April 19/14


Bible Quotation for today/The Saturday Of The Light

Matthew 27,62-66/: "The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise again." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, "He has been raised from the dead", and the last deception would be worse than the first.’Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 19/14
Bachir Gemayel: The president who never was/By Wassim Mroueh /The Daily Star/April 19/14

The Delusion of Resistance/Now Lebanon/By: Hussain Abdul Hussain/April 19/14

Should the GCC still be concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions/By: Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiyia/April 19/14
Between the ‘hammer attack’ and the anvil of British press/By: Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiyia/ April 19/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 19/14

Lebanese Related News

Christians mark Good Friday in Jerusalem

In Pictures: Christians commemorate Good Friday in Jerusalem

Report: Hezbollah planned attack on Israeli tourists in Bangkok

Hezbollah raps Geagea candidacy, calls for compromise

STL defense: Lebanon unwilling to cooperate

Germany Investigates Suspected Lebanese Radical

Ongoing Contacts between Geagea, Kataeb to Name Single March 14 Candidate, LF Delegation Soon in Rabieh
Israel Releases Kidnapped Shepherds
Al-Rahi Congratulates Geagea on Candidacy, Political Platform
Berri: Conditions Not Ripe to Hold Presidential Elections on Wednesday, Hopes Hariri Will Attend
Adwan: All MPs will attend presidential election session
Future Movement to endorse Geagea’s candidacy, report says
Mashnouq: We are coordinating with Hezbollah to aid Tfeil residents

Raad: Some Candidacies Could Hamper Presidential Elections

Jumblatt undecided on presidential candidate

Israeli raid likely hit Hezbollah arms facility

The president who never was: Bachir

Satellite images show before and after alleged IAF strike
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Iranians carry 'death to Israel' signs as Rouhani tells crowd he supports dialogue

Ashton to Israel: Reverse recent steps regarding West Bank, east Jerusalem

U.N. documents show Assad using starvation policy
Arabian Gulf states come to consensus after rift
Bouteflika wins 4th term as Algerian president
Mysterious U.S. plane seen in Iranian airport

Threatened Jordan is losing its temper with Syria

No breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

The leaking Kerry-Lavrov deal for Ukraine will only fuel continuing US-Russian dissent  

Christians mark Good Friday in Jerusalem
AFP/JERUSALEM - Local Christian Arabs and pilgrims from around the world made their way down the cobbled Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem Friday, where Jesus is believed to have walked to his crucifixion.  Thousands of worshippers, some bearing wooden crosses, walked through the walled Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where they believe Jesus was crucified and buried before rising from the dead three days later. The city was also busy on Friday with Jewish worshippers celebrating the week-long festival of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the biblical Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Israeli police meanwhile limited access to Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, fearing more unrest after days of clashes. Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said men under the age of 50 were barred, but there were no restrictions on women. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in clashes with police at the site on Wednesday and Sunday after Jewish visitors were allowed onto the compound. Jews believe the mosque compound is on the site of the first and second biblical temples, their holiest place, and refer to it as the Temple Mount. Today the site hosts the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, and is the third holiest site in Islam. It has frequently been a flashpoint in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ongoing Contacts between Geagea, Kataeb to Name Single March 14 Candidate, LF Delegation Soon in Rabieh
Naharnet/Contacts are underway between the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb party in an attempt to reach consensus over a single March 14 presidential candidate, after several party officials close to Amin Gemayel hinted that the former president might soon announce running for office. LBCI television reported on Friday that the ongoing contacts between Bikfayya and Maarab are close to reaching consensus over the presidential elections, in an attempt to preserve the March 14 coalition's unity. LBCI first said that LF MP Sethrida Geagea was tasked with contacting the Kataeb party. But later, it noted that the party's chief, Samir Geagea and not MP Sethrida Geagea, was the person in contact with Kataeb officials. Al-Mustaqbal MP Fatfat told al-Arabiya on Friday afternoon that Geagea has introduced "a new approach of political work in Lebanon and a new aspect of democracy by announcing his candidacy.""This is because the tradition before was having under-the-table negotiations," he commented. He also remarked that March 14 will reveal its candidate for presidency after Gemayel takes a final decision on his nomination. "But reports said contacts are underway between LF and Kataeb over this matter and we think that this is a positive sign," the al-Mustaqbal lawmaker expressed. In a related matter, MTV said that a LF delegation will visit Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun in the coming hours to hand him over Geagea's presidential program, and to discuss the upcoming elections with him. Kataeb MP Elie Marouni assured on Thursday that Gemayel is a “natural candidate in the presidential race, because the party sees in him a strong and popular president.”Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, who's Gemayel's adviser, announced as well that the Kataeb leader is preparing to declare his candidacy. On Wednesday, Geagea announced a presidential program that focused on “restoring the authority of the state against the proliferation of weapons during a time of regional unrest.”The LF chief also called for a state monopoly on the use of force, including confronting Israel. He is the sole politician to have officially announced his candidacy for the polls, which are first scheduled to be held on April 23. Speaker Nabih Berri called on MPs to meet next Wednesday, although the election is not expected to be an easy process amid a lack of agreement on a consensual candidate.
President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ends on May 25.

Israel Releases Kidnapped Shepherds

Naharnet /The Israeli army released late Thursday two Lebanese shepherds, the same day it kidnapped them from Lebanese territories in the South. The Lebanese army said in a communique that shepherds Hassan Zahra and his brother Ismail Zahra, who hail from the border town of Shebaa, crossed into Lebanon through the Naqoura crossing with the help of U.N. peacekeepers. An Israeli foot patrol kidnapped the two men along with two women and a child after crossing the border into the area of Bastara farms. The army said in a prior communique that the women - Nuhad Ali Awad and Wafaa Ali Moussa and the child Wouroud Hussein Zahra - were detained after they attempted to thwart the kidnapping. But Israel later released them, the military said.

Hezbollah raps Geagea candidacy, calls for compromise
April 19, 2014/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah Friday implicitly rejected Samir Geagea’s candidacy for the presidency, saying the Lebanese Forces leader’s move could delay holding the presidential election on time and cause trouble in the politically divided country. MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament, also said his party would only support a presidential candidate who defended the resistance, a long-running divisive issue among the Lebanese. “Some candidacies that are not qualified [for the presidency] might obstruct holding the election. The country cannot endure a problem and a clash between two national options,” Raad told a rally in south Lebanon, in a clear reference to Geagea’s bid for president. “There is no time for [forging] a major political compromise over these two options because an agreement on a president cannot be reached unless there is a consensus over a compromise,” he said. Raad was apparently referring to the two conflicting options over Hezbollah’s arsenal. While the March 14 coalition wants Hezbollah to disarm and surrender its missiles to the Lebanese Army, the March 8 alliance insists that the party keep its weapons to defend Lebanon against a possible Israeli attack.
Geagea, an outspoken critic of Hezbollah, has repeatedly called on the party to hand over its arsenal to the Army, saying a powerful state cannot be built while illegitimate arms remain in the hands of any party. Geagea and his March 14 allies have also slammed Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria to support President Bashar Assad’s forces. Days after announcing he would run for president, Geagea unveiled Wednesday a broad political platform stressing the state’s monopoly over the use of arms, a move intended to deprive Hezbollah of its arsenal. In an apparent response to Geagea’s platform, Raad said Hezbollah would only support a candidate who defended the resistance. “We want a candidate who will safeguard and defend the resistance option and is keen on the unity of the Lebanese,” Raad said. “With regard to major national issues, abandoning the resistance option in favor of another option will threaten national sovereignty and put the country on the brink of a new abyss.”
“Therefore, we advise those concerned [with the presidential election] to be wise and refrain from embarking on miscalculated adventures,” he said.
The presidential race has moved into high gear after Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday called on Parliament to convene on April 23 to elect a new president.
The parliamentary session will likely fail to elect a president as no candidate appears ready to secure two-thirds of the MPs’ votes, and the session may not achieve quorum. In addition to Geagea, Western Bekaa MP Robert Ghanem from the March 14 coalition has also announced his candidacy. Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel is also expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency in the new few days. As news of Gemayel’s nomination spread, LF and Kataeb officials were in contact in an attempt to reach consensus over a single March 14 candidate. Geagea’s wife, MP Strida Geagea, telephoned Gemayel asking to meet at the latter’s residence in Bikfaya. “The LF and the Kataeb Party are very close to an agreement on approaching the presidential election in such a way to ensure March 14 unity in order to wage the presidential battle under the best conditions,” an LF source said. An LF delegation will soon visit Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun in Rabieh, north of Beirut, to give him a copy of Geagea’s political platform. LF delegations will also visit March 8 and March 14 leaders for the same purpose.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai spoke by telephone with Geagea to congratulate him on his nomination for president and the declaration of his political platform, a statement from the LF chief’s office said.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said he was still undecided on which candidate to support for the presidency.
“I will choose [a candidate] at the last minute after consulting my conscience and my partners,” he told Al-Ousbou Al-Arabi magazine. “I will consult Speaker Nabih Berri first, the Future Movement and other sides.” Jumblatt, head of a seven-member parliamentary bloc, is seen as the kingmaker in the presidential election as his support for one of the two rival factions can tip the balance in its favor.
Separately, a Future Movement source denied Friday that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri would return to Lebanon to attend next week’s parliamentary session to elect a new president.
“Such allegations are not true,” the source told The Daily Star. “Hariri has no intention of coming back to Lebanon at the moment.” Earlier Friday, Future MP Samir Jisr told the Voice of Lebanon radio station that Hariri might come to Beirut next week to attend the parliamentary session to elect a president.

STL defense: Lebanon unwilling to cooperate

April 19, 2014/By Kareem Shaheen/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Defense lawyers for Assad Sabra, a member of Hezbollah allegedly involved in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, have complained that Lebanon is withholding crucial information that could exonerate their client, a step that could lead to Lebanon’s referral to the U.N. Security Council. “The failure of the Lebanese government to genuinely cooperate and to assist the defense ... is gravely undermining the defense’s ability to prepare,” lawyers David Young and Guénaël Mettraux said in a filing to the trial chamber published on the court’s website this week.
“This is entirely inadequate and incapable of guaranteeing a fair and informed search for the truth.”
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is tasked with investigating the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and plunged Lebanon into political turmoil.
The prosecution has accused five members of Hezbollah of complicity in the attack. The main trial in the case began in absentia in January.
Defense lawyers say Lebanon has not responded to seven requests for information that could be crucial to exonerating Sabra, one of the five suspects identified by the court. Sabra is accused of helping to orchestrate a false claim of responsibility for the Hariri attack that aired on Al-Jazeera hours after the bombing, in which a man called Ahmad Abu Adass took credit for the attack on behalf of a group called Nusra and Jihad in Greater Syria. The prosecution says the group is fictitious and the claim was made to mislead investigators. It says Abu Adass, who later disappeared, was not behind the attack, and that he was likely killed by his abductors. Prosecutors are relying on reams of telecommunications data to identify networks of telephones that allegedly tracked and killed Hariri.
One of the telephones on the purple network, which is allegedly involved in the false claim of responsibility, has been tied to Assad Hassan Sabra, a 38-year-old resident of south Beirut and a member of Hezbollah. His telephone is denoted by the tag “Purple 018” in tribunal records.
But an independent ISF investigation has identified another individual as the phone’s user, possibly undermining the core of the prosecution’s case against Sabra, according to defense lawyers.
Confirming such a finding could cast fresh doubts on the rest of the prosecution’s case tying other phones on the network to members of Hezbollah.
The ISF has not provided crucial details about its investigation to defense lawyers, offering blanket responses claiming that all relevant information has been passed on to the court already.
The lawyers have also asked for telecommunications data that is held by Lebanese companies, specifically touch and Alfa. Defense lawyers said in their submissions that the telecommunications data was crucial to identifying the roles and responsibilities of the individuals whose phones were identified as part of the networks that planned Hariri’s assassination.
Alfa failed to provide telecommunications data sought by the defense. The rules of the tribunal allow the court’s judges to declare Lebanon “non-compliant” if the authorities fail to respond to a court order within 30 days. That deadline has already passed in the case of the defense requests. The tribunal’s president can then try to compel Lebanon to accept the court’s demands. If that fails, the STL’s president should then refer Lebanon to the Security Council for failing to comply with its international obligations. It is unclear whether the court would ever take such a drastic step as referring Lebanon to the Security Council. Such a decision could irreparably damage the court’s relations with the Lebanese government, which the STL maintains has cooperated greatly with it despite its failure to arrest the suspects.
The Security Council may also decide not to penalize Lebanon, undermining the court’s authority. The defense’s lawyers have complained for months over Lebanon’s failure to help them make their case defending the Hezbollah suspects named in the indictment.Prosecutors have for years enjoyed the cooperation of security services such as the Internal Security Forces, traditionally close to the March 14 coalition, which demanded the investigation into Hariri’s killing. ISF officers linked to the investigation, such as late terrorism investigator Capt. Wissam Eid, have themselves been targets of assassination.
The defense argues that the Lebanese authorities have made it difficult to hold a fair trial because of their failure to cooperate with the defense’s investigations.
Lebanon’s lack of cooperation was “indicative of Lebanon’s reluctance to assist the defense,” the lawyers said, adding that it has caused “significant prejudice” to the defense.
They also claimed the ISF’s failure to assist their work “indicates an apparent will on behalf of the Lebanese authorities to shirk its statutory obligation to cooperate with the defense.”

Germany Investigates Suspected Lebanese Radical
Naharnet /German prosecutors have said they're investigating an alleged Lebanese member of a hard-line Islamic group in Syria and two suspected accomplices accused of helping him procure money and supplies. Federal prosecutors said Thursday the main suspect is believed to have trained and fought in Syria last year with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaida-linked group. They identified the 24-year-old Lebanese national only as Ismail I. in line with Germany privacy rules. Prosecutors said the group sent him back to Germany to procure money, medicine and military supplies, including camouflage gear and night vision goggles. He and one of the alleged accomplices were arrested on a German highway in November as they set off for Syria. Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, took over the case last month. SourceAssociated Press

Al-Rahi Congratulates Geagea on Candidacy, Political Platform
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi has congratulated Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on the announcement of his candidacy and his presidential platform. Al-Rahi telephoned Geagea on Thursday night and thanked him for sending a delegation to hand him a copy of his program, the LF leader's press office said. It added that the patriarch also congratulated Geagea on his candidacy and his program which focuses on means to create a “strong Republic.” The press office said in a similar statement on Thursday that President Michel Suleiman made a similar call to the LF chief the day before to praise the program's “clear vision for a strong Republic.” Geagea announced on Wednesday his presidential program that focused on restoring the authority of the state against the proliferation of weapons during a time of regional unrest. The LF chief also called for a state monopoly on the use of force, including confronting Israel. He is the only politician to have officially announced his candidacy for the polls, which are first scheduled to be held on April 23. Speaker Nabih Berri called on MPs to meet next Wednesday, although the election is not expected to be an easy process amid a lack of agreement on a consensual candidate. Suleiman's six-year tenure ends on May 25.

Berri: Conditions Not Ripe to Hold Presidential Elections on Wednesday, Hopes Hariri Will Attend
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri voiced his skepticism that the parliamentary session to elect a president will be held, saying that the conditions to ensure its success are “not ripe yet,” reported As Safir newspaper on Friday. He remarked: “The conditions may not be ripe at the moment, but that does not mean that they will not be available before next Wednesday.” The speaker had called parliament to convene on April 23 to elect a president. Asked if head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri will attend the session, Berri replied: “I hope so and that he would remain in Lebanon permanently.” Media reports had linked a recent visit by Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi to Saudi Arabia to Hariri's return to Lebanon to attend the presidential elections session. Commenting on the session, Berri said that he will kick it off once the quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers is met and then the election process could get underway. “If a president is elected during this first round, then the elections would be complete, otherwise a second or third round may be held,” he explained. In addition, he revealed that he will chair a meeting for his Development and Liberation bloc on Tuesday in order to discuss the presidential elections and agree on a candidate, said al-Joumhouria newspaper. “The March 8 camp only has one candidate and that is Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. The March 14 alliance on the other hand has several candidates,” he remarked. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea of the March 14 alliance is so far the only official to submit his candidacy.
He presented his presidential program on Wednesday. Media reports had said on Thursday that Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel, also of the March 14 camp, will announce his nomination before the end of the week. The March 8 camp has not yet announced its candidate, but Aoun has reportedly informed his ally Hizbullah that he is prepared to take the post if there was consensus on him. Aoun has allegedly sent similar messages to Hariri, who leads the March 14 camp. Berri has said that any candidate must secure two-thirds of votes to win in the first round of elections and half-plus-one or 65 votes of the 128-member parliament to win in the second round.

Raad: Some Candidacies Could Hamper Presidential Elections
Naharnet/Head of the Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad stated on Friday that some of the presidential candidacies could hamper the upcoming elections, pointing to the necessity of choosing a president who “preserves and defends the resistance’s choice.” Raad also voiced hopes that the presidential elections are held on time. “Some candidacies could hamper the elections,” he said in a memorial service held in south Lebanon's Humeen al-Fawqa village, reported the state-run National News Agency. He added: "The country cannot bear any more conflicts.”The Hizbullah MP stressed that the party wants a candidate who “preserves and defends the resistance's choice.”“The new president must also be keen on the unity of the Lebanese.”He stressed that “rejecting the resistance's choice to any other, threatens national sovereignty and places the country on the verge of the abyss." Speaker Nabih Berri called on Wednesday for a parliamentary session to elect a new president on April 23. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends on May 25. Only Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea has officially announced his candidacy. Geagea's presidential program focused on restoring the authority of the state against the proliferation of weapons during a time of regional unrest.

Future Movement to endorse Geagea’s candidacy, report says
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - A Future Movement delegation echoed the party leader MP Saad Hariri’s approval of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s presidential candidacy and is expected to endorse it soon. “There is a supportive atmosphere within the Future Movement to endorse [Geagea’s] candidacy, but the latter wanted a fast public decision from the Future delegation,” Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Friday. The report added that “the delegation called on Geagea to wait for several reasons, the first of which is that it is still too early and there are many local and international phone calls being made.” “Also, the discussion within the March 14 coalition has not reached a result yet.” Speaker Nabih Berri called on the parliament to meet on April 23 to vote for a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose term ends on May 25. The constitution stipulates that between March 25 and May 15, the parliament can convene at any time to elect a new president.  If it has not done so by May 15, the parliament will be considered automatically in session for the following 10 days, in which a new president must be elected.

Adwan: All MPs will attend presidential election session

Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan stressed that all MPs will attend the presidential election parliamentary session which will take place on April 23. Adwan ruled out the possibility of one of the candidates getting more than two thirds of the votes in this session which allow them to win as stipulated by the Lebanese constitution. “There is a constitutional controversy regarding the second session and the second round of voting,” the MP told Al-Liwaa newspaper in remarks published Friday. “Does it require winning two thirds of the votes like the first session or does it require the votes of the absolute majority which is 50 percent plus one vote?” Adwan asked. Speaker Nabih Berri called on the parliament to meet on April 23 to vote for a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose term ends on May 25. The constitution stipulates that between March 25 and May 15, the parliament can convene at any time to elect a new president. If it has not done so by May 15, the parliament will be considered automatically in session for the following 10 days, in which a new president must be elected.

Mashnouq: We are coordinating with Hezbollah to aid Tfeil residents
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq announced that he is coordinating with Hezbollah to assist the residents of the town of Tfeil currently under siege.
“We are coordinating on the political and security levels with Hezbollah to help Lebanese citizens who wish to leave do so,” Mashnouq told Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper in an interview published on Friday.
He added: “I have been following up on the town’s situation for a week.”“The most important goal we are working on today is protecting the residents of the area and keeping the town distanced from the Syrian conflict.” Over 4,000 Lebanese citizens and 10,000 Syrian refugees are currently under siege in the border town of Tfeil, living without supplies of food, electricity, shelter, or aid for four months.

Report: Hezbollah planned attack on Israeli tourists in Bangkok
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Friday, 18 April 2014/One of the men suspected of belonging to Shiite Lebanese movement Hezbollah has admitted to planning an attack on Israeli tourists in Bangkok, a Thai newspaper reported on Friday. Bangkok Post, citing a source involved in the investigation, reported that the men have been identified as French-Lebanese Daoud Farhat and Lebanese-Filipino Youssef Ayad. The newspaper said Farhat and Ayad arrived days before the start of a festival called Songkran on April 13, but were arrested on suspicion of links to Hezbollah. Top: Youssef Ayad, a Lebanese-Filipino and Hezbollah ESO operative. Daoud Farhat (bottom left) is said to be a French-Lebanese national. Both were born in Lebanon but authorities have to confirm if their travel documents are genuine.
Assistant national police chief Winai Thongsong told the newspaper that the two were arrested at different locations in Bangkok after Thai police received intelligence from Israel about a planned plot targeting Israeli tourists. The source said Ayad has admitted that Hezbollah entered Thailand to carry out a bomb attack against Israeli tourists and other Israeli groups on Khao San Road during Songkran.
“Now we can seize materials, such as nails and bolts, used in making bombs from their homes in Bangkok,” the source said, adding “we are taking the holder of the Philippines passport to Rayong province to search for more bomb-making material kept there.” The source also said that authorities are trying to track down Hezbollah operatives in Thailand. “If we had been unable to arrest the men during Songkran, a bomb attack would certainly have taken place somewhere on Khao San Road,” said the source, according to the newspaper.


Satellite images show before and after alleged IAF strike
Ynetnews/18.04.14/Lebanese paper publishes photos of reported arms depot in Hezbollah-controlled area and images taken 10 days after alleged strike of scorched earth.
Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star published photos on Friday that reportedly show a Hezbollah arms storage facility in the Bekka Valley before and after it was allegedly bombed by Israel two months ago. The Google Earth satellite images from March 6, ten days after the alleged Israeli strike, reportedly show scorched earth and possible traces of a building that was, until recently, at the side of a dirt road south of the town of Janta. Another satellite image from September 2, 2012, shows a 21x11 meters structure that has what appears to be two entrances for vehicles. The report stated that this structure was located in an area under Hezbollah control that includes a training camp and living quarters for the organization's soldiers. The paper reported the structure was destroyed in an alleged Israeli strike on February 24, in which, according to foreign media reports, Israeli jets fired four missiles in two flights at an unidentified target or targets.

U.N. documents show Assad using starvation policy

By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Friday, 18 April 2014
While the U.N. envoy to Syria warned that the central city of Homs has become a “theater of death and destruction,” U.N. documents obtained by Foreign Policy show that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had engaged in a policy of cutting off food supplies to opposition-held areas to exert more pressure on Syrian rebels. Cutting the food supplies has made Assad’s regime the “only reliable source of life-sustaining food,” Foreign Policy said in an article it published Friday. Paradoxically, Assad’s policy has helped U.N. agencies to send more food to the needy Syrian population, especially as more people move from the targeted rebel-held areas to areas held by the Syrian government. “The increase in distributions ... was to a large extent a result of large population movements from non-government controlled areas” to government-controlled areas “as people sought refuge,” Foreign Policy quoted the U.N. document as saying. According to the obtained documents, the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) has scored some successes in distributing more food to Syrians in the two months since the Security Council adopted its first-ever resolution demanding that Assad and the rebels to provide access for aid workers. The new data show that food supplies have reached about 415,000 people in hard-to-reach areas since the resolution was passed in February.
In Syria as a whole, WFP reached to 4.1 million people in dire need for food in March, up from 3.7 million the previous month.
Not enough

But Foreign Policy sounded the alarm that many more remain outside the U.N.’s reach and that at least 9.3 million people are in need of steady humanitarian assistance. While the number of government-controlled areas receiving food far outstrips rebel strongholds, new delivery areas include opposition areas such as Douma and the province of Raqqa, which is in the grip of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Oubai Shahbandar, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian Coalition, told Foreign Policy that the data was “shocking” and a “major scandal.”
While he said WFP has “marginally” enhanced “its ability to get into a small percentage of liberated territories,” he lamented that the “majority of the aid is still filtered through the Assad regime.”
Both to be blamed? But according to the documents, the Assad regime cannot be fully blamed as the reduction in aid distribution points occurred between June and February when infighting between rival opposition groups took place. Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the WFP’s Middle East Region said “both sides have prevented assistance from reaching people.”Etefa said the rebel groups controlling parts of Deir Ezzour and Raqqa prevented the WFP from delivering food into northeast Syria. She also said: “There are areas besieged by the Syrian government where access is denied or where both sides have been unable to negotiate a compromise that will allow access, as is the case in eastern and rural Aleppo.”

Plea to save Homs
Meanwhile, the U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi urged on Thursday both sides in the country’s civil war to return to negotiations which broke off in February, especially since has been witnessing heavy fighting. An agreement on a weeklong cease-fire that allowed more than 1,000 civilians to leave Homs’ rebel-held areas was hailed as the only achievement of the recent Geneva peace talks that Brahimi mediated.The deal did not hold, however, and fighting between Assad’s forces and the rebels trying to overthrow him has raged on for weeks in Homs. The U.N. Security Council met late Thursday on the humanitarian situation in Homs but emerged without having reached agreement on a press statement proposed by Britain, the Associated Press reported.  Instead, the current council president, Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu, announced that members had “grave concern” about the impact of the violence on civilians in Homs and a call for the “immediate” implementation of a resolution passed earlier this year that calls on all sides in the conflict to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. That resolution was a rare agreement by the council on Syria. Russia, a key ally, has blocked three previous resolutions that would have pressured Assad to end the conflict. (With the Associated Press)

Gulf states come to consensus after rift
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Friday, 18 April 2014
Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council brokered a consensus Thursday after a rift that saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar.
During a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, GCC foreign ministers conducted a “comprehensive review of measures relating to foreign and security policies,” according to a statement from the Gulf group.
“[Participants] agreed to adopt measures that ensure working at a group level and that policies of any individual state should not affect the interests, security or stability of any other member state and without affecting the sovereignty of any of its states,” the statement said. Last month, in an unprecedented split between Gulf Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, saying Doha had not implemented a GCC deal reached in Riyadh in November to avoid interfering in each other’s affairs. The three countries, led by Saudi Arabia, accused Doha of interfering in the internal affairs of countries in the Gulf region by backing Islamist movements in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Qatar denied it interferes anywhere but vowed to stick to its foreign policy.
According to the GCC Thursday, “the foreign ministers stressed their government’s agreement to implement the Riyadh accord, the basic principles of which stem from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s core system.” “They agreed on the importance of the careful implementation on what was agreed in order to safeguard all gains and accomplishments that have been achieved and to move … toward a phase of strong cohesion that can ensure overcoming obstacles and challenges and meet the hopes and aspiration of the citizens of each of the member states.”The GCC statement also praised Kuwait, through the leadership of Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, “to reach the desired results.”Both Oman and Kuwait had reportedly been working to mend the rift between Qatar and its neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Bouteflika wins 4th term as Algerian president

By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News/Friday, 18 April 2014
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power for 15 years and is confined to a wheelchair, has won a fourth term with 81.53 percent of votes, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz announced on Friday. Bouteflika’s closest rival Ali Benflis came second with 12.18 percent of votes cast, the interior minister said. He noted that the voter turnout stood at 51.3 turnout percent, highlighting the “free and fair” electoral process. He said some “minor” incidents did not amount to a major issue that could disrupt the elections. Violence had erupted in the eaters region of Kabyle and several protesters had erupted in the capital Algiers against Bouteflika running for a fourth term. Bouteflika, 77, had been widely expected to win a fourth term, even though he appeared only rarely since a stroke last year. Opposition parties boycotted the vote or denounced Thursday’s election as a fraud. His chief opponent, Benflis, already criticized the election as marked by “fraud on a massive scale” after polls closed Thursday.
The results came after a three-week election campaign that saw a spirited effort by Benflis and his supporters. He has vowed to contest the results. Official figures for turnout were 51.7 turnout, down from the 75 percent turnout for Bouteflika’s last win in 2009. The figures have been described by activists and opposition politicians as inflated, according to Associated Press.
Since suffering from a stroke last year, there have been concerns about the president’s ability to run this key energy supplier for Europe. Six opposition parties boycotted Thursday's vote, saying it would not reform a system mostly closed to change since the FLN's one-party rule in the early post-independence years. Bouteflika did not campaign himself, but loyalists praise him for guiding Algeria out of a 1990s war with Islamists that killed 200,000 people. The conflict left many Algerians wary of the turmoil that has swept neighbouring Tunisia, Egypt and Libya since their “Arab Spring” revolts in 2011.
Shocking image

Many Algerians say ageing FLN leaders, business magnates and army generals - known as “Le Pouvoir” or “The Power”, in French - have long managed politics in behind-the-scenes negotiations and see themselves as guardians of stability. Bouteflika in the past had said it was time for his generation to step aside, but his appearance in a wheelchair at a polling station was a striking image for many Algerians.
“It came as a shock to see a man sitting in a wheelchair to vote while seeking to run a large country for five years. It's not good for the image of Algeria,” said Mohamed, a 26-year-old university student.
Algeria mostly escaped the “Arab Spring” unrest that has toppled long-standing leaders in the region since 2011. Some Algerians point to the 1980s when the FLN opened up one-party rule to opposition and brought an Islamist party close to election victory. The FLN suspended the vote, and the country slipped into more than a decade of war. Riots and protests are common among younger Algerians frustrated over joblessness, economic opportunities and housing shortages. But widescale anti-government protests are rare in Algeria. A small movement, called Barakat or “Enough” in local dialect, emerged after Bouteflika's re-election bid to call for peaceful change, though its numbers were limited. With around $200 billion in foreign reserves from energy sales, the Algerian government spent heavily in 2011 on subsidies, cheap credits and housing to calm rioting over food prices. Analysts say that after years of state-controlled policies, the OPEC member state needs reforms to open up its economy to more foreign investment and attract more big oil operators to revive its stagnant energy production. [With AFP and Reuters]

Mysterious U.S. plane seen in Iranian airport

No party has been able to explain to explain the circumstances of the jet’s presence at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport.
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News/Friday, 18 April 2014
A U.S. corporate jet was seen parked in an airport in the Iranian capital on Thursday, in what was possibly the first recorded time that a U.S. civil aircraft has landed in the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. But so far, no party has been able to explain the circumstances of the plane, which was seen on the tarmac at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport bearing an American flag, the New York Times reported.
Federal aviation records have linked the jet to the Bank of Utah, which has 13 branches and is headquartered in the small city of Ogden. One of the bank’s executives, Brett King, said “we have no idea why that plane was at that airport,” adding that the lender acted as a trustee for investors who have a financial stake in the plane, the newspaper reported.
The bank was currently investigating, he added.
‘VIP’ jet
The Federal Aviation Administration said it did not know who was operating it or who its investors were, while airport officials said only that the aircraft was “VIP.”
Due to strict U.S. sanctions on Iran’s economy due to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, any U.S. aircraft would normally require approval from authorities to travel to the country without violating trade rules. Iranian officials would not comment on the plane’s prescence, while a spokesman for Iran’s United Nations mission said “we don’t have any information in this regard.” Former U.S. officials speaking to the daily said that a U.S.-flagged plane with such a prominent prescence would likely mean that it had been approved as part of a legitimate business trip, rather than being part of a secret diplomatic mission. U.S. federal aviation regulations make identifying the plane’s operator very difficult, the newspaper added, although a review of the Bank of Utah database shows that the lender is listed as a trustee for 1,169 aircraft – significantly more than most American banks.

Between the ‘hammer attack’ and the anvil of British press
Friday, 18 April 2014/Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiyia
It was interesting to observe how the British media dealt with last week’s “hammer attack” against three Emirati women at a Central London hotel.
Often a point of reference to many when it comes to professionalism, most British dailies and news channels covered the incident, which occurred only miles away from their newsrooms. It is worth noting that in general, the story was covered without sensationalism or exaggeration. However, one cannot help but wonder how many of these same British media outlets would have reacted had this hideous incident — hypothetically — occurred to British tourists in the UAE? The answer is simple: They (the papers and the channels) would have turned the world upside down and the hypothetical attack — despite it being an anomalous incident — would have been portrayed as the “beginning of the end” of tourism in the UAE. Moreover, ALL Arabs and Muslims would have been stereotyped as thugs and murderers who “have a conflict with western values.” We have seen how the British media, particularly tabloids, dealt with certain issues in the past: Incidents were exaggerated and often, for the sole purpose of serving a stereotype that “sells,” the guilty party was portrayed as the victim!
For example, how often do you read articles about the majority of British expats who are residing here in the UAE? And by the majority, I mean the ones characterized by being respectable, law-abiding, hard-working and successful. Rather, you most likely would have heard or read about reports such as the one voicing surprise that a British couple was detained because they were caught having sex on a public beach in Dubai, as if having sex publicly is allowed in Hyde Park!
Quick to condemn
Needless to say, the press in the United Kingdom is free to write as it wishes. However, for its part, the British government was quick to condemn the hammer attack as it voiced sympathy for the Emirati victims via its Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Hugh Robertson. The Metropolitan Police arrested the suspects and charged one of them within a few days of the incident. This is an achievement that is definitely worth noting.
Moreover, one cannot deny the UAE government’s role — whether via its foreign policies, which established solid relations based on mutual respect with the UK, or via its domestic policy, which puts its citizens’ interests and happiness above all other considerations — in speeding up the British authorities’ response to the incident, which could have gone unnoticed like other unfortunate incidents.
How would British tabloids feel if UAE papers were spreading a false stereotype that depicts ALL British people as thieves and thugs?
Faisal J. Abbas
Obviously, no apology or judicial sentence can now fix the damage caused by the hammer attack to the lives of these Emirati victims. Yet, it is important to follow up on the issue nevertheless. The case must be addressed through various legal means in order to achieve justice and prevent such a tragic incident from happening again.
Furthermore, lawyers must be consulted on whether the concerned hotel lacked security measures. If neglect is proven on the part of the hotel, the issue must be legally addressed. It is also important to release the case developments in the English-speaking media, but in a professional manner, without making any sweeping generalizations.
A message to the media
On that note, what I would like to say to colleagues at some British tabloids, who seem to think that the end justifies the mean, is that they only need to imagine what would happen if Emirati dailies adopt this sensationalist style of theirs? How would they, for example, feel if the UAE papers were spreading a false stereotype that depicts ALL British people as thieves and thugs? Or, if a headline that says “Great Britain becomes Hate Britain” was published based on nothing more than a sub-editor’s urge to demonstrate his creative-writing abilities? In all cases, any media outlet has the right to address any issue but there are ethics and best practices that must be taken into consideration in the media industry. Perhaps the simplest of these standards is the guarantee of the other party’s right to explain its point of view.
However, one cannot help but wonder what happens to these standards when even a reputable daily like the Guardian publishes a piece falsely claiming that the office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has published an advert in Italy seeking 60 ladies to work as shopping assistants. The newspaper later backed down and apologized after it turned out that the story was completely baseless. With all due respect to the Guardian, it should have checked the facts of the story and contacted the relevant media office, or indicated that it tried to do so, BEFORE publishing such a piece. Needless to say, such a process is not only considered “journalism 101,” but it prevents media outlets from falling into the trap of having a story based on a single source.
**This article was first published in Gulf News on April 18, 2014.

Should the GCC still be concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions?
Friday, 18 April 2014/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiyia
A recent debate concentrated on the argument that the Gulf Cooperation Council should push for more efforts to ensure that a final nuclear deal is reached between Iran and the P5+1 (a group of six powers made up of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany). The argument explained that if a permanent nuclear deal is achieved, and if the diplomatic thaw between Tehran and Washington continues, Iran’s foreign policies in the region will not turn more aggressive or interventionist regarding other Arab countries’ domestic affairs.
In other words, those who advocate for Rowhani’s government and the Islamic Republic point out that Iranian leaders will instead become more cooperative, conciliatory, and will decrease their hegemonic ambitions and policies in the region. As a result, from their perspective, Gulf Cooperation Council states ought to welcome the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Tehran, and the achievement of final nuclear deal.

GCC states’ approach towards Iran’s nuclear program
This argument by scholars and policy analysts fails to take into consideration several crucial factors. First of all, GCC states have repeatedly expressed their endorsement for a peaceful resolution of Tehran’s nuclear file and have welcomed nuclear deals between Iran and the P5+1.
It is very unrealistic and naïve to argue that the Islamic Republic will temper its regional hegemonic ambitions even if a permanent nuclear deal is reached
The six members of the GCC; Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, have issued statements similar to that of the emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who pointed out that “the GCC states have expressed their comfort towards the preliminary Geneva agreement pertaining to the Iranian nuclear program, and we look forward to its success to lead to a permanent pact, that drives away the specter of tension from our region.”
The last outcome that GCC states would desire to see is another military confrontation in the Middle East, primarily between Iran and the United States due to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
A war, triggered by Iran’s nuclear defiance, will bring a considerable amount of instability to the region with an enormous impact on the economic developments of other countries and on the oil market in the region. GCC states have frequently expressed their stance for a peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear program, which has been going on for over a decade.
Iran’s ambitions for regional supremacy?
Secondly, the case that Iran’s desire for regional supremacy will be tempered if a permanent nuclear deal is sealed, and if the U.S. and Iran thawed diplomatic relations, does not take into account the underlying geopolitical and economic fundamentals, as well as historical context of the Islamic Republic.
When Iran’s nuclear program was not in the spotlight, for example in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Islamic Republic was at its peak in meddling in other Arab nations’ domestic affairs and showed no sign of tempering its aspiration for regional supremacy.
In fact, these were the times that Iran was notably and outstandingly attempting to alter the regional balance of power in its interest by intervening in Lebanon, giving birth to one of the most formidable Shiite non-state actors, Hezbollah, and forming one of the long-standing Middle Eastern alliances with the Syrian government, and continuing the war in Iraq for an extra six years despite the fact it was offered full compensation by other countries to cease the war.
More recently, even after reaching a preliminary nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic has shown no sign of tempering its foreign policies when it comes to affecting the domestic politics of other Arab states including in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Lebanon. The Yemeni president pointed out in an interview, “unfortunately, Iran still meddles in Yemen whether by supporting the separatist [Southern] Movement or some religious groups in the north.” He asked the Shiite-dominated Iran to “keep its hands off Yemen” and to halt giving supports to “armed groups” in the country. Reportedly, the Houthis are receiving Iranian support, and have been capable of dominating the northern Yemeni province of Saada. Asir, the Saudi province, borders Yemeni Shiite rebel strongholds.
Nuclear capabilities and balance of power
The second part of the argument made by the proponents of Rowhani’s government and the Islamic Republic is simplified in a sense that it overlooks the sophistication and complexity of Iran’s politics in Middle East. The reasons that GCC states should not be concerned about Iran’s foreign policies in the region in case a final nuclear deal is reached (as well as the case that Iran will temper its policies and regional geopolitical position), take no notice of the Middle Eastern political chessboard and the Islamic Republic’s establishment in this political jigsaw puzzle.
The issue is that Iran’s nuclear file has been filled up with frequent clandestine nuclear sites revealed by external governments and organizations, a robust determination to become a nuclear power, non-transparency, secrecy and a lack of clarity about Iran’s nuclear developments. How can GCC states accept these terms of security, geopolitical and strategic landscapes if another country in the region is on the verge of significantly tipping the balance of power in its favor through reaching a breakaway nuclear capacity? If the permanent nuclear deal leaves the Islamic Republic with some breathing space to pursue its nuclear ambitions and achieve its objectives, the chessboard that is the Middle East will witness a critical reshaping in favor of the nuclear state. This will naturally be followed by a nuclear arms race and competition in the region, which will further destabilize the region and its security. In addition, the nuclear deterrence will boost and facilitate Tehran’s regional ambitions from economic, geopolitical, and strategic prisms. Even if an efficient permanent nuclear deal is reached between the P5+1 and Iran, should the GCC states, as some policy analysts and proponents of Rowhani’s government argue, not be concerned about Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions? It is very unrealistic and naïve to argue that the Islamic Republic will temper its regional hegemonic ambitions even if a permanent nuclear deal is reached and even if Washington and Tehran mend diplomatic ties. Iran is strongly involved in influencing the domestic affairs of other Arab countries, through founding or backing some Shiite groups, which makes a shift in Tehran’s regional policies inconceivable. Furthermore, Tehran’s regional policies are not only aimed at achieving geopolitical and economic supremacy, but also founded on ideological landscapes, attempting to spread the Shiite version of Islam through either political movements or well-established religious seminary centers such as in the city of Qom.

Threatened Jordan is losing its temper with Syria
Friday, 18 April 2014/Raed Omari/Al Arabiyia
Through the recent airstrikes against armored vehicles attempting to cross the border from war-ton Syria, Jordan has meant to deliver a political message to the Syrian regime and rebels on its preparedness and boldness to do whatever necessary to prevent a conflict spillover from the northern war-torn neighbor. In addition to marking the highest level of escalation on the Jordanian-Syrian borders that extend to more than 370 kilometers, Wednesday’s airstrikes by Royal air force jet fighters against the camouflaged vehicles also signaled the emergence of a bold Jordanian stance on the ongoing war in Syria as opposed to Amman’s long-held neutrality. Following the unprecedented security event, Jordan’s army issued a brief statement, saying that its warplanes destroyed a number of vehicles which tried to enter the kingdom illegally from an area with rugged terrain on the border with Syria. The army has provided no further information on whether the vehicles belonged to the Syrian army, the rebels or to smugglers whose activity on the hostile borders has been said to be on the rise.
Intolerable actions
The army will not tolerate such actions, the statement said, clearly delivering a bold message to the Syrian fighting parties, both the regime and the rebels, saying in brief: “We are there. Don’t come any closer.” The Jordanian army could have dealt with the vehicle convoy using small-scale combat tactics other than airstrikes but it has resorted to jet fighters instead to say that its patience has limits and that all means are in place to be used when necessary. Jordan has been always been concerned over possible Damascus-led retribution to punish Amman for its position within the U.S.-led anti-Bashar al Assad camp
Raed Omari
Many observers see in the airstrikes a message by Amman to the extremist groups fighting and infighting in Syria, mainly Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, dwelling on the fact that many Jordanians are enlisted in the two al-Qaeda affiliates whose “sacred” war can be fought everywhere and anytime
It might be so anyway taking into consideration the extended prison sentences Jordanian courts have handed to Jordanians for joining these two fundamentalist groups in their fight against the regime and against themselves in Syria.
Warning Syria
However, at least for myself, a great deal of Jordan’s warning message manifested in the airstrikes has been directed to the Syrian regime as part of the Jordanian conviction of Damascus’ “evil intention” to destabilize the security-concerned kingdom. Jordan has been always been concerned over a possible Damascus-led retribution to punish Amman for its position within the U.S.-led anti-Bashar al Assad camp and for its support of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Jordan is also concerned about the existence of “sleeper cells” within the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees awaiting the go-ahead from Damascus to perform terrorism acts and that is one of the reasons behind setting up heavily secured refugee camps away from major cities and other populated areas. It is thus not a far possibility that the targeted combat vehicles might have been sent by the Syrian regime to Jordan to threaten Amman and oblige it to change its softened stance on the FSA’s strongholds in the southern Syrian province of Daraa.
Losing its temper
Now, regardless of to whom the warning was primarily directed, the unprecedented security incident on the Jordanian-Syrian border has been an indication of refugee-plagued Jordan losing temper with the decaying possibility of an approaching end to the Syrian crisis and its accompanying security, political, demographic and economic consequences.
Jordan, estimated to be hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees exceeding one million, has witnessed many riots inside the refugee camps with the recent one in the iconic Zaatari camp on the northern border with Syria during which the Jordanian security bodies had to use tear gas to disperse stone-throwing Syrian refugees who were demanding that they be allowed to work outside the facility.
Also, in an inseparable indication of Jordan’s impatience on Syria which signals weariness over its long-preserved “open-border” policy, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh has been quoted after the airstrike incident as underlining that his country has reached the “maximum capacity” of refugees that can be hosted, calling on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to end the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.

The Delusion of Resistance
By: Hussain Abdul Hussain/Now Lebanon
The Supreme Leader's vision of economic independence is deeply flawed
A handout picture released by the office of Iran
Resistance is an elusive term. Because it implies "reaction," its meaning is incomplete without an object. In the 1990s, it meant resisting the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. But Hezbollah's definition has since gone further. The party's deputy secretary general, Naim Qassim, often called for the creation of a "resistance state" that can stand up to "world oppression."
That is why, even after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, Hezbollah continued using the word “resistance” freely: if not for the liberation of Lebanese territory, then to resist America's hegemony, or Israel's, or enemies-to-be. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei too seems to be so much a fan of this word that he recently used it to coin the term "Economy of Resistance.” "It's a duty for all of us to make Iran solid, impenetrable, and unimpressionable to enemies. This is the advantage of the Economy of Resistance," Khamenei tweeted. "Luckily with consensus among President [Hassan Rouhani] and heads of two branches on economy of resistance [...] God willing, Iran will overcome their plots," he added. One day later, Khamenei met with a group of economy officials and entrepreneurs in Tehran.
But other than being an economy against "enemies," what is the Economy of Resistance about exactly? It "is not austerity," Khamenei tweeted. "[I]n fact if these policies are applied, it will lead to comfort and welfare."
At first, Khamenei's statement sounds reasonable. Perhaps he was inspired by China's economically-driven rise, or he was simply trying to mitigate the hardships of the Iranians under international sanctions imposed to stop Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon. Yet, wise as he may sound, Khamenei's pontification on the economy is shallow and outdated.
"We should take our economy to a point where no one can undermine it from the other side of the world," he said knowing that the US can twist Tehran's arm by imposing crippling sanctions.
But according to Khamenei, the Economy of Resistance is one which cannot "be hindered by global instigations." It is an economy that is "intro-productive but not introverted. It’s people-founded." He added: "[The] Economy of Resistance is knowledge-based, but it does not mean that experienced artisans and farmers should not play a role.
If this sounds like gibberish, that’s because it is. What Khamenei probably meant to say was that he wanted Iran to become an economy that can thrive independent of the world economy, an idea that was widespread during the Soviet era with the socialist model of national self-reliance.
Such socialist models failed in the past, and would fail even more today, especially in a world so interconnected that when Syrian cyber-terrorists hacked the Associated Press' account and tweeted that a bomb went off inside the White House, Shanghai's stock market took a hit. If Iran truly wants to emulate China’s economic model, then Khamenei had better know that half of China’s economy, the world's second-largest, is based on trade. Cutting China off from the world would send its prospering economy tumbling, no matter how "knowledge-based" its economy has become.
But Khamenei thinks he has the answer. "About 370 million people live in neighboring countries and for [the] prosperity of our economy, this number is great," he said. The Iranian leader apparently believes his country can thrive in a trade zone that covers just over five percent of the global population and a similar, or even smaller, share of the world's economic output.
Khamenei then presents what he thinks are Iran's achievements: "The number of university students increased 25 times compared to Pahlavi Era," he exhorted. “We were sanctioned but we progressed at nano, nuclear, stem cells, defense industry, UAV industry, missiles."
Needless to say, it does not occur to Mr. Khamenei – who has never been to college other than the religious seminary – that universities are rarely measured by the number of their students, but rather by the quality of their education, which is often a function of their research, their publications, and their international recognition, among other factors.
Another point that seems to have eluded Khamenei is that science is not measured by the ability to copy whatever technology has already been discovered, and that not all UAVs or missiles are made equal. Khamenei concluded: "Another capacity is our natural resources; no country has Iran's total oil and gas." This is, perhaps, the only valid point in his theory of the "Economy of Resistance."
Like Russia and other petro-funded economies, Iran can sell, spend, and pretend to be a world power. But the reality is that Iran's power, like Hezbollah's resistance, is nothing but brutality guised as success, most of which is doctored.
*Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai. He tweets @hahussain


Question: "Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important?" The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not a God worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave’s (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. All other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains in detail the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Some in Corinth did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in this chapter Paul gives six disastrous consequences if there were no resurrection: 1) preaching Christ would be senseless (v. 14); 2) faith in Christ would be useless (v. 14); 3) all the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars (v. 15); 4) no one would be redeemed from sin (v. 17); 5) all former believers would have perished (v.18); and 6) Christians would be the most pitiable people on the earth (v. 19). But Christ indeed has risen from the dead and “has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20), assuring that we will follow Him in resurrection.
The inspired Word of God guarantees the believer's resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His Body (the Church) at the Rapture. Such hope and assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
How do these concluding verses relate to the importance of the resurrection? Paul answers, “ know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (v. 58). He reminds us that because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can suffer persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (vv. 29-31), just as He did. We can follow the example of the thousands of martyrs through history who gladly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life via the resurrection.
The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scripture. And, He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who remain and are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important to salvation? It demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It proves that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that those who believe in Christ will not remain dead, but will be resurrected unto eternal life. That is our blessed hope!


Bachir Gemayel: The president who never was
April 18, 2014/By Wassim Mroueh /The Daily Star
Editor’s note: Ahead of the 2014 presidential election, this is the seventh in a series of articles examining the circumstances and conditions that shaped the elections of Lebanon’s 12 presidents since 1943.
BEIRUT: Elected in 1982, while most of Lebanon was under Israeli occupation, controversial leader Bachir Gemayel is the only Lebanese presidential candidate to have been assassinated before he could be sworn in.
Born in 1947 to Pierre Gemayel, the founder of the Christian Kataeb Party, Bachir rose to prominence with the start of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War.
The fighting pitted the Kataeb, Camille Chamoun’s National Liberal Party and other Christian groups against the Lebanese National Movement, a coalition of leftist, mainly Muslim groups allied to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Young and charismatic, the Université Saint Joseph law student used force to unite most Christian armed groups under the command of the Lebanese Forces, which he founded in 1976. He was known for his hard-line stances, which were manifested in his opposition to the presence in Lebanon of Palestinian armed groups and refugees as well as Syrian troops.
The candidacy of Gemayel, officially announced in July 1982 but hinted at several months earlier, was viewed as highly provocative by the Syria-backed LNM and other Lebanese groups, which saw him as an Israeli imposition. He was the sole candidate in the election.
Gemayel had previously been part of an alliance that invited Syria into the country in 1976 to quell fighting, but by the late ’70s, Lebanon’s southern neighbor had become his main ally instead. On June 6, just a month before he announced that he would run, Israel invaded Lebanon, with soldiers reaching the outskirts of Beirut a week later.
“The candidacy of Bashir Gemayel is an act of defiance, it is the candidacy of Israeli artillery and tanks. It would have been better for Israel to just appoint him in Baabda as the governor of Lebanon or help him stage a coup to kick out all Palestinians and arrest and execute all patriotic people,” said Walid Jumblatt, then leader of the LNM.
But Edmond Rizq, a former Kataeb MP hailed Gemayel as a “charismatic leader who will fulfill the Lebanese youth’s aspiration for a unified Lebanon.”
Rizq said the fact that Gemayel was also backed by non-Christian leaders such as MP Majid Arslan made his election a national event.
In his book, “A History of Modern Lebanon,” historian Fawwaz Traboulsi explained that Gemayel knew about the Israeli invasion ahead of time and claimed that one of its goals was to make him president.
Many Lebanese were full of hope that, if elected, Gemayel would be able to free Lebanon from all foreign armies and put an end to seven years of deadly fighting that had left many parts of the country in tatters.
This feeling was bolstered by the conciliatory tone Gemayel resorted to during his election campaign, in which he emphasized Muslim-Christian coexistence and working for all “10,452 square kilometers” of Lebanon.
In an interview with French daily Le Monde, Gemayel said that once elected, he would work swiftly and firmly to liberate Lebanon from both the Syrian and Israeli armies.
After over two months of an Israeli siege and the brutal bombardment of West Beirut, where PLO leadership, forces and civilians were trapped, a U.S.-brokered agreement was reached on Aug. 18 stating that Palestinian armed groups and PLO leaders, including Yasser Arafat, would leave the country under the supervision of multinational forces.
On Aug. 23, two days before the PLO evacuation was to begin, Parliament held an election session in the Military Academy in Fayyadieh, east of Beirut, which was under Israel occupation. Initially postponed, Speaker Kamel Asaad managed to resist Syrian pressure to cancel the session completely.
The Christian parties were faced with the duel challenge of achieving a quorum and garnering enough votes for Gemayel amid fierce opposition to his candidacy by the LNM.
“He got them by intimidation, terror and buying MPs’ votes, his campaign directors acknowledged,” according to Traboulsi. Albert Mansour, an LNM MP who did not attend the session, confirmed this in his book “The Demise of a Republic.”
Following years of war and the deaths of several ministers, however, Parliament was depleted, and Asaad came up with a temporary legal intervention allowing the quorum to be two-thirds of the 93 MPs present rather than two-thirds of the usual 99 MPs.
“This made the quorum 62 rather than 66. ... The quorum decreased by one every time an MP died,’ Mansour wrote. As a result, he explained, several MPs were targeted in assassination attempts intended to boost Gemayel’s chances.
Mansour said that during a meeting with Gemayel and Rizq, the latter hinted that Mansour would be kidnapped if he did not choose the party’s leader.
LF fighters even tried to prevent some MPs from leaving areas under Christian control before the day of the election to ensure that they would attend Parliament’s session.
MPs waited for many hours at the Military Academy on Aug. 23 before the quorum was finally achieved. Gemayel was elected in the second round of voting, with 57 votes. There were five blank votes and 30 MPs boycotted the election, including former Prime Minister Saeb Salam.
“The quorum of the election session was achieved after huge efforts exerted by the Lebanese Forces first, President [Elias] Sarkis second and some Lebanese financiers,” Mansour wrote.
In reaction, the West Beirut houses and offices of many MPs who elected Gemayel were torched and attacked by gunmen.
On Sept. 1, 1982, Gemayel visited Netanya in Israel to meet with Israel’s then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Traboulsi wrote that during the meeting Gemayel refused a request by the Israeli premier to start immediate negotiations and conclude a peace treaty between the two countries, asking instead for a respite of six to nine months to establish his authority.
“Upon the insistence of Begin, he conceded to an agreement to ‘normalize’ relations between the two countries. Begin still wanted a peace treaty, or else, he threatened, the Israeli army would occupy a 40-50 kilometer strip deep inside the Lebanese territory. Lebanon’s president-elect left the meeting humiliated,” wrote Traboulsi.
But Lebanon’s youngest president-elect would never be able to fulfill any of his promises; he and a score of Kataeb officials were killed on Sept. 14, 1982, when an explosion rocked the Kataeb headquarters in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut where Gemayel was chairing a meeting for party officials.
Habib Shartouni, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party who was arrested by the LF shortly after the event, confessed to planting a bomb in the building.
While some Lebanese rejoiced when hearing the news of Gemayel’s death, others felt that an opportunity to salvage the country was gone.

The leaking Kerry-Lavrov deal for Ukraine will only fuel continuing US-Russian dissent
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis April 18, 2014/US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have developed a template for “de-escalating” international crises in a way that avoids US military intervention. The formula was first unveiled in the pact they concluded in September 2013 for disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons. Two months after this, the duo went into action again for the interim nuclear accord for Iran. Kerry believes that the same recipe will work eventually for an Israeli-Palestinian final accord. It is a dish with three main ingredients: a slick-sounding compromise that the US and Russian can more or less live with; a gloss over the real elements at issue between them; and a deal that goes over the heads of the prime movers involved in the conflict. By the time the dish they cook up goes sour, the two diplomats have moved on to the next crisis.
This dynamic was repeated in Geneva Thursday April 17 for the three-point formula hammered out by the US, Russia, the EU and the Ukraine for assuaging the Ukraine crisis. Its key stipulation required all protesters to vacate the buildings they have illegally occupied and lay down their arms.
No sooner was the deal in the bag, than it faced insuperable impediments.
One of the pro-Russian separatist leaders Denis Pushkin called a news conference in Donetsk Friday to announce that Russia “did not sign anything for us.”
If illegally occupied buildings are to be relinquished, he said, then the “illegitimate government” should vacate the presidential administration building in Kiev. Pushkin also pointed out that the central government had not pulled military forces back from Slavyansk, one of the 10 cities in which pro-Russian separatists had seized public buildings.
The provisional Ukraine government has seized on the Geneva document to transform the humiliating outcome of its armed operation against the pro-Russian militias last week into a political gain. Although most of the soldiers of the Ukraine special force defected to the opposition or turned tail, government spokesmen were saying Friday that they would give the protesters a few days to remove themselves from the buildings they seized. The warning was hollow. For one thing, the Kiev authorities don’t command the strength to force their will on the regions of East and South Ukraine and, for another, the separatists will stay put until the “illegitimate” government evacuates central Kiev, if that is what Moscow tells them to do.
Washington and the European Union responded to this impasse by calling on Moscow for steps to “de-escalate” the situation. The Russians believe they have taken the first step already by making sure that by Friday morning no armored personnel carriers and armed militiamen were to be seen. This does not mean that the weapons are not hidden away nearby ready for use.
In any case, the West wants Russia to make the running and is threatening “more costs” if it does not comply.
President Barack Obama commented Thursday: “My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don’t think – given past performance – that we can count on that.”
President Vladimir Putin, during his Q&A session from the Kremlin, stressed Russia’s right to use military force in Ukraine if deemed necessary.
Russian troop concentrations have not moved back from the Ukraine border.
Russia and the West are therefore as far apart on a consensual solution for the Ukraine crisis after the carefully worded Geneva accord as they were before.
debkafile’s Moscow sources say that the West is again misreading Putin and his motives. The Russian president feels that in the past two years, he has gone more than halfway in meeting Obama on two issues of vital importance to the US president: Iran and Syria. He agreed to work with the Obama administration to achieve détente with Tehran and a negotiated accord for Iran’s nuclear program. Washington presents this as an American breakthrough. Putin believes that these goals would have been unattainable without Russia’s quiet intercession withTehran to smooth the way.
Although their understanding was kept under close wraps, Putin is convinced that it was the key to Washington’s approval of Iran’s right to enrich uranium, a US concession adamantly withheld from the Islamic Republic by all of Obama’s predecessors in the White House. This understanding also meant that both powers overlooked the door they had opened to possible Israel military action for curbing Iran’s nuclear program, given the international latitude Tehran won to move its nuclear plans forward.
The Russian leader also considers that by permitting Lavrov to join Kerry for a Syrian chemical disarmament pact last year, he gave the US president a much-needed ladder for climbing down from his commitment to deploy military force against Bashar Assad. Obama in return let Assad stay in power. The outcome of this trade-off was the strengthening of the radical Iran-Syria-Hizballah alliance.
That Kerry-Lavrov pact has not held water either. In the last few weeks, our sources reveal that Iran has begun sending the Syrian army new types of chemical substances that are not covered by that pact.
For Putin, the Iranian and Syrian arenas are poles apart from Ukraine in the sense that the former are far from Russia’s borders, while Ukraine is its back yard and of immediate concern to its national security. On this , Putin will make no concessions.
He is now looking past the angry rhetoric emanating from Washington and Europe and waiting to see if the Obama administration acts to make the government in Kiev offer real concessions for the sake of the broad national dialogue stipulated in the Geneva accord to work.
So far, there is no sign of flexibility in Kiev. And so the pro-Russian militias in Donetsk and the rest of eastern Ukraine will hold their ground - even in the face of the US threat to exact more “costs” from Moscow.
With the strategic Crimean peninsula in his pocket and no visible Western gains in Kiev, Putin feels he can afford to persist in a posture of confrontation.