February 06/14

Bible Quotation for today/There are seven things that the Lord hates and cannot tolerate:
Proverbs 6/16-19: There are seven things that the Lord hates and cannot tolerate:
•A proud look,
•a lying tongue,
•hands that kill innocent people,
•a mind that thinks up wicked plans,
•feet that hurry off to do evil,
•a witness who tells one lie after another,
•and someone who stirs up trouble among friends

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 06/14
US grants Iran a seat at the table of Geneva II conference on Syria round two - alongside big powers/DEBKAfile/February 06/14
A New Approach to the Syria Crisis/By: James F. Jeffrey/Washington Institute/ February 06/14
The World through Arab Eyes/By: Shibley Telhami/February 06/14
Exposed: The Muslim Brotherhood/Al-Qaeda Connection/By Raymond Ibrahim/February 06/14
Zawahiri Aims at Israel: Behind Al Qaeda's Pivot to the Levant/Matthew Levitt/Foreign Affairs/Washington Institute/February 06/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 06/14
Lebanese Related News
Geagea Says Disastrous Situation Could Only be Resolved by Neutral Cabinet
Lebanese Army mulls shooting down Maarab drone
Premier-designate Tammam Salam chases Christian representation
Cabinet Line-up in Coming Days despite Possible Boycott
PSP Mulling Stances if FPM Ministers Step Down from Salam's Cabinet
Maronite declaration to highlight Christians’ role
Al-Rahi Unveils Bkirki Treaty, Urges Need to Hold Presidential Elections, Achieve National Goals
Hariri Hails Bkirki Treaty: It Must Serve as Roadmap for Rise of the State
Italian FM Kicks Off Two-Day Official Visit to Beirut, to Meet Senior Officials
Army Seizes Large Arms Cache at Depot Rented by Syrian Man in Akkar
Arrest Warrant Issued against Abdullah Azzam Brigades Prominent
Three People Arrested over Choueifat Bombing
Security Plan in Dahiyeh Fortified in Attempt to Decrease Rate of Attacks
State Security Directorate Raids Spoiled Food Warehouse in Bar Elias
Alleged Suicide Bomber Denies Plotting Bombing in Nabatiyeh
ISF Officer Testifies at STL over Crater Car Parts, Links to Jamaa Jamaa
30,000 Captagon Pills Seized at RHIA
Army Seizes Drugs in N. Bekaa, Clashes with Fugitives in Brital
Tripoli residents leave as security crumbles
Identity of Shoueifat suicide bomber remains mystery

Miscellaneous Reports And News
Kerry slams 'barbarity' of Syrian regime's barrel bombs
Rejecting US remarks on nuke program, Iran FM says Fordow, Arak are non-negotiable
Knesset meeting on establishing special Christian-Arab representation turns ugly
Israel Okays Plans for over 550 E. Jerusalem Settler Homes
Baghdad Bombs, One near Foreign Ministry, Kill 33
Egypt's Morsi Trial Adjourned to March
Obama Meets War Commanders as Afghan Plan in Limbo
Muqdad Blames 'Terrorism' as Syria Misses Another Chemical Disarmament Deadline
Children in Syria Suffer Unspeakable Abuses in War
Iran Rejects U.S. Remarks on Its Nuclear Facilities

Barry Rubins: Rest In Peace
Elias Bejjani: May the Soul of Barry Rubins Rest in Peace. We missed by the death of Barry Rubins an extra ordinary authority on the Middle East. He was a real pillar on the Middle East Policies.
My condolences to his family and friends.

Geagea Says Disastrous Situation Could Only be Resolved by Neutral Cabinet
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea described the current situation in Lebanon as a “disaster,” reiterating his call for the formation of a so-called neutral government. “This is a disaster for the Lebanese people, who are dying everyday on the roads while seeking their livelihoods amid the difficulties that the economy is confronting and bad living and security conditions,” Geagea told An Nahar newspaper. “I already stressed ten months ago that the solution comes through a neutral cabinet from outside the March 8 and 14 alliances,” he said in remarks published on Wednesday. “The president and the premier-designate should practice their constitutional authorities and immediately start with the formation of such a government,” he said. A political cabinet will be stillborn, the LF chief stressed. Geagea has rejected to take part in an all-embracing government after the rival leaders struck a deal to form a 24-member cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula and the rotation of portfolios among sects. He made his stance despite the approval of his ally in the March 14 alliance al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri to share power with the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp. The cabinet however has faced the last obstacle of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who has rejected the concept of rotation.
Asked about a mysterious drone that has been flying over his residence in Maarab, north of Beirut, Geagea said he contacted President Michel Suleiman, Premier-designate Tammam Salam, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji over the issue. “We received guarantees that the appropriate measures have been taken to prevent it from flying over Maarab,” Geagea told An Nahar. LF MP Antoine Zahra said Tuesday that the drone would not be allowed to fly over Maarab, because it would be shot down by Geagea's guards.

Lebanese Army mulls shooting down Maarab drone
February 05, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army is mulling the possible deployment of anti-aircraft guns to shoot down a mysterious drone that has flown over Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s residence in Maarab, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Tuesday. LF MP Antoine Zahra, meanwhile, said the drone would not be allowed to fly over Maarab, north of Beirut, anymore because it would be shot down by guards protecting Geagea’s residence. The LF informed the Army last week that guards at Geagea’s residence sighted what appeared to be a drone. Last month, the LF had said a drone carried out flights over the Maarab complex for a period of two weeks. Charbel, citing security reports, said the drone episode was not a joke after it had been sighted with the naked eye. “Necessary measures should be taken to protect Maarab and anyone who is exposed to an assassination attempt,” Charbel told the Free Lebanon radio station, saying the Lebanese Army must take action to deal with the drone regardless of where it came from. Asked whether the Army would deploy anti-aircraft guns in Maarab to shoot down the drone, Charbel said it “is among a host of proposals that have been discussed in the past 48 hours.” Israel is known for sending drones on reconnaissance to south Lebanon to monitor Hezbollah’s positions in the area. Zahra described the drone incident as “very serious,” saying it was part of preparations to assassinate Geagea after an abortive attempt to kill him by firing at him in Maarab last year.
“The relevant [security] agencies and the Lebanese state must deal seriously with this issue and tackle it as soon as possible,” Zahra said in an interview with Al-Sharq radio station. He vowed the drone would be shot down if it flew over Geagea’s residence again: “The drone will not be able to fly [over Maarab] anymore because it will be shot down with light and medium weapons.” He added it would be better for the Lebanese security agencies to monitor the drone and shoot it down rather than for guards at Geagea’s residence to do so. March 14 MP Butros Harb and former Internal Security Forces head Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi have also called on the Lebanese Army to take action against the drone that had hovered over Geagea’s residence. “The frequent unknown flights over Maarab are undoubtedly a serious issue that could be part of preparations for an attack on Maarab and Dr. Geagea,” Harb told the Free Lebanon radio station. “Therefore, the state and its security apparatuses, particularly the Lebanese Army, which possesses the equipment that enables it to watch, monitor and prevent any attack, must take the necessary measures to protect Maarab from any possible attack.” Rifi also urged security agencies to take measures to identify the drone, determine its point of origin and mission, and shoot it down using the appropriate means if it turns out to be an enemy aircraft.

Premier-designate Tammam Salam chases Christian representation
February 05, 2014/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Premier-designate Tammam Salam, facing a possible boycott by MP Michel Aoun, scrambled Tuesday to secure sufficient Christian representation by seeking to encourage the Kataeb Party and Marada Movement into joining a national unity government, a senior March 8 source said. The development comes as Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, refused to yield on his opposition to the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios in an all-embracing Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup. But a senior political source told The Daily Star that while the Cabinet lineup has been finalized Tuesday evening, Salam would not reveal the makeup of his 24-member government before Maronite Bishops – expected to hold their monthly meeting Wednesday – voice their stance regarding the Cabinet formation process.
The source said Salam was waiting to see what the bishops have to say about the thorny issues of the rotation of ministerial portfolios, Christian representation within the new Cabinet and the possibility of announcing a fait accompli Cabinet in the event concerned parties stood firm on their demands. Mediation efforts, exerted mainly by Hezbollah with the FPM, have failed to make Aoun drop his demand for retaining the Energy Ministry, currently held by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, to his bloc. As a result, Aoun’s unyielding stance has left Salam only with the choice of proceeding with forming an all-embracing political government even without the FPM leader’s approval. “Efforts are underway to secure Christian representation according to the National Pact [on power sharing among sects] if Aoun decides to withdraw his ministers from the new Cabinet and Hezbollah does the same in a show of solidarity,” the March 8 source told The Daily Star. “Salam is trying to lure former President Amine Gemayel’s Kataeb Party and MP Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement into joining his Cabinet by offering them important ministerial portfolios,” the senior source said. If Aoun and Hezbollah decide to withdraw their ministers from the 8-8-8 Cabinet, the source added, Speaker Nabih Berri would not necessarily do the same, especially if sufficient Christian representation was secured. “But Berri will definitely pull out his ministers if he finds that the Cabinet lacks adequate Christian representation as stipulated by the National Pact,” the source added.
March 14 sources said Berri’s stance on the issue of the ministerial rotation and allotting the Defense and Interior ministries to the March 14 coalition was still unclear.
Berri is inclined to oppose this matter in a show of solidarity with Hezbollah, whose sources said the party would not accept that these two key portfolios go to the Future Movement, a March 14 source said.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt will support Berri in any stance he takes once the decrees of a fait accompli government are issued, a political source said.
A source close to Aoun said his caretaker ministers will not hand over their ministries to ministers in the new Cabinet. In a fresh escalation of his stance on the Cabinet crisis, Aoun lashed out at Salam, accusing him of obstructing the government formation with his insistence on the rotation of ministerial portfolios. He also warned Salam against violating the National Pact on equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians.
Speaking at a news conference after chairing the weekly meeting of his parliamentary Change and Reform bloc, Aoun did not appear to budge on his rejection of the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios among sects and political parties, upheld by Salam since he was appointed on April 6. “The danger in the Cabinet formation process comes as a result of incomplete consultations that eliminated the presence of the main Christian parliamentary bloc,” Aoun said in a clear reference to his bloc. “When we objected to this deliberate mistake, it became clear to us that the agreement [to form an 8-8-8 Cabinet] was made between certain state officials and the prime minister-designate and we had no choice but to accept what had been reached,” he added.The 8-8-8 Cabinet proposal was a compromise reached last month by the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, the Future Movement and the PSP in a bid to break the 10-month-old government stalemate. The concept of rotating portfolios among sects and parties, proposed by Salam and backed by President Michel Sleiman, was part of that deal.
He argued that Salam adopted the principle of ministerial rotation after it was demanded by his political party, the Future Movement.
“[Salam] abstained from directly communicating with the parliamentary blocs concerned with the all-embracing government,” Aoun said. “Therefore, it is obvious that the one who is placing obstacles is the one violating the National Pact, the Constitution and norms.” Apparently referring to his bloc and that of his ally, Hezbollah, Aoun warned against forming a fait accompli government if it is “rejected by major parliamentary blocs that represent the components of this nation with the criteria of parliamentary and popular representation.”“Such a government would contradict the coexistence charter and would be illegitimate,” he said.
Reading from a prepared statement, Aoun warned against violating the National Pact on the country’s power-sharing system. “Beware of messing with national principles at this extremely dangerous and sensitive juncture in the life of our one Lebanese nation,” he said. Aoun has rejected Salam’s eleventh-hour offer to reserve two key ministerial portfolios to the FPM in exchange for abandoning the Energy Ministry.
Salam’s take-it-or-leave-it offer proposes that in addition to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, either the Education or Public Works Ministry be allotted to the FPM in exchange for Aoun giving up the Energy portfolio. – Additional reporting by Hasan Lakkis

Cabinet Line-up in Coming Days despite Possible Boycott
Naharnet/Premier-designate Tammam Salam is expected on Wednesday to make small changes to the government line-up that he will likely announce this week despite a scenario of boycott by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun. After the last-minute check-up on the names and portfolios, Salam is expected to head to Baabda Palace to propose it to President Michel Suleiman. After they both agree on it, they will brief Speaker Nabih Berri and would announce the formation decrees. 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. He stressed that sects must be represented in a “fair manner” in the cabinet lineup. Aoun continues to hold onto his rejection of a cabinet based on the rotation of portfolios despite an agreement reached among the other major factions. But An Nahar daily quoted informed sources as saying on Wednesday that Salam is committed to the Constitution. The newspaper also quoted Salam as telling Speaker Nabih Berri that he exerted strong efforts in the past ten months to form the cabinet. “I don't understand the reason for these obstacles.”His comment to Berri came after the speaker reiterated that he would no longer interfere in the government formation process and that he suggested that the PM-designate continue with his efforts to overcome the obstacles. The speaker was asked by his visitors what his stance would be if the FPM and Hizbullah ministers boycotted the cabinet. “I won't answer such a question now because first of all I would look at the cabinet line-up and check its constitutionality to make a final stance,” Berri said. Berri's remark came amid different scenarios. among them is the pullout of Aoun's ministers from the cabinet and with them the rest of the March 8 ministers. If such a move was made, then Salam would announce his resignation, the sources said. This would force Suleiman to hold new binding consultations with parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister.

PSP Mulling Stances if FPM Ministers Step Down from Salam's Cabinet

Naharnet/Hizbullah, AMAL movement and the Progressive Socialist Party are mulling the possible means to safeguard the upcoming cabinet whereby any presumed resignation by the Free Patriotic Movement ministers wouldn't turn it into a caretaker government. According to As Safir newspaper published on Wednesday, the three parties are seeking to guard the upcoming cabinet amid the delicate situation in the country and the region, stressing that if Hizbullah voiced solidarity with any possible resignation by the FPM ministers then the allies wouldn't have to necessarily take the same stance and sacrifice the cabinet. Sources close to the PSP said that MP Walid Jumblat's ministers might not withdraw if a de-facto cabinet was formed as there is no excuse if an all-embracing cabinet was formed, which includes all parties. Head of the FPM MP Michel Aoun's insistence to keep the energy portfolio, which is held by Jebran 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. However, As Safir gave another scenario to the matter, saying that the resignation of Aoun's ministers from Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's cabinet will lead to the solidarity of Hizbullah and AMAL's ministers. The report pointed out that Jumblat's ministers might consolidate with the March 8 prominent parties and step down as well, which will turn the unborn cabinet into a caretaker one.Jumblat's Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour met with President Michel 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. Aoun slammed Salam's endeavors on Tuesday, accusing him of impeding the cabinet formation process by insisting on the rotation of ministerial portfolios.

Tripoli residents leave as security crumbles
February 05, 2014/By Misbah al-Ali/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Both Christian and Muslim residents of Tripoli are considering leaving the volatile northern city in light of the deteriorating security situation and the rise of religious extremism. Samir Khoury, a Christian, who grew up in the mixed Zahrieh neighborhood of Tripoli, decided to leave behind all the sweet memories of the city and look for a house in Koura, the closest qada to Tripoli.
“I am destined to leave Zahrieh after all these years because I cannot take it anymore. My liquor business has slowed down after my shop in the Tal Square was attacked for three consecutive times due to the rise of extremists,” Khoury told The Daily Star. Khoury’s family, which hails from the Akkar village of Rahbeh, moved to Zahrieh in the early 20th century.
“My sons Jihad and Hanna have gone to the Gulf and Africa to seek a better future, and my wife and I are left with the option of leaving our neighborhood, people and friends due to the lack of security,” Khoury said.
Since the start of Syria’s civil war in March 2011, Tripoli has witnessed rounds of fighting between supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the mainly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Moshen and their rivals in the predominantly Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh. Armed groups, some made up of hard-line Salafists, have proliferated in Bab al-Tabbaneh and other districts of the city. Personal disputes involving gunfights have become an almost daily occurrence. Khoury said that when he traveled through the city everyday at 7 p.m. all he found was empty streets and closed cafes, which he blames on the absence of Army and Internal Security Forces patrols. Khoury explained that he did not feel targeted in Tripoli because he was a Christian, but because he was a proponent of diversity in Tripoli. “My friends and the friends of my sons are Muslims. I am secular and I go to church only for family occasions,” he said. “The problem is not sectarian, but there are some groups who want to confiscate the life of Tripoli” and impose their own lifestyle, he added. Khoury, previously a bank manager, said he couldn’t spend more than two weeks away from the city because he missed it too much.
“Even when there was civil war, there was passion for life and the city was bustling. On weekends, I used to spend the day in Tripoli and stay late at night before heading to sleep in my beautiful village in Akkar,” Khoury said. Khoury is not the only Christian who has decided to leave Tripoli out of fear for his safety. Many have already moved to the village of Majdlaya in Zghorta and the Koura villages of Dahr al-Ayn and Barsa.
Victor Ibrahim is irritated by the clashes that broke out between gunmen over the weekend in Tripoli’s old quarter, during which fighters also looted jewelry shops. One was killed and several others wounded in the violence before Army units intervened and restored calm Sunday morning. “Is it acceptable that thugs control our lives because of the random proliferation of arms and because the Army and Internal Security Forces are not taking any action?” Ibrahim asked angrily.
Although a stun grenade was tossed at St. Georges Church in Zahrieh last month, Ibrahim said he didn’t believe that Christians in particular were being targeted in Tripoli. However, he acknowledged many Christians had left the city because of the security situation. Yet despite all this, Father Ibrahim Sarrouj, the head of Zahrieh’s parish, is optimistic.
“Life is good,” said Sarrouj, whose historic Al-Saeh library containing 85,167 book titles was torched – reportedly by extremists – just last month. “My library was not targeted because I am a Christian cleric. But I won’t hide my great fear that Tripoli is ceasing to be such an open city as a result of the daily security incidents plaguing the city for the last two years,” Sarrouj said. He called on the people of Tripoli to defend themselves by sticking by their city and not losing hope. He pointed to the murder of Mikhael Farah, who also owned a library in Tripoli, by gunmen during the Civil War.
“Farah was a Marxist and communist – not religious. But his name and sect were a reason for gunmen to stop him at checkpoint and kill him,” he said. “Up until today, many still recall the incident as an occasion to ostracize sectarianism.” Another indicator of the lack of security and loss of confidence in authorities was the resort of some of Tripoli’s politicians to private security measures to protect themselves.
Sources told The Daily Star that one of the moderate politicians in the northern city who had previously championed calls for strengthening the state, had asked three of his aides to start building up a security team. Apparently, they have begun to recruit gunmen who will be paid LL1 million a month and have access to health insurance. Ismail Nabulsi, a Muslim resident of Tripoli, also said he felt his lifestyle in Tripoli was being targeted.
“I don’t feel I belong to a city with no nightlife, where I cannot have alcohol and enjoy my time with friends,” Nabulsi said. “I also cannot live in a city where I don’t have a Christian neighbor who is my soulmate. I would feel like a foreigner. Maybe I too will leave the city in the future.”

Italian FM Kicks Off Two-Day Official Visit to Beirut, to Meet Senior Officials

Naharnet/Visiting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino kicked off an official tour on senior Lebanese officials on Wednesday to discuss the bilateral ties between the two countries and the latest developments locally and in the region. Bonino held talks with her Lebanese counterpart Adnan Mansour at the Bustros Palace. The Italian official told reporters after meeting Mansour that there is “no magical solution for the terrorist groups that have been globalizing.”The official held separate talks later on with President Michel Suleiman and Speaker Nabih Berri, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and Premier-designate Tammam Salam. Bonino arrived on Tuesday night to Beirut on a two-day official visit. She is also inspected the Italian contingent operating within the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and met with UNIFIL Commander Paolo Serra, who is an Italian general. “Italy will not reduce the size of the Italian contingent,” Bonino told Mansour. She also called on state institutions to become active and play their effective role. For his part, Mansour lauded the bilateral ties between the two countries. “We tackled the regional and international situation... and its impact on Lebanon,” he pointed out. Italian PM Letta arrived in Lebanon in December where he discussed with senior officials the need to help Lebanon confront the crisis of Syrian refugees and fortify the capabilities of LAF. Bonino stressed to Suleiman that Italy will coordinate with the concerned countries preparations for an international conference in Rome set to tackle the capabilities of the Lebanese Armed force. She expressed her country's constant solidarity with Lebanon. Suleiman praised the role played by Italy in Lebanon and the region. After talks with Miqati, Bonino pointed out that a meeting will be held in March to prepare for the International conference, which is expected to be held in April. Italy continuously expressed support to Lebanon to help it confront the crisis of Syrian refugees in Lebanon in accordance with the decisions reached by the International Support Group for Lebanon. The support group was inaugurated in New York in September 2013,on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government.

ISF Officer Testifies at STL over Crater Car Parts, Links to Jamaa Jamaa
Naharnet/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon heard on Wednesday the testimony of an Internal Security Forces officer, who claimed that several metal pieces recovered from the crater caused by the massive bombing on Feb. 14, 2005, belonged to a vehicle from the motorcade of ex-PM Rafik Hariri and the Mitsubishi van that the suicide bomber used. The prosecution's witness, who went by a code number and whose identity remained protected, appeared via video link from Beirut. The Defense focused its cross-examination of the witness to his ties with late Syrian intelligence officer Jamaa Jamaa. The witness confirmed that he attended a meeting at the military court in Beirut the day Hariri was assassinated and that several explosives experts showed the conferees two pieces of metal that they had found in the crater caused by the massive blast. The witness said several days later he and other experts were handed several more metal parts that the army's engineering unit had found at the blast scene. He told the court, in response to Prosecution questions, that some of the pieces belonged to a Mercedes from Hariri's motorcade, from a Volkswagen, and others belonged to the Mitsubishi as confirmed by the engineers at the van company's agent in Beirut. He also said that at a later stage divers retrieved some parts from the seabed. The witness said every time new items emerged, the ISF took them to the Mitsubishi agent for confirmation they belonged to the van. The found items were mentioned on a map with a code M referring to the Mitsubishi. Another map had mentioned the parts belonging to the Mitsubishi and body parts of persons present at the site where the explosion went off. The Prosecution later presented as exhibits numerous pieces of the Mitsubishi van allegedly used in the Hariri bombing. The protected witness was then cross-examined by Counsel for suspect Hussein Hassan Oneissi, Philippe Larochelle, who asked him about how he knew Jamaa. Larochelle revealed that Jamaa had contacted the witness on February 15, 2005 and that the witness was himself the one telephoning the Syrian official. The witness, who seemed nervous during the Defense's cross-examination, described Jamaa as an acquaintance and asserted that he was not someone whom he was in constant contact with. Larochelle noted however that telephone records showed that the two officials were in fact in constant contact throughout March 2005, adding that the witness had first telephoned Jamaa on January 7 of that same year. The protected witness said that he no longer remembers the details of that time, adding however that he was introduced to Jamaa by members of his ISF bureau. He revealed that the Syrian official was seeking information from him over the Hariri bombing and the developments related to it. Jamaa was one of Syria's top security officers in Lebanon during Damascus's military deployment in the country between 1976 and 2005. He was killed in October 2013 “while carrying out his national duties to defend Syria and its people and pursuing terrorists in Deir Ezzor," Syrian state television said. State media gave no immediate details on where in the province Jamaa was killed or how, but jihadist forums said he died during clashes with jihadist fighters in the city of Deir Ezzor.
Counsel for suspect Mustafa Amine Badreddine, lain Edwards, then began cross-examining the protected witness, but his questioning was postponed to Thursday due to time constraints. The cross-examination of the witness will continue at 11 am Beirut time on Thursday. Four Hizbullah suspects - Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Oneissi, and Assad Sabra, 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.

Alleged Suicide Bomber Denies Plotting Bombing in Nabatiyeh

NaharnetظA Lebanese man, Mohammed Hussein Shamkha, filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office in Nabatiyeh on Wednesday after an unidentified person posted his photograph on social networking sites accusing him of being a suicide bomber. The suspect also broadcast his photo on WhatsApp, claiming that Shamkha is an armed terrorist from Akkar who intends to blow himself up in Nabatiyeh. The victim briefed security and military officers at the Nabatiyeh's Serail about the accusations. He claimed that he was not going to work and was staying at home out of fear of being attacked. Khansa, who works at a bakery, said in a statement that he did not belong to any party and condemned all terrorist bombings in Lebanon.

Rai warns Lebanon heading into the abyss
February 05, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Wednesday electing a new president on time was a necessary condition for a strong state and warned that power-hungry politicians implicating Lebanon in regional conflicts were leading the country into the abyss. Reading a National Charter drafted by the Maronite Church as a roadmap for what he described as a critical stage in the history of Lebanon and the region, the Maronite leader also stressed the need for adherence to the three principles upon which the country was established: coexistence, the National Pact and Muslim-Christian partnership.
“Electing a new president as a new head of state within the constitutional deadlines is not debatable and it is a primary condition because its absence means an absence of the state and its future,” Rai said during a televised news conference. Rai also outlined what he said were the growing concerns of Lebanese, saying the Maronite Church could not remain quiet as the country neared an “existential crisis.”
“The Lebanese should recognize that a national plan cannot be applied unless it produces a just, productive and capable state or else it will threaten the Lebanese entity,” Rai said.
“Those adopting self-security measures justify them by [highlighting] the inability of the state as well the people’s right to self-defense. This leads to a scenario wherein the strongest party imposes its choices on others and the other parties seek empowerment through foreign sides,” he said.
Rai added that such a scenario meant Lebanon was being dragged into the “war of axes” and experiencing an unprecedented, “dangerous political paralysis.”
“This is our biggest concern and so we warn the Lebanese, particularly officials, against continuing to exclude others, remaining obstinate and power hungry because that will only drive Lebanon to the abyss,” he said.
Rai said people were also concerned about “political practices [aimed at] quotas and authority rather than justice ... leading to a struggle for power at the expense of the National Pact, sabotaging the Constitution and paralyzing the state in the interest of foreign axes.” “One of the consequences of disrupting institutions is that rather than [seeing] the democratic practice of rotation of power, constitutional deadlines turn into crises,” he said.
Rai listed some of the consequences of disrupting institutions as being the inability to draft a new electoral law, form a government and “fears of a vacuum in the presidential post.”
The patriarch also criticized involving Lebanon in the matters of neighboring states without taking into consideration the repercussions on the country, reiterating his call for the adoption of “positive neutrality” toward the turmoil in the region. “We identify with what some have said that complete neutrality ... isolates Lebanon from issues around it and prevents it from being a part of regional dialogues aimed at coming up with solutions ... Neutrality is the most successful means to preserve diversity in [made up] countries,” he said.
“For a neutral Lebanon to represent its [peaceful] message it should be strong enough to defend itself ... and it should be at a distance from regional conflicts as stipulated in the Baabda Declaration,” he added.
The patriarch said the declaration was an important mechanism to prevent Lebanon from being used as a conduit for activities that could involve it in regional conflicts.
The 2012 agreement among the country’s political rivals could also be used to develop a needed national defense strategy, he said.
Lebanon, Rai also said, needed foundations on which a better future for the Lebanese could be built, saying officials should recognize the country’s highest national interest and resume National Dialogue sessions in order to resolve the current crisis.
The preacher also called for an end to the crisis in Syria through a national dialogue in which Syrians could decide their own fate.
“A speedy resolution to the crisis [in Syria] and the return of refugees to their land are vital Lebanese interests,” he said.
Rai concluded the charter with several priorities he said officials needed to take into account, namely adherence to the Constitution and ensuring the state enjoyed the exclusive right to the use of force.
“We must guard Constitutional principles by applying true equality between Christians and Muslims in governance and administration and equality in rights and duties,” he said.
“We need a serious commitment to building a strong state by preserving sovereignty, maintaining for the state the exclusive [right to] use of force, strengthening the Army and security forces, protecting an independent judiciary, imposing the rule of law and ending political meddling in the public sector,” the Maronite leader said.
Among the other priorities Rai listed were the drafting of a new elections law, adoption of administrative decentralization and adherence to the Taef Accord, Lebanon’s amended Constitution.
“We should also look into clarifying and improving the Taef Accord in order to fill the gaps in the president’s prerogatives so that the president can ensure the stability of the system and [that there be no] paralysis as demanded by the Constitution,” he said.

Al-Rahi Unveils Bkirki Treaty, Urges Need to Hold Presidential Elections, Achieve National Goals

NaharnetظMaronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi unveiled on Wednesday the “Bkirki Treaty” that focuses on preserving Lebanon's coexistence and national pact and fabric.
He stressed the importance of staging the presidential elections, while urging officials to place Lebanon's interests at heart of their actions. He announced the treaty, which is based on the three principles of coexistence, the national pact, and national fabric, on the occasion of Mar Maroun that falls on February 9. “Coexistence is not a temporary matter, but it is at the heart of the Lebanese experience, despite some sides' skepticism of this principle,” he remarked. “Coexistence lies in belonging to a civilized project that brings together Muslims and Christians,” he declared. This civilized project is based on freedom, fair participation in rule, and maintaining Lebanon's diversity, explained the patriarch. “Lebanon is constantly evolving through the experience of coexistence,” he remarked. Addressing the national pact, al-Rahi said that this issue is “not ephemeral or a series of temporary agreements that one can back down on when his interests are threatened.” On Lebanon's fabric, he noted that historic experiences have proven that the country cannot rise without its Muslim and Christians.
“This fabric was never based on who has greater numbers,” he said while reading the Bkirki treaty that was declared after the Maronite bishops' monthly council. “The Lebanese should be proud of the political and constitutional achievements they made while building their country decades ago. This same spirit must be regained at this critical time,” stressed al-Rahi. The church cannot stand idly by as dangers are threatening Lebanon, he stated.
“The Lebanese can save themselves through completing the construction of the state and they should realize that any national project that does not serve national interests will fail,” he warned.
He cautioned officials that their greed for power will only lead Lebanon towards the abyss. Furthermore, he warned that the obstruction of state and constitutional institutions will result in the obstruction of the parliamentary and presidential elections. “The elections should serve as democratic opportunities to practice the rotation of power,” he explained. “Lebanon must stage the elections in order to demonstrate that it truly is a democratic country that it boasts to be and in order to prove that it respects the rotation of power,” demanded the Maronite patriarch. “Electing a new president is a main condition for the rise of the state and there can be no move forward without it,” he added. The Bkirki treaty also emphasized the need to maintain Lebanon's “positive neutrality, which is based on its defensive abilities that are bolstered by the army and various security forces.”Lebanon must be strong enough to defend itself and serve its surroundings in order to achieve its message of diversity, noted al-Rahi. To this end, Lebanon should remain neutral from regional and international conflicts as stipulated by the Baabda Declaration.
“Helping Lebanon end its crisis lies solely in returning to higher national interests that are based on the national pact and constitution,” stressed al-Rahi. This can be achieved through internal dialogue that can help assert real peace, he explained. The new president is tasked with resuming the national dialogue among the Lebanese foes, the patriarch added. He also stressed the need hold the presidential elections on time and form a new government.

Maronite declaration to highlight Christians’ role
February 05, 2014/By Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star
The formation of a much-needed all-embracing Cabinet is still obstructed by difficult consultations but is not impossible, well-informed sources told The Daily Star. “Consultations aimed at forming a new Cabinet are tough but not impossible, although the decisions to be made [by the various political parties] are not easy. And it is impossible to overlook the Christian parties’ demands and form a Cabinet in which the two most prominent Christian parties, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, are not represented,” the sources said. This has been made crystal clear by the Maronite patriarchate’s declaration to be launched Wednesday, a document that would include a historic playback of the body’s role in building the Lebanese state and its steadfast commitment to the principles of partnership, coexistence, the National Pact and protecting the role of Christians in the country. The declaration will demand the implementation of decentralization as a preliminary step for balanced development in Lebanon and will reiterate the importance of the country’s disassociation policy.
The Daily Star received information that Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai delegated a committee of civilian and religious specialists to prepare the declaration. It will be similar in its stance to the various famous Bkirki Appeals, the most important among which is the 2005 version, which called for the departure of the Syrian army from Lebanon. The declaration will also propose solutions and suggestions to reassure the Christians.
The sources noted that Rai had made the necessary adjustments to the document and announced his full agreement on every article in it. The patriarchate’s declaration will focus on three issues, according to the sources.
First, it will remind people of the upcoming first centenary of the 1920 declaration of Grand Lebanon, which will occur in six years, and the importance of this milestone and its patriotic significance. It will point out the basic values on which an independent Lebanon has been built on, such as coexistence among the different components of the national family. The paper will raise a crucial question: What kind of future do the Lebanese want for their country? Second, it will touch on the current political practice and the necessity of going back to the National Pact, which it says should be the base of inter-Lebanese relations. The declaration will stress that moving forward is dependent on resorting to this pact and every article of the Lebanese Constitution. Third, it will stress that any attempt to amend the Constitution or the Taif agreement should be done with the goal of developing the pact and the political system in a way that allows all the Lebanese parties and groups to participate in a fair manner in the political process. Amending the Taif Accord should be restricted to clarifying any confusion or ambiguity in its articles in order to correct the Lebanese political process, the declaration will say, as the Constitution – which was amended under the Taif pact – is being interpreted in different ways by various political parties.

Hariri Hails Bkirki Treaty: It Must Serve as Roadmap for Rise of the State
Naharnet /Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised on Wednesday the Bkirki Treaty that was announced by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, saying that it represents a “true Lebanese vision of coexistence” in Lebanon.
He said in a statement: “The treaty should serve as a roadmap for the rise of the state.”It must also pave the way for fortifying national unity and supporting legitimate state institutions, he added. Hariri said that the treaty should also end the “political and security deterioration in the country.”“The Mustaqbal Movement will strongly support the national principles voiced in the treaty, which has become a necessity to protect Lebanon and restore the role of its state institutions,” he remarked. Al-Rahi had unveiled earlier on Wednesday the treaty which calls for holding the presidential elections on time. It also demanded that political powers adhere to the country's national pact and place national interests above personal ones.

Arrest Warrant Issued against Abdullah Azzam Brigades Prominent Official
Naharnet/Military Tribunal Judge Imad al-Zein interrogated on Wednesday Jamal Daftardar, who is a prominent official in Abdullah Azzab Brigades, and issued an arrest warrant against him. The state-run National News Agency reported that al-Zein postponed a trial against Daftardar, who was arrested in the western Bekaa region on January 15, and 12 others to February 19. Daftardar was charged with belonging to the Ziad al-Jarrah Battalion, a part of the al-Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades. He was also charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks, forging Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian identification paper. In January, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged 13 people, including Daftardar with belonging to the armed terrorist group, the al-Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades. They were accused of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon and recruiting and training individuals ahead of transporting them outside of Lebanon. Saqr also charged them with issuing fake identification papers, firing rockets towards Israel, and possessing weapons and explosives. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for several suicide attack in Lebanon.

Three People Arrested over Choueifat Bombing

Naharnet/State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr ordered on Wednesday the arrest of three people over Choueifat bombing, state-run National News Agency reported. According to NNA, the Judge referred the three suspects to the Army Intelligence Directorate for further questioning. The news agency said that among the three detained men was the taxi driver, who transported the suicide bomber to Chouiefat. On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up on board a minibus south of Beirut Monday killing himself and wounding two people. The blast is the fifth to hit Lebanon this year, and comes after at least four people were killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing in the eastern town of Hermel. Choueifat lies south of Beirut, not far from the suburbs of the city, which have been targeted in multiple bomb attacks in past months. Explosions in Lebanon have created a climate of fear in the country, with residents increasingly nervous about unfamiliar cars and certain neighborhoods. Many have targeted strongholds of Hizbullah, which has drawn the ire of Sunni extremist groups in part because of its role fighting alongside the regime in Syria.

Identity of Shoueifat suicide bomber remains mystery
February 05, 2014/By Rima S. Aboulmona/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Investigators intensified efforts Tuesday to determine the identity of a suicide bomber who blew himself up on board a passenger van south of Beirut a day earlier, with one security source saying he was a Syrian national. Meanwhile, Army Intelligence continued to interrogate taxi driver Issa Ghosn, a stateless resident of Lebanon who dropped the suicide bomber off in the town of Shoueifat, where he blew himself up shortly after, wounding the bus driver as well as a passerby. Ghosn told interrogators he picked up the suicide bomber from Khaldeh, south of Beirut, outside Chamsine Bakeries, a popular bakery in the area, security sources said.
The bomber asked to be taken to Shoueifat, Ghosn told investigators. He also asked about directions to a factory that refills butane bottles in Bir Hasan, a neighborhood in south Beirut. Ghosn said he was scared when he noticed that the bomber had an AK-47 and asked him to get out of his cab near the Richani gas station in Shoueifat. The driver told the bomber there were several vans there that could take him to his destination.
Interrogators kept Ghosn in custody because he had failed to report the incident, the sources said, pointing out that the taxi driver should have notified authorities that a man holding an AK-47 was asking for directions to a factory in Bir Hasan. The sources said that investigators found broken pieces of the Soviet-made weapon at the crime scene and that police were analyzing footage from CCTV cameras in the area. Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr ordered for the explosion site to be reopened to traffic after forensic experts finished their work. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel confirmed that interrogation of Ghosn was ongoing. “Nothing can be said before [police] complete 24 hours of interrogation,” Charbel informed The Daily Star. Charbel said he could not yet confirm whether Ghosn was linked to the bomber.
In separate remarks to a local media outlet, Charbel said he believed the suicide bomber was heading to Beirut’s southern suburbs, which lie just north of Shoueifat. A wave of attacks, including suicide bombings, have recently targeted the area where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.
Most were claimed by radical Syrian rebel groups that said the attacks were in retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, which they are fighting alongside President Bashar Assad. The Nusra Front in Lebanon, an offshoot of the radical Syrian rebel group, claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack. One security source told The Daily Star the bomber was Syrian. Hussein Deeb Msheik, the 22-year-old driver of the van, suffered serious wounds from Monday’s attack. However, his health has since improved, and his doctor said Tuesday that he was in a stable condition. Interrogators have already taken Msheik’s testimony.
Msheik “is out of the danger zone after successful surgeries to the liver, lungs and abdominal wall,” surgeon Mohammad Idriss at Rasoul Aazam Hospital told The Daily Star. Idriss said Msheik underwent surgery to treat tendon injuries to his hands and severe gashes on both of his legs. Originally sent to Kamal Jumblatt Hospital in Shoueifat, he was transferred to the Rasoul Aazam Hospital in Beirut’s southern suburbs later Tuesday.
Msheik’s father, Deeb Msheik, said his son told him that the bomber blew himself up after his son threatened to hand the man over to a nearby Army post because he was suspicious of the unusually “bloated” passenger. Deeb said his son stopped the van and was getting out of it when the bomber detonated his explosive belt. Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, the head of Hezbollah’s executive council, said that ongoing attacks against the party’s supporters would not push them to abandon resistance. “These stupid people are disillusioned if they think that with a suicide bomber here and a crazy man there they can alter the balance or affect this society [of resistance],” Safieddine said during a ceremony in the south Beirut suburb of Ghobeiri. “This is because we are a society that knows how to transform injustice and aggression into resistance, strength,” Safieddine added. The United States condemned the Shoueifat bombing Monday. “The Lebanese people should not have to live in fear as they conduct their daily lives. All parties in Lebanon must exercise restraint and refrain from contributing to the cycle of violence,” said Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State. “We would again call for the full implementation of the Baabda declaration, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and the Taif agreement.”
Separately, Investigative Judge Nabil Wehbe issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for detained Sheikh Omar Atrash over his alleged involvement in several car bombings that have rocked Beirut’s southern suburbs and attacks targeting the Lebanese Army. The arrest warrant was issued against Atrash on charges of recruiting individuals to join armed terrorist groups, detonating bombs and vehicle rigged with explosives as well as bringing weapons and rockets from Syria into Lebanon. A judicial source told The Daily Star that Wehbe postponed Atrash’s interrogation, which was scheduled for Tuesday, after his attorney Tarek Shindob requested the annulment of statements obtained from the suspect, arguing they were made under duress due to treatment constituting torture. No date has been set for the next interrogation session. – Additional reporting by Dana Khraiche

Army Seizes Large Arms Cache at Depot Rented by Syrian Man in Akkar

Naharnet/The Army Intelligence and State Security forces discovered in the northern region of Akkar on Wednesday a warehouse storing weapons, reported the National News Agency. The army and security forces raided the warehouse, which was being rented by a Syrian refugee. The warehouse, located in the outskirts of the town of Aidamoun in the northern region of al-Qoubaiyat, stored grad rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, machineguns, sniper rifles, and various explosives. NNA did not disclose whether the Syrian refugee who was renting the warehouse was arrested. Later on Wednesday, the Army Command said in a statement: “As part of efforts to preserve security and stability and combat all forms of crime, an army patrol raided a deserted house in the outskirts of the town of Aidamoun in Akkar, which turned out to be an arms depot rented by Syrian national Wael Abdul Karim.” Six mortars and eight mortar shells of various calibers, a Grad rocket, two heavy machineguns, two sniper rifles, 23 anti-personnel landmines, ammunition of various types and a large quantity of gunpowder were found in the storehouse, according to the army statement.

Army Seizes Drugs in N. Bekaa, Clashes with Fugitives in Brital

Naharnet/The army on Wednesday confiscated a quantity of narcotics and two stolen cars in two Bekaa towns. “A Lebanese Army force raided the town of Jabbouleh in northern Bekaa, seizing a quantity of drugs and contraband material from the residence of A. Gh.,” state-run National News Agency reported. The force also cracked down on fugitives wanted for car theft in the town of Brital, seizing a black Mercedes and an SUV. The raid involved an exchange of gunfire with the wanted men, according to NNA. Several citizens have said in recent months that their stolen cars -- some of which were used in bomb attacks – were sold by Brital-based individuals to Syrian citizens who would then take the vehicles into Syria. Earlier on Wednesday, al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Assem Araji told Radio Orient that “whenever a bombing happens in Lebanon, all eyes turn to (the Bekaa border town of) Arsal and the nearby areas.” “That's why security agencies must perform their duties and unveil the destination of the cars that are being stolen,” Araji said, noting that “the cars that are being stolen are being sent to Brital.”
Lebanon has been rocked by five deadly bombings this year, which targeted areas considered sympathetic to Hizbullah.

30,000 Captagon Pills Seized at RHIA
Naharnet/Security forces foiled on Wednesday an attempt to smuggle 30,000 captagon pills via Rafik Hariri International Airport. "After a thorough investigation, airport security at the Beirut Airport were able to foil an attempt to smuggle a large quantity of captagon pills,” the Internal Security Forces General-Directorate said in a released statement, noting that they were bound for an Arab country. "The 30,000 captagon pills' weight is estimated at 5,475 kilograms,” it added. The ISF's statement revealed that the pills were placed inside holes that were carved on clothes hangers for this purpose. "The hangers were in the luggage bag of a Syrian national, identified as M.M. (born 1958).”The man confessed to planning a smuggling operation and was referred with the seized pills to the anti-drug bureau for further investigation, according to the same source.

State Security Directorate Raids Spoiled Food Warehouse in Bar Elias

Naharnet/The General Directorate of State Security raided on Wednesday a warehouse in Bar Elias area in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley and seized spoiled food, the state-run National News Agency reported. According to the news agency, the son of the warehouse owner Omar H. was detained. The NNA reported that the warehouse was raided after receiving information about containing spoiled food and carrying out the necessary investigations. Omar was summoned by the security forces. Last year, the Consumer Protection Directorate raided several warehouses in al-Fanar, Tarik el-Jadeedah and Beirut’s southern suburbs that were selling spoiled meat and food products.

Security Plan in Dahiyeh Fortified in Attempt to Decrease Rate of Attacks

Naharnet/Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said on Wednesday that the security plan adopted in Beirut's southern suburb is not similar to the one implements in Baalbek, stressing on the complete coordination between the Army and the Internal Security Forces. “Everyone supports security forces in carrying out the security plan,” Charbel said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper. A prominent security source told the newspaper that the security plan adopted in Dahiyeh have been modified after the increase in suicide attacks in the area. “More than 1,000 security member have been distributed in Dahiyeh recently and fixed checkpoints have been erected at its entrances,” the source said. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, the army is deploying heavily in Beirut's southern suburbs to safeguard the area and its residence. The army is accompanied by forces from ISF, general security and state security, which are carrying out patrols and checking the identification papers of passers-by. The limited number of the ISF members isn't enough to guarantee the security of the whole country, which made the plan restricted to only Dahiyeh at the time, Charbel pointed out. A security plan for Dahiyeh, which has been the scene of several suicide bombings recently, was rolled out in September.
Another security plan was implement in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern city of Baalbek. Explosions in Lebanon have created a climate of fear in the country, with residents increasingly nervous about unfamiliar cars and certain neighborhoods. On Monday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt inside a minibus in Choueifat region in south of Beirut, wounding two people. The blast is the fifth to hit Lebanon this year, and comes after at least four people were killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing in the eastern town of Hermel. Many have targeted strongholds of Hizbullah, which has drawn the ire of Sunni extremist groups in part because of its role fighting alongside the regime in Syria. Though the group appears to be the target of the attacks, those killed in the bombings have largely been civilians. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades have both claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Lebanon. A group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon has also claimed responsibility for two bomb attacks in the country, though it is unclear if the organization is officially linked to the group of the same name in Syria.

Muqdad Blames 'Terrorism' as Syria Misses Another Chemical Disarmament Deadline

Naharnet /Syria's said Wednesday it remains committed to destroying its chemical weapons despite "difficulties" caused by its conflict, as it missed another deadline under an international deal which averted U.S. military action.
"Difficulties that Syria faces, particularly in the framework if its fight against terrorism, may at times prevent it from implementing some of its commitments," said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad. But the Syrian government is committed to the deal under which it must turn over all its chemical weapons by mid-2014, he said, quoted by state news agency SANA. Despite the delays, Muqdad said Syria was working "with determination, strength and credibility to fully implement the agreements with the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons (OPCW)." The comments came as Syria missed another key deadline in the process of dismantling and destroying its chemical arsenal. It was due to have removed all so-called "category two" chemicals, among the less dangerous of those its possesses, from its territory. Asked in The Hague if the deadline had been met, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told Agence France Presse: "There is no reason to comment. The situation is evident."In addition to 700 tonnes of the most lethal chemicals -- that should have left the war-wracked country on December 31 -- 500 tonnes of "category two" chemicals was supposed to have been shipped out by Wednesday. Just two small shipments of chemicals have left the Syrian port of Latakia, accounting for less than four percent of the country's declared arsenal of most dangerous chemicals, the United States said last month. The U.N. Security Council last year backed a U.S.-Russian deal to destroy Syria's vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert U.S. strikes threatened after chemical attacks near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime. Under the agreement, Syria's entire chemical arsenal is to be eliminated by June 30. Syria has declared around 700 tonnes of most-dangerous chemicals, 500 tonnes of less-dangerous precursor chemicals and around 122 tonnes of isopropanol, which can be used to make sarin. Syria's ally Russia has played down the delays, saying on Tuesday that another stockpile would be shipped out this month. "I would not dramatize the disarmament issue," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency. "Literally yesterday the Syrians announced that they are planning to move out a large amount of chemical substances in February," he added. "They are ready to complete this process by March 1, in accordance with the deadlines set by the OPCW."Source/Agence France Presse

Children in Syria Suffer Unspeakable Abuses in War
Naharnet/Children enduring the war in Syria have suffered terrible abuses, with the government and allied militia responsible for many killings, maiming and torture, according to a grim U.N. report. Rebels have also recruited youngsters as soldiers and used terror tactics in civilian areas, according to the U.N.'s first report on this area of the conflict that was released to the Security Council on Tuesday. It detailed gruesome incidents of torture including children being raped or beaten with metal cables, suffering electric shocks to the genitals and having their fingernails ripped out. "Violations must come to an end now," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report. "I therefore urge all parties to the conflict to take, without delay, all measures to protect and uphold the rights of all children in Syria." The report covered the period from March 1, 2011 to November 15 last year in a conflict that has now left more than 135,000 people dead. It details a series of abuses Syrian children have suffered since the opposition rose up to try to depose President Bashar Assad.
They range from direct commission of abuse, including sexual violence, to more general violation of their rights, from school closures and denial of access to humanitarian aid, the U.N. website said, quoting from the report.
"The present report highlights that use of weaponry and military tactics that are disproportionate and indiscriminate by Government forces and associated militias has resulted in countless killings and the maiming of children, and has obstructed children's access to education and health services," Ban wrote. "Government forces have also been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children," he added. "Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations, including using terror tactics, in civilian-populated areas, leading to civilian casualties, including children." The report highlights the disappearance of many children and says all parties to the war have seriously hampered delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas most affected by the fighting.
It also warned that children have experienced a high level of distress by witnessing the killing and injuring of members of their families and peers, or of being separated from their family and/or displaced. The report details the detention of children as young as 11 for alleged association with armed groups by government forces in large-scale arrest campaigns. It says youngsters were ill-treated and tortured to extract confessions or humiliate them, or pressure a relative to surrender or confess. "Ill treatment and acts tantamount to torture reportedly included beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shock, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails; sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives," the report said. "Reports indicate that children were also suspended from walls or ceilings by their wrists or other limbs, were forced to put their head, neck and legs through a tire while being beaten, and were tied to a board and beaten."
The report cites a 16-year-old boy as saying he witnessed a 14-year-old male friend being sexually assaulted and then killed. It notes other allegations that boys and in a few instances girls were raped. The 16-year-old said children and adults were beaten with metal bars, their fingernails pulled out, their fingers cut. "Or they were beaten with a hammer in the back, sometimes until death," he added. Allegations of sexual violence by opposition groups were also received, but the U.N. was unable to further investigate them due to lack of access, the report says.Source/Agence France Presse

Egypt's Morsi Trial Adjourned to March 1
Naharnet/An Egyptian court on Wednesday adjourned the murder trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi to March 1, to review video evidence against the Islamist. Morsi and 14 co-defendants, some of them former aides, are charged with inciting the killings of opposition protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012. The court also postponed witness testimony scheduled for Wednesday's session, after Morsi's defense requested more time to prepare for cross examination. One of the witnesses was head of the military unit tasked with protecting the president at the time of the clashes. Morsi was present in the court, inside a soundproof glass dock to prevent him from interrupting proceedings with defiant outbursts, as he had done in previous hearings. He insisted in previous hearings that he was still Egypt's legitimate president and challenged the legitimacy of the court.
In the hearing on March 1, the court will review a report on video footage of the December 5, 2012 clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents. At least seven people were killed in the violence.
Morsi faces four separate trials, on charges ranging from contempt of the judiciary to plotting an elaborate conspiracy involving Iran and Palestinian militants to conduct attacks in Egypt. He could be sentenced to death if convicted on several of the charges, which include collusion with foreign groups and incitement to murder. His supporters say the military-installed regime has brought trumped-up charges. Since his overthrow in July, Morsi's once powerful Muslim Brotherhood movement is in disarray, blacklisted as a terrorist group with most of its leaders in prison. More than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in violence since Morsi's ouster.
During his year in power, after the country's first free presidential elections, Morsi faced growing resentment and accusations that his Islamist group was monopolizing power. In December 2012, Morsi's supporters dispersed opposition activists camped outside the palace in protest at a decree granting the president extra-judicial powers, sparking day-long clashes. Brotherhood activists detained dozens of opposition protesters and filmed themselves beating the protesters to extract confessions, which Morsi later cited in a speech.Source/Agence France Presse

Iran Rejects U.S. Remarks on Its Nuclear Facilities

Naharnet /Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday rejected as "worthless" a U.S. claim that Tehran has no need for some of its nuclear facilities, media reported.
"Iran's nuclear technology is non-negotiable and comments about Iran's nuclear facilities are worthless and there is no need to negotiate or hold talks about them," said Zarif, reacting to the remarks of the U.S. top diplomat in the nuclear talks, ISNA news agency reported. "Those who know our peaceful objectives are also aware that we will not negotiate about our (nuclear) facilities," Zarif added. Wendy Sherman, who is spearheading diplomacy with Tehran on its nuclear program, said Iran did not need some of its nuclear facilities. "We know that Iran does not need to have an underground, fortified enrichment facility like Fordo ... (or) a heavy-water reactor at Arak to have a peaceful nuclear program," Sherman told a Senate committee on Tuesday. Iran struck an interim nuclear deal in November, under which it agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear work in exchange for the release of billions of dollars in frozen assets and limited relief from sanctions that have choked its economy. It also committed not to make further advances at its Arak, Fordo and Natanz facilities. Fordo is an underground nuclear enrichment facility with nearly 3,000 centrifuges and dug deep into a mountain near the Shiite holy city of Qom, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Tehran. The Arak site is of concern to the West because Tehran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from its spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility. Western powers suspect Iran's nuclear activities mask military objectives, despite repeated denials from Tehran, which insists its program is entirely peaceful. "Ms Sherman should stick to the reality and stop speaking of impossible things even if it is only for domestic consumption ... since reaching a solution can be hindered by such words," said Zarif. Talks between Iran and world powers aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement are to resume on February 18 in Vienna, following November's interim deal.Source/Agence France Presse

Exposed: The Muslim Brotherhood/Al-Qaeda Connection
By Raymond Ibrahim on February 4, 2014ظCBN News
As former Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi’s trials continue, it’s enlightening to consider what is likely to be one of the centerpieces of the trial: longstanding accusations that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party worked with foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, against the national security of Egypt. Based on these accusations of high treason, Morsi and others could face the death penalty.
Concerning some of the more severe allegations, one of Egypt’s most widely distributed and read newspapers, Al Watan, recently published what it said were recorded conversations between Morsi and Muhammad Zawahiri, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri’s brother.
In these reports, Watan repeatedly asserts that Egyptian security and intelligence agencies confirmed (or perhaps leaked out) the recordings.
Much of the substance of the alleged conversations is further corroborated by events that occurred during Morsi’s one-year-rule, most of which were reported by a variety of Arabic media outlets, though not by Western media.
In what follows, I relay, summarize, and translate some of the more significant portions of the Watan reports (verbatim statements are in quotation marks). In between, I comment on various anecdotes and events—many of which were first broken on my website—that now, in light of these phone conversations, make perfect sense and independently help confirm the authenticity of the recordings.
The first recorded call between Muhammad Morsi and Muhammad Zawahiri lasted for 59 seconds. Morsi congratulated Zawahiri on his release from prison, where he had been incarcerated for jihadi/terrorist activities against Egypt, and assured him that he would not be followed or observed by any Egyptian authorities, and that he, Morsi, was planning on meeting with him soon. Prior to this first call, Refa’ al-Tahtawy, then Chief of Staff, mediated and arranged matters. The presidential palace continued to communicate regularly with Muhammad Zawahiri, and sources confirm that he was the link between the Egyptian presidency and his brother, Ayman Zawahiri, the Egyptian-born leader of al-Qaeda. It should be noted that, once released, the previously little-known Muhammad Zawahiri did become very visible and vocal in Egypt, at times spearheading the Islamist movement.
The next recording between Morsi and Zawahiri lasted for 2 minutes and 56 seconds and took place one month after Morsi became president. Morsi informed Zawahiri that the Muslim Brotherhood supports the mujahidin (jihadis) and that the mujahidin should support the Brotherhood in order for them both, and the Islamist agenda, to prevail in Egypt.
This makes sense in the context that, soon after Morsi came to power, the general public did become increasingly critical of him and his policies, including the fact that he was placing only Brotherhood members in Egypt’s most important posts, trying quickly to push through a pro-Islamist constitution, and, as Egyptians called it, trying in general to “Brotherhoodize” Egypt.
This second phone call being longer than the first, Zawahiri took it as an opportunity to congratulate Morsi on his recent presidential victory—which, incidentally, from the start, was portrayed by some as fraudulent—and expressed his joy that Morsi’s presidency could only mean that “all secular infidels would be removed from Egypt.”
Then Zawahiri told Morsi: “Rule according to the Sharia of Allah [or “Islamic law”], and we will stand next to you. Know that, from the start, there is no so-called democracy, so get rid of your opposition.”
This assertion comports extremely well with his brother Ayman Zawahiri’s views. A former Muslim Brotherhood member himself, some thirty years ago, the al-Qaeda leader wrote Al Hissad Al Murr (“The Bitter Harvest”), a scathing book condemning the Brotherhood for “taking advantage of the Muslim youths’ fervor by … steer[ing] their onetime passionate, Islamic zeal for jihad to conferences and elections.” An entire section dedicated to showing that Islamic Sharia cannot coexist with democracy even appears in Ayman Zawahiri’s book (see “Sharia and Democracy,” The Al Qaeda Reader, pgs. 116-136).
The call ended in agreement that al-Qaeda would support the Brotherhood, including its international branches, under the understanding that Morsi would soon implement full Sharia in Egypt. After this, Muhammad Zawahiri and Khairat al-Shater, the number-two man of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, reportedly met regularly.
It is interesting to note here that, prior to these revelations, U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson was seen visiting with Khairat al-Shater—even though he held no position in the Morsi government—and after the ousting and imprisonment of Morsi and leading Brotherhood members, Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham made it a point to visit the civilian Shater in his prison cell and urged the Egyptian government to release him.
The next call, recorded roughly six weeks after this last one, again revolved around the theme of solidifying common cooperation between the Egyptian presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and al-Qaeda and its jihadi offshoots on the other, specifically in the context of creating jihadi cells inside Egypt devoted to protecting the increasingly unpopular Brotherhood-dominated government.
As I reported back in December 2012, Egyptian media were saying that foreign jihadi fighters were appearing in large numbers—one said 3,000 fighters—especially in Sinai. And, since the overthrow of the Brotherhood and the military crackdown on its supporters, many of those detained have been exposed speaking non-Egyptian dialects of Arabic.
During this same call, Zawahiri was also critical of the Morsi government for still not applying Islamic Sharia throughout Egypt, which, as mentioned, was one of the prerequisites for al-Qaeda support.
Morsi responded by saying “We are currently in the stage of consolidating power and need the help of all parties—and we cannot at this time apply the Iranian model or Taliban rule in Egypt; it is impossible to do so now.”
In fact, while the Brotherhood has repeatedly declared its aspirations for world domination, from its origins, it has always relied on a “gradual” approach, moving only in stages, with the idea of culminating its full vision only when enough power has been consolidated.
In response, Zawahiri told Morsi that, as a show of good will, he must “at least release the mujahidin who were imprisoned during the Mubarak era as well as all Islamists, as an assurance and pact of cooperation and proof that the old page has turned to a new one.”
After that call, and as confirmed by a governmental source, Morsi received a list from Zawahiri containing the names of the most dangerous terrorists in Egyptian jails, some of whom were on death row due to the enormity of their crimes.
In fact, as I reported back in August 2012, many imprisoned terrorists, including from Egypt’s notorious Islamic Jihad organization—which was once led by Ayman Zawahiri—were released under Morsi.
One year later, in August 2013, soon after the removal of Morsi, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced that Egypt was “preparing to cancel any presidential pardons issued during Morsi’s era to terrorists or criminals.”
During this same call, and in the context of pardons, Morsi said he would do his best to facilitate the return of Muhammad’s infamous brother and al-Qaeda leader, Ayman Zawahiri, back to Egypt—“with his head held high,” in accordance with Islamist wishes—as well as urge the U.S. to release the “Blind Sheikh” and terrorist mastermind, Omar Abdul Rahman.
In March 2013, I wrote about how Morsi, during his Pakistan visit, had reportedly met with Ayman Zawahiri and made arrangements to smuggle him back to Sinai. According to a Pakistan source, the meeting was “facilitated by elements of Pakistani intelligence [ISI] and influential members of the International Organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The gist of the next two calls between Morsi and Muhammad Zawahiri was that, so long as the former is president, he would see to it that all released jihadis and al-Qaeda operatives are allowed to move freely throughout Egypt and the Sinai, and that the presidential palace would remain in constant contact with Zawahiri, to make sure everything is moving to the satisfaction of both parties.
Zawahiri further requested that Morsi allow them to develop training camps in Sinai in order to support the Brotherhood through trained militants. Along with saying that the Brotherhood intended to form a “revolutionary guard” to protect him against any coup, Morsi added that, in return for al-Qaeda’s and its affiliates’ support, not only would he allow them to have such training camps, but he would facilitate their development in Sinai and give them four facilities to use along the Egyptian-Libyan border.
That Libya is mentioned is interesting. According to a Libyan Arabic report I translated back in June 2013, those who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, killing Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were from jihadi cells that had been formed in Libya through Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood support. Those interrogated named Morsi and other top Brotherhood leadership as accomplices.
More evidence—including some that implicates the U.S. administration—has mounted since then.
Next, Watan makes several more assertions, all of which are preceded by “according to security/intelligence agencies.” They are:
That Morsi did indeed as he promised, and that he facilitated the establishment of four jihadi training camps. Morsi was then Chief in Command of Egypt’s Armed Forces, and through his power of authority, stopped the military from launching any operations including in the by now al-Qaeda overrun Sinai.
That, after Morsi reached Pakistan, he had a one-and-a-half hour meeting with an associate of Ayman Zawahiri in a hotel and possibly spoke with him.
That, after Morsi returned to Egypt from his trip to Pakistan, he issued another list containing the names of 20 more convicted terrorists considered dangerous to the national security of Egypt, giving them all presidential pardons—despite the fact that national security and intelligence strongly recommended that they not be released on grounds of the threat they posed.
That the Muslim Brotherhood’s international wing, including through the agency of Khairat al-Shater, had provided $50 million to al-Qaeda in part to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
One of the longer conversations between Morsi and Zawahiri reported by Watan is especially telling of al-Qaeda’s enmity for secularist Muslims and Coptic Christians—whose churches, some 80, were attacked, burned, and destroyed, some with the al-Qaeda flag furled above them, soon after the ousting of Morsi. I translate portions below:
Zawahiri: “The teachings of Allah need to be applied and enforced; the secularists have stopped the Islamic Sharia, and the response must be a stop to the building of churches.” (An odd assertion considering how difficult it already is for Copts to acquire a repair permit for their churches in Egypt.)
Zawahiri also added that “All those who reject the Sharia must be executed, and all those belonging to the secular media which work to disseminate debauchery and help deviants and Christians to violate the Sharia, must be executed.”
Morsi reportedly replied: “We have taken deterrent measures to combat those few, and new legislative measures to limit their media, and in the near future, we will shut down these media stations and launch large Islamic media outlets. We are even planning a big budget from the [Brotherhood] International Group to launch Islamic and jihadi satellite stations to urge on the jihad. There will be a channel for you and the men of al-Qaeda, and it can be broadcast from Afghanistan.”
Undeterred, Zawahiri responded by saying, “This [is a] Christian media—and some of the media personnel are paid by the [Coptic] Church and they work with those who oppose the Sharia… secularist forces are allied with Christian forces, among them Naguib Sawiris, the Christian-Jew.”
Morsi: “Soon we will uphold our promises to you.”
In fact, there was a period of time when the secular media in Egypt—which was constantly exposing Brotherhood machinations—were under severe attack by the Brotherhood and Islamists of all stripes (comedian Bassem Youssef was the tip of the iceberg). In one instance, which I noted back in August 2012, six major media stations were attacked by Brotherhood supporters, their employees severely beat.
The last call recorded between Muhammad Morsi and Muhammad Zawahiri took place on the dawn of June 30, 2013 (the date of the June 30 Revolution that ousted Morsi and the Brotherhood). Morsi made the call to Zawahiri in the presence of Asad al-Sheikha, Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff, Refa’ al-Tahtawy, Chief of Presidential Staff, and his personal security.
During this last call, Morsi incited Zawahiri to rise against the Egyptian military in Sinai and asked Zawahiri to compel all jihadi and loyalist elements everywhere to come to the aid of the Muslim Brotherhood and neutralize its opponents.
Zawahiri reportedly responded by saying “We will fight the military and the police, and we will set the Sinai aflame.
True enough, as I reported on July 4, quoting from an Arabic report: “Al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Muhammad Zawahiri, is currently planning reprisal operations by which to attack the army and the Morsi-opposition all around the Republic [of Egypt].” The report added that, right before the deposing of Morsi, Zawahiri had been arrested and was being interrogated—only to be ordered released by yet another presidential order, and that he had since fled to the Sinai.
Also on that same first day of the revolution, Khairat al-Shater, Deputy Leader of the Brotherhood, had a meeting with a delegate of jihadi fighters and reiterated Morsi’s request that all jihadis come to the aid of the presidency and the Brotherhood.
As Morsi’s trial continues, it’s only a matter of time before the truth of these allegations—and their implications for the U.S.—is known. But one thing is certain: most of them comport incredibly well with incidents and events that took place under Morsi’s government.

The World through Arab Eyes
Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East
By: Shibley Telhami
Reviewed by David Pollock
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2014
Telhami offers in The World through Arab Eyes a valuable if unavoidably imperfect attempt at illuminating the hearts and minds of the Arab world as revealed through public opinion polling. His book contains useful broad generalizations, revealing new data and intriguing ambiguities. But it also suffers from occasional problems: methodological flaws, unsupported or questionable single-sourced assertions, and strained interpretations that go beyond the available evidence. Arab public opinion polling as well as the analysis and policy debate surrounding it needs to be taken with a proverbial shaker of salt, a seasoning the author does not always apply.
Egyptians window shop in Cairo. Arabs' popular dislike of the United States derives mostly from a rejection of its policies rather than its values—and, more surprisingly, this dislike actually has very little effect on Arab consumer preferences or behavior.
On the positive side, the book provides interesting and well-organized survey data on certain broad major topics. Moreover, the author acknowledges the evidence that Arab public opinion has turned inward, toward domestic issues such as political freedoms and social justice. He also makes due allowances for the significant differences among and within diverse Arab publics.
In addition, the book offers numerous specific nuggets of information. It is interesting and important, for instance, to see that on average the Arab citizens of Israel are four times more likely to empathize with Jewish Holocaust victims than are Arabs in the six other countries polled: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Or that those Arabs' popular dislike of the United States derives mostly from a rejection of its policies rather than its values—and, more surprisingly, that this dislike actually has very little effect on Arab consumer preferences or behavior. Another important data point: On a weighted average, two-thirds of those in the six Arab countries polled would accept a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; only one-quarter say the Arabs should keep fighting Israeli forever.
Equally surprising nuggets, but also plausible and useful, come from individual countries. In Saudi Arabia, the "most admired" foreign leader in 2011 was Saddam Hussein. In 2012 Egypt, two-thirds of those polled wanted Shari'a as the country's legal basis, but most (83 percent) preferred applying "the spirit of shari'ah but with adaptation to modern times"; just 17 percent opted to apply it literally, "including the penal code (hudud)."
One problem, however, is that other recent polls show dramatically different results for very similar questions. The latest Pew poll from Egypt, to cite but one case, shows that 88 percent of Muslims there favored the death penalty for apostasy.[1] This kind of discrepancy points to the problems in most contemporary Arab survey research—whether by Pew or Telhami.
The book suffers from scattered methodological omissions as well. The first is simply the failure to spell out several important procedural approaches. Were all these surveys true probability samples, or were some based on quota or even merely "convenience" samples? If the former, what precisely were the methods adopted in each case—multi-stage, stratified, geographic probability? Random walk? Household interview selection? Statistical/demographic weighting? If these were not all standard probability samples, how truly scientific or reliable are the resulting numbers? Regardless of sampling method, how much host government supervision, permission, or intimidation took place, which might have distorted the findings?
Some potentially revealing numbers are also missing from the narrative. For example, one poll cited produced the unlikely result, not replicated in others conducted by this reviewer, that Hugo Chavez was once the "most admired" foreign leader among Arabs. But did he get a rating of 60 percent, 20 percent, or some other percentage? It makes a big difference—and in this and other instances, there is no telling from the text.
A different deficiency is in the choice of the countries surveyed and in the decision to stick with purely urban samples, which thereby excludes half or more of a country's total population. Thus, the book's samples hardly encompass all the Arab eyes of its title, and they completely omit crucial current developments in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia. Even in Egypt and other countries that are included, many of the most salient internal political issues are absent. As a result, the book has little to tell us about the great contest between the Islamist and the civil-military segments of society now underway in Egypt or about the prospects for stability or instability in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, or Jordan.
Too often the book treats all six Arab countries polled as a unit, which obscures rather than illuminates the vital differences among them. The averaged responses are weighted by population. Since Egypt has many more people than the other five countries combined, the findings are really a distorted reflection of Egyptian public opinion rather than a meaningful average of anything.
Another methodological problem is the occasional use of loaded questions on key issues. Some examples: "What aspect of al-Qaeda do you admire the most, if any?" "How important is the Palestinian issue to you?"—instead of an open-ended question like "What issues are important to you?" Given the author's repeated and correct references to Arab aversion to international pressure, why ask: "There is international pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program. What is your opinion?" This preamble prejudices the findings by cuing the respondents in a particular direction.
Finally, the author largely neglects other readily available Arab polls that variously corroborate, qualify, or contradict the findings from his own fieldwork. Among the obvious candidates for inclusion would have been the Pew, Gallup, Charney, PIPA, Pechter, and many Palestinian and Israeli surveys on the topics in question. Given the particular constraints and vagaries of Arab polling, no single source can be credible. In certain important cases—as on Arab attitudes toward Iran or toward selected American values—the discrepancies among different pollsters are so significant that they demand detailed accounting and explanation.
In particular, other surveys taken in the two-and-a-half years since the beginning of the 2011 Arab uprisings strongly suggest that most Arabs are now very heavily focused on their own internal issues—and not on Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, or other Arabs. This is contrary to the book's overall leitmotif. Telhami interlaces the book with observations about Arab "dignity" and "the ever-present prism of pain," attempts to reassert the primacy of the Palestinian issue and resentment of U.S. policy therein. If there were actual empirical survey support for this, as opposed to mere anecdotes, fine. But the evidence is just not there—not in the polls, not in the public squares, and not in the actual policies of Arab governments, revolutionary or otherwise. In 2011, as Telhami notes in passing, the Palestinian conflict ranked eighth out of eleven possible named priorities in an Egyptian poll—and dead last in Tunisia. Yet the author is at pains to add that "there were other indications of [its] importance," without indicating what those are.
Even if he at times concedes that today's Arab politics and public opinion are "primarily" about domestic matters rather than foreign economic, social, and political affairs, Telhami spends little time considering the ramifications of this trend.
Telhami is among the most decent, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and balanced experts in this all-too-polarized intellectual arena. There is much to be learned from this book, despite its imperfections. Yet had the author considered the substantial and directly relevant work of others like him—including mounds of complementary but occasionally quite contrary polling data—the result would have been considerably more compelling. This narrow focus is a common and even an understandable academic failing but one that is relatively easily remedied. One keeps hoping that it will be—another time.
David Pollock is the Kaufman Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and director of its bilingual Arabic/English blog, Fikra Forum. A Harvard Ph.D. and former State Department official, he is the author of Slippery Polls: Uses and Abuses of Opinion Surveys from Arab States (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2008) and The Arab Street: Public Opinion in the Arab World (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1993).
[1] Neha Sahgal and Brian J. Grim "Egypt's Restrictions on Religion Coincide with Lack of Religious Tolerance," Pew Rresearch Center, Washington, D.C., July 2, 2013.

Kerry slams 'barbarity' of Syrian regime's barrel bombs
February 04, 2014 /Agence France Presse/WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday hit out the "brutality" of the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad for its sustained barrel bomb campaign.
"Each and every day that the barrel-bombing of Aleppo continues, the Assad regime reminds the world of its true colors," Kerry wrote in a statement.
"It is the latest barbaric act of a regime that has committed organized, wholesale torture, used chemical weapons, and is starving whole communities by blocking delivery of food to Syrian civilians in urgent need."
More than 150 people have been killed in Syria's onetime economic hub and second city over the past four days, in a string of barrel bomb raids and other air strikes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least eight people, including five children, were the latest victims killed Tuesday when Syrian army helicopters unleashed a new wave of the bombs which Kerry said were "filled with metal shrapnel and fuel."The bombs hit a mosque, which the Aleppo media center said was being used as a school. "Given this horrific legacy, the Syrian people would never accept as legitimate a government including Assad," Kerry said, referring to peace talks due to resume in Geneva next week aimed at installing a transitional government in the war-torn country. "While the opposition and the international community are focused on ending the war... the regime is single-mindedly focused on inflicting further destruction to strengthen its hand on the battlefield and undermining hopes for the success of the Geneva II process," Kerry said. Aleppo has been divided since the rebels captured large swathes of the city in an offensive in the summer of 2012.

US grants Iran a seat at the table of Geneva II conference on Syria round two - alongside big powers
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 5, 2014/The second round of the Geneva II conference on the Syrian conflict opens Monday, Feb. 10 – this time with a seat at the table for the Iranian delegation provided by Washington, DEBKAfile reports exclusively. Washington relayed this abrupt turnabout from its ban last week on Iranian representatives to the Tehran delegates quietly attending the secret alternative conference taking place unannounced in Bern. This event has proceeded in parallel to the public gathering in Montreux with the participation of Assad regime and opposition delegates, as well as senior US, Iranian and Russian officials. It was there that the real business was contracted behind closed doors – not in Montreux, where rigid official positions were presented for public consumption as a decoy from the Bern meeting, for which the Swiss government rather than the UN had provided the necessary technical and logistic facilities. The Bern channel was first revealed in the last DEBKA Weekly issue, No. 621 of Jan. 31.
Permission to admit Iran to the Bern parley marked another major Obama administration concession to Tehran. For the first time, Iran delegates took their seats around an international conference table alongside the major powers with a say on political and strategic decisions for a critical Mid East conflict. This basic shift was evinced, according to our sources, Tuesday, Feb. 4 in Washington and in Moscow.
Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Director of Intelligence James Clapper admitted that the agreement to dismantle the Syrian chemical weapons, reached last year in Geneva by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, had “actually strengthened Bashar Assad’s position… by virtue of his agreement to remove the chemical weapons.”
In the space of a week, Washington has gone back on the forceful statement Kerry made at the opening of the Geneva conference on Jan. 16, when he said “as we get into this process, it will become clear there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he is going to be part of that future. It is not going to happen”
The Obama administration is now forced to act on the presumption of a stronger Bashar Assad – as registered by Clapper, meaning that in order to be realistic, there is no option but to accept the Syrian ruler’s strong standing in Damascus and Tehran and the unavoidable conclusion that Iran is vitally instrumental to any resolution of the Syrian conflict.
Few people even in Israel noticed the telling comment made last week by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s special emissary to Tehran, Jibril Rajoub. He said after talking to Iranian officials that Tehran must be part of the negotiating process ongoing between the Palestinians and Israel, clearly speaking under the influence of Iran’s enhanced position in the conference on Syria’s future.
In Moscow Tuesday, Lavrov, standing with Ahmad Jarba, leader of the oppsoition Syrian National Coalition, said “there was no doubt that Syrian opposition would attend” the second round of Geneva 2 next week.
This was after he had told Jarba privately, DEBKAfile’s sources report, that Iran must participate henceforth in the talks for there to be any chance of progress toward a resolution of the Syrian conflict.
None of this, or the admitted “roll-down” in the deal for eliminating Assad’s chemical arsenal, deterred Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, the head of the US team at the nuclear negotiations with Iran, from explaining to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the interim nuclear agreement signed with Iran is “full of holes” because it is not a final agreement. “This is not perfect but this does freeze and roll back their program in significant ways and give us time on the clock to in fact negotiate that comprehensive agreement,” Sherman said. The problem with this is that no one in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus has any doubt that the nuclear deals with the big powers will not turn out much differently from the agreement for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons.

A New Approach to the Syria Crisis
James F. Jeffrey/Washington Institute
February 4, 2014
The Obama administration seems to be understating the risks of minimalist engagement in Syria and overstating the risks of greater involvement, despite the achievable, worthwhile goals of military assistance and limited use of force. The conjuncture of Syria-related events over the past two weeks does not bode well for the Obama administration's limited engagement strategy. Some argue that the talks in Montreux and Geneva isolated the Assad regime even more, presented the opposition in a positive light, and might produce progress down the road despite the discouraging short-term outcome. Yet at a time of newly reported regime atrocities, continued inter-rebel fighting, and other problematic developments, there is no evident plan to push Damascus and its supporters to accept even humanitarian actions, let alone a real ceasefire.
The administration's mindset seems to be based on two assumptions: first, that Bashar al-Assad, Moscow, and Tehran will eventually realize "there is no military solution," and second, that the conflict can be managed until then by U.S.-led efforts to ease "symptoms" (e.g., chemical weapons, refugees, al-Qaeda offshoots), contain regional spillover, and address other challenges to America's global security role. Suggesting a more activist policy conjures up the specter of a Libya-like quagmire, empowering powerful al-Qaeda franchises, or, per the administration, launching a new "war."
The administration's minimalist approach is understandable if one truly believes that it has worked for the past two years. But both of the above assumptions are questionable. The truculence of Assad's negotiating team in Switzerland, the unwavering support proffered by Iran and Russia, the recent regime violations of last year's chemical agreement, and the continued waves of Srebrenica-level horrors -- from the February 1 barrel-bombing of civilians in Aleppo to a new report alleging Assad's forces have tortured 11,000 prisoners to death -- together suggest that the war will continue and the damage to any rational world order will grow. Assad and his friends do not appear to believe that there is no military solution. For some of them (Assad and Hezbollah), the conflict is existential; for others (Iran and Russia), it is strategically critical, and they are doing all they can to achieve at least a messy Chechnya-level victory. After all, while insurgencies are difficult to totally defeat, they can be seriously weakened and contained, as seen in Turkey, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and to some degree Afghanistan. If that is the direction the Syrian conflict is going, then Washington will eventually face a de facto military victory in the very center of the Middle East by an Assad rump state, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia, on top of the humanitarian tragedy and attrition of U.S. global prestige.
This outcome would call into question the core role the United States has taken in the region since its strategic military and diplomatic engagement began with the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Some observers have argued that the Obama administration -- the first "post-imperial presidency since before World War II," as Robert Kaplan recently described it -- might not be troubled by such a turn of events. Perhaps, but that is certainly not what the administration proclaimed to the world and the American people in the largely traditional, still-engaged Middle East policy laid out by the president in his September UN General Assembly speech. A quasi-victory by Assad would place that policy at extreme risk.
In addition to seemingly understating the risks of minimalist engagement in Syria, the administration has also overstated the risks of serious engagement. To be sure, one can sympathize with this view given the precedent of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, this administration, like all since 1945, has successfully conducted several military operations short of war -- in Libya, against al-Qaeda, against Somali pirates, and against targeted foes in Iraq in 2011 -- without sliding down a "slippery slope" or incurring significant casualties, costs, or public outcry. Why not against Syria?
Even the most limited military engagements carry risk, and operating in Syria would pose specific military challenges. But the risks become acceptable when one acknowledges two things: first, that doing almost nothing is the more dangerous option, as argued above; and second, that military action in Syria has an achievable goal. That goal is not an American military victory per se, but rather "supporting diplomacy" by convincing Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow that Washington will do what is necessary to prevent Assad from achieving military victory. The Syrian conflict will not end in a way that is acceptable to U.S. national interests unless Assad and his allies are pressured to the point of realizing that a negotiated compromise is better than continuing the war.
In theory, this should not be a difficult leap for the White House, especially given the president's State of the Union reminder that other diplomatic successes -- on Iran's nuclear program and Syria's chemical weapons -- came about only because of U.S. military threats. Yet the administration seems almost frozen in opposition to using force, however limited, and camouflages this stance by arguing that any military action would be tantamount to waging war on an Iraq scale.
In reality, the United States could take several steps to assist the Syrian opposition militarily with only limited direct involvement. These efforts could begin with a more rapid, larger-scale arming of anyone effectively fighting Assad this side of al-Qaeda, avoiding radical affiliates such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Washington could also bolster the air-defense capabilities of trusted opposition factions, providing them with various MANPAD missile systems and/or taking direct action against regime aircraft and missiles. This could be supplemented by symbolic U.S. military steps analogous to past operations over Bosnia, such as airdrops of food to Homs now that the regime has refused to negotiate relief columns.
As for the administration's understandable concern about the Syrian air-defense network, U.S. forces have successfully operated against similar Russian-equipped networks in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya, while Israel has conducted limited air operations in Syria itself. Aside from directly suppressing the network, the United States also has an extraordinary ability to threaten key Syrian military equities if American aircraft are threatened. As in any counterinsurgency, the regime's conventional force is highly dependent on command and communications, mobility, firepower, and airpower, which in turn rely on relatively soft targets such as fuel depots, refineries, airfields, ammunition dumps, electrical infrastructure, radars, radio transmitters, and headquarters, often concentrated to better fend off insurgent raids. U.S. standoff weapons could wreak havoc against these targets if necessary.
Again, any military operation has risks, and the specific details of what would work in Syria must be left to professionals. But once the U.S. military is given an achievable, politically backed mission, it is well equipped and experienced to come up with solutions. In this case, the mission would center on generating enough pushback against the Syrian military to facilitate two diplomatic efforts: first, convincing the opposition and regional supporters to get behind a common policy led by the United States, which would now have "skin in the game"; second, using this renewed military credibility and regional alliance to convince Damascus, Iran, and Russia that they must begin negotiating seriously. The United States would not get everything it wants out of such negotiations, but it would get much more than is likely to emerge from the current effort.
**Ambassador James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Rejecting US remarks on nuke program, Iran FM says Fordow, Arak are non-negotiable
LAST UPDATED: 02/05/2014/Zarif dismisses as "worthless" comments made by Wendy Sherman, chief US negotiator to the talks on Iran's nuclear program, in which she questions need for some of Iran's most controversial sites.Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday dismissed as "worthless" comments made by Chief US Negotiator to the talks with Iran Wendy Sherman, in which she questioned Iran's need to have some of its most controversial nuclear facilities. "Iran's nuclear technology is non-negotiable and comments about Iran's nuclear facilities are worthless and there is no need to negotiate or hold talks about them," AFP quoted Mohammad Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying, citing Iranian media."Those who know our peaceful objectives are also aware that we will not negotiate about our [nuclear] facilities," Zarif added. Sherman made the remark at a US Senate hearing on Tuesday. "We know that Iran does not need to have an underground, fortified enrichment facility like Fordow ... [or] a heavy-water reactor at Arak to have a peaceful nuclear program," she said.
"Ms. Sherman should stick to the reality and stop speaking of impossible things even if it is only for domestic consumption ... since reaching a solution can be hindered by such words," Zarif said according to the report.
“The coming months will be a test of Iran’s intentions,” Sherman said at the Tuesday Senate hearing. Sherman defended the short-term nuclear agreement, reached in Geneva in November between Iran and world powers, a negotiation she led personally. “This is not perfect,” she said, referring to the six-month pause that began on January 20, known formally as the Joint Plan of Action.
“But we agreed on a six-month program that freezes where they are, and rolls back their program in significant ways.” The US would be willing to tolerate a “small, limited enrichment program,” Sherman added – a position that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vehemently opposes.
**Michael Wilner contributed to this report.

Knesset meeting on establishing special Christian-Arab representation turns ugly
02/05/2014 16:50
MK Zoabi thrown out of Knesset meeting for implying a Christian Arab who supports bill deserves violence. Haneen Zoabi at the President's residence, January 31, 2013.
Haneen Zoabi at the President's residence, January 31, 2013. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
A Christian Arab representative accused Arab MKs of racism and MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) was thrown out of a heated Knesset Labor, Health and Welfare Committee meeting Wednesday on a bill giving Christians separate representation in the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in Employment Commission.
"Arab rights don't interest [coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), who proposed the legislation]," MK Jamal Zahalke (Balad) said. "There isn't an employment problem for Christians or Druse. It's for the general Arab public. Levin wants to wickedly divide the Arab public, which is oppressed anyway."
"We won't be his indentured servants," Zahalke declared.
Zoabi said that the positive side of Levin's proposal is that it "sharpens the identity issue for Arabs and the hostility of state institutions and MKs toward them."
Christian IDF Officers Forum leader Shadi Halul said he is proud to be Christian and that he wants and deserves to be recognized as such.
"Don't listen to these racists," he added, pointing at the Arab MKs.
"You speak for yourself," Zahalke shouted. "You are an enemy of Christians!"
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) stood up for the Arab MKs, calling Halul rude.
Labor, Health and Welfare Committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud Beytenu) removed Zoabi from the meeting for implying Halul deserves to face violence, after she said to him: "You are a coward! Go to the streets of Nazareth and Kfar Kana, say what you just said, and they'll give you the response you deserve."
The legislation in question would expand the advisory committee by giving the 160,000 Christians in Israel their own representative and adding another Druse member. The panel will also have haredim, new immigrants, reservists, older people and women.
Levin hopes to establish separate Christian representation in other government institutions, as well.
"The purpose of the bill is to make the committee more varied, so that different populations will be represented and taken care of by this important body," the Likud Beytenu MK said.
Equal Opportunity in Employment Commissioner Tziona Kenig-Yair said she opposes the legislation, because she doesn't think the Arab population needs to be divided up in the committee.

Zawahiri Aims at Israel: Behind Al Qaeda's Pivot to the Levant
Matthew Levitt/Foreign Affairs/Washington Institute
February 3, 2014
The latest terrorist plot against Israel may have resulted from a need to reassert al Qaeda's position among other jihadist groups, especially in Syria, but that doesn't make the threat of attacks against the West any less real.
On January 22, Israeli officials announced that, several weeks before, they had disrupted what they described as an "advanced" al Qaeda terrorist plot in Israel. Although al Qaeda-inspired jihadists had targeted Israel before (three men who had plotted an attack near Hebron were killed in a shootout with police in November), this marked the first time that senior al Qaeda senior leaders were directly involved in such plans.
That might seem somewhat surprising to casual observers, given Israel's place of pride in al Qaeda rhetoric over the years. Although the need to target Israel and Jews does feature prominently in the al Qaeda mythos, it has rarely translated into operational missions against Israel. And that is what makes this latest plot, which was traced back to al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, so significant. Indeed, it speaks to a fear among al Qaeda's core leaders that the fight in the Levant -- particularly in Syria -- is passing them by.
According to Israeli authorities, the recent plot began when Ariv al-Sham, a Gaza-based al Qaeda operative who worked for Zawahiri, recruited three men to take part in an attack -- two men from East Jerusalem and one from the West Bank. While it is unclear how Israeli security officials first came to know about the recruitments, which took place over Skype and Facebook, they apparently monitored these communications for a few months until they arrested all four in late December.
Sham's primary recruit, the Israelis report, was 23-year-old Iyad Khalil Abu-Sara, from the Ras Hamis neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Abu-Sara reportedly volunteered to carry out a "sacrifice attack" on an Israeli bus traveling between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. The plan was for gunmen to shoot out the bus' wheels and overturn it. After that, they would they would gun down the passengers at close range. Finally, they assumed, they would die in a firefight with police and first responders. Sham and Abu-Sara also sketched out simultaneous suicide bombings at a Jerusalem convention center, where a second suicide bomber would target emergency responders, and at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, which would be carried out by five unnamed foreign terrorists who would travel to Israel as tourists with fake Russian passports. In preparation, Sham sent Abu-Sara computer files for a virtual bomb-making training course. Abu-Sara was to prepare the suicide vests and truck bombs, and to travel to Syria for training in combat and bomb-making. He had already purchased a ticket on a flight to Turkey by the time he was arrested.
Sham's other two recruits -- Rubin Abu-Nagma and Ala Ghanam -- were working with him on carrying out attacks on Israel as well. Abu-Nagma reportedly planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier from Jerusalem's central bus station and bomb a residential building in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. He, too, learned to manufacture explosives online. Ghanam, who lived in a village near Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, was tasked with establishing a Salafi jihadi cell in the West Bank that would carry out future attacks.
Israeli authorities were shocked by Zawahiri's involvement. He directly instructed Sham to carry out this plot. But perhaps even more surprising was how fast -- mere months in all -- the plot developed. "Abu-Sara and Al-Sham coordinated a trip to Syria, and money transfers. This all happened very quickly," a security official said. "All three channels formed at a fast rate."
Israel and the Palestinian cause have long been lightning rods for al Qaeda. In nearly every one of his public statements from 1990 to 2011, Osama bin Laden referenced the Palestinian cause. In 1994, he wrote a letter to the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia entitled "The Betrayal of Palestine," taking issue with the Grand Mufti's endorsement of the Oslo Accords a year earlier. In his 1996 declaration of war against the West, bin Laden once more invoked the Palestinian cause to rally Muslims to fight "the American-Israeli" alliance. And in a 1998 fatwa, bin Laden, Zawahiri, and others called on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies -- civilians and military personnel alike -- and to liberate the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Even 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed saw in the September 11 plot an opportunity to denounce Israel. In the original plans for the attack, he was reportedly tasked with hijacking a plane himself, landing it at an airport after nine other flights had been crashed, and giving a speech denouncing U.S. support for Israel, the Philippines, and repressive Arab governments.
Although, until now, that rhetoric has rarely translated into actual operations against Israel, there have been some exceptions. Richard Reid, the British "shoe bomber," prepared for his 2002 mission by testing airline security on Israeli's El-Al airlines and scouting potential targets in Israel and Egypt. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claims to have been involved in a variety of plots for attacks on Israel, including one in which planes from Saudi Arabia would enter Israeli airspace and crash into buildings in Eilat, Israel's southernmost city. The one part of his plan that succeeded was the November 2002 attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, which killed three Israelis and wounded 20 more. Similarly, long before Zarqawi became famous as the leader of al Qaeda, he had reportedly attempted to set up a terrorist cell to target Israel. By 2001, the Treasury Department reported, Zarqawi had received more than $35,000 for training Jordanian and Palestinian fighters in Afghanistan and facilitating their travel to the Levant. Zarqawi "received assurances that further financing would be provided for attacks against Israel," and according to some reports may have traveled to the Palestinian territories himself by 2002. But nothing came of it.
These exceptions prove the rule: al Qaeda's plotting against Israel has never matched its anti-Israel propaganda. And that harks back to debates that raged between the group's future leaders in the waning days of the jihad against Russia in Afghanistan. Following the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam -- a West Bank Palestinian who served as chief ideologue of the Afghan jihad -- disagreed over where the jihadi fighters should go next. Bin Laden pointed to the United States, which supported Arab governments that were insufficiently Islamist and should be toppled and replaced with a new caliphate. In this, he followed Zawahiri and the Egyptian Islamists who long emphasized the imperative of toppling apostate Muslim regimes. Having turned away from the Palestinian conflict because it had been dominated by secular militant groups, he now saw an opportunity to reinvigorate that struggle with Islamist underpinnings as the next jihadi front. Azzam was killed in a mysterious 1989 car bomb, and the rest is history.
The al Qaeda senior leadership has generally not focused its operations on Israel, nor has it been particularly receptive to Gaza-based groups that have claimed to be affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda. During the December 2008-January 2009 war in Gaza, al Qaeda expressed support for Palestinian fighters and denounced Arab states for failing help them, but stopped short of backing up its words with action. A few months later, in August 2009, when a Hamas raid on a Salafi jihadi mosque in Gaza ended in a gun battle that left some 24 dead and 130 wounded, al Qaeda leaders denounced Hamas and called on Allah "to avenge the blood of the murdered men and to destroy the Hamas state." Bin Laden and Zawahiri also called for jihad in Gaza, but al Qaeda still never recognized any of the Palestinian groups that took up its charge.
So why the sudden change of course? Like bin Laden, Zawahiri, now leader of al Qaeda, has long placed targeting Israel farther down the operational totem pole than more immediate targets. In the 1990s, Zawahiri maintained, "the road to Jerusalem passes through Cairo." In other words, Palestine could be liberated only after illegitimate and insufficiently Islamic regimes in places such as Egypt were dealt with. Years later, in a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, Zawahiri would explain that targeting Israel was a "fourth stage" goal following (or coming at the same time as) the expulsion of Americans from Iraq, the establishment of an Islamic emirate there, and extending the jihad to secular countries neighboring Iraq.
Well, al Qaeda's war in Iraq, once believed to have been defeated, is now on the rebound, thanks to the group's efforts next door in Syria. In one sense, then, the decision to target Israel could be seen as Zawahiri ticking off the boxes in his long-planned strategy.
In another sense, though, the recent foiled plot has more to do with Zawahiri and other senior al Qaeda leaders' standing among other global jihadi groups. Events in Syria are quickly changing the nature of jihadi enterprise. Its epicenter is no longer Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or Yemen, but the heart of the Levant -- al Sham -- in Syria. There, two al Qaeda affiliates -- ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra -- are fighting the Assad regime and its Shiite allies and more moderate Syrian rebels. The two groups have not merged, and only one (al-Nusra) has pledged allegiance to Zawahiri. Indeed, when Zawahiri instructed ISIS to focus on Iraq and leave the Syrian theatre to al-Nusra, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi flatly refused. This week, Zawahiri responded in kind, blaming ISIS for "the enormity of the disaster that afflicted the Jihad in Syria" and disavowing its ties to al Qaeda. "ISIS," Zawahiri insisted, "is not a branch of al Qaeda and we have no organizational relationship with it."
Meanwhile, other Islamist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, remain independent even as they share some ideological underpinnings with al Qaeda. Today, the jihadi centers that are drawing new recruits, donations, and foreign fighters are not run by al Qaeda. Knowing that, Zawahiri perhaps felt the need to be able to claim something big that jihadist fighters of all shapes and sizes could rally around. What better than an attack on Israel?
Among those who study terrorism and political violence, a debate rages over the continued relevance and importance of the traditional al Qaeda core and other al Qaeda senior leadership. The debate was given new life by a flippant comment that President Barack Obama made in a New Yorker interview in which he lauded his administration's successful "decimating" of al Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and played down the threat of al Qaeda franchises more focused on attacking their homelands than that of the United States. Obama compared such groups to a jayvee team -- not as dangerous as the varsity teams that carried out 9/11. As for that team, the State Department recently asserted that "the entire leadership been decimated by the U.S. counterterrorism efforts. [Zawahiri is] the only one left." At this point, a State Department spokesperson speculated, Zawahiri likely spends "more time worrying about his own personal security than propaganda, but still is interested in putting out this kind of propaganda to remain relevant."
Zawahiri's plotting against Israel may well have resulted from a need to reassert his position among other jihadist groups, especially in Syria, but that doesn't mean that the threat of terrorism is less real. However one defines al Qaeda today -- as a singular group with a few close franchises, or as the sum of all franchises and decentralized parts -- it is clear from plots like this one that the West, including Israel, need beware.
**Matthew Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute.