April 01/14

Bible Quotation for today/‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Mark 6,47-56/" When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed."


Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
Lent is a time to change direction, to respond to the reality of evil and poverty.
Pape François 
Le Carême est le temps pour changer de cap, pour réagir face au mal et à la misère.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 01/14

Where next for the Syrian revolution/By: Fayez Sara/Asharq Alawsat/April 01/14

Why the Syrian crisis needs the likes of Angelina Jolie/By: Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya/April 01/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 01/14
Lebanese Related News

Lebanon's military prosecutor issues 200 warrants, including for Tripoli gunmen
Sleiman chairs National Dialogue meet despite boycott

Al-Mashnouq Says Security Plan to be Implemented in 48 Hours

EDL Contract Workers Warn of Power Outage if 'Conspiracy' Continues

Syria Rebels Lick their Wounds in Arsal

Reports: Israel Planted Spying Device in Adaisseh

Israel Training Logistics Cadets to Avoid 2006 War Mistakes, be Ready for Future Conflict

Cabinet Set to Tackle Appointments, Tbayeli to Succeed Basbous as ISF Chief

Geagea: Hizbullah Not Ready for Dialogue, I'll Vote for Aoun if He Withdraws Hizbullah from Syria

Saqr Issues Arrest, Search and Investigation Warrants against 200 Suspects

Sectarian tensions on rise in Bekaa Valley

Tripoli leaders reject development plan over cost

Air traffic controllers strike at Beirut airport

Harb vows to reduce phone and Internet bills
Electioneering in Lebanon
Lebanon Army dismantles explosives-rigged vehicle

Miscellaneous Reports And News'

Russian Forces 'Gradually Withdrawing' from Ukraine

Kerry Meets Netanyahu, Abbas over Peace Talks Crisis
Netanyahu: Israel will be proactive in thwarting attacks from Syria
Land Day passes in part of Israeli-Arab sector with little notice
Ya'alon to Dempsey: Alliance with US is cornerstone of Israeli security
Former Israel PM Olmert Convicted of Bribery

In break from the past, IDF now training its logistics cadets under realistic combat conditions
Ehud Olmert convicted of taking bribes five years after being forced out as premier

Turkish PM Erdogan tells enemies they will pay price after poll
Kerry detours to Mideast to push peace talks
Yemen’s president accuses Iran of me


Rival Leaders: Rise in Terrorist Threats Require Defense Strategy Based on Suleiman's Vision
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman chaired on Monday a national dialogue session that stressed the importance of an agreement on a defense strategy given a rise in terrorist threats and amid a boycott by the majority of March 8 camp's representatives and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea from the March 14 alliance. Suleiman had invited the rival leaders for a new session of all-party talks at Baabda Palace to discuss the controversial issue of Hizbullah’s arsenal or the so-called national defense strategy. But Hizbullah representatives, Marada movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan, and MP Asaad Hardan, the head of the Syrian Social National Party announced the boycott. Geagea, whose party had boycotted previous dialogue sessions, also did not attend Monday’s talks. A statement issued after the session said the conferees agreed to discuss the national defense strategy based on the vision proposed by Suleiman during a previous session. It said the continued Israeli threats, the Jewish state's procrastination in fully implementing U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, a rise in terrorist threats, and arms proliferation required an agreement on the defense strategy.
The rival leaders also welcomed the formation of the all-embracing national interest cabinet of Premier Tammam Salam, who took part in the dialogue session for the first time, and stressed the importance of its success in resolving the problems that the country is facing and in preparing for the presidential elections. At the start of the talks, Suleiman warned against the dangers of a rise in the number of Syrian refugees and an increase in terrorist activities. He also referred to the challenges resulting from non-abidance to the decisions reached at previous dialogue sessions and mainly the Baabda Declaration that was announced by the rival leaders in 2012.
It stated an agreement to distance Lebanon from the regional turmoil. Monday's closing statement stressed the importance of consolidating dialogue and hoped the leaders who boycotted the session would attend the next meeting on May 5. Among the leaders who attended the talks are Speaker Nabih Berri, Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun, al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora, National Struggle Front chief MP Walid Jumblat and Amin Gemayel, who is the leader of Kataeb. The participants of the talks did not make statements to reporters at Baabda Palace. But Jumblat has told As Safir daily that “the boycott of the dialogue does not have an effect because dialogue will be open-ended.” “Boycott is not beneficial because foreign and local interference is threatening Lebanon,” he said, adding “it would be better to confront them with dialogue among the (different) parties.” As Safir quoted a Baabda Palace official as saying that Suleiman, who had vowed to start his tenure with dialogue, has insisted on ending it with dialogue as well.
The meetings between the different party leaders should remain alive despite the crises in the region, the official, who was not identified, said.G.K.

Lebanon's military prosecutor issues 200 warrants, including for Tripoli gunmen
The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The military prosecutor Monday issued warrants against 200 suspects, including militia leaders linked to clashes in Tripoli, in an unprecedented move indicating the government’s determination to ensure the successful implementation of its security plan. Judge Saqr Saqr issued 200 warrants seeking the detention of suspects on charges relating to armed clashes, car bombs, killings and attempted murder of civilians and Army soldiers, as well as kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, forgery of documents, and intentional use of forged documents. The warrants grant security agencies the right to detain the suspects and refer them to the judiciary. "The most prominent suspects are the militia leaders in Tripoli, in both Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, as well as gunmen who caused the deaths of dozens of innocent people and soldiers and terrorized them," a judicial source told The Daily Star. Some of the suspects have already fled or went into hiding fearing detention, the source added. "Now they [the suspects in Tripoli] recognize that the government will be strict in carrying out the warrants," a security source said. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that "there was no political cover protecting any of the gunmen," particularly pro-Assad figure Ali Eid, who reportedly fled the country.
The government approved a security plan last week to end the state of chaos and sectarian fighting between rival gunmen in Tripoli and to secure the porous border with Syria along the Bekaa Valley. Although the Army has yet to deploy in Tripoli, Internal Security Forces set up checkpoints in several parts of the city, searching vehicles and looking for wanted gunmen. Interior Minister Nuhad Machnouq said the security plan would go into effect in the next two days. "The plan will begin in 48 hours and failure is unacceptable," Machnouq said before stepping into the Cabinet session at Baabda Palace. The government and the Lebanese Army have attempted to devise and implement several security plans to restore stability to the country, particularly in the restive city of Tripoli, but so far all have failed. Last year, authorities decided to place Tripoli under the command of the Army. Such a decision was violated with two rounds of Syria-linked fighting.

Lebanon Army dismantles explosives-rigged vehicle

March 31, 2014/The Daily Star/Lebanese army soldiers on their military vehicles enter the BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army Monday dismantled an explosives-rigged vehicle in northeast Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star. The military brought a bomb expert and cordoned off the area where the vehicle was found in Wadi Hmayyed on the outskirts of Arsal, the National News Agency reported. The vehicle was identified as a Honda CRV and contained "a large quantity of explosives," the NNA added.

Electioneering in Lebanon
March 31, 2014/The Daily Star /Preparations for Lebanon’s presidential election are in full swing, but to call the process a “campaign” would be very misleading.
Every day, there are statements, meetings and other items that some consider pertinent to electing a successor to President Michel Sleiman. One of the chief indications of dysfunction is that the loudest calls are focused on the need to hold the election “on time,” in line with deadlines set down by the Constitution – the fact that missing the deadlines remains a possibility shows how fragile the entire process is.
Otherwise, the public hears repeatedly about how the next president should exhibit certain “characteristics” or “personal traits.” This can be translated as follows: Half a dozen or so national power-brokers are busy figuring out how to engineer an agreement on a certain figure, in order to spare the country the painful burden of actually seeing MPs vote, and take responsibility for their choice. While everyone knows that this is how the president is usually – but not always – chosen in Lebanon, very few politicians bother to address the wider public when it comes to policy or programs. Most candidates are content to talk about vague slogans, which might signal certain things to their hard-core followers, but offer little to the average Lebanese. The political class appears to be content with conducting this type of popularity contest, while people who are looking for something tangible and relevant to their lives are bound to be disappointed. For now, people are hearing the following: Candidate A is viable because group B likes him. And politicians wonder why more and more people continue to tune them out, and get on with the business of securing a second passport.

Saqr Issues Arrest, Search and Investigation Warrants against 200 Suspects

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr issued around two hundred arrest and search and investigation warrants against suspects who had breached security across Lebanon. According to the state-run National News Agency reported on Monday, Saqr issued 200 arrest and search and investigation warrants last week against 200 criminals from the northern city of Tripoli, the city of Bekaa and Beirut. They are charged with various crimes, including, involvement in gunbattles, theft, stealing cars and bombing them, the possession of arms and explosives, forging official documents, murder and attempted murder. Lebanon has been rocked with violence linked to the Syrian war. It has been particularly on edge since the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad kicked off in 2011. Lebanon has witnessed car and suicide bombings, rocket attacks and gunfights between pro- and anti-Assad fighters in several cities and towns. The country has also seen a rise in the wave of kidnappings. Abductors usually ask for ransom.

Israel Plants Spying Device in Adaisseh
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/The Israeli army planted on Monday a surveillance device along the technical fence to spy on Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported. The wireless device was installed near a post for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon on the Adaisseh road as Israeli warplanes overflew the area, NNA said. The post is manned by UNIFIL's Indonesian contingent. Also Monday, Israeli helicopters overfLew the occupied Kfarshouba Hills and the Shabaa Farms area, the agency said. In January, Israeli troops dismantled and removed two electronic devices from Adaisseh, which Lebanese authorities said were aimed at spying on Lebanon. Israel's border with Lebanon has been largely quiet since the 2006 war with Hizbullah.

Israel Training Logistics Cadets to Avoid 2006 War Mistakes, be Ready for Future Conflict

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/The Israeli army has revamped a training program for army logistics cadets to prepare them for any future war in Lebanon or the Gaza Strip and to avoid a repeat of failures in the 2006 conflict with Hizbullah. The Jerusalem Post said the two-week exercise placed around 180 cadets in simulated combat conditions, in a bid to avoid the same critical logistics failures experienced by the Israeli army in the July war of 2006 with Hizbullah. Col. Eli Gilad, commander of the Logistics Training Center, located at the Ground Forces Training Center in southern Israel, said the program prepares cadets who carry out key wartime functions, such as refueling armored vehicles and ensuring a fresh supply of ammunition, to ensure that ground forces could continue to operate. “One of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War is that there was insufficient training for logistics units,” Gilad said. “Our conclusion was to set up a training cycle, just like the one that exists in the Armored Corps. A regular, set period of training, to reach professional standards,” he said. “These officers are far more prepared for war than their predecessors after this,” Gilad told the Post. “They need to be ready for any front, be it Syria, Gaza, or Lebanon.”

Syria Rebels Lick their Wounds in Arsal
by Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/Young Syrian rebel commander Mohammed limps from an injury suffered in "insane" army shelling of his native Qalamun region as he tells of his perilous evacuation across the border into Lebanon. Mohammed, who gave only one name, is being treated in the small border town of Arsal, which has turned into a refuge for more than 100,000 Syrians fleeing the war in their country and a makeshift rehabilitation center for scores of wounded fighters. Like most of Syria's rebels, Arsal's residents are Sunni Muslim and they are sympathetic to the three-year revolt against President Bashar Assad. Arsal too has suffered violence, including Syrian air strikes, incidents pitting the Lebanese army against Syrian extremists, and on Saturday a car bomb that killed three soldiers. For now, Mohammed's hopes of returning to his own town of Yabrud have been shattered, as the Syrian army and Hizbullah consolidate their control over much of the Qalamun mountains. During the last days of the battle for Yabrud, "there was insane shelling. Twelve men died around me, only one other man survived," said the 26-year-old. "I was taken to Arsal for treatment because the field hospital in Yabrud was not equipped to help me."
The journey from Qalamun to Arsal, along a dangerous mountain road, was hell. "They drove me here under cover of night for two hours, with the headlights off and a (Syrian air force) helicopter hovering above us," he said, adding that he was in "immense pain" all the way. Rights groups say the air force shells the mountain routes taken by people fleeing Qalamun, killing rebels and civilians alike. "Then, when I heard Yabrud had fallen, I cried for two days," he said, as he walked slowly clutching his black prayer beads, his dark eyes glowing as he pointed at a rocky hill separating Lebanon from Syria. "Yabrud is my town, where I have always lived, where my family and friends lived," added Mohammed, a former marketplace vendor-turned-rebel in the uprising against Assad. Because of their geographic proximity, Arsal has long-running trade and family links with Qalamun. Arsal's population sympathizes with Syria's revolt, and the town has become a haven of sorts for refugees, including scores of wounded fighters in need of life-saving treatment. Qassem al-Zein, a Syrian doctor who heads the medical effort for refugees, said Arsal was open to wounded people from the whole of Qalamun. But the staff at two field clinics in a small border town simply cannot cope. In one of the clinics, 23-year-old rebel Marwan shares a room with three other men, as Zein helps him gain strength in his injured, emaciated right leg, after he lost his left leg in army shelling. The room is bare, with only a black coal heater to stave off the winter chill.
"God willing, you will learn to walk again with a prosthetic limb," Zein told Marwan.
- Lack of treatment deadly -
"Here we have 20 beds" for the wounded, said Zein, who once headed the national hospital in Syria's Qusayr, also a onetime rebel bastion that fell last year to Syrian army and Hizbullah control.
At the time, Zein helped evacuate "hundreds of wounded people" to Arsal. The flow of wounded again shot up during this year's Qalamun fighting, "with up to 60 one day during the battle for Yabrud" earlier in March, he said.
Lacking a CT scan machine and other specialised equipment, "there is very little we can do for people with head or nerve injuries," Zein told Agence France Presse.
"In recent weeks, eight people have died because we could not transfer them in time" to other hospitals in Lebanon, Zein said. Transferring any wounded from Arsal to other parts of Lebanon requires coordination with the authorities through the national Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross. While the Red Cross has no facility in Arsal, its volunteers helped transfer around 10 people who had been wounded in Yabrud, ICRC spokesperson Samar al-Qadi said. "Any war wounded has the right to get the treatment he or she needs," she told AFP. But with the Syrian army and Hizbullah on the offensive in Qalamun, and with their weekend takeover of the border towns of Flita and Ras al-Maarra, evacuations to Arsal have become more difficult than ever. Zein said 11 wounded people arrived on Saturday, though he feared many others were trapped in Qalamun. "The routes out... are being bombed," he sighed. Mohammed, the Yabrud rebel, agreed: "It will be very hard for wounded people to make that journey here now, if not impossible."
Source/Agence France Presse.

EDL Contract Workers Warn of Power Outage if 'Conspiracy' Continues
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/..Electricite du Liban contract workers warned on Monday that Lebanon will plunge in darkness if the parliament endorses an urgent draft-law proposed by Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan, considering it a “conspiracy.”The contract workers closed the gates of the company's headquarters in Mar Mikhael, burning tires in its premises to protest the draft-law, which they argue it contradicted the agreement they had reached with the government of ex-Prime Minister Najib Miqati when they lifted their 95-day sit-in last year. The workers began rallying at 9:00 a.m. at the premises of the company to protest attempts by the parliament to adopt a draft-law that they reject. Their colleagues across Lebanon staged sit-ins near EDL branches in support to the rally held in Beirut's Mar Mikhael neighborhood.
The original agreement stated that around 1,800 contract employees would be upgraded to full-timers, however, the draft-law said that all workers should undergo an exam to determine their qualifications and those who pass would be upgraded. The contract workers considered the draft-law as a “conspiracy,” rejecting to undergo exams by Civil Service Commission and demanding exams to be held by the company under CSC supervision.
The original agreement had said that the contract workers who fail would get a compensation amounting to two-month salary/year, however, under the draft-law the compensation would amount to one-month wage per year.
The draft-law was signed by Kanaan, AMAL movement MP Ali Bazzi and Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar. Kanaan told LBCI later on that he was one of the lawmakers who signed the draft-law, denying that he was the one to propose it. “If the contract workers wanted to modify the draft-law they should propose their suggestions to the parliament,” the MP said. Kanaan pointed out that he inked the draft-law “under a request by the heads of all parliamentary blocs, including (speaker Nabih) Berri.” Most contract employees are loyal to Berri, who is the head of AMAL movement. The contract workers blocked briefly the two lanes of the Karantina highway, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic. Later, Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi arrived at the scene, urging demonstrators to open the road. “The demands of the protesters should be treated in a calm political way,” Qazzi said.

Russian Forces 'Gradually Withdrawing' from Ukraine
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/Ukraine's defense ministry said on Monday it has noticed a gradual withdrawal of Russian troops from its border that may be linked to Washington's latest push for a diplomatic solution to the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War. "In recent days, the Russian forces have been gradually withdrawing from the border," the Ukrainian defense ministry's general staff spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskiy told Agence France Presse in a telephone interview. Dmytrashkivskiy said he could not confirm how many soldiers the drawdown involved or the number of troops still station at Russia's border with its former Soviet satellite.
U.S. and EU officials estimated over the weekend that Russia's sudden military buildup along Ukraine's eastern frontier had reached 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers. Kiev's Center for Military and Political Studies analyst Dmytro Tymchuk said on Monday that his sources had told him that Russia had only 10,000 soldiers remaining near the border by Monday morning. The Ukrainian defense ministry official said Kiev had not been formally notified of the drawdown by Moscow and therefore did not know precisely why the troops were being moved. "This could linked to be a regular rotation of soldiers," said Dmytrashkivskiy. "Or it may be linked to the Russian-U.S. negotiations." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris on Sunday for talks that reached no breakthrough on the crisis but ended with an agreement for the sides to resume negotiations again soon. Source/Agence France

Ehud Olmert convicted of taking bribes five years after being forced out as premier
DEBKAfile Special Report March 31, 2014/Two cabinet members forced Ehud Olmert to step down as prime minister and leader of the Kadima party in 2009 under a cloud. He has since fought the general prosecution tooth and nail for indicting him on bribe charges in his former capacities as Jerusalem mayor and minister of commerce and industry. He was backed by a powerful and vocal following and friends in the media, who accused the prosecutors of obsessively hounding him. Olmert go off lightly in his first trial last year for receiving cash in envelopes from a businessman and double-booking his foreign travel fares. The Jerusalem district court acquitted him of three out of four charges. This encouraged him to try and launch a political comeback by public appearances and interviews at home and abroad, meanwhile setting up business concerns with his cronies.
That hope was finally knocked on the head Monday, March 31, by Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen. He convicted the former prime minister on the most severe bribe charges ever leveled against an Israeli public figure, making him liable for a stiff prison sentence. In the 1990s, Mayor Olmert, his deputy and other town hall officials issued the developers of the Jerusalem Holy Land project building permits after receiving bribes to bypass legal and zoning restrictions. The judge accused Olmert of personal corruption and the corruption of an entire level of government by a criminal conspiracy to share out illicit money. He called him a liar and painted the picture of crook who consistently exploited high office to enrich himself and his family by selling his services for ill-gotten moneys. Convicted along with Olmert were nine other defendants including Olmert’s successor as Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, former Bank Hapoalim chaiman Dan Dankner, the former prime minister’s long-term senior aide Shula Zaken, who was described as responsible for “opening the doors” to his office, as well other town officials, developers and go-betweens. Lupoliansky used the money for his charity Yad Sarah. Three others defendants were acquitted. Judge Rosen praised the state prosecution for its perseverance against formidable pressures. He said the state did the right thing in striking a plea bargain with the late Shmuel Duchner when he represented the Holy Land group, as a means to expose the conspiracy and bring the conspirators to justice. The judge dismissed Olmert’s claim that Duchner had advanced him the sum of half a million shekels out of friendship. “Duchner brought Olmert’s services. This was a business arrangement,” said Rosen.
Shula Zaken, after years of silence in support of her former boss, recently turned state’s evidence and produced new incriminating materials against him. She and Olmert face further questioning.
Judge Rosen preferred to leave the new development to a future hearing and go ahead with the convictions as scheduled for March 31 without delay. Another date will be set for sentencing. Olmert and Co. are expected to file appeals to the high court. Many ordinary Israelis will be asking how a politician of Ehud Olmert’s ilk was allowed to reach such high station with responsibility for distributing the national wealth as minister of trade and commerce and the authority to decide if and when the country went to war as prime minister. Who knows what his real calculations were on July 21, 2006, when as premier he declared war on Hizballah in Lebanon – launching one of Israel’s worst battlefield’s disasters?

Former Israel PM Olmert Convicted of Bribery

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 March 2014/Tel Aviv district court on Monday convicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a trial for corruption linked to a major property development in Jerusalem, Israeli media reports said. The ruling marks the first time a former Israeli premier has been convicted of bribery in what has been called one of the worst corruption scandals in Israeli history. According to public Channel 1 television, Olmert was convicted of receiving bribes in two separate cases, one of which was linked to construction of Jerusalem's massive Holyland residential complex dating from when he was the city's mayor. Olmert was in 2010 named as the key suspect in the so-called Holyland affair on suspicion that he received bribes totaling some 1.5 million shekels ($430,000, 312,000 euros), although the prosecution later reduced the sum received by about half. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, after which he served as a cabinet minister, holding the trade and industry portfolio as well as several others, before becoming premier in 2006. He led the center-right Kadima party into government, but resigned from the premiership in September 2008 after police recommended that he be indicted in several graft cases. In July 2013, a Jerusalem court found Olmert guilty of breach of trust in a closely watched corruption case, but cleared him on two more serious charges related to the alleged receipt of cash-stuffed envelopes and multiple billing for trips abroad. He was fined $19,000 and given a suspended jail sentence for graft. The conviction related to favors that Olmert granted a former colleague while serving as the trade and industry minister. Source/Agence France Presse

Where next for the Syrian revolution?
By: Fayez Sara/Asharq Alawsat/The Syrian crisis was one of the most prominent topics discussed at the 35th Arab summit in Kuwait, which ended earlier this week. This importance does not only stem from the effects the conflict has on inter-Arab relations, but also from the latest Syrian and Arab movements which took place in the run-up to the summit, and the latest developments on the ground and the challenges facing different Arab states in this regard.  Since this is so important, the Syrians must have a voice within the Arab Summit, even if there are a lot of reasons for them to stay away in light of the Arab League’s weak and ineffective dealings with a number of regional issues, particularly the Syrian crisis itself.  The Syrians took the initiative via the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which is recognized as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. This resulted in the Arab League inviting a Coalition delegation to attend summit, with its leader Ahmed Jarba delivering a speech about what the Syrians want from the organization.
Jarba’s speech focused on reminding Arab leaders about the facts on the ground, most notably confirming that the Assad regime and its allies are waging a devastating war on the Syrian people. He affirmed that this conflict is part of a larger proxy war against Syria, with its aim the subjugation of the Arabs—part of a project targeting Syria in particular and the Arab world at large; a project that the Arabs must not ignore as this would only serve to create new regional conflicts. As for who stands behind this project, Jarba explicitly stated that this was an unholy alliance that includes the Assad regime in Syria, Iran, and extremist militias in Lebanon and Iraq.
He confirmed that the Syrian people are committed to “resisting” the Assad regime and its allies and that they are on the path to victory because the Syrian people’s determination is unbreakable, as are their hopes for freedom and dignity. Syrian rebel forces will never stop confronting Assad’s forces and their Hezbollah ally, he said, in addition to the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Jarba’s reference to ISIS in this regard can be understood as the Coalition president seeking to differentiate between the Syrian revolution for freedom, justice and equality, and the extremist Islamist groups on the scene, including ISIS.
After describing the situation on the ground in Syria and its external implications, Jarba moved to relay what the Syrian people believe should be relayed to the Arab leaders, calling them to take practical steps to deal with the Syrian crisis. Jarba issued three main calls to the Arab summit: First, he called on the Arab League to “pressure the international community to comply with its commitments with regards to providing sophisticated weapons to our revolutionaries who are giving their lives for the freedom and dignity of the Syrian people and Arabs as a whole.”Second, he called for Arab leaders to provide “greater humanitarian aid of all forms, to your Syrian brothers at home and in the diaspora who are suffering.” Third, Jarba called for Arabs to “pay greater attention to the situation of the Syrian refugees in Arab states, particularly those in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon.” He added: “They are guests in your country who must return to their own country after the end of the current situation [in Syria].”
These key demands were accompanied by two important draft resolutions. The first resolution called for the Coalition to be granted Syria’s seat at the Arab League after the Assad regime’s membership was suspended in late 2011, and after the Arab League officially recognized the Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in 2013. This comes after claims about the Coalition’s eligibility to take up the seat were raised last year, prompting it to request this once more earlier this week. The second draft resolution requested that Syrian embassies in Arab capitals be handed over to the Coalition after the Assad regime has lost its legitimacy and Syrians abroad cannot find anybody to represent their interests. He added that the current state of affairs serves to complicate Syria’s relationship with other Arab countries and is making the situation for Syrians living in other Arab countries even more difficult. The Syrians, through Jarba’s speech, sought to re-summarize the domestic and external situation that they are facing and remind Arab leaders of details that must not be overlooked or ignored. Following this, Jarba moved to call for practical steps to be taken. He made these calls in the knowledge that the Arab leadership and the Arab League may not be able to implement them; however, it was nevertheless important that he issue these calls openly and clearly. It is not enough to say that these demands should not have been made simply because they will not be implemented or because there are those in the Arab League who will oppose their implementation. The Syrian people achieved very little at the Kuwait Summit, perhaps just a few words, while the actions that will follow this will perhaps be even less than this—yet we live in hope. However, the important thing is that the Syrian people address the Arab world explicitly and openly. This is important not because Arab states are and will continue to to provide support, but because the principle of Syria’s policy towards the regional and international community is based on such open dealings.

Kerry detours to Mideast to push peace talks
Officials said he was expected to travel to both Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the coming hours. (File photo: Reuters)
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News /Monday, 31 March 2014/Breaking from his travel schedule for the second time in a week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returned to the Middle East on Monday to discuss flailing peace talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. "After consulting with his team, Secretary Kerry decided it would be productive to return to the region," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said. Last week, Kerry had interrupted a visit to Rome to go to Amman for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to convince him to prolong the talks beyond an end-April deadline and to press Israel to release the prisoners. Officials said he was expected to travel to both Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the coming hours.
(With Reuters)


Why the Syrian crisis needs the likes of Angelina Jolie
Monday, 31 March 2014Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya
Nine minutes. No blood, no tears, no screams and no speeches.
Nine minutes of scenes from a refugee camp were far more expressive than other scenes which may have unintentionally transformed the Syrian tragedy into a lame narrative that no longer interests audiences and which has led people to turn their attention towards something new. Nine minutes were used to narrate some of little Hala’s diaries and how she lives in a tent for Syrian refugees in the Lebanese Beqaa valley.
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie also met Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon in September 2012, seen in this UNHCR handout photo. (Reuters)
Hala, who is described as the youngest mother of the refugee camp in Beqaa, is an 11-year-old Syrian child. She fled Syria with her five siblings after shelling on their house killed her mother and after they lost track of their father. Her oldest brother now suffers from epilepsy as a result of the shock and, bar one other older brother, her other brothers are still young.
Taking her story to the world
Celebrity Angelina Jolie carried Hala’s story to the world. In nine minutes Angelina narrated Hala’s story. The video showed Hala’s smiles and her concern for her brother when he got dizzy and how she gave him medicine. Language was an obstruction during the visit as the children don’t know English and Angelina tried hard to understand them before translators stepped in.
The Western public opinion is struck by confusion and boredom when it comes to the Syrian crisis
Angelina’s calm voice narrated the story and spoke of the horrible magnitude of Syrian refugees’ problems, especially of women and children. It also spoke of Lebanon’s problems as the country is incapable of containing the number of refugees who now constitute one quarter of its population.
The video with Hala was released as controversy in Lebanon over the issue of Syrian refugees increased and as political and popular rhetoric has addressed the issue from a racial perspective. This has called for a campaign to oppose such rhetoric.
This nine-minute video which Angelina Jolie shot was released and broadcast by global media outlets and revealed the frankest image of both the refugees’ crisis and Lebanon’s crisis. Lebanese politicians did not make use of Angelina’s ability to influence public opinion as they were busy dressing up and taking photos with her. They were oblivious to the real meaning of her visit.
Why we need celebrities
A few months ago, Jeremy Barnicle, chief development and communications officer at the aid organization Mercy Corps, wrote an article entitled “Why Syria needs George Clooney.” Clooney is the celebrity who, like Jolie, is concerned with humanitarian causes and who played a role in bringing attention to the suffering of Darfur refugees South of Sudan.
The Western public opinion is struck by confusion and boredom when it comes to the Syrian crisis. It doesn’t understand the complex situation and no one sees a solution on the horizon. When the public opinion, especially the Western one, deviates its attention from the Syrian crisis, politicians and decision makers find respite from pressure that pushes them to resolve crises similar to the Syrian one.
In this case, it seems we really need Jolie and Clooney, not for marketing but for providing a new angle that brings attention back to this tragedy. The efficiency of the pressure which the alliance of some celebrities, civil organizations and journalists might achieve has been proven. Addressing the West is substantial because solutions lie in the hands of Western governments and institutions before they lie in our hands. Decision making capitals exist, the U.N. exists and so do dozens of international aid organizations.Angelina Jolie’s nine minutes was more influential than speeches which are used to exploit the Syrians’ suffering in futile disputes.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 31, 2014.

Yemen’s president accuses Iran of meddling
President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi accused Iran of supporting separatists in the south and religious groups in the north of the country. (File photo: Reuters)
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Monday, 31 March 2014
Yemen’s president called on Iran to stop meddling in the country’s internal politics, according to comments published in the pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper on Monday. President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi accused Iran of supporting separatists in the south and religious groups in the north of the country, which is trying to stabilize after more than two years of political upheaval. “Unfortunately, Iranian interference still exists, whether through its support for the Hirak separatists or some religious groups in northern Yemen,” Hadi told al-Hayat, apparently referring to the Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels who are trying to capture more territory in the northern part of the country. “We asked our Iranian brothers to revise their wrong policies towards Yemen, but our demands have not borne fruit. We have no desire to escalate [the situation] with Tehran but at the same time we hope it will lift its hand off Yemen,” he added. Iran has repeatedly denied interfering in the country, Reuters reported. Last year, Yemen said that a ship intercepted off its coast was an Iranian vessel trying to smuggle explosives and surface-to-air missiles into the country. Iran, however, denied any connection to the weapons aboard the ship. Iran has come under attack in Yemen with an Iranian official being kidnapped in Sanaa earlier this year. Previously, an Iranian diplomat was fatally wounded when he resisted gunmen who tried to kidnap him. Yemen’s government is grappling with a separatist movement in the south and an Islamist insurgency, as it tries to restore authority lost during mass protests in 2011 that overthrew the veteran president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In February, the government announced Yemen will be transformed into a six-region federation as part of its political transition. The six designated regions include four in the north, comprising Azal, Saba, Janad and Tahama, and two in the south, Aden and Hadramawt. (With Reuters)

Kerry Meets Netanyahu, Abbas over Peace Talks Crisis

Naharnet/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was holding late-night talks with the leadership in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday on his latest mission to salvage the crisis-hit peace process. He flew in from Paris for what was expected to be little more than a 15-hour visit to push both sides to resolve a lingering dispute over Palestinian prisoners which is threatening to derail the negotiations ahead of an April 29 deadline. U.S. peace efforts are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners under an agreement which brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013. Furious Palestinian officials have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks. Kerry, who landed in Tel Aviv shortly after 1600 GMT, went straight to Jerusalem and began talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied by his envoy Martin Indyk and U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro, an Agence France Presse correspondent said. Israel's chief negotiator Tzipi Livni was also present. He was later expected in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas who has spent the evening locked in a key leadership meeting in Ramallah to discuss the standoff. Washington has been fighting an uphill battle to coax the two sides into accepting a framework proposal which would extend the negotiations beyond April 29 to the end of the year. But shortly before Kerry landed, a Palestinian official told AFP Ramallah had rejected a fresh Israeli offer to extend talks, describing it as "blackmail".
The question of extending the talks has become intricately tied up with the fate of the 26 prisoners. Just a day ahead of the expected releases, Israel said it would not free detainees convicted of deadly attacks unless the Palestinians would commit to extending the negotiations. But the Palestinians say they will not even discuss any extension of the negotiating period unless Israel frees the prisoners.
The impasse has triggered "intense" U.S. efforts to resolve the dispute, with Kerry speaking with both sides earlier on Monday. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry's team had been working with both parties to "agree on a path forward". "After consulting with his team, Secretary Kerry decided it would be productive to return to the region," she told reporters in Paris shortly before departing for Tel Aviv. The U.S. decision to fly Kerry in came after a late-night meeting between the negotiating teams in Jerusalem at which Israel had made a fresh proposal for extending the negotiations which was rejected by the Palestinian leadership. "Israel made a proposal which was refused by the Palestinians," a Palestinian official told AFP.
"Israel is practicing a policy of blackmail and linking its agreement to releasing the fourth batch of prisoners with the Palestinians accepting to extend the negotiations," he said.
In exchange for Palestinian agreement to continue the talks, Israel had offered to free the fourth batch of detainees and to release another 420 others.
But that number would involve only common law criminals and not sick detainees, women or children. And it would not include political heavyweights.
And although the Israelis were offering a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank, it would not be extended to annexed east Jerusalem, nor would it cover construction where tenders had already been published. "The Israeli proposal aims to continue the negotiations indefinitely, without any results, in parallel with continued settlement building," he charged, saying such policies posed a "real danger" to the peace process. On Sunday, Netanyahu said the fate of the peace process would be sealed within the coming days, saying any deal to extend talks beyond April would have to be put to the cabinet.
It was Kerry's first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories since early January, although he has held face-to-face meetings with both Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Europe and the United States. He also met Abbas last week in Amman.
Source/Agence France Presse