February 01/14

Bible Quotation for today/Teaching about Anger
Metthew 05/21-26: "You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’  But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell. So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.  “If someone brings a lawsuit against you and takes you to court, settle the dispute while there is time, before you get to court. Once you are there, you will be turned over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, and you will be put in jail. There you will stay, I tell you, until you pay the last penny of your fine.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For For February 01/14
Top Islamic Leader Calls on U.S. to Wage 'Jihad for Allah'/By: Raymond Ibrahim/ February 01/1
Kerry’s diplomatic strategy is a way of buying time/By David Ignatius/The Daily Star/February 01/14
Divisions in Egypt are a waste of the country’s time/By: Bassem Youssef /AlArabyia/February 01/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 01/14
Lebanese Related News
Sleiman hails Army for arrests of terrorists

Salam Laments Standstill but Says Door is Open to Consultations to Resolve Crisis
Syrian Shelling Target Several Villages in Akkar, One Killed
Syrian Fighters Launch from Lebanon Attack on Alawite Border Towns
Maarab Guards See 'White Drone' Flying at Low Altitude
Muallem: Hizbullah 'Preemptively' Defending Lebanon Through Syria War Involvement
Security Document: Plot to Assassinate Politician in Tripoli or Beirut
Captagon Industry Thrives in Lebanon as Syrian Crisis Paralyzes Authorities
Italian FM to Arrive in Lebanon Next Week, Visit to Tackle LAF Support
Suburbs on High Alert after Wave of Bombings
Qortbawi Refers Civil Marriage Draft Law to Cabinet
Minister Gebran Bassil refuses to budge on Energy Ministry
Lebanese sheikh charged over spate of attacks
Talks to acquire foreign-owned banks in Lebanon stall over price, terms
Inventor hopes to incinerate Lebanon’s trash woes

Aoun: Salam Can't Form De Facto Cabinet, He's to Blame for Obstruction
Mustaqbal Insists on Ministerial Portfolio Rotation, Says 'All Criminals, Terrorists' Must Be Tried
Qahwaji Visits Riyadh on Official Visit to Discuss Saudi Donation to Military Institution
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Israeli Intel Chief: New Al Qaeda bases in Turkey provide easy jihadist access to Europe
US senators newly reluctant on Iran sanctions after Obama pleads for time
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: Democracy in the Arab world doubtful during my lifetime
Syian Crisis and the Conspiracy of silence
Syria says hold off after UN mediator Brahimi proposes Feb. 10 for 2nd round of peace talks
Activists: Nearly 1,900 killed in Syria during Geneva peace talks, including 430 civilians
Syrian government not confirmed for second round of talks
Syria Must Accelerate Chemical Arms Shipments
U.N. Sets Sights on Fresh Syria Talks from February 10
Syria attacks U.S. meddling, opposition threats in peace talks
Russia defends Assad, says deadline for chemical arms destruction viable
Middle East peace mediators to meet in Munich
U.S. hopes for 'framework' Mideast peace deal within weeks

Sleiman hails Army for arrests of terrorists
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman Friday praised the Lebanese Army for the arrests of terrorists involved in recent bombing attacks across the country. “President Sleiman hailed efforts by the [Army] command to arrest terrorist bombing accomplices,” a statement from the presidential palace said. It said Sleiman’s remarks came during a meeting with Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi. Sleiman also applauded the military and the various security agencies for their efforts to track and arrest the suspects, the statement added. The president was referring to the recent arrest of Sunni preacher Omar Atrash who was charged Thursday, along with 12 accomplices, with involvement in terrorist acts. Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr charged Atrash and the 12 other suspects still at large, with making bombs and explosive belts, rigging vehicles with explosives, firing rockets on Israel and recruiting individuals to carry out terrorist attacks. The men were also charged with involvement in several car bombings as well as attacks targeting the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah.

Salam Laments Standstill but Says Door is Open to Consultations to Resolve Crisis
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has lamented that the cabinet crisis has been further deadlocked by the conditions set by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.
In remarks to several local dailies published on Friday, officials close to Salam said: “There was no particular political activity yesterday.” “The past few hours were characterized by a standstill,” they said. “But the doors haven't been shut to the ongoing negotiations” to form the new government, the officials told the newspapers. They denied that Salam proposed a line-up to President Michel Suleiman during their last meeting on Wednesday. “But there were consultations on some names,” they said. The PM-designate has informed some parties about the possible distribution of portfolios but he hasn't received any names from them, the officials said. Salam is insisting on the rotation of portfolios among sects and political parties in a 24-member government based on the 8-8-8 formula. But Aoun is sticking to his demand to retain the energy and telecommunications portfolios. Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil, who is Aoun's son-in-law, said Thursday that the FPM wanted a sovereign portfolio and the energy and telecommunications ministries, in addition to a fourth portfolio.
He rejected accusations that their stance was impeding the cabinet formation process.

Lebanese sheikh charged over spate of attacks
January 31, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s military prosecutor Thursday charged Sheikh Omar Atrash over his alleged involvement in several car bombings as well as attacks targeting the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and Israel. Hours before Judge Saqr Saqr charged Atrash, the military disclosed some of what the Sunni preacher confessed to during interrogation, including that he had ties to Al-Qaeda-linked groups and had transported suicide bombers into Lebanon. Saqr accused Atrash and 12 other wanted fugitives of belonging to Al-Qaeda and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. The suspects are Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians. Atrash, 24, and the unidentified suspects are charged with recruiting people to join armed terrorist groups, detonating bombs and explosive-rigged vehicles, and buying weapons and rockets from Syria and transporting them into Lebanon. The 13 are also accused of placing the explosives-rigged vehicles in various areas as part of a number of attacks, including the Jan. 2 and the Jan. 21 car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburb of Haret Hreik, where Hezbollah enjoys broad support. The Jan. 2 attack was the work of a suicide bomber. The suspects are charged with being responsible for the bomb-rigged vehicle discovered last October in Maamoura, another largely pro- Hezbollah neighborhood in Beirut’s suburbs. That vehicle was dismantled by the military before it could do any damage. Saqr accused them of being behind the attacks on two separate Army checkpoints in the coastal city of Sidon last year as well as planting bombs that targeted Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley, east Lebanon. Saqr also charged them with firing rockets from Lebanon into Israel. Atrash’s file was referred to Military Investigative Judge Abu Ghayda.
Military personnel apprehended Atrash on Jan. 22 on suspicion of having links to terrorists inside Syria and forming a terrorist cell comprised of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians. His detention has enraged some Muslim religious scholars, who have accused the military of torturing the sheikh and questioning him without the presence of a lawyer. According to the Lebanese Army, during interrogation Atrash said a Syrian identified as Abu Khaled gave him explosives-rigged vehicles that he then personally transported to Beirut. The Army reported that Atrash said he then handed the vehicles over to Naeem Abbas, a man the Army described as a “terrorist.”
The handover was apparently done in coordination with another man identified as Omar Saleh. The Muslim preacher also reportedly said he had transported explosives belts, hand grenades and ammunition inside Lebanon. The sheikh, from the northeastern town of Arsal, apparently said he took an explosive-rigged Grand Cherokee along with two suicide bombers equipped with explosive belts to Abbas. The Grand Cherokee is believed to have been used later in a car bombing and the two suicide bombers are alleged to have carried out attacks against separate military checkpoints in the coastal southern city of Sidon. In December, the military said twin suicide attacks against separate military posts in Sidon killed one officer and wounded another soldier. Atrash, accompanied by a man identified as Abu Farouq, also reportedly said he had transported another vehicle that was later used in an attack. In its statement, the military said Atrash also revealed he had transported suicide bombers of various Arab nationalities into Syria in order to hand them over to hard-line rebel group the Nusra Front. Atrash reportedly disclosed that he had personally brought four rockets into Lebanon from Syria that were launched into Israel on Aug. 22, 2013. The Army said the sheikh confessed that he had also brought in another four rockets from Syria days before his arrest.

Mustaqbal Insists on Ministerial Portfolio Rotation, Says 'All Criminals, Terrorists' Must Be Tried
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc announced no Friday its insistence on a “complete and inclusive” rotation of ministerial portfolios in the new cabinet. “Forming the new cabinet has become a must and this issue can no longer afford any delay or stalling,” the bloc said in a released statement on Friday evening after the MPs' weekly meeting. It added: “Therefore we call for forming a new cabinet based on the principals we have set before, and which include rejecting the one third number of ministers that have a veto power, any political equations in the ministerial policy statement that can obstruct the work of the state and harm Lebanon's sovereignty, and we also insist on a complete and inclusive rotation in the portfolios.” "The ministerial policy statement must also include a commitment to the Baabda Declaration, which was endorsed by all political factions during the national dialogue sessions.” The government formation process has recently made progress with the majority of factions reaching an initial agreement over an 8-8-8 lineup that grants each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists eight ministers with rotating portfolios. However, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun has impeded the agreement after rejecting the rotation of ministerial portfolios as he insisted on retaining the energy and telecommunications ministries. The al-Mustaqbal MPs expressed that efforts recently exerted to form the long awaited new cabinet help “in distancing Lebanon from the repercussions of the regional crises.”
"It would also help rearranging the political, security and institutional matters inside the country to preserve the economy, stability, and secure people's livelihoods.”The conferees also praised the arrest of several fugitives accused of planning terrorist attacks and bombings throughout the country. “But prosecution should not be limited to arresting and trying few criminals only, as all those involved in terrorist acts and assassinations must also be punished,” al-Mustaqbal bloc stressed, remarking that those behind the double bombing of the two mosques in the northern city of Tripoli must also be brought to justice. "We condemn and deplore any act that threats security and we consider that any involvement is easing and participating in such terrorist crimes must be punished.” Separately, the lawmakers “strongly condemned the violations and attacks of the Syrian regime's gangs” against eastern and northern Lebanese border towns."We particularly deplore the random bombing of towns in (the border city of) Akkar, and targeting its peaceful and resilient people,” they noted."The natural and reasonable solution for drawing an end to these attacks, preserving sovereignty and controlling the border is through the deployment of soldiers and demanding the assistance of the UNIFIL troops,” they stated.

Maarab Guards See 'White Drone' Flying at Low Altitude
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/The Lebanese Forces on Friday announced that a suspicious aircraft had resumed its flights over the residence of LF leader Samir Geagea and the LF's headquarters in the Kesrouan town of Maarab. The LF's media department said the “unidentified aircraft” has been hovering over the area since several days and that its most recent overflight took place “at 4:00 a.m.” Friday. In a statement, the media dept. said the aircraft “has been flying at low altitude, and in addition to its usual sound, the members of the guard platoon have seen the white aircraft with their naked eyes.”The LF noted that the white color of the alleged flying object indicates that it is “most likely an unmanned aerial vehicle.”“The Army Command was immediately informed of this issue and it promised to follow it up closely,” the LF added. In an interview with Future TV on Jan. 22, Geagea said the drone in question "could be for surveillance purposes," noting that he "cannot accuse anyone before confirming all the details.""I consider the issue to be a message in the context of the messages (death threats) received by (MP) Sethrida (Geagea) and March 14 leaders and the assassination of Mohammed Shatah," Geagea added. In an earlier interview with Al-Arabiya on Jan. 20, Geagea said “preparations to assassinate me are ongoing.” He confirmed media reports that first spoke of drones flying over his Maarab residence, saying: “the espionage planes are part of a policy of intimidation against the March 14 camp.” Geagea said he had first noticed the activity in early January, adding that security personnel at Maarab noted that the sound generated by the plane differed from normal planes and its course also differed from regular ones. The mysterious aircraft flew over Maarab on January 8 at around 12:30 am, he revealed. Geagea said the suspicious activity prompted the state security forces at the facility to contact the Army Command to inform it of the development. A similar incident took place on January 14 and the alleged plane hovered over Maarab for about two hours between 5:30 and 7:30 pm at a relatively low altitude, said Geagea. He revealed that he immediately contacted Army chief Qahwaji, who told him that the plane “was definitely not a Lebanese (army) one.""And I personally believe that they were not Israeli surveillance drones as they usually fly over the South and the Bekaa, not over this specific region," Geagea added. Qahwaji pledged to Geagea that he would follow up on this issue. Geagea had escaped an assassination attempt by snipers as he was taking a walk in the garden of his Maarab residence in April 2012.

Syrian Shelling Target Several Villages in Akkar, One Killed

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/Artillery and rocket shelling from the Syrian side of the border targeted on Friday several villages in the northern district of Akkar, the state-run National News Agency reported. According to the news agency, 14 rockets landed on the outskirts of the villages of Mashta Hammoud, al-Abboudiyeh, Hakr Janin, al-Arma, Qbour al-Beed in Akkar. A Syrian identified as Hisham Khaled Ahmed was reportedly killed while two other Lebanese Mahmoud Ahmed Ramadan and Jamila Assaf were injured in Mashta Hammoud town. They were submitted to Al-Salam hospital in Qubayat. Ambulances sirens were heard rushing to the scene. Residents appealed for President Michel Suleiman, Army commander Jean Qahwaji and all the competent officials to intervene to end the assault that is targeting them, damaging their properties and causing casualties. The NNA also said that the shelling targeted the house of Gerges al-Khoury in Shadra, causing only material damage. The incident comes a day after Syrian gunfire killed a Syrian national person and injured another while they were on the Lebanese side of al-Kabir river in the northern area of Wadi Khaled. Since the Syrian crisis broke out in March 2011, border areas in northern and eastern Lebanon have been struck by frequent cross-border shelling and clashes which have left several people dead and scores other wounded.

Security Document: Plot to Assassinate Politician in Tripoli or Beirut
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/A security document is making the rounds that a Syrian suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden Kia is plotting to target a high-ranking personality in the northern city of Tripoli or in the capital Beirut. The document claims that the bomber identified as Abou al-Adnan is a member of the Khaled Ibn al-Walid al-Jabha al-Islamiya Brigades. The Kia is champagne colored, it says. According to the same document, militants are plotting to detonate a booby-trapped black Honda near the residence of the well-known political personality in Tripoli. The last official to be killed in a string of assassinations that have rocked Lebanon in the past years was ex-Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah, who was also al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri's advisor.
Shatah, 62, died in a car bomb blast in downtown Beirut on December 27.

Muallem: Hizbullah 'Preemptively' Defending Lebanon Through Syria War Involvement

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/Damascus justified on Friday Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian war, saying the party is “preemptively” defending Lebanon. “Hizbullah's men are resilient fighters that are defending their country,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said at a press conference in Switzerland's Geneva. He continued: “We saw the terrorist bombings that targeted (Beirut's southern suburbs of) Dahieh and accusing Hizbullah of terrorism is ridiculous.” Syria's Deputy FM Faisal Muqdad had stated on Thursday that Hizbullah “is not a terrorist part.”"It is an honorable and reputable party,” he told reporters when asked about Hizbullah's involvement in the ongoing fighting in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 262 Hizbullah fighters have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.
The party first publicly confirmed its intervention in the conflict in April.

Captagon Industry Thrives in Lebanon as Syrian Crisis Paralyzes Authorities

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/Syrians who trade in captagon have moved their businesses to Lebanon as they are using the country as a major transit route to smuggle the narcotic pills mainly to the Gulf, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Friday. According to the report, the Syrian traders are using chocolate-producing machines to produce narcotic pills, which manufactures around 700 captagon pills per minute.
The report said that the Syrian suspects didn't move their equipment to Lebanon as smuggling into the country chocolate-producing machines doesn't draw attention and is considered legal. The traders have allegedly used the Bekaa region as their refuge as it is known for its areas that fall out of the state's control and is also reputable for producing hashish. The Syrian conflict has paralyzed authorities at home and left the nearby border virtually uncontrolled, allowing the captagon business to flourish. Captagon dealers, according to the report, are exploiting the chaos along the Lebanese-Syrian border, which makes it easier for them to successfully carry out the smuggling operations. Al-Joumhouria points out that the Middle East region is the number one consumer of captagon, in particular the Gulf and specifically Saudi Arabia. The daily also lists the main countries that are considered the key smugglers of captagon to the Middle East, which includes, Bulgaria, Turkey, Belgium, Estonia, New Zealand and Syria. The report continues that traffickers use Lebanon as a main route to smuggle captagon on to neighboring countries. Despite it's a risky trade, the daily said that the trade is very profitable with a pill selling for $10.

Aoun: Salam Can't Form De Facto Cabinet, He's to Blame for Obstruction
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Friday stressed that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam will not be able to form “a de facto cabinet,” blaming him for the delay in the cabinet formation process. “The consultations over cabinet formation have not led to anything and no progress has been made,” Aoun said during an interview with the pan-Arab, Beirut-based al-Mayadeen television. “Political stances were voiced before the parliamentary consultations (to name a PM-designate) and they called for preventing the Aounists from having the telecom and energy portfolios. (Former) PM (Fouad) Saniora endorsed the calls and said he wants portfolio rotation and that the cabinet must not contain partisan or political figures,” Aoun explained. “Saniora did not talk about what he wants but rather about what he rejects, because he was annoyed by the Impossible Acquittance book,” which was released by the Change and Reform bloc, Aoun added. Salam has lamented that the cabinet crisis has been further deadlocked by the conditions set by Aoun. The PM-designate is insisting on the rotation of portfolios among sects and political parties in a 24-member government based on the 8-8-8 formula, but Aoun is sticking to his demand to retain the energy and telecom portfolios.
Explaining the insistence on the energy and water portfolio, Aoun said during Friday's interview that “all ministries are important to us, but since 1926 until today, no one in Lebanon has taken the issue of oil into consideration, due to negligence or collusion or maybe lack of vision.” “We're the ones who unveiled the oil wealth and overcame the taboos and this issue needs courage,” he noted.
“From 10 months ago until today, the parliamentary consultations have not been followed by the formation of a cabinet and we have not been consulted. No one has visited us or even contacted us,” Aoun decried.
“Minister Bassil visited the PM-designate, who asked us to give him names. He said he would allocate portfolios to our candidates and that we would be pleased, but at the moment we are not pleased,” he went on to say. Aoun slammed President Michel Suleiman and Salam's “threat to form a de facto cabinet.” “Who are they to launch such a threat? When the PM-designate fails, he must step down and if such a cabinet was formed, it would be unconstitutional,” Aoun warned. “I don't know where we're heading when the constitution is being torn up,” he added. Aoun pointed out that the PM-designate “is to blame for the obstruction,” emphasizing that he will not be able to form a so-called de facto cabinet. Referring to al-Mustaqbal Movement, Aoun added: “Let them find a text that obliges me to accept portfolio rotation and I would do what they want. Those who were in charge of the finance ministry for 20 years and bankrupted it cannot speak of portfolio rotation.” Asked whether he would run in the upcoming presidential election, Aoun said: “If I was able to implement the change and reform plan, I would be the first candidate for the presidency, but we have not taken a decision until the moment." When asked about his definition of a strong president, the FPM leader added: "A strong president is a president who respects the constitution and laws and who enjoys popular support.” In response to another question, Aoun stated: “We are not in the March 8 camp and we have several conflicting viewpoints. I'm not also a centrist; what does centrism mean?”Turning to the Syrian crisis, the FPM leader pointed out that “when 83 countries send Salafists to Syria, that's not a revolution, but rather an international war on Syrian soil.”Commenting on cross-border shelling on the Lebanese-Syrian border, Aoun said “the failure to control the border with Syria is a deliberate negligence.”“The border must be closed and medical assistance must be offered to refugees,” he added.

Qahwaji Visits Riyadh on Official Visit to Discuss Saudi Donation to Military Institution
Naharnet /Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji on Friday left for Saudi Arabia on an official visit to discuss the kingdom's grant to the military institution. "Qahwaji received an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia and he will discuss with Saudi officials the country's support and grant to the army,” reported the state-run National News Agency. "A military delegation accompanied the army chief on his visit,” the NNA added. Qahwaji was in Paris earlier this month for talks with top French military officials two weeks after President Michel Suleiman announced a Saudi pledge of $3 billion to buy military equipment from France. Suleiman had revealed in late December that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible. French President Francois Hollande, who was on a visit to Saudi Arabia during Suleiman's announcement, said his country would "meet" any requests from Lebanon. Officials concerned with Lebanese affairs in the French administration told Naharnet on January 20 that the Saudi donation will include weaponry used for military and security sources to enable troops to face terrorist and security challenges in the country, and arms and equipment to monitor the border. Source/Agence France Presse

Beirut's Southern Suburbs on High Alert after Wave of Bombings
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/..Mohammed Hussein has stacked 300 sandbags outside his coffee shop in Beirut's southern suburbs to reassure customers frightened by a wave of deadly bombings there, but business is still down by half. The once-bustling Shiite suburb's streets are quiet and its residents on high alert after a series of six blasts, the first of which was in July, killed at least 57 people. They are blamed on Sunni radicals, retaliating against Hizbullah for sending its troops to fight in Syria's civil war by attacking the Lebanese Shiite party's base of support. Hussein, 25, is one of many shop owners in the area, also known as Dahiyeh, who have been fortifying their institutions and banning unknown cars from parking in front of them for fear of blasts. "Our coffee shop is on the road and no one knows when there will be an explosion," said Hussein, as he stood in front of the green sandbag barrier protecting his empty VIP Coffee Lounge in the Haret Hreik neighborhood, one of the hardest hit. Attacks on the area began nearly two months after the Hizbullah openly sent its battle-hardened fighters into Syria to help President Bashar Assad's forces. Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while most rebels are Sunnis. Hizbullah's support helped turn the tide of battle in some parts of the country. Syrian militant groups vowed to keep striking in Hizbullah's strongholds in Lebanon until the group pulls out its fighters, but Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed not to change his policy toward Syria. Hizbullah calls itself the "Resistance" — a throwback to its many battles with Israelis — and takes pride in defiance. Four of the six bombing attacks were carried out by suicide attackers making it more difficult for Hizbullah and Lebanese authorities to prevent them. The deadliest, carried out by two suicide attackers, targeted the Iranian embassy on Nov. 19 and killed 23 people including a diplomat. The last explosion, which hit Haret Hreik on Jan. 21, killed four. DNA tests identified three of the suicide attackers. They turned out to be residents of Lebanon and joined militants in Syria before returning home to carry out the attacks. The others have not been identified yet.
Several of the attacks were claimed by the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades whose leader was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later month. Another one was claimed by the al-Qaida-inspired Nusra Front in Lebanon. It warned Sunnis this week to stay away from areas dominated by Shiites, saying it intends to again attack strongholds of Hizbullah.
On Thursday, the Lebanese army said in a statement that military intelligence referred to judicial authorities a Sunni cleric, Omar al-Atrash. It said he confessed that he transported cars rigged with explosives to Beirut and ferried suicide bombers to and from Syria. On Wednesday, an Associated Press team went on a tour in Dahiyeh where Hizbullah members wearing baseball caps and yellow armbands stood on street corners with walkie-talkies in their hands watching passing cars and pedestrians.Building supervisors throughout the area were told to inform the nearest Hizbullah post about any cars that park and don't belong to someone they know.
Army and police checkpoints at all entrances of Dahiyeh stopped vehicles and looked inside before allowing them to proceed. Trucks were asked to park for a more thorough search, as were cars with only a driver — the idea being that suicide bombers are unlikely to carry passengers. "The measures make us feel safe and all the time there are men on the roads looking at cars coming and leaving and the shops and the cars that park in front of them," said Hussein al-Maqhour, 21, an employee at a jewelry shop. "There have been some concerns after the bombings but our will is stronger than all these acts," he said. But the near-empty streets were a far cry from the traffic jams and busy markets before the bombing. Hassan Sharafeddine and his employees now work inside his construction material shop behind a sandbag barrier. An explosion across the street sprayed his shop with shrapnel but wounded no one inside. "People are taking precautionary measures and some are not going out much," said Sharafeddine — although he himself has been able to increase business by making sandbags. "Despite all that happened I believe there will be more attacks," he said. But Hassane Ghamloush is more confident, estimating that the sandbags outside his jewelry store were "70 to 80 percent" effective. "We are people who back the Resistance, and no matter what (our enemies) do to us, they will not change us," he said.Source/Associated Press.

U.N. Sets Sights on Fresh Syria Talks from February 10
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/..The U.N. aims to bring Syria's warring sides back to the negotiating table from February 10, mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday, despite a regime vow not to give any ground.
"I suggested we resume, on the basis of an agreed agenda, on February 10," Brahimi told reporters after a week of closed-door negotiations wrapped up. "The delegation of the opposition agreed to this date. That of the government said they needed to consult with Damascus first." Getting the rival camps to sit down for the first time in almost three years of fighting has been seen as a triumph in itself for Brahimi, a veteran peacemakers. "Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner," Brahimi said. "This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build."
"The gaps between the sides remain wide. There is no use pretending otherwise. Nevertheless, during our discussions, I observed a little bit of common ground, perhaps more than the two sides realize or recognize."
As the foes sought to breach the gaping chasm between them, nearly 1,900 people perished since the start of the talks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday in a stark reminder of the situation on the ground.
The Syrian regime kept a combative tone as the talks with the opposition National Coalition drew to a close.
"Neither in this round, nor in the next will they obtain any concessions from the Syrian delegation," Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi told pro-regime demonstrators outside the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva where the talks were held. "They will not get through politics what they couldn't get through force," Zohbi insisted, as the applauding 250-strong crowd waved a huge Syrian flag and brandished pictures of President Bashar Assad. Zohbi said his no surrender message was not only for the rebels, whom he accused of "terrorism", but also for their allies in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and anti-Assad groups in Lebanon. Asked about Zohbi's remarks, the 80-year-old Brahimi quipped: "I hope he'll change his mind!" The Algerian veteran mediator has suggested the talks resume on February 10. It took months of pressure from Syria's ally Russia, and Washington, which backs the opposition, to bring the two sides together. Opposition spokesman Louay Safi said Friday that the regime had been forced to negotiate.
"The fact that the regime has been forced to come to Geneva -- this is the result of the fighting of the Syrian people," Safi told reporters. Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 after a regime crackdown on peaceful Arab Spring-inspired protests.
It morphed into a sectarian-tinged civil war which has to date claimed over 130,000 lives and driven millions from their homes, sparking a devastating humanitarian crisis. "The regime started this armed conflict. The protests were peaceful, had the regime responded peacefully there would have been no conflict," said Safi. Brahimi said that despite a difficult start, the talks had got down to specifics. "This week we started to discuss the specific areas of the cessation of violence in all its forms, including the fight against terrorism, and the transitional governing body exercising full executive powers." The two sides agree that they must beat terrorism -- but not on what it is. Damascus, pointing to groups of ultra-Islamist Syrian and foreign fighters within the rebel ranks, has slapped a "terrorist" label on the broader opposition -- which counters that it is itself fighting the jihadists, claims there is regime complicity with the hardliners, and underscores the role of Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hizbullah on the Assad side. Brahimi noted that the talks ended with no breakthrough in addressing the desperate humanitarian situation in the country. He earlier said he was "very, very disappointed" that no progress had been made towards fulfilling the only tangible promise to emerge from the talks: the regime's promise to allow women and children safe passage from rebel-held areas of Homs that have been besieged since June 2012. Despite a large gap between the warring parties, Brahimi said Friday they shared more common ground than they realized. He said both were committed to finding a political solution based on the never-implemented roadmap to peace set out by world powers at a 2012 conference in Geneva."Both sides understand that the conflict in their country has imposed immense and unacceptable suffering on the Syrian people. Both sides recognize the urgent need to bring the violence to an end." But the two sides disagree over who is to blame and what the political solution should be. The opposition insists that the 2012 plan requires Assad to step down -- something flatly rejected by the regime. Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba is set to attend the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend, then travel to Russia in a bid to rally support. Source/Agence France PresseNaharnet.

Syrian Fighters Launch from Lebanon Attack on Alawite Border Towns

Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/Syrian opposition fighters launched from Lebanese territories an attack on Friday against two Alawite towns in Syria's Homs province, killing at least 5 people. "At least five Syrians were killed in an attack by the fighting Islamic brigades on the border towns of Bahlouniyeh and al-Ghaida,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. "Among the dead were soldiers, border guards and national defense forces,” it added. The Observatory noted these towns, which are situated in the countryside of the Tal Kalakh village, are inhabited by members of the Alawite sect. Intense clashes took place on Friday afternoon between the Syrian army, supported by national defense forces, and the Islamic brigades' fighting forces in the surroundings of al-Hosn and al-Zara villages in Tal Kalakh, according to the same source. "Obtained information said Syrian forces took over the surroundings of the medieval al-Zara tower and that many people were killed in the battles.”One man was reportedly killed and several others were wounded as northern Lebanese towns came under attack earlier on Friday. And on Thursday evening, heavy gunfire was heard in several towns in the northern city of Akkar as a result of the ongoing clashes.

Italian FM to Arrive in Lebanon Next Week, Visit to Tackle LAF Support
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino will kick off an official visit to Lebanon at the beginning of next week for talks with senior officials, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Friday.
According to the daily, the visit will discuss Italian Premier Enrico Letta's recent visit to Lebanon, who stressed the need for a strong support for Lebanon to consolidate its stability. Italian PM Letta arrived in Lebanon in December where he discussed with senior officials the need to help Lebanon confront the crisis of Syrian refugees and fortify the capabilities of LAF. The Italian FM is scheduled to hold talks with President Michel Suleiman, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn and several other senior officials. The official will also hold “technical meetings” with the army command in order to organize the military's needs.
The visit, according to the newspaper, will precede a scheduled visit by several Italian military leaders, who are following up the preparations for an international conference in Rome set to tackle the capabilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces in coordination with the United Nations and Lebanese authorities.  Italy continuously expressed support to Lebanon to help it confront the crisis of Syrian refugees in Lebanon in accordance with the decisions reached by the International Support Group for Lebanon.The support group was inaugurated in New York in September 2013,on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government.

Talks to acquire foreign-owned banks in Lebanon stall over price, terms

January 31, 2014/By Osama Habib/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Two foreign-owned banks seeking to exit the Lebanese market are still negotiating a fair price for their retail businesses as well as guarantees that most of their staff will not be dismissed by the new owners, insiders said Thursday. London-based bank Standard Chartered and Amman-based Ahli International Bank are holding talks with some of the local lenders which are keen to expand their presence and balance sheets in Lebanon.
Chairman of Byblos Bank Francois Bassil told The Daily Star that he had been negotiating with Ahli, but said the talks stopped in December after Ahli demand more money for the acquisition. “We halted the talks after bank asked for more money for the acquisition,” Bassil said. “We are no longer interested in the bank for the time being.”He decline to give details about the offer made to the bank. Some bankers said that Bank Audi was still interested in Ahli, but added that the talks had not yet led to any real results. With customer deposits of over $800 million, Ahli has been operating in Lebanon since 1961. In July 2001, the Lebanon branches of Ahli merged with the Bank of Lebanon and Kuwait SAL to form the present Ahli International Bank SAL, whose head office is located in Bab Idriss in Downtown Beirut. In addition to its headquarters, Ahli Bank has seven branches in Lebanon. A banker who spoke on condition of anonymity believes the talks with Ahli will drag on for some time. “I don’t think the name of the winner will be announced anytime soon. There is a lot of due diligence and research involved in these talks. Ahli wants to leave the Lebanese market but not at any price,” the banker said. He added that any Lebanese bank interested in acquiring a foreign-owned bank needed guarantees of a handsome return on their investment. “Most of our banks have double digit growth in profits and deposits and for this reason these banks want to make sure that their investments in a foreign lender yield good results in one or two years at least,” the banker said. Another banker stressed that leading lenders were unwilling to pay big money for a bank with very small assets. “Banks are not going to pay money above the true book value of the lender. I can’t imagine a leading player paying big bucks for a bank making a profit of less than $3 million a year,” the banker said. Bassil told The Daily Star earlier that foreign-owned banks were exiting the market because they could not compete with well-established Lebanese banks, which have been in business here for many decades. Emirates Lebanon Bank has posted a statement on its website denying reports that it plans to sell its retail business in the country and even said that it was looking to acquire another bank with a lot of branches. However, sources said that Credit Libanais held informal talks with Emirate Lebanon Bank to examine the prospects of acquisition but the talks did not lead to any results. Standard Chartered, whose assets and deposits fell in 2012 and 2013, has also been holding talks with a number of Lebanese banks in recent months, with no clear sign that these negotiations will come to an end within the next two weeks. One of the suitors told The Daily Star that Standard Chartered had been sending questions to all the candidates before deciding on the name of the buyer. “It seems that Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh does not want to sell the bank to an investment bank because he does not want to add another bank license,” another source said. He added that Salameh was working to convince Bank Audi to step in and buy the retail business of Standard although the assets of the bank are insignificant. “They [Standard] have assets of less than $100 million. Any major bank can generate these assets in just two months,” the source explained.

Inventor hopes to incinerate Lebanon’s trash woes
January 31, 2014/By Rasha Fattouh/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Jamil Rima, environmentalist and professor of chemistry, hopes to bring Lebanon’s waste battle to an end with a new invention that turns garbage into carbon coal fuel in just 15 minutes. “With all the garbage piling up, people started demanding action,” Rima told a crowd of curious onlookers and journalists during a demonstration of his machine in Sassine Square Thursday morning. “Well, here is the answer.” Rima then proceeded to place a black plastic bag of trash into the machine, which resembles a medium recycling bin. At the end of the process, he proudly showed off a small, sooty pile of carbon coal. Rima explained that the waste is exposed to 400 degrees Celsius and 10 bars of pressure. A catalyst is added to stimulate the reaction. “This is a new technique,” Rima said, adding that between 20 and 25 percent of the garbage would be turned to coal while the rest would evaporate as water. The machine Rima showed off in Sassine was a small version of a larger prototype still under development. Rima claims the process has no negative effects on the environment. The thermal power of the finished product is equivalent to 50 percent of diesel fuel. Thus, the coal made by Rima’s process can serve as an alternative fuel to the large industrial plants, which burn tons of fuel on a regular basis, he said. “This machine can save the government thousands of dollars that are being wasted, and gives them a chance to invest in something helpful,” he said. Apart from its ability to transform any type of wastes, even medical waste, Rima boasted that the resultant coal was organic, and thus less harmful than other types of fuel. He added, however, that the machine was still incomplete. The device is currently being developed by the Innovative Medical Equipment and Devices company, which is still seeking investors. “Municipalities are spending a lot of money trying to decrease pollution as much as they can,” said Christian Ramona, company manager. “Well, this machine is like taking a short cut to an uncontaminated society. It transforms garbage to something which is not only useful, but can also be sold for profit.” “Our main goal is to keep improving this machine until it is adopted in all of Lebanon,” Rima said.
The presentation was held amid controversy over Lebanon’s waste disposal strategy following a sit-in by angry residents in Naameh, the town south of Beirut where the Solidere-operated Naameh landfill receives Beirut’s garbage. Local residents and activists claim the landfill is overflowing and not properly treated, posing health and environmental risks. The sit-in caused garbage to pile up in Beirut and the surrounding areas until the Internal Security Forces opened it by force last week.

Minister Gebran Bassil refuses to budge on Energy Ministry

January 31, 2014/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said Thursday the Free Patriotic Movement was adamant on retaining the Energy and Telecommunications ministries, clearly rejecting the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios proposed by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam as a way out of the 10-month-old Cabinet stalemate. Bassil’s stance is bound to dampen hopes for the formation of a national unity Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup, given Salam’s insistence on the rotation of key portfolios among sects and political parties, a plan backed by President Michel Sleiman. “We want a sovereign portfolio and the Energy and Telecommunications ministries, in addition to a fourth portfolio,” Bassil said in an interview with LBCI television. The Finance, Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs ministries are deemed sovereign portfolios in any Cabinet. Bassil dubbed the Energy Ministry a “guarantee” for the Christians in the same way, he said, the Interior Ministry was viewed as a guarantee for the Sunnis and the Finance Ministry as a guarantee for the Shiites. Bassil rejected accusations that FPM leader MP Michel Aoun’s opposition to the rotation of ministerial portfolios was to blame for impeding the formation of a new Cabinet. “The Cabinet formation has been stalled because someone has provoked a problem,” he said, in a clear reference to Salam’s insistence on rotating ministerial portfolios among sects and parties in an 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup. Bassil said Aoun had told Salam shortly after he was named prime minister-designate in April that the FPM wanted to retain the Energy and Telecommunications ministries. Asked if Salam or mediators had offered the FPM substitute portfolios for the Energy and Telecommunications ministries, Bassil said: “No one has offered us anything.” He also denied reports that the Public Works Ministry was offered to the FPM in exchange for the Energy Ministry. He said the FPM had not authorized Hezbollah to negotiate on its behalf with Salam over the formation of a government. Earlier Thursday, political sources said this week’s deadline to break the Cabinet impasse had been extended for a few days to give mediators additional time to resolve the row over the rotation of key ministerial portfolios. “Contacts are still ongoing in various directions in a bid to untangle the knot over Gen. Michel Aoun’s rejection of a ministerial rotation. These contacts concentrate mainly on forming an all-embracing Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup,” a source at Baabda Palace told The Daily Star. “If these efforts fail to produce positive results, then all options will be on the table,” the source said.
Sleiman and Salam, who met at Baabda Palace Wednesday, refrained from taking any decisions on the fate of a new Cabinet as was widely expected after mediation attempts to agree on a national unity government have reached a dead end. They apparently opted to give mediators more time to address Aoun’s objection to rotating ministerial portfolios in the new Cabinet. Sleiman and Salam have said that if attempts to form a national unity Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup fail, this would leave them with two options: a neutral, nonpartisan government, or an all-embracing political government without the blessing of Aoun.
Bassil reiterated the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition’s warning that the formation of a fait accompli government would have dire consequences on the country’s security, which is increasingly threatened by the repercussions of the nearly 3-year-old war in Syria. Aoun insisted Tuesday that Bassil, his son-in-law, retain the Energy Ministry and called on Salam to step aside after failing in 10 months to form a new Cabinet.
MP Ahmad Fatfat from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s parliamentary Future bloc said Sleiman and Salam might eventually form a political fait accompli government if efforts to form a national unity Cabinet fail.
Fatfat, who discussed the Cabinet crisis with Salam Tuesday, said the premier-designate was convinced that a neutral government would be effective but “political pressure on him made the possibility of such a government far-fetched.”“Therefore, President Sleiman and Salam might form a so-called political fait accompli government. Then each side can bear responsibility for withdrawing or not withdrawing from it,” Fatfat told reporters after meeting Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at the latter’s residence in Maarab, north of Beirut. The concept of rotating ministerial portfolios among sects and parties was part of an agreement reached earlier this month between the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, MP Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party and the Future Movement. The agreement also calls for forming a national unity government based on an 8-8-8 lineup.

Kerry warns Syria of consequences on chemical weapons
January 31, 2014/Agence France Presse/BERLIN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad he could face consequences for failing to live up to international agreements on removing his chemical weapons stockpile. Kerry told reporters ahead of talks in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel that Damascus was not complying with a US-Russian agreed timetable for shipping out the arsenal. "We now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria," he said. "I would remind Bashar al-Assad that the agreement that we reached in New York with the (UN) Security Council makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes."The United States and Russia agreed a deal last September to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. The accord included a commitment to imposing measures "under Chapter 7 within the UN Security Council," referring to a UN article which sets out possible sanctions including the threat of military force. The agreement was brokered as a way to avert US missile strikes that Washington threatened after a chemical attack near Damascus that the US and other Western governments blamed on the regime. Kerry said Syria must respect "a global, legal, international obligation" it made. "Our hope is that Syria will move rapidly to live up to its obligations," Kerry said. He said the civil war in the country was "destabilising the entire region". "The world is witnessing human catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes every single day," he said. The world's chemical watchdog said Wednesday that Damascus had handed over less than five percent of the most dangerous chemicals in its armoury. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons based in The Hague called Friday for Syria to "pick up the pace" in shipping out the stockpile. Just two small shipments of chemicals have so far left the Syrian port of Latakia, accounting for less than four percent of the country's declared arsenal of most dangerous chemicals, the US government said this week.
Around 700 tonnes of chemicals were supposed to have left Syria by December 31, putting the ambitious disarmament project weeks behind schedule.

Kerry’s diplomatic strategy is a way of buying time

January 30, 2014 /By David Ignatius/The Daily Star
For U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, diplomacy has centered on what might be called the art of the interim deal.
He has tackled two of the world’s toughest issues – the Iranian nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian problem – and has fashioned tentative formulas outlining the shape of a final accord even though the parties are far from such comprehensive settlements. Kerry’s tool has been the “framework agreement.” He seeks to bring the parties together on an initial document that frames the issues and sweetens the bargaining with confidence-building measures. When Kerry hits impasses, he can turn to rollover agreements that extend the discussions for another six or nine months while the participants try to crack the final status issues.
Kerry has used this phased approach in his two ambitious diplomatic campaigns over the past year. In November, he brokered an interim agreement with Iran in Geneva that froze that country’s nuclear program for six months while the parties attempt a permanent deal. Both Iranians and Americans privately doubt a final pact can be reached in that time frame, but if good faith bargaining continues, Iran and the P5+1 group may agree to extend the interim freeze another six months. The United States has officially been mum on any such extension. Kerry is trying something similar on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which for a generation has been the diplomatic world’s version of “Mission Impossible.” He got the two sides to agree last July to open negotiations and make friendly gestures. Now, with his nine-month window set to close in April, Kerry is drafting an interim framework agreement for this problem, too. President Barack Obama stayed in the background on both sets of negotiations last year, but he cited them in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Fair enough: Obama made Iran and the Palestinian issue priorities when he took office in 2009. He got burned politically on both during his first term. But he has found in Kerry a secretary of state who was willing to embark on what were widely viewed initially as diplomatic suicide missions. Both issues may still prove insoluble: As one listened to Israeli Finance Minister Naftali Bennett at a conference in Tel Aviv Tuesday, it was clear how vehemently the right-wing settlers’ movement he represents would oppose a Palestinian state. “Our forefathers and ancestors and our descendants will never forgive an Israeli leader who gives away our land and divides our capital,” Bennett said, his voice almost a shout.
Yet the prospect of a framework agreement, of the sort Kerry is seeking, seemed tantalizingly close in comments by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the gathering, which was sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies. Netanyahu told the conference that the U.S. was compiling a document that would summarize the points that have emerged during the months of secret negotiations. He said that Israel might agree to further talks under this framework, while not accepting all the U.S. ideas, as long as the Palestinians agree to a demilitarized state that guarantees Israel’s security and accepts Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people. Abbas said in televised remarks to the conference that he might be willing to accept a phased, three-year Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and continued presence by other military forces, as ways of satisfying Netanyahu’s security concerns. Amos Yadlin, a retired chief of Israeli military intelligence who heads the institute that hosted the conference, described Kerry’s goal: “It’s a framework agreement, or an agreement on a framework, or an American piece of paper,” he said, but the aim was to roll forward the negotiations for another nine months. The White House has backed Kerry’s attempt to pull together the parameters that have emerged in the negotiations, rather than simply striving for another round of confidence-building measures. As in the Iran negotiations, a framework agreement would patch over what are still wide differences on a permanent, final-status agreement. But they would reduce the risk of outright conflict while diplomacy continues. Obama and Kerry argue that diplomatic engagement should be seen as a sign of continuing American engagement in the Middle East, rather than as part of U.S. withdrawal. That’s true, but it’s also a strategy for buying time. The success of this approach requires that the interim version becomes permanent – which is still a very long bet in both cases. *David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

Syian Crisis: Conspiracy of silence

January 31, 2014/The Daily Star/The wrangling between Syrian regime and opposition delegations over “terror” and other topics in Geneva always risks overshadowing the urgent need to act on critically important humanitarian fronts. While a limited amount of food aid finally made its way to the Yarmouk neighborhood south of Damascus on Thursday, it’s simply impossible to keep up with the horrific human rights violations that have accompanied the war in Syria.Some diplomats and officials have been focusing their attention on relieving the siege on the city of Homs, but without result. To this can be added several other challenges – what to do in response the documented destruction of entire civilian neighborhoods, how to deal with allegations of systematic torture and disappearances in regime prisons, and ensuring that someone is eventually punished for last year’s chemical weapons attacks in areas near the capital Damascus. In the wake of these damning allegations and reports, the public is left to hear meek statements and pleas by U.N. officials and representatives of the international community. These individuals express their hope that the Syrian regime will take steps to address these brutal acts, or they ask other countries to exercise pressure on the regime so that it will behave in a certain way.
If it hasn’t become clear by now, the world should know that the Syrian authorities believe they have done nothing wrong, because they are confronting an “international terrorist conspiracy.”It might be easy to dismiss conspiracy theories, but there are grounds to believe that a conspiracy of silence and inaction has allowed all of these horrendous war crimes and human rights violations to pile up, with no punishment in sight.

Israeli Intel Chief: New Al Qaeda bases in Turkey provide easy jihadist access to Europe
DEBKAfile Special Report January 31, 2014/Al Qaeda has set up its first bases in a NATO member-country. Wednesday, Jan. 29, the day Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sat down in Tehran with President Hassan Rouhani, Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Avivi Kochavi revealed that Al Qaeda adherents fighting in Syria had established their first training facilities in Turkey. “From there, these terrorists have acquired easy access to Europe if they wish,” he commented, clearly thinking of al Qaeda’s reach into Israel as well. Kochavi showed his audience a map illustrating the proliferation of Al Qaeda’s bases across the Middle East. The news was that the jihadists were now being trained at three Turkish facilities: Karaman, a town of 150,000 in central Anatolia, a short drive from Istanbul; Osmaniye, a particularly sensitive spot not far from the big US-Turkish base of Adana and the pipeline network carrying oil from Iraq and central Asia to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan; and the third location near Sanlilurfa-Urfa, a town of half a million in the southwest.
The intelligence chief did not say how the logistics of the three facilities were managed or where the arms and instructors came from. He remarked that week after week, Al Qaeda fighters pour into Syria from all corners of the earth, “but they don’t stay,” he said. Some certainly cross over in to Turkey; others, according to DEBKAfile’s counter terror sources, head into Iraq to fight the Shiite government there.
The strong impression gained from Kochavi’s briefing was that Turkey is not just home to three al Qaeda training facilities and bases, but that its borders are left open for them to cross in from neighboring countries.
Al Qaeda has established itself in Turkey in locations roughly equivalent in area to the land grabbed by the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Bayt Al-Magdis terrorist coalition in Egyptian Sinai.
According to our intelligence sources, the Israeli general was uncharacteristically loquacious with five objectives in mind:
1. To point up the Turkish prime minister agenda in Tehran for linking the two non-Arab Muslim nations in a new strategic alliance for regional domination.
2. As a reminder that Iran too has a history of quietly admitting al Qaeda terrorists and giving them a safe springboard for attacks around the Middle East – especially against Saudi Arabia and Gulf emirates, on which Tehran had subversive designs. Neither of the two new allies, Turkey and Iran, would have any qualms about using al Qaeda terrorism to promote their agendas.
3. The need to alert European members of NATO to the creep of a terrorist menace closer than ever before to Western national borders, a movement facilitated by a fellow member.
4. To bring to the Obama administration’s full attention the fallout from its détente with Iran and the ayatollahs' hidden designs for the Middle East. Tehran’s affinity for terrorist methods and partners underlies all its actions.
5. The Israeli general brought out his big guns additionally in an effort to stem the mass-pilgrimage of prominent Middle East figures to Tehran which has been taking place since the signing of the interim nuclear accord in November. Even the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sent a messenger to the Iranian capital to test the prospects of an understanding between Tehran and Ramallah.
The messenger, Fatah party high-up Jibril Rajoub, was received by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zerif Wednesday. After the meeting, the Palestinian came out with an extraordinary comment: “Our cards are shown and we are speaking frankly, we aren’t trying to cheat or manipulate anyone.”
This sounded suspiciously as though the Iranians did not entirely trust the Palestinian messenger.
Two days later, Rajib went on record to demand a role for Iran in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations led by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

US senators newly reluctant on Iran sanctions after Obama pleads for time

By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/01/31/2014 03:17
Obama made a plea for time to explore diplomacy in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night. obama
US President Barack Obama makes a State of the Union address, January 28, 2014. Photo: REUTERS WASHINGTON – Democratic leadership in the US Senate has grown increasingly reluctant to act on a bill that would threaten Tehran with harsh new sanctions should it fail to reach a final agreement on its nuclear program. US President Barack Obama made a plea for time to explore diplomacy in his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 still has 59 co-sponsors, including 19 Democrats, publicly supporting the bill. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has given no indication he has any plans to bring the legislation to a vote, as his party colleagues begin to openly express skepticism on its timing. “I am strongly supporting the bill, but I think a vote is unnecessary right now as long as there’s visible and meaningful progress,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) told Agence France-Presse this week. Blumenthal is a co-sponsor on the legislation.
The point of the bill, as intended by its authors, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), is to hold the negotiations process to account with the specter of consequential failure: Should six months pass without a comprehensive agreement ending the nuclear impasse, the bill would automatically trigger new sanctions tools on the Islamic Republic, pending presidential approval.
Proponents of the bill consider it negative reinforcement for Iran to engage meaningfully in negotiations over its nuclear program with the P5+1— the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany.
But critics of the legislation, led by the Obama administration, warn that its passage could undermine the diplomatic process, and perhaps derail it completely.
In his fifth State of the Union address, Obama promised to veto the measure should it reach his desk.
“If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon,” he said. “But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
“For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” the US president said. Under the Menendez-Kirk bill, no new sanctions would be imposed in the six-month interim. But Iran has stated that the bill nevertheless violates the Joint Plan of Action— the short-term deal reached in November between the P5+1 and Iran pausing its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
In that international agreement, the president agreed that “the US administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the president and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said this week that “now is not the time for a vote on an Iran sanctions bill,” after the president urged Congress to hold off on the bill in the Tuesday address.
Kirk has been bullish on the bill since the president’s address. Menendez has not commented on the matter. The Democratic leader on foreign policy matters will preside over a committee hearing on Iran next Tuesday.
Republican Senate aides warned that, should Democratic leaders tie up the legislative process, GOP members will be left with “no choice” but to resort to partisan procedure.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) wrote a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, expressing concern that EU trade delegations were opening up channels with the Islamic Republic, possibly in violation of their own sanctions regime. “Delegations to Iran, including those from Europe, are premature and represent a step in the wrong direction as P5+1 negotiators work toward a comprehensive agreement that fully addresses the world’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear program,” Shaheen wrote in the letter, obtained by Politico. “Given the importance of continued US-EU cooperation on Iran, I am deeply troubled by recent reports of EU member states sending or preparing to send extensive government and trade delegations to Iran,” she wrote.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: Democracy in the Arab world doubtful during my lifetime
By JPOST.COM STAFF/01/30/2014/ Defense minister blames "messianic-apocalyptic" Iranian regime as lead instigator of instability in region. Ya'alon
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon expressed reserved hope on Thursday for stability in the Middle East, voicing skepticism that democratic governments could rule in the Arab world during his lifetime. "We [Israel] are firm supporters of democracy and I wish that we were surrounded by other democracies, but I don't think I will get to see democracy in the Arab world during my lifetime," he said during a visit to Germany.
During a meeting with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen, the defense minister stated that the situation in the Middle East remained complex and unstable, and that Germany and Israel were two democratic countries challenged by similar threats. While placing central blame on a "messianic-apocalyptic" Iranian regime as the lead instigator of instability in the region, Ya'alon pointed to the political situations in recent years in Gaza, Egypt and Syria as examples of unstable political systems surrounding Israel. He stressed that the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions must not progress in order to preserve safety in the region and around the world.
"We're talking about a messianic regime - apocalyptic, so one way or another its nuclear program must be stopped, otherwise it will become a nightmare for the Middle East and the entire world," the defense minister warned.
"The Iranians are involved in every conflict in the Middle East, and they support terror in South America, Asia and Africa and they send arms to Europe as well," Ya'alon said.
He also pointed toward the Hamas takeover in Gaza, the former Islamist rule in Egypt, and the Assad regime in Syria as failed opportunities by the leadership of surrounding governments in the region to achieve democracy.

Syria attacks U.S. meddling, opposition threats in peace talks
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - A contentious week-long first round of Syrian peace talks ended on Friday with no progress towards ending the civil war and the government delegation unable to say whether it will return for the next round in 10 days. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who has tirelessly pursued a peace deal that other diplomats consider "mission impossible", said the opposition delegation would be back on February 10, but President Bashar al-Assad's delegates had told him they would have to check with Damascus before agreeing to return. "They didn't tell me that they are thinking of not coming. On the contrary, they said that they would come, but they needed to check with their capital," Brahimi told a news conference. Brahimi listed 10 simple points that he felt the two sides agreed on in the talks and said he thought there was more common ground than the sides recognized.
But neither side has budged an inch from their main positions: the opposition wants the talks to focus on a transitional administration it says will remove Assad from power; the government wants to talk about fighting "terrorism" - a word it uses to refer to all its armed foes. "Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner," Brahimi said. Expectations had always been low for a breakthrough on political issues at the talks, the first between Assad's representatives and his foes in a war that has killed 130,000 Syrians and driven a third of the population from their homes.The sides also failed to achieve more modest aims, like an agreement to allow aid convoys into Homs, Syria's third largest city, where thousands of civilians are trapped with no access to food or medicine. "Homs was extensively discussed, although unfortunately there has been no breakthrough yet," Brahimi said.
Underscoring the relentlessness of the carnage, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said 1,870 people had been killed during the week of talks, including 450 civilians and 40 who died from inadequate access to food and medicine in areas besieged by government troops. With few achievements on substance, diplomats say the priority now is just to keep the talks process going in the hope that hardline positions can be modified over time. Brahimi inherited the tough task of convening talks from former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who quit in 2012 saying the job was impossible as long as global powers were at odds. Since then, the task has only grown more difficult and the war more violent. Assad's forces have recaptured territory, reducing pressure on him to compromise. Western countries who once held out the threat of intervening against him abandoned plans for strikes last year. The rebels have become increasingly divided and Islamic militants have gained power on the ground; they refused to attend the talks. The United Nations invited Assad's main backer Iran at the last minute, then reversed and revoked the offer. The talks began with hardline speeches at a conference last week and repeatedly seemed on the verge of collapse before the two sides even entered the same room. Just getting them there was deemed an achievement. Still, the sides took a first tentative step forward on Wednesday by agreeing to use a 2012 document as a basis for discussions. Thursday's final negotiating session began with a rare gesture of harmony when all sides observed a minute's silence for the 130,000 people killed during the war. "All stood up for the souls of the martyrs. Symbolically it was good," opposition delegate Ahmad Jakal told Reuters.
Last year saw Washington abandon plans for strikes to punish Damascus for using chemical weapons, ending more than two years of speculation that the West might join the war against Assad as it did against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Instead, Assad agreed to give up his poison gas stocks, a complicated process that has fallen behind schedule. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Syria had given up less than 5 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal and will miss a deadline next week to send all toxic agents abroad for destruction. "The United States is concerned that the Syrian government is behind in delivering these chemical weapons precursor materials on time with the schedule that was agreed to," U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday. Russia rejected U.S. charges that Damascus was stalling, said a June 30 deadline to destroy the toxic arsenal could still be achieved, and blamed security on the road to the Mediterranean coast for the delays. "We see that the Syrians are approaching the fulfillment of their obligations seriously and in good faith," Russian Foreign Ministry official Mikhail Ulyanov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. "Our American partners, in their usual manner, are betting on pressure even in those cases where there is absolutely no need for it."
**(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Geneva, Oliver Holmes and Stephen Kalin in Beirut, Missy Ryan in Warsaw and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Peter Graff)

Top Islamic Leader Calls on U.S. to Wage 'Jihad for Allah'
by Raymond Ibrahim/
A video of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi calling on the U.S. government to wage jihad for Allah in Syria, is currently making the rounds on Arabic media and Facebook, to mockery and dismay.
In the recorded speech, Qaradawi—one of the most influential Islamic clerics in the world, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, author of over 100 books on Muslim doctrine, and head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars—sarcastically thanks the U.S. for supporting the "freedom fighters" in Syria, adding that "Allah willing, your [U.S.] aid will increase."
Then, while working himself up because the U.S is only providing weapons to the jihadis in Syria, as opposed to directly intervening, Qaradawi declares in frustration: "We want America to take a manly stand—a stand for Allah!"Needless to say, all Muslim Brotherhood opponents in the region are pointing to this as yet more proof that Qaradawi and the Brotherhood are mercenaries who interpret jihad any which way, so long as it helps them consolidate power: otherwise, how can "infidel" America take "a stand for Allah" by waging jihad on fellow Muslims?
It should further be noted that the classic formulation of the Arabic word jihad, as in "fight," appears in the Koran with the addition fi sabil Allah, that is, "fight in the cause of Allah."
In other words, calling on the U.S. to strike Syria's Bashar Assad—and calling it "a stand for Allah"—is essentially synonymous with calling on the U.S. to fight "in the cause of Allah."
Amazingly, then, Qaradawi employs classical jihadi rhetoric to incite American leadership to action.As one televised political commentator in Egypt discussing this anecdote put it,Sheikh Qaradawi of course is the great and prominent Sheikh of Jihad, who issues those famous fatwas we all know of to kill and destroy on his orders. Really, the man has reached the point where he is now calling on America to wage jihad and take a stand for Allah. No comment; what's there to say at this point?… Now jihad is being asked of America and to be waged against Muslims.
Nor is it any secret that this administration does act on the calls of Qaradawi. As Clare Lopez summarizes for the Gatestone Institute:
[T]he current administration consistently and repeatedly appeared to respond eagerly to the calls for revolution from the Muslim Brotherhood's senior Islamic scholar, Yousef al-Qaradawi. When al-Qaradawi said that Mubarak had to go, the U.S. waited a whole three days before throwing America's key ally in the Middle East for over three decades under the bus. When al-Qaradawi called for Libyan rebels to kill Muammar Qaddafi (so the al-Qa'eda jihadis in his jails could get out and join the revolution), the U.S. led the Western military campaign that brought al-Qa'eda, the MB, and chaos to Libya. And when al-Qaradawi issued a call for jihad in Syria, in early June 2013, the U.S. quickly issued an invitation to Abdullah bin Bayyah (al-Qaradawi's vice president at the International Union of Muslim Scholars), who told an Al-Jazeera reporter that, "We demand Washington take a greater role in [Syria]." It took the U.S. less than one week after al-Qaradawi's fatwa to announce authorization of stepped-up military aid to the al-Qa'eda-and-Brotherhood-dominated Syrian rebels. The White House announcement came just a single day after bin Bayyah met with National Security and other senior administration officials.
The problem, then, is not that Qaradawi has in desperate senility confused the U.S. with the jihadis, but rather that he may know that prominent elements of U.S. leadership are committed to struggling "in the cause of Allah"—and so he unwittingly employed jihadi rhetoric to remind them of their duty.
Unfortunately, in today's surreal climate of U.S. politics, no interpretation is so absurd as to be implausible.
**Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Middle East and Islam specialist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Divisions in Egypt are a waste of the country’s time
Friday, 31 January 2014/By: Bassem Youssef /AlArabyia
What’s the use of writing? Will I write something that no one before me has written? Will you read today what you haven’t read before? Will this article or any other have a role in changing how you think? I doubt it. All that can be written has been written already. Somewhere in your memory, similar ideas are to be found, rooted in what you read every day. I can talk to you today about terrorism, violence, counter violence, suppression, the interior ministry’s mistakes, the Brotherhood’s stupidity or I can talk about what happened in Rabaa or at al-Ithadiya or about the Brotherhood’s treason of the revolution and the state’s victory over everyone.
But you already know that. So why waste your time?
I watch the TV and listen to the statements of the interior ministry, experts, commentators and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis who brought the entirety of Jerusalem to the center of Cairo to practice their hobby of jihad against the Egyptians. Words will flow from one ear out the other but this won’t change anything because the dead will not be revived by speeches and the injured will not care why this happened.
We can open the gate to conspiracy theories like those claiming that the interior ministry planned and conducted an explosion to pit the public opinion against the opposition or that the Brotherhood are killing themselves. But you and I have both become bored of this nonsense.
What we are witnessing is the death of everything we dreamed of: democracy, justice, freedom and so on. Fear has reigned over everything and anger is making gains.
The Brotherhood’s attempts
The Brotherhood’s attempts to distance themselves from the accusation and disown jihadist and takfirist groups will not succeed. The Brotherhood’s attempts to quote jihadist groups’ books in which it is being accused of infidelity will also fail. It’s too late now for such attempts to succeed.
At the peak of their power, the Brotherhood, at an event attended by Mursi, chose to chant: “Here we are at your service (O, Allah!).” Their president sat listening as preacher Mohammad Hassan cursed the impure Shiites and as cleric Mohammad Abdel Maqsoud prayed for woe against those who will participate in the June 30 protests.
If you had forgotten that day, there are numerous videos that can remind you. Channels broadcast these videos day and night from Beltagy who made the stupidest of statements to the Brotherhood protests in which they chanted “We will blow up Egypt” to Safwat Hijazi who pledged to spray us with blood to Tarek al-Zomar who promised to crush us.
If you ignore all this, someone will remind you that Mursi himself has clearly spoken about prominent terrorist sheikh Omar Abdelrahman and sought to liberate him. Or someone will remind you that Salafist cleric Hazem Abu Ismail and his allies consider bin Laden as their role model.
They will say these statements don’t represent them or that they were taken out of context. Go to the naive and tell them that. They will tell you these are malicious plans schemed by the interior ministry and aimed at justifying more violence. Perfect, go to the naive and tell them. They will resort to history and quote the memoirs of Khaled Muhieddine in which he speaks of how Gamal Abdel Nasser faked events to prove his wisdom and then tell you: look this is happening all over again! Okay, sweet. Go to the naive and tell them that.
And while you are at it, tell them that the army is bringing down its own jets using surface-to-air missiles. But make sure you start running before finishing this sentence. The naive don’t watch the interior minister threatening to burn Egypt and don’t listen to security leaders say that the martyrs’ blood will fill the streets and they don’t hear the defense minister calling for jihad and accusing the army of treason. On the contrary, he tells the army that it’s the light of his eyes. Whom do you think people will believe?
Whatever the violations the interior ministry commits and no matter how much suppression increases, the people will consider that this aims to protect them from those who pledged “to crush them.”
Losing faith
The Brotherhood says how can we carry out explosions when we publicly announce we are sending our sons to protests. They will also say terrorism is a criminal act practiced in secrecy and not in public. This is a sweet logical statement, but let me know if anyone even hears you out. This is not the time for logic which you killed when you were in power when you chose to ally with representatives of backwardness, criminality and terrorism. Even if you were completely innocent, blood has stained you due to your actions and stupidity. Now the ordinary citizens don’t differentiate among the Brotherhood, the Salafists, the Jihadists, al-Qaeda and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Ordinary citizens don’t differentiate between black flags. To us, you are all bin Laden.
Perhaps you think that because most Brotherhood leaders are in jail we will get a reprieve from their stupid statements and a chance to expose all security breaches of authority. But that’s quite impossible as there’s a league of morons that reside in Doha’s hotels and continue to provoke the people and, without any efforts from the authorities, convince them that this is really a Turkish-Qatari-Brotherhood conspiracy. Hamza Zawbaa, a leader in the Justice and Freedom Party, and Mohammad al-Jawadi, a political historian, incite their followers to die while they get ready to wear make-up before appearing in a long marathon of stupidity on al-Jazeera’s Mubasher Misr (Egypt Live).
Statements about the reasons behind violence and on how violence breeds violence and how the experience of suppressing the Islamic movement will lead to more terrorism are useless. Sweet, go to the naive and tell them that.
No one will hear you out and no one will be patient as you lecture. Terrorism reigns over the situation now. Who are you to patronize them and tell them they’re wrong?
“Perhaps you think that because most Brotherhood leaders are in jail we will get a reprieve from their stupid statements ”
The Brotherhood’s statement apologizing for their acts when they were in power and demanding everyone to unite to defeat the “coup” is a repetition of other statements in which treason, lies and breaking of vows are aplenty. If you lose your credibility when apologizing, it means people will not believe anything you say anymore. They’ve seen how you allied with the interior ministry and how you sought the protection of the army which you are now demanding to topple. People will not believe a lying deceitful man when he denies the accusation of terrorism. You are a liar in all cases.
We are all paying the price for the Brotherhood’s stupidity and for Khairat al-Shater’s and his comrades’ stupidity. How I wish the Brotherhood alone paid the price. Everyone speaking out against the authority and against hypocrisy is now being categorized as one of them - and we all hate you for that.
The word “Brotherhood” has become the accusation to be made against anyone opposing the authority. Nazli Hussein, daughter of lawyer Ghada Shahbendar, and others, were arrested on their way to Tahrir Square just because they raised photos of martyrs. The accusation is ready before you even ask for it: “They are Brotherhood (members).” This is it, case closed.
They arrested Nazli and her friends because they raised photos of martyrs, but the smart among them is he who stopped to buy photos of Sisi in order to guarantee returning home safe.
The buried revolution
So let’s go celebrate the annual memory of the January revolution which in the same square where it was born, it was actually buried under the feet of those who see it as a relapse.
Dear Brotherhood member, before you pretend you’re weeping and before playing the role of the victim, recall what your leaders and clerics did and how they destroyed any chance for the revolution to succeed and move forward. Before you lecture us about the Islamic project, look at your project which led us to see the most absurd of scenes in Egypt like how veiled women run behind a bearded man while screaming to him “oh you terrorist, you son of ...”
Now, no one can talk about another subject. Try to discuss the government’s corruption or poor health and education services or the poor performance of the interior ministry. Try to talk about the return of the previous regime, its games and its men. Shut up. No voice is higher than that of the war against terrorism.
There’s no blood money for he who dies now, and those who gets arrested actually deserves it. Channels now categorize all dead men and all detainees under one category: rioters, Brotherhood, terrorists - even if a lecturer at the American university, Imad Shahin, is among them.
This article was first published in al-Shorouk on Jan. 28, 2014.
Bassem Youssef is is an Egyptian doctor, satirist, and the host of El Bernameg ("The Program"), a satirical news program broadcast by a private Egyptian television station. The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. Despite all controversy and legal debates it has sparked, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Youssef's YouTube channel one of the most subscribed to in Egypt.
Last Update: Friday, 31 January 2014 KSA 10:49 - GMT 07:49