October 27/2013

Bible Quotation for today/Faith and Wisdom

James 01/02-08: ''My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way,  for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure.  Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all.  But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind.  If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For October 27/13

30 Years of Terror Sponsored by Iran/By: Matthew Levitt/New York Daily News/October 27/13

The Independent/Four Christians sentenced to 80 lashes in Iran for drinking ceremonial wine during communion service/October 26/13

Geneva II peace conference: Practical theory/ The Daily Star/October 27/13

The Battle for Hearts and Minds/Abdul Moneim Said/Asharq Alawsat/October 27/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October 27/13
Lebanese Related News

Lebanon on dangerous path, warns U.N. envoy

Death toll in north Lebanon clashes rises to 10

Four More Die in Overnight Tripoli Fighting

Shaar Calls for Arrest of 'Criminals' in Tripoli

Hariri Accuses Assad Regime of Launching 'Dirty' War on Tripoli, Urges State Action

Miqati Throws Weight behind Armed Forces to Stop Tripoli from Becoming a 'Mailbox'
Suleiman Warns on Future of Christians in Orient, Sounds Upbeat Note on Kidnapped Bishops

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

FPM Delegation Meets Berri, to Hold Talks Parliamentary Blocs

Sleiman: Qatar exerting maximum efforts to release bishops

Report: Hariri Holding Talks with Top March 14 Figures

Sources: Ibrahim 'Relieved' after 'Promising' Talks with Qatar Emir on Kidnapped Bishops

Tensions high in Ain el-Hilweh after Fatah member killing

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Steinitz to US: Israel’s ‘minimum’ on Iran is no enrichment

'Iran still pursues higher-grade enrichment'
Former Israeli Air Force commander, ret. Maj. Gen. Ido Nehoshtan: Even if Iran gets nuke, it won't last forever

Syria peace envoy: Iran should come to Geneva talks

'Israel's missile-defense system could crumble at the moment of truth'

German Spy Chiefs to Head to U.S. over Merkel Phone Tap Row

Germany seeks 'no spy deal' in EU
Al-Nusra Front Says Chief in Good Health after State TV Death Claim

Egypt Court Dismisses Suit against ElBaradei

U.N.-Arab League Envoy: Iran 'Necessary' at Syria Talks

Kurds Rout Syria Jihadists on Iraq Border

Iran Denies it has Stopped Enriching Uranium to 20%

UN Syria peace envoy says Iran should come to Geneva: Press TV

Iran hangs 16 after deadly border attack: judiciary

Israel: 19 years: Peace with Jordan invaluable

Four Christians sentenced to 80 lashes in Iran for drinking ceremonial wine during communion service

Men also found guilty of possessing a satellite radio antenna
John Hall Friday 25 October 2013
Four Iranian Christians have been sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking ceremonial wine during a communion service and possessing a satellite radio antenna.
The harsh punishment comes amid a government crackdown on Iran’s so-called “house churches” – where worshippers gather in unofficial buildings to conduct Christian ceremonies.
The four men, Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi, Mehdi Dadkakh and Amir Hatemi, were originally arrested in the middle of a service just before Christmas last year. They were finally sentenced for the crimes on October 6 and given ten days to launch an appeal. Reacting to the punishments, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide Mervyn Thomas said: “The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalise the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably.”
He added: “We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation’s legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.” According to Benjamin Weinthal writing for, 370,000 Christians live in Iran and, despite assurances from President Hasan Rouhani that the harsh treatment would be scaled back, a UN special report into Iranian human rights criticised the country for routinely punishing non-Muslims for violating Islamic theocratic laws.
Ahmed Shaheed, the man behind the UN report, wrote: “At least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013. In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported”. He added: “Authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services, and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing. Dr Shaheed’s report went on to say: “More than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing and attending Christian seminars abroad.” The Iranian government responded to the report with strong criticisms of the research, issuing a statement through the state-controlled Press TV news channel claiming Dr Shaheed “has not paid sufficient notice to Iran's legal system and Islamic culture and considers whatever he sees in the West as an international standard for the entire world”.

30 Years of Terror Sponsored by Iran

Matthew Levitt
New York Daily News
As negotiators try to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear impasse, the anniversary of the Beirut bombings serves as a timely reminder that tensions with Iran go beyond the nuclear issue. Thirty years ago today, on Oct. 23, 1983, a delivery van filled with 18,000 pounds of explosives slammed into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Seconds later, another car bomb hit a French military building four miles away. A total of 241 American and 58 French soldiers lost their lives, all members of the Multi-National Forces in Lebanon. The attack on the Marine barracks was not only the single-largest nonnuclear explosion since World War II, it was also the deadliest terrorist attack against Americans up to that time. And the legacy of that moment haunts us to this day. The attacks, perpetrated by Hezbollah under orders from Iran, announced the arrival of the Lebanese Shiite group as a potent, anti-Western terrorist force supported and directed by Tehran. Today, despite warming relations between the United States and Iran, Hezbollah remains a weapon in Iran's arsenal, a means to pursue the agenda of the Islamic Revolution in Syria and in terrorist operations around the world. Despite the current charm offensive of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani -- and suggestions by some that the Islamic Republic is moderating its stance -- it is highly unlikely that Iran will ever give a thought to reining in Hezbollah. Founded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Hezbollah has always had an intimate relationship with Iran based on a shared ideological foundation. Today, Hezbollah is no longer just a proxy of Iran; it is in a "strategic partnership" with Iran, as National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen put it. Or, in the words of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Hezbollah and Iran are in "a partnership arrangement...with the Iranians as the senior partner." For the past 30 years, this has proven to be a mutually beneficial relationship. From Iran, Hezbollah gets tens of thousands of rockets, hundreds of millions of dollars a year, training and operational logistical support from Iran. From Hezbollah, Iran gets an extended reach -- to the Mediterranean and beyond -- and a means of targeting its enemies from afar with reasonable deniability. Today, Hezbollah targets Israeli tourists around the world -- in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Thailand, Nigeria -- not out of any Lebanese interest but at Iran's command. The U.S. State Department concluded in its annual Country Reports on terrorism that 2012 represented "a marked resurgence of Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism" in which "Iran and Hezbollah's terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s." Could the recent election of Rouhani as president mark the beginning of the end for this 30-year, violent partnership between Tehran and Hezbollah? Not likely. Iran's last "moderate" president, Muhammad Khatami, elected in 1997, was considered by the CIA to be a Hezbollah supporter. And, like every other Iranian president before and since, he did not have the power to overrule the decisions of hard-line Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who calls the shots on Hezbollah and all other significant Iranian decisions.
Meanwhile, as Hezbollah is conducting operations around the world at Iran's behest, Iran's own operatives are engaged in their own covert operations as well. Just last month, an alleged Iranian Qods Force operative was arrested in Tel Aviv with pictures of the U.S. embassy in his possession. As negotiators try to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, the anniversary of the Beirut bombings serves as a timely reminder that tensions with Iran ought not be limited to Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. At the very same time, through its terrorist proxy, this government is eagerly sponsoring the killing of innocents around the world.
*Matthew Levitt directs The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and is author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God.

Lebanon on dangerous path, warns U.N. envoy
October 26, 2013 11:59 AM The Daily Star /BEIRUT: U.N. Special Envoy Terry Rod Larsen warned in remarks published Saturday that Lebanon is heading quickly toward a dangerous situation in light of the large presence of Syrian refugees and the political deadlock in the country. Speaking to An-Nahar, Larsen said the political paralysis could mean that presidential elections are cancelled. The possibility of refraining from holding the presidential elections due in April, Larsen said, would place Lebanon in its most dangerous phase since the end of the Civil War. The U.N. envoy also proposed the establishment of humanitarian zone inside Syria in order to decrease the influx of refugees into neighboring countries particularly Lebanon which houses an estimated 1.3 million refugees.

Four More Die in Overnight Tripoli Fighting
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/Four more people were killed in the northern city of Tripoli in overnight clashes between rival gunmen, the result of the spillover of the Syrian war, the state-run National News Agency reported on Saturday. NNA said the city witnessed the deadly gunbattles on Friday night, but the clashes subsided after 1:00 am. Again, gunmen from the districts of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen used machineguns and Rocket Propelled Grenades, leaving four people dead. But the intensity of the fighting decreased in the early hours of Saturday. The hotspots, including the area of al-Mankoubine witnessed only intermittent gunfire.
The army again responded to the sources of fire, NNA said. The deaths have likely brought the toll of the latest round of clashes to 10. Dozens more have been injured. Three of the injuries were reported on Saturday when two men were wounded from stray bullets during the funeral of two men killed on Friday. A third person was wounded from sniper fire. Civil society activists held a sit-in later in the day, urging the state to impose security in Tripoli and asking the judiciary to issue verdicts against those who plotted and carried out the deadly mosque bombings in August. Military units were seen on Saturday morning setting up a checkpoint at Abu Ali roundabout that links Tripoli with the northern district of Akkar. It checked IDs and inspected vehicles that took the major international highway. The market was also open in areas that are not close to the hotspots. Shops, banks and businesses were back to work as usual but the Lebanese University campus in al-Qobbeh and schools near the tense areas remained closed. Top officials have said that they have given the green light to the armed forces to bring the situation in Tripoli under control. The fighting broke out Monday while an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad was being aired on al-Mayadeen television. Residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh support the anti-Assad revolt, while those in Jabal Mohsen back Assad, and both sides have fought frequently since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011. Source/Agence France Presse.

Miqati Throws Weight behind Armed Forces to Stop Tripoli from Becoming a 'Mailbox'
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati on Saturday issued a stern warning that the northern city of Tripoli will not be a “mailbox,” saying the ball is now in the court of the armed forces that will use all their means to end the deadly fighting between rival gunmen. “The army command and the leaders of the security forces informed officials that they will use all the authorities given to them after they exerted all efforts to restore security and stability in Tripoli,” Miqati told officials who visited him at the Grand Serail. Meetings held between top officials in the past two days stressed a “strict and balanced” control for the situation in Tripoli, he said, adding that the city's officials have also announced that they were lifting the political cover from outlaws. In remarks to An Nahar newspaper published on Saturday, Miqati said that his hometown “will not be a mailbox or a target for sending different messages and that the state should protect its residents and prevent the death of innocent people in their homes.”Miqati said restoring security in the city and ending the bloodshed was a priority. “This is an essential issue for us.” “There is no longer any excuse for not stopping the ongoing chaos … after everyone in Tripoli announced that they are no longer backing any party that tries to blow up the situation,” he told An Nahar. The rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen have been for years witnessing deadly gunbattles. But skirmishes began to flare with increasing intensity after the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. The Bab al-Tabbaneh district is largely Sunni, like Syria's rebels. Jabal Mohsen mostly has residents of Syrian President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect. The fighting broke out on Monday evening as celebratory gunfire erupted in Jabal Mohsen over Assad’s appearance on al-Mayadeen television for an interview. The gunbattles have left scores of casualties. But Miqati reiterated that President Michel Suleiman has tasked the security forces and the army “to set up their units to bring the situation under control as soon as possible.” “The ball is now in the court of the security agencies and nothing could prevent (them) from strictly controlling the situation,” the caretaker PM said.


Shaar Calls for Arrest of 'Criminals' in Tripoli
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/The Mufti of Tripoli and the north, Sheikh Malek al-Shaar, stressed on Saturday that the situation in Tripoli is not sectarian but rather is based on a side's allegiance to a foreigner country. “We reject to slip into any sectarian strife,” Shaar said during a meeting for the Higher Islamic Council at the Dar al-Fatwa in the northern city of Tripoli. He called on the security forces to end the battles between the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh. Al-Shaar also demanded the arrest of “the criminals,” praising the efforts undertaken by the Lebanese judiciary to unveil the violators. The death toll from five days of clashes in Tripoli between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime has climbed to at least six. The latest casualty was a 22-year-old mother of two, who died from gunshot wounds she suffered on Thursday, a security official said, adding that another 49 people have been wounded. Sunni and Alawite gunmen have been fighting in the Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts of Tripoli since Monday and were still exchanging gunfire on Friday afternoon.The Lebanese army meanwhile set up barricades to separate them. The fighting broke out Monday while an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad was being aired on television.
Residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh support the anti-Assad revolt, while those in Jabal Mohsen back Assad, and both sides have fought frequently since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011. The latest fighting has prompted residents to flee the impoverished neighborhoods while schools and universities have been closed in Tripoli since mid-week. Lebanon is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Damascus camps. The division has widened since Hizbullah admitted in May it was sending fighters into Syria to support Assad's troops. Small radical Sunni organizations have also sent men across the border to fight alongside the rebels. Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Damascus for 30 years until 2005.

Hariri Accuses Assad Regime of Launching 'Dirty' War on Tripoli, Urges State Action

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of being the mastermind of all crimes in Lebanon, and held the state responsible for the deteriorating security situation in the northern city of Tripoli. In a statement issued by his press office, Hariri said it was “useless” to find ways to resolve the cabinet crisis, or hold a parliamentary session or resume the national dialogue after Tripoli has come under attack in a “suspicions war.” “There is a dirty war that the Syrian regime has launched on Tripoli and its residents through its local partners,” he said. The city has been engulfed in fighting between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen since Monday. The clashes have left scores of casualties. The two districts have for years witnessed deadly gunbattles. But skirmishes began to flare with increasing intensity after the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Bab al-Tabbaneh's residents are mostly Sunni, like Syria's rebels. Jabal Mohsen has residents of Assad's Alawite sect. Hariri said in his statement that the order to punish Tripoli was issued as soon as the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch arrested a network responsible for deadly car bomb attacks that targeted two Sunni mosques in the city. Hariri accused the “mastermind of all crimes who lies in Damascus,” of “seeking to drown the city of Tripoli in the chaos of arms.”The president, prime minister and army commander, in addition to all security leaderships know the truth, but they “bury their heads in the sand,” he said. He also criticized them for holding in vain security meetings. “From now on, we will not stand idle to watch the city burn,” he warned. The Mustaqbal movement chief held the state responsible for “giving up the protection of the city and its residents and leaving it to become a ground for armed chaos.” “The state should take the initiative to settle things and … salvage Tripoli from the plot that the Syrian intelligence's agents are executing,” he said. “Otherwise, the state and its agencies … would be a partner in the war that the Syrian regime has launched on the city,” Hariri added.

Report: Hariri Holding Talks with Top March 14 Figures

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri is holding large-scale talks with top officials from the March 14 alliance in Paris, An Nahar daily reported on Saturday. Among those who have already arrived in the French capital are MPs Marwan Hamadeh and Butros Harb, and former lawmakers Samir Franjieh and Fares Soaid, who is also the March 14 general-secretariat coordinator, the newspaper said. Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora is also expected to meet with Hariri, who on Friday held talks with MP Michel Murr. A statement issued by Hariri's press office said Friday that the talks with Murr "focused on local and regional developments." His meetings come amid reports that Premier-designate Tammam Salam intends to give up his task to form a new government. Salam has been facing since April conditions and counter conditions set by the rival March 8 and March 14 alliances.

Suleiman Warns on Future of Christians in Orient, Sounds Upbeat Note on Kidnapped Bishops

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/President Michel Suleiman warned on Saturday that Christianity would be in limbo if Lebanon’s free Christians disappear due to the changes in the region but he voiced confidence on the fate of two bishops kidnapped in Syria. “If Lebanon’s free Christians disappear, then the religion will crumble in the Middle East, Asia and Africa,” the president warned during a speech at the first Conference on the Christians of the Orient in the Metn town of Rabweh. He said “coexistence means engaging in continuous dialogue with the other and preferring the nation's identity on the religious one.” “Coexistence does not only mean Christians and Muslims living together ... it means a coexistence in politics, in the sense of vertical ties between the governor and the governed,” Suleiman told the conference. It also means the participation in governance as part of mutual consent, he said. Suleiman rejected the rule of the absolute majority and refused the minority's hegemony, which he said leads to dictatorship. “If Christians at any moment suffer from the complex of minority,” then they consider themselves that they have disappeared, he said. “The future of Christians does not come through isolation or Western military protection, which is a provocative project,” he said. Suleiman stressed that their future comes through moderation and openness. “The project of the Christians in the Orient is the plan of every citizen that longs for freedom, justice and growth to matter to which sect he belongs to,” he added.
The president lamented that the number of Christians in the Orient dropped from 25% to 6% due to wars and mainly the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Dangers threatening the Christians in the Orient are known. Mainly they are changes in demography, emigration and backwardness in their participation in decision-making except for Lebanon,” he said. Suleiman used the occasion to announce to the participants of the conference that he has received a message from Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, informing him that Doha was exerting strong efforts to free Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi. The two bishops were kidnapped by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo at the end of April while on humanitarian work. Qatar is a main backer of the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the uprising that started in March 2011.

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.”

FPM Delegation Meets Berri, to Hold Talks Parliamentary Blocs

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/A delegation from the Free Patriotic Movement held talks on Saturday with Speaker Nabih Berri for the second time in less than a week. “The meeting was to continue our dialogue that we launched recently at Nijmeh Square,” FPM's Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan told reporters at Ain el-Tineh. He pointed out that the delegation addressed numerous issues with the speaker and agreed to form a committee comprised from Berri's Development and Liberation bloc and the Change and Reform bloc to tackle the upcoming stage. A delegation from the FPM held talks with Berri on Tuesday on the sidelines of a parliamentary session to elect the parliament's bureau committee members and the parliamentary committees members. Asked if a meeting will be held soon between Berri and FPM leader MP Michel Aoun, Kanaan said that “the meeting will happen in time.” The FPM delegation was comprised of MPs Alain Aoun, Ziad Aswad, Simon Abi Ramia and in presence of MP Ali Bazzi. Kanaan stressed the importance of the resumption of the legislative work. “We will visit the rest of the parliamentary blocs to push forward our initiative,” the MP noted. 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 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.” The 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.

Sources: Ibrahim 'Relieved' after 'Promising' Talks with Qatar Emir on Kidnapped Bishops

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has expressed relief after promises made by Qatar that it would resolve the case of two bishops held hostage by rebels in Syria since April. Ibrahim, who returned to Beirut on Friday following talks with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, was relieved over the results of the efforts exerted by Doha to locate the bishops, informed sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper. They said Qatar has made major progress in finding the party that is holding Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo at the end of April while on humanitarian work. An Nahar daily also said that the meeting between Sheikh Tamim and Ibrahim was “fruitful and promising.” The state-run National News Agency said Friday that the Emir asked the security agencies in Qatar and Lebanon to coordinate to be able to resolve the case through exchanging information.Ibrahim's visit to Doha came after Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi made a similar trip and met with the Emir along with other top Qatari officials. The General Security chief had promised to seek for the freedom of the bishops after he played an important role in a three-way deal that saw the release of nine Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria and two Turkish pilots abducted in Beirut. The latest in the prisoner exchange was implemented this week when the Syrian regime released dozens of female detainee. The hostage swap was brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority.

German Spy Chiefs to Head to U.S. over Merkel Phone Tap Row

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/German spy chiefs will travel to the United States next week to demand explanations following allegations that U.S. intelligence has been tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone. "High-ranking government representatives will go rapidly to the United States in order to push forward discussions with the White House and the NSA on the allegations raised recently," said Georg Streiter, the chancellor's deputy spokesman, on Friday. German media quoting sources close to the intelligence service reported Saturday that the delegation will include top officials from the German secret service. Revelations of U.S. covert surveillance based on leaked documents from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have sparked outrage in the European Union where privacy protection is a very sensitive issue. The scandal widened this week on allegations that Merkel's phone was being tapped, prompting Berlin to summon the U.S. ambassador -- a highly unusual move between the close allies. Merkel had called U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday demanding answers and warning this would be "breach of trust" between international partners. "Spying between friends, that's just not done," Merkel said, as she was heading into a EU summit earlier this week.
SourceAgence France Presse.WorldPoliticsUnited States of AmericaBarack Obama

Al-Nusra Front Says Chief in Good Health after State TV Death Claim

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 October 2013/Syria's jihadist al-Nusra Front said in a statement on Saturday that its leader was in good health, after state television had reported his death. "What was claimed by one channel alone, regarding what it claimed was the killing of the emir of al-Nusra Front, was a lie," said the group. On Friday night, Syrian state television said Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani had been killed in coastal Latakia province, but state news agency SANA quickly withdrew an alert saying the same thing. The al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaida, is one of the more powerful rebel groups battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad. Al-Nusra was designated a "terrorist" organization by the United States late last year. Source/Agence France Presse.

Geneva II peace conference: Practical theory
October 26, 2013 /The Daily Star /Politicians and officials in a number of countries are busy with preparations for the Geneva II peace conference for Syria, and Lebanon is no exception. Of course, the meeting might not be convened in the end, as Syria’s opposition continues to insist on guarantees that the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad be a key part of the Geneva II agenda, and not an afterthought or something to be addressed later. Meanwhile, Lebanese officials have begun talking up the possibility that Beirut will make an appearance at Geneva, in the latest example of how to distinguish between theory and practice. In theory, Lebanon should go to Geneva II. Lebanon is the country that is most directly concerned with the political fallout of the war in Syria, and the country that has been forced to put up with the most detrimental effects of the horrific humanitarian cost of the war. In theory, Lebanon has adhered to a policy of disassociation on the Syria crisis, which it declared relatively early in the conflict. In theory, Lebanon is the Syrian neighbor whose point of view should be taken into consideration by the parties represented at Geneva II, if it takes place, and it is the country that is most concerned with monitoring the impact and repercussions of what is agreed at such an international gathering. But in practice, the statements from politicians in the run-up to Geneva II have not been encouraging. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has signaled how important it would be for Lebanon to attend, citing the arguments above. But he has also failed to mention how the policy of disassociation has been nearly impossible to enforce for Lebanon as a country. Some officials and institutions might have adhered to the policy of neutrality, but major actors in Lebanon have not, and there is little that the government can do about these breaches. Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Friday offered a series of observations on the proposed Geneva II conference and the need for Lebanon to attend. In practice, seeing Mansour make an appearance at Geneva II would not bode well for Lebanon. People who pay attention to such things are well aware that throughout the crisis in Syria, Mansour has adopted the viewpoint of the Syrian authorities, and not represented Lebanon’s national interests or agreed-upon policies, such as disassociation. When there are reports of cross-border violations by Syria, Mansour becomes a profound skeptic, who prefers to wait for the official view from Damascus before speaking authoritatively on the issue. Even when President Michel Sleiman asks the Foreign Ministry to issue an official complaint over such breaches, Mansour ignores the directives. In practice, Lebanon’s attendance at Geneva II will require, once and for all, a coherent government stance, and not the usual confusion, division and efforts to sweep things under the carpet.

Former Israeli Air Force commander, ret. Maj. Gen. Ido Nehoshtan, : Even if Iran gets nuke, it won't last forever
Maj. Gen. Nehoshtan trusts in IAF's ability to strike Iranian nuclear program: 'Deterrence is strong.' He warns against 'drawn out' talks, 'bad deal'
Ilana Curiel Published: 10.26.13, 13:10 / Ynetnews
Former Air Force commander, ret. Maj. Gen. Ido Nehoshtan, referred to the Iranian nuclear program and to the Air Force's strike capabilities in a public event in Beersheba on Saturday. "I wouldn't underestimate the IAF's abilities to stand up to the task," Nehoshtan said. Referring to the fail-safe point, he added: "If we've reached a situation in which, god forbid, Iran possesses nuclear weapons and we're too late, it doesn't mean it will stay that way forever. We're not there yet." Nehoshtan also said that "deterrence, composed from military ability and the readiness the use it, not only exists, but is also strong. Israel has a reputation for significant military force, varied capabilities combined with exact intelligence and when it (Israel) feels it has to, it does." Regarding the negotiations with Iran he said: "We're at the outset of one of the most important processes in the Middle East. We got there because sanctions work. Rohani was elected to change the internal economic situation. We've found leverage over the Iranians which brought them to the negotiating table, but the Iranians are good in negotiations. They're masters of the art. And when you run negotiations with a group of countries it's harder to find common ground." Analyzing the possible results of the talks, Nehoshtan said there are four possibilities, two winning and two losing: "One win is that the talks will succeed. The Americans and we are on the same page: Prevent the Iranian from having nuclear weapons. The second win is exposing them, showing their bluff. "There are also two dangerous scenarios: One is to fall into a bad deal. We're concerned they'll manage to convince the world with a good Powerpoint presentation while giving nothing away. The other is the drawing out of the process. Some are experts at that. Leave smiling and draw it out." Nehoshtan said: "We – the free world – have to prevent the losing scenarios. Not let a bad deal come into being and not let the process to last forever." The former IAF chief noted that the Iranians reached a low-grade enrichment of uranium, enough for several low quality bombs. "For a bomb high-grade is needed," he said. "Enrichment is possible but it takes time." Regarding a possible military strike against Iran, Nehoshtan said: "No one is eager to pursue military action; you do it when the alternative is worse. There's no telling what will follow a military strike."

The Battle for Hearts and Minds
Abdul Moneim Said/Asharq Alawsat
The first thing that we must realize is that the war on terrorism and extremism is a regional one. This is a war that has extended across the Middle East, while it also represents a threat to regional states, not just in terms of violence, but also division, fragmentation, and civil war. This war is placing the Arabs on one side, and the rest of the world on the other. The second fact is that we are facing a proliferation of terrorist organizations, radical militias, and extremist ideology, and this includes the Takfirist ideology of Sayyid Qutb promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood. These organizations are leading a battle for hearts and minds; a process through which they recruit their followers, distorting a tolerant and moderate religion.
This issue is our topic for today, and this is something that is not new to the Arab and Islamic world; we have known this phenomenon since the emergence of the Kharijites. Following this, we saw the rise of Islamic extremism and extremists. It was only after people resorted to the sword that we saw the rise of groups fighting the entire world in the name of Islam.
In Egypt, we saw the rise of terrorism in the 1990s until we witnessed the Luxor Massacre, the brutal slaying of 58 tourists. Years later, we have witnessed the cold-blooded murder of unarmed Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. Terrorism has not left any Arab state untouched, and this is something that can be clearly seen in Palestine, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In some cases, this phenomenon has led to social fragmentation and division. When this reached New York, London, Madrid, Paris, and Moscow, the watching world failed to distinguish between those who follow a tolerant and humane religion, and the misguided few who have distorted our faith and been led astray. The story of terrorism is well known and has now entered its fifth decade. During this period, there has been much talk among Arab and Muslim intellectuals across the world about extremist groups hijacking Islam and interpreting and understanding its provisions according to their own desires and interests. This hijacking of our religion took place when the world began to view these extremists and radicals as representatives of Islam, not to mention our own Sunni Muslim youth.
Major Islamic institutions in different Arab states were ineffective in their confrontation of extremist ideology and groups, either out of weak capabilities, an inability to deal with the challenges of the time, or because these institutions found it useful to go even further than these radicals in terms of espousing extremist views. Islam appears vulnerable to attack in the current global clash of civilizations. We are witnessing a stage of escalation and aggravation; however the price for this confrontation is being paid by the Arabs and Muslims, who are also its primary victims.
The essence of the battle for hearts and minds is the process to “renew” religion. This does not mean promoting heresy, but rather promoting a different reading of Islam. Islam would not have been able to spread across the globe and survive until today if it did not have the capacity to absorb and contain different readings and understandings.
As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, issues such as globalization, participation in decision-making, equality, and partnership, in a world that contains different doctrines and ideologies, has become the main task of this Islamic “renewal.” The Muslim Brotherhood successfully dominated the post-Arab Spring political arena by pulling off a major trick, namely putting on the mask of democracy, modernity, and the ballot box. However when the Brotherhood did indeed come to power, they took off the mask to reveal their true despotic face. What happened in Egypt was an important lesson for everyone, namely that such deceptions cannot last forever. As for now, we must ensure that this scenario is not repeated, while such deceptions must be exposed wherever they are. This cannot happen unless we understand the requirements of the age, and this is not just the task of religious scholars, but everybody. If we are wise, we will ensure that we spread knowledge and understanding throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Here, the “renewal” of Islam will be a message of civilization, promoting knowledge and understanding, particularly regarding the modern world and what is required today. If it is true that this “renewal” of Islam is our priority, then promoting development and growth is not far behind. This is because religious extremism thrives amongst ignorance, poverty, and social inequality—not just between different social classes, but also geographic regions. I do not know much about the social and economic conditions in other Arab states, yet the reality in Egypt is glaringly clear. During the major wave of terrorism that beset the country throughout the 1990s, 97 percent of those responsible for this came from Upper Egypt. Of this figure, 77 percent came from a single governorate, Minya governorate—the most underdeveloped of all Egypt’s provinces.As for today, the situation remains largely the same. Two-thirds of those who took part in the pro-Mursi Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-ins came from three southern governorates: Minya, Beni Suef, and Fayoum. While the majority of those who voted for Mursi in the Egyptian presidential elections also came from Upper Egypt. As for the rest of those who voted for him, they simply did not want to see a return of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. The bitter fact of the matter is that 62 percent of Egypt’s poor live in the country’s southern governorates.
Therefore, there is a clear link between vulnerability to futile extremist ideology and economic and social conditions. In any case, there is a dire need for more studies to be carried out regarding the geographic areas where extremism and violent ideologies thrive. If results back up the analysis from Egypt, then we are at least halfway towards a cure.
There is another approach to handling this battle for hearts and minds—after we have “renewed” religion and sought to secure development and growth— namely to think of the future. The world has been turned upside down in the past few years, and we are still witnessing the repercussions of this upheaval. The world is not as it was before, when changes took place gradually over centuries. Now, the status quo can change several times within an individual’s lifetime. Indeed, phenomenon such as the Arab Spring are now a part of our past as much as our future; the well-known proverb that the future starts now is not an exaggeration. Perhaps one of the dilemmas facing youth today is that they have to deal with the future while they are still living in the present, or indeed the distant past. This is precisely what the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to impose, namely for our present to be controlled and defined by our past. However what we want is for the present to live in our hearts and minds, and our consciences.