April 12/14


Bible Quotation for today/ou always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me
John 11,55-57.12,1-11/: "Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’
(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today

Only trust in God can transform doubts into certainty, evil into good, night into radiant dawn.
Pape François ‏
Seule la confiance en Dieu peut transformer le doute en certitude, le mal en bien, la nuit en aurore radieuse.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 12/14

The presidential chess game has begun/By: Michael Young/The Daily Star/April 12/14

Bashar al-Assad: a costly card for Iran/By: Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiyia/April 12/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 12/14
Lebanese Related News

Tensions between Berri, ABL over Wage Scale Funding Eased following Talks with Khalil

Nasrallah is just not interesting

Mustaqbal Officials in Riyadh to Brief Hariri on Election Talks

Geagea to Propose Partnership with Hizbullah if Elected as President

Al-Rahi: I Have Not Rejected Nomination of Any March 8, 14 Presidential Candidate

Rai denies favoring consensus candidate

Demo against Arrest Warrants Called Off in Tripoli, More Fugitives Interrogated

Car Theft Gang Arrested in Bekaa

Hizbullah Fighters Say a 'Duty' to Help Assad

Vatican Officials Warn Presidential Vacuum Would Harm Christians

Berri Urges Ambassadors Not to Interfere in Presidential Vote

Joint Parliamentary Committees Approve Fines on Illegal Seaside Properties to Fund Wage Scale

Smuggling of 12 Million Captagon Pills to Dubai Foiled at Beirut Port

Crafty Chamoun relied on network of internal and external ties

Tripoli stands united with the Army: Mufti Shaar
Students data to be handed over to STL

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Al-Nusra, Allies Repel ISIL's Attack on Syria's al-Bukamal as Death Toll Hits 86

The Syrian War/Change the course

New Syria chemical attack allegations under investigation

Egypt violence kills 3; group names suicide bomber

Putin Pledges to Fulfill Europe Gas Obligations as G20 Says Monitoring Ukraine Economy

U.N. Experts Urge Iran to Give Political Prisoners Medical Care

White House to Iran: No visa for UN envoy pick

Study: Iran’s military capabilities do not match its ambitions

U.S. wont intervene in Middle East conflicts

Arab League chief backs peace talks
US says no visa for Iran's proposed UN envoy

Al-Rahi: I Have Not Rejected Nomination of Any March 8, 14 Presidential Candidate

Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi stressed on Friday the need to stage the presidential elections on time, saying that he does not have the right to interfere in the elections.
He said upon his return to Lebanon from a trip to Geneva: “I have not rejected the nomination of any March 8 or 14 camp presidential candidate and I do not have the right to refuse any bid.”
Parliament alone has the right to approve or reject a nomination, he remarked to reporters from Rafik Hariri International Airport. “Parliament alone elects a president,” he said. “I advocate any president that is elected by the parliament and I will not veto any candidate,” al-Rahi added. “We welcome any president who enjoys parliament's consensus, regardless if they support the March 8 or 14 camps,” said the patriarch. “We must respect the constitution as it represents Lebanon's backbone,” he said, while urging officials to hold consultations to stage the elections. Moreover, al-Rahi rejected any presidential vacuum or attempts to create vacuum in the presidential post. “We respect the constitution and would accept amending it only if the need arises,” he stated. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should choose a new head of state within a two-month period, which started on March 25. Speaker Nabih Berri is likely to call for a parliamentary session on April 22 or 23 to elect a new president, As Safir newspaper reported on Wednesday. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is the only official to so far announce his candidacy. Lebanese media have in recent weeks identified other presidential hopefuls as Kataeb party leader and ex-President Amin Gemayel, MPs Butros Harb and Robert Ghanem, who are like Geagea members of the March 14 alliance. Other potential candidates are Hizbullah allies Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh.

Geagea to Propose Partnership with Hizbullah if Elected as President

Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea revealed on Friday that he will propose to Hizbullah if he was elected as president “real partnership,” considering that the theory of “vacuum at the presidential post is better than choosing a weak head of state” has crumbled after he ran for the presidency. “I will suggest real partnership with Hizbullah to build a state that is capable with the army's weapons as the only means to protect all the citizens,” Geagea said in an interview with As Safir newspaper. He noted that the “Shiites are the ones mostly harmed by the ongoing status-quo in the country.” “The army and with its available capabilities could replace Hizbullah's role in the conflict with Israel as the elite forces could deploy and engage in operations according to the necessary needs,” the Christian leader added. Geagea stressed that his run for presidency is “serious,” admitting that his “journey to the Baabda Palace would be hard.” “I realize all this... but there's nothing impossible in politics.” Concerning consultations with the March 14 allies over his decision, the LF leader told As Safir that “he is mulling with his allies his chances,” noting that “al-Mustaqbal movement's decision will be according to its convictions.” Geagea denied that his move “was to embarrass (Mustaqbal movement) leader Saad Hariri and block the way before other March 14 candidates.” “If I didn't have the minimal level of contacts with my allies and if I wasn't convinced that I have at least crossed half the road to gain their support, I wouldn't have run for the presidency.” He warned the political arch-foes from boycotting a parliamentary session set to elect a new president, saying: “they will pay a high price.” “I advise the March 8 alliance not to cause vacuum at the presidential post as it will be the biggest loser,” Geagea said.
However, he told the daily that the theory of “vacuum is better than a weak president has crumbled as the March 14 coalition has a strong president candidate, who is me in principle, and the March 8 camp will have another strong candidate, who hasn't been revealed yet.” He predicted that head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun will run for presidency on behalf of the March 8 alliance. Geagea considered that “the political power in the country is currently in favor of the March 14 coalition.” President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should choose a new head of state within a two-month period, which was on March 25. Geagea was the first to announce last week that he will run for the presidency. Lebanese media have in recent weeks identified other presidential hopefuls as Kataeb party leader and ex-president Amin Gemayel, MPs Boutros Harb and Robert Ghanem, who are like Geagea members of the March 14 anti-Syria movement. Other potential candidates are Hizbullah allies Aoun and Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh. Lebanese presidents are always chosen from the Christian Maronite community.

Mustaqbal Officials in Riyadh to Brief Hariri on Election Talks

Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora is in Riyadh to brief al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-Premier Saad Hariri on the results of consultations held in Beirut over the presidential elections. An Nahar daily said Friday that Saniora was accompanied by Nader Hariri, the adviser of al-Mustaqbal movement leader. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has reportedly told the adviser during a meeting they held on Sunday that Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun would not announce his candidacy for the presidency if there was no political consensus on him. Bassil, who is Aoun's son-in-law, said the FPM leader rejected his possible candidacy to be considered against the presidential bid of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, a Hariri ally. Similar meetings were held in the past week between Geagea and Saad Hariri's envoy to discuss the elections that should be held by May 25 when President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ends. Geagea met with Nader Hariri last Saturday and former MP Ghattas Khoury on Monday. The LF chief's press office said Monday's “talks focused on the importance of preserving the unity of the March 14 alliance at this stage to bring a single candidate from the coalition to the presidency.”Geagea announced last week that he would run for president, throwing the March 14 coalition in confusion after several of its officials said that the camp would have a single candidate.


Hizbullah Fighters Say a 'Duty' to Help Assad
Naharnet /As he pushes a cart full of tomatoes and cucumbers in the market at Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon, nothing marks out Mahmoud as an experienced Hizbullah fighter.
The stocky vegetable vendor in his fifties, who sports a red beard, fought Israel in 2006, but that battle is now old news. He has just come back from another front: in Syria, where he fought for 25 days against the rebels who have sought to overthrow President Bashar Assad for the past three years. Since the Shiite movement's chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave the order more than a year ago, thousands of Hizbullah fighters have fought in Syria, playing a decisive role in key victories for the regime. Street vendors, farmers, restaurant owners, medical professionals and students have all joined what they call an "existential battle" against "takfiris" -- Sunni extremists. "When the party called on me to go, I responded. I left my job and I went to stop the takfiris from entering Lebanon," says Mahmoud.
"I fought in several regions and took fighters from the region and elsewhere prisoner," he adds. "Our cause is just. They are mercenaries from Chechnya, Yemen and Libya who want to overthrow Bashar Assad, who supported us enormously during the 2006 war against Israel," Mahmoud insists. "It's our duty to help him." Hizbullah presents its role as protecting Syria from Sunni-dominated rebels who they say want to overthrow the regime because they hate Alawites, including Assad, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. In another southern Lebanese village, Fatima has not let the death of her husband in the June 2013 battle for Syria's Qusayr stop her from encouraging her son to join the fight. "I've send Khodr, with dozens of other young men, to do one month of training in Lebanon," she says. "He must learn to handle weapons so that he can become a fighter like his father." Next to her, Khodr sorts tobacco seedlings for planting. His beard is just coming in and his eyes are sad. He wears a picture of his father around his neck and has a pin on his T-shirt bearing Nasrallah's picture and his phrase "Victory awaits us". His older brother Wissam, 25, came back from Syria a week earlier. "We obey Sayyed Hassan (Nasrallah) when he invites us to fight. My father died a martyr and we must follow his path," he says. There are no official figures on how many Hizbullah fighters have been killed in Syria, but some put the toll at around 300. "Should we let them come and kill us like sheep, like they have done to the Shiites in Iraq and Syria? No, we will defeat them as we defeated Israel," Wissam adds. When they first began fighting in Syria, Hizbullah members refused to discuss their involvement, but now they talk about it with pride, while declining to offer details of their numbers or operations. At a school in southern Lebanon, Hizbullah posters advertise scouting sessions, but the accompanying photos of young men in military uniforms suggest the training is more combat-based. In some places, there are voices of dissent against the group's involvement in the conflict next door. "They sent my son to his death without my approval. Who told them that I wanted my son to die in Syria?" one man asks, declining to be named for fear of incurring Hizbullah's wrath. But that sentiment is rare among the party's constituents, who also know Hizbullah will support them if their loved ones are killed.
"My family's future is safe if I die. They'll take care of the schooling for my nine-year-old son and look after his health," says Osama, a 38-year-old party member in the city of Tyre. In Baalbek, a Hizbullah stronghold in eastern Lebanon, 22-year-old Hussein is heading to Iran to undergo a commander training course. The psychology student's parents are both party members and he has already fought in Syria's northern province of Aleppo. "I'm very excited about going to Iran to become a battalion chief. It's a promotion," he says, under his mother's watchful eye. Source/Agence France Presse

Tensions between Berri, ABL over Wage Scale Funding Eased following Talks with Khalil
Naharnet/Tensions between Speaker Nabih Berri and the Association of Banks in Lebanon eased on Friday after signs of a dispute were beginning to emerge between the two sides over the funding of the new wage scale. The speaker had earlier during the day refused to meet with the ABL before its apologizes for its stance concerning the tax measures proposed by the joint parliamentary committees to fund the new wage scale. “Berri will not meet with the delegation unless the head of the ABL, Francois Bassil, apologizes publicly to the press over the attack launched by him against lawmakers and the parliament,” the state-run National News Agency reported. The ABL chief later however held talks with AMAL Minister Ali Hassan Khalil in an effort to ease the tensions. He described the talks as “positive”, adding: “The ABL has always supported the state... We hope that the state doesn't give up on us.”Bassil expressed hope that Berri resolves the dispute between the Economic Committees and the Syndicate Coordination Committee, urging him to act wisely to end the crisis. The ABL voiced its opposition to the taxes proposed by lawmakers to cover the expenses of the new salary scale that the SCC is demanding its endorsement by the parliament.  Most banks in Lebanon closed their branches across the country to protest against the matter. Later NNA reported that AMAL Movement MP Hani Qobeissi filed a complaint against the ABL chief for accusing lawmakers of theft and embezzlement of public funds, but he later halted the charges following Bassil's talks with Khalil.

Qobeissi noted however that the lawsuit has not yet been dropped.
“We reserve the right to continue with the complaint until Bassil retracts his remarks against every politician in Lebanon,” he said. Khalil meanwhile said that the decision to drop the lawsuit lies in Berri's hands “because Bassil's insult was directed parliament as an institution.” For his part, Bassil denied after talks with Khalil that he had accused MPs of anything, noting that he only demanded an “administrative reform.” “Thursday's statement only reflects my own opinion,” he said in a press conference, warning that “the tax measures are being imposed in a hard economic situation.” “Lawmakers should defend us, they are our representatives at the parliament,” Bassil said. He described the new wage scale as “a righteous demand but trying to end the crisis in this way will impact the banks.” Bassil stressed that the new wage scale “should be studied thoroughly with the Economic Committees and the ABL.”He had warned in remarks to An Nahar newspaper on Friday of a “revolution against politicians in Lebanon, who bankrupted Lebanon.” “Increasing taxes on deposit interest revenue will not have a direct impact on banks,” he pointed out, saying that “the measure would affect new investments and deposits.” The joint parliamentary committees agreed during a session on Thursday to raise the 5 percent tax on deposit interest revenue to 7 percent. The Economic Committees, which also reject the new wage scale, held an emergency meeting on Thursday in order to study the “catastrophic tax measures” adopted by the joint parliamentary committees and their effects on the national economy.  The SCC had warned of escalation in the protests, of an open-ended strike and of boycotting the correction of official exams if the parliament fails to endorse the new wage scale that the joint parliamentary committees are studying ways to fund it. Former Prime Minister Najib Miqati's cabinet approved in 2012 a new salary scale for public employees ending a long dispute that had prompted the SCC to hold several sit-ins and strikes. President Michel Suleiman signed the decree mid-June 2013 and it was referred to the joint parliamentary committees for further scrutiny. The wage increase will be retroactive from July 1, 2012. The state treasury will have more than $1.2 billion to cover as there are over 180,000 public sector employees including military personnel.


Demo against Arrest Warrants Called Off in Tripoli, More Fugitives Interrogated
Naharnet/A demonstration that was planned to take place on Friday to protest the arrest warrants issued against hundreds of the northern city of Tripoli's residents has been called off, after the interference of several political figures. A group of young men had called via social media platforms for a “mass demonstration” in Abdul Hamid Karami Square in Tripoli after Friday's prayers, to demand withdrawing the arrest warrants issued against hundreds of the city's residents. “But after the interference of many influential figures in the city and the adoption of strict security measures by the army, the protest has been called off,” the state-run National News Agency said. "A small-scale sit-in took place instead, with dozens of participants gathering in front of the Amira mosque in Tripoli's Bab al-Ramel neighborhood,” NNA reported. The protesters called for the release of Sheikh Tareq Merhi, the mosque's Imam, and his companions, who have been held in Roumieh prison for years over their ties with militant group Fatah al-Islam, according to the same source. In a related matter, Judge Nabil Wehbe interrogated on Friday two detainees from the Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, and issued arrest warrants against them. Wehbe also issued arrest warrants in absentia against 12 other fugitives, among them were Ziad A., Saad M., and Farouq M.  This comes as army troops and security forces continue to implement a security plan approved by the cabinet in the North and the Bekaa, to end the state of violence and chaos in the region. So far, more than 40 fugitives have been arrested, and many stolen vehicles and illegal weapons have been seized.

Car Theft Gang Arrested in Bekaa
Naharnet/State security forces arrested on Thursday a car theft gang in the eastern Bekaa Valley as part of the implementation of the security plan in the region, reported the National News Agency on Friday. It said that the five-member Lebanese gang's activities were limited to robbing vehicles and later selling them or trading them for drugs. They do not have a history of murder or kidnapping, said NNA. The arrest was made when a Syrian vehicle was reported stolen in the Bekaa region of Taalbaya. State security forces then dispatched a patrol in the area, arresting a thief who was driving the car on the Ghayda road, east of the city of Zahleh. The suspect confessed to committing car theft along with four accomplices. They all later confessed to stealing seven old model vehicles, selling them to a man identified as A.M.


Vatican Officials Warn Presidential Vacuum Would Harm Christians
Naharnet/Vatican officials have expressed fears that a possible vacuum in the presidency would harm the role of Christians in state institutions, al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday.
The newspaper quoted the officials as saying that the election of a new president was urgent amid the turmoil in Lebanon and the region. They said any vacuum would affect power-sharing between Muslims and Christians and would harm the role of Christians in state institutions, mainly the presidency that is reserved for Maronites under the National Pact of 1943. Under the agreement along confessional lines the prime minister should be a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. The danger of a presidential vacuum also lies on creating a precedence on the absence of a head of state, which would be explained as a diminishing role for Christians in the state, the officials said. Such a scenario contradicts with the National Pact and the Constitution, they told al-Joumhouria. The daily said last week that a delegation from the Vatican has been holding talks with Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and Maronite political leaders in an attempt to bring to the helm of Baabda Palace the strongest and most popular Christian politician.
The delegation, which has been sent to Lebanon by Pope Francis, is moving back and forth between the papal embassy in Harissa, the seat of the Maronite church in Bkirki and the residences of the Maronite political leaders, it said. The Vatican officials are also expected to hold meetings with the rest of the parliamentary blocs, al-Joumhouria quoted a Vatican source as saying.


Nasrallah is just not interesting,7340,L-4509150,00.html

Ynetnews/ 04.11.14/Analysis: Israel could have gotten rid of Hezbollah leader quite easily, but at the end of the day – it's better the devil you know.
It's amazing how time flies: The Lebanese Hezbollah organization is almost 30 years old, and Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has been in his position for 12 years now, almost 10 of them in hiding.
Occasionally, he gathers some courage and pops up for operations aimed at lifting his supporters' spirits, and so two years ago we saw him come out suddenly from behind a sealed screen on which his televised speech was being aired. He provided the bad smile, two-three minutes in front of the cameras, until the nervous bodyguards pushed him into the bunker, so that their secretary-general would not be eliminated. The fact that Israel is not investing any efforts in his assassination is a badge of shame for Nasrallah. As far as we know, they once tried to poison him, but Iranian doctors saved his life at the last minute. Nasrallah invited the recorders to air an unconvincing denial. They say eyes chase him everywhere, that he should know he is transparent. There were opportunities, Mr. Nasrallah. They could have gotten rid of you quite easily. They even know who your replacement is. At the end of the day, however, it turns out that it's better the devil you know.
A long time has gone by and Nasrallah is no longer in charge of the big issues. In his hiding place, he is busy reading newspapers obsessively. He reads us, he has politicians and commentators whose translations he makes sure to receive, and he likes to make headlines with us. He scans the Lebanese media, spots enemies, prepares notes for his next speech and invites a television crew. Not everything that is recorded will necessarily make it to the big screens. It's fascinating to discover every time just how much our experts have learned to read his mind, how exposed he is even underground. And it seems as if Nasrallah experts can almost always guess what the secretary-general sees as the most pressing issue, what list of notes he has prepared for himself, what spin he'll start rolling and what the Iranians have written for him in the EEI (essential elements of information).
In general, Nasrallah is not interesting. It's advisable not to be alarmed by his attempts to terrify, and to expose – if there even is a reason to expose – the place he is seeking for himself within the Shiite camp, and the respect he wants to gain for the fighters he sends to Syria at Tehran's orders.
We should pay attention that he is in trouble with the Lebanese government, with mothers demanding a convincing explanation for the urgency of making young boys do the Syrian army's job. He is also in trouble with the villagers in southern Lebanon, who prefer to make a living off agriculture rather than see their lands being seized and their storehouses being confiscated.
Last May, Nasrallah dropped a bomb when he exposed the big secret about hundreds of Hezbollah men sent to fight in Syria. Apparently, he had no choice. It was impossible to cover one's tracks when coffins return hundreds of bodies of organization members who suddenly disappeared. Two weeks ago, in a speech broadcast on a large screen in southern Lebanon, Nasrallah decided to insist that "we entered Syria too late" – a sort of apology to his managers in Tehran. From that same screen he also conveyed a stammering message to us, that he is not interested in entering a conflict, that he won't be the one to start it. He will continue, together with Hezbollah's operations commanders, to harass us with attempts to plant explosive devices. If he gets the chance, he will gladly kidnap an Israeli soldier. But in the sealed room he is learning to come to terms with a new state of affairs: When Iran is negotiating with the American administration, and Obama promises in Saudi Arabia not to make a bad deal, and the Saudis still see Lebanon as a protégé, Nasrallah will be careful not to get involved in an activity which will lead to a strong Israeli response.

Berri Urges Ambassadors Not to Interfere in Presidential Vote

Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday called on the ambassadors of Arab and foreign states not to interfere in the upcoming presidential election, which is supposed to be held before May 25.
“Foreign ambassadors must not interfere in this election and must leave a chance to 'Lebanonize' it and allow it to take its course,” National Media Council chief Abdul Hadi Mahfouz quoted Berri as saying after he met the speaker in parliament. “There is openness at the regional level, especially between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and this will reflect positively on Lebanon," Berri added.
He said the recent appointment of a Saudi ambassador to Iran was a “positive indication” in this regard. Separately, Mahfouz said he asked Berri to push for the approval of a “unified press law” and that the speaker promised to exert efforts to that end. A parliamentary delegation formed by Berri announced Monday that all parliamentary blocs promised to attend the first parliamentary session to elect a new president, which the speaker is expected to schedule "between April 15 and April 30." The constitutional timeframe to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman began on March 25, amid the president's refusal of any extension of his term -- which ends May 25. Until the moment, only Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has officially nominated himself for the presidency.


Joint Parliamentary Committees Approve Fines on Illegal Seaside Properties to Fund Wage Scale
Naharnet/The joint parliamentary committees approved on Thursday imposing fines on illegal seaside properties as part of the plan to fund the new wage scale, reported several media outlets. They approved the article on imposing fines on seaside properties with a retroactive effect of five years. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said that 7.5 percent of the fine will be imposed on illegal seaside construction, while 2.5 percent will be imposed on illegal properties. LBCI television meanwhile spoke of a tense atmosphere at the joint parliamentary committees as a result of a dispute over the illegal seaside properties that preceded the approval of the article. The meeting witnessed the withdrawal of MP Alaeddine Terro, who accused some ministers at the talks of not wanting to resolve the dispute over the funding of the new wage scale. Earlier, Speaker Nabih Berri had warned that lawmakers “were in for a long night” in order to resolve the dispute over the wage scale and its funding. Ahead of the session, Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Ali Fayyad had stated that he advocates increasing the Value Added Tax on luxury products as part of efforts to fund the scale. He suggested raising the VAT to 15 percent. The Association of Banks in Lebanon later voiced its opposition to the tax measures proposed by the joint parliamentary committees to fund the new wage scale. It consequently announced that banks in Lebanon will be closed on Friday in protest against the suggestions. The Economic Committees held an emergency meeting on Thursday in order to study the “catastrophic tax measures” adopted by the joint parliamentary committees and their effects on the national economy. “The arbitrary decisions were adopted as part of political interests aimed at scaring away Lebanese investments in their own country and killing the Lebanese economy,” they said. They therefore urged Speaker Nabih Berri to withhold presenting the new wage scale before parliament, noting: “Funding the wage scale through taxes will not only negatively impact the national economy, but all the Lebanese people including those who will benefit from the scale.” The Syndicate Coordination Committee had staged a strike on Wednesday to pressure the joint parliamentary committees to refer the new wage scale to parliament. The committees have held several sessions to study the means in which to fund the scale. The SCC had warned of escalation in the protests, of an open-ended strike and of boycotting (the correction of) official exams. Former Prime Minister Najib Miqati's cabinet endorsed in 2012 a new salary scale for public employees ending a long dispute that had prompted the SCC to hold several sit-ins and strikes. President Michel Suleiman signed the decree mid-June 2013 and it was referred to the joint parliamentary committees for further scrutiny. The wage increase will be retroactive from July 1, 2012. The state treasury will have more than $1.2 billion to cover as there are over 180,000 public sector employees including military personnel.

Putin Pledges to Fulfill Europe Gas Obligations as G20 Says Monitoring Ukraine Economy
Naharnet/Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said Moscow would fulfill its obligations to send natural gas to Europe but also said the United States had no business interfering in Russia's talks with Europe over Kiev's debt. "We certainly guarantee the fulfillment of our obligations before our European customers in full," Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin. "The issue is not about us, the issue is about securing transit through Ukraine." Putin on Thursday sent a letter to the heads of 18 European countries that receive Russian gas, saying Moscow could turn off supplies because Kiev has so far failed to repay its $2.2 billion energy bill. He urged immediate talks, suggesting that Europe help pay Ukraine's debt. Washington condemned Russia's efforts to use energy as "a tool of coercion against Ukraine." But Putin on Friday suggested that Washington had no business meddling in European affairs. "It's strange because reading other people's letters is not good. I did not write to them, I wrote to the consumers of gas in Europe," he said at a meeting of his Security Council. "Everyone is used to the fact that our American friends are eavesdropping but peeping is really not nice (too)," he quipped.
Putin said the fact that Ukraine has not yet settled its gas debts was "absolutely intolerable." The Russian strongman also suggested that Washington follow up its promises of support with real action. "Pies on the Maidan will not be enough," Putin said. "This is not enough to deter the Ukrainian economy from slipping into complete chaos." The assistant U.S. secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, was seen in December distributing cookies to pro-Western Ukrainian protesters in Kiev in a gesture of support. Moscow has repeatedly slammed Washington for publicly supporting the protesters who in February ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from power. Meanwhile, Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs said Friday they were alert to risks to the global economy from the Ukraine crisis in a draft statement at talks in Washington. "We are monitoring the economic situation in Ukraine, mindful of any risk to economic and financial stability," said the draft seen by Agence France Presse.
The draft confirmed the concerns that tensions over Ukraine are causing a stir in the leading 20 powers, which include the United States, Europe's major countries and Russia.
The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the U.S. and European Union have pledged some $27 billion to shore up the Ukrainian economy, but threatening posturing by Russia on the country's eastern border has raised the risks for that plan. "We are monitoring the economic situation in Ukraine, mindful of any risks to economic and financial stability," the G20 said in the draft. The group praised the IMF and World Bank for leading the economic rescue of the country. Source/Agence France Presse

Al-Nusra, Allies Repel ISIL's Attack on Syria's al-Bukamal as Death Toll Hits 86
Naharnet/Syria's al-Qaida affiliate and its allies have repulsed an assault by jihadist rivals on a town on the Iraqi border in fighting that killed 86 people, a monitoring group said Friday.
Sixty of the dead were fighters of al-Nusra Front or its Islamist allies killed pushing back their Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rivals from districts of al-Bukamal they had captured early Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse the rebels regained full control of al-Bukamal after reinforcements poured in. ISIL withdrew to the T2 oil site, 60 kilometers (35 miles) southwest of the town and where a Syria-Iraq pipeline runs, he said, after executing seven fighters of a rival Islamist brigade. The clashes have prompted soldiers on the Iraqi side of the border to reinforce their positions. The border crossing itself on Syria's side remains in the hands of the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army, said a rebel chief and an Agence France Presse reporter on the Iraqi side who saw the FSA flag flying over it. With their attack on al-Bukamal, ISIL fighters wanted to link up with their comrades over the border in Iraq, said Abdel Rahman. Iraqi troops put up blast walls and sand berms on their side of the crossing as a precaution, the AFP correspondent reported. Al-Bukamal has been under the control of fighters opposed to the Damascus regime since November 2012, but al-Nusra and its allies forced out former ISIL allies in heavy fighting in late February. Thousands were killed in battles in several regions of Syria in January and February pitting ISIL against its rivals and nominal allies in the anti-Assad revolt. The Euphrates valley town of al-Bukamal had a population of some 70,000 before the start of the Syrian conflict which the Observatory says has cost more than 150,000 lives since March 2011. Syrian troops now control just one official crossing on the Iraqi border -- al-Tanaf/al-Walid, on the main highway to Baghdad. A third crossing, Yarabiyah/Rabia in the northeast, is held by Kurdish militia. Source/Agence France Presse

Question: "What is true religion?" Religion can be defined as “belief in God or gods to be worshipped, usually expressed in conduct and ritual” or “any specific system of belief, worship, etc., often involving a code of ethics.” Well over 90% of the world’s population adheres to some form of religion. The problem is that there are so many different religions. What is the right religion? What is true religion?
The two most common ingredients in religions are rules and rituals. Some religions are essentially nothing more than a list of rules, do’s and don’t's, that a person must observe in order to be considered a faithful adherent of that religion, and thereby, right with the God of that religion. Two examples of rules-based religions are Islam and Judaism. Islam has its five pillars that must be observed. Judaism has hundreds of commands and traditions that are to be observed. Both religions, to a certain degree, claim that by obeying the rules of the religion, a person will be considered right with God.
Other religions focus more on observing rituals instead of obeying a list of rules. By offering this sacrifice, performing this task, participating in this service, consuming this meal, etc., a person is made right with God. The most prominent example of a ritual-based religion is Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism holds that by being water baptized as an infant, by partaking in the Mass, by confessing sin to a priest, by offering prayers to saints in Heaven, by being anointed by a priest before death, etc., etc., God will accept such a person into Heaven after death. Buddhism and Hinduism are also primarily ritual-based religions, but can also to a lesser degree be considered rules-based.
True religion is neither rules-based nor ritual-based. True religion is a relationship with God. Two things that all religions hold are that humanity is somehow separated from God and needs to be reconciled to Him. False religion seeks to solve this problem by observing rules and rituals. True religion solves the problem by recognizing that only God could rectify the separation, and that He has done so. True religion recognizes the following:
1. We have all sinned and are therefore separated from God (Romans 3:23).
2. If not rectified, the just penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God after death (Romans 6:23).
3. God came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve, and rose from the dead to demonstrate that His death was a sufficient sacrifice (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. If we receive Jesus as the Savior, trusting His death as the full payment for our sins, we are forgiven, saved, redeemed, reconciled, and justified with God (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9).
True religion does have rules and rituals, but there is a crucial difference. In true religion, the rules and rituals are observed out of gratitude for the salvation God has provided – NOT in an effort to obtain that salvation. True religion, which is Biblical Christianity, has rules to obey (do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc.) and rituals to observe (water baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper / Communion). Observance of these rules and rituals is not what makes a person right with God. Rather, these rules and rituals are the RESULT of the relationship with God, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as the Savior. False religion is doing things (rules and rituals) in order to try to earn God’s favor. True religion is receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and thereby having a right relationship with God – and then doing things (rules and rituals) out of love for God and desire to grow closer to Him.
Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please go to, scroll to the bottom of the article and then click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button.
Recommended Resources: Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification by R.C. Sproul and Logos Bible Software.

Crafty Chamoun relied on network of internal and external ties
April 11, 2014/By Mirella Hodeib /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Charismatic politician Camille Chamoun came to power in 1952 thanks to backing he enjoyed from Lebanon’s powerful opposition and a strong network of regional and international ties.
Soon after his election, Chamoun – a lawyer from the Chouf village of Deir al-Qamar – turned against his local allies and agreed to sign controversial military pacts with western powers. Observers argue that such pacts significantly compromised Lebanon’s neutrality and implicated it in the regional tensions going on at the time.
Although the start of his mandate brought unparalleled prosperity to Lebanon and was often described as the “golden age,” the final years of Chamoun’s tenure were mired by crisis and turbulence which culminated into what came to be known as the 1958 crisis, Lebanon’s first ever civil conflict in the post-independence era.
The miniature civil war pitted Chamoun against the Lebanese supporters of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, when Chamoun refused to break ties with Western powers in the aftermath of the 1956 Suez Crisis. The grudge against Chamoun grew after his opponents accused him of siding with the Western-backed Baghdad Pact established to confront Soviet Union influence in the Middle East.
Chamoun, who was a lawmaker since 1934 and who occupied several ministerial posts since, rose to fame as part of the Patriotic Socialist Front, a bloc of lawmakers and politicians which comprised figures such as Progressive Socialist Party leader Kamal Jumblatt and National Bloc leader Raymond Eddeh.
The PSF had constituted the main nucleus of opposition against the rule of President Bechara al-Khoury, whose second term was characterized by corruption, financial scandals and nepotism.
Eventually, Khoury yielded to the pressures of the opposition, which had declared an open general political strike, and submitted his resignation on Sept. 18, 1952, three years ahead of the end of his second term. Some analysts – such as Farid al-Khazen, writing in an article submitted to a 2011 conference on Lebanese presidential elections organized by the Issam Fares Center for Lebanon – argue that at the time of Chamoun’s election, foreign intervention was minimal compared to the level of blatant intervention in the post-Taif Agreement era. But others disagree.
According to historian Fawwaz Traboulsi, a key external factor – Lebanon’s membership in Western military pacts – played a main role in Khoury’s downfall and Chamoun’s rise to power. Khoury and his Prime Minister Riad al-Solh had refused to join the so-called Pact for Collective Defense of the Mediterranean against communism shepherded by the United States and Britain in addition to France and Turkey.
In fact, Chamoun’s main contender in the presidential election of 1952 Hamid Frangieh, himself a prominent member of the PSF, was in favor or Lebanon’s neutrality. Contrary to PSF principles, Chamoun agreed to engage Lebanon in Western pacts and kept his promise after his election on Sept. 23, 1952.
In “A History of Modern Lebanon,” Traboulsi wrote that the PSF charter that Chamoun had committed himself to stipulated achieving Lebanese neutrality in international affairs, administrative reform and curb abuses of power. “The extent to which the new president did exactly the opposite of what he has committed himself to do is quite amazing,” Traboulsi argued.
Chamoun’s election also set a precedent in Lebanese politics, whereby the shrewd politician sought the support of Lebanon’s biggest neighbor Syria in the race to the presidency.
Khazen wrote that Damascus has called on Lebanon’s Muslim leaders to back Chamoun against Frangieh.
In his book, “Lebanon’s Presidents: How they made it?” journalist Ahmad Zeineddine maintained that prior to his election Chamoun went on a hunting trip to Syria, where he met with President Adib Shishakli. “Chamoun quickly realized that Shishakli could help him win the support of Lebanese groups over which Syria has influence,” Zeineddine wrote.
“Soon after, Beirut lawmakers and a considerable number of north Lebanon lawmakers vowed allegiance to Chamoun thanks to pressure exerted by the Syrian administration and the British ambassador to Beirut.”

The presidential chess game has begun
April 10, 2014/By Michael Young
The Daily Star
Samir Geagea has declared his candidacy for the Lebanese presidential election, launching a thousand speculations. The Lebanese Forces leader has pushed his allies into a corner, forcing them to support him. He feels that, even though he may not win, the prospect of a Geagea victory remains far more credible than one by Michel Aoun. But how true is that?
Geagea’s calculation is roughly as follows. He reckons that, with March 14 and independent support, he would have well over 50 votes in his favor. With the backing of Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, the Lebanese Forces leader would be able to garner the 65 votes needed to win an election in a second round of voting. There are two problems with this assessment: Geagea’s estimation of the votes he already has seems quite optimistic and Walid Jumblatt’s backing is in now way guaranteed, on the contrary.
One principle on which Geagea seems to be basing his calculations is that Aoun cannot win a majority because his allies actually do not want him to win. That may be true, but Aoun appears to have taken it into consideration. Two weeks ago in an interview with Al-Mayadeen, the general announced that he would not stand against Geagea, since, as he put it, “I am in competition with nobody.”
That statement seemed both ridiculous and arrogant: ridiculous, since what is an election but a competition? And arrogant, because Aoun appeared to signal he would only stand if he alone was the candidate – presumably of national consent.
In reality, the general was more cunning than that. He knows that if he and Geagea run against each other, they will only cancel each other out, with neither securing a majority. This would facilitate the emergence of a compromise candidate. Aoun seeks to avoid such a scenario, and Geagea, who also knows the score, is hoping to build momentum for his candidacy before Aoun has had time to react effectively.
What are Aoun’s options? If he is not a candidate and sees momentum shifting toward Geagea, the general, with his allies, may boycott the election session and prevent a quorum. We would then have a situation that Aoun could exploit to present himself as the only person capable of breaking the ensuing deadlock.
However, a policy of blackmail would almost certainly alienate March 14, and the Future Movement in particular. In addition, it would be perceived as an effort by Hezbollah (since Hezbollah would be as much compelled to back Aoun as Future to endorse Geagea) to impose its man on Lebanon.
In the end, much depends on what Walid Jumblatt decides. Geagea may feel that the Druze leader is more inclined to lean toward him than toward Aoun, but that may be a miscalculation. Jumblatt prefers that neither man become president, but today he has a more pressing problem that he needs to resolve, namely to ensure that the parliamentary elections next November are held on the basis of the 1960 law – or any law that perpetuates his domination over the Aley and Shouf districts.
If Jumblatt loses his supremacy in these districts, he is politically finished. And he knows that Aoun is much more amenable to the 1960 law than Geagea, because it has twice given him large Christian majorities in Parliament. Geagea, in contrast, has no intention of allowing the 1960 law to stand, because it has marginalized the Lebanese Forces electorally. That is why last year he was so adamant in pushing for the so-called Orthodox proposal, which would have given the Lebanese Forces a much larger share of Christian seats in parliament.
Jumblatt’s strategy will be principally determined by the prospects for a return to the 1960 election law. Aoun doubtless knows this and will try to use it to get Jumblatt’s votes. But the Druze leader will not give in easily. His preference is for a more consensual figure, and a Maronite who will not challenge him in the mountains. That’s why Jumblatt may prefer to allow an election delay, perhaps through a March 8-Aoun boycott, to give time for a consensual figure to emerge, or, conversely, to drive up his price for backing a candidate meeting his conditions.
The irony is that Geagea’s candidacy may benefit Aoun. By turning the election into a choice between the Lebanese Forces leader and Aoun, Geagea may force those on the fence to take sides. And there are no assurances Geagea will win, as Jumblatt’s case illustrates. Geagea believes that several independents will vote for him; but it is also true that those who prefer a compromise could vote against him if offered no choice.
Aoun has alienated many people in the past nine years, especially in the Sunni community. But Geagea, despite his best efforts, has not been able to shake his past in the Lebanese Forces. Even among Sunnis, he should not overestimate his popularity. Geagea, like Aoun, is something of a headache to his Muslim allies: a candidate expected to disturb the atmosphere of conciliation that seems to be prevailing these days.
Aoun and Geagea have high expectations, maybe too high. Neither can be ruled out when it comes to the presidency, but in the coming weeks most of the non-Christian political forces will look for ways to circumvent them. If that fails, the onus will be on the centrists, Walid Jumblatt above all, to lean one way or the other. That’s when the real bargaining will begin.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling

Change the course
April 11, 2014/ The Daily Star
The Syrian government is determined to press ahead with a presidential election, especially after the latest announcement that candidacies for the “race” will begin to be accepted later this month.
It apparently makes no difference to the regime whether the election will take place in parts of the country that are held by the rebels or whether millions of displaced Syrians will be able to vote. The only sure thing is that President Bashar Assad will receive a “mandate” to rule for another seven years.
Damascus doesn’t care whether the election will affect the Geneva negotiation process, because the regime’s policy is clear and unambiguous: re-elect the president and crush the rebels militarily.
In contrast, the rebels still suffer from a lack of coordination as they wait for foreign backers to provide them with “sophisticated arms;” the opposition is in disarray, unable to inspire confidence among Syrians inside and outside the country.
As things stand, the regime is poised to continue 2014 with a string of political and military achievements, having adhered to a clear policy of victory at any cost.
For the opposition, it’s time to listen to the many Syrians who are demanding a change of course. It’s time to admit that the opposition has been going about things the wrong way, whether this has to do with managing military matters, putting forward a political message, or getting much-needed humanitarian assistance to war-stricken areas.
If the leaders of the opposition are unable to learn from their mistakes, then their future, and the future of Syria, will be very bleak.

Study: Iran’s military capabilities do not match its ambitions

LAST UPDATED: 04/11/2014
Despite Tehran’s efforts to export its Islamic revolutionary ideology, history shows lack of follow-through.  The Iranian regime is cautious about using its military capabilities because they do not match its ambitions, a new study says. Despite Tehran’s efforts to export its Islamic revolutionary ideology, history shows that the lack of following through with its belligerent rhetoric “is due as much to experience as to realism about its own limits,” according to Shahram Chubin. Chubin is a nonresident senior associate at the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace organization and the former director of studies at the Geneva Center for Security Policy. “But where Iran excels is in the more subtle areas of indirect diplomacy, menace and intrigue,” he said.
For example, Chubin told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that regarding the war in Syria, “Iran started slowly and then found it was pushing against an open door and stepped up its activities once it saw that the US would not react.” In the article, titled “Is Iran a Military Threat?” and published in the Survival: Global Politics and Strategy journal, Chubin stated that Iran had little war experience in the past 150 years, until the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, which it helped provoke but did not start. Iran has no strong military tradition and has focused on internal security and stability, he argued.
“Tehran underestimated the nationalism of Iraqi Shi’ites and overestimated the Iranian people’s willingness to sacrifice,” he said of the Iran-Iraq War.
“The missile war on Iranian cities generated much terror, bringing the horrors of war home. War weariness, criticism of the conduct of the war and the declining number of volunteers threatened to become a political liability for the regime,” he added. As a result, “this domestic dimension of the war was an important factor in the government’s decision to ‘drink the cup of poison’, as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini characterized the decision to end the war,” he said. While Tehran claimed the war a victory, it “taught the regime several important lessons, the first of which was, having been caught unprepared and in disarray militarily, Iran would henceforth emphasize deterrence and readiness.” Chubin went on to explain that the wars in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 demonstrated US military superiority as well as American weakness at dealing with an insurgency in built-up areas. A nuclear capability could offset this disadvantage. Brandon Friedman, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a researcher at its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, responded to this thesis. He told the Post that Chubin, whose work he greatly respects, overlooks the concept that Iran’s movement towards a nuclear weapons program is creating a security dilemma whereby Israel would lose its ability to maintain its military edge in the region. “If Israel wants to protect its own security, it cannot afford to allow for this possibility,” he said. Friedman said, “It was Iran that decided to invade Iraq instead of accepting a cease-fire and that Chubin’s statement in the study that ‘Iran’s rhetoric and behavior can, of course, be off-putting,’ is a vast understatement.” Furthermore, Friedman argued the idea that Iran is essentially a non-aggressive actor and is looking to implement some kind of forward defense overlooks the point that from Israel, as well as other regional countries’ perspectives, the Iranian regime is seen as an aggressive offensive actor.
Chubin’s main point, that Tehran’s military capabilities do not match its ambitions is “precisely why it wants nuclear weapons, it doesn’t have the conventional power to carry out its ambitions and nuclear weapons would instantly make its ambitions realizable,” said Friedman.

Bashar al-Assad: a costly card for Iran?
Friday, 11 April 2014
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiyia
Recent statements by top Iranian officials appear to divulge the Islamic of Republic of Iran’s frustration and dissatisfaction with the Assad apparatuses’ inability to thoroughly crack down on various rebel groups and oppositional fronts, and to regain full control of the state.
Hossein Amir Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, pointed out in a recent interview: “We aren’t seeking to have Bashar al-Assad remain president for life…” The Islamic Republic has been instrumental in preventing the Syrian government’s economy from collapsing. Tehran extended a $3.6 billion credit line to Damascus. The credit line enables Damascus to buy oil products from Tehran and assist in shoring up the Syrian currency (Pound), which has significantly devalued in the last two years.
The Assad government lost its daily revenue of approximately $7 million from oil exports after the U.S. and European countries banned oil exports from Damascus. Moreover, Damascus lost an estimated $7 billion of revenue a year from tourism. According to Iranian state media this week, Tehran has also delivered 30,000 tons of food supplies to Syria on Tuesday in order to assist the Syrian government in dealing with food shortages created by the civil war. Before the conflict, Syria had the capability of producing most of its domestic food necessities, as well as exporting a considerable amount of wheat. Nevertheless, according to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), Syria will hit a record low this year by producing 1.7 to 2 million tons of wheat.
Although, Abdollahian insists that Iran’s aid to Syria is limited to humanitarian goods, this falsehood, duplicity, and dishonesty is evident in every facet. In addition to the extension of billions of dollars in credit and economic assistance, the Islamic Republic has been playing a pivotal function through its proxy Hezbollah as well as the Quds Forces— a special forces unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps— to provide military, intelligence, geopolitical, strategic and advisory aid to ensure that Assad government retained its power over the last three years of conflict.
Contradictions: Hezbollah, Assad’s apparatuses, and Iran
The recent announcement by Iranian officials arguing that the Islamic Republic does not wish to see President Bashar al-Assad stay in power indefinitely and that they are potentially open to other alternatives, comes at a time when Iranian leaders have evidently recognized that the Syrian oppositional groups, revolutionaries, and rebel groups will not surrender to Assad’s forces any time soon.
While Iranian leaders continue to support Assad’s government economically, Iran’s domestic economy has inflicted itself with high levels of inflation
The country is divided into insurgent-controlled areas and government-controlled cities. Whenever the rebel groups are defeated in one part, they regroup, revise their plan, and prepare to fight the regime in another region.
Consequently, from the Iranian leaders’ perspectives, this platform conveys that the Syrian conflict can be an ongoing war for many years to come. If the Islamic Republic stands for Assad totally, it finds itself obliged to pay billions of dollars to the Syrian government every year and provide additional military, intelligence, and advisory assistance, with no guarantee of reimbursement or compensation.
The costs of the economic support might not be paid back as the two scenarios are unveiled: either Assad’s government will ultimately collapse or the war will be a protracted conflict similar to the Lebanese 15-year civil war from 1975 to 1990.
Although the Syrian government and leaders of Hezbollah are offering differing signals from the Islamic Republic, Iranian leaders view the situation from another prism.
Contrary to Iran, the Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian leaders declared that the Assad government does not face any threat from oppositional groups anymore. Nasrallah said: “The danger of the Syrian regime’s fall has ended.”
While Hezbollah and the Syrian government attempt to project the picture that tranquility and peace has come back to Syria (in order to reclaim their lost popularity at home), Tehran’s view and message appears to diverge from this because of its primary role in holding the economic burden.
Economic desperation of the Islamic Republic
While Iranian leaders continue to support Assad’s government economically, Iran’s domestic economy has inflicted itself with high levels of inflation (approximately 35 percent), a high rate of unemployment, loss in oil export revenues, economic mismanagement of several administrations, negative economic growth, and its stock market has been in decline.
The Assad government’s weakness and incapability to wholly crack down on the oppositional groups and stabilize the country, has been a critical economic burden and heavy load for the Iranian government, while there is no final warranty that Assad might score the final victory, win over, and pay back the debt. Iranian leaders’ ongoing economic, geopolitical, military, intelligence and advisory support for Assad has additionally ratcheted up the tension between the Islamic Republic and other Arab countries in the region as well as other world powers. This unconditional support has also worked to tarnish Iran’s popularity and legitimacy among ordinary people in the region, and domestically.
As Syria has become an economic burden and costly card for Tehran, Iranian leaders are desperate to find alternative options that would still serve their geostrategic, geopolitical, and hegemonic ambitions in the region.
In the next few months, Iranian leaders’ tactical shift would entail their outreach to other powers and Arab countries in the region. Nevertheless, it is paramount to comprehend the notion that although Tehran might agree to a plan where President Bashar al-Assad might not be the head of the state, this does not imply that the Islamic Republic would accept comprehensive change in the Syrian state formation.
As Abdollahian stated, although Tehran does not see Assad as staying in power indefinitely, they also do not accept a plan where extremists replace him. He pointed out, “we do not subscribe to the idea of using extremist forces and terrorism to topple Assad and the Syrian government.” Retaining the current state configuration, through an Alawite-dominated framework, would still be a fundamental and non-negotiable tenet for the Islamic Republic.