February 04/14

Bible Quotation for today/Teaching about Vows
Matthew 05/33-37: "“You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything else you say comes from the Evil One

Honour Your Vows, No Matter What!!
Elias Bejjani/Back home in my beloved Lebanon we have a very impressive popular proverb that simply shows how vital and how holy is for the righteous people who fear Almighty God and respect themselves to honor their vows and promises: "Men are not tied by their necks, but by their tongues" which means that people are committed for vows and promises that they utter and not by ropes tied around their neck to force them fulfill their commitments. This obligation of dignity and honor is stressed very clearly in the Holy Bible: "Matthew 05/33-37: "“You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything else you say comes from the Evil One".
Trustworthy people respect, honor and fulfill their vows. BE ONE OF THEM, BE RIGHTEOUS, HONOUR YOUR VOWS

Pope Francis
It is important to have friends we can trust. But it is essential to trust the Lord, who never lets us down.
Pape François
C’est important d’avoir des amis à qui se confier. Mais il est essentiel d’avoir confiance dans le Seigneur qui ne nous déçoit jamais.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For For February 04/14
Arabs, culture and constitutions/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia/February 04/14
Palestine's Peace Bomb/By: Steven J. Rosen/Foreign Policy/February 04/14
Turning a page in Iran’s relations with the Arab world/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabyi/February 04/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 04/14
Lebanese Related News
Suicide bomber blows self up on bus south of Beirut
2 Hurt as Suicide Bomber Blows Up Passenger Van in Shwaifat
Lebanese Officials Call for Strengthening Security Forces after Shwaifat Blast
ID of Hermel Suicide Bomber 'Mere Joke' as Alleged Suspect Denies Reports
January Hermel Blast Death Toll Rises to Four
Lebanese Army Arrests 3 Syrians in Bekaa for Illegally Entering Lebanon
Suleiman: Lebanon Can No Longer Remain without a Government
Al-Rahi 'Won't Give Consent' to Cabinet that Excludes FPM, LF

STL Hears More Witness Testimonies in Hariri Murder
Qahwaji Returns from Saudi Arabia: We'll Overcome Strange Developments Taking Place in Lebanon
Phalange Party Warns of 'Iraqization', Urges 'Competent, Inclusive Cabinet'
No Comment!', Says Jumblat in His Weekly Editorial
Lebanon: Truck Drivers Strike Causes Heavy Traffic in Several Areas

Plumbly, Moussawi denounce terrorist bombings
France working to host conference for Lebanon: Mikati

Miscellaneous Reports And News
Syria opposition Coalition Member's Fayez Sara son dies in regime jail
Iraqi officials say car bombings in and around Baghdad kill at least 16 people
White House: Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia in March
Jordan invokes 1994 peace treaty with Israel for a say in Kerry’s Jordan Valley security and Jerusalem plans
Al-Qaida Disavows ISIL in Syria
Student Kills Two in Moscow School Hostage Drama

Suleiman: Lebanon Can No Longer Remain without a Government
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman stated that a new round of consultations to form a government kicked off on Monday, hinting that a new cabinet may be formed in the next two days. He added: “Lebanon can no longer remain without a government given the difficult circumstances it is passing through.”He said that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam is holding a new round of talks, whose “results may be revealed in the next two days.” “A new government should be formed according to constitutional mechanisms,” stressed Suleiman. The proposed cabinet lineup would then be subject to a vote at parliament where it may or may not garner the lawmakers' confidence, he continued. To that end, Suleiman held separate talks on Monday with Salam and caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour. Meanwhile, al-Manar television quoted a source close to Salam as saying that things are heading towards forming a political, all-embracing cabinet according to a “fait accompli formula” in light of the “collapse of negotiations” with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. Abu Faour told al-Manar that reaching a dead end in consultations will lead to the formation of an inclusive, political cabinet comprising FPM ministers, noting that caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil will be allocated the education portfolio. Al-Manar also revealed that Salam held meetings away from the media spotlight with MP Sami Gemayel, Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh's envoy Rony Araiji and a delegation from the Tashnag Party. “Salam asked them to provide him with the names of their ministerial candidates, but Marada and Tashnag asked to be given 24 hours for consultations, which prompted Salam to postpone announcing the cabinet line-up from Tuesday to Wednesday – unless an urgent development leads to further delay,” al-Manar added. LBCI television said Salam held these meetings to determine whether these parties would accept to represent Christians in cabinet should Aoun refuse to participate. Earlier on Monday, informed sources told LBCI television that no breakthrough has been achieved in the formation of the cabinet, adding that the Free Patriotic Movement is still holding on to its stance that the new government should be tasked with staging the presidential elections. The new cabinet should not accommodate a presidential vacuum, they said. Other sources told MTV that Suleiman and Salam “are determined to form a new government regardless of its lineup.”Salam is however awaiting Aoun's stance on the cabinet, they stated. The sources remarked however that the lawmaker is not expected to alter his positions.

Suicide bomber blows self up on bus south of Beirut
February 03, 2014/By Thomas El-Basha/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt on board a passenger van south of Beirut Monday killing himself and wounding at least two people, security sources said. The bomber detonated his explosives belt after boarding the van on a road near Choueifat, a key town that leads to the pro-Hezbollah southern suburbs of Beirut, the sources said. The number of casualties was limited, they said, noting the estimated weight of the explosives used in the operation, ranging between 2 and 3 kilograms, and that the van had been vacant of passengers. Two people were wounded including the driver who was in critical condition, the sources said. The bomber’s head was severed in the explosion and was found in the debris that littered the road near a local gasoline station. Recalling the moments before the attack, Hussein Deeb Msheik, the driver, told police a man who seemed to be “unusually” bloated entered his van just before the blast. “I asked: Why are you so bloated?” Msheik said. “Two minutes later there was an explosion.” The sources said the van had not been the original target. The bomber had apparently tried to board a taxi in the area just minutes before the incident. “When I saw the man was armed I refused to let him in the car and I sped off,” the taxi driver, who refused to be identified, told police. “But I saw him get into a passenger van in my side mirror and moments later I saw the explosion,” the driver added. The bombing comes only two days after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a gas station in the northeastern city of Hermel that killed three people and wounded 23 others. Lebanon has seen a spate of bombings targeting areas where Hezbollah enjoys wide support including the southern suburbs of Beirut and the northeastern city of Hermel. Al-Qaeda-linked groups have claimed responsibility for the bombings, warning of further attacks unless Hezbollah ends its military campaign in neighboring Syria.

2 Hurt as Suicide Bomber Blows Up Passenger Van in Shwaifat
Naharnet /A suicide bomber blew himself up Monday inside a passenger van in the Shwaifat area, south of Beirut, leaving two people wounded, including the minibus driver. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said a suicide bomber entered the passenger van minutes before the explosion. "A man wearing an explosive belt boarded a public minibus in Shwaifat and blew himself up," Charbel told al-Mayadeen television channel. According to state-run National News Agency, the explosion went off inside the van near the al-Rishani gas station. It said the van driver and owner Hussein Dib Msheik was critically wounded while a woman identified as Amal al-Ahmadiyeh was also injured in the explosion. The two were rushed to the Kamal Jumblat Hospital for treatment. Red Cross communications director Ayad Monzer confirmed the attacker was killed in the latest blast, and two others were wounded. "The bomber was killed, and two others were injured. A man, who is in critical condition, and a woman with moderate injuries," he told Agence France Presse.
"A white van carrying a license plate with the number 375121/M was passing on the Shwaifat road when it exploded," OTV said. "The Hyundai van that exploded is registered in the name of a man from the Msheik family and it was carrying a genuine red license plate," LBCI TV said. Ali Msheik said on LBCI TV that his brother Hussein was the man injured in the blast and had been driving the minibus. "When the bomber got on, he noticed that his stomach area looked bulky and asked him about it, then the bomber detonated his explosives," he said. He told the channel that his brother was undergoing surgery in a nearby hospital after surviving the attack. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said the driver usually transports passengers from Shwaifat to Dahiyeh. Quoting Red Cross sources, al-Mayadeen said "human remains belonging to one person were found at the Shwaifat blast scene and three wounded people were rushed to hospitals.""Security forces are interrogating a taxi driver who shuttled the suicide bomber to the al-Rishani gas station in Shwaifat," LBCI reported. Meanwhile, security sources told MTV that "the bomb was not big but it contained metallic balls aimed at causing major damage."Later on Monday, the army announced that the suicide bomber used “a belt containing five kilograms of explosives.”
State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr asked the relevant authorities to start probing the blast, tasking a doctor to conduct DNA tests in a bid to identify the suicide bomber. Shwaifat lies south of Beirut, not far from the suburbs of the city, which have been targeted in multiple bomb attacks in recent months. Footage from the scene broadcast on Lebanese TV stations showed the mangled remains of a vehicle surrounded by shards of glass and other material in the middle of the road. The blast comes after at least four people were killed in a suicide bombing on Saturday in the Bekaa town of Hermel, where Hizbullah has widespread support.
Lebanon has been hit by a string of bomb attacks in recent months, many targeting areas sympathetic to Hizbullah which has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad. Extremist jihadist groups believed to be linked to those fighting in Syria have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, saying they will continue for as long as Hizbullah fights in Syria.
But while the blasts have apparently targeted the group, the victims of the attacks have been almost exclusively civilians.

Lebanese Officials Call for Strengthening Security Forces after Shwaifat Blast
Naharnet/Political officials on Monday called for boosting cooperation among security agencies, in the wake of the suicide bombing that hit a passenger van in the Shwaifat area, the second bomb attack to rock Lebanon in three days.President Michel Suleiman asked military, security and judicial authorities to “be strict in pursuing the instigators and perpetrators of the bombings that are taking place on Lebanese soil, in order to arrest them and refer them to the relevant judicial authorities.”Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan called during an interview on LBCI for “providing the necessary political protection for all security agencies in the country.”
He voiced his belief that “an all-embracing cabinet would alleviate the sharp polarization in the country and would contribute positively in confronting crises and terrorism, in addition to providing a political cover for security institutions.”Meanwhile, State Minister Marwan Kheireddine, who is close to Arslan, said “the same as the latest bombings, this blast was aimed at killing people and there are no religious or political centers in the area."
For his part, MP Ali Ammar, member of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc, said "this crime is part of the terrorist operations that are targeting the entire region and further unity is needed among the Lebanese."
"We must confront the takfiris through strengthening our security institutions and pressuring the countries that support them," Ammar added."The society must be liberated from the sectarian and inflammatory rhetoric and a cabinet must be formed as soon as possible," he went on to say.Ammar also stressed that "no one will be able to defeat the resistance, no matter what they do."And as it condemned the attack and voiced solidarity with the victims' families, the March 14 General-Secretariat noted that “Hizbullah's involvement in the ongoing fighting in Syria will only bring to Lebanon further disasters, destruction, terrorism and tears.”“Stability in Lebanon can only be achieved through specific measures on the ground, involving the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the Lebanese-Syrian border to protect our people in Akkar and the Bekaa, with the assistance of U.N. forces as allowed by (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1701, which was endorsed by Hizbullah in 2006,” the general-secretariat added.

ID of Hermel Suicide Bomber 'Mere Joke' as Alleged Suspect Denies Reports
Naharnet/An alleged suspect of the suicide bombing that targeted Hermel over the weekend denied media reports that accused him, considering it a “joke.”“I have no links to the bombing in Hermel. It was a joke by a guy and without my prior knowledge,” he told LBCI. Ahmed Abdul Karim, who was suspected of carrying out the suicide bombing that targeted a petrol station in Hermel, said a guy informed media outlets that he carried out the attack showing them his military identification card. A military identification paper of Abdul Karim went viral over social media early on Monday. Fnaideq municipal chief Khaldoun Taleb also denied the alleged suicide bomber hails from the northern village in district of Akkar, offering his condolences to the families of the victims. The municipal chief deemed media reports concerning the name of the suicide bomber as false as no one in the records of the town hold the circulated names.Media reports said that the suicide bomber hails from the town of Fnaideq. On Saturday, a suicide bombing hit the area anew after a suicide bomber set explosives inside a Grand Cherokee inside a petrol station. The Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed the attack on Twitter, saying it was a suicide bombing in response to Hizbullah's involvement in Syria. It was the seventh attack to target Hizbullah in Lebanon since mid-2013, when the group sent men to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's troops against mainly Sunni rebel groups. Taleb stressed on the historical ties between Fnaideq and the northeastern town of Hermel, condemning the attack that targeted the town. The municipal chief said that the “residents of Fnaideq denounce such terrorist acts and those who carry them out.” He offered his condolences to the families of the victims, considering that “what targeted Hermel targets all Lebanon.”

Phalange Party Warns of 'Iraqization', Urges 'Competent, Inclusive Cabinet'

Naharnet/The Phalange Party stressed Monday the need for “an urgent political plan” and an “inclusive and competent cabinet” in light of the dangerous “security exposure” in the country that might deteriorate into a state of “Iraqization.”“The security exposure that threatens to descend into a dangerous Iraqization represents an essential factor that must push us to voluntarily, collectively and consensually endorse an urgent political plan under which an inclusive and competent cabinet would be formed,” the party's political bureau said after its weekly meeting.The party called for “removing all artificial obstacles preventing its formation.”“Some preconditions might be okay in normal circumstances, but they become malicious amid an existential situation such as the one Lebanon is currently going through,” the party added. The conferees urged “national consensus on holding the upcoming constitutional junctures, topped by the election of a president within the constitutional timeframe.” The party condemned the deadly suicide bombing that rocked the Bekaa town of Hermel on Saturday, reiterating its call for “immunizing national sovereignty and putting an end to the dangerous security deterioration.”The Phalange Party called for “deploying the army on the border (with Syria) to prevent the crossing of indviduals, weapons and booby-trapped vehicles.”Commenting on the latest deadly shelling from Syria that targeted border regions in the North and the Bekaa, the party urged authorities to “resort to the Arab and international forums to preserve sovereignty and citizens' security,” stressing the importance of “providing a political cover to the army to that it can perform its defensive duties and repel attacks.”Separately, the party slammed recent Israeli threats to bomb residential and civilian areas during any future war, describing them as “a violation of (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1701 and a blatant breach of the country's sovereignty and its people's safety.”It urged the U.N. Security Council and influential countries to “seriously address these threats, which are usually a prelude to an aggression against Lebanon.”

Lebanese Army Arrests 3 Syrians in Bekaa for Illegally Entering Lebanon

Naharnet/The army arrested on Monday four individuals, including three Syrians, in the Bekaa region for driving a vehicle without its proper legal papers, reported the National News Agency. They were handed over to a police station in the Ras Baalbek region where it was discovered that the Syrians had illegally entered Lebanon. They were arrested at the entrance of the al-Hermel-al-Qaa region. Investigations are underway with the Lebanese driver of the vehicle because of his lack of car verification papers. The arrest came after Saturday's bombing in al-Hermel that left two people dead and over 20 wounded. Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed responsibility for the attack.

Plumbly, Moussawi denounce terrorist bombings
Daily Star/BEIRUT: U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly and Hezbollah official Ammar Moussawi both reiterated during talks Monday their condemnation of “terrorist bombings” in Lebanon. According to a statement from Hezbollah, Plumbly and the head of the party’s International Relations Department denounced bombings targeting Lebanon, particularly the suicide car bombing over the weekend in the northeastern city of Hermel. They also rejected any justifications for the attacks. The Hermel blast that killed four people, including the bomber, and wounded 23 others is the latest among a series of deadly bombings targeting areas in which Hezbollah enjoys wide support. The two officials also discussed the need to support security agencies in Lebanon, mainly the Army.
They called for national support for the Army and trusting the role of the military establishment.The two also discussed the latest efforts and developments in the formation of the next government.

Qahwaji Returns from Saudi Arabia: We'll Overcome Strange Developments Taking Place in Lebanon

Naharnet/Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji returned on Monday from a visit to Saudi Arabia that tackled the kingdom's military grant to Lebanon. He said of the recent developments in Lebanon: “The strange incidents are a passing phase that we will overcome.” He made his remarks during a reception thrown in his honor by members of the Lebanese diaspora in Saudi Arabia. “We will overcome the phase through coexistence that has become a national symbol,” added Qahwaji. “The army will continue to combat terrorism and it is in constant readiness to confront the Israeli enemy,” he stressed. Moreover, the army chief noted that Lebanon is passing through a “critical stage due to the developments in the region and their impact on its political, economic, and security situations.” “Despite these developments, the Lebanese people have preserved their unity and shunned factional divisions,” he said before the diaspora. Earlier on Monday, Qahwaji had held talks on his trip to Saudi Arabia with President Michel Suleiman and caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn. Suleiman had announced in 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. Qahwaji traveled to the kingdom on Friday where he met with a number of officials, including head of the Royal Diwan Sheikh Khalid bin Abdul Aziz al-Tuwaijri. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Monday, Qahwaji stressed to Saudi officials the needs of the army based on a detailed list drafted by senior military officers. The army chief also traveled to France earlier in January for talks with top French military officials on the Saudi pledge.

No Comment!', Says Jumblat in His Weekly Editorial
Naharnet /“No comment!”, that was the only stance voiced Monday by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat in his weekly editorial in al-Anbaa newspaper – the PSP's mouthpiece. Jumblat's “no comment” was emailed to media outlets by the PSP's media department. The concise statement comes amid continued procrastination in the cabinet formation process, which has protracted for more than 10 months, and as Lebanon faces a wave of deadly suicide bombings targeted against Hizbullah's strongholds in the Bekaa and Beirut's southern suburbs. The security situation is also dire in the northern city of Tripoli -- which is witnessing near-daily clashes and unrest -- while the northern Akkar region is being rocked by deadly shelling and clashes on the border with Syria.

STL Hears More Witness Testimonies in Hariri Murder
Naharnet/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed on Monday hearing the testimony of witnesses in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's Feb. 2005 assassination in a massive bombing that targeted his convoy in Beirut.
A retired member of the Internal Security Forces, Abdul Badih al-Soussi, testified via video conference from Beirut. The court in 2011 issued arrest warrants against Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 37, all members of Hizbullah. The four suspects were indicted in 2011 with plotting the attack, but have not been arrested. A fifth, Hassan Habib Merhi, was charged late last year in the case and is also still at large. Brig. Gen. al-Soussi, who was the head of the explosives bureau and whose role was administrative, said he was not asked to go to the site of the explosion on Beirut's seafront where Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005. But he attended a meeting at the military court called for by the military examining magistrate on that afternoon. Al-Soussi said senior and junior officers attended the meeting under Judge Rashid Mezher.
From within the junior officers there was an explosives officer, a person under the supervision of the head of the explosives and tracking division. Two other bureau members were with him.
That division was at the time headed by a Lt. Col., he said, adding he was in charge of people who were specialized in the field of explosives. Al-Soussi said the member of the explosives bureau brought with him to the meeting car parts. It was said the parts were found in the crater that was caused by the blast. The witness told the court that the head of the bureau wrote a report on the findings because he was working on the ground and gathered the parts. The report came after Mezher tasked the members of the explosives bureau to check the nature of the metallic parts and to what cars they belonged. Al-Soussi said he did not think that minutes were taken during the military court meeting. Al-Soussi said he didn't have any information whether all of those who had attended the meeting or some of them had gone to the crime scene. Al-Soussi said there was no discussion on the number of deceased or wounded during the meeting. When cross-examined by David Young, Sabra's lead counsel, al-Soussi confirmed that he told investigators probing Hariri's murder in his statement in Aug. 2005 that Mezher had asked those who attended the meeting to secure the crime scene. Al-Soussi also confirmed telling them that the way to secure a crime scene is to cordon it off. Al-Soussi said he told investigators that there was no mention during the meeting on removing the motorcade cars from the crime scene. He denied that he had ordered items to be returned to the crime scene to be photographed. The prosecution claims that the bombing was carried out by a suicide bomber driving a white Mitsubishi van. But the defense stresses that there is no evidence to that and is sticking to the theory of an underground blast.

France working to host conference for Lebanon: Mikati
February 03, 2014/The Daily StarBEIRUT: France is working toward hosting a conference to assist Lebanon’s economy that has been hit hard by the crisis in Syria, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Monday, after meeting Arab and Western officials in Germany. “Minister [Laurant] Fabius assured me France is determined to launch a new initiative to support Lebanon and deal with the economic repercussions of the Syria crisis,” a statement from Mikati’s office said. “For this sake, France will hold a conference in Paris to be attended by friends of Lebanon and various Lebanese political components,” the statement added. Mikati also said talks with various officials in Germany convinced him that the crisis in Syria was bound to linger for the foreseeable future.“After the many meetings I held with Arab and global [officials] on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, I have become more convinced that there is no solution in the foreseeable future to the regional disputes with Syria being at the forefront, ” he said. “The ultimate solution that could be reached is temporary solutions to address the urgent humanitarian needs and ease human losses,” Mikati added. The statement said Mikati discussed the financial burden on Lebanon with officials in Munich. Among the items was the burden Lebanon was facing in hosting a large numbers of Syrian refugees. The Syrian refugees currently now make up nearly a quarter of the population of tiny Lebanon. Mikati reiterated his country’s concerns about the economic repercussions of the Syrian war on Lebanon, noting a World Bank report estimating the country had suffered $7.5 billion in economic losses since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011. He renewed his call for the establishment of refugee camps inside Syria to help “shoulder the burden on its neighboring countries and on Syrians too.” The caretaker prime minster also hailed Germany’s defense minister for providing assistance to the poorly equipped Lebanese Army and other security institutions, particularly the Lebanese Navy.
He reiterated calls for support from the president of the Swiss Confederation to help with the funding process for a trust fund aimed at helping Beirut deal with the fiscal impact of the Syrian crisis. Mikati also discussed the regional situation and future prospects with the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey as well as Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Bogdanov, U.N. special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and the head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton reiterated the EU’s support for Lebanon in terms of dealing with the negative consequences of the Syria conflict, according to the statement. Ashton informed Mikati that the EU was in the process of determining the size of such aid. According to the statement, the recent deal between over Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian issue were also among the topics discussed between Ashton and Mikati.

January Hermel Blast Death Toll Rises to Four
Naharnet/The death toll from a suicide bombing that targeted the northeastern town of Hermel on January 16 has risen to four, the state-run National News Agency reported on Monday.According to the news agency, Mohammed Issa, who was critically injured in the bombing, succumbed to his wounds early on Monday. Issa was submitted to Geitaoui hospital. Issa's family will lay his body to rest in his hometown of al-Kweikh in Hermel at 3:00 p.m.The car bombing took place outside the main government administration building in Hermel, an attack that was claimed by the Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, a group named after al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, which has emerged recently.On Saturday, a suicide bombing hit the area anew after a suicide bomber set explosives inside a Grand Cherokee inside a petrol station. The Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed the attack on Twitter, saying it was a suicide bombing in response to Hizbullah's involvement in Syria.It was the seventh attack to target Hizbullah in Lebanon since mid-2013, when the group sent men to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's troops against mainly Sunni rebel groups. The petrol station is part of a charitable network set up by Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a leading Shiite cleric and Hizbullah spiritual guide who died in 2010.
The outbreak of the conflict in Syria in March 2011 has inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Truck Drivers Strike Causes Heavy Traffic in Several Areas

Naharnet/Traffic came to a standstill at Beirut's entrances and several other areas during the Monday morning rush-hour after the owners of trucks held a strike to protest the strict schedule imposed on them.The head of the syndicate of owners and drivers of trucks, Shafiq al-Qassis, said that the strike is peaceful and only aims at changing the schedule of the trucks.“We won't resort to blocking roads,” he told a radio station. Security forces asked the drivers to park the trucks on one lane to east traffic. But the owners of trucks suspended their strike upon the request of caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel. They will meet him on Monday afternoon. “I was surprised by what happened at Beirut's entrances and asked the director-general of the Internal Security Forces to inform the owners of trucks about a meeting that I will hold with them at 2:00 pm,” Charbel said. They announced on Friday that they would hold the strike until 11:00 am in the areas of Dora, Sawfar, Ouzai, Shwaifat and al-Awwali bridge. They said the last decision made by the authorities was to stop all Lebanese trucks from transporting goods between 6:30 am and 9:30 am and between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. But “we were surprised when tankers were allowed to operate full-time in the mornings until 4:00 pm and for the trucks of Beirut Port to be always on the road,” the statement said. It said that the measures imposed on the trucks force the drivers to go above the speed limit, which would give them a speed ticket of LL500,000 and cause financial losses.

Al-Rahi 'Won't Give Consent' to Cabinet that Excludes FPM, LF
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi will not accept the formation of a government from which the two major Christian parties are missing, officials in Bkirki said. The officials, who were not identified, told al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Monday, that “no one should ever think that the Maronite patriarch would give his consent to a cabinet from which the biggest Christian parties are missing.” Such a government, they said, “is unconstitutional similar to a fait accompli cabinet.”Bkirki will on Wednesday announce its rejection to all kinds of marginalization against Christians and any other faction in the country, the officials told the daily. They were referring to a national charter that the council of Maronite bishops is expected to announce following its monthly meeting. Al-Rahi said Sunday that the document holds onto the national principles and sets the priorities for a better future. The charter is based on three factors - national principles, concerns and priorities – he said. The warning of the Bkirki officials came amid a deadlock in the cabinet formation process. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has rejected to participate in a government in which Hizbullah is represented despite the approval of his ally al-Mustaqbal movement chief Saad Hairri to share power with the Shiite party. As for Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, he is sticking to his rejection of the concept of rotation of portfolios in the 24-cabinet. An Nahar quoted an informed source as saying on Monday that Premier-designate Tammam Salam proposed on Sunday the foreign affairs and education portfolios to FPM official caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil. Bassil promised to provide a response within 24 hours, the source said. If the movement rejects such a proposal, then Salam could announce the line-up with “whoever wants to attend,” the source added.

Jordan invokes 1994 peace treaty with Israel for a say in Kerry’s Jordan Valley security and Jerusalem plans

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 3, 2014/While batting back Israel’s complaints over references to anti-Israel boycotts in relation to peacemaking with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry has again bumped his head against another piece of Middle East history: The 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. In an exchange of messages in the last few days, DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources reveal that King Abdullah II filed a strong protest with Kerry against the failure of the security-political clauses in his framework accord to address issues involving the Hashemite Kingdom’s political future and security. Above all, he castigated the plan for failing to factor in past treaties concluded between Jordan and Israel with US encouragement. Kerry has responded by ordering a reassessment of the security blueprint drawn by US Gen. Jon Allen, former NATO commander in Afghanistan, with the assistance of a team of 90 US intelligence and security experts working out of Washington and Israel. The security arrangements he proposes in a future Palestinian state for the Jordan Valley, which also marks Jordan’s Western border, would replace Israeli border units with a system of electronic surveillance devices including drones, satellites and other instruments for securing the Jordanian border.
Israel emphatically objects to withdrawing its troops from this strategic valley on its eastern border or evacuating its settlements there, on the grounds that without its own military manpower on the ground, even the most sophisticated instruments of surveillance would not be proof against terrorist incursions to the West Bank and Israel itself. This danger has become more acute since the jihadst Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seized territory in western Iraq, especially in consideration of the offshoots these jihadists maintain in the Hashemite Kingdom.Therefore, Israel was not alone in vehemently ruling out the Allen plan. It is now joined by Jordan. The latter’s objections focus on four points:
1. The proposed electronic surveillance system along its Western border would expose the entire Kingdom of Jordan to US surveillance. The same argument would apply to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s latest proposal for the deployment of NATO forces. 2. On no account does Amman want to see Palestinian forces of any kind strung along the Jordan River border. This objection was underscored in a series of messages to Washington. 3. Another issue is the US approach to the Jerusalem question, which ignores Jordan’s status with regard to the Holy Places, especially Temple Mount.
The monarch drew Kerry’s attention to the peace treaty signed in 1994 between his father, the late King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister, the late Yitzhak Rabin, which formally recognized Jordan’s special status on Temple Mount. In 2013, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas signed an understanding with Amman acknowledging that special status. Since then, the kingdom has covered the payroll of the Palestinian bodies and Waqf authority responsible for the administration and maintenance of Muslim mosques on a site which is sacred to Jews and Christians as well as being the second most important Muslim shrine after Mecca.
King Abdullah is demanding the enshrinement and incorporation of these two documents in all the proposals the US Secretary puts before Israel and the Palestinians.
4. He further emphasizes that any solution of the Palestinian refugee problem – however minimal – must not overlook the large Palestinian refugee community living in Jordan – which has grown to an estimated 2 million, out of the kingdom’s total population of 7 million. DEBKAfile’s sources disclose that Secretary Kerry tried approaching Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi to find out whether Defense Minister Gen. Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi could be persuaded to help clear away the obstacles piling up on the path of his Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. The answer from Cairo was negative.

Student Kills Two in Moscow School Hostage Drama
Naharnet/A rifle-wielding student killed a teacher and a policeman on Monday in a Moscow school hostage drama that unfolded amid security jitters preceding this week's Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Witnesses said the suspect -- described as a "straight-A" pupil named Sergei Gordeyev -- charged into School No. 263 and ordered a security guard to lead him to a specific classroom in the two-storey building on the northern outskirts of Moscow. The hostage-taker then shot a 76-year-old geography teacher while roaming the school's hallways before bolting himself inside a room with about 20 terrified teenaged pupils and their biology instructor.
The authorities said the suspect then took 11 shots from two small-caliber rifles at scores of police who had rushed to the scene. The Russian interior ministry said the hostage-taker was detained during a police raid and that all the students left the building safe and unharmed. "They are all alive and well," interior ministry spokesman Andrei Pilipchuk told the state-run Vesti-24 news channel. Live footage showed a group of children running from the white-and-pink building and an emergencies ministry police helicopter hovering above the snow-covered school yard. Russian President Vladimir Putin -- his personal and political prestige linked closely to the Games' success -- was informed of the attack while holding a special Kremlin meeting on the arts. "We have to raise a new generation of audiences with good cultural tastes, who understand and value theater, drama and the musical arts," said Putin."If this was being done already, perhaps we would have avoided a tragedy like the one we witnessed today in Moscow."Security has been a prime concern for Putin because Sochi is located near the volatile North Caucasus region, where Russia has been battling an Islamist insurgency for most of the past two decades. Islamists who want to carve out their own state in southern Russia have vowed to stage deadly attacks during the Games that would undermine Putin and show that he lacks control over the vast country. Russia has been on heightened alert ever since successive-day suicide bombings in late December in the southern city of Volgograd killed 34 people at a railway station and on a trolleybus. The attacks were later claimed by two young men from Russia's North Caucasus in a video message that promised more strikes. Security analysts say Sochi itself will be relatively safe both for athletes and visitors because of the extraordinary security precautions that have been taken at the Black Sea resort. Russia has deployed 37,000 security personnel around Sochi and is also patrolling the Black Sea for possible signs of an attack. But analysts point out that the extra security measures being taken around the Olympic host city may leave other parts of the country exposed. Russia's Investigative Committee identified the victims as geography class teacher Andrei Kirillov and policeman Sergei Bushuyev. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Gordeyev was an exemplary student who may have had a conflict over grades with one of his teachers. "Sergei Gordeyev was a straight-A student," Markin told reporters. "It appears that he had an emotional breakdown." The suspect's classmates described his behavior during the crisis as both calculated and callous.
"He shot the teacher in the stomach. Then he wanted to make sure that he was dead, so he fired another 'insurance' shot to the head," an unidentified female classmate was quoted as saying by the website.
Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that extra security measures would immediately be taken across all schools in the city of 11.5 million people. "I have made a decision to conduct a complete review of how our school security system is working, and to take additional steps," Sobyanin said in televised remarks. Such rampages are highly unusual in Russia and private gun ownership is low. The last major incident came last April when an assailant named Sergei Pomuzan killed six people outside a hunting store in the southwestern city of Belgorod.
SourceAgence France Presse

White House: Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia in March

Naharnet/U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to ally Saudi Arabia in March, following clear signs of disquiet in Riyadh about his Middle Eastern policies and nuclear talks with Iran. Obama will fly to meet King Abdullah on a trip added onto existing visits to the Netherlands, Brussels and Vatican City, the White House said in a statement on Monday. The White House said that Obama planned to talk to the king about the strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and "Gulf and regional security, peace in the Middle East, countering violent extremism and other issues of prosperity and security." Prominent members of the Saudi national security establishment have made no secret about their skepticism towards Obama's policies in the Middle East, especially since the emergence of Arab Spring revolutions in early 2011. Saudi Arabia expressed anger to its long-time U.S. partner after Obama stepped back from the brink of launching military strikes on Syria last year to punish the use of chemical weapons. It has also expressed dissatisfaction that Washington has not done more to match its own efforts to support and arm rebel groups battling Iranian-backed President Bashar Assad in Syria. And Saudi Arabia also reacted with caution to news of an interim nuclear deal between world powers, including the United States, and Iran reached in December. Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, wrote in a commentary in The New York Times in December that the West's policies on Iran and Syria are a "dangerous gamble."The ambassador warned that Saudi Arabia would act in the region to secure its interests with or without its Western partners. Obama last visited Saudi Arabia in the first year of his presidency, in 2009, and welcomed the king to the White House a year later.Source/Agence France Presse

Al-Qaida Disavows ISIL in Syria
Naharnet/Al-Qaida has disavowed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whose members have been locked in deadly clashes with Syrian rebels, according to a statement posted on jihadist websites. Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had already ordered the group in May 2013 to disband and return to Iraq, and announced that another jihadist group, the Al-Nusra Front, was al-Qaida's official branch in war-torn Syria.
The general command of al-Qaida rammed home the point in its late Sunday statement. "Al-Qaida announces it is not linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as it was not informed of its creation... (and) did not accept it," the statement said. ISIL "is not a branch of al-Qaida, has no links to it, and the (al-Qaida) group is not responsible for its acts," it added. Jihadists were initially welcomed by some rebels in Syria's conflict, but allegations of brutal abuses against civilians as well as rival opposition fighters has sparked a backlash. Rebels have accused ISIL of seeking to consolidate power rather than fighting the regime, and even suggested the group was serving the regime's interests. Al-Qaida also criticized ISIL's mode of operations, saying jihadists should "be part of the nation" and avoid "any action that could lead to the oppression of jihadists, Muslims or non-Muslims." Jihadists must "not rush to announce emirates and states... and impose them on people," said the statement. In recent weeks, ISIL consolidated its grip on the northern city of Raqa, the only provincial capital to fall out of regime control since the outbreak of Syria's uprising in March 2011, imposing their strict version of Sharia law on residents. It also issued four statements ordering women to wear the niqab in public, forbidding the sale of cigarettes and narghile (water pipe) products, banning music and making attendance of Friday prayers compulsory. The tensions erupted in early January into armed clashes between ISIL and other rebel groups, including Islamist fighters. "We affirm our disavowal from the sedition that is occurring in Syria between factions of jihadists, and from the blood that was shed by any party," Sunday's statement said. In some cases, Al-Nusra Front participated in clashes against ISIL, though it has largely remained out of the fighting and has called for reconciliation. In an audio message on January 22, Zawahiri called for an end to clashes between groups fighting to oust Syria's regime. More than 1,400 people have been killed in the rebel-jihadist clashes.Source/Agence France Presse

Palestine's Peace Bomb
by Steven J. Rosen/Foreign Policy
One of the key arguments of Israel's "peace camp" is that, without a two-state solution, the state faces a "demographic time-bomb." The contention is that perpetuating Israeli control over the growing Arab population of the West Bank will dilute Israel's Jewish majority, until it is a de facto bi-national state. Therefore, proponents of this line of thinking argue, Secretary of State John Kerry's push for a two-state solution is imperative if Israel hopes to remain both Jewish and democratic.
Some Israeli policymakers have bought into the threat of a ticking demographic time bomb. In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned the Knesset of "a demographic battle" if a Palestinian state is not created. Similarly, the current government's chief peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni, argued that "time works to our disadvantage" because of "demographic numbers...[and] a higher Palestinian birth rate that could mean the end of a Jewish majority."
But Israelis on the right see a different demographic time bomb -- one that Kerry's plan will produce, rather than prevent. By opening the West Bank to a flood of refugees from the neighboring Arab countries, Kerry's plan could throw the Palestinian territories into chaos and sow the seeds for the rise of further extremism and terrorism on Israel's borders. This arch in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem features a giant key, symbolizing keys kept as mementos by many of the Palestinians who left their homes in 1948. (Image source: Reham Alhelsi/Flickr) "Imagine an independent Palestinian state that does not need to ask our consent to absorb Palestinian refugees," Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Jan. 5. "Will the economy in Judea and Samaria, which is not the economy of Norway or Switzerland, be able to absorb 3 million additional Palestinians?...Where will they live?...Where will they work?"The Palestinian Authority (P.A.), which was created following the Oslo Accords to be the core of a future Palestinian state, already faces enormous problems serving the current population of the West Bank. Since the P.A.'s establishment in 1994, according to the International Monetary Fund, there has been an 11-point rise in unemployment, to 23 percent in 2012. The unemployment rate in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip is even higher, according to U.N. statistics -- over 45 percent, among the highest in the world. The World Bank, meanwhile, noted that the P.A. is "facing a grim fiscal situation," with ballooning budget deficits and shrinking foreign support.Moreover, the refugees who are most likely to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza (or be forced to do so by Arab governments) are not the established families in Jordan who have citizenship and employable skills. The ones who are most likely to come are the legions who are kept wretched in Syria and Lebanon -- the ones who Arab governments have deliberately left unemployed and stateless for decades, the ones who are economically desperate and politically extreme. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has acknowledged this, telling his advisors that while refugees in Jordan may prefer to stay where they are, "for refugees in Lebanon there is a need" to relocate. Worst of all, from Israel's perspective, the refugees most likely to come are the ones who have decades of membership and training in the competing terrorist organizations that proliferate in the Palestinian camps in Syria and Lebanon. According to the State Department, at least nine designated terrorist organizations operate out of Lebanon's 12 refugee camps: Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam, Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, the Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
For example, Ain al-Helwe, Lebanon's largest camp and what some writers have called "the capital of the Palestinian diaspora," is home to 17 different armed political factions. The State Department says the camp is the "primary base of operations" of, among others, Asbat al-Ansar, "[a] Sunni extremist group composed primarily of Palestinians with links to al-Qa'ida." Asbat al-Ansar has "assassinated Lebanese religious leaders and bombed nightclubs, theaters, and liquor stores," and one of its members plotted to assassinate then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Satterfield in 2000. Hamas also has a growing presence in the camps, where it spreads its ideology of struggle unto death with Israel.
If refugees raised in this environment are brought to the West Bank, will they consider it their final home, or see it as merely a step on the road toward their final struggle with Israel? Palestinian leaders from across the political spectrum have refused to completely reject the possibility of a right of return to Israel proper: Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in November that "it is not possible for any person, regardless of who he is ... to give up on Palestinian land or to give up the right of return to our homes," while even Abbas said in January that "neither the P.A., nor the state, nor the PLO, nor Abu Mazen [Abbas], nor any Palestinian or Arab leader has the right to deprive someone from his right to return." Hamas won the last Palestinian Authority election in 2006, earning 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats. If the P.A. voter lists are doubled before the next election by bringing in a million new citizens from Lebanon and Syria, many of whom are steeped in fanatic ideologies, the results could be even less favorable to Abbas's more moderate Fatah Party.
Abbas may understand that immigration of refugees from Lebanon and Syria will strengthen his opponents. But no Palestinian leader could oppose citizenship for any of the dispossessed, because that would violate cardinal principles of Palestinian ideology and the interests of the Arab states. Any effort to deny entry to a class of refugees would confront a daunting array of U.N. and Arab League resolutions and fierce opposition from all factions on the Palestinian spectrum. It would also violate one of the precepts of the Kerry initiative -- that a comprehensive peace agreement must address the problem of the refugees in the Palestinian diaspora.
But bringing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into the tiny area of the West Bank, which lies a few miles from the heartland of the Jewish state, alarms many Israelis almost as much as bringing them to Tel Aviv. If the new Palestinian state in the West Bank descends into the anarchy and factional warfare that exists today in Syria and in camps like Ain al-Helwe, how can this bring peace to Israel? If Jerusalem becomes the capital of both states and a city undivided by walls, how will the swarms of jihadists that the agreement will import to the West Bank be stopped from bringing violence to Israeli towns and villages?
President Barack Obama said in June 2011 that a "lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people." Now, John Kerry faces the tall task of implementing this well-intentioned principle without planting a Palestinian time bomb in the West Bank.
**Steven J. Rosen is the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum. He previously served for 23 years as a senior official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Syria opposition Coalition Member's Fayez Sara son dies in regime jail
February 03, 2014/Agence France Presse/BEIRUT: The son of prominent Syrian activist and opposition National Coalition member Fayez Sara has died after being tortured in a prison in Damascus, his father and the Coalition said Monday. The Coalition's press office announced "the death of Wissam Fayez Sara in prison under torture" in a statement, and his father also confirmed the news on Facebook. "After all the blows we have been dealt, and all the blows that our people have been dealt -- killing, arrests, displacement and destruction -- they told us today that Wissam was tortured to death in the military security branch in Damascus, two months after he was arrested in Damascus," Sara wrote on his Facebook page. He said his son, a 27-year-old father of two, had joined "the martyrs of Syria." "Wissam was one of the first among the youth in the revolution to go out, protest and work in activism against the dictatorship," he wrote. He said his son was a "peaceful fighter," and had been arrested for the first time in the spring of 2012 along with his elder brother Bassem, before being released. Wissam was arrested again in December 2013 and "then tortured to death," he wrote. Fayez Sara has been a member of the Coalition's political committee since August 2013. He has been active in opposition, leftist and labour union circles in Syria for decades, and was among the signatories of the Damascus Declaration calling for reform. He has been arrested multiple times and spent two years in prison in the late 1970s for his involvement with leftist groups.
He was also held for a month at the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, and now lives in Turkey.

Arabs, culture and constitutions
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia
We know there is no sacred political work, constitutions included. Constitutions have always been written, rewritten, burnt and burnt again. What is important is to be realistic. Constitutions, regimes and political and civil work are a human production that reflect society’s culture and experience. The old constitutions of the Arab world during the first half of the 20th century used to reflect better cultures - perhaps because they were influenced by colonization which led to a developed understanding of the modern state.
Later constitutions were more enlightened than those that followed perhaps because governing elites imitated the colonizer. This was the case in Tunisia when Habib Bourguiba formulated the constitution of the modern state in 1959. Egypt’s constitution, before Bourguiba in Tunisia, reflected the desires of the military after they took over the country’s administration. In 1971, Egypt’s constitution became more objective during the era of President Anwar Sadat. Consequently, it was more in line with the nature of the Egyptian people. Hosni Mubarak, however, later added an article that gave him more control over state affairs.
The Tunisian constitution
The new Tunisian constitution has been described as the best civil constitution in the Arab world. It has attained the approval of the Islamists and the liberals and achieved an outstanding result in the vote as 200 supported it and only 12 objected to it!
So, it garnered a semi-consensus despite its liberalism and the clarity of its interpretation of civil rights. In Egypt, the constitution was criticized upon the allegation that it is not based on shariah law, although it is a lot more Islamic than the Tunisian constitution. In the Egyptian constitution, Islam is the religion of the state and shariah is the primary source for the state’s laws. However, the Tunisian constitution rejected listing sharia as a source for legislation. Unlike the Egyptian constitution, the Tunisian constitution frankly rejects the involvement of religion in the state’s affairs. The Tunisian constitution also prohibits the political exploitation of mosques and criminalizes acts of accusing others of infidelity and of inciting to hatred and violence.
Parliaments were suppressed in the name of fighting the remains of colonization and in the name of fighting the Zionist enemy
All this happened due to the approval of the constitution by the majority of the Islamic Ennahda Party and most other Islamic Tunisian members of parliament. In Egypt, the 50-member committee wrote and reviewed the constitution and promoted a system that takes into consideration conservative Egyptian culture. A constitution that very much resembles the Brotherhood’s constitution was born, and despite that, they attacked it.
Constitutions are a mirror
As I said, constitutions are a mirror of time, society and culture. They change as circumstances change. Who knows, he who will govern Tunisia tomorrow may rewrite the constitution just like Zein al-Abidine bin Ali did. Over the duration of 10 years, bin Ali went from being a military attaché in Poland to becoming an ambassador then a minister and then Tunisians heard him on the radio declaring himself president. The Islamists supported him for three years and cheered for him and then they disagreed with him over the Gulf crisis after they supported Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.

The journey of establishing states is long and complicated. It is firstly and mostly a result of cultural convergance and not the other way around. In the 20th century, there were parliaments in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Southern Yemen and their role was suppressed even though popular protests did not occur.
Parliaments were suppressed in the name of fighting the remains of colonization and in the name of fighting the Zionist enemy.
They ended up as hollow political powers signing the president’s decisions without argument. Look at Syria for example. Imagine, it is one of the oldest Arab countries to build a parliament - the People’s Council inaugurated in 1931. How did its political progress stall to see it become one of the most dictatorial countries in the region in less than 50 years?
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 3, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Turning a page in Iran’s relations with the Arab world
By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabyia
Sometimes, upon my arrival at Dubai airport or when I leave for New York, the immigration officers greet me with warm Persian phrases like “Khosh Amadid” (you are welcome).
I always answer with a heartfelt smile and the reply: Farsi Harf mizanid? (do you speak Persian?) The officer usually shakes his head with a smile saying, “very little.”
What a heart melting way to make one feel as though they are at home! It is not hidden from anyone that Iran and her Arab neighbors have shared historical and cultural ties for thousands of years. People used to cross the Persian Gulf as easy as they crossed a river in their homeland; no passport or any documents were required.
Close ties
Marriage and migration between the two sides was a very common practice. With the exploration of oil and the establishment and independency of the Arab neighbors, some Iranians living near the borders moved to these newly-formed countries for work opportunities and other interests.
Many people in this region come from the same background and separating them from each other is very hard, if not impossible.
Arab neighbors need someone to come along and tell them that the gloomy days are over and a new page has turned in their relationship with Iran
A friend who worked with the late king of Iran told me a story about how easily the people of Iran and the UAE used to receive each other before the revolution. “ We were working at Kish Island when something happened to one of the labor workers and the nearest place we could take him for his medical emergency was Dubai.” Now almost 70-years old, a former staff member of Pahlavi’s royal family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added: “we ran to the plane and the captain contacted Dubai tower when we were close to the UAE’s territory. We landed without carrying any documents or passports and they assisted us to go to Iranian hospital immediately.”
Surely they are many people from both sides who have incredible stories of true love and affection between Iranians and Arabs who have been living together for thousands of years.
When the revolution took place 35 years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini declared a system change from a monarchy to an Islamic Republic. Rather than formulate better ties with his neighbors due to the Islamic nature of the revolution, he ruined ties. The revolutionaries took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held American diplomats hostage for 444 days. Who wanted to be friendly with such a frightening country?
A radicalized Iran
The choices were limited and the best one, perhaps, was to distance oneself from this radicalized government.
There is a fear of Iran in its current era, and this fear hasn’t much to do with the nuclear program. Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, said that he wants to export the revolution to all the world and of course began with his neighbors soon after the revolution.
Like the fears Salman Rushdie, the author of the Satanic Verses, placed upon him because of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death Fatwa, fears also pervade the region.
Iran managed to sign an agreement with Western powers to solve the disputed nuclear issue in the near future but there is no agreement to understand how Iran can be welcomed back to the international community and gain the status it had 35-years ago. Arab neighbors still hesitate to let their guard down due to mistrust and doubt on Iran’s intentions.
Arab neighbors need someone to come along and tell them that the gloomy days are over and a new page has turned in their relationship with Iran. As this year marks the 35th anniversary of the revolution, it would make a difference to hear that the country wants to put all its disputes and hostilities to an end, to begin with by normalizing relations with the United States.
“Trust me we are in fear all the time in case Iran clashes with the U.S. and takes retaliations from us. Let them make peace and leave us in peace too,” a Kuwait friend told me over dinner in Dubai. “We encourage Iran and the U.S. to leave the past and look in the future for the sake of this region. A milestone can’t be reach … unless they make peace with the United States of America.”
Are we to expect many surprises this year, like the normalizing of relations between Iran and the U.S.? Why not?!
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard