August 16/14

Bible/Faith/Quotation for today/
Children and Parents

Ephesians 0
6/01-04: "Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do.  "Respect your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise added:  “so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land.” Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction."


Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
My heart bleeds especially when I think of the children in Iraq. May Mary, Our Mother, protect them.
Pape François ‏
Mon cœur saigne quand je pense aux enfants d’Iraq. Que la Vierge Marie, notre Mère, les protège

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 15 & 16/14

Hariri’s comeback /By: Hicham Bou Nassif/August 16/14
Helping Iraq's Next Prime Minister Seize the Moment/By: Michael Knights /Washington Institute/August 16/14

Putin, Russia and the Western Dilemma/By: Amir Taheri/August 15 & 16/14

Lebanese Related News published on August 15 & 16/14

Nasrallah: Those Considering ISIL a Joke Are Detached from Reality

Realistic and serious plans required to counter looming dangers: Nasrallah

Lebanon, region face existential threat: Hezbollah leader

Nasrallah says Lebanese Army needs qualitative weapons

Talks to free Lebanese soldiers facing difficulties

Muslim Scholars May Halt Negotiations on Troops' Release over State's 'Negative' Approach

Geagea: Iraq crisis will further complicate presidential elections
Report: Al-Rahi Heads Delegation to Kurdistan to Show Solidarity with Persecuted Christians
Al-Rahi: Officials Should Make Sacrifices Like the Army and Elect President

Salam vows to alleviate Arsal refugee burden

Salam Accuses Some Syrian Refugees in Arsal of Planning to Create Chaos

Nasrallah: Lebanese Groups Still Supporting Syria Gunmen with Arms and Guidance
Operator of Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade Twitter Account in ISF Captivity

Lebanese Journalist Mazen Diab Found Dead in Jordan

Berri Reiterates Refusal of Parliament Extension
Controversy over Bassil, Hariri Meeting in Jeddah

Asiri Says Critical Developments Compelled Extension of his Tenure

Jumblatt: Christian divisions weakening Lebanon

Nasrallah says Lebanese Army needs qualitative weapons

Yes to extension in absence of president: Future minister

Delays in offshore gas licensing bad for Lebanon

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 15 & 16/14

DEBKAfile’s quick guide to the perplexed reader: Israel, Gaza, the US and the faux-ceasefire

EU Ministers Agree on Arming Iraq Kurds

Iraq Sunni tribes take up arms against jihadists

Iraq’s Maliki finally steps aside, paving way for new government
EU offers to monitor Gaza borders in truce deal
Tensions rise between Turkey, Syrian refugees

Car bomb in Syria's Deraa province kills 14
Qatar agrees to stop offering citizenship to GCC nationals: official

Ukraine Army 'Destroyed' Military Vehicles that Crossed from Russia

The Iranian Regime is Behind all the wars in the Middle East
By: Elias Bejjani/August 15/15
Another and more dangerous Hitlerism military regime is already existing in Iran, while the USA Obama administration, Europe and many other countries are burying their head in the sand and directly or indirectly helping in empowering this scary and ruthless monster.
Sadly history is repeating itself with the same fatal European-Hitler Scenario, and if lessons from world War two are not grasped and learned, the whole world and not only the Middle East will be facing extremely serious and actual Iranian threats, and possible military invasions.
These Iranian potential dangers will include Israel, all the Arab countries, Turkey and all of Europe too. There is no doubt that once the Iranian Mullahs' dictatorship regime puts its criminal and bloody hands on an atomic bomb they will use it.
If the Western world countries specifically keeps on cajoling and appeasing the Iranian aggressive and hostile regime the dire consequences will hit the whole civilized world.
Who can buy Iran's rhetoric of ethical principles when it is militarily, financially and by all other means strongly supporting the most brutal and criminal regime in the world, the Syrian Assad regime. The Syrian regime with the full help of Iran and its proxy Shiite Lebanese and Iraqi militant Militia proxies has massacred in the last three years almost 300 thousand innocent citizens of his own people, mostly women, children and elderly!! Meanwhile Iran's Hezbollah occupies Lebanon and oppresses its people.
Iran's president Rouhani is buying time for the Mullahs' regime and practically he is not in any power position to influence Iran's hostile and expansionism policies. Although he keeps on rhetorically advocating for the alleged peaceful Iran and claiming that his country can not and will not own nuclear weapons because of mere ethical reasons ! What a lie? Does he really think the world will buy his alleged fake claims!!
What are those ethical principles that the Iranian regime honors and practices when it has been killing its own people, and brutally oppressing them.
What are those ethical principles that the Iranian regime honors and practices when it fully runs and controls the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the whole world!!
What are those ethical principles that the Iranian regime honors and practices when it keeps on by force, religious denominational and military means destabilizing the peace stability in all the Middle East countries from Yemen to Lebanon.
Logic and reason necessitate that the Free world countries with all the Arab regimes seriously deal with the Iranian cancerous regime in a completely different strategy from the current and ongoing one that has totally failed and made the Iranian rulers more bold and more aggressive.
In conclusion, the Iranian Mullahs regime is fully responsible for all the wars, chaos and bloody massacres that the Middle East is currently encountering .

Nasrallah Says Ready to Confront Existential Threat Facing Lebanon: Those Considering ISIL a Joke Are Detached from Reality
Naharnet/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned on Friday of a “real existential danger” threatening Lebanon and the region, calling for putting all differences aside to face the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “We have to believe that there is a real existential danger threatening us all and it is not a joke,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech he gave on the occasion of the July 2006 war “victory.” He elaborated: “The so-called ISIL is a group that has now seized large geographical areas in Syria and Iraq and taken control of resource fields and main water dams... This group has committed massacres, killed prisoners and civilians in Iraq and Syria, and also killed people close to ISIL, like al-Nusra fighters, and then assassinated people of other Islamist factions in Deir Ezzor and Reef Aleppo (in Syria) and Iraq.”“The massacres that have been committed harmed Sunnis primarily and ISIL did not spare anyone in Iraq like Kurds, Yazidis, Shiites, Christians, Turkmen... this example has nothing to do with Islam,” he added.“This group has a project and is threatening and terrifying people.”
“Is this scene a joke?” he asked. “We must be aware of this threat's potentials. Those who say nothing is happening are completely detached from reality.”
Nasrallah was referring to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea who slammed in a televised interview on Wednesday ISIL as a “big lie” and assured that the extremist groups' atrocities in neighboring countries will not be repeated in Lebanon. The Hizbullah chief then called on the “Lebanese and all people of the region to put all differences aside.”“I call on every Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian and any Gulf national to leave sectarian intolerance behind and think that this phenomenon is not a threat against Shiites only,” he said. “No one should regard this battle as a sectarian one, it is a takfiri war against anyone who opposes it.”Nasrallah then denied that Hizbullah's withdrawal from the Syrian war would change this reality and eliminate the takfiri threat.
“If Hizbullah withdrew from Syria, would this eliminate the danger? Would this erase Lebanon from (ISIL chief Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi's map? Is this beneficial?” he wondered.
He also denied that international force deployment along the border would protect the country from jihadist fighter influx. “UNIFIL troops need someone to protect them,” he jokingly remarked.
He continued: “Does the disassociation policy protect Lebanon? If ISIL seized control of Syria and reached Rashaya (in Western Bekaa) and Baalbek (in the Bekaa) and the North, would the disassociation policy protect the country? Is this a realistic approach? Is this approach correct in the first place? We did not implement it, but others did not as well.”
He went on to say that “when the country is facing an existential threat the priority becomes facing this danger.”
Nasrallah reiterated that what protected Lebanon is the army-people-resistance equation.
He called for mobilizing financial and moral support for army troops and security forces, stressing that they are the bodies in charge of protecting the country.
“The Lebanese army and the security forces are the first factor to be invested in to face this danger. They protect the state and the towns, not Hizbullah,” he assured.
“The state should stand by the army all the time to release its kidnapped troops. Any moment that passes with soldiers still in captivity is a humiliation to the state,” he considered.
The Shiite leader also commented that safeguarding the country would be achieved through “preserving the current cabinet and preventing it from collapsing.”
"Despite all differences, we must preserve the cabinet as it is the only effective authority at the moment,” he pointed out.

Operator of Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade Twitter Account in ISF Captivity
Naharnet /The Internal Security Forces announced on Thursday evening the arrest of the operator of the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade's Twitter account, revealing that he a 19 years old man who hails from the Bekaa's Baalbek region. "The Intelligence Bureau arrested on Thursday the operator of the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade's Twitter account,” the ISF said in a tweet on the same social media website. He is Lebanese national H.Sh.H., 19, and has confessed to managing the shadowy group's account, the ISF added. The mysterious Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade had in the past claimed that it is an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the ISIL later denied that. The Brigade has claimed responsibility for several rocket and bomb attacks inside Lebanon, the last of which were the suicide blasts in Dahr al-Baydar and Raouche's Duroy Hotel. But what raised suspicions over the seriousness of the vague group's influence was a war of words it engaged in on March 16 with al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, believed to be a local franchise of the Syria-based, Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front. The dispute erupted after both groups claimed responsibility on Twitter for a deadly suicide bombing that rocked the Bekaa town of al-Nabi Othman. On July 24, the account was unreachable on Twitter, despite having many followers. Another account was founded to replace it but could not enjoy the same popularity. The obscure group has threatened to target Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji and Maj. Suzan al-Hajj, chief of the Internal Security Forces' Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Protection bureau. It has repeatedly slammed the military institution as the “Crusader Army” and it vowed to task gunmen to attack churches in Lebanon and in the eastern Bekaa valley in particular. Consequently, another Twitter account emerged as a response to the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade under the name of “Free Crusader Brigade.”

ISF Takes Control of Free Sunnis Brigade Twitter Account, Raises Lebanese Flag on Header
Naharnet/The Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch took control over the Twitter account of the so-called Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade and uploaded a picture of the Lebanese flag on its header.
The move came a day after ISF announced the arrest of the operator of the obscure group's twitter account. A picture of the Lebanese flag was uploaded as the profile picture and the header of the account.
The ISF also tweeted the arrest of the 19-year-old boy. “The Intelligence Branch detained H. Sh. H.,” the tweet said, adding that he “confessed that he is the owner of the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade's Twitter account.” New of his arrest broke out on Thursday evening after the ISF tweeted the matter from its twitter account. According to the tweet, H. is a Lebanese national and had confessed to managing the shadowy group's account. The cyber crimes bureau announced recently that the Twitter account of the vague Brigade is being probed. On July 24, the account was unreachable on Twitter, despite having many followers. Another account was founded to replace it but could not enjoy the same popularity. The obscure group has threatened to target Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji and Maj. Suzan al-Hajj, chief of the Internal Security Forces' Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Protection bureau. It has repeatedly slammed the military institution as the “Crusader Army” and it vowed to task gunmen to attack churches in Lebanon and in the eastern Bekaa valley in particular. Mashnouq had revealed recently that tweets by the so-called “Free Sunnis Brigade” were in fact made by a foreign intelligence agency. However, he did not disclose further details on the matter. But the shadowy brigade was quick to hit back, telling Mashnouq that he will not be able to prevent the group's "jihadist operations."Consequently, another Twitter account emerged as a response to the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade under the name of “Free Crusader Brigade.”

Lebanese Journalist Mazen Diab Found Dead in Jordan
Naharnet/Jordanian police on Friday announced that it has discovered the body of Lebanese journalist Mazen Diab at his house in the capital Amman. "Security forces found the body of Diab tied with ropes inside his apartment,” Jordanian news agency ZAD said, noting that his house is located on Mecca Street in Amman. "Security bodies have launched an investigation in this matter and are listening to the testimonies of the slain journalist's neighbors,” ZAD added. The neighbors confirmed that Diab has been stabbed repeatedly, according to the same source. But an informed source told Jordan's al-Ghad website that the journalist was strangled to death. "Investigation is ongoing to uncover all circumstances surrounding his death,” a security source told al-Ghad. The body of Diab was referred to a forensic doctor to determine the causes of death, noted ZAD. The Lebanese citizen's death was discovered after a friend visited his house and repeatedly knocked on the door and called him, but failed to reach him.
"He then took off the door of the house with force and discovered Diab's body,” the informed source told al-Ghad. Diab, 31, presented a program on Jordan's Sawt al-Ghad radio station before his death. He suffered from lung cancer and had underwent an operation to remove a part of his lungs a year ago. He graduated from Studio al-Fan talent show in 2002 when he applied to become a TV journalist, and earned a graduate degree from the Beirut Arab University.

Asiri Says Critical Developments Compelled Extension of his Tenure
Naharnet /Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri stressed that the critical conditions in the region and Lebanon compelled him to extend his stay in Beirut. “King Abdullah is keen to provide Lebanon with the needed support amid the delicate developments,” Asiri told al-Liwaa newspaper published on Friday. He pointed out that he will currently stay in Beirut to follow on situation and the constitutional deadlines in Lebanon. Media reports said on Thursday that the outgoing Saudi ambassador will extend his tenure in Lebanon although he made his farewell visits on Lebanese officials. Asiri was appointed as the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tammam Salam threw a luncheon banquet in honor of Asiri. It was attended by senior officials, ministers and former President Michel Suleiman.

Muslim Scholars May Halt Negotiations on Troops' Release over State's 'Negative' Approach

Naharnet/The Muslim Scholars Committee delegation tasked with negotiating with Islamists the release of the abducted soldiers and security forces is scheduled to hold talks on Saturday with Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, reported As Safir newspaper on Friday. Spokesman for the committee Sheikh Adnan Amama told the daily that the delegation will relay to Qahwaji its concern and reservations over the Lebanese state's efforts to release the captives. He said: “We have clearly sensed that the state is not receptive of our initiative in the negotiations.”“We have not received any positive signs from it,” he added, while revealing that the committee may abandon its negotiation efforts in favor of another side that may be more suitable for the task. Furthermore, Amama accused the state of throwing obstacles in the path of the negotiations given the recent charges against 43 Syrians, including Imad Jomaa, accusing them of belonging to terrorist groups. “We will withdraw from our mission on Sunday or Monday at most if the government maintains its approach in this matter,” he added. He said that the al-Nusra Front dealt “negatively” with State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr's charges, which he made on Friday, saying that it may delay the release of the captives. Clashes broke out on August 2 between the army and Islamist gunmen in the northeastern border town of Arsal in light of Jomaa's arrest. Several soldiers were wounded and killed in the fighting that ended in a ceasefire on August 7. The gunmen withdrew from the town, but abducted with them a number of soldiers and security forces. The Muslim Scholars Committee delegation has been tasked with negotiating with the militants to release them. The gunmen have reportedly been demanding the release of fellow Islamists from Roumieh Prison in exchange for the captives.

Report: Al-Rahi Heads Delegation to Kurdistan to Show Solidarity with Persecuted Christians

Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is expected to travel to the Iraqi region of Kurdistan next week, in a show of support with the persecuted Christians in the area, reported Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) on Friday. Bishop Samir Mazloum told the radio that al-Rahi will head to Iraq on August 18 at the head of a delegation of patriarchs from the East.“We will visit the capital Baghdad if the security situation permits us,” he added. He said that the delegation would seek to hold talks with officials there before heading to the city Kurdish city of Arbil.An Nahar daily Friday said that the delegation of patriarchs from the East will include Syrian Orthodox and Catholic patriarchs. Islamic State militants in Iraq have been waging a campaign against minorities in Iraq, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. U.S. President Barack Obama last week authorized air strikes against the militants, warning that thousands of members of the Yazidi minority risked genocide as they fled to the mountain under pursuit from extremists. On Wednesday, Pope Francis called on the international community and the United Nations in particular to do all they can to stop the "systematic violence" against ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq.

Berri Reiterates Refusal of Parliament Extension

Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated on Friday that he will not agree with the proposed extension of the parliament’s mandate, pointing out the need to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections.
"The parliament is a legislative body and therefore obstructing its work violates the constitution,” said Berri in an interview to al-Mustaqbal newspaper. “I will not agree on extending the parliament's term mainly if the situation in the country stayed the same,” he added. “There are no guarantees,” the speaker said referring to the parliament's failure to convene and approve a number of pressing issues.
“What about obstructing legislation? It is a priority to hold the parliamentary elections.” Lebanon will enter on August 20 a deadline to agree on a new electoral law ahead of the November elections.
Noting the latest parliament term extension, Berri said: “We extended the parliament’s term for one year and five months in order to approve a new electoral law and elect a new president, but we did neither. To the contrary, the parliament's work was obstructed.” Last year, the parliament voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a new electoral law. "We have a number of pressing issues that need to be approved including the wage scale, the fate of 107,000 students at stake, issuing eurobonds, the rent law and many others.”Berri concluded by saying that he held a meeting with former PM Saad Hariri, adding “I discussed this matter with him and agreed that holding the elections is a priority.”

Controversy over Bassil, Hariri Meeting in Jeddah
Naharnet /Controversy loomed on Friday after several media outlets reported that a meeting was held between head of al-Mustaqbal movement and former premier MP Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil in the western Saudi city of Jeddah. The state-run National News Agency denied that the two officials had met, despite reporting the news earlier in the day. The two officials reportedly discussed during their meeting the latest local developments and the ongoing consultations regarding the presidential deadlock. Bassil, who is loyal to Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, is currently in Jeddah to attend an extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss Palestine. Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Thursday that contacts between Aoun and Hariri haven't ceased but a meeting between them is not near. Hariri headed to Jeddah on Wednesday after he made a surprise return to Lebanon last week after three years abroad. During his short visit to Beirut, Hariri held meetings with senior officials and discussed the latest Saudi-financed $1 billion grant to Lebanese security forces to boost the fight against terrorism.

Al-Rahi: Officials Should Make Sacrifices Like the Army and Elect President
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi declared on Friday that the army alone protects Lebanon against challenges, hailing its recent sacrifices that “helped defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other extremist groups.” He added: “We hope politicians would follow the example of the army and make sacrifices to elect a new president.”He made his remarks during a mass held in honor of the army martyrs on the occasion of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. “We salute Army chief General Jean Qahwaji, the soldiers, and security forces, and hope for the safe return of the captives” held by Islamist gunmen, al-Rahi said. He also thanked international initiatives aimed at supporting the army. He made his comment in reference to Saudi Arabia's grant of one billion dollars to the army aimed at helping it counter terrorism. “Just as the army rose to the challenge of combating extremists, we hope that officials would have risen to the occasion, exercised their constitutional duties, and elected a president,” al-Rahi stressed during the mass held at his summer residence in al-Diman. “We hope that politicians will in turn back the army and defend it and the security forces in recognition of their sacrifices,” continued the patriarch. Commenting on the persecution of Christians in the region by the Islamic State jihadist group, al-Rahi prayed that world powers and organizations would take the necessary action to achieve peace in the region. Clashes broke out on August 2 between the army and Islamist gunmen in the northeastern border town of Arsal in wake of the arrest of a prominent al-Nusra Front member Imad Jomaa. Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the unrest that ended with a ceasefire on August 7. The gunmen withdrew from the town, abducting a number of soldiers and security forces members.

Nasrallah: Lebanese Groups Still Supporting Syria Gunmen with Arms and Guidance

Naharnet /Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared that the “Lebanese support” for gunmen in Syria is still taking place, reiterating that Hizbullah's fighting in the neighboring country's al-Qusayr and al-Qalamunm regions prevented the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant would from reaching Beirut. "If we hadn't fought in Qusayr and al-Qalamoun, ISIL would have reached Beirut and coastal regions,” Nasrallah said in the second excerpts of an interview in al-Akhbar newspaper to be published on Friday. He continued discussion over the presence and power of fighters in Syria: “The Lebanese support for armed groups in Syria is still taking place, and it includes arming and guiding them.”"The fear of danger is growing and people are now more approving of our fight against takfiris,” he considered. The Hizbullah chief went on to say: “Wherever there is support for takfiri ideology, there is a supporting ground that favors ISIL presence.” This is happening in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, he pointed out. Nasrallah added: “Turkey and Qatar support ISIL and I am convinced that Saudi Arabia fears the group.”

Salam Accuses Some Syrian Refugees in Arsal of Planning to Create Chaos
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam said on Friday that the large influx of Syrian refugees to the northeastern town of Arsal had a negative impact on the village. “Some refugees exploited the hospitality of the residents of Arsal and had a plan to create chaos in it,” Salam said after meeting a delegation from the northeastern town. The PM “highly valued” the durability of the residents of Arsal, pointing out that their demands are righteous. He also hailed them as “an example,” noting that they proved their unity away from any minor political interests. “We are seeking to ease the crisis of refugees.”
Arsal, whose residents have been broadly supportive of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad, is currently playing host to 47,000 Syrian refugees. Many of them sought refuge there after Syrian government troops ousted rebels from the Qalamun region over the border. Clashes broke out on August 2 between the army and Islamist gunmen in the northeastern border town of Arsal in light of the arrest of a member form al-Nusra front.
Several soldiers were wounded and killed in the fighting that ended in a ceasefire on August 7. The gunmen withdrew from the town, but abducted with them a number of soldiers and security forces.
Some Syrian refugees residing in encampments in the town are suspected of being involved in the gunbattles. Meanwhile, Salam expressed relief earlier on Friday over the ministerial discussions the day before, praising the efforts exerted by ministers to resolve vital issues. “I am relieved over the serious discussions that lasted seven hours during the cabinet session,” Salam said in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper. He pointed out that important decrees were endorsed, in particular the latest Saudi grant to Lebanese security apparatuses. During a cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail, the government approved a $1 billion Saudi aid to enable security forces to counter terrorism. Former Prime Minister and head of al-Mustaqbal movement MP Saad Hariri had announced last week that Saudi Arabia decided to support the military institution with a one billion dollar grant following the deadly clashes between troops and extremist militants in the northeastern border town of Arsal.


Yes to extension in absence of president: Future minister
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Future bloc will support the extension of Parliament’s mandate only if Lebanon fails to elect a new president, Minister of State Nabil de Freij said Friday. “We are clear. We are saying that if we reach the deadline with no president elected for the country, ‘Yes’ we are with the extension,” de Freij told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. He slammed those who “pretend” to be against Parliament’s extension for fear they will lose in the general elections. Addressing Speaker Nabih Berri, de Freij said: “We ask him about [efforts] at disrupting the presidential election ... we are not with disrupting Parliament and we are not with Parliament’s extension.”He said the Future Movement supported the implementation of the Constitution. “We want lawmakers to go to Parliament and carry out their duties. Then things will be on the right track and a new government and a new Parliament will emerge and institutions will pursue work as usual.” “This is what we want, nothing else,” he added.
De Freij urged Berri to "convince" his allies in the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition to end their boycott and attend a voting session to elect a new head of state. Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, when former President Michel Sleiman’s term ended with lawmakers failing to elect a successor over lack of quorum.


Jumblatt: Christian divisions weakening Lebanon
Tom Perry| Reuters
BEIRUT: With minorities facing death and persecution at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Lebanon's Christians must lay aside their rivalries and agree on who should fill the vacant presidency, MP Walid Jumblatt has warned. Walid Jumblatt, the most influential figure in Lebanon's Druze community, says he is as alarmed as anyone by the rise of the radical Islamist group guided by a puritanical vision of Islam that is a major threat to religious minorities including his own. Christians and Yezidis have fled its advance in Iraq. Jumblatt said Christian leaders in Lebanon, itself the target of a deadly incursion by ISIS fighters from Syria this month, needed to recognize the danger of what is going on the region and agree on a new head of state. Lebanon's presidency, the only one reserved for a Christian in the Arab world, has been vacant since May, when Michel Sleiman's term ended. Parliament has repeatedly failed to elect his successor in the absence of a political agreement.Many observers believe that such an accord must be brokered by rival regional states that wield critical influence over Lebanon's competing alliances, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran. But Jumblatt said the problem was "local." "It's a Christian mistake. They are not seeing what is (going on) in the surroundings," he said. "It's up to them to know that by keeping this division they are making the Christian presence in Lebanon weaker and weaker." "They are weakening themselves and weakening Lebanon."Once the dominant force in Lebanon, the Maronites today stand divided between rival alliances that define the country's crises-ridden politics: the March 8 coalition including Hezbollah and the Saudi-backed March 14 alliance led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. With Maronite leaders including Civil War foes Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea both eyeing the presidency, it will only likely be filled by a deal on a candidate acceptable to all. Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi, whose forces battled the Islamist militants for five days in the border town of Arsal this month, is seen as one potential candidate. Both Sleiman and his predecessor, Emile Lahoud, were former Army commanders.
Besides the presidency, parliamentary elections have also fallen victim to political deadlock. Elections that were due to take place last year were postponed until later this year.
Jumblatt linked his support for another extension of Parliament's term to the election of a president: "I will just go for a technical prolongation of some months, maybe six months, conditioned on the election of a president."Despite their differences, Lebanese leaders have managed to unite in the face of the threat posed by ISIS. Together with other radical groups, its fighters seized the border town of Arsal on Aug. 2, in the most serious spillover to date of Syria's three-year civil war into Lebanon. Dozens of people, including 19 soldiers, were killed in the ensuing battle. The militants withdrew on Aug. 5, with 19 soldiers and 17 policemen missing and believed to have been taken with them. "The Islamic State is a threat to both the moderate Islam headed by Mr. Saad Hariri and of course for Hezbollah," said Jumblatt. "There is a convergence, an anxiety of a common enemy ... which is good." Praising the Army, he added: "Beyond our stupid political disputes, we still have institutions that can resist."The Arsal crisis brought Hariri back to Lebanon after three years of self-imposed exile. He brought with him $1 billion in Saudi aid to help the security forces fight extremism. Jumblatt said Hariri must "remind people that the Muslims of Lebanon cannot go into radicalism."The rise of ISIS appears to have pushed Jumblatt closer to Hezbollah, whose highly trained guerrillas are fighting the Sunni Islamist-dominated insurgency in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's forces. While maintaining his fierce opposition to Assad, Jumblatt has eased off in his criticism of Hezbollah's role in Syria. Hezbollah's political foes, including Hariri, still say its role in Syria has provoked Sunni Islamist attacks in Lebanon. Jumblatt stuck by his forecast that Assad would eventually fall. "He will not survive. Ultimately he will fall," he said. But he said there was no point in blaming Hezbollah for fighting in Syria, saying that the group was implementing Iranian policy. "Continuing to blame Hezbollah will lead to nowhere," he said. "Now we have to somewhere find a kind of coordination - a political effort, a political joint venture.""It's up to us now."

EU Ministers Agree on Arming Iraq Kurds
Naharnet /EU ministers agreed at an emergency meeting on Friday to back the arming of overwhelmed Iraqi Kurd fighters in the face of an onslaught by Islamic State jihadists. Ministers were gathered in Brussels in a rare summertime meeting facing calls to act to stop what Germany said was the slaughter of civilians. "Iraq is on the brink of a true catastrophe. A million people in Iraq are fleeing their homes," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. "In northern Iraq, in the Kurdish part, Yazidis and Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered." The meeting was called at the urging France and Italy, which said the situation in Iraq required urgent attention. The ministers said they welcomed "the decision by individual member states to respond positively to the call by the Kurdish regional authorities to provide urgently military material". "Such responses will be done according to the capabilities and national laws of the member states, and with the consent of the Iraqi national authorities," it said. France has already begun to provide weapons to beleaguered Iraqi forces with Britain also ready to do so. But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said an EU-wide response to the crisis was crucial.
Defense matters are strictly the purview of member states, and the EU approval for member states to send arms to a conflict zone is rare. A diplomat said the agreement was "strong and sends the desired political message" to the world. Alarming images of Iraqi minorities, including Christians, under siege by jihadists have struck chords in European capitals. EU governments are also concerned by the Islamic State's ability to attract radicals from Europe who then return home to the West battle-hardened. Ahead of Friday's meeting, support for a strong message backing Kurdish Iraqis was growing, even from member states historically less inclined to support military adventures abroad, such as Germany.
"We have found a common position, the spirit of which says the EU commends the fact that certain countries have responded favorably to the request made by Kurdish Iraqi forces," Steinmeier said.
Before the talks, some countries continued to resist the idea of sending weapons to an unstable war zone where fighters and weapons can quickly change sides. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz warned that arms can "fall into the wrong hands" and urged "caution" before the talks. Usually cautious Germany this week pledged to work "full-speed" on the supply of "non-lethal" equipment such as armored vehicles, helmets and flak jackets to Iraq. Germany is a major arms manufacturer and going into the meeting, Steinmeier said Germany was ready to boost its commitment to Iraq despite national restrictions limiting arms exports into raging conflicts. "Europeans must not limit themselves to praising the courageous fight of the Kurdish security forces. We also need to do something first of all to meet basic needs," he said. Current EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who convened the meeting, had been criticized earlier in the week for the bloc's slow response to the unfurling crisis in Iraq. But a senior European official, speaking on Thursday in the run-up to the talks, deplored the "distorted" view of a shut-down EU in August. This was "at best unfair", he said. The European Union "is not on holiday". Earlier this week, the European Commission announced it would boost humanitarian aid to Iraq to 17 million euros ($22 million), and greenlit special emergency measures to meet the crisis.
But Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who also attended the meeting, said the real challenge in helping civilians was access, not funding. Agence France Presse

Ukraine Army 'Destroyed' Military Vehicles that Crossed from Russia
Naharnet/Ukraine said on Friday it had destroyed part of a Russian military convoy that crossed onto its territory in an incursion that has sent cross-border tensions soaring.
NATO accused Russia of active involvement in the "destabilization" of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin separatists have been fighting against Kiev for four months. The two countries have also been wrangling for days over a Russian convoy that Moscow says is carrying aid for besieged rebel-held cities but which Kiev suspects could be a "Trojan horse" to provide military help to the insurgents.
Fears that the border clash could spill into all-out war between Kiev and Moscow sent major share markets tumbling across Europe and the United States.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron that government artillery had destroyed a "considerable part" of a small military convoy that entered the country, the presidency said in a statement. The European Union demanded that Russia put an "immediate stop" to hostilities on the border, while Britain summoned Moscow's ambassador to Ukraine to "clarify" the situation. "If there are any Russian military personnel or vehicles in Ukraine they need to be withdrawn immediately or the consequences will be very serious," Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
Moscow has rejected the charges it sent military hardware across the border, its latest denial of Western accusations it is funneling weapons to the pro-Kremlin separatists who launched an insurgency against Kiev in April. But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed reports of the "Russian incursion".
"It just confirms the fact that we see a continued flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into the eastern Ukraine," he said. "It is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilization of eastern Ukraine."Russia's foreign ministry ominously accused Ukraine of "attempts to derail the supply of humanitarian aid" as doubts swirled over what will happen next to almost 300 Russian trucks parked up some 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Ukraine's border.
Moscow accused Kiev of stepping up military operations with the "obvious goal" of blocking the agreed route. It had appeared earlier that the two countries might reach a deal to allow the convoy into Ukraine to help people in the east who are without water, food or power. But the ICRC said they were still ironing out details over the shipment.
"People are struggling to cope with limited access to basic services such as water and electricity, so speed is of the essence," said Laurent Corbaz, ICRC head of operations for Europe and Central Asia.
French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, called on Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and urged the Russian and Ukrainian leaders to launch talks to deescalate the tension on their border.
"At the moment I am speaking, there are again very high tensions on the eastern Ukrainian border. I call, first on Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Then, for the two presidents to make the necessary effort to stop any escalation," Hollande said. Hollande recalled that Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first face-to-face meeting during celebrations of D-Day and called for the same "spirit of dialogue that was in place on June 6 in Normandy."
The French leader was speaking on the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle during a ceremony to mark 70 years since the southern invasion of occupied France that hastened the end of World War II.
Ukraine fears the convoy could be used as a pretext to invade, as a pro-Moscow rebellion shows signs of unraveling after four months of fighting that has left more than 2,000 people dead including children and sent around 285,000 fleeing their homes. Moscow has insisted the white-tarpaulin trucks are hauling aid and officials tried to prove that by showing off the contents of 10 lorries baby formula, rations and bottled water to journalists. "We've shown you everything. You see that we have nothing to hide -- these trucks are carrying nothing but humanitarian aid," said Sergei Karavaytsev, from Russia's emergency situations ministry. British newspapers reported Thursday that their correspondents had seen a column of some 20 armored personal carriers and military trucks crossing into Ukraine
Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said the EU -- which with the United States has imposed a raft of sanctions against Russia -- was "deeply concerned by Russian behaviour over the last months but also the last hours.""We think that the Russian authorities should be aware that both in the EU and the U.S. we have a very strong commitment to respond to any new aggression from Russia," he said.
Meanwhile Ukraine said it was forging on with an offensive that has sent rebel forces reeling, retaking three small town overnight. Top rebel military chief Igor Strelkov and another key commander announced Thursday they were quitting after Ukraine's military said it had completely surrounded Lugansk, cutting all links to the border with Russia. An Agence France Presse journalist in the main rebel-held city of Donetsk in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine heard sporadic shelling from a suburb and saw rebels driving howitzer cannons into the city center. The death toll continues to climb, with mortar fire in Donetsk killing 11 civilians over the past 24 hours, local authorities said. Five soldiers were also killed in fighting over the same period. As the Russian aid sat at the border Ukrainian officials say their own aid convoys to the east -- some 75 lorries with 800 tonnes of aid -- had also started to arrive at a government-held town some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Lugansk. Agence France Presse

US to deliver new aid to Lebanese army
BEIRUT - US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said that his country would soon deliver new weapons to the Lebanese Armed Forces, to support it in its crackdown on terrorist groups.
“The US will soon deliver additional munitions and ordinance for offensive and defensive combat operations by the Lebanese army,” Hale announced following his meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Thursday. “This assistance will enhance the army’s ability to secure Lebanon's borders, protect Lebanon’s people and fight extremist groups,” he added. Hale also said that the military assistance would begin arriving in the next few weeks and would continue in the months to follow. “We are in intensive consultations with the Lebanese government and our partners about how to best respond to additional needs of the Lebanese army,” Hale said.  “Our deliveries are part of a long-standing US-Lebanese military partnership; US assistance has exceeded $1billion since 2006,” he added.

Geagea: Iraq crisis will further complicate presidential elections
Now Lebanon/15 August/14/BEIRUT - Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that only Hezbollah and the Change and Reform bloc are preventing Lebanon’s presidential elections from being a simple matter, and predicted that the situation will worsen due to events currently unfolding in Iraq. “We could, in all simplicity, go down to parliament and elect a president of the republic; unfortunately, the two blocs’ obstruction continues until further notice,” Geagea said in an interview with Lebanese broadcast MTV on Wednesday. “After what has happened in Iraq, I believe Hezbollah’s stance will become more extreme with regard to the presidency in Lebanon,” he added. The two rival alliances that dominate Lebanese politics have been unable to choose a successor to former President Michel Suleiman, whose term expired on May 25. The Lebanese parliament has now failed ten times to elect a president, each time unable to reach a quorum as March 8 parliamentarians affiliated with Hezbollah and Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc have not attended most of the electoral sessions. Geagea added that while he considers jihadist group the Islamic State’s military advances in northern Iraq to be “an imminent danger” he believes that the "[IS] is not an existential threat to the Middle East.”“No one thinks that the IS is an existential… threat. [The group] will go with the [same] speed it appeared.” The Islamic State’s military advances in northern Iraq have displaced at least 100,000 Christians since July, and seen thousands of Yazidis and other minorities flee to Mount Sinjar, creating a humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq’s embattled Nineveh governorate. The LF leader also said he did not believe the recent surprise return of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri heralded an international deal that could break the electoral deadlock. “I have not felt the presence of international influence on the presidency; before or after Hariri’s return.”On a more positive note, the LF leader said that Hariri would face no obstacles in becoming Prime Minister. “Hariri does not need a deal to become Prime Minister,” Geagea told MTV. Hariri made a surprise return to Lebanon on Friday, over three years after he left the country for security reasons following the toppling of his national-unity cabinet by March 8 parties.

Hariri’s comeback
By: Hicham Bou Nassif
Now Lebanon/August 15/14
On Hariri’s return and the political implications of Lebanese Sunnis' pervasive sense of grievance
Surrounded by bodyguards and Lebanese police, former Lebanese premier Saad Hariri (C) leaves a meeting at the governmental palace in Beirut on August 8, 2014 upon his return to Lebanon after three years in self-imposed exile
The sky turned bluer last Friday for Future Movement supporters, suddenly reinvigorated by Saad Hariri’s homecoming after three years of exile. Hariri’s return has been applauded across the political spectrum in a rare show of concord in the polarized Lebanese scene. Yet, Hariri’s comeback will not in itself tackle his central challenge as a top-tier zaim in Lebanon; namely, the growing malaise and ensuing radicalization of his Sunni constituency. In fact, far from being a triumphalist return home, Hariri’s comeback betrays his and his regional backers’ anxiety about his movement’s popular credibility as champion, and main representative, of Lebanese Sunnis.
Throughout the last years, Hariri has repeated that he was forced to live abroad due to security concerns – a hint generally understood to be directed at Hezbollah. Hariri’s return suggests that the same protagonists who forced him to seek safety outside Lebanon three years ago now have an interest in seeing him back. The void created by Hariri’s exile, and the demoralization of the Future Movement, has set the backdrop for radical militants’ growing popularity among the most disenfranchised sectors of the Lebanese Sunni community, particularly in Tripoli and the Beqaa. This development simultaneously poses a political hazard to Hariri and a direct security threat to his Hezbollah nemesis.
The reasons for Sunni malaise in Lebanon and the region are numerous. In the wake of the Islamic revolution’s triumph in Iran in 1979, the mullah’s regime in Tehran has pursued an expansionist policy in the near abroad, and used Iran’s historical bonds with Arab Shiites instrumentally. The breakdown of Saddam Hussein’s regime following America’s invasion of Iraq and America’s subsequent failure to rebuild a functioning Iraq made Iran the king-maker of Iraqi politics. Unsurprisingly, the new Iranian-sponsored Iraqi order discriminated against Arab Sunnis as Iran’s associates in Baghdad flipped the sectarian hierarchy of old and kept Sunni forces on the margins of Iraqi politics.
In neighboring Syria, a notoriously sectarian Alawite regime reacted with characteristic brutality to civilian demonstrations in 2011 mobilizing mainly Syrian Sunnis. Syria eventually plunged into a civil war in which Sunni communities bear the brunt of the Assad regime’s indiscriminate violence, particularly in the Syrian countryside. Just like in Iraq, the dynamics of the Syrian civil war break along confessional identity-related lines – somewhat inevitably, considering the exclusivist nature of the Assad regime and the intervention of the Iranian regime and its Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite clients.
The last decade has also been hard on Sunnis in Lebanon. Rafic Hariri, the prominent Sunni leader and former Lebanese prime minister was assassinated in 2005. In 2008, Hezbollah invaded Sunni neighborhoods in Beirut and, in 2010, triggered the downfall of Saad Hariri’s government. Throughout the last few years, the Lebanese Army has clashed with Sunni militant groups in Nahr al-Bared, Saida, and Arsal, while turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s activities. In effect, Hezbollah has transformed itself into a state within the state and the unquestionable hegemon of Lebanese politics.
The Sunni sense of grievance spans three countries, stretching from Beirut to Baghdad. It is aggravated by the political irrelevance of Egypt, a Sunni powerhouse whose slide into the margins of regional politics has created a void only partially-filled by Saudi Arabia. As the interventionism of the Iranian regime – and the aggressiveness of its clients in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – continues unabated, a sense of victimhood has become pervasive among Sunnis of the Levant. The persistence of this Sunni sense of grievance forms the perfect backdrop, and stimulator, for the recruitment efforts of movements like Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State, and other “softer” brands of Islamic activists.
Hariri’s return to Lebanon cannot be dissociated from the entrenched Sunni malaise in Lebanon and the region. Hariri projects a centrist image while the mood among swathes of Sunnis is for increasing militantism. To be sure, Hariri remains central to Lebanese Sunni politics, but it is also true that his Future Movement has lost ground in the last few years and runs the risk of shedding additional popular support. Could the trend be reversed? Hariri’s return is certainly a step in the right direction in that regard.
But in itself it can hardly be sufficient. For Lebanese Sunnis to turn their backs on the sirens of radical militantism, their heightened sense of vulnerability needs to be assuaged. That, however, is unlikely, considering that Hezbollah remains as threatening as ever. The mood among Lebanese Sunnis depends less on what Hariri or other Sunni politicians say or do as much as it is a function of Hezbollah’s agency – and that of its regional backers. Hariri, of course, has little influence over the latter, and there is nothing to suggest that the conditions that created the Sunni sense of victimhood in the Levant will change any time soon; quite the opposite is true, in fact. For the foreseeable future, conjecture will likely remain unfavorable to Hariri’s brand of centrist politics. The Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra may really loathe

Hezbollah, the Iranian mullahs, and the Assad regime – but they should be grateful to them.


DEBKAfile’s quick guide to the perplexed reader: Israel, Gaza, the US and the faux-ceasefire
DEBKAfile DEBKAfile Special Guide August 15, 2014/After a month of fighting and at the onset of another surreal ceasefire, debkafile offers some clues to those readers who, understandably, find themselves a bit baffled about the status of the war in Gaza and where Israel stands. Here’s a brief guide to the goings-on:
Is there a ceasefire?
Senior Fatah and Egyptian officials said late Wednesday, Aug. 14, that negotiators in Cairo had agreed to a five-day truce, extending the previous 72-hour ceasefire. But neither Hamas nor Israeli officials themselves have formally acknowledged this deal, nor do they seem inclined to do so. In short, no, there is no truce.
What’s with the split between Obama and Netanyahu?
The dispute between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is nothing new: it has been bubbling since Obama took office in 2009. As reports emerge that the White House blocked a transfer of Hellfire missiles to the IDF during Gaza operations, Obama is accusing Netanyahu of attempting to bypass his office by looking to allies in Congress for support. This, too, is old news, as Netanyahu’s predecessors also used the US legislature to circumvent the will of US presidents.
But the Netanyahu-Obama split has taken on a novel spin in that, only twice before, was Washington denied a say in an Israeli military campaign.
In 1956, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion teamed up with Britain and France for an attack on Egypt behind the US’ back. In 1981, it was Menachem Begin who defied Washington when he ordered the successful bombardment of an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.
So who are Israel’s allies for the Gaza operation?
Now it is Netanyahu’s turn to swim against the American tide. His actions have a more comprehensive impact than those of prime ministers’ past. Not only is he standing in opposition to the Obama administration’s ingrained policy of avoiding military force, he’s also working closely with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to counter the US Mid East policy departure that hinges on Obama’s understanding with Iran. This new Israel-Saudi-Egypt alliance has pushed US off the regional center stage and sidelined its efforts to bring the Gaza conflict to an end.
Why doesn’t’ Washington go for Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
For the US, crossing Saudi Arabia and Egypt is tricky. But publicly lambasting Netanyahu and Israel is par for the course. Viewed through this lens, the press “leak” to the Wall Street Journal on the blocked missile supply makes perfect sense.
At the same time, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt share the same beef against the administration for working closely with Iran. Obama’s cohorts in Baghdad are colluding with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei under the guise of battling the extremist Islamic State (IS, formerly IS) slashing its way through Iraq. The two powers plan to resolve Iraq’s crisis to their own benefit. To this end, Obama has granted Iran its rubber stamp and the status of a regional superpower - even before it inks a deal on a nuclear accord, which
Saudi Arabia and Israel, in particular, fear will turn out to be inimical to their strategic interests and national security.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia hit back by sending Sisi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday August 12 in Sochi. They are inviting him to join the new alliance. It is too soon to say how far Netanyahu is willing to go in this direction.
Is Operation Protective Edge Over?
The answer is a resounding “no!” Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, would be content to end the war. They've been trying to do this from the operation’s second day, July 8, but are finding that an exit strategy keeps on slipping ever further from their grasp. The two Israeli leaders got themselves into a mess by taking it for granted that they could reap the success of a war against terrorists with a deal at the negotiating table, so falling into the same error as Obama.
Thanks to these early missteps, the fighting is sliding into an on-again, off-again war of attrition, with scattered occasional rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli reprisals. We haven’t yet seen the end of this war, and it will change form as time goes on.
Meanwhile, Thursday, 500 trucks loaded with food, medicines and other essentials rolled through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip, continuing the supplies that never faltered in the course of the month-long IDF operation. This fits the general ambivalence of the Netanyahu government’s style of warfare.
Another round of talks has been scheduled to take place in Cairo next week.
When is a red alert the real thing?
This week saw three grades of rocket alert: Red Alert, False Alarm and No Alert. We propose this key to set minds at rest within the radius of Hamas rockets: The first signifies an authentic rocket attack in response to which everyone should take shelter; the second attests to wishful thinking that a ceasefire may actually hold and so you must pretend you didn’t hear the explosion; and the alarm system is silenced when the government is determined to convince everyone that peace is at hand. So now you know you were dreaming when your home is blasted.

Helping Iraq's Next Prime Minister Seize the Moment
Michael Knights /Washington Institute
August 15, 2014
As Abadi's ratification approaches, Washington should encourage him to swiftly signal his commitment to decentralization, security reform for the Sunnis, and a revenue-sharing deal with the Kurds.
On August 14, outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki officially withdrew his candidacy for reappointment to a third term in order to "to safeguard the unity and stability of Iraq." This gesture cleared the way for prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to begin building a new cabinet that must be ratified by an absolute majority in parliament (165 of 328 seats) by September 10. Although haggling over ministerial portfolios will throw up its fair share of speed bumps, the central issue -- Abadi's nomination -- is largely settled, allowing the United States and other parties to intensify their support to the incoming leader.
Abadi's selection is one of a number of recent developments that could materially improve the strategic situation of the Iraqi state and its people, including:
The Kurdish war against ISIS. The Kurdistan Regional Government is fully engaged in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or "the Islamic State," as it has taken to calling itself since June). Prior to KRG president Masoud Barzani's August 4 declaration of war "until the last breath," the Iraqi Kurds were sitting on the sidelines; had they remained there, relations with Baghdad would have become even more strained as federal Iraq fought for its life against ISIS. Now all of the unity government's actors share a common enemy and are increasingly collaborating against the terrorists.
As of Aug. 13, 2014
International intervention. The United States and the international community are becoming more involved in the fight against ISIS through provision of military and humanitarian support to the KRG and northern Iraqi minorities. Selective U.S. airstrikes were decisive in protecting Yazidis in Sinjar and hopefully will continue to be a major factor in protecting minorities and boosting the chances of Iraqi and KRG counteroffensives.
Peaceful transition of power. The world received clear confirmation that Maliki would be replaced with a new candidate who appears to have strong domestic and international backing. The promise of a peaceful and relatively swift transition of power should open the floodgates for dealmaking at home and broader international support in the country's hour of need.
If the next government can maintain the momentum, this concatenation of positive developments could be the turning point in Iraq's 2014 state of crisis. The leadership provided by a new premier will be vital, and there are encouraging signs that the United States will find a capable partner in Abadi.
Without rehashing Abadi's biography, it is clear that this Baghdad-born engineer and veteran Dawa Party politician is a very different animal from Maliki. Notable differences include:
Limited Iranian contact. Unlike Maliki and other senior Dawa oppositionists, Abadi spent his decades in exile almost exclusively in the United Kingdom rather than Iran, Syria, or Lebanon. Whereas many Shiite oppositionists fled to Iran in the early 1980s, al-Abadi went directly to Britain in 1977. His ties to Iran are reputedly very limited, and he has not visited the Islamic Republic in the years since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Openness to Sunnis. Although Abadi lost two brothers to Saddam Hussein's regime, he has displayed relative openness toward Iraq's Sunnis. Having skirted around the rougher aspects of opposition politics, he now has an outlook that is less dour and brutal than Maliki's. He shares common ideological ground with many Sunni Arab nationalists but also understands the Shiite and Kurdish tolerance levels for rehabilitating former Baathist elements.
Broader focus beyond security. Abadi spent more than twenty years in Britain's private sector, running successful consultancies and engineering projects. He is interested in practically every facet of Iraq's economic and human development but has no track record in security. This makes him the polar opposite of Maliki, who was uninterested in most aspects of governance and myopically focused too much of his time on security affairs. Under Abadi, security will shift from a one-man show to a team effort -- with all the positives and negatives that entails.
Approachable English speaker. It has been eight years since Iraq was led by a prime minister able to converse in English. Maliki's particularly Arab brand of charisma came through in his words, and he was famous for his love of conversation. The language barrier therefore distanced him from U.S. leaders and made him personally inscrutable in a way that Abadi will never be. Iraq may now get a premier who can form relationships with senior U.S. and world leaders.
Although Abadi will be surrounded by strong factional leaders, chief executives typically amass more influence and control than their partners intend. In that case, his personal and professional characteristics are broadly encouraging. If ratified by parliament and provided with strong support from international partners, Abadi probably has the best inherent leadership potential of Iraq's post-Saddam prime ministers.
Given the likelihood of Abadi's ratification, the United States should undertake as much preparatory diplomatic work as possible with him. Tangible initiatives need to be set in motion to signal the Shiite-led government's good intent toward the Kurds and Sunni Arabs:
Building the new cabinet. Abadi is not yet prime minister, so supporting him now could help avoid political pitfalls. For example, his effort to pull together 165 votes could fail (potentially leaving Maliki as an indefinite caretaker), or it could take so long that ISIS further consolidates its hold on northern Iraq. Even if ratified quickly, the new government could be so riven with flaws that it subsequently underperforms or collapses. The United States should therefore help Abadi seize the moment and build toward rapid cabinet formation in the spirit of a national effort against ISIS.
A Baghdad-KRG revenue-sharing deal. If Abadi has a weakness as a candidate, it is that his relations with the Kurds have been strained on the issue of revenue sharing. This is unsettling because the new government's first priority will be that very issue -- namely, reaching agreement on restoring the KRG's monthly payments from Baghdad, which have been withheld for most of this year due to disputes over managing revenue from KRG oil exports. In March, Baghdad and the Kurds were very close to implementing a U.S.-brokered revenue-sharing deal that could have substantially reduced tensions. That deal is still on the table and represents a win-win solution for all parties -- Baghdad, the KRG, oil companies, and the international community. Forming a unity government and a joint war effort is unthinkable while Baghdad is starving the Kurds of money and suing buyers of their oil, so striking a deal is a must. Washington should actively lobby Abadi to resurrect revenue sharing as a top priority.
Security reform. The United States has publicly supported the reorganization of Iraq's security sector to give local players primacy in the recruitment and operational control of security forces, with the federal government providing financial resources and support when required. This formula -- keeping the Iraqi army largely out of Sunni Arab communities -- provides the best chance to roll back ISIS. It also clears the way for greater federal Iraqi and international support to KRG forces. Moreover, Abadi should be encouraged to draw on lessons learned about security reform during the latter years of the U.S. military presence; for example, he could support a meritocratic restaffing of the senior and mid-level military command structure, as well as integration of Sunnis into local security structures.
Judicial reform. The various judicial and security reforms demanded by the Sunnis will take time to implement, so Abadi should send early signals that his government will break from Baghdad's past political targeting of this constituency. Perhaps the most heinous example of this policy was the December 2012 indictment of Sunni finance minister Rafi al-Issawi on terrorism charges. The United States publicly contested the charges at the time and should do so again. In addition to being one of the most popular Sunni politicians in Iraq and an iconic victim of the Maliki government, Issawi has strong support from Turkey, Jordan, and Persian Gulf states. By quashing his indictment and returning him to a prominent cabinet position, Baghdad would send a strong signal to Sunnis in Iraq and elsewhere. This could in turn help rebuild their trust in the government and boost their involvement in the fight against ISIS.
*Michael Knights is a Boston-based Lafer Fellow with The Washington Institute

Putin, Russia and the Western Dilemma
By: Amir Taheri
Friday, 15 Aug, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s photo can be seen regularly on the cover of Western news magazines, and international television channels offer constant footage on various aspects of his checkered career. As the latest bête-noire of Western political and intellectual circles, Putin is also the subject of several rushed-into-print biographies.
The main theme in this new genre, let’s call it Putiniana, is that the Russian leader, nurturing dreams of empire, can be cast as the quintessential anti-West icon of our times.
A closer look at the current Putin-bashing campaign, however, reveals surprising weaknesses in the narrative built around his person. To start with, the photos used often show Putin wearing sunglasses made by a famous US designer of eye-wear, and the clothes he wears are clearly designed by a French maison de haute couture. In addition, Western TV footage often shows Putin jogging—a typical Western ritual—in order to demonstrate his robust health, another Western obsession.
Not only does Putin not look like the oriental potentate he is portrayed as, but he might well remind people of the late Hollywood actor Dan Duryea in one of his classical gangster roles. Putin is Western in other ways. He is president in a political system copied from the US model, and maintains his hold on power more or less in the same way that many Western leaders do—that is to say with support from a circle of business tycoons, media glitterati and techno-bureaucratic apparatchiki.
The style in which Putin’s cult of personality is projected is Western, even Madison Avenue. It consists of high visibility through frequent photo-ops, an endless supply of catch-phrases and speeches crafted to sound intelligent but without saying anything of significance.
In no way does Putin resemble the typical Soviet leader, say Leonid Brezhnev, let alone Josef Stalin; nor could one mistake him for a Tsar, whether Nicholas II or Ivan IV.
Western commentators often describe Putin as a chess-player to emphasis his “oriental-ness.” However, Putin has always behaved more like a poker-player, bluffing his way through at a time of hesitation by adversaries in the game at hand. Right now, he is exploiting US weakness to enhance his position at home and abroad.
The persona that Putin has concocted operates within a Western-style capitalist system. Last year, Western investment in the Russian economy was estimated at around 200 billion US dollars, an all-time record. At the same time, Russian funds held in Western banks was estimated at almost 2 trillion dollars, much of it owned by 100 or so oligarchs.
In England, capitalism started with pirates. In continental Europe, robber barons played a similar role. In Russia, oligarchs perform that function. The result is the same. The Russian economy is heavily dependent on Western investment, technology and markets. Russia’s principal source of revenue consists of oil and gas exports to the West, worth some 160 billion dollars in 2013. Even if Putin’s plan to capture part of the Chinese market succeeds, it would be worth no more than 40 billion dollars.
A visitor to Russia is quickly struck by the passion that many Russians have for the West, and dream, as they have always done, of a “common European space” between the Atlantic and the Urals, sometimes even to Vladivostok.
The idea of isolating Russia, currently fashionable in Western capitals, would be hard to implement in any meaningful way. How could anyone isolate the world’s largest country with the biggest number of neighbors?
Russia is a neighbor both of the United States and Iran, not to mention Germany and Japan. Ever since it gained its independence in the 15th century, Russia has played a role in all major events affecting the European continent. While maintaining its distinct identity, culturally speaking, Russia has been part of the European civilization, and a major contributor to Western literature, music, art, architecture, cinema and dance.
The current tension between Russia and the West seems rooted in three elements. The first is represented by the split in Christendom that led to the separation of the Eastern Orthodox Church from the Church of Rome in 1054 CE. The second is the emergence of an imperial system in Russia at a time when other parts of Europe, emerging from the debris of the Holy Roman Empire, started shaping a string of nation-states. Finally, a more recent element of discord came with the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991. The Western powers saw that as a defeat for the Russian nation, whereas in reality, as a nation, Russia had been one of the victims of the Communist empire.
The chaotic period that followed the fall of the USSR fostered some bitterness against Western democracies. By 1992, Russian gross domestic product had been reduced by almost 50 percent. In 1995, the devaluation introduced by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov triggered an inflationary avalanche never before seen in Russian history.
Putin has built his personal narrative as a savior of the Russian nation, a man who restored the dignity of the state in the face of plundering oligarchs and their foreign, often western, partners.
During the Cold War, anti-Communism often morphed into anti-Russian sentiment. Today, too, opposition to aspects of Putin’s foreign policy sometimes degenerates into a rejection of Russia as a nation. In that regard, Putin has performed his historic function, some of it necessary and useful in its time, and is now fated to peak out as a politician. Despite current approval rates, according to most polls, Putin’s political star is on a declining trajectory. It is important for the Western democracies, indeed for the whole world, not to push Russia into a corner in order to punish Putin. The real challenge that Europe faces is how to develop a new relationship with Russia, one that takes into account its peculiarities along with its affinities with the European civilization.