April 26/14


Bible Quotation for today/‘Peace be with you
John 20,19-25/When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’


Pope Francis's Tweet For Tuesday
We must not let ourselves fall into the vortex of pessimism. Faith can move mountains!
Pape François
Nous ne devons jamais nous laisser piéger par le pessimisme. La foi déplace les montagnes !

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 26/14

The Khomeinist Dome: Iran’s Larger Nuclear Strategy/By Dr. Walid Phares/Canada Free Press/April 26/14

Moving Beyond Iraq’s Nightmare/By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat/April 26/14

Would Hamas finally bow to Fatah/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 26/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 26/14

Lebanese Related News

John Paul II: Beloved Pope who Left Reformists Cold

John XXIII: A Tradition-breaking Pope Like Francis
Lebanese Journalists Rally in Solidarity with Al-Akhbar, Al-Jadeed Colleagues over STL Summons
U.N. Chief: Syria War Threatens Lebanon's Stability

West Expresses Concern over Presidential Vacuum, Calls for Electing New Head of State
Hariri, Rai call for serious consultations over election
Berri says next electoral session serious

Berri Describes 1st Round as 'Practice,' Says Next Session Aimed at Electing President

LebanonGeagea Says to Stay in Race 'until the End' Regardless of Aoun's Nomination

Karma Khayat, Ibrahim al-Amin May be Jailed for 7 Years, Fined €100K

Russia to lend a hand to Lebanese Army

Seven injured in Akkar road accident

Probe into Daftardar’s terror case finalized

Rockets hit Bekaa valley town

Army arrests suspected robber in Bekaa

Peacetime president who salvaged the state

Israeli Soldiers Search al-Wazzani Area

LebanonAsiri Denies Saudi Arabia Interfering in Presidential Election

Wanted Jordanian Suspect Traveling from Syria's Yabrud Arrested in Arsal

Old Man, 73, Commits Suicide over Negligence

Lebanese Actress Leila Hakim Dies at the Age of 83

Wage Hike Committee to Complete Mission Next Week amid Renewed SCC Threat

 Miscellaneous Reports And News

Fatah-Hamas deal puts peace with Israel in limbo

Palestinian unity deal brings little joy to camps

Fatah and Hama Unity: Divide and conquer
Obama: Israel, Palestinians in need of 'pause' in talks

China believes arms firm didn’t violate rules in Syria

Blackout in Syria's Aleppo enters 2nd week: activists
More Jordan unrest after clashes kill one
Russia: Kiev will face justice for 'bloody crime'

Two killed in Egypt protest clashes

Russia Says Fresh Claims of Syria Chemical Use 'False'

Iranians Deliver Rouhani's First Political Defeat


U.N. Chief: Syria War Threatens Lebanon's Stability
Naharnet/The U.N. secretary-general is warning that the 3-year-old conflict in Syria poses a serious threat to the stability of Lebanon, as thousands of refugees stream into the small country and weapons and fighters are transferred out. Ban Ki-moon's latest report to the U.N. Security Council, circulated Thursday, says the involvement of Lebanese groups in the Syrian fighting "has had a devastating impact on security," including several terrorist attacks in Lebanon "by groups claiming that they are acting in response to Hizbullah's fighting in Syria." Lebanon, with its own history of a 15-year civil war, has a fragile sectarian mix that supports both sides in the Syrian conflict. Sunnis tend to support Syrian rebels. Shiites tend to support the Syrian regime. Hizbullah has sent fighters to support the regime's forces, and the U.N. chief again called on that to stop. Ban's report also highlighted the growing humanitarian problem as Lebanon, "the smallest and most vulnerable of Syria's neighbors," hosts the most of its refugees.
Earlier this month, the U.N. refugee agency marked a grim milestone: the one-millionth refugee to register in Lebanon, a country of just 4.5 million. The agency has said it is registering an average of more than one refugee a minute there. The country is "facing significant humanitarian and socio-economic challenges as a consequence," Ban's new report said. The U.N. chief also noted the almost-daily "cross-border shooting, shelling and rocket attacks" from Syria into Lebanon, which killed at least 12 people in the past half-year. All were in the border town of Arsal, which was hit by multiple rockets on Jan. 17 and by at least 20 missiles on March 3 and 16 during raids by the Syrian Air force. Ban called for "full respect" for Lebanon's sovereignty, including from Israel, whose continued overflights of Lebanese territory he described as "deplorable."Source/Associated Press.


West Expresses Concern over Presidential Vacuum, Calls for Electing New Head of State
Naharnet/Western countries urged Lebanese officials on Friday to elect a new president within the constitutional deadline, voicing fear of vacuum at the helm of the country's highest Christian post, which will have negative impacts on Lebanon. Informed sources reiterated in comments published in As Safir newspaper the U.S. administration's stance, which highlights the importance of “carrying out the polls on time and avoid vacuum.” The sources described the first round of parliamentary sessions set to elect a new president as “positive,” adding that the U.S. “is counting on Lebanese officials to go on in the process.” German Ambassador to Lebanon Christian Clages told An Nahar newspaper that his country is “closely following up the situation in Lebanon and the presidential elections.”
He expressed fear of vacuum, pointing out that “the international community encourages Lebanese arch-foes to elect a new head of state according to the constitution.”
Clages considered that “things were on the right track.” Visiting German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen held talks on Thursday with outgoing President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and several other officials. The U.S. sources denied to As Safir daily “reports saying that Washington voiced its interest in a certain candidate... We are still neutral and we prefer that the Lebanese prove that they can elect a president on their own.”The newspaper said that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Lawrence Silverman will travel to France soon to discuss several matters including the Lebanese presidential elections. The first round of the elections on Wednesday failed to elect a new president amid disputes over the name of the new head of state, which threatens a vacuum at the helm of the country's most important Christian post. 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 March 14 official, Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea.

Israeli Soldiers Search al-Wazzani Area
Naharnet /An Israeli military unit crossed on Friday the technical fence near al-Wazzani river and then left, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the soldiers searched the area before pulling out. According to al-Jadeed TV, the unit, which consisted of 20 soldiers, crossed the barbed wire but did not cross the U.N.-drawn Blue Line. They left the area and took position near the Hosn al-Wazzani leisure park, the TV station said.The soldiers later withdrew to Israel, it added.


Lebanese Journalists Rally in Solidarity with Al-Akhbar, Al-Jadeed Colleagues over STL Summons
Naharnet /Several journalists rallied near the Ministry of Information in Beirut on Friday afternoon, to protest the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's summons of al-Jadeed TV and al-Akhbar newspaper's journalists on charges of “contempt and obstruction of justice.” The STL announced on Thursday that it has summoned Karma Mohammed Tahsin al-Khayat from al-Jadeed, as well as the station’s parent company New TV S.A.L., to appear before it on two counts of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice. Ibrahim Mohammed al-Amin from al-Akhbar, as well as the newspaper’s parent company Akhbar Beirut S.A.L., have been summoned on one count of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice. Al-Khayat and al-Amin both stressed during the protest that they will not stop publishing “what has to be published,” calling on the Minister of Information to resign. "Lebanese authorities allowed the STL to violate sovereignty and gave it unrestrained powers, and thus, the Tribunal gave itself the power of prosecuting journalists,” al-Amin told LBCI television. "If authorities did not play their role, they would be allowing more violations to take place,” he added. “Let the (Tribunal's officials) go and investigate who leaked this information.”Asked about whether he will stand trial, he said: “This is a legal and procedural aspect that needs to be studied.”
"But nothing will stop us from continuing to publish what must be published and out stance will not change. The political authority is greatly responsible.”
The al-Akhbar journalist also questioned Minister of Information Ramzi Jreij's “silence.”"His silence over this issue is offensive. The ministry has no role in the first place and the minister must resign.” On his opinion on the STL, he told al-Jadeed: “We are over the intimidation stage that is practiced under the slogan of the truth, and the STL is Lebanon's enemy and we will not recognize its legitimacy or its powers.”"We will not commit to any arbitrary decision or procedure taken by the STL, and Lebanese authorities must feel responsible for the oppression that is happening.”Meanwhile, al-Khayat considered the summons a “warning to the Lebanese state.” "It is either we have sovereignty or we don't,” she told MTV. “This is not an attack on journalists.”"What are these discretionary decisions for?” she asked.
"We are convinced that we did nothing wrong regarding the STL, and we have tasked lawyers with this issue and we will take a decision based on their recommendation.”"We will continue on same path and the STL's decision will not stop us.”Change and Reform bloc MP Abbas Hashem, who took part in the sit-in, told al-Jadeed that any threat to the freedom of the press contradicts with the basis on which the Tribunal was found.” "What is happening today raises many questions,” he said. Al-Jadeed news director Mariam al-Bassam considered that journalists must be held accountable when they air a report that obstructs the work of the STL. "But when we air accurate information, we would not be offending the Tribunal,” she explained. "It is insulting the media and we want the truth more than it does.”
She continued: “The minister of information does not represent media outlets, but maybe the opinion of a political party.” New TV S.A.L. and Khayat, the network's deputy news and political program manager, are charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by broadcasting and/or publishing information on purported confidential witnesses” and “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by failing to remove from al-Jadeed TV’s website and al-Jadeed TV’s YouTube channel information on purported confidential witnesses.” Meanwhile, Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. and al-Amin, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, 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.” 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 May 13, 2014.

Berri says next electoral session serious
April 25, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri described in comments published Friday the first round of the presidential election as a “rehearsal” and said next week’s session will be aimed at electing a new head of state. Meanwhile, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri denied that his country intervenes in local Lebanese affairs, particularly over the presidential election. “The real session next week will not be a session [for identifying] candidates; it will be the session of the president,” Berri told As-Safir daily. “The first session was a rehearsal ... and the results were already known. But we now move to the stage of the election of a president,” he said. The speaker also said that all those who wish to run for the presidential election should announce their candidacy. “I am eager for more announced candidates to push the presidential election forward,” Berri said.  Berri denied that he discussed the election with any foreign ambassador or delegation, and said he would keep calling on Parliament to convene until it elects a leader. Separately, Asiri denied in comments to As-Safir that his country is coordinating with any Lebanese parties over the election. “The Saudi kingdom does not interfere with the Future Movement or any other party in Lebanese affairs,” he said. He also denied media reports that Riyadh is pushing a certain candidate for the presidential post. Lebanon’s Parliament failed in the first round of the election Wednesday to choose a new head of state to replace President Michel Sleiman, whose term ends on May 25. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, the first to publicly announce his candidacy, gained 48 out of 128 votes against 52 blank ballots cast by most of the March 8 coalition’s MPs while 16 votes went to MP Henri Helou, who was nominated by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, and one vote for Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel. Another session for the presidential election is scheduled next week


Berri Describes 1st Round as 'Practice,' Says Next Session Aimed at Electing President
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri said the first round of the presidential elections was a “rehearsal,” adding that the parliamentary session next week would be aimed at electing the new head of state.
In remarks to As Safir daily published on Friday, Berri said: “The real session next week won't be a session (aimed at knowing) the candidates.”“It would be the session of the president,” he said, hinting that the next head of state would be elected during the second round set to take place on Wednesday. The first round was a “practice … and the results were already known. But we now move to the stage of the election of a president,” Berri told the newspaper. Lawmakers must pick a replacement for President Michel Suleiman before his term expires at midnight May 24. He leaves Baabda Palace the next day.
On Wednesday, MPs failed to elect a president after no candidate secured the two-thirds of the votes needed to win and many lawmakers cast blank ballots and then left the parliament hall, leading to a lack of quorum. Lebanese Forces leader Samir 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. During the second round next Wednesday, the winning candidate will need a simple majority of 65 votes.
Berri said that he would continue to call for parliamentary sessions until a president is elected. Asked what he would do if there was lack of quorum again, he said: “I will call for a new session every half an hour.”“The positive (aspect) of the (first) session on Wednesday was that it succeeded in showing the size of each side and it was clear that neither side was able” to succeed, he said.

Probe into Daftardar’s terror case finalized
April 25, 2014/By Youssef Diab /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Military Investigative Judge Imad Zein finalized Friday the probe into the terrorism case of leading figures in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
A judicial source told The Daily Star Zein concluded the investigation after lengthy questioning of Jamal Daftardar, the man once thought to be the next leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and Naim Abbas, the alleged mastermind behind two deadly bombings. The late leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Majid Majid, appointed Abbas as the group’s military commander in Lebanon before he died of kidney failure at a military hospital in Beirut in January, less than three weeks after he was arrested by the Lebanese Army. The judicial source said Zein referred the case to Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr to make recommendations before an indictment is issued. Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawan has charged Daftardar and Abbas of belonging to terrorist networks, including Al-Qaeda and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. The charges also included transporting explosives-rigged vehicles from Syria to Lebanon and detonating them in residential areas in Beirut and the capital’s southern suburbs, as well as killing civilians and launching rockets into Israel. Daftardar was arrested during a house raid in the Western Bekaa town of Kamed al-Loz in mid-January. He was regarded as the main candidate to take over the Abdullah Azzam Brigades leadership following the death of Majid. Abbas has been in custody since February 12. He has already been charged in connection with the two car bombings in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik on Jan. 2 and Jan. 21. The Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Lebanon, including the Nov. 19 twin suicide bombings on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that left 30 people dead, among them an Iranian diplomat.


Wage Hike Committee to Complete Mission Next Week amid Renewed SCC Threat
Naharnet /A ministerial-parliamentary committee is expected to submit its report on the wage hike mid-next week amid a renewed warning by public sector employees that they would not accept compromises. MP Ghazi Youssef, a member of the committee, told al-Liwaa newspaper on Friday that the suggested amendments on the pay raise draft-law would be complete next week within the deadline set by parliament. The committee was formed after lawmakers failed to approve the draft-law, angering the Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees. The committee is studying ways to find the appropriate revenues to fund the hike. Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association Hanna Gharib rejected “negotiations or bargaining.”“Lowering (the promised raise) is theft,” he told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5). The SCC is demanding a 121 percent salary raise that would be effective retroactively. It has also rejected proposals for the extra money to be paid in installments. Many MPs and the Economic Committees, a grouping of businessmen and owners of major firms, fear that the pay hike would have a devastating impact on the economy and lead to a depreciation in the Lebanese pound. But the SCC has vowed to go ahead with a planned nationwide strike and a protest next Tuesday.
Taxi drivers will also hold a demonstration on Monday as part of a series of protests held in the past few months to express anger at deteriorating living conditions. On Wednesday, the General Labor Confederation is scheduled to hold a demonstration.


Asiri Denies Saudi Arabia Interfering in Presidential Election
Naharnet/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri said on Friday that his country intervenes in local Lebanese affairs, denying that contacts are ongoing between Riyadh and al-Mustaqbal movement chief Saad Hariri regarding the presidential poll. “The kingdom doesn’t interfere with al-Mustaqbal or any other party” in Lebanese affairs, Asiri said in remarks published in As Safir newspaper.
He repudiated reports saying that Saudi Arabia “is pushing forward a certain candidate to the presidential post... Our stance is clear and final.”However, An Nahar newspaper reported that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is seeking Hariri's support before announcing his candidacy. Aoun continuously said that he will not announce his candidacy for the presidency if there was no political consensus on him.  As Safir said that Hariri “is awaiting for Saudi Arabia's approval before granting Aoun his consensus.”Sources close to Rabieh told the daily that “Hariri is true to his word... He is awaiting for the Saudi decision and will inform his allies once he receives it.”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. 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 March 14 official, Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea.

Lebanese Actress Leila Hakim Dies at the Age of 83
Naharnet/Renowned Lebanese actress Leila Hakim passed away on Friday after suffering from illness, the state-run National News agency said. Hakim, who died at the age of 83, will be buried on Saturday in the Sacre-Coeur Church in Badaro at 4:00 pm. The deceased took part in many Lebanese TV drama works, series and movies. Condolences will be accepted on Sunday and Monday in the Church Hall starting 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. Some of her works include a role in a film directed by Nadine Labaki Where Do We Go Now in 2011, al- Fajr in 2000, Amani Taht Kaws Kuzah in 1985. Some of the TV series that Hakim took part in include Bent al-Hayy in 2007, and Hekayet Amal in 2003, Saret Maaii in 2003, and many others.

Obama: Israel, Palestinians in need of 'pause' in talks

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS/04/25/2014/US president says both Israeli and Palestinian leaders unwilling to "make hard choices"; Israeli finance minister vows government "will not negotiate with Hamas."US President Barack Obama said on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians may be in need of a "pause" in their negotiations. Speaking to the press while on a tour of Asia, the president said that Mideast peace has proven elusive due to the unwillingness of leaders in the region to make "hard choices." Obama said on Friday it was still in the interest of Israel and the Palestinians to seek peace. Israel on Thursday suspended US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians in response to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' unexpected unity pact with the rival Islamist Hamas group. The negotiations had appeared to be heading nowhere even before Wednesday's reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian groups plunged them deeper into crisis. The United States had been struggling to extend the talks beyond an original April 29 deadline for a peace accord. Finance Minister Yair Lapid told a business conference in Rishon Letzion on Friday that "we are making constant efforts - and it's not always easy - to move the negotiations forward so that we can separate from the Palestinians." "Suddenly we see Abu Mazen (Abbas' nom de guerre) make agreements with Hamas, a jihadist terror organization that is sworn to kill Jews," he said. "We will not negotiate with Hamas either directly or indirectly."

Would Hamas finally bow to Fatah?
Friday, 25 April 2014/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
The Israeli government and the U.S. State Department have expressed resentment at the recent announcement of reconciliation between Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank, saying such a deal threatens the peace agreement with Israel. First, there is no peace agreement to be concerned about; there is only a framework agreement. Second, the reconciliation is not really reconciliation, but simply another maneuver within the Palestinian political camp. Third, Israel that prases Fatah and condemns Hamas often acts opposite to that. Barak Ravid, a diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, showcased the hypocrisy of the government, saying: “Netanyahu, who squeezed (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas hard in exchange for freeing 80 pension-age prisoners who had been sitting in Israeli jails for more than 20 years and who broke up negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over the release of 14 Arab Israeli prisoners, was prepared to give Hamas 1,000 young and healthy terrorists, among them Arabs Israelis. While Netanyahu refused to allow Abbas any sign of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank, he did not hesitate to recognize Hamas as sovereign in Gaza.”
Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmed (L) speaks with head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniyeh as they announce a reconciliation agreement during a news conference in Gaza City April 23, 2014. (Reuters) Hamas does not threaten the Israeli government as much as the Palestinian authority in Ramallah does; Hamas has always been involved in sabotaging the agreements, and thus giving Netanyahu the justification to escape all international obligations, citing Hamas’ empty rockets. Hamas is the enemy ally of Tel Aviv, while Ramallah’s government only represents the oppressed partner.
Celebrity marriage
Although the reconciliation agreement is the best thing we have heard for years in Palestine, it is most likely similar to a marriage of celebrities: an extravagant ceremony followed shortly by divorce
It is normal for Netanyahu’s government not to welcome the reconciliation, as it has worked hard to keep the Palestinians away from it. What is baffling is the U.S. Department of State’s resentment. The reconciliation is in favor of any negotiation project, because Hamas will publically be agreeing on it, after claiming for many years that negotiations were blasphemous and after threatening to sabotage any negotiation process. I am afraid that the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is just a part of a game of internal conflict, and does not have anything to do with endorsing the negotiations with Israel, or organizing the Palestinian interior.
Leadership brawl
Hamas is witnessing a leadership brawl and Fatah is busy with its internal conflicts, like the incident when former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan irritated Abbas with his calls for presidential elections. I wish that the Palestinian government in Ramallah was strong enough to put an end to the division and bring Gaza under its authority especially that Hamas has lost all the friends who were behind its defection from the 2007 Makkah agreement, such as Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, and especially after the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Palestinians hold national flags as they celebrate after an announcement of a reconciliation agreement in Gaza City April 23, 2014. (Reuters)
There are factions within Hamas that really want to return to power, and accept resorting to the Palestinian people to choose their government. But these factions have always been afraid of leaders controlled by Tehran and Damascus. Does this fear still prevail today? I do not think so. The problem is that the Palestinian Authority is weak, drained and close to collapse. Thus, it cannot negotiate or commit to any agreement. The negotiations will force President Abbas to provoke people who will not accept to make any more concessions. If he refuses to comply, he will be penalized by depriving his government from the financial aid coming from Israel and the United States, which are much needed to run his government’s affairs.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 25, 2014

Moving Beyond Iraq’s Nightmare
By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat
Friday, 25 Apr, 2014
Next week’s general elections in Iraq are the first to be held since the US military withdrawal in 2011. Some analysts claim that because the Americans are no longer present the exercise is attracting less attention. However, there may be another reason for the relative decline in interest regarding how Iraqis vote. Over the past decade, holding elections has become part of the Iraqi political routine, thus no longer inspiring exceptional interest. The less international attention Iraq attracts, the more boring it becomes and the greater its success in normalization after decades of abnormality under despots. Iraq’s greatest achievement since the end of Saddam’s rule is the consensus built around the idea of choosing and changing governments through elections. Today, few Iraqis support such traditional Arab methods of choosing and changing governments as military coups, assassinations, revolutions and civil wars. The presence of numerous lists and over 9,000 candidates indicates the popularity of the electoral exercise.
That, however, does not mean Iraqis have full confidence in the electoral system. They don’t. Many believe that state control and sectarian calculations still undermine the credibility of elections as a means of setting the national agenda. Nevertheless, many Iraqis, perhaps even a majority, admit that even bad elections are better than coups d’état or civil wars. The history of electoral politics shows that parliamentary democracy needs decades before it establishes unassailable credentials and becomes part of the political culture. In Britain, the birthplace of parliamentary democracy, genuinely free and fair elections started only after the First World War. Should one expect Iraq to do in 10 years what Britain did in 150?
The good news is that because Iraq chose proportional representation, it would be virtually impossible for the government to engineer one of those 99 percent victories seen in such places as Egypt or Algeria. Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki may yet win enough seats to claim a chance to form another administration. However, even if he manages to hang on, the government he would head would be different. The coalition that has sustained him in power has simply melted away. Maliki’s core support—coming from one wing of the Al-Da’wah party—accounts for around 11 percent of the electorate. Thus without attracting other mainly Shi’a parties plus the Kurds and some Arab Sunni groups, Maliki would not have been able to keep his post.
In fact, if Iraqi politicians are mature enough they should be able to construct a different coalition with someone other than Maliki as prime minister.
Criticizing Maliki may be easy, bearing in mind his government’s failure to solve such mundane problems as the shortage of water and electricity in Baghdad, not to mention rampant corruption that, according to some Iraqis, has gone beyond the “normal” limits in so-called developing countries.
The least one could say is that the Maliki government is guilty of underachievement.
Iraq could have done much better.
However, the fact is that Iraq could have also done worse. A nation emerging from half a century of brutal dictatorship cannot be turned around overnight.
Over the past 10 years, despite frequent terrorist attacks, Iraq has achieved a certain degree of political and economic stability. Despite numerous predictions of sectarian civil war, Kurdish secession and worse, Iraq has managed to navigate its way out of many storms.
Set against the current chaos in many parts of the region, that is no mean achievement. Still, the risk is that Maliki and his friends might mistake stagnation for stability.
Under Maliki, corruption has become a method of redistribution, filling the gap caused by the absence of institutions capable of providing social protection and welfare. In the Maliki system a few thousand people of influence within or close to the government receive part of the national income, treating it as booty, and then distribute it among their families, entourages and, ultimately, voters. Compared to what used to happen under Saddam Hussein, corruption in Iraq has now been “democratized,” in the sense that the booty is distributed among a much larger number of recipients.
Paradoxically, however, even that method of “distribution through corruption” is a sign of the weakness of Maliki’s government. In classical Arab despotic systems, the ruler takes more often than he gives.
In post-monarchy Iraq, governments were always far too strong and society far too weak. In the past decade, however, that balance has been modified, with government becoming weaker and society stronger. Today, Iraq is witnessing the re-emergence of a private business sector that had all but disappeared under Saddam. The government still influences the media, often by bribing them, but it no longer enjoys total control. Political parties, public opinion leaders and parliamentarians could still be, and in many cases are, bought by the government. But because they no longer fear for their lives they do not show the degree of blind-though-feigned obedience that is the norm in classical Arab despotism.
Many, including some Iraqi friends, might accuse me of starry-eyed naïveté. But I believe that compared to the average in its region, Iraq is not doing all that badly. Its economy is growing, the private sector is expanding, and a new generation of politicians is coming up, many as candidates in next week’s election, while the old political guard, many of whom are returning after decades in exile, is fading away. Iraqis are beginning to learn about bread-and-butter politics, as opposed to the politics of grand but empty ideals with which Arabs were deceived for generations.
Maliki’s critics often claim he is trying to become “another Saddam.” This may be a fair fight in political terms. But, even if he has such a dream in his heart of hearts, the truth is that Maliki cannot become another Saddam; no one can. Iraq has moved beyond that nightmare.

The Khomeinist Dome: Iran’s Larger Nuclear Strategy
By Dr. Walid Phares /Friday, April 25, 2014 /Canada Free Press
As a reader of Khomeinist global strategies since the early 1980s, and as I have argued over decades in books and articles, Tehran’s regime possesses a much larger nuclear strategy than the simple acquisition of mass destruction weapons. Over the last few years, the United States and its Western allies have been led to focus on the visible part of the Iranian buildup, missing the much greater construct undertaken over several generations of rulers of the same Iranian regime. Since the so-called “Iran nuclear deal” was inked last fall, Washington acts as if it has somewhat halted (or at least slowed) the strategic program of Tehran and thus has been rewarding the Ayatollahs, but the reality flies in the face of this assumption and agreement. Iran’s regime is employing a much larger strategy in order to reach the level of an armed nuclear power, and – perhaps ironically – one of the regime’s strategic policies is to mislead the international community, particularly the U.S., in its campaign to irreversibly transform itself into a nuclear power.
The Iranian global construct can be perceived as a “Khomeinist Dome.” Iran’s strategy has been twofold—and sustained over decades, not simply implemented over the past few years and months. The regime has two simultaneous goals. One is to create a defensive sphere over the forthcoming strategic weapon before it is unveiled, and two is to suppress any internal opposition to the regime’s policies. The “dome” is a complex integration of Iranian foreign policy: Terrorism backing, using financial luring, exploiting Western weaknesses while at the same time expanding influence in the region so that by the time the greater shield is established, most U.S. and allied measures will be useless.
The regime knew all too well, years ago, that if they produced one atomic weapon (or even two) without being able to protect it, they would run into the almost certainty of military action by the West and/or by Israel to disable it. They were unable to circumvent this strategic theorem for decades, at least since the end of the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1987. The issue for them was not about obtaining the nuclear weapon, but how to deter their enemies from destroying it. Iran did not have the geopolitical or economic capacities, nor the international stature of either India or Pakistan, to produce large scale numbers of bombs and later announce them the way south Asia’s nuclear powers detonated their devices in 1999. Hence Iran’s grand strategy to equip itself with the ultimate weapon was different—and thus far successful.
The Israeli raid on Osirak in 1981 was clear evidence of Western determination to strike at a nuclear weapon in the hands of a dangerous regime
After the Soviet collapse, Tehran knew Israel, or possibly a U.S. administration, would bomb the nuclear installations, not to mention the location of a potential weapon. The Israeli raid on Osirak in 1981 was clear evidence of Western determination to strike at a nuclear weapon in the hands of a dangerous regime. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the coalition’s massive response in 1990-1991 also told the Khomeinists that a post-Cold War West is more assertive than under the previously bipolar world. Finally, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003 brought two powerful and hostile armies to Iran’s two borders. Tehran’s reading of the landscape change was so nervous that it declared itself as abandoning its nuclear ambitions, almost simultaneously with Moammar Gaddafi. The fear of being toppled by outside military forces pushed Iran to hide its nuclear ambitions while awaiting the outcome of the regional evolution.
By 2005, as the U.S. offensive in the Middle East came to a halt, the Iranian regime displayed its hardliner face with the coming of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad to power. From then on, the grand strategy of the atomic conquest went full steam ahead. On one track, Iran activated the production of nuclear material, making Bushehr and its sister sites the center of international focus. Washington responded with targeted sanctions, well-crafted but aiming at pressuring Tehran to halt the project. The failure of the sanctions-only policies to exert a full strategic halt was caused by the inability of the West to support a strong and organized Iranian opposition inside the country with a significant presence in neighboring Iraq. Sanctions to pressure, without a real resistance movement to push the regime into a corner, were doomed to fail and they did. But the Iranian regime’s wider strategy was to create a shield for the nuclear weapons as they were produced. In fact, the Ayatollahs calculated that they would only unveil the weapon if and when it is protected. Hence, while the U.S. focused primarily on the fissile material, the fast track production of missiles was never stopped. The greater dome strategy includes missiles, anti-aircraft systems, geopolitical space and terrorism. A large missile force, which would target a wide spectrum of cities and sites, has been under construction for years. In addition, the regime has been attempting to obtain advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to protect the potential offensive missiles. And when the two structures are fully ready it will be a greater challenge to eliminate the entire network as it would be armed with nukes and other WMDs while also surrounded with a vast AA system; all the while, the uranium production is moving forward. In parallel, Tehran has been expanding its reach in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of East Africa with its influence and through terror networks. Once the combination of all the above systems is in place, the bomb will come, but not before.
The Khomeinist dome is about preparing for the nukes before they are displayed and claimed
The Khomeinist dome is about preparing for the nukes before they are displayed and claimed. It is about signaling to the West that once the greater Iranian power is asserted, there will not be a first indefensible bomb. Rather, Iran will jump to the level of unstoppable power with a vast network of retaliation as deterrence will have been achieved. Unfortunately, Western posture towards Tehran has only helped in the building of the dome: sanctions worked but were limited, all Iran’s other military systems were unchecked, and its interventions in the region unstopped. Worse, a nuclear deal with the U.S. injected time and energy into the regime’s veins. At this point, the regime is out to complete the buildup of its strategic shield while offering to slow down its fissile material production. Once the dome is complete, the nuclear material production will speed up, and by the time the West realizes the maneuver, the Middle East will have changed forever.

Fatah and Hama Unity: Divide and conquer
April 25, 2014 / The Daily Star /This week’s announcement of a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas set off alarm bells in Washington and Tel Aviv before the ink was even dry on the agreement.
Israel’s reaction is understandable – Israeli strength flows from Palestinian weakness and in recent years, nothing has symbolized this weakness more than the existence of dueling political entities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Tel Aviv’s decision to halt its participation in peace talks is a predictable response, although it gives the Palestinians considerable credit for their reconciliation. Such agreements have been announced before, and the latest must be followed up by the actual formation of a national unity government.
As for the peace talks, the term itself has become objectionable. Two decades after the Oslo Accords, hopes for a durable, fair peace have faded further and further into the distance as the territory controlled by Palestinians shrinks and shrinks. But Washington’s reaction is truly disappointing. The division of the Palestinian political scene into two feuding cantons was unnatural; ending this divide would be a return to a more natural state of affairs. If the U.S. cuts off aid to the Palestinian Authority because of the presence of Hamas in the government, it will only highlight the glaring contradiction with the situation in Lebanon. There, Hezbollah has been participating in the executive branch for nearly a decade, but its anti-Israel stance hasn’t led to a cutoff of American assistance to the government in Beirut.
If Washington ever wants to be seen as honest peace broker, it should avoid adopting the exact same stance as the country whose modus operandi has been one of divide and conquer.

John Paul II: Beloved Pope who Left Reformists Cold
Naharnet/ Pope John Paul II, who will be made a saint on Sunday along with John XXIII, was a charismatic leader who helped topple communism but was criticized for failing to tackle the scourge of child sex abuse by priests. The first non-Italian pope since the Renaissance, and the first from eastern Europe, Polish Karol Wojtyla was hugely popular, eschewing the pomp that surrounded his predecessors and seeking contact with ordinary people. During a papacy that lasted nearly 27 years, John Paul II traveled far and wide, often greeted by massive crowds as he championed peace, denounced human rights abuses and deplored the decadence of the modern world. Some of the most memorable moments of his papacy were his attempted assassination in St Peter's Square, his call on mobsters to repent and a meeting in which he kissed people with AIDS at the height of the epidemic. John Paul II also sponsored ultra-conservative Catholic movements like Opus Dei and the Legion of Christ in an effort to counter rising secularism in the West and win new followers, particularly in the developing world. He left one of his most momentous acts for the twilight of his papacy -- an attempt to purify the soul of the Roman Catholic Church with a sweeping apology for sins and errors committed during its 2,000-year existence. Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 in a small town near the medieval city of Krakow in southern Poland, which was then at war with the Soviet Union. His mother died when he was eight years old and his father raised him, teaching him German and football. He studied literature in Krakow where he became fascinated by theater and wrote a number of plays. The experience of war caused John Paul to consider the priesthood and his childhood contacts with the large Jewish community of his area were credited for his desire to build closer relations with Judaism. He became a parish priest and rose steadily through the Church hierarchy, eventually rising to cardinal. When he was elected pope in October 1978, John Paul II was 58, a robust sportsman and a relative outsider amid the vast mostly Italian bureaucracy of the Holy See.He spent his holidays hiking, skiing or kayaking, and refused to be penned in by the Vatican, sometimes sneaking out of the tiny state incognito. His first foreign visit was to his native Poland. Despite Soviet warnings, communist authorities were unable to head off the pope's 1979 trip, when he appeared before million-strong crowds speaking powerfully for human rights. The upshot was a huge, reinvigorated anti-communist working-class movement, the birth of the Solidarity trade union, and the steady thaw of the Soviet glacier that lay over central and eastern Europe. For all the pope's immense popularity, his moral teachings -- notably on family values, homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia and abortion -- stuck to traditional doctrine and alienated many Catholics.
Among them were reformers, young people and Third World congregations in the grip of the devastating AIDS epidemic where there was disappointment over his refusal to give ground on the issue of condom use. Dogged by a rising wave of scandals of pedophile priests, the pope, at the behest of US bishops, approved new measures to punish clergymen committing sexual abuses but only after a long silence. His refusal to denounce Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ and a serial sexual predator who abused male seminarians and fathered at least three children despite his vows of chastity, drew criticism. But the Vatican has brushed off the accusations, with spokesman Federico Lombardi saying there was "no personal implication" of the pope in the scandal.
John Paul II's extraordinary life nearly came to an end in 1981 when a right-wing Turkish extremist, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot him twice at close range as he was riding an open-top "popemobile" in St Peter's Square. Though the motives behind the assassination bid were never clear, conspiracy theories included a KGB-ordered hit and an attempt by radical Islamists to polish off the world's most prominent Christian leader. The pope said the Virgin Mary saved his life, and had one of the bullets inserted into the diamond-studded crown of the Virgin of Fatima in Portugal. He visited Agca in prison in 1983 to forgive him -- another highlight of a reign in which John Paul II turned into a global media superstar. He met virtually every major world leader of the time. The United States, the Soviet Union and then Russia, the countries of the former Soviet bloc, Mexico, Israel, Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization established diplomatic ties with the Vatican during his papacy.
John Paul II was the first pope to pray in a synagogue, in Rome; the first to enter a mosque in an Islamic country, in Damascus, Syria; and the first to preside a meeting of the heads of all the major world religions in 1986. "He was a man of certainties, not doubts. A mystic who had both feet on the ground," one of his closest collaborators, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, said.
He died aged 84 on April 2, 2005. Source/Agence France Presse


John XXIII: A Tradition-breaking Pope Like Francis
Naharnet/Pope John XXIII, who will be made a saint with John Paul II on Sunday, surprised many by leading the Catholic Church to more open relations with the world.
When the man nicknamed "Good Pope John" became head of the Catholic Church on October 28, 1958 at the age of 77, many thought he would be a simple caretaker.
He had a determined character, however, and led a process of modernization of the Church and closer ties with Judaism, inviting comparisons from Vatican watchers to the current reform-minded Pope Francis. "There is a spiritual and ideological continuity between John XXIII and Francis," said Angelo Pansa, a historian specializing in John XXIII's reign.
Less than three months after being elected, John XXIII announced preparations for the Second Vatican Council, a global gathering of Catholic bishops, which opened in October 1962 and proved to be revolutionary.
Unnerving Vatican conservatives, he reached out in a famous address to crowds in St Peter's Square at the start of the Council which spoke of his desire to bridge the gap between the Church and the faithful.
"All the world is represented here tonight, even the moon hastens close to watch this spectacle. When you head home, hug and kiss your children and tell them: 'This is the hug and kiss of the pope'," he said.
He was the first pope to leave the confines of the Vatican to visit parishes and hospitals in Rome -- a tradition that has been followed by his predecessors.
Pope John did not live to see the end of the Council, dying on June 3, 1963 of complications linked to stomach cancer less than two months after he wrote the papal encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). It was addressed "to all men of good will" and not only Catholics, and was in part a reaction to the prevailing political situation in the midst of the Cold War.
Time Magazine named him Man of the Year in 1962, hailing him as a peacemaker after his address during the Cuban missile crisis helped defuse tensions.
Pansa said "he wanted to leave a door open to the Soviet Union, seen in the West as the Empire of Evil".
The historian pointed out that John XXIII donated rosaries to the children of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and US president John F. Kennedy -- a gesture "to unite the White House and the Kremlin".
On a more personal level, John XXIII had a healthy sense of humor. Once asked by a reporter how many people worked in the Vatican, he replied: "About half".
The Vatican Council led to important modernizing reforms within the Church, including the possibility of celebrating mass in languages other than Latin.
"I wish to open the Church's window so that we may see what is happening outside and so the world may see what is happening within," the pope wrote.
His former private secretary, Cardinal Loris Capovilla, said his success lay "in a traditional but dynamic imprint, in the apparent paradox between strict conservatism and evangelical openness".
The man who would be pope was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte, northern Italy on November 25, 1881.
Ordained in 1904, he was called to Rome in 1921 to head missionary activities in Italy.
Appointed bishop four years later, he began a diplomatic career that took him to Bulgaria, Turkey and France.
He was credited with saving thousands of Jews during World War II, including by giving Hungarian Jews baptismal certificates.
A document on file at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial cites the future pope as being "among the most sensitive to the Jewish tragedy and most vigorous in rescue efforts".
In 1953 he became a cardinal and patriarch of Venice, and was elected as pope five years later following the death of Pius XII.
As pope he worked hard to improve relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian faiths, notably Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants.
Pope John was beatified in August 2000, based on the healing of an Italian nun, sister Caterina Capitani, which was declared a miracle after a medical commission determined there was no scientific explanation for the event.
Capitani had undergone an operation to remove a cancerous tumor in her stomach and was not expected to live, but appeared to suddenly recover after addressing her prayers to pope John.
He was beatified by then pope John Paul II, who pursued John's outreach to Jews with a historic visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem in March 2000.
John Paul II said at the time of John's beatification that he had shown "a singular goodness of soul" and "left in the memory of all the image of a smiling face and two arms open to welcome the entire world".
Source/Agence France Presse