August 01/14


Bible Quotation for today/Prayers & Patience
James 5/7-20: "Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receives the early and late rain. 5:8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 5:9 Don’t grumble, brothers, against one another, so that you won’t be judged. Behold, the judge stands at the door. 5:10 Take, brothers, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 5:11 Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. 5:12 But above all things, my brothers, don’t swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no,” “no”; so that you don’t fall into hypocrisy. 5:13 Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, 5:15 and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 5:16 Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the earth for three years and six months. 5:18 He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. 5:19 Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 5:20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins".

Pope Francis's Tweet for Today ‏
May each family rediscover family prayer, which helps to bring about mutual understanding and forgiveness
Pape François
Je souhaite à chaque famille de redécouvrir la prière en famille : cela aide aussi à se comprendre et à se pardonne

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on August 01/14

The limits of Hezbollah’s conciliation/By: Michael Young/The Daily Star/August 01/14

Islamic Self-Delusion/By: Yousef Al-Dayni/Asharq Al Awsat/August 01/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 01/14

Minister Kenney Concludes Successful Trip to Lebanon

Lebanon Honorary Consul in Benin Asaad al-Shaghouri Shot Dead en Route to Togo

Geagea Denounces Gaza 'Massacre,' Says Lebanon Drawn Back to 'pre-History'

Benin consul killed in robbery: Foreign Ministry

Hezbollah commander killed in Iraq
Ebola fears rise, countermeasures stepped up

Berri denies pushing for Parliament extension

Contacts intensify over salary scale

No signs of election of new president

Arsal officials demand a security plan

Housing institute receives cash from treasury

Identifying plane crash victims could take years

Egypt appoints new ambassador to Lebanon

Lebanon’s Blom Bank says net profit climbs

The limits of Hezbollah’s conciliation

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 01/14

Israeli Air Force takes out 40 mosques-cum-rocket stores, brings new drone into Gaza operation

Hamas agrees to 72 hour truce announced by the US and UN

IDF digging for tunnels, attacking commanders

Israel rules out truce until tunnels destroyed

IDF calls up 16,000 additional reservists

The U.S. is not neutral

Lapid: No deal until tunnels cleared

Iran's Quds Force: Turn Israel into hell

Hamas prevents Gaza kids of treatment in Israel

Israel unbound in today’s Middle East
Turks abroad begin voting in presidential polls

ISIS campaigns stall, Nusra seizes town near Turkey

 Arabs, Africa and the vacuum Egypt left behind

The limits of Hezbollah’s conciliation
Michael Young| The Daily Star

As Iran continues to absorb its recent setbacks in Iraq, one place where both the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia appear to be aiming to contain any Sunni-Shiite confrontation is Lebanon. That should be good news. Hezbollah has toned down its rhetoric of late, preferring to push to the forefront the speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, who has taken on greater prominence in the search for a new president. In Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speech last week on Jerusalem Day, he spoke about Gaza, steering clear of domestic politics. Nasrallah also met with the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt last weekend. While Jumblatt represents a small community, he has been active, with Berri, in trying to effect a rapprochement between Sunnis and Shiites. Allegedly, Jumblatt and Nasrallah spoke only about Gaza. But that doesn’t seems very probable after a two-year interruption in their meetings. At the same time, a Future parliamentarian has noted that the tone of Iran’s new ambassador in Beirut, Mohammad Fathali, was conciliatory in his recent courtesy meeting with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. What seemed clear to those present was that Fathali was engaging in outreach to moderate Sunnis, not surprising given Sunni radicalization throughout the region. On the Saudi side things are less clear. And yet the behavior of pro-Saudi politicians in the country, always acutely sensitive to the temper in Riyadh, suggests a similar impetus. Both Nouhad Machnouk, the interior minister, and Ashraf Rifi, the justice minister, have sought to oppose radicalism in the Sunni community, particularly in the north; yet they have also tried to reassure Sunnis by abolishing wanted lists based on flimsy testimony prepared during the period of the Syrian presence.
The move may have had more symbolic value than anything else, but the Saudi decision earlier this year to lift the ban on travel to Lebanon by its citizens was also an indicator of a change in the kingdom. This prompted other Gulf countries to follow suit. The economic impact has been limited, but the decision contributed to increasing optimism in the country, despite the arrest of foreign visitors last month due to terrorism fears. As the last country with a complicated sectarian mix that has not descended into conflict, Lebanon remains important not only to Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also to the international community. No one wants to see a new sectarian war in Lebanon, in a Middle East that is already veering out of control.
And yet the desire all around to stabilize Lebanon has not affected deeper political objectives and interactions. Hezbollah may be under duress in Syria, but that only makes it more determined to bring in a Lebanese president who will give it the political cover it wants. It seems doubtful that Michel Aoun is that man. The party is looking for predictability and consensus in volatile times, and Aoun assuredly does not promise that. Nor does Hezbollah appear to be in any hurry to have a new president, given the uncertainties in Syria and Iraq. The ongoing fighting in the Qalamoun area northwest of Damascus shows the grinding nature of the Syrian conflict, and the foolishness of Hezbollah’s belief that a corner has been turned to the advantage of President Bashar Assad’s regime. A corner has indeed been turned, but what looms ahead is something far more worrisome for Hezbollah, Assad and many others.
Lebanese sectarian relations seem manageable for now, which has been reinforced by shared Sunni and Shiite outrage with the Israeli assault on Gaza. When Nasrallah speaks about Palestine, it allows him to revert to his past persona as a unifying Arab figure, rather than as the sectarian leader he was portrayed as after Hezbollah’s entry into the Syrian conflict.
But Hamas’ appeal to Hezbollah that it open a Lebanese front against Israel may prove embarrassing. Hezbollah has no desire to enter the Gaza war today when it is so heavily committed in Syria. Nor would this do anything but increase the hardships of a country already forced to deal with over a million Syrian refugees and nearing the precipice economically. Iran too must see a need to momentarily step back. Its policies and those of its allies in Iraq have proven disastrous. Nor has the Iranian reaction to the offensive of the Islamic State been effective. There now seems to be movement to remove Nouri al-Maliki, but initially he is said to have resisted Iranian entreaties that he withdraw his candidacy for the prime minister’s post. Unless Iraq’s political stability can be consolidated and a reconciliation forged with Sunnis so that they can turn against the Islamic State, it will be nearly impossible to reverse the jihadists’ gains.
But what holds in Iraq holds elsewhere. If the Iranians want to calm tensions with the Sunnis, it will not be enough to do so in Lebanon and even Iraq, while pursuing policies elsewhere, above all in Syria, that enrage Sunnis. Yet Iran has proven unwilling to compromise on its basic political aims in the region. It has adhered to the power principle, where it will stop pushing only when it meets equal resistance from its foes. Therefore, while Lebanon may benefit from an Iranian (and a Saudi) desire to reduce tensions, this will be precarious for as long as Tehran refuses to downscale its regional ambitions, which will only provoke harsher Sunni counter-reactions. Lebanon has many shortcomings, but one reason why it has managed until now to avoid the plights of Syria and Iraq is that its very imperfect system is yet based on sectarian compromise. Iran and Hezbollah must grasp that lesson, or else their expedient efforts to placate Sunnis will all be for nothing.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @B

Hezbollah commander killed in Iraq
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A Hezbollah commander was recently killed while on a “jihadi mission” in Iraq, officials in Lebanon said Thursday. The officials, who are close to Hezbollah, said Ibrahim Mohammad al-Hajj was killed sometime in the past week. They did not provide any details on his mission or circumstances of his death and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media. It was the first known Hezbollah death in Iraq since Sunni extremists with ISIS captured large parts of the country north and west of Baghdad in June. Iraqi officials have said that a handful of advisers from Hezbollah are offering front-line guidance to Iraqi Shiite militias fighting the Sunni extremists north of Baghdad. But it is not known if – beyond the advisers – any Hezbollah fighters are battling alongside Iraqi Shiite militiamen. Last year, Hezbollah fighters openly joined Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in a decision that has fueled sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV aired footage Thursday of Hajj’s funeral that was held in the Western Bekaa town of Mashgara Wednesday. The funeral was attended by top Hezbollah officials, including the head of the group’s parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad and Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan. Al-Manar referred to Hajj as “commander,” saying he died while “performing his jihadi duties” – a term used by the group when its members are killed in action. Hajj’s coffin, draped in the group’s yellow flag, was carried by Hezbollah fighters in uniform who walked on a red carpet as a band played music. In July 2006, Hajj was among a group of Hezbollah fighters who crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers and brought them into Lebanon, Lebanese security officials told the Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The capture triggered a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah that left 160 Israelis and 1,200 Lebanese dead.
Al-Manar said Hajj’s achievements on the battlefield had “pained the enemy,” referring to Israel. He was the second Hezbollah commander to be killed abroad in recent months. In May, Fawzi Ayoub, a Hezbollah military commander wanted by the FBI, was killed in Syria while fighting alongside Assad’s forces.

Geagea Denounces Gaza 'Massacre,' Says Lebanon Drawn Back to 'pre-History'
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea considered on Thursday that Lebanon has been drawn back to a “pre-historic” phase, not because of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's acts, but because of some political factions' stances. “The presidential vacuum that we are witnessing is unacceptable, and it is no longer a farce only but a tragedy that is being reflected in a parliamentary and a ministerial vacuum,” Geagea stated during a meeting with a delegation of the World Lebanese Cultural Union. In other words, Lebanese has gone back to a "pre-historic phase" not because of ISIL but because of some factions' stances, he said. Geagea, a presidential candidate, had received 48 votes in the first parliamentary session dedicated for choosing a new head of state on April 23. He repeatedly called for securing quorum at the parliament but disagreements between the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions have so far prevented the election of a new leader to replace former President Michel Suleiman. Separately, the LF leader denounced the ongoing Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. "What is happening in Gaza is unacceptable by all accounts... from a humanitarian perspective this is unacceptable,” he stressed. "It is about time for the Arab League to convene … and join its political capabilities to take steps and stop the Gaza war,” he added. Arab countries have “enough influence and political power to the stop the massacre there in a very short time,” Geagea expressed. Gaza has been under Israeli attack for the past 24 days, an assault which has so far taken the lives of over 1,400 civilians and injured 8,000 others. The Christian leader also commented on the situation in Iraq's Mosul, where Christians are attacked by the Islamic State and are left to choose between converting to Islam or persecution.
"I can't find the words to describe the situation (in Mosul) because what is happening goes back to an era before Islam and Jahiliyah. It goes back to pre-history.”He elaborated: “ISIL is a criminal terrorist organization... and we call for confronting this phenomenon that has no elements that would help its continuation. It has no ties with Islam or Christianity and in case it was sustained, it will terminate Islam, Christianity and the Middle East.”

No New Wage Scale Soon as Bou Saab Hints at Adopting Solution without SCC Consent
Naharnet /The new wage scale impasse has entered a new critical phase, as deadlines for university admissions are approaching while students have not secured their certificates because of the ongoing boycott of official exams' correction. Amid the ongoing crisis, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab stated on Thursday that he is ready to adopt a solution that does not necessarily please the Syndicate Coordination Committee, explaining that he was keen on students' rights.
"If we do not agree on issuing the new wage scale as soon as possible, the future of students would go into the unknown,” Bou Saab warned at a press conference he held at the ministry.
He elaborated: “The new wage scale is a barrier standing between the SCC and its decision to correct official exams. The SCC and I are together in this crisis and but I tell the Committee that the minister should stand by the students also because they are suffering as well.”Nevertheless, he reiterated that he won't oblige any teacher to correct exams.
“No correction of exams will take place without SCC's approval and I did not change my opinion. I will not oblige anyone to correct exams,” he assured, hoping that SCC members would listen to students' rights and demands.Bou Saab revealed that he had asked SCC members to “think about a solution to push for the adoption of the new wage scale,” remarking also that a parliamentary session might not be held for “political reasons.”The Education Minister said that Speaker Nabih Berri “assured that there would be no legislation at the parliament without the new wage scale,” adding also that the March 14 coalition and al-Mustaqbal Movement support adopting the new wage scale.“But it's apparent that it will not be adopted soon,” he pointed out. “We have many options and there is no final solution. I could take a decision that does not please the SCC,” he stated. Meanwhile, SCC head Hanna Gharib vowed on Thursday that the committee's members will not withdraw any of their demands, threatening to hold a general strike and taking other escalation steps to secure the adoption of the new wage scale. “We still insist on the 121% wage increase, of which we received 45% and we are waiting for the remaining amount,” he stressed. He considered that this is not an “issue of concessions but of unleashing teachers,” assuring that the SCC is also keen on students' rights. Gharib then announced that a strike will take place in public institutions on August 6, to push for the long-awaited new wage scale's adoption.

Lebanon Honorary Consul in Benin Asaad al-Shaghouri Shot Dead en Route to Togo
Naharnet/The Lebanese honorary consul in Benin was shot dead by gunmen while on his way from the African country's capital Cotonou to neighboring Togo, a statement released by the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. The ministry's statement detailed on the incident: “On Wednesday evening, Lebanon's honorary consul in the Republic of Benin Asaad al-Shaghouri was on his way from Cotonou to his house in Togo where he was scheduled to inaugurate a new business venture, a construction material company called La Roche.”“But when his vehicle stopped at the red traffic lights in the Bagida region, which connects Cotonou to Togo's capital Lome, he was showered with random bullets fired from five cars that were following him,” it added. Al-Shaghouri died on the spot after receiving several gunshots, while his driver was hit with bullets in the waist area, the statement added. "The incident resulted in huge material damage in the area,” it noted. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a probe was immediately launched in the matter, and that the consul's brother Joseph al-Shaghouri was informed about all aspects of the incident. The slain man's brother considered robbery to be the main motive behind killing the consul, awaiting the final results of the probe. Meanwhile, Benin's Interior Minister visited the scene of the crime on Thursday and appointed a commandant to follow-up on the investigation.
"The body of the Lebanese consul will arrive on Friday evening at the Beirut international airport, and the ministry will take care of the funeral's arrangements,” the statement said.
Following the incident, Lebanese expats who reside in Lome held sit-ins in front of their businesses to deplore Shaghouri's assassination.

Kataeb Objects Parliament Term Extension, Rejects Turning Arsal into 'Confrontation Zone' between Syria Rivals
Naharnet/The Kataeb Party on Thursday strongly opposed extending the parliament's term, rejecting also transforming the border region of Arsal into a zone of “confrontation” between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime. The Kataeb warned again on Thursday of “the repetitive postponement of parliamentary sessions dedicated for electing a new head of state,” the party's political bureau said in a statement after its weekly meeting. "We call for taking a constitutional stance that secures quorum (at the parliament) and ends the presidential crisis,” the political bureau said, adding that a president who takes charge of national decisions and who places Lebanon on the “correct path” should be elected. "Electing a president breaks the extension of the parliament's term,” the statement noted, remarking that the Kataeb party strongly opposes this extension.  The politburo's statement comes amid talks about extending the parliament's term once again amid the presidential vacuum. In a separate matter, the Kataeb conferees rejected transforming Arsal “into a region of confrontation between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.” They also “strongly” condemned raids carried out by Syrian militants “inside Lebanese territories,” demanding army troops and security forces "to do what is necessary to preserve the Lebanese people's security.”Tension has recently resurfaced on the Lebanese-Syrian border near the Arsal plains, where clashes are ongoing between Hizbullah fighters and gunmen in the region. Many Hizbullah fighters have recently died in the renewed clashes against Syrian rebels on several fighting fronts in al-Qalamoun villages, as the Syrian regime claims that it is bombing the Arsal plains “to prevent terrorists' infiltration.”

Lebanese Community in Libya Demands Evacuation amid Deteriorating Security Conditions
Naharnet /The Lebanese community in Libya urged on Thursday national authorities to evacuate Lebanon's expats from the African country, where deadly clashes are currently taking place between rival militias. The state-run National News Agency said on Thursday that it was contacted by the Lebanese community in the Libya, which urged Lebanon's authorities to “move quickly and evacuate the expats because of the deteriorating security conditions that were caused by ongoing clashes between rival groups.”"People of all nationalities are being evacuated, except for Lebanese expats,” the NNA quoted members of the Lebanese community in Libya as saying. The news agency noted that the Lebanese charge d'affaires in Libya had left Tripoli back in April. Several countries have already evacuated their nationals and diplomatic staff from Libya, amid growing lawlessness and unrest. The latest countries to adopt such measures were the United States, the Philippines, Spain, Brazil, Greece, France, Britain, Egypt and Germany. The Tripoli clashes, the most violent since toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's ouster, started with an assault on the airport by a coalition of groups, mainly Islamists, which has since been backed by fighters from third city Misrata.The attackers are battling to flush out fellow former rebels from the hill town of Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, who have controlled the airport for the past three years.

Berri Denies Addressing Parliamentary Elections with Political Powers, Prioritizes Presidential Poll

Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Thursday that he didn't tackle the extension of the parliament's term with any political party, pointing out that the priority is for staging the presidential elections.
“Contacts with political powers are focusing on the election of a new head of state and not the parliamentary polls,” Berri said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He denied that he tackled the extension of the parliament's tenure with any political party, saying: “I refuse to take this matter into consideration... I am dealing with it as if it doesn't exist.”“My meeting with (Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid) Jumblat addressed the presidential poll in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the ongoing deadlock.” The two officials held a meeting on Tuesday in Ain el-Tineh. A heated debate surfaced recently over the possibility of extending the parliament's term amid the ongoing presidential vacuum.Lebanon will enter on August 20 a deadline to agree on a new electoral law ahead of the November elections. In May 2013, the parliament voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a new electoral law. Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014. The flurry of political consultations is aimed at securing the extension of the parliament and averting further vacuum at state institutions, An Nahar newspaper quoted sources as saying. The sources expressed fear that Christian parties would impede the endeavors as Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun insists on staging parliamentary elections based on a new electoral law, while Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea rejects the matter and is holding onto the importance of carrying out the presidential elections first.

Arsal officials demand a Tripoli-style security plan
Elise Knutsen/Nizar Hassan| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Officials in Arsal called on the Army Thursday to implement a security plan in the town mimicking initiatives in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, in the latest move to stem the fallout from the Syrian war on the embattled town. “We hope the security plan will be expanded to reach our whole region, similar to what happened in Tripoli and the north,” said a statement released by Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri and the town’s municipal council. The statement saluted Army soldiers and commanders for Lebanese Army Day, which is Friday, and praised the Army’s efforts to secure Arsal and the country.
It called on the residents of Arsal to show patience and cooperation toward the Army’s security arrangements in the region. “We call on our people in Arsal not to lose patience because of some arrangements on Army checkpoints in Arsal, because we are sure that these arrangements are the result of security data and practical complexities in such difficult circumstances,” the statement said.
On the other hand, the statement called on the Army leadership to treat its residents equally with all other citizens. Earlier Thursday, the Army arrested six Syrian nationals on suspicion of belonging to Syrian rebel groups, the National News Agency reported. The agency said four were detained at a Lebanese Army checkpoint in Wadi Ain-Ata, and two at a checkpoint in Ain al-Shaab. The six were handed over to the judicial police for further interrogation.  Residents of Arsal are sympathetic to the Syrian rebels, many of whom are believed to be taking refuge in the mountainous area bordering the town. Carol Malouf, a Lebanese political commentator who spent two days in Arsal earlier this week, said the situation there was “dangerous.” “People are scared,” she said, adding that increasing numbers of opposition fighters were pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al-Qaeda splinter group that has made major gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months. Still, most of Arsal’s residents are wary of the Lebanese Army’s leadership and may not welcome a Tripoli-style security plan. If the Army started searching refugee settlements and cracking down on those who have entered Lebanon illegally, it “might trigger a counter reaction,” Malouf said. Moreover, Malouf said, opposition fighters may try to attack the Lebanese Army, which they claim is a tool of Hezbollah. “They are explicit that they want to attack the Lebanese Army checkpoint,” at the edge of Arsal, Malouf said. Concern for the welfare of the Syrian refugees around Arsal and respect for the village elders who welcomed them as they fled the battles in Qalamoun and Yabroud is all that is preventing the militants from staging an attack in the town of Arsal, Malouf said. “But I don’t know how long this will last,” she added.
The Arsal municipal statement stressed that the town supported the Lebanese Army and its people would fight against whoever “dares to harm our Army, especially in Arsal.”
“We will use this opportunity to warn the Army against the sides that intend to conspire against it.” Reports of a coordinated campaign by the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah to oust Syrian rebels opposed to the regime of Bashar Assad, with possible coordination with the Syrian military, has increased fears of growing opposition to the Army in Sunni towns in the north. Many of the Army’s recruits come from poorer Sunni-majority towns and villages in the north. Salafist sheikhs such as the firebrand preacher Ahmad al-Assir have often urged these soldiers to defect, citing alleged mistreatment of Sunni communities and collusion with Hezbollah. Police also announced that several arrests were made during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, over offenses that included drug possession, stolen vehicles and weapons possession. The Internal Security Forces released a statement saying that 23 arrests were made, and 46 motorcycles and 13 cars confiscated during Eid al-Fitr in Beirut. Among the 23 arrested, 10 were detained for drug possession, two for robbery, two for driving stolen motorcycles, two for carrying weapons, one for prostitution and the rest for different offenses.

No signs of election of new president: Western diplomat
The Daily Star/The international community sees no clear signs indicating that the presidential vacuum, now in its third month, will come to an end soon, according to a Western diplomat.
The diplomat, speaking during a meeting with a senior Lebanese politician, said that since the presidential void would definitely affect the entire situation in Lebanon, efforts would be made by the International Support Group for Lebanon in New York to come up with a solution to the Lebanese presidential crisis, especially as the international community maintained its support for Lebanon’s stability.
The ISGL was created in New York last year to support Lebanon’s national institutions and its Army. For his part, the Lebanese politician warned that there could be dire consequences if the Christian parties in both the March 8 and March 14 camps maintained their unyielding positions on the presidential election.“Practicing democracy means that in the absence of a parliamentary majority for any of the two [rival] factions, we should go to consensus on the name [of a candidate] who has the qualifications that make him acceptable to everyone,” the politician, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Star.
This candidate, the politician said, should be able to satisfy all the parties with his conciliatory attitude, must appreciate the need for national dialogue and must avoid spite and gloating.
The politician also spoke about the dramatic developments in Iraq, where the Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, has captured large swaths of territory, particularly in the north.  The politician said there were diplomatic reports indicating that ISIS was forging ahead with its preparations to take over Baghdad, as the militant group possessed huge military power.
ISIS has not yet reached the apex of its achievements in Iraq and the group is now focused on the Ramadi-Haditha crossing, as a prelude to seizing the central government headquarters in Baghdad, according to the Lebanese politician. He laid the responsibility for the U.S. failure in Iraq squarely on the shoulders of politicians and policymakers, rather than on the intelligence agencies.
According to the politician, there was a deluge of information that was published in media outlets last year which pointed to the imminent outbreak of a sectarian war in Iraq and to the growth of ISIS’ military strength in both Iraq and Syria. “The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama should have learned from the ISIS control over the city of Fallujah and other areas in the Anbar province and taken sufficient measures to change its Iraq policy,” the Lebanese politician said. He recalled the testimony of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, to the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate in February. Lt. Gen. Flynn warned of ISIS’ attempts to seize territories in Iraq and Syria, while simultaneously maintaining a number of safe havens for its activities inside of Syria.
“This information indicates that all Western, Arab and Lebanese reports about the activities of extremist groups that have begun to surface since 2000 following the Diniyeh events [clashes between the Lebanese Army and extremists] were not made idly, nor were they meant only to frighten the Lebanese, but they were a preemptive warning of what lay in store for Lebanon,” the politician said.
“These groups have begun operating in the region in order to translate their black ideologies into reality, by extending their control over vast areas in Iraq and in Syria. This means that Lebanese wisdom must overcome political stubbornness, which will lead only to big risks that threaten the [Lebanese] entity and institutions.”The politician therefore called on rival leaders to set the Lebanese political house in order quickly, so that it could serve as “a fortress for the military and security forces in confronting the takfiri danger.” “I don’t want to frighten the Lebanese. But my duty compels me to say that the situation is extremely dangerous and that there is no room for complacency,” he said.  “We hope we will not wake up one day in a nation ravaged by dark ideologies that use its land as a new starting point [for attacks] that would lead to the elimination of the Lebanese model, with its uniqueness in the world.”


Israeli Air Force takes out 40 mosques-cum-rocket stores, brings new drone into Gaza operation
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 31, 2014/The Israeli Air Force bombed 40 mosques in Gaza Tuesday night, July 30, in the most extensive operation against Hamas’ religious institutions-cum-military bases so far. In total, at least 50 mosques have been blown up along with their stockpiles of rockets and arms caches. These concentrated air strikes on rocket arsenals are as integral to Operation Protective Edge as the ground work in destroying tunnels. They have been stepped up in advance of the preparations launched by the government on Wednesday for the possible termination of the IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of troops. debkafile's sources say that the order to end the ground operation in Gaza would not mean that the war is over. There are no illusions about the Palestinian extremist groups laying down their arms. In practical terms, therefore, Israeli troops will regroup and spread out along the border as a barrier against future Hamas attempts to keep up its terror offensive by means of cross-border commando raids using undiscovered tunnels and firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Israel’s war planners believe the IDF ranged outside the Gaza border is capable of repelling these assaults by means of tank and artillery fire and air force drones. The confrontation with Hamas will thus morph into an ongoing war of attrition.
This past week has also seen the first deployment in action of the Air Force’s brand new Hermes 900 UAV, an unmanned aircraft also known as the Star. Never before used in wartime operations, the drone’s debut was rushed forward because of its useful properties: The aircraft can fly nonstop for 30 hours at an altitude of 30,000 feet, the while conducting surveillance, gathering intelligence and relaying communications to and from military personnel in the field. Star carries 300 kg of attack weaponry. Its cockpit and operating systems are superior to previous models, enabling commander, operator and crew to work together seamlessly. It has been functioning almost nonstop in the Gaza operation with great success. Manufactured by Elbit Systems, the drone had until this week only flown test flights and was not scheduled to become operational until 2015. But Operation Protective Edge called for an upgraded version of the Air Force’s Hermes 450 – a UAV that flies similar missions -- and so the 900 was fast-tracked into the fleet. As it is relatively untested in battle, the Star is only being used for certain types of missions. When the current war ends, the air force will resume further study of its performance in emergency situations and diverse altitudes and weather conditions.

Israel rules out truce until tunnels destroyed
GAZA CITY/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing widespread international condemnation over spiraling civilian deaths in Gaza, said Thursday he would not accept any cease-fire that stopped Israel completing the destruction of Hamas’ infiltration tunnels. The Israeli military estimated Wednesday that accomplishing that task, already into its fourth week, would take several more days. “We are determined to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire,” Netanyahu said in remarks at a meeting of his full cabinet in Tel Aviv. “I won’t agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to finish this important task, for the sake of Israel’s security.”Leaving open the option of widening a ground campaign in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said it had called up an additional 16,000 reservists. But the U.N. Security Council called for humanitarian pauses in Gaza and renewed its appeal for an immediate cease-fire. The Council expressed “grave disappointment” that repeated appeals for an end to the fighting had not been heeded.
Washington said it had agreed to restock Israel’s dwindling munitions supplies, despite concern over the death toll in Gaza, where 1,435 people have been killed in 24 days. The White House Thursday said there was little doubt that Israeli artillery was the source of a “totally indefensible” strike that killed 16 people at a U.N. school, Wednesday. “It does not appear there’s a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “There is clearly more that can and should be done to ensure the safety of innocent civilians,” he added. The shelling of the school also drew sharp condemnation from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, who described it as “reprehensible.”
In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Israeli tank shells landed near another U.N.-run school Thursday and at least 30 people sheltering inside were wounded by shrapnel and shattered glass, witnesses and hospital officials said. U.N. figures indicate two-thirds of the conflict’s victims are civilians, nearly half them women and children. The Pentagon called on Israel to do more to protect civilian life during its military operations in Gaza. “The civilian casualties in Gaza have been too high. And it’s become clear that the Israelis need to do more to live up to their very high standards – their very high and very public standards – for protecting civilian life,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said. The United Nations’ senior human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Thursday that Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals and U.N. premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Pillay said Israel’s actions seemed to be in “deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes.” “This is why again and again I say we cannot allow impunity, we cannot allow this lack of accountability to go on.”The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it will seek written pledges of support from all political factions, including rival Hamas, to press for possible war crimes charges against Israel over the assault. There was no let-up Thursday in the bloodshed with at least 50 Palestinians killed, another 14 dying from injuries suffered in earlier attacks and a growing number of bodies pulled from under rubble in areas near the southern town of Khan Younis, medics said. Israeli airstrike on a house in the central Gaza Strip’s Nusseirat refugee camp killed nine, while three more were killed in nighttime strikes in the south of the strip, and a body was recovered from rubble in Khan Younis. The top U.N. refugee official in Gaza told the Security Council Thursday that the UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency was stretched to breaking point by the massive humanitarian fallout from the fighting. “I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation,” Pierre Kr?henbühl said.
One Israeli, meanwhile, was moderately wounded by projectile that struck in the southern town of Kiryat Gat. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who failed in a visit to the region last week to secure a cease-fire, voiced support for Israel’s operations against the tunnels. “No country can sit there and live with tunnels being dug under its border, out of which jump people who are carrying handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs in order to kidnap their citizens and hold them for ransom,” Kerry said in an interview broadcast Thursday by India’s NDTV. Despite the loss of life, there appeared to be little Israeli appetite for a truce, with a senior official telling Haaretz newspaper that a cease-fire was not even close. Nevertheless, an Israeli delegation traveled to Cairo late Wednesday to discuss a possible cease-fire with Egyptian officials, an official at the airport told AFP.


Berri denies pushing for Parliament extension
Hasan Lakkis/Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The presidential vacuum, now in its third month, has taken its toll on the military establishment, prompting the Army Command to cancel this year’s celebrations marking Army Day Friday.
Speaker Nabih Berri, meanwhile, refuted reports that he and MP Walid Jumblatt were pushing for the extension of Parliament’s term. He said he had agreed with Jumblatt to launch joint moves to break the presidential deadlock.
“There will be no military parade or celebrations in Fayyadieh to mark Army Day due to the absence of the president,” a senior military official told The Daily Star Thursday.
Similarly, the annual graduation of a new batch of officer cadets has been postponed until a president is elected, the official said.
Under the Constitution, the president is the overall commander of the Lebanese Army Forces. On Army Day which falls on Aug. 1, the president usually distributes swords to graduating officers at a ceremony at the Military Academy in Fayyadieh, east of Beirut, attended by the Parliament speaker, the prime minister, Cabinet members, MPs, Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, senior military and security officials and Arab and foreign ambassadors.
Yet soldiers and officers will mark Army Day in their barracks and positions across the country by distributing the Order of the Day to be issued by Kahwagi Friday, the official said.
This year’s Army Day comes as the military faces tough challenges threatening the country’s security and stability due to the spillover from the war in neighboring Syria and the turmoil in Iraq and sectarian tensions linked to the conflict next door.
The Army has in the past months uncovered several terror networks affiliated with Al-Qaeda which were blamed for the wave of car bombings and suicide attacks that targeted military positions and areas in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley where Hezbollah enjoys big support. The Army, General Security and the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch have also foiled a number of terror attacks, arresting several suspected would-be suicide bombers.The Army has struggled over the past three years to defuse tensions and prevent the country’s slide into sectarian violence similar to what is happening in Syria and Iraq. Troops deployed in the northern city of Tripoli in April as part of a government security plan to end years of violent fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, as the presidential election stalemate drags on with no solution in sight, the stage is being set for a possible new extension of Parliament’s mandate, which expires in November. Parliament has failed for the 10th time since April over lack of quorum to pick a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.
Berri reiterated his call for giving priority to the election of a president, denying reports that he and Jumblatt supported the extension of Parliament’s term. “No one has discussed with me and I will not allow anyone to discuss with me the extension of Parliament’s term. The first, second, third and 10th priority for me is the presidency,” he was quoted by his visitors as saying.
He said he did not discuss the extension issue during his meeting with Jumblatt Tuesday, nor did the Progressive Socialist Party leader bring it up.
“Rumors that they [Berri and Jumblatt] supported the extension of Parliament’s term have ulterior motives. Those spreading them are the ones who want Parliament’s term to be extended and they are accusing us of it,” Berri was quoted as saying.
Declaring that there was nothing new in the presidential election crisis, he said: “Parliamentary elections should take place with the presence of a president.” He added that internal pressures should be exerted in order to elect a president. “I have reached an understanding with Jumblatt on joint moves which I will not reveal linked to the presidential election.”
Berri Thursday received a cable of greetings from U.S. President Barack Obama for Eid al-Fitr. Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush said he would present at the right time a draft proposal for the extension of Parliament’s term. “I did not discuss this matter with Speaker Nabih Berri or others because I work according to my conviction,” Fattoush told The Daily Star. Fattoush, a former Cabinet minister who made the draft proposal that extended Parliament’s term for 17 months in May last year, stressed that the legal basis he would use in the extension proposal is beyond doubt. Citing security concerns facing the country as a result of the negative fallout of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, he rejected charges that there was “a deal” behind attempts to extend Parliament’s term. “[Parliamentary] elections require that candidates communicate with the people. How can this happen in the circumstances through which the country is passing?” Fattoush said.


ISIS campaigns stall, Nusra seizes town near Turkey
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A fierce battle between Syrian Kurds and ISIS militants in rural Aleppo province has killed nearly 50 fighters from both sides as the Kurds seized several ISIS positions, an anti-regime monitoring group said Thursday. Meanwhile, the Nusra Front, the official Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and bitter rival of ISIS, has seized territory in northwest Idlib also along the border with Turkey from local rebel groups. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes in the region of Ain al-Arab in northern Aleppo province killed 14 members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and 35 jihadists.Dozens of fighters were wounded, the Observatory said. The Britain-based monitor said the area was now “calm” after the fighting in the region on the border with Turkey.
In the battle, Kurdish fighters took several hills which ISIS jihadists had seized and set up positions.
Earlier in July, hundreds of Kurdish fighters had crossed the Turkey- Syria border into Ain al-Arab, to join the anti- ISIS fight.
In eastern Deir al-Zor province, the Observatory said that Wednesday’s clashes between ISIS and members of the Sheaitat tribe resulted in the killing or wounding of nine ISIS fighters, among them a Belgian and an Egyptian. The clashes were sparked by ISIS militants when they arrested several members of the tribe, despite an earlier pledge to refrain from such actions. The Observatory said that ISIS established a number of roadblocks and blocked bridges on the Euphrates in a bid to corner the armed tribesmen. It also sent a convoy toward three villages dominated by the tribe, in a bid to end the group’s fight-back against ISIS. ISIS militants also staged an attack against regime forces near the city of Hassakeh to the north, firing mortar bombs at the outskirts of Hassakeh and killing at least three civilians – a woman and two of her children – with a barrage of mortar bombs. However, the ISIS fighters were forced to retreat from their positions fearing a response by regime forces, the Observatory said. Pro-opposition media reported that large numbers of people in and around the Hassakeh area were fleeing the clashes. In northwest Idlib province, Nusra Front fighters seized the town of Sarmada near the Turkish border from local rebel militias, the Observatory said. A Nusra statement said it was continuing to take action against “corrupt” rebel militias, which it accuses of looting and theft, as well as “un-Islamic” behavior. It repeated earlier threats to take action against any group receiving Western aid, which includes several mainstream rebel groups active in Idlib province. The Observatory said Thursday’s confrontation began when “skirmishes” erupted between local rebels and Nusra Front fighters, when the latter group sent a large convoy of vehicles in the direction of Sarmada. The fighting ended with Nusra capturing the town. Nusra has in recent weeks seized a string of villages in rural Idlib, whose provincial capital is held by regime forces. Also in Idlib province, a general commanding a regime infantry brigade was killed by a land mine, the Observatory said, without giving additional details. Regime planes launched a number of strikes on villages and towns in Idlib, including Sarmada, Salqin, Kafranbel and Bara. And in Hama province, rebels killed or wounded a number of regime troops in an ambush late Wednesday, the Observatory said. The northern and western outskirts of the provincial capital have been the target of rebel attacks in recent days, with the militias using Grad rockets to target the military airport on the outskirts of the city of Hama.


Islamic Self-Delusion

By: Yousef Al-Dayni/Asharq Al Awsat
Thursday, 31 Jul, 2014
I was recently speaking with a well-known “moderate” Islamist figure about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and how this terrorist group has managed to defame the true image of Sunni Islam within just a few short months—more than Al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups ever have. While this well-known preacher agreed with me about ISIS and its false brand of Sunni Islamism, he said this does not eliminate the dream of the return of the caliphate—the aspiration of every Muslim who wants to see Islam rise up and advance, as Islam cannot do so without its state.
This rejection of ISIS and terrorism while still wanting to see the return of the caliphate represents a major problem in Islamic discourse today. This is the result of a state of low self-esteem in the Islamic world that has existed since the fall of the last caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and represents a response to the arrival of new Islamic discourse that not only frowned at the idea of caliphate, but viewed this as being inherently flawed.
The reality of the Muslim Ummah today is one of the absence of effective and influential religious leaders, with the return of popular Islamist discourse justifying violence. We have seen the rise of many groups and organizations based on this discourse, including ISIS, Ajnad Al-Sham, the Ahfad Al-Rasul Brigade, Fatah Al-Islam, Al-Qaeda and many others. It is just that ISIS has gone the furthest by announcing an Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria and paying allegiance to a caliph.
However, ultimately, the emergence of such groups has only contributed to further harming Islamic self-confidence and self-esteem. Who could believe that barbaric and brutal organizations such as these, whose fighters are proud to pose with the severed heads of defeated enemies, could turn into an alternative to true Islam? Those who follow and support these groups are doing so solely out of spite towards the ruling regimes in our region—not in support of Islam, which is suffering today more out of the ignorance of its supposed followers than the hatred of its enemies.
The future of the Islamic world looks bleak amid the political polarization that has beset the region and in light of the failures to make any advances on major issues. We have spent so much effort without making any gains on a number of issues and this effort, ultimately, could have been used to develop and invest in our own people.
We are facing a number of major issues, but perhaps the biggest is our inability to even diagnose the problems facing us. We lack the ability to gauge the sheer magnitude of the threat that these extremist groups represent, particularly as they are now present all over the world. There is a collective departure from reality among Muslims today in favor of daydreams of the caliphate and eschatological musings. Islamic discourse today reflects the worst parts of our heritage in terms of myths, lies, hypocrisy and the political exploitation of religion.
The collective conciseness of our Islamic society has turned diagnosing problems, the first step on the long road to finding solutions, into a problem in itself. The prevalent cultural discourse, which covers political, religious and economic visions in all their different trends, has completely eradicated our ability to make sense of crises. Our lack of self-esteem today, as well as the effect this is having on our decision-making, reminds us of the state of shock that accompanied the early days of the post-colonial era. We saw the rise of new slogans and visions during the last gasps of the Ottoman Caliphate, which eroded from within due to stagnation and corruption.
This issue of low Muslim self-esteem, which is something that we are constantly bleeding from as a result of the distortion of the image of Islam and the deteriorating situation facing Muslims today, does not allow us to even acknowledge the problem. We have delayed the search for a solution with the search of a “savior”—an “emir of the faithful,” or just somebody who blows themselves up in the hopes of change. This delusion of the “savior” is the main reason for the current deteriorating situation. In fact, one could say that the issue of “diagnosing problems” is even worse because we have created a false awareness that attaches our problems to other causes. Many Muslims today view the issues facing us as being the natural results of complicated conspiracies, which in turn require the search for other “saviors,” with each group looking for different characteristics in their own personal “savior.”
In jihadist discourse, this “savior” represents an almost magical return to the past, represented in a single Islamic vision backed by popular support. For political Islamists and Islamic activists, they want to see the re-introduction of the idea of the utopian savior. Looking at it from a realistic point of view, this trend is an amalgamation of traditional Islamic culture and democratic pluralism, even though some Muslims have outright rejected this, even to the point of embracing tyranny and backwardness.
As for those who accepted the vision of civil society that seeks to address domestic issue, they are putting forward their own models in the hope of winning public support in the absence of competition and the preoccupation of ruling regimes with other issues. However, these changes have always been superficial. The Gulf War, September 11 and the Arab Spring revealed that acceptance of tolerance, equality and multiculturalism were ultimately lacking in those who sought to take advantage of this new situation. It is clear to see how many of these groups sought to use this for their own ends.
True change has not reached the heart and soul of the Islamic world. Muslims actions have predominately been based on their own political interests, at one time allying with ruling regimes and the West and at other times opposing them. Now, we are seeing many Muslims resorting to and justifying violence. This is a phenomenon that will only serve to exacerbate the situation. We now find ourselves trapped between the real world and delusion.


Minister Kenney Concludes Successful Trip to Lebanon
Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, completed a successful visit to Lebanon where he met community, business, & political leaders, promoted trade, and met Canadian aid workers who are helping victims of the Syrian Civil War. Minister Kenney – whose four-day visit ended July 28 – met with business leaders from both Lebanon and Canada interested in strengthening bilateral trade and economic ties. The Minister also held talks with leaders of major faith communities, raising concerns about violence targeting Christians and Shi’a Muslims in Syria and Iraq, and discussing the challenges and opportunities of Lebanon's unique religious composition.
Minister Kenney met with religious leaders including, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Aphrem II, who recently visited Christian refugees fleeing death threats made by extremist militias on the outskirts of Mosul, Shiite Sheikhs Qabalan & Ali al-Amin, Sunni Grand Muffti Kabbani, and Armenian Catholic and Apostolic Patriarchs, Nerses Bedros XIX & Aram Keshishian.
On Sunday, Minister Kenney joined Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai for the Divine Liturgy with the ancient Maronite community of the Kadisha Valley, and a discussion about the importance of pluralism.
The Minister met with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Tammam Salam, who thanked Canada for its support for Syrian refugees and spoke about broadening bilateral ties. Minister Kenney also met Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to discuss strategies to increase commerce between both countries, and General Jean Kahwagi, Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Army, to discuss security issues.
During his visit, Minister Kenney visited Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley where he announced Canada will contribute to UNICEF’s Improving Access to Quality Education for all Children initiative.
Minister Kenney also hosted a reception in Beirut to thank Canadian aid workers who have been helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
On July 25, Minister Kenney received an honourary doctorate (Doctoris Honoris Causa) from Lebanon’s Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), where he recalled St. John Paul II’s statement that “Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West.”
The Minister was joined on his trip by a Canadian delegation that included representatives of the Canada-Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, and leaders of both the Muslim and Christian Lebanese-Canadian communities.
Quick facts
•Canada has committed more than $630 million in humanitarian, development and security assistance in response to the Syria crisis.
•In 2013, Canadian exports to Lebanon totalled more than $74 million, and imports totalled more than $20 million.
“Canada’s model of pluralism is profoundly relevant to Lebanon, the only Middle Eastern country built on a balanced partnership between religious and ethnic communities. Canada’s Lebanese community has succeeded in every domain, and is a great platform to help expand trade and commerce to the benefit of both countries.”
Jason Kenney, Canada’s Employment and Social Development Minister and Minister of Multiculturalism.

Le ministre Kenney conclut une visite réussie au Liban
La visite avait pour but de renforcer les liens commerciaux et d’offrir du soutien aux réfugiés syriens
Le ministre de l’Emploi et du Développement social et ministre du Multiculturalisme, Jason Kenney, a terminé une visite réussie au Liban, où il a rencontré des dirigeants communautaires, politiques et d’entreprises, fait la promotion du commerce et rencontré des travailleurs humanitaires canadiens qui aident les victimes de la guerre civile en Syrie.
Le ministre Kenney, dont la visite de quatre jours a pris fin le 28 juillet, a rencontré des chefs d’entreprises du Liban et du Canada qui souhaitent renforcer les liens commerciaux et économiques entre les deux pays.
Le ministre s’est également entretenu avec des dirigeants des principaux groupes confessionnels, à qui il a fait part de son inquiétude à l’égard de la violence faite aux chrétiens et aux musulmans chiites en Syrie et en Iraq, et avec qui il a discuté des défis et des possibilités de la composition religieuse unique du Liban.
Au nombre des chefs religieux qu’a rencontrés le ministre Kenney, il y avait le patriarche orthodoxe syrien Aphrem II, qui a récemment rendu visite à des chrétiens réfugiés fuyant les menaces de mort faites par les milices extrémistes en banlieue de Mossoul, les cheiks chiites Qabalan et Ali al-Amin, le grand mufti sunnite Kabbani et les patriarches des Arméniens catholiques et apostoliques Nersès Bedros XIX et Aram Kechichian.
Dimanche, le ministre Kenney s’est joint au patriarche maronite Bechara Rai pour une liturgie divine auprès de l’ancienne communauté maronite située dans la vallée de Qadisha, et une discussion au sujet de l’importante du pluralisme.
Le ministre a rencontré le premier ministre libanais, Tammam Salam, qui a remercié le Canada pour le soutien apporté aux réfugiés syriens et a parlé d’élargir les liens bilatéraux. Le ministre Kenney a aussi rencontré le ministre libanais des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil, pour discuter de stratégies visant à accroître les échanges commerciaux entre les deux pays, ainsi que le général Jean Kahwagi, chef d’état-major de l’armée libanaise, pour discuter de questions de sécurité.
Au cours de sa visite, le ministre Kenney s’est rendu dans des camps de réfugiés syriens dans la vallée de la Bekaa, où il a annoncé que le Canada contribuera à l’initiative de l’UNICEF visant à améliorer la prestation de services d’éducation à tous les enfants.
Le ministre Kenney a également tenu une réception à Beyrouth afin de remercier les travailleurs humanitaires canadiens qui aident les réfugiés syriens au Liban.
Le 25 juillet, le ministre Kenney a reçu un doctorat honorifique (Doctoris Honoris Causa) de l’Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik. En cette occasion, il a rappelé les propos du pape Jean‑Paul II selon lesquels [traduction] « le Liban est plus qu’un pays; il est un message de liberté et un exemple de pluralisme pour l’Orient et pour l’Occident ».
Le ministre était accompagné d’une délégation canadienne composée de représentants de la Chambre de commerce Canada-Liban et de dirigeants des communautés libanaises musulmanes et chrétiennes du Canada.
Les faits en bref
•En réaction à la crise en Syrie, le Canada s’est engagé à verser plus de 630 millions de dollars en aide humanitaire, au développement et à la sécurité.
•En 2013, les exportations canadiennes au Liban ont totalisé 74 millions de dollars, alors que les importations ont dépassé les 20 millions de dollars.
« Le modèle de pluralisme canadien est tout à fait approprié au Liban, le seul pays du Moyen-Orient bâti sur un partenariat équilibré entre les communautés religieuses et les collectivités ethniques. La communauté libanaise du Canada connaît du succès dans tous les domaines et constitue une bonne base pour élargir les activités commerciales au profit des deux pays. »
**Jason Kenney, ministre de l’Emploi et du Développement social et ministre du Multiculturalisme du Canada