December 31/14

Bible Quotation for today/Death In Christianity Theology
Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 15/35-58: "But someone will say, “How are the dead raised?” and, “With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish one, that which you yourself sow is not made alive unless it dies.  That which you sow, you don’t sow the body that will be, but a bare grain, maybe of wheat, or of some other kind.  But God gives it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.  All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.  There are also celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial differs from that of the terrestrial.  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However that which is spiritual isn’t first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.  The first man is of the earth, made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven.  As is the one made of dust, such are those who are also made of dust; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.  As we have borne the image of those made of dust, let’s also bear the image of the heavenly.  Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can’t inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  But when this corruptible will have put on incorruption, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 30-31/14
Qatar Scales Back Role in Middle East Conflicts/By/Yaroslav Trofimov/Wall Street Journl/December 30/14
Coping With Success Against ISIS/James F. Jeffrey/washington Institute/December 31/14

Lebanese Related News published on December 30-31/14
Israeli Troops Take Combat Positions Off al-Wazzani after Erecting Tents
Riyadh neutral on rival Lebanese presidential candidates: Saudi ambassador
Lebanon: Five major moments of 2014
Franjieh Hails Dialogue between Rival Parties
Egypt Welcomes Mustaqbal-Hizbullah Dialogue, Vows Support for Lebanon
Report: Hizbullah Ambushes Front Row Terrorist in Assal al-Ward
Report: Fugitive Osama Mansour Still in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh
Lebanese Army defends Arsal measures after fallout
Salam: Cabinet will discuss oil issue soon
Iran envoy praises Rai's role in Lebanon
Stuck Elevator Traps Two Ministers in Beirut's Port
Geagea, Aoun meeting possibly in early January: report
Understanding the drive to extremism
French envoy puts Saudi, Iran trips on hold
Captives’ families pledge discretion, calm
Lebanon: Five major moments of 2014
Holidays unkind to Beirut merchants

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 30-31/14
Syrian opposition unites ahead of Moscow meetings: opposition sources
Arabs endorse Palestinian UN draft urging end of Israel occupation
“Iranian General: Obama, EU Leaders Should Convert to Islam For Peace,”
Car bomb targets gas plant in Homs
ISIS features Netanyahu in official magazine
Russia: US sanctions hamper dialogue on Iran, Syria
Indonesia asks U.S. to help find missing jet
Palestinians to move forward on U.N. resolution
Memories of war torment Gaza’s children
West Bank officials in Gaza to unite ministries
Egyptian court permanently bans Jewish festival on ‘moral’ grounds
Report: Detainees in Syria’s Homs on hunger strike
Hamas accuses Palestinian govt of failing Gaza
Quake jolts sparsely populated area in Iran
Tehran air pollution puts nearly 400 in hospital
Turkey Sacks 4 Prosecutors behind Anti-Erdogan Graft Probe

Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
Islamic Republic of Iran General: Obama, EU leaders should convert to Islam for peace
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Financial Times: “Buddhist militancy triggers international concern”
Islamic State: “Allah willing, we will continue to fight against the Israelis and their allies”

He who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him
Elias Bejjani
My friends and my enemies, all of you, just remember, that actual life is a two way path and that we have no choice but to pick one of them and bear the responsibility for our decision.
So, if you are righteous, wise, actually fear God in what you say and do, and are aware of the inevitable Day Of judgment, you need to learn how to avoid the terrible consequences of your harmful acts and rhetoric by not committing them.
If you have hardened your heart, blinded your eyes and deafened your ears and killed your conscience, then do not ever forget that when you evilly and intentional make others go through a misery, that this same misery might turn on the other side and hit you back.
"He who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him" (Proverbs 26:27)
Our popular Lebanese proverb portrays this inevitable fate so elegantly:
"Definitely, you will drink from the same cup that you made others drink from it".
This well know proverb delineates that many pompous, stupid, short sighted, vindictive and echo inflated people keep a blind eye on this life reality that is proven time after time, and accordingly end hurting themselves and others so badly.
There is no doubt that we all have encountered, and will face in our life such evil individuals who enjoy hurting others and zealously practice the evil role of being a stumbling stones for every body else, especially for those who are very close to them including family members.
Let us pray that this coming new year will bring with it repentance, wisdom, faith and conscience to these venomous creatures that dig holes for others, and harbor in their rotten and polluted minds and hearts plagues of hatred, grudges and enviousness.

Riyadh neutral on rival Lebanese presidential candidates: Saudi ambassador
Presidential hopefuls Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea set to meet in January to resolve political vacuum
Huda Al-Saleh /Tuesday, 30 Dec, 2014
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following local reports that rival Lebanese presidential hopefuls Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea are set to meet in January to seek a way to resolve the ongoing presidential vacuum in the country, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon affirmed that Riyadh is neutral toward both candidates.  In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Awad Asiri, said that Riyadh is committed to a policy of non-interference in Lebanese affairs, adding that Saudi Arabia encourages the country’s rival political blocs to work together to protect Lebanese security and stability. Lebanese media reported that Geagea and Aoun are due to meet to discuss the ongoing political vacuum in the country. “Preliminary talks have come a long way . . . Discussions are now focused on setting a tentative date for the meeting, likely between January 2 and 3,” a political source told Lebanon’s Al-Joumhouria newspaper. Lebanon has been without a president since former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s term in office ended in May 2014. Lebanon’s parliament has been unable to come to a consensus on a successor, with the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance backing Michel Aoun and the Future Movement-led March 14 Alliance throwing its weight behind Samir Geagea. A number of officials from both sides have endorsed the Aoun-Geagea talks, stressing the need to fill the position as soon as possible. Commenting on Samir Geagea’s most recent visit to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi ambassador described it as “consultative,” adding that it focused on the latest regional developments. Geagea visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month, during which he met with Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz.
“Saudi Arabia always stands by Lebanon,” the deputy Crown Prince said during the meeting.
“We will continue to back Lebanon in all steps that seek to bolster the stability, sovereignty and security of its people,” he added. The latest development in the political saga comes days after Prime Minister Tammam Salam called on the people of Lebanon not to lose hope over the prospect of ending the more than 7-month presidential vacuum. “I call on the Lebanese to be patient with us in dealing with this presidential vacuum that is negatively affecting the country,” he said in remarks published by Al-Mustaqbal newspaper on Sunday.

Iran ambassador praises Maronite Patriarch's role in Lebanon
The Daily Star/Dec. 30, 2014/BEIRUT: Iran's ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali praised Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai over his role in helping maintain "security and stability" in the country. Fathali, who visited the Christian leader at his home in Bkirki to wish him holiday greetings, also underlined what he said were healthy relations between Tehran and the “Christian brethren in Lebanon.” Rai and Fathali also discussed the recent developments in Lebanon and the region, according to a statement posted on the National News Agency. Rai also received Egypt's charge d'affaires to Lebanon Mohammad Badreddine Zayed, who highlighted Egypt’s eagerness to safeguard the “coexistence model” in Lebanon. Zayed also expressed hope to see a new Lebanese president elected soon

Geagea, Aoun meeting possibly in early January: report
Dec. 30, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The long-awaited meeting between Lebanon’s key Christian foes – Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun – will likely take place the first week of January, a source told local daily Al-Joumhouria in remarks published Tuesday. “Preliminary talks have come a long way. ... Discussions are now focused on setting a tentative date for the meeting, likely between Jan. 2-3,” according to the paper's source. The source said the meeting between the Lebanese Forces leader and head of the Free Patriotic Movement would take place at Aoun’s residence in Rabieh. ile, Geagea's archfoe, Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh, lauded the anticipated meeting. "I don't have any problem with the meeting," Frangieh said in comments published Tuesday by Al-Mustaqbal newspaper. "On the contrary, I support this [Geagea-Aoun] dialogue, too, just as I support any dialogue between two [political] parties," he said in reference to talks between Hezbollah and the Future Movement that kicked off last week.

Lebanon: Five major moments of 2014
Dec. 30, 2014/Mazin Sidahmed/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon has experienced a tumultuous 12 months, but has managed to stay relatively stable amid regional turmoil. The Daily Star marks the end of 2014 with a compilation of five illustrative moments of the year. Sporting red hair, Haifa Wehbe kicked off the year with an electric performance at the Forum de Beyrouth. Her new look provided fodder for the country’s gossip pages and she kept the fiery color for her role in the hit TV series “Kalam ala Waraq” that aired during Ramadan. Despite Parliament’s continuing failure to elect a president, some things picked up at the onset of the sunny season. The security situation seemed to calm down somewhat and some predicted a profitable summer for the tourism industry. Beirut’s packed public beach Ramlet al-Baida is pictured with families soaking in the gorgeous Mediterranean weather. Things took a turn for the worse in August when ISIS and the Nusra Front attempted to take over the town of Arsal, leading to a five-day battle with the Lebanese Army. The offensive prompted the return of former Prime Minister and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, after three years of self-imposed exile. The battle in Arsal led to an ongoing crisis in the country, after the militants kidnapped more than 30 police officers and soldiers as they withdrew from Lebanon. Five of the hostages were shortly released. Since then, only one more solider has been released and four have been executed. The government has been debating whether or not to acquiesce to a prisoner swap deal demanded by the militants. It also has yet to appoint an official negotiator.Meanwhile, the families of the servicemen remaining in captivity have continued to campaign the government relentlessly in hopes that they will soon be reunited with their loved ones.

Salam: Cabinet will discuss oil issue soon
The Daily Star/Dec. 30, 2014
BEIRUT: The oil exploration dispute will be discussed in Cabinet soon, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in remarks published Tuesday. “The governing body of the petroleum sector will soon present its vision to Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian, who, in turn, will hand over [the report] to me so I could put it on the Cabinet table to take a decision,” Salam told local newspaper As-Safir. The prime minister acknowledged that the oil issue was “thorny” and “complex.”“Still that does not mean we should [allow] delay [in agreement] and miss opportunities,” he said. Salam expressed hope that no obstacles would arise in the Cabinet's oil exploration talks. "I hope there will be no political obstacles, and in case there were I hope they would be removed,” he said. “The oil issue must be approved.” Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said Washington wanted to help Lebanon transform into an oil and gas producing country and assist in resolving its territorial dispute with Israel.

Report: Fugitive Osama Mansour Still in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh
Naharnet/Notorious fugitive Osama Mansour is reportedly still in the northern port city of Tripoli and continuously changing his residence, As Safir newspaper reported on Tuesday. The daily said that Mansour has changed his features and is still located in Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood in overcrowded areas. The newspaper said that the army raided in the few past weeks several houses inhabited by Mansour's relatives but failed to arrest him. Information obtained by the daily pointed out that the army will continue raiding the area until all the wanted suspects are apprehended. Media reports said in November that wanted terrorists Shadi al-Mawlawi and Mansour have been reportedly injured in the latest battles with the Lebanese army in Tripoli and are hiding among civilians, taking them as human shields. Al-Mawlawi and Mansour have been charged with belonging to an armed terrorist group in order to stage terrorist acts, and holing up at a Tripoli mosque with the aim of preparing bombs and explosive devices to target Lebanese troops in the area. In Novemeber, the militia led by the two fugitives clashed with the army in Tripoli and Akkar district. The gunbattles left dozens of fighters, soldiers and civilians dead and injured.

Report: Hizbullah Ambushes Front Row Terrorist in Assal al-Ward
Naharnet/Tens of terrorists have been reportedly killed and wounded when trying to infiltrate into Hizbullah positions in Assal al-Ward of Syria's Qalamun region near Lebanon's border. According to Ad Diyar newspaper published on Tuesday, Hizbullah and the Syrian army ambushed the terrorist groups inflicting heavy casualties in their ranks. “The Syrian army and Hizbullah fighters foiled an infiltration by more than 50 gunmen into their checkpoints on the outskirts of Qara and Breij, killing several,” the newspaper added. Al-Akhbar newspaper said that front row leaders have been targeted in the ambush. “An ambush by the Syrian army targeted a convoy for front row terrorist leaders, killing dozens of gunmen,” the newspaper quoted sources on the field as saying. Hizbullah has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad. Regime forces recaptured most of the Qalamun region in April, with many rebel fighters withdrawing from the strategic area or slipping across the border into Lebanon. But pockets of opposition fighters, including jihadists, have remained in the mountainous region.

Israeli Troops Take Combat Positions Off al-Wazzani after Erecting Tents
Naharnet/Israeli troops deployed Tuesday opposite the al-Wazzani River on the border with Lebanon and some of them took combat positions, shortly after they erected two tents and raised the Israeli flag on them. “Backed by a Merkava tank, 12 Israeli soldiers crossed the electronic fence in the al-Wazzani area at 3:00 am, erecting two tents around 50 meters away from the al-Wazzani River and 200 meters from the electronic fence,” Lebanon's National News Agency reported. The tank was positioned on the hill overlooking the river and the adjacent recreational parks as a number of Israeli troops deployed in the area, the agency said. An Israeli military jeep had arrived at 10:00 am at the electronic fence's gate and the soldiers who were in it headed to the two tents, along with a sniffer dog, NNA added.
Troops “took combat positions opposite the Lebanese side of the border and other soldiers accompanied by two civilians arrived half an hour later,” the agency said, noting that the Israelis later marched in the area facing the Hosn al-Wazzani park. “Some of them used binoculars as one of the troops filmed the area with a video camera,” NNA said. Meanwhile, the Lebanese army and UNIFIL peacekeepers took the necessary precautions and monitored the Israeli activities that ended around noon. “The enemy troops then left through another gate,” the agency said. The electronic fence is not the Blue Line, which is the U.N.-mapped border. The fence runs approximately 50 meters south of the Blue Line. On Monday, the Israeli army staged patrols alongside the border with Lebanon as a reconnaissance aircraft flew over the occupied Shebaa Farms. In recent days, Israel has reportedly erected a defensive barrier and sonar array off the Ras al-Naqoura border area, in south Lebanon, to prevent any Hizbullah divers from infiltrating northern Israel.

Lebanese Army defends Arsal measures after fallout
Samya Kullab/Elise Knutsen| The Daily Star/Dec. 30, 2014
BEIRUT: Many of Arsal’s residents already have permits to cross to the town’s outskirts and those protesting new restrictions are a minority, an Army source told The Daily Star Monday, hours after a confrontation between soldiers and protesters left three people injured.
“A large number of people have already obtained permits and those harmed by these measures are actually those who want terrorism,” the source said, requesting anonymity. According to eye witness accounts and the Army source, a brief altercation occurred between soldiers and a few Arsal residents between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday morning at the Wadi Hmayyed checkpoint.
New measures to regulate those entering the town’s outskirts provoked anger among the residents, who cross regularly for work.
The Army announced Sunday that a permit would now be required to cross into Arsal’s outskirts. The move aims to better control movement in and out of the barren range where Syrian jihadi militants holding 25 Lebanese servicemen are holed up.
A permit can be retrieved by residents, many of whom own shops, sawmills, stone quarries and fruit orchards in the outskirts, at the Army Intelligence headquarters in Ablah or other offices nearby in Labweh or Ras Baalbek, according to the source.
Wadi Hmayyed remains the only official crossing between the town and its outskirts.
“These measures aim at protecting Arsal and its people from terrorism,” the source said. “In some cases residents can use the same permit to go back and forth more than once.”He said most of the protesters Monday were actually Syrians.
“Those in Arsal who are protesting the measures are a minority, they don’t even constitute 10 percent of Arsal’s residents,” the source said. Residents were already angry over the closure in September of one access road leading to the town’s outskirts. They say the move has hampered the movement of workers and owners of stone quarries in the area and significantly increased traffic jams on the outskirts’ entrance. Stone quarries are a major source of income for the town, guaranteeing the livelihood of more than half of Arsal’s residents, local sources estimate. Eye witnesses said soldiers at the checkpoint Monday were diligently checking the IDs of every individual seeking to enter the outskirts, causing a backup of 60-70 cars.
Previously, Arsalis were able to drive past the checkpoint with minimal scrutiny, Ahmad Fliti, a sawmill owner in Wadi Hmayyed, told The Daily Star.
“The Army was being responsible, but there were a lot of people,” he said.  “It’s been like that for the past three days, but today things got worse because some guys became more angry than usual,” he said. “They started throwing rocks at the soldiers.”
The Army source said soldiers responded by firing shots into the air and using tear gas to disperse the crowds. Witnesses said the rocks were thrown at soldiers soon after the arrival of Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri, who told The Daily Star he was responding to complaints made by residents.
A Lebanese man and a 17-year-old boy were treated for bullet wounds at the Al-Rahme Hospital, according to Dr. Bassem al-Faris. The 17-year-old, Mohammad Saadedine al-Hujeiri, a cousin of the mayor, was rushed into emergency surgery, where doctors repaired three severed arteries. He was later taken by ambulance to a hospital in Zahle. The Army source said Hujeiri must have been hit by a stray bullet. He insisted that the protesters were not targeted, saying soldiers had fired in the air. “We opened fire in the air to disperse them,” he said. The source added that the vast majority of Arsal residents supported the new measures. Those who protested Monday “want to protect terrorism and keep arms smuggling,” he said. A representative from Khoury Hospital in Zahle confirmed that Hujeiri had undergone an additional surgery and said the patient remained under anesthetic but was in “stable condition.”
Many other protesters were arrested for physically assaulting Army troops and failing to cooperate with the military’s commands. The Future Movement’s office in Arsal held an “urgent” meeting after the dispute with workers and residents, according to a statement.
“We consider any provocation, road blocking or anything of this sort a suspicious act that aims to sow strife between Arsal and the Army,” it said. “We consider the Army the only side responsible for security and border control.”
To ease morning traffic, the statement added, two passageways will be opened between 6 a.m and 8 a.m. in Wadi Hmayyed and Masyadeh “in order to facilitate the passing of workers in a normal and smooth manner.”
The Future Movement in Beirut also lauded the Army’s measures, after a delegation met with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian. “The people need to look and reflect on why these measures have been implemented, because they are only in the best interest of the residents of Arsal,” said MP Atef Majdalani, part of the delegation. Separately, the Army conducted raids in the Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and arrested Youssef Ghamrawi, who is suspected of carrying out attacks against the military during the Army’s crackdown against jihadis in the northern city in October. The Army confiscated weapons from Ghamrawi’s residence. – Additional reporting by Wassim Mroueh and Edy Semaan

Palestinians seek to move forward on U.N. resolution
Agencies/Dec. 30, 2014
UNITED NATIONS: The Palestinian leadership Monday presented changes to a U.N. draft resolution on statehood that could come up for a vote at the Security Council as early as this week. The United States again rejected the text that would pave the way to a Palestinian state by setting a 12-month deadline to reach a final peace deal and calling for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory by the end of 2017. Arab ambassadors met at U.N. headquarters for about two hours and endorsed the text that includes new wording on Jerusalem, Palestinian prisoner releases, the expansion of Jewish settlements and the West Bank barrier. But a final decision on the timing for a vote on the draft resolution at the Security Council rests with Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.
“Both our leaderships will be discussing, to find the best way and the best timing to vote on the Security Council resolution,” Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar said. “Realistically, it could happen tomorrow, [Tuesday]” Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour added.
The draft resolution was formally presented to the council on Dec. 17, but the United States quickly rejected the text over Palestinian insistence that deadlines be set. The Palestinians had said they were open to negotiations on the text and Jordan began talks on a measure that could garner a consensus among the 15 council members.
But the latest push showed that prospects for a resolution that would satisfy both the Palestinians and the United States were bleak. Discussions on the draft resolution come amid mounting international alarm over the ongoing violence and the failure to restart negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday about the latest Palestinian push at the U.N. “We don’t think this resolution is constructive,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said. “We don’t believe this resolution advances the goal of a two-state solution.”Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that if the Security Council doesn’t reject the resolution, “we will.”The Palestinian Authority is “seeking to impose on us a diktat that would undermine Israel’s security, put its future in peril,” he said. “Israel will oppose conditions that endanger our future.” Netanyahu said Israel expects at least “the responsible members” of the international community to vigorously oppose the resolution “because what we need always is direct negotiations and not imposed conditions.”
It remained unclear if the Palestinians would seek a quick vote or hold off until Jan. 1 when five new members with a pro-Palestinian stance join the Security Council. Diplomats said it was unlikely that the resolution would garner nine votes under the current makeup of the council – a scenario that would allow the United States to avoid resorting to its veto power. A U.S. veto risks angering key Arab allies, including partners in the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against the ISIS jihadi group in Syria and Iraq. Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela begin their two-year stint at the council on Jan. 1, replacing Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Rwanda and South Korea. Several European parliaments have adopted nonbinding motions calling for recognition of Palestine and there are fears of a return to war unless peace efforts are revived. The Palestinians have warned that if the bid to win support for a U.N. resolution fails, they are prepared to join the International Criminal Court to file suits against Israel. They will also take action at the U.N. General Assembly and in other international fora to force the issue of Palestinian statehood on the agenda. “If the Arab-Palestinian initiative submitted to the Security Council to put an end to occupation doesn’t pass, we will be forced to take the necessary political and legal decisions,” Abbas said last week. “If it fails, we will no longer deal with the Israeli government, which will then be forced to assume its responsibilities as an occupier.”

Letter of Christmas 2014 and New Year from Fr. Abdo RAAD
“Tu sei importante per me”.
Ogni anno torna Natale. Ci mettiamo davanti alla festa e a noi stessi per ripensare le cose. Si viaggia, si festeggia, si scrive, si medita… Con voi cari amici, vorrei meditare l’importanza dell’altro nella nostra vita. Quanto è importante l’uomo affinché Dio s’incarni per venir ad incontrarlo? Quanto è importante l’uomo affinché Dio venga a salvarlo versando il suo sangue sulla croce per lui. Quanto è grande l’uomo affinché Dio lo regali il dono dell’eternità tramite la risurrezione. Quanto è Buono Dio per fare tutto questo per l’uomo. Essere attenti all’importanza dell’altro nella nostra vita e un mezzo di salvezza di questo modo ed è la strada perche la pace regna e trionfa sulle guerre Cari amici, riconosco l’importanza di ognuno di voi e del vostro ruolo nella mia vita. Lo farò da ora in questa lettera e con tanta umiltà dicendo: voi m’incoraggiate a diventare migliore, e mi arricchite giorno dopo giorno. Grazie di essere cosi importanti.
Buon Natale e Buon anno.
"Vous êtes important pour moi."
Noël revient chaque année. En face de la fête et de nous-mêmes, nous repensons les choses, Nous voyageons, nous célébrons, nous écrivons, nous méditons... Je voudrais méditer avec vous chers amis l'importance de l'autre dans notre vie. Combien est important l'homme pour que Dieu s’incarne pour venir à sa rencontre? Combien est important l'homme pour que Dieu vienne le sauver en versant son sang sur la croix pour lui? Combien est important l'homme pour que Dieu lui attribue le don de l'éternité par la résurrection. Combien est bon Dieu pour faire tout cela pour l'homme. Être attentif à l'importance de l'autre dans notre vie est un moyen de salut pour le monde. C’est de cette manière que la paix règne et triomphe sur les guerres. Chers amis, je reconnais l'importance de chacun de vous et de votre rôle dans ma vie. Je le fais maintenant dans cette lettre en vous disant humblement: vous m’avez encouragé à devenir meilleur, à m’enrichir après jour. Merci d'être si important.
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année.
"You are important to me."
Christmas returns each year. We put ourselves in front of the feast and of ourselves to remind several things. We travel, we celebrate, we write, we meditate... I would like to meditate with you dear friends the importance of the other in our life. How important is the man that God incarnates to come to meet him! How important is the man that God comes to save him shedding his blood on the cross for him! How superb is the man that God offers him the gift of eternity through the resurrection! How good is God to do all this for man! Being attentive to the importance of the other in our life is participation at the salvation economy. In this way, peace reigns and triumphs on the wars. Dear friends, I recognize the importance of each of you and your role in my life. I do it now in this letter so humbly saying: you encouraged me to become better, and you enriched me day after day. Thanks for being so important.
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Qatar Scales Back Role in Middle East Conflicts
By/Yaroslav Trofimov/Wall Street Journl
Dec. 30, 2014
DOHA, Qatar—This tiny emirate made plenty of foes in recent years by intervening in an array of regional conflicts. Now, faced with some hefty political costs, it is moderating its big-power ambitions.
From mediating in Lebanon and Sudan to helping rebels in Libya and Syria and backing the Palestinian group Hamas, Qatar has been involved in virtually every Middle Eastern flash point. But, under pressure from bigger neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it has moved in recent weeks to distance itself from its traditional posture of championing Islamist movements—particularly the Muslim Brotherhood—in Egypt and elsewhere.
To what extent Qatar—with fewer citizens than Malta—will retract into a more limited role will become clear in coming months. But diplomats and analysts in the Qatari capital of Doha agree that the emirate will now focus more on domestic priorities.
“The Qataris were a little bit shaken about how much blowback they have had,” said Abdullah Baabood, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University. “The recent events show they have overstretched themselves. They will now pick their battles and focus on what serves best their strategic interests.”
Despite its foreign-policy leanings, Qatar itself is no Islamist theocracy. Unlike in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, alcohol is legal here and bikini-clad tourists sip martinis in Doha’s beachfront resorts.
The country began feeling the costs of its foreign entanglements when angry Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in March. After their threats to boycott a summit of Gulf monarchies in Doha this month, Qatar revised its stance on the critical point of disagreement—how to treat the Muslim Brotherhood and the current Egyptian leadership, which ousted the Islamist group from power last year.
Having expelled several Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders ahead of the summit, Qatar sent a senior envoy to Egypt on Dec. 20 to seek a rapprochement with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
Two days later, Qatar shut down the Egyptian channel of its Al Jazeera TV network, an outlet for the Brotherhood and other opponents of Egypt’s current leadership.
“The security of Egypt is important for the security of Qatar,” Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said.
Qatar, which by some estimates enjoys the planet’s highest per capita income thanks to natural-gas resources, burst onto the world stage under the previous emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The restless foreign and prime minister at the time, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, widely known as HBJ, jetted around the Middle East trying to broker deals in its many conflicts.
When the Arab Spring began in 2011, Qatar eagerly embraced the change. Betting that Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood represented the future, Doha actively backed them all over the Middle East—even as Qatari officials publicly denied playing favorites. This was a critical difference from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., which consider the Brotherhood an existential threat.
“Qataris definitely think they were on the right side of history, supporting the peoples of the Arab world,” said Andreas Krieg, an expert at King’s College London who is advising the Qatari armed forces.
In Libya, portraits of the Qatari emir replaced those of Moammar Gadhafi in some hotel lobbies in 2011, an acknowledgment of the critical role that Doha played in arming and funding the rebellion that eventually toppled the regime there. In Egypt, Qatar pumped billions of dollars to help the government of President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who won the country’s first democratic presidential elections in 2012.
And in Syria, Qatar feuded with the Saudis over control of the opposition, funding some Islamist rebel groups that eventually joined the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front or the extremist group Islamic State.
Despite its rhetoric in favor of democratic change in the region, the absolute monarchy has remained just as repressive as its neighbors, said Najeeb al Nuaimi, the country’s former justice minister who is now a prominent human-rights lawyer.
“It is a police state. There is no democracy in Qatar. If you open your mouth, they will even strip you of your passport,” he said. “We supported directly all the uprisings, with violence, with guns—but only the Brotherhood, not the liberals.”
That policy met the test of reality immediately after the current emir assumed power in June 2013, succeeding his father and sidelining HBJ, a distant relation.
A week later in Egypt, Gen. Sisi—military chief at the time—ousted President Morsi in a military coup. Mr. Morsi has since been charged with spying for Qatar, among other things. With the help of the Saudis and Emiratis, Gen. Sisi then began a drive to wipe out the Brotherhood.
Qatar’s bid to reconcile with Cairo now leaves Turkey as the only regional country still challenging President Sisi’s legitimacy.
In Libya, the international community rallied behind the administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk that, with Egyptian and Emirati military involvement, is advancing against the coalition of Islamists long backed by Qatar.
“Due to international pressures, Qatar’s support for the Islamists is waning,” said Karim Mezran, a Libya expert at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
In Syria, Qatar has moved away from its clients and joined the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State—though, unlike the Saudis and Emiratis, it is not flying any bombing missions there.
Following the rise of Islamic State, growing international concern about some of Qatar’s less savory connections even threatened to endanger Doha’s plan to hold the soccer World Cup in 2022.
Suddenly isolated, Doha became increasingly unable to resist Saudi and Emirati demands to fall in line—with this month’s summit in Doha formally marking its return to the fold.
“Their biggest weakness is the gap between their ambitions and their capabilities,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center think tank. “They aspire to play in the big leagues—but the big-leaguers often put them at the bottom of the tables.”
**Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at

Coping With Success Against ISIS
James F. Jeffrey?washington Institute
December 29, 2014
Although Washington should have no illusions about resolving the region's wider problems, it can build on early successes against ISIS by making the commitments needed to fully defeat the group in Iraq and Syria, including a modest, enduring U.S. military presence.
The battle against the "Islamic State"/ISIS has just begun, and officials in Washington are reiterating that it will be a long-term fight even in the Obama administration's priority front, Iraq. Nevertheless, recent successes by Kurdish peshmerga and federal forces controlled by Baghdad point to a reversal of the jihadist group's offensive in Iraq, likely leading to its containment and eventual eviction from Mosul, Falluja, and Tikrit. As in any military campaign, once the United States and its allies gain the upper hand, their momentum will fuel even more success, as ISIS itself experienced in June when it overran most of Sunni Arab-majority Iraq. Within a year, coalition successes could destroy the group as a major conventional force in Iraq, assuming the administration can answer the "who provides the ground component?" question for offensive action. (One answer to that question could be a mix of twelve Iraqi army and peshmerga brigades reequipped and retrained as planned by the United States, along with Sunni Arab national guard elements and a more aggressive U.S. forward ground presence involving Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and unit advisors; limited American ground troops might be needed to augment such a local force, however.)
Thus it is already appropriate to begin considering what will happen if the fight in Iraq goes well. In that case, the United States would need to lock in its success there if it hopes to make any headway against ISIS forces intact in Syria, against potential Iranian efforts to profit from the group's setbacks, and against the ethnic and religious demons that have long haunted the Iraqi state. Following are general political and military pointers for cementing such success.
1. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the feasible.
The U.S. military has correctly focused attention on the iconic question asked in 2003 by then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus: "Tell me how this ends." Yet while this is a vital consideration for any military operation, it can inhibit action when taken too far in an uncertain situation. Furthermore, the battle against ISIS is a low-cost "economy of force" campaign that includes the explicit goal of "no casualties." In such campaigns, firmly answering the general's question before going all-in is less necessary than when contemplating the commitment of hundreds of thousands of troops with heavy casualties and applying the Powell Doctrine.
2. Military action is sometimes not just a means, but an end.
Although Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz's precepts about the primacy of policy should be heeded in any conflict, they should not deter leaders from effective military action to change a military situation in an emergency, even before "crossing all the T's" of a political end state. And the conflict with ISIS still constitutes an emergency. Stopping the jihadist advances in Iraq and Syria and pushing ISIS back would be an effective response, in part because it would shape the eventual political options. President Obama was right to warn in his May 28 West Point speech that not all problems are "nails" requiring a military "hammer." But the corollary is that some problems are in fact nails, and bringing down the military hammer is the right choice.
3. Any political outcome centered on fundamentally transforming the region and ending ISIS-like outbreaks is doomed.
The Middle East is a cauldron of complexity, dysfunction, and conflict. The United States must remain engaged there given the critical interests reiterated by President Obama -- combating terrorism, stopping proliferation, supporting allies and partners, and facilitating the flow of hydrocarbons -- but it cannot "fix" the region. This was tried repeatedly in places such as Beirut and Mogadishu, and on a larger scale in Afghanistan and Iraq, with results best characterized as unsatisfactory.
As Henry Kissinger emphasizes in his new book World Order, the fundamental building block of all American and international engagement over the past hundred years -- namely, the nation state and the Westphalian system in which states are embedded -- is particularly weak in the Middle East due to fragile national roots and competing local and universalist identities, including pan-Arabic movements and messianic religious calls from the likes of Iran's ayatollahs and ISIS. Many in the United States and Europe are skeptical about transporting Western values to the Middle East, and ambivalent about the region joining the West. Furthermore, major elements within Middle Eastern societies, including most religious movements, oppose such an embrace of secular Western identity to one degree or another, and only a small part of the population would commit to it.
4. Peoples of the region, not outsiders, must solve their problems.
Although this principle applies worldwide, it is nowhere more relevant than in the Middle East, given the depth and breadth of the problems that threaten its internal order. Societal modernization is unfolding in the region amid the weak national structures and reluctance to adopt Western models described above, creating tremendous tension. The outside world can help with some of these issues, but until a true internal "awakening" occurs among the region's populations -- away from messianic political movements and toward political norms prevailing in most of the rest of the world -- no fundamental change is possible.
5. Significant stability operations by U.S. ground forces must be avoided.
This admonition flows not only from the regional situation described above, but also from America's extensive experiences with regime change, stability operations, and nation building under fire, from Vietnam to the past decade. Any such attempt would have at best questionable success -- even if local populations did not see U.S. troops as occupiers, even if nervous neighboring states did not undercut the U.S. effort, and even if the American people showed remarkable patience. But none of these happy eventualities is likely, making success even more improbable. In addition, such campaigns tend to sour the American people on any military engagement, even if necessary and low cost.
6. Continued American engagement, including some military presence, is essential for long-term success.
In Iraq, and eventually in Syria, political accommodation of diverse ethnic and religious groups -- however difficult -- will be essential to fully defeating ISIS and preventing it or the next millennial Islamist movement from gaining a new foothold. As seen repeatedly, constitutional, democratic institutions in the Middle East are vulnerable to sectarian and authoritarian pressures, especially if championed from outside. Therefore, any political accommodation must also be anchored in decentralization and effective power sharing, including with regard to security forces, natural resources, and revenues.
Iraq has had the most success here by creating and maintaining structures enabling the Kurdistan Regional Government to exist in the north. But extending such power-sharing solutions to the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, and eventually to ethnic and religious groups in Syria, will require internal cultural change, international guarantees, and an outside monitoring force. While the political legitimacy for such moves should come from the UN or other international bodies, the military power to enforce them must come from the United States. And the credibility behind that power will need to be demonstrated by limited American forces remaining in Iraq and potentially in or around Syria, all of them authorized to defend the international guarantees and decentralized order.
Such guarantees would give all parties incentive to adhere to agreements, and to respond to challenges not with social engineering, but with trade and financial sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and, if necessary, selective military force. The West has succeeded repeatedly with sanctions and isolation, most recently with Russia and Iran. And the U.S. military in Iraq successfully encouraged all sides to adhere to power sharing along the Kurdish-Arab fault line and between Baghdad and the Sunni Arab "Awakening" forces. To this end, it is imperative that the United States maintain the integrity and credibility of its military commitments throughout the region -- with Israel, against Iran, and in Afghanistan.
7. Buying time in a long-term struggle.
The question of "how this ends" cannot be answered with an explicit scenario and timeline, and it does not need to be answered to justify the use of emergency military "hammers." Yet political reality and alliance diplomacy require some answer. For now, the best response is that a program such as the above -- applied when necessary beyond Iraq, Syria, and ISIS to other challenges against the international order -- would buy the Middle East time for the modernization and internal transformation needed to anchor the nation-state principle and provide homegrown disincentives to violence and upheaval. This is not a battle cry to glory, but it has the merit of being, perhaps, attainable.
**James Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

“Iranian General: Obama, EU Leaders Should Convert to Islam For Peace,”
TheTower, December 29, 2014:
A general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stipulated on Saturday, that President Barack Obama, as well as leaders of the European Union (EU) should convert to Islam in order for there to be peace between the United States and Iran to be possible. The report that has been carried by Al-Arabiya in Arabic has been translated in other outlets. Brigadier General Qolamhossein Qeib-parvar speaking on Saturday at a local conference commemorating Kazerun martyrs said “There are only two things that would end enmity between us and the US. Either the US president and EU leaders should convert to Islam and imitate the Supreme Leader, or Iran should abandon Islam and the Islamic revolution.” EU or US leaders would not turn Muslim, he observed, adding “If they are not going to turn Muslim, we are not going to abandon Islam or the revolution either. But I do not know why some people believe that some day we will make peace with the US and start relations with them.”