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Bible Quotation for today/Courage
01 John 03/19-24: "This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God's presence. If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that he knows everything. And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God's presence. We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. Those who obey God's commands live in union with God and God lives in union with them. And because of the Spirit that God has given us we know that God lives in union with us.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 21/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 21/13
Nuclear Deal with Iran Is So Hard
Michael Eisenstadt/Washington Institute
of a credible, sustainable agreement are at odds with Tehran's goal of
confirming its status as a nuclear threshold state while preserving ambiguity
about its capabilities.
It should have come as no surprise when talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva two weeks ago ended without an interim confidence-building agreement -- apparently because the Islamic Republic could not accept a revised draft agreement that did not recognize its "right to enrich." Negotiations with Iran have always been difficult, protracted affairs -- in this case, made more fraught by differences between France and the other members of the P5+1. Diplomacy has been further complicated by the fact that Tehran hopes to use negotiations to confirm (if not legitimize) its status as a nuclear threshold state, while preserving a degree of ambiguity regarding its actual capabilities -- an outcome that the P5+1 is not likely to -- or at least should not -- agree to. Finding a way through these thickets will be key if nuclear diplomacy with Iran is to succeed.
WHAT THE NEGOTIATIONS ARE REALLY ABOUT
Although Iran's diplomats continue to emphasize that the Islamic Republic's interest in nuclear technology stems mainly from a desire to produce clean energy, one can get a better sense of the factors driving its nuclear program from an infographic on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's website that describes how the regime's ultimate decision maker thinks about the matter.
Based on a content analysis of 44 of Khamenei's speeches on the topic since 2004, it identifies a dozen major achievements of Iran's policy of "nuclear resistance." Two pertain to the production of electricity and the freeing of Iranian oil for export; the remaining ten, however, describe how the nuclear program has contributed to Iran's independence, enabled it to resist alleged efforts by the West to keep the Muslim world weak and backwards, and enhanced the Islamic Republic's power, prestige, and influence in the Muslim world and beyond. The infographic makes clear that the regime considers the nuclear program to be key to the country's future as a regional and aspiring great power.
Iran's nuclear program has, in fact, relatively little to do with the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. After all, Iran has built only one nuclear power plant that has operated only fitfully, and it has invested little in the infrastructure needed for a bona fide nuclear-energy program. Rather, its nuclear program has much more to do with Iran's place in the world, while nuclear negotiations are about the degree of nuclear latency (i.e., proximity to the bomb) the international community is willing to tolerate in the Islamic Republic. There should be no illusions about that.
THE GOALS OF TEHRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
This reading of Tehran's nuclear aspirations is borne out by its actions, which provide important insights into its nuclear strategy. Its past weapons research and development work (as documented by the IAEA) and its construction of a secret underground enrichment facility at Natanz (before its existence was exposed in 2002) suggest that Iran was pursuing a clandestine parallel nuclear program at that time. If Tehran could have secretly built a bomb without getting caught, it might have done so, unveiling this capability only in the event of a crisis or war. (The model for this may have been South Africa, which had secretly produced half a dozen nuclear devices by the late 1980s, intending to keep them secret. Only the end of apartheid brought the program to light.)
In its early negotiations with the EU3 which started following the exposure of Natanz, Tehran's goal was to deflect pressure, to deter preventive military action (believing that it would not be attacked as long as it was talking with the West), and to buy time to complete the critical facilities needed to enable a nuclear breakout.
Iran subsequently tried to build another secret underground enrichment facility at Fordow, whose existence was revealed by the United States in 2009. Twice burned, Tehran may have concluded that a parallel clandestine program is not a viable option at this time, though there are indications that some weapons research and development work continued. But there are no discernible signs that Tehran is building clandestine facilities elsewhere at this time, despite declaring in November 2009 that it would build ten more underground facilities like that at Fordow. Indeed, it would be the height of folly for it to do so while high-stakes negotiations are underway.
Thus, Tehran's goal is probably to continue to expand and upgrade its nuclear infrastructure so that if it were to decide to build a bomb, its nuclear infrastructure would be so vast, dispersed, and hardened that an effective Israeli or American strike would no longer be possible. Such a bombproof nuclear program would make Iran a nuclear threshold state with a rapid breakout capability, allowing it to, in effect, achieve "nuclear deterrence without the bomb" (since the United States and others would tread lightly every time there is a crisis with Iran, lest the latter exercise its nuclear option) -- or with the bomb, should it eventually opt to break out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
THE STRATEGIC LOGIC OF TEHRAN'S NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY
Iran's nuclear redlines have been carefully designed to advance this objective. The most important of these is Tehran's insistence that the P5+1 recognize its so-called "inalienable right to enrich." (Such a right does not formally exist in the NPT, which speaks of the "inalienable right...to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.") Recognition of such a putative "right to enrich" would legitimize Iran's efforts to develop advanced enrichment capabilities and large stockpiles of enriched uranium. (It could also undermine global nonproliferation efforts by spurring the spread of enrichment technologies to countries that have thus far eschewed such a capability -- such as the UAE.)
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's statement this past weekend that "Not only do we consider that Iran's right to enrich is unnegotiable, but we see no need for that to be recognized as 'a right', because this right is inalienable and all countries must respect that," does not change the basic point that any decision by the P5+1 to acquiesce to an Iranian enrichment capability would be spun by Tehran as a tacit acknowledgment of such a right.
While in the past Iran has expressed a willingness to give up part of its stockpile of enriched uranium in exchange for reactor fuel, prior to the recent round of negotiations in Geneva, senior negotiator Abbas Araghchi rejected demands that Iran ship out its stockpile of enriched uranium, stating that "we will negotiate regarding the form, amount, and various levels of enrichment, but the shipping of materials out of the country is our red line." So Iran will likely insist on retaining its stockpile of enriched uranium -- an essential component of any effort to achieve a latent breakout capability.
Iranian officials have also intimated that the Islamic Republic might accept restrictions on the number of centrifuges and level of enrichment. It is unlikely, however, to accept limitations on the type and quality of centrifuges it can deploy. There are centrifuges in use elsewhere that are more than one hundred times more efficient than Iran's, and it may hope to eventually produce such advanced machines. This would enable it to compensate for any numerical cap it agrees to by substituting quality for quantity. Should Iran develop more efficient centrifuges, it also would be much easier to make small, hard-to-detect clandestine enrichment plants.
To assuage such concerns, President Rouhani has offered "greater transparency" as a confidence building measure, though other officials such as Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi have proffered this with a caveat: that all monitoring activities be consistent with existing international regulations, laws, and treaties, and be approved by Iran's parliament. So, while Iran might ultimately agree to implement the IAEA's Additional Protocol (which many former nuclear inspectors consider inadequate), it is unlikely to accept more intrusive, tailored monitoring arrangements that would, in its eyes, reflect a discriminatory double standard toward Iran. (This has been Iran's long-standing position toward monitoring arrangements in past arms control negotiations.) A monitoring regime that provides just enough transparency to convey how quickly Iran could break out of the NPT, but not enough to catch a breakout in time to stop it, would undermine, rather than build, confidence -- though it would advance Iran's goal of being widely seen as a nuclear threshold state.
Ironically, it is the issue that is almost never mentioned that may have the greatest potential to sink a deal: Iran's refusal to cooperate with the IAEA's efforts to investigate possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. Tehran has repeatedly proffered offers of marginally greater transparency regarding its current nuclear activities, and declarations foreswearing any interest in nuclear weapons (such as the supreme leader's nuclear fatwa), as a substitute for cooperation on this issue. The reason is not hard to discern: any acknowledgement by Iran that it had a nuclear weapons program would blow up the regime's carefully constructed nuclear narrative: that allegations about an Iranian nuclear-weapons program are part of an American-Zionist conspiracy to isolate Iran and keep the Muslim world weak and in thrall to the West.
For a regime that is all about spin and image management, the admission that the concerns of the international community were not misplaced, and the consequent gutting of its nuclear narrative would be a devastating blow. And it would make a deal even harder to reach -- though it is hard to imagine a credible, sustainable deal without resolution of this issue. For any deal that overlooks Iranian stonewalling about the past will only encourage further Iranian stonewalling in the future.
For all these reasons, it will be difficult to square the requirements of a credible, sustainable agreement -- forthrightness regarding past nuclear activities, real transparency concerning current and future activities, and meaningful limits on enrichment and reprocessing -- with the Islamic Republic's goal of confirming its status as a nuclear threshold state while preserving a degree of ambiguity regarding its capabilities. And it will take more than "heroic flexibility" (to use Ayatollah Khamenei's phrase) to obtain such an agreement. Rather, it will require nothing less than for Iran to truly embrace the goal of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, by confirming its declaratory commitment to this goal with deeds to match. That would truly be change to believe in.
**Michael Eisenstadt is director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute.
And The Killing Fields
Wednesday 20 November 2013
How dangerous it is for a
Lebanese from North Lebanon to cross into Syria to fight with the opposition,
because he is Sunni, and how dangerous it is for a Lebanese from the Bekaa to
cross into Syria to fight alongside the regime because he is Shiite. How
dangerous it is for a Lebanese Shiite to kill a Sunni Syrian on Syrian
territory, and for a Lebanese Sunni to kill an Alawite Syrian on Syrian
How dangerous it is for a Shiite Iraqi to cross the border to fight a Sunni Syrian on Syrian territory, and how dangerous it is for a Sunni Iraqi to cross the border to fight an Alawite Syrian on Syrian territory. We are in the midst of a regional sectarian war, where feelings flow like floods. The problem lies not only in those 'returning from Syria’ tomorrow or the day after, the problem is that the Syrian fire is burning national cohesion in countries near and far. Those who crossed into Syria destroyed the immunity of the border in both directions. They tore up the maps. It became clear that the Sunni wants to connect to the Sunnis in the neighboring country, regardless of the border, and that the Shiite wants to connect to the Alawite, regardless of the border, and that the obstacles that prevent this contact are to be treated as targets for deletion and cancellation. It did not happen that we saw this before; how dangerous it is for a Shiite Lebanese to kill a Sunni Lebanese in Syria, and vice versa. How can they exist in Lebanon if they are fighting in Syria?
The Lebanese have the right to feel very scared, nay, it is their duty to feel deep consternation. What is happening is more serious and horrific than the wars of the seventies and eighties. Previous wars were of a different nature, and their fires and theaters could be reined in somewhat, and a regional power could have been called on to enforce the peace and tutelage, even if at a price. The present wars are different, and have no limits or controls. They are taking place in a different region, and thus we see the killing fields extend from Baghdad to Beirut through Damascus. Iraq is ill, Syria is torn, and Lebanon is a likely murder victim. We are facing unprecedented scenes. It is no simple thing that the Iranian embassy in Beirut is targeted, on the back of Iranian involvement in Syria. It is no simple thing for the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claim responsibility, calling on Hezbollah to pull out its troops from Syria. It is no simple thing for the statement to declare that the attack was “a double martyrdom operation by two heroes of the Sunnis in Lebanon.”
The new attack came at a time when Lebanon is still languishing under the weight of the bombings of August. The first bombing shed blood in the (Shiite) southern suburb of Beirut. The second shed blood in (Sunni) Tripoli by targeting mosques during prayers. There is nothing to justify euphemism and avoiding labels anymore Lebanon is officially in the stage of sectarian killing.
If the statement of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades is true, about the identity of the perpetrators, the danger becomes twofold. We are no longer facing the danger of “Iraqization”. “Iraqization” is already part of the scene. The bombing in the southern suburb was definitely of this kind, and so were the bombings in Tripoli.
Successive blows hit a country that has lost its immunity, a country that is divided and unable to form a new government, eight months after the previous government resigned. Lebanon is a country that lives under a paralyzed parliament, and a country whose military and security institutions are trying to circumvent the fire without risking to tackle it for reasons that have to do with their internal unity.
The Lebanese did not try to keep the Syrian fire away from their country. They went to it, brought it, and rushed to import it. They became divided and they threw themselves into the fire, some individually and others in an organized public manner. They did not pay heed to the fact that they were playing with their blood and the blood of their children, and that this game was more than Lebanon can bear. They did not realize that Lebanon is threatened with collapse, not only because the collapse of the borders in the region is dangerous, but because the collapse of coexistence invalidates its raison d’être.
I will not make naïve proposals like withdrawing from Syria and mutual concessions to form an inclusive cabinet. I feel like each camp in Lebanon is hostage to its suicidal choices. The winds of “Iraqization” struck Syria, and now, they are blowing on Lebanon. Lebanon is on the path of collapse. It never happened before that Shiite-Sunni relations have deteriorated as much as they have now. Meanwhile, the Christians in Lebanon are too small for the current crisis and its risks, and too small to undertake a historical role that renews the meaning of Lebanon and the rationale for its survival.
Terrorism Hits Beirut Again
Abdullah Iskandar/AlHayat/Wednesday 20 November 2013
The targeting of the Iranian embassy in Beirut is a terrorist act, which cannot be justified in any way as being in response to the Iranian policy in Lebanon, in Syria, or in any other place in the world. This is true no matter how many reservations and criticisms surround this policy and how hostile and aggressive it is. The condemnation of this terrorist act is dual, firstly because it targeted a diplomatic mission that should enjoy immunity regardless of what one may think of it, causing the fall of victims who had nothing to do with the complications of Iran’s relations with Lebanon and Syria; and secondly because it occurred in Lebanon, where the Syrian opposition needs – much more than anyone else – a space offering aid and assistance to the displaced and those fleeing the regime’s oppression. Hence, sabotaging this space through terrorism will harm these refugees as much as the Lebanese themselves. And if the perpetrator wanted to send a message to Tehran, he used the worst means and reaped the opposite results.
Eventually, the investigation will determine the criminal responsibility for this terrorist act in case the Lebanese authorities are able to expose the perpetrator. But the political responsibility is clear, in light of the belief that tensions, turmoil and terrorism in Lebanon serve a cause in Syria, or the belief that the Syrian and Lebanese arenas are one, that the same battle is taking place in Lebanon and Syria and that the opponents in one are targets in the other. Lebanon previously witnessed such messages in the Southern Suburb, which constitutes the main stronghold for Hezbollah, i.e. the supporter of the Syrian regime, and in the northern city of Tripoli, considered to be the main stronghold for the support of the Syrian opposition. At this level, the clashes between the Bab al-Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods constituted the civil expression of this division. But the targeting of a diplomatic mission the way it was seen with the Iranian embassy, means that the ceiling of the confrontation in Lebanon has been raised, amidst illusions surrounding the possible settlement of this clash in favor of a specific side.
The sides that are the most harmed by the spread of turmoil and terrorism in Lebanon - after the Lebanese of course - are the Syrian refugees and the cause of the Syrian opposition. Indeed, the security considerations might act as additional pretexts to suppress the refugees and prevent their entry into the country, as it is being urged by many Lebanese voices opposed to the cause of the Syrian opposition. At the same time, the worst accusation for this opposition is the one related to the practice of terrorism, whether inside or outside of Syria, and especially in Lebanon, through the targeting of a diplomatic mission in particular. There are analyses pointing towards the preparations for Al-Qalamoun battle and the roles played by Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard in it. Others are talking about the preparations for the Geneva 2 conference and the roles and sizes in it. However, there is a controversy in Lebanon – one which has not yet been settled – surrounding the role of the Lebanese sides in the conflict in Syria and their practical participation in it.
Hence, at a time when a team – particularly March 14 and the Future Movement – is defending the dissociation policy as it was featured in the Baabda Declaration, another team – i.e. March 8 and Hezbollah – is stressing the necessity of siding with and supporting the Syrian regime. And Lebanon’s linking to the Syrian conflict, especially through transnational terrorism, is serving the theory advocating Lebanon’s implication in, instead of its dissociation from the conflict. Regardless of the technical facets of the attack on the Iranian embassy, this terrorism, just like the one which previously hit the Southern Suburb and places of worship in Tripoli, as well as the clashes along sectarian friction lines, is not serving the cause of the Syrian opposition or exerting any type of pressures on its opponents. Instead, it might be serving the cause of the latter.
Divided we fall
November 20, 2013/The Daily Star /The deadly terrorist blast that shook the southern suburbs of Beirut Tuesday was an attack against Lebanon’s sovereignty. The bombings might have targeted the Iranian Embassy, but the horrific incident was the latest in a series of rocket attacks and bombings that have struck the suburbs of the capital, which are an indivisible part of the Lebanese Republic. The attacks are deserving of nothing other than condemnation, and all sides should work together to ensure that such incidents are not repeated. But the same also goes for every single Israeli action that violates the sovereignty of Lebanon, and it also applies to every single violation of Lebanon’s border by its neighbor Syria. Sovereignty cannot be vigorously defended in one place and ignored in another. The voices of outrage against Tuesday’s bombings are justified in warning of the growth of such terror attacks, but they often ignore what motivates the violence. In doing so, they manage to sound like the American and Israeli officials who have long complained about “Palestinian terror,” and reject any notion that some cause might generate such violence. The war in Syria has had huge repercussions on that country’s neighbor to the west on several levels and it will continue to do so as long as Lebanese parties openly take part in the violence across the border. The so-called “warning bell” has been ringing in Lebanon periodically ever since the first year of the uprising in Syria, but some Lebanese politicians still stubbornly insisted on becoming more deeply involved in the crisis. These days, the implications of the war in Syria aren’t abstract considerations – they are serious dangers to the country’s social fabric, economy and political order.
The problem is that two sides with dramatically different views on how to respond to these threats cannot sit down to address them. They can’t sit down to discuss how the country as a whole should respond to the threats to sovereignty posed by Israel because a national defense strategy is apparently too sensitive a matter to be left to civilian politicians. They can’t sit down to discuss how they should respond to the crisis in Syria. The option of the Baabda Declaration, as promoted by President Michel Sleiman and others, is a nonstarter, in the words of politicians from Hezbollah, which dominates one of the rival political camps.
Until serious efforts are made to come up with national policies that reflect national interests and are consistent in tackling the question of national sovereignty, there will likely be further deadly repercussions of the crisis in Syria. There are several actors who would like to see Lebanon divided. Some of them, such as Israel and “takfiri” groups have been blamed for Tuesday’s attack. But the true culprit is an inability to recognize that Lebanon can only confront the crisis in Syria with a united stand and a commitment to noninvolvement. Everything else is a dangerous waste of time.
Higher Defense Council Meets to Address Security Measures at Embassies, Places of Worship
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/The Higher Defense Council strongly condemned on Wednesday the twin blasts near the Iranian embassy in Beirut's neighborhood of Bir Hassan. It revealed in a statement that it was informed from the heads of military agencies of the measures taken to maintain security at embassies, places of worship, and malls. The council convened at the Baabda Palace in light of Tuesday's attack. It stressed the need for combating all forms of terrorism, hailing the Lebanese people's unity in confronting this phenomenon. “We were informed of the available information on the Bir Hassan blasts and the security measures that are being taken to uncover the assailants,” continued the statement. The Higher Defense Council ares emphasized the need to implement the security plan in Tripoli in order to restore calm in the northern city.
The council meeting was chaired by President Michel Suleiman and attended by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and a number of ministers and security officials. Twenty-three people were killed and 147 wounded in twin bombings near the Iranian embassy in Beirut in the Bir Hassan neighborhood, which is a Hizbullah stronghold. An al-Qaida-affiliated group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it is aimed at pressuring Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
Warns Lebanese Entity Under Threat, Holds Onto Baabda Declaration
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman reiterated late Tuesday that Lebanese authorities were working on keeping the country at a distance from the region's turmoil, hours after suicide bombers struck the Iranian embassy in Beirut. “We in Lebanon work through the Baabda Declaration to distance Lebanon from the conflicts, the tension and their negative repercussions,” Suleiman said in his speech at the third Arab-African summit held in Kuwait. However, Tuesday's suicide bombings appeared to be another strike in the proxy battles that have played out in the region and which have intensified with the civil war in Syria.
Hizbullah members are also fighting alongside troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad despite calls by its rivals in the March 14 alliance to withdraw from the neighboring country.
“We seek with the U.N., the international community and the Gulf Cooperation Countries to resolve the economic losses that Lebanon has suffered, and which the World Bank has estimated at 7.5 billion dollars,” Suleiman said.
He also said that work is underway to find quick solutions to the crisis of Syrian refugees whose numbers are soaring at a very fast rate. He warned that the crisis was “endangering the Lebanese entity” in addition to “the country's economy and the social and security conditions in it.”“There would be no investment without stability and no stability or moderation without justice,” he said, urging the international community to achieve such a justice. He reiterated that Lebanon would continue to ask for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on international resolutions, the Madrid process and the Arab peace initiative adopted in Beirut in 2002. Suleiman met on the sidelines of the summit with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, Egypt's Interim president Adly Mansour and U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson who stressed that Ban Ki-Moon was keen on helping Lebanon's economy. Eliasson told Suleiman that Ban has expressed satisfaction with the efforts exerted by Lebanese authorities to preserve unity and security. Also on the sidelines of the summit, the Lebanese president met with Alan Duncan, UK's Minister of State for International Development, who reiterated his country's support for Lebanon. He said London intends to provide assistance to help Lebanon confront the burden of Syrian refugees. Suleiman cut his visit to Kuwait short and returned to Beirut along with first Lady Wafaa on Tuesday night. He was expected to read the summit's closing statement but he decided to return to Lebanon after the bombings that struck the Iranian embassy in the Bir Hassan neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs.
Qaida Face-Off over Syria in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/ Bombs targeting Iran's embassy in Hizbullah's Beirut stronghold point to a confrontation between Tehran and al-Qaida in Lebanon, which is paying a heavy price for the war in neighboring Syria, analysts said. At least 23 people were killed and nearly 150 wounded in Tuesday's double suicide bomb attack on the embassy of Iran. The al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam brigade claimed responsibility for the attack."It is a direct confrontation between al-Qaida on one side, and all those who back the Syrian regime and Iran on the other," said Hilal al-Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut. "The two blasts are a direct message to Iran that says: 'You are the origin of the problem in Syria, we will face you directly, not by proxy.'" Iran's embassy is in south Beirut, a stronghold of Hizbullah.
The brigade that claimed the bombings is backed by Iranian financing and weapons. It has sent fighters to support Syrian troops against rebels, including Sunni jihadists.
The attack came after two car bombs in south Beirut in summer. One of them, on August 15, killed 27 people. "Despite the tight, effective security measures taken by the authorities in Lebanon, Lebanon and Syria's (territories) are open to each other via uncontrolled borders. It is not difficult for terrorists to cross over," said Khashan. The professor pointed to recent reports that "large numbers of fighters from the (jihadist) Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaida have crossed over into Lebanon and specifically Beirut". Army and security forces have in recent months defused several explosives-laden cars. Political tensions in the country have soared in recent months, as the Syrian war has raged on. Because of the divisions, Lebanon has been unable for seven months to appoint a new government that all sides can agree on. Lebanon's "fragility" is what allows al-Qaida to infiltrate the country, Brookings Doha Center director Salman Shaikh told Agence France Presse. This was due to the influence of Hizbullah, which has grown stronger in the past three years, while the Syrian conflict has "paralyzed the Lebanese institutions".As Syria's war has escalated and increasingly involved regional powers, al-Qaida has been trying to "take advantage... as usual", said Shaikh.
The Sunni extremist group "comes in and does some horrible things", trying to benefit from "the Syrian vacuum," he added, comparing the situation to that of Iraq. The rebels fighting to topple Assad are backed by Gulf states, chiefly Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The kingdom's media has been waging a fierce campaign against Iran over its role in Syria, while Tehran has adopted Syrian President Bashar Assad's accusations against Riyadh and Doha that they back "terrorists" in Syria. Francois Burgat, former head of the French Institute of the Near East, said the Beirut blasts were "a sign of the demoralization and rage of extremists... over the involvement of Hizbullah and Iran on the side of the Syrian regime."Hizbullah and Iran's involvement in the war have played a "defining" role in the struggle, helping Assad's troops to advance towards Damascus and Aleppo. As Sunni-Shiite tensions escalate, there are fears of the return of violence similar to the country's 1975-1990 civil war. "Al-Qaida vs Iran: the face-off in Lebanon," read a headline in the An-Nahar newspaper, warning such a confrontation risks pushing the country to the brink. "This latest terrorist (act) represents a... dangerous turning point" that throws Lebanon "into an open regional confrontation," it said. Khashan said the consequences of Tuesday's attack would affect Syria as well as Lebanon. "Al-Qaida wants a security vacuum, but that benefits neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia," he told AFP. According to Shaikh, the Lebanese "have no interest in this becoming an intra-Lebanese civil conflict". He explained that while it was the Arab-Israeli conflict that led the Lebanese to all-out war in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Syrian conflict is pushing Lebanon in that direction today.
"We may get there in the future... (But) we are not there yet and we have to hold our breath," Shaikh said.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Rouhani on Beirut Bombs: Mistaken Are Those Who Think Terrorism Guarantees Achieving Goals
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday commented on the double blast that rocked the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hassan, stating that whomever thinks terrorism achieves its goals “is mistaken.”"Those who believe through terrorism and assassinations and violence can achieve their goals are mistaken,” Rouhani said at a meeting of the Iranian cabinet. He added: “This time again they are committing a mistake.”"We must say to the attackers that the people of the region have adopted a united stand of solidarity and resilience in front of aggressions and we will not abandon this path.”The Iranian leader continued: “It appears that regimes that could not deliver their intended messages through other means, and that could not get anyone to listen to them ware seeking this through terrorism, violence and fear.”Rouhani offered his condolences to the families of the victims and to the relatives of Iranian embassy's cultural adviser Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ansari. At least 23 people were killed and more than 145 others were wounded in a twin blast that took place on Tuesday morning near the Iranian Embassy in the neighborhood of Bir Hassan in Beirut's southern suburbs. 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, the second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives struck about 10 meters away, the official said. 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
Arabia Condemns Beirut's 'Terrorist, Cowardly' Blasts
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Saudi Arabia condemned on Wednesday the double blast that targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut, slamming it as a “terrorist and cowardly act.” "Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the terrorist and cowardly blasts that took place in Beirut on Tuesday,” the Saudi Press Agency said. SPA added: “The Kingdom offers its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Lebanese government and people, and we wish the wounded a quick recovery,” "Saudi Arabia reassures its position that condemns terrorism in all its forms, regardless of who's behind it and the reasons for it.” At least 23 people were killed and more than 145 others were wounded in a twin blast that took place on Tuesday morning near the Iranian Embassy in the neighborhood of Bir Hassan in Beirut's southern suburbs.
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, the second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives struck about 10 meters away, the official said. 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. The group threatened to continue its activities if Hizbullah does not withdraw its fighters from Syria. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly voiced its rejection of Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian war. Meanwhile, the party's chief, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, accused KSA last week of obstructing the formation of the new cabinet in Lebanon, noting also that Saudi Arabia is forestalling a political solution in Syria.
"The U.S.-Iranian rapprochement is harming KSA,” Nasrallah remarked during a speech he gave on the occasion of Ashura.
Ambassador to Lebanon Narrowly Escaped Embassy Blasts
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Iran's ambassador to Lebanon narrowly escaped a twin suicide bombing outside the embassy that killed 23 people, including an aide and four guards, an Iranian diplomatic source told AFP Wednesday. "Ambassador Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi was on his way with cultural attache Ibrahim Ansari to see caretaker Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun," the Iranian diplomatic source said of Tuesday's attack.
"The attache was waiting in the car near the entrance when the first suicide attacker blew himself up. The ambassador, who would have left the building within a minute, went back." Ansari and four embassy guards were among the dead, said Iran's deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who arrived in Beirut on Wednesday. "Among the innocent, pure martyrs were four guards of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as were the Iranian cultural attache Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari and an innocent Iranian woman," he told reporters. The twin suicide attack was claimed by an Al-Qaida-affiliated group and is the first of its kind against the Lebanon mission of Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Iran has had a military adviser mission in Syria since 1980 and is the key backer of Lebanon's Hizbullah, which has intervened in the conflict in support of Assad's forces. The Iranian mission hit by Tuesday's bombings is located in a Hizbullah bastion in south Beirut. In an interview with AFP, Hizbullah political bureau chief Sheikh Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed denounced the bombings as a "cowardly, desperate act". He dared Hizbullah opponents "to come fight in Syria". Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin charged that the bombings were an attempt to torpedo a peace conference the United Nations is trying to organize next month with the backing of both Moscow and Washington. They "target... efforts being made towards a peaceful solution," Zasypkin said. Source/Agence France Presse.
March 14: Terrorism in Lebanon is Result of Iranian Meddling in Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/The general-secretariat of the March 14 alliance warned on Wednesday that putting Lebanon in the path of the “Iranian empire's roadmap” would lead to the country's destruction as it slammed Tehran's meddling in Syria's war. “The party that is unilaterally shoving Lebanon into adventures based on certain requests, will later not be able to draw their boundaries and their repercussions,” the general-secretariat said in a statement read by its coordinator, former MP Fares Soaid. He blamed the cycle of violence and terrorism that erupted after the Syrian revolution in addition to Hizbullah's involvement in Syria's war through Iranian support on the suicide bombings that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs. “Lebanon is paying the price of the Iranian involvement in Syria through its fighting alongside the criminal regime,” he said, adding Tehran's meddling “led to a counter terrorism on Lebanese territories.” The statement said Lebanon was shocked by the deadly bombings that targeted the embassy and led to the loss of innocent lives.
The general-secretariat condemned the attack and all other violence and terrorism that targets any place in Lebanon. “Considering Lebanon a detail in the Iranian empire's roadmap will only lead to the nation's destruction,” Soaid warned. “The only solution to this long and painful tragedy … is for Hizbullah to return to the state and abolish its statelet that comes at the expense of the nation,” he said. The March 14 official also called on the state to carry out its responsibilities.
Report: Security Agencies Received Warning ahead of Iranian Embassy Attack
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Security agencies received information on a terrorist attack targeting a diplomatic headquarters that is loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to exert pressure on Hizbullah to withdraw from battles in the neighboring country. According to As Safir newspaper published on Wednesday, a security source said that Lebanese security agencies received data from informants and west security agencies warning of a scheme by head of al-Qaida's Abdullah Azzam Brigades Majed al-Majed to attack Hizbullah, in cooperation with Saudi national Ahmed al-Suiedi. However, conflicting reports emerged on the way the group would carry out the attack, whether by an explosive-laden vehicle or via a suicide attack. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in twin suicide blasts that targeted the Iranian Embassy in the Hizbullah stronghold of Bir Hassan on Tuesday. The blasts were claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a jihadist group linked to al-Qaida that has previously fired rockets at Israel from Lebanese territory.
The powerful explosions just opposite the multi-storey embassy caused chaos, ripping the facades off nearby buildings and setting cars ablaze. Hizbullah, which is fighting alongside the regime of 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.
Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Narrowly Escaped Embassy Blasts
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Iran's ambassador to Lebanon narrowly escaped a twin suicide bombing outside the embassy that killed 23 people, including an aide and four guards, an Iranian diplomatic source told AFP Wednesday. "Ambassador Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi was on his way with cultural attache Ibrahim Ansari to see caretaker Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun," the Iranian diplomatic source said of Tuesday's attack.
"The attache was waiting in the car near the entrance when the first suicide attacker blew himself up. The ambassador, who would have left the building within a minute, went back." Ansari and four embassy guards were among the dead, said Iran's deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who arrived in Beirut on Wednesday. "Among the innocent, pure martyrs were four guards of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as were the Iranian cultural attache Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari and an innocent Iranian woman," he told reporters. The twin suicide attack was claimed by an Al-Qaida-affiliated group and is the first of its kind against the Lebanon mission of Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Iran has had a military adviser mission in Syria since 1980 and is the key backer of Lebanon's Hizbullah, which has intervened in the conflict in support of Assad's forces. The Iranian mission hit by Tuesday's bombings is located in a Hizbullah bastion in south Beirut. In an interview with AFP, Hizbullah political bureau chief Sheikh Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed denounced the bombings as a "cowardly, desperate act". He dared Hizbullah opponents "to come fight in Syria".Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin charged that the bombings were an attempt to torpedo a peace conference the United Nations is trying to organize next month with the backing of both Moscow and Washington. They "target... efforts being made towards a peaceful solution," Zasypkin said.
Iran, World Powers End First
Session after Less than 10 Minutes, Zarif to Meet Ashton Thursday
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Iran and world powers finished their first session of crunch talks on Wednesday after only five to 10 minutes, diplomats said. "This was just a brief introductory session," one diplomat in Geneva said on condition of anonymity. "There will now be bilateral meetings." Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he will hold "serious and detailed" negotiations on a nuclear deal on Thursday with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "So far, we have progressed based on our plans and we agreed to start serious and detailed negotiations about the agreement with Lady Ashton tomorrow," Zarif wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday after having lunch with Ashton. The EU top diplomat represents the six major powers in talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Hizbullah Boosts Security after Iranian Embassy Blasts, Fears New Wave of Suicide Attacks
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Hizbullah's leadership held a high-level security meeting to determine new exceptional measures over the possibility of new wave of suicide bombings as the matter was in the party's consideration after the recent attacks on its stronghold in southern Beirut suburbs. “We have entered a new stage that we consider dangerous,” a senior Hizbullah official said in comment published in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Wednesday. The official said that Hizbullah has taken new exceptional measures amid the rising attacks in the party's stronghold. “We received the message and it's clear and we know those who are behind it.” the official said, stressing that the attacks will not change Hizbullah's stance but “will make us insist on holding on to it.” The source expressed fear that the suicidal attacks would directly target the party's centers or random Shiite venues like in Iraq. “We have exerted efforts recently to prevent explosive-laden vehicles from entering Dahiyeh but suicide attacks are more hard to contain,” the official added. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in twin suicide blasts that targeted the Iranian Embassy in the Hizbullah stronghold of Bir Hassan on Tuesday.
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.
A minister close to Hizbullah, speaking on condition of anonymity, told An Nahar newspaper that the party didn't exclude the possibility of suicide attacks after the bombing that targeted Rweis. “After the twin suicide blasts near the Iranian Embassy, Lebanon entered a new level...” the minister said. The minister stressed that the party is mulling ways to confront this new trend of attacks.
Postpones Legislative Session Anew over Lack of Quorum
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri postponed for the seventh time on Wednesday a two-day parliamentary session over lack of quorum. The controversial legislative session was postponed to December 18. The session that Berri has been calling for for the past few months is set to discuss 45 items on its agenda, the same session that has been boycotted for six times since July over differences on whether the parliament can convene amid a resigned government or not. The Free Patriotic Movement kicked off recently a series of meetings with political powers in Lebanon aimed at ending the country's deadlock. The block had held talks with the Mustaqbal bloc and the Phalange party and a meeting is yet to be scheduled with the Lebanese Forces. The previous sessions were boycotted by the March 14 coalition, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and FPM leader MP Michel Aoun's bloc. However, Aoun's Change and Reform bloc agreed last month to reactivate the work of the parliament “as there are social priorities that need to be addressed” by attending the sixth session.
Aoun's bloc has boycotted previous calls by Berri to attend legislative sessions over the speaker's failure to include his bloc's items on the session's agenda. Miqati and the March 14 alliance argue that the parliament can only discuss urgent items amid a resigned cabinet.
Video Shows Moment of Explosion in Bir Hassan
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/The Beirut-based al-Mayadeen television aired on Wednesday afternoon a video showing the moment the explosion took place in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hassan.
The TV channel explained that the video was retrieved from a security camera placed near the scene of the explosion. The footage shows a water tank blocking the passage in the area, preventing a suicide attacker from reaching the Iranian embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs. The attacker's car was rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives and detonated 10 meters away, a security official said. At least 23 people were killed and more than 145 others were wounded in a twin blast that took place on Tuesday morning near the Iranian Embassy in the neighborhood of Bir Hassan in Beirut's southern suburbs. 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, the second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives struck about 10 meters away, the official said. 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.
The group threatened to continue its activities if Hizbullah does not withdraw its fighters from Syria.
Says 'No Retreat' on Iran Nuclear Rights
by Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Iran's top decision-maker Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday he will not allow any "retreat" on Tehran's nuclear rights, ahead of a new round of talks with world powers. While expressing support for negotiators engaging in nuclear talks in Geneva today, the supreme leader said the Iranian team was instructed to respect Tehran's "red lines." He appeared to be referring to Iran's insistence on continuing to enrich uranium on its own soil, a process that can create medical isotopes and fuel for power plants, but at much higher levels can also be used to generate a key component for an atomic bomb. "I insist on stabilizing the rights of the Iranian nation, including the nuclear rights," Khamenei told militiamen of the Basij force in Tehran, in a rare, live televised address. "I insist on not retreating one step from the rights of the Iranian nation," he added. The remarks come as the so-called P5+1 group of world powers -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- seek an elusive deal with Iran to curb its controversial nuclear activities. The P5+1 representatives and Iranian negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meet for the third time in a little over a month in the Swiss city on Wednesday. World powers suspect Iran is masking military objectives in its nuclear work, despite repeated denials in Tehran and officials insisting the nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes. Final decisions on the program rest with Khamenei. "I am not interfering in the details of these negotiations but there are red lines and limits that must be respected," Khamenei said. "I have told the officials that they must respect these limits, and not fret about the hullabaloo of the enemies and those opposed" to these talks, he said without elaborating.Source/Agence France Presse
World Powers End First Session after Less than 10 Minutes, Zarif to Meet Ashton
by Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/Iran and world powers finished their first session of crunch talks on Wednesday after only five to 10 minutes, diplomats said. "This was just a brief introductory session," one diplomat in Geneva said on condition of anonymity. "There will now be bilateral meetings." Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he will hold "serious and detailed" negotiations on a nuclear deal with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday. "So far, we have progressed based on our plans and we agreed to start serious and detailed negotiations about the agreement with Lady Ashton tomorrow," Zarif wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday after having lunch with Ashton. The EU top diplomat represents the six major powers in talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program that resumed on Wednesday amid growing hopes of a landmark accord. "Tomorrow morning .. I will have a meeting with Lady Ashton, which is the beginning of negotiations to examine how to finalize the draft," the ISNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying.
"We should find a way to carry out this task together and based on mutual respect." The last round of talks with Iran that ended on November 10 came tantalizingly close to a framework agreement, but failed to deliver in the face of what Iran said were last-ditch French misgivings. The P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany wants Iran to suspend certain parts of its nuclear program for a period of several months in a "first phase" towards a comprehensive deal. Source/Agence France Presse.
Condemns Bombings in Beirut
November 20, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement: “Canada strongly condemns the bombings that took place yesterday in Beirut.“This heinous terrorist attack, which targeted diplomatic premises, killed 23 people and wounded nearly 150 others. Canada mourns this senseless loss of life and sends its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those affected. “Canada condemns all attempts to destabilize Lebanon, and draw the Syrian civil war into the country. Canada encourages Lebanese leaders to resume the national dialogue to guarantee peace and security and commends Lebanon’s continued resilience and efforts to remain out of regional conflicts. “Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada continues to advise against all travel to the southern suburbs of Beirut due to the increased threat of terrorist attacks. Canadians who choose to travel to Lebanon should ensure that their travel documents are up to date and register themselves and family members with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service in order to receive the latest advice from the Embassy of Canada to Lebanon.”
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Iran's supreme leader: Sanctions can't force unwanted concessions from Tehran at nuclear talks
By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's supreme leader says pressure from economic sanctions will never force the country into unwelcome concessions as nuclear negotiators resumed talks with world powers. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also blasted U.S. government policies, including threats of military action, but said Iran has "no animosity'" toward the American people and seeks "friendly" relations.
Wednesday's message appeared tailored in part for Khamenei's hard-line audience as he spoke to members of the paramilitary Basij force, which is controlled by the powerful Revolutionary Guard. Khamenei's remarks also reflect Iran's internal divisions over the nuclear talks and outreach to the U.S. by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who has the backing of Khamenei. Talks resume later Wednesday in Geneva over a possible nuclear deal that could lift some sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.
Kerry Accuses Muslim Brotherhood of 'Stealing' Egypt's Revolution
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 November 2013/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday accused the Muslim Brotherhood of stealing Egypt's revolution, in some of his toughest comments yet about the party that took power in the nation's first democratic election.In a speech to a forum on enhancing links between private sector businesses and diplomatic security agencies, Kerry said "the best antidote to extremism is opportunity."
"Those kids in Tahrir Square, they were not motivated by any religion or ideology. "They were motivated by what they saw through this interconnected world, and they wanted a piece of the opportunity and a chance to get an education and have a job and have a future, and not have a corrupt government that deprived them of all of that and more," the top U.S. diplomat said. "They tweeted their ways and Facetimed their ways and talked to each other, and that's what drove that revolution. "And then it got stolen by the one single-most organized entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood." Since Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military in July a year after coming to power, the United States has repeatedly said that he had failed to live up to calls for an inclusive, transparent government. And Kerry in August defended the army's action to remove Morsi, saying it had moved as a bid at "restoring democracy." But as the military-led interim government has moved only slowly towards new elections, the U.S. in October suspended a part of its $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt.
Kerry vowed earlier this month during a brief, surprise visit to Cairo that the United States would work with Egypt's interim leaders and called on them to press ahead with reforms.Source/Agence France Presse.
Western nations rush to restore business ties with Iran ahead of a nuclear deal and eased sanctions
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
November 20/The six powers’ negotiating teams sat down in Geneva for resumed
nuclear talks with Iran Wednesday, Nov. 20 in a haze of cautious optimism
radiating from from Washington, Moscow and London about the prospects of the
first accord to be signed with Tehran on a path toward resolving the controversy
over its nuclear program. Still, no one was laying bets on the deal, a
preliminary accord providing six months for a comprehensive agreement to be
discussed> They know that Tehran is always unpredictable. Negotiators with the
Islamic Republic have been bitten more than once. And so they can’t rule out the
possibility of the Iranian negotiator at the last minute, as all pens are poised
to sign, holding up the process by saying he is not authorized to agree on one
point or another and must return home for further consultations.
This is a familiar Iranian ploy for extracting more concessions from the opposite side. Looking on the bright side, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted a message on YouTube ahead of the meeting saying that there was "every possibility for success" and he looked forward to quick results in Geneva. Vladimir Putin, too, after he talked by phone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Kremlin announced Tuesday, “There is a real chance for a nuclear deal.” President Barack Obama was also upbeat about an accord, although he said he didn’t know if it would come this week or next. He assured The Wall Street Journal that the bulk of the sanctions regime would meanwhile remain. Although the US President has promised that no more than “modest” sanctions relaxations would be granted in the framework of the preliminary accord, allied Western governments, especially in West Europe, are so certain that Obama is set on a historic accord between the US and Iran, that they can see his foot lifting off the sanctions brakes. They are therefore already engaged in direct talks with Tehran about resumed business after the accord is in the bag, on a scale that would dwarf the volume of sanctions relief. France is the exception because its main trading partners in the region are in the Arab Gulf rather than Iran.
The sanctions architecture which took years to put in place is therefore likely to crumble fast, even if Tehran holds back from finalizing the preliminary agreement in Geneva.
So what motive does Iran have for a quick deal when a drawn-out delay promises such benefits as melting sanctions and a chance to squeeze the West for further concessions that leave its nuclear program in place and viable?
Hollande's Stances In Israel And Ramallah
Wednesday 20 November 2013
French President Francois Hollande reassured Israeli leaders during his visit to their country that France will not let Iran develop nuclear weapons and that French and European sanctions will remain in place as long as Iran gives no guarantees about abandoning its quest for nuclear arms. The remarks will certainly please Benjamin Netanyahu, who gave a warm reception to his French guest. But the Israeli prime minister also described any coming first-stage agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue as something bad, because Iran will take advantage of it to see sanctions lifted, so that it can continue to develop a nuclear bomb. The P5+1 countries (which include France and the United States) that are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program believe that Iranian Minister Jawad Zarif will return to Geneva on Wednesday to agree to the P5+1 countries’ joint statement, and that the first-stage agreement for six months to test Iran’s intentions will be reached. Then, European sanctions will quickly be lifted, including those on the freezing of Iranian assets and banning the export of petrochemical products. Other sanction will also be affected, but not those on essential oil supplies for the Iranian economy, which will remain in place until it is verified that Iran has truly halted its nuclear military program.
Hollande wanted to reassure Israel. He said that he would keep sanctions in place as long as there was no verification of the halt of Iran’s nuclear program. But he kept this promise cryptic, without specifying which sanctions he was talking about, and in which stage. The truth is that he will not block a first-stage agreement with Iran.
Before his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Hollande spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone, and they agreed on a joint test that would be endorsed in Geneva during the most recent ministerial round of talks. This test was supposed to be approved by Iran. But the truth is that the P5+1 countries, under Obama’s umbrella, are determined to reach an agreement with Iran in order to open a new page in relations with the Iranian regime. Obama wants to end his second term by returning to a normalization of ties with Tehran, supported by big corporations and a segment of Jews in the US and even Israel. They all remember the historical ties between Iran and Israel and have no objection to seeing them return, albeit corrected. But the Knesset and Prime Minister Netanyahu are of the opposite view; they are totally opposed to the American policy and are relying on Hollande to halt progress on a first-stage agreement with Iran. But the French president will not do so; he is moving ahead with the agreement, along with the other P5+1 countries. The ball is now in Iran’s court, even if Hollande’s visit to Israel succeeded in reassuring Netanyahu and his team about France’s determination. If Iran accepts the text presented to it, then a first-stage agreement for six months will be signed; this is what Netanyahu described as bad.
As for the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Hollande said in the Knesset, addressing a hard-line right-wing majority, that Israel must halt settlements, and that there should be peace between two states existing side by side, with Jerusalem as the capital of both. He asked the Israelis and the Palestinians to undertake initiatives. The real question that should be asked is: what more in the way of initiatives can the Palestinians offer? The Palestinian Authority has already offered all of the concessions that have been asked of it, but settlements have not stopped despite the temporary freeze on some housing units. The situation of the Palestinians is dire everywhere, especially in Jerusalem. They suffer from mistreatment by the Israelis, who are going ahead with their plans to Judaicize the city, with no deterrent from the Arabs or the rest of the world. The Palestinians also suffer from the PA’s scant attention to their fate, and to their limited capacities. They suffer on all sides from difficult conditions, despite all of the talk that Jerusalem should be the capital of both countries. What is taking place in Jerusalem is very far from such a goal. Whoever says that Jerusalem is the capital for three religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – quickly realizes that this is just talk. The course of Judaicization of the city is crushing, in the absence of any true Arab deterrent. Hollande, and before him Nicolas Sarkozy, affirmed the foundations of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but what is taking place on the ground has nothing to do with these foundations. It is difficult to imagine the establishment of a Palestinian state on the borders of an Israeli Jewish state that exercises control over everything, with blind support from the US. Jerusalem is surrounded by settlements and Palestinian civil society, whose representatives met with Hollande in the Church of St. Anne strongly expressed their anger over the mistreatment by the Israelis. Hollande’s visit had the aspects of long-standing French policies on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but the reality on the ground contradicts these foundations.