April 25/14


Bible Quotation for today/Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
Mark 16,15-18/Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’"

Pope Francis's Tweet For Tuesday
A simple lifestyle is good for us, helping us to better share with those in need.
Pape François
Un style de vie sobre nous fait du bien et nous permet de mieux partager avec celui qui est dans le besoin.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 24/14

For Christians, blessed are the dividers/By Michael Young/The Daily Star/April 24/14

An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet/By David Ignatius/The Daily Star/April 24/14

Whatever happened to deterrence/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Ashaeq Al Awsat/April 24/14

Assad's new exit strategy: to lose at the elections//Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/ April 24/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 24/14

Lebanese Related News

STL issues summons for the editors of Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed television

Kataeb to ask March 14 to nominate Gemayel
Rai calls for consensus president

Member of Nigerian 'Black Dollar Scam' Gang Arrested in Lebanon
LF Bloc Thanks MPs over 'Precious Trust' Placed in Geagea

U.S.-led Negotiations between Israel, Lebanon over EEZ Reach Deadlock

March 14 Alliance Mulling Another Candidate for Presidency

Future MP blasts Aoun as non-consensual candidate

Tashnaq youth demonstrate in front of Turkish embassy

Henri Helou refuses to pull out of the presidential race

Qahwaji from Tripoli: Security Plan to Proceed Until Completion

Car Theft Gang Mediators Arrested in Bekaa

10 Syrians Held Trying to Enter Lebanon with Fake IDs

Lebanon: Exercise in democracy
U.N. urges Lebanon to complete election on time

Russia to lend a hand to Lebanese Army: Lavrov

Fatah-Hamas unity deal enrages Israel

Rivals brace for presidential horse trading

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Syria Chemical Handover Nearly Complete

Syria air raid kills 27 as new candidates announced

Israel halts peace talks after Palestinian unity deal

Russia starts border army drill after Ukraine attacks rebels

Russian army ordered to advance toward Ukraine border. Moscow questions May election’s legitimacy

UN rights monitor criticises Bahrain over Shiite expulsion
US protests Iran's election to UN NGO committee -

UN Security Council threatens sanctions over S. Sudan violence  


STL issues summons for the editors of Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed television
April 24, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued Thursday summons for the editors of Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed television, accusing them of contempt and obstructing justice by publishing the names of alleged witnesses.  Karma Mohamed Tahsin al-Khayat from Al-Jadeed as well as the station’s parent company NEW TV S.A.L. have been summoned “to appear before the STL on two counts of contempt and obstruction of justice,” the U.N.-backed tribunal said in a statement.  Ibrahim Mohammad Al-Amin from Al Akhbar and the newspaper’s parent company Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. have also been summoned for similar charges. The court accuses Al-Jadeed of “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by broadcasting and/or publishing information on purported confidential witnesses.”It also charges the television station with failing to remove information on the alleged confidential witnesses from Al-Jadeed TV’s website and Al-Jadeed TV’s YouTube channel. Al-Akhbar and Amin are charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by publishing information on purported confidential witnesses in the Ayyash et al. case.” Khayyat and Amin may appear in person or via video link during a court hearing scheduled for May 13. The two are required by international law to participate in the hearing otherwise STL could issue warrants against them.
In January, Al-Akhbar which has been a staunch critic of the court and the tribunal's process, published the names, photos and information of what it described as witnesses of the prosecution in the international court case over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The information, which the newspaper said were leaks from within the tribunal, included full names, ages, and occupations for those listed. Al-Jadeed also broadcast the same information.
The Tribunal was established in 2007 to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It has so far charged five Hezbollah members of being involved in the killing but the court which held trials earlier this year is trying the suspects in absentia. Hezbollah has denied the allegations. Al-Jadeed denied the allegations, saying the television station had only sought to tell the truth.
“Today, the court is the one demeaning the media and trying to make the media its own tool,” the anchorman of Al-Jadeed said in the station’s editorial opening of the nightly news hour.
Questioning the reasons behind the court’s decisions to refrain from charging foreign newspapers which leaked STL news to the public, Al-Jadeed said: “We seek the truth. We are the first photo and the first word and such contempt [as charged by STL] was not made by us.” STL Judge David Baragwanath wrote in his decision to summon the editors that publishing names of alleged witnesses “may amount to interference with the administration of justice because it reduces the confidence of both actual witnesses and the public, in the ability and the will of the Tribunal to protect its witnesses.”
He also spoke about the vital principles of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, and the proper administration of justice. Judge Baragwanath stressed that the importance of the press “as the eyes, ears and voice of the community is at its highest when confronted with the power of public decision-makers, such as judges”. However the decision went on to stress that like judges, and the rest of the community, the media must comply with the law. “Nothing is more fundamental to the rule of law than that there must be no deliberate interference with the administration of justice”. This “leaves intact the ability of the press otherwise to comment on the Tribunal’s work, including criticizing it”. The accused may choose whether to appear at the court in person or by video-link. The initial appearances of the accused are scheduled for 13 May 2014.


LF Bloc Thanks MPs over 'Precious Trust' Placed in Geagea
Naharnet/The Lebanese Forces bloc thanked on Thursday lawmakers for placing their trust in LF chief Samir Geagea during the first round of the presidential elections a day earlier. The bloc said in a short statement that the “precious trust … was an essential motive for him to stay in the battle for the presidency.”“The democratic battle is aimed at achieving the patriotic objectives that we all aspire,” it added.
Lawmakers failed to elect a new president on Wednesday as no candidate was able to garner the needed two-thirds of votes to become Lebanon's next head of state. The session was attended by 124 of parliament's 128 members. But Geagea, who was backed by the March 14 alliance, received the votes of only 48 MPs. Sixteen lawmakers voted for Aley MP Henri Helou, one for Kataeb party chief ex-President Amin Gemayel and 52 MPs, mainly March 8 alliance members, cast blank ballots.

Qahwaji from Tripoli: Security Plan to Proceed Until Completion
Naharnet /Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji stated on Thursday that the military institution's security plan in the northern city of Tripoli will carry on until the whole mission is accomplished, the state-run National News Agency reported. During a tour to inspect the military troops in Tripoli, Qahwaji said “the security plan implemented in the city in assistance with the security apparatus, enhanced the people's confidence in the state and nation,” he said, assuring that the “army will continue to implement the plan until its completion.” After meeting with officers and military members, the Army Commander hailed their efforts and sacrifices. The army began implementing a security plan in Tripoli in an attempt to put an end to the clashes that frequently erupt between the city's rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. The army and security forces have so far arrested dozens of suspects and their efforts are ongoing to detain more. The plan was then implemented in the Bekaa region, with the security forces cracking down on gunmen, car theft gangs, and other outlaws.

Lebanon: Exercise in democracy
April 24, 2014/The Daily Star /The democratic process in Lebanon was respected Wednesday as 124 out of 128 MPs in the legislature showed up for the presidential polls, although no winner emerged.
The biggest “vote getter” was the blank ballot, as no candidate proved able to command the two-thirds majority needed to become the next president. This was natural, and widely expected, as the various factions engaged in a process of testing the waters and seeing how many votes could be secured by Samir Geagea, the candidate of most March 14 MPs, and Henri Helou, the candidate of centrist figure Walid Jumblatt. But a handful of MPs opted to cast their ballots for Civil War victims, and only ended up blemishing the session. They ignored the fact that a blanket amnesty for the war was approved by Parliament long ago, and the fact that no side in Lebanon has a clean record when it comes to that long, divisive conflict. There are many other forums in which objections to certain candidates may be put forward, and a presidential election, broadcast live on satellite television, is not one of them. Moreover, the public might have something to say about a spectacle in which one MP asked for a list of the candidates prior to the vote, in a move – consciously or unconsciously – that highlighted the ad hoc, unstructured process of electing a Lebanese president. But until needed reform moves materialize, MPs should build on the positive aspects of Wednesday’s vote as they prepare for next week’s follow-up session. Most importantly, they should allow the political considerations of Lebanon’s present and future to prevail, and not dredge up only one side of the country’s problematic past.

Rai calls for consensus president
April 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Cardinal Beshara Rai on Thursday called for a consensus president as he made a rare visit to Speaker Nabih Berri’s residence in Ain al-Tineh. “The next president should be accepted by everyone; this does not mean that he would be a weak [president],” Rai said. “On the contrary, this would be his strength. We need to unite the ranks." Rai, who visited the speaker ahead of a visit to Rome, said it was “necessary” for him to meet Berri before traveling. “We have always been in contact,” he said. The cardinal also hoped the quorum for Parliament’s session to elect a president next week would be secured. “The lawmakers have a duty to attend the parliamentary sessions because they have been elected by the people,” he said. “I hope the quorum will be secured for next week’s session and every session so that the lawmakers meet and elect responsibly.” Parliament convened Wednesday in the first session to elect a new president with 124 lawmakers out of 128 attending the session. The lawmakers have until May 25, the end of President Michel Sleiman’s six-year-term, to elect a new head of state. Berri scheduled another session next week on Wednesday for a new round of voting. Speaking from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, Rai also said “the president gets elected based on his past, present and future.”“We [should] not leave it to the last minute and get to the session without knowing who we would vote for,” he added. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea got 48 votes in Wednesday’s session. MP Henri Helou, who was nominated by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, won 16 votes and Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel received one vote, with 52 blank votes cast by most of the March 8 coalition’s MPs.

Kataeb to ask March 14 to nominate Gemayel
April 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The Kataeb party will ask the March 14 coalition to nominate Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel as the alliance’s presidential candidate in the second round of the presidential election, Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi said in remarks published Thursday. “The Kataeb party will ask the March 14 coalition to choose a candidate other than Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, after the first round did not conclude in his favor,” Azzi told As-Safir daily. “The Kataeb had already decided to nominate Gemayel for the presidency and he has every right to run for the election and to try to win as many votes as he can,” Azzi said. The minister, a senior Kataeb official, said that the March 14 coalition would hold discussions over the presidential election in the coming days in order to decide on a unified stance. Parliament is to hold a second vote on April 30, in which the winning candidate will need at least 65 votes to become president. 124 lawmakers of Parliament’s 128 members attended Wednesday's session, where Geagea won 48 votes. Meanwhile, MP Henri Helou, who was nominated by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, won 16 votes and Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel received one vote, with 52 blank votes cast by most of the March 8 coalition’s MPs.

U.N. urges Lebanon to complete election on time
April 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly urged lawmakers Thursday to complete the presidential election before the Constitutional deadline, a day after Parliament failed to elect a candidate. “I should take the opportunity in light of yesterday’s events to stress the priority that we attach to the continuity of state institutions and in that sense to welcome the beginning of the presidential election process yesterday and to underline our concern that it be completed successfully within the timeframe set by law,” Plumbly said. His comments came during a brief chat with reporters at the Grand Serail following a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. MPs failed Wednesday to elect a new president in the first round of polls in Parliament with presidential hopeful Samir Geagea receiving 48 votes while 52 lawmakers opted to cast a blank ballot. Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled April 30 for the second round of voting in which a nominee should receive 65 votes to win.
Plumbly also said he discussed with Salam the security plan aimed at restoring law and order in the country, saying he expressed appreciation for the measures. The U.N. official said he stressed the “international community’s support for Lebanon’s security and the steps this government is taking.” “Specifically, on the army, we had a meeting in Rome two weeks ago which was a preparatory one designed to reinforce international efforts to assist the Lebanese army,” he said. The two also spoke about the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, with over one million refugees. “I emphasized our continued support for the government as it tries to address the very immediate challenges, our understanding of the size of the challenge facing Lebanon and the readiness of the United Nations to stand side by side with Lebanon including, of course, in providing assistance to host communities,” he said.

U.S.-led Negotiations between Israel, Lebanon over EEZ Reach Deadlock
Naharnet/Mediation led by the United States to resolve a dispute between Lebanon and Israel over their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) has reached a deadlock after a top U.S. official described it as “excellent” earlier this month. U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy Amos Hochstein, who is mediating the talks between the two countries, confirmed that the dispute on oil block 9. The U.S. is holding on to a proposal to establish a “maritime Blue Line” that would help both countries control any violation of their territorial waters. The Israeli Globes said that the “border would be deemed temporary, until a permanent solution is found.” Lebanon had previously voiced consensus over the proposal. Hochstein met earlier in April during a short visit to Lebanon with senior officials including President Michel Suleiman, PM Tammam Salam, Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Speaker Nabih Berri's adviser Ali Hamdan, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly and head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc Fouad Saniora. The Globes said that Lebanon considers it as “a good starting point that needs fine tuning."However, the Israeli daily said the dispute between Lebanon and Israel on oil block 9 is delaying the matter. Lebanon's oil and gas wealth had attracted around 46 Arab and international companies in the second pre-qualification round of the tenders process. The tender has been previously postponed for several times over the failure of former Prime Minister Najib Miqati's cabinet to approve the decrees that call for demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and setting up a revenue-sharing model. The awarding of Lebanon's 10 oil blocks have been postponed from April to August over acute discord among Lebanese officials.
Lebanon and Israel are bickering over a maritime zone that consists of about 854 square kilometers and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars. Lebanese officials continuously expressed fear that Israel's discovery of a new offshore gas field near Lebanese territorial waters means the Jewish state could siphon some of Lebanon's crude oil. In March 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 34.5 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes the territorial waters of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus. The U.S. had offered to mediate between the sides in an attempt to reach a solution. Beirut argues that a maritime map it submitted to the U.N. is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement which is not contested by Israel.

Car Theft Gang Mediators Arrested in Bekaa
Naharnet/State security has arrested in the eastern Bekaa valley three people suspected of collaborating with car theft rings, the state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday. NNA identified the suspects with their initials as Q.A., Kh.M. and A.T. It said they were arrested in the Bekaa town of Bar Elias for playing the role of mediators between the car thieves and the owners of the vehicles.The suspects were involved in the collection of money from the owners so that they retrieve their stolen vehicles, the agency added

Future MP blasts Aoun as non-consensual candidate

Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - Future bloc MP Ahmad Fatfat said Change and Reform bloc leader Michel Aoun would make a divisive president and accused him of turning the elections into a tool for Hezbollah to exert pressure on its rivals. “Aoun, and the people who are behind him in March 8, deliver a clear message: either accept their conditions and have Aoun as a president, or there will be no elections,” Fatfat told Lebanese broadcaster MTV on Thursday. He added that he was sorry to see Aoun covering for Hezbollah in what he said was “destroying the presidency as an institution and turning it in to a space for bargaining and pressure by Hezbollah.”The Future MP went on to slam Aoun for walking out of Wednesday’s electoral session calling him non-consensual and accusing him of stirring up the past.
“Aoun showed that he is not a consensual politician at all yesterday, by voting blank, re-opening the wounds of the civil war and digging up graves, and by leaving the session in unison with the March 8 team. It is very clear that he is far from consensuality.” After casting blank votes, Aoun and other MPs belonging to the March 8 coalition left Wednesday’s electoral session and were not present when the votes were counted. Aoun said that he withdrew from the parliament session due to the lack of consensus on a president.

Tashnaq youth demonstrate in front of Turkish embassy
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT – Youth members of Lebanon’s Armenian Tashnaq Party demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in the Metn town of Rabieh on Thursday, calling on the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Henri Helou refuses to pull out of the presidential race

Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - MP Henri Helou refused to pull out of Lebanon’s ongoing presidential race after receiving just 16 out of 128 votes in the first round of elections on Wednesday, saying that he could not leave the country without a consensual candidate. “The country needs a consensual candidate who is open to everyone,” Helou told Lebanese broadcaster Risala Radio on Thursday. “Saving the country is more important than anything else. I will not withdraw.” He added that: “The statements of all parties were clear yesterday. I will begin discussions with the various blocs.”In Wednesday’s session, the Lebanese parliament failed to elect a president for the republic to replace Michel Suleiman, whose term ends on May 25, in the first round of elections held on Wednesday. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, the first to publicly announce his candidacy, gained 48 out of 128 votes against 52 blank votes cast by most of the March 8 coalition’s MPs. Meanwhile, Helou, who was nominated by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, won 16 votes and Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel received one vote. At the end of the session, Speaker Nabih Berri called for another round of elections on Wednesday, April 30. Political custom has it that parliament cannot legally meet to elect a president unless two-thirds of its members are present. In parliament's first vote for president, a candidate must receive 86 votes to be elected. If no candidate gets 86 votes, the threshold for election lowers to "half-plus-one," or 65, votes.

Al-Rahi Expected to Meet with Hariri in Rome over Presidential Polls
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is scheduled to travel to Rome on Thursday to attend several religious ceremonies and is expected to meet with al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri, al-Joumhouria daily reported. The newspaper said that al-Rahi will attend a ceremony on Saturday night on the centenary of the establishment of Saint Maroun church in Rome. President Michel Suleiman will also participate in the event. The patriarch will attend on Sunday the canonization ceremony in St. Peter's for Pope John Paul II and his Italian predecessor John XXIII.
He will later head to France where he will meet with the Lebanese community at the Roman Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes. Al-Joumhouria said that al-Rahi and Hariri held a long telephone conversation on Sunday night. Their discussions focused on the presidential elections and the need to elect a head of state within the constitutional deadline. According to the newspaper, al-Rahi and Hariri could meet in Rome on Sunday. It quoted Bkirki sources as expressing their “extreme discontent” with the lack of quorum caused by the withdrawal of the majority of March 8 lawmakers from parliament after voting in the polls. They described it as an evasion of an agreement reached in Bkirki, in which the different Christian parliamentary blocs vowed to guarantee a quorum in all the election rounds and not only the first. The parliament will now hold a second vote on April 30, in which the winning candidate will need only a simple majority of 65 votes. An Nahar daily said a meeting that was scheduled to be held in Bkirki between the top Maronite leaders was postponed due to al-Rahi's trip which will last until May 6.

March 14 Alliance Mulling Another Candidate for Presidency
Naharnet/The March 14 alliance is mulling to adopt the candidacy of another official in the run for presidency after Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea failed to garner the required parliamentary votes.
Sources close to the coalition said in remarks published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the March 14 leadership is reconsidering its options after the first round of voting. The sources said that the March 14 camp is seeking to push forward the candidacy of Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel in the second round after Geagea failed to earn 86 votes, which the winning candidate will need to guarantee victory. The parliament failed to elect a new president on Wednesday, with no candidate securing the two-thirds of the votes needed to win and many lawmakers leaving their ballots blank. Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, who is loyal to Gemayel, told As Safir newspaper that the party will propose to the alliance the candidacy of the Kataeb chief. “The March 14 coalition will hold consultations in the upcoming few days ahead of the second parliamentary session on Wednesday to unify its stance,” Qazzi added. For his part, al-Mustaqbal lawmaker Ahmed Fatfat revealed in comments published in An Nahar that the March 14 coalition kicked off discussions after the first round to evaluate the situation. “The alliance's candidate for the second round is being discussed,” Fatfat added. The parliament will hold a second vote on April 30, in which the winning candidate will need only a simple majority of 65 votes. On Wednesday, 124 of the parliament's 128 members were present, with 48 casting their ballots for Geagea and one vote was submitted for Gemayel. But speaking after the vote, Geagea said he would not drop out of the race. Gemayel said later that “the party will take the decisions that can achieve our goals and this is why I'm not in the race at the moment, although my nomination has been on the table since the very beginning.”

For Christians, blessed are the dividers
April 24, 2014 /By Michael Young /The Daily Star
Why is it that many people misjudged the Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s presidential bid by whether he became president? Using that benchmark, Geagea’s inability to secure a majority Wednesday was a defeat. In fact, his aims were different, and win or lose, he came out of the experience in a better position. Geagea had three principal objectives in his candidacy: to compel March 14 in general, and the Future Movement in particular, to endorse him as their favorite. In that way he strengthened his hand as the coalition’s primary Christian representative at a time when Future has improved its relationship with Michel Aoun. Geagea also apparently sought to turn the election into a contest between him and Aoun, knowing that such a situation would effectively neutralize both, blocking Aoun. Whether this gambit has actually succeeded remains to be seen. And third, Geagea sought to legitimize the idea that Samir Geagea can be a presidential candidate, amid a widespread belief that, given his past, he could never pretend to such an office. While the Lebanese Forces leader is no worse than others from the war generation who are in positions of authority today, the stigma that has stuck to him has somehow been more enduring. That is why Geagea sought a way of rewriting his personal narrative. Geagea can look with some satisfaction on his strategy and will hope to cash in on this when parliamentary elections come later this year. But there was also something disconcerting in Geagea’s endeavor, a feeling that he was wrestling with old phantoms. No event better illustrated this than Geagea’s decision to show journalists a replica of his Defense Ministry prison cell that he built at his home in Maarab, complete with sound effects. Most would have buried that past. Geagea, partly for opportunistic reasons, has refused to do so. That is not surprising given that Geagea and Aoun, whose enmity once devastated the Christians, are still the main protagonists in a struggle for communal predominance. They cannot break free from that rivalry, and Christians cannot break free from both men.
Unlike Geagea, Aoun has not bothered to grace the public with a political program. There was a time when the Aounists serenely explained that they had such a program, and that their understanding with Hezbollah was written down. Not that such transparency changed much, but the implicit message was that Aoun did politics differently than other leaders in Lebanon.
Today things have changed, and the Aounist faithful are not averse to a backroom deal that could bring their champion to office. Aoun has not declared his candidacy, preferring to present himself as a compromise candidate who will take power only if invited by Lebanon’s diverse factions.
By virtue of his larger representation in Parliament and government, Aoun has been less a hostage to the past than Geagea. He has had more on his political plate to propel him forward. And yet his ambitions, too, were once thwarted by an inability to shake off earlier animosities. In 2006, Aoun formally allied himself with Hezbollah against the March 14 coalition, hoping this would advance his plan to become president once Emile Lahoud’s term ended. In fact it did precisely the opposite, ensuring that Aoun would be opposed by the March 14 parliamentary majority. Had Aoun remained in the center, between March 8 and March 14, he would have been Lahoud’s natural, indeed uncircumventable, successor on the basis of the large victory he had won in the elections of 2005.
What motivated Aoun was, principally, his hostility to the Hariri family and Walid Jumblatt, whom he blamed for having tried to isolate him politically, and who had been the general’s political adversaries prior to that. Rather than putting his personal antagonisms aside in the pursuit of the presidential prize, Aoun allowed himself to be manipulated in the March 8-March 14 battle, ultimately being shunted aside when a consensus candidate was found in Michel Sleiman. Aoun appears to have realized his error, and recently he has tried to sound presidential. But it could be too late, though there is a possibility that Saad Hariri could support Aoun in a maneuver that has several politicians worried, Geagea and Jumblatt above all.
With the first round of elections over, there is now room for a variety of options. Aoun can delight in the fact that Geagea received fewer votes than the number of blank ballots. Jumblatt can be happy that Henri Helou received 16 votes. In other words, if March 14 were to support Helou in the second round, they and Jumblatt would name the president. This could ward off a Hariri-Aoun rapprochement, which would marginalize Jumblatt. But beyond the specifics of the election, a larger question is how long will the Christians be ruled by the figures from their past? The broader community, and the Maronites in particular, are in perpetual search of a strongman. This makes them no different than Lebanon’s other communities. But when the men toward whom they are turning are the same ones who destroyed Christian fortunes, you have to wonder about the Christians’ priorities. For now Lebanon is still without a president, and it’s not for the Christians to decide who becomes one. The next president will have a far more momentous task, that of leading Lebanon through the labyrinth of Sunni-Shiite tensions and ensuring that the country remains united. Having divided their own community, Aoun and Geagea seem poorly equipped for such an undertaking.
*Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
April 24, 2014/By David Ignatius/The Daily Star /As the Iran nuclear talks reach roughly the halfway point in the six-month timetable for negotiating a comprehensive agreement, both sides report slow, steady progress in closing gaps – but no deal yet. A positive sign was a tentative plan floated this month to reduce the threat posed by Iran’s heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak. When I talked in Tehran with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in December, Arak appeared to be a deal-breaker. But negotiators seem to have found what they like to call a “win-win” solution. The Arak compromise formula was outlined recently in the journal Arms Control Today. It proposes feeding the reactor with low-enriched fuel and operating it at lower power. The output would be more of the medical isotopes Iran says it needs and much less of the plutonium that the West fears could fuel a bomb. “The issue is virtually resolved,” Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Akbar Salehi, said last week. The agreed proposal is “to redesign the Arak reactor and to reduce its plutonium production to one-fifth.”
Officials close to the talks note several interesting aspects of the first rounds of discussion, as negotiators push toward a tentative deadline of July 20:
First, Russia has continued to play a constructive role, despite President Vladimir Putin’s confrontational behavior in Ukraine. U.S. officials believe that Putin genuinely doesn’t want a nuclear-armed Iran, and that he sees Russia’s role as an international power enhanced by its partnership in the P5-plus-1 coalition. The nuclear talks give Putin influence he would be reluctant to give up.
Second, Iran continues to mix its pragmatic stance in the negotiations with stridently anti-Western rhetoric, most recently in Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s March 21 message for the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz. Khamenei’s speech included one passage describing the Holocaust as “uncertain” and in another proclaiming that Iran had a “resistance economy” that could defy Western sanctions.
Third, a sign of Iran’s pragmatism, amid its leader’s bombastic rhetoric, was Salehi’s comment that Iran had “no problem” with opening its military site at Parchin to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Fourth, negotiators on both sides appear to be taking seriously the six-month bargaining timetable set in the interim deal reached in Geneva last November that temporarily froze Iran’s nuclear program. The official negotiating clock started ticking Jan. 20.
U.S. and European officials initially believed a rollover of the interim freeze might be needed, adding another six months after July 20. But there now appears to be renewed focus on the deadline – partly because Iran wants relief from sanctions, and partly because November’s U.S. elections may yield a more conservative Congress that’s less supportive of an agreement.
Iranian and Western negotiators are now beginning to draft proposed language for a final, comprehensive pact. They’ll begin comparing those texts next month, officials expect.
The trickiest remaining problem is the limitation of enrichment by Iran to a level consistent with a civilian nuclear program. The Geneva agreement affirmed Iran’s “right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” including a “mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures.” But what will such language mean in practice? Iran currently has 19,000 centrifuges; how many would have to be mothballed?
Secretary of State John Kerry suggested in Senate testimony this month that the U.S. goal was to extend Iran’s current “breakout” time for producing enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb from “about two months” to something longer. “So six months to 12 months is – I’m not saying that’s what we’d settle for – but even that is significantly more,” Kerry said.
A detailed explanation of possible formulas was published last month by Robert Einhorn, formerly the State Department’s top arms-control official. He noted that Iranian breakout time would be 12 months if it were allowed to operate 6,000 new generation IR-1 centrifuges with a stockpile of only 500 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium. If the number of centrifuges were cut to 2,000 and Iran were allowed 1,500 kilograms of 3.5 percent material, the breakout time would lengthen slightly to 12 to 14 months.
Negotiators will be focused on such highly technical calculations over the next three months, as the clock ticks. The deeper question is whether Khamenei’s Iran is really ready for fundamental accommodation with the West. Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace rightly cautions: “I don’t see how you can get a technical resolution to what’s essentially a political conflict.”
The details of a possible deal are visible, but not yet the will in revolutionary Iran to compromise.
**David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

Russian army ordered to advance toward Ukraine border. Moscow questions May election’s legitimacy
DEBKAfile Special Report April 24, 2014/Thursday, April 24, saw a steep escalation of tensions between Moscow and Kiev after the Ukrainian army killed up to five pro-Russian militiamen in an attack on three checkpoints outside the eastern town of Slavyansk. President Vladimir Putin threatened “consequences.” He added that the legitimacy of the May 25 elections was in serious question. Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu ordered the Russian army to start drills at Rostov on Don near the Ukraine border. debkafile’s military sources report that this order amounted to a state of alert, which required the troops to close their distance to the Ukraine border and take up prepared positions as bridgeheads for entering East Ukraine when the order is given. Ukraine’s acting president demanded that Moscow pull its troops back from the border and stop “blackmail.”In the past 48 hours, Russian officials have kept up an unprecedented stream of invective against the provisional government in Kiev and the Obama administration’s military, intelligence and financial intervention in Ukraine. The opening shot was fired by Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who Wednesday, April 23, blamed the US for the “pushing through the most radical scenario” in Kiev to save its $5 billion investment in regime change. He was commenting on the statement by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland who told CNN Monday that the US had invested around $5 billion in supporting democracy in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came next. He charged Washington with “running the show very much, very much.” As proof, Lavrov pointed to the timing of the Ukrainian government's re-launch of its security operation just after a two-day visit by US Vice President Joe Biden. The Ukraine army “had been ordered to shoot at people engaged in peaceful protests,” he said. Yet Kiev had failed to disarm its own extremists.This was rounded off Thursday by Putin, who accused the Kiev “junta” of using the “military machine” to perpetrate a “very, very serious war crime against its own people” and promised “consequences.” All this rhetoric added up to a bitter assault by Moscow on Washington for its support of what it regards as an illegitimate regime in Kiev and blame for what is seen as its illegal military actions against the pro-Russian militias of eastern Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis has pursued US President Barack Obama in his four-nation Asian tour. In answer to reporters’ questions in Tokyo, he accused Moscow Thursday of failing to halt actions by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine and not acting “either in the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva."
He said the US had further sanctions against Russia "teed up."

Opinion: Whatever happened to deterrence?
By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Ashaeq Al Awsat
We have grown accustomed to the deterrence theory formulated as the Cold War began. The concept covers “nuclear deterrence” down to the last detail. Nuclear deterrence—or, more accurately, the “balance of terror” and mutually assured destruction theory—constituted a key element of the Cold War and gave rise to several important results.
The first was how this idea facilitated the independence of the majority of African, Asian and Latin American states by means of revolutions supported by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc against the old colonial powers. Second was the US inheriting the legacies of the old colonial powers, particularly those of Great Britain and France, in the 1950s. A third was the entrenchment of bipolarity, between the US and the Soviet Union, as proxy wars and military coups spread across the world.
The logic of deterrence appealed to the mindset of American, Soviet and European leaders who resorted to military intervention whenever they felt that their direct interests were under threat. The other side was aware that it had to balance its interests in choosing where to fight and where to accept defeat. That logic was also based on an implicit understanding that each superpower had its own private “backyard”—its sphere of influence—where it was not to be approached or manipulated. Instead, competition and confrontation were tolerated in other, less exclusive, arenas.
Since the 1950s, we have witnessed several interventions of all kinds, sizes and aspects: in Korea, Iran, Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Indochina, the Middle East, and several Latin American and African countries.
Wars, coups, troop depoloyments, and military incursions aimed at toppling leaders of all political stripes were the defining feature of that long period of competition between these two axes. Even in the electoral campaigns of European democratic parties, the issue of nuclear armament formed a significant part of the manifestos of Right-wing, Left-wing and liberal-leaning parties—underlining the most dangerous theater of confrontation during the Cold War.
To highlight how important this issue was, we can take an example from British Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman. He famously described his party’s 1983 election manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history”, because at that time his party, under the leadership of the leftist/pacifist Michael Foot, insisted that Britain unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons. That “suicidal” manifesto deprived Labour of power until 1997.
Thus deterrence as a concept is highly significant to relations between countries. It is also realistic and reasonable, whatever your moral beliefs about the issue. The world of politics is based on interests, but there must also be a sense of prudence based on the prevailing circumstances. In other words, sometimes compromise is required, while at other times one must remain steadfast, depending on the situation. Perhaps, among the most significant characteristics of the successful leader is knowing when to appease and when to threaten, with whom to act tough and with whom to be lenient.
Throughout the long US–Soviet conflict, the world witnessed a series of mutual challenges between the two superpowers: The Soviets imposed their will by crushing the Hungarian uprising in 1956, in the face of Washington’s incompetence. Then, in 1962, President Kennedy confronted Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev by setting up a naval blockade of Cuba during the now-infamous Cuban Missile Crisis, when the USSR attempted to install intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba as a response to Washington’s deployment of nuclear missiles in Turkey. Ultimately, Khrushchev had to swallow his pride to avert disaster. But, Moscow soon took back its place of power, cracking down on the “Prague Spring” in the former Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The confrontation between the two superpowers continued throughout 1979 as conflicts ensued in Iran and Afghanistan and the Middle East became embroiled in the Arab–Israeli conflict. Despite his success in sponsoring the Camp David Accords, President Carter’s response to the Iran hostage crisis was weak, leading to his crushing electoral defeat by Reagan’s Republican Party hawks in November 1980. During the tough Reagan presidency, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev faced the US’s strategic extortion with excessive moderation and conciliatory compromises, provoking the ire of his domestic rivals and precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Today, President Obama claims to have been elected into office twice on the basis of his anti-war election campaign. Thus he is content with making threats and denunciations and imposing economic sanctions in the continued strategic confrontation with a reinvigorated Russia led by ambitious no-nonsense leaders.
Obama and his team seem like starting their bids with Moscow as well as Tehran by announcing in advance that Washington has no intentions of going to war. Such an announcement—as we can clearly see—not only reassures Washington’s enemies, but gives them a freehand to do what they want.
Obama followed this feeble policy in Syria while Iran and Russia publicly and directly supported President Bashar Al-Assad with personnel and weapons. The White House’s barrage of empty threats and red lines were unceremoniously dismissed. Such US passivity has not gone unnoticed by Vladimir Putin; indeed, they have revived Moscow’s hopes of reclaiming its traditional spheres of influence, particularly in the former republics of the Soviet Union. The annexation of Crimea is just the start.
Where will Putin’s ambitions, fed by Moscow’s bitterness at its defeat in the Cold War, end?
A lot depends on how President Obama reacts. Thus far, Washington has concentrated on threatening economic sanctions, international isolation and a number of other measures it has convinced itself will pressure the Russians into losing their growing confidence in their capabilities. Earlier this week, some in Washington thought of reminding Russia that the “balance of power” between the two states is titled in favor of the US. Well, perhaps there is some truth in that. Having somehow overcome its crushing economic crisis thanks to Obama’s astute domestic policy, the US is now in a better position to confront external threats. However, much depends on the current US administration’s belief in what constitutes an effective and realistic foreign policy against rivals who are ready to play the brinkmanship game.
The reality of the situation now is that the threats from Moscow and Tehran are creating new realities on the ground.

Assad's new exit strategy: to lose at the elections?
Thursday, 24 April 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
“Do you think Bashar al-Assad decided to hold presidential elections in Syria so he can exit from the crisis and cede power in a legitimate manner?" This is what an optimist, or what we call a dreamer, asked me amidst all this chaos! Those who know Bashar al-Assad’s history are not surprised of his past actions and will not be convinced by any future promises. The man plans to stay Syria's president against everyone's will and regardless of the means he will have to adopt from killing people using explosive barrels to playing the electoral ballots game. So why is he bothering to hold the elections and make people choose a president after he refused their wish for him stand down from his position? Why is he punishing them by destroying the country over their heads while making them vote?
It's because he thinks holding the elections buys him more time, distracts the West and sends a clear message that he's staying in power for many more years. He could have postponed the elections for a year or two under the excuse of war and thus continued to be president. He's aware that people mock the elections as a charade and that it will provoke the Western countries amid their efforts to broker peace.
A Twitter user posted this image on the social networking site with the caption: "The new presidential candidates in Syria" A history of brutality, fake democracy
Assad is an expert at engineering elections. He's previously forged them for parliament and his party - just like his dad did. It's certain the elections will be "honest" - meaning all votes will go to him because voters will not dare vote for anyone other than him.
“Assad is holding elections because he thinks holding the elections buys him more time, distracts the West and sends a clear message that he's staying in power for many more years. ”
Assad is a man who killed tens of thousands without distinguishing among them or knowing their identities because they dared reject him. It's easy for such a man to kill those who don’t vote for him when he has their name and address! Two years ago, this time, he resorted to using tricks for the parliamentary elections.In May 2012, 12,000 polling stations opened at the same time he sent his forces to launch fierce battles in north -west Syria. He also ordered the use of invisible ink to further guarantee integrity. What's the value of integrity and secrecy when elections are imposed? It was said that 5 million out of 10 million eligible voters participated in the elections. This is impossible!
And of course, Assad's party won the same number of parliamentarian seats it previously had - minus one seat! This is the maximum level of integrity and democracy he allows.
Truth is, true democracy is not a problem just in Syria and Assad is not the only president preventing democracy as the entire region is a barren desert when it comes to it. The Syrians have faced this issue ever since Hafez al-Assad was president, with his brutality even worse than the practices of eastern Europe regimes.
Syria, during Hafez and Bashar's eras, has been a country of detentions and repugnant governance with a terrifying security regime. It's normal for people to revolt regardless of whether the regime claims democracy or not. Libya, and under Muammar Qaddafi's rule, lived in a state of terror and suppression to an extent where people took up arms to confront him and took the risk of heading towards an unknown future.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 24, 2014.