November 28/2013


Bible Quotation for today/Our Victory over the World
01John 05/01-05: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God; and whoever loves a father loves his child also.  This is how we know that we love God's children: it is by loving God and obeying his commands.  For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us,  because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 28/13

Insight: After Assad, Syria democrats learn to fear Qaeda/By Mariam Karouny/Reuters/November 28/13

Has P5+1 deal given Iran legitimacy for nuclear activities/By Yonah Jeremy Bob/J.Post/November 28/13

Why the Iran Deal Is America’s Diplomatic Disaster/By Andrew L. Peek | The Fiscal Times/ November 28/13

Obama legacy/The Daily Star/November 28/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 28/13
Lebanese Related News

Security Council Welcomes International Support Group for Lebanon, Urges Swift Cabinet Formation

Classes Suspended again at USJ after Student Quarrel

March 14 Hopes Iran Deal Leads to Pullout of Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon

Lebanon's Customs Agents Strike over al-Jadeed Brawl, Gas and Oil Distribution Halted

ISF Frees Syrian Man Kidnapped in Tripoli, Arrests 6

Bassil to Kick Off Oil and Gas Tenders Eventually, Rejects Risking Country's Offshore Wealth

Report: Extremist Groups Planning Attack on Prisons to Facilitate Jail Break by Islamists

Israel Erects New Espionage Stations in Mount Hermon

Suleiman Hails Iran Nuclear Deal, Hopes it Will Improve Ties between Regional Countries

Saniora Urges Dialogue on Deploying Army on Border, Hizbullah's 'Return to the State'

Aoun Demands Miqati to Leave the Grand Serail, Blames Universities for Students' Clashes

Raei: News about My Resignation Are Lies and We Apologized to the Vatican

Syrian refugee women sexually harassed in Lebanon: HRW

Lebanon fuel delivery halted due to Customs strike

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Obama’s Iran Deal Strains Efforts From Israel to Syria

Iran: Construction will continue at Arak nuclear site

Washington to stop wrangling with Israel, instead offer “embrace” with benefits, some military

Despite Israeli protests, experts say nuclear deal complicates Iran's drive for bomb

US to work on final Iran nuclear deal

Israel Minister Meets British Official on Iran Deal

Iran FM Defends Nuclear Deal before Parliament

Rouhani says Geneva nuclear deal increased Israel's isolation
Poll: Americans back Iran deal by 2-to-1 margin
Hungarian FM to Post: Israel should be ‘intensely’ involved in implementation of Geneva deal
Obama’s Iran Deal Strains Efforts From Israel to Syria

Syria opposition to take full possession of Arab League seat

Syria Say It Won't Relinquish Power in Peace Talks

Syria gov't says will attend peace talks, but Assad won't cede power

Iran Says No Preconditions for Joining Syria Talks
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait tighten controls on clerics
Pope Francis Criticizes Economic Inequality in Mission Manifesto
Pope-Putin Visit: Is church détente in the works?
German bishops push reform to welcome divorced Catholics

U.S. says may pull out all troops as Afghan leader holds up deal

Israeli special forces kill 3 Salafi jihadi terrorists in West Bank

Iran seizes two Saudi fishing vessels in Gulf: Fars  


Security Council Welcomes International Support Group for Lebanon, Urges Swift Cabinet Formation
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 November 2013/The U.N. Security Council has welcomed the mobilization of support by the International Support Group for Lebanon, which the country’s Ambassador to New York described as a reflection of the world body's commitment to protect Lebanon. In a statement issued following a meeting the Council held on Tuesday, its members “welcomed” the support group's “successful mobilization of support for Lebanon to address the country’s humanitarian, security, and socioeconomic needs.”“They encouraged continued efforts to rally support for Lebanon,” said the statement read out to the press by Ambassador Liu Jieyi of China, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for November. The support group was inaugurated in New York in September on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government. During its meeting, the Security Council “urged all parties in Lebanon to engage constructively to facilitate the formation of a government as soon as possible that respects Lebanon’s democratic and constitutional principles, responds effectively to the many security, humanitarian and development challenges facing Lebanon and fulfills Lebanon’s international obligations.”Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has so far failed to form his cabinet over conditions and counter conditions set by the rival March 8 and 14 alliances. Council members “expressed their deep concern at the impact of the crisis in Syria on Lebanon’s stability.” “They appealed to all Lebanese people to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability and stressed the importance for all Lebanese parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation,” said the statement. The Security Council also urged the different parties “to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis, consistent with their commitment in the Baabda Declaration.”Lebanon's Ambassador to New York, Nawaf Salam, said the latest Council statement reflected the 15-member body's “resolve to protect Lebanon by adopting the support group which is not only an initiative launched by Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) but has renewed the political support for Lebanon and the policy of dissociation.”Salam told An Nahar daily in remarks published on Wednesday that Lebanon will receive a share of the assistance that world powers will pledge during a Geneva conference on December 16 and the second donor conference hosted by Kuwait on January 15.


March 14 Hopes Iran Deal Leads to Pullout of Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 November 2013/The March 14 general-secretariat hoped on Wednesday that Iran's agreement with major powers would lead to the withdrawal of what it called Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon and Syria. Following its weekly meeting, the general-secretariat welcomed the deal struck between Tehran and world powers, saying it comes in conformity with the conditions set by the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has agreed to curb most of its nuclear activities in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions, while leaving much of its nuclear infrastructure intact. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The March 14 general-secretariat hoped that the agreement would limit the “harsh sanctions” imposed on it in parallel with a decision by Tehran to “reverse its traditional policy to hit stability in the region.” It also hoped that the deal would lead to the “withdrawal of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards groups from Lebanon and Syria.” The statement reiterated that Hizbullah should pull out of Syria and stop turning Lebanon into a battleground. The Shiite party should abide by the conditions of the state and the National Pact, in addition to U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Baabda Declaration and President Michel Suleiman's Independence Day speech, it said. Hizbullah openly acknowledges its members are fighting for President Bashar Assad, but Tehran denies its troops have been engaged directly in combat in Syria.


Classes Suspended again at USJ after Student Quarrel
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 November 2013/Classes have been suspended once again at Universite Saint Joseph at the Huvelin neighborhood in Beirut after a quarrel between the students on Wednesday, reported al-Jadeed television. It said that a verbal dispute broke out between the students, forcing the administration to suspend classes in order to avert similar tensions as the ones that erupted on Monday. LBCI television reported that the dispute forced the immediate intervention of security forces, which soon deployed in front of the university. MTV meanwhile said that the dispute broke out when Hizbullah students prevented other students from entering USJ's yard.
Al-Jadeed later reported that the classes were only suspended at the Faculty of Business Management. Tensions were high at the university on Monday in wake of a standoff between Hizbullah and March 14 camp supporters. Media reports said that Hizbullah supporters surrounded the university in protest against recent student election results, which led to the standoff and the eventual intervention of the army and security forces to avert any violence.
The tensions on Monday led to the suspension of classes at USJ-Huvelin on Tuesday.


Miqati: Doha Visit Helped Reinvigorate Lebanese-Qatari Ties
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 November 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati hailed on Wednesday ties between Lebanon and Qatar, saying that they are among the strongest foreign relations enjoyed by Lebanon. He thanked Qatar for its role in supporting Lebanon in various fields, saying: “This visit helped reinvigorate Lebanese-Qatari relations.” He made his remarks at the end of his one-day official visit to Doha where he met a number of Qatari officials, including Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, head of the Emiri Diwan Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and Minister of Economy and Trade Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassem al-Thani.
Miqati held a closed-door meeting with the Qatari Emir, which lasted about a 15 minutes. He thanked Qatar for helping Lebanon in releasing the Lebanese pilgrims who were held in Syria's Aazaz region for over a year and its efforts in seeking the release of Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped by armed men in Syria in April, and Lebanese journalist Samir al-Kassab, who was also abducted in Syria. Sheikh Tamim had promised Lebanese authorities to resolve the case of the bishops. The prime minister's discussions with the Qatari Emir also tackled the Lebanese diaspora in the Gulf state and support for Lebanon in hosting Syrian refugees. The Premier was accompanied on his trip by caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, caretaker Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas, and General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim. Miqati's one-day trip to Qatar came a few hours after the caretaker PM returned to Beirut from Paris.
His visit to Doha is the first leg of a tour to Arab countries that includes Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to shore up support for a proposal to house Syrian refugees in Syrian territories on the border with Lebanon. Miqati's proposal calls for a pledge by the Syrian regime and rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad to guarantee the safety of the refugees after Lebanon's ability to host them and provide humanitarian support to them became crippled due to the country's deteriorating economic conditions. Ibrahim had played an important role in securing a three-way exchange deal reached last month to release the Lebanese pilgrims. It saw Syrian rebels release nine Lebanese pilgrims held for 17 months. Two Turkish pilots held since August were also released in Beirut. The Syrian government has also freed scores of jailed women. The deal was brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority. Nahhas also told al-Joumhouria newspaper on Wednesday that the visit to Qatar is part of a series of meetings that Lebanese officials are holding with their counterparts in several countries to shore up financial support to confront the burden of Syrian refugees.


Lebanon's Customs Agents Strike over al-Jadeed Brawl, Gas and Oil Distribution Halted
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 November 2013/Customs agents held a strike at Beirut and Tripoli Ports, and at Rafik Hariri International Airport on Wednesday over the brawl between al-Jadeed crew and security officers at the downtown Beirut Customs office a day earlier. The one-day strike affected the distribution of oil and gas to petrol stations. Fadi Abou Shaqra, advisor to the Gas Station Owners Association, told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that “there is no gas crisis in Lebanon.”But tankers cannot go out of Beirut port unless the Customs agents are there, he said. Abou Shaqra appeased fears, saying gas stations have supplies for one week. He hoped that Caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed al-Safadi would find a solution to the issue before it grows. On Tuesday, al-Jadeed reporters were assaulted by security officers at the Beirut Customs office after one of the journalists used a megaphone to demand an interview with the acting director of Customs General Directorate, Shafiq Merhi, about alleged corruption.Following a lawsuit filed by the TV station, the Central Criminal Investigations Department questioned the crew under the supervision of acting State Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud for several hours before releasing them. A statement from the Customs said Tuesday that the journalist used degrading language, adding it was not the appropriate manner to request an interview. Safadi met on Wednesday with Merhi, who told VDL that the action taken by Customs agents would be resolved “so that the interests of the Lebanese are not subject to paralysis.”He also said that the Directorate would file a slander and defamation complaint against the al-Jadeed team.

Al-Rahi: Reports about My Resignation Are Lies and We Apologized to the Vatican
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 November 2013/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi strongly denied on Tuesday rumors saying he was resigning as the head of the church in Lebanon, slamming media reports as “lies.”
"Reports about my resignation are only lies,” al-Rahi stated upon his arrival at Rafik Hariri International Airport after returning to Beirut from the Vatican. “It is not appropriate that media in Lebanon becomes a platform for lies.”Al-Rahi said he apologized to Pope Francis about these "fabrications,” noting also that talks with the head of the Vatican did not tackle his pontiff's visit to Lebanon. “It is because we were ashamed of reports about replacing cardinals,” he explained. Al-Rahi's denial comes after El-Sharq newspaper said he would resign to get the post of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri at the Vatican. “It was decided at the Vatican for the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches to be from the Orient so the choice fell on the head of the most important and effective church in the Orient,” said El-Sharq. The Patriarch reiterated that he holds on to “partnership and love” as a slogan.On the recent sectarian-motivated security developments in the country, al-Rahi remarked that Muslims and Christians have been living and building a society together based on both religions' values for 1400 years.“The presence of Christians and of Muslims are equally valuable to the East,” he said. “Do suicide and killing people have anything to do with religion or human values?,” he asked. The Patriarch expressed his willingness to communicate with all factions in the country. He elaborated: “I accept any invitation I get and I do not close the door in front of dialogue with anyone. Our culture promotes openness and communication. We do not have personal relations with anyone and this is why we communicate with everyone.”“If Lebanon loses communication, we lose the country's values.”“This is why we call for neutralizing the country and we support President Michel Suleiman in this matter.”He lamented that Lebanon became a “victim” to conflicts, hoping that the talks between international powers in Geneva would include countries of the region to solve pending problems, starting with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Al-Rahi was in Rome along with other Catholic patriarchs for a summit meeting for the leaders of the Eastern churches in communion with Pope Francis.

Saniora Urges Dialogue on Deploying Army on Border, Hizbullah's 'Return to the State'
by Naharnet Newsdesk 26 November 2013/Head of al-Mustaqbal bloc ex-PM Fouad Saniora on Tuesday called for launching national dialogue to discuss Hizbullah's withdrawal from Syria and the deployment of the army on the border between the two countries. “Moderate and open dialogue is the way to confront problems in Lebanon, but reaching it requires an advanced stance and work,” Saniora said in a televised address. “There cannot be a solution in Lebanon except through the formation of a competent government, so that the state can again become the only party that controls and possesses weapons” in the country, the former premier added. He called for forming "a cabinet that does not comprise members of political parties, which can oversee the affairs of the state and citizens and their security during the transitional period until the election of a new president of the republic.” Saniora warned that “the proliferation of non-state arms is the root of the problem and defying national consensus and civil peace might draw a response or a rebellion and weapons will lead to counter-weapons.”The ex-PM called on Hizbullah to “return to the state and withdraw from Syria,” underlining that “the return of Hizbullah's arms to the state and its withdrawal from Syria would be the right way to achieve a breakthrough and prevent any strife.” Saniora called for “launching national dialogue to discuss the remaining key issues and Hizbullah's exit from the insane and declared war against the Syrian people,” demanding the deployment of the army on the border with Syria. Separately, the head of al-Mustaqbal bloc condemned the deadly suicide bombing outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, saying he deplores “individual and collective assassinations” and stressing the need to “identify those who incited and plotted this crime and all the terrorist crimes that targeted innocents.”“There is a national responsibility on everyone to stand in the face of terrorist activities,” Saniora noted.

Aoun Demands Miqati to Leave the Grand Serail, Blames Universities for Students' Clashes

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 November 2013/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun accused Lebanese universities of causing politically-motivated standoffs between students. “Universities are the roots of clashes between students because they forbid political dialogue on campus,” Aoun said after Change and Reform bloc's weekly meeting. He explained: “Today, students enroll in universities with a previously formed political ideology and clashes happen because they do not have a space to express their views.”“We hope universities will launch opportunities for political dialogue on campus,” Aoun added. Tensions surged on Monday at the Universite Saint Joseph-Huvelin campus in Beirut as Hizbullah supporters protested against recent student elections results. MTV said that the supporters surrounded the campus in protest, sparking tensions between them and the March 14 students. The army soon intervened however averting any clash between the rival camps. In a separate matter, the FPM leader called on caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati to “leave the Grand Serail.”He elaborated: “Miqati is disassociating himself from local events, and many things are taking place after securing the signature of the cabinet's secretary-general Suhail Bouji and President Michel Suleiman.” Regarding the work of the parliament, Aoun said: “The parliament, and although it has extended its mandate, is not legislating.” “What did we do in the past four months?”The Change and Reform bloc also tackled the imprisonment of suspects in last Junes' clashes against the military institutions in Abra in a prison in the southern town of Jezzine. “They are held in a prison in Jezzine that is not properly equipped and does not have the necessary conditions to be a jail,” Aoun pointed out.

Suleiman Hails Iran Nuclear Deal, Hopes it Will Improve Ties between Regional Countries
by Naharnet Newsdesk 26 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman praised on Tuesday the deal reached between Iran and world powers over Tehran's nuclear program, hoping that it will reflect positively on the countries in the region. He said in a statement: “We hope that ties between these countries will be improved in a manner that leads to a halt in the meddling of the affairs of others.” He also hoped that the countries will base their ties on mutual respect and common interests. The president stressed the importance of fortifying Lebanese national unity and stability. “Moderation should be adopted at this critical time,” Suleiman remarked. Earlier on Tuesday, the president had held talks on the nuclear deal with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale. Over the weekend, Tehran agreed that it will not enrich uranium over five percent for the six-month period and will neutralize its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is close to weapons-grade and therefore an area of top concern.In return, the EU and United States will suspend sanctions on Iran's petrochemical exports and gold and precious metals sector. U.S. trade restrictions on the country's auto industry will also be suspended.

Why the Iran Deal Is America’s Diplomatic Disaster
By Andrew L. Peek | The Fiscal Times –

Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is a strategic disaster. In a single stroke, the US has shattered the European coalition it took a decade to assemble and made a multilateral US-Iran conflict bilateral again, greatly weakening America’s strategic position in the Middle East.  First, the details: the United States will ease certain trade sanctions and unfreeze foreign currency accounts held by Iran in exchange for Tehran’s halting or reversing its nuclear activities. The biggest issue: Iran is still allowed (it believes) to enrich uranium. This lets Tehran increase its technical nuclear expertise, the major impediment to creating a nuclear weapon. Nuclear programs are not complicated because the science is complex. They’re complicated because the delicate and highly technical skills needed to build and operate centrifuges are – well, delicate and highly technical.
Nuclear expertise is a function of a state’s human capital, which is why a country like Pakistan takes far longer to build a nuclear weapon than would a country like Germany. Germany isn’t in possession of secret nuclear blueprints. Rather, its technological mastery is such that Berlin simply wouldn’t have much difficulty spinning up enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb. Allowing the mullahs to continue enriching uranium gives their scientists time to perfect the techniques needed for a quick breakout capability at any point in the future. But it’s on the wider strategic aspects that this deal looks awful. The United States and Iran have been geopolitical enemies since the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in 1979. Over the course of three-plus decades, the US has fought against malign Iranian influence in virtually every Middle Eastern battleground and several global ones. Washington doesn’t do so out of pique; rather, it does so for strategic reasons. The U.S. has virtually no national interests (with the possible exceptions of fighting drug addiction and relatively firm anti-earthquake policies) which are not opposed by Iran, usually violently. Support for democracy, survival of Israel, counterterrorism, peaceful development of the Gulf States, guaranteed free flow of oil, suppressing WMD proliferation…Iran hates them all.
Add its single-minded focus on ensuring that Syria -- the most repressive Arab regime left in the region -- stays on its throne, and you have a diplomatic win-set of zero.
Since 1979, however, this has been a conflict between the United States and Iran. Only. That was America’s handicap. No matter how great Tehran’s transgressions – murdering dissidents abroad, issuing malevolent fatwas, sponsoring international terrorism, attacking neutral oil freighters – Washington was left to complain about them on its own. Or alongside Israel, which didn’t impress the UN or the Europeans much; both countries had to fight tooth and nail to get effective multilateral sanctions placed on the Iranian regime.
This changed in 2002, when an Iranian dissident group revealed Tehran was secretly enriching uranium. Finally, Western Europe took notice. With French, British, and German backing the UN laid four rounds of increasingly stringent sanctions on Iran, and the EU-3 added some additional Western sanctions for good measure. The Bush administration thus turned the U.S.-Iran conflict multilateral, a major diplomatic achievement which vastly improved America’s position and leverage, and greatly limited Iran’s. Though the sanctions were in place because of the nuclear program, they also raised the cost of Iran’s revisionist foreign policy overall. It was a two-fer. By drawing in our European allies, which had heretofore swallowed expat assassinations and the like with barely a whimper, Washington finally had help containing the worst rogue state in the Middle East. Since lifting sanctions required Western approval, Iran’s bad behavior became costly. Time was finally working for the U.S., guaranteed by our new-found coalition. By releasing Tehran from its box too early, and before broader Iranian concessions, the Obama Administration shattered the unified diplomatic front that Bush had created. Iran has not abandoned its hostile foreign policy goals: it supported Hezbollah yesterday and will support it tomorrow. The U.S. will have to continue opposing those policies. But now it will be forced to do so without broad multilateral backing and without increasingly effective sanctions. Now time will be on Iran’s side, as the punishment for its policies drop and America’s costs rise. Writ large, this deal illustrates the Obama administration’s utter lack of strategy in the Middle East. The U.S. has been trying to prevent Iran from becoming a regional hegemon for over three decades. Iran’s quest for a closed-cycle nuclear program is one of its troubling policies, but it is an extension of Iran’s overall challenge. That’s why we worry about Iran’s nuclear program and not France’s – because Iran is an aggressive revisionist state with which the U.S. has zero mutual interests, while France has, well, cheese for instance. US foreign policy thus tries to contain Iran. It can do so at low cost, with a concert of European allies; or it can do so at high cost, alone. As it will.
**Andrew Lewis Peek was a strategic advisor to the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan

Has P5+1 deal given Iran legitimacy for nuclear activities?


A central component of the campaign against Iran’s nuclear activities was that all uranium enrichment activities had to stop. In contrast, the interim deal does not prohibit – and therefore permits – enrichment up to 5%. According to the US and the European powers that signed the recent dramatic interim agreement with Iran, the deal’s purpose is to halt any Iranian surge toward a nuclear weapon, while giving merely reversible and moderate sanctions relief. But has Iran gained another critical achievement by virtue of the agreement – quasi-legal legitimacy for those nuclear activities the deal does not specifically prohibit?
A central component of the campaign against Iran’s nuclear activities was that all uranium enrichment activities had to stop. UN Security Council Resolution 1737 required Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities, with no differentiation regarding the level of enrichment.In contrast, the interim agreement does not prohibit – and therefore permits – the enrichment of uranium up to the level of 5 percent.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether with new technologies Iran has developed, uranium at this level can be quickly enriched to a high enough level for use in nuclear weapons.
But at least according to some, the agreement has essentially legalized and legitimized a level of uranium enrichment that could allow Iran a quick breakout from pre-weapons capability toward full nuclear arms capability.
There is another side debate about whether the agreement has indirectly legalized nuclear activities related to the Arak heavy-water facility for producing plutonium, which could potentially be used for nuclear weapons.
While the deal has prohibited installation of new parts at the facility, there is a question of whether it permits Iran to build parts without installing them.
Also, the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility – which the Iranians kept hidden until 2009 and which the Western powers had previously insisted on their closing down – may not be further developed under the interim deal, but it is also not being closed. While the Western powers would prefer to interpret the agreement as simply a stop on the way to closing that plant, another possibility is a “permanent” freeze or limiting of the facility – a possibility that also indirectly gives the plant its first possible veneer of legitimacy. This new-found legal legitimacy may also protect Iran going forward from preemptive strikes, even beyond the six-month term of the agreement.
Many view an attack on Iran’s program as highly unlikely during those six months, and the deal may be extended or even remain the unofficial status quo after it expires.
When Israel struck an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and a Syrian reactor in 2007 (according to foreign reports), neither program had any official legitimacy, as both programs were, to varying degrees, operating covertly, or operating for dual civilian and military purposes and keeping the latter covert. In contrast, if the interim agreement expires in six months with no final agreement, but inspectors are still on the ground in Iran and no official grave violation of the deal has been declared in practice, Iran will be able to claim ongoing Western-granted legitimacy for its program.
Not that the Western powers were remotely happy with Israel’s attack on Iraq in 1981, but there was no special agreement legitimizing Iraq’s right to enrich uranium as there is now with Iran (although the deal does not officially recognize such a right, it does in practice, since it does not prohibit enrichment below the 5% level).  Preemptive strikes are controversial in any situation under international law, but more aggressive theories justifying them often depend on established state customary actions. Now the clear state custom with Iran is to lay off for an extended period. Put differently, by signing this agreement, Iran may have achieved the most legitimacy for enriching uranium and for some of its most controversial facilities – as well as the most extended insurance plan against an attack on that program – that it has had in years.

Washington to stop wrangling with Israel, instead offer “embrace” with benefits, some military
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 27, 2013/President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have decided to put a stop to the row with the Netanyahu government over the interim nuclear accord signed with Iran Sunday, Nov. 24 in Geneva, debkafile’s exclusive Washington sources report - partly because they need the prime minister’s cooperation for bringing the peace process with the Palestinians to a resolution. On this they are set. As one US official put it Tuesday night, Nov. 26: the administration has determined “to embrace Netanyahu” from now on, instead of hitting back at his powerful castigation of Washington’s dealings with Tehran. The administration hopes to stop this flow of rhetoric by a package of measures which it hopes will allay Israel’s concerns over the nuclear deal and the rapprochement in progress between the US and Islamic Republic.
According to our sources, the package will include upgrading of Israeli Air Force capabilities with new offensive measures currently not in its possession. This upgrade, they say, will be influenced by the level of Iran’s compliance or non-compliance with its obligations under the first-step accord just signed with the six world powers and its readiness for progress towards a final, comprehensive accord on its nuclear program.
The administration will also address the acute concerns in Riyadh and the Gulf emirates about the new US opening to Tehran.

Iran: Construction will continue at Arak nuclear site

By REUTERS 11/27/2013 10:50
Possibly referring to loophole in deal with West, Iranian FM Zarif says "no new nuclear fuel will be produced," no new components will be installed, but Islamic Republic will press on with building at heavy-water reactor.
DUBAI - Iran will press on with construction at a nuclear reactor site at Arak, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, despite an agreement with Western powers to halt activity.
The uncompleted heavy-water research reactor emerged as one of several crucial issues in negotiations in Geneva last week, when Iran agreed with six world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program for six months in return for limited sanctions relief. Iran said it would not make "any further advances of its activities" on the Arak reactor, according to text of the agreement. "The capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there," Zarif told parliament in translated comments broadcast on Iran's Press TV.But experts have said an apparent gap in the text could allow Tehran to build components off-site to install later in the nuclear reactor. It was not immediately clear if Zarif was referring to this or other construction activity.Tehran has said it could open the reactor as soon as next year. It says its purpose is only to make medical isotopes, but Western countries say it could also produce plutonium, one of two materials, along with enriched uranium, that can be used to make the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

Obama’s Iran Deal Strains Efforts From Israel to Syria
By Nicole Gaouette & Terry Atlas - Nov 27, 2013
President Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran is part of a high-stakes set of diplomatic initiatives that is unnerving Middle East allies concerned that his goal is to reduce U.S. commitments in the region.
The U.S. and five other world powers, in an interim deal concluded Nov. 24 in Geneva, set a six-month timetable to reach a comprehensive accord with Iran denying it a nuclear-weapons capability. That deadline roughly coincides with Secretary of State John Kerry’s goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian accord by May, an effort that may only be further complicated by the overtures to Iran.
At the same time, Kerry is negotiating with U.S. allies and Russia to resolve Syria’s civil war, with an often-delayed Geneva peace conference now scheduled for Jan. 22.
While the U.S. pursues the three-pronged diplomatic push, leaders in the Mideast see the burst of American diplomacy as a possible precursor to an American pullback, according to Dennis Ross, a former Mideast negotiator who is counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington. “There is a lot of concern across the board in the region about our staying power,” Ross said at a panel discussion yesterday held by the Center for New American Security, a policy research group in Washington. The U.S. is seen as less committed to the Mideast as it has become less reliant on Persian Gulf oil and seeks an expanded role in the Asia-Pacific region, he said. The issues in play have the potential to alter regional politics whatever the outcomes. Already, the initial Iran deal has reduced the likelihood of a U.S. military conflict with Iran for the time being, though the prospects for a comprehensive deal remain uncertain.
‘Enormous Challenges’
“There are still enormous challenges ahead,” Obama said of the first-step Iran agreement at a political event in San Francisco this week. “We haven’t solved the mistrust and the enmity and the fundamental challenges of Iran’s nuclear capacity.”  “But we’re testing diplomacy,” he said. “We’re not resorting immediately to military conflict. And we create a space where there’s a possibility of resolving problems that have lingered for decades.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his willingness to make “historic compromises” in peace talks with the Palestinians is linked to a full resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue, which he describes as presenting an existential threat. Kerry sees no linkage between an Iran accord and the peace talks, according to a State Department official who asked not to be identified discussing the closed-door negotiations.
Proxy War
The U.S. outreach to Iran, which began in secret two years ago, gives its leaders a potential route to end their nation’s international status as a pariah, including economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
The prospect of a resurgent Iran troubles Saudi Arabia, according to Tom Lippman, an adjunct scholar and Saudi Arabia specialist at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “Any agreement between Iran and the U.S. is a loss for them,” Lippman said. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation and a U.S. ally, is engaged in a proxy war in Syria with Iran, its Shiite rival for regional influence, The possibility of a shift in Iranian relations adds a further element of change in a region already upended by protest movements, the ouster of longtime leaders such as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and a civil war in Syria that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Leadership Absent
At the same time, there’s “a great concern about what’s been remarked on as an absence of U.S. leadership and engagement broadly in the region,” said Barry Pavel, director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, a Washington policy group. “This is an important perception even if reality is not necessarily matched to it,” said Pavel, a former career Defense Department official who served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. The perception has been fed by the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama’s decision not to attack Syria after the regime crossed his “red line” by using chemical weapons, and energy advances such as the extraction of natural gas from shale that make the U.S. less vulnerable to Middle East oil shocks. “Middle Eastern officials are wondering, ‘Is the U.S. going to care about our interests when we need them?’” said Pavel.
Rift With Israel
After signing the interim agreement with Iran, Kerry sought to reassure allies, and Israel in particular, that the U.S. would stand by them and ensure that a final deal, if reached, will be tough on Iran.
Even so, the U.S. outreach to Iran has created “a significant rift in the U.S.-Israeli relationship,” said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Wilson Center, a Washington policy group.
Netanyahu, who called the Iran deal a “historic mistake,” often cites the Islamic Republic’s repeated talk of Israel’s destruction as a reason to be more cautious in peacemaking with the Palestinians.
In an Oct. 23 message on the social media service Twitter Inc. (TWTR), Netanyahu said, “Our aspiration for peace is liable to be severely affected if Iran succeeds in its aspiration” to escape the sanctions.
Kerry’s Visits
Kerry, who has made eight visits to the region since taking office in February, has pressed Netanyahu for progress toward a two-state solution in the Palestinian peace talks.
With no public signs of progress, he is a third of the way through the nine-month period he set at the end of July for his effort to negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement that would lead to an independent Palestinian state.
The coinciding deadlines for agreements on Iran and the peace process are “going to mean tremendous angst and anxiety on the Israeli side,” said Miller, who served as a Middle East negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations. Arthur Hughes, a former ambassador to Yemen who is also with the Middle East Institute, said some of Netanyahu’s pronouncements may be to please his right-wing ruling coalition. He cited as well cool personal relations between Obama and Netanyahu. “The Israelis just don’t feel the love,” Hughes said. “People like to feel reassured when someone says, ‘We’ve got your back,’ they’ve really got your back.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at; Terry Atlas in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at
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Syria Say It Won't Relinquish Power in Peace Talks
DAMASCUS, Syria November 26, 2013 (AP)
By ALBERT AJI Associated Press The Syrian government said Wednesday it will participate in U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the country's civil war, but insisted that it is not going to the conference to hand over power. The United Nations on Monday announced that the long-delayed peace talks will begin Jan. 22 in Geneva. The meeting, which would be the first face-to-face talks between the President Bashar Assad's government and its opponents since the Syrian war began, has raised hopes that a resolution to a conflict that activists say has killed more than 120,000 people could be within reach. But huge hurdles remain, including a decision on the full list of participants. The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group has said it is ready to attend, but wants the government to establish humanitarian corridors and release political prisoners as a confidence-building measure before it makes a final decision. In a statement Wednesday, Syria's Foreign Ministry confirmed the government will attend, saying Assad will send an official delegation to the Geneva conference. The ministry stressed that the representatives "will be going to Geneva not to hand over power to anyone" but to meet with those "who support a political solution for Syria's future." The Syrian opposition and its Western supporters insist that Assad cannot be part of a transitional government. In a jab at Britain and France, the Foreign Ministry said that if Paris and London "insist on holding fast to these illusions" that there is no place for Assad in a transitional period, then "there is no need for them to attend Geneva 2.""Our people will not allow anyone to steal their right to decide their future and leadership and the main goal of the Geneva conference is to fulfill the interests of the Syrian people alone, and not those who shed their blood," the statement said.


Syria opposition to take full possession of Arab League seat
Cairo (AFP) - The opposition Syrian National Coalition will take full possession of the country's seat on the Arab League now that it has formed a provisional government, its chief said Tuesday in Cairo.
Ahmad Jarba, speaking at a news conference with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, also said the Coalition would hold a meeting sometime next month to discuss strategy ahead of a peace conference scheduled for January 22 in Geneva. The 22-member League suspended the government of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 after it unleashed a bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy movement that sparked a violent uprising.
The League subsequently granted the seat to the Coalition, which assumed it at a ceremony in March, but postponed full participation in the body's activities until a provisional government was formed.
That has now been accomplished, and Jarba said he would be making a formal speech in the coming days to coincide with the Coalition becoming fully active in the body. Turning to plans for a meeting ahead of the so-called Geneva II peace conference, Jarba did not say when or where this would be or what would be on the agenda. However, he reiterated the Coalition's conditions that it will attend only if Assad has no role in any political transition, that those people who have been jailed for their part in the uprising be freed and that humanitarian corridors be opened to areas under government siege. During the news conference, Jarba was asked about whether Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, should be allowed to sit at the table in Geneva. He accused the Islamic republic of "occupying Syria," and also called for Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah to withdraw their fighters from Syria. He accused them of "impairing opportunities for reform and political advances."..

Insight: After Assad, Syria democrats learn to fear Qaeda
By Mariam Karouny | Reuters
BEIRUT (Reuters) - When he was agitating for revolution, urging fellow Syrians to rise up against President Bashar al-Assad, Abdullah dreaded the midnight knock at the door from the secret police.
Now that the uprising has succeeded in his home town near Aleppo, pro-democracy activists are living in fear again - and this time those who brand them "traitor" don't bother to knock.
Two years ago, after Abdullah broke off his studies to run social media campaigns against Assad, he was held and tortured by security men. This summer, it happened again - only now it was Islamist gunmen loyal to al Qaeda who smashed into his family's house, broke everything in their way and took him off to a cell where, once more, he was blindfolded and beaten. "The sad thing is that those who were doing this were not Assad's police," Abdullah told Reuters from Turkey, where he managed to flee after his latest ordeal. "They were fighters who were supposed to be fighting for freedom, our freedom. "Back then they called me 'traitor' for demanding freedom. These armed men also tortured me for calling for freedom." His story is increasingly familiar across northern Syria, where Assad's government has ceded territory to a bewildering array of rival militias. The rising power is militant Islam and men who see democracy as the work of the devil, or the West, a system contrary to their hopes for a state ruled by religion.
Abdullah's experience also highlights the fragmentation of Syria's opposition, which greatly complicates new international efforts to end a civil war that has killed over 100,000.
Reuters spoke to 19 Syrians who describe themselves as activists for democracy. All gave similar accounts of violence and intimidation by militant Islamists in northern areas no longer controlled by Assad's "mukhabarat" security services. Most were students when Syria's Arab Spring protests began in March 2011. All got involved in publicizing demonstrations - and documenting Assad's crackdown on them - using social media. They went on, as self-taught journalists, to provide images and reports for Syrians and international media as the war spread.
Some, like Abdullah, have now had to flee for their lives. They, and those still inside Syria, say Islamist militants have begun a campaign to silence them and free speech in general. Last month, two media activists were shot dead in broad daylight in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city. Some have been seized and are being held. Others have simply disappeared.

In particular, those who spoke recounted the fear spread by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The al Qaeda-linked group, dominated by foreigners blooded in other wars, from Libya to Iraq and Afghanistan, does not tolerate critics."It is impossible for me to go to Syria now. I am wanted by the regime and by al Qaeda," said Rami Jarrah, who ran a radio station in the city of Raqqa until early October, when ISIL gunmen shut it down and took away one of his colleagues.Now living in Turkey, from where Radio ANA continues to broadcast into Syria, Jarrah won early fame among "media activists" in 2011, employing the English of his British education to forge an international reputation blogging from Damascus, where foreign news organizations had little access.
When a pen-name - "Alexander Page" - failed to shield his identity, he fled the country but returned later to "liberated" northern Syria, where he helped set up broadcasting in Raqqa.
The station's mistake, he said, was to open its airwaves to phone-in callers venting grievances against the Islamists:
"People were calling in and saying ISIL did this and did that. 'They closed my shop' or 'attacked my wife and forced the hijab on her'," Jarrah said. The militants, online themselves, accused him of "atheism" and put a price on his head. Journalists have long faced suspicion and harassment from rebels, gunmen forcing them to stop filming, sometimes seizing equipment or raiding apartments and cafes where they have set up "media centers" to share and distribute videos and reports. But in recent months, events have taken a more sinister turn. Several of those working in Aleppo have gone missing. In some cases, their bodies have been found - tortured, shot and left on the street. Friends and relatives of others have been told by militants that the activists have been arrested. Hazem Dakel, from Idlib, described what that could mean.
Now also living in Turkey, his ordeal began when two men on a motorbike forced his car to a halt after he had been filming in an area run by ISIL. Held in a house, they accused him of "opposing Islam". He was lucky, and escaped through a window. If he had any doubt what would have happened had he stayed, a call from one of his captors to an acquaintance still in Syria has since removed it: "They were planning to execute me on the night I escaped," Dakel said. "They were going to take me to a notorious abandoned factory where they execute people."
The militant Islamists have won respect among Syrians in the north, partly by their fighting mettle, party by imposing order where feuding among rival rebel warlords had broken out, partly by ensuring supplies of food and medicines. But for democratic activists, that does not excuse other failings. "Our problem with them is ideological," said Jarrah. "They want to force their ideology without asking our opinion. "The regime deprived us of freedom of expression and they are doing the same," he added. "Anyone liberal - or not Islamic enough according to their standards - is getting arrested. They want all local radios to broadcast from a centre they control." Jarrah said he knows of at least 60 activists who have been detained by al Qaeda gunmen or have simply gone missing.
One man still living in rebel-controlled territory near the central city of Hama described the fear that still forces him to conceal his identity - as he did when Assad held the area.
"I live in a liberated country area near Hama and I walk around looking over my shoulder all the time," he said. "It is like we are back to the old days when we were running from the mukhabarat. But now we are running from our Islamist brothers." Though he himself favors an Islamic state, the activist said that his online condemnations of sectarian killings of civilians who belonged to Assad's Alawite minority prompted warnings from Islamist militants that he should keep quiet. Like the government's security service, Islamist groups keep a close eye on what activists are saying on the Web.
"They know everything," an activist from Deir al-Zor said. "One word can get you killed or make you disappear ... They look for our names, what we said to this newspaper or to that magazine. They watch us like hawks. And then they act." Rami Jarrah and others were publicly condemned in an online post under the headline: "Western agents in Raqqa, or democracy activists? In religious terms, is there much difference?"
In the middle of a civil war that shows little sign of abating despite international plans for a peace conference in January, Syrians have limited means to oppose the armed groups.
Jarrah said those who campaigned for free speech must bear some blame for their predicament: "We used to say 'It's OK, they believe in God and fight on the frontlines'," he said.
"So we ignored their atrocities." Abdullah, the activist who fled Aleppo province, argued that the experience of standing up to the Assad family after four decades of submission would mean Syrians may more quickly break the new "barrier of fear" to speak up against al Qaeda. There have been signs of anti-Islamist demonstrations.
Some people filmed themselves marching this month outside a building in Aleppo where they believed ISIL was holding fellow activists. A video on YouTube shows about 30 of them chanting: "Shame! Shame! Kidnapped in free, rebel territory!" But, just as Assad accuses his opponents of playing stooges to foreign powers, militant Islamists in Syria say they will not heed complaints from activists they also view as traitors.
One Syrian blogger who is close to another al Qaeda-linked group, al-Nusra Front, dismissed accounts of oppression and intimidation from democratic activists as exaggerated and intended to "please the West" by slandering Islamists. "Those who accuse Islamists of violations," he said, "Are following a Western agenda."
(Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

Obama legacy
November 27, 2013/The Daily Star
Barack Obama might have recently weathered the political storm over the government shutdown in the United States, but his administration faces a number of serious challenges on the domestic front.
Many supporters of the American president can take comfort in the fact that Republicans aren’t particularly popular these days, but the Democrats aren’t doing much better. Wide swathes of the U.S. public have no confidence in Obama’s ability to manage the government, and the launch of the Affordable Health Care Act – marred by basic website glitches – was accompanied by pessimistic economic forecasts.
Against this background of domestic drift, it’s tempting to see Obama’s pursuit of a number of foreign policy objectives as part of a grand strategy of “pivoting” America’s focus toward the Asia-Pacific region. Relying on the public’s weariness with entanglements abroad, especially military ones, Obama is logically pursing a course of withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, with the most recent “achievement” coming in the form of the Iran nuclear program deal. But if Obama is seeking to leave a foreign policy legacy by reducing U.S. involvement in the Middle East to free up time and resources for the East, he is abdicating responsibility, not enhancing leadership.
For the White House, it is certainly politically convenient to ignore the central problem in the Middle East – the festering Arab-Israeli conflict – and head off in search of victories in other arenas. They are acting according to political convenience, coming up with “talking points” that present the issue as two warring sides in a dispute too complicated to be solved.
Regardless, the White House will create a well-defined legacy for Obama because its policies on this central issue are the opposite of the promises and upbeat rhetoric that the president relied on during his campaigning and early years in power. He promised something different, but all he offers is more of the same. The White House blocks any international pressure on Israel, funds its massive war machine, dances around the illegality of settlements, and tries to build support for lazy policies, such as a bit of economic assistance for a people stripped of their basic rights.
In case the Obama administration has forgotten, public relations efforts aren’t a substitute for policies. In order to leave a legacy in the Arab world and the Middle East, serious efforts and a sound vision are needed. If the beginning of an agreement with Iran can be worked out over the period of several months, the Palestinian issue should be addressed with the same level of focus. “It’s too complicated” isn’t an excuse, but a shirking of responsibility by a country heavily involved in supporting one side in the conflict.