LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for today/Honor your Father and Mother.
The fifth of the Ten Commandments is “Honor Your Parents, i.e., honor your father and mother.” in the merit of doing that, you will have a long life. As a matter of fact, when the Ten Commandments are repeated a second time, in the final book (Deuteronomy), it even adds another element there: that you will not just have a long life, but you will also live in peace, and have a good life.
Proverbs 23:22/Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For October 17/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October 17/13
1. The world powers must accept Iran’s right to enrich
uranium without limitations. All the enrichment sites at Fordo and Natanz and
the Arak heavy water plant under construction for plutonium production will
remain in place.
2. All sanctions on the Iranian economy whether imposed by the UN Security Council, the US or Europe must be removed at once.
3. Iran guarantees to provide transparency and accept the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but rejects snap inspections.
4. Khamenei’s “fatwa” is the first step towards an agreement with the world powers. At the end of the first day of talks, EU foreign policy executive Catherine Ashton, who chairs the Geneva conference, took the Iranian negotiator Araghchi aside and told him to bring to the table more serious proposals. Up until Tuesday night, the Obama administration had not relayed a single word on the Geneva proceedings to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was waiting in Jerusalem for a promised update. His response to Iran’s arrogant intransigence at the Geneva talks and the fact that he was kept in the dark was not long in coming.
Addressing a Knesset session marking the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister said: One lesson Israel learned from the Yom Kippur war was “never disallow the option of a preemptive strike a priori.” While this option may not meet all situations, it deserves careful and earnest consideration.
Netanyahu went on to say: The potential international reaction to such an attack is of less consequence than the price in blood Israel is apt to pay from a future “strategic blow” and the necessity to hit back.
Iran proposal aims to break nuclear
By: Mina Al-Oraibi/London, Asharq Al-Awsat—It is too early to say whether the Iran-P5+1 talks would make progress in resolving the decade-long standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday. Speaking at the end of the first day of talks in Geneva, he told Reuters: “They went well. We had very constructive, very good exchange of views, very serious. It was, I can say, very businesslike.” Iranian negotiators had put forward a proposal that has the “capacity to make a breakthrough” on the first day of vital talks between Tehran and the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany on Tuesday. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the plan’s official name was “An End to the Unnecessary Crisis and a Beginning for Fresh Horizons,” adding that Iran no longer wants to “walk in the dark.”
The plan would see crushing international sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for concessions it had previously been unwilling to consider, including increased monitoring and scaling back of uranium enrichment.
Iranian foreign minister and lead negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, posted a message on Facebook on Tuesday saying that the Geneva talks were “the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward”.
“I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a road map to find a path towards resolution. But even with the goodwill of the other side, to reach agreement on details and start implementation will likely require another meeting at ministerial level,” he added. Speaking on the eve of the nuclear negations, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the window for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program is “cracking open.”
“But I want to know that our eyes are open too,” he added. “When we say that Iran must live up to its international responsibilities on its nuclear program, we mean it,” he told reporters in London.
“I believe firmly that no deal is better than a bad deal,” he added.
A US diplomatic official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity prior to the launch of nuclear talks in Geneva on Tuesday, said: “Our focus at this time is a resolution to the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.” “As the President said, resolving the nuclear issue could serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran—one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” the source added. However the US official clarified: “Iran’s recent rhetoric will need to be followed by concrete, verifiable actions.”
Responding to a question regarding concerns among US allies to any proposed deal, the US official told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We will be in close consultation with Israel and our other friends and allies in the region during this process, and our hope is that we can resolve this diplomatically.” For his part, Karim Sadjadpour, a leading researcher on Iran at the Carnegie Endowment, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The most difficult negotiations may not be between Obama and Rouhani, but between Obama and Congress, and Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei. Both presidents are constrained by their domestic politics.”
“Put another way, the bigger challenge won’t be getting Obama and Rouhani to agree, but getting Congress, Khamenei, and Netanyahu to acquiesce,” he added.
Commenting on the historic phone call that took place between US President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General summit last month, Sadjadpour said: “For longtime observers of US-Iran relations this appears to be a rare and propitious moment. Yet, you have to manage your expectations, mindful of the fact that the last 35 years has been littered with hopes of breakthrough which never came to fruition.”
However both Rouhani and Obama have faced criticisms at home for their seeming openness to a nuclear deal. 10 US senators from both sides of the aisle announced on Monday that they would be open to suspending new sanctions on Iran, but only if Tehran takes significant steps to slow its nuclear program.
In a letter to Obama, the 10 Democrat and Republican senators said the US should consider a “suspension-for-suspension” initial agreement which would see Tehran suspend uranium enrichment and Washington suspend the implementation of the latest round of sanctions. Sadjadpour told Asharq Al-Awsat that according to opinion polls, Iran is the most negatively perceived country in the US, “before even North Korea.”
“Rouhani has perhaps undone some of the damage caused by Ahmadinejad, but improving Iran’s reputation in the US is going to be at least a decade long process, if not more,” he added.
Moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been seeking to build momentum at home and abroad for a possible nuclear deal, carrying out a number of interviews with US media over recent weeks.
For her part, Atlantic Council vice president and director of the Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “In general, the American public would be relieved to have a negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran and to set aside the possibility of any military conflict. Americans who follow the Iran nuclear issue closely, however, such as members of Congress, will be concerned about the specific content of a deal, and particularly about how quickly Iran would be able to build a nuclear weapon should it break out of the agreed-upon set of arrangements.”
Israeli strategic affairs minister, Steinitz: Israel hopeful, concerned about Iran nuclear talks, but not opposed to diplomatic solution
By LAHAV HARKOV, JPOST.COM STAFF/10/16/2013/Strategic affairs minister says as far as Israel is concerned, Tehran can use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but only if it buys nuclear fuel from abroad.Israel is both hopeful and concerned about nuclear talks with Iran, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday.
"The State of Israel is not closing the door to a diplomatic solution. If an agreement is signed preventing Iran from having nuclear capabilities, we will be happy with it," Steinitz explained, saying the agreement should follow "the Libyan model" but not "the North Korean model." Steinitz reiterated Israel’s concern that Western powers could be duped by Iran into removing sanctions without ensuring that Tehran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons are adequately curtailed. At the same time, though, Steinitz said "we're worried Geneva 2013 will end up like Munich 1938," which allowed Nazi Germany to annex Czechoslovakia and led then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain to announce there would be "peace in our time." “History has seen agreements that were celebrated by the world only to see it lead to war,” he said.
Steinitz was set to meet with US officials next week to discuss strategic bilateral dialogue, with Iran as a central issue. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also stated that Israel is not against diplomacy with Iran, but rather wants to ensure that negotiations with the Islamic Republic will lead it to a halt of uranium enrichment. On Tuesday, Iran presented a three-phase plan for ending the standoff over its nuclear program during the first day of an October 15-16 meeting with six world powers in Geneva. The talks were due to resume later on Wednesday. As part of Tehran's proposals during talks to resolve a decade-old nuclear dispute with the West, Iran suggested it was ready to address calls to give the UN atomic watchdog wider inspection powers. The P5+1 powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - also want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment program and suspend higher-level activity. Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, but can also provide the fissile core of a nuclear bomb if processed further, which the West fears may be Tehran's ultimate goal.Western diplomats stress they want Tehran to back up its newly conciliatory language with concrete actions.
**Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.
Israel urges world powers to stand
firm on Iran as Geneva talks start
By TOVAH LAZAROFF, LAHAV HARKOV/LAST UPDATED: 10/15/2013/J.Post
Prime Minister Netanyahu asks Western powers to maintain sanctions until Iran completely dismantles nuclear program. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent his day in Israel continuing to warn the international powers not to accept any deals from Iran during P5+1 nuclear talks in Geneva. He urged world powers not to accept anything less than the full dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and removing enriched uranium from the country before agreeing to ease sanctions against Tehran. He repeated his message during a meeting he held with the prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, and at a special ceremony in the Knesset to mark the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. In the evening, he traveled to the Golan Heights, where he was briefed by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and OC Northern Command Maj.- Gen. Yair Golan. “Today also marks the start of talks between Iran and the major powers, the P5+1,” the prime minister said. “I think that it would be an historic mistake to give Iran discounts and ease up on it without it having to dismantle the nuclear capability that it is building. Iran is now on the ropes, and it is possible to use the sanctions at full strength in order to achieve the desired result. I hope that the international community does this, and I call upon it to do so.”
He alluded to Iran when he talked about the lessons learned from the Yom Kippur War and appeared to send them a warning that Israel would be prepared to use force if necessary.
“I think that we have three main lessons from that war: The first lesson is not to deride the enemy. The second is not to give up in advance on a preemptive strike against an immediate and tangible threat. The third lesson is the importance of buffer zones,” Netanyahu said. In the Knesset, he added that although a preemptive attack was not always necessary, “there are situations in which the international reaction to such a step is not equal to the price in blood that we will pay if we absorb a strategic attack and have to respond later, maybe too late.” The prime minister said that “preemptive war is one of the hardest decisions a government has to make, because the war cannot prove what would happen if there was no action.”In an unusual move earlier in the day, the Security Cabinet issued a lengthy statement in which it, too, spoke of the importance of maintaining sanctions. The cabinet rarely issues a statement.
Democrats, AIPAC Threaten Iran Talks
By Yochi Dreazen, John Hudson Tuesday, October 15, 2013/Foreign Policy
The Obama administration is facing an unexpected hurdle in its new nuclear talks with Iran - a sizeable bloc of Democratic lawmakers who have made clear that they would break with the White House and fight any effort to lift the current sanctions on Tehran.
The future of those sanctions is a key issue in this week's negotiations in Geneva between senior officials from Iran and the U.S., the most serious talks between the two longtime adversaries in decades. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif kicked off Monday's session with a PowerPoint presentation, delivered in English, which offered to put new limits on his country's nuclear program in exchange for easing the Western sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy and decimated the value of its currency.
The White House has already signaled a potential openness to that kind of deal, but a wide array of powerful Democrats -- including the top members of both the Senate and House foreign affairs committees -- strongly oppose lifting any of the existing sanctions on Iran unless Tehran offers concessions that go far beyond anything Zarif has talked about in Geneva. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, has also promised to do everything in its power to keep the punitive measures in place.
"If the president were to ask for a lifting of existing sanctions it would be extremely difficult in the House and Senate to support that," Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Cable. "I'm willing to listen but I think that asking Congress to weaken and diminish current sanctions is not hospitable on Capitol Hill."
"I'd say no," said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) when asked if he'd accept a presidential plea to lift sanctions. "They've got a long way to go to demonstrate the kind of credibility that would lead us to believe we can move in a conciliatory direction. And sanctions are what has strengthened the administration's hand."
Opposition from Democratic lawmakers represents more than just a political headache for the administration. Congress has the power to impose, modify or remove sanctions regardless of what the White House wants, and it has shown a willingness to overrule the administration in the past. In late 2011, for instance, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, worked with Illinois Republican Mark Kirk to impose crushing sanctions on the Iranian central bank despite strong opposition from the administration.
It is far from clear that Iran will offer enough concessions in the current talks for the administration to seriously consider softening or lifting the current sanctions. The Rouhani government has insisted on the right to continue enriching uranium on its own soil, something the White House opposes. Tehran has also yet to signal a clear willingness to shutter its underground, heavily-fortified nuclear plant at Qom, a source of particular concern for both the U.S. and Israel because it is largely impervious to airstrikes, or to dismantle any of its centrifuges. Even if Rouhani signed off, meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, could veto the deal.
Still, the Obama administration's chief nuclear negotiator, Wendy Sherman, told a Senate panel earlier this month that the White House was willing to potentially soften some of its sanctions if Tehran took "verifiable, concrete actions" to delay its nuclear program. Sherman also urged lawmakers to hold off on imposing new sanctions on Iran until Tehran detailed its potential nuclear concessions at this week's talks.
Sherman's testimony sparked predictable outrage from Republicans like Kirk, who said her comments showed that the White House was pursuing a policy of "appeasement," but many Democrats were just as upset. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said the U.S. "should not relax the sanctions one inch while Iran's intentions are still unknown."
Markey is far from the only Democrat who believes that the White House needs to not just keep the current measures in place but also prepare to add newer, tougher ones.
"The intent of sanctions is to force Iran to halt and dismantle its nuclear weapons program," lawmakers from both parties wrote in a letter this week signed by prominent Democrats like Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Once this goal has been accomplished in a real, transparent, and verifiable way we will be prepared to remove existing sanctions in a measured, sequenced manner. However, at this time, we reaffirm that a credible military threat remains on the table and we underscore the imperative that the current sanctions be maintained aggressively."
Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, a group that lobbies on behalf of the Iranian American community, said Tehran would almost certainly reject any call to entirely dismantle its nuclear program before the current measures are softened or removed. "The bar being set by the senators is wholly unrealistic," Parsi said. "To say that existing sanctions won't be lifted is a non-starter."
Meanwhile, as the voices of Iran hawks dominate the halls of Congress, Democratic lawmakers who support a less rigid opening position have been largely silent, such as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) or Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass). Some have chalked up the relative silence to the shutdown. "We're in such a weird situation on the Hill with the shutdown and all the oxygen is pretty much going to that fight," said Rep David Price (D-NC) who gathered 131 signatures in favor of engagement with Rouhani in July. Others chalked up the lack of administration support to a desire to wait-and-see how the talks unfold. "Rouhani is still a little bit of a mystery to everyone," said a top Senate aide whose boss leans dovish. "On one hand, we've seen this movie before -- crazy nuke states pretend to negotiate while buying time to enrich (a la North Korea) ... [B]ut his perceived openness seems to have the implicit backing of the mullahs -- which adds a new element to these negotiations, and one that could result in some actual concessions."
Still, lawmakers like Menendez, Murray and Kirk show no signs of softening their positions. Their demands to maintain the current measures reflect, in part, the success of a concerted lobbying campaign by AIPAC. The pro-Israel group has sat out some recent potential fights over large-scale U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in order to focus all of its energy on Iran. During its annual conference in March, AIPAC sent hundreds of volunteers to Capitol Hill to personally lobby lawmakers from their home states to support tough measures on Iran. It has also drafted templates of letters lawmakers could send the White House under their own names calling for continued sanctions on Iran. Iran is one of the few issues that bind Democrats and Republicans, so AIPAC is in some ways preaching to the choir. Israel said he hadn't been lobbied by the group, but he said it had no reason to. "Maybe they're not talking to me because they know my profile is strong and deep on this issue," Israel said.
By: Yechiam Weitz/Ynetnews
By: Op-ed: Only thing Israeli PM has in common with late British leader is fondness for expensive cigars
It appears that our prime minister, Benjamin (Winston) Netanyahu, has a very high opinion of himself. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Netanyahu stated that great leaders, such as Churchill, who served as Britain's PM during the decisive years of World War Two, are always isolated.
Netanyahu repeatedly mentions the British leader, particularly when he is talking about his obsession - the Iranian bomb. The Israeli PM sees himself as almost the only leader who is capable of understanding the lethal significance of Iran's actions – as opposed to most of the Western leaders. This comparison is arrogant and fundamentally wrong for a number of reasons. The use of Churchill's name in the dispute turns Iran into Nazi Germany, Tehran into Berlin (the capital of the Third Reich) and Iranian leaders Hassan Rohani and Ali Khamenei into Adolf Hitler types. This comparison detracts from the severity of the Holocaust. It turns it into another banal event and blurs the horrible uniqueness of the murderous Nazi ideology and its disastrous effect on the Jewish people.
While Iran is a dangerous enemy state, it does not view Israel in terms of the need to annihilate all Jews in order to bring salvation to the universe.
Netanyahu's comparison is similar to the comparison Menachem Begin made between Yasser Arafat and Hitler, mainly during the first Lebanon war. Author Amos Oz said at the time that the comparison is indicative of a "severe mental distortion" and that "this urge, to revive and destroy Hitler again and again" can lead statesmen to dangerous paths.
Netanyahu's comparison is wrong also because Churchill's struggle was conducted mainly within his Conservative Party, against Neville Chamberlain (Britain's prime minister from 1937 to 1940) and Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary who supported negotiations with Hitler in order to reach a separate peace agreement.
Netanyahu is inadvertently turning those Likud members who oppose his stance on Iran into Chamberlain-like politicians. This absurd outlook stems from his arrogance – 'only I am capable of understanding the horrible truth.'
Moreover, Churchill was a leader capable of making difficult decisions while risking his political standing. Israel also had leaders who took fateful decisions – David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu is not such a leader. He has never presented a clear stance that could risk his premiership. His most dominant characteristic as prime minister is survival – the desire to please everyone in order to remain close to the golden calf that is the regime. He has never displayed any courage.
There is no comparison between the colorful and optimistic Churchill and the dark, anxious Netanyahu who is capable of making only apocalyptic prophecies.
There is one thing Netanyahu has in common with Churchill – a fondness for expensive cigars.
**Yechiam Weitz is a history professor at Haifa University
Arrests after several wounded in e.
October 16, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army said Wednesday it arrested a number of suspects after an overnight family feud in the Bekaa Valley developed into a shootout that left several people wounded.
The Army, in a statement, said the shooting took place in the Western Bekaa Valley town of Kamed al-Loz as a result of an old dispute between families. The military said both sides used light weapons and shotguns in the brawl that left “a number of them slightly wounded.” The statement said the Army intervened and managed to restore calm in the area. Several men suspected of firing the shots were later arrested in house raids that ensued, the military said. A quantity of weapons and ammunition was also confiscated during the raids. According to the Army statement, the wounded men were taken to local hospitals and kept under military guard. The military is in pursuit of other suspects involved in the shootout, the statement added.
March 14 Officials Visit Shaar amid Call for Civil Peace, Coexistence
Naharnet /A delegation from the March 14 general-secretariat visited the northern city of Tripoli in a show of support and held talks with Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar to stress coexistence. “What harms Tripoli, harms us as well,” said March 14 general-secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid at al-Shaar's residence. “The killers belong to the sect of killers and do not belong to the Christian or Muslim confessions,” he said. Tripoli has been rocked with a series of bloody incidents, the latest of which were car bombs near two Sunni mosques in August that left hundreds of casualties. The city also witnesses continued clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which is majority Sunni, and Jabal Mohsen, whose residents are from the Alawite sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad – a clear spillover of the war in neighboring Syria. “We are all responsible for civil peace and coexistence,” said Soaid. Phalange MP Samer Saadeh, who was part of the delegation that visited al-Shaar, hoped that the March 14's “initiative would be a new start for Tripoli.”The mufti also hoped that Tripoli would be the cornerstone for civil peace in Lebanon. He slammed the arms owned by his rivals, saying they seek to cause provocation. Al-Shaar called during his sermon to mark Eid al-Adha on Tuesday for unity in Tripoli. The city is urged to remain steadfast until the judiciary issues its decision against those charged in the bombing of al-Salam and al-Taqwa mosques on August 23, he said. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged on Monday seven people, three of whom are in custody, in connection with the blasts.
50 Kilos of Explosives in al-Maamoura Car, Suleiman Lauds Army Efforts
Naharnet/A booby-trapped car seized Monday by the army in Dahieh contained around 50 kilograms of explosive material, an army statement said, as President Michel Suleiman hailed the military institution for its achievement.
The vehicle turned out to contain “around 50 kilos of explosives: three landmines, six anti-vehicle grenades, a quantity of TNT, and some 20 kilograms of aluminum powder that is mixed with yellow sulfur and electric fuses,” according to the statement. “It turned out that the aforementioned car had been sold several times in the past,” the statement added. The Army Command noted that investigations are ongoing under the supervision of the relevant judicial authorities “with the aim of identifying those involved in this criminal act,” urging citizens in all Lebanese regions to immediately report any suspicious activity. Meanwhile, President Suleiman hailed the army for seizing the car and lauded its efforts. “Eid (al-Adha) for the officers and soldiers takes its true meaning from their sacrifices for the sake of the country and civil peace,” Suleiman said, slamming “the plots against the innocent citizens that are aimed at undermining the stability that we are all seeking.” On Monday evening, the army said an explosive-rigged Grand Cherokee was found in the Beirut southern suburb of al-Maamoura and that military experts dismantled the bomb after cordoning off the area. At least 53 people were wounded in a car bombing that rocked the Beirut southern suburb of Bir al-Abed on July 9 while 27 people were killed and more than 280 injured in a bomb attack in the Rweiss suburb. Army troops and security forces deployed in Beirut's southern suburbs – a Hizbullah stronghold -- in September, taking over checkpoints set up by the party in the wake of the two massive bombings.
Deputy Head of the Higher Shiite Islamic Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan Urges the State to Disarm 'All Factions'
Naharnet/The deputy head of the Higher Shiite Islamic Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, called on Wednesday on the authorities to disarm all factions of the society. In his Eid al-Adha sermon, Qabalan “urged the state to disarm all factions and stop issuing licenses” to gunmen. He said that the authorities should take “strong measures” against them. “The land is protected through good deeds and not arms,” he added. Qabalan urged all the people to come to their senses, have good deeds, be religious and become honest. He said the people should recognize the rights of others and be responsible. “God urged us … to have patience.”Addressing the waring parties in neighboring Syria, Qabalan said: “Enough with terrorism.” Qabalan also asked Bahrain's rulers to “have mercy and steer clear of violence.”He said “those supporting terrorism through their money and stances” will be held accountable by God. Qabalan wondered why there was injustice and killing in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son at God's command, is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year. Wednesday marks the first day of the Eid for Lebanon's Shiites.
Abducted Turkish Pilots Appear in Video, Say They're in Good Health
Naharnet/Two Turkish pilots kidnapped near Beirut's airport in August were shown in a video broadcast by LBCI television on Tuesday, saying they wished they could be back home. The video showed Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca both saying they were in good health but adding that they wished they could be home with their families for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that began on Tuesday. They said they were speaking on Monday, the day before the start of the holiday. “I'm safe and sound. I miss my family, my children and my country,” Agca says in English in the video. “I would like to be at my home. I'm fine,” says Akpinar, also in English. In a previous video on August 29, Akpinar called on everyone to "help in freeing the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims," who were nabbed in Syria's Aazaz in May 2012. Agca, meanwhile, thanked the abductors “for their kind treatment.” The families of the Lebanese abductees accuse Turkey of being behind the kidnapping. They, however, have denied any involvement in the abduction of the Turkish pilots. On August 9, gunmen ambushed a bus carrying Turkish Airlines crew from Beirut's international airport to a hotel in the city, and snatched the two pilots. A previously unknown group calling itself Zuwwar Imam al-Rida claimed the abduction, and demanded that Turkey use its influence with Syrian rebels it backs to secure the release of the nine pilgrims. Lebanese authorities have since arrested three suspects and charged them in connection with the pilots' abduction. On September 26, An Nahar newspaper said the captors of the pilots had moved them from Beirut's southern suburbs to an unknown location ahead of a major security deployment in Dahieh.
Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui: Had There Been a Real State, Rifi Would've Been in Jail, Not a Lecturer in Sovereignty
Naharnet /Caretaker Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui on Tuesday hit back at former Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, stressing that the ministry abides by the cabinet's decisions regarding the handing over of telecom data to security agencies. The ministry “used to deliver the data whenever authorized by the cabinet and it withheld the data only when the council of ministers asked it to do so,” said Sehnaoui in a statement issued by his press office. On Monday evening, Rifi told MTV that slain ISF Intelligence Bureau head Wissam al-Hasan had evaded four assassination attempts before he was murdered on October 19, 2012 due to “lack of cooperation in the issue of telecom data.”Rifi accused Sehnaoui of being accomplice in the assassination “because he withheld the telecom data from investigators.” But the minister stressed that “security agencies were receiving the complete telecom data everyday during the past three years, including during the period of the assassination of martyr Major General Wissam al-Hasan and the other incidents.”“Had anything suspicious been recorded, Maj. Gen. Rifi would not have hesitated for a second to publicize it during his command of the ISF,” Sehnaoui said, reminding that “the ministry hands over telecom data to security agencies three times per week in line with an agreement between the ministry and these agencies and according to the mechanism stipulated by the law, knowing that the ministry bypasses this mechanism during extraordinary situations and delivers the data even at a verbal request.”“Rifi's accusation that the telecom minister is a front for Hizbullah is rejected, especially that it was issued by an officer who has become accustomed to working for all types of regional and international foreign intelligence agencies,” the minister added, describing the rest of Rifi's remarks as “political propaganda.” “Had the state possessed any prestige, the retired general would have been in jail, not a lecturer in state authority, virtue and sovereignty,” Sehnaoui added.
Syrian Observatory: 21 Killed as Truck Hit by Blast in Daraa
Naharnet /A powerful blast ripped through a pickup truck in the southern province of Daraa in Syria early Wednesday, killing 21 people including four children, a monitoring group said. "Twenty-one people were killed in the Nawa area (of Daraa), among them four children and six women, in a blast that detonated as their vehicle went past Tal al-Jumua," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A battalion of troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad "is positioned there, and is under siege by rebel forces. Activists blamed regime troops for planting the explosives", said the Britain-based group. Daraa is the cradle of the uprising that broke out against Assad in March 2011. More than 115,000 people have been killed in the war that broke out after Assad's troops unleashed a brutal crackdown against protesters calling for political change.
Rebels fighting Assad's troops have made significant progress in recent months in Daraa, which is strategically located on the border with Jordan and near Damascus province. In the northeastern province of Hasake fierce clashes pitting Kurdish fighters against jihadists resumed, killing at least 10 al-Qaida fighters, the Observatory said. Clashes have raged in majority Kurdish areas for months, as the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has sought to expel the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) from areas under their control. Wednesday's clashes hit the Kharrab Bajar area, and resulted in the killing of at least 10 ISIL fighters and the YPG's takeover of an Islamist checkpoint, said the Observatory. Analysts say ISIL aims to crush competition from other armed groups active in areas out of the control of Assad's regime, and that its war with the Kurds is part of the strategy for control of territory and resources. Elsewhere, Assad's loyalists pressed a campaign designed to crush rebels positioned near the capital, as fresh clashes broke out on the edges of rebel-held Douma east of Damascus, said the Observatory. SourceAgence France Presse
Iran, U.S. Teams Meet in Geneva as Tehran Brings 'Breakthrough' Offer to Nuclear Talks
Naharnet /Iranian and U.S. delegations held "useful" bilateral talks Tuesday evening on the sidelines of high-profile nuclear talks in Geneva, a senior State Department official said, as "As had been expected, Under Secretary (Wendy) Sherman and members of the U.S. delegation held a bilateral meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister (Abbas) Araqchi and members of the Iranian delegation tonight," the U.S. official said. The meeting lasted nearly an hour, the source added. A figure close to Iran's nuclear negotiation team also confirmed the talks, but did not provide details. The rare meeting came after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his U.S. counterpart John Kerry held a 30-minute face-to-face discussion in New York last month on the sidelines of talks within the framework of the so-called P5+1 group. The last time Iranian and American delegations held bilateral meetings was in October 2009. Iran's two-day Geneva talks with the European Union-chaired P5+1 group -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany -- ends a six-month freeze sparked by its refusal to curb uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of punishing international sanctions. Tehran said it had presented a potentially "breakthrough" proposal to end a decade-long standoff with world powers on Tuesday, noting that the offer Despite the upbeat tone, Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi as saying that snap inspections of the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities were not part of the new proposal.
"It does not exist in the offer," Araqchi told IRNA. Iran has drawn other red lines, saying it will not accept any demand to suspend uranium enrichment or ship out stockpiles of purified material.
Iran's team said it received a good reception to its new plan to make headway in the dispute with global players, who fear Tehran's atomic program is a disguised effort to build a nuclear bomb, a claim it denies.
"The session focused on technical aspects of Iran's proposal, many questions were put forward," an Iranian source close to the talks told Agence France Presse after the first day of discussions wrapped up in Geneva.
"The atmosphere of talks was positive and constructive." Meanwhile, senior Iranian negotiator Araqchi said: "The proposal that we have introduced has the capacity to make a breakthrough."
He told reporters it was "very comprehensive" but that all parties had agreed to keep it under wraps.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was to meet one-on-one with Iran's FM Zarif later in the evening to take stock of the first day of negotiations, officials said. The Geneva talks are the first since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August after conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrapped up his second four-year term in power. Rouhani, seen as more moderate, has pledged transparency on the nuclear program and engagement with the international community to try to get the sanctions lifted. In what Western officials said was a sign of the new mood, the Iranian team on Tuesday delivered a presentation in English for the first time.
Earlier, Zarif said Tehran's plan contained three steps that could settle the long-running nuclear standoff "within a year", with the first achievable "within a month or two, or even less." EU spokesman Michael Mann said discussions had been "very detailed" and technical, and underlined the "very different" atmosphere compared to previous talks. A senior U.S. State Department official added: "For the first time, we had very detailed technical discussions, which carried on this afternoon. We will continue these discussions tomorrow."
Iran's Araqchi also praised the "very positive environment" and said the "reaction was good" to Iran's hour-long PowerPoint presentation. Iran rejects charges that it is developing an atomic bomb, insisting its nuclear program is for power production alone, and says it wants to settle the issue in good faith. "We are very serious. We are not here symbolically, to waste our time. We are serious for target-oriented negotiations," Araqchi told reporters in Geneva. Israel -- believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear armed state -- warned Tuesday against accepting "cosmetic concessions" that would not impede Iran's weapons quest.
It has not ruled out a military strike on archfoe Iran to halt the nuclear drive, and has warned the world not to fall for Rouhani's "sweet talk". Western negotiators insist they are cautiously hopeful but not naive.
"We have come here with a sense of cautious optimism and a great sense of determination because we believe it's really time now for tangible results," Mann said. "There are signals from Tehran that they want to engage in these negotiations, that they want to be more transparent. The proof would be if they made real progress," he said. "We are on our side ambitious to move forward quickly... The ball remains in their court."
A senior U.S. administration official said earlier in Geneva that any easing of sanctions would be "targeted, proportional to what Iran puts on the table". "We are hopeful, but that has to be tested with concrete, verifiable actions," the official said. A first meeting between Zarif and his counterparts from the six powers took place last month during the U.N. General Assembly, accompanied by a landmark two-way meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry underlined Sunday that while the diplomatic window was "cracking open", Washington was serious about never allowing room for a nuclear-armed Iran.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Iran Says Will Accept Snap Visits of its Nuclear Sites
Naharnet/Iran's top negotiator said on Wednesday that a nuclear proposal presented to major powers in Geneva does allow for snap inspections of the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities, correcting his earlier remarks.
"None of these issues exist in the first step, but they are part of our last step," Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA. He was replying to a question about whether the application of the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows unannounced inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, was included in the proposal.
Araqchi had on Tuesday been cited by IRNA as saying the implementation of the additional protocol "does not exist" in the offer. The additional protocol allows reinforced and unannounced inspections of a country's nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency and requires that information be provided on all activities regarding the nuclear fuel cycle. As it stands now, Iran is only obliged to inform the IAEA three months ahead of transferring fissile material into the nuclear site.Iran, a signatory of the NPT, voluntarily implemented the additional protocol between 2003 and 2005 but ceased to apply it after its nuclear case was sent to the United Nations Security Council. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said acceptance of the additional protocol by Tehran would help to resolve Iran's decade-long nuclear standoff.
Araqchi had on Tuesday given brief details of Iran's nuclear offer. He said that the first phase is expected to last six months. It is aimed at "restoring bilateral trust" and "avoiding measures which could aggravate the (political) climate".Both parties must also pledge to "address the immediate concerns" of the other side, and to resolve disputes through dialogue. Araqchi said it would take "several rounds of negotiations" to reach an agreement.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Israel Warns against Nuclear Compromise with Iran
Naharnet/Israel on Tuesday urged the world to avoid a partial deal with Iran which could see a relaxing of sanctions, as a new round of nuclear talks were launched in Geneva.
The security cabinet warned the international community against any "partial agreement that would fail to bring about the full dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear program...(which) could lead to the collapse of the sanctions regime."Iran began two days of closed-door negotiations in Geneva on Tuesday with the P5+1 countries -- the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, ending a six-month hiatus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a media blitz in recent days, warning against concessions to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Rouhani's conciliatory tone has raised hopes of a breakthrough in the decade-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. The security cabinet statement called on world powers to be wary of Iran at negotiations.
"Iran believes it can get by with cosmetic concessions that would not significantly impede its path to developing nuclear weapons, concessions that could be reversed in weeks," the statement said. "In exchange, Iran demands an easing of the sanctions, which have taken years to put in place."
The security cabinet said the P5+1 should "reject Iran's attempts to reach a deal that would leave it with the capability to develop nuclear weapons."
An Israeli official told Agence France Presse that the seven-member ministerial committee had met on Monday night but released the statement Tuesday morning to coincide with the talks. Israel, it said, did not oppose Iran having a peaceful nuclear energy program -- one which would not require uranium enrichment or plutonium production, it said.
"Iran claims that it supposedly has the 'right to enrich.' But a country that regularly deceives the international community, that violates U.N. Security Council resolutions ... has no such right," it said.
Later in the day, Netanyahu stressed that "now" was "an opportune moment to reach a genuine diplomatic solution that peacefully ends Iran's military nuclear program."
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Netanyahu said that pressure in the form of sanctions is what brought Iran back to the negotiating table.
"And it is that pressure which makes the peaceful dismantling of Iran's military nuclear program possible," Netanyahu said in remarks relayed by his office.
The Geneva talks are aimed at reaching accord over Iran's nuclear program, which Israel and the West say is aimed at developing an atomic bomb and Tehran says is for peaceful purposes only.
The Islamic republic has been slapped with several rounds of sanctions because of its nuclear program.
Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power, wants Iran to meet four conditions before the sanctions are eased: halting all uranium enrichment; removing all enriched uranium from its territory; closing its underground nuclear facility in Qom; and halting construction of a plutonium reactor. Israel has refused to rule out military strikes against Iran, with Netanyahu telling the U.N. General Assembly this month that the Jewish state would act unilaterally if necessary.Source/Agence France Presse.
Downsides Of The War On Terror
Abdullah Iskandar/Al Hayat/The current US administration is proud to have achieved substantial success in confronting the Al-Qaeda organization, and terrorist groups in general, in the world and inside the United States. Indeed, President Barack Obama, like his administration’s spokespersons, never misses an opportunity to focus on this aspect of US strategy.
Alongside the process of military withdrawal from the arena of the two wars waged by the previous Republican administration, the current Democratic administration is engaged in a kind of political withdrawal as well, considering that the priority should be to persist in the war against Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, and that the US strategy in the region should be in the service of this war.
The strategy of the War on Terror can be summed up, in terms of field operations, in focusing on the assassination of targets accused of terrorist activity that has affected American interests or persons, by way of unmanned drone strikes or swift commando operations.
Such a strategy spares the US from sending troops on the ground, with what this would entail in terms of logistic, financial and political complications, thus ensuring local support for the administration in its domestic battles, especially in Congress. Yet at the same time, such a strategy introduces fundamental changes to the way the United States deals with the issues of the Middle East – which are in the first place connected to the US War on Terror – and in fact leads to repercussions that negatively affect historical relations between the United States and the countries of the region. Under the slogan of focusing the battle on terrorism, President Obama’s administration has placed the United States’ main allies in both the Arab and Muslim worlds in a position of extreme embarrassment. Indeed, it clings to its airstrikes against the citizens of some of those countries, exposing the latter’s governments to criticism and accusations of treason by violating their sovereignty. At the same time, Washington urges those governments to organize military campaigns on their own soil against locations that are supposed to be safe havens for terrorists and extremists. On the other hand, that same administration assumes a position of criticism, condemnation and threats to cut aid, every time authorities in these countries take practical steps in the field of the War on Terror, after accusing them of violating human rights, infringing on democracy, etc… This at the end of the day weakens those authorities and undermines their ability to take action at the domestic level, driving them to further failure – and this is what has happened in Pakistan and in Yemen, for example.
In addition to the current state of harsh division and the likelihood of internal armed conflicts erupting in both Iraq and Afghanistan, coinciding with the US military withdrawal, in view of the lack of clarity of the American vision regarding the alternatives that could ensure a certain extent of stability in the two countries, Iran has found its way through the cracks, expanding its influence in the region and filling the vacuum caused by the absence of an American vision. This has taken place at the expense of those countries in the region that ensure, through the sources of energy they hold, strategic depth for the United States. Thus Iran has overwhelmed Iraq and has broadly infiltrated the remaining countries of the region, reaching the shores of the Mediterranean in Lebanon and Syria. The recent phone call between Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rohani has come to somehow reinforce this trend, which is arousing a great deal of fear and concern among the remaining countries of the region, whether with regards to repercussions in the Gulf or on the issue of Syria. Indeed, the way the US has dealt with the latter has been, from the beginning, governed by the obsession with the War on Terror. Thus, in the American mind, the peaceful protest movement of a people who have suffered for decades under the rule of a tyrant and oppressor became mixed up with the actions of suicide bombers who target US interests. Such a mix up has led, and continues to lead, to a lack of realistic vision of the significance of what is happening in Syria, going as far as to grossly exaggerate the role played by extremist fighters. In fact, this latter issue has for the administration become tantamount to confirmation of its fears about terrorism and of the necessity of persisting in the strategy of fighting it, without paying heed to the political significance that lies behind ceasing to understand and support popular aspirations. Thus, the strategy of the War on Terror, the way it is being applied by the US administration in our countries, becomes counterproductive. Indeed, terrorism and extremism are spreading, and with them widens the sphere of confrontations and local wars, while the margin of freedom and pluralism narrows.
Iran hints it could consider wider nuclear inspections
October 16, 2013/Reuters/GENEVA: Iran suggested it was ready to address calls to give the U.N. atomic watchdog wider inspection powers as part of Tehran's proposals to resolve a decade-old nuclear dispute with the West. The comments from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi appeared to be the first specific indication of what concessions Tehran might be prepared to make in return for the removal of sanctions hurting its oil-dependent economy. Iran presented a three-phase plan for ending the standoff over its nuclear programme during the first day of an Oct. 15-16 meeting with six world powers in Geneva on Tuesday. The talks were due to resume later on Wednesday. Iran did not give details of its proposal On Tuesday, but said it included monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear body which regularly inspects declared Iranian facilities. Iran's official IRNA news agency asked Araqchi about the issues of uranium enrichment and the so-called Additional Protocol to Iran's agreement with the IAEA. "Neither of these issues are within the first step (of the Iranian proposal) but form part of our last steps," he replied without going into further details, in comments reported on Wednesday. The Additional Protocol allows unannounced inspections outside of declared nuclear sites and it is seen as a vital tool at the IAEA's disposal to make sure that a country does not have any hidden nuclear work. The world powers have long demanded that Iran implement the protocol. Iran says it is voluntary. The powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - also want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment programme and suspend higher-level activity. Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, but can also provide the fissile core of a nuclear bomb if processed further, which the West fears may be Tehran's ultimate goal. Western diplomats stress they want Tehran to back up its newly conciliatory language with concrete actions. Both sides are trying to dampen expectations of any rapid breakthrough at the two-day meeting, the first to be held since President Hassan Rouhani took office, promising conciliation over confrontation in Iran's relations with the world.
Egypt-U.S. relations in turmoil: Egyptian foreign minister
October 16, 2013/Reuters/CAIRO: Relations between the United States and Egypt are in deep-seated turmoil which could hurt the entire Middle East, the Egyptian foreign minister said in remarks published on Wednesday.
Nabil Fahmy told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper the extension of the period of instability in ties would "reflect negatively on the entire region, including American interests." "We are now in a delicate state reflecting the turmoil in the relationship and anyone who says otherwise is not speaking honestly," he said. Egypt criticised a U.S. decision last week to curtail military and economic aid to Cairo after a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, although Washington stressed it was not severing ties with its long-standing ally. U.S. officials said the move reflected Washington's unhappiness with Egypt's path since the army overthrew freely-elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood on July 3. The army-backed interim government insisted Egypt would not bow to U.S. pressure, saying it found the decision strange at a time when the country was "facing a war against terrorism".
Opinion: The Great Escape
By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat/We are witnessing a daily tragedy. This is the news of the sinking of boats carrying hundreds of migrants, whether in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy, or in the Indian Ocean between the Indonesian and Australian coastlines. The latter incident saw a number of Lebanese migrants attempting to reach Australia drown before they could reach safe shores.
In the Mediterranean, around 400 migrants drowned within a week, while in the Indian Ocean—particularly the thousands of sea miles that separate Australia and Indonesia—dozens drowned to death in the latest incident. As for the survivors, or shall we say those who did not fall prey to this tragic maritime adventure, they are forced to return to their countries of origin having endured this difficult journey, perhaps even losing loved ones on the way.
The facts and figures speak for themselves, drawing a picture that deserves consideration. These migrants, which include women and young children, are well aware of the risk they face in boarding these primitive boats and sailing across open waters to illegally enter another country. They also pay large sums of money for this dubious privilege, estimated at several thousand dollars per head, which means that those who undertake this journey are not destitute. Despite all this, they resort to this dangerous method to escape their current reality; this means they see no future for themselves in their own country. Another fact is that the majority of these boat migrants come from Arab countries, and this is a relatively recent phenomenon, with Arabs joining other migrants from Africa and Asia on these dangerous sea voyages. The majority of these migrants or asylum seekers are Muslims, as is clear from the names of both the survivors and victims of the recent incidents. They are all seeking to travel to the West, while the countries where they set off from, whether in the Middle East or Malaysia or Indonesia, are nothing more than a transit point on the way to their final destination.
Statistics reveal that hundred of illegal migrants seek this means of entry every week. These same figures also reveal that hundreds, perhaps thousands, are successful in reaching their destination, or else are waiting in transit points to undertake the final leg of the journey. One such place is Libya, and a report yesterday revealed that a Tripoli zoo had been transformed into a migrant processing center to deal with the huge number of migrants arriving there. These migrants are able to enter the country thanks to smugglers, who are operating, of course, in coordination with armed militias.
This is also a phenomenon, albeit a pre-existing one. However the large number of Arabs now resorting to this type of illegal immigration is something that has only happened in recent years, owing to the security deterioration in a number of states, particularly in Syria which is witnessing a bloody civil war that has led to approximately 2 million refugees. Estimates indicate that this figure could rise to approximately 4 million by 2014 if the war continues unabated. This means that the flow of migrant boats will not stop, and indeed will only increase. Incidents of migrant boats capsizing is nothing new, and stories taken from migrants—or those who succeeded in this perilous journey across open seas—portray a people who are willing to sacrifice everything to reach what they view as the shores of happiness. Whatever the reality, these migrants who are risking their lives on the open sea are seeking something that they view as absent from their own societies, whether we are talking in terms of security, freedoms, or a better future. That is the crux of the matter. However the reality is that when they arrive, they will discover that things are not as easy as they had thought it would be. It is true that these are advanced societies, but they are also facing problems of unemployment and economic slowdown. This is not to mention competition over job opportunities, with the local population unhappy to see anybody coming in from the outside to challenge them, particularly illegal immigrants.
The only thing that could reduce this dangerous phenomenon in a practical or realistic manner is to renew hope in these societies which are witnessing a kind of mass exodus of citizens. If opportunities were available in these countries, then everybody would not be leaving them to those who turned them into wastelands in the first place. Renewing hope is also related to stability and security, and the belief among citizens that there is hope in a future where they can find suitable job opportunities, reward for hard work, a minimum of personal freedom, and respect for diversity.
As for the countries that are receiving these migrant boats, whether in Europe or Australia, they have every right to fear these waves of immigrants. However the real solution is in helping the countries where these migrants come from to develop and grow, raising the standards of living there so that citizens don’t want to leave. This may ultimately be cheaper than bearing the cost of erecting barriers and establishing security patrols to keep illegal immigrants out.