October 26/2013

Bible Quotation for today/Advice to the Young

Proverbs 03/01-35: "My child, don't forget what I teach you. Always remember what I tell you to do.  My teaching will give you a long and prosperous life.  Never let go of loyalty and faithfulness. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart.  If you do this, both God and people will be pleased with you.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know.  Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.  Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong.  If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.  Honor the Lord by making him an offering from the best of all that your land produces.  If you do, your barns will be filled with grain, and you will have too much wine to store it all. My child, when the Lord corrects you, pay close attention and take it as a warning.  The Lord corrects those he loves, as parents correct a child of whom they are proud. Happy is anyone who becomes wise—who comes to have understanding.There is more profit in it than there is in silver; it is worth more to you than gold.  Wisdom is more valuable than jewels; nothing you could want can compare with it.  Wisdom offers you long life, as well as wealth and honor.  Wisdom can make your life pleasant and lead you safely through it.  Those who become wise are happy; wisdom will give them life.
The Lord created the earth by his wisdom; by his knowledge he set the sky in place.  His wisdom caused the rivers to flow and the clouds to give rain to the earth.  My child, hold on to your wisdom and insight. Never let them get away from you.  They will provide you with life—a pleasant and happy life. You can go safely on your way and never even stumble. You will not be afraid when you go to bed, and you will sleep soundly through the night. You will not have to worry about sudden disasters, such as come on the wicked like a storm. The Lord will keep you safe. He will not let you fall into a trap.
 Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it.  Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.  Don't plan anything that will hurt your neighbors; they live beside you, trusting you. Don't argue with others for no reason when they have never done you any harm.  Don't be jealous of violent people or decide to act as they do,  because the Lord hates people who do evil, but he takes righteous people into his confidence.  The Lord puts a curse on the homes of the wicked, but blesses the homes of the righteous. He has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble.  Wise people will gain an honorable reputation, but stupid people will only add to their own disgrace.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For October 26/13

Transcript of interview with Jeffrey Feltman/By: Raghida Dergham, Al Hayat/October 26/13

An Isolationist America Has Chosen to Appease Tehran and to Not Confront Assad/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/October 26/13

Lebanon's Geneva Conference/By: Walid Choucair/Al Hayat/October 26/13

Kerry’s Reassurances In London/By: Randa Takieddine/Al Hayat/October 26/13

When Sanctions Hurt, Not Help ..Written by : Abdul By: Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/October 26/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October 26/13
Lebanese Related News

Suleiman Demands Administrative Decentralization, Says 'Sincerely' Working on Holding Timely Presidential Vote

Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi Accuses Hizbullah of Arming 'Tripoli Gangs,' Says Groups Submissive to Damascus 

Suleiman Asks Army, Security Forces to Control Situation in Tripoli

Tripoli Figures Urge Restraint, Accuse Jabal Mohsen of Stirring Clashes to 'Cover Up for Crimes'

1 Killed in Overnight Tripoli Clashes, Military Court Seeks to Arrest Gunmen

Fneish Says al-Faisal Remarks 'Very Dangerous, Threat to Hizbullah, Lebanon

Sami Gemayel Meets Geagea, Says Tripoli Clashes Result of Inability to Control Arms Possession

Feltman Dubs Hizbullah 'Soldiers of Fortune,' Accuses it of Causing Sectarian Tensions

Saniora Says Communication Ongoing with Berri, Stresses Parliament Can't Convene

Rahi Says Salam's Resignation Would be Shameful for All MPs

UNIFIL to Aid Lebanon in Oil Exploration after 'Political Solution' Reached

Ibrahim in Qatar to Press Forward Release of Two Bishops

Israel's Defense Minister: Hizbullah-Global Jihad 'Civil War' Raging in Lebanon

Rafehi Urges Disbanding of Arab Democratic Party, Arrest of Shooters

Ain el-Hilweh Tense after Security Committee Member Shot Dead

Lebanon to vaccinate all children under 5 after suspected polio cases in Syria

Miscellaneous Reports And News

IAEA diplomats: No confirmation Iran has halted higher-grade enrichment

Report: Iranian legislator says no enrichment of uranium in Iran 'at the moment'

ISIS estimates Iran could build a nuclear bomb within a month
US: No sanctions lifting at front end of Iran nuclear talks

NGO: 130,000 Flee North Syria District amid Heavy Bombing
At Least 20 Killed in Car Bomb by Mosque near Damascus
Norway Rules Out Destroying Syrian Chemical Arms on its Soil

Emir of Qatar's Sister Named Biggest Player in Art World

France, Germany Push for New Rules in Spy Game

The Big Fraud: Tehran’s ScanEagle gift to Russia covered handover of secret US R170 drone technology
Police in Egypt use teargas on protests in Suez, Alexandria

Suleiman Demands Administrative Decentralization, Says 'Sincerely' Working on Holding Timely Presidential Vote
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/President Michel Suleiman revealed on Friday that he is “sincerely and seriously” working on holding the presidential election on time, reiterating calls to implement administrative decentralization in the country. "I am sincerely and seriously working on providing all necessary conditions to hold the presidential election on time after more than 40 years of untimely vote,” Suleiman said during an event marking the 100 anniversary of the establishment of the Zouk Mekayel municipality. He noted: “I consider this to be a great achievement.”In addition to Suleiman, the ceremony was also attended by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, former Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Development and Liberation bloc MP Michel Moussa representing Speaker Nabih Berri, amongst other local and international figures. Suleiman called in his speech for reaching consensus over a new electoral law.“It is very important to shorten the extended mandate of the parliament,” he stressed. He pointed out: “In the talks we held in New York, all international powers expressed their keenness on holding elections on time.”“Achieving what we desire requires the presence of an executive power and a legislative authority that follows-up on its work. But how could we attain this amid the current inability to agree on several national issues?”Suleiman remarked: "The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the World Bank chief and the head of the Arab League met to discuss ways to support Lebanon and its army.""It is not acceptable that foreign powers worry about Lebanon being dependent on the fate of regional crises and that they meet to look in ways to support the country while the Lebanese are repeating the mistakes of the past," he stated. "The Lebanese continue to be submissive to external powers, and continue to ignore the Baabda declaration that reestablished the National Pact and is a path towards national dialogue.”In a separate matter, the president reiterated calls for adopting administrative decentralization in the country. “Decentralization is the best approach in order for each community to deal with its own issues,” he expressed. Suleiman explained: “Administrative decentralization creates awareness instead of monopoly that is established by centralized rule. It contributes to managing public affairs without chaos and it allows supervising the work of the administration and questioning it.”He continued: “Decentralization secures justice in revenues and imports, it promotes transparency and exposes and limits corruption. All this leads to economical development. It also allows shedding the light on the most qualified people and revives administrative posts in all regions.”The head of the state urged citizens to evaluate their choices in parliamentary elections, based on the MPs' work. “When we are facing crises in the country, we must ask ourselves whether the representatives we elected worked on finding common grounds between different groups or they abused the power to expand their influence and their personal interests,” he said.“The voting ballot must be an assessment to the MPs' work. Without questioning, there would be no reform.”


Rifi Accuses Hizbullah of Arming 'Tripoli Gangs,' Says Groups Submissive to Damascus
by Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/Former Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi accused Hizbullah on Friday of supplying armed gangs in the northern city of Tripoli with arms and money.
"Hizbullah is supporting these armed gangs in Tripoli and providing them with weapons and money,” Rifi said at a press conference he held in Tripoli. He noted: “Weapons possessed by the residents of (the Tripoli neighborhood of) Bab al-Tabbaneh is not equivalent to the arms of Hizbullah and those of the Resistance Brigades.” “We have the Lebanese state and another state inside also in the country. Apparently Hizbullah's state dominates over the Lebanese state.” Rifi also considered that a group in Tripoli is subjected to the Syrian regime. "But the city does not fear the Syrian regime and its security should not be in the hands of Hizbullah. Tripoli is able to defend itself by referring to the state's powers,” he stressed. “It is the state's duty to preserve the security of Tripoli,” he added. “Our choice is the state.” The former ISF chief denied that what is happening in the northern city if a confrontation between Sunnis and Allawites. “It is a confrontation between criminals and the city's residents,” he pointed out, calling for implementing the law in the city. Rafi called on the residents of (Tripoli's neighborhood of) Jabal Mohsen to condemn the double blasts that targeted two mosques in the city, urging also security forces to prosecute and try those behind the bombings. “I urge Tripoli's residents and leaders to communicate and look into a roadmap.”
The toll in the ongoing fighting in Tripoli rose to at least six dead and more than 70 injured on Friday. The clashes broke out on Monday evening as celebratory gunfire erupted in Jabal Mohsen over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s appearance on al-Mayadeen television for an interview.

Israel's Defense Minister: Hizbullah-Global Jihad 'Civil War' Raging in Lebanon

Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has said "civil war" was raging in Lebanon between Hizbullah and Global Jihad members who have attempted to drag Israel into the conflict.
"To those who are not yet aware, there is already a civil war in Lebanon. Global Jihad, which has infiltrated Lebanon and is attacking Hizbullah, is blowing up car bombs in Dahieh and is firing rockets at Dahieh and the Bekaa Valley," Yaalon said Thursday in reference to recent attacks on Hizbullah's strongholds. He said that the same elements were behind recent rocket attacks on northern Israel in August. They intended to elicit an Israeli response against Hizbullah, Yaalon said. But stressed that the Shiite party was quick to deny it was involved in the attacks. He claimed Iran poses the greatest threat to Israel by arming proxies such as Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. "We are certainly talking about a regime with ambitions of world hegemony, and therefore we say that an unconventional regime such as this … must absolutely not have unconventional weapons, in this case nuclear weapons," Yaalon said. Meanwhile, Maj.-Gen. Noam Tibon, the commander of the Israeli Army's Northern Corps, said elite Hizbullah fighters are leading the Syrian regime's battle against rebels in the country’s hotspots.
“We must understand that this is not a war in Syria where Syrians are fighting against Syrians anymore,” Tibon said at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Herzliya. Hizbullah is the “elite force today fighting against the rebels in Syria,” he said.The party is “fighting in the most dangerous and tough areas in Syria and actually leading the struggle,” he added.Locally, Hizbullah is fighting a sectarian war in Lebanon and preparing for a possible conflict with Israel, Tibon warned. Hizbullah has more than 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel, which represents a new kind of terrorism facing the Jewish state, he said.

Fneish Says al-Faisal Remarks 'Very Dangerous, Threat to Hizbullah, Lebanon'
Naharnet Newsdesk 24 October 2013/Caretaker State Minister for Administrative Development Mohammed Fneish, a Hizbullah member, on Thursday hit back at former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, describing his remarks as “very dangerous.” “This speech is very dangerous and it cannot go unnoticed and it is a threat against Hizbullah and Lebanon,” said Fneish when asked by the Central News Agency about al-Faisal's remarks. “Those obstructing the solutions in Syria, refusing Geneva 2 and arming, financing, inciting and playing the sectarian game, are the core of the problem and are responsible for everything that is taking place in Lebanon and the region,” the minister said, in reference to Saudi Arabia. Asked about the ongoing deadly clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, Fneish held the rival March 14 camp responsible for “igniting sedition and conflicts that are moving from one region to another and spreading the chaos of weapons.” He also accused March 14 of seeking to maintain the unrest in Tripoli in a bid to confront “the honorable weapons of the resistance.”
“It seems that these unrestrained weapons have become a burden on them, and they are a continuation of the futile behavior and fruitless policies of a camp that no longer has control over its own decisions,” Fneish added.
In remarks published Wednesday, al-Faisal warned that “Lebanon is on the brink of civil war as Hizbullah continues to implement its own agenda without giving any consideration to law and order.”
The party “is willing to risk the foundations on which the entire Lebanese political system was built in order to prevent the collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and impede the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that is probing the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri,” al-Faisal said in a lecture he delivered at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington.

Rifi Accuses Hizbullah of Arming 'Tripoli Gangs,' Says Groups Submissive to Damascus
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/Former Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi accused Hizbullah on Friday of supplying armed gangs in the northern city of Tripoli with arms and money. "Hizbullah is supporting these armed gangs in Tripoli and providing them with weapons and money,” Rifi said at a press conference he held in Tripoli. He noted: “Weapons possessed by the residents of (the Tripoli neighborhood of) Bab al-Tabbaneh is not equivalent to the arms of Hizbullah and those of the Resistance Brigades.” “We have the Lebanese state and another state inside also in the country. Apparently Hizbullah's state dominates over the Lebanese state.” Rifi also considered that a group in Tripoli is subjected to the Syrian regime. "But the city does not fear the Syrian regime and its security should not be in the hands of Hizbullah. Tripoli is able to defend itself by referring to the state's powers,” he stressed. “It is the state's duty to preserve the security of Tripoli,” he added. “Our choice is the state.” The former ISF chief denied that what is happening in the northern city if a confrontation between Sunnis and Allawites. “It is a confrontation between criminals and the city's residents,” he pointed out, calling for implementing the law in the city. Rafi called on the residents of (Tripoli's neighborhood of) Jabal Mohsen to condemn the double blasts that targeted two mosques in the city, urging also security forces to prosecute and try those behind the bombings. “I urge Tripoli's residents and leaders to communicate and look into a roadmap.”
The toll in the ongoing fighting in Tripoli rose to at least six dead and more than 70 injured on Friday. The clashes broke out on Monday evening as celebratory gunfire erupted in Jabal Mohsen over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s appearance on al-Mayadeen television for an interview.

UNIFIL to Aid Lebanon in Oil Exploration after 'Political Solution' Reached
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra said on Thursday that the peacekeeping force is waiting for the Lebanese to reach a political solution over the extraction of the country's oil and gas resources to ensure the safety of the its maritime. The “UNIFIL has nine vessels and will offer all the logistic capabilities to aid Lebanon in the drilling process,” Serra said in comments published in al-Akhbar newspaper. UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force comprises nine naval units from Bangladesh (2 ships), Brazil (1 ship - Flag Ship), Germany (2 ships), Greece (1 ship), Indonesia (1 ship), Italy (1 ship) and Turkey (1 ship).
However, Serra pointed out that the matter “reached a standstill.”Acute discord among Lebanese officials is delaying the awarding of 10 offshore oil blocks as Speaker Nabih Berri is calling for the assigning of the 10 offshore blocks for oil exploration at once. Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil is calling for designating only two blocks for the meantime and urging caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati to hold an extraordinary session to approve two necessary draft-laws.
The decrees call for demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and setting up a revenue-sharing model.
However, the March 14 alliance is calling for the postponement of the issue, which is not “urgent” and can wait until the formation of a new cabinet.
According to al-Akhbar newspaper, United Nations Secretary-General Ban K-moon had suggested to extend the term of Serra a month ago.
Serra's mandate ends in January. Sources told al-Akhbar that Lebanon and the U.N. “agreed to extend Serra's term regarding the delicate situation in Lebanon and the region, in particular, the crisis in Syria.”
The daily said that the concerned parties favor the decision as Serra “is completely coordinating with the Lebanese army and security forces and has acquired the necessary knowledge regarding Lebanon's local complications.”

Rahi Says Salam's Resignation Would be Shameful for All MPs
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said Friday that a possible decision by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to give up his task to form the new government would be shameful for all the lawmakers who named him during binding consultations with the president. In remarks to reporters at Rafik Hariri International Airport upon his return from the Qatari capital, al-Rahi said: “Such a possible decision would be shameful for all the MPs who unanimously named it.”He accused them of later “obstructing his (Salam's) work.”In April, Salam got the support of 124 legislators of the 128-member parliament but the PM-designate has so far failed to come up with a line-up over conditions and counter conditions Rumor has it that Salam will give up his task within a few weeks. Analysts have also said that if Salam takes such a move, then President Michel Suleiman would call for a new round of binding consultations with parliamentary blocs to appoint another personality to form a cabinet of ministers who are not very committed to either the March 8 or March 14 alliances.
This would satisfy the demand of the March 14 alliance for a cabinet of neutrals. Asked about the results of his talks with Qatari officials, including the emir, the patriarch said that he has received promises to unveil the fate of two bishops and three priests kidnapped by rebels in Syria. “The problem is that no one knows where they are,” he said.The case of the two bishops and the three priests had been on al-Rahi's agenda with the Qatari officials. But he has expressed regret that no one has been able to locate them.The two bishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo at the end of April. Al-Rahi also expressed regret that most countries have made major advancements while “Lebanese officials are heading towards destruction.”“We reject the new culture of arms and violence in Lebanon,” he told reporters.

Saniora Says Communication Ongoing with Berri, Stresses Parliament Can't Convene
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc ex-Prime Minister Fouad Saniora accused Hizbullah and the March 8 alliance of obstructing the legislative work. “We won't stop communicating” with the rival parties, Saniora said in comments published in local newspapers. He reiterated that the parliament can't convene amid a resigned government, saying that “attending a legislative session with a normal agenda isn't urgent.”Saniora said that he discussed with Speaker Nabih Berri several matters during their meetings, despite the row over the legislative sessions. “We agreed during one of our meetings to continue our meetings. We shouldn't stop communicating amid this current stage,” the ex-PM said. The MP pointed out that legislative work should be under a cabinet capable of discussing the draft-laws, but amid a caretaker cabinet it loses its right to do so. On Wednesday, a two-day parliamentary session was postponed for the sixth time over lack of quorum amid sharp rift between the March 14 alliance and Berri on its constitutionality. The session was postponed to November 20. The controversial legislative session is set to discuss 45 items on its agenda, the same session that has been boycotted for five times since July over differences on whether the parliament can convene amid a resigned government or not. The previous sessions were boycotted by the March 14 coalition, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's bloc.
Miqati and the March 14 alliance argue that the parliament can only discuss urgent items amid a resigned cabinet. Aoun's Change and Reform bloc agreed after its weekly meeting in Rabieh on Tuesday to reactivate the work of the parliament “as there are social priorities that need to be addressed.” Aoun's bloc has boycotted previous calls by Berri to attend legislative sessions over the speaker's failure to include his bloc's items on the session's agenda.


Ibrahim in Qatar to Press Forward Release of Two Bishops
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim headed to Doha on Wednesday to discuss with Qatari officials the case of the two kidnapped bishops by armed men in Syria in April.
According to al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Thursday, Ibrahim held talks with senior Qatari political and security officials, including his Qatari counterpart.
Ibrahim is pushing forward the case of the Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi to guarantee their safe release. The security official reportedly held a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad recently.
Ibrahim said that Assad expressed readiness to exert efforts to help the release of the two bishops.
However, As Safir newspaper reported on Wednesday that Lebanon is exploiting the case of the two kidnapped bishops, who are Syrians. Damascus considers the abduction of the bishops as a “national matter.”
Bishops Ibrahim and Yazigi were kidnapped on April 23 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo while they were on a humanitarian work.

Kerry’s Reassurances In London
By: Randa Takieddine/Al Hayat
Friday 25 October 2013
The meeting held in London on Tuesday by the Friends of Syria group that includes 11 countries, was perceived by influential Arab and non-Arab ministers who participated in it as being the best since the establishment of this so-called core group. Even the opposition represented by head of the Coalition Ahmad Jarba believed that its circumstances were riper. The main reason is that in his address before the group, American Secretary of State John Kerry presented some sort of an apology for the disappointment and sorrow caused by the American decision not to carry out a military strike against Syria. It was also an apology for the questions and doubts that surrounded the American position, after the focus was placed on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2118 related to the destruction of the nuclear program, in addition to the uncertainties this provoked in regard to the reality of the American commitment. Nonetheless, it did confirm the American commitment to supporting the Syrian opposition while insisting on a political solution based on Geneva 1, which made the cynics – and there are many of them among the United States’ friends and allies - believe that the meeting was better and beneficial.
Also in this meeting, Kerry assured that he conveyed this viewpoint to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal during their bilateral talks, assuring that the American administration was upholding its commitment to support the moderate Syrian opposition and that it was important to engage in coordination to help this opposition and exclude the extremists. For his part, Prince Saud al-Faisal stressed his determination to work with all the sides in the group to assist these same opposition elements, adding that Saudi Arabia has already deployed immense efforts, that the Syrian opposition National Council was suffering from the lack of financial aid, that the extremists were receiving outside help, and that the Security Council should confirm its trust in the moderate opposition. Prince Saud also insisted that if coordination is instated, this could help the moderate Syrian opposition head to Geneva.
The climate that prevailed over the London meeting was positive, after a period of doubts among Western and Arab states towards the American policy in Syria. Nevertheless, this meeting failed to reach any results in regard to the staging of Geneva 2, firstly because Al-Assad will not allow the dispatch of representatives from the regime, and secondly because the Russian reading into the Geneva 1 decisions is different than that of the other parties, seeing how Russia disapproves the ousting of Al-Assad and the stripping of all his prerogatives, including the military and security ones as stressed by Kerry during his press conference. Kerry’s public statements in the press conference and his private ones in meetings were reassuring at the time, but Barack Obama’s reluctant positions towards the Syrian conflict remain alarming. Indeed, Obama is primarily interested in destroying the Syrian chemical arsenal, sealing a deal with Iran over the nuclear file, normalizing the relations with it, and securing good relations with Russia. But when it comes to the Syrian conflict - and as long as Syria has not yet started to turn into a stronghold for Al-Qaeda - he is not very interested in what is happening on the ground. However, the disgruntlement of his allies in Europe and the Arab world pushed the American secretary to temporarily reassure them, knowing that when we asked French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in London if he believed the American reassurances, he said: “I believe what I heard,” although the absence of certainty in regard to the American position is justified to many. Today, the question is about whether or not the American administration will truly negotiate with Russia based on Geneva 1 and Al-Assad’s stripping of all his prerogatives, and whether or not it will get that from Russia. What is odd is that all the participants in the London meeting stressed the necessity of organizing Geneva 2 and stopping the bloodshed in Syria. Nonetheless, the conditions of this conference have not yet been secured, although the preparations for it are ongoing as though it will certainly be held. The American administration and the members of the core group hope to see the unification of the Syrian opposition military formations under the banner of General Salim Edriss. But this will not be possible on the ground without military support to face the warplanes and missiles of the head of the Syrian regime, who is using them to fight and kill his own people. Hence, seeing an imminent political solution is unlikely, and the longer the war lasts and the number of dead and refugees increases, the more the threat grows throughout the region. In the meantime, Putin is looking with relief at his regained influence in the face of the superpower, which had no sooner been relieved of the Soviet Union than Putin emerged on the Russian arena to restore the Soviet luster in the Middle East.

Lebanon's Geneva Conference
Walid Choucair/Al Hayat
Friday 25 October 2013
It is no longer possible to get around the demands and conditions of Lebanese political sides with regard to a solution for the Lebanese crisis, which has been about a government vacuum and fears about a vacuum in the presidency during next May's election, when President Michel Suleiman's term ends, and the possibility that already-delayed parliamentary elections will not be held in the fall.
Even the proposals put forward by "centrists" are no longer viable for discussion by any of the parties to the stalemate, which is growing deeper. At times the proposals are considered to be in the interest of one of the sides and thus biased; at other times, they are seen as desperate attempts whose successful implementation cannot be guaranteed by their authors. This is because the decision over the crisis is much bigger than these proposals, the local Lebanese scene, and any good intentions.
Contrary to the content of these public statements and stances, which mask people's need to see their daily affairs and economic matters seen to because of an economic crisis that is being aggravated by the political crisis and that justifies calls on the other side to solve the crisis, the two publics – of the March 8 and March 14 coalitions – have not become fed up with their political leaders or their clinging to demands and conditions vis-à-vis an exit from the national political crisis. The sectarian and religious polarization has become a reason for the supporters of both camps to accuse the other of causing general paralysis and deterioration, which could afflict Lebanese institutions concerned with people's daily affairs and interests and treating their daily concerns. There is no truth to all of these justifications made by leaders of any group, namely that the Lebanese have begun to hate their leaders. The reality is that these people maintain their blind loyalty to these leaders and go as far as to blame the leaders of the other camp for the deteriorating economic and security situation, even if their leaders are the cause of this. The daily incitement and constant mobilization underway, even on the simplest of issues, have been carried out to preserve the sectarian and religious polarization, which reaches a new peak every time. Each time Lebanon witnesses a huge event, some public opinion leaders become hopeful of dismantling the "state of alert" for supporters of the two camps. Disappointment then quickly sets in for such people.
Many are betting that when the regional moment comes, the political settlement can be drawn up and the leaders will force their supporters to accept it, as in every time in the past. However, it is worrying to see that local leaders and groups have been forced to raise the ceiling of their demands, which hampers these leaders even more; it then becomes difficult for them to back away from such demands. The most prominent example here is Hezbollah. Since it has been forced to send thousands of its fighters to Syria to defend the regime, it must engage in the highest level of hard-line stances in Lebanon, in parallel with the launching of a phase of western-Iranian negotiations, so that the Iranian negotiations can retain all of their cards before it is time to strike deals, make concessions, and achieve benefits.
But the game of raising the ceiling does away with the process of retaining cards and fiercely holding them, and leads to keeping Lebanon subject to the results of big regional deals. This means using Lebanon as an arena for supply and support for the Syrian regime in its confrontation with the opposition. This in turn leads to even further domestic polarization and increases sectarian sensitivities, and does not help even in translating presumed victories in Syria into acknowledgement from rivals in Lebanon about the demands made by Hezbollah and its allies. It leads instead to making it easier to bring the chaos of Syria to inside Lebanon, and renders the other side fixed in its positions, unwilling to alter them. Thus, the accusation by March 8 groups that their rivals are wagering on developments outside the country is to their advantage in Lebanon. It is like putting yourself in the trap of this accusation, to see it rebound against you if it strikes your rivals.
The situation in Lebanon has become impossible to solve if solutions are left to domestic political forces. Countries that are concerned with Lebanon, whether regional or great powers, should search for a Geneva 1 and Geneva 2 to solve the crisis, to get the country out of a situation that is threatening its economy and social fabric. These are liable to explode if the struggle continues in this fashion. Perhaps these countries, before urging participation in a Geneva 2 conference for Syria, should bring about a solution for Lebanon, such as forming a government. The other day, the American ambassador to Lebanon, David Hale, said "It is a special thing when Russia, America, China, the Europeans, the UN and other international bodies agree on something. Today, they agree on some basic principles and goals in support of Lebanon. Our common agenda for Lebanon stands apart from any developments elsewhere in the Middle East." What is the point of him saying this if he does not mean isolating the crisis over Lebanon's political vacuum from the negotiating underway over Syria and the region? This is the responsibility of both Moscow and Washington.

When Sanctions Hurt, Not Help

By: Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
0 Print This Post .Opinion: When Sanctions Hurt, Not Help
If the economic sanctions had not become unbearable, perhaps Iran would not have been forced to perform this political comedy, acting out its desire for reconciliation with the West and finding a solution to the nuclear issue.
The economic repercussions of the sanctions are real but not enough to force Iran to stop its nuclear project, even with the fact that its oil revenues have dropped to half of what they once were as a result of US pressure. The prevention of Iran’s use of the dollar, as well as US threats against companies dealing with Iran, has diminished the Islamic Republic’s financial capability. The subsequent lack of purchasing power has led Iran to fail to manage its domestic needs, including the need for refined petroleum. The US administration believes that by opening the door to negotiations, it is giving Iran an opportunity to make concessions, taking advantage of Iran’s critical situation. Otherwise, why impose a financial siege if not to produce political results? There is no doubt that negotiating for a peaceful solution is the right step to take if the new Iranian president truly wants to end this financial siege, whether he has been forced by circumstance or whether he genuinely wants peace and is ready for a political deal over the country’s nuclear project. However, all signs still suggest the opposite.
Iran is facing a difficult situation and economic hardship, but it has not yet been forced to surrender and accept the proposed deals. There are no indications that the Iranian economy is in danger of collapsing, or that the country is near bankruptcy. Nor is there panic inside Iran, the domestic market is not in a situation that would force the government to take swift action. The problem is not with the sanctions, it will take time before their effects begin to show. The problem is that economic sanctions alone are not enough, especially as Iran is so close to completing its nuclear aims. Iran is fully capable of achieving nuclear success before facing bankruptcy.
So why is Iran so keen to negotiate? The reason is that Iranians believe that US President Barack Obama is in a tricky position. Indeed, he has already threatened them with serious action if they continue with their nuclear project, even though personally he may not want to resort to military strikes. This is why Iran has decided to resort to the carrot and stick approach with the White House, in the hope that the next two years pass without Obama asking his generals to destroy Iran’s facilities. This is similar to the Russian stance regarding the chemical weapons in Syria. A CNN journalist asked the Russian ambassador to the United Nations if the initiative to eliminate the chemical weapons was a plan to save their ally Bashar Al-Assad from a potential US military strike. He replied saying that on the contrary, this could be seen as an initiative to allow the US president to save face. What he meant was that Obama did not want to launch military strikes on Syria, and thus the initiative served the interests of President Obama more than President Assad. Whatever the truth is, this delay in a decisive resolution is allowing the situation to deteriorate further and further. If Iran does not feel that threats are serious, it will continue with its defiant political and military behavior. This is no theory; Iran’s history shows a long series of hostile military initiatives ranging from the Middle East to Central Africa. Is it possible for Iran, which is on the verge of possessing the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, to give up its hostile policy? It is not logical that Iran has simply decided to change this policy because a new president has come to power. Indeed, didn’t Rouhani himself serve as Minister of Intelligence following the revolution?

An Isolationist America Has Chosen to Appease Tehran and to Not Confront Assad
Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat
Friday 25 October 2013
Holding a bilateral meeting for two hours between Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and US Secretary of State John Kerry is not sufficient to repair the damage suffered by the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia in terms of tension and waning trust. Saving this relationship from deterioration requires not pretending that things have gone back to normal after the meeting between the two officials in London at the beginning of the week, for the first time since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia voiced its objections to American policies on Syria and to how the United Nations has been handling the Syrian issue last week, by turning down a seat on the Security Council. The difference in stances on several matters and issues has turned into profound disagreement that requires serious reconsideration to explore the perspectives of agreement and the challenges of disagreement. Indeed, if US President Barack Obama has taken a strategic decision that requires changes to the traditional relationship of alliance between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that is his right, if he considers it to be in America’s interest. Yet the Saudi side also has the right, nay the duty, to closely and profoundly examine what such a change in American policy might require in terms of decisions that would protect Saudi and Arab interests. Frank discussion is necessary, on the condition that it not be passing discussion aimed at superficial reconciliation. There are matters both sides must delve into truthfully – regarding regional issues such as those of Syria and Palestine, and regarding the roles played by prominent countries in the balance of power in the Middle East as a whole. The formula of oil in exchange for security is taking on new perspectives. The policies the Obama administration has come up with regarding the Middle East have been neither ordinary nor customary. The point is that voicing objections alone does not represent a policy. Indeed, both countries have numerous tools at their disposal to express satisfaction or anger, if either of them were serious and coherent about new policies based on divergence. Yet what the current phase requires, and what both sides seem to be more prepared for, is for them to attempt to listen to one another, so as to explore the perspectives of reaching an understanding over a constructive strategic relationship, even if its foundations have become different and it now rests on unusual bases.
This is no time for the American-Saudi relationship to recede – especially as the American-Iranian relationship grows, based on what is being viewed as an era of moderation heralded by the election of Hassan Rohani to the presidency in Tehran. Indeed, the Iranian President and his new era are still under scrutiny and are still being tested. If the American and Western wager on a moderate Iran were to fail, this will have an impact on the relationship between the West and Iran, and will cause a relapse in the relationship to which President Rohani has given the highest priority, namely the relationship between the United States and Iran. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should then be prepared for developments such as these. If, on the other hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran were to prove serious in turning towards moderation and adopting a political discourse that is not based on regional hegemony, then too should Saudi Arabia be prepared to benefit from and to build upon such developments. Indeed, what matters is for it not to absent itself out of anger or frustration – but more importantly, to be ready for both scenarios.
The Obama administration always opts for the “nuclear” discourse when it talks about Iran, while purposely ignoring Iran’s violations in Syria and the fact that the American war in Iraq gave Iran a strategic victory and extensive influence in Iraq. The Obama administration, as well as the American media and public opinion, pays no heed to what represents the utmost priority for the Arab region, when the Arabs speak the language of rejecting the imposition of the Iranian model of religious theocratic rule on the Arab region. Indeed, America, as a government and as a people, does not care about the fact that the Arab side is preoccupied with “regional” – rather than “nuclear” – priorities, in terms of confronting Iran’s staggering ambitions of a role for itself beyond its borders and at the heart of the Arab homeland.
In other words, the United States has decided not to recognize the significance of Iran’s victory in Syria and its repercussions on the regional equation. In other words, the United States – as a President, as an administration, as a Congress, as a media, and as a public opinion – has decided to bury its head in the sand, so as not to face the fact that the regime in Damascus has made use of chemical weapons against civilians, as it itself has concluded, doing away with its own ethical claims and international commitments. In other words, the United States has decided that it did not want to go to war or be dragged into it, and has thus chosen a policy of appeasing all those who would spare it war or help it avoid engagement. Indeed, an isolationist America has come to the conclusion that its best interest now resides in satisfying Iran and giving its blessing to Tehran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, regardless of what their victory would signify at the regional level, and what such a victory would entail for long-term American interests.
Arab doubts about American stances on the events in Syria and on the role played by Iran there should be taken note of by American decision-makers. This is why it is necessary for the Obama administration to stop slipping into the meanders produced by shrewd Russian diplomacy and effective Iranian diplomacy with skillful negotiation and artful polarization.
To begin with, one can only wish that the Iranian campaign to draw sympathy and convince of serious moderation by the leaders of the regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran represents sincere and serious efforts. Testing this must not be restricted to the nuclear talks. Indeed, the first stage of such testing should be Syria. That is why the Obama administration should stop restricting the future of its relationship with Iran to the nuclear priority, and should instead broaden the spectrum of its testing and start where Tehran could prove its good intentions immediately, and that is in Syria.
Specifically, if the Obama administration is serious about its stances on Syria and on Iran, then it should place the role played by Iran inside of Syria on the table, and with it Hezbollah’s role in fighting alongside the regime in Damascus. Today, there are channels of communication between Washington and Tehran. There is also a dire need to stop pretending to refuse to discuss the regional aspect out of concern for negotiations over the nuclear aspect. Indeed, Iran is fighting in Syria through Hezbollah and is violating a Security Council resolution that prevents it, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, from getting involved militarily beyond its borders, whether directly or by proxy. This is an asset Washington has purposely chosen to ignore, under the pretext of a Russian veto at the Security Council. Today, the specter of the Russian veto has faded away, while the era of communication with Iran has begun. This represents an opportunity for Washington to go ahead and express its stances accusing Iran of involvement in Syria, at least to say: “the time has come to talk about what the Islamic Republic of Iran is doing in Syria, in radical opposition to what the United States wants to see happening there. Let us then stop burying our heads in the sand”.
The Obama administration seems to want Iran to have a role to play at the Geneva II conference, aimed at launching the process of political transition in Syria, whereby a formal body would be established that would have full administrative powers, representing the transition from the regime in Damascus to a new one, over which the Syrian opposition would negotiate with the ruling regime on the basis of what was agreed upon in Geneva I more than a year ago, before it fell prey to conflicting Russian and Western interpretations.
The United Nations Secretariat in turn seems to want to carve out a role for Iran to play, believing that a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis would imperatively require an Iranian role. It too purposely ignores – and leaps over – the predicament of Iran’s violation of a binding Security Council resolution, believing Tehran to hold the key to obstruct a political solution in Syria if it were to be confronted with the issue of its violations. Washington and the UN Secretariat have therefore come to the conclusion that a political solution to the Syrian issue would require indulging Tehran to the point of giving their blessings to the blatant violation of a Security Council resolution issued under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. And that is a dangerous matter.
Equally dangerous is their willingness to invite Iran to participate in Geneva II, without prior commitment on the part of Tehran to Geneva I, i.e. commitment to the purpose being to launch a process of political transition from the ruling regime in Damascus to a new one in Syria, to be negotiated over between the ruling regime and the Syrian opposition. They are both required to set this as a condition. And they are both required to stop slipping into Tehran’s embrace without any accountability.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is in turn required to seriously engage in ensuring that Geneva II is held, with its participation and through its influence on the Syrian opposition, which it can persuade to participate. The first step of the necessary role it must play resides in reconsidering its rejection of membership in the Security Council. Indeed, Riyadh has voiced its objections to the way in which the United Nations has been managing the Syrian issue by turning down the seat which it obtained by being elected as a member of the Security Council. And it would now be useful for it and for the issues it cares about – Syria and Palestine equally – to answer calls to retract its rejection of such membership, so that it may seriously engage in the decision-making process from within the Security Council.
Indeed, refusing membership would only harm the issues the KSA cares about, and could even have the opposite effect, especially as the issue of Syria has returned to the United Nations, instead of turning into trade-offs between the Americans and the Russians. At the United Nations, Saudi diplomacy can wield influence. Abstaining from playing such a role is not in Syria’s best interest. And since it has not officially informed the UN of its refusal, it will be easy for Riyadh to change its mind in order to prove that it is prepared to wage the diplomatic battle, an important battle for the future of Syria, inside the United Nations. Indeed, at the Security Council, for example, nine votes by elected member-states are equivalent to the veto held by the five permanent members. There, Saudi diplomacy can prove its weight and influence in terms of decision-making and can confront exclusive control of the Syrian issue by the Americans and the Russians.
Geneva II is important for the Syrian opposition, no matter how much engagement in this process of political transition may seem to be in the regime’s interest. To be sure, the mere presence of regime delegates at the table to discuss alternatives to it is in the interest of the Syrian opposition. The mere presence of the UN as a sponsor of the process of political transition represents protection for the opposition amidst its talks over alternatives to the regime. The Geneva II conference signifies change in Syria under international sponsorship. Holding the conference signifies political momentum for change within the framework of an international partnership and an active role played by the United Nations. It is in the interest of the opposition to insist on the international framework provided by Geneva II. Such momentum should not be squandered. Such momentum provides the opportunity to hold all those concerned accountable, which includes holding the United States and Russia’s feet to the fire, so that they may play their role in holding to the fire those of the regime in Damascus and those who support it in Tehran, in order to prove the seriousness of the process of political transition to something new in Syria.

Transcript of interview with Jeffrey Feltman

Raghida Dergham, Al Hayat
Friday 25 October 2013
Feltman to Al-Hayat: Geneva 2 to help set up a new governing authority to oversee a transitional period; not holding the conference means that Assad will be running in the next presidential election.
New York - Raghida Dergham
Jeffrey Feltman, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that Saudi Arabia would remain a key partner to the United Nations, whatever the role it chooses for itself inside the UN system. Describing the kingdom’s decision to reject a seat at the UN Security Council as a “sovereign decision,” Feltman said he understood Saudi Arabia’s frustration, adding, “All of us are frustrated by the fact that we have been unable to find the right tools and the right political unanimity to force an end to the fighting in Syria.”
In an interview with Al-Hayat, Feltman said that Geneva 2 must convene in order to implement the Geneva 1 communiqué, and launch the transition in Syria by setting up a transitional governing body that will have full executive powers, and “lead to a new Syria.” Feltman stressed that the Geneva 1 communiqué specified the powers of this transitional governing body as including authority over the security services and the army. He then warned that the “costs of not trying at Geneva are far greater than the risks of failure at Geneva.” The UN official maintained that failure to hold the Geneva 2 conference with the continuation of the fighting will lead to the scenario that President Bashar al-Assad described, in relation to his candidacy in the presidential election next year.
Feltman refused to declare the UN position on Assad’s nomination for a new presidential term, stressing that talking about a political solution in Syria does not mean managing the status quo, but having the Syrians agree on a transitional process towards a new Syria, which would represent the beginning of a new day for the Syrian people.
He then said that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would set the date of the conference and issue invitations in consultation with the United States and Russia. Feltman explained that the invitations would be sent to those who have the ability to positively influence the various parties in Syria, and who must participate with the aim of discussing the transitional process.
Regarding Iran’s participation in the conference in the event Saudi Arabia does not participate, Feltman said, “Whether the Saudis are going or not, they have an important role to play. And we are going to continue to be engaged with Saudi Arabia on not only Syria, but a number of issues in which Saudi Arabia plays an extremely important role. We want to be partners with Saudi Arabia.” He then added, “I do not think we are going to link one country’s participation with others. We are going to be looking again at what the Russian Federation and the Americans believe in terms of invitation lists, [and whether] these countries [are] going to be able to help us support the Syrians to find a political solution,” stressing the need for the invitees “to understand what this is all about, which is about transition to a new Syria.”
The international official purported that he sensed from the Iranian leadership a strong desire “to discuss in a very detailed level what we are talking about when we are talking about transition in Syria.” But at the same time, Feltman pointed out that he did not see that Tehran accepts the “whole concept” of the Geneva 1 communiqué, despite what he called Iran’s “open willingness to discuss” it. He also stressed that “Hezbollah’s role inside Syria, which is a violation of their own national government’s policy of disassociation, has been part of the fuel of the rising sectarian tensions that characterize this conflict.”
Feltman denied that there is any support for military action that could tangibly lead to the establishment of humanitarian corridors in Syria, but pointed at the same time to the great difficulties facing the UN in its humanitarian work there.
Al-Hayat: We start with the notion of accountability and the Secretary-General of the United Nations saying that ending impunity is something that he wants to uphold. However, what we have seen recently in the issue of Syria is that impunity is well and alive and accountability is dead in as far as there are chemical weapons in Syria. And the Secretary-General said that there were crimes against humanity committed by President Bashar al-Assad, yet this was muted during the celebration of the role of the UN being revived through a Security Council resolution adopted by consensus
Feltman: Well, I would not exaggerate what it means to have a Security Council resolution on chemical weapons. It is an extremely important resolution, it shows that the Security Council can come together, even on issues that have long divided it such as Syria, but this is not the final word on Syria. The Secretary-General does feel a very, very strong commitment to issues of accountability and an end to impunity.
Al-Hayat: And what is being done about that exactly now? Nobody is moving any of these issues to the ICC. What is – besides just good old words – what is being done in as far as the issue of accountability and ending impunity is concerned via the Syrian dossier?
Feltman: No-one has forgotten the issue of impunity. You know, it has come up in several Security Council discussions. But we have an immediate problem, which is let’s stop the killing now, let’s prevent further death, let’s prevent further destruction, and let us make sure that the UN is doing all it can to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need. Those are pretty tall orders right now. There is a civil war going on in Syria and we are looking for ways to stop it. I do not want to suggest that impunity is being forgotten, or being put on the back seat. But there is an urgency to get to a political solution, there is an urgency of delivering humanitarian assistance that we have been working to rally the Security Council around.
Al-Hayat: But is there going to be anything new about that, by the way, sort of the corridor, the safe corridors for humanitarian assistance. You are doing a pretty good job as the larger UN making sure that the investigators for chemical weapons are going in to do their jobs. Yet you are really stuck not doing much as far as the humanitarian corridors. Are you going to do something about that rather than, again, just speak about it?
Feltman: Well, I defer to my colleagues on the humanitarian side. But I actually think we are doing more than your question suggests. Without question, it is very, very difficult to reach some areas in Syria, and you have heard Valerie Amos and others talk about the difficulties we have had. In some cases the Government has simply blocked us from reaching communities in need. In other cases, we have had trouble getting official permits or crossing some of the rebel checkpoints. It is difficult. Plus we have an issue of resources – are donors coming through and fulfilling the need for providing resources to meet the appeals? It is a mixed picture.
Al-Hayat: Is there any talk about – serious talk, serious action – about opening the humanitarian corridors, some humanitarian corridors, not throughout corridors? We understand…
Feltman: But what do you mean by humanitarian corridors because…
Al-Hayat: To get the aid in.
Feltman: What we are doing – and it is tedious, time-consuming work – is basically negotiating what amounts to safe passage from one part of the country to another part of the country to reach people in need. In some cases, this means brokering a temporary cessation of violence. In some cases, it means dealing with a variety of official organs and militia groups in order to be able to cross a sufficient number of checkpoints. I do not see any support, for having a sort of a military intervention that would physically open up a humanitarian passage like you are describing. I think what we have to do is continue to work case by case in order to reach people in need. We have had some success but certainly we would like to have more resources and more access.
Al-Hayat: The Saudi government’s position was clear in criticizing the UN failure in addressing the issue of accountability and doing the right thing on Syria, on celebrating itself, and celebrating the return of the UN role through the consensus on the chemical weapons, to the extent that they, you know, declared that they do not want that new seat they were elected to on the Security Council. Do you feel that they have a point?
Feltman: I have been in touch with the Saudis about Syria throughout my entire tenure in the UN and I am convinced that, in whatever role Saudi Arabia chooses for itself inside the United Nations system, it is going to remain a key partner with us in trying to find a solution for Syria. All of us are frustrated, all of us are frustrated by the fact that we have been unable to find the right tools and the right political unanimity to force an end to the fighting in Syria. All of us are frustrated. So yes, I understand frustration. My goal is to do what I can to build partnerships with member states, important member states such as Saudi Arabia, to work with other parts of other parts of the United Nations system to address the immediate concerns and to get to a political solution.
Al-Hayat: Do you think that they are going to reverse course and accept the seat on the Security Council now that efforts are ongoing? What sort of efforts are you as the secretariat doing, if any, to persuade them to change their mind?
Feltman: This is a member state issue. This is the sovereign decision on the part of Saudi Arabia. We are engaged with Saudi Arabia as an important member state, as a key player in the Middle East region, as a key supporter of UN institutions that go far beyond the Middle East, whether Saudi Arabia is on the Security Council or not.
Al-Hayat: Do you see any other efforts from the secretariat side to try to persuade them to change their mind?
Feltman: This is an issue for member states, it is an issue for Saudi Arabia. But we will work with them in whatever capacity they are involved in the UN.
Al-Hayat: You know that Al Akhbar quoted you as speaking very badly of Saudi Arabia, bad-mouthing the country and the process of decision-making, in fact, in terms that are not acceptable. And it said, you know, in the Lebanon rumor mill, it said that you said that actually to Prime Minister Najib Mikati when you met with him here in New York.
Feltman: This is not the first time that Al Akhbar has failed to fact-check its stories. This is not the first time that Al Akhbar has fabricated quotes for me. We have issued a statement that clarifies that that article does not reflect my views and certainly does not reflect the strong partnership between the United Nations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Al-Hayat: So you deny every single thing that was said and attributed to you?
Feltman: Yes, I have denied it on the record.
Al-Hayat: So did you have that discussion with Mr. Mikati when he was here about the Saudi role?
Feltman: I saw Prime Minister Mikati when he was here and we discussed his efforts working with Michel Suleiman to protect Lebanon from the spillover from Syria. So we were discussing what the UN can do to support his efforts, President Michel Suleiman’s efforts, to support Lebanon politically, financially and to help address the Lebanese communities’ very, very severe needs in addressing refugee populations.
Al-Hayat: Let us get into the political process that you seem to be involved with as far as the possibility of Geneva II on Syria. First, let me ask, before I forget, this question: President Assad is saying clearly that he may be seeking re-election. He says there is nothing that should be stopping him. What was also understood at one point, and special representative Lakhdar Brahimi had somehow wanted to tackle this issue of the possibility of al-Assad not running in the next elections – do you have a position on that? Is there something the UN has to say on the issue – does he have the right or does he not have the right to seek re-election?
Feltman: I don’t think it is up for the UN to choose Syria’s leaders. It is up for Syrians to choose Syria’s leaders. That is a point of principle. But I also do not believe that, when we talk about a political solution for Syria, we are talking about maintaining the status quo, or maintaining the status quo ante, of say January 2011. What were are talking about is bringing Syrians together around the idea of a Syrian-led transition to a new Syria that is developed by consensus, developed by Syrian leadership, but that symbolizes and represents a new day for the Syrian people.
Al-Hayat: Yes, but forgive me, how could you say that, on one hand, the Secretary-General says that the Syrian leader committed crimes against humanity, and then on the other hand you say that if he wants to run for election that is an internal issue?
Feltman: I did not say that. And I also, I’m not…
Al-Hayat: He said that on the record, you know. It was published.
Feltman: You are putting words in my mouth, though.
Al-Hayat: No, no, the Secretary-General said that.
Feltman: Yes, but … none of us said that it is OK for President Assad to run for re-election again. None of us has said that. It is not for us to say who should be leading lead Syria. What I said was a political solution for Syria, to be successful in our view, has to be Syrian-led, has to be developed by mutual consent by those at the negotiating table, but should lead to a new day for Syria, a new Syria. And I thank that Joint Special Representative Brahimi has used similar words in describing this. So you can see the concept that we have is you build momentum towards something that is new, towards something in which the Syrian people themselves can invest their hopes, their aspirations, that there is something better after almost three years of suffering.
Al-Hayat: You noticed in the London meeting, Friends of Syria – how do you read that communiqué by the way? Does it say, does that reflect an agreement that Bashar al-Assad would have a role in the transition, at the beginning, in the middle, the end, or not at all – how do you read that?
Feltman: The United Nations is not part of the London 11, as you know.
Al-Hayat: The London…
Feltman: We are not part of the London 11, we did not participate. We, the United Nations, will be the one that convenes the conference in Geneva. And we are having preparatory meetings, internally and in consultations with key member states, including the Russian Federation and the United States, but also beyond that. There were some things in that communiqué that I found very encouraging, such as the key push for a political approach to solve the civil war in Syria. But the modalities of the Geneva conference are things that we ourselves are still working out.
Al-Hayat: But do you have clarity on the, what do I call it, on the points of reference, I mean, you know, what is Geneva II about? Is it about confirming Geneva I, given that Geneva I was the cause of different interpretations that led to a freeze in the Security Council – the Russians reading it one way, the Americans and the P3 reading it another? Can you clarify where are we on this and is it a pre-requisite that participants in Geneva II must have absolutely adopted and endorsed Geneva I?
Feltman: You are right that there are some different interpretations of Geneva I. But there is a basic principle there, in that Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 and the action plan that is in it, which is setting up a transitional governing body by mutual consent that will have full executive powers. That is the basic principle, and that is what I talk about when I said that we are looking to use the political process to get to a new day in Syria, to have a new Syria – not one imposed, one that is negotiated and agreed upon by mutual consent between opposition and government leaders. We want there to be full support for that from the participants who were there, we want there to be full support from the region, from the broader international community. It is important for the Syrians, no matter what side they are on in the civil war, to see that all of their international and regional backers are pushing in the same direction, which is toward a political solution based on this communiqué.
Al-Hayat: Ah, OK. So is it a prerequisite? Is Geneva, is accepting, endorsing, signing on to Geneva I a prerequisite for those who are going to participate in Geneva II?
Feltman: I would hope that everyone who comes to that conference, everyone who would accept the invitation from the Secretary-General, would understand that they are there for one purpose, and for one purpose only, which is to show support for the implementation of that Geneva communiqué.
Al-Hayat: So, I would assume that would be clear as terms of reference in your invitation?
Feltman: That is the purpose of the conference. And I am convinced that the Secretary-General makes this very clear when he invites the participants that we are going there with a single purpose in mind.
Al-Hayat: You have been to Moscow. Is Moscow clear on that or does Moscow, do the Russians have their own interpretation still of what Geneva I means, which is not, again… Tell me how they understood. Did they shift a little bit, did they change a little bit?
Feltman: I had very good meetings in Moscow and I am grateful to the officials I saw for the frankness and candor with which we had discussions. You know, the Russians, like many of us, are concerned about the rise of Al-Qaeda-type groups in Syria. All of us should be concerned about that. And I think that is one of the reasons why they have renewed, through their Security Council vote in (Resolution) 2118, through their public statements, through their meetings with other international characters, their support for the Geneva II concept based on the Geneva communiqué of last year.
Al-Hayat: The French are clear in saying that parties attending Geneva II must declare acceptance of Geneva I. Is this the UN’s position to declare acceptance, the word is to “declare” acceptance?
Feltman: We have not yet issued invitations, the Secretary-General has not sent out physical invitations to potential invitees. But as I said, I fully expect that when he does, it is going to be absolutely clear in those invitations what we are talking about, which is a transitional governing authority with full executive powers. The Geneva conference is not about the “what” any longer. The “what” is clear: it is the implementation of the communiqué from last year. The discussions behind closed doors among the Syrian parties will be about who is in that transitional governing body, what are the modalities for transferring the full executive powers to that transitional governing body. It is not about whether there will be a transition or not, it is going to be about transition.
Al-Hayat: So, logically, if I understand that, that means that during the transition, there should not be… that is a transition away from the current form of government of Bashar al-Assad, the regime. So what happens to that regime during the transition, what happens to Bashar al-Assad during the transition? Because you are saying there is a transition from A to B.
Feltman: To me that question, which looms so important right now, becomes less relevant once you start setting up the transitional governing body because the powers of the state accrue to that transitional governing body by mutual consent through the negotiating process. So the question of the current structure should not, in my case, be posed as obstacles of the conference when everyone understands that were are going to the conference to help the Syrians set up a new governing authority that will oversee a transitional period.
Al-Hayat: But the Syrian regime was very clear: listen, if you think you come and take away our authorities, particularly security agencies and security authorities, you are dreaming. So how are you going to sort of deal with that?
Feltman: You know, prior to any negotiating process, whether we are talking about something diplomatically or you are talking about buying a house, opening positions are often stated that do not represent the bottom line.
Al-Hayat: That leaves it as a very open-ended process in that case. If you do not have any terms of reference and things that parties are committed to then it becomes, you know…
Feltman: I urge you to go back and read that 30 June communiqué of 2012 and what it says about the powers, what it says about the security and intelligence services, what is says about the Syrians themselves making the decisions by mutual consent.
Al-Hayat: Just tell me, about the security agencies, what does it say?
Feltman: There is language about how they will perform according to high international standards and respect for human rights and all that. But it also says that they will report to the transitional governing body.
Al-Hayat: You mean the army will?
Feltman: That is the concept in the Geneva action plan that those participating last year agreed to.
Al-Hayat: So those who are saying that, listen, he needs to be a war president, that Bashar al-Assad needs to maintain the security authorities because there is a war in his country and he is a war president. What do you say to them?
Feltman: I don’t think that this is all about one person. I think this is about how best to help the Syrian people get out of this crisis that they have been in for three years, to meet the aspirations that people have for the future of their country. It is not about the fate of this or that person.
Al-Hayat: Is Nabil Elaraby correct in sort of indicating that Geneva II is likely to be held on 23 November?
Feltman: I am not in the position to confirm any date. The Secretary-General has stated and wants to continue working toward a target date in mid-November. We will be prepared – logistically, physically – to host a conference at any time. But obviously there is a lot of politics here. The opposition is still discussing things, so I am not in any position to confirm dates.
Al-Hayat: Very quickly on Iran. When you were in Iran, you know, you were sort of the architect of saying Iran is speaking a new language. You came to the Security Council to tell the world, listen, Iran is flexible. Were they flexible on Syria?
Feltman: What I can say is that there really was a new style, a new rhetoric that has come out from the Iranians leaders that is helpful. On Syria, what I found different, because I do not have a long history of talking to the Iranians. You know this is…
Al-Hayat: But you are in very good terms, all of the sudden, so…
Feltman: But it is not like I can compare this or that because I did not have a lot of discussions with the Iranians before I joined this job. But I found the Iranians were very willing to discuss in a very detailed level what we are talking about when we are talking about transition in Syria.
Al-Hayat: We were told that they have not committed to Geneva I, to accept Geneva I. At all the bilateral meetings at the highest level, with President Rohani, did you get any opposite feeling?
Feltman: The feeling I got was that they were very interested in knowing what we had in mind when we talked about Geneva I, and they were very interested in understanding our goals for a conference.
Al-Hayat: Yeah, but I am asking about their position.
Feltman: My impression was they themselves are still looking at that Geneva communiqué and what it means.
Al-Hayat: So there is so far no commitment on Geneva I? So far you have not received any acceptance by Iran of Geneva I so far?
Feltman: As I said, I think there has been a very open willingness to discuss what it means, but I do not yet see them as saying that they buy the whole concept.
Al-Hayat: I mean, it is really strange, you know, Hezbollah admits to fighting in Syria in support of the regime, and you are an expert on knowing the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, and you know that there is an active role by Iran inside Syria, in violation of a Security Council resolution that was adopted under Chapter VII, and yet you are thinking about inviting them to the table in Geneva. How are you going to reconcile that?
Feltman: You know, I think the Iranians, based on what I have heard, based on what they have said publicly, are very, very concerned about the implications of the sectarian aspects of the conflict in Syria, which has implications not only in Syria, it has implications beyond Syria. We see it in Lebanon, we see it in Iraq, it has the potential to go even further. So it seems to me that the Iranians should be very interested in seeing an end to the fighting in Syria because that fighting in Syria is an engine – it provides momentum behind the sectarian conflict that can touch the entire region and the entire world. And certainly I think that Hezbollah’s role inside Syria, which is a violation of their own national government’s policy of disassociation, has been part of the fuel of the rising sectarian tensions that characterize this conflict.
Al-Hayat: Yes, but I was asking about the strict, clear violation of the Security Council resolution under Chapter VII by a country that is given arms and support, and through proxy, in violation of this Security Council resolution.
Feltman: you know very well our position inside the United Nations, which is that....
Al-Hayat: which is what about this?
Feltman: which is that no country should be shipping arms to the protagonists inside Syria now, and we should all be looking for a political solution.
Al-Hayat: There is a big difference between the Saudis shipping arms, versus the Iranians shipping arms, versus even the Russians shipping arms, because neither the Russians nor Saudi Arabia are under a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII preventing them from shipping arms, while Iran is violating this resolution directly. Why do you, why has no-one, none of you, in the secretariat or otherwise, have you, basically, forgive me to say, why are you papering over that, and thinking that Iran has to be at the table anyway, even though it has violated a Chapter VII resolution?
Feltman: I know that there are member states that have far greater information than is available to the United Nations. We do not have intelligence services in the United Nations who are looking at some of the questions you pose.
Al-Hayat: But, I mean, you know, they said it publicly. The American diplomats said it, the British diplomats said it, publicly, in front of the Security Council, and they counted how there has been a clear violation. It is not like making this up, and even the Hezbollah, they admit that they are fighting there.
Feltman: We agree that countries should be abiding by the Security Council resolutions. That is part of the integrity of this organization, that member states comply with Security Council resolutions. In addition to that, it is time to look for a political solution for Syria.
Al-Hayat: OK, and on Hezbollah itself? You know, I mean, is there, why not invite Hezbollah? It is a party, an active party, in shaping up what is going on in Syria, why can they not be invited to Geneva? I mean, you know, since you are talking about players inside of Syria? Or do you think they are like Jabhat al-Nusra, equate them with Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda, or do you equate them with a party that has a say since it has impacted the balance of power on the ground?
Feltman: I guess our analysis is different. I look at Hezbollah as almost like soldiers of fortune supporting one side of this conflict, that they are not part of the political process that can lead to a solution, that they are not a Syrian party that is going to have to decide on Syria’s future. We are trying to promote a process based on the Geneva communiqué of last year by which the Syrians, not Hezbollah and not foreign fighters on the Sunni side, are deciding the faith of Syria. The trouble right now is that as long that the fighting continues, Hezbollah does have an influence on what is happening on the ground, Jabhat al-Nusra does have influence on what is happening on the ground. We want the Syrian people themselves to be the ones who are deciding Syria’s future.
Al-Hayat: Is Lakhdar Brahimi going to Syria soon?
Feltman: Lakhdar Brahimi plans to go to Syria as part of his regional trip. I believe he is in Muscat today, but he is going to a number of countries and yes, he does plan to meet with the Syrian government officials in Damascus.
Al-Hayat: And what about Iran? Is he going to Tehran?
Feltman: He has stated his hope to visit a number of countries in the region and I have to defer to him on what his actual itinerary is.
Al-Hayat: But do you want, I mean, you are actually trying to invite Tehran to Geneva II, right?
Feltman: We are going to issue our invitation list, the Secretary-General is going to issue invitations, based on consultations with the initiating states. The initiating states are the Russian Federation and the United States. You remember that the momentum behind having a political conference based on Geneva I came from a 7 May meeting between John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. So it is important for us to keep those consultations going with the Russian Federation and the United States. It is not a secret that there are differences in views over who should be invited. Our basic concept on invitations rests on two principles. One is that those who have the ability to exercise a positive influence on the parties should be considered for participation. But they also must come with the idea that we are there to talk about transition.
Al-Hayat: Will you then invite Iran to Geneva II even if the Saudis tell you clearly that they are not going?
Feltman: Whether the Saudis are going or not, they have an important role to play. And we are going to continue to be engaged with Saudi Arabia on not only Syria, but a number of issues in which Saudi Arabia plays an extremely important role. We want to be partners with Saudi Arabia. But I do not think we are going to link one country’s participation with others. We are going to be looking again at, first, what do the Russian Federation and the Americans believe in terms of invitation lists. Second, are these countries going to be able to help us support the Syrians to find a political solution to the situation in the country? And three, do these potential invitees understand what this is all about, which is about transition to a new Syria?
Al-Hayat: But do you really think it is possible that you will have Iran at the table and not Saudi Arabia, since you are de-linking? Does that make sense at a time of this relationship with the United Nations, between Saudi Arabia and the United Nations?
Feltman: I really do not know. I am not going to speculate here. I want, whether people are at the table or not at the table, we hope that they will participate in their own way in helping change the dynamic on the ground in Syria today. Look there are a lot of people who are very concerned about that statement by President al-Assad that he has the right and perhaps will run for election again next year. There are a lot of people who have expressed a concern about that. As I said, I am not focused on that because I am focused on trying to get to a Geneva conference that changes the subject. But if we do not have a Geneva conference, if the situation on the ground continues as it is now, to me it seems more likely that you are going to end up with that scenario next year that President al-Assad described. What we are trying to do is to come with a new approach for Syria, a transition that allows the Syrians themselves to talk about how to set up governing structures that would meet the aspirations of the vast majority of Syrians citizens, how you stop this bloodletting in a way that turns the page. I think the costs of not trying at Geneva are far greater than the risks of failure at Geneva.
Al-Hayat: From how it looks, it does not look like the opposition is persuaded by the argument so far. What are you going to do to persuade them? Because they really do not feel that is to their advantage at all at this point.
Feltman: Of course we are concerned about the divisions in the opposition. We hear their statements and their concerns. But if we are all at Geneva, supporting the Syrians themselves, the subject suddenly changes. The subject is no longer about what did the opposition say in London or what did President al-Assad say to Al Akhbar. The conversation then is about transition. And that should be something that all Syrians would like to have happen.

The Big Fraud: Tehran’s ScanEagle gift to Russia covered handover of secret US R170 drone technology
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 25, 2013
The Iranian media played up the presentation Tuesday, Oct. 22, of a copy of the US-made ScanEagle by Iran’s air force chief Farzad Esmayeeli to Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, visiting Russian air force chief. Both used the ceremony to celebrate “Iran’s success in reverse-engineering and mass-producing" the American unmanned low-altitude reconnaissance drone, which it claimed to have captured in Dec. 2012.
The Russian air force commander examined the ScanEagle and admired the handiwork of the Iranian aeronautical engineers who he said had even upgraded the ScanEagle’s capabilities.
debkafile: This incident will go down was one of the biggest military intelligence frauds ever perpetrated before a battery of video cameras for world publication, because it was no more than a red herring to conceal a secret handover not long before. A far more valuable gift was quietly handed to the Russian general earlier at the same Khatam al-Anbiya air base. It was a replica complete with secret technology of a prize long coveted by Moscow: America’s most secret drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel captured by Iran on a CIA mission a year earlier on Dec. 13, 2011, and prized for its unique UAV stealth technology and intelligence-gathering devices linked to military satellites. Tehran has claimed more than once that its engineers had succeeded in replicating and reusing Sentinel technology in its own drones. Since this drone was not actually downed by the Iranians, but by the Chinese cyber warfare experts assisting them, Moscow has always suspected that the Chinese were allowed to examine and copy its secrets.
Moscow therefore pressed Tehran for a close-up examination of this high-value drone and was refused until now. According to Tehran, some of the RQ-170’s devices were implanted and tested in the drone which the Lebanese Hizballah sent over Israel on Oct. 6, 2012 and which evaded detection by Israeli radar for more than an hour. Before it was discovered and downed, the Iranian UAV flew over strategic Israeli locations including the Dimona nuclear reactor. debkafile’s military sources report that, even though the real prize was concealed, the fact of Iran’s ceremonial presentation to a Russian general of a copycatted high-tech American drone, and its formal acceptance by the Russian in a videotaped ceremony at an Iranian military base, was a calculated dual snub for the United States and the Obama administration. Both parties showed they were unconcerned about US payback. They were saying, furthermore, that if the Americans give Iran a hard time in the negotiations for curbing its nuclear program, Russia will take Iran’s part and their cooperation may take military form.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources point to three aspects of the burgeoning Russian-Iranian military friendship:
1. Washington has refrained from response. The Obama administration has apparently resolved to let Russian-Iranian military cooperation pass without demur, even at the cost of damaging US military and intelligence interests, to avoid upsetting the partnership between the two presidents, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, in tackling Iranian nuclear negotiations and diplomacy for ending the Syrian conflict.
2. President Obama has already paid for this partnership twice. Saudi Arabia, one of America's closest and oldest Middle East allies, has signaled its withdrawal from Washington’s course in the region and anger with US cooperation with Moscow and Tehran. Israel too is preparing for unilateral action which may conflict with current US policy. Israel and Saudi Arabia may even find some rewards in working together.
3. The most obvious question now is what makes Russia and Iran so proud? In the end, all they have achieved is to pass from hand to hand sophisticated American military technology, stolen and copycatted because it is beyond both their capacities to produce on their own.

Norway Rules Out Destroying Syrian Chemical Arms on its Soil
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 October 2013/Norway said Friday it would not be able to accommodate a request from the United States to help destroy Syria's chemical arsenal on its soil, saying the schedule was too tight.
"With the understanding of the United States we have concluded that... it's no longer appropriate to consider Norway as a site for the destruction (of the weapons)," Foreign Minister Boerge Brende said. He said the decision was made based on the obligations laid out in the U.N. resolution foreseeing the destruction of the weapons. Source/Agence France Presse.