LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/
1 Corinthians Chapter 3: "1-23: "Brothers, I couldn’t speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babies in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren’t yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you fleshly? 5 Who then is Apollos, and who is Paul, but servants through whom you believed; and each as the Lord gave to him? I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are the same, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s farming, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is. If any man’s work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire. Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, which you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone thinks that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He has taken the wise in their craftiness.”Job 5:13 And again, “The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is worthless.”† Psalm 94:11 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come. All are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from
miscellaneous sources For For February 02/14
Assad, Maliki and the use of ISIS/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/ February 02/14
Iran Occupies Center Stage at Davos But Finds Itself Under the Microscope/By: Raghida Dergham/February 02/14
On Syria and Switzerland/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabyia/February 02/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous
Sources For February 02/14
Lebanese Related News
Three Killed in Hermel Suicide Explosion and Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon Claims Responsibility
Local Figures Deplore Hermel Attack and Jumblat Says Condemnation 'Became Useless'
U.S. Embassy Renews Lebanon Travel Warning
Fabius Meets Miqati, Says 'Friends of Lebanon' to Meet Early March
Report: Security Fears Grow amid Warnings of Future Terrorist Attacks in Lebanon
Hezbollah expanding drone use to Syria and Lebanon
From the Archieve/Hezbollah's Drones
Report: Equal Distribution of Sovereign Portfolios among March 8, 14 Camps Suggested for Govt.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: Russia working on case of kidnapped bishops
Refugee crisis taking heavy toll on Lebanon: PM
Mother of Roula Yaacoub wants truth for daughter
Miqati on Alleged Assassination Plot against Him: I am Performing My National Duties
Report: Equal Distribution of Sovereign Portfolios among March 8, 14 Camps Suggested for Govt
Mustaqbal Insists on Ministerial Portfolio Rotation, Says 'All Criminals, Terrorists' Must Be Tried
Aoun: Salam Can't Form De Facto Cabinet, He's to Blame for Obstruction
Abboudieh, Arida Crossings Closed
Miscellaneous Reports And News
'Military action likely' if Iran talks fail, US spokeswoman says
'Obama to visit Saudi Arabia amid tensions over Iran, Syria'
UN chief pushes for quick return to Syria talks
Geneva II talks: Talks’ and killing fields'
Syria Toll Rises to 136,000 after Bloody Month
Kerry says U.S. bid for Mideast peace not 'quixotic' (unrealistic)
Eilat pays for Israel’s patchy security policy in Gaza and IDF’s quiet cooperation with Egypt
Kerry hopeful, says U.S. bid for Mideast peace not 'quixotic'
Egyptian PM says reshuffle to include Sisi's defense minister: report
Sinai-based militants claim rocket attack on Israel
Mursi lawyers barracked on arrival for trial
Egypt air strike kills 7 Sinai militants: army
U.S. Warns China against New Air Defense Zone
Three Killed in Hermel Suicide Explosion and Al-Nusra
Front in Lebanon Claims Responsibility
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/..A suicide attack targeted the Bekaa town of Hermel on Saturday evening, killing at least three people and wounding 20 others.
The attack was claimed by the Syrian al-Qaida-linked group, al-Nusra Front in Lebanon. "An explosion was heard near al-Mabarrat school which is located in the main road at the entrance of Hermel,” the state-run National News Agency said. Al-Mabarrat school assured that the orphans at the school are all alive and doing well. Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil announced that three people were killed and 28 others were wounded in the blast. Meanwhile, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told al-Manar television that at least four people were killed and more than 15 wounded, two or three of them in critical condition.
OTV said the four victims are Ibtissam al-Moussawi, Ali Alweh, Hassan Taha and a person whose family name in Fouani. "We think it is a suicide attack," Charbel added. He told LBCI television that a suicide bomber carried out the explosion using a Grand Cherokee car. Later in the evening, the army confirmed that a suicide bomber blew himself up in a light grey colored Grand Cherokee vehicle. "A military police unit and a number of experts arrived at the site of the explosion to inspect it and uncover the details behind the occurrence,” a communique released by the army said. "Security forces have cordoned off the area.”A statement released by a group called al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed responsibility for the attack. "Amid the continuation of the crimes committed by Iran's party (Hizbullah) against our vulnerable people in beloved Syria, and amid its insistence on sending mercenaries to kill the Syrian people, we could only try to stop the party's massacres and respond in the same manner on its territories, hoping that this would make it reconsider its decisions,” a statement posted on the group's Twitter page said. Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon said the attack was a “second suicide operation against a stronghold of Iran's party in Hermel.”It reiterated its calls for “Sunnis in Lebanon to revolt against this oppressive junta.”"Don't get frightened by its security aura because the party is weaker than it tries to show and these repetitive attacks on the same targets are proof of its fragility,” the statement added. NNA described the last minutes leading to the explosion, saying a man driving a Grand Cherokee car approached the petrol station, asking to fill up his vehicle with gas. "He then blew himself up inside the car," it said.
The explosion, which took place around 6:00 pm after night had fallen, sparked a huge blaze that hindered the arrival of emergency services. Al-Manar broadcast images of huge flames at the site of the attack. “A total destruction was noticed at the site of the explosion and cars went up in flames. Blaze erupted in the petrol tanks of the neighboring gas station.” A-Manar said efforts at the site of the explosion are now focused on searching for the bodies of any possible victims. "Ambulance cars rushed to the site of the explosion as thick flames were seen,” radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3) said. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr tasked concerned authorities to carry out the preliminary investigation and collect proofs and human remains from the scene of the explosion. Meanwhile, Internal Security Forces called on citizens to allow ambulance vehicles and security forces to access the site of the explosion to ease the rescuing operations and the extinguishing of flames. Relief forces in Hermel also urged citizens to stay away from the site of the explosion.
Following the attack, several roads were blocked in the Bekaa to protest the explosion. "The Alaou clan blocked the road at the entrance of Hermel with burning tires after a family member was killed in today's explosion," LBCI said.Saturday's blast comes less than a month after a car bombing also targeted Hermel, a Hizbullah stronghold, killing three person and wounding more than 26. Meanwhile, at least four people were killed in a suicide bombing that rocked Beirut's southern suburbs also in January. Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon had also claimed responsibility for both attacks. That bombing was the fourth attack in Beirut's Dahieh neighborhood, also a Hizbullah bastion, since the party announced it was fighting in Syria.As well as the Iranian embassy suicide attacks in November, the southern suburbs also suffered an August 15 bombing and a blast earlier the same month.
Local Figures Deplore Hermel Attack and Jumblat Says
Condemnation 'Became Useless'
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/Local political figures deplored on Saturday evening the second explosion to hit the Bekaa city of Hermel in a month, calling for national unity.
"Once again criminals have targeted a Lebanese region and attacked innocent civilians,” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati said in a released statement. "And in front of this incident, we can only call for national unity to protect our country and our people,” he added. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat told MTV that words of condemnation “are no longer useful.”"This is the second explosion that targets Hermel and we don't know where the next one will take place. We have entered a cycle of terrorism as a result of the war in Syria and of foreign nations' conflict over the region,” he added. He continued: “Getting into details is useless and I don't want to analyze anything. I will limit my statement to condemning the attack and expressing my fear of the future." "I have warned of these explosions.” Jumblat also noted that the ongoing debate over the cabinet's formation is pointless.The March 14 general-secretariat condemned “the crime that targeted Hermel,” reiterating calls for deploying army forces on the border with Syria, supported by UNIFIL troops. Meanwhile, PM-designate Tammam Salam called on the residents of Hermel to “exercise self-restraint despite the painful events they are going through.”"This cowardly terrorist act must be a motivation for local factions to unite and block the road in front of sedition, and to support the army and the security forces that are exerting all needed efforts to prosecute perpetrator and bring them to justice,” Salam said. Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel told LBCI television that isolating security bodies from political authorities is a “heresy.”"We demand a single authority that exclusively supervises to the work of all security forces,” he stressed. "We must all assume responsibility and what security bodies have been able to uncover so far reveals their potentials and capabilities.” "This should be followed with a political cover,” the former president remarked. At least three people were killed in a suicide explosion that targeted a petrol station in Hermel on Saturday evening, less than a month after an attack killed three and wounded 26 others in the Bekaa city.
U.S. Embassy Renews Lebanon Travel
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/Washington reiterated on Saturday the long-standing advice that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Lebanon in light of recent security incidents in the country. “U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining in Lebanon and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on October 9, 2013,” the Department of State said via twitter. “The potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular due to the increasing frequency of terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country. Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens at this time, there is a real possibility of 'wrong place, wrong time' harm to U.S. citizens,” the statement added. It also stressed that “because of security concerns, unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members is strictly limited, and requires the Department of State's prior approval.” “U.S. citizens consider avoiding areas where bombings have taken place recently. The most recent Security Messages are found at the following link: http://lebanon.usembassy.gov/secumsgs.html,” it added. Numerous people were killed and injured in suicide bombings that targeted different areas in Lebanon. The latest was on January 21, 2014 when a suicide car bomb exploded in Beirut's southern suburbs of Dahieh, leaving five dead and dozens wounded. The latest security developments in Syria have been impacting the situation in Lebanon and resulting in numerous security incidents in the border regions, as well as in other parts of the country.
France's FM, Fabius Meets Miqati, Says
'Friends of Lebanon' to Meet Early March
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius assured on Saturday that an international conference will take place in Paris in March to help Lebanon deal with the repercussions of the Syrian crisis."France is determined to go forward with what was agreed on before through holding an international conference in early March to help Lebanon overcome its current political and economic difficulties,” Fabius said after meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati in Germany's Munich. Miqati stressed after the talks on Lebanon's need for Arab and international efforts to help it bear the burdens of the huge influx of Syrian refugees into the country, pointing out to this issue's consequences on the economy. It is estimated that more than 902,000 Syrian refugees are currently in Lebanon, which has been strained by the conflict in its much larger neighbor.
Fabius reiterated his country's support to Lebanon and its army, through strengthening it its logistical potentials “especially that the military institution enjoys the consensus of all Lebanese factions.”The French diplomat also expressed his concern over the ongoing violence in neighboring Syria, and the inability to “reach a solution to draw an end to the suffering of the Syrian people.” Miqati is currently in Germany for the 50th annual Munich Security Conference, where he reiterated the Lebanese government's call on the international community to help Lebanon support the burden of Syrian refugees.He also held talks on Saturday with deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Bogdanov, and United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Mustaqbal Parliamentary BlocInsists on
Ministerial Portfolio Rotation, Says 'All Criminals, Terrorists' Must Be Tried
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/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.
Aoun: Salam Can't Form De Facto
Cabinet, He's to Blame for Obstruction
Naharnet Newsdesk 31 January 2014/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.
Report: Equal Distribution of Sovereign Portfolios among March 8, 14 Camps Suggested for Govt.
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/The latest efforts to form a new government have resulted in the proposal to distribute the four sovereign portfolios equally between the March 8 and 14 camps, reported An Nahar daily on Saturday. It said that the March 8 camp will be granted the foreign and finance ministries, while the March 14 camp will be granted the defense and interior ministries. The Free Patriotic Movement of MP Michel Aoun will be given the foreign ministry along with a services portfolio. The telecommunication and energy ministries will be handed over to President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam.
A main obstacle in the formation of the new cabinet has been the FPM's refusal to relinquish the energy and telecommunications ministries, currently held by caretaker Ministers Jebran Bassil and Nicolas Sehnaoui respectively.
Widely-informed sources told As Safir newspaper that Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat had spearheaded the efforts over the distribution of sovereign portfolios. Salam, former Premier Saad Hariri, Speaker Nabih Berri, and Hizbullah all agreed to the suggestion. The party had however set as a condition Aoun's agreement to the proposal before going ahead with it. Bassil had rejected on Thursday relinquishing the Energy Ministry from the grasp of the FPM. The sources revealed that Suleiman had suggested to Salam that he resolve this matter, explaining that he cannot sanction any development that the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki would view as a “squandering of Christian rights,” reported As Safir. The rival political powers had reportedly reached agreement to form a 24-member government that grants each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists eight ministers.
Miqati on Alleged Assassination Plot against Him: I am Performing My National Duties
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/Caretaker Najib Miqati lamented on Saturday the current state of affairs in Lebanon given that it is suffering from the impact of the Syrian crisis. Commenting on claims that he has become a target for assassination, he said: “I am performing my national duties and what pleases my conscience.”Media reports had said on Friday that the PM has become a target for assassination in light of their circulation of a security document alleging that a political figure in Beirut or the northern city of Tripoli may be targeted by a suicide bomber. Miqati hails from Tripoli. “It is unfortunate that all the Lebanese people's security and livelihoods have become at risk due to the local and regional situations,” he added in a statement. “We have repeatedly warned of the consequences of regional unrest,” he stressed.Miqati is currently in Germany for the 50th annual Munich Security Conference, where he reiterated the Lebanese government's call on the international community to help Lebanon support the burden of Syrian refugees. Later on Saturday, he held separate talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Bogdanov, and United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Hezbollah expanding drone use to Syria and Lebanon
Lebanese politician critical of Iranian-backed group says unmanned planes used over his home; army confirms Hezbollah tracked car bomb across Lebanon-Syria border
Roi KaisPublished: 01.30.14/Ynetnews
Hezbollah is proving once again that its fight is not only against Israel, but is also focused on its own internal interests in Lebanon and Syria. After dispatching thousands of its fighters to the battlefields of Syria, on behalf of ally and sponsor Bashar Assad, who has sustained major military losses, it has now begun to support the beleaguered president by supplying him with unmanned aerial vehicles.
In November 2013, the Lebanese media revealed that security forces there had foiled a massive attack, involving a booby-trapped vehicle carrying 400 kg of explosives and other ammunition. The vehicle was discovered by seemingklhy miraculous means in the country's Bekaa region, an area under Hezbollah control, several hours before the start of celebrations for Lebanon's 70th independence day. Lebanese security sources said that the organization had spotted the vehicle, and obtained information that it had entered the Bekaa region via the country's eastern border with Syria. "The organization is monitoring and supervising the border using drones at night," the sources said. Beyond its deployment of drones on the Syria-Lebanon border, it appears that Hezbollah has stepped up its use of them as a tool in its struggle against political foes inside Lebanon itself. Samir Geagea, a veteran Lebanese Christian politician and senior member of the country's anti-Hezbollah March 14 Alliance, said this week that an unmanned aerial vehicle had spent several hours flying above his home in the village of Maarab, an area with many Christian residents. Geagea, who was the target of an assassination attempt in 2012, told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV network that, "the murder preparations continue, and to my knowledge they will try to kill me, given the enormous implications this will have for the March 14 Alliance, and for Lebanese politics in general." Geagea did not expressly identify Hezbollah, but vowed: "They will not succeed."
He connected this attempt on his own life to text messages and threats sent to his wife, a member of the Lebanese parliament for the same Alliance, as well as to other political assassinations in the country. These killings include that of former Lebanese finance minister Mohamad Chatah, a well-known vehement critic of Hezbollah, in the heart of Beirut last month.
Geagea said that the Lebanese army had been unable to identify the origins of the drone over his house, but ruled out the possibility that it came from Israel, as the IAF was not given to operating in that area.
Hezbollah is believed to possess close to 200 Iranian-made drones, and some are, of course, destined for Israel. A proportion of those planes are set aside for one-way missions on strategic sites inside Israel, or IAF bases in the next conflagration. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's drone collection includes a variety of models, among them "suicide" model aircraft that can fly at very low altitudes, evading Israel's radar systems.
The Israeli response to drone infiltrations is to deploy IAF warplanes, which have on at least two occasions managed to down Hezbollah's unmanned aircraft. The American-made "Hawk" surface-to-air missiles, long used by Israel, should help as well in this mission.
From the Archieve/Hezbollah's Drones
Hezbollah has fleet of 200 Iranian-made UAVs
After Hezbollah personnel track explosive-laden car from Syrian border, open fire on terrorists, Lebanese military defuse 400 kilo payload, report exposes Hezbollah has UAV capability
Two days after the deadly attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut – and during celebrations of the Lebanon's 70th day of independence – security officials discovered an explosive-laden Buick with weapons and an approximately 400 kilo payload.
An engineering team defused the vehicle and prevented a large explosion. In the aftermath, Lebanese media speculated as to the manner in which the attack was stopped. The current assessment: Hezbollah is operating unmanned aircrafts. On Monday, security officials told the Lebanese paper Al-Jumhuriyah that "the vehicle was tracked upon entrance to Arsal on the border with Syria and until it arrived in the area between Younin and Maqneh." It was further reported that Hezbollah men had opened fire on the car and were caught in a fire-fight with the militants in a vehicle accompanying the explosive car. The Lebanese military arrived soon after the incident.
In the wake of the event, security officials appraised the situation to the paper, explaining that Hezbollah recently obtained information on possible car bombs penetrations into the Beqaa Valley through the eastern and north-eastern borders. "The organization is performing tracking and surveillance on the border through the use of UAVs at night," the report claimed.
Hezbollah has close to 200 Iranian-made UAVs. Part of the unmanned fleet is destined for kamikaze actions on strategic national targets in Israel or IAF bases during the next crisis which is bound to occur between the adversaries. The options at Nasrallah's disposal include many models of UAVs, including kamikaze planes capable of low-altitude flights to evade detection by radar.
The IDF's answer to the new alignment is the fighter jets of the IAF, who on two previous occasions have shot down Hezbollah UAVs. The Hawk surface-to-air missile system can also be used to target the UAVs.
Lebanese 24-hour news channel, Al Jadeed, aired a clip of Nasrallah in Dehieh surrounded by a ring of bodyguards during the Ashura celebrations. The event was captured by amateur photographers.
One day before the prevented attack, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned the Iranian embassy will continue to be a target to for terror attacks," according to a report in the Lebanese Al Akhbar, which identifies with the terror organization. Nasrallah clarified: "They didn't achieve their target, and they will continue to try until they hit their target."
According to the Secretary-General, the embassy attack relied on a new type of explosive designed to maximize destruction.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: Russia working on case of
February 01, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said in remarks published Saturday that Russia has a leading role in the ongoing negotiations to release two bishops kidnapped in Syria last year, adding that his information indicates the two prelates are still alive. Speaking to Al-Joumhouria, Ibrahim also said that a “high-ranking security and diplomatic official” would arrive in Beirut Saturday to discuss recent developments in the case.
“The current effective party [in the negotiations] is Russia,” Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, told the local daily. “On the other hand, Qatar has ties with the opposition and we negotiate with the regime because we [still] have relations with the regime and so we agreed to unite our efforts ... to collect information and pursue the case,” he added. Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted in April 2013 by gunmen while en route to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border. Ibrahim, who has been tasked to follow up on the case of the bishops, said the kidnappers had not yet listed their demands. “ Qatar has voiced readiness to pay the cost of any resolution [to the case], regardless of the amount, but the problem is that the kidnappers have not yet asked for a ransom or specified their demands,” the Lebanese official said. He also noted that he was in contact with U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Ibrahimi who Ibrahim said was also following up on the case. Concerning conflicting reports on the fate of the bishops, Ibrahim said: “[My] information is that they are still alive.” He also said that he had no information that two were separated at some stage or that one of the prelates had been killed as reports last year said. Ibrahim also said the fact that the case of the two bishops was shrouded in mystery was “confusing.” “Although we have nothing tangible evidence the information we have is encouraging,” he added. Ibrahim also said that the case of the 13 nuns seized in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula late last year was on the right path.“The case of the nuns will reach a satisfactory result,” he said.
Mother of Roula Yaacoub wants truth for daughter
February 01, 2014/By Venetia Rainey/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: “I don’t know what to say anymore,” Layla Yaacoub says, her voice breaking. “I just want the truth for my daughter.”Wiping away tears with a shaking hand, she shuffles along a row of chairs to let others take their turn to speak as part of a news conference Friday at the headquarters of anti-gender-based violence group KAFA. Yaacoub, the mother of the late Roula Yaacoub, is convinced her 31-year-old daughter was beaten to death - and she is not alone. Despite the release last week of a 13-page report that cleared Roula Yaacoub’s husband, Karam al-Bazzi, of any role in her death, KAFA says the fight is far from over.
“This is an issue of justice,” says Zoya Rouhana, KAFA’s director. “This case has not been given the special attention it should have been given. There has been some sort of conspiracy, which has led to this conclusion.”
Roula Yaacoub was found comatose at her home in Halba, Akkar, last July, and later died upon arrival at the local hospital. Some of Yaacoub’s relatives and neighbors have maintained that Bazzi beat his wife and their five daughters on a regular basis, and have been campaigning since her death to have him charged with murder. But the medical examinations and subsequent reports have so far not supported that case.
The Higher Judicial Council Friday defended last week’s report, which was written by an investigative judge, saying: “There was no sufficient evidence to believe that the defendant caused the death of his wife, Roula Yaacoub, by beating her or [committing] any other form of deliberate violence.” The council said three autopsy reports, including one by a committee of doctors from the Beirut Order of Physicians, did not find any medical evidence indicating that the cause of death was a blow to the head as alleged by Yaacoub’s relatives. The forensic doctors reported that she died of an aneurysm, a swollen artery. But Rouhana contests this narrative, suggesting the doctors were not united in their verdict. “Committees formed by the syndicate of doctors in Beirut and Tripoli said they could not confirm what the cause of bleeding was,” she tells The Daily Star. “Some of them said there was not a sufficient medical examination to prove that she died of natural causes, a birth defect, as they are saying now ... some of the doctors said the bleeding could easily have been caused by a blow.”Bruises discovered on the body, which would appear to support the claim she had been beaten before, were not taken into account in the judge’s final report, Rouhana says. Yet they are alluded to in the Higher Judicial Council’s statement Friday, which says the second team of forensic doctors concluded, “bruises on the body were superficial and could not have been the cause of death.”The report also relies heavily on testimony from two of Yaacoub and Bazzi’s five daughters, who said their father “did not beat their mother on that day,” according to the council’s statement. But Rouhana points out that the daughters have been staying with Bazzi’s family since their mother’s death, “where they have been subject to psychological and other pressures to the benefit of the accused,” she said in a statement at the news conference.A team of nine lawyers, headed by Rimon Yaaccoub, a relative of Roula, are now pushing to have an appeals court reopen the probe. One of those lawyers, Marie-Rose Zalzal, is adamant that the Yaacoub family will see justice.“Her parents should know what happened, and so should the public,” she says, putting an arm around a sobbing Layla Yaacoub.“We also need the affirmation that no one should be able to escape justice; everyone should be punished according to what they did.”
Refugee crisis taking heavy toll on Lebanon: PM
February 01, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Saturday said the Syrian refugee crisis has taken a heavy toll on Lebanon’s society and economy, asking the international community for additional support. Speaking at a security conference in Germany, Mikati also called for a cease-fire in Syria until warring parties at the international, regional and local levels reach a deal to resolve the years-long crisis. “We are trying to stay away from the Syrian crisis but its humanitarian repercussions on the Lebanese situation have been immense. The number of refugees in Lebanon is at 1 million which has led to social problems including the rise of crime rates on Lebanese soil,” Mikati told the conference. “Last year, the birth rate was also very high among the Syrian refugees in Lebanon who lack the minimum required for a decent living or proper documentation. What awaits them is extremism which usually grows in a poor ... environment,” he added. Officials in Lebanon have said that more than 1.3 million Syrians have fled into the country since the conflict in Syria began in March of 2011. They have also warned that the presence of refugees, estimated now to be around a third of Lebanon’s population, has impacted the country’s fragile economy and demographic. Mikati, citing a study by the International Monetary Fund, said Lebanon national income had suffered indirect losses estimated at $7.5 billion. He also noted that the sectors which were most affected by the Syrian crisis were trade, transport of commodities and tourism, a trio Mikati described as the basis of Lebanon’s economy. The caretaker prime minister also spoke about the crisis in Syria, saying the conflict beyond Lebanon’s borders was multifaceted and reflected the conflict of regional and international interests.
“The true solution should be a top-down approach and that has yet to happen because compromises have not yet covered all elements of the conflict,” Mikati said. Mikati said lessons could be drawn from the Lebanese 1975-90 Civil War, noting that several conferences were held before the decisive talks in Saudi Arabia where a compromise between the warring sides was reached to end the conflict. “The war in Lebanon did not end until we held the conference in the Saudi city of Taef under an Arab and international umbrella,” he said.“What we should focus on in Syria is to stop the destruction and bloodshed through a cease-fire to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people and allow humanitarian organizations to do their job, particularly that 1,600 people were killed since the Geneva 2 [talks] were convened until now,” he said.“The solution rests in an agreement between major states and then in a deal between regional powers which would then pave the way for a possible and effective dialogue between Syrians,” Mikati added. “I ask the international community to work on a cease-fire until the final solution has been reached and in the name of Lebanon, I ask for more support for our humanitarian mission toward the refugees so that we can provide the world with an example to follow,” he said.
Report: Security Fears Grow amid Warnings of Future
Terrorist Attacks in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 February 2014/Security authorities warned of the dangerousness of the upcoming phase in Lebanon amid information that more terrorist attacks will be carried out in the country, reported As Safir newspaper on Saturday. Security sources told the daily that authorities received reports that Lebanon will soon be “facing a very dangerous phase.”“This requires the greatest level of vigilance and security forces must remain alert in order to confront the dangers that are no longer limited to a certain region, but they have become spread out in the country,” they remarked. Moreover, they revealed that some western military officials “have expressed their concern over the terrorist attacks that had taken place in Lebanon recently.” They also expressed their fear over the “freedom of mobility that these terrorist organizations enjoy in some Lebanese regions.”
“They warned that signs that the Syrian conflict will spread to Lebanon are increasing,” stated the security sources. A security document was leaked to the press on Friday revealing that a suicide bomb attack was being planned against a political figure in Beirut or the northern city of Tripoli. It said that a Syrian suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden Kia is plotting to target the high-ranking personality. Lebanon had witnessed in recent months bomb attacks against Hizbullah strongholds. The latest took place in Beirut's southern suburbs of Dahieh on January 21. Four people were killed and at least 35 wounded in the attack claimed by the Nusra Front in Lebanon.
UN chief pushes for quick return to Syria talks
February 01, 2014/Associated Press
BERLIN: The United Nations' secretary-general pressed the U.S. and Russia to help ensure that peace talks aimed at stemming Syria's civil war can soon resume, while Russia's foreign minister said Saturday that it is "very difficult" to push Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to make concessions. A week of peace talks ended in Geneva on Friday with no concrete progress and no immediate commitment from Assad's envoys to return on Feb. 10 for more meetings with the Western-backed opposition as suggested by mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a conference of global security officials in Munich that he urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting on the sidelines "to use their influence to ensure the talks proceed as scheduled on Feb. 10."
The U.S. has insisted that Assad cannot be part of a transitional government and has lost his legitimacy to lead, while Russia has been a key ally of Assad's government.
Ban urged the warring parties to "come back with more sense of earnestness as well as seriousness and urgency." Specifically, he called on "both sides and the government in particular to allow the unfettered access required under international humanitarian law."An agreement to allow aid convoys into the central Syrian city of Homs has remained stalled, with the government and opposition accusing each other of holding up the aid delivery into the city, which has been under siege for nearly two years.
Lavrov insisted that " Russia can do nothing alone" and urged the U.S. and others to exert their influence on the Syrian opposition.
Lavrov said the humanitarian situation in Syria is "outrageous" but insisted that "we've got to be realistic," arguing that the Syrian government is willing to deliver aid to Homs and deliveries to other cities, such as Aleppo and suburbs of Damascus, should also be an issue.
"I can assure you that we are putting daily pressure on the Syrian government," Lavrov said during a panel discussion at the conference. "It is a very difficult situation and to try to convince the government, which is waging a war, to make some gestures - this is a very difficult task."
Kerry raised concern over the humanitarian situation, especially in the besieged areas such as Homs, when he met with Lavrov Friday night. He also insisted anew that the creation by mutual consent of a transitional governing body must be a primary focus in the next round of talks, according to a senior State Department official who wasn't authorized to discuss the private meeting by name.
The meeting discussed the need for the opposition to expand its delegation, the official said.
The opposition delegation does not control armed groups inside Syria, including al-Qaida-backed militants, who do not feel bound by agreements reached in the talks.
Brahimi has struggled to find positive words about the outcome of the first round of talks, but Lavrov welcomed "the modest but important results" and said he hoped they will be "deepened and expanded" in the next round.
Ban said that "it is hard going but we have made a start."
"The parties may still be fighting but now they are also talking - this is the only hope for a political solution," he said.
Egypt air strike kills 7 Sinai militants: army
February 01, 2014/Agence France Presse/CAIRO: The Egyptian army said it killed seven militants in an air strike in the Sinai Peninsula less than a week after jihadists downed a military helicopter in the restive region.
The army said the Thursday night air raid hit militants linked to the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, which the military-installed authorities have designated a terrorist organisation despite its repeated condemnation of jihadist attacks against the security forces. The air strike targeted four houses of "dangerous extremists linked to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group" south of the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zwayed, the army said, adding that seven militants were killed and five wounded. On January 25, militants shot down a military helicopter in the Sinai, killing five soldiers as Egyptians marked the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising that toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak. Al-Qaeda inspired group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility for the downing, which was only belatedly acknowledged by the military after several days of insisting that it had been an accident. The Sinai-based group has claimed a spate of attacks against the security forces in recent months, not only in the desert peninsula but also in the heart of the capital.
The day before the helicopter downing, it claimed four bomb attacks against police targets in Cairo which killed six people, including a car bombing just outside the perimeter fence of police headquarters.
The army has poured troops into the Sinai in a bid to crush the militants but despite the loss of scores of police and troops since its July overthrow of Morsi, there has been no let-up in attacks.
Eilat pays for Israel’s patchy security policy in Gaza and IDF’s quiet cooperation with Egypt
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis February 1, 2014/Israel’s southernmost town, the Eilat tourist resort of 70,000 inhabitants, is now being targeted for missile attack from Sinai every few days. No one has been hurt and nothing damaged – thus far. This time, Iron Dome caught the ball but no defense system is foolproof. The Red Sea tourist resort knows it must prepare for the worst, in the light of the short-sighted policy Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon have adopted i.e., security and intelligence cooperation with Egypt’s presidential candidate and strongman Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, in place of direct action.
The government’s handling of the Syrian and Hizballah fronts, as well as the negotiations on the future of Jerusalem and the West Bank, show the same pattern of over-reliance on external forces to look after Israel’s essential security concerns.
In the space of two years, Israel’s prime minister and defense minister agreed to place the handling of two dangerous terrorist threats in foreign hands.
One: It caused Israel to secretly drop - or overlook - the fundamental Sinai demilitarization clause in its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and allow Gen. El-Sisi to inject military forces into the peninsula to combat the Islamist terrorists overrunning wide areas of northern and central regions and the borders of the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The peace treaty was ratified 35 years ago by the Knesset. Any changes should have – but were not – put before the House.
For years, the IDF, Israel’s military intelligence and air force consistently rejected all Cairo’s requests to permit Egyptian air force activity in Sinai – even during the Mubarak regime.
That restriction was waived last year. Egyptian aircraft and helicopters have taken to bombing terrorist targets and even penetrating Gaza Strip airspace for gathering intelligence.
The last Egyptian air strike Friday, Jan. 31 against Islamist terrorist targets in the peninsula was the heaviest ever. An estimated 60 missiles were dropped on the northern Sinai village of Al-Pitat near Sheikh Zuweid, killing at least 13 Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis fighters and destroying many buildings.
Al Qaeda undervalued as “global jihad”
Israeli official spokesmen never name this or any other jihadist organization, referring to “global Jihad” – apparently hoping a vague term will diminish the immediacy of the menace.
It is therefore important to lay out clearly the true nature of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
It is a coalition of Islamist groups and militias led by Abdallah Al-Ashqar which brings together Al Qaeda fighters from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Egypt and Sinai Salafist Bedouin.
Its command structure incorporates the military arms of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas and the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami.
Its most violent element is the virulent Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a veteran Egyptian ultra-radical organization, that was responsible for the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 for signing peace with Israel.
Three years ago, Al-Gema’a terrorists stormed and torched the US and Israeli embassies in Cairo.
A year later, on Sept. 1, 2012, the same Egyptian jihadists took part in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the murder of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and another three American officials.
Both Israel and Washington have systematically glossed over the presence of the deadly Al Gama’a al-Islmamiyya in Sinai, because it would then be revealed as the connecting link between the Egyptian Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the Al Qaeda cells operating in eastern Libya, mainly Benghazi and Darnah.
Those cells keep the various terrorist groups operating from the Gaza Strip and Sinai well supplied with arms.
Seen from the perspective of Israeli national security and strategic interests, a highly dangerous terrorist coalition has sprung up on its southwestern border. Al Qaeda’s affiliates have gained freedom of movement and action across a vast geographic area, ranging from Libya to the Gaza Strip, and furnished with unlimited sources of arms and funds.
Gaza ceasefire culminates in Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis
Two: On Nov. 21, 2012, the prime minister agreed to cut short the IDF’s operation against protracted Palestinian missile fire for the sake of giving US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a lever for embarking on a complex diplomatic move.
The Obama administration was in the throes of assembling a pro-US regional alliance scraped together from a group of Sunni leaders: the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi (since overthrown), its Palestinian offspring Hamas, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (currently in league with Tehran) and Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad Khalifa al-Thani (since abdicated).
The deal Clinton negotiated was for Palestinian consent to stop shooting missiles at Israel as part of a ceasefire, in return for which the pro-US alliance would rebuild the Gaza Strip and its economy and shore up Hamas rule for contesting the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and its head, Mahmoud Abbas
This ambitious master plan soon sank into oblivion because of two developments which neither the US nor Israel took into account:
Safely buttressed by this US-sponsored bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood immediately set about furtively molding Hamas and the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis into an underground militant arm, ready to snap into action in the event of the Brothers’ ouster for a wave of terror against Egyptian military and government targets.
Since his coup against the Muslim Brotherhood last July, Gen. El-Sisi has made the destruction of this terrorist machine his army’s top priority.
The Netanyahu government’s proclivity for depending on outside forces to pull its terrorist irons out of the fire left a tempting hole in Israel’s deterrence, which the Islamist Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terrorists were quick to grasp.
Last week, they released a communiqué warning that missiles and other terrorist operations would descend on the Israel enemy for every Egyptian military attack they suffered.
The missile fired against Eilat Friday night was the Ansar’s response to the massive Egyptian air strike on its hideouts early that day.
Eilat and its inhabitants have been made hostages to jihadist terror against the Egyptian army. Worst of all, there is nothing much Israel can do about it when the missiles are fired from sovereign Egyptian territory. The Israeli Air Force may hope that Hamas can be forced to hold back the rocket fire under the pressure of air strikes, but so far they have not stemmed the new round of rocket fire coming in from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Islamist terrorists are right out of their range.
Kerry says U.S. bid for Mideast peace not 'quixotic' (unrealistic)
February 01, 2014/Reuters/MUNICH: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that he remains hopeful that the Obama administration's effort to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians can succeed.
The United States hopes to complete a "framework" accord in coming weeks and will then try to negotiate a final peace deal by the end of 2014, a U.S. official said this week, according to a participant in a briefing with American Jewish leaders. "I am hopeful and we will keep working on it," Kerry, who despite widespread scepticism is leading the U.S. effort to push the two sides toward a deal, said during remarks at the Munich security conference. "I believe in the possibility or I wouldn't pursue this," he said. "I don't think we're being quixotic ... We're working hard because the consequences of failure are unacceptable."
U.S. envoy Martin Indyk said the framework would address core issues in the conflict, including borders, security, refugees and Jewish settlements, a participant in the briefing said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, which includes pro-settler parties, has already shown signs of strain over talks on Palestinian statehood.
Geneva II talks: Talks’ and killing fields
February 01, 2014/The Daily Star/A week of rhetoric and tension has finally concluded in Switzerland, and Syria’s warring sides are no closer to moving in a direction that may bring relief for Syrians.
As the Geneva II talks sputtered along and spread confusion over why the event was staged in the first place, nearly 2,000 people lost their lives to the violence raging in Syria. The sponsors of Geneva were undoubtedly happy to “bring both sides to the table,” but perhaps they forgot that what these sides actually accomplish at the table is of life-and-death importance for millions of Syrians around the world.
With the regime of President Bashar Assad enjoying unlimited support from Russia, and the opposition subject to a complex series of pressures and demands from its various allies, it was no surprise that the regime’s delegation was uninterested in talking about anything of substance. Geneva produced no humanitarian relief for residents of the city of Homs, only more “barrel bomb” horror for the cities of Aleppo, Daraya and elsewhere.
As Geneva II was convening in beautiful Switzerland, the ugly truths of the last three years only piled up: entire neighborhoods razed to the ground by the regime; thousands arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed; hunger used cavalierly as a weapon of war; and stalling on the commitment to eliminate chemical weapons stockpiles. In return for these violations by the regime, the international community is content to apply band aids and aspirin to the victims of the brutality, and prepare talking points about the next round of talks – when several thousand more Syrians probably won’t be around to watch.
Iran Occupies Center Stage at Davos But Finds Itself
Under the Microscope
By: Raghida Dergham
(Translation - Karim Traboulsi)
إيران احتلت موقعاً مميزاً في دافوس وأصبحت تحت المجهر
A lot of things happen behind the scenes in Davos, in parallel with the official program of the World Economic Forum (WEF), traditionally attended by more than 40 heads of state and government. The star this year was Iranian President Hassan Rohani. But Professor Klaus Schwab, the visionary and energetic Executive Chairman of the WEF, took him away from the spotlights into closed sessions, to discuss the Syrian and Palestinian questions, and search for new ideas that could revive the search for solutions there and elsewhere. In those brainstorming sessions, participants work hard to find a way to overcome the deadlock and come up with new approaches to issues like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In Davos, behind closed doors, more than 25 ministers and non-establishment intellectuals rubbed minds in search for ways to support the efforts of Joint International-Arab Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva, to launch a transitional political process in Syria. Iran, which was strongly present in Davos, but absent from Montreux and Geneva, occupied the center stage, but it is also now under close scrutiny.
The climate at the 44th Annual Meeting of the WEF in Davos was markedly different from the sessions of the two previous years, when the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood went to the Alps with a triumphalist air over what they falsely perceived as their victory. Back then, one of those who were overly celebrated at the WEF, told me half-jokingly, “We will destroy you,” in reference to civil activists, moderates, and secularists. This year, the rock-star treatment previously afforded to Muslim Brotherhood leaders at Davos is gone, and Brotherhood-affiliated participants were ordinary participants. There was no enchanted mob surrounding Rashid Ghannushi, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party in Tunisia, this time around, as he crossed the corridors of the conference venue.
Tunisia is now the experiment and the model for having redressed the distortion imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and is being celebrated internationally because the champions of the civil state there precluded the imposition of religion on the state. Tunisian women have been able to impose themselves as full partners rather than “complements” to men, while takfir, the act of declaring people with different opinions as apostates, has now been outlawed in the country. Thus, in the span of three years, Tunisia – and Egypt too – has proven that it can stand up to the monopoly of power by tyrants, regardless of their ideological affiliations.
Rohani in Davos was the star, with his message of moderation. He addressed businesspeople and energy firms, calling on them to invest in the Islamic Republic of Iran. But reading between the lines of his speech at the forum – something that the majority of people who are not familiar with the Iranian political discourse have failed to do – revealed the limits of his independence vis-à-vis the pillars of the regime in Tehran, namely, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) led by Soleimani. To be sure, the Iranian President Hassan Rohani used the same rhetoric used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in diagnosing the Syrian crisis, reducing the whole conflict to something that falls under the “fight against terror” label.
The Iranian president, who took full advantage of the charm of his broad smile, spoke about Iran’s desire to “deepen ties with neighboring countries,” mentioning by name countries like Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asian states. But when alluding to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in the context of his remarks about neighboring countries, he reduced them to being nothing more than “riparian states of the Persian Gulf.” Iranian President Hassan Rohani went to Davos, boasting Iran’s achievements in science and technology – including nuclear technology. He spoke about rearranging the world order, and about a new era in regional security. He spoke about oppressive forces in the region, and portrayed his country as the only partner qualified to safeguard regional security, which is indispensable to international security.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has already began to lose some of the charm of his broad smile, because scrutinizing his words and deeds has now placed him under the microscope. His call for a new joint security regime in the Gulf, including the six Arab countries of the GCC, appears on the surface as an epitome of cooperation of moderation. That is, until its true goal becomes clear, namely, dismantling the GCC and establishing Iran as the regional hegemon that is solely eligible to safeguard regional security. Javad Zarif is fond of television cameras, and does not trust the print press – as he himself says. This is interesting because revisionism is possible with sound bites, compared to written statements.
His reputation is that he likes “showing off” on television, as one Iranian has put it. His signature mark is his “wit,” which has brought him closer to people like Catherine Ashton. So much so that she often concludes their conversations by stressing that she would keep in touch with him as usual, via e-mail, using the word “love.” These appearances are important and useful no doubt, but the broad-smile diplomacy will not be enough to entice the world, as long as Iranian policy is to make the regime in Tehran a partner of the tyrant in Damascus – which is exactly what American actors have their eyes on.
President Hassan Rohani does not have the final say over Syria in Iran. It is the IRGC that does. Some assert that if it were up to Rohani, then he would have withdrawn from Syria and would have stopped supplying Hezbollah in Lebanon with arms and funds. The reason is that Rohani’s priorities are economic recovery achievable by lifting the sanctions and openness to the West. Rohani fully understands the impact of Iranian policies in Syria and Lebanon on his efforts to rid Iran from the sanctions. President Rohani understands that among the most important U.S. laws that prevent any company from investing more than $20 million in Iran – while Iran needs investments in its oil sectors of up to $20 or $30 billion – is the D'Amato Bill. The bill links Iran’s terrorist activities in Lebanon and Palestine to the ban on investments in Iran. As long as this bill is in force, Iran will not be able to sell oil and gas to the extent that it needs to save its economy.
Since the sale of oil and gas as such is not on the table for the time being, because of the D'Amato Bill, Iran will remain weak and marginalized no matter how much stubbornness it shows and/or pretends to be the victorious party. President Rohani, like former President Khatami – as well as President Rafsanjani to a lesser degree because of his financial record – is indeed popular. But the conservative right in Tehran hates what Rohani represents, especially in terms of openness to the West and his desire to reform Iran’s policies.
Decision-makers in the U.S. Congress as well as the National Security Council support President Barack Obama's policy of encouraging Rohani and Tehran to sign a nuclear deal with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany. However, there is the issue of Iranian foreign policy – particularly toward Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine – which American decision-makers link to lifting the sanctions on Iran. This policy is the purview of the IRGC.
Decision-makers in Tehran, for their part, use Iran’s influence and role in Syria and Hezbollah as bargaining chips in negotiations with the United States. Full independence of decision is not possible, no matter how much the moderate camp wants to break off from the Iranian policy drafted by the Supreme Leader and the IRGC.
There is a view that calls for assisting the moderate camp by helping Rohani rescue the Iranian economy from the sanctions. This view purports that this would weaken the IRGC and its backers, especially after dismantling the Iranian nuclear program. But in reality, a rapid improvement in the Iranian economy to respond to Iranian moderation would empower the party represented by the IRGC, enabling it to fulfill its objectives in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. It is best to weaken the conservative right, rather than rescuing it and handing it rapid economic recovery on a platter to continue its plans in Syria. However, it is also necessary to find ways to strengthen Iranian moderation in the region and the world, instead of continuously second-guess it and see it as part of an Iranian good-cop, bad-cop routine.
The participants in the framework known as the Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWEL) in Davos, focused extensively on the need for a Saudi-Iranian accord, in order to begin a constructive and creative dialogue between the two countries. Prince Turki al-Faisal explained that he was attending the meeting in a non-official capacity, and stated candidly that he had no confidence in the Iranian statements, especially as regards the Syrian issue.
Some believe that Iran is truly not ready yet for concessions, whether in Iraq where Iran has clung on to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki – who is firmly opposed by Riyadh – or whether on the form of post-Assad Syria. Everything that Tehran wants Riyadh does not want, and vice versa.
Others believe that assuming that Iran would remain a marginalized and weakened country as a result of not being able to sell oil and gas is an unwise wager that does not constitute a prudent policy. Indeed, investing in efforts to weaken the Iranian right requires making the distinction between it and the moderate camp. There are many ways to achieve this through a much-needed Saudi-Iranian cooperation. Syria requires international dialogue, accord, and cooperation that would include the Saudi and Iranian sides. Lebanon also requires such dialogue, accord, and cooperation.
Sources familiar with the back channels of the negotiations on the Syrian crisis have reported that work is underway to develop the idea of building a security structure that combines the regular army and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as part of a transitional authority, and a strategy to counter extremism and terrorism. Yet Assad’s place in the transitional process remains an obstacle because of the Russian and Iranian attitudes.
What has become clear between Montreux, Geneva, and Davos is that there are common grounds for the international majority, in that it agrees on that all non-Syrian combatants must leave Syria, and on the need to implement the Geneva Communiqué calling for the establishment of a transitional authority in Syria. These two issues could become the foundation of a UN Security Council resolution that would surely test Russia and China’s intentions, and challenge them not to wield their dual veto.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brought to Davos from Montreux a daily campaign against Bashar al-Assad personally, but not the entire regime in Damascus, calling Assad a magnet that is attracting terrorism to the entire region. Kerry also brought to Davos the fruit of his efforts in 22 visits to work with the Palestinians and the Israelis on a framework agreement, which would contain the outlines of a settlement between them, and which is expected to be announced sometime in the next two weeks.
Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri brought Palestine with him to Davos, rallying leading Palestinian businesspeople who together had launched a distinctive initiative at the WEF Middle East and North Africa conference in Istanbul nearly a year and a half ago. They are behind a new approach to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state, through cooperation between the Palestinian and Arab private sectors on the one hand, and the Israeli private sector on the other. The title of the initiative was Breaking the Impasse; it had come into existence starting with the back channels of the WEF.
Prince Turki al-Faisal brought to Davos the Arab initiative for peace with Israel, emphasizing that the Arab side remains committed to its initiative and ready to implement it, and that the ball is in Israel’s court. Twenty-two Arab countries and fifty-seven Islamic nations had approved this strategic initiative, which dates back to 2002. Israel ignored the initiative, despite the fact that it entails Arab and Islamic willingness to normalize relations with Israel and sign a peace treaty with it in return for ending the occupation. So the question for Israel is: Why has it rejected it? What does it want? And what is it waiting for if it really wants peace?
Davos is not just an annual meeting. It is a continuous process for generating new ideas, thinking outside the box, and working hard to find new approaches. So credit must be given to Professor Schwab for the visionary platform he has given to the world.
**Translated from Arabic by Karim Traboulsi
Question: "What does the Bible say about fear?"
Answer: The Bible mentions two specific types of fear. The first type is beneficial and is to be encouraged. The second type is a detriment and is to be overcome. The first type of fear is fear of the Lord. This type of fear does not necessarily mean to be afraid of something. Rather, it is a reverential awe of God; a reverence for His power and glory. However, it is also a proper respect for His wrath and anger. In other words, the fear of the Lord is a total acknowledgement of all that God is, which comes through knowing Him and His attributes.
Fear of the Lord brings with it many blessings and benefits. It is the beginning of wisdom and leads to good understanding (Psalm 111:10). Only fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7). Furthermore, fear of the Lord leads to life, rest, peace, and contentment (Proverbs 19:23). It is the fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27) and provides a security and a place of safety for us (Proverbs 14:26).
Thus, one can see how fearing God should be encouraged. However, the second type of fear mentioned in the Bible is not beneficial at all. This is the “spirit of fear” mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). A spirit of fearfulness and timidity does not come from God.
However, sometimes we are afraid, sometimes this “spirit of fear” overcomes us, and to overcome it we need to trust in and love God completely. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). No one is perfect, and God knows this. That is why He has liberally sprinkled encouragement against fear throughout the Bible. Beginning in the book of Genesis and continuing throughout the book of Revelation, God reminds us to “Fear not.”
For example, Isaiah 41:10 encourages us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Often we fear the future and what will become of us. But Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds of the air, so how much more will He provide for His children? “So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Just these few verses cover many different types of fear. God tells us not to be afraid of being alone, of being too weak, of not being heard, and of lacking physical necessities. These admonishments continue throughout the Bible, covering the many different aspects of the “spirit of fear.”
In Psalm 56:11 the psalmist writes, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” This is an awesome testimony to the power of trusting in God. Regardless of what happens, the psalmist will trust in God because he knows and understands the power of God. The key to overcoming fear, then, is total and complete trust in God. Trusting God is a refusal to give in to fear. It is a turning to God even in the darkest times and trusting Him to make things right. This trust comes from knowing God and knowing that He is good. As Job said when he was experiencing some of the most difficult trials recorded in the Bible, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15 NKJV).
Once we have learned to put our trust in God, we will no longer be afraid of the things that come against us. We will be like the psalmist who said with confidence “…let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you” (Psalm 5:11).
Recommended Resources: What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith by David Jeremiah and Logos Bible Software.
The World's Largest Monastic Library
The Admont Abbey in Admont, Austria contains the world's largest monastic library in the world , as well as the largest scientific collection . The Abbey was founded by Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg in 1074 , but the library was not built until 1776 by the architect Joseph Hueber . The library's astounding measurements are 70 meters by 14 meters wide and over 13 meters high (230x46x43 feet)! It was built in the famous late Baroque style and fit with sculptures by the sculptor Josef Stammel. The ceilings of the library consist of seven cupolas decorated in frescoes by the artist Bartholomeo Altomonte, portraying the stages of human knowledge up to the high point of Divine Revelation. The library contains over 70,000 volumes in its walls, only a portion of the monastery's 200,000 volumes that have been around since before the construction of the abbey in the 9th century.
In order to bring enough light into the library, it consists of 48 windows that reflect the gold and white color scheme of the entire structure, meant to express the ideals of Enlightenment, the popular philosophy at the time that the library was built. In a striking contrast to the 'enlightened' design of the library are the sculptures by Stammel entitles "The Four Last Things", a group of presentations of Death, the Last Judgment, Heaven and Hell.The most valuable goods in the library are the over 1,400 manuscripts, the oldest of which from St. Peter's Abbey in Salzburg, which were given as a gift to the founder and first monks of the abbey. This magnificent library is surely a bookworm's paradise !
On Syria and Switzerland
By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabyia/Saturday, 1 February 2014
Over the past few days, Switzerland has played host to political negotiations between the Damascus regime and the Syrian opposition—negotiations which observers almost unanimously agree are practically impossible.
These negotiations, known as “Geneva II,” since they are based on the “Geneva I” Communiqué issued in June 2012, opened in the Swiss resort of Montreux for one day before moving on to the other bank of Lake Geneva.
Over the past few days, I would assume the Syrian government’s delegation has become much more familiar with Switzerland.
The delegation will have witnessed an internationally renowned model of civilized coexistence, national unity based on diversity, and an advanced political system based on respect for human rights and the devolution of power. They must also have noticed Switzerland’s astonishing economic success story, one made more impressive by the country’s lack of natural resources—no gold, diamonds, or oil to speak of. It is the rational and industrious people that transformed this mountainous, land-locked country into one of the world’s richest, most advanced industrial economies, one competing efficiently with other global economies thanks not to cheap labor, but to the excellent quality of its products and services.
Like Syria, Switzerland is a diverse country, but unlike Syria, it has understood the principles of ruling a diverse society. Following disputes and conflicts among their linguistic, ethnic and religious factions, the Swiss regions worked out a pioneering and successful formula for a federal system. All four of the languages spoken in the country—German, French, Italian and Romansh—are recognized in the constitution. Switzerland has dealt with all of its groups in a fair and just way despite German speakers making up more than half of its population. Thanks to the absence of the concept of nationalism—in its strictest sense—the people of the Swiss Confederation can be justly proud of their common identity, one which overcomes all their differences. Indeed, in light of this common identity, the Swiss people feel an absolute loyalty to their country—which is surrounded by the much larger countries that share its languages and cultural background: Germany, France and Italy. The successful experience of federal democratic rule based on rotating power among the members of an elected seven-member Federal Council has made it possible for justice to prevail in this country and for people to feel confident in themselves, their political system, and their ability to succeed and stand out without resorting to more nefarious means.
A different experiment
In Syria, however, as the current situation demonstrates, we are talking about a totally different experiment. Since it gained independence in 1943, Syria has failed to build a political system or regime that enjoyed the trust of its citizens. With the exception of a brief period during the 1950s which saw democracy bloom in the country, Syria has been moving away from good governance.
Its “Arab nationalist” identity, pushed even further by the ultra-nationalistic discourse of the Ba’ath Party, failed to strengthen Syria’s Arab relations or reassure its non-Arab minorities. Over the four decades of Ba’athist rule in Syria and Iraq, relations between these two countries, separated by artificial borders, have been mostly antagonistic. With the passage of time, this secular, pan-Arab party that claimed to aspire to unify Arabs from the ocean to the Gulf, even including Somalia and Eretria, became dominated by sectarian minorities, or rather by family dictatorships, establishing police states characterized by violence, oppression and corruption. Traditional rural–urban conflicts then evolved into ones based on sectarian and ethnic lines, for which today Syria is paying a heavy price.
“Since it gained independence in 1943, Syria has failed to build a political system or regime that enjoyed the trust of its citizens”
Furthermore, the disruption of democracy through military coups that started in 1949 coincided with politicians adopting grandiose but futile slogans. As time passed, these slogans proved empty and it became apparent that the rulers perhaps did not truly mean what they were saying. Even when they were sincere, these leaders were ultimately unable to implement their vision. Three major slogans have been coined since 1943, but which only gained following the 1948 Palestinian Nakba: Pan-Arabism aiming at Arab unity, the liberation of Palestine, and socialism aimed at ending the exploitation of the poor and the peasantry by both urban capitalism and rural feudalism.
What has all this led to?
On the level of pan-Arabism—a concept aimed at doing away with the Sykes-Picot Agreement—the mistakes committed by the Syrian regime are now threatening the very unity of the Syrian state itself. The allegedly secular and Arabist Syrian regime is now an appendage of Iran, a religious and non-Arab regional power.
As for liberating Palestine, the regime has, in its relationship with Israel regarding the Golan Heights, veered between resistance and peace. In fact, it was Syria that finished off the Palestinian resistance organizations in Lebanon, eventually starving Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk Camp in Damascus.
And when it comes to socialism and justice for the destitute, and for the workers and farmers, the past few decades have seen the emergence and expansion in Syria of a parasite mafia-like economic class under the protection of the police state and the Assad family mafia.
The bitter political experience represented by the current Syrian regime, which has betrayed its people and their dreams, and damaged the security of its neighbors, has now brought Syria to the brink of the abyss.
Historically, Syria was known as a land of culture, civilization and religions. The birthplace of three Roman emperors and home to the world’s most ancient cities, Aleppo and Damascus, it was home to international sources of trade, industry, architecture, music and literature. However, this same country is today teetering on the brink of partition and fragmentation.
While Switzerland is a unified state comprised of 26 cantons, Syria has seen a quarter of a million of its population killed and more than 10 million others internally and externally displaced.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 30, 2014.
Assad, Maliki and the use of ISIS
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel/.Saturday, 1 February 2014
Two similar events in two neighboring countries, two allied regimes and two leaders are about to fall in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bashar al-Assad are facing the same challenges and problems; they have to leave power while both are allied in the war. Maliki reiterated that he will not allow the collapse of his ally, the Assad regime, despite its horrific crimes. This is neither my story nor my point of view, but both regimes fought against the so-called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). There is nothing suspicious about fighting ISIS since it is a terrorist group, except that its emergence was in parallel with the crisis of the two regimes and it has only been active in regions controlled by the opposition. Maliki and Assad used ISIS to manipulate the Western and local public opinions. Fighting ISIS was associated with the survival of the two regimes that are presumably living out their last days in power!
Maliki, the outcast
Maliki is a legitimate governor who was elected through ballots, but he does not want to leave power especially as there are only two months remaining before the parliamentary elections that will determine the future of the prime minister’s office. It will be difficult for him to win, if not impossible. Today, Maliki has become an outcast as many political forces, including his allies who vaulted him to power four years ago, have abandoned him as he did not win the majority of votes. He won with the votes of the Sadrists, the Supreme Council led by Ammar al-Hakim, and the Kurds. Now, it is almost certain that the Sadrists and al-Hakim’s council are against him, and thus he has lost the majority of the Shiite vote. Moreover, Maliki is at odds with the Kurdistan Regional Government, and as a result he has lost the votes of the Kurds. What is even worse is that his candidates have shamefully lost in the recent municipal elections, during which the majority of Iraqi people rejected Maliki, who spent eight years tearing apart the country with corruption and terrorism. “The most likely, and worst case, scenario is that Maliki will indeed use the clashes against ISIS and insurgents in Anbar to declare a state of emergency” When Maliki visited Washington, the U.S. government warned him of using the card of fighting terrorism as an excuse to cancel elections. They have even told Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi that they fear Maliki’s battle against ISIS in Anbar is a precursor to postponing elections in a bid to stay in power.
Indeed, this may be Maliki’s plan: provoking Anbar tribes and clans under the pretext of fighting the terrorist ISIS and luring Anbar’s people into a sectarian war. Maliki wants to polish up his image by engaging in combat in Sunni Anbar as the protector of the Shiites. He aims to gain back the votes of the Sadrists and Ammar al-Hakim’s Supreme Council! Hence he felt that he cannot lobby the Shiites especially since the Sadrists have explicitly warned him against waging battles against ISIS to win the elections.
Worst case scenario
The most likely, and worst case, scenario is that Maliki will indeed use the clashes against ISIS and insurgents in Anbar to declare a state of emergency, and then postpone the elections until the end of July when the Iraqi parliament expires and loses its legislative powers. Consequently, Maliki alone will decide when and how to hold the elections, after a year or two, and consequently he will remain a nightmare haunting the Iraqi people.
Maliki is replicating Assad’s plan in Syria. He uses ISIS to intimidate Iraqi people and to threaten the West in his bid to stay in power. Maliki’s connections with Iran make the repeat of Assad’s scenario likely.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 1, 2014.
'Obama to visit Saudi Arabia amid tensions over Iran,
By REUTERS 02/01/2014/J.Post/Obama is preparing to meet with King Abdullah for a summit, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. President Barack Obama plans to travel to Saudi Arabia in March on a mission to smooth tensions with Washington's main Arab ally over US policy on Iran's nuclear program and the civil war in Syria, a newspaper reported. Obama is preparing to meet with King Abdullah for a summit, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing unnamed Arab officials briefed on the meetings. "This is about a deteriorating relationship" and declining trust, said a senior Arab official in discussing the need for the summit, which was pulled together in recent days, the newspaper reported. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment. The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was formed in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies. Washington's relationship with the Saudis was crucial as the region faced changes and challenges from the transition in Egypt to civil war in Syria. But relations have been tested on a number of fronts. Members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family threatened a rift with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people, as well as the recent US outreach with Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom's regional rivalry with Shi'ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East. King Abdullah is also to use the meeting to question Obama on why he decided against airstrikes in Syria, which Saudi and other Arab officials believe strengthened Assad, the newspaper reported. "The meeting in many ways will get back to basics," said a Saudi official briefed on the meetings, according the Wall Street Journal. "Why did Obama do it the way he did it?"US and other security officials said earlier this week that "moderate" Syrian rebel factions were receiving light arms supplied by the United States. The Arab Spring as well as a November agreement between Iran and other world powers that curbs parts of Tehran's nuclear program, has angered Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab states and Israel.The relationship was also badly shaken by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, since most of the hijackers were Saudi nationals, and by the subsequent American invasion of Iraq. Obama's visit comes after a mission to Riyadh by US Secretary of State John Kerry.