LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/ Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table
Mark 16,9-14/:"[[Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen."
Pope Francis Tweet For Monday
Each encounter with Jesus fills us with joy, with that deep joy which only God can give.
Chaque rencontre avec Jésus nous remplit de joie, de cette joie profonde que seul Dieu peut nous donner.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 22/14
Charity work in Britain: a cover for extremists/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 22/14
Arab elections do not herald democracy/By: Sharif Nashashibi/Al Arabiya/ April 22/14
Can we Reconcile with the Brotherhood/By: Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Alawsat/April 22/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 22/14
Lebanese Related News
Mustaqbal Annonces 'Full Support' to Geagea as LF Delegates Continue Presidential Tours
Geagea Does Not Fear Security Chaos in Case of Presidential Vacuum
Aoun hesitates as Geagea forges ahead on elections
Border village rescue plan set for Tuesday
Aoun unlikely to announce candidacy by 23: MP
Salam: All possibilities open for presidential elections
Future MP: Geagea to be March 14 presidential candidate
Report: Lebanon Has to Overcome Regional, International Challenges to Hold
Rifi: Private sector to create new jobs in Tripoli
Raad: Next President Must Embrace Resistance, Be Aware of Its Role
Mashnouq Says Plan to Aid Village of Tufail to Kick Off Tuesday
2 Syrians Held for Murdering Compatriot, Chopping Up Body
Fatah al-Islam bodyguard shot dead
Man shot, wounded at Army checkpoint in E. Lebanon
Mortar shells hit near Syrian parliament, kill 5
Body of EDL Contract Worker Found in Electrical Room in Hay el-Sellom
Tension Increases in Ain el-Hilweh after Gunmen Assassinate Ali Khalil
Construction Frenzy in Beirut Alters City Skyline
Intelligence briefing: Israel's military experts open up on Hezbollah, Iran and
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Despite war, Syria presidential vote set for June
New Syrian-Iranian chlorine bombs make mockery of US-Russian chemical accord and
Mock Executions, Beatings: Journalists Describe Syria Ordeal
Mortar Shells Hit near Syrian Parliament, Kill 5
Saudi Health Minister Sacked as MERS Toll Rises
Britain Says Syrian Election Will Have 'No Value'
Iran says drafting complete account of past nuclear activities
Iran: Next expert-level nuclear talks to be held in New York
Mustaqbal Annonces 'Full Support' to
Geagea as LF Delegates Continue Presidential Tours
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal bloc announced on Monday its “full support” to the leader of the Lebanese Forces in his presidential bid, as LF delegates continued their visits to parties and parliamentary blocs over Samir Geagea's run for office. “We announce our full support to Samir Geagea in his run for presidency,” al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Ahmed Fatfat stated after talks with LF delegates. Fatfat added that Geagea's presidential program “responds to the needs of the Lebanese people, to their aspirations and to their longing for strengthening the state's sovereignty, and restoring its prestige and role.” LF MP George Adwan praised al-Mustaqbal bloc's stance, considering it a “major step.”He also assured that "all March 14 blocs are committed to attending the scheduled parliamentary session on Wednesday to elect a new president.”“We will have a unified stance before Wednesday's parliamentary session,” he revealed. Simultaneously, another LF delegation met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam in the Beirut neighborhood of Msaytbeh to hand him Geagea's presidential program. MP Sethrida Geagea reiterated after the talks that March 14 will have one presidential candidate, noting that a positive atmosphere has prevailed so far in the envoys' meetings with local figures and parliamentary blocs. Earlier in the day, MP Geagea handed Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel the presidential program of the LF leader, stressing also the unity of the March 14 alliance regarding the presidential polls. She said after meeting Gemayel at the Kataeb's headquarters in Saifi in Beirut: “The March 14 alliance will be united in its stand over the elections.”“The alliance will stand behind one candidate when it heads to the parliamentary session on Wednesday,” she told reporters. Geagea described her meeting with Gemayel as positive, saying that the two sides highlighted the importance of the elections. MP Geagea then met Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, handing him a copy of the LF chief's presidential program.
Jumblat confirmed after the talks that he will attend Wednesday's parliamentary session, saying however that he will declare his stance on the polls on Tuesday.
OTV revealed later that the National Struggle Front will convene tomorrow at 5:30 pm to discuss the presidential elections. Meanwhile, another LF delegation met on Monday afternoon with National Liberal Party leader MP Dory Chamoun and the Jamaa Islamiya. "We agreed on the importance of holding the presidential elections on time,” LF MP Antoine Zahra said after meeting with Chamoun, remarking that the March 14 coalition agrees on Geagea's presidential program. The two-member delegation, which included Geagea's adviser Wehbe Qatisha in addition to Zahra, then visited the headquarters of the Jamaa Islamiya in Beirut where it held talks with MP Imad al-Hout and the party's political bureau chief Wael Najm. LF lawmakers are as well scheduled to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri to hand him a copy of the presidential program. LF delegates had met with President Michel Suleiman, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun for the same purpose.
Geagea is the only political leader to so far announce his nomination for the elections. Parliament is scheduled to convene on Wednesday in order to hold the polls amid concerns that the needed quorum will not be met. Commenting on this possibility, MP Geagea said: “All lawmakers are obligated to exercise their duties and attend the session.”
Geagea Does Not Fear Security Chaos in Case of Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stated that vacuum in the presidency is possible “should the other camp choose to obstruct the democratic process,” reported al-Jazeera television.
He said in an interview that will be aired on Monday night: “I do not fear security chaos should vacuum arise.”“Vacuum is also possible should centrists shy away from their responsibilities,” he remarked.
“Vacuum should instead demand that we study the situation because a certain faction in Lebanon does not want to ensure the rise of the state,” explained the LF chief.
“We cannot continue in an imbalanced and uneven state that does not have complete authority over its powers,” Geagea said. Asked about the rapprochement over the presidential elections between the rival Mustaqbal Movement and Free Patriotic Movement, he responded: “We support open talks between all Lebanese.” “Attempts to understand the other are not a sign that concessions over a political agenda will be made,” he noted. Moreover, Geagea denied claims that regional and international powers are seeking the election of FPM leader MP Michel Aoun as president due to his ties with Hizbullah and the possibility that he may reach an agreement with the party over its possession of arms. “I have not received any foreign diplomatic proposals on Aoun's election, but I believe that some March 8 camp media outlets are promoting such claims,” he said. The regional and international role in the elections is limited, he noted, while pointing out that Iran alone is holding sway over the polls.
“We have a serious chance to elect a president who is 'made in Lebanon' seeing as major powers are preoccupied with other affairs,” he stressed. Asked if a constitutional amendment will be made to elect a president outside of the political fold, such as Central Bank Governor Riyad Salameh or Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, Geagea replied that none of the parliamentary blocs have made such a suggestion. “A constitutional amendment is only made when a very dangerous development takes place and only with the consent of all parties,” he explained.
Geagea is so far the only official to submit his nomination for the elections. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. A parliamentary session to hold the elections has been scheduled for Wednesday, amid concerns that the necessary quorum will not be met. Speaker Nabih Berri had stated that the conditions to hold the elections are “not ripe yet.”
The deadline to elect a president ends on May 25.
Raad: Next President Must Embrace Resistance, Be Aware of Its Role
Naharnet /Head of Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad stressed Monday that the country's next president must “embrace the resistance and must be aware of its role and importance.”
“Our people and their representatives (in parliament) have the right to choose the president who can preserve the resistance's achievements, the unity of the Lebanese, national sovereignty and independence,” Raad said during a memorial service in the southern town of Deir al-Zahrani. “We are before a presidential vote in a country whose land was liberated from a Zionist occupation,” Raad noted. “Had it not been for the resistance and its fighters and martyrs, this election would not have been on the table today, and therefore it is not acceptable to elect a president whose mentality and choices contradict with the resistance's achievements,” he added. The top Hizbullah lawmaker underlined that “the next president must embrace the resistance and be aware of its role and importance, not out of idealistic devotion but rather out of keenness on national sovereignty, which would always be at risk without resistance.” “Those nominating themselves for the presidency must endorse this vision while competing against a candidate who is carrying the program of a new civil war,” Raad added, in an apparent reference to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Last week, Geagea announced a presidential program that focuses on “restoring the authority of the state against the proliferation of weapons.” He is the sole politician to have officially announced his candidacy for the polls, whose first round will be held on Wednesday. Without naming him, Raad emphasized that “all parties” do not perceive Geagea as a serious presidential candidate. President Michel Suleiman’s tenure ends on May 25, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state began on March 25. The election is not expected to be an easy process amid a lack of agreement on a consensual candidate.
Rifi: Private sector to create new
jobs in Tripoli
BEIRUT - Now Lebanon/Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi reassured residents of his hometown of Tripoli that violent clashes would not return to the city, and promised that a new economic project would create 1000 new jobs. “Tripoli has passed through a very difficult [phase] and the serial violence is over,” Rifi said while visiting a number of Christian religious leaders on Monday. “Now we must take practical steps to prepare a road map for economic revival in the city.” “I want to reassure residents of Tripoli and North Lebanon that an economic [project] will be built in [the city. The project,] which is being prepared by private sector [figures,] will take on 1000 workers in the first phase.”Rifi added that plans for the reconstruction of Tripoli’s Syria Street, which he recently said would be turned in to a model area resembling downtown Beirut, had been confirmed by Future Movement leader Saad Hariri. “I bring good tidings to [Bab] al-Tebanneh residents in particular, and [also] to residents of Jabal Mohsen. Saad Hariri has confirmed that he will fund the project I referred to previously, concerning Syria Street.” On April 13, Rifi said that Hariri was considering following the example set by his father, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, by redeveloping Tripoli’s Syria Street based on the central area of Beirut, commonly referred to as Solidere. On April 1, Lebanese army and security forces began implementing a security plan to end violent clashes between Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebanneh neighborhoods, as well as other areas of the country. The project, which is being prepared by private sector [figures,] will take on 1000 workers in the first phase.
Future MP: Geagea to be March 14 presidential candidate
ASHARQ ALAWSAT/APRIL 21, 2014/
BEIRUT – Future bloc MP Mohammad al-Hajjar said that all indicators suggest that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea will be March 14’s presidential candidate. “All indicators until now suggest that [Geagea] will be March 14’s candidate,” Hajjar told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Monday. The lawmaker also said that “Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel possesses all the qualities that qualify him to be a presidential candidate but he wants, like all allies, to reach consensus within the [March 14] alliance.”Lebanon's parliament is to convene on April 23 to elect a new president to succeed Michel Suleiman, whose term ends on May 25. Even with a date set for the session, there are no guarantees that a president will be chosen on April 23. So far Geagea has announced his candidacy but he is not expected to run unopposed, and other candidates are likely to announce their own campaigns in coming days.
Aoun hesitates as Geagea forges ahead
April 21, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition will have only one candidate for the presidential election, MP Strida Geagea, from the Lebanese Forces, said Monday following a meeting with Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel. Meanwhile, MP Alain Aoun ruled out that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun would declare his candidacy for the presidency in time for the parliamentary election session this week. “The March 14 coalition will be united in facing constitutional deadlines; the presidential election is a primary deadline and we will confront the April 23 deadline with one candidate,” Geagea said in reference to Wednesday’s parliamentary session to elect a new president. For his part, MP Mohammad Raad, who heads Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, called for a president that preserves “the resistance” and unites the country. “It is the right of our people and its representatives to choose a president who preserves the role of the resistance and the unity of the Lebanese people, and maintains the sovereignty of the country and its independence,” Raad said during a party event in south Lebanon. “We would not have a presidential election if not for the resistance and its martyrs, so we cannot have a president who does not respect what the resistance achieved,” he said. During her visit, Geagea, who visited Gemayel in his Bikfaya residence heading an LF delegation, gave him a copy of LF leader Samir Geagea's presidential platform.
The LF delegation included MPs Joseph Maalouf and Fadi Karam, along with former Minister Toni Karam and a member of the party's executive committee, Eddy Abi al-Lamaa. The lawmaker said she agreed with the Kataeb leader that the presidential election is “very important and all lawmakers should practice their constitutional role on April 23.” “The lawmakers who do not [show up] to secure the needed quorum [for the Parliament session] will be obstructing the election,” she said. The Kataeb are expected to hold a meeting in the afternoon to declare their stance on the election,
Kataeb officials have said that Gemayel will declare his candidacy for the presidential election soon.
Geagea already announced his presidential campaign platform and voiced confidence his allies in March 14 would endorse his candidacy, despite a lack of official comment from the other major paries in the bloc. The LF leader told al-Jazeera television in an interview to be aired later during the day that all March 14 forces will participate in the presidential election session set to take place on April 23. “Work is underway to achieve quorum for Wednesday’s session... and all March 14 forces will participate in the election session since they have a clear stance,” Geagea said. The LF leader also said that any disruption of the session by March 8 parties would be “undemocratic, especially since the presidential elections are not a matter of political consensus.”
Geagea also ruled out reports that regional and international powers are seeking the election of Aoun as president due to his ties with Hezbollah.
“I have not received any foreign diplomatic proposals on Aoun's election, but I believe that some March 8 camp media outlets are promoting such claims,” he said.
“The regional and international role in the elections is limited... We have a serious chance to elect a president who is 'made in Lebanon' seeing as major powers are preoccupied with other affairs,” Geagea said. In comments to Kuwaiti daily As-Seyasah published Monday, Alain Aoun said “It is not likely that [Aoun] will announce his candidacy for the first round of presidential elections on Tuesday.”
“The road leading to the election of a new president is still [obstructed],” he said.
Aoun said he does not expect a president to be elected soon because “not all blocs have announced their stances. Some are still waiting for [foreign intervention].”Border village rescue plan set for Tuesday
April 21, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A plan to rescue an east Lebanon village that has been cut off from the rest of the country by Syrian troops will go into effect Tuesday, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said, defending his cooperation with Hezbollah over the issue. “The security plan for Tfail village will be launched tomorrow morning with the participation of the Lebanese Army, Internal Security Forces, the General Security and the Red Cross, which will work to evacuate the wounded,” Machnouk said in a press conference Monday. “We have also contacted Hezbollah and coordinated with the party to evacuate the Syrian families outside the town after efforts to contact the Syrian regime and the opposition proved futile,” he said. The border village of Tfail was cut off from Lebanese territory after the only accessible road to the Bekaa Valley was seized by Syrian troops as part of the regime’s offensive to root out rebels in the Qalamoun region. Residents said the village, home to 3,000 Lebanese and around 5,000 Syrian refugees, came under heavy bombardment last week. Machnouk said that if the plan does not work, he would take the case to the Cabinet and file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over the besieged village. The minister, a Future Movement affiliate, defended his coordination with Hezbollah over Tfail and said his priority is managing the humanitarian consequences.
“I do not care about the formalities now, I care about the content [of the security place]... the priority goes to rescuing the families in Tfail,” he said.
“I will resort to any humanitarian, political or security means to offer assistance to the people of Tfail... and it was normal to contact Hezbollah over the issue,” the minister said.
“People there are bearing the burdens of a war that they have nothing to do with and we should not leave them alone.”On Saturday, Machnouk held a meeting with officials, including Hezbollah’s top security official Wafik Safa, to resolve the village's situation by securing passage for the residents into the Bekaa Valley.
Aoun hesitates as Geagea forges ahead
April 21, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition will have only one candidate for the presidential election, MP Strida Geagea, from the Lebanese Forces, said Monday following a meeting with Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel. Meanwhile, MP Alain Aoun ruled out that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun would declare his candidacy for the presidency in time for the parliamentary election session this week. “The March 14 coalition will be united in facing constitutional deadlines; the presidential election is a primary deadline and we will confront the April 23 deadline with one candidate,” Geagea said in reference to Wednesday’s parliamentary session to elect a new president. For his part, MP Mohammad Raad, who heads Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, called for a president that preserves “the resistance” and unites the country. “It is the right of our people and its representatives to choose a president who preserves the role of the resistance and the unity of the Lebanese people, and maintains the sovereignty of the country and its independence,” Raad said during a party event in south Lebanon. “We would not have a presidential election if not for the resistance and its martyrs, so we cannot have a president who does not respect what the resistance achieved,” he said. During her visit, Geagea, who visited Gemayel in his Bikfaya residence heading an LF delegation, gave him a copy of LF leader Samir Geagea's presidential platform. The LF delegation included MPs Joseph Maalouf and Fadi Karam, along with former Minister Toni Karam and a member of the party's executive committee, Eddy Abi al-Lamaa. The lawmaker said she agreed with the Kataeb leader that the presidential election is “very important and all lawmakers should practice their constitutional role on April 23.” “The lawmakers who do not [show up] to secure the needed quorum [for the Parliament session] will be obstructing the election,” she said. The Kataeb are expected to hold a meeting in the afternoon to declare their stance on the election, Kataeb officials have said that Gemayel will declare his candidacy for the presidential election soon. Geagea already announced his presidential campaign platform and voiced confidence his allies in March 14 would endorse his candidacy, despite a lack of official comment from the other major paries in the bloc. The LF leader told al-Jazeera television in an interview to be aired later during the day that all March 14 forces will participate in the presidential election session set to take place on April 23. “Work is underway to achieve quorum for Wednesday’s session... and all March 14 forces will participate in the election session since they have a clear stance,” Geagea said. The LF leader also said that any disruption of the session by March 8 parties would be “undemocratic, especially since the presidential elections are not a matter of political consensus.”Geagea also ruled out reports that regional and international powers are seeking the election of Aoun as president due to his ties with Hezbollah.“I have not received any foreign diplomatic proposals on Aoun's election, but I believe that some March 8 camp media outlets are promoting such claims,” he said.
“The regional and international role in the elections is limited... We have a serious chance to elect a president who is 'made in Lebanon' seeing as major powers are preoccupied with other affairs,” Geagea said. In comments to Kuwaiti daily As-Seyasah published Monday, Alain Aoun said “It is not likely that [Aoun] will announce his candidacy for the first round of presidential elections on Tuesday.”
“The road leading to the election of a new president is still [obstructed],” he said. Aoun said he does not expect a president to be elected soon because “not all blocs have announced their stances. Some are still waiting for [foreign intervention].”
Aoun unlikely to announce candidacy by
April 21, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is unlikely to declare his candidacy for the presidency in time for the parliamentary election session this week, according to a lawmaker from Aoun's bloc. “It is not likely that [Aoun] will announce his candidacy for the first round of presidential elections on Tuesday,” MP Alian Aoun said in comments to Kuwaiti daily As-Seyasah in comments published Monday. “The road leading to the election of a new president is still [obstructed],” he said. Lebanon’s Parliament is set to convene Wednesday to elect a new president, but so far, only Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has declared his candidacy for the presidential post. Aoun said he does not expect a president to be elected soon because “not all blocs have announced their stances. Some are still waiting for [foreign intervention].” Lebanon has until May 25, the end of President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term, to elect a new president.
Report: Lebanon Has to Overcome
Regional, International Challenges to Hold Presidential Polls
Naharnet/The presidential elections in Lebanon could be postponed to September pending a number of regional and international developments, reported the Kuwaiti daily al-Anba on Monday.
Concerned sources told the daily that Lebanon has to overcome three obstacles in order to be able to hold the polls. The first of these obstacles is the development of American-Iranian ties in light of the Tehran's nuclear ambitions and its negotiations with western powers over its program. Lebanon then has to wait for the results of the Iraqi general elections and finally the Syrian presidential elections.
The Iraqi elections are set for April 30, while a date for the Syrian polls has not been set yet, but media reports said they may be staged in June. Syrian President Bashar Assad's term ends on July 17. The Iraqi and Syrian elections will test Iran's influence in the region, explained al-Anba. Once they are held, Lebanon will be able to hold the presidential elections, but probably not before September, said the daily. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. A parliamentary session to hold the elections has been scheduled for Wednesday, amid concerns that the necessary quorum will not be met. Speaker Nabih Berri had stated that the conditions to hold the elections are “not ripe yet.”The deadline to elect a president ends on May 25.Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea is the only official to so far submit his nomination for the presidency.
Salam: All possibilities open for
SKY NEWS/APRIL 20, 2014/BEIRUT - Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that Lebanon’s upcoming presidential elections are shrouded in uncertainty and that even a presidential void could result.
“[Uncertainty] is the prevalent condition as far as election of a president for the republic of Lebanon is concerned,” Salam told world broadcaster Sky News on Sunday. “All possibilities are open.”
The Prime Minisister, who said it was possible that Lebanon’s top position would be left vacant, added: “anyone who claims to know the result of Wednesday’s parliamentary session is wrong.”
He also noted that while the outcome of Wednesday’s session could not be determined in advance, the current level of consciousness being displayed by all political players in Lebanon would not allow the country to slip in to civil war. Lebanon's parliament is to convene on April 23 to elect a new president to succeed Michel Suleiman, whose term ends on May 25. Even with a date set for the session, there are no guarantees that a president will be chosen on April 23. So far just one political figure, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, has announced his candidacy. But he is not expected to run unopposed, and other candidates are likely to announce their own campaigns in coming days.
Body of EDL Contract Worker Found in
Electrical Room in Hay el-Sellom
Naharnet/The body of an Electricite du Liban contract worker was found after being missing for around ten days, the state-run National News Agency reported on Monday. According to NNA, the body of Ali Ibrahim was found on Sunday overnight laying in an electrical room in a building in the Hay el-Sellom neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs. The news agency said that Ibrahim was killed by an electrical shock. He had went missing on April 11.
Mashnouq Says Plan to Aid Village of
Tufail to Kick Off Tuesday
Naharnet/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said that a plan will kick off on Tuesday to evacuate people who are injured from the remote border village of al-Tufail and to send humanitarian aid to the residents. “Gunmen will not be allowed to enter Lebanon... We will only open a safe passage for the residents of the town,” Mashnouq said in a press conference held on Monday at his office at the interior ministry. He pointed out that the town is being surrounded by Syrian regime troops, rebels affiliated with the opposition and fighters from Hizbullah. Mashnouq said that seeing as the town is isolated, it can not be reached from Lebanon, but must be entered from Syria. “We had three ways to aid the town either by contacting the Syrian regime or opposition or by seeking Hizbullah's help,” he pointed out.
Mashnouq warned that if “Lebanese security forces were assaulted while trying to enter the village, then the Lebanese state will file a complaint to the U.N.”“We aim at safeguarding the residents of Tufail away from any political dispute. It's a mere humanitarian matter,” the minister continued. “Priority is to save the people of Tufail,” he noted. Mashnouq said that if the state's endeavors failed then the cabinet will seek the help of the international community. On Saturday, Mashnouq chaired a security meeting in the ministry of interior in the presence of security officials and Hizbullah Liaison and Coordination Officer Wafiq Safa. The security meeting was followed by talks between Mashnouq, Safa and General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim. Tufail is located at the end of the eastern mountain belt's plains, in an area that is 24 kilometers inside Syrian territories. It is surrounded by Syrian lands to its north, east and south, and by the Lebanese villages of Ham, Maarboun and Brital to its west.
There are no roads that link the town to Lebanese territories. More than 5,000 Lebanese nationals reside in the town, Christians and Muslims, and among them there are around 25 soldiers in the army.
President Michel Suleiman called during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to study all possible means that would enable helping the town's residents escape and take refuge in safe regions inside Lebanon.
Man shot, wounded at Army checkpoint
in E. Lebanon
April 21, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A man wanted by the Lebanese authorities was shot and wounded Sunday after opening fire on soldiers manning a checkpoint in east Lebanon, a statement from the military said. Kamal Ezzedine, driving a pickup truck with foreign license plates, crossed an Army checkpoint in the border town of Arsal, the statement said. He then turned around and shot at the troops, the statement said. The soldiers retaliated to the source of fire and wounded him, it added. He was reportedly transferred to a local hospital. The Army confiscated Ezzedine's weapon and a quantity of military equipment and ammunition that were in the vehicle he was driving. An investigation into the incident is underway. Ezzeddine is wanted on two arrest warrants on charges of "dealing violently" with Army troops, the Army said.
Mortar shells hit near Syrian
parliament, kill 5
April 21, 2014/Associated Press/DAMASCUS, Syria: Syria's state-run media say a pair of mortar shells hit near the parliament building in central Damascus, killing five people. SANA news agency says the mortars struck some 320 feet (100 meters) from the parliament in the Salihiya area of the Syrian capital on Monday morning. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Syrian rebels often fire mortar shells into government-controlled areas of Damascus. They say they are punishing pro-government forces for besieging areas controlled by the opposition, denying residents food, clean water and medical aid, and for dropping crude bombs on residential areas. Mortar shells cannot be precisely targeted and often kill civilians. Syria's conflict is now in its fourth year. It has killed over 150,000 people and forced one-third of the country's population from their homes.
Fatah al-Islam bodyguard shot dead
April 21, 2014/SIDON, Lebanon: Fatah al-Islam official Bilal Badr's bodyguard was shot early Monday morning in the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh outside the coastal city of Sidon, south Lebanon. At least one gunman opened fire at Ali Khalil at 2:00 a.m. in the Safsaf neighborhood of the camp, wounding him in the head. Khalil was transferred to a medical center inside the camp but Islamist officials then decided to move him to Labib Medical Center outside the camp because he was in critical condition. He later died from his wounds. Khalil was a bodyguard for Badr, an official with the radical Islamist Fatah al-Islam group, and the nephew of Jund al-Sham official Ousama al-Shahabi. He was also wanted by the Lebanese authorities. Security sources said that a meeting was being held between Shahabi and Badr in the Safsaf neighborhood shortly before the incident. The Lebanese security forces arrived at the hospital, inspected the body and took Khalil's fingerprints. The latest killing comes just weeks after a Sunni Sheikh was fatally shot in Ain al-Hilweh. Sleiman was the head of a charity linked to Al-Ahbash, an Islamist group that was active during Syria’s wardship of Lebanon.
Construction Frenzy in Beirut Alters
Naharnet/One by one, the old traditional houses of Beirut are vanishing as luxury towers sprout up on every corner, altering the city's skyline almost beyond recognition amid an ongoing construction frenzy seemingly immune to tensions from the civil war raging next door. Lebanon's enchanting Ottoman and colonial French-style buildings once represented Beirut's rich history, withstanding years of civil war and invasions only to be demolished in peace time by wealthy Gulf Arab investors. In that, Beirut is no different than Dubai, Doha or other major world cities overtaken by a global trend for modern, tall buildings. But in a country that prides itself on its rich history, many complain that Lebanon is losing its charm and character, often said to be the only thing going for it.
A famously scenic Mediterranean city surrounded by once lush mountains, Beirut may soon be overrun with buildings — all at the expense of green parks and pedestrian areas.
Robert Saliba, professor of architecture and urban planning at the American University of Beirut, said Beirut always has been attractive for investors because of its cultural diversity and free spirit.
"Beirut is a reflection of a hybrid city where the market takes over the future development. ... My own observation is that Beirut was never interested in its history. It's a city that was always taken by modernity," he said. Still, he said Beirut is fast becoming saturated, a city often said to provide the smallest ratio of open spaces for its inhabitants in the world.
It is a transformation that those familiar with the city can barely keep up with. When Salim Baalbaki arrived to Lebanon last year for the first time after more than 15 years spent working in Canada, he struggled to recognize where he grew up, a few steps from Beirut's seaside promenade and central district.
The tree-lined corniche where he took long walks during lulls in fighting during the 1975-90 civil war is now dotted with luxury apartment buildings that sell units for as much as $10,000 per square meter (square yard). The once bustling downtown area, razed to the ground and spectacularly rebuilt after the civil war, is seen as a beautiful yet sterile lot of polished boutiques and high-priced restaurants.
Tall buildings stick out at odd lengths and angles, wedged almost wall to wall between older buildings and sprouting out of alleys.
Worst of all for Baalbaki, the parking lot where he used to play soccer with friends next to his parent's apartment building has been replaced with a high rise that blocks the light from the apartment.
"Actually my depression started when I looked down from the airplane during landing and saw the jungle of cement below," Baalbaki said. "It is a disaster and it makes me sad for Lebanon."
Not everyone shares Baalbaki's gloom. Beirut's post-war reconstruction is seen by many as a model to be looked upon by countries in the region. Despite the chaos in neighboring Syria, and bouts of deadly spillover, construction barely has slowed down. The city is buzzing with the sounds of jackhammers and active cranes dot the skyline — a healthy sign amid turbulent times, some say.
The construction boom has been fueled in the past decade by rich expatriates and Gulf Arab investors who have driven prices up, encouraging Beirut property owners to sell.
Analysts say despite slowing local demand because of the war in Syria, high real estate prices in Lebanon have been sustained partly because of the scarcity of land. The increase in real estate demand by displaced Syrians somewhat compensated for reduced local demand, helping maintain real estate prices.
But while Lebanon's real estate sector has developed to become one of the country's success stories, many say it is coming at the expense of Lebanon's identity and heritage.
It has led to the destruction of hundreds of traditional Lebanese houses known for their stoned, arched headways, elaborate balconies and colorful windows and gardens. The houses, dating back French and Ottoman era, are mainly in Beirut and its peripheries, areas that were heavily damaged during Lebanon's civil war. An initial census in the early 1990s counted 1600 traditional homes and buildings in the greater Beirut area. Today, an estimated 250 standing structures remain, said Naji Raji, an activist and spokesman for Save Beirut Heritage. He blames the demolitions on politicians' corruption, greed and non-existent construction regulations or any sort of urban planning outside the Beirut Central District. There are virtually no laws that specifically protect old buildings, except for a ministerial decree issued a few years ago which states that every demolition permit must be co-signed by the Culture Ministry, giving it power to stop the demolition of traditional homes.
Save Beirut Heritage has a hotline through which it receives tips about old buildings threatened with demolitions, which it conveys to the Culture Ministry. This has allowed the group to halt the demolition of up to 60 buildings in Beirut and its suburbs since 2010. Raji's latest pet project is lobbying against the Fouad Boutros highway, a 1.3-kilometer (0.81-mile) road expected to cut through historic quarters of Beirut. Like many others, Raji worries that Beirut is losing its identity to become more like Dubai, famous for its splashy megaprojects but often criticized as being artificial and lacking character.
"Modernization should not be at the expense of history," Raji said. However, Saliba said that modernizing mess is seen by some as Lebanon's charm.
"Strangely enough this visual chaos is appreciated more by ... foreigners, by Westerners who come to Beirut, who fall in love with this chaos," Saliba said.
The professor added: "But we don't."
Despite war, Syria presidential vote
set for June
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News /Monday, 21 April 2014
Despite a brutal civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people, Syria will hold presidential elections on June 3, the country’s parliamentary speaker said on Monday. “Elections for the president of the Syrian Arab Republic for Syrians resident in the country will be held on June 3 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm,” Mohammad al-Lahham said during a special session of parliament.
Charity work in Britain: a cover for
Monday, 21 April 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
It is ironic that British authorities supervising charity organizations in the country have only just noticed the threats posed by so-called charity organizations which are used to espouse terrorism and engage in organized fraud. The chairman of the Charity Commission said that what an inquiry had uncovered was worrying. He said that they intend to check the activity of Islamist organizations after they discovered that some of them fund violent Islamist groups in Syria, Somalia and other countries. Four areas have been misused and distorted: religious preaching, human rights, education and charity organizations. Ever since the 1990s, extremist and terrorist groups have infiltrated these areas in the West because they enjoy popular and public support. These groups launched new activities under the pretext of aiding orphans, widows and the poor.
Core value of faith
Charity itself is a core value of faith in Islam and it’s a tax paid to a deprived category of people, like the poor, orphans and the needy. Extremist groups exploited alms-giving and charity to gain prominence and they have managed to collect hundreds of millions throughout the years. Money and preaching are a dangerous mixture which enabled an organization like al-Qaeda to spread and engage in acts of sabotage. Al-Qaeda used this mixture to buy explosives and suicide bombers. What’s dangerous is when the money collected under the guise of helping orphans and the poor is spent on funding extremist organizations in Britain, France and other countries
In the late 1990s, many Muslim countries began taking action against such activity after it was proven as the fuel of terrorist organizations. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the down international crackdown expanded; most fake charity offices were shut down and dozens of those found guilty of such illegal activity were jailed. Some charity organizations were shut down but they resumed their “charity” activities again when they moved to isolated communities afar from the grip of Islamic governments – for example communities of European Muslims. They also used modern means of social networking to market their ideas and collect funds. This happened a lot in Kuwait for the aim of supporting extremist groups in Syria and other countries. After two years of chaos, a delegation from the United States arrived in the region demanding an end to this and threatening sanctions. This occurs in countries like Kuwait, but what about Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries? Unfortunately, we do not hear many cases of legal pursuit. These aberrant people do not only fund terrorist operations but also support extremist groups in European countries - groups that may not be linked to violence themselves but that incite violence. The latter groups benefit from the protection of freedom of speech and belief and civil activity in these European countries. However, they actually damage the fabric of the society where they live and pit Muslims against one another and against Europeans. What kind of charity work is this? The chairman of the Charity Commission in Britain said he requested the British prime minister to prevent those involved in terrorism from being qualified to engage in charity work. However, he’s wrong to think that the problem is that simple as those convicted are a mere few while those who are sympathizers of extremist groups are the real problem. In my opinion, the transferring of funds outside Britain to help ISIS buy weapons in Syria or to support al-Shabaab in Somalia does not pose a major threat. This could be controlled if financial and security monitoring improves. What’s more dangerous is when the money collected under the guise of helping orphans and the poor is spent on funding extremist organizations in Britain, France and other countries where Muslims live as an isolated minority. Establishing extremist education and funding intellectual extremists is not punishable by law in the West, unlike in the Arab countries. However, such actions destroy future generations of Muslim youths for many decades. Muslims lived for more than 100 years in their new countries. The Moroccans lived in France, the Yemenis lived in Britain and so on. Extremism did not gain traction until a decade and a half ago, and the future looks worrisome.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 21, 2014.
Arab elections do not herald democracy
Monday, 21 April 2014
Sharif Nashashibi/Al Arabiya
Instead of heeding popular demands for an end to autocracy, Arab leaders have adapted to maintain their longevity, promising cosmetic reforms without ceding any real power.
They are neither embracing nor opposing the Arab Spring, but - more conveniently for them - managing it. It is a remarkable turnaround since the ouster of strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. It seems we have underestimated our dictators. One of the cosmetic reforms that have become trendy is holding elections, but not the kind that take place in real democracies. Instead of one-man races, tolerated opposition parties and figures are now allowed to take part, but without any chance of success. Furthermore, Arab leaders have decided to make the results a little more credible than the near-100% approval that they are used to, while still claiming popular support that would be the envy of genuinely elected leaders. It makes one almost miss the days when our dictators did not pretend to be democrats. Algerians have just gone to the polls, and Iraqis, Egyptians and Syrians will follow suit in the coming weeks and months. However, this does not herald an outbreak of democracy, merely its façade. Besides Iraq, the results of the other elections are a foregone conclusion, and in all cases, the processes are deeply flawed.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika changed the constitution in 2008 to abolish the limit to the number of terms he could serve as president. This allowed him to run for a third term the following year, which he won with 90% of the vote. A 77-year-old who has been in power for 15 years, he has just secured a fourth term with almost 82%, despite widespread disaffection.
Perhaps Bouteflika forgot that two years ago, he said it was time for his generation to step aside. He has since suffered a stroke that has left him confined to a wheelchair and rarely in public view. He was too frail to campaign for his re-election, but he did not need to. His decision to run yet again led to protests that were violently put down, and to several opposition groups boycotting the election. Respected international NGOs expressed concerns in the run up to the vote. One of the cosmetic reforms that have become trendy is holding elections, but not the kind that take place in real democracies
“There appears to be a concerted effort by the Algerian authorities to seize control of the narrative in the run-up to the elections by tightening their stranglehold on freedom of expression,” said Amnesty International. “A lack of open debate and restrictions on the right to criticize or protest to express social grievances or political demands cast doubt over the upcoming elections.”
Reporters Without Borders said arrests of Algerian journalists during street protests against Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fourth term “does not bode well for their ability to cover this elections in an unimpeded manner.” As for foreign journalists, “many of them were issued visas late in the day accompanied by drastic restrictions, and yet the international media have an important role to play in a country in which the domestic media are badly lacking in pluralism and the level of self-censorship is very high.”
Al Arabiya reporter Paul Crompton pointed to “the absence of effective international monitoring,” and to “the European Union’s refusal to send election observers, ostensibly for the reason that Algerian authorities had failed to submit their request on time.” Independent European observers were reportedly not allowed to talk to the media.
It is no surprise, then, that Bouteflika’s opponents have cried foul. Runner-up Ali Benflis is refusing to recognize the result, alleging “fraud on a massive scale,” as well as “serious irregularities,” and “an alliance between fraud, suspicious money and the bought media.”
Bouteflika’s campaign chief vowed that if the president was re-elected, constitutional changes would create a “broad” and “participatory” democracy. “Every citizen will take part in the country’s development,” said Abdelmalek Sellal.
“We’re going to expand the rights of the people’s elected representatives, and the opposition parties will have their constitutional rights.” One might have more faith in such promises had it not taken 15 years to make them.
The only relatively contestable of the upcoming elections is Iraq’s, with no single party expected to win an absolute majority in the parliamentary race on April 30, from which a coalition government will be formed. Even there, however, the process is deeply flawed, influenced far more by sect, tribe and ethnicity than by actual policy.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (File photo: Reuters)
Iraq’s electoral commission said earlier this month that there will be no balloting in parts of the predominantly Sunni Anbar province - including major cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah - due to fighting between government forces and militants. This will ramp up anger and unrest among a community that has long complained of increasing state persecution and disenfranchisement.
Their grievances have been echoed by influential Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, who accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - a former ally - of wanting to “marginalize the Sunnis,” and of having “shelled and terrorized their provinces so they don’t vote.”
With violence in Iraq at its highest since 2008, and terrorist attacks expected to target the elections, Anbar may not be the only province that will miss out on voting, and many Iraqis will be fearful of risking their lives to exercise their democratic right.
The entire electoral process was thrown into turmoil last month when all of Iraq’s election commissioners resigned in protest over political and judicial “interference,” particularly regarding the barring of candidates. Maliki has been accused of using a vague clause in the election law - which bars candidates “of ill repute” - to silence opponents and critics to clear the way for his third term.
The commissioners retracted their resignations a week later, but the accusations have continued. Sadr has since accused the prime minister of “building a dictatorship,” a widely held view inside and outside Iraq.
Egypt’s presidential race, which will take place at the end of May, has descended into farce. Large swathes of the population have been disenfranchised by the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood - the country’s largest opposition group - and an increasingly draconian crackdown on dissent that has widened far beyond supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi. “Repression goes unabated in Egypt,” Amnesty International said earlier this month.
Supporters of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrate the announcement of his candidacy for presidential election in Tahrir square in Cairo March 28, 2014. (Reuters)
Article 7 of the presidential elections law, issued on 8 March, makes the decisions of the Presidential Elections Committee immune to appeal, so the rigging of results or a candidate's disqualification cannot be contested. This violates Egypt’s new constitution less than two months after it was approved, as Article 97 bans immunity for administrative decisions.
Article 18 of the presidential elections law gives candidates just 30 days to campaign and receive funds. This short timeframe inherently favors Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, the only candidate whose high profile means he does not need to do either.
Besides Iraq, the results of the other elections are a foregone conclusion, and in all cases, the processes are deeply flawed
The announcement setting the election dates came the day after Sisi declared his intention to run, after months of uncertainty. This compounds widespread suspicions that the race is being tailored around him. Furthermore, former President Hosni Mubarak’s call for Egyptians to back Sisi has added to fears that the country is returning full-circle to the decades of dictatorship that ended less than two years ago.
There has been increasing condemnation of the entire process by politicians outside the pro-Mursi camp. Some parties are boycotting the election altogether, and one candidate - Khaled Ali - retracted his decision to “take part in a charade whose end we all know is predetermined.”
Ahmed Shafik, who narrowly lost to Mursi in the last presidential race, said in a leaked recording that he would not run in the upcoming poll because it would be a “farce” and a “comedy show.” He added: “I know very well they’ll fix all the ballot boxes... They’ll fix everything” for Sisi. This is a striking statement coming from someone who had previously backed Sisi for president.
The result of all this is that there are just two candidates: Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi, who stands no chance. There were six times as many participants in the previous presidential election (another 10 were disqualified and one dropped out, making an initial total of 23 candidates). In comparison, the upcoming race can hardly be described as pluralistic.
Sisi is undoubtedly popular, but recent opinion polls contradict the oft-repeated claims about the extent of his popularity. A Sept. 2013 survey by Zogby Research Services found that 46% of Egyptians expressed confidence in him, while 52% did not. The figures were similar for Mursi, the man he deposed: 44% and 55%, respectively.
A poll by Baseera - the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research - in February this year showed that 51% would vote for Sisi, while 45% were undecided. However, another survey by the same pollsters the following month showed that the number of Egyptians who would vote for him had dropped considerably to 39%, with 59% undecided. Regardless of all this, he will be the country’s next president.
Syria’s presidential vote, expected in June, is a grotesque exercise in vanity. An election is literally being staged for a dictator who has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity to deny Syrians the right to choose their own leaders. Candidates will be able to register this week. It will either be a one-man show, as usual, or there will be a token rival whose sole purpose is to give the charade a veneer of legitimacy. Apologists for Bashar al-Assad - who won the last ‘election’ unchallenged with almost 98% of the vote - point to a new law that allows multiple candidates. However, they conveniently gloss over the glaring restrictions that, according to TIME Middle East bureau chief Aryn Baker, “make it all but impossible to enter the race.”Section 30 of the election law “is evidence that nothing has changed,” wrote Guardian Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov. It says candidates must have the support of at least 35 members of Assad’s puppet parliament, and have been resident in the country for the past 10 years.This stipulation “automatically knocks out even officially tolerated opposition members, all of whom have spent time in exile at one point or another over the past decade,” wrote Baker.
Other restrictions apply. Both of the candidates’ parents must be Syrian. Electors must hold a new ID that can only be issued by the regime, even though large swathes of the country are beyond its control. Syrians in regime-controlled territory are being pressured and threatened to show support for Assad, according to numerous media reports, much like how Syrians are often forced to demonstrate in support of him. Voters have to register at a government office, yet more than 6 million internally displaced Syrians are in opposition-held areas. Millions who fled their country will only be able to vote if they left via an official border point. They will also need to go to a Syrian embassy, “close to impossible for those in refugee camps and an unlikely proposition for the rest,” wrote Chulov.
“More than half of Syria’s population won’t have a voice when the ballot is called,” he added. “Many of those who can make it to a polling booth will have little incentive to go if they want someone else as leader.” The election result “is likely to have been agreed before polling day.” This explains why popular opposition figure Moaz al-Khatib has declined an online campaign - which according to Reuters has “quickly snowballed” - urging him to participate. The international mediator on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told the U.N. Security Council last week that Assad’s re-election would jeopardize mediation efforts to end the conflict. Indeed, the election violates the U.N.-backed Geneva process that is based on the establishment of a transitional government.
All parties to the talks, including the regime, accepted this as a precondition of participation. Assad has made a mockery of this stipulation ever since, as he is making a mockery of the meaning of democracy.
Mock Executions, Beatings: Journalists
Describe Syria Ordeal
Naharnet/Mock executions, hunger, thirst, cold, beatings, a makeshift chess game to pass the time... and a "surreal" snowball fight with their jailers.
Details are starting to trickle through of the ordeal experienced by the four French journalists who returned home Sunday after being held hostage for 10 months at the hands of the most radical of Syria's jihadist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But the journalists were reluctant to give too much away for fear of jeopardizing the safety of those who remain in captivity in the war-torn country, including U.S. journalist James Foley, a freelancer who had been working for Agence France-Presse and other media when he went missing in November 2012.
According to Didier Francois, 53, an experienced and highly respected war reporter for Europe 1 radio who was kidnapped on June 6 north of Aleppo along with 23-year-old photographer Edouard Elias, the first few days were particularly tough. "They put you in the mood straight away. The pressure is very, very, very strong. Four days without eating or drinking. On the fourth day without drinking, you start feeling really awful, handcuffed to a radiator and being beaten," he told Europe 1 radio on Monday. "It's... to break any will to resist." Francois and Elias were stopped by armed and masked men after they crossed the border into Syria from Turkey. "A Kalashnikov to the head, handcuffed in the back... In English, they told us 'Don't worry, we will check everything, this can be settled in one hour'... Typical," Francois said. Then "we find ourselves in t-shirts, without belts or shoes, without our phones, with nothing. And with something on the head."
Nicolas Henin, 37, was captured several weeks later in Raqqa in the north -- as was Pierre Torres, a 29-year-old photographer. The four were held together after having initially been detained separately, and appeared thin when they were welcomed home Sunday in an emotional reunion with their loved ones at an air base near Paris. Henin said in an interview with Arte television late Sunday that hunger had been tough to endure, as was the cold. "There was also a little physical abuse, but that's what all Syrian prisoners endure," he said. "Syria has always been a big world center of torture."
Francois said his jailers staged mock executions several times, placing guns on his temple or forehead. But the journalists refused to reveal more on any further physical violence they may have been subjected to.For his part, Henin attempted to escape on his third day of captivity, and managed to run for 10 or so kilometers (six or so miles) at night before being caught by his abductors.
The journalists were regularly moved around, and Henin counted around 10 different locations, in war zones and sometimes near the frontline.
To pass the time, Elias and Francois made a makeshift game of chess on a box of cheese, with nail clippers and a pen they kept hidden in the jacket and socks of the photographer.
The two also gave each other photography and scuba diving "lessons", and tried to remember key dates in French history. Contact with their jailers varied between "difficult phases" and "phases of total relaxation", said Francois. They knew next-to-nothing about what was happening in the outside world, apart from the death of Nelson Mandela which their jailers announced.
He also described a "surreal moment" when the guards entered their cell pretending to bring food and instead, "they had brought snow and they had a snowball fight with us."
The four were eventually brought by car to the border with Turkey, which they crossed on foot, and were picked up by Turkish soldiers on the other side overnight Friday to Saturday.
Source/Agence France Presse
New Syrian-Iranian chlorine bombs make
mockery of US-Russian chemical accord and UN monitors
DEBKAfile Special Report April 21, 2014/The household cleaning agent chlorine, in heavy concentration is purchased by Iran and and fitted with detonators, to provide President Bashar Assad with a vehicle for cheating on his undertaking to surrender Syria’s chemical arsenal under the year-old US-Russian chemical disarmament accord. And Assad is indeed getting away with using chlorine bombs, with crippling effect, especially on children, every few days. Nonetheless, Sigrid Kaag of the UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Saturday, April 19, that Syria had destroyed approximately 80 percent of its arsenal as agreed under the Kerry-Lavrov accord. At this rate, she said, Syria will have got rid of 100 percent of its chemical arsenal by the April 27 deadline.
The French President Francois Hollande admitted April 20, however, that the Syrian leader had continued to use chemical weapons on the front line, but he denied that definite proof had not been established. On April 7, Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon offered chapter and verse to prove that the Syrian army had perpetrated a chemical attack on civilians in he town of Harasta on March 27, causing scores of serious injuries and lasting damage to children. Yet although Assad continues to fight civilians with chemical weapons up to the present, neither the Obama administration, nor the Russian Kremlin or the United Nations find his actions reprehensible enough to warrant rebuke or even concern. Indeed, the UN OPCW expressed satisfaction with the Assad regime’s compliance with the Kerry-Lavrov pact at a time that thousands of Syrians, men, women and children, were being subjected to chemical attack – many crippled for life for lack of medical attention and medication.
On April 11, Syrian planes dropped the new weapon, made of Chinese-manufactured chlorine gas canisters rigged with explosive detonators, on Kafr Zita near Hama. Since then, British and French intelligence sources have reported at least four such attacks against the northern towns of Idlib and Homs and the Harasta and Jobar districts outside Damascus.
Assad is dropping these gas bombs at the rate of one every three days.
debkafile’s intelligence and military sources report that he is amply supplied by Iran, which is buying industrial quantities of chlorine made in Shanghai over the Internet, where the product is advertised by a company in the East Chinese town of Hangzhou. It costs $1,000 per ton. The Chinese firm is willing to meet minimum orders for 50 canisters and up to a maximum of 30,000. Most of its clients are owners of swimming pools and manufactures of common household cleaning agents based on chlorine. Our sources report that Tehran has so far ordered 10,000 canisters. They are delivered by Iranian military transports to Damascus military airfield, where Iranian technicians repackage the chlorine in containers suitable for dropping by aircraft. They are rigged with detonators for explosions to release the chlorine gas on targets. The use of chlorine as a weapon of war was banned by the 1925 Chemical Weapons Convention, which was promulgated after its use in World War I by the Germany army to gas hundreds of thousands of allied troops at Ypres. Assad’s grotesque use of a household cleaning agent to poison Syrian civilians, while earning UN commendation for putatively eliminating his chemical arsenal, sends four hard messages for Israel:
1. Western, Russian and Middle East leaders have known all along that the list of chemical substances which the Kerry-Lavrov accord listed for removal covered at best 70-75 percent of Assad’s chemical arsenal. But to prove the accord was working, they have held silent on his violations.
2. The Obama administration has a broader motive for overlooking the Chinese-Iranian pipeline bringing chlorine bombs to helpless Syrians: If Washington makes a fuss, China and Iran may retaliate with obstacles in the way of progress on May 5, when the six world powers meet with Iran to start drafting a comprehensive nuclear accord.
As we have reported more than once in recent months, the US president will not let anything stand in the way of this accord.
3. From the Israeli perspective, the accords and pacts produced by international diplomacy have proved worth less than the paper they were written on. Iran and Syria are cheating with complete impunity. Israel has no doubt that Iran will also find away round even the most stringent nuclear accord it concludes with the world powers and willy-nilly reach its objective of a nuclear bomb.
Iranian diplomats go around the world asserting that their religion - and a specific fatwa by their supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - prohibits their use of weapons of mass destruction. President Obama has even quoted this. Syria’s civilian victims of Iranian-Syrian chlorine bombs will no doubt take comfort from this assurance.
Can we Reconcile with the Brotherhood?
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Alawsat/Monday, 21 Apr, 2014
Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have all classified the Muslim Brotherhood as an illegal terrorist organization.
However, even if we classify the group as being outside the law, can we truly implement this decision on the ground? This is a difficult question. A Saudi royal decree issued on March 7 announced that a special committee formed of different ministries and the country’s security apparatus had designated the Brotherhood, along with other groups, as a “proscribed organization.” In addition to this, the royal order announced that anyone who is a member of these groups, or promotes them in any way, will face punishment. After Egypt was released from the iron grip of the Brotherhood following the ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi, the authorities in the era of interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi hesitated to outlaw the group, either out of fear of the reaction of the West and human rights organizations, or reprisals from the group itself. However, Cairo ultimately took the decision to outlaw the Brotherhood and designate it a terrorist organization after a number of terrorist attacks across Egypt it blamed on its supporters. After the prospect of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood had been raised by figures like well-known Islamic thinker Ahmed Kamal Abu Al-Magd or Cairo University Political Science Professor Hassan Nafaa, interim President Adly Mansour issued a statement saying that reconciliation with the Brotherhood was not on the table, particularly after the outbreak of violence.
The call for reconciliation with the Brotherhood, particularly following the alleged involvement of its members in violence, incited popular anger and dismay among many Egyptians who viewed such calls as a sign of the weakness and laxity of the authorities. One former Muslim Brotherhood member, lawyer Mokhtar Nouh, went so far as to say that any such reconciliation would be “unacceptable” and a “critical strike against the state of law in Egypt,” during an interview with Al-Arabiya. Egypt’s judiciary resolved the matter after an Alexandrian court issued a decision this week ordering the High Presidential Elections Committee not to accept the nomination of any Brotherhood candidates. Even those who are open to the idea of reconciliation with the Brotherhood, such as presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, have been careful to add that this would be conditional on the group’s abiding by legitimate political practices and the will of the Egyptian people, in addition to respecting the June 30 revolution that ousted Mursi. However, if the Brotherhood were to do this, the group would totally lose all its meaning. How should one deal with a complex and multifaceted group that excels at political maneuvering, particularly when its members have strong ties to the country’s business sector and economy and a long history in other national sectors, whether we are talking about labor, education or culture?
If you have taken the decision to outlaw such a group, then you must be cautious. And you should not be surprised to find many responsible people, even some within your own government, sympathetic to their plight. Many people will not be looking forward to this battle, whether out of a mistaken view of the Brotherhood’s ideology, or out of fear of the repercussions of such a stand. However there is no room for reconciliation in such battles. This is not personal; it is a battle over the future of political culture. Losing it is unthinkable.
Intelligence briefing: Israel's military experts open up on Hezbollah, Iran and peace talks
Ron Ben-Yishai /Ynetnews/21 April/14
Part 2/2 of special Ynet interview with the heads of the research and analysis divisions in the Military Intelligence's four 'theaters' about the challenges and threats facing Israel.
The second part of Ron Ben-Yishai's conversation with the four heads of Israeli Military Intelligence research and analysis division. Click here for the first part - in which two "theater" commanders discuss Egypt and Jordan, and the Palestinians.
Roi: There's no doubt that the most important event has been Hezbollah's involvement in Syria's civil war. This didn't begin last year, but it has grown. In the coming months or year, we'll look at the implications of this involvement on stability in Lebanon. This is important because the breakdown of order in Lebanon comes with the potential for very dramatic regional change, and this of course would be radiate outwards to us.
Already today a significant part of the Global Jihad that we see in Syria is spilling over to Lebanon. According to a UN report, there are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees inside Lebanon today. I'd like to remind you that Lebanon is a country of four million and something residents, who have to live with close to one million Syrian refugees.
What could happen as a result of this?
Roi: A shift in the ethnic ratios in Lebanon between Sunni and Shia Muslims. But for the most part I'm mainly concerned about the phenomenon of the Jihadist fighter and the Salafist Jihadist entering Lebanon and taking part in unprecedented activities. Who would ever have imagined that a car bomb would explode next to the Iranian embassy in the heart of Beirut? Who would ever have thought to fire rockets at Shi'ite towns in the Bekaa Valley… who has ever dared do that to Hezbollah?
And the implications for us?
Roi: The trickle of Global Jihad along our borders may very well increase the threat level. This is relevant to our northern front in general, and most certainly the border with Lebanon, which has been stable up to this point. Now we are beginning to see attempts to engage forces on the northern front, the Golan Heights and of course Har Dov, and this will only expand.
Did support for Shi'ite Hezbollah diminish following the deaths of hundreds in Syria?
Roi: Our impression at least is that the relationship between the organization and the community from which it comes, on which it leans, is still tight and strong.
I understand that Hezbollah has financial issues.
Roi: Yes of course. Funding problems just like the rest of us. The sanctions against Iran, Iranian aid to Assad and the war in Syria affect Hezbollah's funds.
Dudi: I will try to connect the things that my colleagues have said here. Firstly, the problem of a lack of governance exists in the region in a very obvious way. This manifests itself in the low level of personal security for civilians, and also the fact that the government is incapable of meet economic needs, creating discontent and unrest that is pushed into violence. Countries are close to collapse. Whether it's Syria, Libya or Iraq, or whether they are areas inside countries, like Sinai, where there is a struggle for control. It's one, very clear breaking point.
Secondly is the Shiite-Sunni divide. This division has always existed, but at the moment it is very significant. It's not just of religious nature, but also strategic. Among the warring parties in Syria, for example, we can see major actors on both sides, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, trading blows.
The third issue is the rise and eventual weakening of political Islam. This phenomenon was very obvious in Egypt with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which fell after a year. But there are other movements with a political agenda and an ideology of social religion. The trend for the rise of these movements has been growing weaker lately.
These three subjects bring an unprecedented spread and intensification of Global Jihad, which is a direct threat to Israel.
Dudi didn't say so in as many words, but Hamas is part of the flow of political Islam, and in Israel there are fears that if the movement continues to weaken in Gaza, there will be radicalization there too. In effect, this is already happening.
Dudi: There are some who would argue that the threat of Global Jihad will destroy itself as a result of conflicts and in-fighting such as can be found in Syria. But this approach underestimates the size of the threat. For them, we represent a common cause of war for which they could join forces again. So we will be the first to bleed as a result. Even when Jihadists fight Jihadists we can expect to find ourselves in the center of the equation.
Can you point to some direction in which the Middle East is headed as a result of "The Turbulence", which has now lasted for three years? In addition to the primary conflict between the Assad regime and the Sunnis, there are quite a few clashes between other forces which intersect and torpedo each other, not to mention the involvement of external powers... Can you make some kind of sense of this picture?
The simple answer is no. Some of the Gulf States reject the Iranian story, but also oppose the subject of the MB (Muslim Brotherhood), and then this leads to all of the conflicts that you mentioned. There is no one way to describe it, because if we try to grasp it from one point of view, then we are likely to misunderstand the complexity of the problem. The conclusion that we reach is that Israel functions in an environment of uncertainty and instability.
Again, there are some who will say that our level of security is actually on the rise thanks to the region's weak and conflict-torn establishments. But I think that in this situation, the more likely scenario is escalation and that's not good for us.
Do you think Assad will survive to next Passover?
Roi: That's not the right question when you're talking about a situation of complete uncertainty. We need to talk about a different issue: In a situation of complete uncertainty we need to build scenarios that will allow the decision-makers to understand and prepare for situations that may occur, instead of trying to direct what will happen. So we're not even trying to say if he will or won't survive.
Where is Iran going?
Dudi: In Iran there is currently a power struggle between President Rouhani and his camp, and the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards and the conservative Ayatollahs. The outcome of this struggle will have an effect not just on the nuclear issue, but also on the subversion and terror that Tehran exports.
Is there already a winner in this fight?
Dudi: It's a little early to judge. On the other hand, you can clearly see that something is very different in Iran and and its leadership strategy. Without going into details, we guess that this isn't just a cosmetic change, but an essential change. But the challenge they present us with is very real. We face, and I predict that the IDF will continue to face in the future, what is known as the "war between wars". The exposure of the Klos-C is just one example of the operations carried out in the "war between wars" - one among many. It's a threat that we are dealing with and we can't live in an illusion that Iran is now seeking peace.
An optimistic conclusion?
From my conversation with the four of you I get the impression that you can point out some kind of a shift in the coming year. Can we simply expect to see more of the same?
Michael: When talking about the Palestinians, your definition isn't bad at all. I think that there is potential that current trends will hold, but I'm an intelligence officer so I have to say this - the potential to continue these trends or to change them, in the West Bank and in Gaza, it depends also on us. The situation is very delicate. In both places by the way, the economic situation is a huge key for stability.
Dudi: There are four events that in certain ways have somewhat shaped and stabilized the very shaky situation we have had in the previous year: The return of the regime, we'll call it the "former" regime, to power in Egypt; the chemical disarmament agreement in Syria created a constellation of broad agreement among several parties; even the interim agreements between Iran and the West over nuclear issue, and also the continuation of the process with the Palestinians.
All of these are very delicate processes. But it could very well be that they will continue in interim form, with necessarily becoming permanent agreements.
It could be that there will be changes such as those Revital mentioned. But in the end, they are currently producing some relative balance in the Middle Eastern mechanism... I would be very careful. Meaning, in the very, very short term I think that there is a slightly higher level of stability than if for example you look to the beginning of 2013 or the end of 2012.
But in the long run, the instability and uncertainty will continue. What this demands is that we be prepared 24/7/365. Our challenge will be the scenario of an escalation. I believe that we can't allow ourselves to look at this reality as one that will solve all our problems and think that the coming storm will pass us by.