April 27/14


Bible Quotation for today/Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

John 20,26-31/"A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

Pope Francis's Tweet For Tuesday
None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice (EG 201).
Pape François
Personne ne peut se sentir dispensé du partage avec les pauvres et de la justice sociale (EG 201).


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 27/14

In the Mideast, election ‘carnivals’ are the greatest tricks/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Alarabiya/April 27/14

Elections do not a democracy make/By: Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/April 27/14
U.S. passivity on the world stage has not gone unnoticed/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/April 27/14

ICC Release/Christian Convert Dragged from Home and Publicly Executed in Somalia/April 27/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 27/14

Lebanese Related News

Ban in 1559 Report: Staging Presidential Elections a Must to Confront Challenges

Syrian opposition leader supports Geagea for president

Mustaqbal, Kataeb Adhere to Geagea's Candidacy for Presidency

Obeid and Kahwagi emerge as consensus candidates

Moussawi: Presidential Candidate Must Unite the Lebanese, Support the Resistance
Syria alters Israel-Hezbollah dynamics

Back Aoun in order to isolate Hezbollah: Ahmad Al Asaad

Students protest over shutting school in n. Lebanon
Judge charges 79 over Tripoli clashes

Jumblatt calls for Hariri’s return to Lebanon
Mideast conflicts meet in tiny patch of Lebanon
Journalists mull summons from STL

Lebanon's Arabic press digest - Apr. 26, 2014

Abbas Ibrahim Says Lebanese-Syrian Border Controlled, Security Situation Improved

Gunfight Erupts between Two Families in Dahiyeh

Lebanese Army deploys in Beirut’s suburbs after clashes

Soldier Wounded as Troops Prepare for 'Major' Tripoli Operation

 Miscellaneous Reports And News

Iranian diplomat: Israel sole obstacle to nuclear weapons-free Mideast

Church Leader: Christians Face 'Disaster' in Iraq

Abbas Says Unity Government Will Reject Violence

Afghanistan needs both Iran and the US

Syria can still produce chemical arms, West warns

Syria: Brahimi won’t quit as international mediator, says spokesman

88 dead in two days of clashes in Syria's Daraa: monitor
Christian Convert Dragged from Home and Publicly Executed in Somalia

Wife rape’ fatwa sparks row in Egypt
Dozens killed in clashes between Nigerian troops, Islamists: military
G7 to impose new sanctions on Russia

Iraq’s sham elections

Saudi Arabia celebrates nine years under King Abdullah  


Lebanon's Arabic press digest - Apr. 26, 2014
April 26, 2014/The Daily Star
The following are a selection of stories from Lebanese newspapers that may be of interest to The Daily Star readers. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
Presidential race to the outside
Candidates for the presidential election have obviously moved their battle outside, examining the presidential atmosphere in Arab and Western capitals that have an influence over Lebanon.
Former minister Jean Obeid traveled to Riyadh where he met with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The meeting between Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov also addressed the presidential election, as well as other meetings taking place behind the scenes.
Hariri's envoy former MP Ghattas Khoury held separate talks on Friday with the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, and Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel to evaluate the first parliamentary vote and the possible scenarios for the upcoming round.
Aoun’s candidacy in decisive stage before Wednesday
Mutual warning to Sleiman and Rai against vacuum
Meetings are being intensively held behind the scenes to prepare for the next election round, despite fears of not securing the needed quorum for Parliament to convene.
The March 14 alliance is carrying out consultations among its factions to guarantee the success of its candidate for the presidential election, and to avert any possible vacuum at the helm of the country's most important Christian post.
Sources close to the Future Movement said that the meeting of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s envoy, former MP Ghattas Khoury, with Lebanese Forces leader Geagea discussed all the available options regarding the presidential election and the necessity to avoid any vacuum.
The sources stressed that the Future Movement is exerting efforts to press the staging of the presidential elections within the constitutional deadline as the March 14 coalition is “holding on to its candidate.”
Shatah’s assassination and terrorist crimes referred to the Justice Council
Aoun and Hezbollah to boycott Wednesday’s session
Parliamentary sources said that MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc and Hezbollah’s Loyalty to The Resistance bloc have made a decision not to take part in the presidential election session next Wednesday.
The sources said 42 lawmakers from the March 8 coalition would be boycotting the session, including the Baath representatives and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
Only lawmakers from Speaker Nabih Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc from March 8 would attend the session aimed at electing the new president.
Lebanon triumphs for freedom against the tribunal’s terrorism
Jumbatt calls for Hariri’s comeback and for a president who manages the crisis
Lebanon witnessed wide support for the two journalists, Ibrahim al-Amin and Karma Khayyat, over the summons by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on contempt charges.
Lawyer Antoine Korkmaz, who is suspect Mustafa Badreddine's lead defense counsel, said that the charges against the two journalists are “void” and can be refuted.
Korkmaz said that the international court's decision to summon journalists and the heads of the boards of directors in both media companies rather than the managers indicates “a lack of comprehension of the court norms followed in Lebanon.”

Pilgrims Flock to Rome for Double Papal Sainthood Fete
Naharnet /Pilgrims and dignitaries from the world over streamed into Rome a day before John Paul II and John XXIII are named saints in the first ever double papal canonization.
In front of the Vatican Saturday, families and groups of scouts armed with folding chairs and sleeping mats braved skies threatening rain to stake out their places in a swelling queue to get onto St. Peter's Square, which will only open in the early hours of Sunday. "We've come early to get the best places on the square. I don't think we will be getting much sleep tonight, but we'll be singing and praying," French priest Etienne, who had come over from France with 50 pilgrims, told Agence France Presse. Poline Tallen from Nigeria, who was dressed in a blue and yellow boubou dress with images of John Paul II's face on it, said she had traveled for the ceremony because the Polish pope "had a great impact on me. I met him in 1983 here in Rome, and it changed my life."
Nearby, the leader of a boisterous crowd freshly arrived from Lebanon said "we have nothing with us, just our flags. But we're happy to be here even if it rains!"
Schoolchildren wearing yellow John Paul II backpacks mingled with nuns lugging suitcases off coaches at Rome's main Termini train station, where Italy's civil protection agency had set up a huge medical tent. Priests strumming guitars and singing Hallelujah had taken to the streets of the city's historic center late Friday, while others holding high crosses led prayers amid curious crowds of ice-cream eating tourists.
- Shiny new halos -
Also in Rome for the ceremony were 98 official foreign delegations, including Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk cut his trip short amid growing fears Russia could be about to invade his country.
Tapestry portraits of the new saints were on show high above the crowd in St. Peter's Square, while posters in the surrounding streets showed John Paul II and John XXIII already boasting shiny halos, presided over by a benevolently smiling Pope Francis.
The late pontiffs will join the roster of saints at what will be the first-ever double papal canonization on Sunday, seen as an attempt to unite conservatives and reformists.
Poland's charismatic, globe-trotting John Paul II became an icon to many conservative Catholics, while Italian John XXIII -- nicknamed "Good Pope John" -- garnered his liberal reputation by calling the reform-led Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which breathed new life into the Church.
The canonization of two of modern-day Catholicism's most influential figures will be presided over by Pope Francis and attended by his elderly predecessor Benedict XVI, bringing two living pontiffs together to celebrate two deceased predecessors.
Delegations from across the world will join thousands of bishops, priests, and scarlet-cloaked cardinals and the 800,000 or so pilgrims expected, who will be able to follow the ceremonies in different languages on 19 giant screens in some of the Italian capital's most picturesque spots.
Churches will remain open all night Saturday for prayer vigils ahead of the mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday to honor two Roman Catholic leaders whose pontificates spanned from the height of the Cold War with the Cuban missile crisis to the fall of the Berlin wall. The Vatican's official bureau for pilgrims said 4,000 coaches bearing pilgrims would be arriving in the run-up to the 10:00 am (08:00 GMT) mass, along with special trains and boats, while other faithful will watch the canonization in 3D at cinemas across the world, from Argentina to the United States.
The unparalleled double ceremony has drawn criticism from some who argue the canonization process was rushed and the pontiffs in question do not deserve the honor. John XXIII had only been credited with one of the two supposed miracles required for candidates to be declared saints, but Francis approved his canonization of John XXIII anyway, saying that the late pope was so widely adored that he did not need a second miracle. And despite fierce accusations against John Paul II that he hushed up child sex crimes that began to come to light during his pontificate, his elevation has been the fastest since the 18th century when the current canonization rules were installed. Source/Agence France Presse

Abbas Ibrahim Says Lebanese-Syrian Border Controlled, Security Situation Improved
Naharnet/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim revealed on Saturday that closing the illegal crossings between Lebanon and Syria and the control imposed in the area had a positive impact on the local security situation. Media reports quoted him as saying that “90 percent of the illegal crossings were closed.”Ibrahim lauded security forces that exerted efforts to seize explosive-rigged vehicles, considering the security situation as the concern of all. However, he said that the conflict in neighboring country Syria had a strong impact on the situation in Lebanon. “Our border was open from all sides,” Ibrahim added. Lebanon and Syria share a 330-kilometer border but have yet to agree on official demarcation. Syrian regime troops backed by fighters from Hizbullah and pro-regime militiamen seized full control of several town along the border with Lebanon. Hizbullah argues that its military intervention in Syria is necessary to fend off the threat of Qaida-linked groups seeking to infiltrate Lebanon and to prevent the fall of Syria in the hands of “Israel and the U.S.” The party's rivals in Lebanon have strongly rejected the presence of its fighters in Syria, saying it contradicts with the Baabda Declaration, which Hizbullah had endorsed and which calls for neutralizing Lebanon from regional conflicts. Ibrahim said on Saturday that the Lebanese state is currently establishing a security plan to be implemented in the Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon, similar to the plan enforced in the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa valley. Palestinians living in Arab countries — including the 450,000 in Lebanon — are descendants of the hundreds of thousands who fled or were driven from their homes in the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948. They remain in Lebanon's 12 refugee camps because Israel and the Palestinians have never reached a deal that would enable them to return to their homes that are now in Israel.

Syrian opposition leader supports Geagea for president

April 26, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Syrian National Coalition leader Ahmad Jarba contacted Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and wished him success in the presidential election, a statement from Geagea’s office said.“The Syrian people support your candidacy for the presidential post and would be relieved and content if you reach Baabda Palace,” Jarba said in a phone call with the LF leader, a candidate in the presidential election. Geagea thanked Jarba for his wishes and assured him “we whole heartedly support the struggle of the Syrian people to achieve a civil and democratic and diverse state in Syria.”He also wished the coalition success in achieving what it looks for, despite “the difficulties it is facing.”Geagea, the March 14 backed candidate, won 48 votes in the first Parliament session to elect a president, against 52 blank ballots cast by lawmakers from MP Michel Aoun’s bloc and March 8 parties, with 16 lawmakers voting for MP Henry Helou from MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc.
The LF leader announced his presidential campaign platform earlier this month and said his priority is to restore the role of the state as the only authority to hold arms.

Jumblatt calls for Hariri’s return to Lebanon
April 26, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt called on former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return to Lebanon and lead a new Cabinet after the presidential election. “[Hariri should] return to Lebanon today and [not] tomorrow because there is no longer any justification for [his] absence,” Jumblatt, who spoke to As-Safir daily in comments published Saturday, said. “I support [Hariri] returning and heading a comprehensive government [after a new president is elected], this way we save ourselves and the country of a great deal of deadlock and unrest,” he said.
Hariri left Lebanon in early 2011, months after the collapse of his National Unity government. He has repeatedly cited security concerns for his absence. Jumblatt also said that he would continue to support the candidate MP Henri Helou for the presidency. “It's in the country's best interest to elect a president ahead of the end of President Michel Sleiman's term on May 25 to avoid any vacuum,” he said. Jumblat said that he will agree on any candidate capable of “managing the crisis in the Lebanon, ending tension,” who “could contribute to rapprochement between the various components of the Lebanese and political camps.”

Army deploys in Beirut’s suburbs after clashes

April 26, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Armed Forces deployed heavily in Beirut’s southern suburbs Saturday to end clashes that broke out between two families in the Jamous neighborhood wounding several people, security sources told The Daily Star. Armed gun battles erupted between members of the Nasreddine and Meqdad families that left several people wounded. At least one rocket propelled grenade was used in the clashes and heavy fire was heard in nearby neighborhoods, sources added. An apartment was also set ablaze in the neighborhood due to the clashes, the sources said. An Army statement issued later said the clashes were the results of “old family disputes.”It added the military cordoned off the neighborhood and was able to control the situation. The army is also conducting raids in order to detain those involved in the clashes and will refer them to the relevant judicial authorities, the statement said.


Moussawi: Presidential Candidate Must Unite the Lebanese, Support the Resistance
Naharnet /Loyalty to Resistance MP Nawaf Moussawi reiterated on Saturday that Hizbullah wants a president who embraces the resistance, and who is capable of uniting the Lebanese people. "We want the election of a candidate who can unite the Lebanese despite their divisions and differences,” Moussawi said at a party event. "The candidate should unite people and make them take part in dialogue, and they should not be biased or taking a side,” he added. Uniting the Lebanese together would eventually lead to reconciliation, agreements between them and to building a united and just society and state, he said.
"These conditions must be in the candidate's personality, their history and future aspirations.” The Hizbullah MP also reiterated that his party and its allies want a nominee for office who "accepts and adopts the resistance." "We want a candidate who can embrace the resistance and defend it against any attempts that aim at weakening Lebanon through its resistance.” He considered that it is a “national and constitutional duty” to look for a candidate who has these characteristics. "We ask every presidential candidate, what are you liberation plans? What are your plans to defend Lebanon against Israeli violence and threats? And what is you stance on the resistance which proved to be an essential tool in liberating Lebanon and defending its land?” Moussawi said. The first round of the presidential elections was held on Wednesday, but parliament failed to elect a new head of state after none of the candidates, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou, received the needed 86 votes of lawmakers. The second round of the polls will be held on April 30 where a candidate needs 65 votes to be elected president. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends on May 25.

Obeid and Kahwagi emerging as consensus presidential candidates
April 26, 2014/By Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star
With the rival March 8 and March 14 coalitions unable to secure enough votes for their own candidates to win the presidency, former Minister Jean Obeid and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi are emerging as possible consensus candidates for the country’s top Christian post, political sources have said. A number of senior politicians following the presidential election said the choice of consensus candidates had become confined to Obeid, who is currently on a visit to Saudi Arabia, and Kahwagi. Both Obeid and Kahwagi enjoy support among some parliamentary blocs that are influential in the presidential polls and no party has vetoed them as potential consensus candidates, the politicians said. Furthermore, foreign countries concerned with the presidential election are keen for the Lebanese to hold the election as soon as possible, the politicians said. They added that none of these countries has vetoed either of the two names.
Although they rule out the possibility of an intra-Lebanese consensus on Obeid or Kahwagi before May 25, when President Michel Sleiman will leave Baabda Palace at the end of his six-year term in office, the same politicians were certain that the election track was going in this direction. However, it will take some time to convince the top Christian leaders in both the March 8 and March 14 parties of these choices, especially after these parties had failed to agree on a candidate, they said. During Wednesday’s Parliament session, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, the March 14-backed candidate, won 48 votes, well below the 86 votes that are required in the first round of voting to win the presidency. Similarly, allies of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, the assumed candidate of the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, have waited more than long enough for him to convince former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to support his bid for the presidency, but without luck. Some MPs in the FPM told The Daily Star that contacts between Aoun and Hariri were still continuing. They said that they did not expect a negative or positive outcome from these contacts before the second round of presidential voting on April 30. The MPs predicted that the required quorum – two thirds of the 128 lawmakers – would not be met during next week’s Parliament session, which would prompt Speaker Nabih Berri to adjourn the session again. The FPM ministers believe the countdown for the presidential election will start as soon as Aoun gets Hariri’s final response, which is expected to be forthcoming soon.
If Hariri’s response is negative, the MPs said, Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc would begin – with its allies and other political parties – the search for a presidential candidate under agreements that could protect the interests of both the March 8 and March 14 alliances. Meanwhile, a former minister and a current member of Parliament said that they did not rule out the possibility of parliamentary elections being held before the presidential vote if Parliament failed to elect a president before September and if no agreement was reached on Obeid or Kahwagi as possible consensus candidates.
The two, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the results of parliamentary elections might create a new situation that could break the intense political polarization between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions and ultimately secure a Parliament with a majority, making it capable of electing a president.
The unstable security conditions that prompted most parliamentary blocs – except Aoun’s – to agree to delay the parliamentary elections and extend Parliament’s mandate for 17 months, no longer existed, they said. Noting that stability had been restored in the northern city of Tripoli, the fighting in the Syrian town of Qusair near the Lebanese border has ended, and the ongoing coordination between the Interior Ministry and Hezbollah on security issues, the MP and former minister said: “This is an additional factor that could help holding parliamentary elections under the current government even if there was a vacuum in the presidency seat.” They added that holding parliamentary elections was conditional on the approval of a majority of the parliamentary blocs in government.

Mustaqbal, Kataeb Adhere to Geagea's Candidacy for Presidency
Naharnet/The March 14 alliance is carrying out consultations among its factions to guarantee the success of its candidate for the presidential elections and to avert any possible vacuum at the helm of the country's most important Christian post, local newspapers reported on Saturday. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, al-Mustaqbal movement chief Saad Hariri's envoy former MP Ghattas Khoury held separate talks on Friday with the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, and Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel to evaluate the first parliamentary vote and the possible scenarios for the upcoming round. Sources close to al-Mustaqbal told An Nahar daily that the meeting with Geagea tackled all the available options regarding the presidential polls and the necessity to end any vacuum.
The sources stressed that al-Mustaqbal movement is exerting efforts to press the staging of the presidential elections within the constitutional deadline as the March 14 coalition is “holding on to its candidate.”
March 14 sources told An Nahar that “Geagea is still the alliance's sole choice.” Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, who is also the deputy chief of the Kataeb party, told al-Joumhouria newspaper that “the party supports Geagea for the presidency despite the fact that Gemayel's candidacy remains an option.” Last week, March 14 leaders convened at the Center House and declared Geagea as their candidate for presidency. Wednesday's first round of parliamentary deliberations to vote for a new president 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. The parliament will hold a second vote on April 30, in which the winning candidate will need only a simple majority of 65 votes.

Gunfight Erupts between Two Families in Dahiyeh
Naharnet/The army deployed heavily on Saturday in Beirut's southern suburbs to end clashes that erupted between two families in al-Jamous neighborhood, media reports said. According to the state-run National News Agency, gunbattles broke out between Nassereddine and Meqdad families in the neighborhood. Heavy fire was heard in nearby areas. The reason behind the incident remains unknown. MTV quoted later the army command as saying: “We will not tolerate any security breach and will strike with an iron fist.” NNA said that several injuries were reported and an apartment was set ablaze after it was hit by a mortar shell. The army command issued a communique later saying: “at 11:00 am an individual dispute occurred between two families in Beirut's southern suburbs.” The statement described the dispute erupted over previous disagreements between the two families. “The dispute developed into gunfights between members of the families, prompting an army unity to deploy in the area and restore calm.”The statement said that the army is carrying out raids to detain those involved in the incident and refer them to the competent authorities.

Mideast conflicts meet in tiny patch of Lebanon
April 26, 2014/Associated Press
Chebaa, Lebanon: This small, scenic patch of land where the frontiers of Syria, Lebanon and Israel converge has long been a flashpoint, with Hezbollah fighters and Israeli troops positioned face to face in close quarters across undefined and disputed borders. The Syrian civil war has made the region known as chebaa Farms even more dangerous. Rival sides in Syria's conflict crisscross it smuggling weapons and fighters, and sectarian tensions are rising as chebaa's mainly Sunni residents, joined by thousands of Sunni Syrian refugees, turn against Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group because of its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Even in a country with as many potential triggers for violence as Lebanon, chebaa's unique geographic location brings together a collection of particularly bitter enemies. And with tempers fraying on all sides as Syria's war drags on, there are concerns that a misstep by just one of the players in this idyllic landscape of green, rocky hills could drag everyone into a wider, even nastier conflict. For the Lebanese military, which officially controls its side of the disputed frontier, the main concern appears to be the influx of Syrian refugees.
At an army checkpoint in the foothills of Mount Hermon, just outside chebaa, Lebanese troops search and question Syrians as they arrive in Lebanon after an hours-long trek across the rugged mountain frontier. Soldiers say worry that rebels fighting Assad's forces could try to sneak into the village with their weapons and stir up trouble between Sunnis and Shiites - or across the frontier with Israel.
The troops also check Lebanese vehicles carrying humanitarian aid across the border to Syrian villages that have been under siege by Assad's forces for months. The soldiers frequently confiscate food and medicine - desperately needed items in the blockaded communities - and only allow vehicles carrying bags of flour to pass. The army has not said why it seizes those materials. But the practice has fueled local resentment against the army, leading some Sunni residents to accuse Lebanese soldiers of acting at the behest of Hezbollah. "No food is allowed to pass for desperate people, while Hezbollah is whisked through with weapons with no questions asked. What are we to think?" said Mohammed Jarrar, the director of the town's Sunni Islamic Center.
Lebanon, a nation of 4.5 million people, is struggling to cope with more than a million Syrian refugees. One way to stem the tide is to feed people inside Syria.
But if humanitarian aid is prevented from reaching them in Syria, Jarrar said, more refugees will stream across the border into Lebanon, putting further strain on resources and sectarian relations here.
Already, chebaa, which local officials say has a population of some 4,000 people, offers few job opportunities. It has no hospital and no government institutions to speak of apart from a police station. Like elsewhere in Lebanon, the influx of Syrian refugees has doubled the number of inhabitants in chebaa and overwhelmed the community.
For residents, the main fear is that battle-hardened Shiite militants fighting Sunni rebels in Syria will turn on Sunnis in Lebanon. So far, Jarrar said there have been few armed incidents despite tensions.
"Nobody wants the situation to get out of hand," he said. Sunnis who once supported Hezbollah, he said, have grown deeply suspicious if not outright hostile to the group.
"When it comes to resistance to Israeli occupation, we are on the same boat with Hezbollah," Jarrar said. "In Syria, we are against Hezbollah. We support the revolution against a regime that is unjust and that Hezbollah supports."The dispute with Israel is over the larger, 65-square-kilometer (25-square-mile) region known as chebaa Farms. It has been a source of friction for decades, complicated by ownership disputes and an unmarked border between Lebanon and Syria. Beirut and Damascus say chebaa Farms belong to Lebanon. Israel says the enclave is part of the Golan Heights its forces captured from Syria in 1967. The United Nations says the area is part of Syria and that Damascus and Israel should negotiate its fate.
While relations have been hostile between Syria and Israel since the Israelis captured part of the Golan Heights, Damascus has kept the border area with Israel quiet for most of the past 40 years. Most of the violent breaches have occurred on the frontier between Israel and Lebanon, including Israel's invasions of Lebanon, and Hezbollah's abductions of Israeli soldiers. After Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in May of 2000, it retained a small part of the disputed chebaa Farms territory to which the Lebanese government has claimed ownership. Hezbollah has used Israel's continued occupation of this strip of land to justify its need to retain its arsenal and keep up attacks on Israel.
In October 2000, Hezbollah guerrillas disguised as U.N. peacekeepers managed to kidnap three Israeli soldiers on the border near chebaa Farms.
Today, chebaa's landscape is marred by rows of barbed wire and metal fences that separate Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied part. Israeli army towers and Lebanese military outposts on top of surrounding hills face one another as United Nations peacekeepers patrol the roads below. Israeli military aircraft hover in the skies overhead almost daily, and Israeli soldiers regularly detain Lebanese shepherds in the area for questioning. Lebanon's army is officially in charge of security on the Lebanese side of the border, and no Hezbollah militants can be seen moving around. Still, it's impossible to ignore the group's presence in the area. Planted a few hundred meters (yards) from a gate in the metal fence separating the Israeli army in chebaa from Lebanese territory is a giant Hezbollah poster with a picture of Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque with the words "We are coming" written on it in Arabic and Hebrew. Hezbollah's armed intervention in Syria has led some to question whether the group, which has lost hundreds of fighters, has been weakened from that conflict to the point that it won't be able to fight Israel. In what appeared to be - among other things - an attempt to put such doubts to rest, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah earlier this month claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb that went off near an Israeli military patrol along the frontier in the chebaa area, causing no injuries.
Nasrallah said the March 14 bombing was in response to an Israeli airstrike in February on a Hezbollah base in southern Lebanon.

Syria can still produce chemical arms, West warns

By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Saturday, 26 April 2014
Allegations based on intelligence from Britain, France and the United States could strengthen claims that Syria’s military recently used chlorine gas
Western intelligence has suggested that Syria still maintains an ability to deploy chemical weapons despite getting rid of more than 90 percent of its declared chemical stockpiles, a diplomat said on Friday.
The allegations, based on intelligence from Britain, France and the United States, could strengthen claims that Syria’s military recently used chlorine gas in its civil war. “We are convinced, and we have some intelligence showing, that they have not declared everything,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters news agency, adding that the intelligence had come from the three countries.
But when asked how much of its program Syria has kept hidden, the diplomat said: “It’s substantial.” He offered no details to the news agency. The verification of Syria’s declaration on its poison gas arsenal and its destruction has been overseen by a joint team of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global chemical arms watchdog. Syria has denied it maintains the capacity to deploy chemical weapons, calling the allegation a U.S. and European attempt to use their “childish” policies to blackmail Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
In response to allegations from the West, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told Reuters: “These countries aren’t really reliable and their policies towards the implementation of the agreement between the Syrian government and the OPCW aren’t principled but rather childish.”“If they have some evidence they must share it with the OPCW rather than pretending to have secret evidence!”Ja’afari said the three Western powers’ goal was to needlessly extend the U.N.-OPCW mission by “keeping the ‘chemical file’ open indefinitely so that they can keep exerting pressure and blackmailing the Syrian government.”(With Reuters)

U.S. passivity on the world stage has not gone unnoticed

Saturday, 26 April 2014
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya
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 U.S. 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 U.S. and the Soviet Union, as proxy wars and military coups spread across the world.
The logic of deterrence
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. The White House’s barrage of empty threats and red lines were unceremoniously dismissed. Such U.S. 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. 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.
A history of deterrence
Throughout the long U.S.–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 U.S.’s strategic extortion with excessive moderation and conciliatory compromises, provoking the ire of his domestic rivals and precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Obama's passivity
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 U.S. 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 United States. Well, perhaps there is some truth in that. Having somehow overcome its crushing economic crisis thanks to Obama’s astute domestic policy, the U.S. is now in a better position to confront external threats. However, much depends on the current U.S. 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.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 24, 2014

Elections do not a democracy make
Saturday, 26 April 2014
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
It is the season of elections in key Arab states. But these elections are not about real and free choices, as we have seen in Algeria, or as we will see soon in Egypt. And definitely we are not about to see these countries enter a season of true democracy. Three years after a wave of uprisings overthrew four Arab despotic presidents-for-life in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and threatened other entrenched autocrats in Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere, the euphoria of that ‘moment of enthusiasm,’ when many in the region and beyond believed that these states were on the cusp of transformational change, gave way to disillusionment, resignation and even despair. Egypt will revert to its previous status since 1952 as a country ruled by a retired military General, Libya is ungovernable, and Yemen, infamous for its fractured politics, is in chaos, and Syria has descended to multiple civil wars. One could argue that it is too early to render anything but a tentative judgment about the long trajectory of the Arab uprisings.
But equally one could also argue that we may be seeing a counter wave by a reinvigorated Arab authoritarianism, asserting itself in some countries swept by the uprisings such as Egypt and Syria.
Countries that so far avoided this storm such as Iraq and Algerian by burnishing its image with new constitutions, or revised electoral laws allowing some facets of democracy and pluralism such as multi-candidates in presidential elections, and multiparty parliamentary contests, are on a new paradoxical quest for ‘electoral legitimacy’ without democracy.
Electoral autocracy

There is a relatively long intimate history of elections and autocracy in modern times. This was true in Europe in the interwar years, just as it was true in East Asia during the cold war and also in the states that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Strong autocrats, ambitious military men and populist leaders were adept at manipulating elections, creating the institutional facades of democracy and other trappings of open governance, exploiting the legitimate grievances of their peoples and at using the resources and structures of the state to prolong their rule. Arab autocrats no longer resort to referendum to ‘reelect’ themselves; they are creating the charade of allowing opponents to run against them, that is candidates as stalking horses, or candidates who are denied the wherewithal to win, such as access to media, funds, and other arbitrary restrictions that would make it impossible to defeat an incumbent.
Candidates Assad and Bouteflika
The election fever and the ceaseless grotesque quest of Arab autocrats to wrap themselves with ‘electoral legitimacy’ has reached Syria’s Bashar Assad, who has been ‘elected’ twice with overwhelming majorities (in 2007, the unopposed Assad got the ‘yes’ vote of almost 98% of alleged Syrian voters). Although this time, the elastic Syrian constitution has been amended to allow other contenders, and already a token candidate has entered the race. Of course, the amendments make it impossible for any serious candidate to challenge Assad -- if one can imagine elections in a country literally on fire-- since they stipulate that a challenger has to be a resident in the country for at least a decade, which eliminate those who live in exile, in addition to other restrictions.
This is by far the cruelest display of hubris put on by an Arab despot in modern times. Assad, who in a more just international system, would have been indicted as a war criminal responsible for dragging his country to a horrific war claiming at least 160,000 people, uprooting 9 million Syrians and driving 3 million of them to neighboring countries, has the arrogance to engage in such a farce election.
The bet among Syria watchers is that Assad’s majority this time will be less outrageous and may not go above 90%. But the history of liberal democracy in the West in general and the United States in particular shows that democratization is a long process, and that it can be messy and at times destabilizing, because there will always be forces in society that resist some of the basic tenants of democracy and its habits and traditions.
The recent presidential elections in Algeria were less of an affront to the Algerians, than the previous one, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika won his third term with 90% of the vote. This time Bouteflika, who is 77 years old, has allowed an opponent, who had no chance of winning to run against him and made sure not allow his landslide to exceed 81% of the vote. The sight of Bouteflika, casting his vote from a wheel chair, was a painful reminder to many Algerians that the weak health of the president reflects the health of the country.
The making of a myth
The former army General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who has been Egypt’s de facto leader since he toppled the country’s first freely elected president last year and after adding Field Marshal to his many ranks, is waiting for a majority of Egyptian voters to confer electoral legitimacy on his coup. For months, Sisi has been hard at work to create a cult of personality around him, the likes of which Egypt has not seen since the heyday of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950’s and 60’s. The mythmaking around Sisi is unique even by Egypt’s loose standards when it comes to adoring strongmen.
As one female commentator gushed, Sisi ”exudes a magic charm, afforded to a select few. His physical appearance — and appearance counts — is flawless… Therefore, for those who raise an eyebrow at the portraits, flags, pins, pictures, chocolates, cups and other forms of Sisi mania that fill the streets of Egypt, it is only a fraction of the love and appreciation we feel for this strong yet modest, soft-spoken, sincere and compassionate leader. It is Kismet.”
The general in his labyrinth
But after the Egyptians toppled two presidents in less than three years, and after contested presidential and parliamentary elections, the field marshal cannot run unopposed like the three military men who preceded him. Since, once again, the revised election law allows for multi candidates, he will face the former parliamentarian Hamdeen Sabahi in next month’s election, after a third minor candidate withdrew from the race after receiving a ‘sign from God’ that Sisi will win. The election, or rather the elevation of Sisi, comes after unprecedented turmoil in modern day Egypt. The harsh crackdown that Sisi led against the increasingly autocratic regime of President Mohammad Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement, alienated a relatively large stratum of the Egyptian electorate and created an atmosphere of fear and loathing particularly after jailing thousands of Brotherhood activists and outlawing the oldest Islamist movement in modern Egypt. Yet for all his presumed popularity, and because of the rising violence of Brotherhood activists and other radical Islamists who would like to exact vengeance against him, General Sisi lives in relative isolation and rarely leaves Cairo, and according to Eric Trager a noted Egypt analyst. The enduring power of the old order in Egypt, including the entrenched military establishment led by Sisi, was on display in the crucial days that preceded the coup against President Mursi, when large demonstrations were organized in the streets of Egypt’s large cities and led by the movement known as Tamarod (rebellion). Tamarod was formed by few young activists representing secular reformers, who felt that the Brotherhood has stolen the January 25th uprising. The movement supposedly collected millions of signatures calling for the resignation of Mursi.
It is clear now from press reports and statements of former leaders of Tamarod, that the movement was being manipulated, financed and later controlled by the Egyptian military which used it as a grassroots front against the MB. One of the reasons why autocrats win political confrontations is that they are good at manipulating and dividing their opponents. The military did not care for the youth movement, and they used them and treated them as infantile leftists, and the supposedly secularists of Tamarod have proven by their support of the coup and the harsh repression of the Brotherhood that they are anything but liberal democrats.
Fear and loathing on the banks of the Tigris
The parliamentary elections in Iraq may not be predictable, but they may have far-reaching consequences for Iraq’s future and its integrity as a unitary state. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who would like to be reelected for a third term, has ruled as an elected autocrat driven by parochial Shiite considerations and interests. Should he succeed in securing a third term, he is likely to continue his dangerous policies of marginalizing the Sunni Arabs and Kurds, and consolidate his monopoly of centralized autocratic power. The Iraqi political system, based on dividing powers and spoils according to sectarian and ethnic quotas, has been strengthened and became more entrenched through elections. Democracy in countries like Iraq or in Egypt under the MB means majoritarian rule, brought about by popular vote.
Maliki’s authoritarian tendencies, legitimized by two flawed elections, could lead to wider sectarian conflicts if he is elected to a third term.
Illiberal democracy
Elections are a necessary component but not a sufficient condition for democracy or more specifically a liberal democracy. A modern democracy cannot exist without free, fair and transparent elections, but elections alone do not a democracy make. Democracy is a system of checks and balances, separation of powers, a constitution that respects and protects basic civil and political rights and freedoms such as freedom of expression and assembly, the right to form political parties, the civilian control of the military, a free press, and an independent judiciary.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Empire, elections took place in the new emerging republics, from Belarus to Georgia all the way to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. With the exception of the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia which succeeded in establishing modern democracies, all the rest of the former Soviet republics reverted at one time or another to the control of strong autocratic, and repressive regime through what scholars call ‘electoral authoritarianism’ or ‘illiberal democracy.’
The persistence of the old order
In these countries and others, elections, controlled and manipulated by the powers that be, have become synonymous with democracy. This primitive concept of democracy, which is devoid of the other liberal components of liberal constitutional democracies, is what Fareed Zakaria has called ‘illiberal democracy.’ There was no chance for the reformers or the nascent democratic movements to win in these elections that took place in the new republics which were swept away by elements of the ancien régime. The former communists immediately changed their coats and became nationalists and alleged reformers. They knew the art of political organization, the effective means of popular mobilization, and they used rent effectively and were masters at exploiting a complex system of state patronage. They had long years of bureaucratic experience, and they knew how to use the media, and they had plenty of resources. The reformers and the democrats lacked most of these skills and resources, and they ended up either marginalizing themselves or being marginalized by a resurgent old order. We are witnessing a similar development in some Arab states, where the old order is trying to reassert itself and even making headway.
The tortuous road to liberal democracy
Liberal democracy did not make deep roots in the West until the middle of the 20th century when adult citizens enjoyed full civil and political rights. This was possible with the emergence of a strong middle class, the development of healthy free markets, and a large educated population active in voluntary associations in a viable civil society. A democratic system based on political competition among political parties, creates political values and traditions built on compromises, and the concept of political coalitions. In other words, you cannot have democracy without active democrats.
But the history of liberal democracy in the West in general and the United States in particular shows that democratization is a long process, and that it can be messy and at times destabilizing, because there will always be forces in society that resist some of the basic tenants of democracy and its habits and traditions. The Declaration of Independence, America’s cherished symbol of liberty, states that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The declaration was a revolutionary document, and was ahead of its time but alas, it was not immediately put into action. After all, the free men then were only white men who owned property, and excluding Native Americans, not to mention that America then was inflicted with the curse of slavery. It took a horrible civil war to end slavery, and women did not get their universal rights including suffrage until 1920. It is instructive, that the U.S. is celebrating right now the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which finally guaranteed the rights of African-Americans to vote without impediments.
The road to full democracy goes through elections, but elections alone do not a democracy make.

In the Mideast, election ‘carnivals’ are the greatest tricks
Saturday, 26 April 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Alarabiya
Election carnivals are sweeping the Arab world, from Mauritania to Algeria to Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Ballot boxes are the greatest trick dictators used to stay in power, and many people fell for it.
This week, Mauritanian President Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz decided to hold new elections, ignoring the fact that no one recognized the results of the previous ones he held. In Algeria as well, President Bouteflika won the presidential elections for the fourth term. Despite his illness, Bouteflika insisted on voting for himself. Next month, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, almost unrivaled, will be waiting for Egyptians to choose him as their sixth president. Then there is the Syrian president announcing his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, after slaughtering a quarter of a million people and rendering 9 million people homeless. As for Libya, the former elected prime minister fled to Germany after receiving death threats, and the Prime Minister-designate resigned later on for the same reason.
Still a believer? The question remains, do you still believe in democracy around you? This is an old story that Britain tried to impose in the first decades of the 20th Century in Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Iraq. The Americans tried to do the same in Iraq and consequently, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has grabbed more power than the former dictator Saddam Hussein, whose toppling cost amounted to a trillion dollars. From Syria to Mauritania and South Sudan, Arab republics are the outcome of the religious and militant institutions. As long as these two institutions maintain the grip on power, the region will never advance into an era of civilized democracy. The Arab democracy crisis, whether real or false, will often lead to repressive regimes, led by religious men or militants.
Egypt is a typical example: following Tahrir Square’s angry demonstrations that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, people resorted to the ballot box to choose their next president. The first elections crowned a fascist religious party to rule the country, refuting the same democracy that got the party to power. At that point, millions of people, again, protested against the theocratic rule, and army emerged as their only savior. Another great example of the religious militant monster was Sudan. Omar al-Bashir and Sheikh Hassan al-Turabi ruled Sudan in the late 1980s. Al-Bashir wanted to seize all the power, which led to endless crisis. Fearing his ouster, he formed a bilateral alliance again. In Libya, politically immature extremist religious groups are trying to take over the rule by terrorizing parliamentarians, ministers and embassies. These groups have succeeded in sabotaging the situation by being armed and staying in the Parliament. They tried to rule though militias, the same way Qaddafi governed the country. The Arab democracy crisis, whether real or false, will often lead to repressive regimes, led by religious men or militants.
*This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 26, 2014

Wife rape’ fatwa sparks row in Egypt
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
Friday, 25 April 2014
Egyptian preacher and Vice President of the Salafist Call Yasser Burhami has stirred controversy with a new religious edict, or fatwa, allowing men to let their wives be raped if they fear for their lives.
In another fatwa, he graphically described how a man must actually see his wife being penetrated by another man in order for him to claim an adultery case and therefore the right to kill his wife.
Burhami published his fatwas on the website, which is associated with his Salafist Call movement, the spiritual arm of the political al-Nour Party. He added that allowing one’s wife to be raped is like getting mugged for money. “In this case he is forced [to surrender her] and not obliged [to defend her],” he said. The fatwas were met with condemnation within Egypt and prompted an outcry on social media. Assaeed Mohammad Ali, an official at the religious endowments ministry, told the daily al-Masry al-Youm newspaper that Burhami’s fatwa “has no basis in either Sharia or common law.”“Every Muslim has to protect his honor even if that leads him to jail or death. The sacrifice to protect a wife’s honor is a religious obligation,” Ali added.
Burhami’s controversial fatwa also sparked criticism by scholars of al-Azhar University, considered to be the highest seat of Sunni learning. Sheikh Ali Abu al-Hasan, the previous head of al-Azhar’s fatwa committee, was quoted by the daily Elaph website as saying that Burhami’s edict was “baseless in the Islamic Sharia” and that protecting a woman’s honor is an obligation for her husbands and relatives. Mohammad al-Shahat al-Jundi, a member of the Islamic Research Council, also criticized the fatwa, saying it was not based on any “reliable precedent.”
But Sheikh Ali Hatem, a spokesman for the Governing Council of the Salafist Call party, defended his colleague Burhami, accusing an unnamed “infiltrator of seeking to create a crisis and stir problem.”
He said the question that prompted the fatwa was a “trap.”“Sheikh Yasser stressed the obligation of defending the honor. But if the husband is certain that he is not capable of defending himself, that he will die and that the honor of his wife will be jeopardized, what can he do? He is allowed to choose between sacrificing the honor or protecting his life,” Sheikh Yasser said, in statement carried by al-Masry al-Youm.
Bizarre fatwa
The other bizarre fatwa - that said a Muslim man could on religious grounds kill his wife if he caught her in the act of sexual intercourse with another man -also subjected Burhami to another wave of criticism.
Member of Egypt’s Islamic Research Council al-Jundi also denounced this, saying all claims of adultery must be taken to court and that killing is not a form of punishment in proven adultery cases.
“In cases of adultery, husbands cannot breach the law and clinch their rights by the force of their arm,” al-Jundi told the daily Youm7 website.
Burhami, who is a hardline preacher, made the remarks in response to a question posed on his website.
Many took to social media to contest both of Burhami’s statements. “If am married to Burhami, it’s haram to save him whether I live or die,” said one Twitter user, in reference to his fatwa on rape.
“May God avenge you, #Burhami you and those like you,” said another. “They say the only animal who does not protect his females … is Yasser Burhami,” another Twitter user said. On Thursday, Egypt’s religious endowments ministry banned the Salafist sheikh from preaching in any of the country’s mosques, citing the fact that Burhami is not an al-Azhar graduate as a reason.

Afghanistan needs both Iran and the US
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Saturday, 26 Apr, 2014
Kabul—The Independent Electoral Commission of Afghanistan is set to announce the results of its recent presidential elections today, Saturday, April 26. The high turnout of Afghans to the polls in these elections surprised the world, but now three weeks have gone by without any results. As in previous elections there have been many claims of fraud—this time, they could be said to be marginal, but the accusations are still being used by the electoral commission as an excuse to conduct the vote count slowly. Here in Kabul there has been an intense political atmosphere, understandable considering this is the first time in their history Afghans have been able to hand power from one president to the next in a democratic way.
Afghan politicians and their ethnic and tribal leaders are not used to democracy or to respecting the choice of the people. After 12 years and so much change, and in the absence of US involvement, the old warlords are fighting it out as though it was their last chance at power: for them, it’s now or never. Incumbent president Hamid Karzai and his allies are looking to secure their influence before the outcome becomes clear. Meanwhile, the two leading candidates for the presidency, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, are locked in tense negotiations. Still, all the attention right now is on Abdullah.
The polls clearly give Abdullah a big lead over Ghani, but the Independent Electoral Commission appears to be playing with this number due to Ghani’s prestige and his powerful Uzbek running mate, Abdul Rashid Dustam. Apparently this twist cannot be easily avoided, unless Abdullah submits to the terms and conditions imposed by powerful tribal leaders. If he doesn’t, the elections will almost certainly go into a runoff vote.
It will be difficult for hardline Pashtun leaders, some of whom have links to the Taliban, to let a liberal and former Northern Alliance member become the next president. With his strong anti-Taliban background and his history of working against Pakistan-sponsored fighters in Afghanistan, Abdullah is, perhaps, exactly the sort of president those leaders want least.
Instead, powerful ethnic leaders, as well as Karzai and his supporters, are all pushing for something like what happened in 2002, when a transitional government was formed and each political force had a seat in the government. This would be a drastic shift—and not everyone wants this—explaining the delay we are currently witnessing.
Since last week, Western ambassadors in Kabul have slowly begun expressing their fears about national divisions and possible sectarian confrontation. The administration of US President Barack Obama has not yet become involved, possibly because of the difficulties between Obama and Karzai. But it’s difficult for the United States and its allies, which have spent billions of dollars fighting terrorism and promoting democracy in Afghanistan, to see all their efforts on the brink of collapse because of Karzai’s mismanagement.
Other regional players such as Iran, which has the greatest influence in Afghanistan, have also remained silent. Abdullah is too liberal for Iran’s conservative tastes, and he has said he would sign the security agreement with the US, which Iran opposes. And so, Iran and the US have both taken a back seat in these elections, with Iran unable to find a suitable candidate to support, and the US not wanting to be involved at all. But now, the Afghan elite are knocking at their doors, seeking their help.
Afghanistan has reached a stage where it needs a mediator to negotiate between the various factions. Iran and the US both have enormous influence in the country. They have even mediated successfully together before, at the Bonn conference in 2001: that is how this new era in Afghan history began. Whoever he is, the new president will need support from regional and international allies to help him succeed. On Saturday, we will finally know if those brokers got involved. If they didn’t, we will certainly see a runoff vote.

Christian Convert Dragged from Home and Publicly Executed in Somalia
Parents Grieve after Witnessing Daughter's Murder for Her Faith
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/4/25/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that suspected al-Shabaab militants have murdered a woman professing the Christian faith earlier this month after breaking and entering into her home in Mogadishu. Sufia was at home with her parents when a group of armed men burst into her home. Leaving her parents untouched, the men grabbed Sufia, forcefully dragged her from the home at gunpoint, and then publicly shot her, firing into the on-looking crowd as friends and neighbors attempted to save her.
Immediately following the execution, Sufia's killers fled the scene. Despite ongoing efforts by police to locate them, Sufia's murderers remain at-large as of this release. The suspected work of al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist network in Somalia, Sufia's death could be the third al-Shabaab murder this month.
On April 22, Mogadishu Parliamentarian Abdiaziz Isaaq Mursal was the second Somali lawmaker killed by al-Shabaab militants in less than 48 hours for allowing the "invasion of the Christians into Somalia," referencing lawmakers' vote to accept financial support from Western governments and members of the African Union who have sent troops into Somalia to oppose Islamist rebel groups.
Isak Mohamed Rino, a fellow Parliamentarian, was the victim of an exploded bomb placed beneath his car on the morning of April 21. In response to the attacks, al-Shabaab's spokesperson, Ali Dhere, was recorded on al-Shabaab's Andulus radio in Barawe town saying, "We are on war against the apostates in Mogadishu. We will keep carrying attacks, targeting their lawmakers."
According to al-Shabaab, all Somalis are born Muslims by default. Somalis found practicing other religions are considered guilty of apostasy. According to the fundamentalist brand of Islam al-Shabaab adheres to, apostasy occurs when a Muslim leaves Islam for another faith and should be put to death.
Several of the nation's leaders have publicly condemned the attacks on the two murdered Somali Parliamentarians; however, a public condemnation of the systematic execution of Somali Christians has yet to be heard. Speaking on the deaths of the two parliamentarians, president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said Sunday the "culture of lawlessness that has plagued Somalia for the last 23 years is coming to an end." Though similar calls to action have been made in the past, al-Shabaab continues to enjoy complete freedom in its sustained push to eradicate Somalia of its Christian population.
ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, said, "Al-Shabaab is an Islamic extremist group that has vowed to make Somalia 'purely Islamic.' The group adheres to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that includes the beheading of converts from Islam, or, as we've witnessed in Sufia's case, execution by firing squad. The group continues to terrorize not just Christians in Somalia, but any act, person, or policy that could be construed as supportive of Christianity in Somalia. As more Somalis return to Somalia following the establishment of the new government, steps must be taken to protect Christians and other religious minorities. The practice of kidnapping, torturing and publicly executing converts from Islam must be addressed by the international community and should have no place in modern society."

Question: "Did Jesus go to hell between His death and resurrection?"
Answer: There is a great deal of confusion in regards to this question. This concept comes primarily from the Apostles' Creed, which states, “He descended into hell.” There are also a few Scriptures which, depending on how they are translated, describe Jesus going to “hell.” In studying this issue, it is important to first understand what the Bible teaches about the realm of the dead.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is sheol. It simply means the “place of the dead” or the “place of departed souls/spirits.” The New Testament Greek equivalent of sheol is hades which also refers to “the place of the dead.” Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicate that sheol/hades is a temporary place, where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection and judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 gives a clear distinction between the two. Hell (the lake of fire) is the permanent and final place of judgment for the lost. Hades is a temporary place. So, no, Jesus did not go to hell because hell is a future realm, only put into effect after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
Sheol/hades is a realm with two divisions (Matthew 11:23, 16:18; Luke 10:15, 16:23; Acts 2:27-31), the abodes of the saved and the lost. The abode of the saved was called “paradise” and “Abraham's bosom.” The abodes of the saved and the lost are separated by a “great chasm” (Luke 16:26). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He took the occupants of paradise (believers) with Him (Ephesians 4:8-10). The lost side of sheol/hades has remained unchanged. All unbelieving dead go there awaiting their final judgment in the future. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes, according to Ephesians 4:8-10 and 1 Peter 3:18-20.
Some of the confusion has arisen from such passages as Psalm 16:10-11 as translated in the King James Version, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption....Thou wilt show me the path of life.” “Hell” is not a correct translation of this verse. A correct reading would be “the grave” or “sheol.” Jesus said to the thief beside Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus’ body was in the tomb; His soul/spirit went to the “paradise” side of sheol/hades. He then removed all the righteous dead from paradise and took them with Him to heaven. Unfortunately, in many translations of the Bible, translators are not consistent, or correct, in how they translate the Hebrew and Greek words for “sheol,” “hades,” and “hell.”
Some have the viewpoint that Jesus went to “hell” or the suffering side of sheol/hades in order to further be punished for our sins. This idea is completely unbiblical. It was the death of Jesus on the cross and His suffering in our place that sufficiently provided for our redemption. It was His shed blood that effected our own cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7-9). As He hung there on the cross, He took the sin burden of the whole human race upon Himself. He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This imputation of sin helps us understand Christ's struggle in the garden of Gethsemane with the cup of sin which would be poured out upon Him on the cross.
When Jesus cried upon the cross, “Oh, Father, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), it was then that He was separated from the Father because of the sin poured out upon Him. As He gave up His spirit, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). His suffering in our place was completed. His soul/spirit went to the paradise side of hades. Jesus did not go to hell. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension. Did Jesus go to hell? No. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes.