October 22/2013

Bible Quotation for today/
In Praise of Wisdom
Proverbs 08 /01-19: "Listen! Wisdom is calling out. Reason is making herself heard.  On the hilltops near the road and at the crossroads she stands.  At the entrance to the city, beside the gates, she calls:  “I appeal to all of you; I call to everyone on earth.  Are you immature? Learn to be mature.Are you foolish? Learn to have sense.  Listen to my excellent words; all I tell you is right. What I say is the truth; lies are hateful to me.  Everything I say is true; nothing is false or misleading. To those with insight, it is all clear; to the well-informed, it is all plain.  Choose my instruction instead of silver; choose knowledge rather than the finest gold.  “I am Wisdom, I am better than jewels; nothing you want can compare with me.  I am Wisdom, and I have insight; I have knowledge and sound judgment.  To honor the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil ways and false words.  I make plans and carry them out. I have understanding, and I am strong.  I help kings to govern and rulers to make good laws.  Every ruler on earth governs with my help, officials and nobles alike.  I love those who love me; whoever looks for me can find me.I have riches and honor to give, prosperity and success. What you get from me is better than the finest gold,


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For October 22/13
Iran has no one to fear/By: Shoula Romano Horing/Ynetnews/ October 21/13

Turkey’s War on Al-Qaeda Groups in Syria/By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/ October 22/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October 22/13
Lebanese Related News
Druze community of Israel to President Peres: Help our brethren in Syria
Sleiman vows to help secure bishops’ release

Suspects in Turkish kidnap case released on bail
Jumblatt hails Ibrahim’s role in hostages’ case
North Bekaa gears up for Syria battle
Freed pilgrims detail horrific ordeal
Nusra Front sent rigged cars to Lebanon: report
Future stands firm against March 8 demands
Syrian female detainees still in prison: Charbel

Aoun, Franjieh hold reconciliation meeting: source
Four Rockets Fired from Syria Hit Bekaa's Hermel
STL: Fifth Suspect in Hariri Assassination May Be Tried in Absentia if He is Not Found
Salam Discharged from Hospital

Charbel, Ibrahim Say 3-Way Deal to be Fully Implemented as Bishops Remain in Captivity
Parliamentary Session to See Light on Tuesday Despite Standstill
Geagea Expresses Fears over Constitution and Republic

Miscellaneous Reports And News
Deadly attack on Copts in Egypt draws condemnation

Egypt Hunts for Cairo Church Wedding Attacker
Israeli Ex-Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin : No chance of peace in current Israeli political climate
Netanyahu: Iran, not Assad, is in power in Syria
Iran sees nuclear talks with powers finishing within year: official

Syrian rebel factions in deals with local army commanders - both under Al Qaeda assault
Pressure mounts on Syria opposition to join talks

Oslo hunts for two teen girls bound for Syria
Syrian troops kill prominent army defector
Besieged Syrian town pleads for help in letter

Gulf states, Egypt back Saudi rejection of U.N. seat
France, Mexico seek answers after U.S. spy claims
Boko Haram Islamists kill 19 in Nigeria's northeast: residents
Official: Israeli PM not meeting pope after all

Qatar upholds 15-year sentence against maverick poet
Coalition Member Says Syria Opposition Postpones Meet 
Amnesty Says Saudi Rights Record Getting Worse


 روحاني المخادع  يلعب دور هتلر ونتنياهو الحذر يلعب دور تشرشل

الياس بجاني/21 تشرين الأول/13/تحليل سياسي واقعي ومنطقي ورائع يحاكي واقع حال أميركا برئاسة الرئيس المتردد اوباما وأوروبا الخائفة من الحرب في ظل قيادات ضعيفة في التعاطي مع حكام إيران الملالي الساعين للحصول على السلاح النووي والذين يتلونون ويداهنون وينافقون ويشترون الوقت ويلعبون على خوف الغرب من مواجهتهم عسكرياً. التحليل يبين دور نتنياهو الفاهم والشجاع والوطني الذي يشبه الدور الذي لعبه تشرشل في مواجهة هتلر. أما أوباما الهارب نحو الدبلوماسية الفارغة من أية نتائج فحدث ولا حرج.مقالة رائعة نشرها اليوم صحيفة يداعوت احرانوت الإسرائيلية باللغة الإنكليزية وهي بقلم شولا رومانو هونك. من المفيد الإطلاع عليها وتوزيعها 

Worth Reading Piece

Iran has no one to fear/By: Shoula Romano Horing/Ynetnews/ October 21/13,7340,L-4443298,00.html

Iran has no one to fear,7340,L-4443298,00.html
By: Shoula Romano Horing Published: 10.21.13, 10:17 /Ynetnews/ Israel Opinion
Op-ed: President Obama’s advisors believe, as he does, in appeasing enemies and brutal dictators
Just as in 1939, evil has no one to fear. As in pre-World War II, evil is winning in the battle of wills with the democratic free world. Then and now, evil knows that the West lacks the will and stomach to confront it militarily and prefers instead to be deluded with worthless diplomatic negotiations and temporary agreements. Then and now, the American public is choosing to absorb itself with its own internal and economic issues while Europe is led by weak leaders who lack the backbone or moral conviction to fight evil.
On July 6, 1939 the British Foreign Office heard from the British military attaché in Berlin that Hitler’s Finance Minister Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk, had advised a visiting British general: “Take Winston Churchill into the Cabinet. Churchill is the only Englishman Hitler is afraid of. He does not take the Prime Minster Chamberlain or Halifax seriously, but he places Churchill in the same category as Roosevelt. The mere fact of giving him a leading ministerial post would convince Hitler that we really meant to stand up to him.”
In 2013, there is no Churchill anywhere except Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the lone prophet who is warning the world not to be fooled and misled by the new conciliatory tone of the new Iranian President Rohani while his regime continues developing its nuclear weapons program.
There is no Roosevelt in the White House. Roosevelt did not try to meet, talk to, or negotiate with Hitler or one of his lieutenants.
Sadly, President Obama has tried repeatedly to meet and shake the hand of one of the lieutenants of the true dictator of Iran, Ali Khamenei. While Obama proudly described his 15 minutes phone call with Iranian President Rohani as an historical breakthrough which has the potential to resolve the nuclear issue through negotiations and form a new relationship with Iran, Rohani described the phone call as the culmination of a desperate and humiliating US pursuit of the Iranian president.
In the Middle East, brutal dictators only respond to the fear of a credible threat of the use of physical force. The fact that Obama has been so desperate to get to the negotiating table with a brutal repressive regime that is world‘s biggest state sponsor of terrorism and is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons capability, sends a dangerous signal to the Iranians that Obama does not have the mettle for the use of force against the regime.
Furthermore, no one in Obama’s present cabinet could convince Khamenei that they mean to stand up to him. His present second term national security cabinet and advisors consist of old time friends prior to his becoming president, who believe, like he does, in engaging and appeasing enemies and brutal dictators, sympathizing with the Palestinians, blaming Israel for lack of peace, and pressuring an ally for dangerous concessions.
John Kerry, the secretary of state: As a senator he was a fierce critic of Bush’s hardline stance against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and worked hard to undercut the White House sanctions against Syria by advocating a policy of engagement. He also stated in July that the core issue of instability in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense: He opposed sanctions against Iran and called for direct negotiations with the Iranian regime. He also has advocated for direct talks with Hamas and Hezbollah in the past, which the US considers to be terrorist organizations.
John Brennan, the CIA director: As Obama’s advisor for counterterrorism, he stated that the US policy should be to “build up the more moderate elements within Hezbollah”. He has refused to link the words” Islamic” and “terrorism” and called Jerusalem by its Arab name” Al Quds”.
Susan Rice, the national security advisor: Human rights activists say that Rice has been very close and friendly with many repressive African dictators since the 90s and looked the other way when they committed atrocities. As the UN ambassador she fought the Security Council’s attempt to raise the issue that Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, with whom she has a close relationship, supplied and financed M23, a brutal Congo rebel force that is accused of committing atrocities. Last year she gave a glowing eulogy to the late Ethiopian prime minister Meles who silenced political opponents, forged a single party state, and dismantled the rule of law. She failed to speak up when Iran was elected to the UN Women’s Commission but strongly condemned Israeli settlement activity as eroding hope for peace and stability in the region.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN: As the first head of the President’s Atrocities Prevention Board, she was silent on the violence in Syria and in South Sudan, but suggested that the US should send troops to invade Israel to impose a two-state solution.
With such circle of friends advising him, there is no chance that Obama will change his core beliefs and militarily stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability.
The only one left to fear is Bibi Netanyahu. As the Israeli prime minister promised the UN General Assembly, echoing Churchill’s words from 1940,"If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone".
Shoula Romano Horing is an attorney. Her blog:

Druze community of Israel to President Peres: Help our brethren in Syria
Group asks president to provide a haven in Israel.
Peres meets Druze Golan community
In June this year, Druse leaders, following a meeting on the Golan Heights, sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with the request that their co-religionists in Syria be given a haven in Israel, especially those who as students left the Golan Heights to continue their studies in Syria. Peres visited Tarif – the community’s spiritual leader – in his home in the village of Julis on Sunday to convey greetings on the festival of Id al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice). He was greeted not only by Tarif but by the whole Druse leadership and many admirers of lesser rank. Nearly all the presidents of Israel have had a Druse, Kamal Mansour, advising them on his own community and other minorities, but Peres is the first to appoint a Druse, Brig.-Gen. Hasson Hasson, to be his military aide. Kamal Mansour, who was awarded the Israel Prize in 2010, is the son of Sheikh Najeeb Mansour, who was the mayor of Usfiya during the British Mandate period and in the early years of Israeli statehood, and who even prior to the Declaration of Independence exhorted the Druse to align themselves with the Zionist state-in-the-making. Druse soldiers have distinguished themselves in the IDF, Druse have been members of Israel’s diplomatic corps and Druse legislators have served in the Knesset. Three of the most prominent were Ayoub Kara (Likud), a former deputy minister for regional development; Saleh Tarif Labor, a former minister without portfolio; and Mahali Wahabi, who, as a member of Kadima, served as deputy foreign minister and deputy speaker of the Knesset. During president Moshe Katsav’s leave of absence, Wahabi was briefly acting president of the state, because speaker Dalia Itzik was abroad. By law, the Knesset speaker fills in for the president during absences or inability to perform his duties. Wahabi was the first non-Jew to serve as acting president.
Kara has often claimed to be more Zionist than most Jews and has even taken on the responsibility of arranging for Jewish ritual items to be delivered to Jews in Arab lands.
Sheikh Amin Tarif, the grandfather of Muwafaq Tarif, who inherited the mantle of leadership from him, was the religious leader of the Druse community for more than 60 years, until the time of his death in October 1993. In 1990 he was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to society and the state. The Tarif family has led the Druse for almost four centuries. Muwafaq Tarif, who was born in Gaza, has a law degree from a Lebanese university.
In 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Haifa, in recognition of his encouraging Druse youngsters to serve in the IDF and to subsequently continue their studies at Israel’s institutes of higher learning. He has also worked tirelessly toward achieving equal opportunities in all fields for his people.
Peres was received in the traditional Druse manner – with a drumroll. He visited the tomb of Amin Tarif, which has become a place of pilgrimage for Druse from Syria and Lebanon as well as for Israeli Druse. Peres addressed the gathering and spoke of the manifold contributions of members of the Druse community to society and to the country’s development and security. “The Druse community has set an illustrious example for Israeli society in demonstrating how to preserve their own heritage and traditions while simultaneously entering into a new world,” Peres stated. The Druse community is a pioneering community, Peres continued, adding that he was certain that it could achieve breakthroughs in every field of science and technology. “I know the capabilities of the Druse, and I promise that what you hear today as part of a vision will become a reality in a very short space of time,” said Peres. Muwafaq Tarif declared that many historic events cementing the relationship between the Druse community and the State of Israel had emanated from the site on which they were standing. The community continued to be guided by the standards and values of Amin Tarif, he said, and its unshakable and eternal priority was its relationship and its duty to the State of Israel. “We have great confidence in the State of Israel and we hope that peace will come because we need quiet in the region,” said the sheikh. Peres said that he could certainly empathize with their concerns, and that the dismantling of Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons was paramount. Israel has no desire see the Arab world suffer, said Peres. “We do not want to see children in coffins and millions of hapless, innocent refugees.”

Deadly attack on Copts in Egypt draws condemnation

PM pledged the Sunday night attack would “not succeed in sowing divisions between the nation’s Muslims and Christians.”
Cairo, Associated Press—Egypt’s government and religious leaders on Monday condemned an attack outside a Coptic church in Cairo that killed four people, including an 8-year-old girl, the latest in a rising wave of assaults targeting the country’s Christian minority. The prime minister pledged the Sunday night attack would “not succeed in sowing divisions between the nation’s Muslims and Christians.” Hazem El-Beblawi called it a “callous and criminal act,” and vowed perpetrators would be brought to justice. Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 90 million and attacks targeting them have increased in the aftermath of the popularly-backed July 3 coup that ousted the country’s Islamist president. But the attack late Sunday was among the deadliest in weeks. Two masked gunmen riding on a motorcycle opened fire at a wedding party in Cairo’s Wara’a neighborhood as guests were leaving the Virgin Mary church, killing four people, including a woman and a little girl, said Khaled El-Khatib, a senior health ministry official. The attack also wounded 17, he said.
The top cleric at Al-Azhar, the world’s primary seat of Sunni Islamic learning, also condemned the attack in a statement Monday. “It is a criminal act that runs contrary to both religion and morals,” said Sheik Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians have long complained of discrimination by the country’s Muslim majority, and more recently, over what they see as the failure by the government to protect their churches against militant Muslims. “What is happening is that all of Egypt is being targeted, not just the Christians,” said Fr. Dawoud, a priest at the Virgin Mary church. “Enough! People are getting sick and tired of this.” The manner of Sunday’s attack harkens back to Egypt’s Islamist insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s, when militants attacked foreign tourists, Christians and senior government officials.
It is also the latest in a series of high-profile attacks blamed on Islamic militants in the country’s capital—a city of some 18 million people—since the July ouster of President Mohamed Mursi. In September, the interior minister, who is in charge of police, survived an assassination attempt by a suicide car bombing in Cairo. Earlier this month, militants fired rocket propelled grenades on the nation’s largest satellite ground station, also in Cairo. The Interior Ministry reports near-daily discoveries of explosives planted on bridges and major roads. Clashes between Mursi’s supporters and security forces, occur daily in Cairo. At least 50 people, mostly supporters of the ousted president, were killed in the capital on October 6. The army and security forces are fighting what in effect has become a full-fledged insurgency in the northern part of the strategic Sinai Peninsula. Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, has for years seen intermittent attacks by militants on security forces, but they have grown to be more frequent and deadly since the ouster of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government.
Ansar Jerusalem, a Sinai-based militant group, claimed responsibility Monday for a car bomb attack Saturday that targeted the military intelligence compound in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. In a statement posted on a militant website, the group said the attack was in retaliation for what it called the army’s oppressive practices in Sinai.
The same group had also claimed responsibility for the failed assassination attempt on the interior minister, a suicide car bomb attack on a security headquarters in the town of El-Tor in southern Sinai earlier this month, along with attacks on gas pipelines to Israel and rockets targeting the Jewish state. The group also said it was behind a 2012 shootout along the Israeli-Egyptian border that killed three militants and an Israeli soldier.
Egypt’s tenuous security was reflected in a statement issued late Sunday night by the National Defense Council, a body that includes the president, prime minister, the defense and interior ministers, and senior army commanders. The statement signaled new measures amid growing street unrest and militant attacks but gave no specifics. A wave of attacks in August destroyed about 40 Coptic churches, mostly in areas south of Cairo where large Coptic communities and powerful Islamic militants make for a combustible mix. Those attacks followed the death of hundreds of Mursi supporters when police raided their sit-in encampments in Cairo on August 14.Islamic extremists are convinced that Christians played a significant role in the mass street protests that led to Mursi’s ouster. Their spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II, has publicly supported the coup. However, an association of Christian activists blamed the military-backed government of El-Beblawi for Sunday night’s attack outside the Virgin Mary church, saying it has failed to protect churches since the August attacks south of the capital. A Coptic youth group, known as The Association of Maspero Youth, also called for the dismissal of Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim, accusing him of “sponsoring” an April attack on the papal seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo.The Maspero Youth Association was formed soon after more than 20 Christians were killed by army troops in 2011 outside Cairo’s landmark, Nile-side state television building, known as the Maspero. “If the Egyptian government does not care about the security and rights of Christians, then we must ask why are we paying taxes and why we are not arming ourselves if the police are not protecting us,” said the group.


STL: Fifth Suspect in Hariri Assassination May Be Tried in Absentia if He is Not Found
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 October 2013/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has announced the confirmation of an indictment accusing Hassan Habib Merhi of involvement in the 14 February 2005 Beirut attack for which four other accused are to be tried in absentia; that trial has a tentative start date of 13 January 2014, said STL President Judge David Baragwanath in a statement on Monday. “The Lebanese authorities have so far been unable to locate Mr. Merhi. I have therefore ordered the service of the indictment in alternative modes, which include public advertisement. If, following such procedures, Mr. Merhi has not been brought under the Tribunal’s authority, the Trial Chamber will be asked to decide whether to initiate proceedings against him in absentia,” he added. For citizens of Lebanon, trial in absentia is a familiar alternative to trial in the presence of the accused. “Its justification is two-fold. First because it is fair: our Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence ensure that counsel is appointed to protect the interests of the accused in absentia. Moreover, a person who has been convicted in absentia but then appears before the Tribunal is entitled to a retrial,” explained Baragwanath. “Secondly, trial in absentia is a valid alternative because it enables the victims and the community to learn the nature of the case presented in the courtroom, and allows victims the opportunity to actively participate in proceedings,” he continued. “Trial in absentia is however a second-best, because of the absence of the accused. From the standpoint of the accused its disadvantage is that Defense counsel and the Tribunal both lack the information in support of his defense that only the accused can provide,” he stated. “So I address both Mr. Merhi and also the people of Lebanon. As to Mr. Merhi, I invite you to consider whether you are prepared to face the Special Tribunal with the help both of the Defense Office headed by Francois Roux and of the counsel he would assist you to obtain if that is your wish,” said the STL president. “As to the people of Lebanon, we seek your help and support in properly performing our tasks,” he remarked. “The Tribunal is charged with the investigation, prosecution, defense and trial of persons accused of crimes within its jurisdiction. This is what the United Nations, of which Lebanon is a proud founding member, decided, after a request in this sense came from Lebanon. This is why the U.N. Secretary General has appointed each of our judges to perform the adjudication,” he noted. “Each judge regards our obligation of fairness as absolute. That is why an earlier tentative date was not met; the disclosure of evidence to which the Defense are entitled was then incomplete and the Pre-Trial Judge deemed it necessary to grant more time,” explained Baragwanath. “I repeat what I have previously said publicly: the politics of Lebanon are for the Lebanese people and are none of our business,” he stressed. “Our responsibility is confined to two areas. As to the first, our judicial mandate can be summarized as follows: what facts does the criminal law of Lebanon require to be proved by the Prosecutor in relation to the charges contained in the indictment? The Judges will focus on whether those facts are proved by due process, on admissible evidence, beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
“If so, the accused will be convicted; if the answer to any part of this the latter question is no, then he will be acquitted,” he continued. “Our second area of responsibility is contributing to the efforts of the Lebanese government, its judiciary, and its people to restore in full the operation of the rule of law in Lebanon,” he added. “International justice must be pursued to completion. Various attempts to obstruct it have failed. All of our judges, in each of whom I have complete confidence, remain determined to carry out our responsibilities,” he concluded. On October 10, Merhi, a Hizbullah supporter, was named as the fifth suspect in the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut. Merhi, is charged with a number of crimes including the crime of conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act. He is alleged to have acted in a conspiracy with Hizbullah members Mustafa Amin Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra in relation to the attack, all of whom have already been indicted. Merhi is alleged to have coordinated the preparation of the purported claim of responsibility as part of the preparations for and in furtherance of the attack. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli product bent on destroying the party.
He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects will never be found.

Geagea Expresses Fears over Constitution and Republic
by Naharnet Newsdesk 21 October 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea confirmed that he has met with President Michel Suleiman away from the media spotlight, saying their talks focused on the delay in the formation of a new government, which would harm the Constitution. In an interview with al-Akhbar daily published on Monday, Geagea said: “We discussed a lot of issues and I told him about the need to speed up the cabinet formation process because the delay is eating away the Constitution and Constitutional authorities.” “We will end up without a Constitution and without a Republic if the situation continues this way,” the LF chief warned. Geagea said that despite some differences with Suleiman, he agreed with him on several issues, including “the intention to form the government.” “I am not allowed to reveal the stance of the president and what he told me in the meeting, but I can say that Suleiman holds onto the Constitution and the Republic too,” he told al-Akhbar. “The president is in continuous contact with the Premier-designate and they feel that it is about time to do something about the cabinet formation,” he said. “We don't interfere in that because it is up to the president and PM-designate Tammam Salam” to decide on the government, Geagea added. Asked whether he had the impression after the Baabda Palace meeting that the cabinet would be formed soon or be postponed to next year, Geagea said: “No one can set any date.” “We believe there is no excuse for the delay … but my impression after my visit to the president is that there is more probability to come up with a cabinet in not a very long time,” he added. On another crisis, Geagea said that the LF will continue to boycott parliamentary sessions that Speaker Nabih Berri has called for this week.
He described the sessions as unconstitutional. “Nothing has changed in their agenda so that we change our stance.”But he stressed that the LF MPs will attend a session to elect members of parliament's bureau and several parliamentary committees.


Israeli Ex-Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin : No chance of peace in current Israeli political climate
By JPOST.COM STAFF 10/21/2013/Yuval Diskin says Egyptian and Jordanian involvement in the peace process can provide Abbas with legitimization; warns growing restlessness, frustration in the Palestinian public could lead to an uprising. Former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin said on Monday that he does not see a realistic chance for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sign a peace agreement in the current Israeli climate, Army Radio reported. "It's obvious that, at least according to the current political map, there is no chance the Israeli public will accept a peace agreement," Diskin said at a conference in the Finance Ministry.
As for Palestinian acceptance of such an accord, Diskin said Egypt and Jordan's involvement in the peace process would help to legitimize the influence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and enable him to make concrete decisions. Diskin has been highly critical of the decision-making process at the highest echelons of Israeli government, and particularly of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's leadership.
In a controversial op-ed he wrote in July, Diskin laments the inability of party leaders to commit to the two-state solution. "When asked to comment on their positions during the [2013 national] election campaign, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who for the most part was certain that he was en route to a crushing victory, said nothing of consequence about the subject [of the conflict with the Palestinians] or other matters. Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid continued to dazzle us with mediocre pronouncements that were designed to be well-received by all, shrewdly avoiding the need to commit himself either way as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shelly Yacimovich has steadfastly refrained from any clear-cut statement on the topic, which has traditionally been a litmus test issue for her predecessors in the Labor Party," he wrote.
Even after talks have been renewed, Diskin wrote, Netanyahu and Abbas have continued to display "powerless leadership.""The blame game taking place between Netanyahu and Abbas is foolish in my eyes, a useless game that is dangerous on a strategic level, in which the real losers are not the leaders, but rather their two nations, and mostly the Jewish, democratic State of Israel," he wrote.
Diskin also warned on Monday that growing restlessness among the Palestinian public could lead to an uprising. "There's mounting pressure in the West Bank and immense frustration of Palestinians who feel like their land is being stolen from them," he said. "They are realizing that the [independent] state they long for is getting further and further away, and [they're] understanding the economy is no longer something comforting," he continued.
These comments echoed warnings of Palestinian frustration in Diskin's July op-ed. "Among the Palestinians, there is a growing sense of anger and frustration. The fading hopes for a real change in the situation haven’t just lowered the Palestinian street’s faith in a solution to the conflict through negotiation, but it is also the reason, at the end of the day, the Palestinians will take to the streets, leading to another round of bloody violence," he wrote.

Sleiman vows to help secure bishops’ release
October 21, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman vowed Monday to help secure the release of two bishops kidnapped in April by armed men near the Turkish border. A statement from his office said Sleiman’s remarks came during a meeting with senior security and military officers at the presidential palace in Baabda. The meeting addressed ways to improve the performance of intelligence work and activate coordination mechanisms among the various security agencies. The statement said Sleiman congratulated the head of the General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim for his efforts that led to the release Saturday of nine Lebanese pilgrims after 17 months in captivity. The men were heading back to Lebanon from a pilgrimage in Iran in May 2012 when they were snatched by Syrian rebels and held in the Aleppo region town of Azaz. Sleiman also hailed caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel for his efforts in securing the release of the Lebanese hostages. Two Turkish Airlines pilots were also released Saturday as part of the swap deal. Sleiman, according to the statement, urged during Monday’s security meeting that every effort be exerted to help secure the release of Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, who were abducted in April by armed men near the Turkish border. He also vowed to undertake “serious” efforts to end the case of dozens of Lebanese who went missing during the 1975-90 Civil War, including those held in Syrian jails

Freed pilgrims detail horrific ordeal
October 21, 2013/By Wassim Mroueh The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Nine newly freed Lebanese hostages recounted Sunday how they miraculously escaped death during their 17-month ordeal, detailing how Syrian captors often insulted them and deprived them of medication and food.
The released captives, most of whom live in impoverished areas in Beirut’s southern suburbs, said the conditions of their confinement by the Northern Storm Brigade deteriorated when the head of the rebel group was killed.
“The most difficult moments were when they [the kidnappers] closed the doors on us in the room and we were kept in,” said Jamil Saleh, one of the freed hostages. “The nine of us had to sleep in a small room. If someone got sick they [the rebels] didn’t take him to a physician or get him proper medication,” Saleh told The Daily Star. Beside him sat his mother, his 21 grandchildren and other family members who were busy offering baklava to well-wishers who had flocked to his residence in the Beirut southern suburbs. “I would ask them: ‘Could you please open the door for me so that I can walk in the sun and reenergize?’ but they never allowed this,” he said.
Saleh, 65, was the oldest of the nine kidnapped pilgrims. He suffered from heart problems before his abduction. “I used to tell them, ‘I am sick, I have many problems and need medication.’ They used to get me random medicine and say ‘This will make you feel better,’” Saleh said.
Saleh and eight other pilgrims were released Saturday after being held for 17 months. They were abducted in the Azaz district of Aleppo in May 2012 on their way back from religious pilgrimage to Iran.
The freed pilgrims flew from the Turkish city of Istanbul to Beirut Saturday evening, part of a deal that saw the release of two Turkish pilots the same day. The pilots were abducted in Lebanon in August of this year.
Negotiations to ensure the release of the pilots included the payment of a ransom, a security source told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity. Unconfirmed reports on the release of over 100 Syrian female detainees by Damascus also emerged. The deal was mediated by Qatar and Turkey. General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim acted as a negotiator on behalf Lebanon. Saleh said the kidnappers did not specify the reason for their abduction. “I told them that many young men had joined political parties during the Civil War in Lebanon, but none of my sons did and that I don’t belong to any party,” he said, bursting into tears.
Abbas Hammoud, another of the freed hostages, was similarly uninformed about the motivation behind the kidnapping. “What is the reason? May God forgive those who kidnapped us, but I still don’t know why [they did it],” Hammoud said. While receiving people at his home in Tyre, Hammoud detailed the “very difficult conditions” he suffered during his captivity. “The shelling was so close to us and we escaped death every time [there was fighting] because the attacks were even more ferocious than those during the 2006 war with Israel,” the man added as his mother placed the Quran over his head.
She remained silent, but her lined face spoke of the ordeal endured by the disappearance of her only son. As the rebels fought regularly with regime troops, fierce clashes also broke out within the opposition forces recently, namely between the Northern Storm Brigade and the extremist Sunni Islamist State of Iraq and Greater Syria in Azaz.Hammoud said that the rebels frequently moved them to a new place in Azaz every three days due to the continuous fighting and shelling. “First we used to sleep in one room, every three on a mattress and we were fed canned food and stale bread,” he said. He added that it was impossible to flee the detention area, which he described as worse than Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. Hammoud said the captives were not physically harmed.
“We were not beaten, but constantly insulted and the treatment became worse after the death of Abu Ibrahim,” he said, referring to the head of the captors holding the pilgrims. Hasan Arzouni agreed, saying under Abu Ibrahim’s watch their living conditions were humane. “When Abu Ibrahim was alive ... we got all our basic needs, like food and water. We got whatever we demanded and very quickly.”
“When Abu Ibrahim was killed, things changed ... they started to be very late in getting us the medication that we needed, and sometimes they said that it was not available,” Arzouni said at the terrace of his humble house in the Beirut southern suburb of Hay al-Sellom, packed with people who came to extend greetings. Arzouni added that Abu Ibrahim had been replaced by Samir Ammouri, another Syrian rebel. He said that Wednesday morning the captives had been blindfolded and taken in a bus from Azaz to Turkey. “They took off our blindfolds in Turkey. We were treated very well by the Turks, we were like tourists,” he said.
Though the captives were able to watch television, they said the rebels did not allow them to view news broadcasts about the developments in their case. They said that the kidnappers deceived them several times, saying that they would kill them instantly. Abbas Shoaib was the only captive who was tortured, according to his brother Daniel. “My brother underwent medical tests today and will head to hospital soon. They hit him with their rifles,” he said referring to the rebels. The freed Shoaib could not be reached by The Daily Star. Ali Zogheib said that his life and that of his fellow captives had been at risk in the last few weeks, when clashes intensified between the Northern Storm Brigade and the ISIS. “So many rockets landed near us, but thank God we were not even slightly wounded,” he said. “We begged them to move us to a safer place but they did not heed our calls,” he said, interrupted regularly by well-wishers at his house in Hay al-Sellom. He said the rebels detonated a bomb just above his head, but he was not wounded. Zogheib, who had undergone open-heart surgery before he was abducted, said that rebels did not treat him when he felt severe chest pains on one occasion.Expressing relief that he was released, Saleh voiced concern for his future. “I am now 65, I retired and I no longer have a salary to earn a living. I call on the state to pay me compensation,” he said. – Additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari

Future stands firm against March 8 demands

October 21, 2013/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Future Movement is toughening its stance on the Cabinet formation, including a strong rejection of the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance’s demand for veto power and the adoption of the controversial tripartite equation, “the Army, the people and the resistance,” as the next government’s policy statement. In a speech by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri spoken on his behalf during a rally Saturday at the BIEL complex commemorating the first anniversary of the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, he blasted the tripartite equation as a formula that sought to destroy the state’s structure. “They [Hezbollah and its March 8 allies] are demanding the blocking third [veto power in the Cabinet] and upholding the tripartite equation, ‘the Army, the people and the resistance,’ because it undermines the state’s structure, while they keep their eyes on a tripartite political system because it undermines equal power sharing,” Ahmad Hariri, secretary-general of the Future Movement, said on behalf of the former premier.
“But the Future Movement will not accept the blocking third, will not allow the adoption of the destructive tripartite equation, and certainly will not give them [March 8] the chance for a tripartite political system because equal power sharing [between Muslims and Christians] is the foundation of Lebanon.” March 14 politicians have in the past accused Hezbollah and its allies of seeking to replace the current political system based on an equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians with a tripartite political system founded on power sharing between the Christians, Sunnis and Shiites. Hariri’s tough remarks were viewed as a response to Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad, who declared last week that a 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal, which grants veto power to both the March 8 and March 14 camps, was the only way to break the government stalemate. They were also seen as a response to MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, who warned last week that no government could be formed if it dropped “the Army, the people and the resistance” equation from its policy statement.
The Future Movement and its March 14 allies have rejected this equation and called instead for the Baabda Declaration to be adopted as the new Cabinet’s policy statement.
Hariri scoffed at the repeated March 8 demand for the formation of a national unity government alongside a veto power in the Cabinet: “Which partnership they are talking about when they brandish the sword of blocking this partnership?” Speakers at the BIEL rally, which was attended by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari and a number of Future and March 14 lawmakers, lashed out at Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah. Hasan, then-head of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch, was killed in a car bombing in the Christian district of Ashrafieh on Oct. 19.
Speaking at a ceremony unveiling a statue of Hasan in his hometown of Btouratij in Koura, former ISF chief Gen. Ashraf Rifi said Hasan had paid his life for uncovering a terror plot to destabilize the country by former Minister Michel Samaha and Syrian intelligence official Ali Mamlouk. “Gen. Hasan saved Lebanon from big strife with his discovery of the Samaha-Mamlouk plot. Hasan and I were aware that we were targeted,” Rifi said.
“The one who assassinated [former premier] Rafik Hariri was aiming at eliminating the country’s political and economic umbrella. And the one who assassinated Wissam al-Hasan was aiming at eliminating this country’s security umbrella,” he said. “Wissam al-Hasan constituted a security umbrella for Lebanon.” Samaha, Mamlouk and another Syrian officer were charged by a Lebanese military judge last year with plotting terrorist attacks and assassinations in Lebanon. Siniora met Saturday with Speaker Nabih Berri to discuss the Cabinet crisis and the speaker’s political initiative. Speaking to reporters after the meeting at Berri’s residence in Ain al-Tineh, Siniora described the talks as “good, useful and constructive.” He said he would hold more meetings with Berri. The meeting comes days before Berri convenes a parliamentary session to elect members of Parliament’s Secretariat-General. Berri has proposed a five-day conclave of National Dialogue sessions attended by March 8 and March 14 leaders, in addition to Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, to address contentious issues including the makeup and policy statement of a new Cabinet and a national defense strategy.

Nusra Front sent rigged cars to Lebanon: report

October 21, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The extremist Islamist Nusra Front sent four rigged cars to unknown areas in Lebanon, media reports said Sunday. Referring to a leaked memo, dated Oct. 18 and sent from the head of General Security’s unit in the Rafik Hariri International Airport to the chief of airport security, reports said that the Nusra Front had rigged a white Mercedes 300 with a fake license plate along with a gray Nissan Patrol Jeep. The two vehicles were rigged under the supervision of Palestinian Sheikh Abu Ammar Toufic Hijazi, from the Nusra Front, and Lebanese Kayed Ghadada, who allegedly replaced the deceased Omar Atrash. The memo said that the two rigged cars left the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal to unknown areas on Oct. 17. The third car was a black Mercedes 230 with forged Hezbollah signs and the fourth vehicle was a grey Blazer Jeep.

North Bekaa gears up for Syria battle

October 21, 2013/By Rakan al-Fakih The Daily Star
HERMEL, Lebanon: Amid media reports pointing to signs that the Syrian army is preparing to launch an attack to regain rebel-held areas in the strategic border area of Qalamoun, officials in the adjacent Lebanese village of Arsal say they will only take up arms if provoked by Hezbollah. In Arsal, the anticipated battle in Qalamoun was the talk of the town, with residents speculating many scenarios. The worst entailed Hezbollah dispersing rocket launchers along the western mountain trails of Baalbek and Hermel facing the Qalamoun range, which includes Arsal Residents expressed fear that their village would be seized in the attack, cutting off access to surrounding mostly Shiite villages, on which they are dependent economically to sustain their livelihoods. The main road leading to Arsal passes through the Shiite town of Labweh, which is controlled by Hezbollah.
The Qalamoun region is a rugged expanse extending from rural Damascus and flanking Lebanon’s borders to the east. The area, some 80 kilometers long and 30-40 kilometers wide, is held by Syrian opposition forces and is a crucial launching pad for attacks against the regime. The fight in Qalamoun is expected to be the sequel to the battle of Qusair, which took place earlier in the summer and saw the Hezbollah-backed Syrian army achieve a decisive victory, tipping the military balance in the regime’s favor. Strategically, the area is vital for both the Syrian regime and opposition forces. For the regime, controlling Qalamoun would ensure a secure link connecting Damascus to Homs and cut off the supply routes from Arsal that are allegedly arming rebels. Securing the area would also connect regime-held areas to Syria’s mountainous coastline, north of Latakia, an area inhabited mainly by President Bashar Assad’s minority Alawite sect. Additionally, if regime forces prove victorious in Qalamoun, this would isolate surrounding opposition-held areas and sever their connection to Lebanon’s eastern border.
As the battle looms, key figures in Hezbollah are growing apprehensive of the threat posed by the majority-Sunni Arsal, where dozens of village residents have openly admitted to participating in the fight against the Syrian regime. The village is inhabited by nearly 40,000 Lebanese on top of some 30,000 Syrian refugees.
One such fighter was Omar Atrash, a resident who was killed in a rocket attack near the border last week. Atrash was wanted by Lebanese authorities for alleged involvement in terrorist attacks.
Qalamoun is the remaining lifeline for rebel forces along the Syrian-Lebanese border, and food, medicine and ammunition are believed to be smuggled through it.
The Syrian opposition is already heavily present in a substantial number of Syrian villages straddling the border with Lebanon. These include the villages of Zabadani, Sirghaya, Ras al-Maarra, Qara, Flita and Nabek – all located at an altitude that ranges between 1,250 and 1,400 meters above sea level and inhabited by around 2 million people, not including internally displaced Syrians.
Reports have alleged that around 25,000 fighters, linked to Salafist groups, have gathered in these villages preparing to defend their ground once regime forces strike, prompting Hezbollah to gather thousands of fighters to support the Syrian army. Further complicating the delicate sectarian balance in the area is the possibility that Hezbollah might have to storm Arsal should rebel forces take refuge there, raising concern that the move might lead to grievous retaliatory attacks. Despite the concern and anxieties of his residents, Arsal’s deputy mayor, Ahmad Fliti, was unfazed by the possibility of battle. He said that if the Lebanese state truly wanted to safeguard the village from siege and destruction, then checkpoints, manned by Army soldiers, would be erected at the entrances of the main valley that surrounds the village, which is also the main road used to allegedly smuggle goods and arms to Syria. He said that with the attack, the Syrian regime chiefly aimed to cut supply routes that pass through four Syrian villages, namely Qara, Flita, Graijar and Maara. According to Fliti, the majority of Arsal’s residents didn’t support the presence of fundamentalist rebels. He said that reports of hundreds of Arsal residents participating in the fighting were exaggerated, adding that the number was closer to 20 men, all of whom were being pursued by Lebanese state authorities. Fliti excluded the possibility that the Qalamoun battle would erupt any time soon because of recent positive international developments spearheaded by Iran, the main supporter of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. Ali Hujeiri, an Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya official in Arsal, shared Fliti’s outlook and agreed that the situation in the town had been inflated by media reports, whether regarding the number of residents fighting in Syria or the degree to which the village was ready to support the Syrian uprising. Hujeiri said the village would not interfere in the Qalamoun battle because of the 20 kilometers of rough terrain that separated the village from the closest Syrian village, Flita. He emphasized that Arsal residents would take up arms and fight only if provoked first by Hezbollah. But, he said, the majority of residents did not support any decision to take part in fighting at all.
A Future Movement source based in the area told The Daily Star that Hezbollah’s participation in Qalamoun would only feed sectarian tensions, but maintained that it was unlikely the resistance party would take up arms alongside the regime this time because “of the losses it suffered in the Qusair battle.”The Qalamoun battle would require a large number of high-caliber fighters trained to fight in mountainous areas, the source said.
The source added that discussions were currently underway among officials to establish Army units along the borders facing Arsal, to Maaraboun and Tfeil, to prevent opposition fighters from entering Lebanese villages.
He added that Hezbollah had backed the idea of installing Army units in key areas. But a military source close to Hezbollah said he expected a comprehensive battle to control the region would be postponed until the spring, and would include Hezbollah. The party’s armed wing is currently training several fighting units to prepare for the especially rough terrains of Qalamoun, the source said. The source added that the impending Qalamoun battle was part and parcel of the regime’s plan to secure the capital and end fighting in rural areas. In particular, the source said, the battle would seek to secure the Homs-Damascus road and cut all alleged supply routes to the Syrian opposition from Arsal, so that fighters dependent on smuggled assistance would be left to fend for themselves.

Jumblatt hails Ibrahim’s role in hostages’ case

October 21, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt hailed Monday the role of Lebanon’s General Security chief in the case of the recently released Lebanese hostages. We must hail the efforts exerted by General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim to end the crisis of the abducted Lebanese pilgrims and bring them back to freedom after months of captivity,” Jumblatt said in his weekly column for the PSP-affiliated Al-Anbaa website. Ibrahim played a key role in negotiations to secure the freeing of nine Lebanese pilgrims who had been held by Syrian rebels since May last year and who returned home over the weekend. Jumblatt said that the role of Ibrahim in the case proves that the state institutions can rescue Lebanon from crises. “Ibrahim’s efforts prove that only official figures and institutions reserve the right to lead Lebanon out of crises,” he said. The PSP leader added that interventions from “a lot of [unofficial] sides in the case only led to complications that delayed the release of pilgrims.”The release of the hostages was part of a deal involving the freeing of more than 100 prisoners in Syria as well as two Turkish Airlines pilots kidnapped in Beirut. By Monday, however, it was yet not clear if the detainees held by the Assad regime had been freed. Jumblatt addressed the possible release of the women prisoners and lamented the role of the international community in Syria crisis.“Although the issue is still vague and despite the importance of these women regaining freedom, this does not eliminate the fact the hundreds of thousands of Syrians are still prisoners of their country's regime, he said “There are also people who have gone missing inside their country and others displaced abroad while the so-called international community has not lifted a finger to help them.”“[The international community] has instead rewarded the regime by hailing its efforts in helping international experts in removing its chemical weapons arsenal, while disregarding the destruction, murder and kidnapping it has committed,” he added

Syrian rebel factions in deals with local army commanders - both under Al Qaeda assault
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 20, 2013/The mainstream Syrian rebel movement is under assault from three directions: the Syrian army, the Al-Qaeda Nusra Front and Al Qaeda in Iraq. Some of the rebel commanders controlling Damascus outskirts are clinching private ceasefire deals with local Syrian army officers, with some of whom they served as comrades in the same units before they defected. This trend is spreading to other cities, including Homs and Hama. debkafile’s intelligence and military sources report that these local deals are quickly evolving into joint patrols in rebel-held districts. The fusion of the two warring camps presages the prospect of wide areas seized by the rebels reverting to the control of President Bashar Assad’s regime without further bloodshed. Not all the rebel leaders go along with this trend. Some are trying to sabotage it by suicide bombing and shelling attacks. Most of these attacks are the work of Al Qaeda factions, like the suicide truck explosion at a government checkpoint on the edge of Hama Sunday, Oct. 20, which killed 30 people. This kind of violence is beginning to peter out because the rebels’ main supporters, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey and anti-Syrian elements in Lebanon, have slowed their logistic assistance and munitions deliveries. They are following the lead of the US, Britain and France, who never made good on the pledges last month to keep the rebels supplied with arms, instructors and military aid. The rebels’ last remaining active backer is Saudi Arabia. The situation in Aleppo in the north, Syria’s largest town, is a special case: Until a few months ago, mainstream Syrian rebel militias were the dominant force in northern and northeastern Syria and the Turkish border region. Today, they are pinned down with their backs to the wall by the various Al Qaeda-allied groups, which have also seized control of the highway links between Syria and Iraq. This enables the jihadists to move back and forth between the two countries and gain ready supplies of military equipment and fighters. Syrian and Iraqi military units which tried to halt this traffic were thrown back. The Turkish role in the Syrian mess becomes pertinent at this point. Amid the mutual recriminations between Israel and Turkey over The Washington Post claim of Oct. 17 that Turkish MIT intelligence chief Hakan Fidan shopped Israeli spies to Iran, Ankara has other fish to fry – on the quiet. Fidan sees Syrian Kurds taking advantage of the havoc in northern Syria to seize control of the Turkish border region. To keep them at bay, Turkey has begun supplying Al Qaeda units fighting the Kurds with weapons. The discovery that a member of NATO was arming al Qaeda jihadists was greeted in Washington with outrage. In an effort to bring a modicum of control to the pandemonium in Syria, the UN asked veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to renew his mediation mission with the Assad regime and the Syrian rebels in an effort to get Geneva II convened on Nov. 23 to work on a political solution. Assad is working fast to broaden the local ceasefire accords springing up in the battlefield and marshal a new front consisting of the two warring Syrian camps for a combined war effort to stamp out Al Qaeda’s imprint on the country. The Syrian ruler is thus coming close to achieving his primary war objective, to persuade the West and especially the United States, to back him as the only Arab ruler truly dedicated to stopping Al Qaeda’s encroachments in the Levant and therefore worth cultivating by Washington. As this process advances, the issue of Assad’s chemical stockpiles is likely to lose its urgency. In any case the UN experts are making little headway in their mission of destruction.

Iran sees nuclear talks with powers finishing within year: official

Reuters – DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran believes it can wrap up negotiations with world powers over its disputed nuclear program in one year or less, Iranian media quoted its chief nuclear negotiator as saying.
At talks last week, the first since moderate President Hassan Rouhani's election in June, Tehran offered a three-phase plan it said could yield a breakthrough in the stand-off after years of diplomatic paralysis and increasing confrontation. "If we see the same seriousness in future negotiations which we saw in the (October 15-16) Geneva negotiations, we believe that within six months to one year we can conclude the negotiations,"
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in an interview with the state-owned, Arabic-language Al Alam television channel. "Perhaps within three months or six months we can reach a conclusion regarding the first step," he said, in remarks that were published on Monday by ISNA news agency. The United States and its European allies suspect Iran is working towards a nuclear weapons capability, and have levied sanctions on Iran's energy, banking and shipping sectors that have battered the Iranian economy and caused a currency crisis.Iran denies it is after nuclear weapons, saying its uranium enrichment program is purely for peaceful energy purposes.
The six world powers dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue are the five permanent U.N. Security Council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - plus Germany.
Washington described last week's negotiations as the most serious and candid to date, and the parties have agreed to meet again in Geneva on November 7-8. Nuclear and sanctions experts from both sides are to meet before the next main round of talks. But all sides have stressed that wide differences must still be overcome to nail down a deal.
"Certainly there are serious differences between us and the other side," Araqchi said, according to ISNA. "We even have deep disagreements with each other. Despite this, we are hopeful we can achieve a common resolution to this dispute." Araqchi reiterated that Iran would not stop refining uranium, saying domestic enrichment was a right of the Iranian people - but that the extent of enrichment was negotiable. Iran has so far defied U.N. Security Council demands that it suspend enrichment and other sensitive nuclear activities. Western officials have said Iran should increase the transparency of its nuclear program, stop enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity - a short technical step away from weapons-ready fuel, reduce its uranium stockpiles and take other steps to assure the world it does not want atomic weapons. Iran says 20 percent enrichment is meant to provide fuel to run its Tehran medical research reactor, although Western diplomats and analysts say Iran has produced well over the amount it would realistically need for such a purpose. "This right (enrichment) itself is not up for negotiation," Araqchi said. "Enrichment is part of the end goal ... but its dimensions and amount are negotiable." Rouhani has sought to end Iran's isolation, partly in order to win an end to sanctions. Araqchi praised the United States for bringing one of the Obama administration's leading sanctions experts to the Geneva talks. "The presence of this individual during the negotiations and the explanations they gave showed that the Americans at least are ready to show they are serious," Araqchi said.(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Jon Hemming and Mark Heinrich)

Turkey’s War on Al-Qaeda Groups in Syria
By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
One thing that’s new in the Syrian crisis is that Turkey has for the first time decided to fight the two most dangerous armed groups on Syrian territory. Why have the Turks decided to open fire on extremist Islamist parties after they’ve granted them refuge and munitions? It must be a new Turkish policy adopted following the old one of overlooking these groups’ activity on its borders.
These groups used Turkish territory as supply bases and funding stations while Turkish authorities overlooked the passage of extremists and the transfer of arms, as long as these acts served the aim of fighting the Syrian regime. The Turks were aware that hundreds of those passing through their state towards Syria belonged to jihadist groups that are affiliated with Al-Qaeda. But they pleaded ignorance, using the excuse that around half a million Syrians also crossed the borders and that it is difficult to examine everyone entering or exiting.
Recent developments, however, have proved to the Turks that the Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front have aims that go beyond toppling the Assad regime.
The Turks felt that they were carrying a scorpion that will come to sting them, just like it stung its previous allies before them. News that ISIS attacked, murdered and kidnapped members of Free Syrian Army brigades was widely condemned inside and outside Syria. Therefore, the Turks had no other choice but to slam the door in their face. This drove the ISIS to shell Turkish posts. Turkey responded by shelling locations of the terrorist groups. Consequently, the fighting has splintered into three separate conflicts: the Syrian regime’s front, the opposition’s front, and the front of Al-Qaeda groups.
The significance of the aggressive Turkish stance against extremist Islamist groups is that it corrects inaccurate views in both Syria and Turkey. One of the biggest mistakes committed by Syrian rebels in their moment of frustration is their belief that it does not matter who fights the Syrian regime as long as they fight on their side. It was a belief based on the old aphorism that their enemy’s enemy is their friend. The Syrian regime realized right away that the tactic of distorting the Syrian revolution and turning it into one about terrorist groups will bring it victory after it turns the world against it. The Syrian regime has previously done this in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. It used extremist groups by managing alliances in order to serve its aims.
The Turks realized that the ISIS is nothing more than a destructive terrorist group. It is no less harmful than the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that they’ve been fighting for decades. Recent violent events showed how the degree of success ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front have achieved at breaking the backbone of the Syrian revolution on the local military level and on the international, political level. This was assisted by the Assad regime’s propaganda, though which it labelled the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as a collection of criminal gangs. Therefore, the regime’s forces achieved huge progress in many areas.
Considering its massive military capabilities, a 900-kilometer border with Syria, and the huge appreciation felt by the Syrian people for the Turkish government’s support, I believe that Turkey is capable of playing a big role in finalizing the struggle in Syria and toppling the Assad regime. The Turks can correct their stance not only by banning extremist groups on Turkish territory, but also by supporting the FSA and helping it organize itself, and by not supporting groups that don’t belong to the FSA.