December 06/14

Bible Quotation For Today/The Supremacy of the Son of God
Colossians01/15-29:" The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 05-06/14
The Koran and Eternal War/Raymond Ibrahim/December 05/14
Next Israeli PM's job: Curbing Islamic tsunami/
Eitan Haber/Ynetnews/December 05/14
Jordan's King Abdullah Comes to Washington/
David Schenker/Washington Institute/December 05/14
The Egyptian revolution isn’t dead because it never happened in the first place/By Eric Trager/The Washington Post/December 05/14
Nouri al-Maliki: Mastering the art of covering up scandals/Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/December 05/14
Sanctions relief: Benefiting Iran’s elite or people/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/December 05-06/14
Muslim-Christian cooperation vital in tackling ISIS/Abdallah Schleifer /Al Arabiya/December 05/14

Putin is losing his luster /Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/December 05/14

Lebanese Related News published on December 05-06/14
Lebanese Govt. Seeks 'Direct' Negotiations as Nusra Says Bazzal Execution 'Least Response'
Sharkas Threatens to Retaliate Arrest of Family, Suspends Negotiations over Arsal Captives
Lebanese Army Shells Gunmen in Arsal Outskirts amid Nusra-IS Clashes Erupt on Syrian Side of Border
Lebanon: EDL Contract Workers End Strike after Energy Minister Announces Agreement
Probe Opened in Medical Waste Products Dumped Illegally in Sea
Bogdanov Holds Talks with Lebanese Officials in Beirut
Alleged Wife of Baghdadi Pregnant, Worked on Funding Jihadists
Future-Hezbollah talks could begin next week: Berri
Families of the captured servicemen optimistic
Lebanese Army arrests 11 after deadly ambush
Mufti Derian: Christians, Muslims must unite against terrorism
Michel Mouawad calls for preservation of Lebanon
Egypt ready to assist Lebanon against jihadis
Lebanon works to decrease traffic over holidays
Fiscal deficit to shrink thanks to oil’s slide
Derbas Raises Alarm over Suspension of U.N. Food Aid, Warns of Famine
Fistfight Forces Closure of Vehicle Registration Facility in Sidon
Harb to remove hurdles to telecom privatization
Arab Bank seeks to block terror-finance claims
Lebanon works to decrease traffic over holidays
Lebanese Kidnapped Soldiers: A confused negotiation
Lebanon declares open-ended war with jihadi militants
Farm Slaughtering 'Dead Cows' Shut as Tanmia Mortadella 'Meets Standards'
Army Defuses Grenade and Home-Made Bomb in Tripoli
Ibrahim Says Security Forces Averted Security Deterioration despite Complications

Syrian militant threatens Lebanese Shiites
Female Soldiers Recruited to Search Veiled Women in Sidon as Asir Warns of Storming Ain el-Hilweh
Trial Postponed for U.S.-Lebanese Marine who Vanished in Iraq 

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 05-06/14
Obama nominates Ashton Carter as new Pentagon chief
Post' poll: 60% of Israelis don't want Netanyahu anymore
Cheaper oil and shifting sands
Al-Azhar urges Mideast Christians not to flee
Israeli Shurat Hadin charges US Presbyterian Church with having ties to Hezbollah

ISIS launches attack on Syrian regime air base
Putin says West seeking to undermine Russia
Assad says Syria war will be long, difficult
Paris Says 'Major' Anti-IS Raid Taking Place in Iraq
Public Steps Up to Fund U.N. Food Program for Syrians
Opposition: Syrian Aid Cuts 'Amount to Execution Order'
Three Britons Jailed for Syria-Related Terror Offenses
Amnesty: Rich Nations' Failure to Take Syria Refugees 'Shocking'
What to look out for in Israeli elections
Ex-Likud star Sa'ar could try to oust Netanyahu

Nineveh governor says Sunni tribal forces key to anti-ISIS mission
Yemen ruling party opposes Saleh’s alleged support for Houthi rebels
Yemen’s Al-Qaeda threatens US hostage in video
Increased Iranian-Egyptian anti-terror cooperation needed: Iranian cleric

Jihad Watch Site Posts For Friday
Poverty causes terrorism? UAE jihadi arrested in palatial home

Palestinian” stabs two Israelis in supermarket
Pakistan: Jihadists open fire at home of lawyer defending accused blasphemer
Islamic jihadists attack Chechen capital; 20 dead
Egypt: Muslim convert to Christianity rots in execution chamber, begins hunger strike
A Contempt for Danger
Islamophobia” Joins the Rainbow Coalition

Islamic State: Qur’an-waving gunmen murder 39 Indian workers
UAE: Muslima held in stabbing of US teacher also left bomb at home of American doctor
Congressman: State Dept should hire Muslim scholars to combat Islamic State ideology

A Reminder for the Wicked Shepherds
By: Elias Bejjani
December 04/14
In the realm of faith and Fear of God's Day Of Judgment, certain virtues like witnessing for the truth, modesty, transparency and love are not choices for righteous people, especially the clergymen, but in fact are holy obligations.  No doubt challenges arise in our day to day life and in every interaction with others that practically confront and test the solidity of our actual faith putting us in  crucial positions where either to succumb to the evilness of the wicked ones, or to stand for them, say no and carry the consequences.
In a bid for us to live in peace, harmony, love, actual faith and true transparency, we are always strongly required  to keep remembering seriously with great gratitude and sincerity, that all what we have and own, including our lives, are generous gifts from Almighty God.
At the same time, we are ought to keep in mind that we have a holy and Godly obligation to share these gifts with others, especially those who are in need of what we have. If every one of us commits himself to this great concept of love and sharing and frees himself from selfishness, hatred and grudges, then there will be no wars and no one left hungry, isolated, persecuted, sad, abandoned or downtrodden.
And because our life on earth is so short, so transient, so unpredictable, and due to the solid fact that we do not know when Almighty God will decide to reclaim back our soul, we are supposed to be ready to face God with our deeds and our deeply rooted faith.
No one that has left this earthly world (died) was able to carry with him any earthly riches. When we pass away, we can only and only carry with us our deeds. Based on these deeds, be good or bad, and not the earthly riches we will face the Day of Judgment. By the end it is our choice to either hold on to the earthly riches or to the good deeds. Accordingly the choice for the eternity fate, be in Hell or Heaven is in our hands. Let us be wise and take the right choice before it is too late.
When ever any one feels that luster for earthly riches is dominating his conduct, controlling his thinking, and that his instincts of possession, selfishness, arrogance are leading him to fall into temptation, he needs to open the Holy Book and read thoroughly the The Rich Man and Death parable and hopefully he shall wake up and correct his path in life.
Luke 12:16-21: "He spoke a parable to them, saying, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly. He reasoned within himself, saying, ‘What will I do, because I don’t have room to store my crops?’  He said, ‘This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. I will tell my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared—whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

What does the Bible say about racism, prejudice, and discrimination?"
Answer: The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.
Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.
Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Lebanese Govt. Seeks 'Direct' Negotiations as Nusra Says Bazzal Execution 'Least Response'
Naharnet /05.12.14/The government decided Friday to engage in “direct negotiations” with the captors of the Lebanese troops and policemen, as the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front announced in a vague statement that the execution of the soldier Ali al-Bazzal is “the least response” that can be expected from the group. Al-Nusra also threatened to murder more servicemen if Lebanese authorities do not release “sisters” detained in Lebanon, in an apparent reference to Saja al-Dulaimi, a divorcee of Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Alaa al-Oqaili, the wife of top Islamist militant Abu Ali al-Shishani. “The Lebanese army has pressed on with its dirty and malicious deeds … through the arrest of women and children,” the group said in a statement published on the Twitter account of its Qalamun branch.
“Carrying out the death sentence against one of the prisoners of war who are in our custody – Ali al-Bazzal – is the least response that it can expect from us,” al-Nusra added. It said another hostage will be executed soon “if the sisters who have been arbitrarily detained are not released.” The statement was accompanied by a picture apparently showing a militant standing behind al-Bazzal and pointing a rifle to his head. The image appears to be photoshopped to show blood bursting out of al-Bazzal's head. The government's decision was reached during an emergency security meeting at the Grand Serail that was attended by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, the ministers of defense, interior, justice, finance and health, in addition to the chiefs of the army and security agencies. The conferees decided to “seek direct negotiations in parallel with the efforts of the Qatari mediator,” Syrian national Ahmed al-Khatib, MTV said.Khatib's endeavor suffered another setback on Thursday, after top jihadist militant Anas Sharkas, aka Abu Ali al-Shishani, announced that the Qatari negotiator should not try to visit Syria's Qalamun before Lebanese authorities release his wife, Syrian national Alaa al-Oqaili, who was arrested Tuesday in the northern region of Zgharta. The Lebanese army has also managed to arrest an Iraqi woman identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, whom Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq identified as a divorcee of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the chief of the Islamic State group that has seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.
“Al-Shishani's wife is involved in security cases and she will not be released, but the state will deal with his threats by taking more measures,” MTV reported Friday evening, referring to an Internet video in which the top militant called on the Lebanese authorities to free his spouse or face retribution. As for Dulaimi, the TV network noted that she will not be freed because she was involved in transferring funds to the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front.
“Al-Shishani has not pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and has not joined al-Nusra, and the Front has only showed solidarity with him through forbidding the Qatari mediator from visiting Qalamun,” MTV added. According to the TV network, the conferees at the Grand Serail meeting decided to use the two detained women as “cards of strength” in any negotiations. “The government is seeking to find a channel of communication between (General Security chief) Maj. Gen. (Abbas) Ibrahim and the kidnappers,” MTV said. Meanwhile, the families of the captive servicemen denied media reports that they intend to end their open-ended sit-in outside the government's headquarters in Riad al-Solh. They stressed that they will only end their protest when their sons return from captivity. The IS and al-Nusra had in August abducted several Lebanese troops and policemen during deadly clashes with the army in and around the northeastern border town of Arsal. Around 27 servicemen remain in the custody of the two groups while three have been executed. Lebanese authorities have been under intense pressure from the families of the captured men to negotiate their release.

Sharkas Threatens to Retaliate Arrest of Family, Suspends Negotiations over Arsal Captives
Naharnet/Jihadist Anas Sharkas, aka Abu Ali al-Shishani, threatened to start kidnapping the wives and children of soldiers until the Lebanese authorities release his spouse and two kids, announcing the suspension of negotiations in the case of the abducted servicemen. “Negotiations will not continue until the Muslim women are freed from the prisons of infidels,” Sharkas reportedly said in a 13-minute YouTube video. He stressed that the Qatari-appointed negotiator, Ahmed al-Khatib, is not welcomed on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. It is unclear if Sharkas is a prominent leader in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front. Al-Shishani vowed to retaliate the arrest of his wife and two children, saying: “I will act soon, me and all my supporters to capture the wives and kids of raafidah and soldiers.... until my wife, kids and the women of Muslims are released from the prisons of infidels.”Sharkas, who had his face uncovered in the video, was surrounded by masked gunmen. He stressed that the abducted soldiers and policemen will not be released without negotiations and his family will not be part of any deal. “My message is for the Qatari mediator: If you can't resolve the matter, then you are not welcomed and I will not allow you to head to the outskirts.” Sharkas also held Muslim Scholars Committee chief Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi responsible for his family's arrest. The Lebanese soldiers and policemen were taken captive in August when militants from the extremist Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front infiltrated Arsal from Syria and engaged in bloody clashes with troops. Three of them have been so far executed.  Media reports said that Lebanon now has the upper hand in the negotiations with the jihadists after the Lebanese army arrested Saja al-Dulaimi, a divorcee of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the family of Sharkas. The government has been under intense pressure from the families of the captured men to negotiate their release. As Safir newspaper reported on Friday the arrest of Alaa al-Oqaili, the wife of Sharkas, her brother Rakan and her two kids confused extremists. Oqaili, who was arrested two months after her surveillance, reportedly communicates with her husband and other gunmen through Skype. She was apprehended along with her brother Rakan in the Zgharta area of Hilan in northern Lebanon at a public school hosting Syrian refugees. As Safir reported that Sharkas contacted a prominent Muslim Scholars official, threatening to retaliate if any harm was inflicted on his family.

Lebanese Army Shells Gunmen in Arsal Outskirts amid Nusra-IS Clashes Erupt on Syrian Side of Border
Naharnet/The army shelled on Friday positions of Islamist gunmen on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, reported al-Manar television. It said that the attacks targeted Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups. “The army used heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers against the takfiri groups on the outskirts,” it added. The military launched its attack after detecting movement of takfiri groups in al-Rahweh region in Arsal. Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported that clashes erupted between an IS group led by Abu Abdul Salam and a Nusra group led by Abu Malek al-Talli in Syria's Ras al-Maara near Lebanon's border.

Lebanon: EDL Contract Workers End Strike after Energy Minister Announces Agreement
Naharnet/An almost three-year crisis at Electiricte du Liban ended on Friday under an initiative sponsored by Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat. Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian announced that the ministry agreed with the EDL contract workers, who have been occupying the company's headquarters in Beirut's Mar Mikhael area for the past four months, to end the crisis based on an accord that respects the law. Nazarian considered in a press conference from the Energy Ministry that the agreement appeases the fears of the contract workers. For his part, Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb, who is loyal to Jumblat, lauded the agreement, saying that the aim is to “preserve the unity of EDL employees.”Head of EDL contract workers committee Lebnan Makhoul said in another press conference at EDL's HQ that they decided to “lift our strike and open the gates of the company.”The contract workers voiced gratitude to Berri, Jumblat and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun for exerting efforts to end the crisis. They have been demanding their full-time employment and the payment of their salaries. “We will lift our strike after taking into consideration the security, social and economy situation and to preserve the company,” Makhoul added.
However, Makhoul vowed to follow up the implementation of the agreement and the qualification exams until they reach their full-time employment. During their four-month strike the contract workers have erected tents at the company's headquarters in Mar Mikhael and closed its gates, a move which EDL has deemed an “occupation.” EDL's board of directors has claimed that a law adopted by parliament earlier this year only allows 897 out of the nearly 2,000 workers to become full-timers. The original agreement stated that around 1,800 contract employees would be upgraded to full-timers, however, the draft-law said that all workers should undergo an exam to determine their qualifications and those who pass would be upgraded. The contract workers reject to undergo exams by Civil Service Commission and demand exams to be held by the company under CSC supervision. The original agreement had also said that the contract workers who fail would get a compensation amounting to two-month salary/year, however, under the draft-law the compensation would amount to one-month wage per year. Most contract employees are loyal to Berri, who is the head of AMAL movement. Later on Friday, EDL urged all workers and employees to report to work at its headquarters in Mar Mikhael on Saturday morning.

Probe Opened in Medical Waste Products Dumped Illegally in Sea
Naharnet/Environment Minister Mohammed Mashnouq asked the ministry of health to take strict measures against all hospitals, laboratories, private clinics and beauty centers responsible for illegally disposing their medical waste products in sea, LBCI reported on Friday..
Mashnouq's step came after he received from the Lebanese Union of Professional Divers photos of huge amounts of medical waste material piling off Lebanon's coast. The waste products, which LBCI described as “contagious,” include syringes, IV bags, human remains in addition to carcinogen and chemical products. “The massive waste dump can be mainly found in seawater between the northern coast of al-Damour up to the southern al-Sarafand,” said Mohammad al-Sarji, the head of union and a maritime legal expert.
“We have no knowledge of the diseases these remains contain and how they are disintegrated in seawater and how they affect the environment,” he added. In 2011, then Health Minister Mohammed Rahhal had warned hospitals to treat their medical waste products and abide by environmental laws or health and safety standards in disposing of the organic waste. The hospitals started cooperating with the Lebanese civil organization, Arc En Ciel, which is specialized in acquiring experience related to treating medical wastes.But, the NGO stated that it is not specialized in treating all kinds of medical wastes mainly the chemical and carcinogens ones. Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the Environment Minister informed him about the problem, and “requested a thorough investigation in the case. Strict measures will be taken against the violators.”

Egypt: Muslim convert to Christianity rots in execution chamber, begins hunger strike
December 4, 2014
By Raymond Ibrahim 12 Comments
Hegazy[Via FrontPage Magazine]
According to attorney Karam Ghobrial (“Gabriel”), his client, Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Muslim convert to Christianity, remains illegally incarcerated and has “vowed to starve himself to death,” reports MCN. Bishoy, more notoriously known as Mohammed Hegazy, is the first Egyptian ever to try legally to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his official ID card, prompting much shock and outrage in Muslim-majority Egypt (see Crucified Again, p. 107). Ghobrial further cited that Bishoy’s detention—in the execution chamber no less—is illegal, prompted solely by malicious charges against him, all of which stem from his original attempt to formally change his religious identity. In the words of his lawyer: “Bishoy is imprisoned in the execution room in violation of the law. Trumped up charges against him have not been proven and he is being treated even worse [than before]. He has not seen the light [of day] since being released from Minya’s misdemeanor court.”Bishoy was arrested in July 2014. Then, the judge in Minya cited “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” as the reason for sentencing the apostate, who in the weeks before was documenting political unrest in Egypt brought on by numerous Islamic attacks on Christians. He was eventually released, but then immediately scooped up again by State Security acting on behalf of Cairo, now under the charge of “insulting the Islamic faith.”
Bishoy’s lawyer further said that “the [current] judge is behaving in a prejudiced manner in this case because Bishoy had publicly announced his conversion to Christianity.” He stressed the “need for attention to this case, and escalating it, so everyone knows what this convert is being exposed to.”Bishoy has now been imprisoned for nearly six months, without any action being done in his case. He is being held on charges of “contempt to the Islamic religion” and reportedly spreading “false news” about the existence of State Security “torture chambers” where Muslim converts to Christianity are detained and tortured. Bishoy apparently refuses to recant this claim (quite possibly because he himself is now experiencing it first hand). As lawyer Karam Ghobrial maintains, it is clear that the real reason his client is being tortured in prison—where he is being held illegally under ever morphing charges—has to do with what made Bishoy Armia, formerly Mohammed Hegazy, notorious in Egypt in the first place: his audacity not only to convert to Christianity, but to try formally to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his ID card, prompting much enmity for him in Egypt.
In short, Bishoy is just another prisoner of conscience, just another born Muslim who wishes to be Christian—but whose actions have been deemed offensive to the state. His story occurs with great frequency all around the Islamic world. One need only recall the plight of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian wife and mother in Sudan who, while pregnant, was sentenced to be executed on the charge of apostatizing from Islam. And in nearby Iran, for example, Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini—also seen as an apostate agitator—continues to rot in prison.

Lebanese Kidnapped Soldiers: A confused negotiation
The Daily Star/Dec. 05, 2014/Rightfully topping Thursday’s Cabinet agenda was the hostage crisis, which is now in its fourth month. But while details were kept behind closed doors, it is clear that many politicians and leaders are letting their own priorities become obstacles to reaching a solution to the crisis as soon as possible. While the information minister took aim at the media, blaming them for prolonging the crisis, it seems that members of government and Parliament themselves need to work out their part in this catastrophe, and what they could and should be doing differently. Every week, it seems, a different politician is allegedly taking control of the situation, and helping to negotiate for the release of the 26 soldiers and police. Some genuinely want to resolve the situation for the hostages and their families, but clearly others are motivated by a chance to score political points and have their time in the limelight. The kidnappers themselves have been able to take advantage of this blatant lack of a strategy to continue playing with the emotions of the hostages’ families, and encouraging them to take specific measures to pressure certain politicians. All the while, the public is left completely confused and lost, certain only that no one – not even members of the security bodies of this country – is safe. This is a national issue, which is above sectarianism or politics, and concerns the Army – the only truly national institution Lebanon has left. To manipulate it for one’s own purposes is criminal. Courageous decisions must now be taken, and the negotiations carried out in secret, and by one channel.

Mufti Derian: Christians, Muslims must unite against terrorism
The Daily Star/Dec. 05, 2014 /BEIRUT: Muslims and Christians should unite in their fight against extremism, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian said Thursday while on an official visit to Cairo. Derian, along with the Maronite Bishop of Beirut Boulos Matar, who was representing Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, took part in a conference organized by Egypt-based Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s top institution. “[Muslims and Christians] should combat a common enemy that wishes evil upon us, our societies, nations and religions,” Derian said. The conference, which concluded Thursday, focused specifically on terrorism and extremism performed in the name of Islam. Leaders at the conference also condemned violence and the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. “The concept of integration between Muslims and Christians calls for equal rights without any form of discrimination,” said Derian, who headed a session at the conference. He stressed that Lebanon was a model of openness among the various religions and a model for coexistence between Muslims and Christians.

Al-Azhar urges Mideast Christians not to flee
Agence France Presse/Dec. 05, 2014 /CAIRO: Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious center of learning, Thursday urged Christians in the Arab world to stand firm in the face of jihadi violence and not flee into exile. The call, made at a Cairo conference organized by Al-Azhar, came just days after Pope Francis pressed the world’s Muslim leaders to condemn terrorism carried out in the name of Islam by groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and called for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. “We condemn the forced exile of Christians and other religious or ethnic groups,” the conference said in a final statement. “We urge Christians to stay rooted in their homelands and to weather this wave of terrorism we all are suffering.” Accusing extremist militants of distorting the meaning of jihad, the statement said it is really one of “self-defense or repelling aggression and should not be left to a single individual or group to declare.” “All armed groups and sectarian militias who use violence and terrorism ... have no relationship with true Islam,” it said.
ISIS has tyrannized Christians by forcing them to choose between conversion to Islam or paying protection money, telling them otherwise they must flee on the pain of death. The Cairo conference offered no firm plan to curb jihadis, but it called for another international forum to be convened to “spread justice and respect for different beliefs.”  Pope Francis said Sunday that he had told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Turkey that “it would be wonderful if all the Muslim leaders of the world – political, religious and academic – spoke up clearly and condemned” violence that damages Islam. “That would help the majority of Muslims if that came from the mouths of these political, religious and academic leaders. We all have need of a global condemnation.”In remarks Wednesday, Al-Azhar head Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb directly condemned ISIS for its “barbaric crimes” and urged the U.S.-led coalition fighting it to crack down on countries that support terrorism financially and militarily. The United States launched its first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq in August. In late September, it extended the campaign to ISIS targets in Syria, joined by Arab allies. Islamic scholars from a number of Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia and Morocco, attended the Cairo conference.

Lebanese Army arrests 11 after deadly ambush
The Daily Star/Dec. 05, 2014
BEIRUT: The Army confirmed Thursday that 11 suspected militants had been arrested during raids in northeast Lebanon following an ambush that killed six soldiers on the border with Syria earlier this week. In a statement, the military said 11 individuals had been arrested Wednesday during Army raids in the Arsal region on suspicion of involvement in attacks against the Army and having ties with terrorist groups. Tuesday’s ambush took place on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek, several miles north of Arsal. Adjutant Mahmoud Noureddine was also killed Wednesday and two other soldiers wounded on the outskirts of Arsal as they tried to defuse a bomb. The statement said the Army had arrested another man in the northern region of Dinnieh on suspicion of links to wanted individuals.
In a later statement, the Army said an intelligence patrol in Masharih al-Qaa had also arrested Syrian national Omar Saleh Amer for belonging to an armed terrorist group and committing various crimes.
No group has claimed responsibility for this week’s attacks against the Army, but the military has been confronting militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front holed up in mountainous areas on the northeastern border with Syria over the past months. Both groups briefly overran Arsal in August. Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said in remarks published Thursday that the military was in an open-ended war with Islamist militants on the Syrian border. “Our battle with terrorism and terrorists is an open-ended war, and we expect it to be a war of attrition, especially after we penetrated deep into the outskirts and remote zones,” Kahwagi told local daily An-Nahar. Kahwagi indicated that ISIS and the Nusra Front had been shaken by the Army’s pre-emptive strikes.
“The terrorists are now responding to the Army’s pre-emptive strikes against them. There have already been many [strikes] and there will be more and consistent pre-emptive strikes,” Kahwagi warned the jihadis.
Key ISIS and Nusra Front figures have been arrested in recent months.
Kahwagi, however, did not give a direct answer when asked whether the militants’ recent deadly attacks against the Lebanese Army might be linked to the arrest of Saja Dulaimi, the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi. News of Dulaimi’s arrest was released this week. Kahwagi said the Army strikes against extremist militants would continue “until they are defeated, no matter how long [it takes].”
“We are not weak at all,” he said. “We are strong. We are troopers. For each blow we receive we respond with 100 blows. We will defeat them no matter the sacrifices.”
Also Thursday, Adjutant Noureddine was laid to rest in his Nabatieh village of Kfar Roummane.
“I will not see you after today Mahmoud,” lamented Oula Abu Zeid, Noureddine’s wife, as she bid her husband farewell. “I was waiting for you here, at the entrance to our house, [to see you] come back from your absence, which will last long this time.”
The two had only been married for four months when Noureddine was killed. “Who do I wait for after today,” his wife said, before scattering a bundle of flowers on his casket.
The soldier’s mother fainted as the corpse was carried into the house before the burial. Noureddine’s father, Ali, waxed nostalgic as he remembered tales his son had told him about “his heroism in Baalbek and the Bekaa Valley.”
The soldier’s uncle, Abdel-Halim, recalled the last conversation he had with his nephew before his death. “He told me before his martyrdom that the battle in [the Bekaa] was harsh and that we had to be strong because we were battling both takfiri terrorism and Israel.”
Separately, eight masked gunmen in two pickups broke into a stone quarry in Arsal’s Wadi Zaarour owned by local resident Bilal Hujeiri and escaped with equipment. Before fleeing, the gunmen told workers at the quarry that Hujeiri, who was not there during the attack, was on ISIS’ hit list for “collaborating with the Army.” Prime Minister Tammam Salam will chair a security meeting Friday at the Grand Serail to discuss recent incidents.

Future-Hezbollah talks could begin next week: Berri
Dec. 05, 2014
Wassim Mroueh| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A meeting held Thursday between Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and Nader Hariri to prepare for dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah could be the final one, Speaker Nabih Berri said, adding that talks could kick off next week.
“The meeting, aimed at finalizing the agenda of the upcoming dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, could be the last one,” Berri was quoted as saying by his visitors Thursday. “If the agenda becomes ready [after this meeting], the first dialogue session will be held next week. In any case, talks should start before the end of this month,” Berri said. The meeting was the second this week between Nader Hariri and Khalil, who are political aides to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Berri respectively.
The speaker explained that the agenda would contain items that the two rival parties could agree on and disregard disputed issues such as Hezbollah’s arsenal and its military involvement in Syria.
Asked whether the presidential election would be on the agenda, Berri said: “Yes, just like other major topics including the election law.” Future Movement lawmaker Ammar Houri told The Daily Star that things were heading in the right direction regarding preparations for dialogue. He added that the agenda of the talks has yet to be finalized before setting a date for the first session.
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly welcomed during a meeting with Berri the latter’s efforts in launching the dialogue. “Our discussions focused on the situation in Lebanon and regional developments. I welcomed the recent efforts, including those of Speaker Berri, to push for dialogue between political parties in Lebanon,” Plumbly said after the meeting. “The speaker and I agreed that dialogue is necessary for strengthening Lebanon’s security, stability and coexistence and for moving forward on outstanding constitutional steps,” Plumbly added. Later in the day, Berri also received MP Alain Aoun, who was dispatched by Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun, and discussed with him the latest news regarding efforts by a parliamentary subcommittee to draft a new election law. “I think [the FPM] and Speaker Berri agree that it is impossible to conduct new elections based on the current law,” Aoun told reporters after the meeting, in reference to what is known as the district-based, winner-takes-all 1960 law, which was used in the last parliamentary elections in 2009. “If the Lebanese really want elections, we should reach a new electoral law.”
Speaking later to The Daily Star, Aoun said that in addition to the election law, he discussed with the speaker the preparations for dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.
“We have no problem with [the planned dialogue], on the contrary we encourage dialogue. What is important is that it produces an outcome,” Aoun said.
Asked whether he feared that the talks could lead to an agreement between the two parties on a new presidential candidate without taking into consideration the opinion of Christian parties, Aoun said: “This is not a concern for us.”
“Hezbollah was clear that Gen. [Michel] Aoun has a major say in presidential elections and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in his most recent interview that he would refer to his [Christian] allies before making a decision on this matter,” Aoun said. “Christians cannot be sidelined when it comes to this issue.”
Separately, Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, arrived in Lebanon late Thursday and will hold talks with rival Lebanese politicians Friday.
Also, diplomatic sources said Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was expected to visit Lebanon Tuesday.
Speaking to The Daily Star, the sources said that Mogherini would discuss hot political topics with Lebanese officials, adding that she would tackle issues discussed between Prime Minister Tammam Salam and EU officials during his trip to Belgium earlier this week.
Salam stressed during his visit that Lebanon was in need of international support to face the huge influx of Syrian refugees and security threats resulting from the civil war next door.

Bogdanov Holds Talks with Lebanese Officials in Beirut
Naharnet/Russian deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held on Friday talks with Lebanese politicians, including Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and former President Michel Suleiman. Bogdanov arrived in Beirut on Thursday night. He is scheduled to meet with several officials and discuss with them the local developments in addition to relations between Lebanon and Russia. On Saturday, he will take part in a celebration at the UNESCO palace, sponsored by Bassil, marking 70 years of the establishment of Lebanese-Russian ties. Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat quoted Russian sources in Beirut as saying that Bogdanov will meet with 21 Lebanese personalities from across the political spectrum. The agenda of his talks is topped by the battle against terrorism and the repercussions of the Syrian war on Lebanon, the sources said. Following his two-day visit to Beirut, he is expected to travel to Turkey for talks with several Syrian opposition figures and with Turkish officials on the war in Syria, said Asharq al-Awsat. But the sources stressed Bogdanov will travel to Moscow after wrapping up his trip to Lebanon. The diplomat last visited Lebanon in April 2013.

Next Israeli PM's job: Curbing Islamic tsunami

Eitan Haber/Ynetnews
Published: 12.04.14/ Israel Opinion
Op-ed: A sensible prime minister must not concern himself with issues like a zero-VAT law, but look to the future and find the solution that will allow Israel's citizen to continue their lives peacefully.
There are two doors at the entrance to the prime minister's study at his Jerusalem bureau, an internal one and an external one, separated by a small lobby. At the end of that lobby lies the sanctuary of the State of Israel. The place where the most important decisions are made, often decisions of life and death.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently spending his third term in that room, may discover that this decision to call new elections could end this chapter in his career.
From many aspects, the prime minister's next term, any prime minister, may be the most decisive and critical in the history of the State of Israel. The question is not protecting the lives of the citizens of the State of Israel against the rising wave of terror which may, by the way, reach its peak in three years' time, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation – or occupation – of Judea, Samaria and what used to be the Gaza region.
The problem is not even Hezbollah or Hamas. The problem is the rise of the Islamic wave almost all over the world, and definitely in Europe and in the Middle East. The United States and European countries are demonstrating weakness in the face of the rising wave of Islam flooding every good spot and slowly taking over countries, and in the future over continents as well.
This wave includes hundreds of millions of Muslims. Only a small part of them are actually involved in the takeover, but these are alarming numbers.
The residents of the State of Israel are familiar with this picture. They understand what it's about. So the question which will have to be decided in the coming years is how to live and how to be a desert island within a Muslim ocean.
Muslims in Germany. 'This isn't an imminent danger. It will be our grandchildren and great grandchildren's problem, not ours. But a prime minister who knows what's what must start preparing the state for this big challenge now'
Muslims in Germany. 'This isn't an imminent danger. It will be our grandchildren and great grandchildren's problem, not ours. But a prime minister who knows what's what must start preparing the state for this big challenge now'
It must be clear to all decision makers in the State of Israel, and definitely to the state's eight million residents, that we are talking about survival conditions. It will be hard to stop the Muslim wave, most of whose participants are passive, but in this case the quantity turns into quality.This isn't an imminent danger. It will be our grandchildren and great grandchildren's problem, not ours. But a prime minister who knows what's what must start preparing the state for this big challenge now. A sensible prime minister, an honorable statesman, does concern himself with issues like Yair Lapid and a zero-VAT law, but looks to the future in the next 10-20 years. A weapon, for example, which is decided on today, will only be operational in six, 10 of 15 years from now.
In the State of Israel there are quite a few people today who question the ability to resist and survive a wave of hundreds of millions flooding wide parts of the world, and State of Israel, with its territory, does not pose a major challenge for them.
It's almost clear to everyone that in the current situation and ahead of the future we will have to find a "work roster" which will allow us to live in peace alongside neighbors which are extremely hostile today, but may become good and generous neighbors. The solution, therefore, must be a diplomatic one. The problem facing any Israeli prime minister elected in the upcoming elections is that the number of citizens who believe in the power of God and in miracles is increasing. They too think that logic is in favor of the Muslim wave, but they increasingly believe that "the Lord's strong hand is victorious," "the avenging God will show himself," etc.
They have forgotten long ago that the rabbis and greatest sages of Israel said that the different evacuation and disengagement plans "will never happen," and were amazed to discover that their faith is one thing and the evacuation is a different thing.
God did not hear the warnings of the rabbis and great righteous. They were evacuated, and the evacuation and disengagement created an educational, spiritual and religious rift among many of the believers, but time took its course and almost healed the wounds.
And here's a short reminder: The IDF evacuated the southern Lebanon arena at the time after hundreds of women and children were sent by Hezbollah to march opposite the South Lebanon Army's posts. Ehud Barak as defense minister and Gabi Ashkenazi as Northern Command chief watched this happening from the command chief's room and didn't know exactly how to stop this human wave.
Countries larger than Israel – France, Belgium and Italy – have yet to find the solution for the problem of the big Islamic wave. The Israeli prime minister elected in the next elections will have to find the right solution which will allow the eight million residents of the State of Israel to continue their lives calmly and peacefully.

Israeli NGO, Shurat Hadin charges US Presbyterian Church with having ties to Hezbollah
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL/12/04/2014/J.Post
Shurat Hadin (the Israel Law Center) has filed a legal complaint against the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), alleging violations of the US tax code for unlawful political lobbying and contact with Hezbollah, a US-designated terrorist organization.
The Tel Aviv-based organization publicized the submission of its 38-page complaint with the US Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday. “It is high time the IRS took a long look at the Presbyterian Church and investigated its meeting with the designated- terrorist organization Hezbollah, its lobbying activities, and its anti-Israel divestment policies,” said Shurat Hadin spokesman attorney Robert Tolchin. “The PCUSA is obsessed with attacking the Jewish state and has moved far from the activities which it presented to the IRS to secure its tax-free status in the United States.”Shurat Hadin said it provided the IRS with “documentary and video evidence showing PCUSA delegates meeting with the US-designated terrorist group Hezbollah, publishing anti-Semitic materials, enacting a racist policy to divest from American companies doing business with Israel, lobbying the US Congress, and distributing political advocacy materials in violation of its tax-exempt status as a religious organization.”
The PCUSA declined to provide an immediate comment on the accusations.
Yitzhak Santis, chief programs officer of the Jerusalem- based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post that, ”Culminating a decade of activism supporting BDS in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the denomination last summer passed a one-sided anti-Israel resolution calling for divestment from companies doing business in Israel. This action frayed relations between the Jewish community and the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
In June, the PCUSA voted to divest from companies that conduct business in the West Bank.
The narrow 310 to 303 vote in favor of divestment affected such businesses as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
The boycott move sparked sharp criticisms from US Jewish organizations.
“In the mid-2000s,” Santis said, “faculty of Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries held a series of meetings in Lebanon with Hezbollah officials that included seminary students. In both instances, Presbyterian faculty praised the Hezbollah terrorist group. These unethical and shameful meetings demonstrate the depth of hostility toward Israel underlying the anti-Israel agitation in the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
He added, “The spirit of these meetings with Hezbollah is carried today by the Presbyterian Church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network, which spearheads the pro- BDS effort in that church.
NGO Monitor has documented clear evidence of anti-Semitism within the IPMN, which the PCUSA has thus far failed to address.”
Shurat Hadin said PCUSA’s status with the IRS was based upon its 1964 representation to the government that it functions as a religious body, engaging in peaceful relationships with individuals of all faiths and wholly unengaged in political activities.”

According to Shurat Hadin, PCUSA violated its own mission statement by engaging in political advocacy and “taking positions on the geo-political dispute between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis.”
It noted that, “There is no mention in PCUSA organizing documents that it perceives fulfilling Christ’s work by meeting with and endorsing statements of a US-designated terrorist organization found to be responsible for the death of United States civilians and marines.”

Cheaper oil and shifting sands
The price of regular gas in the Washington suburbs was $2.74 a gallon when I filled my car this week and it could fall farther as the price of crude oil hit $69, two-thirds of what it was in June. OPEC is weakening and the United States is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia by next summer as the world’s number one oil producer. That’s good news for consumers and for those who feel OPEC has exerted undue influence on American foreign policy for too long.
The oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, imposed an oil embargo a few days after Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973. Their purpose was to punish the United States and other countries for supporting Israel and to try to force them to change their Mideast policies. Since then the mantra of every American president has been energy independence, particularly ending our reliance on Middle Eastern oil.
“That elusive goal may finally have arrived, at least for the foreseeable future,” The New York Times reported. Saudi Arabia and its 11 oil-producing OPEC partners have been unable to agree to a production cut that would halt the drop in crude oil prices. The cartel is “no longer the dominating producer whose decisions determine global supplies and prices,” wrote Clifford Krauss.
For the Saudis and their partners oil was a potent political instrument. During the Yom Kippur War and in the following years they wielded their oil weapon to try to force the Americans, Europeans and others to adopt more pro-Arab policies.
They were not without some success. In Canada, the Netherlands, Britain, France and particularly Japan, governments began to distance themselves from Israel. Even the Nixon administration agreed to pressure Israel to withdraw from parts of the Sinai, the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights.
But public opinion in the United States remained steadfastly pro-Israel. During the oil embargo polls showed sympathies were with Israel by a 6:1 ratio. A contributing factor was a conviction that the Arabs, not the Israelis, were responsible for making American motorists wait in long lines on alternating days to fuel up their gas guzzlers at ever-rising prices.
In the eyes of the American public the culprits who have kept oil prices up for so long have been the greedy, high-spending Arabs and their co-conspirators in the oil industry, which many suspected of manipulating the markets and gouging consumers in the interest of obscene profits.
Besides the oil companies’ shareholders, those who benefited most from high oil prices have been the Pentagon and its partners in the defense industry.
American consumers have been fueling an arms race in the Gulf, with their government’s strong encouragement. Since the Kissinger era it has been an American policy to recycle petrodollars by persuading the oil sheikhs to buy top-of-the-line US weapons and defense systems. Those rich customers became the Pentagon’s favorite cash cow, buying last year’s model of some weapons at this year’s prices so the uniformed services could upgrade their inventories at reduced cost. It also produced economies of scale; the more F-15s and AWACSs early warning aircraft could be sold to the Saudis, the lower the unit price for the US Air Force’ own purchases. Those Arab arsenals also created a dependence on American training, maintenance and spare parts that has been financially lucrative and politically priceless.
When Israel’s friends questioned some of these sales to countries at war with the Jewish state, the State Department was ready with boilerplate letters assuring the Congress that nothing the Pentagon was peddling would change the balance of power in the Middle East.
American public opinion has consistently and convincingly favored Israel as a reliable ally with shared values and common enemies. That was driven home on September 11, 2011, when 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked that day were Saudis.
They won’t say it publicly but the Saudis and some of their neighbors see Israel as more of an ally than an enemy in many respects. They share a concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Russian influence in the region, notably in its support for the Assad regime in Syria and its protection of Iran at the United Nations. OPEC’s lower prices also help the United States and Israel by intensifying pressure on Iran and Russia, whose economies are faltering in the face of American-led international sanctions. The Saudis don’t want to see Iran gain full production and market access.
Israel and several Gulf states have been doing business very quietly for years but more recently there are reports that some of them, including the Saudis, and Israelis have been sharing intelligence and common concerns about Iran and the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State and Islamist extremists. Along with that is a shared concern about what they consider the Obama administration’s inept foreign policy team.
But don’t look for anything to happen on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision of an Israeli alliance with the secular, moderate Arab states regardless of their common interests. Nothing can or will happen so long as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute remains unresolved and as long as Netanyahu pokes a finger in the eye of world opinion by expanding settlements, notwithstanding the Israeli prime minister’s suggestion in his UN speech this fall that such an alliance would facilitate peace with the Palestinians.
That is the reverse of the Arab view: peace is a prerequisite to rapprochement. They see Netanyahu’s proposal as a diversion. The idea has considerable merit but the messenger is flawed. Like his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, he has failed to make a convincing case that he is serious about achieving peace and prepared to make the historic decisions that would require. The Israeli-Arab alliance will have to wait until there are new leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The new reality in the Middle East – the threat of radical Islam, nuclear Iran, a weakened of OPEC and American energy independence – creates new opportunities for American and Israeli diplomacy. Unfortunately, the current leadership in Jerusalem seems more intent on playing local politics at the expense of Israel’s long-term international interests.

Post' poll: 60% of Israelis don't want Netanyahu anymore
By GIL HOFFMAN \ 12/05/2014 /J.Post
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of coasting to an easy victory in the March 17 election took a surprising hit on Thursday when a Panels Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister newspaper, Ma’ariv Sof Hashavua, found that a hefty majority of Israelis want him to lose. The poll, taken on Wednesday among 500 respondents representing a statistical sample of the adult population, indicated that the election could end up being close and assumptions that Netanyahu cannot be defeated may be incorrect.
It asked respondents whether they want Netanyahu to remain prime minister after the vote. Sixty percent said no, 34% said yes, and 6% did not know.
The poll asked about several party leaders and asked respondents whom they would prefer one-on-one if there were direct elections for prime minister.
In a head-to-head race between Netanyahu and former welfare and social services minister Moshe Kahlon, 46% preferred Kahlon, 36% Netanyahu and 18% did not know. Between Netanyahu and former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, 43% said Sa’ar, 38% Netanyahu and 19% did not know.
Likud activists revealed on Thursday that Sa’ar is considering making a political comeback just three months after announcing at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast that he was taking a break from politics.
He is mulling running against Netanyahu in the January 6 Likud leadership race, they said. Sa’ar declined to comment.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of Labor was almost tied with Netanyahu in the poll, with 44% saying they would prefer him, compared to 45% for Netanyahu and 11% who did not know.
Netanyahu defeated the other party leaders, beating Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett by 12 percentage points, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid by 17 points, and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman by 28 points.
While a Geocartography Institute poll broadcast on Army Radio this week predicted the Likud would win 30 Knesset seats and polls on Channel 2 and 10 reported 22, the Panels poll found Netanyahu’s party would win only 21, just three more than Bayit Yehudi’s 18.
If the election were held now, Labor would win 14 seats, Kahlon’s party and Yesh Atid 11 each, Yisrael Beytenu nine, United Torah Judaism and Meretz both eight, Shas seven, Hadash five, and Hatnua and the United Arab List four each. Balad and Kadima would not pass the electoral threshold, which has risen from 2% to 3.25%.
The poll found that 64% of respondents believe the country’s socioeconomic situation has gotten worse under the outgoing government and 58% think the security situation has worsened.
When asked what issue will decide which party they will choose on Election Day, 34% said the economy, 30% security, 14% social justice, 10% matters of religion and state, 5% Arab-Jewish relations and 2% education and culture. Just 1% said Israel’s foreign relations. The poll had a margine of error of ± 4.3%.
Herzog said on Thursday that Netanyahu can be beaten and that parties from across the political spectrum could end up recommending to President Reuven Rivlin that he form the government rather than Netanyahu. Channel 10 reported that Liberman and Kahlon could join the Left in trying to prevent Rivlin from assigning Netanyahu the task of forming a governing coalition.
Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni will decide in upcoming days whether to run together with Labor. The poll found that if Livni joined Labor, the party would rise from 14 seats to 20. Livni and Herzog will travel to Washington together this weekend for the Saban Forum.
Someone who described himself as a Netanyahu confidant texted Lapid’s No. 2 in Yesh Atid, MK Shai Piron, on Thursday about the possibility of him leading a break-off party from Yesh Atid and joining a new government with the Likud, Shas and UTJ under the current Knesset. Such a move would end the process of initiating an election.
Yesh Atid blasted the reported attempt to split up the party as a “hysterical and pathetic” attempt to avoid elections.
“The prime minister is panicking,” Yesh Atid said in a statement. “He knows he is going to lose his seat in the next elections and is making every effort to prevent them.”
Shortly after the reports emerged, Netanyahu’s office denied the premier’s involvement in any attempt to split apart Yesh Atid.
“This is a pathetic political spin that reflects the panic that grips the failed finance minister Lapid,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Also on Thursday evening, Labor MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, 78, was taken to Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tzrifin. A hospital spokesman said he was suffering from a fever and was being treated.
Julie Steigerwald contributed to this report.

Jordan's King Abdullah Comes to Washington
David Schenker/Washington Institute
December 4, 2014
Friday's meeting offers an opportunity to discuss the kingdom's domestic challenges, the proposed no-fly zone in northern Syria, and the potential ramifications of ramped-up training of Syrian opposition forces on Jordanian territory.
From Jerusalem to Iraq to Syria, Jordan's King Abdullah and President Obama will have much to discuss when they meet in the Oval Office tomorrow. No doubt, the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) will top the leaders' agenda: the moderate kingdom has emerged as Washington's key Arab ally in the fight against ISIS, which is also known as the Islamic State (IS). But the kingdom's domestic challenges should also be a topic of discussion, as Jordan is increasingly feeling pressures at home as a result of spillover from the war in Syria. In particular, in recent months, Jordan has arrested dozens of Islamic militants, and in November, overwhelmed by Syrian refugees, the kingdom finally closed its borders.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to date approximately 620,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan. Meanwhile, Jordanian officials, including King Abdullah, say the kingdom is currently hosting 1.4 million Syrians. To be sure, these figures differ dramatically -- perhaps in part due to the economic benefits associated with higher estimates -- but regardless of which is more accurate, the Syrian refugee presence is palpable and having a real social and economic impact on the kingdom.
Worse, the refugees appear to be generating some resentment among their legendarily gracious Jordanian hosts. During a recent visit to Jordan, a story circulated of two Jordanians driving in Irbid who were oddly rebuffed after asking for directions. The explanation from the Irbid local, who eventually provided the directions, was that he detected Syrian accents. This is just one example of a phenomenon likely to grow as the war drags on.
Surprisingly, very few incidents of violence between Syrians and Jordanians have been reported thus far. The best known of these occurred in September in the tribal governorate of Tafilah, when a Syrian criminal attacked and killed a male member of the Sawalqah tribe. In the assault's aftermath, Tafilah residents rioted and subsequently expelled seven hundred Syrian refugees from the town. With no prospect that the masses of Syrian refugees will return home any time soon, these kinds of confrontations are likely to increase.
Jordanians are not particularly enamored of ISIS and the Syria-based al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), but because these groups are seen to be defending Sunnis against the nominally Shiite Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, Jordanians view them with some ambivalence. Indeed, according to a September poll published by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, only 62 percent of Jordanians consider ISIS -- and just 31 percent consider JN -- a terrorist organization. In line with these sentiments, many Jordanians oppose their military's participation in the campaign targeting ISIS and JN.
As one would expect, opposition to Jordan's participation is strongest among the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood says that participation in the coalition violates Jordan's constitution; other local Islamist, and Salafi-jihadist, scholars describe the airstrikes as a "campaign against Islam." Figures outside the Islamist camp have been critical as well. In September, twenty-one members of parliament signed a letter to the speaker rejecting Jordan's military involvement in the fight against ISIS, saying, "This war is not our war." More recently, the mayor of the restive town of Maan, Majid al-Sharrari -- perhaps best known for the Israeli-flag doormat at his home -- complained that Jordan didn't "have an interest in the war against Daash [the Arabic acronym for ISIS]." The war, he said, "was in the service of Israel."
Liberal Jordanians -- like Basel al-Okour, editor of the online daily make a more rational, if not compelling, argument against coalition membership. "We aren't interfering in [the] Gaza and al-Aqsa [crises], and these are more important to us," he said in November. More worrisome to Okour is the prospect that the kingdom will eventually contribute ground forces to the endeavor. "What would happen if we deployed and ten tribesmen were killed?" he asked. "There would be huge protests," threatening stability in the kingdom.
Regardless of Jordanians' political orientation, the generally held view in the kingdom is that ISIS would not target Jordan if the regime weren't participating in the campaign. Putting aside the bizarre notion that Jordan will somehow be ignored in ISIS's quest to establish a caliphate stretching from Iraq to Morocco, should the kingdom eventually be hit by ISIS terrorism, many Jordanians will undoubtedly blame the palace for provoking the attacks.
With an estimated 2,500 Jordanian foreign fighters in Syria and indications of growing support for the Salafi-jihadist trend at home, the Jordanian parliament passed a new counterterrorism law in June affording the government wide legal latitude to imprison citizens who lend ideological and recruitment support to terrorist organizations. According to Jordanian press reports, in recent months Amman has employed this law to arrest between 200 and 300 alleged Islamist militants, many of whom have been referred to the State Security Court for trial for their online activities. Moreover, Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs reported last month it had prevented twenty-five preachers who broke the law by promoting radical ideas from the minbar from giving sermons.
With a few exceptions, Jordanians appear to support the rather draconian new counterterrorism legal procedures. The Islamists, not surprisingly, are not pleased. A longtime lawyer to the Salafists, Mousa Abdulilat, calls the arrests "political" and claims Jordan was compelled to take these measures by virtue of its membership in the anti-ISIS coalition. And earlier this week -- responding to the incarceration of nearly two dozen Jordanians -- twenty-five members of parliament signed a petition demanding "the end of a series of political arrests in Jordan." Atop the petition's list was Muslim Brotherhood deputy secretary-general Zaki Bani Irsheid, who was recently detained for criticizing the United Arab Emirates for designating the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
The relentless stream of domestic pressures in Jordan was joined in October and November by the Israeli-Palestinian al-Aqsa/Temple Mount crisis, which spurred dozens of anti-Israel demonstrations in the kingdom. Already since September, Jordan had seen low-intensity demonstrations protesting the $15 billion deal to purchase natural gas from Israel. And just last week, in a move intended to embarrass the palace, parliament member Hind al-Fayez hoisted a sign on the floor of the legislature bemoaning the deal's financing of "occupation." The most recent al-Aqsa protests -- coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty -- proved an unwelcome if useful distraction for Amman, allowing the monarchy to reassert its patrimony in Jerusalem and its pro-Palestinian bona fides.
Several senior Jordanian officials made tough statements during the al-Aqsa crisis, most prominently Walid Obeidat, Amman's ambassador to Israel, who marked the October 26 commemoration of the Wadi Araba peace treaty by warning that Israeli actions in Jerusalem, "if allowed to continue, will ultimately imperil the treaty." Obeidat was recalled to Amman after the speech and has yet to return to his post. Just days earlier, King Abdullah himself weighed in on developments in Jerusalem during a meeting with Jordanian legislators, condemning both jihadist extremism and "Zionist extremism." Notwithstanding these remarks, in mid-November the king met with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Amman, playing a critical role in resolving the crisis, along the way improving the regime's standing at home and further demonstrating its import to Washington.
Four years into the war in Syria, Jordan continues to prove resilient in the face of significant pressures. Recognizing the growing threat of ISIS and the importance of continued stability in the kingdom, in 2014 Washington provided more than $1 billion in financial and military assistance to Jordan. And this considerable sum is likely to increase in 2015. It's unclear what, if anything, King Abdullah intends to request from the administration during his upcoming visit. Given the bipartisan support for the kingdom, though, there is little in terms of financial or materiel support -- save Jordan's controversial initiative to build two nuclear power plants -- that the administration or Congress would deny.
Beyond these important but transactional details, Friday's meeting is an opportunity to discuss the impact on the kingdom of the proposed no-fly zone in northern Syria, and the potential ramifications of ramped-up training of Syrian opposition forces on Jordanian territory. Both of these initiatives could provoke retribution by Syria's Assad regime, including -- in the worst-case scenario -- an offensive in the south intended to drive hundreds of thousands of additional refugees into the beleaguered kingdom. At a minimum, a no-fly zone in the north will raise expectations of regime opponents, and perhaps change the dynamic in the south, along the Jordanian border.
Given the developments in Jerusalem, Iraq, and Syria, Jordan today remains surprisingly stable. But the kingdom is not impervious to threats. As the war in Syria wears on, Jordan's domestic challenges will only intensify.
**David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.

The Egyptian revolution isn’t dead because it never happened in the first place
By Eric Trager December 4 /14/The Washington Post
When an Egyptian court dismissed all criminal charges against former dictator Hosni Mubarak last weekend, many called it the final nail in coffin of the “revolution” that ousted Mubarak from power in February 2011. “Egypt’s revolution is dead,” CNN reported. “The January revolution is over; they ended it,” the father of an activist who was killed during the uprising told the New York Times. After the July 2013 ouster of Egypt’s first freely elected president and the subsequent rise of another former military general to the presidency, the end of Mubarak’s criminal case looks like the icing on Egypt’s counterrevolutionary cake.
Yet this narrative misunderstands what Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolt meant to many Egyptians, particularly those from the country’s political center, which is overwhelmingly rural and traditional, although not necessarily Islamist. Far from desiring the far-reaching – revolutionary – political reform that the “Arab Spring” narrative embodied, many of these Egyptians endorsed only the uprising’s two most basic goals: ending Mubarak’s 30-year rule and preventing the succession of his son Gamal. From their perspective, Mubarak had simply ruled for too long, and his apparent attempt to install Gamal as his successor reeked of pharaonism. For these Egyptians, the “revolution,” as they refer to the uprising, didn’t die with Saturday’s trial verdict, because Mubarak still isn’t president. And ever since Mubarak was overthrown, their goal has been to return to normalcy, even if that falls short of democracy.
It is difficult to establish just how widely this view is held: Polling in Egypt is notoriously weak; the Egyptian military used its control of the state media to discourage further revolutionary activity after Mubarak fell; and the current regime has quashed dissent substantially. But it is a sentiment that I have encountered repeatedly during the dozen or so research trips that I have taken to Egypt over the past four years, and it is useful for understanding the main reason the “revolution” didn’t die on Saturday: A true revolution never happened in the first place. This is what a crucial bloc of Egyptians wanted: stability, as they defined it, rather than the deep institutional reforms that a true revolution required.
In fact, during all of the major political developments of the past four years, many Egyptians have explained their actions and preferences to me in terms of “stability.” In this vein, they welcomed the military’s assumption of power after Mubarak fell, trusting the military as a stabilizing force. Many of them similarly supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s overwhelming victory in the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections and Mohamed Morsi’s narrow victory in the June 2012 presidential elections, viewing the Brotherhood as a well-organized political movement that could provide stability – a word the Brotherhood used frequently during its various campaigns. And when Morsi’s November 2012 power grab catalyzed massive discontent and months of political upheaval, a critical mass of Egyptians similarly welcomed the military takeover that ousted him in mid-2013 as a stabilizing force once again. These Egyptians now bristle when others (accurately) call Morsi’s ouster a “coup,” because for them, the primary goal was never procedural democracy.
Of course, the youth activists who catalyzed the Tahrir Square uprising had a very different view: They wanted a real revolution that completely overhauled the previous regime, and they hesitated to leave Tahrir Square even after Mubarak fell. The Mubarak regime, they argued, wasn’t just composed of one man and his family, but encompassed a whole set of repressive state institutions that remained firmly in place. So in the months that followed Mubarak’s ouster, the activists demonstrated repeatedly against the military junta that succeeded him, and staged multiple attacks on the Interior Ministry. But with each new round of mobilization, the activists found their numbers shrinking, as the Islamists focused on electoral campaigning while the centrists wanted all protest activity to cease immediately.
Yet in those early months after Mubarak’s ouster, the activists still had one rallying cry that could draw large numbers to Tahrir Square: “Put Mubarak and his cronies on trial!” Although many Egyptians saw little use in trying Mubarak, an 82-year-old ex-dictator with no prospect of returning to power, they didn’t object to it either. So starting in late March 2011, the activists organized demonstrations demanding Mubarak’s arrest. Fearing that it could become the target of the next uprising, the military complied and detained Mubarak on April 13. The fact that Mubarak’s indictment was political – and it undoubtedly was – contributed to the dropping of charges against him on Saturday.
Once Mubarak was on trial, however, the activists were rarely able to mobilize the masses on their own. Meanwhile, sensing the activists’ alienation from the broader Egyptian public, the military junta increasingly repressed the ongoing demonstrations with brutal force. Dozens were killed in the year after Mubarak’s ouster, and thousands more wounded – with minimal popular outcry beyond the activists’ ranks. When the current regime effectively banned massive demonstrations last year, its large “stability”-oriented base naturally hailed the move.
The current regime’s support within this segment of the population is likely to evaporate if President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi does not provide political and economic stability. But even then, support for far-reaching institutional change – a real revolution – probably would remain slim within Egypt. The violent chaos that has overtaken other “Arab Spring” revolutions, such as in Syria and Libya, is precisely the sort of future that many Egyptians prefer to avoid. But even before these civil wars exploded, many Egyptians already were wary of revolution, and content to settle for Mubarak’s ouster.

The Koran and Eternal War
Raymond Ibrahim/Veritas International Enterprise
News recently emerged that Russia was banning key Islamic scriptures—including Sahih Bukhari—on the charge that they promote "exclusivity [supremacism] of one of the world's religions," namely Islam; or, in the words of a senior assistant to the prosecutor of Tatarstan Ruslan Galliev, "a militant Islam" which "arouses ethnic, religious enmity."
If Sahih Bukhari, a nine-volume hadith collection compiled in the 9th century and seen by Sunni Muslims as second in importance only to the Koran itself is being banned for inciting hostility, where does that leave the Koran?
After all, if Sahih Bukhari contains pro-terrorism statements attributed to the prophet of Islam and calls to kill Muslims who leave Islam, the Koran, Islam's number one holy book itself is full of intolerance and calls for violence against non-believers. A tiny sampling of proclamations from Allah follows:
•"I will cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, so strike [them] upon the necks [behead them] and strike from them every fingertip'" (8:12).
•"Fight those among the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not embrace the religion of truth [Islam], until they pay the jizya with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued" (9:29).
•"Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them—seize them, besiege them, and make ready to ambush them!" (9:5).
•"Fighting has been enjoined upon you [Muslims] while it is hateful to you" (2:216).
That Islam's core texts incite violence and intolerance has many ramifications, for those willing to go down this path of logic.
For example, as I argued more fully here, although Muslims around the world, especially in the guise of the 57-member state Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), continue to push for the enforcement of "religious defamation" laws in the international arena, one great irony is lost, especially on Muslims: if such laws would ban movies and cartoons that defame Islam, they would also, by logical extension, need to ban the religion of Islam itself—the only religion whose core texts actively defame other religions.
Consider what the word "defamation" means: "to blacken another's reputation" and "false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel," are typical dictionary definitions.
What, then, do we do with Islam's core religious texts—not just Sahih Bukhari but the Koran itself, which slanders, denigrates and blackens the reputation of other religions?
Consider Christianity alone: Koran 5:73 declares that "Infidels are they who say God [or "Allah"] is one of three," a reference to the Christian Trinity; Koran 5:72 says "Infidels are they who say God is the Christ, [Jesus] son of Mary"; and Koran 9:30 complains that "the Christians say the Christ is the son of God … may Allah's curse be upon them!"
The argument that some Islamic books should be banned on grounds that they incite segregation and violence is applicable to the Koran itself, which unequivocally defames and creates hostility for unbelievers.
Surely such verses defame the Christian religion and its central tenets—not to mention create hostility towards its practitioners. In short, the argument that some Islamic books should be banned on grounds that they incite segregation and violence is applicable to the Koran itself, which unequivocally defames and creates hostility for unbelievers, that is, non-Muslims.
Is the Koran Different?
That said, in the "real world" (as it currently stands), the very idea of banning the Koran—believed by over a billion people to be the unalterable word of God—must seem inconceivable.
For starters, whenever Muslims are pressed about the violent verses in the Koran, they often take refuge in the argument that other scriptures of other religions are also replete with calls to violence and intolerance—so why single out the Koran?
To prove this, Muslim apologists almost always point to the Hebrew Scriptures, more widely known as the "Old Testament." And in fact, the Old Testament is replete with violence and intolerance—all prompted by the Judeo-Christian God.
The difference between the violent passages in the Koran and those in the Old Testament (as more comprehensively explained here) is this: the Old Testament is clearly describing historic episodes whereas the Koran, while also developed within a historical context, uses generic, open-ended language that transcends time and space, inciting believers to attack and slay nonbelievers today no less than yesterday.
Thus in the Old Testament God commands the Hebrews to fight and kill "Hittites," "Amorites," "Canaanites," "Perizzites," "Hivites," and "Jebusites"—all specific peoples rooted to a specific time and place; all specific peoples that have not existed for millennia. At no time did God give an open-ended command for the Hebrews, and by extension their Jewish descendants, to fight and kill all "unbelievers."
To be sure, Muslims argue that the verses of the Koran also deal with temporal, historical opponents, including the polytheists of Mecca, and to a lesser extent, the Byzantine and Sassanian empires.
The problem, however, is that rarely if ever does the Koran specify who its antagonists are the way the Old Testament does. Instead, Muslims were (and are) commanded to fight the "People of the Book," which Islamic exegesis interprets as people with scriptures, namely, Christians and Jews—"until they pay the jizya with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued" (9:29) and to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them" (9:5).
The salient feature of almost all of the violent commandments in Islamic scriptures is their open-ended and generic nature.
The two Arabic conjunctions "until" (hata) and "wherever" (haythu) demonstrate the perpetual and ubiquitous nature of these commandments: There are still "People of the Book" who have yet to "feel themselves utterly subdued" (especially all throughout the Americas, Europe, and Israel) and "idolaters" to be slain "wherever" one looks (especially Asia and sub-Saharan Africa).
In fact, the salient feature of almost all of the violent commandments in Islamic scriptures is their open-ended and generic nature: "Fight them until there is no more chaos and [all] religion belongs to Allah" (Koran 8:39).
This fact will ensure that as long as the Koran proliferates and is read as God's literal word, its readers will continue to exist in a dichotomized world, themselves versus the rest.
**Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).

Paris Says 'Major' Anti-IS Raid Taking Place in Iraq
Naharnet/France said Friday its fighter jets were conducting a "major" raid in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition offensive against the Islamic State group, days after members said the strikes were having effect. "At the moment, a major raid is taking place," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFMTV, refusing to detail the targets or the number of jets involved. He said French planes based in the United Arab Emirates and more recently in Jordan had carried out "120 to 130 missions" since the start of the coalition offensive. These include intelligence gathering missions. Compared to the United States, France has carried out only a handful of strikes on the militants. The coalition of around 60 mainly Western and Arab states was formed several months after IS jihadists swept across northern Iraq, seizing swathes of territory and proclaiming a caliphate in parts of the country and neighbouring Syria. Paris has so far refused to join the United States in its air war against IS in Syria, but on Wednesday, President Francois Hollande said France was ready to step up its actions against the militants in Iraq. The same day, a meeting in Brussels of countries in the coalition concluded that the IS group's advance was finally being stopped thanks to the strikes -- a claim reiterated Friday by Le Drian. "But this halt does not mean that the war is over," he warned. In an interview this week with French weekly Paris Match, however, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad differed, saying the strikes were having no impact. Le Drian hit out at Assad's comments. "It's vile for someone who has the deaths of 200,000 of his countrymen and women on his conscience to give lessons," he said. Agence France Presse.

Nouri al-Maliki: Mastering the art of covering up scandals
Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Friday, 5 December 2014
With a scandal involving 50, 000 fake military jobs unfurling in Iraq, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has spoken about the sacred duty to defend Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. Perhaps he thinks that it is the best way to cover up the scandals of the army, of which he was the leader, the shocking defeats at the hands of terrorist organizations, the corruption and the presence of “ghost” employees in security and military institutions. The former governor of the Baghdad’s Green Zone is threatening the countries of the region, calling for religious leadership. He seeks to embarrass the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who appeared in the media a day earlier, called on Iraqis to unite and pledged to correct the mistakes of his predecessor by removing a large number of Maliki’s military leaders.
“What advice can a corrupt person like Nouri al-Maliki offer?”
Instead of being subjected to an investigation over the financial and military scandals that took place under his rule, the former prime minister went on a trip to Lebanon where he wandered about like a tourist and issued threats. At a time when Iraqis are struggling to save the country from ISIS, al-Maliki is calling for the defense of Iran, Assad’s Syria and Hezbollah. The irony is that the man who is now calling for the protection of Iran and Assad’s Syria is the very man who abandoned Iraq and failed to protect Mosul, the second most populated city in Iraq. He abandoned the city, leaving it open to ISIS, because of the failure of his leadership and the rampant corruption during his rule. Therefore, the country remains under the occupation of the terrorist organization.
Scandals and failures
The scandals and failures of Maliki’s government resulted in a coup by his own party, the al-Daawa party, in cooperation with other political forces against him, including Shiite religious leaders. It became clear for everyone to see that he planned to remain in government, shoring up his power using corruption and by blackmailing his opponents with the intelligence he collected on them, faking results, threatening to use force and even by declaring a state of emergency rule. He startled everyone with his yearning for absolute power and essentially became another Saddam Hussein. This was especially apparent when he became greedy for an additional four years in power, on top of his eight years as prime minister. He personally managed seven ministries, along with the presidency of three states. Besides his dictatorship, the scandals his officers were embroiled in continued to come to light, from the scandal of bribes in the Russian arms deals to the old weapons gleaned from Eastern Europe and the appointment of military leaders based on nepotism.
Growing corruption and failure to rule properly resulted in the disaster of June 11 - the seizure of Mosul by less than 2,000 terrorists after Maliki’s men fled the city. Thousands of people have died due to Maliki’s actions and if it were not for the prompt actions of Iraqi political forces by which they eliminated his government, there would not have been a chance for a unified Iraq today. International intervention also made it possible to defend Baghdad, thus preventing the Iraqi capital from falling into the hands of ISIS. Without Abadi’s keenness to heal the negative ramifications of the former prime minister’s policies on the tribes of western Iraq, and without his desire to improve the relationship with the Kurds, the divided country would have disintegrated, heading towards a fierce civil war.
What advice can a corrupt person like Maliki offer during his tourist trip to the southern province of al-Tofah in Lebanon?

Sanctions relief: Benefiting Iran’s elite or people?
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Friday, 5 December 2014
A majority of Iranian people were hoping that economic sanctions relief would alleviate their suffering, improve their standards of living, and push many families above the poverty line. Almost a year has passed since the Iranian government has been receiving sanctions relief.
Nevertheless, some Iranian civilians began to believe that even economic sanctions relief, or the lifting of whole economic sanctions from the Iranian government, are not going to assist the civilians, their financial day-to-day activities, or bring concrete changes on the ground.
Without a doubt, sanctions on regimes do take a toll on human life. As history has shown, when Iraq was under economic sanctions, the suffering of civilians dramatically increased. The level of poverty and lack of access to medical treatments increased.
“If the intention of economic sanctions relief is to assist the Iranian people and alleviate their suffering, there ought to be more efficient approaches”
Majid Rafizadeh
Similarly, in Iran, the economic sanctions accompanied with economic mismanagement of the government, high level corruption, lack of a robust private market, and a state-controlled economy have pushed the middle class towards poverty. The percentage of Iranian families living under the line of poverty has increased to 40 percent.  Several Iranian people, some of whom who have lost hope in changes from the sanctions relief, are speaking up. Nastaran, an English teacher in the suburbs of Tehran said to me: “We have yet to see any benefits from these sanctions reliefs. We hear that the government has been receiving billions of dollars every month and it has increased its export. But where is the money going? Is it most likely ending up in the hands of the top few.”Stock Market
After the interim nuclear deal and extension of the negotiations between the six world powers (known as the P5+1: China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the Islamic Republic, the Iranian government received an estimated $7 billion. Iran continues to receive approximately $700 million every month under the extension deal.
In addition, there has been some sanction suspensions with respects to some of Iran’s major industries, including Iran’s auto sector, gold and precious metals, and petrochemical exports. The Iranian currency, Rial, has appreciated due to the sanction reliefs, Iran’s oil and non-oil exports have increased, its economy has witnessed signs of stabilization, Tehran’s Stock Exchange has soared and Iran’s exports and business dealings with several countries have ratcheted up. The suspension of sanctions has definitely given both psychological and financial support to the Iranian government. But the real question is how this money is being spent and which institution primarily benefits from this sanctions relief? Are ordinary people benefiting from this flow of money?
Iran’s military-industrial complex
Four major institutions are mostly benefiting from the economic sanction reliefs: Iran’s military-industrial complex, the Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a few top business figures who are connected with the government and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Corps (IRGC), through either legal and illegal imports and exports. For example, the IRGC controls and owns a considerable amount of shares in the aforementioned industries which have witness sanction reliefs. In the petrochemical industry, the IRGC military-industrial complex owns Zagros Petrochemicals, 40% of Pars Petrochemical Company, part of Arak Petrochemicals and Khark Petrochemicals 25% of Kermanshah Petrochemicals, as well as 19% of shares of Maroun Petrochemicals.
In addition, the IRGC owns 80.18% of the giant Ghadir Investment Company. In that respect, the major beneficiaries are not ordinary Iranian people but the senior cadre of the IRGC whose shares’ value have soared due to the sanctions relief, extension of the nuclear deal and the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) which was signed on November 24 between the six world powers and Iran.
This phenomenon of the monopolization of the economy applies in other sectors of Iran’s economy as well. When it comes to Iran’s economic system, the supreme leader and IRGC do have considerable amount of control and shares in almost all industries including financial Institutions and banks, transportation, automobile manufacturing, mining, commerce, and oil and gas sectors. As a result, these types of sanction reliefs will mostly benefit the ruling elite, primarily the supreme leader and Iran’s military-industrial complex, IRGC. Iranian people will hardly observe any benefits from these economic sanction reliefs or lifting of economic sanctions. It appears that the easing of sanctions are strengthening the ruling elite without any sign of redistribution of wealth. This is predominantly due to the fact that Iran’s economic system is a state and military controlled system, it lacks transparency, and is crippled with widespread corruption by the ruling elite and few on top.If the intention of economic sanction relief is to assist the Iranian people and alleviate their suffering, there ought to be more efficient approaches to develop some type of targeted sanction reliefs (for example being directed at Iran’s educational system health care, etc) which aim at empowering Iranian civilians and primarily the middle class.

Muslim-Christian cooperation vital in tackling ISIS
Abdallah Schleifer /Al Arabiya
Friday, 5 December 2014
For many months, I have entertained the conceit that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reads my column. More recently, the conceit is that he reads my mind. Let me explain. Last month, I flew to Rome to participate in the third Catholic-Muslim Forum as a member of the delegation of Muslim scholars and intellectuals. We met with our Catholic colleagues in the forum - 12 theologians and scholars headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Toulan. Our delegation was headed by Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the most influential American Muslim scholar, and included the grand mufti of Kosovo, the former grand mufti of Bosnia, the former Algerian minister of higher education, the chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, an Argentinean intellectual and community leader, and scholars from Libya, the UK, Canada and Italy. The forum is one of the fruits of the Common Word Initiative, launched in 2007 as an open letter to then-Pope Benedict XVI and leaders of all the major Christian denominations. It was composed by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan and signed by 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals, including the grand muftis of seven countries, ranging from Egypt to Russia.
“That Christian minorities in Egypt and the Levant have suffered tremendously is now undeniable”
We sought then and now to promote Muslim-Christian dialogue based on “love of God” and “love of neighbor,” commandments that are found in both the Quran and the Bible. The response from Christian leaders was extraordinary, leading to a series of conferences worldwide, including our meeting at the Vatican in Nov. 2008. That was the first Catholic-Muslim Forum where the concept of a “common word” shared by Muslims and Christians was adopted by Pope Benedict, who greeted the delegates and addressed the final session. It was a decisive moment in Catholic-Muslim relations. We would meet again, three years later in Jordan.
Hard times
Last month we met in the most difficult of times, amid the atrocities being committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria against all who refuse to acknowledge its false caliph. All of this was little more than a year after supporters of deposed Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi attacked dozens of churches, burning many to the ground and harassing priests and nuns. For everyone at the forum, it was more important than ever to increase the already active and profound Muslim-Catholic collaboration in educational, charitable and relief efforts worldwide. When we were received by Pope Francis, he encouraged us to intensify this cooperation at the local level. Our concerns were reflected in the very first point of the communique issued at the end of the three-day forum. The delegates “unanimously condemned acts of terrorism, oppression, violence against innocent persons, persecution, desecration of sacred places and the destruction of cultural heritage... It is never acceptable to use religion to justify such acts or to conflate such acts with religion.”
Al-Azhar and the Vatican
A leading figure in the Vatican told me privately how keen the Church had been to restore formal semi-annual dialogue with Al-Azhar, which was suspended by its grand imam, Sheikh Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb, in Jan. 2011. That new year’s eve, the All Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria had been bombed. It had been listed as a suitable target, along with other Egyptian churches, on a well-known salafist-jihadist website, but security was barely present at the time of the bombing. Pope Benedict called on Egypt and other Arab countries to provide better security for their Christian minorities. Then-Egyptian President Husni Mubarak took great offense, and the Foreign Ministry denounced Pope Benedict’s remarks as interference in Egypt’s internal affairs. A few days later, Tayeb suspended Al-Azhar’s formal relationship with the Vatican, and said the pope’s comments were demeaning to Islam. That Christian minorities in Egypt and the Levant have suffered tremendously is now undeniable. As such, Pope Benedict’s expression of concern has been borne out by the tragic situation, and Egypt’s Foreign Ministry is now working overtime, and quite successfully, to restore the country’s standing in the world. There have been positive signs over the past year. Tayeb sent a letter of congratulation to the new pontiff in 2013, and Pope Francis responded with a warm letter of his own. Al-Azhar has also been working on various local initiatives with Christian clergy, including Roman Catholic priests, to improve Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt.
The Vatican official I spoke to privately was aware that I had met Tayeb on a few occasions, and expressed hope that I would encourage these developments. I promised to seek an audience with Tayeb when I returned to Cairo. My promise was not a matter of politeness.
Al-Azhar has condemned salafist-jihadist atrocities, as has the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and other religious leaders across the Muslim world. However, as an American Muslim I am particularly sensitive to the way these atrocities, committed perversely in the name of Islam, are being exploited by a professional class of Islamophobes. Their cynical accusation that ISIS is Islam is resonating in the West, posing a great danger to European and American Muslim communities. It is critical that Al-Azhar restore formal relations with the Vatican. Sources close to Sisi have suggested that the restoration of good relations and formal dialogue between the two institutions is of great importance to him, so it will probably happen. Tayeb’s deputy will travel to Rome this month, and it is reasonable to assume that he will announce, once he has entered Vatican City, that Al-Azhar has restored formal relations with the Church and its pontiff.

Putin is losing his luster
Amir Taheri/Friday, 5 Dec, 2014
Asharq Al Awsat
One of the myths woven around Vladimir Putin’s personality cult is based on the narrative of his first visit to “the Holy Land” as a young man, where he is supposed to have been inspired to assume “a special mission” in the service of Mother Russia. The Putin system is often spelled out with a verbal tripod: a man, a nation, a mission!  That slogan requires that the man be kept in the limelight at all times. For more than a decade, Putin, in various political incarnations, has managed to do that by attending major international conferences and playing host to top notch foreign dignitaries in Moscow while spending his increasing oil revenues lavishly. Recently, however, the formula has proven more difficult to apply. Since Russia triggered the Crimean crisis, few foreign big shots have visited Moscow. As for Putin attending international events, the number of invitations has dropped to almost zero. Russia was unceremoniously excluded from the latest G8 summit. In the case of the G20 summit in Australia, though he was invited, Putin had to leave without having lunch to escape the “hostile atmosphere.” These days, Putin keeps himself in the news with reports of contacts with second or even third division leaders. He appears on TV greeting the president of Abkhazia. He receives a cable of congratulations from the head of the local assembly in Nagorno-Karabakh. A phone call from Hassan Rouhani, the mullah who acts as president of Iran, is given top billing by the media under Putin’s control.
The “global leadership” position claimed by Putin until a year ago is now reduced to his position as leader of a band that consists of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the rebel twins of Luhansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, with Iranian mullahs and the Assad clan in Syria providing the illusion of strategic depth. Despite the size of their country, by far the largest in the world, Russians have always been obsessively fearful of being surrounded by hostile peoples. Today, that fear may not be totally without justification. Russia’s relations with most of its 14 direct neighbors are either tepid or tense. Five neighbors that are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are putting themselves on a war-footing with the help of other members, notably the United States and Britain. One neighbor, Ukraine, accounting for Russia’s fourth longest border, is in a de facto state of war with Moscow.
China, with Russia’s second-longest border, continues to nurse old resentments over the Russian annexation of large chunks of Chinese territory in the 1960s. This was partly why Beijing quietly ignored Putin’s efforts to upgrade the so-called Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an anti-Western alliance. Even the transfer of S400 surface-to-air-missiles, something China has denied for years, has not persuaded Beijing to endorse Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Georgia has become an enemy because Putin invaded it in 2008 and annexed 25 percent of its territory. Mongolia and Kazakhstan, home to substantial ethnic Russian minorities, are worried that Putin’s kith-and-kin discourse may put them in danger, too. Another neighbor, Belarus, arguably more Russian than Russia itself and where ethnic minorities account for some 30 percent of the population, is trying to avoid being too closely hugged by Moscow.
Azerbaijan has firmly built its strategy on friendship with Turkey, Israel and the United States, regarding Russia and Iran as the two powers helping Armenia hang on to captured Azeri territory. Finland, having been Finlandized during the Cold War, does what it can to avoid tension with Russia. However, a member of the European Union, Finland cannot but join sanctions imposed by the partnership to punish Russia. That leaves North Korea as Russia’s only friendly neighbor; not a big relief because Moscow is forced to go along with baby-face Kim Jung-Un’s childish but dangerous pranks. To compound Putin’s foreign policy failures, the Russian economy has entered a period of low or even negative growth. The downward spiral, caused by global recession, started before the crisis over Ukraine.
This year Russia may register a growth rate of less than 0.5 percent. In 2015 that might fall to below zero. The ruble, Russia’s national currency, has already lost almost a third of its value compared to 2013. With the price of oil at its lowest since 2009, the Russian economy, so dependent on oil exports, may have tougher times ahead.
For the first time in two decades foreign visitors to Moscow are wooed by “money changers” hanging around major hotels and tourist spots. So far this year, 87 foreign firms have reduced or totally wound up their presence while rich Russians are transferring their money to foreign banks, including those in Cyprus. Crimea is becoming an expensive mistress. Having lost almost 50 percent of its revenue from tourism, the peninsula now depends on handouts from Moscow. At the same time, Moscow has agreed to bring salaries and pensions up to Russian levels, costing around 12 billion US dollars a year. On top of that, Putin has decided to spend billions building a bridge between Crimea and the “motherland” by 2018, though studies show there is no market for it. Shortage of money is already cooling Putin’s ardor in defense of Donetsk separatists. My guess is that he is looking for a way to weasel out of that adventure. The counter-sanctions Putin has imposed on the European Union have already led to shortages in a range of goods, especially fruit, vegetable, meat and dairies. Friends tell me that in some places, Murmansk for example, people are facing Soviet-style shortages once more, when the arrival of a batch of potatoes was big news. In Moscow, the price of beef has risen by more than 40 percent.
Well, Russians can always make do with caviar.