LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/ Paul Gives
Thanks to God
02 Corinthians 01: " Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes! He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. Just as we have a share in Christ's many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God's great help. If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure. So our hope in you is never shaken; we know that just as you share in our sufferings, you also share in the help we receive. We want to remind you, friends, of the trouble we had in the province of Asia. The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive. We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us. But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead. From such terrible dangers of death he saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in him that he will save us again, as you help us by means of your prayers for us. So it will be that the many prayers for us will be answered, and God will bless us; and many will raise their voices to him in thanksgiving for us.
Pope Francis's Tweet for today
I ask all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on August 08 & 09/14
The Army must not enter Syria’s war/By: Michael Young/The Daily Star/August 09/14
A Necessary Step/By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/ August
Lebanon’s Triple Negation/By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/August 09/14
The Lebanese people must stand behind their army/By: Nayla Tueni/Al Arabiya/August 09/14
Rowhani’s ups and downs in recovering the Iranian economy/By: Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/August 09/14
Iraq’s Maliki, an established dictator/By: Raed Omari/Al Arabiya/August 09/14
Lebanese Related News published on August 08 & 09/14
Hariri: Hizbullah Mistakes Don't Justify Similar Responses and We Choose Moderation
Hariri: Terrorism 'existential threat' to Lebanon
Ex-PM Hariri back in Lebanon after three years abroad
Future Movement: Hariri’s return a boost to Sunni moderation
Officials hope Hariri can break deadlock
Lebanon works to resolve issue of stranded refugees
Bou Saab: Last chance for teachers to back down boycott
Bou Saab Going Forward with Passing Statements, Calls
for Correcting Exams as of Tuesday
Army beefs up security in Lebanon's Arsal
Security Meeting Discusses Troop Needs, Saudi Grant at
the Grand Serail, Hariri in Attendance
Report: Islamists Seeking to Exchange Captive Security Personnel with Roumieh Inmates
March 14 Reunites with Hariri: Controlling Border Cannot Be Complete without Hizbullah Withdrawal from Syria
Shepherd Survives Israeli Gunshots in Shebaa
Geagea Says Hizbullah Involved Lebanon in Syria Conflict
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 08 & 09/14
Ex-Shin Bet chief Diskin slams army, government for declaring end to Gaza operation
Israeli delegation leaves Egypt; Gazans flee eastern neighborhoods, again
US 'very concerned' about Gaza developments, condemns rocket fire on Israel
Hamas execute ex-spokesman Ayman Taha: source
Hamas renews rocket attacks against Israel as cease-fire ends
Five Palestinians dead, at least 30 hurt as IAF strikes terrorist targets in Gaza
US hopes for new Gaza ceasefire in 'coming hours'
Israel, Hamas resume fire after 3-day Gaza truce
Right, left call for strong response to renewed Hamas rocket fire
Sderot mayor blasts Ya'alon as 'resounding failure' for continued Gaza rocket fire
One Palestinian dead, dozens wounded in W.Bank clashes:
White House: could give more military support if new Iraq government needs it
U.S.: Iraq near ‘humanitarian catastrophe’
US starts aid airdrops in Iraq but no strikes yet
Kurdish Peshmerga request US arms to battle ISIS: official
150 Kurdish troops killed in two-month jihadist
US hits ISIS as it re-engages in Iraq
Iraq's Sadr claims jihadists planning Baghdad push
UK to drop aid over Iraq, but rules out airstrikes
U.S., Morocco bolster counterterror ties
U.S. official: scale of Ebola crisis unprecedented
U.N. Libya delegation talks in Tripoli to broker ceasefire
Israeli delegation leaves Egypt; Gazans flee eastern
Phares to Fox News : " Late and limited measures in Iraq but necessary"
In an interview with Fox News Dr Walid Phares said " if we analyze the two measures announced by President Obama, the first one is a warning to ISIS not to move towards Irbil and the second one is a warning to the Jihadists not to interfere with the aid operations in the mountains. But what if ISIS changed course and attacked other areas and committed ethnic cleansing in other close by areas?. Phares added "these actions are necessary but late and limited. For will be bring back the Yazidis and Christians to their homes in Sinjar and Nineveh? That is the real question"
Ex-PM Hariri back in Lebanon after three years abroad
By Tom Perry and Oliver Holmes | Reuters
Friday, 8 August 2014
Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri arrived back in Lebanon on Friday for the first time in three years, a visit seen as reasserting his leadership over the Sunni community after a deadly incursion by Islamist militants in the northeast. With no prior announcement, Hariri arrived at the government’s headquarters in Beirut, where he met Prime Minister Tammam Salam, footage broadcast by local television stations showed. Hariri, Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since 2011. He left the country after his government was toppled by a coalition including the Iranian-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah. The Saudi-backed politician arrived in a Mercedes with blacked out windows to the central courtyard of the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in central Beirut. He grinned widely as he walked into the Serail. His visit follows a deadly incursion by Islamist militants who crossed from Syria and seized the Sunni town of Arsal in the northeast last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of battles with the army. The incursion by militants, including fighters affiliated to Islamic State which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, marked the most serious spillover to date of the three-year-old Syrian civil war. Hariri earlier this week announced that Saudi Arabia would donate $1 billion in military aid to the Lebanese security forces to help them in the fight against extremists. “There has been, in the last three years, a vacuum that has formed in the Sunni community. This was becoming increasingly dangerous because this community was becoming more and more radicalized,” said Michael Young, a political commentator. Last Update: Friday, 8 August 2014
Officials hope Hariri can break deadlock
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Political and religious figures in Lebanon welcomed former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise return Friday, expressing hope that the move would bring progress to the country stuck in political and security crises. Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the “auspicious and courageous return of Hariri is a big and positive step,” stressing that it served to “safeguard the logic of moderation in the country.” Abu Faour said the move would not only help in finding a solution to the presidential deadlock but could also contribute to reaching a wide national agreement on all suspended matters. “It opens dialogues that could not only lead to the election of a new president, but also give a bigger motive for political communication lines that could result in a comprehensive national compromise,” he said. The U.S. and Saudi ambassadors to Lebanon, David Hale and Ali Awad Asiri, paid Hariri a visit at the former premier's Downtown residence in Downtown Beirut, welcoming his return to the country. The latter also received a phone call from Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and visits from State Minister Nabil De Freij and Information Minister Ramzi Joreige.
Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb echoed Abu Faour, welcoming Hariri’s “initiative to come in these specific circumstances,” saying the move could directly influence the efforts to end the presidential vacuum. “It is a normal reaction by a person highly responsible of protecting Lebanon, its political system and the common life between all its sects,” he said. “It surely means the rejection of terrorism and extremism,” Harb added, “especially given that Hariri is a pioneer of moderation in Lebanon.”
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called Hariri to congratulate him on his safe return and said he hoped that “it will be a motivation to the good efforts pushing toward the overcoming of Lebanon’s political and social crisis.” Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali welcomed Hariri’s move, expressing hope “that the return would be in the framework of fighting terrorism.”
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also welcomes his return, telling An-Nahar newspaper that this would complete the convening of March 14’s leaders in Lebanon. The newspaper also reported that Jumblatt described it as an “excellent” move. Hariri’s Twitter account posted that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called the former PM to congratulate him for returning safely to Lebanon. Media reports said that Hariri received another phone call from Kataeb head Amine Gemayel welcoming the step. Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi hailed Hariri’s decision to return, saying the move was a turning point.
“They say that what would come after [the battle of] Arsal is different from what was before it. Now we say that what will come after Hariri’s return is not the same as what was before it,” Rifi posted on his Twitter account. The March 14 General Secretariat’s coordinator, Fares Soueid, described the move as “courageous and of great significance,” congratulating “Lebanese of all sects,” and stressing that the act proved wrong all the voices that had said Hariri would never come back. The head of the General Maronite Council, former Minister Wadih Khazen, also called Hariri congratulating him for the safe return to Beirut. The Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan also praised the move, hoping that “it would be an introduction to more positivity in the national arena.”
The Lebanese Democtratic Party head Talal Erslan said Hariri was “able to add a positive environment to the political life in Lebanon, by refusing terrorism and standing by the Army.”
Hariri: Terrorism 'existential threat' to Lebanon
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned Friday that the rise of terrorism was an existential threat to Lebanon, blaming Hezbollah for deepening the sectarian divide in the country.
Speaking to the gathering of March 14 coalition leaders in his downtown residence, hours after arriving to Beirut in a surprise return, Hariri said the priority was backing the state and its security institutions “in order to strengthen stability and fend off attempts to jeopardize Lebanon’s coexistence.”“The threat of terrorism is serious and existential and any leniency in dealing with it would pave the way for strife and be the end of Lebanon,” he said. Hariri, who has been out of the country for a little over three years, also reiterated his criticism of Hezbollah’s military presence in Syria alongside regime troops.
“Hezbollah's intervention in Syria has only brought harm to Lebanon, particularly for the Shiite community with the wave of bombings that hit the southern suburbs and the Bekaa,” he said.
Describing the series of suicide and car bombings as a reaction to the party’s role in Syria, Hariri said: “ Hezbollah has severely harmed intra-Muslim ties and placed the Army and security forces at risk of attacks from terrorist groups.”
“We saw how the Army is paying a hefty price as a result of Hezbollah's insistence on imposing a status quo none of the Lebanese agreed to.”
“If Hezbollah is making mistakes, that does not mean we should respond to it with similar ones or adopt methods that would jeopardize the state.”
The Future Movement leader noted that ending the presidential paralysis was a priority for the country, saying: “Electing a new president is the responsibility of everyone and it is not true that it falls exclusively on Saad Hariri.” “It is high time we ... open the door for consensus and elect a president and move together to face challenges.”
“I return to Beirut today after a three-year absence, which was the harshest punishment in my life. My return is my most valuable reward,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Hariri made a surprise return to Lebanon, after more than three years abroad due to security concerns, saying he had come to Beirut to oversee a $1 billion anti-terror Saudi grant.
“My return came after the Saudi grant which we must see how to implement and translate such as it supports the Army and security forces,” Hariri said following talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail. Riyadh announced a $1 billion grant earlier this week to help the Lebanese Army fight the growing threat of terrorism, following days of clashes between the Army and Islamist militants from Syria in the northeastern town of Arsal.
Asked whether he had received guarantees for his safety, Hariri, surrounded by a number of journalists, said: "God protects us all."
Before arriving at the Grand Serail, Hariri stopped at the tomb of his late father, former five-time Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, amid tight security measures in the Downtown area.
As he stepped out of his tinted-window car in the courtyard of the Grand Serail, Cabinet Secretary-General Suheil Bouji embraced Hariri and accompanied him inside the government house.
A group of honor guards greeted Hariri as he walked on a red carpet toward the building, which was packed with security officials and politicians gathered to welcome the former prime minister.
From the Grand Serail, Hariri headed to his residence in the capital’s downtown, where Future Movement officials including his aunt, MP Bahia Hariri, were eagerly waiting for his long-awaited arrival.
Pictures circulating online showed Bahia Hariri, in her signature white head scarf, embracing Saad Hariri as the former premier took a selfie while March 14 coalition politicians, surrounding the Future Movement leader, waited in line to greet him. The residence has been vacant since Hariri’s departure a little over three years ago, but the March 14 group used to hold their weekly meetings at the residence.
Upon his arrival, Hariri held separate talks with U.S. Ambassador David Hale, who did not make any comments after the meeting, as well as Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri and head of the Future bloc Fouad Siniora. A number of officials, including Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanese Army Gen. Jean Kahwagi and head of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, phoned Hariri to welcome him back to Lebanon. The Future Movement leader had left Lebanon shortly after the collapse of his unity government when Hezbollah and its allies quit the Cabinet in January of 2011. He has been residing in Saudi Arabia since April 2011, citing security concerns. Future Movement official and political adviser Rached Fayed commented on Hariri’s surprise return to Lebanon by saying “he has come to stay.”
“Hariri is a party in the war against terror, and his return was engineered at the international, Arab and regional levels,” he said.
Fayed said the Saudi $1 billion grant was coupled with a practical plan to confront terrorism, and “Hariri’s return is part of this plan aimed at reinforcing the moderate Sunni trend.”
Fayed contended that “the systematic targeting of the Future Movement in the past years had resulted in nurturing Sunni extremism.”
Hariri has spoken out forcefully against extremism, condemning the attack on Arsal by Sunni rebels belonging to the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Lebanese troops retook the border town Thursday after militants retreated toward the Syria border. However, the militants have taken a number of soldiers captive and are thought to be holding them in the border region between Lebanon and Syria. Hariri said Wednesday that the grant from his ally Saudi King Abdullah was aimed at building the capacity of the Lebanese Army to fight terrorism that had spilled over into Lebanon from the Syrian civil war. “Hariri came back to tilt the balance toward moderation. His return is a must and need for his political opponents more than his allies,” Fayed said.
In Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city and a support base for Hariri, residents offered candy to passersby in celebration while others cruised along roads in Akkar and Beirut with Hariri's pictures and the Future Movement's blue flag plastered on their vehicles, honking and cheering for their leader's return.
March 14 Reunites with Hariri: Controlling Border Cannot Be Complete without Hizbullah Withdrawal from Syria
Naharnet /The March 14 coalition held an extraordinary expanded meeting at the Center House on Friday evening, in the presence of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the first time in over three years following his surprise return to Lebanon earlier in the day.The conferees called for controlling the Lebanese-Syrian border by deploying army troops supported by international peacekeeping forces, according to the stipulations of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701. "But controlling the border in all directions cannot be complete without Hizbullah's immediate withdrawal from the Syrian war to avert the repetition of scourges that threaten Lebanon and its security,” a statement released by the coalition after the meeting said, highlighting the unrest in the northeastern border town of Arsal and its surroundings.
"March 14 is committed to continuing its struggle for Lebanon's stability and sovereignty, and for freeing the country from all types of mandates by illegally armed” groups, the statement assured.
It also stressed the alliance's commitment to the state and to “all its political, military and security institutions.”"These are the only guarantee for Lebanese people's safety and stability, and for Christian-Islamic coexistence,” it elaborated. "Our only project remains building a constitutional states m starting from the election of a new president.” The conferees lauded during the meeting Hariri's return as a proof of his “commitment to Lebanon's unity and independence.”"His return is a ray of hope,” the alliance expressed. As well, the March 14 leaders thanked Saudi King Abdullah for “supporting the Lebanese army and security forces in the fierce battle against terrorism.”Hariri had arrived in Beirut earlier on Friday after spending three years abroad. He left Lebanon in early 2011, months after the collapse of his national unity cabinet. He has repeatedly claimed that security reasons were preventing his return to Beirut. He arrived on Friday amid security tension in the Bekaa region of Arsal, where army troops battled jihadist militants for several days. The clashes resulted in the martyrdom of scores of soldiers, and the injury of over 80 others. Prior to his return, the former Premier declared on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has provided Lebanon's army with one billion dollars to strengthen security. Hariri explained during a security meeting on Friday afternoon that he was tasked by King Abdullah with supervising the spending of the Saudi grant.
Future Movement: Hariri’s return a boost to Sunni moderation
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's return to Lebanon is aimed at reinforcing moderation within the Sunni community, which felt largely marginalized by Hezbollah’s political and security upper hand in the country, according to a Future Movement official. According Rached Fayed, a Future official and political adviser, Hariri’s unannounced return was not a surprise.
“Hariri has come to stay. He was to return to Lebanon sooner or later, but his presence here now is needed by allies and foes alike, for the sake of boosting Sunni moderation,” Fayed told The Daily Star Friday. Hariri, political heir of his father, slain Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, returned to Lebanon Friday morning after more than three years in self-exile. He had left the country a few months after the collapse of his government in 2011, and stayed away for personal security concerns. His comeback follows a major spillover of the Syrian conflict in Arsal on the country’s eastern border with Syria, where the Army battled takfiri jihadists from the Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “Hariri is a party in the war against terror, and his return was engineered at the international, Arab and regional levels,” Fayed said. “The return is a concrete interpretation of Arab, regional and international keenness to preserve Lebanon’s stability and security.”
Hariri told reporters after holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam in the Grand Serail, that his return “comes after the Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army and to discuss ways to implement it.”
The former premier's return comes two days after Saudi Arabia announced a $1 billion donation to help Lebanon fight terrorism, following five days of clashes between the Army and Syrian rebels in Arsal in which 17 soldiers, 42 civilians and at least 60 militants have been killed. Fayed argued that Saudi grant bestowed to Lebanon was coupled with a practical plan to confront terrorism, and “Hariri’s return is part of this plan aimed at reinforcing the moderate Sunni trend.” Fayed contended that “the systematic targeting of the Future Movement in the past years “resulted in nurturing Sunni extremism.
“Hariri came back to tilt the balance towards moderation. His return is a must and need for his political opponents more than his allies.”
Lebanon works to resolve issue of stranded refugees
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: While a group of Syrian refugees was able to cross into Syria Friday after being stranded at a Lebanon border crossing for hours, hundreds of other families are still waiting for permission to cross. “We reached Masnaa and got turned back. They didn’t accept us,” said Hassan, a Syrian man who was standing on the highway. Members of his family meandered near their truck stacked high with mattresses and sundry supplies. Workers from several NGOs were distributing water, food and diapers to families in the stricken convoy.
A security source told The Daily Star that General Security was working on settling paperwork for Syrians, especially those who had entered the country illegally.
Most of the refugees seeking to return to their home country have entered Lebanon through illegal border crossings during the Qalamoun battles and failed to register with Lebanese authorities and the U.N. refugee agency, the source said. Therefore, General Security is working in coordination with the Syrian Embassy to resolve the status of the refugees and prepare a list of names that would pave the way for their return.Approximately 500 undocumented elderly, 400 children and 800 women returning from the northeast Lebanon town of Arsal were blocked from entering their home country after they admitted to being relatives of rebel troops, according to another security source. Conflicting reports emerged over whether the refugees were stranded due to political considerations or over paperwork.
The Lebanese authorities communicated with their Syrian counterparts to solve the status of many refugees and allow them to enter, even those whose relatives were connected to rebel groups.
The exodus of the refugees comes days after the Lebanese Army clashed with Islamist militants in the northeastern town of Arsal, where over 100,000 Syrian refugees resided.
The clashes resulted in heavy damage to some of the informal refugee camps in the border region, which were burned to the ground.
In light of the clashes and reports that the militants were hiding inside the camps, politicians and the Lebanese government said it would address and reorganize the presence of Syrian refugees in the country particularly in Arsal, a Sunni town known for its support of the Syrian opposition.
Geagea Says Hizbullah Involved Lebanon in Syria Conflict
Naharnet /Lebanese Force leader Samir Geagea rejected any armed presence for Syrians on Lebanese territories, considering that the situation in the northeastern town of Arsal will deteriorate as long as the conflict in neighboring country Syria is ongoing and Hizbullah is engaged in the war. Geagea wondered in an interview with Free Lebanon radio why the army doesn't prevent Hizbullah fighters from entering Syria. “Hizbullah said that it's involved in the war in Syria to prevent ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) from expanding to Lebanon but the results were different.” Asked about reports saying that the Arsal gunmen, who took hostage of around 35 security personnel, aim at swapping them with Islamist prisoners in Roumieh prison, Geagea rejected the matter. “This would undermine the authority of the state,” the Christian leader told his interviewer. He accused Hizbullah of “widely opening the door” before the extremist organization to infiltrate Lebanon.
“The only solution is to build a strong state,” Geagea said. The seizure of Arsal over the weekend marked the first time that Islamic extremists from Syria carried out a large-scale incursion into Lebanon and raised fears of a further spillover of the conflict across the porous border. The militants took with them around 35 captives from the army and Internal Security Forces who were in the town's outskirts when the attack was launched last Saturday. Concerning proposals to extend the mission of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to include the country's eastern border, Geagea described the rejection voiced by some parties as a “scandal.” “The Lebanese army should be able to control the border and prevent gunmen from moving in and out without any discrimination,” the LF leader told the radio station.
The March 14 alliance continuously called on the state to allow the UNIFIL to deploy along the the Lebanese-Syrian border in accordance with resolution 1701.
Geagea refused to engage in dialogue with the Syrian regime regarding the border chaos, saying: “(President) Bashar Assad's regime is the origin of the problem... We will not begin dialogue with a criminal authority that is bombing its people.”Asked if the Arsal battle would lead to the election of Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji as a president, the presidential hopeful said that he will not back any constitutional amendment to elect a new head of state.“The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces represent the majority of Christians and it's natural for the leaders of the two parties to run for presidency,” the March 14 official said. Geagea called on the March 8 rivals, in particular Hizbullah and the FPM, to attend presidential parliamentary sessions and end the standoff.
Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. The parliament convened nine times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last eight sessions due to a lack of quorum. Another session is expected to be held on Tuesday.
Report: Islamists Seeking to Exchange Captive Security Personnel with Roumieh Inmates
Naharnet /The fate of at least 35 soldiers and policemen, who were held captive by Islamist gunmen in the northeastern border town of Arsal, remains unknown after contacts were lost with them.
According to As Safir newspaper published on Friday, armed men who retreated to Syria from the northeastern border town of Arsal after intensified clashes with the Lebanese army have taken hostage more than 35 soldiers and policemen in an attempt to exchange them for Islamist prisoners, who are held at Roumieh prison's Bloc B. On Thursday, a delegation from the Muslim Scholars Committee tasked with mediating with jihadist gunmen in Arsal announced that it has lost contact with militants who have taken army and Internal Security Forces personnel captive. But al-Nusra Front announced later that the soldiers and policemen who are still in captivity have a "special status that will be revealed later."
Security forces and the army have taken recently strong measures around the country's largest prison after reports emerged on an armed takfiri group planning to abduct civilians to swap them with Roumieh Prison inmates and another alleged plot by prisoners to escape from the facility by carrying out a truck bombing. In July, self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi vowed to release Muslim “hostages” from jails in Arab countries, including Lebanon, and promised to “liquidate their butchers.” The shadowy jihadist said the “butchers” include judges, security forces and guards.
Al-Baghdadi heads the Islamic State (IS) group, which led a lighting offensive in Iraq that has overrun swathes of several provinces north and west of Baghdad. The IS accuses the Lebanese state of being a U.S. and Israeli ally. In June, the emir of the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front in al-Qalamoun promised in an audio message to free Islamist prisoners in Roumieh “within days.”
The Lebanese people must stand behind their army
Nayla Tueni/Al Arabiya
Friday, 8 August 2014
No matter how heated the political debate gets all over the country, supporting the Lebanese army is imperative and compulsory. It is a national duty because the army represents the dignity and pride of the country. It is a humanitarian duty because no families have paid as heavy a price as the soldiers’ families have. This week, more than 10 soldiers were killed, many went missing, and many others were injured in clashes with terrorists. They are real terrorists because as foreigners to Lebanon, they waged a war against the Lebanese army and captured and disarmed members of the internal security forces. Added to that, they are terrorizing the citizens and holding them captive. Thus, they are gangs kidnapping, killing and fighting to drag Lebanon into the midst of the Syrian war. They are helping the Syrian regime in this sense.
One may say that Hezbollah planned the clashes and dragged the army to it. Alternatively, one may believe that the battle targets the Sunni community. A third viewpoint is that it is a plot to get the commander of the army to the presidential palace. All of this is being discussed and circulated but it is nonsense considering the blood being shed in order to save Lebanon from the absurd destructive wars sweeping the entire region. The observer of what is happening around us from the violations and crimes against humans, heritage, customs, values and homeland, must be really worried and driven to reject this apparent Syrian invasion, as much he or she rejects the previous Syrian occupation. It is as if Syria, Lebanon’s closet neighbor, only seeks to drag the latter into hard times, both when it had full power and when it got weaker. “We must stand by the army in order to not divide and fragment the country”
There is no doubt that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is rejected by the Christian and Shiite communities and has for sure been rejected by the Sunnis. The Sunnis in Lebanon are a symbol of moderation. They are in solidarity with the Syrian opposition, many of whom were suffering from misery and injustice. Thus, they should not be accused of harboring terrorists. There is a huge difference between opposition against Assad regime and the Takfirist group that recruited its members from all corners of the world. Such a group is external to both the Syrians and the Lebanese, no matter which religion they belong to. Today, we must stand by the army in order to not repeat the 1975 scenario. We must stand by the army in order to not divide and fragment the country through the division of the army. If the army doesn’t stand for itself, and if we don’t stand by the army, we will be committing unforgivable crimes.
Lebanon’s Triple Negation
By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 8 Aug, 2014
Having hit an impasse over the election of a president, Lebanon is experiencing one of its periodical crises of identity. Sixty years ago, as Lebanon was trying to shake off the French mandate, the crisis was conjured up by rival visions of the country’s place between Europe and the Middle East. While some in the Christian communities, then accounting for almost half the population, saw Lebanon as part of the Christian West, pan-Arab nationalists dreamed of a Lebanon as a building bloc of a united Arab state.
A way out of the impasse was found using the “double negative” formula, which paved the way for the National Accord (Mithaq Al-Watani), to be implicitly accepted as independent Lebanon’s constitution. Many on both sides, Christian and Muslim, mocked the “double negative” formula through which Lebanon would be neither exclusively European nor Arab.
Writer and journalist George Naccache jeered: “Two negations don’t make a nation!” History proved him wrong. Lebanon became possible exactly because of that double negation.
The initial debate suffered from a misunderstanding of the realities of the time. Pan-Christians wrongly assumed that Christendom was a single entity to which Lebanon could be attached. They ignored the fact that, at the time, supposedly Christian nations were setting the whole of Europe on fire in pursuit of nationalistic ambitions.
At the other end of the spectrum, pan-Arabists were prisoners of their fantasies. They ignored the reality of local identities that transcended linguistic and cultural affinities. In matters of national identity how others see you is often more important than how you see yourself.
The reductionist approach is incapable of taking into account the complexities of a people’s identity at any given time. Like all other nations, Lebanon is a cocktail of identities, sharing ingredients with many other nations, but offering its distinct flavor. Lebanon could not be only Christian or only Muslim, because it was also Christian and also Muslim Arab.
Today, Lebanon needs another double negation to break out of a new crisis that could propel it into dangerous waters. Did I say double negation? Maybe it would be better to suggest a triple negation. The reason is that this time, the Arab Muslim segment of Lebanon also has its internal divisions. The Sunni community sees itself as heir to the pan-Arab tradition of 60 years ago, while the Shi’ite community is, in turn, divided between those who dream of making Lebanon part of a Shi’ite empire led by Iran and those who want Iran only as friend not master.
The current crisis in Lebanon is highlighted by the impasse over the election of a new president. To be sure, since the Ta’if agreement of 1989, the role of president is no longer as significant as it was under the National Accord of 1943. Nevertheless, as head of state and arbiter among communities, the president is still capable of making a contribution to shaping policy.
Leaving aside internal differences, rival Lebanese political factions are divided into two-and-a-half blocs. One bloc, led by Iran through Hezbollah wants ex-Gen. Michel Aoun as president. Another, led by the Future movement, promotes the candidacy of Samir Geagea. The half a bloc that is left is represented by the Druze community, which, conscious that it cannot impose its choice, is determined to prevent both Aoun and Geagea from winning.
The overall situation is interesting for several reasons.
Iran is backing Aoun as a matter of expediency. The former general is disliked in Tehran where the leadership has not forgotten, nor forgiven, his collaboration with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Israel in the 1980s. Tehran’s assumption is that Aoun, lacking a genuine constituency of his own, would have no choice but to toe whatever line Tehran might want.
That, however, may well be a miscalculation. Aoun’s loyalty is only to himself, and there is no evidence that he has abandoned his hatred of Iran. Worse still, Aoun is a divisive figure at a time when Lebanon needs consensus. For his part, Geagea is also a problematic candidate. His whole political philosophy is built on suspicion of pan-Arabism and fear that Muslims might be plotting to de-Christianize Lebanon. Moreover, as a prominent figure in the Lebanese civil war, Geagea evokes as many divisive memories as does Aoun. Victory for either Aoun or Geagea would be perceived as total defeat by one or the other of the rival blocs. Ironically, the current crisis coincides with a period of exceptional tension in the Middle East, an instability that raises the value of Lebanon as a haven of peace. By pressing for total victory, Lebanon’s rival factions may throw away an opportunity that an accident of history is offering their nation to cast itself as a key participant in reshaping a new and more stable Middle East.
Complete takeover by Iran would deprive Lebanon of an independent role, tying its fate to that of the Khomeinist regime in Tehran at a time its fortunes are increasingly in doubt. On the other hand, complete victory for the pan-Arab bloc would also reduce Lebanon’s freedom of action, transforming it into a bit player in a bigger regional conflict.
In every geopolitical configuration where rival blocs are in conflict, the existence of a neutral space is of importance. For over a century while the whole of Europe was on fire, rival blocs maintained the neutrality of Switzerland because all benefited from it. In South America, Uruguay played a similar role while Brazil, Chile and Argentina engaged in conflictual rivalries. For six decades, Thailand played a similar role in Indochina. Rival regional powers and their allies beyond the region, notably the United Sates on one side and Russia on the other, would all benefit from a political compromise in Lebanon. A consensual figure, neither enthusing nor threatening any of the rival blocs, could help Lebanon assume a new role in regional politics on the basis of a triple negation.
The Army must not enter Syria’s war
By: Michael Young| The Daily Star
There are several versions of what happened in Arsal last Saturday. But whichever one applies, the Army must avoid being drawn into the Syrian conflict and taking one side against the other. It will not be able to manage the consequences. For example, what Michel Aoun proposed on Tuesday is precisely what Lebanon should not do. Aoun declared, “I warn against carrying out negotiations with terrorists as we should negotiate with Damascus, not the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.” He added, “Monitoring the border is the responsibility of Lebanon and Syria, based on past agreements between the two countries.”This was rank populism blended in with self-interest. No one has seriously suggested negotiating with the Islamic State in the first place. But for some time the Syrian regime and Hezbollah have sought to integrate the Lebanese Army into their own efforts to crush the rebels in the Qalamoun region, which stretches from Zabadani, near Damascus, all the way up to Qusair, near Homs. Aoun’s proposal effectively echoes that demand. What Syria and Hezbollah want is for the Army to cut the rebels’ resupply lines into Lebanon, so they can be defeated in Qalamoun.
The consequences would be exceptionally serious if the Army agreed to do so. It would mean taking part in Syria’s war, particularly on one of its most decisive fronts. One can expect the Syrian rebels, along with their Lebanese allies, to turn on the Army in order to undermine its efforts to close entry and exit routes into Qalamoun. This would only further destabilize Lebanon, turning the Army into a privileged target of the rebels. The repercussions could fatally harm sectarian relations.
That is not to say that the Army does not have a right, and a duty, to defend itself and ensure that the rebels, especially the extremists among them, will not exploit their access to Arsal in order to commit attacks in Lebanon. But becoming a partner in an offensive by the Assad regime and Hezbollah in Qalamoun is a far graver matter, marking the end of official Lebanese dissociation from the Syrian conflict. This is something that Prime Minister Tammam Salam must be very careful to avoid.
But will the Army commander Jean Kahwagi agree? Kahwagi has the presidency in mind, and his choices are not easy ones. If he refuses to implicate the Army in efforts along the border to suffocate the Syrian rebels, he risks alienating Hezbollah, which is his strongest backer to become president (despite the party’s claim to support Aoun). On the other hand if he does what Hezbollah and Syria want, he risks splitting the Army along sectarian lines, pushing Lebanon into a civil war, and almost certainly ensuring that Sunnis will reject his presidency.
Aoun is aware of Kahwagi’s dilemma, and seeks to drive the Army commander into the wall. That’s why he warned against talking to extremists. He wants to lock Kahwagi into a position that makes him less likely to adopt a median strategy in Arsal, one that balances the Army’s desire to avoid the risks of greater involvement in Syria with the rebels’ desire to keep border passages open. Aoun also wants to show Hezbollah and President Bashar Assad that, as president, he would do their bidding.
Walid Jumblatt met with Aoun on Wednesday, in an apparent effort to put an end to the presidential vacuum. Jumblatt feels that a new president would create a semblance of normality, helping to lower tensions in Lebanon. Perhaps, but after Aoun’s foolish position on border cooperation with Syria, it’s difficult to see him gaining any Sunni backing. If anything, Aoun’s election would exacerbate sectarian relations, with Sunnis viewing him as another facet of Hezbollah’s project to rule Lebanon
The Syrian gunmen in Arsal have done themselves no favors. Their attack against the Army and the abduction of soldiers and Internal Security Forces members prompted the military to react, opening the door to a more expansive interpretation of its role along the border, in line with Hezbollah’s and Syria’s desires. But the rebels appear to be divided, with reports on Wednesday suggesting that a large number had left Arsal overnight, even as other groups reportedly wanted to continue fighting the Army. Yet the gunmen would gain nothing by opening a front against the Army, nor by taking the inhabitants of Arsal hostage. The best they can do is withdraw to Arsal’s hinterland and avoid a clash with the Lebanese state. In return, this may prompt the Army to stand back and continue to contain the dynamics in Arsal, without moving decisively to cut the rebels’ supply lines. That may not be ideal, but it would preserve the Army for its more urgent responsibility of preserving internal peace. Arsal’s hinterland is a difficult place to dominate and the Army would not be able to impose itself without being sucked into a debilitating foreign conflict that would only bleed it, without any obvious endgame. Hezbollah has been fighting in the same unforgiving terrain in Qalamoun, and has been unable to defeat the rebels. Hezbollah also must know that if the Army were to break apart and Sunnis and Shiites were to go to war in Lebanon, the party’s entire Syria strategy would collapse. It would be forced to repatriate its combatants from Syria, leaving the exhausted and vulnerable Assad regime to face the rebels alone, while Hezbollah would be mired in an internal war it has no hope of winning. That’s why the party must reconsider its efforts to persuade the Army to close the border near Arsal. This would bring only catastrophe to Lebanon, and likely to Hezbollah itself in the end. Kahwagi must have the courage to tell Syria and Hezbollah no, whatever it means for his presidential ambitions.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.
A Necessary Step
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 8 Aug, 2014 /Recent statements about Egypt’s apparent intention to intervene in Libya caused many observers to recall the military clash between Egypt and Libya in 1977. However, today’s crisis is nothing like the one in 1977. Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi was a leader who was nothing but empty slogans. Back then, he dared to threaten Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, saying Libya would occupy Egypt because he objected to Sadat’s intention to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In a display of demagoguery, Gaddafi sent a few hundred men to the Egyptian border and attacked the Salloum border crossing. Sadat surprised him by sending three full divisions, which took over the border crossing on both sides in less than an hour, and Gaddafi’s men fled.
Today’s crisis is also different because there is no order in Libya, and Egypt itself is confronting dangerous domestic security challenges. The current crisis is the most dangerous faced by both countries since the Salloum incident. Appeals for intervention did not come from Cairo—most of them came from Libya, which is sinking more deeply into civil war by the day. This has led to the collapse of all state bodies due to attacks from extremist groups that have targeted Tripoli and Benghazi, oil fields and ports. Libya is becoming a failed state, and a safe haven for terrorist groups which would threaten Libyans, their neighbors and the world.
This unique situation in North Africa will force Libya’s neighbors, either Egypt or Algeria, to intervene. It seems that Egypt is the most concerned, although the dangerous situation in Libya threatens all its neighbors without exception. We have been expecting some sort of Egyptian intervention in the past few months due to confrontations between the Libyan National Army and armed groups in Tripoli. However, Cairo has remained neutral. As government positions gradually fall into the hands of armed groups, it is becoming clear that due to the latter’s confrontation with Egypt, it is only a matter of time before Egypt sends its troops to Libya or these armed groups invade Egyptian territory.
The Egyptian leadership may abstain from intervention for a few months and just content itself with protecting its borders, just as Algeria is currently doing. However, Egypt knows that these Libyan groups, which are currently preoccupied with domestic battles, will eventually organize themselves and point their rifles towards the eastern border. The battle will be fought with the state of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, whom these groups consider an obstacle in their path towards “recapturing” Cairo.
Although Algeria has issued warnings—which it seems are directed towards Egypt—that it is opposed to military intervention in Libya, the Algerian government has not yet clarified what it intends to do. Maintaining a military presence along the border will not prevent the smuggling of weapons and armed men into Egypt. Also, it will not be easy to confront armed groups once they’ve seized important posts in Libya and dug in. The question for Algeria, Egypt, Europe and the world in general is will they keep silent the establishment of an extremist state such as the one declared by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya? Or will they accept a situation that increasingly resembles a state of civil war, and attracts more extremists to Libya, as happened in Syria, Iraq, and Somalia?
Military intervention in Libya is necessary to prevent ISIS from establishing a terrorist state, and to preempt the outbreak of a massive, open-ended civil war. There are different kinds of intervention: it could be led by Egypt, with the participation of Arab Maghreb Union countries or, alternatively, Egypt could work in partnership with whatever is left of the Libyan National Army and other such parties.
Rowhani’s ups and downs in recovering the Iranian economy
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/Friday, 8 August 2014
A year has passed since Iranian President Hassan Rowhani assumed office. He received the blessings of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and was elected by millions of Iranians to recover Iran’s economy, reduce the unemployment rate, address the high inflation and regain Iran’s currency (rial) value. The question is; how have President Hassan Rowhani’s domestic and foreign policies impacted Iran’s economy after a year? Has Iran’s economy, which had been on a path of deterioration since the Iraq-Iran war, shifted its path?
President Hassan Rowhani’s accomplishments and successes
According to the latest statistics, Rowhani’s policies have indeed brought a considerable positive impact to Iran’s economy. According to the latest survey by the International Monetary Fund, “Iran has taken important steps to lower inflation… The Islamic Republic of Iran has made progress toward stabilizing its economy in recent months…”
In addition, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek and The Iran Project, Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, pointed out to reporters in Tehran on Tuesday that: “The process of stabilization has taken hold and we do see the results already in a dramatic improvement in inflation. Inflation rate has eased and currency rate has been stable and such improvements are the results of measures taken by the Iranian government…”
“It appears that Rowhani is still popular among the population and the youth, probably due to the notion that there is no other alternative to him.”
Several crucial factors play a role in this positive and promising economic recovery. First of all, thanks to the change in the Islamic Republic’s outlook in the international arena, as well as the progress in nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany), Iran has received billions of dollars, unfrozen its assets, removed the economic sanctions on some of its crucial industries including gold, precious metals, Iran’s auto industry, some airlines, Iran’s petrochemical exports and increased its oil exports, particularly to Asia.
The aforementioned measures added billions of dollars to the Islamic Republic’s revenue. Secondly, the new administration in the Islamic Republic has been attempting to lure Western investors and reform its contractual as well as economic policies in this regard.
Third, Rowhani’s administration made considerable shifts in its fiscal and monetary policies. In order to ratchet up the government budget and address the budget deficit left by the previous government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new administration has removed some of the crucial subsidies, cash payments, and social welfare packages. Specifically, the prices in the energy sector have ratcheted up; the price of diesel has seen a rise up to 67 per cent and gasoline by up to 75 percent.
In addition, Iran’s oil exports have increased by approximately 25 percent in the first six months of the year 2014. The top importers of the Islamic Republic’s oil are China and India. China alone has increased its oil import from Iran by fifty percent, India by nineteen percent, and Japan by 48.6 percent and South Korea’s import in the last year increased by seven percent thanks to the diplomatic headways with the Islamic Republic and the loosening of economic sanctions.
According to Fars News and International Monetary Fund, Iran’s economy and GDP is set to stop contracting and it will grow by approximately one to two percent in 2014 which will be a crucial factor in stabilizing Iran’s economy. The year before, Iran’s economy contracted by 1.7 percent. In 2015, IMF’s report predicts that the Islamic Republic’s economy and GDP will increase by 2.3 percent.
On the other hand, according to the IMF’s report, the inflation in the Islamic Republic has significantly declined by 29 percent: “The exchange rate has appreciated markedly in the bureau/parallel market. The CBI has kept a lid on base money growth thanks to tighter credit to the banking system and some fiscal consolidation, and inflation has declined to about 29 percent in January 2014.”
Iran’s currency has also been strengthened. This also led to a boost in the confidence of the business sector it seems.
Economic gaps and the future
Without a doubt, the new administration has made considerable amount of progress in the last year in stabilizing the domestic economy, strengthening the rial, reducing inflation, filling the gap in the revenues and the government’s budget, and turning the negative growth and contraction of its economy onto a positive path. Nevertheless, there are still some gaps and challenges which are evident for ordinary Iranian people. First of all, will this economic growth be sustainable? This will depend on the outcome of the nuclear talks. If the nuclear talks fail, it will depend on the new demonstration policies to sustain the growth by decreasing reliance on its oil revenues as well as Western fuel, facilities and technology.
Secondly, and more fundamentally, although the business sector in Iran is witnessing a boom thanks to the nuclear talks progress and the shift in the fiscal and monetary policies, Iranian youth and middle class have not yet benefited from this economic growth and they still find it hard to find a job or see the positive changes on the ground. The unemployment rate is still in the double digits. According to the Statistical Center of Iran, the unemployment rate has hit 10.4 percent. In addition, by Spring 2014, 700,000 less workers had been employed in comparison to the previous year, and in urban areas, the consumption of households declined by five percent, while in villages it went down by 12 percent.
However, it appears that Rowhani is still popular among the population and the youth, probably due to the notion that there is no other alternative to him. But, will this popularity continue? We have to wait and see how nuclear talks will progress and whether a comprehensive nuclear deal will be achieved. In this case, the Islamic Republic and its business sector will undoubtedly continue to grow and witness a boom. In addition, the question should be how this economic growth can trickle down to the youth, poor, and middle class. Without doubt, if these positive moves occur, Rowhani will safeguard his re-election as a president for the next term.
Iraq’s Maliki, an established
By: Raed Omari/Al Arabiya
Friday, 8 August 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, it seems, has never been a national figure nor even a pragmatic politician but a sectarian leader who has been faithful only to Tehran and upheld its domination over Iraq.
However, Maliki has grown ultra-aggressive lately – now a dictator, there is no doubt in my mind – insisting on a third term even if the price is a prolonged civil war in a country that has not had a short-lived moment of peace and tranquility in decades.
Maliki’s recent warning that any unconstitutional attempt to form a new government would open the “gates of hell” on Iraq is a testimony of his dictatorial attitude. While writing this, I wondered what Maliki had meant by “unconstitutional”? Did he mean any endeavor seeking his replacement or any attempt aiming at weakening the influence of his Dawa party over the Iraqi parliament? Surely both.
With Maliki’s claimed keenness on the constitution, I wonder if the embattled prime minister’s supporters are aware of his violation of the constitution by allowing the formation of militias outside the framework of the national army. Paragraph B of article 9 of Iraq’s constitution prohibits the formation of militias outside the framework of the armed forces.
It seems as though every religious, tribal and political leader in Iraq now has his own militias, performing executions and carrying out assaults when ordered against people, political parties’ headquarters and national institutions under the pretext of protecting shrines or other allegations. Militias in Iraq have been formed on sectarian basis and this should come as little surprise given that Maliki had reportedly once divided the Iraqi people into Hussein’s army and Yazid’s army in reference to the 7th century battle in Islamic history.
In fact, Maliki has been enforcing the “weird” governing system of Iraq put in place after the 2003 U.S. invasion. Under that formula, which is certainly a recipe for sectarianism, the post of prime minister is reserved for a Shiite; the president a Kurd and the parliament speaker a Sunni. Although not stipulated in the Iraqi constitution, this governing system has become “untouchable” to the point that it would be “unconstitutional” for a Sunni or Kurdish figure to form a cabinet.
“Despite the chorus of criticism over his sectarian-based domestic policies, Maliki never suggested that he would step down”
Maliki transcended this unconstitutional governing system when he made it a de-facto precondition for an Iraqi prime minister to be not only a Shiite but a die-hard ally of Iran. Maliki has forged a strong alliance with Shiite leaders affiliated in one way or another with Tehran, including Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Dawa Party leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari. His relationship with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and cleric and politician Ammar al-Hakim seems to have long been on shaky ground simply because the two belong to Arab tribes which beleive Iraq’s Najaf to be the seat of Shiite learning and not Iran’s Qum.
Despite the chorus of criticism over his sectarian-based domestic policies, Maliki never suggested that he would step down. It is this totalitarian attitude that has created the conditions leading a large portion of the country to fall into the hands of the insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which the embattled premier is now pleading to fight against.
It does seem, however, that Maliki has benefited from ISIS in many ways. His alleged fight against the Islamist group has been a means more than end. In order to divert the world’s attention from the Anbar uprising against his sectarian policies, Maliki sent his forces to fight alongside the Sunni insurgents who put on hold temporarily their rebellion against Baghdad’s Shiite-led government until they removed ISIS from their Sunni stronghold. And they succeeded in that mission. The same applies to Maliki’s force’s engagement in the Kurds’ war with ISIS. The abrupt move is no more than political maneuvering meant by Maliki to please the Kurds who called for his departure.
All in all, Maliki’s story with ISIS is not that difficult to analyze. It’s either that the embattled premier’s sectarian policies have led to ISIS’ dominance over western Iraq or that he has been using the Islamist militia as a scarecrow to add legitimacy to his wars here and there as being part of the U.S.-led “war on terror,” exactly as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has done.
An Iranian province?
Iran’s policies in Iraq and its unaltered support of Maliki have had an immense impact on Maliki’s growing totalitarianism.
Under Maliki’s rule, Iraq seems to have turned into an Iranian province. Now, the Iraqis’ demand that Maliki be replaced has to be approved by Iran which has been said to be working with Iraqi factions for a suitable candidate. Of course, it could be that this alternative will have to be as loyal to Tehran as Maliki was in order to get Iran’s approval.
Although in itself it is a proof of Tehran’s mandate over Iraq, Iran’s statement on Maliki’s replacement cannot be that genuine and serious anyway. Tehran is now managing the growing pressure on Maliki in general statements carrying intentions and promises, resembling those statements it used to make on Assad’s regime.
What is Maliki’s post now? He is not a real prime minister, not an acting prime minister, not even a premier-elect nor a premier-designate. He is simply an embattled premier whose term has expired and who is insisting on a third term even if that may lead to bloodshed and a sectarian war.
I sometimes wonder: Is there not a man among the 30 million Iraqis who can replace Maliki? Why this insistence on power from Maliki at a time of public abhorrence to his rule? I have no clues in mind except that either Maliki is governed by a dictatorship mentality, or he is “drunk with power” indeed, or that he has an agenda to achieve.
If Iraq’s Maliki was once described as a dictator in the making, I would say he is an established dictator now whose persistence on a third term will send Iraq toward a new stage of hostility and insecurity.
US hits ISIS as it re-engages in Iraq
Julie Pace| Reuters/WASHINGTON: U.S. fighters dropped bombs on Islamist militants in Iraq Friday, the Pentagon said, redeeming President Barack Obama's promise of military force to counter the advancing militants and confront the threat they pose to Iraqi civilians and Americans. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that two F/A-18 jets dropped 227-kilogram bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it. In a televised to the speech Thursday night, Obama had threatened to renew U.S. military involvement in Iraq's long sectarian war. He said that American military planes already had carried out airdrops of food and water, at the request of the Iraqi government, to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities atop a mountain surrounded by militants and desperately in need of supplies. "America is coming to help," the president said in a somber speech from the White House. The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.
"Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, 'There is no one coming to help.' Well, today, America is coming to help," Obama said. "We're also consulting with other countries - and the United Nations - who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis."The announcement reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war. Obama, who made his remarks in a steady and somber tone, has staked much of his legacy as president on ending what he once called the "dumb war" in Iraq.
Mindful of the public's aversion to another lengthy war, Obama acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis."As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," Obama said. Even so, he outlined a rationale for airstrikes if the Islamic State militants advance on American troops in the northern city of Irbil and the U.S. consulate there in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The troops were sent to Iraq earlier this year as part of the White House response to the extremist group's swift movement across the border with Syria and into Iraq. "When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action," Obama said. "That's my responsibility as commander in chief."
He said he had also authorized the use of targeted military strikes if necessary to help the Iraqi security forces protect civilians. Obama spoke following a day of urgent discussions with his national security team. He addressed the nation only after the American military aircraft delivering food and water to the Iraqis had safely left the drop site in northern Iraq. The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together delivered a total of 72 bundles of food and water. They were escorted by two F/A-18 fighters from an undisclosed air base in the region. The planes delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals and were over the drop area for less than 15 minutes at a low altitude.
The president cast the mission to assist the Yazidis as part of the American mandate to assist around the world when the U.S. has the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre. In those cases, Obama said, "we can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide." Officials said the U.S. was prepared to undertake additional humanitarian airdrops if necessary, though they did not say how quickly those missions could occur. Administration officials said they believe unilateral U.S. strikes would be consistent with international law in part because the Iraqi government has asked for Washington to take military action. They also said Obama had the constitutional authority to act on his own in order to protect American citizens. Still, there was no guarantee that the president's threat of military strikes would actually be followed by action. He similarly authorized strikes in Syria last summer after chemical weapons were deployed, but those attacks were never carried out, in part because of domestic political concerns and also because an international agreement to strip Syria of its stockpiles of the deadly gases. Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have argued that Obama's cautious approach to Syria has allowed the Islamic State group to flourish there, growing strong enough to move across the border with Iraq and make swift gains. In light of the militants' advances, Obama dispatched about 800 U.S. forces to Iraq earlier this year, with those troops largely split between joint operation centers in Baghdad and Irbil.
US hits ISIS as it re-engages in Iraq
Julie Pace| Reuters
WASHINGTON: U.S. fighters dropped bombs on Islamist militants in Iraq Friday, the Pentagon said, redeeming President Barack Obama's promise of military force to counter the advancing militants and confront the threat they pose to Iraqi civilians and Americans. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that two F/A-18 jets dropped 227-kilogram bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it. In a televised to the speech Thursday night, Obama had threatened to renew U.S. military involvement in Iraq's long sectarian war. He said that American military planes already had carried out airdrops of food and water, at the request of the Iraqi government, to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities atop a mountain surrounded by militants and desperately in need of supplies.
"America is coming to help," the president said in a somber speech from the White House. The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death. "Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, 'There is no one coming to help.' Well, today, America is coming to help," Obama said. "We're also consulting with other countries - and the United Nations - who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis."
The announcement reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war. Obama, who made his remarks in a steady and somber tone, has staked much of his legacy as president on ending what he once called the "dumb war" in Iraq. Mindful of the public's aversion to another lengthy war, Obama acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis. "As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," Obama said.
Even so, he outlined a rationale for airstrikes if the Islamic State militants advance on American troops in the northern city of Irbil and the U.S. consulate there in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The troops were sent to Iraq earlier this year as part of the White House response to the extremist group's swift movement across the border with Syria and into Iraq. "When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action," Obama said. "That's my responsibility as commander in chief." He said he had also authorized the use of targeted military strikes if necessary to help the Iraqi security forces protect civilians.
Obama spoke following a day of urgent discussions with his national security team. He addressed the nation only after the American military aircraft delivering food and water to the Iraqis had safely left the drop site in northern Iraq. The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together delivered a total of 72 bundles of food and water. They were escorted by two F/A-18 fighters from an undisclosed air base in the region. The planes delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals and were over the drop area for less than 15 minutes at a low altitude. The president cast the mission to assist the Yazidis as part of the American mandate to assist around the world when the U.S. has the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre.
In those cases, Obama said, "we can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide." Officials said the U.S. was prepared to undertake additional humanitarian airdrops if necessary, though they did not say how quickly those missions could occur. Administration officials said they believe unilateral U.S. strikes would be consistent with international law in part because the Iraqi government has asked for Washington to take military action. They also said Obama had the constitutional authority to act on his own in order to protect American citizens.
Still, there was no guarantee that the president's threat of military strikes would actually be followed by action. He similarly authorized strikes in Syria last summer after chemical weapons were deployed, but those attacks were never carried out, in part because of domestic political concerns and also because an international agreement to strip Syria of its stockpiles of the deadly gases.
Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have argued that Obama's cautious approach to Syria has allowed the Islamic State group to flourish there, growing strong enough to move across the border with Iraq and make swift gains. In light of the militants' advances, Obama dispatched about 800 U.S. forces to Iraq earlier this year, with those troops largely split between joint operation centers in Baghdad and Irbil.
Palestinian official: Hamas executed former leader for spying for Egypt
Elior Levy /Published: 08.07.14, 22:19 / Israel News/Ynetnews /Former Hamas strong man found dead under Gaza rubble, Palestinian official: He was killed for collaborating with Egypt.
The body of Ayman Taha, a senior Hamas member who was also instrumental in founding the group, was found dead under the rubble in the Gaza neighborhood of Saja'yya.
Though the area was hit hard during Israel's Gaza operation, Palestinian sources reported Thursday that Taha had not been killed as a result of an IDF attack, but was rather executed by Hamas after being accused of spying for Egypt. Al Quds news reports that he was executed by Hamas via firing squad for collaboration with Israel, however other Palestinian media said it was his ties with Egypt that led to the execution. Palestinian officials who spoke to Ynet said his death could have a negative influence on ceasefire talks currently being held in Egypt in a bid to extent the current ceasefire in fighting beyond its 8am Friday deadline. Taha has held a number of roles in the organization, some of which have landed him in trouble. In a recent feature on Hamas' funds, Ynet recalled that Taha conducted financial deals on behalf of Hamas officials, who ensured that they received their dividends in cash. In 2011, Taha himself paid $700,000 for a luxury three-floor villa in the central Gaza Strip; a year ago, he was charged with being an agent for Egypt. This February, AP reported that Taha was arrested by Hamas over suspected financial misdealings. Ahmed Bahar, the deputy speaker of the legislative council, said at the time that Taha, who also serves as a spokesman, was arrested in the Gaza Strip. A separate Hamas official said Taha was arrested over "financial issues" but did not elaborate. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the arrest with the media. It was not clear when Taha was arrested.