February 05/14

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

Pope Francis ‏
Dear young people, Jesus gives us life, life in abundance. If we are close to him we will have joy in our hearts and a smile on our face.

Pape François
Chers jeunes, Jésus nous donne la vie, la vie en abondance. Près de lui, nous aurons la joie dans le cœur, et le sourire aux lèvres.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 05/14
Analysis: Will Ashton’s time extension allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon/J.Post /By: Benjamin Weinthal/February 05/14
Kerry Tells Senators That Obama Syria Policy Is Collapsing/By Jeffrey Goldberg/Bloomberg Opinion/February 05/14
Up to 350 UK recruits among 2,000 Westerners now fighting in Syria/By Mitch Ginsburg /The Times/February 05/14
In the West Bank, pride has become bitterness/By:David Ignatius/The Washington Post/February 05/14
The never ending story of the Syrian peace talks/By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabyia/February 05/14
Al-Qaeda: Defender of Christians/By Raymond Ibrahim/February 05/14
Debunking Israel's imagined 'Christian awakening/By: Reem Khamis-DAkwara/Ynet news/
February 05/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 05/14
Lebanese Related News
Suleiman: Forcing Lack of Quorum to Obstruct Presidential Elections is Undemocratic
Lebanon's Cabinet Formation Enters Last Stage Despite Aoun's Rejection of Latest Offer
Member of ISF Forensic Lab Presents Witness Testimony at STL
Arrest Warrant Issued against al-Atrash over Terrorist Activities
Miqati: Any Deal on Cabinet Not a Radical Solution to Lebanon's Problems
Fears of Mass Jailbreak by Islamists in Roumieh amid Rising Extremism in Lebanon
IM, Charbel Confirms Reports of Alleged Drone Overflying Maarab
Lebanese Officials Call for Strengthening Security Forces after Shwaifat Blast
Israeli Bulldozer Crosses Technical Fence, Soldiers 'Provoke' Kfarkila Residents
Robbers Steal More than $600,000 from Money-Changer in Tripoli
U.S.: It is Reprehensible that Lebanese People are Subjected to Terrorist Acts
Aoun Issues Stern Warning against 'De Facto Cabinet' Breaching Coexistence Pact
Shells from Syria Hit Six Akkar Towns, Damage Houses
Man Wounded by Gunshots in Front of Tripoli Hospital

Miscellaneous Reports And News
State denies Kerry admitted US Syrian failure. Israel shoots down US-led NATO force for Palestinian State
Kerry Slams 'Barbarity' of Syrian Regime's Barrel Bombs
Key senator: Sanctions after Iran talks fail might be too late
Top EU diplomat floats extending Iran talks before they begin

Peres: Kerry came to make peace
Reach out and touch the poor, Pope says in Lent message
Kerry, Zarif meet on sidelines of Munich conference
Russia says Syria government will be at next round of peace talks
Russia says Syria to ship more chemical arms, attend talks
Spain seizes 900 kilos of cocaine in floating backpacks
Peres Praises Kerry after Attacks by Israeli Hawks
Canadian Minister Wades into SodaStream Row
Egypt Summons Qatar Diplomat to Demand Wanted Islamists
Renewed Iraq bloodshed as army progresses in Anbar
Mursi murder trial to reconvene Wednesday
Confusion, doubt as Pakistan tries to talk to the Taliban
Houthis, tribes agree ceasefire in north Yemen
HRW urges Kuwait to amend laws curbing free speech
U.S. denies Kerry’s remarks on ‘failing’ Syria policy
Canada Deeply Concerned by Drastic Surge in Executions in Iran
Israel: Failed Peace Talks Won't Bring More Violence

 Why Al Raei did not condemn!!
Elias Bejjani/Question: Why our Maronite Patriarch Buchara Al Raei or any of his derailed Bishops (Mazloum, Nassar, Khairallah, Sayah) have not denounced yet the Hezbollah Drone terrorist flying over Dr. Geagea's residence in Merab? Did they swallow heir tongues? In the same context why up till now the Lebanese Army did not issue a release in this regard? God safeguard our beloved Lebanon, Dr. Geagea and all the Lebanese Free and Patriotic leaders and politicians

Reach out and touch the poor, Pope says in Lent message
By Philip Pullella/ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis called for a fair distribution of wealth and equal access to education and health care on Tuesday in a Lenten message where he urged people to reach out and touch "the poverty of our brothers".In his message for the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, he also said Christians should help those suffering from moral poverty, such as the "thrall" of alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography. During Lent, which begins on March 5 this year, Christians are called on to carry out acts of self-denial and help those less fortunate. Francis, who was known as the slum pope in his native Buenos Aires because of his visits to the poorest people, said the wounds of poverty "disfigure the face of humanity" and were crying out to be healed. "We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it," he said. He again called on the wealthy to share their good fortune, to not be blind to the needs of others, and not to practice superficial solidarity or vain displays of self-denial.
"When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth," Francis said. "Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing."
Francis said material poverty and moral destitution were often intertwined. "How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care," he said. He defined moral destitution as "slavery to vice and sin," including alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography. "In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide," he added. Francis' style is characterized by frugality. He shunned the spacious papal apartment in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace to live in a small suite in a Vatican guest house, and he prefers a Ford Focus to the traditional papal Mercedes. In Tuesday's message, he said "Lent is a fitting time for self-denial" but condemned superficial shows of sacrifice or concern for the poor and needy. "Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt," he said.
Francis has in the past attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny" and has said huge salaries and bonuses were symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality, . Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the Argentinean has several times condemned the "idolatry of money" and said it was a depressing sign of the times that a homeless person dying of exposure on the street is no longer news but a slight fall in the stock market is. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Analysis: Will Ashton’s time extension allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon?
02/05/2014/J.Post /By: Benjamin Weinthal
Israeli experts foresee negative outcome of EU foreign policy chief's idea of lengthening 6-month deadline on Iran nuclear talks; note extension could allow Tehran to exploit time frame, obtain atomic weapons capabilities. European Union chief diplomat Catherine Ashton on Sunday circulated the idea of extending the talks to end Iran’s military nuclear program beyond the slated six-month deadline.
While saying that everyone is “conscious” of the 180-day time limit, Ashton added: “But everyone will say to you, and rightly so, this is extremely difficult.”The clock on the agreement started on January 20 and runs until July 20.
Israeli political scientists delivered their verdict on Ashton’s move to extend: The outcome will be negative and allow Iran to exploit the time frame to build a nuclear weapon.More than 10 years ago the EU team showed a kind of incurable naïveté during the outset of talks with Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapons device.
Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that 10 years ago “[Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani boasted that he was able to manipulate European leadership and continue enrichment.”Rouhani employed a clever, protracted negotiating style to secure more development time for the weaponization of enriched uranium.
There are worrying signs that Ashton and the other world powers have been lulled into a false sense of complacency, harking back to 2003 when Rouhani served as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator.
It is worth recalling that Rouhani’s spokesman, during the 2003 talks, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, wrote in his memoir: “Tehran showed that it was possible to exploit the gap between Europe and the United States to achieve Iranian objectives.”The divide-and-conquer bargaining strategy “provided time for Isfahan’s uranium conversion project to be finished and commissioned, the number of centrifuges at Natanz increased from 150 to 1,000 and software and hardware for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to be further developed,” wrote Mousavian, adding that “the heavy water reactor project in Arak came into operation and was not suspended at all.”
Ashton’s ostensible indifference toward EU business and government delegations flocking to Iran, since the November 24 interim deal was reached, has raised eyebrows in the United States. US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wrote to Ashton in late January: “These delegations to Iran risk undermining the international sanctions regime at precisely the wrong time.”
Steinberg termed the proposal of extending talks beyond the July deadline as “counterproductive.”
He said “the question is whether the P5+1 [the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China] have redlines” about stopping a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Without a credible threat of punitive sanctions for dragging their [Iranian] feet,” there will be no incentive for Iran to meet the requirements of the P5+1, said Steinberg.
The Joint Plan of Action agreed to by the world powers and Iran in November permits an extension of talks based “upon mutual consent.” A running series of extensions may advance Iran’s nuclear program.
Emmanuel Navon, director of the communications and political science department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, told the Post the extension is “a bad thing and not surprising that it is coming from Ashton. It is the best deal the Iranians could get, allowing them to reach a nuclear stage to get the bomb.” He said six months will turn into eight months or 12 months and the Iranians will continue to play for time. Time has always been Iran’s ally. The P5+1 may have failed to learn the lessons from the early rounds of negotiations. Iran’s regime continues to show great skill in the art of procrastination.
**Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Aoun Issues Stern Warning against 'De Facto Cabinet' Breaching Coexistence Pact
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday reiterated that the formation of a so-called “de facto cabinet” would violate the 1943 National Pact, an unwritten agreement that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multi-confessional state. “What's dangerous in the cabinet formation process is that it is based on incomplete consultations that excluded the biggest Christian parliamentary bloc,” Aoun said in a written statement he recited after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. “When we objected against this deliberate mistake, we realized that it was based on an agreement between certain officials and the PM-designate and we figured out that they had already agreed on everything and that they want us to accept this fact and say goodbye to national partnership,” Aoun added. He stressed that sects must be represented in a “fair manner” in the cabinet lineup, “especially that Article 66 of the Constitution had given an independent constitutional authority to the minister, who is no longer an aide to the president.” “The formation of any cabinet must respect the National Pact in form and content,” Aoun said, underlining that “the PM-designate is named according to binding parliamentary consultations.”He emphasized that the constitution “clearly stipulates” that there is no legitimacy for any authority that contradicts coexistence. “The current practices have nothing to do with the principles and texts or with the norms that must be followed in forming cabinets. They must be totally rejected so that they don't become a precedent. They are also artificial preconditions aimed at obstruction,” Aoun pointed out.
Addressing the controversial issue of portfolio rotation among sects and political groups in the new cabinet, Aoun stressed that “portfolio rotation is neither a principle nor a norm, which raises a question about impeding the formation process with a fabricated precondition.”“The precondition was further complicated when the PM-designate (Tammam Salam) clung to it after the remarks of his boss -- the head of al-Mustaqbal bloc” Fouad Saniora, Aoun added. “An all-embracing cabinet requires an agreement among all parties on the conditions of its formation,” he stressed. Aoun cautioned that “whoever creates obstacles would be breaching the (National) Pact (of coexistence), which would strip the cabinet of any legitimacy or constitutionality, rendering it a de facto cabinet.” “We will deal with it accordingly, especially when it is rejected by a bloc that has major representation.”
The FPM leader noted that if the “tacit objective” behind forming this cabinet is to “impede the presidential election, that would be more dangerous and would have more serious repercussions.”
“It is a constitutional duty to make sure that the cabinet truly represents all the components of the country,” Aoun said. “Beware of tampering with the constant national principles amid such very critical junctures,” he warned.
A meeting held between Salam and President Michel Suleiman on Monday signaled that the formation of the new government was imminent despite the alleged insistence of the FPM to hold onto the energy and telecom portfolios. FPM officials told An Nahar daily that Aoun was still awaiting a response from Salam on several questions that caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil had raised during their meeting on Sunday.
But An Nahar said that the PM-designate was the one waiting for the FPM to a proposal that he had made to give it the foreign affairs and education portfolios in the new cabinet.
Aoun's insistence to keep the energy portfolio, which is held by Bassil – his son-in-law – in the resigned government of Premier Najib Miqati has been blamed for the cabinet standstill after the rest of the rival factions struck a deal to give the March 8 and 14 alliances and centrists eight ministers each in a government based on the rotation of portfolios among sects. Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour met with Suleiman on Monday and told al-Manar TV that an all-embracing government would be formed -- along with FPM representatives and despite Aoun's disapproval -- if the last-minute mediation efforts fail.

U.S.: It is Reprehensible that Lebanese People are Subjected to Terrorist Acts
Naharnet/The United States condemned “in the strongest terms possible” the recent terrorist bombings that targeted the northeastern town of Hermel and Shwaifat, south of Beirut. “We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. It is reprehensible that the people of Lebanon have once again been subjected to these acts of terrorism,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. “The Lebanese people should not have to live in fear as they conduct their daily lives,” she said. “All parties in Lebanon must exercise restraint and refrain from contributing to the cycle of violence,” Psaki told reporters at the start of her briefing. She reiterated the call for the full implementation of the Baabda declaration, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and the Taef Agreement. “The United States reiterates its strong support for the Lebanese armed forces and the internal security forces in their role in maintaining Lebanon’s security, and we call for the perpetrators of this attack to be brought to justice,” Psaki said. Several people were killed and injured in suicide bombings that targeted Hermel and Shwaifat respectively on Saturday and Monday. They are the latest in a string of attacks in Lebanon linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria. Shwaifat is traditionally a Druze neighborhood, but is adjacent to a Shiite area. A series of deadly bombings have targeted Shiite districts. Hizbullah has a strong presence in the districts, and the attacks are believed to be retaliation for the Shiite group's armed intervention in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad against the mostly Sunni rebels.

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.

Fears of Mass Jailbreak by Islamists in Roumieh amid Rising Extremism in Lebanon
Naharnet/Security Forces are mulling ways to confront an expected mass jailbreak by Islamists in Roumieh prison's bloc B, media reports said on Tuesday. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, Islamists in the Roumieh could easily breakout of the facility due to its fragile infrastructure. Sources considered that putting all Islamist inmates together in one bloc is “dangerous,” which facilitates their breakout. Roumieh, the oldest and largest of Lebanon's overcrowded prisons, has witnessed sporadic prison breaks in recent years and escalating riots over the past months as inmates living in poor conditions demand better treatment.
The sources expected that Fatah al-Islam prisoners would flee the prison en mass, in particular in a time when the country is booming with the presence of extremists and terrorists. There are around 190 Fatah al-Islam prisoners at the prison's bloc B. The inmates were arrested in 2007 on charges of fighting or aiding the Fatah al-Islam fighters in Nahr al-Bared that lies near the northern coastal city of Tripoli. The sources said that Abou Walid and Abou Suleiman and Ibrahim al-Atrash, who is the uncle of Sheikh Omar al-Atrash, lead Fatah al-Islam prisoners in Roumieh's bloc B. Sheikh Omar al-Atrash recently confessed to transporting suicide bombers of different Arab nationalities to the al-Nusra Front in Syria. The sources said that Fatah al-Islam leaders hold daily closed-circle meetings inside the facility, which drew the attention of the guards who fear that they are plotting a prison break.
However, Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbek said that the security situation in Roumieh prison is under control. “Every prisoner seeks to break out of his jail,” Charbel told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5).
He pointed out that the Islamist prisoners in bloc B have been arrested together. Powerful blasts have largely targeted areas sympathetic to Hizbullah, which has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against a Sunni-dominated uprising. 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 battles in Syria.
The explosions have created a climate of fear in the country, with residents increasingly nervous about unfamiliar cars and certain neighborhoods.

Lebanon's Cabinet Formation Enters Last Stage Despite Aoun's Rejection of Latest Offer
Naharnet/A two-hour meeting held between President Michel Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam on Monday signaled that the formation of the new government was imminent despite the alleged insistence of the Free Patriotic Movement to hold onto the energy and telecommunications portfolios. Suleiman and Salam discussed the ministerial portfolios and ways to choose the names of new ministers in a 24-member cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula, media reports said Tuesday. Free Patriotic Movement officials told An Nahar daily that FPM leader Michel Aoun was still awaiting a response from Salam on several questions that caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil had raised during their meeting on Sunday. But An Nahar said that the premier-designate was the person waiting for the response of the FPM on a proposal that he had made to give it the foreign ministry and eduction portfolios in the new cabinet. Aoun is expected to make his stance clear during a press conference he will hold following the weekly meeting of his Change and Reform bloc in Rabieh. FPM sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper that the FPM's stance is clear. They began raising doubt whether Salam wanted to form a government or not. Aoun's insistence to keep the energy portfolio, which is held by Bassil – his son-in-law – in the resigned government of Premier Najib Miqati has been blamed on the cabinet standstill after the rest of the rival factions struck a deal to give the March 8 and 14 alliances and centrists eight ministers each in a government based on the rotation of portfolios among sects. As Safir newspaper said that Speaker Nabih Berri, who had played a major role in striking the agreement, has decided to distance himself from the latest crisis.
But Berri is not likely to approve a cabinet in which not all factions that were included in the deal are not represented. As for Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, whose share in the government is part of the eight ministers that the centrists would get, has abided by the statement of “no comment.” His envoy caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour met with Suleiman on Monday. He told Hizbullah's al-Manar TV that an all-embracing government would be formed along with the FPM ministers and despite a lack of blessing from Aoun if the last-minute mediation efforts fail.

Arrest Warrant Issued against al-Atrash over Terrorist Activities
Naharnet/A military examining magistrate issued on Tuesday an arrest warrant against Sheikh Omar al-Atrash for carrying out terrorist activities, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said Judge Nabil Wehbe questioned al-Atrash over his role in transporting suicide bombers to Lebanon. Al-Atrash, 24, has also been charged with detonating bombs and explosive-rigged vehicles, attacking the army in Majdelyoun and al-Awwali bridge areas in the southern city of Sidon in December and launching rockets on Israel. The Sheikh, who hails from the Bekaa valley, was arrested last month. The Lebanese army said last week that al-Atrash has admitted to having ties with Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Jabhat al-Nusra and The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members. He has also admitted to transporting suicide bombers in a Cherokee to attack the army in Majdelyoun and al-Awwali bridge and of transferring four rockets from Syria in August last year to launch them towards Israel.

Member of ISF Forensic Lab Presents Witness Testimony at STL
Naharnet/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon continued on Tuesday hearing the testimonies of various witnesses linked to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. It listened to the testimony of Brigadier General Asaad Nohra who is an officer at the Internal Security Forces. Nohra, who has been working at the ISF since 1984, said that he was responsible during 2005 for forensic testing.
He explained however that the ISF forensic lab was not formed until 2006 and so all DNA testing overseen by the ISF and linked to the Hariri assassination was conducted at the labs of the American University of Science and Technology (AUST) and Universite Saint Joseph. “The forensic lab was responsible for receiving samples from investigators from the crime scene and the samples were sent to private labs for testing. The findings were then sent back to us,” he told the Prosecution. The Prosecution asked that if everything goes according to plan, the samples should be directly sent to the forensic lab, to which Nohra answered yes. The witness added however that at the time of Hariri's murder some samples were not directly sent to them, but instead sent to the private labs without passing through the ISF lab. A receipt is normally issued when a sample passes through the ISF prior to being sent to university labs, he explained. No receipt is sent when a sample is directly sent to the university labs without passing through the ISF, he added. Nohra also said that the member of the ISF lab never head to a crime scene unless they are ordered to do so by their superiors. On the occasion of Hariri's assassination, Nohra was asked to accompany a scientist from the AUST lab. Cotton swabs and soil samples were taken from the blast site to identify victims and determine the nature of the explosives used in the bomb, explained the witness. The Prosecution then presented before the courtroom some pages of the report Nohra filed at the time on his findings at the scene. His findings included the identification of Ahmed Abu Adas, whom the co-conspirators sought to falsely accuse in the crime. Nohra did not take part in any further investigations in the Hariri assassination following his report. A second witness, whose identity remained confidential, then presented his testimony. The broadcast was cut however soon after he identified himself as a member of the ISF at the time of the assassination.
No other details about the witness were revealed. The February 14, 2005 seafront blast killed 22 people including the former prime minister and wounded 226, leading to the establishment by the U.N. Security Council of the STL in 2007. Although the assassination was initially blamed on four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, 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.
The STL Trial Chamber later announced that it will hold a joint hearing on February 11 to hear legal submissions from the Prosecution, Defense counsel for Ayyash, Badreddine, Merhi, Oneissi and Sabra, the Legal Representative of Victims and, if necessary, from the Registrar, on the possible joinder of the case against Merhi to the Ayyash et al. proceedings. This follows a preliminary hearing on January 14 in which the Trial Chamber heard from the Prosecution and counsel for Merhi about the possibility of joining both cases. Counsel for Merhi filed written submissions on this issue on January 30. The submissions of the Prosecution and Registry are due by February 4. During the hearing, the Trial Chamber expects pleadings from the parties about the legal impediments of any joinder, and its potential impact upon the progress of the Ayyash et al. trial. The hearing will be public, but the judges may decide to go into closed session if confidential matters need to be discussed.

IM, Charbel Confirms Reports of Alleged Drone Overflying Maarab
Naharnet/Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel confirmed on Tuesday reports concerning the sighting of a suspicious drone over the residence of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Maarab. “The matter is not a joke... It's serious according to reports and it was seen with naked eye,” Charbel said in comments to Free Lebanon radio. He stressed that the necessary measures should be taken to protect Maarab and those who are targeted in assassination attempts. “Whatever the source of the unmanned aircraft the army should deal with the matter,” Charbel said. Asked if anti-aircraft fire should be used to target the drone, Charbel said that the option was discussed during the last 48 hours. The Lebanese Forces said earlier this month that a drone was spotted carrying out flights over Maarab for a period of time. A couple of days ago the LF informed the army anew that guards sighted the unmanned aircraft again on Friday. Guards described the aircraft as white and resembles a drone, adding that it flew at a law altitude and caused unusual sounds.
Geagea had escaped an assassination attempt by snipers as he was taking a walk in the garden of his Maarab residence in April 2012.

Miqati: Any Deal on Cabinet Not a Radical Solution to Lebanon's Problems
Naharnet /Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati lamented on Tuesday that any agreement on the formation of the new government would not be a radical solution to the country's crises. “The situation in Lebanon has become largely intertwined with the complications of the situation in Syria,” Miqati said as he met Arab ambassadors based in Germany. The meeting was arranged by Dr. Mustafa Adeeb, the Lebanese Ambassador to Berlin, and was attended by Caretaker Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas. “Any internal Lebanese deal on the government file or anything else would not be a radical solution to the problem and the Lebanese situation would remain unsettled pending a clearer picture of the regional” conditions, he said. Miqati is in Germany to attend the annual security conference in Munich. “The agreement on the formation of an all-embracing government came at the appropriate regional occasion, giving the green light for participation in it,” Miqati said. “But we are witnessing an exaggeration in differences and (officials) are drowning in details, which make us far from full and permanent understanding and consensus,” he added. Any problem between any of the three Arab countries - Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria – reflects negatively on Lebanon, Miqati told the diplomats. “This is what is currently happening,” particularly after Iran shoved itself in the dispute, he said. “So Lebanon became in a clear quake zone,” Miqati said. “The complicated sectarian system made things worse by allowing foreign interference,” he added.

Israeli Bulldozer Crosses Technical Fence, Soldiers 'Provoke' Kfarkila Residents
Naharnet/An Israeli bulldozer crossed on Tuesday the technical fence off the southern town of Rmeish under the protection of a military unit, the state-run National News Agency reported. The bulldozer was to carry out scraping activities near the U.N.-drawn Blue Line, NNA said. Last week, an Israeli unit crossed the technical fence in the Wadi al-Qatmoun region near Rmeish. The unit, consisting of three Merkava tanks, carried out a patrol in the area. A week earlier, Israeli troops dug a dirt road between the Israeli border and the technical fence in the same area. NNA also said that several Israeli soldiers deployed near the technical fence in the area of Kfarkila on Tuesday “provoking” passers-by, by pointing their weapons at them and taking photographs of them.

Robbers Steal More than $600,000 from Money-Changer in Tripoli
Naharnet/A money-changer was robbed at gunpoint on Tuesday by gunmen in al-Baddawi region in the northern city of Tripoli, the state-run National News Agency reported. Thieves reportedly stole 30 million Syrian pound and $600,000 from Bassam Samih al-Ayyoubi at 7:00 a.m. According to NNA, gunmen intercepted the vehicle of al-Ayyoubi, who was transferring money from his currency exchange shop in Syria to Lebanon's branch.
Al-Ayyoubi was pulled out of his Mercedes car, carrying plate license 186191/T, and shot in the legs. The armed men fled to an unknown location using al-Ayyoubi's vehicle, which was located in a field in Tripoli.
The assailants had set the car ablaze. Al-Ayyoubi was submitted to al-Mazloum hospital for treatment as security forces opened an investigation into the incident.

Egypt Summons Qatar Diplomat to Demand Wanted Islamists
Naharnet/Egypt's foreign ministry said it summoned Qatar's charge d'affaires in Cairo on Tuesday to demand the handover of Islamist fugitives in exile in Doha. Relations between the countries deteriorated with the Egyptian military's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and its subsequent crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Qatar backs. Egypt had summoned the Qatari ambassador last month in protest at Doha's criticism of the crackdown on Islamists. He was not in the country on Tuesday. Several Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and allied Islamists, fled to Doha following Morsi's ouster in July. Some are wanted for trial in Egypt. Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told a news conference the Qatari diplomat was told "it was necessary to hand over those who are wanted by Egypt." Egypt's military-installed government designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in December. It says Arab states that signed a 1998 anti-terrorism treaty should hand over wanted members of the group. Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi himself, face separate trials on charges ranging from inciting violence to espionage. Egypt has also cracked down on the Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which it accuses of supporting the Islamists. Prosecutors last week referred 20 people to trial they accused of working for the broadcaster, including a detained Australian and two Britons who are abroad. They are accused of broadcasting false news. The Egyptians in the case are also accused of joining a terrorist group.Source/Agence France Presse

Peres Praises Kerry after Attacks by Israeli Hawks
Naharnet/Israel's President Shimon Peres Tuesday praised John Kerry's peace efforts, after Israeli hawks attacked the top U.S. diplomat for warning of the growing boycott threat to the Jewish state.
"We thank (Kerry) for his efforts. We encourage him and hope to soon achieve positive results," Peres said in remarks broadcast on military radio after two days of verbal attacks against the U.S. secretary of state by Israeli cabinet ministers. The outburst occurred after Kerry warned on Saturday Israel was facing a growing campaign of delegitimization which would worsen if peace talks collapsed, referring also to "talk of boycotts."Cabinet ministers were quick to lash out, describing Kerry's comments as "offensive, unfair and intolerable," and implied Washington was not doing enough to counter "anti-Semitic boycott attempts."
The U.S. State Department hit back, flagging Kerry's "staunch opposition" to boycotts, and urging his critics to get their facts straight. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to calm the situation by acknowledging Kerry's opposition to boycotts and warning his right-wing Likud faction against "personal attacks."But late on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice also weighed in on the dispute in several postings on Twitter. "Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable," she wrote. "U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel." Last month, Kerry was subjected to a personal attack by Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who accused him of having a messianic "obsession" with Middle East peace, before being forced to apologize. The spat underlined the estrangement between the longtime allies which has already seen angry public rows over Iran policy and Israel's defiant drive to expand its settlements in the midst of nine-months of peace talks, which are due to end in April.Source/Agence France Presse

Canadian Minister Wades into SodaStream Row

Naharnet/The employment minister of Canada, a strong supporter of Israel, has waded into the spat over Oxfam breaking with U.S. actress Scarlett Johansson for endorsing an Israeli soft drink firm that operates in the occupied West Bank. Minister Jason Kenney, who is also minister of multiculturalism in Canada, extended an ironic thank you to Oxfam for bringing the Israeli firm SodaStream to his attention. Last week Johansson made headlines when she quit her role as Oxfam ambassador after the NGO said her promotion of SodaStream was "incompatible" with her role at the international aid agency. SodaStream, which manufactures machines for making carbonated drinks at home, has 25 factories around the world, including one that operates in a settlement east of Jerusalem. "Bought a nice @SodaStream unit at the @HudsonsBayCo. Thanks to @Oxfam for the tip," the minister said in a tweet. Oxfam calls for a boycott of any Israeli firm operating in settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law. The minister's message also featured a photo of a SodaStream beverage machine with its brand name clearly visible. It also bore the letters "BDSfail" in reference to the campaign calling for "boycott, divestment, sanctions" of Israeli products and goods. Canada is a strong backer of Israel, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Israel late last month. SourceAgence France Presse

Kerry Tells Senators That Obama Syria Policy Is Collapsing
By Jeffrey Goldberg Feb 3, 2014/Bloomberg Opinion
Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them -- along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation -- that President Barack Obama's administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry's view, it may be time to consider more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions.
Kerry is said to have made these blunt assertions Sunday morning behind the closed doors of a cramped meeting room in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, as the 50th annual Munich Security Conference was coming to a close in a ballroom two floors below. A day earlier, Kerry, in a joint appearance with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ballroom stage, gave an uncompromising defense of the Obama administration’s level of foreign engagement: saying that, “I can’t think of a place in the world where we’re retreating.”
Kerry's presentation to the congressional delegation suggests that, at least in the case of Syria, he believes the U.S. could be doing much more. His enthusiasm for engagement and dissatisfaction with current policy, is in one sense no surprise: Kerry has consistently been the most prominent advocate inside the administration of a more assertive American role in Syria. Who could forget his late August speech, overflowing with Churchillian outrage, in which he promised that the U.S. would hold the Assad regime accountable for the “moral obscenity” of chemical weapons attacks? (This promise was put on hold after Obama declined to strike Syria, and after the Russians negotiated the so-far mainly theoretical surrender of the regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons.)
According to participants in the meeting, Kerry spent a good deal of time sounding out the members about their constituents’ tolerance for greater engagement in Syria. He was told, almost uniformly, that there is little appetite for deeper involvement at home. One congressman, Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, told Kerry that his August speech on the need to confront Assad was powerful, but that the president subsequently “dropped the ball.”Kerry’s Sunday briefing was meant to be private, but the Senate’s two most prominent Syria hawks, Republicans John McCain -- the leader of the U.S. delegation to the security conference -- and Lindsey Graham provided a readout of the meeting to three journalists who flew with them on a delegation plane back to Washington: Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post; Josh Rogin, the Daily Beast's national security reporter; and me. According to Graham, Kerry gave the clear impression that Syria is slipping out of control. He said Kerry told the delegation that, “the al-Qaeda threat is real, it is getting out of hand.” The secretary, he said, raised the threat of al-Qaeda unprompted. “He acknowledged that the chemical weapons [delivery] is being slow-rolled; the Russians continue to supply arms [and that] we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy. He openly talked about supporting arming the rebels. He openly talked about forming a coalition against al-Qaeda because it’s a direct threat.”
"I would not characterize what he said as a plea for a new policy, but that, in light of recent, dramatic developments, the administration is exploring possible new directions," said one Democratic House member who was in the meeting. "He wasn't arguing so much that the administration needs a new policy, but that the administration is considering a range of options based on recent developments."
The delegation, which included such senators as Republicans Roy Blunt and Kelly Ayotte and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as such high-ranking House members as Michigan’s Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and New York’s Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, met with Kerry for about 45 minutes, immediately before both Kerry and the delegation left on separate planes to Washington.
Late Sunday night, shortly after the delegation plane landed, Hiatt, Rogin and I asked Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, to respond to the senators’ characterization of Kerry’s remarks. She e-mailed the following response: “Like [White House chief of staff] Denis McDonough this morning on the Sunday shows, Secretary Kerry has stated publicly many times that more needs to be done rapidly by the regime to move chemical weapons to the port at Latakia, that we need to continue doing more to end the conflict, and that he has pushed the Russians to help in this effort.”
Psaki’s response continued, “No one in this Administration thinks we're doing enough until the humanitarian crisis has been solved and the civil war ended. That is no different from the message Secretary Kerry conveyed during the private meeting. The meeting was an opportunity to hear from and engage with members of Congress and it is unfortunate that his comments are being mischaracterized by some participants.”
In a separate e-mail sent Monday morning, Psaki responded to the claim that Kerry is reintroducing the idea of supporting arming certain rebel groups. “It’s no secret that some members of Congress support this approach, but at no point during the meeting did Secretary Kerry raise lethal assistance for the opposition. He was describing a range of options that the Administration has always had at its disposal, including more work within the structure of the international community, and engaging with Congress on their ideas is an important part of that process.”
On the matter of Syria, the feeling at the Munich Security Conference, the world’s premier gathering of security experts, was that of helplessness. On the first night of the conference, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special representative for Syria, said, “We’ve just had eight days of negotiations in Geneva. … I’m sorry to report there was no progress.”
The impotence of the West, as evidenced by the failure of Geneva II talks, and by continued reports of mass murder committed by Assad’s forces, prompted former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter to publicly compare the situation of Syrian citizens today to that of Jews in World War II Europe. “In the United States, we often ask, ‘Why didn’t Roosevelt bomb the trains?' We aren’t very different,” she said.
There are many reasons a secretary of state -- particularly one who has been more inclined to intervene in Syria than many of his colleagues in the White House national security apparatus -- might see this particular moment in the three-year-old Syria crisis as an inflection point. The utter failure of the Geneva peace talks is one reason. Reports that Syria is not complying with its promise to divest itself of its chemical weapons stockpiles is another. Add to this the recent disclosure of damning evidence that the Syria regime has tortured and starved 11,000 people to death (more than 130,000 people so far have died in the civil war), and it is understandable why Kerry would believe it is time for a new American approach.
But the main impetus for a dramatic new approach might be the claim made last week by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, that one of the main jihadi groups fighting in Syria, the Nusra Front, “does have aspirations for attacks on the homeland.” Clapper compared parts of Syria today to the tribal areas of Pakistan, which have long been havens for jihadi terror groups.
(In her e-mail this morning, the State Department’s Psaki wrote that, “While Secretary Kerry restated what we have said many times publicly about our concern about the growing threat of extremists, he did not draw a direct connection to the threat on the homeland or reference comments made by other Administration officials. This is a case of members [of Congress] projecting what they want to hear and not stating the accurate facts of what was discussed.”)
If it is indeed true that the al-Qaeda-oriented Nusra Front is seeking targets in the U.S., then the Syria conflict must become, by necessity, a paramount national security concern for the U.S. The impact of Clapper’s testimony could be profound: If parts of Syria are becoming, in essence, al-Qaeda havens, and if jihadis are plotting attacks on American targets from those havens, then the Obama administration, which has made the fight against al-Qaeda the centerpiece of its national security strategy, will have to engage in Syria in ways it has so far tried to avoid. Such engagement would be terribly complicated, because the U.S. would essentially be facing two despicable adversaries in Syria that are battling each other: Assad’s forces (and its Hezbollah and Iranian helpers) on the one hand, and the al-Qaeda-inspired and affiliated foes of Assad, on the other.
This is why McCain argued to us, on the flight from Munich, that it is all the more important now to provide support to those rebel formations that could plausibly be designated as “moderate.” He said: “All I can do is hope that there is cumulative evidence, the failure of Geneva II, the atrocities of the 11,000, the continued regionalization of the conflict -- sooner or later, the president will decide this is in America’s national security interest.”
President Obama’s position on Syrian engagement has been far-less forward-leaning than that of his secretary of state. "All along John has wanted more vigorous action,” said McCain. “I said to John on the way out, 'Don’t make it a half measure.’ I said you’ve really got to do something to change the momentum.”
Obama has never believed the more moderate rebel factions would be capable of defeating the Assad regime (and it should be noted that these rebel groups, despite McCain’s beliefs, are particularly weak today). McCain opposed Graham’s suggestion that the administration begin using drone strikes against al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Syria. “Eventually you’ve got to confront them, so to me, it’s a choice of, do we hit them after they hit us, or do we hit them before they hit us?" Graham said. "Because eventually we are going to engage these guys, and it seems to me there’s an appetite growing among the Arab countries and even a little bit [with] Russia quite frankly that we’ve got to change the momentum when it comes to the al-Qaeda presence.”
To contact the writer of this article: Jeffrey Goldberg at

Kerry, Zarif meet on sidelines of Munich conference
By Ilan Ben Zion and AFP February 2, 2014/The Times Of Israel
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, met Sunday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the State Department said.  Kerry and Zarif “discussed the upcoming negotiations with the P5+1 and the EU on a comprehensive agreement that will begin in Vienna next month,” a senior US State Department official said. Kerry and Zarif “discussed the upcoming negotiations with the P5+1 and the EU on a comprehensive agreement that will begin in Vienna next month,” a senior US State Department official said. Nuclear talks between the P5+1 states and Iran are set to reconvene on February 18.
“Kerry reiterated the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith and Iran abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action (agreed in November),” said the official. “He also made clear that the United States will continue to enforce existing sanctions,” he added. The official said Kerry also pressed Zarif to “work cooperatively with us” to help detained US citizens Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini return home.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki tweeted the news of the meeting.

Up to 350 UK recruits among 2,000 Westerners now fighting in Syria
By Mitch Ginsburg /The Times Of Israel/February 4, 2014,
Fighters are second and third generation Muslim immigrants to Europe, particularly from Pakistan and Morocco
Israeli report shows drastic rise in Muslim combatants coming from Europe, calls them ‘ticking bombs’ who could take their violent ideology back home
The ongoing war in Syria, a magnet for Islamist fighters looking to participate in jihad, has attracted as many as 2,100 Westerners, a report revealed this week.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, a civilian organization run by former Israeli intelligence officers, noted a sharp rise in the number of Western recruits in the second half of 2013 and said that the fighters, mostly young men from Western Europe, increased the likelihood of religious war being brought home with fighters returning from the front.
The foreign fighters in the ranks of the Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State [of Iraq and Greater Syria] are a potential threat to international security,” the authors wrote. Some will return home and “continue their terrorist and subversive activities” on their own initiative; some “may be handled by al-Qaeda…exploiting the personal relationships formed in Syria”; and some, like the veterans of Afghanistan, may sow terror internationally, traveling with a Western passport that raises fewer red flags. The authors put the total number of foreign fighters at between 6,000 and 7,000, with roughly 4,500 hailing from the predominantly Sunni states of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya. They estimated that 15-20 Israeli Arabs were engaged in the war and that, while the number of Palestinians was low, the trickle from Gaza has “risen sharply” over the past several months.
The Israeli fighters, the authors wrote, “veterans of the war in Syria, may be handled for espionage, subversion and terrorism” should they successfully mask their activities and manage to return to Israel. Palestinians from the Gaza Strip “may endanger both the de-facto Hamas administration and Egypt” and, surely, if their primary goal of wresting control of Syria is won, they “may increase the operational capabilities of Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist networks along Israel’s borders.” The bulk of the Western nationals fighting in Syria are from Europe. The authors ranked Great Britain as the foremost source of recruits, with between 200 and 350 British nationals fighting in Syria. Belgium, Holland and Germany, too, were estimated to have produced over 200 recruits each, predominantly “young men who are second and sometimes third generation Muslim immigrants,” particularly from Pakistan and Morocco, according to the authors of the report. Last week, the US director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that al-Qaeda-like groups operating in Syria are training fighters “to go back to their countries,” according to a recent AP report, and that they “have aspirations for attacks on the homeland.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein added that Syria could become “a launching point or way station for terrorists seeking to attack the United States.”
The Israeli intelligence center, using open sources, put the number of US nationals at “over 70″ and wrote that the sharp rise, up from 12-15 earlier in 2013, “is indicative, in our opinion, of the significant rise in volunteers in the second half of 2013 (and perhaps to the increased attention paid to the phenomenon by the US security and intelligence officials).” Calling the issue of foreign fighters “a global problem shared by the West, Israel and the Arab-Muslim world,” the authors wrote that international agencies have so far not developed effective methods to monitor, prevent and punish the volunteers. “The returning foreign fighters are a ticking time bomb,” they wrote, “which can only be defused by international cooperation and joint systems to neutralize their terrorist-subversive potential.”

In the West Bank, pride has become bitterness
By:David Ignatius/The Washington Post
HALHUL, West Bank
Hoping to understand the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in human terms, I paid a visit last week to a Palestinian farmer named Hammadeh Kashkeesh, whom I first met 32 years ago. The encounter reminded me of the pain at the heart of this dispute and of how hard it will be for any diplomatic settlement to resolve the bitterness on both sides.First, try to imagine the landscape and how it has changed in the years of Israeli occupation. Halhul is an agricultural town in the rock-ribbed hills just south of Bethlehem. When I first traveled this route in 1982 to spend two weeks with Kashkeesh, to write a profile of his town, the hillsides were mostly barren. Now, the landscape is dense with Israeli settlements, many of them built since the Oslo Accord in 1993 that created the Palestinian Authority.
Kashkeesh and his neighbors pride themselves on raising what they claim are the tastiest grapes in the world. His access to his vines was obstructed more than a decade ago when a road was built for Israeli settlers who live nearby. He had given up his precious grapes when I visited in 2003, but he has found a way to tend them again. Some of his neighbors aren’t so lucky; their vines have grown wild or died.
Kashkeesh, 67, worked for years as a stonecutter and then a farmer. He managed to send all of his seven children to high school or college.
The indignity and bitterness that come with military occupation are deeply embedded in Kashkeesh’s voice. In Halhul, the Palestinian Authority is, in theory, largely responsible for security. But the Israeli military controls access on the main roads and intervenes when it sees a security threat. The night before my visit, Kashkeesh said, the Israeli army had arrested 10 people for throwing stones at soldiers.
There’s no condoning rock-throwing, let alone terrorist violence. Such tactics have had ruinous consequences for Palestinians, not least in undermining Israeli hope that they ever could live in peace. Hearing the anger in Kashkeesh’s voice, and seeing the sullen faces of young men gathered near his house, was a reminder that Palestinians experience life as a series of daily humiliations. Life here feels closed, embittered, confrontational.
When I first visited Halhul, openly advocating a Palestinian state could get you arrested. Villagers would hide a Palestinian flag disguised as embroidery, or a map of Palestine on the back of a wall photo. Now, the United States is working with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on a “framework agreement” outlining terms for a peace accord.
But Kashkeesh said he has nearly given up. He dislikes the Palestinian Authority almost as much as the Israelis. “They are liars,” he says, whose corrupt leaders build themselves fancy villas and operate “like a trading company.” He also rejects Hamas and says the Palestinian leadership overall has “destroyed itself, by itself.”
As for the peace negotiations, he asks how Palestinians will control their destiny in the demilitarized state that Israel is demanding. “How can we have a sovereign state if we don’t have control over the border with Jordan?” he wonders. If Israel gains the recognition it wants as a Jewish state, Kashkeesh says that Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel will feel unwelcome. “Nobody will believe in the agreement, which means there will be no peace.”
Thinking sadly that Kashkeesh might be right in his skepticism — and that a real end of this conflict may be impossible — I asked him to tell me again the story about the boy and the swimming pool. Listen with me:
It was 1975. Kashkeesh was 29 and had recently been released from prison after serving a six-year sentence for membership in the Fatah guerrilla group. He was working at a resort in Arad when he saw an Israeli infant fall into the swimming pool. The parents were elsewhere, and although Kashkeesh couldn’t swim, there was nobody else to save the boy. So he jumped in the water and took the child in his arms. When an Israeli investigator asked him why he had risked his life to help a Jew, he answered that the boy was a human being.
He tells that story now without much animation. As with millions of Israelis and Palestinians, I suspect that his heart has been hardened by so many years of pain and failure. Will the peace negotiations work amid so much mistrust and anger? I don’t know, but this quest for peace is surely still worth the effort.

The never ending story of the Syrian peace talks
By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabyia
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
They invented Geneva I and II and the sequel will likely continue providing audiences with hours of wasteful entertainment while Syria bleeds and the Syrians die in the hundreds daily.
For cultures hooked on Turkish TV series dubbed over in Arabic with the distinct Syrian accent, people seem desensitized to the rising death toll, the swelling refugee crisis, the continued bullying by the Assad regime, the growing influence of bloody Islamist groups, the discord within the Syrian opposition and the seriously uninterested eyes and ears of the international community. They watch and then watch some more thinking it’s simply a plot that will change at any time and in any direction. Tomorrow there will be more of the same.
Unfortunately, Geneva is a non-ending novella aiming at buying time while the actual deals are being cooked in back kitchens and will be delivered pre-packaged and ready to be applied. Winners and losers have already been determined.
Insulting our intelligence
While the name sounds important, Geneva Peace Talks they call them, Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem is in attendance representing Bashar al-Assad. Thank you for insulting our intelligence by returning the failed, murderous, discredited Assad regime into the limelight and giving it legitimacy it had lost a long time ago. Maybe we were not supposed to know that and we were supposed to simply welcome the Geneva effort as the organic solution to Syria’s problems. Perhaps we could have been fooled had the humanitarian crisis been addressed as a pre-requisite to being invited or admitted into the talks. Another way to confuse us would have been to offer concrete plans to alleviate the suffering of millions of scattered Syrian refugees and hundreds starved to death for standing up to the Assad regime.
Geneva is a non-ending novella aiming at buying time while the actual deals are being cooked in back kitchens
Instead, we get a Geneva II that doesn’t even take place in Geneva but in Montreux adding the dramatic touch of a picturesque backdrop.
The talks’ latest Godfather, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said it best, “nothing was achieved.” And nothing will be achieved as long as the players are the same murderers of yesteryear injected with a new lifeline and placed at negotiating tables talking peace, a subject they clearly do not subscribe to.
When talks resume next week, nothing will be achieved either. What Syria needs is action, not talks. Action is a big word and no one seems ready to take it on. But, the alternative is much grimmer and the suffering endless.
This article was first published in al-Nahar on Feb. 3, 2014.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Canada Deeply Concerned by Drastic Surge in Executions in Iran
February 4, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada is deeply troubled by reports of a drastic surge in executions in Iran. At least 50 executions have been reported in the first month of 2014 alone. Last year, Iran executed more than 600 people.
“We will judge Iran by its actions, not just by its words. At this rate, Iran is on track, once again, to have one of the highest rates of execution in the world.
“Despite the electoral promises made by President Hassan Rouhani to improve people’s lives, Iranians continue to live in fear of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and execution by the clerical regime.
“Canada deplores Iran’s continued disregard for due process and human rights violations against its people. The Iranian people deserve the dignity, respect and freedom that they have been denied for too long.”

Al-Qaeda: Defender of Christians
By Raymond Ibrahim/February 4, 2014/in Muslim Persecution of Christians
Muslim persecution of Christians is the “Achilles Heel” of the global Islamic movement’s image—the surest way of exposing its supremacist and intolerant elements and one of the main reasons the major media and establishment rarely report or address it.
The logic (fully explained here) can be summarized as follows:
Coptic monk shows charred remains of one of dozens churches burned in part thanks to Zawahiri’s incitements against Christians following June revolution that ousted former president Morsi
Islamic and jihadi attacks targeting the West or Israel pose no problem to the image of Islam. No matter how violent or brutal, no matter how many Islamic slogans are shrieked—“Allah commands the subjugation of infidels!”—Muslim violence against the West and Israel will always be dismissed as desperate acts of disempowered, oppressed, and frustrated Muslims—the “underdogs,” which the West tends to romanticize.
And so they will always get a free pass, without further reflection.
But if jihadis get a free pass when their violence is directed against those stronger than them, how does one rationalize away their violence when it is directed against those weaker than them—in this case, the millions of Christians being persecuted today by Muslims across 41 nations?
This is the dilemma that none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, chief of al-Qaeda, understands.
A few days ago, the Associated Press reported that:
It was a rare call by Ayman al-Zawahri in defense of Christians, who largely supported the popularly backed coup against Mohammed Morsi and were subsequently targeted by a wave of violence.
In an audio message posted on militant websites, al-Zawahri said it was not in the interest of Muslims to be engaged with the Christians because “we have to be busy confronting the Americanized coup of (Gen. Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi and establish an Islamic government instead.”
El-Sissi is Egypt’s defense minister who overthrew Morsi after millions of Egyptians protested to demand he step down. The head of the Coptic church supported the coup along with other groups.
“We must not seek war with the Christians and thus give the West an excuse to blame Muslims, as has happened before,” al-Zawahiri said.
Although Maamoun Youssef, the AP reporter who wrote this story, portrays it as “a rare call by Ayman al-Zawahri in defense of Christians,” and although the report is titled “Al-Qaida leader opposes fighting Christians,” in fact, Zawahiri’s communique has nothing to do with “defending Christians” or “opposing” the overall jihad on them.
Indeed, Zawahiri himself played an important role in inciting mass violence against Coptic Christians following the anti-Islamist June 2013 Revolution—leading to the destruction of some 80 churches, some with al-Qaeda flags planted atop them.
Moreover, Zawahiri’s like-minded brother and Salafi front-man, Muhammad, allegedly called ousted president Morsi while he was still in office, insisting that the latter take measures to force Christians to pay jizya and live in abject humiliation, according to Koran 9:29.
Instead, Zawahiri’s rationale for this communique “in defense of Christians” is that, in his own words, “We must not seek war with the Christians and thus give the West an excuse to blame Muslims.”
Zawahiri knows that Islamic jihadis waging terrorist attacks on Egypt’s military and state targets will be portrayed in the West as oppressed and frustrated “freedom fighters” doing whatever is necessary to overthrow “tyrannical” powers.
But such “heroic” depictions disappear once these same jihadis persecute the unarmed Christian minorities in their midst simply for being Christian.
Zawahiri understands that, not only are such attacks strategically ineffective—kill all the Copts you want, it won’t bring Morsi back—but they unequivocally expose the true face of the “freedom fighters,” one that can only be seen as inherently fascistic and intolerant.
And the fear that Zawahiri and others have is that some people in the West might actually begin to connect the dots and conclude that, if jihadis persecute Christian minorities simply because they are non-Muslim “infidels,” perhaps that is also the true reason they are at war with Israel, the West, and non-Muslims everywhere.
Perhaps the jihad is less about political and territorial “grievances” and more about religious intolerance and Islamic supremacism—as unprovoked attacks on disenfranchised non-Muslim minorities clearly indicate; as al-Qaeda’s once clandestine writings to fellow Muslims indicate.
Hence, the true reason why the astute Zawahiri is trying to call off the jihad on Christians.
For now, anyway.

State denies Kerry admitted US Syrian failure. Israel shoots down US-led NATO force for Palestinian State
DEBKAfile Special Report February 4, 2014/US Secretary of State John Kerry is under increasing pressure over the Obama’s administration’s Middle East diplomatic policy. Tuesday, Feb. 4, the State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki accused Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham of “mischaracterizing” Kerry’s remarks at a meeting they held Sunday on the Syrian question.
She was referring to their quotes of the Secretary as reporting that the Geneva negotiating process “hasn’t delivered,” that chemical weapons removal is “being slow-rolled;" that the Russians continue to supply arms; and “we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy.”
The Secretary spoke favorably about arming and training the rebels, Graham added.
Psaki denied this quote. “This is a case of members projecting what they want to hear and not stating the accurate facts of what was discussed,” she said.
The State Department spokeswoman used the same tone of haughty reproof when she rejected Israel’s criticism of Kerry’s warning of boycotts if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, when he spoke to the Munich Security Conference Saturday.
“[Mr Kerry] expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements,” she said.
In the case of Syria, whatever the Secretary may have said to the senators, the horrific facts cannot be brushed away. January, 2014, was the bloodiest month of the three-year Syrian civil war amid a strenuous US bid to bring diplomacy to bear for a political solution. Nearly 6,000 people died that month in Syria and the total three-year death toll shot up to at least 136,227, according to figures gathered by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
Clearly something is serious amiss at the Washington end: Geneva II was a fiasco; the deal Kerry struck with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last year for the elimination of Syria’s chemical arsenal is bogged down; the six-power nuclear negotiations with Iran, intended additionally to produce a formula for ending the Syrian conflict, has had the opposite effect: Iranian forces remain involved in the escalation of the slaughter and, while razing street after street in Aleppo with barrel bombs, Bashar Assad retains a firm grip on power.
The two US senators were only stating the obvious when they called on the Secretary of State to account for US policy failures in the face of these disasters.
On another front, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice also rose to Kerry’s defense against the criticism directed against him from Israel. “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable,” she tweeted Monday.
“John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” she wrote, adding, “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures.”
Her last tweet read, “U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
Senior officials in Jerusalem told debkafile in response that no one doubts the president and secretary’s good intentions. But where are those intentions are leading Israel - like Syria, they ask.
In the latest example of a US misconception, the New York Times Monday, Feb. 3 quoted Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas as proposing that a US-led NATO force patrol a future Palestinian state.
Setting aside the impression that the Abbas suggestion was inspired by Washington, it must be asked how the Obama administration imagines Israel will consent to relegating its security and ongoing struggle against Palestinian terrorism to US, British, German or French troops – especially after Afghanistan and Iraq.
Would these imported foreign contingents fight their way through the alleys of the refugee camps of Bethlehem or Jenin to chase down Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorists and confront them in hand to hand combat? Failing this, would trained Israeli anti-terrorist forces be allowed to storm across the border to do the job? Wouldn’t the US-led NATO force stop them at the border of the new Palestinian state?
This and other irreconcilable differences in the approach to Israel’s security may explain the unconfirmed rumor that Secretary Kerry has decided to postpone the presentation of his proposed framework accord to Israel and the Palestinians, realizing that a change in strategy might be useful in this case too.

Debunking Israel's imagined 'Christian awakening'
By REEM KHAMIS-DAKWAR 02/03/2014/Ynetnews
Israel is defined as a Jewish state, which means Jews have exclusive and special rights that are not given to non-Jews
Recently publications have been highlighting “Israel’s Christians Awakening,” arguing that Palestinian Christians in Israel are undergoing a change, separating their identity from the Palestinian minority and enlisting in the Israeli army as a sign of close cooperation with Israeli Jewish society.
Recently Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a special video message to Palestinian Christians citizens of Israel. His message served a twofold purpose: it was both another attempt to present Israel as the protector of Christian minorities (ostensibly in contrast to neighboring countries), and an opportunity to encourage Palestinian Christians citizens of Israel to serve in the Israeli military.
Netanyahu’s message comes at a time of gathering momentum in the international efforts to boycott Israeli institutions. The treatment of Palestinian Christians is particularly crucial to Israel’s image as a “Jewish and democratic state” and its relationship with the Western countries that continue to support it. It is this context that provides a clearer reading of articles about the “Christian awakening.”
I was raised in a Palestinian Catholic family in Nazareth in northern Israel. My parents’ lives revolved around family, work and church. Although I have lived in the US for many years now, I visit my family every summer and am deeply connected with my roots.
As part of this community, I can tell you that Palestinian Christians in Israel are aware of their belonging to the Palestinian people in every aspect of their lives. They live and function within a state that is defined for others, since it is by definition a Jewish state, and policymakers are wholly focused on serving those others. The voices reported in these articles, then, are discordant with this reality, sounding like a cacophony prompted by the Israeli government.
Israel is defined as a Jewish state, which means Jews have exclusive and special rights that are not given to non-Jews. These rights include promotion of Zionist values and history, the disproportionate and beneficial allocation of resources, and other institutional privileges that have direct impact on social structures including immigration, land rights and education.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated as second-class citizens and lack a sense of belonging. They acutely feel a need for protection at all times within the State of Israel, whether they are Christians or not.
Over the years some cabinet ministers and political groups explicitly advocated the transfer of Palestinians citizens and even population swaps in order to maintain Israel’s Jewish majority.
Discriminatory laws and initiatives are passed to prevent Palestinians from connecting to our history, culture and religion. The ‘Nakba law’ prohits state funding to organizations that commemorate our dispossession in 1947-1949. There is also discrimination in approximately 700 agricultural and community towns in Israel on the basis of “social unsuitability,” preventing Christian and Muslim Palestinians from living among the Jewish populations.
These discriminatory practices extend to everyday routines. At this time of year, it is not permitted to display a Christmas tree in the Israeli Knesset, reportedly because such an act would be considered “offensive.” Legal action has even been taken to allow the display of Christmas trees in some public places, such as Haifa University.
Palestinians face discrimination in access to higher education. Housing subsidies are extended to Jewish settlers who want to live in West Bank and east Jerusalem settlements which are illegal under international law. These conditions often make Palestinians desperate to leave the country in search of equality, education, housing and the freedom to celebrate the holidays associated with their religion.
Today, it may be true that there is some “Christian awakening” in Nazareth, but this is not and could not be the awakening described in recent articles. It is an awakening regarding the Israeli government’s attempts to recruit Christians to serve in the Israeli military as part of a divide-and-rule policy. The reported alignment of Palestinian Christians with the Israeli identity and their attempt to disconnect from the Palestinian minority is questionable, at best.
Many Palestinian Christians are aware that serving in the Israeli army contradicts their national interests and even their Christian values and beliefs and would bring them no greater rights, privileges or protections. Members of the Arab Druse community have been serving in the military since the 1950s and yet have not achieved equality; even those serving as officers in the Israel Air Force are subject to unusual screening, as seen during a security exercise at the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
Thousands of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim alike, are struggling daily against discrimination and are determined to seek unconditional full rights for all Israeli citizens.
Against this backdrop, it is foolhardy to claim an “awakening” based on reports of only around 150 Christian Palestinian recruits.
Make no mistake: Palestinian Christians know that joining the Israeli military or enrolling in the newly offered alternative national service will not end discrimination, but will only lead to further alienation and fragmentation.
Those few Palestinian Christians choosing to join the army only highlight the tough choices faced in the face of institutionalized discrimination.
Do they join an army occupying the West Bank to get state benefits, or demand unconditional full equality in solidarity with all Palestinians? Overwhelmingly, Palestinian citizens of Israel – both Christian and Muslim – are choosing to support Palestinian equality.
Today, my father, like many other Palestinian citizens, struggles within Israel to secure equal rights from the state that, following the 1948 war which we call the Nakba or catastrophe, forced him into an orphanage as a child (and his mother and brother into Lebanon as refugees). I live with my father’s personal suffering and loss, with the hope that the common future for us all, Palestinians and Israelis, regardless of religious belonging, will be based on values of equality, justice and mutual respect and not on a spurious call to arms.
**The writer, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel , living in New York and working as an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University.