December 11/14

Bible Quotation For Today/Doing Good for the Sake of the Gospel
 Titus 02/You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness  and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 10-11/14
Isn't it important to realise who our enemies really are/ROBERT FISK/Independent/December10/14
Will Even Oman Now Face Turmoil/Michel Gurfinkiel/PJ Media/December 10/14
Saudi Arabia’s new faces/Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat/December 10/14
Women used as a weapon in Lebanon/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/December 10/14

Lebanese Related News published on December 10-11/14
Geagea Calls for Presidential Battle at Parliament or Striking Unconditional Agreement with FPM
Mashnouq Retracts Remarks, Says Dulaimi in Jail and Oqaili in General Security Custody
Maronite Leaders Hold Separate Talks with al-Rahi on Presidential Vacuum
Hariri Calls for Ending Blockade on Arsal, Army to Restore State Authority
Sharkas Says Lebanese State is Hizbullah Affiliate, Calls on Jihadists to Move Battle to Lebanon
Salam Says Final Deal on French Arms End of Week, Decries 'Insufficient' Int'l Support
Berri Optimistic about Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue, Says Not in Full Agreement with Jumblat over Hostages

Rafehi Urges Militants Not to Harm Captives as Sharkas Welcomes Muslim Clerics Endeavors

EU ambassador: Lebanon is top priority

Saad Hariri: Lebanese Government must act to end siege of Arsal
Ministry launches reforestation project
Belgian UNIFIL contingent ends mission in Lebanon
Signs of flexibility over presidency

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 10-11/14
Palestinian Official Dies after Beating by Israeli Troops, Abbas Says 'All Options Open' in Response to Incident

U.S. launches 20 airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, Iraq

Iranian president blames oil price fall on political conspiracy
Chilling Methods Used in CIA Torture Sessions
CIA Torture Confronts U.S. with War on Terror Demons
Assad Meets Bogdanov, Backs Russia Peace Bid
Khamenei Says CIA Torture Shows U.S. is 'Symbol of Tyranny'

More than 700 Iraqi Kurd Fighters Killed since June IS Offensive
Kerry to Travel to Rome Sunday to Meet Netanyahu
Baghdad cannot stop Suleimani from entering Iraq: MP
Gulf leaders announce joint naval, police forces
UN says rich nations pledge to take 100,000 Syrian refugees
Palestinian minister dies after confrontation with Israeli police
Baghdad preparing to liberate Mosul from ISIS: sources
ISIS executes its top Mosul official: Kurdish sources
Yemen Al-Hudaydah governor says Houthi demands “illegal”
Abu Qatada directs fierce criticism against ISIS
ICC refers Libya to Security Council over Qaddafi son
Nobel laureate Malala to fight until ‘every child in school’
U.N. expert calls for prosecution over U.S. torture
Russian PM Urges Calm, Patience over Ruble Collapse 

Jihad Watch Site Posts For Tuesday
Bosnia: Supporters of Islamic State stab imam who opposes it

Islamic State using former churches as prisons
Muslims forcing closure and demolition of churches all over Ethiopia
Australian Muslim leader backs right to fight for the Islamic State
Poll: 80% of “Palestinians” support jihad terror attacks on Israeli civilians
Robert Spencer in PJ Media: 5 Recent Inspirational Uses of the Qur’an
Islamic State beheads four children for refusing to convert to Islam
Three US Muslim teens are caught trying to join the Islamic State
Islamic State beheads man for “blasphemy”
Colorado Muslim stabs cop, drops Qur’an during struggle

STL: MP Marwan Hamadeh Met Nasrallah in 2005 to Ask about Murder Attempt as Party Handed Wissam Hassan Report on Hariri Assassination 
Naharnet /MP Marwan Hamadeh revealed on Wednesday that he had held talks in Spring 2005 with Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in order to inquire about the attempt against his life in October 2004. “I met with Nasrallah in late April-early May to ask him if his party was behind the assassination attempt,” he said during his ongoing testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Nasrallah denied involvement to which Hamadeh later asked if the party's ally, Syria, was linked to the attack. The Hizbullah chief said that he did not know if Syria was involved. Hamadeh then told the STL Defense that his meeting with Nasrallah, which was attended by MP Nawwaf al-Moussawi, focused on local and regional affairs. He described the talks as amicable, adding that he scheduled the meeting at the behest of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. Hamadeh also revealed that Hariri had met with Nasrallah about a month before the assassination. The two officials had regular contacts ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections, the lawmaker said. Lead defense counsel for accused Hizbullah member Mustafa Badreddine Antoine Korkmaz asked Hamadeh if he was aware that Nasrallah had visited the Hariri family's Beirut residence in secret to offer his condolences, to which the MP replied that he was. Korkmaz said that Nasrallah had presented the head of Hariri's security team, the late Wissam al-Hassan, with a Hizbullah document on the assassination. Hamadeh replied that he was informed that he offered the family his support for the investigation in the murder, adding: “I was not present at the residence at the time of his visit.”He also stated that he was not aware of the document that Nasrallah had handed Hassan. Korkmaz said: “Nasrallah told the family that we know the value of blood sacrifice and martyrdom.”Hamadeh continued: “We were grateful for Nasrallah on the one had, but we were upset with the March 8, 2005 demonstration in support and defense of the Syrian regime.”The Defense then read a excerpts from a number of articles that Hamadeh, as a journalist, had written in praise of the Syrian regime during the 1990s and early 2000s. When asked about how he could heap such praise on it and later allege that it was behind Hariri's assassination, Hamadeh replied: “Ties between us and Syria changed after 2000.”“It was becoming apparent that the regime under Syrian President Bashar Assad was not keen on completing the implementation of the Taef Accord, but was seeking to seize control of Lebanon. This naturally led to the change in our stance and tone,” he noted. The March 14 alliance, which Hamadeh is a member of, has repeatedly accused Syria of being behind Hariri's assassination, as well as several other political murders in the country over the years. The STL is tackling Hariri's 2005 assassination. Five Hizbullah members were indicted in the crime, but they remain at large. They will be tried in absentia. A number of political figures are expected to present their testimonies before the STL. The Tribunal on Tuesday agreed to include Jumblat and journalist Ali Hamadeh as witnesses in the case.

PM, Tammam Salam urges France to expedite delivery of much-needed arms
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Dec. 11, 2014
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam pleaded with France Wednesday to expedite the delivery to the Lebanese Army of arms paid for by a $3 billion Saudi grant, to help Lebanon face Islamist militants who are threatening the country’s security and stability.
Speaking in Paris at the start of a four-day official visit to France, Salam warned that Lebanon was going through one of the most dangerous periods in its history, due to the accumulation of political and socioeconomic crises, aggravated by the flow of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon. Salam also said former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement had decided to engage in dialogue with Hezbollah to reduce Sunni-Shiite tensions in Lebanon. Hariri is “a major player in Lebanese politics and represents nearly 90 percent of one of the major Lebanese sects,” he said. A preliminary session of the planned dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah will be held before the end of this month, while serious talks will begin early next year, a Future MP said.
“Preparations are underway to get the Future-Hezbollah dialogue off the ground early next year. But a preliminary session between the two sides will be held before the end of the month,” Future MP Atef Majdalani told The Daily Star.
He said the Future-Hezbollah talks were primarily aimed at defusing Sunni-Shiite tensions stoked by differences over the conflict in Syria. “[Former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri has drawn up an agenda for this dialogue by excluding strategic matters, such as Hezbollah’s arms and the party’s intervention in the Syrian fighting,” Majdalani said. “An inter-Lebanese dialogue is designed to pave the way for the election of a presidents.”
Speaker Nabih Berri said he was still optimistic about the outcome of the Future-Hezbollah talks. “Matters are on the right track,” MPs who met Berri at his Ain al-Tineh residence quoted him as saying. Parliament failed for the 16th time Wednesday to elect a president due to a lack of quorum, prompting Berri to postpone the session until Jan. 7. Wednesday marked 200 days since former President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ended on May 25 and Lebanon was left without a president.
Only 59 lawmakers showed up for the session, well below the two-thirds majority of Parliament’s 128 members needed to convene the session. Salam said France would provide its final signature to activate the Saudi-funded $3 billion military aid package for the Lebanese Army in three days. “On the 13th of this month, the final papers between France and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be signed, so that France could start delivering the weapons to Lebanon,” Salam told reporters during a flight to Paris.
The aid package was announced last December by Sleiman. The $3 billion deal will be used to buy French weapons, equipment and vehicles for the Lebanese Army and to pay for military training. Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly after his arrival in Paris, Salam called on France to speed up the arms deliveries, especially the helicopters and missiles, as he said they were critical in the Army’s confrontation with jihadis on Lebanon’s eastern borders.
Referring to repeated clashes between the Army and ISIS and Nusra Front militants who are still holding 25 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage, Salam said: “There are attacks on the eastern border and there are kidnapped soldiers. We need weapons and military aid to confront those extremists.”He warned that Lebanon faced an accumulation of political and socio-economic crises.“There is a political and institutional crisis that we are trying to control by maintaining Cabinet unity,” Salam said, referring to the deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president for more than six months. “This crisis is accompanied by economic and social difficulties brought on by the huge flow of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who make up more than one third of the Lebanese population.
“The challenges facing Lebanon transcend the economic, political and security framework, taking an existential character and threatening the foundation stone of the country, which is considered as a model of [sectarian] coexistence.” He called on the rival political factions to elect a new president as soon as possible. Salam, accompanied by Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, is scheduled to hold talks with French President Francois Hollande and other senior officials.
Meanwhile, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri stressed that a consensus among rival Christian leaders was the key to ending the presidential deadlock. “The election of a president is a national responsibility. The most effective way to achieve that is through a consensus among Christian leaders on the name of a candidate who would then be proposed to Parliament,” Asiri said after receiving a delegation from the Maronite League who visited him at the embassy.
Asiri contended that Lebanon is need of dialogue among its different political components, “including inter-Christian dialogue that would narrow divisions among Christian groups and help achieve the overall national interest.”

Saad Hariri: Lebanese Government must act to end siege of Arsal
The Daily Star/11.12.14
BEIRUT: Lebanon must step in to lift the “siege” on the northeastern border town of Arsal by relatives and supporters of a Lebanese captive killed last week, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Muslim Scholars Committee said it received promises from Islamist militants that they would send a written commitment to refrain from killing any of the remaining 25 Lebanese captive servicemen, a member of the committee told The Daily Star. “The government is responsible for ending this blockade and tasking the Army with restoring the state’s prestige,” Hariri wrote on Twitter. He said the government should also work toward defusing tensions between rival towns in reference to the predominately Sunni Arsal and the mostly Shiite nearby villages of Labweh and Bazzalieh. “The government must take speedy measures in this regard,” he said. “Similarly,” Hariri added, the government “must make a firm decision that would put an end to the [Lebanese] captives’ crisis and bring [them] back safely.”Hariri said the killing of Lebanese hostage Ali Bazzal, announced by the Nusra Front Friday, “is a crime all Lebanese should condemn.” “Arsal’s siege and taking revenge on it serve the captors,” he stressed. Masked gunmen from Bazzalieh have set up roadblocks and checkpoints on the roads leading from Labweh and Bazzalieh to Arsal during the 48 hours which followed the announcement of Bazzal’s killing. But although these measures were reduced Tuesday and all checkpoints were removed, some residents of Bazzalieh could still be spotted in cars with tinted windows parked on either side of the road, watching traffic. The Muslim Scholars Committee also said it would launch an initiative to win the freedom of the captives once it was formally commissioned to do so by the government and after authorities announce accepting in principle a swap-deal to solve the issue.Speaking to The Daily Star, Sheikh Adnan Amama, the spokesperson of the committee, said the captors had promised to send a written commitment to the committee not to kill any of the remaining hostages. “We asked for a signed written commitment to be presented to media outlets so that we start a new phase,” Amama added. But he said he was not optimistic that premier Tammam Salam, whom the committee will visit after he returns from an official visit to France, would meet the committee’s two conditions to begin mediations. “Still, we will make efforts to win the freedom of the captives. But we should not be blamed for failure if we haven’t been formally commissioned by the government.”Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said that a crisis cell tasked by the government had already approved the principle of a swap deal.  “But still there are some parties who are hesitant to pay the price [required by a swap deal],” Abu Faour said during an interview with MTV. “Usually the strong party procrastinates. But the Lebanese government is the weak party here, the kidnappers have the upper hand in this case,” he added.

Maronite Leaders Hold Separate Talks with al-Rahi on Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet/The four Maronite leaders held separate talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, away from the media spotlight, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Wednesday. The newspaper reported that talks focused on the conditions of Christians and the presidential deadlock. The leaders, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel, and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, reportedly expressed flexibility regarding the ongoing presidential crisis. Media reports said on Tuesday that an inter-Christian dialogue kicked off recently to bridge the gap between the rival parties, in particular, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces under the auspices of Bkirki. The presidential post has been empty since May 25, when former president Michel Suleiman's term ended. Regional divisions and the political stalemate in the country's parliament have left lawmakers unable to agree on a successor.

Sharkas Says Lebanese State is Hizbullah Affiliate, Calls on Jihadists to Move Battle to Lebanon
Naharnet/Islamist militant Anas Sharkas, who is also known as Abu Ali al-Shishani, lashed out at the Lebanese state and accused it of collaborating with Hizbullah, calling on jihadists to move the battle into Lebanon. Sharkas said in an interview published on Wednesday in al-Akhbar newspaper that Hizbullah “considers Iran as gods and entered Syria to murder its men and assault its women.” “The mask fell off Hizbullah,” Sharkas told his interviewer. He slammed the Lebanese government as “lacking leadership,” accusing it of being an “affiliated to Hizbullah.” Sharkas didn't rule out the possibility of entering Lebanon, calling on jihadists “to move to Lebanon to break Hizbullah after it intervened in Syria.”“The party came here to kill our men, women and children, while its women and children are enjoying security,” Shishani added. “If we want to succeed we have to fight in Lebanon.”Hizbullah has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad. Al-Akhbar said that the interview was carried out two months ago on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. Shishani said that he joined the jihad with the aim of the formation of an "Islamic caliphate,” an Islamic form of government last seen under the Ottoman Empire. The militant called on the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front to unite under the “banner of Islam,” saying that he “would sacrifice his life for both groups with nothing in return.”He also urged the Free Syrian Army to declare allegiance to the groups. Shishani is leading the Armor Battalion of Islam that is comprised of 30 fighters. “I am known as Abu Ali al-Shishani. I am Circassian and I hail from the city of Qusayr, in central Homs, before rafida controlled it. I am proud of my Syrian-Caucasian origin.”On Tuesday, Ola al-Oqaili, the wife of al-Shishani was handed over to the General Security. She was arrested two months after extensive surveillance. She was apprehended along with her brother Rakan in the Zgharta area of Hilan in northern Lebanon at a public school hosting Syrian refugees. The Military Court's move indicates that the release of al-Oqaili has become imminent and that she has been cleared of any major offenses. In retaliation to the arrest, al-Shishani had threatened to start kidnapping the wives and children of soldiers until the Lebanese authorities release his spouse and two children.

Berri Optimistic about Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue, Says Not in Full Agreement with Jumblat over Hostages
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri has denied that the much anticipated dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement would be postponed over differences on the agenda of the talks. In remarks published in local dailies on Wednesday, Berri said: “I am 100 percent reassured and hope the first session would be held by the end of the year.”Both Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal are committed to the dialogue, he said. Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc stressed on Tuesday the importance of communicating with Hizbullah with the aim of reaching an agreement on the presidential crisis. The election of a president would contribute to alleviating tensions in the country, it said. The March 8 camp is holding onto the candidacy of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun against Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, who is the nominee of the March 14 alliance. The rivalry between Aoun and Geagea has led to a lack of quorum in more than a dozen electoral sessions in parliament Baabda Palace has been vacant since President Michel Suleiman's term ended on May 25.
Berri said that Jean-François Girault, who is the head of the French Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa department, made a two-day visit to Beirut to brief Lebanese officials on the results of his contacts with Tehran, Riyadh and the Vatican on the presidential deadlock. Asked whether he was optimistic about the attempts aimed at ending the crisis, the speaker said: “If the solution was not in our hands, then I wouldn't be optimistic.”Meanwhile, Berri was asked about Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat's announcement on Tuesday that they both backed an unconditional prisoner swap to resolve the hostage crisis. “I always agree with Jumblat but in this case I am not totally in agreement with him over the details,” said Berri. He refused to give further information.
Jumblat visited on Tuesday the families of the hostages who are holding a protest in Beirut's Riad al-Solh square, reiterating his support for a swap deal in the case of the captive servicemen. The soldiers and policemen were taken hostage by al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group when they overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in early August.

Rafehi Urges Militants Not to Harm Captives as Sharkas Welcomes Muslim Clerics Endeavors
Naharnet /Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi received on Wednesday a phone call from Islamist militant Anas Sharkas, who is also known as Abu Ali al-Shishani, to thank him for the effort exerted by the Muslim Scholars Committee over the case of his wife Ola al-Oqaili. “Abu Ali al-Shishani contacted us to thank us regarding his wife,” Rafehi told LBCI. On Tuesday, al-Oqaili, the wife of al-Shishani was handed over to the General Security. She was arrested two months after extensive surveillance. She was apprehended along with her brother Rakan in the Zgharta area of Hilan in northern Lebanon at a public school hosting Syrian refugees. The Military Court's move indicates that the release of al-Oqaili has become imminent and that she has been cleared of any major offenses.
In retaliation to the arrest, al-Shishani had threatened to start kidnapping the wives and children of soldiers until the Lebanese authorities release his spouse and two children. Rafehi pointed out that he urged him not to harm any of the remaining captive servicemen in his custody. Earlier in the day, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim informed a delegation from the Muslim Scholars Committee that he will not negotiate with the abductors unless he “receives a written pledge from the emirs of ISIL and al-Nusra Front that none of the remaining captives will be hurt.” The daily described the meeting between Ibrahim and the delegation as “positive.” The report added that “Ibrahim refuses to be blackmailed.” The relatives of the abducted soldiers and policemen called on Monday on the Muslim Scholars Committee to play a bigger role in the negotiations after Qatar withdrew from the case on Sunday. The committee is touring Lebanese officials to press negotiations forward. The security force members were captured when the jihadists briefly overran Arsal in August, sparking fierce battles with Lebanese troops. Four have been executed so far, and the jihadists have threatened to kill the remaining hostages unless there is a deal to free Islamist prisoners in Lebanon. A source told An Nahar newspaper published on Wednesday that “the state will not officially task” any side with negotiating a swap deal with the kidnappers, in hints for a request by the Muslim Scholars Committee to kick off its initiative in this regard. “The state could only offer full cooperation with any side ready to engage in negotiations,” the source pointed out, noting that “cooperation with the Scholars Committee is achievable as the government has no other options after the Qatari-appointed mediator withdrew.” The comments come in light of a request by the committee to be officially tasked by the state to follow up the case.

Geagea Calls for Presidential Battle at Parliament or Striking Unconditional Agreement with FPM
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea criticized on Wednesday the ongoing vacuum in the presidency, slamming Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's approach towards the polls. He said: “We call for waging the presidential elections battle at parliament or reaching an understanding, without preconditions, with the FPM.” He made his remarks during a press conference in light of the postponement of the presidential elections, for the 16th time, over a lack of quorum at parliament.
“Contacts between us and Rabieh are open on an almost daily basis,” Geagea added in reference to Aoun's residence. The FPM chief on Tuesday called for negotiating with him over “the survival of the republic,” stressing that he will not withdraw from the presidential race if there is no “key change in the practices of power.” Geagea said: “I support Aoun on a number of political issues, but the election of a president is an accumulative process, not a passing moment.”“The election of a president should not be tied to Aoun, but the position is linked to Maronites in Lebanon,” he explained. “I am willing to withdraw from the presidential race, but the other camp should not attempt to impose a solution on us,” he stated. “I am open to a serious proposal over resolving the dispute over the presidency,” declared the LF leader, Commenting on the expected dialogue between the Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah, Geagea said: “We welcome the talks, especially if they will help ease tensions in Lebanon.” He also clarified that should they address the presidential elections, they would focus on facilitating them, not choosing new candidates. Aoun is still the candidate of the March 8 camp in the face of Geagea, the nominee of the March 14 forces. The rivalry between the two men has led to a lack of quorum in 16 electoral sessions in parliament, amid a boycott by the MPs of Aoun and Hizbullah. The presidential seat has been vacant since president Michel Suleiman's term ended on May 25.

Hariri Calls for Ending Blockade on Arsal, Army to Restore State Authority
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal Movement chief Saad Hariri held the government responsible for ending the “siege” imposed on the northeastern border town of Arsal, calling on the army to restore the state's authority. “The ties between villages and towns shouldn't be taken hostage by gunmen,” Hariri said via his account on Twitter. He considered the execution of policeman Ali al-Bazzal by jihadists and the ongoing abduction ordeal a crime that all the Lebanese condemn. However, he pointed out that the “siege imposed on Arsal and avenging its residents is a service offered to the kidnappers.” “It is unacceptable to push towards a new phase of tension that oppose the exerted efforts to contain it,” he said in a tweet. Hariri called on the government to take swift actions regarding this matter and to resolve the case of the abducted soldiers and secure their safe return. The security force members were captured when jihadists from the Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front briefly overran Arsal in August, sparking fierce battles with Lebanese troops.
Four have been executed so far, including al-Bazzal over the weekend, and the jihadists have threatened to kill the remaining hostages unless there is a deal to free Islamist prisoners in Lebanon. Tensions were high over the weekend following the execution of al-Bazzal. Angry protesters in his hometown of al-Bazzalieh blocked roads in the area in order to cut off aid to the outskirts of Arsal, where the servicemen are reportedly being held. Arsal has become a key conduit for refugees, rebels and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria. The Lebanese Army is also carrying out precautionary military operations against posts controlled by gunmen on the outskirts of Arsal and the Lebanese al-Qalamoun region.

Salam Says Final Deal on French Arms End of Week, Decries 'Insufficient' Int'l Support
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam said on Wednesday that France will sign over the weekend the final agreement to equip the Lebanese army with the weapons and ammunition it has ordered, as he lamented the “insufficient” international support for Lebanon.
Salam spoke upon his arrival to Paris on a four-day official visit during which he will discuss with French officials political and security issues. The PM is scheduled to meet with French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. He is also expected to meet with members of the Arab diplomatic corps and the Lebanese community in Paris. His talks are likely to focus on the presidential deadlock, military assistance to Lebanon, the burden of Syrian refugees and the threat of terrorism. Salam was accompanied by Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and an administrative and diplomatic delegation. Reporters accompanying Salam quoted him as saying that the final agreement on the purchase of weapons from a Saudi grant will be signed on Saturday. “These arms will help the military confront terrorism and terrorists that are threatening our entity,” he said. Officials close to the prime minister told al-Joumhouria newspaper earlier that Salam is hinging on a speedy French delivery of weapons to the army under the $3 billion Saudi grant, which was announced in December last year. The PM is also seeking to consolidate all sorts of cooperation between Lebanon and France, the officials said. Speaking before the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee in the evening, Salam said Lebanon is going through “one of the most critical phases in its history,” lamenting that “the support we're receiving from the international community is still largely insufficient.”The world must “act responsibly” in response to Lebanon's needs, Salam added. Salam also met with Élisabeth Guigou, chairman of the foreign affairs committee. Salam's visit to Paris comes as Jean-François Girault, who is the head of the French Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa department, left Beirut after two days of talks with Lebanese officials from across the political spectrum. His meetings focused on the presidential deadlock. Lebanon has been without a head of state since Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May. Salam told the reporters that the Lebanese political parties should find the “appropriate solution” to the presidential crisis. Such a solution should guarantee the security and stability of Lebanon, he said. The premier also expressed belief that France could assist Lebanon to secure the release of the Lebanese soldiers and policemen taken hostage by jihadists last August. “The case of the captives is complicated. If France was capable of assisting us technically and at the intelligence level, then it wouldn't fail to do so,” he said.

Khamenei Says CIA Torture Shows U.S. is 'Symbol of Tyranny'
Naharnet /The torture of al-Qaida suspects by the CIA shows that the U.S. government is a "symbol of tyranny against humanity," Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday. His was the first official reaction in Iran to a U.S. Senate report that torture of suspects in the years following the 9/11 attacks on the United States was far more brutal than acknowledged and failed to produce useful intelligence. "Today, U.S. govt. is symbol of tyranny against humanity; even American ppl are faced w cruelty," Khamenei wrote on Twitter, referring to a speech he had made in 2007. Tehran is regularly criticized from abroad over its own human rights record, especially regarding the high number of people it executes, and over restrictions on press and religious freedoms.
But it invariably retorts that these accusations are politically motivated, in turn criticizing Western nations for trying to impose on the Islamic republic their concept of human rights. "They claim human rights and trample its basics in their prisons, in interactions with nations and even with their own people," Khamenei added from a 2010 speech.  "They claim they've a prideful nation; U.S. governments debased and misguided their people who aren't aware of many realities," he added. The report, released Tuesday, said the Central Intelligence Agency also misled the White House and Congress with inaccurate claims about the program's usefulness. Khamenei's tweets drew extensive comments. Some recalled the numerous cases of people who have died in detention in Iran in recent years, and the case of a woman hanged in October for stabbing to death a man she said had tried to sexually assault her.Agence France Presse
Isn't it important to realise who our enemies really are?
Children are so often the forgotten victims of conflict – regardless of the perpetrators
ROBERT FISK/Sunday 10 December 2014 /Independent
Well, heaven preserve us: the most useless “peacemaker” on earth has just used an Arabic acronym for the greatest threat to civilisation since the last greatest threat. Yup, ol’ John Kerry called it “Daesh”, which is what the Arabs call it. It stands for the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”. We prefer Isis or Isil or the Islamic State or Islamic Caliphate. Most journos prefer Isis because – I suspect – it’s easier to remember. It’s the name of an Egyptian goddess, after all. It’s the name of a university city’s river. And of course, it’s the name of Lord Grantham’s dog in Downton Abbey.
Many an American scribe has questioned why Kerry should be using this goddam Arabic lingo – although we use Fatah for the PLO. It, too, is an acronym which, translated, means “the Party for Palestinian Liberation”. And in 2011 we called Tahrir Square in Cairo “Tahrir”, only occasionally reminding readers and viewers that it, too, meant “liberation”. None explained why the place was important: because this was the square mile of Cairo in which was based the largest British barracks and into which the Brits – during their much loved occupation of Egypt – refused to allow any Egyptian to walk without permission. That’s why it was called Tahrir – liberation – when the Brits left. That’s why Hosni Mubarak’s attempt to prevent the protesters entering the square in 2011 placed him firmly in the shadow of Egypt’s former colonial masters.
But why do we care what the great leaders of the West (or the East for that matter) actually say, when we all know it’s the kind of material that comes out of the rear end of a bull? Let me give you an example from Canada, where I’ve just spent the last three days. Two years ago, the country’s Foreign Affairs minister, John Baird, closed Canada’s embassy in Tehran because he feared his diplomats might be harmed. “Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” he quoth then – although CBC broadcasters have dug up a Foreign Ministry report which reported the biggest threat to the Tehran embassy was an geophysical earthquake.
Since then, as the Toronto Star’s pesky columnist Thomas Walkom has pointed out, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – whose pro-Israeli policies might earn him a seat in the Israeli Knesset – has discovered more threats. Russia under Vladimir Putin, Harper says, “represents a significant threat to the peace and security of the world”. The aforesaid Baird – taking his cue, no doubt from our own beloved Prince Charles – compared Putin’s Russia to Hitler’s Third Reich. More recently, Canada’s defence minister, Rob Nicholson, described the men of Isis (or Isil, or the Islamic State, or the Islamic Caliphate, or Daesh) as “a real and growing threat to civilisation itself”. The war against Isis/Isil/IS/IC/Daesh, he informed the people of Abu Dhabi, was “the greatest struggle of our generation”.
Well, blow me down. Wasn’t Iran the greatest threat, ever since 1979? Wasn’t Abu Nidal, the Palestinian gun-for-hire? Wasn’t that British prime minister chappie, with the odd left eye and the habit of saying “absolutely” and “completely” over and over again, convinced that Saddam was the greatest threat to our civilisation/generation, what with all his WMDs and links to al-Qaeda and tubes from Niger, and so on? For that matter, wasn’t Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda – the very bunch which morphed into Isis/Isil/IS/IC/Daesh in Iraq – the greatest threat to our civilisation/generation?
Yet now, when the Iranian air force has joined the battle against Isis/Isil/IS/IC/Daesh alongside the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, old Uncle Tom Cobley and all, Kerry – in “Daesh” mode – tells us that the Iranian military action in Iraq (in any other circumstances, a ruthless assault on Iraq’s sovereignty) is “positive”. And Kerry, remember, was the fellow who told us last year that America was going to attack the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the greatest enemy of Isis/Isil/IS/IC/Daesh – whom Obama reprieved in favour of bashing Isis/Isil/IS/IC/Daesh itself – with its ally Iran described by Canada’s Baird only two years ago as “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world”.
But what the hell … Don’t we live in a world where Save the Children (American branch only, you understand) gave an award to the same former British prime minister quoted above? Having given a prize to the man who encouraged George W Bush to embark on an Iraqi invasion which cost the lives of tens of thousands of children, surely this fine charity (again, the American branch only) must reinvent and re-name itself “Abandon the Children”. And by the way, one of the ex-PM’s supporters blandly told Channel 4 not long ago that our British “peace envoy” had travelled to the Middle East more than 160 times. Which means, doesn’t it, that our Middle East envoy had left his station in the Middle East more than 160 times!
But again, what is a child’s life worth? In 2002, a Israeli missile attack on a Gaza apartment block killed a Palestinian militants but also 14 civilians, including several children. The Bush administration – draw in your breath here, folks, and grit your teeth – said that this “heavy–handed action” did not “contribute to peace”.
Wow, now that was telling them. Killing kids is a bit heavy-handed, isn’t it? And I can see what the Bush lads and lassies meant when they said that eviscerating, crushing and tearing to bits a bunch of children didn’t really, well, “contribute” towards peace.
It’s important, you see, to realise who our enemies are. Muslims, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Russians, you name it. Not Israel, of course. Nor Americans. Think generational. Think civilisation. Think the most significant threat to global peace. Daesh. Isn’t that the name?
Honesty and the Syrian Ministry of Information
Found last month on a side-table in the Syrian Ministry of Information – henceforth the Temple of Truth – was a shiny little booklet for foreign correspondents. Its cover is a photograph of a minaret and church tower on the Damascus skyline. After listing the location of the airport, hospitals, pharmacies and hotels in the city, the booklet asks reporters: “Were you able to carry out all the interviews you had in mind?”, “Did you face any obstacles that prevented you from doing your work?” and “Are there any grievances?”
My favourite question, however, was: “Were you able to cover the ‘hot spots’ … within reason?” Now that rather gets to the point, doesn’t it?

Will Even Oman Now Face Turmoil?
Michel Gurfinkiel/PJ Media
December 10, 2014
As the sultan lay terminally ill with no children, the quietest country in the Middle East faces a succession crisis.
Will Oman survive the end of Sultan Qaboos? The 74-year-old ruler, who modernized the country and kept it safe from most Middle East turmoil for almost half a century, is said to be terminally ill. His birthday — the sultanate's national holiday — was not celebrated last month. And Qaboos is childless.
He has selected three of his closest relatives as potential heirs. The final choice will be made by the Royal Family Council. Should any problem arise, the matter will be settled by the National Defense Council.
Upon landing in Muscat, the capital city, visitors immediately realize that Oman is very different from other Gulf countries. Forget the skyscraper extravaganzas of Kuwait City, Manama, Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. By law, buildings in Muscat must be built in stone or similar traditional materials, and must follow a low-rise, castle-like architectural pattern. Forget also the other states' apartheid-style system of Bedouin minorities lording over majorities of immigrant workers: in Oman, 70% of the 3.2 million inhabitants are native citizens.
Oman differs from its neighbors in many more ways. While the other Gulf countries are tiny enclaves no larger than New Jersey or even Rhode Island, Oman is big: 309,000 square kilometers, the size of Kansas, or Poland. Admittedly, the hinterland is chiefly mountains and semi-desert. Still, there is a sense of strategic width, and strategic security.
While the other Gulf countries interact out of geographical necessity with the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia), the Fertile Crescent (Iraq and Syria), and Persia (the Islamic Republic of Iran), Oman is an Indian Ocean country. The hinterland's mountain ranges effectively sever it from the peninsula. The monsoon winds have allowed the local population, from time immemorial, to trade with India and East Africa, and even to establish distant colonies like Zanzibar. And throughout the past 500 years, the Omanis have been in touch with the European maritime powers: first the Portuguese, from the 16th century on, and then the British in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Even more stunning is Oman's religious singularity: most inhabitants do not belong to Sunni or Shiite Islam. They follow a third way, Ibadism, an offshoot of Kharijism, which is also to be found in parts of North and East Africa.
Just like the early American Puritans, the Ibadis are both more strictly religious than the Sunnis and the Shiites, and much more tolerant and open-minded in political, social, and even intellectual matters. They have usually promoted good relations with Jews, Christians, and even Hindus. Moreover, they have comparatively democratic tendencies: they know not of hereditary kings-caliphs or hereditary imams, but rather of elected imams and secular kings or sultans.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Oman had lost its naval and commercial edge, and was so impoverished that the British did not even attempt to turn it into a full-fledged protectorate. It was ridden with civil wars between imams based in the hinterland, and the Al-Said, a royal family based in Muscat. In the 1950s, Sultan Said bin Taimur suppressed the last imamate rebellion with British help, and set up a reactionary and isolationist rule. In the 1960s, however, a new rebellion flared up further south in the Dhofar province, a bizarre mix of tribal unrest and Marxist rhetoric.
Qaboos' priority, in strategic and international terms, was to keep his country independent from any foreign interference and at peace with every nation.
Qaboos ibn Said, Sultan Said's English-educated son, took over in a bloodless coup in 1970 and gradually suppressed the Dhofar insurgency, with much help from Britain, imperial Iran, and Pakistan. He then embarked on a resolute, if cautious, modernization program, supported by increasing oil revenues. Oman's GNP is now 90 billion dollars. The average income per capita is 30,000.
Qaboos' priority, in strategic and international terms, was to keep his country independent from any foreign interference and at peace with every nation. He very adroitly balanced American influence with strong British ties, and Saudi regional power with Iranian links. Many American-Iranian conversations, from Reagan to Obama, took place in Oman.
Qaboos would have welcomed a complete peace between Israel and the Arab and Islamic world, and he knew that the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat or Hamas was not helpful in that respect. In the fall of 1993, he attended a discreet, high-level academic and political conference in the United States, where the Oslo Accords and many other issues were discussed. He listened politely when a European journalist of Jewish origin attempted to vindicate Israel's decision, and then left. One of his aides stayed, however, and bluntly told the orator: "The Arabs will never forgive Israel for bringing back so prominently the Palestinians on the Middle East's scene."
The sultan's shortlist for his successor is said to include Prince Fahd bin Mahmud Al Said, the acting prime minister; Prince Shehab bin Tariq Al Said, the minister of science; and Prince Haitham bin Tareq Al Said, the culture minister. Sources say, however, that General Sultan bin Mohamad Al-Naamani, the head of the royal administration, will be the real kingmaker. And perhaps the next king.
**Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.

Saudi Arabia’s new faces
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 10 Dec, 2014
In the largest ever Saudi cabinet reshuffle, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz issued a royal order appointing nine new ministers earlier this week. This represents a massive change of the collective face of government’s leadership. The reshuffle includes the appointment of new ministers in ministries affiliated to public services, as well as portfolios responsible for the Kingdom’s intellectual and cultural life. The changes are even more surprising given that they come just days before the announcement of the 2015 national budget.
The ministerial reshuffle sees the appointment of new ministers of agriculture, transport, health, social affairs, communication, Islamic affairs, culture and information, and higher education.
Regarding the ministerial portfolios responsible for providing citizens with services, what is required from the new ministers is no secret. However what is more important, and requires further clarification, is the ministries related to fostering the culture of Saudi Arabia. The latest cabinet reshuffle has seen a number of changes in this regard, particularly the appointment of new ministers for Islamic affairs, culture and information, and higher education.
The current battle is primarily one of raising awareness. Where there is sufficient awareness, there are no real difficulties in driving development, achieving justice and respect for law and order. The issue starts with knowledge, and then the heart and mind follows. This is the beginning, not the end.
For example, the Ministry of Higher Education oversees the largest scholarship program for education abroad, namely the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. More than 150,000 Saudi students are part of this program so every Saudi household has some connection to it, directly or indirectly.
So how will this ministry manage its affairs, securing the education of our youth in order to serve the national interest and bolster the Saudi workforce? How will this ministry guarantee the safety of its students abroad from terrorists or parties hostile to Saudi Arabia, including the Muslim Brotherhood?
As for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, how will the ministry deal with unruly preachers and those who call for fitna (religious strife) and issue statements of support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in their Friday sermons?
There can be no doubt that these radical preachers exist among our religious leadership, even if they are a minority. So what will the new minister do to protect religion and worshipers and peace and stability?
As for the Ministry of Culture and Information, what do we expect from the new minister regarding Saudi Arabia’s cultural output and vision? Will we see a true breakthrough in our cultural activity? What impact will this have on our industry or national economy? There is strong evidence from across the world that a true cultural renaissance is the best antidote to erasing ignorance and extremism. So how can we achieve this?
What role does theater, fine arts, photography, literature, cultural exhibitions and song play in our country? Before the cultural drought, these all had their place in our society, whether we are talking about the stages of Riyadh or Jeddah.
Change brings hope. But the real work remains . . .

Women used as a weapon in Lebanon
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Some thought that the arrest of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s ex-wife and daughter in Lebanon was the weapon that would finally force the most famous terrorist in the world to kneel.
However, instead of the terrorists releasing the abducted Lebanese soldiers and policemen, things took a turn for the worst as more of the hostages were killed, Qatar withdrew the promised mediation and some figures called for taking women and children hostage in response to the actions of the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will not give up anything in exchange for the release of a family member”
It turned out that the Lebanese authorities ruined one of their secret operations as a result of political rivalries. The arrested woman is of no value when it comes to ensuring the release of the hostages as she and Baghdadi have been divorced for years - i.e. before he led the newly formed organization of ISIS. Therefore, she cannot be a means to pressure Baghdadi and her arrest rather thwarted the Lebanese security forces’ plan and lost them perhaps one of their most important sources of information.
Voicing anger
Lebanese Interior Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouq voiced his anger regarding the issue but used neutral statements to express himself. He said that arresting the women provoked terrorists and threatened the safety of the hostages. Truth be told, arresting Baghdadi’s former wife, his daughter and the wife of ISIS commander Abu Ali al-Shishani has ruined chances of a successful surveillance operation that could have exposed ISIS plans and this is a major political folly.
The only information detectives can glean from these women concerns the history of ISIS figures - just their history. Terrorists don’t care much about human scarifices or women’s dignity because to them anything is worth sacrificing for the sake of war!
On the other hand, terrorists’ families have always been put under surveillance but this is not optimal when it comes to blackmail operations and cannot be made use of politically. This is why the family members of Osama bin Laden - the slain al-Qaeda leader – returned without any retribution from Iran, Pakistan and Syria. Baghdadi will not give up anything in exchange for the release of a family member and would rather use the situation to prove his loyalty to the organization and his willingness to sacrifice even those closest to him.
We understand the pain of the abducted Lebanese soldiers and policemen families who are at the center of ongoing political and media battles in Lebanon. But unfortunately, who cares about the fate of a few people in a country where more than a quarter of a million have been killed over the last few decades? It’s a huge tragedy where details are difficult to find.
I think Hezbollah needs to seriously reconsider its involvement in Syria and that of other different Lebanese constituents, whether military or civilian. It must comprehend the size of the problem and its possible duration, as it may be protracted. After the Syrians, the Lebanese are paying the highest price. The Turks and Jordanians are not a direct party to the conflict and the same applies to the Iranians. Iraqis are part of the war because Iraq itself is a battlefield and it’s not possible to separate between Iraq and Syria.
Lebanon’s problem lies in Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war which comes as a result of its desire to fight alongside the Syrian regime. It’s an unfortunate consequence that Lebanon becomes part of the battlefield.
The Lebanese people must realize that their problem is not with the terrorist al-Nusra Front and ISIS but with Hezbollah because it insists on involving itself in the Syrian war and brags about this. It’s therefore quite normal for the battle to be transferred into the Lebanese arena and it will not stop at the blood line we see drawn today.

Gulf leaders announce joint naval, police forces
Fahd Al-Zayabi
Wednesday, 10 Dec, 2014
GCC summit concludes in Doha, stresses Gulf commitment to combating terrorism
Doha, Asharq Al-Awsat—Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states concluded the 35th session of the GCC Supreme Council summit in the Qatari capital of Doha on Tuesday, agreeing to the formation of joint naval and police forces.
The GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani delivered the final communique in which he announced the start of a new era for the oil-rich organization based on greater cooperation on political, social, economic and security levels.
Zayani thanked Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani for chairing this year’s summit and praised his efforts in strengthening GCC cooperation in all fields.
On the issue of fighting terror, the meeting reiterated the GCC’s firm renunciation of “terrorism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations whatever its motives and justifications and whatever its source,” pledging to continue efforts “to drain its sources of financing.”
The final communique stressed “the commitment of the GCC countries to combating the ideology upon which terrorist groups are founded,” affirming that Islam as a religion is “innocent of such ideology.”
The GCC leaders also welcomed the outcome of the International Conference on Combating the Financing of Terrorism, held in Manama in November, appreciating its effective role in curbing terrorism.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Zayani said: “GCC countries are considering holding an international conference with the countries concerned with combating terrorism in order to coordinate efforts.”
On the military level, the meeting agreed to create a unified GCC naval force based in Bahrain, which is also currently home to the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
The GCC already possesses a land-based joint military force, known as the Peninsula Shield Force, which is currently based in Saudi Arabia.
In a step aimed at boosting cross-border security coordination, the communique also announced the launch of a joint Gulf police force, GCC-POL, dubbed a “Gulf Interpol,” to be headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
As well as being aimed at terrorism, media reports said the new police organization will also be tasked with tackling drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber-crime.
On Egypt, the communique affirmed the full support of the GCC member states for the Egyptian people and the political roadmap drawn up by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
The summit praised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s efforts to maintain security and stability in neighboring Yemen, demanding the immediate withdrawal of all militias affiliated with the Houthi movement from the territories they have occupied.
GCC leaders also called for the restoration of state authority across Yemen, urging the Houthi movement to surrender control of military and government buildings in Sana’a to the Yemeni government.
With regards to the Syria crisis, the summit expressed deep dismay over the continuing suffering and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. The council praised the efforts of the UN’s Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to reach a political solution to the crisis.
During a press conference held after the summit, Qatar Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah spoke about international efforts to fight terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
“Combating terrorism cannot be done through military operations from the air but through [military] presence on the ground,” the Qatari minister said.
Saudi Arabia’s delegation was headed by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, who passed on the greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the leaders of the member states.
The Crown Prince invited Gulf leaders to the GCC’s 36th summit next year, which will be hosted in Riyadh. Oman has apologized for not being able to host next year’s summit due to the health conditions of Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa’id, an Omani source who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media told Asharq Al-Awsat. Mirza Al-Khuwaylidi contributed reporting from Doha

Baghdad cannot stop Suleimani from entering Iraq: MP
Wednesday, 10 Dec, 2014 /Hamza Mustafa
Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani is able to freely enter and exit Iraq despite being under an international travel ban, a member of Iraq’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee alleged on Tuesday.In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, MP Mithal Al-Alusi said: “Qassem Suleimani does not need permission from anyone to enter or exit Iraq,” adding that the controversial Iranian official even has a house in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
Alusi’s comments come after UN sanctions monitors issued a seven page report this week investigating photographs taken inside Iraq, which appear to confirm that Suleimani is violating the travel ban.
UN member states, including Iraq, are obliged to deny entry to individuals subject to such a ban.
“One photograph reportedly shows him near the city of Amerli in northern Iraq after forces re-took the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” the report by the UN Panel of Experts on Iran said.
The Quds Force commander has been subject to an international travel ban and asset freeze by the UN Security Council since 2007. The Quds Force is a sub-branch of Iran’s IRGC which reportedly specializes in operations abroad. The group, and the wider IRGC, are viewed with suspicion outside Iran, and have been accused of involvement in terrorism. A number if entities affiliated with the IRGC, including some high ranking officers in the organization, have been sanctioned by the US and the EU.
In addition to claiming that Suleimani has been able to ignore the UN-mandated sanctions on his movement, Alusi also alleged that his ability to do hinges on tacit US acceptance of his activities in Iraq.
“He [Suleimani] feels safe to violate this travel ban due to the presence of US-Iranian consensus on a number of important regional issues. The US has taken the hand of Iran in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, in return for the [resolution of] the Iranian nuclear file,” the Iraqi parliamentarian claimed. “The Iraqi government cannot restrict Suleiamani’s movement so long as this is taking place . . . within the framework of a deal between Washington and Tehran,” he added.
Tehran has previously confirmed that Suleimani is able to travel despite the international travel ban. An Iranian general in September said that the Quds Force commander was in Iraq and playing a “critical role” in the fight against ISIS.

Palestinian minister dies after confrontation with Israeli police
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 10 Dec, 2014
Palestinian president described incident as "barbaric"
Turmusiya, West Bank, Reuters—A Palestinian minister died on Wednesday shortly after an Israeli border policeman shoved and grabbed him by the throat during a protest in the West Bank, an incident Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described as barbaric.
Ziad Abu Ein, 55, a minister without portfolio, was among scores of Palestinian and foreign activists who were confronted at an Israeli checkpoint in the occupied Palestinian territory while heading to a demonstration against Jewish settlements.
Around 30 Israeli soldiers and border policemen fired tear gas and sound grenades at the group and a scuffle ensued in which one border policeman pushed Abu Ein and grabbed his neck firmly with one hand. Footage of the incident and pictures taken by Reuters do not show Abu Ein responding with any violence.
Minutes later the minister began to look faint and fell to the ground clasping his chest. He died on his way to hospital.
It was not clear what caused his death. An autopsy is being carried out with Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian pathologists present, with the results expected later on Wednesday.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians, following months of violent unrest in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Clashes broke out in a refugee camp near Ramallah and an Israeli soldier shot and critically wounded a Palestinian youth, Palestinian medics said. Ramallah shops were shuttered for the day in protest at the minister’s death.
Israel’s army spokesman said the march towards the settlement involved “approximately 200 rioters” and was stopped by its forces using “riot dispersal means.” Footage shows the marchers moving peacefully towards the demonstration, although at one point an Arab man struck an Israeli soldier with a flag.
The Israeli military said in a statement it was investigating the circumstances that led to Abu Ein’s death.
Abbas described the incident as “a barbaric act which we cannot be silent about or accept”. He announced three days of national mourning and said “necessary steps” would be taken after an investigation.
Abu Ein, who was convicted of killing two young Israelis in a bomb attack in 1979 and released as part of a prisoner swap in 1985, was a vocal opponent of Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of an independent state together with Gaza and East Jerusalem.
A leader of Palestinian civil society groups for decades, Abu Ein was a regular attendee of non-violent protests and was appointed this year to head a government-backed protest group, the Committee to Resist Settlements and the Wall.
Shortly before his death, Abu Ein spoke to television reporters, sounding hoarse and short of breath.
“This is the terrorism of the occupation, this is a terrorist army, practising its terrorism on the Palestinian people,” he told the official Palestine TV. “We came to plant trees on Palestinian land, and they launch into an attack on us from the first moment. Nobody threw a single stone.”Ten Israelis and a foreign visitor have been killed by Palestinian assailants over the past three months, while more than a dozen Palestinians have also been killed, including most of those who carried out the attacks.
Palestinian officials indicated that cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli security forces in the West Bank could be suspended as a result of Abu Ein’s death.

Palestinian Official Dies after Beating by Israeli Troops, Abbas Says 'All Options Open' in Response to Incident
Naharnet/A senior Palestinian official died Wednesday after he was struck by Israeli forces during a protest march in the West Bank, prompting international calls for an investigation into the incident.
The Palestinian leadership vowed to respond to what President Mahmoud Abbas called the "brutal assault" on Ziad Abu Ein, who was in charge of the issue of Israeli settlements for the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Abbas summoned an emergency session of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, amid speculation he could suspend longstanding security cooperation between the PA and Israel.
"All options are open for discussion and implementation," he said. "A decision will be made tonight."
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon expressed regret for the death of Abu Ein and said an Israeli military inquiry had been launched.
"Security stability is important for both sides," he said in a statement.
European Union foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said reports of excessive use of force by Israeli troops were "extremely worrying", and demanded an "immediate, independent" inquiry.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called on Israel "to conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the circumstances of the brutal death," of Abu Ein.
A former PA deputy minister, Abu Ein, 55, was the most senior Palestinian official to die in a confrontation with Israeli forces in recent years.
His death was "a barbaric act that cannot be tolerated or accepted," Abbas said, declaring three days of mourning.
Neighboring Jordan condemned the incident as "a crime" and denounced "clear evidence of human rights violations by the Israeli army."
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in April despite a concerted diplomatic drive by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Washington said Wednesday that Kerry would head to Rome on Sunday to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on issues including "recent developments in Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem and the region."
The confrontation erupted as Abu Ein took part in a march of about 300 Palestinians who intended to plant olive trees as a symbolic act of protest against Israeli settlements, an Agence France-Presse photographer said.
The group was confronted by Israeli soldiers and paramilitary border police in the West Bank village of Turmusayya. Tear gas was fired, three soldiers grabbed Abu Ein and he was struck in the chest, the photographer said.
Abu Ein fell and an Israeli army doctor rushed to treat him before he was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The Israeli military said it had proposed a joint investigation with the Palestinians.
A statement said Israeli forces had been confronted with "approximately 200 rioters."
"Forces halted the progress of the rioters... using riot dispersal means," the statement said.
It said an Israeli pathologist would be joining a delegation of pathologists from Jordan to examine the incident.
Amnesty International said Israeli forces had a long history of excessive force.
"The Israeli forces have an abysmal track record when it comes to policing protests and have frequently resorted to the unnecessary or excessive use of force against protesters in the West Bank, resulting in numerous unlawful killings," it said in a statement.
The Islamist movement Hamas, the de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip, issued a statement mourning Abu Ein's death and calling on the Palestinian Authority to cease security coordination with Israel.
"The time has come to rally all our forces in facing the criminal Zionist occupation and stop all sorts of security coordination with the occupation," a statement said.
Hours later, near Ramallah, Israeli troops shot and seriously wounded a 14-year-old Palestinian in the head during a clash at Jelazoun refugee camp, Palestinian security officials and medics said.
The officials said the clash erupted in response to the death of Abu Ein.
Abu Ein was extradited from the United States in 1981 over the killing of two Israelis in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison, but released in 1985 in a prisoner exchange.
Beside his role monitoring Israeli settlements, Abu Ein was a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and previously served as deputy Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs.
His death follows months of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and a wave of unrest in the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem.
Israelis are on edge after recent "hit-and-run" car attacks by Palestinians that killed five people, as well as an assault last month that saw two Palestinians burst into a Jerusalem synagogue, leaving four rabbis and a policeman dead.
The tensions have been heightened by Israeli announcements of new settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.