December 01/14

Bible Quotation For Today/God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles
Ephesians 03/01-20: "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,  and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 30 & December 01/14
West has upper hand in Iran talks, Israeli officials believe, but bad deal remains major threat/YAAKOV LAPPIN/J.Post/November 30
Extra Ordinary Interview From YnetNews With Pope Francis/November 30/14
Legitimate and Illegitimate Dictators/Burak Bekdil/Hürriyet Daily News/November 30/14

The Sabotage of Anbar/Wafiq Al-Samarrai/Asharq Al Awsat/November 30/14
President Obama can no longer rely on being mysterious/Raghida Dergham /Al Arabiya/November 30/14
Why the U.S. Should Go for a Grand Bargain With Iran/MICHAEL HIRSH/National Journal/November 30/14

Lebanese Related News published on  November 30 & December 01/14
Lebanon Says Farewell to Sabah
Jumblat Is Ready to 'Personally' to Go to Arsal, Negotiate for Servicemen
Bassil appeals for help in anti-ISIS fight
Army dismantles bomb in a Beirut suburb
Security forces investigate cryptic chalet death
Lebanese join hands in unity
Hezbollah backs most popular candidate: MP
Hizbullah Has "Fixed Position" Regarding Presidency: Person that Has Real Representation
Rat-infested dairy factory shut in east Lebanon
Lebanon grand mufti backs Future-Hezbollah dialogue
Lebanese Join Hand in Hand for Country's Unity
Bassil Calls for Election of New President, Democratic Electoral Law
Al-Rahi Demands New Electoral Law to Preserve Equality, Better Represents All Sides
Hujeiri Warns of 'Last Chance' by Nusra Front for Release of Arsal Hostages
Constitutional Council Says Decision on Extension of Parliament Term 'Legal'
Lebanese State to Go On with Prisoners Swap Deal, Awaiting Final List of Inmates

Drugs Cause Death of Two People in Nahr Ibrahim

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  November 30 & December 01/14
Pope, patriarch demand end to ISIS attacks
Pope says Islamist violence in Syria, Iraq is a ‘grave sin against God’
Report: Israeli-Canadian woman, Gill Rosenberg fighting Islamic State has been kidnapped by terror group
Saudi probes motive behind attack on Canadian
Kurdish forces call for Turkish investigation into ISIS Kobani attack
Arabs to push for UN resolution on Palestine
Gantz praises IDF command as successor tapped
300 ISIS supporters facing trial in Germany
Russia to supply Syria with S-300 missiles'
Erdogan: Turkey's king of controversy
Kurdish deal with Turkey within reach but guarantees key: Ocalan
IS sets off suicide bombs on Turkey border
Bahrain: Results for election run-off announced
Egypt court declares ISIS a terror group
Mubarak verdict leads to widespread unrest in Egypt
Yemen: Southern secessionists step up Aden protests on independence day
Qaeda rocket attack kills 3 Yemeni troops
Israel govt backs new law against illegal immigrants
Imran Khan threatens to shut down Pakistan with protests
Saudi Interior Ministry says 392 arrested in drug busts

Pope, patriarch demand end to ISIS attacks
Two religious leaders capped three-day visit to Turkey with a show of unity
Istanbul, AP—Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians demanded an end to the violent persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq on Sunday and called for dialogue with Muslims, capping Francis’ three-day visit to Turkey with a show of unity. Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I issued a joint declaration urging leaders in the region to intensify help to victims of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, and especially to allow Christians who have had a presence in the region for 2,000 years to remain on their native lands. “The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community,” they wrote.
The statement was issued at the end of Francis’ first trip to Turkey during which he prayed in one of Istanbul’s most important mosques. He was also set to meet with a few of the 1.6 million refugees who have crossed into Turkey to flee the IS assault in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Francis, who represents the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church, and Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, called for “constructive dialogue” with Islam “based on mutual respect and friendship.”
“Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war,” they said. Later Sunday, Francis was to meet with a few dozen young refugees who are being educated by the Salesian religious order. The Vatican had downplayed the meeting, perhaps because of organizational glitches or to not distract from Francis’ ecumenical activities which were the main reason for the visit. But just before the trip began, the Vatican revealed that he would indeed deliver a speech to the youths. Francis kicked off his final day in Turkey with a liturgy alongside Bartholomew in the Orthodox Church of St. George, where incense mingled with hypnotic chants on an important feast day for the Orthodox Church. The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over differences on the primacy of the papacy, and there was a time when patriarchs had to kiss popes’ feet. At the end of a joint prayer service Saturday evening, Francis bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing “for me and the Church of Rome,” a remarkable display of papal deference to an Orthodox patriarch that underscored Francis’ hope to end the schism. In his remarks Sunday, Francis assured the Orthodox faithful gathered in St. George’s that unity wouldn’t mean sacrificing their rich liturgical or cultural patrimony or “signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation.”“I want to assure each one of you gathered here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith,” he said. Bartholomew, for his part, noted that Christians are being persecuted across the Mideast regardless of their particular confession. “The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which church their victims belong to,” he said. “The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrs.”

Lebanon Says Farewell to Sabah
Naharnet/The funeral service of famed singer and actress Sabah went underway on Sunday at the St George Maronite cathedral in downtown Beirut amid a heavy official and popular presence. Prayers were led by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. "She died poor and left behind her a letter of joy," al-Rahi said.  Sabah's songs were played at the beginning and the end of the service outside the cathedral in accordance with her last will as the Lebanese said goodbye to her.  Pallbearers struggled to get Sabah's coffin out of the vast cathedral, pushing through a sea of mourners, as others pressed forward to try to touch the coffin, causing it to tilt several times. Military Commander Maj. Gen. Jean Qahwaji ordered the Lebanese Army's music squadron to play Shahroura's songs in a final farewell to her.
The Army's music squadron is comprised of 40 musicians. The body Sabah passed by Sainte Therese Church in Fayadieh in the early hours of the morning before reaching her residence in Hazmiyeh. She was wearing a white dress designed by Bassam Nehme.
Several dancers preformed the traditional folk dance called dabke on her songs near the Brazilia Hotel, where she has been residing. The body of Sabah will be taken to her hometown, the small Lebanese village of Bdadoun, where she will be buried.
Later on Sunday, citizens welcomed famed Sabah's parade in more than one locality in Baabda and nearby villages. Then her coffin reached to St. Theresa Church in Fayyadism on the way to her hometown Bdadoun.
After that, Sabah's coffin reached her hometown Bdadoun, where her burial will take place in the presence of her family and friends, who are greeting her with the ringing of bells and fireworks.
Consequently, late legendary artist Sabah has been laid to rest in her hometown Bdadoun, in the presence of a huge crowd of mourners. Born Jeanette Gergis al-Feghali, known as Sabah, the diva was famous across the Arab world for her powerful voice, musical talent and joyful brazenness and is considered among the last of the "giants" — a crop of celebrated Lebanese singers that represent a golden age, including Fayrouz, Wadih el-Safi, Nasri Shamseddine and others. She produced more than 3,000 songs and appeared in more than 90 films and over 20 stage plays. Sabah was the first Arabic singer to perform at Sydney Opera House, Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and Olympia in Paris. She brought out her first song in 1940, while her parallel screen career began three years later in Egypt, the center of the Arabic film industry. She held Egyptian, Jordanian and U.S. citizenship as well as Lebanese, and continued to perform and make television appearances into her 80s. Sabah was nicknamed "shahroura," Arabic for "singing bird" and "the Sabbouha," a diminutive for "Sabah" by millions of fans across the Middle East. She was universally admired for her love of life and positive outlook even in her old age. Condolences will be accepted at the cathedral on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Hujeiri Warns of 'Last Chance' by Nusra Front for Release of Arsal Hostages
Naharnet /Arsal prominent figure Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri, who is also known as Abu Taqiyeh, denied on Sunday that he was tasked by the Lebanese state to negotiation the release of the abducted servicemen, warning of a “last chance” given by the jihadists to the government. “The (al-Qaida-linked) Nusra Front has granted the government a last chance to engage in serious negotiations to release” the captive soldiers and policemen, Hujeiri told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. The Sheikh revealed that he coordinated his negotiations with the group with Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, who has been soothing the relatives of the abducted soldiers and policemen, al-Mustaqbal movement MP Jamal al-Jarrah and others. “I have exerted efforts to prevent the dramatic deterioration in the case” Hujeiri said, in remarks concerning the Nusra Front's decision to retract its warning to execute captive soldier Ali al-Bazzal. “The group was determined to execute other captives after murdering Bazzal,” the Sheikh told the daily. Hujeiri stressed that the identity of those negotiation the release of the hostages is “insignificant,” saying: “It is not important if I was the mediator or Qatar appointed one or if there are two or 10 negotiators.”
“The case is in the hands of two sides, the kidnappers who want their demands to be fulfilled and the government that is obliged to take firm decisions” regarding the case. “Reports saying that I was formally tasked by the state to negotiation the abductors are false. We are only concerned with opening a new page and end negligence.” An indictment and arrest warrant were issued in October against Hujeiri for belonging to al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front. He withdrew from negotiations with Islamist gunmen after his convoy came under fire as he was escorting back the family of soldier George Khoury following their meeting. Al-Nusra had on Thursday threatened to execute Bazzal within 24 hours if the Lebanese government did not start what it called “serious negotiations.”
It also called on the Lebanese authorities to release Jumana Hmayyed, who was arrested near the northeastern border town of Arsal in February while driving a booby-trapped car that entered Lebanon from Syria's Yabrud region. Hujeiri told Asharq al-Awsat that the Lebanese state was handed over the names of inmates that the Nusra Front is demanding their release in exchange for the hostages. He urged politicians to “have mercy on the families of the abducted servicemen,” describing the conditions of the captives as “difficult.”
Several soldiers and policemen were abducted from Arsal in August following clashes between the army and Islamist gunmen from Syria. A few of them have since been released, three were executed, while the rest are still being held by the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups. The families of the captives have repeatedly expressed their anger with the cabinet for failing to resolve the case. They blocked the Beirut's Saifi road on Friday to pressure the government to take more action but police used water cannons against the relatives of the servicemen after a scuffle.

Egypt court declares ISIS a terror group
Nov. 30, 2014/Associated Press
CAIRO: An Egyptian court has designated ISIS a terrorist organization and banned it in the country. The court ruling Sunday adds that it considers all of the ISIS's affiliates to be terrorist organizations as well. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis or Champions of Jerusalem, a jihadi group based in the Sinai Peninsula that regularly attacks Egyptian security forces, pledged allegiance to ISIS earlier this month. ISIS has carved out a self-styled caliphate in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq and demanded the loyalty of the world's Muslims. A U.S.-led coalition is now targeting it in airstrikes. Other countries across the region also have banned the group

Hezbollah backs the most popular presidential candidate: MP
Nov. 30, 2014 /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah supports the presidential candidate who enjoys the widest popular base, party MP Hassan Fadlallah said in a speech Sunday. “Our stand has become clear on this file, and it is derived from our vision to national interest and not only from our loyalty,” Fadlallah said in a memorial ceremony for one of his party’s fighters in south Lebanon. “National Interest dictates that the president be a person that enjoys real popularity in his environment and on the national level.” Fadlallah’s comments hinted that Hezbollah insists on supporting its ally, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun, for the presidency. They came in light of serious talks about a possible dialogue soon between the party and its political rival, the Future Movement. Future chief and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in a TV interview Thursday that he was ready to discuss the presidency in the dialogue with Hezbollah, stressing that only a consensus candidate can reach the post and save the country from further vacuum. Fadlallah said the new president must be able to lead Lebanon out of the crisis and rehabilitate the state’s institutions in a healthy manner. He said the next head of state should also be able to contribute to building the state “with standards that suit our people, and the sacrifices of our Army and resistance.” “Hezbollah insists on its stand towards presidency file,” he said, calling on all political factions to share his party’s vision. But the MP also underlined that giving priority to political or security concerns does not mean the state has the right to neglect the matters that touch the livelihoods of citizens. He said water and electricity shortages, inflation and unemployment are not phenomena that could be tolerated, highlighting the need for Cabinet policies that provide the basic socio-economic rights to the Lebanese families.

Rat-infested dairy factory shut in east Lebanon
The Daily Star/Nov. 30, 2014/BEIRUT: Taanayel Center, a dairy produce company in Zahle, not affiliated with the well-known dairy producer Taanayel Les Fermes, has been shut down over health violations, including a rat problem, the health ministry said Sunday.
According to a statement, health ministry inspectors, who were initially barred from entering the dairy factory, later surveyed the premise only to find a set of disasters. Three of five refrigerators inspected revealed expired dairy products and molded goods. One refrigerator had recent produce that was infested with insects. The factory even had a rat problem as indicated by a series of rat traps laid out on the floor. Though the factory claims to be ISO accredited, inspectors also found expired yeast, expired and unlabeled additives, expired artificial flavors, and butter that did not have an expiry label. The factory also has a large quantity of kishik that is said to have been made out of expired dairy products. The factory was shut down after inspectors drafted a report that Health Minister Wael Abu Faour is set to refer to the judiciary on Monday. The health minister is also set to call for charges against the factory owner and others behind the health situation.

Lebanese State to Go On with Prisoners Swap Deal, Awaiting Final List of Inmates
Naharnet/The Lebanese state is reportedly waiting for the final names of the prisoners that the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front are demanding their release to exchange them with the captive soldiers and policemen.
According to al-Mustaqbal newspaper published on Sunday, the Lebanese state gave the green light to the prisoners swap deal, demanding the abductors to hand over to the Qatari-appointed negotiator Ahmed al-Khatib, the list of inmates they want their release.
The newspaper said al-Khatib will arrive in Lebanon during the upcoming two days to activate the channels of communication with the jihadists, who overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August and took the soldiers and policemen hostages as they withdrew from the town. The militants are entrenched on the outskirts of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border.
The newspaper said that the Lebanese state is seeking to diversify the negotiation channels – direct and indirect - with the abductors to ensure the safe release of the abductees, ministerial sources told the newspaper.
The sources, however, said that the direct negotiations with the jihadists will be through local channels that are capable of swiftly reaching them, noting that the mediation of al-Khatib is ongoing.
“We are seeking to fortify the chances of swiftly releasing the soldiers and policemen.”The IS group reportedly announced its readiness to release the Lebanese soldiers and policemen in its captivity, if the Lebanese state sets free five Islamist inmates in return for each captive.However, the Nusra has said that the three-month hostage crisis would end if 10 inmates held at Lebanese prisons would be freed for each hostage or seven Lebanese inmates and 30 female prisoners held in Syria would be released for each abducted soldier and policeman or if five Lebanese and 50 women inmates would be freed. The group added that the swap with the prisoners held at Syrian prisons should take place in Turkey or Qatar, while the exchange with the Lebanese authorities should take place on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. The cabinet had previously totally rejected any swap deal with the jihadists.

Al-Rahi Demands New Electoral Law to Preserve Equality, Better Represents All Sides
Naharnet /The Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is reportedly demanding a new electoral law that respects equality, parity and a better representation of all sides, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anbaa reported on Sunday.
According to the daily, al-Rahi discussed his three red lines with Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel, who recently visited Bkirki. Sources told the newspaper that Bkirki is keen to push forward the adoption of an electoral law that respects these principles, but will not interfere in any technical details. An 11-member parliamentary subcommittee tasked with discussing several electoral law proposal kicked off meetings recently, in light of the extension of the parliament’s tenure, in an attempt to reach consensus over a hybrid electoral draft law.
The March 8 and 14 alliances are represented in the committee, which was granted a one-month ultimatum by Speaker Nabih Berri to reach consensus. In May 2013, the parliament voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a deal on a new electoral law other than the one based on 50 small-sized districts in a winner-takes-all system. Lawmakers also deepened the political deadlock in the country after they voted once again to delay elections and announced they would extend their mandate until 2017, which was met by a huge popular dismay. Most blocs have announced their rejection to the 1960 electoral law that is based on a winner-takes-all system. It was used in the 2009 elections.

Lebanese Join Hand in Hand for Country's Unity
Naharnet/The Lebanese massed in a vast human chain stretching hundreds of kilometers along the Mediterranean coast on Sunday, for peace and unity in the country. Around 200,000 Lebanese people linked “hand in hand united for Lebanon." People joined hands from Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli to the southern city of Tyre, passing through Beirut's Rouche. Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon joined the Lebanese, stressing that the state should believe in the civil society despite the ongoing paralysis at state institutions.The event was held under the patronage of Pharaon and in cooperation with the Lebanese Army, the Municipality of Beirut, the Ministry of Interior, the Foreign Ministry, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Civil Defense.

Lebanon grand mufti backs Future-Hezbollah dialogue
The Daily Star/Nov. 30, 2014/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian backed Sunday Future Movement leader Saad Hariri's decision to come to the table with Hezbollah. “We appreciate and cherish the sincere and transparent initiative launched by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which does not seek political gain, but serves as a rescuing advantage for Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Derian said during a luncheon. The grand mufti expressed hopes that “everyone would join in on the road to dialogue."
According to Derian, dialogue serves to protect state institutions and preserve security in the face of threats that may lead to sectarian strife. "The Lebanese need to converge, collaborate, hold dialogue, unite and integrate as to advance society which today is in dire need of harmony and solidarity,” he said. During a sit-down interview with LBCI TV in his Paris residence Thursday, Hariri accepted a call made earlier this month by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for dialogue.

West has upper hand in Iran talks, Israeli officials believe, but bad deal remains major threat
By YAAKOV LAPPIN \ 11/29/2014/J.Post
The West has the definitive upper hand in talks with Iran over restricting its nuclear program, Israeli officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, but it remains unclear how the next seven months of fateful talks will unfold. The officials indicated that a bad deal would spell very bad news for both regional and global security. “Throughout the current talks, we believed there would either be an extension, or a bad deal. Now that talks have been extended once again, and the only sanctions that have been eased are $700 million of oil money [per month paid to Iran], the question is: What will happen in the coming period?” an official asked. He stressed that from Israel’s perspective, talks between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers should not only be about whether Iran can operate 9,000 or 4,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges. Rather, other critical issues that need to be addressed include the Islamic Republic’s global terrorist infrastructure, and its missile program, he said. “It’s not only about the centrifuges,” the official argued.
“Iran came to these talks on its knees [due to biting economic sanctions]. The West has the upper hand; the West is the strong party here, not Iran. The West must not relent,” he added. A bad deal would entail the gradual lifting of sanctions on Iran, while it continues on its path toward nuclear breakout capability – and that, the official indicated, would be a woeful result. Dr. Emily Landau, who heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told the Post this week that from Israel’s perspective, an extension is better than “what seemed to be the only other possible option at this stage, namely a concluded deal.”“The sense was that if a deal were to be concluded, it would almost certainly be a bad deal,” she continued, citing the current distance in positions between the sides. “For the sides to get close enough for a deal, serious concessions would have to be made, and on the basis of what we’ve witnessed over the past weeks and months, the only side making offers of concessions is unfortunately the P5+1,” Landau said. “Therefore, closing the gaps would mean conceding to Iran’s defiant positions – in other words: a bad deal.”
Landau argued that an extension, with at least the hope of accumulating more pressure on Iran to meet the demands of the international community, “is better than a done bad deal. A bad deal would not only, of course, leave Iran at dangerous threshold status, but the negative implication would be compounded by the fact that the international negotiators have granted legitimacy to this bad outcome.”Iran, for its part, has realized that P5+1 leverage is eroding, as evidenced by the world powers’ offers of concessions, said the arms control expert. This has led Iran to conclude that “there is no reason for them not to wait for more concessions, a better deal from their point of view. While Iran is suffering from sanctions, it is also getting economic relief every month. Moreover, its stockpile of low enriched uranium is intact, and it is working on important aspects of a military nuclear capability: research and development into advanced centrifuges; its ballistic missile program; and possibly, continued covert weaponization activities.
“What is clear is that Iran is continuing to stonewall the International Atomic Energy Agency on weaponization questions, and not paying any price for doing so.”
Only additional, significant pressure brought to bear on Iran could bolster the P5+1’s leverage and achieve a better deal, she said. “But if not – and if the P5+1 continues making concessions – they will be paving the road to a bad deal.”
While no one has said so explicitly of late, a bad deal from Israel’s perspective would likely seriously increase the chances of an eventual Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear program. An Iranian attempt to cross Israel’s red lines on nuclear progress, under the cover of international legitimacy, could trigger an attack. So far, Israel’s red lines have yet to be crossed, and Israel has yet to attack. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former Military Intelligence chief and director of the INSS, called on Israel to “take proper advantage of the third extension of the interim agreement to prepare and enhance all its options regarding the Iranian nuclear threat.” In an analysis he published this week, Yadlin said, “Many doubt whether Iran and the Western powers will ever be able to achieve an agreement. Extension of the negotiations with Iran on a nuclear agreement gives Israel a seven-month period in which it does not have to make fateful decisions on the matter. On July 1, 2015, however, if a “bad agreement” is signed or if the talks collapse, Israel will face a strategic situation that will demand difficult decisions. Both of these scenarios will require Israel to reformulate its strategy for stopping the Iranian nuclear program.”
Yadlin noted that the Iranian nuclear program is currently three to six months away from a bomb. Any reasonable deal would have to substantially roll Iran back from the brink, he maintained. Spelling out the likely offer Iran will receive from the P5+1, Yadlin envisaged a proposal that would push Iran away from the bomb by a year. This involves leaving “3,000-4,000 centrifuges in Iran and a stock of enriched uranium lower than the minimum required for a single nuclear bomb. In the framework of the rollback, conversion of the enrichment facility in Fordow to a research and development center, and changing the parameters and structure of the reactor in Arak from a heavy water reactor to a low-capacity light water reactor, is required. “For its part, Iran has refused to reduce the number of centrifuges, and insists on keeping Fordow as an enrichment facility,” he said.Iran seeks an agreement that would be valid for only two years, after which it would “be recognized as a country entitled to maintain a widespread nuclear infrastructure, like Germany or Japan, and putting it only a few weeks away from a bomb,” Yadlin said. However, the world powers want the agreement to be valid for at least 15 years.
As the P5+1 and Tehran continue to battle it out in the diplomatic arena, Israel must continue working with the US administration to transmit its position and prepare for all scenarios, the former Military Intelligence chief said.

The Sabotage of Anbar
Wafiq Al-Samarrai/Asharq Al Awsat
Sunday, 30 Nov, 2014
When the protests began in Anbar, I wrote an article in which I described what happened as Fitnah, an Arabic word that means sedition. The worst thing about the protests was that they were dominated by clerics too young to be up to the required level of religious learning to shoulder the responsibilities tangled up with the complex web of interests on the local, regional and international level. By their side stood short-sighted politicians, some of whom had actual links to terrorism, and everyone with an interest in the fragmentation and sabotage of Iraq, including Iraqi nationals and those who went as far as to adopt foreign policies that exceeded their capabilities.
From the start, the picture was clear and there was no doubt that the protests would lead to a collision that would tip the scales in favor of the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The first central mistake was to succumb to the wishes of politicians, who either lacked the knowledge to read the signs of war or had bad intentions, and did not pursue ISIS from the moment of its “invasion” of Fallujah. As a result, a dangerous insurgency base was formed, finding support from politicians who spearheaded the Anbar protests. Protesters raised slogans that were provocative to anyone with a civilized sense of patriotism and national unity while the mob “mastered” the violation of national commitments as well as creating a strange state of fabricated differences.
When Mosul, Tikrit and other cities fell, those politicians and preachers tried to ride the wave. But they showed naivety that verged on foolishness, especially after they were taken down by ISIS. They found themselves in an unenviable position, even an amnesty cannot remove the stigma of betrayal and taking part in the acts of sabotage.
Then, Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell into ISIS’s hands. The unmistakable truth is that all parties, without exception, have failed to launch an operation to liberate the city. What has been said about the formation of rebel battalions remains uncorroborated. Meanwhile, the picture in the city appears to be in a state of confusion in terms of the coexistence between different groups following the deliberate campaigns of ethnic, religious and sectarian disintegration. Mosul used to be a model of an advanced state of human coexistence. Every time a major security breach has taken place somewhere in Iraq, the time-frame for the liberation of Mosul has become less certain. What is happening in Anbar will reflect on the future of Mosul, not because to their links but rather because of the impact the situation in Anbar has on the center’s ability to maneuver.
After a series of successful government operations, ISIS attacked Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial center, showing that sleeper cells in the city and the surrounding areas should not be underestimated. Local tribes mobilized their militants to fight alongside the armed forces but the slow arrival of ground supplies hindered the prospects of a quick resolution. Anbar’s politicians were in a state of shock and truly isolated from the situation on the ground, and not one of them was seen fighting or even visited the battle field. In contrast, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force Qassem Suleimani and the Badr Organization leader Hadi Al-Ameri reportedly made appearances in several hot-spots in Iraq.
As vengeful fighting escalated and hostilities spread among the tribes of Anbar, refugees’ hopes of a quick return began to recede. However, achieving victory over ISIS is certain. Moreover, regional unity based on sectarianism proved to be a mere lie promoted by failed politicians. The reality has shown that national unity is the only option in confronting ISIS and that the national armed forces represent the living embodiment of social unity. The cost of what happened in Fallujah was paid for by its residents and so is the case of all the cities caught in the circle of war.
It has not been easy to convince people of the danger of ISIS through the media. However, ISIS crimes have backfired, not only against them but also against ignorant politicians who had caused the strife by inciting sectarianism and manipulating the fate of people. In the face of this complex situation, it is necessary to find peaceful solutions and reasonable political settlements away from escalation.

Report: Israeli-Canadian woman, Gill Rosenberg fighting Islamic State has been kidnapped by terror group
Ynetnews/Published: 11.30.14/Israel News
Online reports in jihadi and Palestinian forums claim Gill Rosenberg was captured by Islamic State group in embattled town of Kobani. Gill Rosenberg, the Israeli-Canadian who joined Kurdish forces in their battles against the radical Islamic State terror group has been reportedly taken captive by the group, unconfirmed reports claimed. The reports began surfacing on jihadi and Palestinian social media and forums, and claims Rosenberg was taken while fighting with the Peshmerga forces in Kobani, Syria. Rosenberg, 31, is a civil aviation pilot who enlisted in an Israeli army search-and-rescue unit before being arrested in 2009, extradited to the United States and jailed over an international phone scam, one of her former lawyers said.  Gill's story was first reported by Israeli radio. She recounted how smugglers helped her cross from Iraq into Syria in order to join the Kurdish ranks. "They (the Kurds) are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really," Rosenberg said, explaining why she joined up after contacting the guerrillas over the Internet.
Rosenberg said that she had made contact with the Kurds through Facebook, asking them to allow her to join the Kurdish People's Protection Units, commonly known as the YPG.
Rosenberg immigrated to Israel from Canada in 2006, after studying at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and left behind a promising career as a pilot of Boeing planes for civilian airlines.
On her Facebook page, Rosenberg shared her plans for her mission in Syria two months in advance, when she uploaded a picture from Jerusalem showing an Israeli flag next to an Islamic State flag, and continued posting images until her November 1, her final day in Israel.
She then promised to upload pictures of herself wearing the uniform of the Kurdish forces. "As soon as the tailor finishes customizing my uniform, I'll post the pictures," she wrote. The next day, she posted a picture of her red boots. "It's been a long time, but it feels great to wear them again."  She later posted pictures from Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, and then from Erbil International Airport in Kurdistan. On November 9, she uploaded images from the Kurdish region of Syria and wrote, "In the IDF (Israeli army), we say 'aharai', After Me. Let's show ISIS (Islamic State) what that means." A friend wrote, "Take care of yourself, friend. You are one strong woman, and you'll destroy the Islamic State."A source in the Kurdistan region with knowledge of the issue said Rosenberg was the first foreign woman to join YPG, the Kurds' dominant fighting force in northern Syria. She has crossed into Syria and is one of around 10 Westerners recruited by YPG, the source said. Rosenberg could not be reached by Reuters for comment. A source provided an Iraqi Kurdistan cellphone number for her, but it was turned off on Tuesday.Michal Margalit contributed to this report

Legitimate and Illegitimate Dictators
Burak Bekdil/Hürriyet Daily News
November 26, 2014
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once again declared his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and reproached countries that have accepted Mr.. el-Sisi as a legitimate leader.
"They [el-Sisi] toppled a person [Mohamed Morsi] who came to power through votes. What did those countries who call themselves 'democratic' say? Did they speak up?" These are the words with which Mr. Erdoğan, once again, expressed his part-time democrat-self. "Even if you consider him legitimate, we will not consider him legitimate."
Unfortunately, Mr. Erdoğan does not understand that his political past and present fail to convince the world that he and only he is the God of Democracy.
His one-time best regional ally (and family friend) Bashar al-Assad was not reigning in the cradle of democracy before the Syrian became Mr. Erdoğan's most powerful regional obsession. Nor did the dynasty that is Mr. Erdoğan's only (and best) ally presently come to power out of the ballot box; and no doubt Mr. Erdoğan has no concerns over why Qataris cannot elect their leaders. One wonders: Has the Turkish Patron Saint of World Democracy ever advised his royal Saudi friends to scrap their dynasty and introduce the ballot box?
Could it be that Mr. Erdoğan's obsession not to accept Messrs. al-Assad and el-Sisi is because these gentlemen have blood on their hands? Over 150,000 victims in Syria and 3,000 in Egypt? Why, then, was Mr. Erdoğan "good friends" with Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, who has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and for crimes against humanity? What, really, makes Mr. al-Bashir a "legitimate leader" for Mr. Erdoğan?
I must perhaps repeat: Last July, Mr. el-Sisi of Egypt, won 45.6 percent of the vote (96.7 percent of the 47 percent turnout), one year after he ousted President Morsi in a coup d'état. Mr. Morsi had won 26.9 percent of the national vote (51.7 percent of the 52 percent turnout). In other words, the coup leader's popular vote was 18.7 percentage points higher than the coup victim's. But there is more.
Erdoğan has the habit of rising against illegitimate coup leaders only when they target Islamist ambitions and governments.
Only half a year ago, the Thai army staged a coup d'état against a democratically-elected government. The Turkish Patron Saint of World Democracy has not spoken a word against that coup. The "page about Thailand" in the Turkish Foreign Ministry's website does not even mention the coup; but it mentions the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries; the Thai foreign minister's 2010 visit to Turkey; the rise in bilateral trade; Istanbul-Bangkok flights being one of the Turkish national carrier's busiest routes; 40,000 Turkish tourists visiting Thailand every year; and Turkish investments and schools in Thailand. Where is Turkey, the feared enemy of the world's coup-makers?
Just a few weeks ago, Burkina Faso's military dissolved Parliament and announced a transitional government after violent protests against President Blaise Compaoré. The protests had been sparked by the government's attempt to push a constitutional change through Parliament to allow Mr. Compaoré to seek reelection next year.
Army chief General Honoré Traoré said the new government would be installed after consultation with all political parties and would lead the country to an election within 12 months. The general also announced a curfew.
Ironically, Burkina Faso is one of the 21 countries in the world to which Turkey sends "military aid." So, Turkish public money may have been used in overthrowing the "legitimate" government in the West African country.
Does Mr. Erdoğan know that another illegitimate coup had taken place somewhere on earth? He may not, but the Foreign Ministry in Ankara apparently does. A statement from the ministry said: "We watch the developments with concern … We recommend restraint … We hope that a solution based on dialogue and consensus with the participation of all parties could be found."
Very dry, is it not, for the ministry of a country whose leader has dedicated himself to fight all coup-makers?
The truth is, the Patron Saint has the habit of rising against illegitimate coup leaders only when they target Islamist ambitions and governments. Other coups are irrelevant or just fine.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Extra Ordinary Interview From YnetNews With Pope Francis

Pope: 'It's hard to build peace; but living without peace is an absolute nightmare'
Henrique Cymerman/Ynetnews
Published: 11.28.14/ Israel News
In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, his first to the Israeli media, Pope Francis expresses his sadness at the Jerusalem synagogue attack and the lack of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, voices his hatred for anti-Semitism and talks of his fears for the Christian communities persecuted by the Islamic State. The spiritual father of 1.2 billion people lives in a two-room apartment in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican City's guesthouse. With its outdated furniture, a 1970s-style sofa, papers scattered on the floor in a work corner, and piles of books that no one dares to tidy, the small and modest abode is a far cry from splendid residence occupied by his predecessors.
And that's not the only difference. During the course of over 10 hours of face-to-face conversations, Pope Francis reveals himself to be warm and friendly, with a good sense of humor and a liking for stories and anecdotes. He's also an avid soccer fan, and the pocket of his robe is never without a picture of his favorite Argentine team, San Lorenzo.
Pope Francis is considered, according to some polls, the most popular figure in the world today, and he seems bent on retaining this title – even if it means breaching the tight security ring that surrounds him in order to come into contact with the masses.
"I know that something could happen to me. It's in God's hands," says the 77-year-old Pope in an exclusive interview – his first with the Israeli media.
"But let's be realistic: At my age, I don't have much to lose. Ahead of my visit to Brazil, my hosts arranged a closed 'Popemobile' for me, with armored glass. I told them I wasn't going to bless the faithful and tell them I love them from inside a sardine can, even if it's made of glass. As far as I'm concerned, it's a wall. I understand those who are responsible for my security; so before visiting any country, I sign a (waiver) in which I assume responsibility for anything that might happen."
Lately, however, with the head of the Catholic Church in the sights of the radical Islamic organizations, he's been forced to listen to his security personnel. Unlike him, they are not willing to take any chances. "On the way back from a visit to South Korea, I wanted to land in Iraq," the Pope reveals, "but my people wouldn't let me."
A war without troops
The visit to Iraq, which didn't materialize, is part of the fight Pope Francis is trying to lead in an effort to stave off the Islamic caliphate. Joseph Stalin once contemptuously asked: "The Pope! How many divisions has he got?" The answer of course is zero – and no fighter aircraft or drones either. But his moral position is important, and he voices it loud and clear.
"The persecution of Christians is more severe today than during the first centuries of the Church," Pope Francis says, referring to the days when Christians were thrown to the lions in Rome's Coliseum. "More Christians are tortured today than they were back then. Unimaginable barbaric and criminal acts are taking place, for example, in Iraq. Thousands of people, including many Christians, are being brutally expelled from their homes. Children are dying of thirst and hunger. Women are being abducted and people are being brutally murdered. In certain places, the faithful aren't allowed to be in possession of the Holy Scriptures, teach the principles of Christianity or wear a cross."
Pope Francis, whose personal secretary is an Egyptian Coptic priest, met last week at the Vatican with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss events in Iraq and Syria, and found an attentive ear.
"The cry of the Christians, of the Yazidis and of other minorities in Iraq requires a clear and bold response from the religious leaders, and the Muslims in particular," the Pope says. "But the political leaders and the leaders of the world powers must also act decisively."
This is not the only front that keeps the Pope awake at nights. We met three times, including in his private apartment at the Vatican, a gesture that few are afforded. We also spoke on the phone on five occasions, with the last call a few days after the massacre at the synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood. The Pope was shocked by the attack.
"I harshly condemn any kind of violence in the name of God," he said to me in the wake of the incident. "I've been following the worrying escalation in Jerusalem and other communities in the Holy Land with much concern, and I pray for the victims and all those suffering from the unacceptable violence, which doesn't bypass places of worship and ritual. From the depths of my heart, I am urging all the parties involved to put an end to the hatred and violence and work towards reconciliation and peace. It's hard to build peace; but living without peace is an absolute nightmare."
The issue of Jerusalem is one of the main obstacles to peace. How can this be overcome?
"In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, Jerusalem should be the capital of the three religions, the city of peace and faith. But this is a religious perspective. Achieving peace requires political negotiations. It's impossible to know in advance where the talks will lead to. The sides may agree that Jerusalem will be the capital of this or the other country, but these are issues that need to be placed on the negotiating table. It's not my place to be telling the parties how to act, but I think the negotiations need to be approached in good faith and with mutual trust. I pray to God that the two leaders will do everything to keep moving forward. That is the only way to achieve peace."
In May this year, you visited Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. It was your first official trip as the Pope, if you don't count the visit to Brazil, which was scheduled during Benedict's term in office. Why did you choose to come to this sensitive region, which is in the eye of the storm?
"Actually, Rio de Janeiro was in the eye of the storm, because of the great excitement ahead of the visit of the head of the Catholic Church. But as you mentioned, it was a visit that was arranged before my time. The visit to Israel was born in June last year, at the initiative of then-president Shimon Peres. I didn't come up with the idea of the trip. But I knew he was coming to the end of his term in office as president at around that time; and as soon as he invited me, I felt an obligation to visit before the end of his term. So I said, 'Yes, I'm going.' It was simple."  
And how was the visit?
"Excellent. Yes, it was exhausting, because of the tight schedule – or as my Italian friends would say: Massacrante (murderous). But the trip was good for me. I saw things I never knew existed – like in the Jordanian Kingdom, for example, the new projects they are building there now where Jesus was baptized. But I'm also talking about things deep within me.
"When I experience powerful emotions, I become introverted; and it slowly grows until it is evident on the outside. Towards the end of the visit, the spiritual feeling began to express itself. But I protect myself from such feelings because… I don't know … chauvinist modesty."
I was there, and I saw you were very moved.
It must have been very moving for you to be in the land where Jesus was born, lived and died.
"Certainly. It was very emotional."
And what was the most unexpected part of the experience?
"I don't know how to explain it. Everything was new to me. If you had asked me what I was expecting, I wouldn't have known what to say either. I simply went."
You may want to take this opportunity to explain why it is so important for Christians to visit Israel, and Jerusalem in particular.
"Because everything started there, in the Holy Land – the promise made to our Patriarch Abraham, what Moses saw from Mount Nevo, Joshua's entrance into Israel, the Prophets; and then the Baptists, Jesus, His death, the resurrection. It's like a glimpse of what awaits us in the afterlife – Heaven on earth."
And there's terrible violence in this Heaven on earth, violence in the name of God too – a phenomenon you strongly condemn.
"Yes, it's a contradiction. It's as if someone would say to me: 'This man is a good son; he beats his mother only three times a day.' But violence in the name of God is not a new phenomenon. It has existed since the dawn of history. The essence of religious fundamentalism is violence the name of God. It existed among us, the Christians, too, and there are still extremist groups in Christianity today. The Thirty Years' War, for example, was violence in the name of God. There are extremists in all three religions; but thankfully they are a minority."
An embrace at the Western Wall
For the past two decades, Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis' original name, has maintained close ties with several Jewish figures, one being Rabbi Avraham Skorka from Buenos Aires, the Pope's city of birth, and a mutual friend. Some 18 months ago, shortly after Francis' appointment, Skorka and I visited the Vatican to meet with the new Pope. During our conversation, which lasted five hours, the two spoke of their shared dream to embrace in front of the Western Wall. The dream came true during the Pope's visit to Israel, and present to witness the moving moment was a senior Muslim representative.
"I decided to bring along another one of my friends on my trip to Israel – Imam Omar Abboud, who used to head the Islamic Center of Argentina," Francis says.
"He is a Muslim who prays a lot, a person who is well versed in Islam. Both are my friends; I love them both very much; and there's a very good connection between the two of them too. But because you can't duplicate friends with a photocopying machine, they are very different from one another. It was important for me to bring both of them along on the visit, Rabbi Skorka and Imam Abboud, and the three of us embraced in the Western Wall plaza – a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian. And when Rabbi Skorka said, 'We did it,' we all felt the same. It was like a cry of victory for us.
"But the truth is that in Argentina, the coexistence is not such a strange thing. Why? Because Argentina has a cultural melting pot because of the large waves of immigration. Many Jews came there from Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, and that's why we still call the Jews in Argentina 'Rusos' today. We all had a friend like that, or a few friends like that. We'd say, 'Hey, tell the Russian to give it to me.' He was 'the Russian,' and he didn't care that we called him that. And we lived in coexistence; we played soccer, and all the things that kids do. And we all had Muslim friends too, and we called them 'Turks,' because their ancestors arrived in Argentina with passports of the Ottoman Empire. Yes, there are radical groups, very small ones, in Argentina too, but most Christians, Jews and Muslims live there in coexistence. Thus, my friendship with Skorka and Abboud is perfectly normal, like any friendship between people."
After visiting Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, you organized communal prayers for the three religions at the Vatican. I think you are the first Pope to have made such a gesture. Do you have more plans of this kind for the future?
"You once said to me that I like to surprise. So God, too, likes to surprise, and now we are waiting to see how he will surprise us. I spoke with Rabbi Skorka just today. By the way, this time we didn't talk about soccer because his team, River Plate, beat my team, San Lorenzo, so I didn't say a word. Why rub salt in my wounds myself? Anyway, we agreed in our conversation that God will show us the way. He will guide us on how to proceed from here to bring the religions closer together."
And there's much work to do. A recently published comprehensive survey indicates a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. How do we deal with that?
"We must make it absolutely clear that anti-Semitism is a sin. One of the reasons I'm here is to remind the Christian world that our roots are in Judaism. In every Christian, there is a Jew; and you can't be a true Christian if you don't recognize your Jewish roots. I don't mean Judaism in the ethnic, origin, sense, but from the religious aspect. And I think interfaith dialogue must place an emphasis on the inseparable connection between the religions, on the fact that Christianity grew from within Judaism. That is our challenge."
Pope Francis, as is his custom, conveys this message through a story. In conversations with other religious figures, he likes to tell a tale about a group of anti-Semitic priests who were sitting together in a room and badmouthing the Jews, with a picture of Jesus and Mary hanging on the wall above their heads. "And then, suddenly," Pope Francis says, "Jesus steps out of the picture and says, 'Mom, let's go, they don’t like us here either."
How do you explain the anti-Semitism that still exists among Christians?
"Well, you are more familiar with the interpretations that justify anti-Semitism than I am – the dark myths, the theory of the 'lone Jew.'"
Christ's murderer?
"Christ's murderers – that's one of the most difficult things. The Second Vatican Council, which convened in the 1960s, unequivocally rejected the claim that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. But anti-Semitism is a very complex problem, far beyond the religious dimension. It also has a political dimension. After all, anti-Semitism is more prevalent on the right than on the left. And it doesn't stop there. There are people who deny the Holocaust – still today. It's madness, but it happens. And it's incomprehensible."
When you visited Yad Vashem, you kissed the hands of six Holocaust survivors. You wrote in your book about the possibility of opening the Vatican archives from the period of the Holocaust. Are you still planning to do so?
"There is an agreement between the Vatican and Italy from 1929 that prevents us from opening the archives to researchers at this point in time. But because of the time that has passed since World War II, I see no problem with opening the archives the moment we sort out the legal and bureaucratic matters. One thing worries me, and I'll be honest with you – the image of Pope Pius XII (the Pope at the time of World War II).
"Ever since Rolf Hochhuth wrote the play, The Deputy, in 1963, poor Pope Pius XII has been accused of all sorts of things (including having been aware of the extermination of the Jews and doing nothing). I'm not saying he didn't make mistakes. He made a few. I get things wrong often too. But prior to the release of the play, he was considered a big defender of the Jews. During the Holocaust, Pius gave refuge to many Jews in monasteries in Italy. In the Pope's bed at Castel Gandolfo, 42 small children were born to couples who found refuge there from the Nazis. These are things that people don't know. When Pius XII died, Golda Meir sent a letter that read: 'We share in the pain of humanity. When the Holocaust befell our people, the Pope spoke out for the victims.' But then along came this theater performance, and everyone turned their backs on Pius XII.
"And again, I'm not saying that he didn't make mistakes. But when you interpret history, you need to do so from the way of thinking of the time in question. I can't judge historical events in modern-day terms. It doesn't work. I'll never get to the truth like that. Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, once gave me a copy of the book he wrote about the Inquisition. I read it studiously. I'm not saying we should justify the actions of the Inquisition, but we need to investigate this period with the right tools and only then pass judgment.
"Did Pius XII remain silent in the face of the extermination of the Jews? Did he say all he should have said? We will have to open the archives to know exactly what happened. But to judge the actions, we will also need to understand the circumstances under which he was acting: Perhaps it was better for him to remain silent because had he spoken, more Jews would have been murdered? Or maybe the other way around? I don't want to sound petty, but it really gets my goat when I see that everyone is against the Church, against Pius XII – all those detractors. And what about the Allies during the war? After all, they were well aware of what was going on in the death camps and they were very familiar with the railroad tracks that led Jews to Auschwitz. They had aerial photographs. And they didn't bomb those tracks. I'll leave that question hanging in the air, and say only that one needs to be very fair in these things."
Padre Jorge
Pope for just 18 months, Francis has already been dubbed by many "the revolutionary." Others argue that he's actually going back to the roots. Francis doesn't see a contradiction between the two. "For me, the real revolution is to go back to the roots, to recognize them and to understand their significance in relation to the present and the future," he says. "I don't know if I'm a revolutionary, but I like to go back to the roots – the roots of our Christian identity, and also our Jewish roots, which I spoke of earlier. The vessel for affecting real changes is identity; and in order to discover my identity, I need to know where I come from, and what my cultural and religious surname is."
You still sign letters to friends and acquaintances as Pastor Jorge. When we were here a year ago, you said to us, "I have to give you something to eat," and explained that this is the "habit of priests."
"And all I gave you was a sandwich?"
No, we ate very well – at your table if I may add. My question is: Do you still sometimes feel like a simple priest, or have you become accustomed by now to the fact that you hold the highest position in the Catholic Church?
"The role of priest best reflects my aspirations. Serving people comes naturally to me. Turning off the light to avoid wasting electricity. These are the habits of a priest. But I definitely feel like the Pope, and it helps me to take things seriously. My assistants are very serious, thorough and professional; my secretary prepares everything I need, so I can fulfill my obligations. I'm not trying to play the role of the-Pope-the-priest. That would be childish of me. A priest's approach is first and foremost something internal, and sometimes it is expressed in gestures you make. Ultimately, however, I have responsibilities as the Pope, and there are commitments I need to fulfill. When the president of a country comes on a visit to the Vatican, I have to welcome him in keeping with protocol. Perhaps I have reservations about the protocol, but I need to respect it. Do you know what the difference is between terrorism and protocol? You can negotiate with terrorism."
The protocol may be difficult to change, but you've already managed to change a few things in the Vatican, in the atmosphere at least, and there seems to be more to come. What are your plans for the future?
"It's important for me to clarify at this point that I am not some kind of a prodigy. I didn't come to the job with a list of personal plans and projects, if only because I never thought I'd find myself here. I came to the selection process of the Conclave with a small suitcase in order to return immediately to Argentina. Every morning, before the secret gathering to select the Pope, and sometimes in the afternoon, we'd meet to discuss the problems of the Church, what things need to be fixed, what should be focused on. Various proposals were raised, and I said: 'It must be done like so; that has to be done differently; and we'll have to say so to the new Pope.' These discussions gave rise to a series of recommendations for the new Pope; and since I was the one elected in the end, I am implementing these recommendations."
For example?
"For example, for the Pope to have an external advisor, someone who doesn't live in the Vatican; so we formally established an advisory council comprising eight cardinals – one from each continent, an additional cardinal to coordinate among them, and the Pope himself – who meet once every two or three months for four days to slowly and gradually put into practice the changes the cardinals have asked us to make. My plan is to implement these recommendations. Yes, I could ignore them and promote other things, but that wouldn't be wise. You need to listen to the voices of those who know."
You've mentioned in the past that you are very concerned about the gap between rich and poor in the world. What can you as the Pope, and the Catholic Church in general, do to shrink this divide?
"It's already been proven that with the amount of surplus food in the world, we could feed everyone who suffers from hunger. I don't recall the figures by heart, but there are so many children who are starving to death. When you see pictures of children suffering from malnutrition in numerous parts of the world, it's shocking. It's incomprehensible. I think that the problem lies with the global economic system. The individual should be focal point of every economic system – the man and the woman, the boy and the girl. Unfortunately, however, money is the focal point.
Money is the god and we are guilty of worshiping idols, the idols of wealth, and we provide them with human sacrifices: On the one hand, young people who are dumped into the cycle of unemployment – 75 million in Europe alone according to figures I've been shown; and on the other hand, the elderly who are tossed aside because they're no longer useful, aren't productive."
Do you share the dark predictions about the future of Europe?
"I'm definitely concerned. Look at what is happening in Europe: The birth rates are very low – 1, 1.2 children per family. No one can survive with a birth rate like that." 
Pope Emeritus
A Pope is elected for life. When Benedict XVI announced his retirement and became the first Pope Emeritus in 600 years, the world was stunned. Will his successor, the first Pope to come from the Americas, make a similar move? Francis certainly doesn't rule out the possibility.
"I think Pope Benedict made a great gesture," Francis says. "He set a precedent and opened a door for those who follow him. Perhaps it's the beginning of a new institution – retired Popes. Life expectancy today is much higher than before, and a person reaches an age where he can no longer go on. I will act in the same way my predecessor did: I will ask God to light my way when the time comes and tell me what to do. And I'm sure He will tell me."
If, as he puts it, God instructs him to retire, he may replace his modest room at the Vatican with another modest room in Buenos Aires, in a home for retired priests. "At the age of 75, I decided to quit my position as archbishop of Buenos Aires (the head of the Catholic Church in Argentina) and work as a regular priest, help the communities," he says. "That was my future. I submitted my resignation to Pope Benedict, and they had already set aside a room for me in that hostel for priests."
The bombshell Pope Benedict dropped when he announced his retirement did nothing to alter the plans of Francis either. "On February 26, 2013," he says, "when I went to the Vatican to participate in the election of the next Pope, I told the Pope's diplomatic representative in Argentina: 'When I return here on Easter Sunday, we'll begin the process of finding a replacement for me, so I can end my role as archbishop and become a rank-and-file priest."
The rest is history. Francis was elected the 266th Pope, and the papal throne has replaced the priests' hostel in Buenos Aires. "They've probably given the room to someone else by now," he says. "But there are still many more rooms there…"
And one day, how would you like history to remember you?
"I haven't thought about it," he says. "But I'd be happy if people were to say of me: 'He was a good guy. He did his best. And he wasn't that bad.'"

President Obama can no longer rely on being mysterious
Sunday, 30 November 2014
Raghida Dergham /Al Arabiya
President Barack Obama insists on adopting mystery as the basis of his policies, be this constructive or destructive, because he is comfortable in his gray area. Some see him as a president who is conscious of the inconsistent attitudes and desires of the American people, and thus backs non-clarity and non-commitment especially on foreign policy. Others oppose that the U.S. president hides behind ambiguity and fears decisiveness.
The resignation – or sacking – of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been seen in the context of him being one of the opponents of Obama’s non-decisiveness. Obama has insisted on being mysterious in key issues, namely the war on ISIS and on how to tackle Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is good at navigating in accordance with President Obama’s ever-moving compass, can be described as a diplomat well adept at shaping any political scene exactly as the president wants it to be.
Thus Kerry shaped the extension of nuclear negotiations with Iran as an achievement, when he knows well that large gaps remain, even if they had slightly narrowed. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did the same, not in support of the U.S. President, but of President Hassan Rowhani, who was marketed in the global arena as a savior of Iran from extremism and militancy.
Moderation in the Islamic Republic of Iran is on trial today, to the tune of the nuclear negotiations, while hardliners are practically benefiting from the easing of sanctions as a result of these negotiations. The next seven months will not be easy for Barack Obama, as he tries to reconcile the negotiations with a Republican-dominated Congress that is hostile to Tehran. The next seven months will act as a theater for harsh approaches of all kinds, whether from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It will also be a space where the repercussions and implications of the “policy of mystery” will play out.
Cities in the United States have broken into protests against a grand jury’s acquittal of a white policeman who had shot dead an African-American youth, in Ferguson, Missouri. The protests against “racism” have swept more than 170 cities and have dominated the U.S. media cycle. President Obama is now under increased scrutiny, but this issue will not necessarily become the exclusive focus of U.S. policy, both domestic and foreign. The timing of this event, which coincided with Hagel’s resignation and the end of the nuclear negotiations deadline, has put more pressure on Obama, especially as he gears up for a fierce showdown with Congress. This Republican-majority Congress will second-guess Obama on the smallest details, including foreign policy issues led by the negotiations with Iran, the war on ISIS and its operations in Iraq and Syria, and the fate of the peace process between Palestine and Israel.
The nuclear issue
On Iran, the Republican Congress plans to head off any possible American concessions on the nuclear issue. Congress also intends to pass additional laws that would step up the sanctions on Iran to punish it for its regional roles beyond its borders. The Obama administration will seek to reduce the punitive tone and measures because President Obama is still hoping his achievements and legacy would be culminated with an agreement with Iran. However, Obama also now realizes the difficulty of reaching an agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue as well as its regional ambitions, and understands that the battle between the forces of moderation and the hardliners in Tehran may not have the outcome he had imagined.
The nuclear negotiations did not collapse, much to the relief of the world, including the Gulf countries. The Gulf nations were relieved by the extension of the negotiations because the alternative was confrontation and further tensions with Iran, amid circumstances that require focusing on ISIS, which is at the Gulf’s doors.
The GCC summit, which will be held in Doha in two weeks, will reflect the climate of welcoming the extension and relief on account of it, instead of pursuing a gloating tone or supporting escalation. True, the Gulf countries benefit from Congress pushing Obama into a corner to force him not to be lenient with Iran, but they don’t want to act as his “stick” as he threatens Iran on the nuclear issue. The Gulf countries are concerned about events within Iran and their practical implications for the Iraqi, Syrian, Yemeni, and Lebanese arenas, and are open to accords if moderate forces able to make deals gain the upper hand in Iran.
Divisions in the Islamic Republic of Iran are clear. Some signs of them surfaced following the extension of nuclear negotiations, in the form of statements made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rowhani, the first waging a campaign against the West and the second highlighting the benefits of the negotiations.
The hardliners chanted “death to America.” In the Shoura Council, hardliner MP Hamid Rasaei, said, “It's already a year since Mr. Rohani tried his magic key to turn around America's wolfish nature. Instead of turning, the key of trust and optimism broke in the lock.” Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad-Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard said Iran had learned from the nuclear negotiations that it had a strong hand to play. He declared, “Today, we can speak to the U.S. and its allies with the tone of power. A lesson can be taken from the recent nuclear talks that, for various reasons, the U.S. is not reliable.”
“Obama will not be able to win the war he declared against ISIS as long as he relies on mystery”
Interestingly, Iranian Foreign Ministry adviser Mohammad Ali Sobhani accused the current Vice-President of the Iraqi Republic (and former Prime Minister) Nouri al-Maliki of following sectarian policies when he was in office, which led to the formation of an incubator for ISIS, as quoted by the Iranian website Nameh News. He said, “Were it not for Maliki’s exclusionary policies against Sunnis in the country, the group would not have found a popular incubator among the Sunnis.” According to the same website, Sobhani criticized the Assad regime, saying, “The Syrian people initially protested peacefully for legitimate demands, but the Assad regime tried to suppress the demonstrations with excessive force which led to the emergence of armed groups later,” and pointing out that if the Syrian state had taken measures at the beginning of the demonstrations to meet the legitimate demands of the protesters, the situation would not be like it is today.
If the debate inside Iran is along the lines of these statements and those in the Shoura Council, what could happen in the coming months is a serious review of the Iranian approach that will no doubt impact Iran’s regional policies, and not just the Iranian interior.
Poker-game approach
Russia is outdoing and outbidding Iran on Syria in terms of clinging to Bashar al-Assad being in power. That is if we go by what Moscow told Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, who was received by the Russian president for the first time, and who made sure to publicly stress the Syrian insistence on having his president remain in power to fight terror. If Moscow is honest about its other insinuations that it is ready for accords with international and regional forces on the basis of a formula that bolsters the war on ISIS and similar radical Islamist groups requiring concessions from Moscow, then Russia understands completely that the language of current accords stress the continuation of support for the regime in Damascus, but not necessarily the head of the regime. So which approach has Vladimir Putin really chosen? Perhaps Putin, too, found deliberate ambiguity a policy that suits him and his “poker-game” approach to his adventures from Syria to Ukraine. But what is clear is the emergence of the importance of the link between the war on ISIS and Assad’s position in that war and in international policies.
The Turkish president does not infuse his statements with diplomacy, and does not care whether what he says is liked by the U.S. president or Vice President Joe Biden, who made an unsuccessful visit to Ankara. Erdogan denounced what he called the U.S. ‘impertinence’ on the Syrian crisis, and said in the course of commenting on U.S. demands from Turkey in the context of the fight against ISIS that he rejected them, saying “we are against impertinence, recklessness and endless demands.” Erdogan, in reference to the Americans, said, “They looked on as the tyrant (President Bashar) al-Assad massacred 300,000 people. They remained silent in the face of Assad's barbarism and now they are now staging a 'conscience show' through Kobane,” where Erdogan refuses to intervene militarily alongside the Kurdish forces.
Most probably, the crisis in Syria will intensify and become more complicated and bloody in the coming period, being an arena for the tug of war between regional and international forces, and also because it is the crucible where the mystery policy pursued by Presidents Obama and Putin is tested, in contrast to the stark clarity expressed by President Erdogan.
The fate of Syria
The divisions in Iran will certainly be reflected on the fate of Syria, sooner or later, given the depth of the direct and indirect Iranian involvement in Syria. Economic sanctions restrain the hands of hardliners, who benefited from the temporary lifting of some sanctions, but will now suffer seriously. These extremist forces have gambled – believing themselves to be shrewd and cunning – on moderate forces in nuclear negotiations, because their success would lead to lifting the sanctions. The hardliners insisted on opposing the gradual lifting of sanctions, because they are the biggest beneficiaries of the direct lifting of sanctions, as this would put money immediately in their hands. In turn this would allow them to press ahead with their policies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, while they can also use this to bully the moderate forces.
For this reason, the moderate faction may seem like it is the bigger loser in the resulting non-success of the nuclear negotiations. But in reality, it is the hardliners that have lost the most, because the fact that the sanctions have not been lifted contributed to thwarting their regional projects and headed off their plans to turn against the moderates after sanctions are lifted on the Islamic Republic.
This situation may lead to more conciliatory policies on the part of Tehran, so as not to get involved further in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, or Lebanon, especially as ISIS has entered the fray, and defeating it inevitably requires the participation of Sunni forces. Oil prices also play a role in making Iranian policies more conciliatory, out of necessity, because expansion is expensive, financially and materially, and because the Iranian interior is suffering economically.
Perhaps Lebanon can benefit from such conciliation, with an accord that would help it emerge out of the presidential vacuum in the next few months, probably more sooner than later. Iraq is undergoing an experiment in conciliation and accord, improving its relations with the Gulf without Iranian opposition. Yemen is a spot too large to be controlled by any of the actors, and therefore, Iranian hardliners will not be able to control Yemen even if this appears possible temporarily. As for Syria, it is an arena open to all possibilities.
President Barack Obama may be forced to move away from his policy of non-clarity, because he will not be able to win the war he declared against ISIS as long as he relies on mystery. This is what his outgoing Defense Secretary told him, and this is what any sane person would insist upon before agreeing to lead the U.S. Department of Defense at this stage of President Obama’s tenure.
**This article was first published in al-Hayat on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.

Why the U.S. Should Go for a Grand Bargain With Iran
BY MICHAEL HIRSH/National Journal
It's all but impossible and will take years, but it must be tried: Tehran holds the key to the whole region.
November 6, 2013 Of the multiple negotiations Secretary of State John Kerry has started in recent months, it's difficult to say which of them looks more impossible. Is it the Geneva peace conference on Syria, which has been pushed back because, well, neither side has any real interest in talking? Is it the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which both sides (surprise!) say are failing? Or is it the effort to try diplomacy with Iran, which resumes Thursday, also in Geneva?
The effort to negotiate away Iran's nuclear threat is hard enough, but the idea that Tehran and Washington can achieve even the most meager modus vivendi in relations looks as unlikely as it did three decades ago. As if to drive home the point—and send a message to the new, pro-negotiation president, Hassan Rouhani—regime hard-liners on Monday orchestrated one of the largest of the annual anti-American demonstrations to commemorate the U.S. Embassy hostage-taking in 1979.
And yet as distant as it all looks, the possibility of some kind of "grand bargain" exists. A deal that would not only put Iran's nuclear program on hold (that's all you're going to get) but might also prompt moderates in Tehran to temporize the regime's other destabilizing policies in the Mideast and Central Asia—its support for Hezbollah in Syria, its anti-Israel rhetoric and terrorism, and its temporary alliance with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, among other things.
The fact is, little of note is going to get done on any major issue without Iranian cooperation of some kind, and that has not proved impossible in the past. As Ryan Crocker, one of America's most distinguished diplomats, wrote in The New York Times on Monday, "Although most Americans may be unaware of it, talks with Iran have succeeded before and they can succeed again."
Especially because Rouhani and his worldly foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have themselves been part of some of those quasi-successful talks. In 2001-02, for example, Iran provided invaluable assistance in stabilizing the new Karzai government in Afghanistan (Zarif led the talks for Tehran). Iran also became the largest non-OECD donor to post-Taliban Afghanistan, pledging $550 million worth of assistance (about the same as the U.S.) at the Tokyo conference.
Only days after that conference, in another of the disastrous decisions that so marked his first term, George W. Bush declared Iran to be part of the "axis of evil," immediately overturning the progress being made by his own diplomats. According to Iranian moderates I spoke to during a 2007 visit to Iran and then later on, the Bush speech also discredited everyone in Tehran who favored rapprochement. "The hard-liners, when we talk with them, they say, 'Dear friend, you talked with the Americans in a very moderate way, and you didn't get any result at all,' " S.M.H. Adeli, Iran's urbane former ambassador to London, told me then.
Even so, in the spring of 2003, Iranian officials, using their regular Swiss intermediary, faxed a two-page proposal for comprehensive talks to the State Department, including discussions of a "two-state solution" between Israel and the Palestinians. The Bush administration dismissed it at the time as dubious. Zarif, a career diplomat educated at the University of Denver who has conducted perhaps more direct negotiations with Americans than any other Iranian official, also had a hand in that maneuver.
The usual response of skeptics is that the Iranian leadership is just bargaining for time, especially in building a bomb. Opposition to a relationship with the "Great Satan" and any recognition of its minion, Israel, runs deep in the marrow of the Islamic Republic. The basic ideology of the Iranian revolution, after all, was fostered by opposition to the U.S.-backed Shah and the CIA-orchestrated ouster of President Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. Without America as an enemy, the mullahs don't have as much reason to justify their rule.
But while it's not about to fade away, all evidence the Iranian revolution is in a state of turmoil, thanks in large part to harsh international sanctions that have finally, after many years, begun to set in motion a deeper macroeconomic malfunction, including a worrying amount of inflation. Hardliners and moderates are openly fighting. Conventional wisdom is that the chief hard-liner on nuclear and other issues is the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but he's given Rouhani far more flexibility than in the mid-2000s, when as Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator he was slapped down. More to the point, Khamenei is now 74, and it's very unclear whether there will be a supreme leader to follow him.
What is beyond dispute is that on nearly every front from Syria to Iraq to Afghanistan, Iranian cooperation is a necessary ingredient for any measure of U.S. success. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad is gaining ground and refusing to talk to the rebels largely because of the help he's getting from Iran-backed Hezbollah troops. In increasingly violence-wracked Iraq, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki feels he has a freer hand to sideline Sunnis (thereby giving new life to al-Qaida in Iraq) because of support from Tehran, to which Maliki is also granting overflight rights for weapons supplies into Syria. If post-2014 Afghanistan is to gain any stability, Iran must be induced to resume its formerly hostile relationship with the Sunni Taliban in the West. And if Iran can be persuaded to further distance itself from Hamas (Tehran reportedly slashed funding in anger after Hamas moved its headquarters from Damascus to Qatar) and at least quiet its anti-Israel rhetoric, that would make a Palestinian peace deal more possible.
Above all, of course, an Iran that opens itself to international nuclear inspection would put control rods in the most dangerously destabilizing trend in the region. Iranian officials have hinted for years that, under certain conditions, Tehran might be willing to stop short of building a bomb. "Iran would like to have the technology, and that is enough for deterrence," Adeli told me in 2007. But moderates who might go in that direction, like Zarif, must have ammunition with which to silence the hardliners. And that means a deal.
As far as the idea of working with a hardline Islamist regime, is that really so impossible? For a long time religious conservatives in Iran have fondly invoked the "China model," whereby the mandarins in Beijing managed to quash political dissent after the Tiananmen Square democracy movement by redirecting the desire for more freedom into a booming economy. Even they realize that only economic success can ensure the future of the Islamic republic. But for Iran it's only possible if they can find a way to agree to other things. For Washington, it's necessary to at least try.