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Bible Quotation for today/Warning
James 02/01-13: "My friends, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, you must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance. Suppose a rich man wearing a gold ring and fine clothes comes to your meeting, and a poor man in ragged clothes also comes. If you show more respect to the well-dressed man and say to him, “Have this best seat here,” but say to the poor man, “Stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my feet,” then you are guilty of creating distinctions among yourselves and of making judgments based on evil motives. Listen, my dear friends! God chose the poor people of this world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. But you dishonor the poor! Who are the ones who oppress you and drag you before the judges? The rich! They are the ones who speak evil of that good name which has been given to you. You will be doing the right thing if you obey the law of the Kingdom, which is found in the scripture, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But if you treat people according to their outward appearance, you are guilty of sin, and the Law condemns you as a lawbreaker. Whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all. For the same one who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Even if you do not commit adultery, you have become a lawbreaker if you commit murder. Speak and act as people who will be judged by the law that sets us free. For God will not show mercy when he judges the person who has not been merciful; but mercy triumphs over judgment.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For October 30/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October30/13
Israel to US: Pass more sanctions, Iran could have material for
bomb within weeks
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/10/26/2013/ REUTERS
Israel urged the United States to pass a new round of sanctions against Tehran, and warned that Iran could potentially have enough fissile material for a bomb within weeks.
An Israeli official issued comments on Iran’s nuclear program in response to reports from Washington that the White House wanted Congress to hold off on passing a new round of sanctions against Iran as a gesture in the midst of the ongoing six-party talks to diplomatically disarm Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian MP: Despite warnings from West, Tehran continuing 20% uranium enrichment
Senior Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said his country continued to enrich uranium at the 20 percent purity level, according to Iran’s Press TV. His statement contradicted that of a senior Iranian parliamentarian last week – that Tehran had halted that activity. Iran’s enrichment of uranium to a fissile level of 20% is a major technical step, taking it just short of the concentration needed for a nuclear weapon.
Iran says it needs the material only to fuel a medical research reactor.An envoy in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said he believed Iran was continuing to refine uranium to the 20% threshold. The next quarterly IAEA report on Iran is to be issued in November. An Israeli official said on Saturday night that the entire debate over whether Iran had continued to enrich uranium at that level was “meaningless” and an attempt to divert attention from the main issue: The need for Iran to completely stop uranium enrichment at any level. The international community, therefore, should ensure the full dismantlement of Iran’s military nuclear weapons program, and until it does, sanctions against Iran should be increased, the official said. “A nation that can enrich uranium to 3.5% can have the ability” through innovative centrifuges “to enrich it at 90%. A nation that has the ability to recycle fuel, is almost guaranteed the ability to produce nuclear weapons,” the official said. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu already spoke of this point when he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of September, the official said. The official saw no reason why Iran, which systematically violates UN Security Council resolutions, should retain any enrichment capability or a heavy water reactor, given that these two elements are not necessary for a civilian nuclear energy program, but only for the development of nuclear weapons. Netanyahu conveyed a similar message to US Secretary of State John Kerry when the two men met in Rome last week, and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said the same thing to US Vice President Joseph Biden when the two men met in Washington on Thursday. Both the US and Israel agree that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted, and that existing sanctions should not be eased until this happens. However, the two governments differ on the issue of imposing new sanctions. Until Iran met with the six negotiating parties – the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom – in Geneva earlier this month, the US Congress was poised to pass a new round of sanctions against Iran that would be particularly crippling. A round of six-party talks with Iran is to be held next week in Geneva, on November 7 and 8. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Friday that it was important to give diplomacy time to work before taking further action, and that additional sanctions could be imposed later. “We have conveyed that any congressional action should be aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move forward. So while we understand that Congress may consider new sanctions, we think this is a time for a pause, as we asked for in the past, to see if negotiations can gain traction.... We feel that it’s important that any new proposals take into account the progress we’re making diplomatically and leave open the flexibility. There’s always time for sanctions in the future as needed,” she said. Yukiya Amano, director-general of the IAEA, is to meet in the agency’s Vienna headquarters with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi for about an hour on Monday. “The meeting will provide an opportunity to exchange views on the way forward,” the IAEA said in a statement.
It gave no details. The fact that the Amano-Araqchi meeting appeared to be scheduled on short notice may be seen as a further sign of the Iranian government’s desire to try to end international deadlock over the country’s nuclear program. The meeting is to be followed by a round of negotiations later the same day, also in Vienna, between senior officials from both sides over a stalled IAEA investigation into suspicions of Iranian nuclear research.
Neither Amano nor Araqchi is due to take part in those previously scheduled talks, which would be the 12th such meeting since early 2012. The IAEA-Iran talks have so far failed to yield a breakthrough deal that would allow the agency to resume its inquiry. Sanctions imposed in 2011 by the US and the European Union have combined to slash Iran’s oil exports by more than 1 million barrels a day, depriving Tehran of billions of dollars worth of sales a month and helping to drive up inflation and unemployment. In Washington, Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will hold a briefing on Thursday on the status of nuclear talks with Iran for members of a US Senate committee considering tough sanctions on Tehran, Senate aides said on Friday. The House of Representatives passed its version of a stiffer sanctions package in July by a 400-20 vote. The House bill seeks to slash Iran’s oil exports by another 1 million barrels a day. The Senate bill could reduce the ability of President Barack Obama’s administration to offer waivers to the sanctions. But the measure has not come to a vote in the banking committee, a prelude to its consideration by the full Senate. The two versions would then be reconciled before being sent to Obama for his signature. It appeared on Friday that banking committee leaders, who had already put off consideration of the package from September, agreed to further delay. Debate on amendments to the measure, known as the committee markup, had been expected as soon as early next week with a vote on Thursday, but Senate aides said they did not expect the markup next week. The White House hosted a meeting of aides to Senate committee leaders on Thursday seeking to persuade lawmakers to hold off on the new sanctions package.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Hezbollah remains threat to Israel
Ynetnews/After second Lebanon War, Shiite group rebuilt its strength, arsenal, now poses acute threat to State of Israel
The Media Line
Published: 10.29.13, 22:47 / Israel News
When Israeli intelligence officials discuss the most serious threats to Israel today, they always start with Iran and its nuclear program. But not far behind is Hezbollah , the armed group in south Lebanon that is both part of the Lebanese government and classified as a terrorist organization by much of the international community. “Hezbollah has thousands and thousands of rockets and missiles pointed at Israel and this is a problem,” Brig. Gen. (res) Amos Gilboa, who spent decades in Israeli army intelligence told The Media Line. “Hezbollah is a major threat to Israel. In the past, its firepower was mainly directed against northern Israel, but now it can also reach Tel Aviv, the heart of our industry and technology.” During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the group fired some 4000 short and medium range rockets at Israel killing 44 Israeli civilians. Israel used air strikes to destroy many of the rockets and their launchers, killing more than 1000 Lebanese, both civilians and fighters. Since then, Hezbollah has more than rebuilt its weapons capability and has some 100,000 rockets pointed at the Jewish state, according to Israel’s head of northern command Major General Noam Tibon. Hezbollah also successfully spied on Israel, especially in the period until the 2006 war.
“Hezbollah was able to recruit and run a whole string of agents within Israel --- some of them well connected within the army and police and with access to classified information,” Shlomo Shapiro, the head of the department of political science at Bar Ilan University told The Media Line. “They were able to obtain much of the information that Israel was seeking to deny from them and we could see their operational successes based on accurate and timely intelligence.” He said Hezbollah operatives learned Hebrew well, and could eavesdrop on Israeli soldiers’ phone calls. Since 2006, Shapiro said, Israel has put a lot of effort into trying to break Hezbollah’s spying capability, and has succeeded, at least partially. Hezbollah currently has thousands of fighters in Syria, bolstering Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s fight against rebel groups. Tibon told a recent conference that Hizbullah is fighting in Syria’s most violent regions. The number of Hezbollah fighters there is not clear. The Times of London reported that there are now only 3500 fighters there, as compared to 10,000 previously. Hundreds of Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Lebanon. The ongoing conflict in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon on several fronts. Lebanon is currently hosting about one million Syrian refugees – the equivalent of one-fourth of the country’s population. There have also been growing clashes between supporters and opponents of Assad that have left at least 16 dead and 80 wounded in Tripoli. The Lebanese army has reinforced its presence there hoping to tamp down the violence. At the same time, Hezbollah remains popular in Lebanon, says Lebanese journalist Farid Chedid.
“Hezbollah represents both religion and a belonging attachment to being Shi’ite,” Chedid, the editor of the Lebanon Wire, told The Media Line. “While there is some criticism of Hezbollah for fighting in Syria, most Shi’ites in Lebanon remain loyal.” Hezbollah is also seen as the only regional power, with the exception of its patron Iran, which can stand up to Israel. Chedid said he did not expect a new regional conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the near future. “Hezbollah cannot fight on several fronts at once -- not even a superpower can do that,” Chedid said. “Hezbollah is already worn thin in Lerbanon and does not have the willingness or capability to face a war with Israel. Israel is also happy with the calm on its northern border.” The only way that could change, he says, is if Israel decides to launch a military strike on Iran. In that case, Hezbollah would launch hundreds of rockets at Israel, and Israel would most likely respond with air attacks.
Article written by Linda Gradstein
Army Deploys in Tripoli's Syria Street after Calm Night
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/Lebanese army units deployed on Tuesday in a street that separates two rival neighborhoods of the northern city of Tripoli that have been engaged in gunbattles for the past week.
The troops began their deployment at 7:00 am in Syria Street which lies between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh districts. The soldiers carried out patrols and erected checkpoints in the street hours after calm reigned in both neighborhoods, the state-run National News Agency reported. Clashes ended after 11:00 pm Monday after top officials held intense contacts to guarantee the army's safe entry to Syria Street, NNA said. Three soldiers were wounded on Monday during a clash with gunmen as troops deployed in Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents are mostly Sunni and back the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The military had earlier deployed in Jabal Mohsen that is mainly Alawite, the sect of Assad. A week of bloody clashes have left scores of casualties. But top officials claim that their intention to resolve years of fighting between the two neighborhoods are true. They took a decision last week for the army to deploy in the city and bring the situation under control. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr has tasked the army intelligence with carrying out a preliminary investigation to identify those involved in the clashes to take appropriate legal measures against them. Officials close to President Michel Suleiman also told An Nahar daily published on Tuesday that the armed forces “will not back off” from a decision reached during the security meeting at Baabda Palace “no matter what the sacrifices were to bring back tranquility to Tripoli
Al-Mustaqbal Says Nasrallah's 'Arrogant' Statement Part of Psychological War
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/Al-Mustaqbal bloc stated on Tuesday that Hizbullah chief's latest televised speech is a part of a “psychological war,” stressing also on their rejection of all armed presence in the northern city of Tripoli. "Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech is arrogant and is a part of a psychological war he is wahing,” the bloc said in a released statement after the MPs' weekly meeting at the Center House. The statement elaborated: “Through his speech, Nasrallah tried to delude the Lebanese that the Damascus regime will soon emerge victorious against the Syrian people, and that the Persian power will dominate over Lebanon and the region. Nasrallah wanted to say that this fate is inevitable and that the Lebanese, Syrians and Arabs have to cope with it.”"But this will not be achieved.”Al-Mustaqbal accused Hizbullah of “contributing to the paralysis in constitutional institutions and obstructing the formation of the new cabinet.” "Nasrallah is proposing conditions for the cabinet's formation that are unconstitutional,” it said. "But the Lebanese people that resisted to terrorism and refused to surrender will not give up and give in to the new arrogant scheme applied by Hizbullah and its allies.” In a televised speech he gave on Monday, Nasrallah commented on the political deadlock in Lebanon and failure to form a new government, accusing the March 14 camp of only prolonging the impasse by imposing various conditions on forming a cabinet. He noted that the camp was and is still banking on the developments in Syria in order to take any political decision in this matter, saying that such actions will only maintain the deadlock. The Hizbullah chief therefore suggested that the March 14 camp “exercise some humility” and accept the formation of a cabinet that grants nine ministers to itself and the March 8 camp, while the remaining six be granted to centrists. The al-Mustaqbal urged Hizbullah again to withdraw its forces from Syria and commit to the Baabda Declaration.
"True partnership will not be secured in the country unless Hizbullah commits to the accords reached at national dialogue sessions and abides by the Baabda Declaration.”Regarding the ongoing clashes in Tripoli, the bloc stated that it “strictly rejects” the presence of armed men in the northern city and overruling the law. It also held security forces responsible for preserving the situation in the city and protecting citizens “all over Lebanon.” "Security in the country cannot be in the hands of several parties and the possession of weapons by one faction will trigger others to get armed and will promote violence.” In a related matter, the bloc urged adopting “the toughest punishments” against the criminals behind the twin explosions that targeted the mosques in the city. "Especially after investigation revealed that the are linked to the Syrian regime,” the MPs stressed. "Strict and practical measures should be adopted against the Syrian regime and those involved in the blasts, as well as those protecting whether individuals or parties, must be persecuted.” Forty-five people were killed and 800 injured in the car bomb blasts that targeted the Sunni al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques on August 23. Since them, several suspects were charged with forming an armed gang for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities and bombing the Tripoli mosques. Also, the conferees praised President Michel Suleiman's stances and that “stressed on religious coexistence and on rejecting promoting ideas about the present of minorities in the country.”
Change and Reform Vows to Follow Up on Issue of Forcibly Disappeared and Missing Persons
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc on Tuesday said “it is necessary to separate legislative work from political alignments,” stressing that “the issue of the forcibly disappeared and missing Lebanese persons needs efforts and a follow-up.”“We discussed the legislative priorities, such as the coastal power line and the approval of the oil decrees and the need for the cabinet to convene,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the bloc's weekly meeting in Rabieh, stressing that “these are national and not political issues.”“We will follow up on all these issues,” Kanaan pledged, noting that “the administration and justice parliamentary committee will meet tomorrow to discuss the issue of the parliamentary electoral law in an attempt to find a fair law that represents all political groups.”The lawmaker also called for separating legislative work from “political alignments.”“The issue of the forcibly disappeared and missing Lebanese persons needs efforts and a follow-up,” he added. Meanwhile, caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, who took part in the bloc's meeting, told reporters in Rabieh that “the issue of the forcibly disappeared and detainees is among our priorities.”“We will never forget it but we don't make seasonal overbids in this regard,” Qortbawi added. “We put this issue as a priority in the cabinet's ministerial Policy Statement and the Ministry of Justice has send a draft decree on establishing the Independent Committee for the Forcibly Disappeared and Missing Persons.” “We need an independent body to address the issue, that's why we sought to create this committee,” the minister added. For his part, Change and Reform bloc MP Hikmat Dib noted that “Lebanese has not respected its missing persons and we must give answers to the families.” “This is not aimed at reopening the wounds but rather at healing the wounds of the families,” Dib went on to say. On Monday, Phalange bloc MP Sami Gemayel urged the state to address the issue of the Lebanese who are believed to be in Syrian jails, stressing that they are “detainees” and not “missing persons.” Commenting on remarks voiced by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah only minutes before the news conference, Gemayel said: “The 622 names who are in Syria are not -- in any way whatsoever -- missing persons, but rather detainees, such as our comrade Butros Khawand, who was kidnapped from outside his home and was spotted in Syrian jails.” Earlier on Monday, Nasrallah congratulated the nine Lebanese pilgrims on their safe return to Lebanon after a 17-month kidnap ordeal in Syria's Aazaz, hoping this development would pave the way for resolving the case of Lebanese held in Israel and Syria. He suggested that mechanisms be set in place to tackle these issues. He revealed: “I have received word from Syria that it is willing to help resolve the cases of missing persons and we hope these efforts will yield happy endings.”
Hariri Holds 'Regular' Meetings with March 14 Figures in Paris, Won't Meet Salam
by Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks with several March 14 figures in the French capital to discuss ways to resolve the local crises, however, he will not meet with PM-designate Tammam Salam. A source denied in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper on Tuesday that a meeting will be held between Hariri and Salam, who is currently in Geneva on a private visit.
An Nahar newspaper reported on Monday that Salam was expected to meet with Hariri in Paris to discuss the cabinet formation process. The report comes amid rumors that 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. The source told al-Liwaa that Hariri is holding talks with prominent March 14 figures including head of al-Mustaqbal Parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora and MP Butros Harb to mull ways to resolve the crises confronting the country. The source described the talks as “normal” and to check on Hariri's health after he underwent a surgery in Paris. Hariri underwent a surgery to remove pins placed in his legs following a skiing accident in 2012 in the French Alps. However, another source expected that several issues will be discussed in Paris with Hariri, which requires a wide meeting for the March 14 coalition.
ISF Intelligence Questions Tripoli Bombing Conspirator
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/The Military Prosecutor referred on Tuesday a suspect to the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch to carry out the initial investigation with him on his role in the deadly mosque bombings in the northern city of Tripoli. Judge Saqr Saqr, who is the state commissioner to the military court, asked the Intelligence Branch to “question Ahmed Mohammed Ali over the information he has on the Tripoli blasts and his role in the case.” LBCI TV quoted sources as saying that Ali had helped Ahmed Merhi, another suspect in the twin blasts, to escape. Security forces have said that Merhi is the driver of the vehicle that exploded near al-Taqwa mosque. But Merhi could still be in Lebanese territories and under the protection of certain parties, LBCI's sources said. Forty-five people were killed and 800 injured in the car bomb blasts that targeted the Sunni al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques on August 23. Several suspects have already been charged with forming an armed gang for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities and bombing the Tripoli mosques.
On Monday, several residents blocked the international highway near the town of al-Masoudiyeh in the northern Akkar district with burning tires to protest Ali's arrest. The state-run National News Agency said that the army intelligence arrested him last week after raiding his house in the town of al-Haysa
Suleiman, Miqati, Qahwaji Stress Need to Completely Implement Tripoli Security Plan
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/President Michel Suleiman, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, and Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji discussed on Tuesday the implementation of the security plan in Tripoli aimed at containing the tensions in the northern city. They stressed the need to “completely implement the security plan.” Qahwaji also informed the two officials of the army's progress in imposing the plan and the phases that have so far been taken on the ground. The talks at the Baabda Palace also tackled the latest political and security developments. Clashes erupted last week between Tripoli's rival Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods, leavings scores of casualties. The Lebanese army deployed on Tuesday along Syria Street, the road that separates the two neighborhoods. Three soldiers were wounded on Monday during a clash with gunmen as troops deployed in Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents are mostly Sunni and back the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The military had earlier deployed in Jabal Mohsen that is mainly Alawite, the sect of Assad. The two neighborhoods have repeatedly witnessed rounds clashes that have only grown in intensity after the eruption of the uprising in Syria in March 2011.
Plumbly Lauds Tripoli Move, Says U.N. Unaware of Plan to Bury Syria Arms in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly on Tuesday hailed the efforts exerted to contain the violence in the northern city of Tripoli and denied knowledge of reported plans to destroy Syria's chemical weapons in Lebanon. Following talks with Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati at the Grand Serail, Plumbly expressed his “deep concern over the recurrence of violence in Tripoli and welcomed the efforts of the army and security forces, in parallel with political efforts and the efforts of the caretaker Prime Minister, to restore calm across the city.” “Now, more than ever, and particularly in light of the developments in neighboring Syria, it is important for all parties in Lebanon to exercise restraint and to act in Lebanon’s interests,” he said. The army has deployed heavily in the rival Tripoli districts of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, in addition to Syria Street that divides the two areas, a week after a new bout of gunbattles left scores of casualties. The deployment came after a decision taken by the country's top leaders to bring the city's security situation under control. Plumbly reiterated the U.N.’s support for the calls voiced by President Michel Suleiman and other leaders to respect the country’s state institutions, protect Lebanon from the impact of the Syrian crisis through the dissociation policy, to form an effective government and resume the national dialogue among the political foes. Asked by a reporter about U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's visit to Beirut, Plumbly said: “Brahimi is currently in Damascus and we wish him success in his discussions.” “We expect him to return to Lebanon in the coming days. His office will share details regarding his program and issues he would raise in Lebanon when available,” he added. On media reports about the possibility of burying Syria’s chemicals in Lebanon, Plumbly told reporters that “the U.N. is not aware of any such plans.”He said the Syrian government has recently submitted its destruction plan to the Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague. Caretaker Environment Minister Nazem al-Khoury has dismissed the reports on the issue. “Lebanon categorically opposes such a policy and the environment ministry will totally reject” it, he added.
Sami Gemayel to Nasrallah: 622 Lebanese in Syria are Detainees, Not Missing Persons
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 October 2013/Phalange Party Central Committee Coordinator MP Sami Gemayel on Monday urged the state to address the issue of the Lebanese who are believed to be in Syrian jails, stressing that they are “detainees” and not “missing persons.”“The issue of detainees in Syrian prisons is a crisis that has been dragging on since 30 years and the state has not launched any initiative to resolve the case in a drastic manner,” Gemayel said in a press conference he held after the weekly meeting of the party's political bureau. Commenting on remarks voiced by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah only minutes before the news conference, Gemayel said: “The 622 names who are in Syria are not -- in any way whatsoever -- missing persons, but rather detainees, such as our comrade Butros Khawand, who was kidnapped from outside his home and was spotted in Syrian jails.” “We totally know where they are and the names include those of army troops and Lebanese citizens who were confronting Syria on October 13, 1990,” Gemayel added. Turning to the issue of the nine Lebanese pilgrims who were abducted in Syria in 2012 and released around two weeks ago, Gemayel saluted the freed men, stressing his solidarity with them. But the lawmaker lashed out at the Lebanese state over several details of the swap deal which also involved the freeing of two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon and dozens of Syrian women detainees from regime jails. “It turned out that the Lebanese state was aware of the whereabouts of the abductors and was coordinating with them, and this has become known by everyone,” Gemayel said. He also voiced respect for General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, but criticized him for meeting Syrian security chief Ali Mamlouk – wanted in Lebanon on charges of plotting bombings in the country –- as part of efforts to secure the release of the nine Lebanese and the Syrian women.
Gemayel also deplored the manner in which the two Turkish pilots were freed, saying “someone handed over the hostages” to Lebanese authorities. “Where is this person, what is his name, why wasn't he arrested? There is no answer,” Gemayel lamented. “Those who kidnapped the Turks in Lebanon were released from jail on a L.L.500,000 each, and therefore the Lebanese judiciary forgot about the law and constitution and it turned out that the judiciary is not free,” the lawmaker added. He noted that “the entire state mobilized for the sake of the Aazaz abductees, and it seems that all the Lebanese must take things into their own hands so that all officials can be mobilized.” “Maybe if we kidnap the Syrian ambassador the state will act. What is the message you are sending us in the case of the Aazaz abductees? Should we block roads and kidnap people? Why don't you recognize the presence of the 622 detainees?” Gemayel added. “Do anything to demand the release of these detainees. Seek the help of the United Nations,” Gemayel went on to say, addressing Lebanese officials. “You are pushing us to renounce the state and to review all our stances. This is a message to all officials and to the state,” Gemayel warned. He vowed that the Phalange Party will not abandon “the 622 detainees, because they sacrificed for the freedom of the Lebanese.” Earlier on Monday, Nasrallah congratulated the nine pilgrims on their safe return to Lebanon, hoping this development would pave the way for resolving the case of Lebanese held in Israel and Syria. He suggested that mechanisms be set in place to tackle these issues. He revealed: “I have received word from Syria that it is willing to help resolve the cases of missing persons and we hope these efforts will yield happy endings.”
Can Lebanon’s Christian community unite?
October 29, 2013/By Hasan Lakkis The Daily Star
Efforts to unify the Christians of Lebanon in order to protect the community from the worst of the fallout from regional and internal crises have so far proven futile, but the looming threat of a presidential vacuum could breathe new life into reconciliation attempts. Christian political sources from across the spectrum discuss mounting concern within the community regarding what they see as the decline of Christian influence due to fragmentation and political bickering. One source predicted that the general political vacuum would not be resolved anytime soon, pointing to the lack of any progress on the horizon to suggest a breakthrough in the formation of a government. At the same time, Parliament has stalled, and when President Michel Sleiman’s term ends in May it is not likely to be renewed. Christian parliamentarians said they had seen a trend of increasing marginalization of the Christians within the political arena, especially when it comes to major decisions. This was made clear most recently when Parliament decided to extend its mandate according to a Shiite-Sunni-Druze agreement. The sources blamed a general lack of cohesion among the country’s Christians for the passing of the mandate extension despite the fact that all major Christian parties were unified in their opposition to it.
The sources also complained Christians were sidelined in the negotiations over the electoral law, where, again, overwhelming Christian preference for the Orthodox Law proposal was not enough to save it.
Further evidence of Christian discord is the continuing struggle over top-tier government appointments generally reserved for Christians, which have remained empty since the government resigned.
The sources noted that when a position opens up that is typically filled by a Muslim, whether Sunni or Shiite, the main parties usually have very little trouble reaching a consensus. When the appointment is for a position that should go to a Christian, however, all sects have to agree due to the split in the Christian community between March 8 and March 14.
These sources said that Christian presence in Lebanon, and the community’s material and cultural contributions, cannot be overlooked or forgotten, emphasizing that the state should remain divided 50/50 between Christians and Muslims. They blamed the Taif Accord for stripping the president of his powers. Although the text of the Taif grants these powers to the Cabinet, the sources said in reality they had been transferred to the prime minister.
The decline of Christian influence was exacerbated by the Syrian occupation and a lack of Christian leadership following the Civil War: President Amine Gemayel was forced into exile, as was Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, while Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea was imprisoned in Lebanon.
The major rift occurred in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Aoun’s FPM and Hezbollah. With time, the divisions have grown wider and more acrimonious, mirroring the polarization between March 14 and March 8. Even former Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir was unable to unite the Christian community.
When President Michel Sleiman’s election effectively ended the political crisis of 2008, many held out hope that he would unite the Christians of Lebanon. But Sleiman too has been unable to halt the fragmentation, and rather than unifying the community, he has become another party to the division, with no love lost between him and Aoun over who would represent the Christians.
This merely weakens the Maronites and marginalizes the zaims, or traditional leaders. The Vatican then realized the danger posed by divisions within the Christian community in Lebanon, the sources said, and pressed Sfeir to resign and allow for another patriarch who would work toward building unity. However, the same sources admitted that not long after Beshara Rai’s election as patriarch in 2011, domestic and regional events spun out of control, and despite his best efforts, he failed to unite the Christians. This failure was apparent in the election law and in Christian representation in the government. Even practical measures meant to unite their stances were met with half-hearted efforts, resulting in photo ops and joint committees which continue to follow up on the issue but have yet to yield any results. A number of Maronite lawmakers from the March 8 and March 14 movements confirmed to The Daily Star that efforts to find common ground among Christians were ongoing. They predicted that despite the obstacles, Christians should be able to at least agree that the next president should be a true representative of the Christians, and not the product of regional or international deals.
Berri Balances Confrontation in Defense of Parliament, Amendment of Flaws
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri has rejected accusations by al-Mustaqbal bloc leader Fouad Saniora that he was seeking to impose the rule of the parliament on the rest of top institutions in Lebanon, saying he would not allow anyone to paralyze the functions of the legislature. “It is not natural and it is unacceptable for the legislative authority to become the captive of the mood of the prime minister no matter who he is,” Berri told As Safir newspaper published on Tuesday. He rejected the fact that “the resignation would paralyze the parliament in addition to more than 30 official institutions linked to the premiership.”Berri's remarks came after Saniora accused him of taking advantage of the vacuum left by the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Miqati's government to practice a “parliamentary power.”Al-Mustaqbal and the rest of the March 14 alliance's MPs have been boycotting parliamentary sessions that Berri has been calling for, leading to a lack of quorum. The sessions have 45 items on the agenda. But al-Mustaqbal claims that the parliament should only convene for emergency issues amid a resigned cabinet. “Even if my father came out of his grave to become a prime minister and then quit, I would not allow him to paralyze the activity of the parliament,” Berri told As Safir.
Berri denied that he was equating the parliament with his seat, saying his critics should not deal with the parliament's role based on their stance from him. He said the same applied to the premiership. “If Saad Hariri or Fouad Saniora or Najib Miqati were prime ministers, this did not mean that the entire cabinet would be characterized by the person who led it.” Asked whether he agreed with a proposal made by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to amend the constitution and include a deadline for the formation of a cabinet, Berri said: “The flaw does not stop here.” “There are a lot of things linked to the parliament that should be amended as well,” he said, giving one example of how a lawmaker, who is absent from parliament for the entire four years, continues to receive his salary. Going back to the failure of Premier-designate Tammam Salam to form his government since his appointment in April, Berri asked: “Is it possible that there isn't any text that imposes a timeframe for the formation of the cabinet at a time when the PM-designate is compelled to come up with a policy statement and refer it to parliament in a one-month deadline after putting together his government? Berri said that the loopholes in the constitution and in laws would only appear through practice but “we should have the guts to rectify and correct them at the appropriate time.”
Peace Envoy Says Assad Could Contribute to 'New' Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 October 2013/U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who arrived in Damascus Monday, believes President Bashar Assad could contribute to the transition to a "new" Syria, but not as the country's leader. Brahimi, who was in Syria on the latest leg of a regional tour to rally support for peace talks, spoke about Assad in an interview in Paris with the Jeune Afrique website published Monday.
"Many of those around (Assad) believe his candidacy (for a new presidential term in 2014) is a fact. He considers this an absolute right... He thinks above all of completing his mandate," the veteran Algerian diplomat said.
However, "what history teaches us is that after a crisis like this there is no going back. President Assad could therefore usefully contribute to the transition from the Syria of before, that of his father (the late president Hafez Assad) and himself, to what I call the new Republic of Syria." Brahimi said the U.S.-Russian accord to dismantle Syria's chemical arsenal had transformed Assad from a "pariah" into a "partner" and convinced his supporters even more of his ability to prevail. Brahimi also faces an uphill battle in convincing the fractured opposition to attend the Geneva talks, after 19 Islamist rebel groups warned that anyone taking part in the talks would be considered a traitor. "This conference is the beginning of a process. We hope that the opposition will manage to agree on a credible and representative delegation," Brahimi said. "We should not delude ourselves: the entire world will not be present. But as the process continues, it should include as much of the world as possible." Brahimi, a veteran international troubleshooter, said he feared that if a settlement could not be reached Syria may become a failed state like Somalia, which has not had a functioning government for two decades. "The real threat in Syria is not the partition of the country. The real danger is a sort of "Somalization," but even more deep and lasting than what we have seen in Somalia."Source/Agence France Presse.
Assad Sacks Deputy PM, Issues General Amnesty
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday sacked his vice premier who had been absent without leave and held unauthorized meetings abroad, the official SANA news agency said. The move follows media reports that Qadri Jamil, a vice premier for economic affairs, had met with the U.S. pointman for Syria, Ambassador Robert Ford, on Saturday in Geneva to discuss proposed peace talks. SANA said Jamil was sacked after an "absence without authorization from his post" as well as "activities and meetings outside the country without authorization from the government."
According to a political source in Syria, Jamil had proposed joining the opposition delegation to peace talks and that Ford had said he could not represent both sides at once.
Opposition National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said the incident showed that "the regime is in the process of falling apart... Qadri Jamil perhaps felt the ship is sinking."
A Lebanese newspaper reported that Jamil and his family have been living for the past several weeks in Moscow, where the former member of the Syrian communist party had studied economics. Jamil later founded his own party, the People's Will, which participated in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011 that escalated into a rebellion after a crackdown by Assad.
As part of the tolerated domestic opposition, he helped draft a new constitution last year and then participated in legislative elections before being named vice premier.
The United States and Russia have been struggling to convince Syria's warring parties to attend peace talks in Geneva next month aimed at ending the civil war, which has killed an estimated 115,000 people.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was in Damascus Tuesday as part of a regional tour to rally support for the talks following a rare U.S.-Russian accord to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons. The talks remain in doubt, however, with Syria's increasingly fractured rebels having yet to say whether they will attend. The National Coalition has said it will not take part in the Geneva talks unless Assad's resignation is on the table -- a demand rejected by Damascus -- while several rebel groups have warned that anyone who attends will be considered a traitor. Assad has also cast doubt on the talks, and has said he will not negotiate with any group tied to the rebels fighting his forces or to foreign states. Meanwhile, SANA said Assad issued a general amnesty for crimes committed before October 29, 2013. Source/Agence France PresseNaharnet.
IAEA, Iran Say Nuclear Talks 'Very Productive'
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/The U.N. atomic watchdog and Iran said they would meet again on November 11 over Tehran's nuclear program after a "very productive meeting" on Tuesday. "Iran presented a new proposal on practical measures as a constructive contribution to strengthen cooperation and dialogue with a view to future resolution of all outstanding issues," the agency's chief inspector Tero Varjoranta said. "Following the substantive discussions, it was decided that a further meeting will be held on November 11 in Tehran in order to take this cooperation forward," he said. Iran's new envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Reza Najafi, said the new proposal would allow both sides "to open a new chapter of cooperation." The meeting in Vienna was one of a series in the Austrian capital ahead of Iran's talks with six world powers in Geneva on November 7-8. While those talks are focused on Iran's current nuclear activities, the IAEA meeting -- the 12th since early 2012 -- was about allegations that Tehran conducted nuclear weapons research prior to 2003. Source/Agence France Presse.
Egypt Judges Withdraw from Brotherhood Chief's Trial
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 October 2013/The three judges presiding in Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie's trial withdrew from the proceedings Tuesday for "reasons of conscience", just days before Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi goes on trial. Badie and his two deputies, Khairat al-Shater and Rashad al-Bayoumi, face charges related to the deaths of protesters who stormed the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters on June 30. "The judges are retiring from this case for reasons of conscience and the accused must remain in detention," head judge Mohammed Fahmy al-Qarmuty told the court at the start of the session, without elaborating. It was not immediately clear what prompted the judges to step down and it is expected that new judges will be appointed to hear the case.
Defense lawyer Mohammed Damaty insisted "there is no evidence at all in the case". He told Agence France Presse that the authorities wanted to keep the accused behind bars on a preventative basis "because they know very well that the proceedings are political". The judges' decision to step down will "prolong the process," he added. A total of 32 other defendants are being prosecuted along with Badie, Shater and Bayoumi. None of the 35 were in the court on Tuesday, when the second session of their trial began. An official told AFP that the defendants were not brought to the court for security reasons.
Badie, Shater and Bayoumi face charges of inciting the murders of nine protesters on June 30. If found guilty, they face the death penalty. Three other accused Islamists also face murder charges while 29 are charged with participating in violence. "I just want to see Badie and Shater hanged. I will fight for my son's rights," said Setohy Abdel Rahman, father of a protester killed in June 30 clashes, after the judges announced their decision.
Millions of protesters on June 30 called for the ouster of Morsi, accusing him of working for the sole benefit of the Brotherhood, ruining an already dilapidated economy and monopolizing power following the 2011 overthrow of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. His supporters deny such allegations and point to the Muslim Brotherhood's victories in a series of polls held after Mubarak's overthrow.The army on July 3 ousted Morsi after mass protests against his one-year rule. Tuesday's developments in a downtown Cairo court came less than a week before the November 4 start of Morsi's trial. Morsi is to be tried with 14 others for "incitement to murder" in connection with deadly clashes between his supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in December 2012. On Monday, the Anti-Coup Alliance supporting him said the Islamist had rejected the authority of the court that is due to try him. "No lawyers will be defending president Mohammed Morsi, neither Egyptians nor foreigners, because the president does not recognize the trial or any action and processes that result from the coup," the alliance, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a statement. The group said a team of Egyptian lawyers would be attending the trial with Morsi, but only "to observe proceedings, not to defend him". The alliance has called for mass protests on the day of the trial, raising fears of further violence in the deeply polarized country.Security forces launched a massive crackdown on Morsi's supporters in August, violently dispersing two protest camps in Cairo. More than 1,000 people have been killed since Morsi's ouster -- mainly his supporters -- and the authorities have arrested some 2,000 Islamists, including most of the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership. Morsi himself has been held incommunicado in military custody since his ouster. His ouster has not deterred supporters from organizing anti-military demonstrations, which are now largely being held in universities. Their demonstrations have often deteriorated into deadly street fights pitting them against opponents and security forces. Also on Tuesday, a Cairo court postponed the trial of four policemen accused of killing 37 Islamist prisoners in August, judicial sources said. The next hearing in their trial will be on November 12, they said. Source/Agence France Presse.
With prisoners’ release, Palestinians demand Israel withdraw to 1949 lines, renounce E. Jerusalem
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 28, 2013/Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lamented Monday, Oct. 28 that the release Tuesday night of 26 jailed Palestinians serving life sentences for murdering Israelis, the cause of widespread popular ire, was “one of the hardest decisions” he has ever made. But he faces much harder decisions from the list of tough demands, debkafile's sources report were presented Israel by the Palestinians in ongoing US-sponsored negotiations, The prime minister has not made them known to the Israeli public. The new Palestinian terms are so harsh as to surely defy even US Secretary of State John Kerry’s skills in bridging differences.
The prime minister also kept mum about his offer to the Palestinians of financial compensation for land remaining under Israeli control – the first time any Israeli leader has put a price tag on disputed territory.
The 16 Palestinian demands, which debkafile reveals exclusively for the first time below, make the release of convicted Palestinian murderers a dangerous exercise in futility, because each demand is enough to drive the negotiations into impasse, just as Mahmoud Abbas did two years ago. After seeing the Palestinian list, Netanyahu should have put the release of prisoners on hold until Abbas comes around to a rational perception of the negotiations as a give-and-take process for the object of reaching an agreement – not an opportunity for outrageous extortion.
Israel’s senior negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni tried arguing that the Palestinians were just making an opening bid and they expected it to be driven down in the bargaining process. However, negotiations have been going on for three months and the process is into the fourth month of the nine-month period assigned up to deadline.
Mahmoud Abbas, rather than seeking common ground, has used the time to raise his price for a deal to an exorbitant level, while keeping his hand firmly on the terrorist spigot.
It is a matter of record that a large proportion of jailed terrorists have reverted to violence after they walked in the past through the exits of Israeli jails.
First published list of Palestinian demands
The United States and Israel must acknowledge that the Palestinian state is “under occupation.” (This is the Palestinian response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand to recognize Israel as the Jews’ national state.)
Israeli must repeal legislation extending Israeli law to East Jerusalem
The Palestinians will have full sovereignty over their air space. (This will bar Israeli air force flights over Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip).
The Palestinians will have exclusive control of all border crossings to neighboring nations. i.e. Israel and Jordan.
Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries is not enough. Its pull-back must go all the way to the 1949 armistice lines, additionally annexing to the Palestinian state broad strips of Israeli land that were demilitarized at that time. Among the areas which the Palestinians want to lay hands on are the Ayalon Valley, the Latrun enclave and the Armon Hantatiz district of Jerusalem between the Old City and West Jerusalem; the Huleh Lake Valley; the Golan slopes running down to the Sea of Galilee; and the Nitzana belt north of the Gaza Strip – plus one third of Dead Sea water and shore.
( The Palestinians hope to grab substantial Israeli territory beyond the pre-1967 borders by invoking the long moribund 1949 accords.)
Electromagnetic space (radio frequencies, satellite and other communications) will be under sole Palestinian control
The Palestinians are ready to relinquish 1.9 percent of West Bank territory.
All parts of East Jerusalem including the shrines sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews will come under sole Palestinian authority against a pledge of freedom of worship.
Israel and its armed forces will draw back from the Palestinian state over a three-year period. Six months after the drawdown is complete, the Palestinians will be willing to sign final peace treaties with the State of Israel
The US and Israel must accept the settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem as “a just and agreed solution.”
Every Palestinian refugee (as per the Palestinian Authority’s definition of up to the fourth generation) will be free to choose between three options: settlement in Israel or the Palestinian state or staying at their present locations.
Whichever option is chosen, the refugees will be entitled to appropriate restitution.
Only when the refugee issue is finally resolved will the Palestinians agree to declare their dispute with Israel at an end
An international mechanism will be tasked with administering the disposition of the Palestinian refugees and their resettlement. It will be composed of Palestinian, Israeli, American, European, Canadian, Australian, Japanese and Arab League representatives
The Palestinian state will be authorized to sign treaties including military pacts without the intervention of a third party, such as Israel.
All parts of the Palestinian state will be clear of Israeli civilian and military presence.
Quietly, Israel and the Gulf States Draw Closer Together
by Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media
Recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fueled renewed speculation of behind-the-scenes links between Israel and the Gulf monarchies.
Netanyahu, speaking at the UN, said that "the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy."
He added: "This affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes."
There have been subsequent rumors of visits by senior Gulf officials to Israel, to discuss matters of common interest.
While it is difficult to acquire details of these contacts at the present time, it is a near certainty that they exist, on one level or another. Conversations with Israeli officials suggest that much is happening behind the scenes.
Israel and the key states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (most importantly, Saudi Arabia) share core views on the nature of key regional processes currently underway, and their desired outcome. These commonalities have existed for some time, and it is likely that the contacts are themselves not all that new.
There are three areas in which Israel and the countries of the GCC (with the exception of Qatar) are on the same page.
They are: the urgency of the threat represented by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the danger represented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood over the last two years, and the perception that the United States fails to understand the urgency of these threats and, as a result, is acting in a naive and erroneous way on both.
On the Iranian nuclear issue, Riyadh is deeply troubled by the current Iranian 'charm offensive' and its apparent effects on the west. Most importantly, the Saudis fear the prospect of a nuclear Iran, which could force Riyadh and the Gulf states to bend to its will, in return for guaranteeing the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, and avoiding direct encroachment on their sources of energy.
Saudi Arabia faces Iran, directly across the Gulf. It is a far more fragile construction than its Shia, Persian neighbor. Over the decades, Riyadh and the other Gulf states sought to balance Iranian encroachment of this type through alliance with the U.S.
But the U.S. no longer seems such a reliable ally. So new strong and like-minded friends are needed.
On the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis feared the spread of this movement across the region, and were infuriated by the role of Qatar in supporting its successes in recent years.
Israel, too, was deeply concerned at the prospect of a new alliance of Sunni Islamist states, with AKP-led Turkey and Morsi's Egypt chief among them.
Over the past year, the advance of the Muslim Brothers has been halted and partially reversed. In Tunisia and Egypt, the MB administrations have gone. Qatar has a new, less activist emir. The Muslim Brothers and Qatar have grown weaker among the Syrian rebels.
Saudi Arabia has been responsible for some of this, through financial support and political action. It has welcomed all of it. So has Israel.
On the U.S.: the Saudis think that the current U.S. administration is hopelessly naive on the Middle East. They were shocked at the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in 2011. They are equally vexed at the current indications of American and Western willingness to lift some sanctions against Iran in return for cosmetic concessions that would leave the core of Teheran's nuclear program intact.
The Saudis were the first to congratulate General Abd al-Fatah al Sissi following his military coup in early July. They are utterly dismayed by the current U.S. withholding of part of Washington's package of military aid to Cairo because of what the U.S. regards as the insufficiently speedy transition back to elections in Egypt.
Again, Israel shares these perspectives. The absence of American leadership may well be the key factor in causing Israel and the Gulf states to draw closer.
On the face of it, any alliance between Jewish Israel and Salafi Saudi Arabia might appear an absurdity. Israel is a liberal democracy and a Jewish state. Saudi Arabia is a repressive absolute monarchy, based on a particular Salafi Muslim outlook which is deeply anti-Jewish and anti-Christian in nature.
This ideology is not a dead letter for the Saudis. Rather, they invest heavily in spreading their particular rigid form of Islam in the west and elsewhere. Their media and education system are rife with anti-Jewish prejudice.
But a clear distinction is made by the Saudis between the world of ideology/media/culture and the realm of raison d'etat. Hence, there is no reason to think they would not be able to publicly vilify Israel, while maintaining off the radar links with it against more immediate enemies. In this regard, it is worth remembering the Wikileaks revelation of remarks made in private by Saudi King Abdullah to American General David Petraeus in April, 2008, in which he recommended military action against the Iranian nuclear program. The king referred to Iran as the "head of the snake," which should be cut off. No similarly venomous remarks on Israel were quoted from the conversation, which took place far from the public eye. Of course the common interests only go so far. Saudi Arabia supports Salafi Islamist forces in both Syria and Egypt. Saudi money finds its way to Salafi elements among the Palestinians. But the areas of commonality are on issues of cardinal importance to both countries. The de facto, unseen alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries is one of the most intriguing structures currently emerging amid the whirling chaos of the Middle East.
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Kerry: US won't succumb to fear tactics of those who oppose Iran diplomacy
By JPOST.COM STAFF/10/29/2013/US Secretary of State defends Washington's decision to pursue diplomatic avenue with Tehran over its nuclear program. Kerry votes with the other members of the United Nations Security Council on September 27, 2013/US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said that it would be "the height of irresponsibility" for Washington not to test Iran's diplomatic overtures in regard to its nuclear program.
In what could be construed as a reference to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's warnings to the world not to fall for the "charm offensive" of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kerry stated that the US would not "succumb to fear tactics," of those who oppose diplomacy. Speaking at a Washington gala in support of nuclear disarmament, Kerry said that the US has "an opportunity to try to put to test whether or not Iran really desires to pursue only a peaceful program, and will submit to the standards of the international community in the effort to prove that to the world." In the past months the prime minister has been portrayed as leading a solitary campaign to increase economic pressure on Iran precisely at a time when the international community is disposed to refrain from further financial penalties as a good will gesture to help improve the chances of a negotiated solution.
On Sunday Netanyahu defended that characterization, even as he explained he does not believe it is reflective of reality. “This [halting Iran’s nuclear program] is vital and important for the security of Israel and, in my view, the peace of the world. Then certainly we are willing to stand alone in the face of world opinion or changing fashion,” Netanyahu said. “But in fact we are not alone because most, if not all leaders, those with whom I have spoken, agree with us. There are those who say so fully and there are those who whisper and there are those who say so privately. But everyone understands that Iran cannot be allowed to retrain the ability to be within reach of nuclear weapons,” he said. The prime minister briefed his cabinet on his conversation in Rome last week with Kerry and explained that halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program was one of the main topics in their seven hour meeting.
Netanyahu also discussed Iran with US President Barack Obama in a telephone call on Monday night. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
Cairo bids for brand-new Russian SS-25 ballistic missiles in major arms transaction with Moscow
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 29, 2013/Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Kondrashov, Russian Deputy chief of staff and head of GRU military intelligence, spent the first day of his visit to Cairo, Tuesday, Oct. 29, with Egyptian military chiefs, going through the list of Russian military hardware items they want to buy in their first major arms transaction with Moscow in more than three decades, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. The Egyptians asked Moscow to supply the sort of advanced weapons withheld by the United States, and topped their shopping list with medium-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that cover Iran and most of the Middle East.
They told the Russian general that Moscow’s good faith in seeking to build a new military relationship between the two governments would be tested by its willingness to meet this Egyptian requirement.
They are most likely after the brand-new SS-25 road-mobile ICBM which has a range of 2,000 km., which the Russians tested earlier this month.
Russia is not entirely comfortable with this demand, having signed a mutual agreement with the US to stop manufacturing medium-range ballistic missiles. And so the sale of SS-25 ICBMs to Egypt could get the Russians in hot water in Washington. Gen. Kondrashov told his hosts that their list would receive serious scrutiny and, in the meantime, Moscow is prepared to offer Cairo long-term credit on easy terms to finance the package. This would relieve cash-strapped Egypt of the need to find the money to pay for the arms and save its leaders having to turn to Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates for funding.
The Russian general’s arrival in Cairo at the head of a large military delegation was the first in 35 years. Since 1972, when Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet advisers, Egypt has never acquired Russian weapons.
DEBKAfile: Western sources are divided over the seriousness of the Saudi feud with the Obama administration and tend to minimize Riyadh’s shift away from its traditional ally, the US. But the Saudis are going full tilt to distance themselves from Washington and are meanwhile urging Egypt’s ruler Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, to turn away from his country’s long dependence on America. Hence the large arms transaction with Moscow, which was agreed as early as last July - and reported by DEBKAfile at the time - when Saudi Intelligence Director Prince Bandar bin Sultan met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
Word of the arrival of the Russian GRU general in Cairo appears to have prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry to announce Tuesday that he planned to visit to Egypt in the coming weeks. He may be too late to stop Egypt’s drift out of the US orbit, especially since he made it plain that he would insist on meeting with representatives of all the country’s political factions. This was taken to mean the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups. The Russian delegation has no plans to talk to any non-military figures in Egypt, which means that its members will not step out of the loyal circle centering on Gen. El-Sisi.
How to Negotiate with Iran
Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman, and Michael Makovsky
Los Angeles Times/Washington Institute
A deal struck for its own sake on Tehran's nuclear program would be worse than no deal at all.
This month in Geneva, at the first negotiations over its nuclear program since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, Iran took an unprecedented step: It negotiated. For the first time, Tehran presented an actual vision of the endgame for the talks with six world powers, and how to get there. However, contrary to expectations, it offered no concessions, leaving serious questions about Iranian purposes. With another round of talks scheduled for next week, U.S. negotiators would do well to follow principles that signify the core interests at stake. The most pressing national security threat facing the United States remains preventing a nuclear-capable Iran. The preferred way to achieve that objective is through a diplomatic agreement. But diplomacy can only be that -- a means to an end. As Secretary of State John F. Kerry has said, a "bad deal is worse than no deal." A deal struck for its own sake would still allow for a nuclear Iran; undermine the legitimacy of any subsequent U.S. attempts or, much more likely, Israeli attempts to arrest Iran's progress by military action; discredit and compromise U.S. credibility; and weaken, if not destroy, the decades-old international nonproliferation regime. Therefore, the United States should only pursue an agreement within certain parameters, to ensure the deal actually furthers the interests of the U.S. and its allies. As we explain in a new JINSA Gemunder Center report, there are six such principles that should guide the negotiations with Iran.
First, Iran must resolve outstanding international concerns. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly complained that Iran has not been forthcoming about its nuclear activities. Indeed, the IAEA in 2011 expressed its "deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions." Iran must quickly address all outstanding IAEA concerns as part of any deal.
Second, Iran must adhere to international legal requirements. The IAEA's repeated condemnations of Iran have spurred the U.N. Security Council to pass six resolutions requiring Tehran to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities" and "to implement without delay all transparency measures as the IAEA may request in support of its ongoing investigations." Iran has repeatedly disputed the legality of these resolutions, claiming the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, grants it a right to enrich uranium. But no such right exists. Iran's defiance and distortion of international legal demands threatens to unravel the nonproliferation regime. To preserve it, negotiators must reassert the Security Council's authority and the NPT's true purpose. Third, deny Iran nuclear weapons capability. The main concern about Iran's nuclear program is that it is on the verge of producing enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear device. An acceptable deal must not just freeze but tangibly roll back its ability to do so. This will require limits on size and enrichment level of its uranium stockpile, number and type of operating and installed centrifuges, design of enrichment facilities and possible plutonium production at the Arak heavy-water reactor. Fourth, impose a strict inspections regime. Just because Iran agrees to a deal does not mean it will stick to it. It has tried to build each of its current enrichment facilities covertly. To prevent it from attempting to do so again, negotiators should require Iran to agree to more rigorous monitoring of its nuclear program.
Fifth, negotiate from a position of strength. Too often, Iran has used negotiations to extract concessions, undermine international resolve and play for time. In the few instances it has compromised, it has been because of the threat of force. The success of these talks will hinge on Iran understanding that there will be very real and damaging consequences if negotiations fail.
This will require at least these U.S. actions: Intensify sanctions and incentivize other countries to do the same, issue more forceful and credible statements that all options are on the table, initiate new military deployments and make clear the support for Israeli military action if conducted.
Finally, do not waste time. Iran will likely attain an undetectable nuclear capability by mid-2014, and perhaps even earlier, leaving scant time to both negotiate and verifiably implement a deal. It appears that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may have offered a timeline at Geneva for wrapping up negotiations. But given Iranian nuclear progress over the last 18 months and earlier unexplained activities, negotiators ought not accept a schedule that stretches beyond the point when it becomes impossible to prevent a nuclear Iran by other means. Implementing and making known a strict deadline for talks can dissuade Iran from using diplomacy as a cover while sprinting for the bomb, and reassure Israel so it does not feel compelled to act alone. Negotiators should hew to these principles to avoid mistaking rhetoric for action, and must walk away from any agreement that violates them.
*Dennis Ross is counselor at The Washington Institute and former senior Middle East advisor to President Obama. Eric Edelman was undersecretary of defense for policy in 2005-2009. Michael Makovsky is chief executive of JINSA and served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2002-2006.