Bible Quotation for today/Warning against Prejudice
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 31/13

Exclusive: Syria peace talks face delay as big powers split/Reuter/October31/13

Watch Out, Obama Is Watching You/By: Elias Harfoush/Al Hayat/October31/13

The Muslim Brotherhood And The Gulf/By: Jihad el-Khazen/Al Hayat/ October 31/13

The Syrian War on Terror/By: Hazem Saghieh/Al Hayat/October 31/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October 31/13
Lebanese Related News

U.S. Expresses 'Deep' Concern over Security in Lebanon, Calls for Restraint

Sleiman satisfied with calm in Tripoli

Suleiman, Miqati, Qahwaji Stress Need to Completely Implement Tripoli Security Plan

Report: Abductors of Two Bishops Demand End of Violence to Free them

Army Intelligence Halts Weapons-Laden Vehicle Arriving in Lebanon from Syria

Arrest Warrants Issued against Maamoura Car Bomb Suspects

Natour Brothers Sentenced to Prison, Payment of Fine over Spoiled Meat Case

Army Conscript Dies of Smoke Inhalation in Sidon Fire

Maronite Bishops: Parliament, Tripoli Have Become Arenas for Political Parties to Settle their Scores

Suleiman to Agree on Any Cabinet Formula, Insists on Forming it ahead of Independence Day

Berri Hopes MPs Would Learn from Previous Mistakes on Vote Law

Change and Reform Vows to Follow Up on Issue of Forcibly Disappeared and Missing Persons

Al-Mustaqbal Says Nasrallah's 'Arrogant' Statement Part of Psychological War

STL defense says too early for trial

Report: Deal in works to reveal fate of IAF navigator Ron Arad

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Assad Tells Envoy Syrians Will Decide on Peace Talks

Assad says support for armed groups must end

Russia Warns of 'Huge Threat' if Syria Talks Fail

U.S. Senators Accuse Iraq's Maliki of 'Sectarian' Agenda

Israeli minister Says U.S. Must Put Mideast Peace after Iran

White House urges Jewish leaders not to lobby for new Iran sanctions
Edelstein declares French president persona non grata in Knesset

Iran denies 20% enrichment halt as nuclear diplomacy intensifies

Iranian FM to Visit France Ahead of Geneva Nuclear Talks

Cairo bids for brand-new Russian SS-25 ballistic missiles in major arms transaction with Moscow
Egypt Police Enter University to Confront Islamist Demo

Suicide Bomber Hits Tunisia Beach, Nearby Attack Foiled

45 Killed in India Bus Crash Inferno

U.S. Expresses 'Deep' Concern over Security in Lebanon, Calls for Restraint
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/The United States expressed on Wednesday its “deep” concern over the “worsening” security situation in Lebanon, including the northern city of Tripoli, it said via the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. It tweeted that it call for all sides in Lebanon to exercise restraint. “The violence in Tripoli shows need for parties to protect Lebanon from the fallout of the Syrian conflict,” it continued. It also condemned the targeting of the Lebanese army in Tripoli, while commending it on its role and sacrifices in Lebanon. Furthermore, the U.S. noted that the involvement of Lebanese parties, “especially Hizbullah, in Syria worsens sectarian tensions and jeopardizes security.” 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.
Suleiman to Agree on Any Cabinet Formula, Insists on Forming it ahead of Independence Day

Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/Endeavors are ongoing to end the cabinet deadlock amid reports that President Michel Suleiman insists on forming it ahead of the Independence Day on November 22 based on any distribution of portfolios as long as the rival parties agree. Sources close to Suleiman said in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper that he is “seriously thinking” to issue new cabinet decrees ahead of the Independence day in accordance with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam. “Contacts have come a long way,” the sources said. Suleiman will approve any cabinet formula that the rival political parties agree on even if it was divided according to 6-9-9 cabinet formula. Sources close to Salam told al-Liwaa that he will not resign as he is holding on to his decision and exerting efforts to form the cabinet ahead of the independence day. “Salam is keen to reach a settlement with the foes,” the sources added. On Tuesday, Suleiman's adviser, former Minister Khalil al-Hrawi, called on the Lebanese parties to support Salam's endeavors to form a new government. Salam continuously said that conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival sides have brought his efforts to form a cabinet to a stalemate. Since his appointment to form a cabinet in April, Salam has been seeking the formation of a 24-member cabinet in which the March 8, March 14 and centrists camps would each get eight ministers. However, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah expressed support to Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's proposal to form a new cabinet in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get nine ministers each and six ministers would be given to the centrists – Suleiman, Salam and Jumblat. This formula prevents a certain party from controlling the government by giving veto power to Hizbullah and its team and another veto power to March 14, he said.

Maronite Bishops: Parliament, Tripoli Have Become Arenas for Political Parties to Settle their Scores

Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/The Maronite Bishops Council lamented on Wednesday the ongoing political deadlock in Lebanon given the failure to form a new government and convene parliament and given the unrest in the northern city of Tripoli. It said: “Parliament and Tripoli have become arenas for rival political parties to settle their scores.”It made its remarks after its monthly meeting at Bkirki headed by Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. “We are disappointed with the political powers' failure to form a new government that would help end the political deadlock, put an end to the spread of illegitimate arms, and ease the people's daily concerns,” it added. Moreover, it noted: “The unrest in Tripoli stems from regional powers settling their scores in the city.” It therefore demanded that political cover for the gunmen in the city be removed, while voicing it support for the implementation of the security plan in the area. It hoped that the army and security forces would be supported in their mission to restore calm in the city, adding that this plan should be adopted throughout Lebanon. Commenting on the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims who were held in Syria's Aazaz region, the Maronite Bishops Council hoped that this would pave the way to resolving the cases of all Lebanese held in Syria and the case of the two bishops who were abducted in Syria. 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.

Berri Hopes MPs Would Learn from Previous Mistakes on Vote Law

by Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri said the parliamentary administrative and justice committee should learn from the experience of the electoral subcommittee to avoid the same problems that led to the failure to agree on a draft vote law. In remarks to several local dailies published on Wednesday, Berri said the committee should avoid the mistakes that were made in the past by the subcommittee that was tasked with agreeing on an electoral law.
The committee should on Wednesday start discussions from where they stopped, he said. He added that if the committee was capable of agreeing on a draft-law by the end of the year, then the parliament's extended mandate should be shortened to hold the elections next March. The parliament extended its own term in May for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a deal on a new electoral law. Berri stressed that during Wednesday's meeting, his Development and Liberation bloc representatives will call for the adoption of Lebanon as a single district based on a proportional representation system or to consider five governorates as districts based on proportionality. Asked about the failure to hold parliamentary sessions over lack of quorum caused by the boycott of several blocs from the March 14 alliance, mainly al-Mustaqbal movement, Berri said: “There is a single team that is paralyzing the parliament and the rest of the institutions.” He described caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati as a “deceived partner” who “defends the party cheating on him with enthusiasm.”Berri was also asked about any developments in his meetings with al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora. The speaker said: “When he asks for a meeting with me, I would be ready.” There has been a huge rift between the speaker and al-Mustaqbal and both sides have lately exchanged accusations over the paralysis of the parliament. Al-Mustaqbal along with the rest of the March 14 coalition's MPs and Miqati are boycotting the sessions that Berri has been calling for, saying parliament should only convene on emergency issues amid a resigned cabinet. But Berri is insisting on keeping the 45 items on the agenda of the sessions, stressing the parliament should not be the victim of the failure to form a new government.


Lebanese Army Intelligence Halts Weapons-Laden Vehicle Arriving in Lebanon from Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/Three people were arrested on Wednesday for transporting weapons from Syria into Lebanon, reported the National News Agency. The Army Intelligence arrested the Lebanese suspects after discovering weapons in their van as it arrived from Syria to the Bekaa's al-Hermel region. NNA said that the army monitored the activity of the van as it entered Lebanon from Syria at noon. It soon halted the vehicle and discovered a number of grenades and light and medium weapons on board.
In August, the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau seized a truck that was carrying ten 107 mm rockets as it arrived in the Bekaa from Syria.

Arrest Warrants Issued against Maamoura Car Bomb Suspects

Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/ A military examining magistrate issued on Wednesday arrest warrants against a Lebanese and a Turkish national for preparing cars rigged with explosives to detonate them in different areas of Lebanon, including Beirut's southern suburbs.
Mohammed al-Atrash, who is a minor, and Turkish citizen Mohammed Sabaheddine Ozdelmir have been in custody for preparing the booby-trapped cars and parking them in different residential areas for the purpose of blowing them up. One of the explosives-rigged vehicles has been found this month in al-Maamoura district of Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold. The explosives were defused before the suspects were able to blow up the car. Judge Fadi Sawan issued the warrants against them in addition to four other fugitives from al-Atrash family. The identities of the rest of the 14-member network are not known but they include an Iraqi explosives expert known as Abu Abdullah. The remaining members are Syrians. Al-Atrash and Ozdelmir, whose mother is Lebanese, have admitted during their questioning that Omar al-Atrash was part of the terrorist cell. Al-Atrash, a resident of the northeastern border town of Arsal, was killed when his car exploded earlier this month. Arsal residents were quick to bury him after claiming that he was killed in a rocket attack on his vehicle in an area that separates Arsal and the Syrian border. Security forces had raised doubt about the claim. Sources had said that the residents prevented police from examining al-Atrash's body or open a probe into his murder.They said al-Atrash likely died when the booby-trapped vehicle that he was driving accidentally exploded.

Natour Brothers Sentenced to Prison, Payment of Fine over Spoiled Meat Case

Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/The Natour brothers, who were charged with processing and selling spoiled meat and other food products, were sentenced to prison on Wednesday and to the payment of LL1 million each. According to the state-run National News Agency, Judge Ghassan Tanious al-Khoury sentenced Samih al-Natour to three years in prison and to pay a LL1 million fine, while his brother Suleiman was sentenced to two years in prison and LL1 million fine. The two brothers were also accused of the attempted murders of the consumers to whom they knowingly sold the food. The judge also convicted the Global company for meat and food trade to pay LL10 millions. In March 2012, the Ministry of Economy’s Consumer Protection Directorate raided the warehouse owned by al-Natour brothers in the Sabra area in Tarik el-Jadeedah where they confiscated 25 tons of expired meat.

Lebanese Army Conscript Dies of Smoke Inhalation in Sidon Fire

Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/ A military conscript died on Wednesday of smoke inhalation in a fire at a sponge factory in the southern city of Sidon, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said Wissam Ismail was helping firefighters douse the fire at the factory near Sidon's port, when he passed away. The factory is owned by a member of al-Shamiyeh family. Civil defense crews and soldiers cooperated to put out the blaze.

Report: Abductors of Two Bishops Demand End of Violence to Free them

Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/The kidnappers of the two bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi in Syria in April are demanding an immediate end to violence in the country to guarantee their safe release. According to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Wednesday, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad should commit to a long-term truce in order for the abductors to release the two bishops. The two bishops were kidnapped by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo at the end of April while on humanitarian work. Damascus considers the abduction of the bishops as a “national matter.”However, General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim reportedly held talks with Assad and Qatari officials to mediate the release of the two bishops. “Indirect negotiations with the kidnappers began,” Ibrahim said on Tuesday. He pointed out that a month ago he contacted a person who located the place of the two bishops.


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. Later on Tuesday, Miqati held talks at the Grand Serail with a delegation from the Muslim Ulemas Committee led by Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi, imam of the al-Taqwa Mosque which was targeted by a deadly blast in August. The conferees discussed “the situation in the city of Tripoli and the measures taken to restore security, calm and stability,” the National News Agency said. During the meeting, Miqati stressed that “the Lebanese army and security forces are pressing on with their strict security measures in the city,” noting that “the priority is for consolidating security and restoring normalcy in Tripoli.”“My duty and conscience oblige me to exert efforts to put an end to the bloodshed and protect the lives and properties of Tripoli's residents,” Miqati added.
The premier also pointed out that he is “following up on the course of investigations into the case of the twin bombings that hit two mosques in Tripoli with the aim of arresting all the culprits and referring them to the judiciary.”
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.

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.”


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.”

Assad Tells Envoy Syrians Will Decide on Peace Talks
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 October 2013/President Bashar Assad insisted in a meeting Wednesday with visiting U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that Syrians alone will decide on the fate of an initiative for Geneva peace talks.
The encounter came a day after the Red Crescent evacuated hundreds of civilians from a besieged town near Damascus, in an operation that saw rare cooperation among the regime, its opponents and the international community. Brahimi has been traveling the Middle East to muster support for proposed peace talks dubbed Geneva II. The Syrian leg of the tour is the most sensitive, as Brahimi needs to persuade a wary regime and an increasingly divided opposition to attend. During his last visit to Damascus in December, Brahimi was heavily criticized in the Syrian media for asking Assad if he intended to step down at the end of his presidential term in mid-2014. The Algerian's latest meeting with Assad lasted less than one hour, and his spokeswoman only said he was hopeful that Saudi Arabia, a main backer of Syria's opposition, would take part in the proposed talks. Assad flatly rejected that possibility, insisting that "the Syrian people are the only ones who have the right to decide on Syria's future," state media quoted him as telling Brahimi. "Putting an end to support for the terrorists and pressuring the states that support them is the most important step to prepare... for dialogue," Assad said, using his regime's term for rebels. "The success of any political solution is linked to putting an end to support funneled to terrorist groups," the Syrian leader added. State television reported that Brahimi agreed with Assad that Syrians themselves need to find a solution to the conflict that has been ravaging the country since March 2011.
"The efforts being made for the Geneva conference to be held are focused on finding the way for the Syrians themselves to meet and to agree on solving the crisis as quickly as possible," the envoy was quoted as saying.
In an interview this month, Assad himself cast doubt on the possibility of his regime attending, saying he would not negotiate with any group tied to the rebels or to foreign states. The main opposition National Coalition has said it will refuse to take part in any talks unless Assad's resignation is on the table, and some rebel groups have warned anyone who goes will be considered a traitor. More than 115,000 people have been killed in the 31-month armed uprising against the Assad regime triggered by his forces' bloody crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired democracy protests.Source/Agence France Presse


Exclusive: Syria peace talks face delay as big powers split
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis | Reuters – By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
AMMAN (Reuters) - International powers are unlikely to meet their goal of convening peace talks on Syria in Geneva next month as differences emerge between Washington and Moscow over opposition representation, Arab and Western officials said.
Failure of the main Syrian National Coalition to take a clear stance over the talks, which aim to find a political solution to Syria's 2-1/2 year civil war, are also expected to contribute to a delay of up to one month, the officials told Reuters.
"A clearer picture will emerge when the United States and Russia meet next week, but all indications show that the November 23 goal will be difficult to meet," said one of the officials involved in preparing for the talks.
U.S., Russian and U.N envoys are due to meet in Geneva next Tuesday as part of the preparation for the long-delayed peace conference, which was first proposed back in May.
A main point of contention, the official said, is the role of the Western-backed opposition coalition - an issue which has flared up since a meeting in London last week of Western and Gulf Arab countries opposed to Assad.
They announced that the Geneva negotiations should be between a "single delegation of the Syrian regime and a single delegation of the opposition, of which the Syrian National Coalition should be the heart and lead, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
Russia sees the coalition as just one part of the opposition and has suggested that several delegations, including Damascus-based figures tolerated by the government, could represent President Bashar al-Assad's foes.
That position was echoed by Hassan Abdul Azim, head of the opposition National Coordination Body, who said after meeting international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus that delegates should attend not under the banner of the coalition but as part of a united "Syrian National Opposition".
A communique at the end of the London meeting also said Geneva would aim to establish a transitional government by which time "Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria".
"The Russians are furious at the strong stance taken in London and that the communiqué went a long way towards satisfying the demands of the coalition," a Western official said.
Preparations for the Geneva talks were thrown into further confusion on Tuesday by the dismissal of Syria's Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, after he met senior U.S. diplomat Robert Ford in Geneva on Saturday.
Jamil, a member of what Assad describes as the "patriotic opposition", was sacked for leaving the country without permission and holding unauthorized meetings, state media said.
"He saw Ford after meeting Russian officials in Moscow. The meeting was long but useless," a Middle East official said, asking not to be named.
"Jamil put forward what Ford apparently regarded as unworkable proposals regarding the Geneva talks. He also unsuccessfully tried to win U.S. backing to include him on the opposition side in the Geneva talks," he said.
Another diplomatic source said Russia had backed the idea, but that the coalition would not have agreed to sit on the same side of the table as Jamil in any negotiations.
"It will take time between Russia and the United States to resolve their differences. We are looking now at Geneva between November 23 and Christmas," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged the Geneva meeting faced objections from both sides in Syria.
But he added during a visit to Greece: "There are contacts between Russia and the U.S. and we should not allow these efforts to fizzle out."
Differences between Moscow and Washington are not the only obstacles to the peace talks going ahead.
Ahmad Jarba, president of the opposition coalition, has publicly resisted calls to commit to attending the Geneva conference, saying the coalition will not take part if there is any chance Assad might cling to power.
"He was speaking to his constituency and his public stance differs from what he told us privately," one delegate at last week's London meeting said, trying to play down the significance of Jarba's stance.
"We assured Jarba that an understanding had been reached with the Russians for Geneva to produce a transitional governing body with full powers over the army and security apparatus and that Assad would not be allowed to retain power under any special clauses. But his fate will not be specifically discussed at Geneva," the delegate said.
Even if Jarba were to attend, he has no authority over the rebel brigades battling to overthrow Assad. Many have rejected any negotiations not centered around Assad's removal and said they would charge anyone who attended them with treason.
Opposition sources said Jarba, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, travelled there in recent days to meet King Abdullah. Jarba will preside over a coalition meeting in Istanbul on November 9 to discuss taking a position on Geneva.
"The meeting will likely stretch for up to a week as usual. What is required is for the coalition to forget rhetoric and come up with a strategy, road map and a detailed policy," one envoy said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was still planning for a November conference but "no date or details is set or final until the United Nations announces it."
There was no immediate comment from the United Nations, but a senior Western diplomat said he was still keen that the "target date" for late November should be met.
Several officials, including Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, have said they expect the Geneva 2 conference to convene on November 23, though the United States, Russia and the United Nations have all said no date has been officially set.
"A date has not been officially set because no one wants it to be officially postponed," a Western diplomat said. "But it has been clear all along the aim was Nov 23. It looks now that it will be de facto postponed."
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Lou Charbonneau in New York and Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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.

Report: Deal in works to reveal fate of IAF navigator Ron Arad

By YASSER OKBI 10/30/2013/Kuwaiti paper: In deal, Iran will learn fate of missing diplomats. Twenty-seven years after IAF navigator Ron Arad was taken as a prisoner of war by the Lebanese Shi'ite group Amal, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported Wednesday that a deal was coalescing by which Israel would be given new information on Arad in exchange for Iran receiving information on four Iranian diplomats who went missing near Beirut during Lebanon's civil war in 1982. According to the report, which quotes Western sources, the respective sides will be informed whether Arad and the four Iranians are still alive, or conversely, where they are buried.
Al-Siyasa reported that the deal became possible due to new information on Arad received by Western intelligence officials. The new information was reportedly passed to the intelligence officals by Hussein Musawi, the brother of one of the four missing Iranians. A former Iranian Foreign Ministry official, Musawi is believed to be one of the few people who know the fate of Arad. On October 16, 1986, Arad served as a navigator during an IAF mission to hit terrorist targets in the Lebanese city of Sidon. A technical failure in the plane led Arad and his pilot to evacuate. The pilot, Yishai Aviram, was found and rescued by the IAF while Arad was taken prisoner.During his imprisonment, three letters and one picture were sent to Israel, however no contact has been made since 1987, when the Red Cross was last given access to Arad.

The Muslim Brotherhood And The Gulf
Jihad el-Khazen/Al Hayat
There is a common mistake in the West that holds that the Muslim Brotherhood was once an ally of the Arabian Gulf states, before relations between the two soured.
But the Arab reader knows more about this issue than any “posh” academic, so the reason I write today about this topic is that this column is translated into English and is read abroad as well. I recently read an article in The New York Times by our brother Marwan Bishara titled, “Why Arabs Fear a U.S.-Iran Détente.” I found his views to be nuanced, reflecting the author’s experience. But on the following day, in the same paper, I read an article titled “Islamic Comrades No More,” by Professor Vali Nasr, an Iranian American who is now the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
I do not accuse Vali Nasr of anything more than ignorance of a specific topic, despite his academic credentials. I start with the first sentence in the first paragraph of his article, where he wrote, “The coup last July in Egypt opened a new divide in the Middle East, alienating the Gulf monarchies from the Muslim Brotherhood.”First of all, it was not a coup. The number of those who took to the streets to protest against Mohamed Morsi was many times more the numbers of those who protested against Hosni Mubarak before, and the army intervened to prevent civil war. More importantly, the divide with the Muslim Brotherhood has existed since the group’s inception. Although its members were treated well once or twice, they have proven every time that they are conspirators, and for this reason, they have been banned from engaging in any activity in the Gulf for decades.
The second paragraph of the article begins by saying, “For six decades, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood were comrades in arms. Theirs was an Islamic alliance, formed in the 1950s to defend against the secular Arab nationalism that Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had unleashed.”
If the author had been one of the American Likudniks, I would have said that he was lying. But he isn’t, so I say he is grossly mistaken. He is even more mistaken in the third paragraph, where he claims that Saudi Arabia hosted and sponsored generations of the Muslim Brotherhood, and again in the fourth paragraph, which begins by stating, “The alliance buttressed the House of Saud’s Islamic legitimacy.” But this is inconsistent with history, religion, and even politics, because the Islamic legitimacy of the House of Saud predates the Muslim Brotherhood by more than a full century.
The author’s case is entirely incorrect, and what is truer is the following:
- King Abdulaziz himself refused Hassan al-Banna’s request to start a branch of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, and told him: We are all Muslim Brothers. I heard these words from the sons of the kingdom's founder.
- When the Muslim Brotherhood’s members were persecuted in Egypt and then in Syria, Saudi Arabia took them in. Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, then-interior minister, and crown prince after that, and until his death may God rest his soul, told me in his office what I summarize as follows: We hosted the Muslim Brotherhood and gave their members salaries and housing, but they conspired against us with local clerics. He played to me some of their recordings, and I published this at the time as I heard it from the prince in 2000 and again in 2004, a month or two before he was chosen as the crown prince. I wrote about some of what I heard on small and green scraps of paper I took from the minister’s desk with the inscriptions: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Interior, Minister’s Office.
The significance of the above is that I had published what Prince Nayef told me in Al-Hayat when he was still alive, and if I had made a mistake, I would have had to issue a correction. What I directly know from the ruling class in the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain, is that they do not trust the Muslim Brotherhood, and believe that the group has a negative influence on local Islamist groups. Another fact: All terrorist groups came from under the mantle of the Muslim Brotherhood, from the groups that engaged in the terrorism in the 1990s in Egypt, to Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda today. And since Vali Nadr refers to Anwar Sadat in his article, I would like to remind him that Sadat had released Muslim Brotherhood members from Nasser’s prisons, only for them to plot against him. By the time he was assassinated, they had all returned to prison.
This is the truth, and if Nasr’s article had been published by any source other than The New York Times, I would not have responded to it.

Watch Out, Obama Is Watching You!

Elias Harfoush/Al Hayat
Tuesday 29 October 2013
A joke is circulating in Brazil in relation to the scandal of the U.S. spying on the phone of Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, who figures that the fastest way to inform President Barack Obama of her decision to cancel her visit to Washington is to send a text message to her own cell phone, since Obama monitors other presidents’ phones more than he looks at his own phone.
Although this is just a joke, it does reveal the extent of mistrust now reigning between the Obama administration and its allies not only in Brazil and Latin America, but also in the allied European capitals like Berlin, Paris, Madrid, and perhaps other capitals that we still don’t know about. The damage is increasing on a daily basis. The latest reports indicate that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitored 700 million phone conversations in France in one month and more than 60 million conversations in Spain (between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013). Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy thus supported the request made by France and Germany when they asked the European Union to work on obtaining a UN resolution preventing the surveillance operations carried by the NSA and targeting the EU countries.
The worst thing about this scandal is that when German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Obama to object against the monitoring of her personal cell phone for more than ten years (i.e. before any of them acceded to present posts), Obama – according to American newspapers – responded by saying that he did not know about the spying; and that he would have issued orders to stop it as soon as he became president had he known about it. Other pieces of information indicated that NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander had clearly informed the president that the agency is indeed monitoring Merkel’s phone in addition to the phones of thirty-five world leaders.
Whether Obama is lying or not is not important. The worst part is that the American president admitted that he knows nothing about the surveillance activities carried by officials in his administration and involving leaders of some of the US’s allies. Angela Merkel thought that these practices are reminiscent of the era of the East Germany intelligence services where she used to live. Following the collapse of East Germany, millions of files were uncovered indicating that Germany’s citizens and visitors were being closely monitored under the pretext of protecting national security, which dictatorships are quite fond of.
When she learned that her phone was being monitored, Merkel spontaneously blurted out: Allies don’t spy on each other. Security officials in the USA responded to this by saying that the German chancellor is probably just discovering the world! One of these officials recalled the scandal where Jonathan Pollard was spying on the American security in favor of Israel. The head of the intelligence committee at the House of Representatives, Republican Mike Rogers, told CNN that the United States saved the lives of thousands of Europeans by monitoring the events taking place in their countries. He added: Remember the rise of Fascism and Communism in the 1930s in Europe. We had not anticipated that and it ended up with the death of millions of people. Today, we are protecting Europe against itself!
In its latest issue, Foreign Policy Magazine considered that now that former NSA agent Edward Snowden has uncovered the violations and illegal spy operations carried out by the agency, the United States will be forced to reconsider the politics of hypocrisy when it comes to its foreign policies. In this piece, Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore wrote that Washington must choose between the realpolitik of "all nations spy" and its rhetoric about transparency and higher values in foreign politics; adding that Washington can no longer follow both approaches at the same time.
What we Arabs must do is call on our leaders to revert back to the time of carrier-pigeons in order to communicate. If Washington is spying on the phone calls of Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and others, then it must be spying on Arab leaders since Washington believes it is its duty to protect them!

The Syrian War on Terror

Hazem Saghieh/Al Hayat
Over two and half years, the theory of “combating terrorism” came ahead of all else when it came to the discourse of the Syrian regime in its war against its people. The theory of defending “Arabism” appeared from the outset to be fragile and ridiculous, not only because it clashed with an overwhelming majority of the Arabs that sympathized with the revolution, but also because of its inherent conflicts, as it was accompanied with a dose of racism against other Arabs and “Bedouins.” More fragile and ridiculous still was the claim about defending “true Islam,” which died at the moment of its birth. As for the claim about resisting Israel, this, instead of helping out the regime, dinted its ally Hezbollah’s credibility, as the Shiite group set out to look for Israel’s specter in the streets of Homs and Qusair.
In truth, “combating terrorism,” unlike all other claims, is a profitable claim as many a local and Western observer noticed. To be sure, this claim builds a bridge between the Syrian regime and Western public opinion, and another bridge that connects the regime to a point of intersection between Russia and America. It also reassures the Israelis, especially after chemical weapons are dismantled, and presents Bashar al-Assad as one of the faces of security and stability in the region and the world. This is why the regime has clung to this claim, and sought to develop it into a coherent argument that proofs raced to rescue.
The war on terror, as we know, is one of the inventions of the administration of George W. Bush, and was especially associated with the neoconservatives. But this notion, since its inception, suffered from a deficient theoretical basis and weak practical achievements. But perhaps the worst part about this theory was that it adopted a narrow security approach, all the way to waging wars, instead of seeking a broader understanding of the communities in question, with their local histories, economies, and cultures, and hence of their ability to assimilate the kind of democracy that the Bush administration advocated as the cure to terrorism.
However, the terror in question exists, and on September 11 – and before that and after – it staged painful attacks on many capitals around the world.
We all recall that Damascus, at the time, coupled its security coordination with the Americans against terror to a discourse that accused the Americans of being themselves the terrorists, with many parentheses placed around the word terror, as if to suggest that it was not indeed what it was.
In other words, the Syrian regime is borrowing a weak and contradictory lexicon to apply it even more weakly and contradictorily, especially since it is not the regime that was attacked on September 11, but a regime that for years sponsored the Latin American Carlos the Jackal, the Syrian-Palestinian Ahmed Jibril, and a large number of nameless Lebanese, as well as helping terrorists, including many takfiris and jihadists, cross into the heart of Iraq.
This, once again, puts us face to face with a machine of lies that does not tire, a machine that sees Arabism, Islam, Palestine, and terrorism, and every other claim equally, according to the needs of each season, to increase the regime’s longevity. But what is astounding is that the regime has succeeded, despite its lies, in importing the maximum of this claim, while the opposition, and we believe it is honest, has failed to import the bare minimum, and even a trimmed version of this theory. Here, the public opinion was not sought after, nor intersection with the concerns and battles of the rest of the world, the same world being asked to stand alongside the Syrians in their concerns and battles

Between Stability And Change

Mohammad el-Ashab/Al Hayat
It makes no difference whether Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika runs for a fourth term or suggests a constitutional amendment to extend his mandate for two additional years, or if a vice president is elected to avoid vacuum. At the end of the day, the president will succeed to himself, and the measures to pave the way for that were behind the changes and shifts in the government, the loyalties, and security and military centers of influence.
The Algerian FLN returned to the forefront against the backdrop of the conflict over power and the liquidation of the legacy of an incomplete openness due to the fears surrounding the monopolization of power by the Islamic Salvation Front around two decades before the winds of the Arab spring. It was clear that the National Liberation Front will remain the presidency’s political arm, that it will continue to use it like a Trojan Horse and that the diversity which expanded with the beginning of the openness to market economy and the containment of the hegemony of the one ruling party, paved the way before a partisan scene that did not exit the circle of control.
But Algeria was no exception in its regional surrounding, considering that Morocco also witnessed that same experience, despite the different choices of the regime. Indeed, diversity was at first modest and artificial, and it took many decades for the late King Hassan II to become convinced to appoint Abderrahmane Youssoufi as prime minister from the opposition ranks. This experience shook the foundations of the political scene, before the balance tilted in favor of the Islamic Justice and Development Party following a wide constitutional amendment. The Tunisian experience – prior to the toppling of deposed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime – also witnessed scenarios aiming to turn some parties into racing rabbits towards the presidency, before the collapse of a structure with frail and poorly rooted foundations in the democratic soil.
In Libya on the other hand, the situation was different. There were no parties and no institutions, just the authority of the one ruler who left behind a horrific vacuum, in which the language of weapons and violence prevailed over logic and the arrangement of a peaceful transition that would revive the hopes of seeing a state of institutions. In the meantime, Mauritanian President General Mohamed Ould Abdul Aziz chose to replace his military uniform with soft gloves, to open the pave of a difficult transition.
Although the Maghreb region was the first to see the forts of power – which did not rely on democratic legitimacy – shaken, the diverging interpretations surrounding the palpable results of the change that did not occur as expected, pushed towards the sustainment of the policy of caution and retreat. And just like the Moroccans are finding refuge in their spring that was peaceful and caused the least amount of losses, the Algerians are right about their wish not to waste their stability. Hence, Bouteflika – whose ambition retreated due his frailty – was able to make his own Algerian spring, one whose importance can only be appreciated by those who were affected by the ten-year war that caused widespread devastation.
Just like stability has its price, democracy also requires the pumping of new blood. At this level, the political parties should act as a tributary to enrich the practices based on the instatement of true diversity. Hence, there is nothing wrong with seeing Bouteflika running on behalf of the FLN, which announced this development after having witnessed divisions and schisms that cannot be dissociated from the concerns surrounding the arrangement of the affairs of the rule. However, his opponents should have equal chances and opportunities, knowing that his arrival to the presidency following the first elections – after the withdrawal of his challengers – revealed the existence of pressures exerted from outside the context of the ballot boxes. But such practices are no longer acceptable, at least to give the impression that there is hope in seeing a peaceful transition of power.
This tradition has not yet been instated, knowing that to the west of Algeria, Tunisia in the post-revolution stage is still trying to deal with the resignation of the ruling troika, amid attempts deployed by each side to benefit to the fullest extent from the existing disputes over the ratification of the constitutional draft, the prerogatives of the Constituent Assembly, and the laws regulating the presidential and parliamentary elections. And if this is happening in a country that has witnessed a revolution, what will the situation be like in other countries seeing with their own eyes that whoever comes to power is throwing the ladder on which he climbed to prevent the others from using it?
This is the problem of democracy when it is not placed on the right track since the start. The North African states always believed they were more likely to heed the lessons of the transformations which occurred on the northern bank of the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Eastern European countries were faster and more capable of disposing of the burdens of totalitarian regimes. Consequently, the European support they were receiving to establish political, economic, and cultural partnerships was not secured at the same pace, at a time when they were subjected to pressures for having chosen to open up to Western values, although they remained the hostage of a slowly changing mentality at the level of their practices. Choosing between stability and change is not as contradictory as it is depicted. Democracy guarantees stability because it creates institutional states, but does not shape individuals and mentalities. This not only guarantees a peaceful power transition, but also enhances its values that rely on diversity, plurality, the spirit of initiative, and the respect of the results of the ballot boxes. Nevertheless, while the spring seasons planted the seeds of hope, its countries’ orchards withered and receded. This, among many other factors, pushed towards retreat and the insistence on what already exists, due to fears surrounding the unknown. Still, democracy is like a child taking his first steps. He should be protected until he grows up and becomes capable of walking without leaning on anything. And there is still plenty of time to choose the road that will not lead towards a dead-end.