rebels, enabling them to secure a supply route into the suburbs of the capital. It is also an important conduit for the opposition in bringing assistance, and men, in from Lebanon. On the defensive now, and after a succession of several other key losses recently, the rebels would also lose out politically if Qalamoun is taken by the regime. Ahead of any potential Geneva II discussions, Assad would be in a much stronger position were he to add Qalamoun to his victories.
In terms of Lebanon itself, which already hosts the largest refugee population of Syria’s neighbors despite being the smallest, this new influx will render an already overstretched resource pool even weaker. Ahead of a third winter of war, the some 800,000 refugees in the country are already living on the bare minimum to survive. A human tragedy is unfolding, and still, the Lebanese government seems to think this is a peripheral problem: That as it cannot be seen from the Serail in Beirut, then it does not really constitute a grave danger.
But not just in terms of the quality of life of these refugees, the issue threatens to further destabilize an already fractious sectarian situation in the country. In the border region of Lebanon, across from Qalamoun, there is a fine balance of Sunni, Shiite and Christian villages. With a new refugee population that has already doubled the local one, this balance may be in jeopardy. The sectarian situation across the country is already volatile, with tension and killings from Tripoli to the southern suburbs, and the Bekaa Valley. The battle for Qalamoun, and its knock-on effects on Lebanon, may well be the catalyst that ups the scale of violence.
Unless, that is, the Lebanese caretaker government suddenly becomes cognizant of its failings, if it wakes up and admits that it is too weak to keep the situation calm and under control. If it asks the international community for logistical help to protect its borders and provide for refugees and host communities.
The combination of a civil war next door, a proliferation of arms and a fine sectarian balance has previously turned into bloody confrontations across the region, from Iraq to Yemen and Somalia. Lebanon, with enough experience of its own of war, is not immune to a second round of fighting.
Spring is not just for Arabs
By: Tamim Khallaf /Asharq Alawsat
The unprecedented wave of nationwide mass demonstrations in the Arab world, subsequently labeled as the “Arab Spring,” took people by surprise. These spontaneous, massive protests not only succeeded in toppling four Arab heads of state and continue to challenge others in the region but, more importantly, are paving the way for a new political order in the Middle East. Despite the initial assumption that these massive demonstrations would be confined to the Arab world, given the exceptional deficiency in democratic governance in the region, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this phenomenon of “popular empowerment” has stretched far beyond the boundaries of the Arab world in the past two years, and for reasons that do not necessarily coincide with those that sparked the “Arab Spring.”In Turkey, thousands took to the streets in Taksim Square in protest at what they felt was a gradual imposition of religious values on their secular state. In Brazil, thousands flooded numerous cities across the country demanding better education, healthcare, and additional anti-corruption measures. In Nigeria, nationwide protests led by the protest movement Occupy Nigeria erupted in the biggest cities in response to the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government. In Greece, thousands of people protested against plans to cut public spending and raise taxes as austerity measures. In Bulgaria, unprecedented waves of protest rallies took place against the government for soaring utility bills, corruption, and lack of transparency. The list of countries which witnessed nationwide protests is long. Despite the differences in motives, magnitude, and outcomes of these nationwide demonstrations, and notwithstanding the disparities in democratic governance and economic performance among these nations, they all nevertheless share a common feature: the increasing readiness of citizens across the globe to mobilize on a significant scale to challenge authority and impose change. Even though each of these national demonstrations were responding to diverse local grievances, it would be misleading to see them as detached events isolated from a greater global pattern. The protests were not merely the outcome of societal frustrations accumulated over years. Nor were they simply a product of the ever-growing influence and dependency on social media for collective activism. Nationwide demonstrations across the globe question the efficacy and suitability of contemporary governance structures, and emphasize the need for structural political reform in a way that brings government closer to people, rather than distancing them. At the core of these demonstrations is an outcry against the failure of the authorities to adapt to the new world.
Despite the fundamental transformation in global politics in the last two decades, where the traditional state-centric system was gradually replaced with a decentralized, globalized political order, governance structures in many countries around the world did not sufficiently adapt nor reform to reflect this new structural dynamic. Whereas the world became more decentralized, interconnected, and fast-paced, many governments across the globe remained centralized, bureaucratic, and inflexible. As a result, the gap between governments and people—especially in the Third World—widened steadily and governments have found difficulty in meeting the rising expectations of their people. Political organizations and governance structures continue to operate in a traditional mode, stifling innovation and efficacy which have evolved as the key features of the new world. In a globalized world where citizens are continuously subject to endless flow of information and are increasingly cognizant of their civil and constitutional rights, conventional approaches to governance will hardly satisfy the minimal expectations of people.
The challenges facing societal stability in several parts of the globe are growing and so has the inclination to confront authority. The world has changed, but the approach to governance has not. Societies have become highly observant and cognizant communities, while many governments remain entrenched in a conservative mindset, unable to adjust to the tempo and dynamism of the unfolding order of this new world. In many ways, several governments are operating like outdated computer software. They may function, but their modus operandi can no longer adapt to new and sophisticated developments in their surroundings. If governance structures are not reformed in a way to adjust to rapidly changing societies, public turbulence will continue. Reform should entail creative structural changes that guarantee more communication between governments and their people, efficiency in delivering public services, and greater transparency in policymaking bodies with participation from civil society, domestic constituencies, and stakeholders.
Narrowing the gap between those “governing” and the “governed” will perhaps become one of the toughest challenges facing future leaders. In an increasingly hyper-connected world where the flow of information is uncontrollable and societal anxieties are increasing at an alarming rate, many governments will continue to face societal unrest in the form of nationwide demonstrations challenging those in power. Without injecting creative changes in both the political and structural organization of governments to adapt to the transformative changes in societies and to assist executive branches exercise good governance, governments will continue to lag behind their people. For now, however, it seems likely that the trend of global nationwide demonstrations will not subside. In fact, it will broaden.
**Tamim Khallaf is an Egyptian diplomat. He received a Master of Science in International Relations from the London School of Economics and was a Fellow at Harvard University’s ‘Weatherhead Center for International Affairs’. He was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2011, an honor bestowed on individuals worldwide under the age of 40 for their potential in public leadership. The views expressed in this article are the author's own.